The Jar Of Tears
There was a knock on the front door. The heavy, empty sound that she feared would be there someday. She put on her bathrobe and scurried down the stairs.
“Mrs. Mc Clarin?” The uniformed officer asked as she peered through the peephole.
“Yes, I’m Laura Mc Clarin.”
“I’m Captain Jack Marlboro, your husband worked for me.” He had a chest full of medals.
“Worked?” All those nightmares came true. The horrible dreams of her loving husband murdered in the line of duty. She judiciously opened the door.
“I’m sorry Laura, I have some bad news. Your husband has been shot. If you can get dressed I’ll take you over to Saint Luke’s Hospital where Frank is in critical condition.”
Laura quickly slipped into her gray slacks and tattered green sweater. She only thought of comfort as fashion was on the back burner. Captain Marlboro closed the door behind her and scooted around to the driver’s side of the unmarked cruiser.
“We got the guy down at the stationhouse.” The captain said as cool as ice cream.
“The guy that attacked your husband Laura. We’re questioning him right now.” He had a sneer on his mug that told Laura it wasn’t just words that were being pelted upon the attacker.
“Tell me exactly what happened, Captain.”
“Well, as far as I know, Frank was coming to the aide of an old man in a liquor store down in Surrey. The man had called because some young guns were trashing the place, like something out of ‘A Clockwork Orange’. One of the guys shot Frank in the stomach. Back up arrived immediately and captured all three of the little bastards.”
They pulled into the hospital portico and Laura jumped out before the car came to a halt. She went straight to the information desk
“My name is Mc Clarin. Where is my husband?”
The matronly lady behind the counter looked at her computer screen. She made that face. You know, the one you make when you don’t know what to say. Laura knew from that feeble expression, Frank was gone. Before the lady could say a word Laura was gone. She went into the lounge off the emergency room and sat on the cold, red pleather couch. Jack Marlboro found her.
“I’m so sorry Laura. We’re gonna make that motherfucker pay for this.”
“Will that bring Frank back?”
“No, but it will give you satisfaction.”
“The only satisfaction I could get is to see my husband again. Revenge will do nothing.”
“It will make the boys feel better.”
“I don’t give a fuck about the boys. Where were the boys when Frank needed them?’
“It happened so fast. There wasn’t any chance for anyone to get there in time.”
“Maybe if one of your boys was his partner like the old days. You assholes and your budget cuts.”
“You’re preachin’ to the choir Laura. You want a coffee?”
“Yes, black, one sugar.” Just as soon as Marlboro left Laura went back to the front desk.
“I want to see my husband, now.”
The matron made a phone call and within thirty seconds an administrator appeared.
“Please come with me Mrs. Mc Clarin.” He was tall, buzz-cut and horn-rimmed glasses ornamented his proportional face. He reminded Laura of a little of Clark Kent. Especially in that gray pin striped suit.
“I’m so sorry for your loss, I played against Frank in the summer softball league. He was a good man.”
“Thank You. Where are we going?”
“Down to the morgue. It’s in the basement.” It got cooler and cooler as the elevator descended. Laura started to shiver. “Take this,” he draped his suit jacket around her quivering shoulders.
“Thank you, Sir.”
“My name is James Maxwell. I run this place at night.”
“I’m Laura, thanks for taking me down here.”
“It’s the least I can do for you.”
“James, May I call you that?’
“Well James, tonight is a bit of a relief. You must think me a terrible person for such a thought.”
“No, I have no idea where your mind is at right now. I am not making any judgments about you.”
“It’s not that I didn’t love my husband, and I’m quite sure that I’m going to miss him more and more each day. It was unbelievable how much anxiety I felt each time Frank left for his shift.”
“My daughter Linda is in Iraq right now, I understand Laura.” James patted her shoulder. She sighed softly.
“How many children do you have James?”
“Is your wife anxious like me?”
“No, she is very calm about it. She passed away two years ago.” They both laughed. It was as if emotional air was rushing out of a balloon.
“I hope someday I can get to the point the where you are at right now, James.”
“You will Laura, it just takes time, please call me Jim. When you call me James, I think I’ve done something wrong.”
“OK Jim, at least I didn’t use your middle name. They you’d know you’d be in real trouble.”
They both smiled. Jim held the door and Laura entered the morgue. The attendant took them to the cold stainless steel door, the compartment that held Franks body.
“I’ll leave you alone now, Laura.”
“No, please stay I can’t do this alone.”
The attendant unsecured the door with a huge chrome latch and pulled the drawer. He pulled back the pristine white sheet to reveal Frank’s body down to the waist.
“Oh my god! My poor baby!” Laura threw herself on Frank.
The attendant was going to intervene but Jim stopped him. Jim gave Laura all the time she needed. The clean white sheet was stained with Laura’s tears and the imprints of her coral lipstick.
After ten minutes Laura gathered herself and asked Jim to take her home. She knew she was in no condition to drive. They exited the hospital and ran into Captain Marlboro in the parking lot.
“I can give you a ride home, Laura,” Marlboro said.
“Go fuck yourself, Jack.” Laura took Jim by the hand and walked past Marlboro towards the administrator’s parking lot. Jim opened her door. She stepped into his Audi A6. It smelled as if the car was brand new, then the subtle aroma of leather and polished wood wafted into her nostrils. Jim buckled the seatbelt for her and then put on her seat heater. She was still shivering, even with Jim’s jacket draped around her.
“Thanks Jim.” Laura smiled at him. It was the third sign of happiness Jim afforded her since the bad news.
“You’re welcome. Would you like to get coffee or would you prefer to go home.”
“Please, take me home Jim, I live on Chelsea, but I don’t want to be alone tonight. I don’t feel safe.”
“I understand Laura, but that’s a forty minute drive, I have to go home to let my dog out.”
“Let’s go there first, then we can go to my house.”
Laura loved dogs. She could never have one due to Frank’s allergies. Jim’s big, happy dog greeted them at the front door. It reminded her of an avalanche. She let him in the yard and played for a while with the white Akita, throwing Kimo’s toy. He retrieved it to her and immediately surrendered the prize. Kimo also got Jim through the sadness of his wife’s passing and Linda’s tour in Iraq. Laura reaped the benefits of Kimo until Jim had to intervene to suggest an appropriate time to go. Laura really didn’t want to go. She felt comfortable.
“May we stay here tonight?”
“Sure, you can stay in Linda’s room.”
“Thanks for being a gentleman Jim. Gentleman Jim, that seems appropriate. Do you box, Jim?”
They both laughed. Jim wasn’t an asshole and wasn’t going to try to make love to Laura so soon after her tragic evening. He hadn’t made love since his wife had passed. He had gotten a few blowjobs from dates but still couldn’t bring himself to make love. Neither of them was ready for an intimate encounter of any substance. Laura slept with Kimo in her arms, in Linda’s bed. Her cell phone woke Laura at 9AM.
“Mrs. Mc Clarin, this is Sergeant Ryan from the fifty fifth precinct. We will take care of all the funeral arrangements for your husband.”
“Who is this?” Laura was still half asleep.
“Sergeant Joe Ryan, from the station where Frank worked.”
“Oh. Hello. I haven’t even considered it yet.” Laura gave it a moment’s thought.
“We will be glad to do it all for you, madam.” Ryan said.
“No thank you, I will attend to the services.” Laura finally dusted the sleep from her eyes and came to her senses.
“Good morning Mrs. Mc Clarin.” The click as Ryan hung up made Laura shake her head. There was a gentle knock at the door.
“Laura, I have to let Kimo out.” Jim’s tone was soft and respectful. Laura hopped out of bed and opened the door. Kimo ran for the back yard.
“Good morning, Jim.”
“Hi, did you sleep well?”
“Surprisingly, Kimo made it easy for me.”
“He does have that affect on you. Breakfast is ready if you wish. I have coffee, English muffins and eggs if you like.”
“Sounds great, I can’t thank you enough for everything.”
“I know what it’s like to lose a spouse. My sister helped me.”
“He helps me everyday. Would you like me to drive you around today to take care of business? I go to work at 8PM.”
“I would appreciate you coming with me to the funeral home.”
“Sure Laura, just tell me when.”
“We have to stop at my house so I can shower and put on a dress. We can go after breakfast.”
“Sounds good.” Jim served the eggs sunny-side up, just the way she liked them. Laura helped clean up after breakfast. She was glad Jim didn’t use every fucking pot in the house, like Frank did when he volunteered to cook. She shook her head remembering when Frank made them French toast.
They took the Audi over to Laura’s place and Jim waited in the living room while Laura got ready. Jim noticed all the pictures of Frank and Laura in the foyer. They were all happy. There was only one of Frank in his uniform. Being a cop did not define Frank. It struck Jim funny when he noticed himself in the background of Frank’s softball picture.
“Frank never liked me in black.” Laura returned with her floral print dress.
“You look great,” was all he could mumble. Jim was dumbstruck.
“Thanks, Jim. We’re going to Bellintoni’s funeral home on second.”
They drove over and entered somber emporium together. She made all the plans with no mention of Frank being a police officer. He was to be dressed in his blue suit and no flowers or ribbons were to mention his police affiliation.
The wake and funeral were both crowded, as Frank was well liked. The only hint that Frank was a cop was the uniformed bugler that played taps at his grave.
“We got confessions out of two of them.” Marlboro told Laura as she walked back to the limo.
“Fuck you, Jack”
The two criminals that didn’t pull the trigger pleaded guilty to armed robbery and agreed to ten-year terms in the state penitentiary. The triggerman was going to trial. He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
Jim and Laura went to the reception at the restaurant together. She went arm and arm with him into the dining room.
She bided her time watching newscasts and the local papers to gather all the information she could about the criminal. She kept meticulous records in her journal. He was a rich kid from the Blue Gardens suburb. He had three previous arrests for theft. He was out on bail due to a savvy lawyer. The murder trial was long with many experts testifying for both prosecution and defense. It finally ended when Laura heard the not guilty plea upheld. The triggerman was going to The Robson Institute for the Criminally Insane. He turned to smile at Laura as the bailiff lead him away. It was that malevolent smirk that struck Laura like a lightning bolt. It was the ultimate slap in the face.
Jim met Laura with the Audi in front of the courthouse. Laura didn’t say a word. She was silent for twenty minutes. She noticed a quaint antiques store as the rolled down Augury Avenue.
“Stop! Jim! I have to go in there.” She pointed to the old curiosity shop. He pulled the car over and joined Laura in the store. They perused for about thirty minutes with the kindly septuagenarian gentleman answering all their questions. Finally Laura happened upon an old wooden box filled with strange bottles of all sizes.
“What are these?” She asked.
“They are very old.”
“I can see that.”
“They are used to collect tears.”
“When someone is missing, the bottles collect the tears of the loving person that has been abandoned. They were used by the wives of a soldiers off to war. Some bottles are Roman and some are Egyptian. This one is five-thousand-years-old.” He waved a small red flask.
“What do they do with them?”
“People present the bottle to the returning partner or sprinkle the tears on the grave of the deceased.” The old gent mimicked sprinkling one of the bottles. “Some say the tears have great power and great love. The legend grants you one wish for each full bottle of tears”
“I’ll take one,” said Laura.
“Would you like a small bottle or the larger jar?”
“I think the jar, please. Jim would you like one?”
“No thanks, I’m all cried out.”
They left the store and had dinner. Laura liked him as a friend. The feeling was mutual and Jim never rushed into anything. The years passed and one of the two young thugs was killed in prison. The other had cancer and died about two years later. The triggerman was alive and well and still ‘insane’.
Years quickly passed and Laura was diligent about collecting her tears in that Roman jar. Not every tear, just the ones shed when she thought of Frank and the wasted three young lives. Jim and Laura began to get serious after knowing each other for a few years. They married after five with Linda, Jim’s daughter, acting as matron of honor.
Ten years after Frank’s murder the tear jar was full. His murderer was being released. After a decade he was now a ‘sane, productive member of society’ deemed by the state psychological evaluation. Laura found out all the info from Captain Jack Marlboro. He reassured her that she would be safe after the murderer’s release.
“We’ll station a car outside your house until he slips up. They always do.”
“Jim and I can take care of ourselves.” Laura flashed a .22 she kept strapped to her ankle.
“Sorry Laura, there is no argument. It has to be this way.” Captain Marlboro tipped his hat.
“When is he getting out?”
“Floyd Baker is getting out in two days. They are releasing him at noon on Thursday.”
“Thank you Jack, I’ll be very careful.”
“Here’s my card with my direct number, call me if you need help.” Marlboro began to walk away.
“Thanks, Jack.” Marlboro waved then mimicked pulling the trigger of a handgun.
Laura rented a limo and purchased a black outfit that made her the sexiest chauffer in town that Thursday morning. It was the first time she had worn black since Frank and her had first dated. Laura waited for her enemy outside the mental institution. She stood next to the limo holding a sign that read ‘Floyd Baker’. He walked directly over to her. She was cool and had ten years to learn how to control her emotions.
“Did my lawyer send you?’
“Yeah, he thought you could use a ride.”
“Cool!” He hopped in the back seat.
“Where to sir?”
Laura followed the route past the old curiosity shop, the courthouse and finally the liquor store where it all began.
“Why are you stopping here?” Floyd asked.
“I need cigarettes.”
“You can get them anywhere. Why stop here?”
“It’s close and cheap. You need anything?”
“Yeah, can you get me a coffee?”
“Sure, black and two sugars right?”
“Yeah, how’d ya know that?”
“I can read people. It’s part of my job. If I don’t like you I won’t pick you up. There are a lot of assholes out there.”
“So you like me?”
“You look safe enough.”
Laura went into the store and got a pack of Winston and a large coffee black with two sugars. She paused at the coffee maker. She took the ¾ filled coffee cup and dumped the entire contents of her jar of tears into the steaming brown liquid.
“I hope that old guy was right.” She mumbled as she returned to the limo. She hoped she didn’t have to use her gun as she handed Floyd the cup and drove away. Floyd sipped the hot java.
“This is really great coffee.” He cheered her. She nodded.
“Yeah, that place has good brew,” Laura said.
He took another gulp and another. He felt warm at first, then a burning sensation in his chest. He pumped his left fist repeatedly and finally he was in full-blown cardiac arrest. Laura drove around for a while watching in the rear view mirror as Floyd struggled in the back seat. He wiggled and squirmed finally making eye contact with her in the rear view mirror. Laura smiled at him with the same smirk he gave her ten years ago. He closed his eyes. She dropped off his body at the emergency room of Saint Luke’s. It was over for the legally sane Floyd Baker. There would be no trace found by forensics. She mustered one more tear before she dumped the coffee cup and he empty jar down the sewer.
The Jar Of Tears