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Re: The Woman and the Ghost
Posted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 12:12 am
All right, your story is so good, it rivals Kathy's and Doc's. You update much more frequently than Doc does, so I'm going to rate you better than him. If you KEEP UPDATING, your rating will go up even further. This is essentially a plea for Moar MOAR MOAR! This is a great story that needs only MOAR to make it even better. 8)
Re: The Woman and the Ghost
Posted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 2:25 am
The next few days of physical therapy were especially tough on Krista. Not simply because of the extreme pain involved and the fact that she couldn’t do hardly anything without someone there to help her, but she increasingly wondered why she was fighting so hard to regain full use of her own body.
That was the question that kept her awake at night when she wasn’t sedated. She had fought for a great many things in the last couple of years, and when it wasn’t to get back on Recon, do her penance for Brad, or gain even a modicum of respect from her fellow constables, it was just to wake up every morning believing that she mattered. Now, she cared less and less about whether or not she mattered at all. She had begun to mean a great deal to Ray and that had ended in agony and fire. She mattered to her teammates, but they were out there walking around and probably training for the next disaster. What was left? To whom was she supposed to matter? What difference could she make to anyone now?
Thus the basics of Krista’s days had been laid out for her. During the day, she worked her leg and tried to get it back to where it had been, wincing in pain all the while. At night, she stared at the ceiling, wondering if Ghost would ever wake up, if she would ever fully put Brad behind her, and if she would ever experience a full night of sleep without seeing the burning face of Raymond Fuller in her dark dreams.
Everyday, she asked the staff about Ghost. Everyday, she got the same answer: he was still unconscious, but the outlook was not good. By the time her first week of physical therapy had come and gone, Ghost had already outlived the life expectancy Doctor Sadler gave him by about ten days. He was still too tough to die, but apparently not tough enough to wake up. He was stable and his wounds were healing, but he just wasn’t waking up. Krista sometimes cried at night for Ghost, still not fully comprehending why someone who had a strong level of disgust for her, and received the same in return, would risk so much to save her, even going to far as to shoo away the medic who was supposed to take care of the wounded. That thought gnawed at her more than any other as the days passed.
Krista had to undergo another ten days of physical therapy before another kind of therapy had been scheduled for her. Captain Heyward had instructed Doctor Ness to pay her a visit, as he had already done with the survivors of Recon Four and more than a few of those who had been there that awful day in the now-charred ruins of Lordsburg, New Mexico.
One afternoon, after being put back to bed by the orderlies, Doctor Ness came in and sat down by her bed.
“Good afternoon, Krista.”
“Doctor Ness…long time no see.”
“Indeed. So, as you know, I was asked to come see how you were doing. Doctor Sadler tells me that your leg is on the mend and you might even be out of here in a few days. As far as your recovery goes, I’m here to see to the part that can’t be taken care of with casts and crutches.”
“Then it’s a good thing you’re sitting down, Doc. My head is all messed up these days. I can’t make sense of a damned thing, my nightmares are screwing me up even after I wake up…I can’t even seem to figure out why I’m even bothering to make any effort to recover at all. It’s not like I have anything to go back to.”
“I don’t think I understand what you mean by that, Krista. Is there something you were supposed to have waiting for you when you get out of here?”
“Not really, not anymore. I was starting to get serious with Raymond Fuller. Remember when I told you that time that I was hoping that something might develop there?”
“Yes, I believe I do.”
“And I’m guessing you heard about what happened to him.”
Doctor Ness looked over his shoulder, making sure the door to Krista’s room was closed. “The real version or the version that the town council has decided to release to the public?”
“The first one. I guess they let you in on the real part, huh?”
Doctor Ness shuffled a bit in his chair. “The council sort of had to. I can’t do much to look after the mental well-being of your teams if I can’t even know what it is that’s been haunting them since Lordsburg.”
“Well, I sort of thought that being with Ray was…I don’t know, my way back maybe? I saw him as a chance to get it right this time, not like the way it went with Brad, you know? I thought that if I could square away that part of my life, everything else would sort of fall into place. Does that make any sense?”
“I had a peek at your service record to see what’s changed with you and the Constabulary since we last spoke. Your time back in Recon has been without a black stain, you haven’t been a disciplinary problem, you finished an especially tough training course that not everyone finished…what other parts of your life do you think needed to fall into place?”
“I don’t know…I just felt…out of whack I guess. Something wasn’t fitting, and I didn’t know what the hell it was. But I felt totally incomplete, like a car that won’t start just because one tiny part isn’t working, do you know what I mean?”
“I do, Krista. Please continue.”
“But one thing or another was keeping everything else from coming together. I thought it was because I was still on my own after losing Brad, and Ray…I don’t know. He just seemed like a way back for me or something. I thought if I could just fix that part of my life…then everything would be gravy after that. And what’s more…I really liked him.” Krista started to sob, but did her best to choke it back. “I really started caring about Ray. Then this shit…out of everyone this could have happened to…it had to be him. It had to be the one guy who seemed to care about me back. The one guy…well, the one guy period.”
“And you think that now that Ray is gone, your life will never come together?” Doctor Ness leaned back, awaiting an answer.
“I don’t know Doctor. I just don’t know where to go from here. I’m lost, I have a big-ass scar on my leg, the man who saved my life is in a coma two rooms from here…I don’t know when I’ll be able to get back on the Force, and then, so what if I do? I’ll just come home every night to an empty house. Whoopie-fucking-do. I just don’t know what the point is anymore, I really don’t. I go out there, risk my life…risk my life because I want to be one of those who helps us get back to where we were, you know? I want to be the one who really does something that’s going to help us all get past this shit, this damned living dead mess, but who am I doing it for? Why am I risking my life for the colony? It’s full of people who hate me, so what do I care about helping them? Seriously Doctor, is there any real point to me trying like hell to get back onto Recon?”
“I can’t answer that, Krista. I can’t say what you ever got from it, what satisfaction you felt as you came home after serving the people of this colony. You told me once why you joined the Constabulary, but you never did tell me why you stayed on.”
“I never thought too much about it. I don’t know why, but I never did.”
“What about your teammates? How have they been with you? Have they shown any resentment towards you over Arlen Bradford?”
“No, even Boba told me that what happened to him wasn’t my fault.”
“So they’ve been accepting of you?”
“Yes. But…I think the nightmare I had a couple or three weeks ago is messing me up and making me question everything.”
“Can you describe this nightmare to me?”
Krista related how she dreamed of unmasking Ghost and seeing the face of Arlen Bradford, a dream so vivid that it stayed with her, taking the place of reality even after she woke up. That dream haunted her now even when she was awake. She was still not free of Brad. Not yet.
“Did you really think that Ghost was Arlen Bradford?”
“I know it sounds insane, Doctor, but…I don’t know why I dreamed that. I don’t know if my mind was trying to tell me something or whatever. I just don’t get it.”
“Krista, Doctor Sadler showed me your chart before I came in here. I saw that you were on a particularly powerful sedative from which you were promptly removed. A sedative that, I might add, tends to give the patient extremely vivid dreams. It’s quite possible that your mind wasn’t trying to tell you anything. You may have just had a reaction to your sedative.”
“But Doctor, I still can’t put the past behind me. I think that my mind was trying to tell me that no matter what I do, Brad will always be there, haunting me like a damned phantom. And…that any man who does anything for me will just die…die like Brad, like Ray…and like Ghost still might.”
“What about Corporal Hurst? What about him? Has he done anything for you?”
“Of course. He told me that my slate was wiped clean and that I would have a new home on Recon One. He told me that whatever I had done or whatever people said about me, it didn’t matter because on One, we’re family and that was that.”
Doctor Ness leaned forward. “And has anything happened to him?”
“No, nothing that hasn’t happened to all of us.”
“Okay. Before everything happened…a long time ago…did anyone close to you ever die?”
Krista thought about that for a second. “My grandfather died when I was a teenager.”
“Have you put him behind you? I mean, have you learned to accept his death without it still haunting you?”
“Of course I did, Doctor.”
“And how did you do that?”
“My parents took me to the funeral and we visited his grave from time to time. My folks told me that’s how people say good bye.”
“And have you ever said good bye to Arlen Bradford?”
Krista’s mind fired off immediately at the realization that she had not done anything to really say good bye to Brad. “No, I never did. I didn’t think that people would appreciate me going to his grave…considering that a lot of people blame me for his death.”
“Krista, it might be hard to let someone go if you’ve never actually said good bye to them.”
“I think I understand, Doctor, but what if someone tells me to get lost? What if I start catching hell again for what I did to him?”
“What happened between you and Arlen Bradford…do you think it was anyone else’s business but yours and his?”
“No, and that’s what I’ve been trying to tell people.”
“Then tell yourself that. Go say good bye the way you know how. Don’t let anyone else tell you how to let Bradford go.”
“I get it Doctor. I think I get it.”
Re: The Woman and the Ghost
Posted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 5:03 am
Krista had made up her mind, not that it had taken much convincing. As soon as she was able, she was going to visit the grave of Arlen Bradford. There, she would spill her guts of all the pain and regret she still felt over how she threw away the best man who had ever entered her life and hope that somewhere out there, there was some part of him that could hear her and offer his forgiveness. Then, perhaps, Krista could take the last steps towards finally forgiving herself and moving on, hoping to find purpose for herself in this world that had come so close to consuming them all with their own dead.
Krista spoke no more on the subject to anyone, not even to her teammates when they visited, which they did roughly every two or three days. On one such visit, Darius had brought her up to speed on the final spin the council and the Constabulary had put on the nightmare of Lordsburg. They released a statement and a detailed (and highly fabricated) account of a small-scale attack from a roving band of survivors that had gone mad in the post-civilization world and attacked the constables of Special Teams, resulting in a minor firefight that resulted in the death of one constable, one Raymond Fuller, and leaving three others wounded, one severely, as well as the loss of one of Recon’s busses. As Darius had told her before, the final spin was that these crazed survivors had burned the town down themselves by apparent accident, and none of them had survived the engagement with Special Teams.
The Constabulary also issued a statement, repeated both on the news and the local publication, that the actions of Special Teams was in keeping with the highest standards of the Duke City Constabulary and their actions should serve to remind the citizenry of the great lengths to which their officers would go to protect their people and help usher in a new age in which the many colonies would slowly link up and begin the reestablishment of the United States. Simply, the truth was buried and as far as anyone knew, no one on Special Teams had the slightest interest in setting the record straight. They certainly did not want the people to know what had really happened. They had grown comfortable behind their walls and no one wanted to take from them what comfort this world still afforded them.
And that was that. As far as the Constabulary was concerned, the case was closed and the proposed outpost in Lordsburg was simply a dream that could not be realized. There would be another place and another time. The future was still going to see a great many dreams realized, but Lordsburg was simply not the place where it would all begin.
Krista had experienced three straight weeks of physical therapy and her leg had grown stronger to the point that she could walk without crutches, though still with some discomfort. She was released from the hospital and ordered (by both Doctor Sadler and Captain Heyward) to stay home for the time being and report back to the clinic for a physical after two weeks of medical leave. Passing her physical meant returning to Special Teams after her two weeks of refresher training, though no one seemed to know yet whether or not it would also include two hellish weeks of the kind of training that had made them so effective a fighting force in the battle in Lordsburg.
Two days after returning home, Krista sat with her leg on the coffee table. A large scar was already forming and the discoloration had not yet gone away fully, but the pain was mostly gone and that was enough for her. She clicked on the news.
“..and the whole colony today rejoiced with the news that Sergeant Ghost of the Duke City Constabulary’s ALERT Team returned home. Although he was badly wounded in the fight against armed drifters in the recent Lordsburg operation, he is now back on his feet and may be cleared for a return to duty soon. Chief of Police Paul Deihl was reported as saying that Sergeant Ghost was wounded while saving the life of Constable Kristiana Showalter, who had been wounded herself in the action. She has also returned home and may return to duty soon.”
Krista leaned back and was about to turn the TV off, until another story came on that grabbed her attention right away.
“And in other news, a riot almost broke out today at the Detention Facility as a prisoner by the name of David Aquilar attempted to assault one of the guards. Aquilar was injured as officers subdued him, and no officers required any medical attention. The court has already sentenced Aquilar to another year of confinement. There is as yet no official word concerning why Aquilar assaulted his guards as he was set to be released from the Detention Facility later this week. Also, the radio relay station just north of the colony has finally been repaired, and communications have now been reestablished with the Four Corners Colony. Officials state that…”
She turned it off. Ghost was home. She couldn’t believe the news. Ghost had been hanging on the edge of death for weeks and now, without warning, he was home. He had not been expected to make it, but there he was, going home and soon, back to ALERT.
He was too tough to die after all.
Krista made up her mind that she was going to thank him for what he had done for her. Of course, she knew that he would be dismissive to her gratitude and pass the whole thing off as being part of the job or some such thing, but she would still thank him. She owed him that much. As far as how Ghost took her thanks, that was all on him and Krista didn’t need any kind of response to know that she had paid what she owed him.
She also was going to the cemetery the next day to visit the grave of Arlen Bradford. She owed him as well and was going to finally pay up. The colony was moving on despite what had happened in Lordsburg, and now, Krista was moving on as well.
As far as what would happen after that, she could only guess.
The next day in the early afternoon, Krista hopped Pete Birchum’s shuttle for the ride to the cemetery, and of course, he pelted her mercilessly with questions about how she was doing, most of which she simply met with a smile and a friendly, if rather dismissive comment. Her limp was still noticeable and she had taken to using a cane that Doctor Sadler had provided. She used it to help her way up the stone path to the large field near the southwestern edge of town that had become the town’s cemetery, nowhere near where the old one had been. Everyone buried here had died after the colony was founded.
There were more than a few headstones to mark the resting places of those who had not been able to move on with the colony. Some (most, actually) were suicides, others had died shortly after arriving in the early days from malnourishment or disease contracted out in the wild, and others had to be put down from the infection of the living dead. Only a few had been part of the Constabulary and had died in the line of duty.
She went looking for two who had.
Krista walked up and down the rows, having no idea where Brad and Ray were buried, but did not feel any hurry about it. She paused here and there when she recognized a name on a headstone, but mostly she just passed them. She found the grave of Brad first.
Krista stood, looking at the headstone. It only read, “Here Lies Arlen Bradford. Corporal, Duke City Constabulary. Aged 28 Years. Rest in Peace.”
That was all there was to mark the life of the man who had given her everything she had, including another chance at life when humanity itself almost died out completely.
She had never been to this place before. She didn’t know if she even had the right to come, and the colony was still full of those who would have answered that in the negative. But she was alone and no one was ushering her away from this place, not now. This was the day that she finally made things right. This was the last day of her old life.
“Hey Brad,” Krista began. “Been a long time. I…I miss you. It’s never been the same without you. Nothing much has made sense without you in my life. I’ve never forgiven myself for throwing you away. I know that somehow, I’m to blame for you being gone, but please forgive me. Please…I’m so sorry…so sorry for what I’ve done. Please don’t hate me. Please.” She then dropped to the ground and began crying loudly.
“Brad, I miss you so much. I just wanted to say that I never stopped loving you and I think about you every day. I wish I knew what else to say. I miss you. I love you. Please, take care of Ray for me. Tell him I’m sorry.”
Krista sat and cried over Brad’s grave for a while, not caring who saw or heard, though no one did. She didn’t know what to feel. She couldn’t tell if any weights had been lifted from her shoulders, but somehow, she did feel that some sort of unfinished business was now concluded.
She got up and made no effort to stop the tears that still ran down her face. Krista kissed her hand and touched it to Brad’s gravestone.
“Good bye, Brad.”
She turned around and saw that she was not alone.
Ghost was standing several feet behind her, arms folded, his own cane leaning against a tree stump.
He was not moving or speaking…just watching.
Re: The Woman and the Ghost
Posted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 6:05 am
This story is to cool
Re: The Woman and the Ghost
Posted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 2:01 pm
Ponyboy is messing with us of course
1. the Dr. is lying through his teeth!
2. Brad could be an Almost undead you know: that apparent immunity to pain/fatigue and that gravely voice, the lack of most emotions.
3. Could be a twin?
4. Could be I'll just have to wait for more details ---but I still don't think she was dreaming not a bit!!!
Yep, we're being messed with, (sign of a good story and author) , still I'm putting my money on #4
Re: The Woman and the Ghost
Posted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 3:02 pm
I love Ghost, but he's a bit fucked up from time to time.
Re: The Woman and the Ghost
Posted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 3:51 pm
Krista was conflicted. She wanted to throttle Ghost right where he stood (despite how unlikely it was that she could have pulled it off) for having the nerve to interfere with her attempts to bury Brad for good, but at the same time, she was at least relieved to see Ghost on his feet. She had, in her first few days awake at the clinic, tried to steel herself for the likelihood that the man who saved her life was going to die.
He was already in a new set of khaki coveralls, without his tactical gear but his revolver was neatly holstered on his hip.
“Ghost, what are you doing here?”
“I’ve come to pay my respects as well.”
“You already did that. You’ve already said good-bye to Brad. I was the only one who never had the chance, and I think I should be alone when I do.”
“You were the only one who never had the chance because you were the only one who didn’t have the right, Constable.” Ghost still wasn’t moving.
“Ghost, I’m not doing this with you. I’m just not. I can’t keep going day by day without settling up with Brad, and I’m not going to let you screw that up. This is between Brad and me.”
“And me.” Ghost’s gravelly voice was in full force.
“Ghost, before this goes any further, I guess I at owe you my thanks. Thank you. Thank you for saving my life. Why did you do that?”
“It’s the job. We don’t leave anyone behind. Not Ray Fuller, not you, not anyone. That’s what it means to be part of Special Teams. We go outside these walls and we come back, all of us. We had already lost one promising officer in that place. I did not want to lose another.”
“That’s not the whole story, Ghost, and you know it. I heard what you told your medic. You insisted on saving me yourself. Why?”
Ghost took up his cane and limped past her, not looking as he passed. He gently put his hand on the grave of Arlen Bradford and said, “Constable, one day, you may have to accept that there are some things that are simply not for you to know.”
“But not this. I want to know why you did what you did. You had two fucking bullet holes in you and you still carried me out of there. Why? It wasn’t just the job. You wanted to save me…me. We have always hated each other, and you could have let Brightman drag me out of there. Now why did you do that?”
Ghost didn’t look at her. He still held Brad’s grave with his head hanging down. Nor did he answer her. “Showalter, do you know where we are?”
“Of course I do.”
“No you don’t. This…this is where I buried him. This is where I said good-bye to Arlen Bradford. This is where I tried to lay him to rest. He still comes back, do you understand that? He still comes back. I know what it is you want in this place, but do not assume that you can let him go so easily.”
“Ghost, none of this has been easy. Not one second of it. I’m tired of burying the men in my life. I almost had to bury you. But I want to know…what is it to you? Why are you still not letting go of him? You already know why I can’t.”
“Again, that is not for you to know. If he continues to haunt you, perhaps you should just look in the mirror and remember that you deserve to be haunted by his memory. I have my own memories that I cannot so easily purge. I come here often. I come here to try to say good-bye, but it does not matter how many times I come back to see my old friend…I can’t let him go. Not fully, that is to say.”
“Why? What was he to you?” Krista now grabbed Ghost’s arm. “Tell me. Whatever the issues are between us, don’t drag them out. You must not regard me as a total waste, since you are the only reason I’m still here. And why did you use my first name out there? You’ve never done that before and you aren’t doing it now.”
Ghost didn’t look at her. He didn’t even glance. “Who Arlen Bradford was to me…is something that you can never understand. The way you threw him away…you can’t understand. You and so many others regard me as cold and unfeeling, but how cold and unfeeling must a person be to so easily break the heart of someone like him…you are no better than me, Showalter, you simply are not. And you have less right to be here than me.”
“What about my name, Ghost? Why did you use my first name?”
“That I cannot say. I have little memory of doing it.”
Krista was starting to realize that she wasn’t getting any answers from Ghost. He seemed to bait her here and there, but he never actually said anything that filled in any gaps. He had not changed, not in the slightest.
Ghost tapped the gravestone with his cane. “Good-bye, Brad. Take care.” He limped off, with Krista in pursuit.
“Don’t you walk away from me, Ghost.”
“Go home, Showalter. Our business is concluded. I would advise that you never come back here. Do not presume to attempt to purge your demons in this place. His grave is holy ground, and do not forget that you are the one who put him here.” He continued limping away. Krista would not give up.
“Ghost, damn you…talk to me. Why do you keep throwing him in my face? Why do you act like you miss him more than me? Who in the fuck do you think you are?”
“The one who saved your life, Constable. Do not make me regret that decision.”
It was a good walk, or limp rather, from the graveyard to Ghost’s destination. It took quite a while, but he moved down the residential streets to one that had not yet been inhabited, at least as far as Krista knew. The houses were in good condition here, but it was the last row of houses before reaching the farming fields on the eastern edge of town and none of the houses yet had residents. Krista never came here anymore, though she patrolled it once or twice back when she still wore the color of the Damn Yankees.
Her leg was aching like madness at the long walk to this place. She hadn’t noticed that the few people not pulling shifts at the moment in one place or another gave amazed stares as they limped by, with Krista trying futilely to get Ghost’s attention and Ghost acting like she wasn’t there at all. If Ghost’s leg was aching, then like always, he wasn’t showing it.
“Ghost, what the hell are we doing all the way out here?”
“I am going home. You do the same. I am done with you. Go away.”
“No you aren’t. I have questions.”
“You have already asked them. Now please depart before I lost patience. You have never seen me lose my patience.” To emphasize his point, he turned around and prodded her in the chest with his cane.
“Ghost, this is not over.”
“Yes it is. You simply lack the wisdom to understand that yet.”
Ghost forced his way down his otherwise empty street before stopping at a nice little one-story in the middle of the block. It was remote and it was highly unlikely that he received much in the way of visitors out here, which was no doubt the way Ghost liked it.
“Showalter, leave. I wish to be at home without the presence of someone like you.”
“Fuck yourself, Ghost. I already thanked you for saving my life, and now, you’re going to tell me what Brad was to you. Why do you really hate me so much? Why? For the love of fucking God, just tell me that much!”
“I don’t have the answers you’re looking for…Krista.”
With that, Ghost walked into his house and slammed the door behind him.
Well, at least he tried.
Krista jammed her cane in the door before it could close and stumbled past the door before Ghost could turn around and force her out. She limped hard and fast all the way to the couch in this somewhat Spartan but mostly comfortable little place. She flicked her eyes here and there, but in the couple of seconds before she had to get down to business, she saw nothing that spoke of the owner.
Ghost was amazed at how quickly she had gotten past him, but was anything but amused. “I am going to tell you this once, Showalter. Leave my home. This is where I come to be alone, to avoid people such as yourself.”
“Not until you tell me what I want to know.”
“The truth is not comfortable. You are not equipped to hear it. Now, get out.”
Krista couldn’t contain it anymore. She leaned forward on the couch and buried her face in her hands. She would never be free of Brad, not now. Not now that Ghost had come along and told her that she couldn’t be. There was something between the two of them…Brad and Ghost…something that haunted Ghost still, something of which he could not let go and as long as he could not, his hatred of Krista would not die.
Krista cried uncontrollably. There was no reason to stop. She cried and wailed, screaming the name of Arlen Bradford right there on Ghost’s couch. She didn’t even know how much time was passing as she felt as though she was crying her life away. There was no reason to stop. It wasn’t every day that someone was bluntly told that they would always hurt for the rest of their lives and deservedly so.
She felt a hand on her shoulder. Krista started to get herself under control. It was time for her to go home now, home to begin the rest of her life as a haunted woman with no place to go to be free of her demons.
But that is not what happened.
She felt Ghost sit down next to her, but her shock became absolute when she felt his arm go around her back.
Krista was about to slug him, not caring if he broke her neck for the effort. She looked up to deal with this man at last who had caused her so much misery in the last twenty months, but she was unable to follow through.
Ghost had removed his arm and stood back up. She looked at him or at least tried to. Her eyes were transfixed on his left hand.
The hand that held his mask.
The mask that had covered the face of the most mysterious person in the Duke City Colony.
The face that caused her to faint within seconds of seeing it.
The face of Arlen Bradford.
Re: The Woman and the Ghost
Posted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 4:02 pm
UGh!!!! seriously leaving it at that!! MOAR!!
Re: The Woman and the Ghost
Posted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 5:01 pm
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack! Why did you stop there! Moar!
Re: The Woman and the Ghost
Posted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 5:17 pm
Krista woke up as she had in the hospital the first time, slowly, unable to focus on her surroundings, unable to remember where she was. When she did finally bring herself fully into the waking world, she saw that it was dark outside and she was lying on a couch, but that was all. It was too dark to see anything else. She was in her own home, she could tell that much.
She shook off the remaining grogginess and tried to stand. She forced herself upwards with her cane and limped to the window. It was quite dark outside and her watch showed that it was past midnight.
But she was in her own home. That is not where she was in her last memory. She had been through this before.
It had been a dream. Another sadistic dream that taunted her with the hope that Arlen Bradford was not dead.
She began to cry. This one had been so vivid, so real…but here she was, back in reality, back in that cold, hard world where Brad was dead. That was when she heard the voice behind her.
She turned around and saw the living room lamp come on. The man who turned it on was dressed in khaki coveralls with sergeant stripes on the arms. He had a .44 revolver on his hip and a cane was leaning against the wall by the lamp.
He did not have a mask on.
There was no longer any reason for Arlen Bradford to conceal his identity anymore with Krisitana Showalter.
Krista pinched herself, hard enough on leave a red mark on her forearm. All she felt was the slight discomfort that usually accompanied such an action. This was no dream. Brad was alive…alive and in her home.
She almost fainted again but managed to steady herself. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Here he was. The man who had haunted her for almost two years, the man who had been the source of all of her pain and regret. The man whose death had catapulted her to the most hated person in the colony who wasn’t in the Detention Facility.
Except he wasn’t dead.
Krista stumbled to the couch and fell down. She kept wiping her eyes and looking back at Brad, but every time she did, he was still there. This was no dream, no hallucination, no flashback.
Brad was alive.
After she began to understand that this was real, she ignored the pain in her leg and almost leapt up, trying to get to him, to hold him and apologize, apologize for everything, but she didn’t quite make it. Brad’s hand gently touched her chest to stop her from moving forward. He didn’t want to be held by Krista. Not now.
“Krista, please don’t call me by that name. No one has called me by that name. Not in a long time.”
“Brad please…talk to me…how is this possible? I mean, is this real? Is it really you?”
“To you, it might seen like Arlen Bradford. But Brad is dead. You killed him and I buried him.”
“Brad, please…what happened? Please talk to me…what is going on? How…how are you still alive?”
“Brad is not alive. He had to die. He had to die and become me. I had to let Brad go. I couldn’t be him anymore. Brad was weak…he allowed himself to feel, and he couldn’t go on if feelings continued to hold him down. I had to let him go. I am all that remains of the man you called Arlen Bradford.”
“Brad…why? How did this happen? What have you done to yourself?” Krista was crying again.
“When you sent him away, it shattered him. He couldn’t keep going. He could not find a reason to even want to remain alive. You were all he had. He was loved throughout the colony, but you were truly all he had. You were all he wanted. When you took that from him, all that was left behind was a shell of a man, a man who barely existed. Brad needed purpose. He needed to keep going, but he could not do so as long as he felt the pain of what you did to him. So Brad died and became the man you call Ghost.” Brad was still speaking in that gravelly voice that was so unlike the way Brad had sounded. He stepped into better light and Krista saw that it was not a rehearsed voice to hide his identity. There was an ugly scar across the front of his neck.
“Brad, what happened to you?”
“Part of what you think you know is true. Brad was badly wounded in a training accident. It was on the live-fire course, and some fool fell flat on his face with his finger on the trigger, and Brad happened to be right next to him. This scar and the change in my voice is what I have to remind me of that day. What I also remember is that as Brad lay on the ground, waiting for help, he was relieved…relieved that he wasn’t long for this world anymore. It meant that he could finally be free…free of you, Krista. But instead, he woke up…woke up in the hospital. He almost died but still wasn’t free. Brad came to believe in his recovery that the only way to free himself was to die. He had to die and I had to bury him with all his emotions left behind by you. You would always be there…haunting his dreams and his every step as long as he was alive. Brad is dead. You have to let him go now.”
“I can’t…I can’t. I haven’t been able to let you go since…since I hurt you so terribly. I regretted it the moment I did it. I tried to get in…to see you, to say I was sorry and beg you to come home to me…but they didn’t let me see you. Then when I heard you died…they didn’t even let me go to your funeral. Funeral…who is that? Who is buried where your grave is?”
“No one. They just upturned some dirt and placed a headstone.”
“Brad, I’m so sorry that I hurt you. Please…don’t hate me anymore.”
“I have already forgotten what it means to hate. I have forgotten love. My name is Ghost, and I have survived the failings of Arlen Bradford. I have no need of feelings, not like he did. I resented you, but I never fully hated you. I don’t think I would have known what hate was even if I felt it.”
“Brad, how can no one know? How can you be alive but no one know it?”
“Many people know who I am. Everyone on ALERT knows that I was once Arlen Bradford. They hated you for what you did to me, so when I decided to let Brad go, they all helped me with the deception. Captain Heyward falsified my service record, classified Arlen as “killed in training,” and I was born.”
“I dreamed about you…in the hospital. I dreamed that you were alive.”
“Oh yes, that. You caused quite a bit of trouble with that stunt. The medical staff had quite a time unplugging me and moving me into another room and placing you on the floor of your own room.”
“So they were in on it? They know who you are? I wasn’t dreaming?”
“No, you weren’t dreaming.”
“How did I get here? How did I get back home? We were at your house before, weren’t we? How did I get home?”
“I brought you. I waited until most of the colony was asleep and carried you here. I was going to leave, to go home and let you wake up and think that you were dreaming again, but you woke before I could leave.”
“You carried me? All that way? With your leg and chest the way they are?”
“Yes. I carried you.”
“Why did you save me? Why? Why did you carry me back to the Stryker? It was because it was me, wasn’t it? Anyone else and you would have let Brightman do his own job.”
“I have only foggy memories of that, Krista. I cannot explain what happened.”
Krista got closer to him again. “I can. You still care, don’t you? Everything was so intense that you almost forgot who you were, this Ghost person. You came back for me because you forgot that you hated me.”
“Again, I cannot explain it.”
“And you’ve shadowed me…followed me from time to time…like in the Union Bar, or at the cemetery today…you…you said that you became Ghost to forget me, but you can’t. You still love me.”
“I don’t remember love, Krista. I buried that with Arlen Bradford.”
“No you didn’t! That’s why you slammed that man’s head in the table! That’s why you came back after I got shot! That’s why you carried me all the way here when you can barely walk at all! You won’t let me go! You’re still trying to protect me! Tell me! Tell me Brad!”
Ghost turned around but looked over his shoulder at Krista. “Brad is gone.”
“No, no! You’re Brad! You still care about me! I never stopped loving you! What I did to you…I hate myself for it…I hate myself! I’ve never been able to put it all back together again…because I still love you! Don’t do this! Let me…”
“Let Brad be dead, Krista. Let him go.”
“I can’t! I won’t do it! Come back Brad! Come back home! Come back to me!”
Krista in her frustration slapped him across the face. She did it again, harder this time, when the first did not appear to affect him. Brad froze where he stood, but after a second was finally able to look Krista in the eye. He said nothing, just looked. Something in his face, his sad, sad face, seemed to change. He began to whimper like a child, something he had not done in a long time, since long before Krista threw him away.
Now, it was Brad who collapsed. He fell to the ground hard, twitching, still whimpering, unable to respond. After a few seconds, he stopped moving. His breathing was heavy, burdened, burdened with twenty months of hiding behind the mask.
Krista began to cry as well. This moment was surreal, it was beyond the strangest dreams she had ever had. She looked down at Arlen Bradford, who she had hated that morning but now could only see the man who had saved her life twice and almost died for it the second time he saved her.
There was no Ghost on her floor.
The couch was only a few feet away, but she was determined to get him there. He was much larger than she was, but she had grown stronger, stronger from the training that this man now crumpled on her floor had given her. She managed to pick him up.
Twice, once in Lordsburg and again today, Brad had, through his agony, carried her home.
Now it was her turn to carry him.
Re: The Woman and the Ghost
Posted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 6:40 pm
You aren't allowed to quit writing yet.
Re: The Woman and the Ghost
Posted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 7:36 pm
What! where did the story go! ???? I was reading along, deeply engrossed and phiiiit gone!, no story......
Hey Pony tell me it was just a computer glitch, tell me I'll find Moar, tell me you're just catching your breath and flex your fingers and that MOAR is coming in just a tiny minute.................please..........
I've gotten good a groveling for stories...............................need more? oops, MOAR....please
Re: The Woman and the Ghost
Posted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 9:36 pm
Just plain awesome....now all that's left to deal with is that damn David Aquilar.
Re: The Woman and the Ghost
Posted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 11:15 pm
Now it was Arlen Bradford’s turn to wake up confused and disoriented. He found himself on the couch stretched out, with his boots under the coffee table and his revolver, unloaded, on top of it. It was daytime and he slowly righted himself, trying to piece together what had happened the night before. At least some of it came back when he saw that on the couch next to him, sleeping with her hands under her head, was Kristiana Showalter.
Brad sat for a while, just looking at her, unable to think clearly, not knowing what to do. He had spent the last twenty months of his life always knowing the road ahead, not allowing his judgment to be clouded by emotion, or at least he had spent that time thinking that was the case. How he was unmasked, trying to remember the resentment for Krista that he had never quite let boil over into hatred. He found that he couldn’t. All he could see was a beautiful, sleeping woman who had probably paid her sins off and then some. Brad was in a state of mind that had become unfamiliar. He didn’t know what he felt, as the concept of feeling slowly trickled back into him.
Brad just sat. Everything would change now, though he didn’t know what. He had spent almost two years trying to bury Arlen Bradford in the ground when he had really just buried Arlen within himself. There, Brad was not dead, but seemingly hibernating until something happened that would cause him to resurface.
And so he had.
With his chin resting on his clenched fists, Brad just sat, looking at Krista. He had forgotten how much he had loved her in the time since leaving to join ALERT, but things forgotten can sometimes be remembered with a pull of the right trigger, and apparently, seeing her on the ground, grasping a bullet wound in her leg, screaming in agony had been it.
There was no turning back now.
After a few minutes, Krista stirred and finally woke, seeing Brad on the couch next to her. She didn’t try to kiss or even hold him. She just looked at his face and made no effort to stop the torrent of feeling that rushed into her. Outwardly, she managed to stay reserved.
“Brad, are you okay?”
“I think so. What happened to me last night? I…I’m having trouble remembering certain things. How did I end up on the couch?”
“I put you there.”
“How did you do that?”
“I don’t know how. I just knew that I needed to put you somewhere where you could sleep. You passed out on the floor. But I have to ask you something.”
“Go ahead. There’s really no point in holding back any questions now, Krista.”
“Did you ever really stop loving me?”
Brad leaned back and stared out the window, seeing the light human traffic pass by on the residential street outside. He didn’t have to wait long to formulate an answer. “I did, initially, or at least I think so. When you threw me out of here, out of this house…I just broke down, I guess. I wanted to run…run far from where you were…and so I joined ALERT. I thought that I would be able to forget you if I buried myself in that place, but you were still there with me somehow. I forced myself to put in a maximum effort and devote myself fully to the Brown Coats, but it wasn’t enough. I couldn’t shake it. When I had the chance and killed my old self, I thought that I had finally crossed that line. I don’t think I had the capacity to love anything after that. But something just…I don’t know. I would get these flashes, these sparks I think. These brief little moments where I forgot that I had been running from you. They lasted about a second or so, and when I saw you on the ground after getting shot, I forgot that we weren’t together. By the time I picked you up, I remembered what happened between us, but I didn’t think about it. I…I just couldn’t take the thought of you sometimes. I began to miss who I was…I felt…so…not human I guess. I was forgetting what it was to feel, and that was what I wanted…I wanted it until it actually started to happen. That was why I chose the name ‘Ghost’ by the way. I wanted to be something not human, someone barely there…and…but it didn’t work fully. I couldn’t really forget. I kept going up to that grave to finally bury who I had been, but…he came back…I came back. But still…I think I forgot what love is. I don’t think I can remember now. I just can’t. It’s been too long. I’ve changed too much.” Brad looked away, clearly ashamed.
“Brad, it doesn’t have to be that way. It doesn’t. I’m not saying that we can go back to what we were…not after everything that’s happened, not after everything we did to ourselves to try to forget the other, but you don’t have to play that role anymore. I think that no matter what we do, everything will be different now. We can at least see what happens. We can try to find what we lost.”
“It’s not that simple, Krista. There are a couple of thousand people out there who think I’m dead…they believe that Arlen Bradford is dead and that I’m a masked man who only goes by the name of Ghost who doesn’t feel pain or emotion…there’s a mystique or something…people turn and look when I walk by…everyone in this colony knows me by the mask, but most think I’m dead. If it gets out that I’m alive…you have any idea what will happen? The whole Force will be crippled. If they find out that they’ve been lied to…what I really am…the consequences…we can’t do this. We can’t try to start over. There are too many risks, and too many people can pay them.”
“Brad, I can’t go through the rest of my life knowing who you are and that’s you’re alive and still pretend that you’re this Ghost character whenever I see you. I can’t live like that. I’m dreamed about you being alive…I’ve dreamed about it even though I knew it was just a dream…but this one actually came true. You’re here…you’re alive…and the greatest mistake I’ve ever made was letting you go. Please…don’t pull away now. Not now.”
“Krista, what’s changed anyway? You already know that I can’t give you a house full of kids, and when you start thinking about that again, I can’t take it if you throw me away again, I just can’t. I can’t go through that again. Look at what it did to me. What do you think it would do a second time?”
“There won’t be one, Brad. Just…just let me try. That’s all I can ask. Let me try. Let me try to set things right. I know you still…”
“Don’t say I still hate you. Don’t say it. That makes no difference now. You’re not talking to Ghost right now.” Brad looked away, unsure of what to do. He had, in the last twenty months, not believed that this moment could happen and thus he had not planned for it. He was lost.
“Brad, now that I know…I can’t live without trying to set things right. Let me. Please let me.”
Brad felt emotion well up in him, emotion that had been building for two years, and now he just allowed the floodgates to crack. He put his head in her lap and just bawled for a while. She stroked his hair and said nothing. She let him release whatever he needed to. She owed him that much…she owed him that an a great deal more.
“God I hated you, Krista…you broke me…”
“Then let me clean up my worst mistake.”
Three hours later, Ghost, mask and all, limped along on his cane back to his own house. Much unfinished business was now resolved, though he didn’t know how anything could start now without the whole masquerade coming down.
But he knew that he also had his own sins to pay off. He knew it wasn’t just her. He had spent twenty months letting her think he was dead and going through much to make her pay for it.
Perhaps her sins were paid. Now it was time for his.
Re: The Woman and the Ghost
Posted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 11:50 pm
All appearances were normal, as far as anyone was concerned.
But this is not to say that they had begun some illicit romance that involved sneaking into windows and kissing behind the water tower or anything so cliché. Rather, both tried to reacquaint themselves with what they had lost. Ghost was limping less and walking more to he house at night, walking there as Ghost but entering as Brad. They would spend their medical leave visiting each other late at night, just speaking and holding each other when something hurtful was relived. For most of those nights, both cried to some degree but whoever was visiting was always sure to be gone before the colony began to stir. Eleven straight days this happened.
They both aced their physicals when the time came, but took them separately, and as far as anyone knew, Ghost was riding again. He spoke in short sentences that got to the point and walked with the emotionless air of someone who had really stopped given a shit. Captain Heyward put them through refresher training, not knowing that his prized officer had revealed himself to the other who had been a headache as much as she had been a first rate cop. There had been many secrets that went into the creation of Ghost, but now, Ghost himself had one of his own, and only one other knew it.
During this time, Brad treated Krista with a dismissive or sometimes downright hostile attitude, though she knew that it was part of a new masquerade within another. No one suspected that anything else was afoot. It all seemed like business as usual. Though one officer was dead and Special Teams had some wounds to bind and plans to make, it seemed like things were returning to normal. ALERT Four had its star back, and Darius and the rest of Romeo One melted when Krista came back to them. The day she was cleared and returned to her old unit as Captain Heyward had promised, the five of them held a little get together at Rosa’s house. They sat in Rosa’s living room, drinking Zia and talking about all manner of things, mostly about how happy they were to have Krista back.
“Thank you guys…thank you for visiting me that whole time. It kept me going. I wanted to get back so badly. Well, after Doctor Ness talked with me, I certainly wanted to.”
Boba said, “Are you okay these days, Krista? I mean, you went through a hell of a lot. Are you really okay?”
“Yeah, I think I am. I’m just glad to be wearing the gray again.”
Darius raised his bottle. “Here’s to you getting back where you belong. We missed you, you know that? We really did. As I’ve always said, Romeo One is a family, and we look out for each other. That also means we really feel it when one of us isn’t there. Oh, and did you hear about Aquilar?”
Krista nodded as Darius continued. “Can you believe that guy? I seriously don’t know how he ever got on Recon, or even on the Force at all. He really went off the deep end. He must have never been that stable to begin with. A year…a damned year he’s going to be in that place.”
Allen asked, “What about Ghost? He saved you from some pretty heavy shit, they say. Got capped a couple of times and now he’s up and running, good as new, just like you. How is it between you two? Still nothing but bullshit?”
Krista forced down a smile. “Yeah. He was a prick then and he’s a prick now. I guess he saved my life just to spite me or something.”
They talked into the night and everyone was back home the next morning. Recon One was operational again.
Over the next couple of weeks, things were back to where they had been before. ALERT and Recon trained, lectured, and prepared for whatever was coming. But there were no operations outside the walls. Something else was happening before long, and this time, as everyone already knew, the whole gang was going. But some things seemed somewhat different. No one really noticed any change in the apparent hatred Ghost and Krista still had for each other, but most importantly, it would have taken someone quite clever to see that when they passed each other, seemingly indifferently, both usually looked back at the other just a little longer than they had before. But anyone watching would have to have known what to look for, and no one did. As far as ALERT was concerned, Ghost was still hateful of that woman who killed his old self and brought this new version into their lives. To Recon and everyone else, Krista was still that woman who had to take shit for what she had done to Brad in an earlier dimension of time.
But what one officer on Support and Logistics did notice was something that seemed to trivial that it escaped their mind within minutes of seeing it, though it was not trivial to the two parties involved.
Near Constabulary Headquarters at the Civic Center, there was a stone monument, carved with the names of those who died in the line of duty. There were not many names on that monument, and everyone hoped that the last had been added. But one day, one officer took brief but quickly forgotten notice of Ghost and Krista, standing at the monument, not speaking but just staring. It was nothing to the eyes of a random onlooker, but that nameless officer just assumed that Krista was gazing upon the name of Raymond Fuller, and Ghost was probably still giving her hell for one thing or another.
But both had said good-bye to Ray, and both had reasons to remember him fondly. But they name they looked at silently was of Corporal Arlen Ellsworth Bradford. They did not look upon his name to say good-bye. They looked at his name to help ease his unseen return.
It had been a month after returning to duty that Krista was called into Captain Heyward’s office. The message had been relayed by Specialist Melody Nemoto, Heyward’s secretary and the new girlfriend of some Corporal on Patrol. Krista had been in the middle of a run on the athletic field when Nemoto found her to relay the message.
She showered and put on her coveralls, prettying herself up as she had done months earlier when Captain Heyward called her in to relieve her from command of her old team. This time however, the news couldn’t be bad. She hadn’t broken a single regulation since getting back in the gray.
She arrived outside his office to see Ghost standing there, hands folded behind his back.
Something strange was happening, and whatever it was, involved both of them. This time, Ghost had clearly not been called to escort her to Heyward’s office as he had once been.
Re: The Woman and the Ghost
Posted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 1:12 am
Oh jee! My guess is either that it was found out the Krista knew and that Brad told her and now they will both take some heat or that Brad is going to do something romantic.
Re: The Woman and the Ghost
Posted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 1:51 am
I'm gonna bet reassignment off colony. MOAR, love this story!
Re: The Woman and the Ghost
Posted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:46 am
Upon Krista’s arrival at Captain Heyward’s office, Specialist Nemoto knocked on his door and informed him that they had both now arrived.
“Specialist, listen carefully. Until they leave my office, we are not to be disturbed unless it’s the Chief. As a matter of fact, go grab yourself some coffee. Do you understand what I mean when I say, ‘grab some coffee’?”
“Yes Sir.” Melody Nemoto walked briskly down the hall and out of sight. She knew what he meant perfectly. It meant that he didn’t give a crap whether she got herself coffee or not. She was to be far away from his door and not come back until she was sent for. This was a matter of extreme privacy.
They walked in and on Heyward’s demand, closed the door.
“Stand in front of my desk and keep your mouths shut,” he said. They stood at ease in front of his desk as ordered, but Captain Heyward turned around and looked out his window, hands behind his back, not saying anything for several seconds. When he spoke, he did not turn around.
“I certainly hope that you two understand what a fucking mess you’ve made.”
Neither Ghost nor Krista responded. They weren’t certain what he meant, but they both had a good guess.
Heyward turned around looking as though he wanted to strangle both of them on the spot, and indeed, his hands were shaking. “Ghost, I am placing the blame for this squarely on you. Two years…two goddamned years and here you are. I know what you’ve been doing. Don’t insult my intelligence by denying it. You two are in enough trouble as it is.”
“Sir, neither of us have done anything improper.” Ghost replied. Krista said nothing.
“Of course not, Sergeant, if by that, you mean that neither of you have broken any regulations. But there are larger issues than that. Two patrol officers on a night detail spotted you. They spotted you walking out of Showalter’s house…way past midnight. I would demand an explanation, but what’s the point? It doesn’t really matter now. Anyway, the animosity between you two is well-known, and now, how am I supposed to explain what you two are doing at each others’ houses in the middle of the damned night? Bradford, take off that fucking mask. You sure as shit don’t need it now. Not in here.”
Brad took off the mask, tucking it in his gun belt.
“I don’t know about you, Bradford, I really don’t. How much help did I give you, huh? How many times have I fed everyone that bullshit story? How much shit did I go through to help you put Arlen Bradford in the past? You have no idea how huge that effort was, how many people we had to get on board…and now, this shit. You wanted to just fall off the earth because of Showalter here, and now, I have to feed more bullshit to explain what the hell you two are doing.”
“Sir…we…” Krista began.
“You shut that yapper, Showalter. You couldn’t let it go, could you? Couldn’t let the past be the past. Couldn’t just forget about Bradford. Now here we are. You two have fucked everything up. Two years and the whole colony thinks you’re dead, Bradford. Two years…what the hell do you think’s going to happen when everyone finds out that you and this fucking Ghost character are the same person? What happens when they find out that they’ve been lied to? Our credibility will tank, that’s what. We did all of this because you were too pussy whipped to get over your little tart here, and now, you’re fucking paying her late-night visits like a couple of goddamned teenagers. If word of this gets out…if anyone finds out who you are…Jesus…what the hell were you two thinking?”
“Captain, what do you propose to do?” Brad asked.
“Well, I have to start explaining what the fuck is going on, and as usual, it needs to be a good bullshit story. So far, everyone still believes you’re dead, and we’re going to keep it that way. You understand that? Arlen Bradford is dead. But you…Ghost…you’ve already proven to me that you can’t even maintain a simple cover. If anyone finds out you’re knocking boots…fuck. There’s no way to explain how you two could have gone from mutual disgust to doing this. If this keeps up, you’re going to fuck up even worse than this and the whole thing falls apart. I should have never let you talk me into helping you vanish, Sergeant. Goddamn, what a disaster.”
“Sir, are you kicking us off Special Teams?” Krista asked.
“You should be so lucky to get off that light,” Captain Heyward said. “We can’t let this get out. I’ve got a lid on the two guys who saw you, and I’ve already come up with an explanation. This is the way it’s going to be, and you’d better learn to live with it. You probably won’t like it, but I don’t give a shit.”
“What’s that Sir?” Brad asked.
“I’ve already begun spreading the news that you two have been assigned to put together a special training program and you’ve been using your off-hours to work on it. So far, everyone who’s heard it buys it. After all, it’s not like they’d believe that you two are screwing, would they? Not until they find out who you really are, Bradford. Well, that’s not happening. By the way, you two are officially working on a training program together.”
“I’m sorry Sir?” Krista asked, wondering what in the hell he was talking about.
“We’ve been in communication recently with the Four Corners Colony. They’re on the upswing there. Everything is thriving just like here, but their Chief of Police has asked Chief Deihl for assistance. Their police department is attempting to establish a specially-trained force just like us. But they don’t have any way to train a force like this, until now. As of today, the Chief spoke to theirs and told him that you two will be on your way soon. Effective immediately, you two are assigned to Four Corners. I want you both out of here. The only way to keep this whole liaison between you two silent forever is to get you out of here before you fuck up again. In two days, a supply convoy is coming from Four Corners via Winslow. When it heads back the next day, you two are hitching a ride. Get packed. This is not negotiable.”
Brad and Krista looked at each other before looking back at Captain Heyward. “Sir, are you serious?” Krista asked.
“Serious as a goddamned heart attack. I will not see the credibility of the Constabulary fucked up by you two. Goddamn, Bradford, all you had to do was keep it up, keep playing the part. Damn you, Showalter…damn you. Damn you for not letting go. Report back here two days from now to receive your written orders, and your heavily falsified service records. I don’t need the Four Corners Police knowing that they’re getting two experts who are really just a troublemaker and whipped guy in a mask. For now, go home and start packing whatever you don’t want to leave behind. Say your good-byes. You are out of here in three days. Dismissed.”
As they turned to walk out, Captain Heyward said to Brad, who had now put his mask back on, “Sergeant, come back inside and close the door. Constable, wait outside.” Brad closed the door and stood in front of Heyward’s desk again. He came around the desk and grabbed Brad, hugging him tightly. “Goddamn you, Brad. I hate to lose you. I really hate to fucking lose you. Everyone’s going to feel it while you’re gone. I’m sorry it had to be like this. Just take care of yourself up there, okay? Don’t ever wear that mask again. But…don’t come back here. Don’t ever come back here. Build a new life. Be happy. I know you never really were on ALERT. Go north and see if you find it there.”
Brad shook hands with Captain Heyward and said, “Kiss Adrienne for me. I’m sorry I let you down. I’m sorry I just couldn’t keep it going.”
“I ranted mainly for show, Brad. You know that.” Brad turned around to leave before Captain Heyward stopped him just before he opened the door.
“I never served with a finer officer.”
“Neither have I Carl.”
Re: The Woman and the Ghost
Posted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 3:40 am
They both went home and began packing, both racked by uncertainty. They would both be heading overland across dangerous, zombie-infested territory to a new home and a new start. Ghost would soon be gone forever, and Arlen Bradford would once again be alive and in plain sight. Despite his apprehension, he had dreamed of what it would be like to live without hiding behind a mask. Now, the time had come when he could.
Krista had spent a bit of time wondering why she should keep going, keep trying, keep fighting, and now she knew. Second chances had always been rare in the world, and now, when almost all of humanity had run out of chances, she was being granted by circumstance the chance to do what she should have done the first time. No one knew them in Four Corners. They could finally be together in a new home. Only now did Krista begin to realize everything she would miss about Duke City, but it did not stand up when she weighed it against what she could have now.
After packing, Krista (aided by a fortunate ride, courtesy of Pete Birchum) headed over to Brad’s place. By now, the word was spreading that they were going away, going away because their work in Duke City was done and hundreds of miles from home, someone else needed their help. A few people saw Krista heading to Brad’s place, but no one seemed to care, except that Ghost, a real fixture around town and a local legend, would be leaving them forever. As far as they knew, Krista was heading there to work out logistics or perhaps their training program. That was good enough for them, but Captain Heyward was right. If anyone found out, and given enough time, they would have, so much would fall apart in the Constabulary. They had to go. There was no other way.
Brad and Krista had turned anti-social their last couple of days. Neither went to the Union or anyplace else, not wanting to face those they would soon be leaving. They couldn’t look around their home and then face the inevitability of never seeing it again. They stayed home, going through everything, making sure that they weren’t leaving anything behind. They were ready to go fairly quickly.
A short while before the supply convoy arrive, both reported to Captain Heyward’s office, where he gave them their service records, which contained not a few falsehoods, and said his own good-byes to both of them. He was not especially favorable to Krista, whom he at least partially blamed (in his own mind) for losing Brad, but he was properly appreciative of what she had accomplished as an officer.
“Kristiana, my advice to you is to look after Brad here. If anything, he’s earned it.”
“I will, Sir. Thank you. Thank you for not giving up on me.”
“Take care of yourselves.”
They left Captain Heyward’s office, and Brad, still acting as Ghost, gave a strong hug to Specialist Melody Nemoto, who had been fond of him.
“Melody, I’ll think well of you after I go. I hope that you remain safe and happy here.”
“You too, Ghost. Good luck in Four Corners.”
They left the building and headed home to grab their bags and get a last night’s sleep before heading out the next morning. Walking away from the Civic Center, they could hear the rumbling of engines. The convoy had arrived, the convoy that would take them away.
Neither would lay eyes on Captain Heyward again.
Brad stayed with Krista that night, but slept on the couch, not willing to go that last step while still in Duke City, but wanting to at least be with her their last night in the colony. It was a long, sad night, both pondering what lay ahead. They cried and held each other, and finally talked long into the night. Their bags were stacked by the door, waiting to travel with them to their new home.
The next morning, as the sun began to rise, Brad put on his mask for what he was sure would be the last time. He dressed in his khaki coveralls and geared up for the road. Krista was ready to go by the time Pete Birchum arrived to take them away for good.
Before leaving, Krista took a last look. “Back in the day, we really had some times here, didn’t we?”
“We did. We had good times, but also bad ones. I don’t think I’ll miss this place.”
“I guess that’s it.” Krista said, with a hint of sadness.
It was still early as Pete Birchum got them to the cemetery, where he had agreed to take them before their trip to the Civic Center. He waited while they walked up the low hill to take care of some unfinished business.
Ghost and Krista stood before the grave of Ray Fuller. She allowed herself a sob and Ghost didn’t begrudge her that. She removed one of the “R1” pins from her collar and placed it on his headstone.
“You’ve earned this, Ray, and then some. I’ll miss you. Good-bye. See you in the next life.”
Ghost placed his hand on Ray’s headstone and simply said, “Don’t worry Ray. I’ll look after her.”
They hopped Birchum’s shuttle and took their last ride to the Civic Center. It was quiet, which was rare when Birchum was driving. He was a character, that one. He loved to talk, loved to know everyone, and had never given Krista crap over anything. They pulled up to the front of the Civic Center.
Krista hugged him while Ghost casually shook his hand. Ghost and Birchum had never been close.
Krista said, after kissing him on the forehead, “Good-bye, Pete. Thanks for being a good friend. Thanks for listening. You’re a hell of a good guy.”
“Catch you on the flip-side, Krissy.” With a wink, he headed out.
Ghost stayed in character as they headed to the motor pool, where the convoy was busy taking up all the space. There was quite a bit of activity as the convoy prepared to move out, making use of all the daylight they could. The convoy master greeted them,
“So, you’re the two cops hitching with us?” he said.
“That would be us.” Ghost replied.
“Okay, what’s with the mask, buddy?”
“That’s a long story, friend,” Ghost said. “Just an inside gag. Think nothing of it.”
“Whatever you say, but you guys down here are weird, I tell you. Anyway, load your stuff on that deuce-and-a-half. That’s mine. Both of you are riding in the front with me. We’re gone in fifteen. Good to go?”
Ghost and Krista looked at each other and then back at him. “Good to go,” they said in unison.
Over the next couple of minutes, a few had arrived to see them off, but it quickly grew into quite a group. All of ALERT had gotten up early to say their good-byes to Ghost. He walked among them, shaking hands and wishing them well. His hands were shaking as he looked upon this group, ALERT, the most loyal gang he ever had known. No matter what happened in Four Corners, he knew he would never know a group like them again.
But Krista was amazed to see how many had come to look upon her one last time.
From the group, Doctor Ness came forward. “I hope I did you some good, Krista. I wish I could still be there to help.”
“Don’t worry, Doctor Ness. You’ve done a lot for me. I think I’m going to be okay.” She hugged him as her eyes began to well up.
Her team came up next. First were Boba and Rosa.
“Goddamn it, Krista, it won’t be the same. Thanks for being a friend. I hope that you’ll be okay having to deal with Ghost up there.” Boba said.
“Don’t worry, Boba. I don’t think he’ll be a problem.”
“Krista,” Rosa said, “If I’m ever an officer worth a damn, it’ll be because of you.” After Rosa said a teary good-bye, Krista hugged her.
“Rosa, look after Boba for me. And whatever happens, don’t let go of him. Grow old together, okay? You deserve that. And look after the team, too. They need a strong female presence, and that’s you now.”
Allen Stack came up then, as teary as Rosa. “I hope you can find something good up there, Krista. Thanks for everything you taught me. We had a hell of a time, didn’t we?”
“Damn right we did. The good parts, the tough parts…I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Take care, Allen.”
Finally, Darius came up, wearing his heavy emotions on his sleeve. He could barely utter a decipherable word.
“Krista, no matter who we get after you leave, it won’t matter how good they are, because they just won’t be you.” Darius was shaking all over.
“Thank you Darius. Thank you for everything. Thanks for never judging me. Thanks for giving me a home on One. Take care of the team, huh? They’ll be all right as long as they have you. Remember…Black Gold.”
“Black Gold…” He said back.
Adrienne Heyward came up later, just as they prepared to board. “You did okay, Krista. You made me a believer. You’re a good cop when you want to be.”
“Thanks, Adrienne. Thanks for helping me find my way back.”
Lieutenant Adrienne Heyward was never one to get emotional, so she just vanished back into the morning darkness.
It was with a final wave that Krista said her last farewell to those she didn’t even realize until now that she loved. The convoy honked its horns and they rumbled out the gate. Krista leaned against Ghost as they watched the morning light spread slowly across the desert. She sobbed a little, realizing how much she was going to miss her home.
Brad removed his mask and stuffed it inside his coverall. He would never put it on again.
The convoy master said, “So, you a Mexican wrestler or something, buddy?”
“Not quite, pal. But there’s a long story behind that mask, and you won’t find it interesting.”
Duke City vanished behind them after a while.
Brad and Krista would never see it again.
Re: The Woman and the Ghost
Posted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 4:43 am
From the front of the deuce-and-a-half, they could see the lovely New Mexico desert fly by, but here and there, this was broken up by the sight of a cluster of the living dead, shuffling after the convoy, arms outstretched, and some clusters were large enough that their moans could be heard over the engine. It was a chilling reminder that their old home and their new one were islands in a world that now belonged to the dead.
A world that would not belong to the dead forever.
Brad and Krista engaged in idle chatter with the convoy master to pass the time, mostly about their colonies were like and other such harmless talk. They refueled from the gas truck that always accompanied supply convoys at a rest stop that constituted the halfway point and continued north. It took several hours, some of which Brad and Krista slept through, but after a while, they crossed into Colorado and the walls of Four Corners came into view. It looked as large as Duke City and the gate that separated the vehicles before they could be inspected was of similar design. But what lay beyond was not a large college campus, but a medium-sized high school that served as the headquarters for the Four Corners Police Department. Both were pretty sure that the Four Corners Colony, formerly Durango, Colorado, didn’t have a college.
They jumped off and politely thanked the convoy master for the ride, and both Brad and Krista were thankful to have walls again. The living dead were a hell of a thing to see when home vanished behind and neither knew anything of the home that waited for them.
A police officer, dressed not in coveralls but in a simple police uniform that seemed the same as those worn before the world ended, came up. He had lieutenant’s bars and introduced himself.
“So, you two are the wonder kids who are going to show us how to kick ass and build a team of real life-takers and heart-breakers? Okay then, come with me. The Chief wants to see you.” They followed him into the high school and down a few halls where they certainly caught a few stared. Chief Deihl had really played them up and everyone who saw them stood in silence, gazing at these two officers whose reputations, if a little constructed, had preceded them by a couple of days.
The Chief’s office was, of course, the principal’s office in earlier time. The lieutenant showed them in and vanished down the hall. They left their bags outside his office.
“Well I’ll be damned, here you are. I’m Robert Heiser, Chief of Police.” He shook their hands vigorously, clearly thrilled that they had arrived.
“Sergeant Arlen Bradford and Constable Kristiana Showalter, reporting for duty, Sir.”
“Welcome you two, welcome to the Four Corners Colony. Anyway, I hope you had a decent ride, and those things out there didn’t do anything to impede you.”
“No Sir, not at all. The convoy kept a steady pace.” Krista said.
“All right then. Down to it. We have a good thing going here in Four Corners. Industry is kicking, everyone is safe, and the Police Department is doing a good job keeping them away from the walls and taking care of business inside. But what we need is a team that can do what your teams do. Now, we aren’t going to build two like Duke City, but rather a one team fits all sort of thing. But what we lack is anyone experienced to the degree that they can train our people and help us build our new tactical team. I am especially grateful that you two have volunteered to come all the way up here.”
“It was our pleasure, Chief. We thought we could do some good here.” Brad said.
“Okay, so here’s the deal. Whatever you need, you come tell me, and it will be done. I want you two to have a training program ready for me by a week from today, complete with a list of whatever you need to pull it off. I need a list of qualifications that you require. You design an obstacle course, I’ll get a construction crew on it. You need classrooms, I’ll designate one for you. Barracks, I’ll set some up. Again, whatever you need. You have the full cooperation of my staff.”
“We appreciate that, Sir. You will not be disappointed with our results. Krista said.
“I expect not. Chief Deihl and Captain Heyward say you’re the best they have. But after we set everything up, I want your help selecting people for this team. There are already a lot of applicants, but I want to know what you think. You would know better than me who would qualify. Then we get them trained, and I’m allowing four months for their training. Will that suffice?”
“That will certainly be enough time for us, Sir.” Brad replied.
“Then, when it’s all done, you two will have a choice. You can go back to Duke City, or stay here and help us with our new teams. But what I can say is this. Sergeant Bradford, if you choose to stay on, I’ll promote you to Lieutenant and put you in charge of all teams you train. Constable Showalter, or, should I say Officer Showalter, as we don’t use the rank of constable…I’ll promote you to sergeant and make you the group’s operations officer, working directly under Lieutenant Bradford. When that happens, you’ll be formally inducted into the Four Corners Police Department. But for now, wear your coveralls. Our people will be wearing black ones, but keep the ones you have. It probably wouldn’t hurt to be easily recognizable.”
“Sir,” Brad said. “we have already agreed with our own commanders to make this a permanent move. We want to build a team for your department, but we also want to make sure they know the job once they’re activated. Cons…Officer Showalter and I always intended to stay here.”
“That’s good news, Sergeant. Anyway, as I said, have a program in one week. Until then, spend the next week getting acquainted with the town. Meet some of the people, get to know some of the Force, get comfortable with your new home. So, how do you feel about shacking up together for the time being?”
Brad and Krista looked at each other, almost giggling.
“Wait, are you two a couple or something?” Chief Heiser asked.
“Yes Sir. We are indeed.” Krista replied.
“Then you’re in luck. If you lived separately, you would have gotten a couple of one-stories out in the residential area. But if you’re together, we already have set aside a nice two-level. It’s kind of out there, nestled near the northern edge of the colony with a wonderful view of the surrounding mountains. You’ll have a lot of privacy out there to work out the training program. I’ll also go ahead and release a golf cart so you can get around easier. But hit the bars and the restaurants, meet the people. They’ll all be happy to see you. Your arrival has been highly-publicized. So, I’ll have someone take you to your new home.”
They walked outside after more handshakes and some nervous introductions from some of the staff officers. There were two golf carts waiting for them and a police officer behind the wheel of each. They loaded their bags onto one and jumped into the other. The carts headed off.
Durango was a quaint and pleasant mountain town that had obviously thrived after the walls went up, seeming to be in a similar state as Duke City was. The streets were clean, the buildings intact, and the people all waved as Brad and Krista passed by. It was a real Main Street USA type of place, the type of place where roots could be put down.
And they soon would.
They saw most of the town as they made the drive to their new home. At least a couple of hundred yards from the nearest, the person who had once lived here had means. Surrounded by a lot of picturesque farmland then in the process of feeding the population, the house had a nice garden and spacious backyard, and what caught them off guard most of all was the pool and hot tub in the back.
Krista had to ask. “You roll out the red carpet and bend over backwards for every new arrival?”
One of the officers, a young whelp of a man, replied, “Beats me, you’re the first cops to come from outside. But I’ve put in my application for transfer to whatever team you’re going to build.”
“We’ll certainly have a look at that, Officer,” Brad said back.
The two officers headed back in one cart, leaving the other in the driveway. They walked in after finding the key taped to the door and saw that the place was well furnished and quite pleasant. They certainly would have no trouble working on a training program out here. They set their bags on the ground and looked around. They went upstairs and found the master bedroom.
“I guess this is it, huh?” Brad asked.
“This is what?”
“Where we’re growing old together.”
“Looks like. Let’s unpack. I want to take my first shower, have my first swim, and eat my first dinner in our new home.”
Brad replied, “You think we’ll be happy here?”
“You planning on going back to Duke City, Brad?”
“Not at the moment.”
“Then my answer is ‘yes.’
Their training program, a fairly extensive one, along with a list of requirements for new recruits looking to transfer and a list of what was needed to pull it all off, was on Chief Heiser’s desk the day before it was due. Within two weeks, everything was set up and the transfers selected. The training went smoothly under Brad’s leadership, and Krista did her part backing him up and not one recruit ever raised a word against her. They did not do a thing to challenge their instructors, their new leaders, their new friends.
True to his word, the Chief put them in black coveralls and promoted them, giving Brad lieutenant’s bars and sergeant stripes to Krista, and thus their new teams, collectively referred to as “Special Mission Teams,” (the Chief’s idea, not theirs) had their leadership. What certainly did not hurt, was the six Bradley fighting vehicles taken from the National Guard armory in town that had not served much purpose after the colony was built, but at Brad’s suggestion, was now the headquarters of Special Missions. It was also a good half-mile from the high school where the Chief worked, so they could lead their team with a fair degree of autonomy. Everything was in place and Special Missions went to work.
They quickly won a solid reputation as first-rate officers. Brad said they were as good as ALERT ever was.
As to Brad and Krista, they lived in their nice little two-story at the edge of town, where they were visited frequently by a list of friends that quickly grew. They went everywhere together and became a common sight, and everyone quickly learned to regard them as good people, good cops, a cute couple, and a fortunate addition to the colony. They had dinner at the Chief’s house, talked with students at the local school about what the colony was doing the protect them, and became active in community affairs. Everyone on the Force considered themselves lucky to have them. Much was done to make sure they never got the itch to go back to Duke City, which they never even considered.
They liked their new home.
There was much to repair between the two of them, but they both cared enough to forgive each other for the sins of the past. It was tense at times as old wounds do not always heal so quickly, but there was much good that came from forgiveness.
Krista had done something heartless and terrible to Brad long before, throwing him away for the most selfish of reasons. But he had forgiven her. It was a new home and a new start.
But then Brad had also done something heartless and terrible, throwing his resentment in Krista’s face whenever he had the chance from behind a mask and letting her cry over his faked death, but she had forgiven him. Like the colony they had come from and the one they now lived in, much about the past had to simply be accepted to move forward. They held hands while they moved forward together.
In each other, they had both found their own redemption.
…is another story.
Re: The Woman and the Ghost
Posted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 6:02 am
Excellent story. Thanks for your efforts.
Re: The Woman and the Ghost
Posted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 6:14 am
It's 4 am, and I've just finished yet another amazing Ponyboy 314 story. It's about 6 hours later than I planned to go to bed. Great job, and I hope you will write more amazing stories.
Re: The Woman and the Ghost
Posted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 11:46 am
Good story, and a good conclusion to it. Thanks.
Re: The Woman and the Ghost
Posted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 1:41 pm
Awsome story man