A Kiss Before Dying

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The morning news from CNN bounced off my subconscious while I made coffee. (CNN)’….North Korea rattling sabre again….’ I don’t know WHY I was making coffee, other than it was a habit I’d picked up in the 15 years of my now-failing marriage to John Anderson. (CNN)’….Corrupt New Jersey cop sought in slaying….’ I’d never enjoyed the bitter taste of coffee, only the smell. Was there a metaphor there for not dipping too deeply into life’s choices, I wondered, enjoy the surface things, don’t dig too deep, you’ll regret it? (CNN)’….Earthquake in China claims at least 300…’

My life with John had started in high school, both of us smitten with the other nearly on first sight. Nothing Special John, Nothing Special Jesse, but special to each other, and that sense of delight in each other hadn’t started to fade until we had been married for 5 years, like an old joke, ‘My husband and I have had 5 wonderful years together. Not bad, out of 15….’. Our marriage, and our love, was inevitably ground under 15 years of sameness, and little in common, other than a past. John had succumbed to temptation in an office encounter, and to my own shame I hadn’t given him enough reason to turn away, though I felt no other emotion.

Now here I was, 34 years old, and it looked as though I wasn’t likely to be a part of an “us” anymore. The saddest thing, I think, was the lack of regret I did, or didn’t rather, feel. We’d separated 6 months previously, and I can’t say that my life had changed much as a result, other than that John was now never around to carry the burden of keeping our palatial home, make that ‘house,’ together, though he was so good about paying for all expenses and keeping me comfortable. As a successful stock broker, he had put himself in a position where he could manage that easily enough, and to his credit he didn’t drag his feet about paying bills or in any other money matters, so I really didn’t bear him any ill will. Worse, I felt nothing inside regarding John.

I took quick stock of myself physically: 34, slightly overweight, a size 14 where I’d almost always been an 8, short, raven-black hair, with wisps of gray showing up, crows-feet developing in the corners of the skin around my eyes, lines, heck, wrinkles, a little more difficult to cover every day, sagging breasts – in short, I was growing older. Mentally: I had no clue. To use a nautical term, I was completely at sea about where I was headed, and what the future might bring. Emotionally: even worse, don’t ask.

I had promised John that I would winterize our family boat, a 34′ Whisper Jet sport cruiser. It was docked at St. Michaels, MD, across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge a few hours from our Bethesda, MD home in the Washington, DC suburbs. I prepared a sack lunch of Boars Head country ham sandwiches with mustard, home made cookies (bought at Zabar’s in Manhattan), and some apples and bananas, along with a jug of iced tea I’d brewed my very own self. I climbed into the Dark Blue Pearl Lincoln Navigator, making sure I had my cell phone, and headed out to the Capital Beltway, then east on Rte 50 and the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The brilliant fall colors of red, orange, and yellow in the sugar maples lining the streets of our comfortable neighborhood gave a joyous and gay punctuation to what was otherwise a fairly blah day, in both mind and body, so far as I was concerned.

The drive was unremarkable, marked with less traffic than usual, particularly on the Beltway, which had become a slow-motion parking lot at most times of the day in recent years. I had made the drive to St. Michaels countless times, though usually with John, and while I drove, I thought about the missed opportunities for both John and I in repairing our relationship. I had no idea, even at this late date, what or how to fix things, or what I really wanted. One thing I knew in my belated trip to wisdom, I’d better decide what I DID want, or I’d end up making the same mistakes I’d made throughout my life. I had to learn to make choices, whether for good or bad, and be responsible for the consequences. Though I might regret those decisions, at least I wouldn’t regret life making them for me.

After crossing over the immense southern span of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, a drive which had always slightly unnerved me due to the great height of the structure, I drove south down Rte 50, then west on St. Michaels Road, and finally entered St. Michaels itself, a picturesque, but still fortunately sleepy bayside town, that still depended heavily on the Chesapeake area’s tradition of fishing and ‘ostering,’ as the oyster harvesting business was pronounced thereabouts. But it was also reaping the bounty of increasing amounts of Yuppy and Generation X tourist dollars, as St. Michaels’ attractive and historic area was again being discovered by another generation. I drove down Talbot Street, turned left at Chew Ave, then to Meadow and to the marina parking lot.

I pulled up to the marina in St. Michaels, the bahis firmaları picturesque town and its Fall Harvest celebration preparations only peripherally on my mind, as I began mentally ticking off the list of actions I’d have to take to get the 34′ boat ready for winter. I took out the large grocery bag of food, and tea, locked up the Navigator, and walked down to the dock. The St. Michaels marina is composed of a long central pier extending far out into the Miles River, with cross docks where the water craft are actually docked.

The closer in docks are for smaller craft, like boats, as the water is shallower there, and the outer docks, farther from the shore and in deeper water, are where the larger craft, ‘ships,’ are docked, with their deeper draws. As the “Melancholy Baby,” a Whisper Jet sport cruiser, was capable of ocean travel and was a little longer and with a deeper draft than many of the other boats berthed at the Chesapeake Bay marina, it was berthed among the fancier craft, including some yachts that exceeded 80, and even 100 feet. I wasn’t going to be doing a great deal to get it ready for the cold weather, just adding additional anti-freeze, fuel stabilizer, and doing some lube work on the fittings, setting a trickle charger on the battery, as well as picking up miscellaneous junk left behind during the summer, battening down the hatches and emptying the refrigerator, etc.

Passing a short, roughly dressed man tying his shoes, I walked to the security gate, about 30 feet farther out on the pier past the tackle and supplies store, which was closed for lunch, and pulled out my magnetic pass card to open the welded steel gate. When the buzzer sounded, I jerked the heavy gate open, and began walking through. Just then, I was bumped into by the man as he, too rushed through, muttering a brief apology. I turned and glared at him, but he kept his head down, looking at the silvery gray, weather worn oak planking of the pier, a cheap fisherman’s cap pulled down over his face.

I began to feel alarm, and I started looking around to see if there was anyone else around. My hand came out of my jacket pocket with my cell phone flipping open, when the man’s arm struck upwards under mine, and the phone went flying into the shallow water. My fears confirmed, the ‘man’ lifted his face to mine (he seemed shorter than I am, and I’m 5′ 8″), though still in shadow, and steel blue eyes locked onto mine, a husky voice whispering at the same time, “I’ve got a gun pointed at your middle. Don’t scream, don’t make any abrupt movements, and you’ll get out of this without being hurt in any way. Do you understand?”

I stood frozen in fear, unable to move, or even breath. Just seconds before I had been bemoaning the loss of my marriage, and here I was facing the loss of my life. I managed a shaky nod, my hands and the bag they held shaking like a rose bush in a hurricane. “Good,” the man said. “Now, where’s your boat?”

Barely able to put my thoughts into any kind of order, I said, “Cruiser. Only landlubbers call these ships ‘boats.'”

“Shit!” the voice hissed. “I don’t give a FUCK what you call the fuckin’ thing, where’s your goddamn boat!” I pointed towards the end cross tree, and in a tremulous voice, said, “There.”

“Take me there,” the man said. I managed, barely, to pull my feet forward to walk out to the Melancholy Baby, aware of a heat running down both legs from my crotch. God, I’d pissed myself! We walked, or more aptly, shambled out to the craft, my body barely able to obey the command, the man hunched over and striving to keep his head down as he walked behind.

When we got to my cruiser, he said, “This is it?” I nodded yes, he muttered, “This’ll do, I guess,” and gestured for me to climb aboard. He followed close behind, and sat down on one of the deck chairs. “Get us out of here,” he said. “And I meant it when I said I wasn’t going to hurt you.”

I started up the engine, the fuel gauge said there was about 150 gallons in the tank, half her capacity, though I had no idea how far this guy was going. The engine purred like a kitten, it had just had an overhaul the previous month. I moved to cast off the bow and stern lines from the dock cleats, and pushed off. We drifted out from the wooden structure about 15 feet, already taken by the tide, and I slowly eased away from the marina, in the ‘no-wake’ zone. Outside of that, I began to cruise up the Miles River.

“Go south,” the man said.

“You have to go north, to go south from here,” I called back to the man, slumped in the chair. It looked as though he had dropped a red kerchief from his pocket on the white painted deck. “It’s the way the river runs.” Plucking up more courage than I had shown heretofore, I asked, “Where is it you want to get to?”

“Florida,” he answered laconically.

“Holy shit,” I thought, “this isn’t a shipjacking, it’s a fucking kidnapping.” I figured it was best not to get too involved with this guy by asking too many kaçak iddaa questions, so I figured on a course for the mouth of the Bay, and then playing it by ear from there. John and I had shared skippering duties on the craft, so I was pretty familiar with its operation. I set a course by dead reckoning out the Miles River, into the upper Chesapeake Bay, and around to the west where I could hit the main channel. Passing well to the spit of sand north of Claiborne, MD, I entered the main channel of the Chesapeake and headed south now, staying about 1/4 mile off the eastern shore, keeping in deep enough water without getting into the main shipping channel, where the Baltimore-bound freighters run. There was little comment from the man the whole of this time.

Finally, hours later, down near Gloucester Point, north of Hampton, VA I said, “We’re nearly out of fuel. What do you want to do?”

The man roused himself, then said, “Well, pull over and get some gas.” Landlubbers! I brought us into a dockside fuel station in Gloucester Point, and got ready to refuel.

“We need to pay for the gas,” I said.

The man said, “Use your credit card.” I figured it was no use pretending I didn’t have one, with that gun he might make me pay too high a price. I sighed, and pulled out one of my Visa cards, and ran it through the slot, then pulled the long hose over and set it into the fuel reservoir opening. I knew it wasn’t going to be cheap. With a 300 gallon tank, and gas at about $1,80, it ran to nearly $500. I guessed that, after it was all over, if I were still alive, I might be able to get the money back from insurance or something.

Completing the transaction, I fired her up, and moved us back into the channel, and past Hampton and its gigantic US Naval vessels, out into the Atlantic itself, and staying within 10 miles or so of the coast. I turned to ask the man what he wanted next, and if I could at least eat, since it was now late in the day, and found him slumped to the deck, in a pool of blood, a small pool but no less shocking.

I stepped down onto the deck and over to him, moving cautiously, and put my fingers on his thumb, to check his pulse. An extraordinarily small thumb for a man, the fingers smooth, and I was stunned to see flecks of fingernail polish on the nail. A woman? He/she showed no signs of rousing, so I reached gingerly inside the jacket for the gun, which turned out to be a 9 mm police issue. The only reason I recognized it as such, was because John had one like it. Checking further, I found an ID flip wallet inside the jacket pocket, with a policeman’s badge on one side, and an ID card issued by the State of New Jersey, with a picture of an attractive young woman in the uniform of the New Jersey State Police, smiling for all she was worth. The name on the ID card was ‘Trooper Jenny Clark.’

I compared the picture to my kidnapper’s face, pushing back the battered fisherman’s cap, to see ringlets of golden hair matching those in the picture. The face, too, was the same, but lined and dirty, pallid in her cheeks where in the picture she’d had a ruddy glow. Only God knew what was happening, but it was clear to me that I had an injured police officer on my hands, and that I’d have to act quickly. After I quickly set the sea anchor to minimize drifting, I dragged/carried her below to the small double sized bunk that served as the sleeping surface in the tiny cabin, and laid her out on the bunk. As I lay her down, a packet of 35 mm photographs fell out of her shirt pocket.

I looked through the photographs quickly. It looked like the series of pictures had either been taken very closeup, or through a sophisticated telephoto lens. It seemed likely that the telephoto lens was the right choice, as the series of pictures showed two groups of 3 or 4 men each, meeting inside an apparently abandoned industrial building, the place looked like a real mess by the dirt, dust and oil on every surface. The pictures looked as though they were sequential, and they progressed to a point where one of the groups of men pulled out guns and started shooting the others, apparently killing or seriously wounding them. I looked at the back of the photos, but there was nothing there, other than one photo that said, ‘Capt. Jameson?’ or something like that, hurriedly scribbled in pencil

I turned back to the girl. She looked as though she was in her early twenties, but also as though she’d been through holy hell. I looked first at where she was obviously injured. The blood seemed to be coming from her upper right thigh. I gingerly unbuckled her men’s style jeans and belt, then eased them down her slim legs until a long, but shallow cut from a knife or other sharp object was revealed on the outside of her upper thigh. I didn’t know much about wounds, but I didn’t think there was an artery in that area that would result in fatal blood loss. The blood wasn’t spurting, so I figured it wasn’t an arterial wound, which probably would have finished kaçak bahis her off long ago. From the way she smelled, it had been a while since she had a bath. I pulled off the jeans, leaving her in, oddly enough, a pair of pretty white lace bikini panties.

We didn’t have a very good first aid kit on the cruiser, but at least it had a bottle of Betadine, which would serve as a disinfectant. I thought a little bit about what might work as a bandage, and I remembered that I had left a package of maxi-pads in a storage cabinet by the head, when I was having my period on one of our past trips. Along with duct tape, which every boat has (or should have), I had the makings of a workable bandage, and just about the right size, too. I cleaned the cut as best I could, using cold water from the tap at the small multi-purpose sink, and some paper towels from a few rolls accumulated on board, part of the ‘junk’ I had intended to bring back after closing up the cruiser. I then applied the napkin, soaked with Betadine on the cut, and taped over it, onto her thigh, with duct tape. Her thigh was firm and warm under my fingers as I moved her leg to minister to her. I looked between her legs then, and saw a fairly large spot of blood, at about the spot where every woman has seen one, at least once in her life, at her vagina.

Believe me, there was nothing sexual about this police officer/girl, not at that point. Dressed like a bum, filthy and smelly to heaven, and apparently springing a leak, she was basically just a mess. I sighed, and my mothering instinct went into high gear. I quickly pulled her panties down in front, saw that it WAS just her period (not shot, or knifed, or anything), then I pulled her panties back up, and began undressing her top. The men’s flannel shirt she was wearing was filthy, as though she’d crawled through a sewer, and I could at least try to prevent infection, and improve her smell. I unbuttoned her shirt, pulled it off (not easy with a dead weight), then reached behind her and unsnapped her bra (a very lovely lace pattern again, and a match for the panties, go figure), and gently took it off her, revealing her small breasts and her pretty little pink nipples and areolas, like a small girl’s (the nipples, not her breasts). She stunk really bad, so I set to work.

I covered her with a blanket, to keep her warm, then drew some fresh water from the tap (a tank on the boat holds a couple of hundred gallons), and set it on the camp stove in a large pot to take the chill off it. After the water was heated, I took a roll of paper towels and some liquid body soap, and started giving her a sponge bath, starting at the top of her head, doing what I could with her hair, then soaping and wiping down her face, neck, upper chest, as much of her as I could reasonably reach, then dried her and covered her upper body with the blanket again.

I finished up her stomach and as much of her lower back as I could without flinging her all around, then pulled her panties down off her hips, and down her legs to the floor. To my surprise, there was a long wadded mass of cheap toilet paper, serving as a makeshift sanitary napkin, half of it stuck in the crotch of her panties, and half still adhering to her vagina, where it had been pressed in.

What kind of desperate circumstances can a woman be in, where she can’t get her hands on some kind of pad or tampon, or at least attend to herself to some extent? She smelled pretty bad there, as can happen. I gently stripped off the blood soaked residue of the toilet paper from below her golden bush, which was full and abundant, though neatly trimmed, and apparently shaved around her labia. I gently wiped around her vulva, removing the dirt, and residue from her flow, and for some reason began crying. I sat there helplessly for maybe 5 minutes, sobbing, tears running down my cheeks, and not knowing why. I guess in retrospect it was sadness at seeing this young girl’s desperation (under the dirt, she looked like she was 17, though obviously older), so severe that she couldn’t take time to reach a minimum level of human semblance. From her ID photo, though, it was obvious that she’d been happy and composed once upon a time.

I forced myself to just stop crying, and finished cleaning her, so that by the time I finished, all the way down to her feet, she didn’t smell quite so bad and looked a lot more human, and feminine. I didn’t have any panties for her to replace her dirty ones, but I did have an old, but clean, bikini bottom that would fit her and keep the breeze off her ass, which, honestly, looked nice. I could remember when my bottom was that trim, though I was heavier now. I thought she must have all the boys admiring her as she went by. I put one of the spare pads inside the bikini bottoms, between her legs, where it would do some good.

She’d need medical attention soon, and I thought about where I could take her in. I decided not to go back, but to go forward, through one of the inlets of the North Carolina Outer Banks. There was something extremely odd about this affair, and I wasn’t quite ready to take her to the police until I’d had a chance to learn a little more from her, if she awakened any time soon.

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