Her name was Sergeant Carrie Thomason. She asked me to call her Carrie, so I thought of her as Carrie. “So Maxine, You don’t mind if I call you Maxine?” she asked.
“Not at all Carrie, so do you want to know why I had Blevins arrange this meeting on Christmas Eve? Or would you rather not take on anything new?” I knew that it was Christmas and in the back of my mind I thought I might need to just handle this alone.
“Sure, I want to know what got Blevins to call me. He is about to retire, so I want to know what got his blood up on a vice case? Then I find out you are in the middle of it. Now I am dying to know what the hell is going on.” Carrie said.
“Are you from here Carrie?” I asked. I guessed her age at about thirty. I was trying to figure out how much background I needed to give her.
“Yes, I was born here, I’m also married and have a kid,” she informed me. I got that a lot. The people I met tended to treat me like a man for some reason. The women wanted to be sure I knew they were not interested, long before I ever thought to ask.
“Well if you are from here you know who Reverend Adkins and ‘His Laboring Few’ are.” I suggested.
“Do you mean Reverend Archer and that ministry for the poor, druggies, alcoholics and the homeless?” she said.
“Yes, did I call him Adkins?” I asked.
“Yes you did,” Carrie replied.
“I must be slipping into senility early,” I suggested, “Anyway, they do damn good work. I support that ministry as much as a heathen like me can. Whenever I hear of trouble in the ministry, I try to fix it. I figure it’s something I can do, so I do it.”
“I have kind of heard things like that now and then,” she said vaguely.
“So, I was picking up some turkeys for the mission’s Christmas feeding program last night. I heard a rumor that one of the Deacon’s might be involved in prostitution using some of the women from in the mission’s programs.” I checked to be sure she was till listening. When I assured myself that she was, I went on. “So I set up a little sting of my own to be sure that it wasn’t just a rumor. You know how those church politics are not to mention the rumors.” I said.
“I sure do,” she agreed.
I handed her the smarter than smart phone and let it play the tape. She heard it all then ask. “So the woman and her husband are your people?” she asked.
“They are friends, who didn’t mind helping the ministry out. They aren’t really associated with me in any formal way.” I replied not sure where she was headed.
“If they are willing to testify, we can change those two guys with procurement.” she said.
“Oh so you don’t need to be involved in the operation yourself?” I asked.
“Actually, it’s probably better if we aren’t in this case.” she said.
“Good enough, let me take this to my lawyer and have her show it to Reverend Archer. If he wants to prosecute his man, I will arrange for the operatives to testify.” I said.
“So is that all there is?” Carrie asked.
“Yes, turns out I just needed the advice after all. I thought we might have to arrange an elaborate sting.” I said. “I guess I have been watching too much TV.”
“This is a pretty low priority crime. Most of our resources go into the war on drugs. Even that has taken a holiday this last year. I am told you had something to do with that. You are something of a folk hero around the station.”
“It’s all TV hype Carrie. I am just one person trying to survive in this world just like you. Well not exactly like you, since you are a lot more attractive.” I smiled just to be pleasant.
“Oh, from the people I hear talk, the guys seem to find you very desirable,” she said.
“Oh I doubt that, but thanks for the kind words,” I said. I let Carrie out the front door since she had parked her plain car there.
The fact that I had forgotten Archer’s name was only a vague nagging in the back of my mind. I could image that it was going to be a major concern to the controllers. the case officer, not to mention the creator. Were my circuits breaking down. I’m sure they would be wondering that and probably running simulations all through Christmas night. Somehow it seemed fitting that it be on Christmas night.
“Hello my Christmas Slut,” I said when Jen answered the phone at home. It was well after office hours.
“Well if it isn’t Santa’s youngest Elf, Harlot. How goes it? Which toys are you making? the vibrators or the Dildos.”
“Jennifer, I need some help,” I said.
“Is this for money or fun,” she asked.
“It’s to save the preacher from himself of course, so I’m not sure which.” I said. I went on to explain it all to her.
“Send me the file. I will see that he gets it before we go all judicial on him. Maybe we can just throw the Deacon out of the flock.” She suggested.
“If he stays, he will be right back in it just without the title,” I suggested right back at her.
“So what do you want to do banish him from the realm?” she asked.
“Too bad we can’t do that. I don’t want to jail him, because it will make the ministry look bad right here at Christmas. I also do not want him coercing those women into turning tricks.”
“I’ll talk to the Reverend and see what we can work out. It’s a lot more complicated than it seems isn’t it?” she asked.
“Yeah I know, Why do people do shit like this? Is it just to upset the balance of life?” I asked.
“How the fuck would I know. That’s a question for God, not the likes of us. Speaking of which are you going to one the midnight services?” Jen asked.
“I hadn’t planned on it,” I admitted.
“I heard you killed a man today. Maybe you should go to a service, it might help make Christmas easier,” she suggested. “Besides you like the music.”
“You are right I do like the music.” At least I had liked the Christmas music when I was alive. I had loved Silent Night since my Christmas in Afghanistan when the choir with the USO show sang it. All of us dirty, smelly Airmen cried for home. Just went to show everybody loves and misses somebody, I guess. It was a common experience which made it even more powerful.
“Tell you what, I’ll meet you wherever you are going,” I suggested.
“Then meet me at the Vatican at midnight,” Jennifer said. “Of course Bob will be with me, so you might want to bring a guest.”
“I think not,” I admitted. “Have you heard? Is the mission doing anything?”
“Not that I know of and I would,” she said.
“Well maybe the preacher will show up at the Vatican,” I suggested. Since the Vatican was actually the huge stone First Presbyterian Church it was possible that the Reverend would show up there, not likely but possible.
I rested for a couple of hours, then it was time to go to the midnight service, if I really planned to go. It did leave me with quite a few questions. I mean exactly what was I. I knew right from wrong, but did I have a soul. I was pretty sure I would have the same conscience that I had before I technically died. Probably because nothing much bothered me back then either.
I was never all that religious, but I also don’t deny the possibility of God. I just made a separate deal with him. Mankind was trying to make an immortality deal with god. You know heaven and all that, my deal was just to keep on keeping on. It seemed to be working, even if it was different.
The midnight service was beautiful, the music was inspiring, and the kids were adorable. All in all I was glad Jennifer had convinced me to go to the service. During the drive home I began to wonder what the hell I was doing. I could make a real difference in the world, but here I was planning to play a really minor role in life again. I took a deep breath and the feeling passed. I imagined that the controller and my case officer were thrilled that it had. Nothing worse than an operative with delusions of grandeur, I thought. Especially one that might be self destructing memory wise at least.
When I got home, I waited quietly resting until daylight Christmas day. I had been invited to Christmas dinner at more than one location. Since I couldn’t do all of them, I chose to eat Christmas Dinner alone. Well not exactly alone, I drove the pickup truck to His Laboring Fews Mission. I found Helen and Jack there. “So give me a hairnet and point me to the mashed potatoes,” I said.
“Right this way Maxine,” Helen said to me. She did just what I asked. I wore a hairnet while I shoveled mashed potatoes onto the plates of those who needed a hand that year. Again I realized that poverty and hunger respect no boundaries. Black, white and many other races were represented in that line. There were men, women, and even children, not to mention young and old.” After I finished helping to feed all of them, I had a cup of black coffee and a slice of turkey on a roll. It was all I wanted, and it was a good thing, since we had run out of most things, or were damn close to being out. We did have plenty of turkey and rolls.
“Maxine, you are an inspiration,” a young man who came from nowhere said. I had no idea who he was or what he meant.
“Son, I’m not an inspiration. I’m just someone trying to leave a mark on the world.” It was true. I had no grand plans, I just tried to do something every day.
“Well, I have read all about you and I think you are just amazing,” he said.
“Then I suppose I fooled you, and I guess I’m glad. Merry Christmas.” I said walking back into the kitchen to say goodbye to Helen and Jack.
When I arrived outside my Downtown House, I found Peter sitting in his car. “Why aren’t you with your family?” I asked.
“We finished dinner already. Sylvia is with Vlad and Anya so I was bored.” Peter said.
“So you came here as a last resort, thanks.” I laughed.
“I didn’t mean it like that,” he said.
“Sure you did, but it’s okay. Come on in we can split a box of candy and have a drink.” It would be no treat for me to do either, but it might be for him.
Alcohol did nothing for me and it didn’t really have much of a taste for me. I had a really poor sense of taste after all. So what I did was to make eggnog milk shakes for us. I could at least taste those. While we sat sipping our eggnog milkshakes and eating chocolate covered cherries, I grilled Peter about his relationship with Sylvia. I tried to do it gently.
“Peter tell me are your clothes hanging in Sylvia’s closet?” I asked. I thought that was pretty subtle.
“Does it matter?” he asked.
“I don’t know what do you think?” I asked turning the tables on him.
“I don’t know,” He replied to something. I wasn’t exactly sure what question his answer was meant to cover.
“You don’t know where your clothes are hanging?” I asked.
“I don’t know whether it matters if I’m living with Sylvia or not. Of course I’m not really living at her house, but I have spent some time there.”
“Some time or a lot of time?” I asked.
“Why does that matter?” He asked.
“It matters because I am going to be doing some things, and I had planned to include Sylvia. If she is involved with you, I won’t do that.”
“You really have to ask her, to get her feelings. I spend time with Sylvia is about all I can say for sure.”
“Okay, I’ll ask her someday,” I said.