‘The twists and turns of life can be daunting, despairing- disconcerting, especially during Midlife. When all hope is lost, it’s often in this desperate, pivotal moment that life chooses to renew, rebirth, reinvent and reinvigorate…
Kalon Women Magazine’s new mystery series ‘Becoming Billie’ draws upon this truth and leads readers on a dark and harrowing journey, through the smoky NYC and Chicago jazz scene, seedy ‘dives’ and bloody alleyways – battered and broken hearts – and eventually – to simple new beginnings in the town of Weehawken NJ.
Join Laurie Allyn each month for a fresh installment and let ‘Becoming Billie’ weave its web of intrigue, deception, murder and triumph… you’ll be glad you did!’
Becoming Billie – Chapter One
So many lives lived in a parallel universe – never meeting, or knowing that the other exists – until circumstances intervene.
For two strangers, this parallel universe is about to collide in a cataclysmic way that will alter each of their lives forever….
Augustus ‘Gus’ Walker and his daughter Theresa attended an early Mass, lit a candle and now stood by a small headstone, the carved Angel’s head bent over the words, ‘Mary Elizabeth Walker, Beloved Wife and Mother- Gone to be with Jesus’.
A light rain was starting to fall but they lingered, each reflecting on the two years since Mary had died.
Theresa held her father’s hand and softly said, “Come on Dad, we’d better get you home for a nap before work.”
Gus nodded, his eyes still closed.
At that same moment, 5 miles away, an ambulance was pulling up to Madison General Hospital. The medics carefully wheeled in the battered, bloodied body of a woman. No identification accompanied her. Wearing only one shoe, her cocktail dress soiled and ripped, she painted a picture of happy times gone horribly, horribly wrong. The ER admission process began and soon she was wheeled into a curtained cubicle for triage.
The rain was tapering off as Gus eased into his parking place. The wiper blades kept time to the tune on the radio:
‘It’s like reaching for the Sun.
It’s like reaching for the Moon.
It’s like reaching for the Stars – Reaching for You…’
Gus didn’t know one singer from another but let the words wash over him in a poignant reminder of just how desperately he missed his wife. Two years hadn’t dented the loneliness. If anything it was becoming worse.
It was difficult keeping it bottled inside but he didn’t want to burden Theresa. She’d given up her career to be there; first for Mary- and now for him. She never complained about moving back to the house she’d grown up in, yet he wondered how much she missed big city life. Each of them had made major changes when Mary was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
After his years in the Army, it seemed natural to enter law enforcement. He’d worked his way through the NYPD rising to the rank of Detective. He’d found the work intriguing– and had even been instrumental in bringing a few cold cases to justice. But Gus had taken early retirement to be with Mary throughout the final agonizing days and never looked back.
He switched off the ignition, squeezed the crucifix of Mary’s rosary he carried in his pocket- a ritual he never missed before every shift – and stepped out on to the wet pavement, avoiding the puddles. His heavy black Rothco’s did their job. They’d served him well, seen him through much… like Mary’s rosary had helped him hold it all together.
The automatic doors swung open. Fluorescent lights shook him into awareness. He walked into the ER entrance. He was now Gus Walker, Security Guard, Madison General Hospital.
The night Duty Nurse looked up from the roster.
“Good evening Gus. … still raining?’
‘Hi, Rhonda. Not so much now but it sure was a frog-strangler drivin’ in.’
She smiled – ‘Stop by the break room – I think the coffee’s still warm and there’s cake left over from Pat’s birthday – chocolate and rich! That oughta warm you up!’
‘Thanks. -Not tonight… I’m off my feed.’ Gus winced.
The contents of a half empty whiskey bottle under his bed was the culprit and although he’d never gone to any job ‘under the influence’, the influence had taken another route now bordering on an ulcer.
‘Ok…more for me!’ Rhonda laughed. ‘Oh- by the way, we have a new ‘visitor’ in ICU. Came in this morning in a bad way. They think it’s drug related and she’s really busted up. But you’ll probably check that out on your rounds.’
Gus nodded and began down the hallway.
First Floor. Always quiet. Just the Admittance Desk, the darkened gift shop and empty cafeteria. Custodians were mopping the floors and vacuuming the billing office.
Gus checked the main front doors and then took the stairs to the second floor. No one was at the desk.
Down the hall he looked into a room where a young patient was playing a game on his iPad.
Gus rounded the corridor and heard agitated voices. Passing the other darkened rooms he came upon a young nurse desperately trying to quiet an older man who was belligerent.
‘What’s goin’ on here?’ Gus asked in an authoritative voice.
‘Oh, Mr. Walker’ the young nurse exclaimed. ‘…I’m so glad you’re here! Mr. Ward’s insisting on going home and that’s just not possible.’
Gus guided the frail Alzheimer’s patient back to bed. His uniformed presence put a comforting light on the situation and soon the old man was asleep in his bed. Gus stayed for a few more minutes to make certain all was well and then proceeded on his rounds.
He checked the doors to the operating theaters and moved on to ICU. Most of the occupied rooms were now dark, but for one. This room was lit. It was difficult to distinguish much about the human under the blanket. A nurse joined Gus by the door.
‘It’s always so sad- this hovering between life and death.’ she sighed. ‘This one in particular. You’d think as sedated as she is, she wouldn’t make a sound. Funny thing is – not the usual moaning one might expect….it’s more like – well…humming.’
‘Are you sure it wasn’t the radio? Gus questioned.
“Well, I did have the radio on…VERY softly – but I swear the humming was coming from her and it was the same tune!’
Gus breathed in – and then out. For a fleeting moment, he thought of Mary and how much she’d loved music. It’d kept her alive during the worst.
He swallowed hard and replied ‘Well, they say it soothes the savage beast…’
With this, he continued on his rounds….
Don’t miss the next chapter of ‘Becoming Billie’ in our January 2018 Issue
© copyright 2017-2018 Laurie Allyn all rights reserved
Laurie Allyn is a professional jazz singer with a storied past. Singing in smoky clubs in Chicago during the 1950’s and 60’s, she went on to record an album in Hollywood. When the recording label went bankrupt, she turned her attention to professional modeling. Now living outside Seattle, she writes mysteries and continues her singing career.