Dead Justice: Fall from Grace
Like most things a man believes, the stability of the ground beneath his feet is only an illusion. This is especially true living in central Florida. Once, a sinkhole swallowed an entire Jaguar dealership in Apopka. One minute you’re walking along, believing you are standing firm, and in the very next breath, you’re lying like a broken marionette at the bottom of a sinkhole: the last remnants of your dreams flowing warmly from your veins.
Spiritual and emotional sinkholes are equally destructive. It doesn’t matter who you are or what wrung of the social ladder you’re standing on. They can take out the foundations of even the most carefully crafted life. After twenty-five years of being a cop, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but somehow I always am. Just such an insatiable rift opened up in the life of Judge Robert Trulane. It happened on a most unlikely of nights, his fortieth wedding anniversary. I stood too close to the edge; and like the sailors unfortunate enough to be caught out to sea with Jonah as he fled before God, I became trapped in someone else’s storm.
"Who's there?" The gray haired man sat up in the large four-post bed. He remained still, listening intently as his eyes grew accustomed to the dimness of the light. His wife lay curled fetally with her back to him. Cold air strummed the exposed spidery varicose veins of his legs evoking a slight shiver. The ancient furnace was impotent against the icy grip forecast to hold central Florida. "Is anyone there?" His voice was soft as to not wake his wife, if that were possible in her pharmacologically induced slumber. Like a camera shutter, a blink of light sliced beneath the bathroom door followed by darkness. “Wh-who's there? I warn you, I've got a gun," he lied unconvincingly.
With trepidation, his gnarled, arthritic hand grasped the cold brass of the bathroom knob. The door swung slowly into night. Starlight peering through the window reflected off the tile. He noticed an almost imperceptibly faint floral scent as he sighed with visible relief and wiped a bead of sweat from his peppered mustached, curious how it had formed despite the frigid night air. He was trembling. "I've got to get hold of myself." He chuckled at his own foolishness. Emboldened, he crossed the room to verify no dangers crouched hidden in the shadows. Satisfied, he turned to go back to bed.
The young woman standing before him took him completely by surprise yet he did not cry out. Her smile was innocent yet seductively inviting. Her night gown fluttered in the draft insinuating thinly covered supple curves. She seemed familiar, but he didn’t recognize her. "Who are you? Do I know you?"
Gently she raised her hand to his quivering lips. How soft and cool her skin was. He stood entangled in her eyes. As she lowered her arm, her gown slipped from her toned shoulders, lingered for a moment, then lay coiled about her feet. The old man caught his breath. His rasping want escaped as a moan. She reached out and undid the belt that held his robe closed. The plush velvet fell open revealing him already half-erect. Without shame or hesitation she had the old man more aroused than he had been in years with just a few caresses from her practiced hand. It felt so good to be hard again. With eager anticipation he felt himself guided as a virgin seduced into her.
“This is insane! What am I doing?” Robert thought with what little remained of his rationality but it was quickly overwhelmed by the attentions of welcoming young flesh. Whoever this stranger was, she was showing him more interest than he had known in recent memory.
Shimmering in the twilight, her eyes were almost iridescent. Her lovely heart shaped face was framed in pale blond hair. She reminded Robert of the Waterford crystal angel in Margaret’s curio cabinet, entombed amongst the other wedding gifts for 40 years ago.
Robert reached out to hold her but she gently guided his arms behind his back. He complied, trustingly docile. The thrill of new conquest was piqued by the danger of discovery with his wife sleeping less than fifteen feet away, just like his old college days. He felt powerful, desirable, and completely in control. He looked down to savor the moment. He wanted to see his course gray hairs enmeshed with her fine gold, only in the pale nether light, hers appeared gray. Her flesh was cold and glass smooth. Looking up into her fair face he screamed when confronted by his own image.
Judge Robert Trulane clung to the full-length mirror mounted on the back of the bathroom door. He could not withdraw. He had plumbed the depths to full hilt and his pubic mound was flush up against the reflecting surface. Pure terror tore through him. He was caught in the mirror. Searing pain filled him as he pushed himself back. Shattering glass filled the room. He fell to the tile floor grabbing the gaping wound between his legs. It was gone.
The warmth of his pooling blood was a strangely comforting contrast to the coldness of the floor. Pain throbbed within his jaw and left shoulder. Other pains needled him in places he couldn’t exactly locate. He felt strange wriggling movement beneath his skin as he lay gasping, his breath a thin vapor in the frigid darkness.
One by one tiny mirror shards, like silver maggots, crawled from his flesh, cutting him anew as they had cut their way in. In horrific awe, he stared as the mirror reassembled within the frame hanging on the back of the door. . Moment by moment, like dew condensing on glass, the reflection became more complete until it was once again whole save for the cracks that radiated out from the central point from which he had been held. The surface shimmered like a liquid pool and each splinter merged with its mate in a mercurial fashion. He labored now as he consciously willed each breath. The bathroom was alight with a glow emanating from the perfect glass of the mirror.
Her image appeared. She was not being lit; she was the lighting. He cast his eyes back to look up at her standing behind him. She wasn’t there. Confused, he looked again to the mounted mirror. Her expression, no longer gentle and enticing, was a blend of disdain and sadistic satisfaction.
“And Justice will be done.” Robert felt more than heard her say.
Shame and dread filled the dying man. “So this is how they’ll find me?” Pulsing warmth oozed between his legs with each beat of his weakening heart and congealed beneath his sagging grey skin and the cold tile floor. The dawn of recognition was his last thought at the sunset of his life.