Live and let learn, p.1
Live and Let Learn
Copyright © 2014 by Dixon Block
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof
may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever
without the express written permission of the publisher
except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This book is for my grandparents,
I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Men fear death, as if unquestionably the
greatest evil, and yet no man knows that
it may not be the greatest good.
Death - the last sleep? No, it is the final awakening.
Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
The sun was shining beautifully on the day that Jason was murdered. His wife and young son were at the park playing while Jason stayed at home with his newborn daughter. She was sleeping.
It had taken Jason almost half an hour to get his little girl, Sarah, to sleep and it was only after she nodded off that he was able to put his feet up and enjoy the silence of the air around him. It wasn’t often that he had a moment to himself.
Jason thought that maybe he could use this time to continue writing the manuscript he had begun months earlier, but on his way to the computer his eye caught the stack of dishes from the morning’s breakfast and he reluctantly changed direction.
Jason had been a stay-at-home father since the birth of his son, and though he wrote inconsistently for a local newspaper, his wage was not how he primarily contributed to his family. Instead Jason was the one who provided care for the children, a level head when his wife got too stressed with work, and a smile to all of them when everything else felt a little down.
Jason didn’t know it, but without his presence the family would have driven themselves into the ground before Sam had reached the first grade. But Jason didn’t think of things that way because when his wife became pregnant at the age of twenty-one, before they were wed, he responded to the news with only a grin and a light dizziness in his head.
It didn’t occur to Jason at that moment that he and his girlfriend had not had relations with one another as frequently as usual. It didn’t occur to him close to Sam’s due date that his best friend, the best man at his recent wedding, had become even closer to the family in an almost competitive way. And it didn’t occur to Jason that every Saturday morning after breakfast Diane asked him to stay home with little sleeping Sarah while she and Sam went to the park. Jason didn’t know that John Granus also frequented the park at that same time every week.
Because none of this occurred to Jason, he didn’t understand exactly why his wife seemed to be better friends with his best buddy John. And after he finished the dishes in the kitchen and made his way into the bedroom, remembering the laundry, he was very surprised to find the card of a divorce lawyer in the pocket of Diane’s jeans from the previous day. In fact Jason was so surprised that at first, he wondered which of their few married friends would need his wife to research divorce lawyers for them.
But a small part of Jason knew, and had always known, exactly what role John Granus played in his life. That small part also knew the reason he and his son Sam did not share many characteristics. The small part had understood the subtle acts of detachment that Diane showed on a daily basis, even if his consciousness had refused to acknowledge the deteriorating marriage.
This small part of Jason’s mind only needed the slight nudge that took its form as a business card to fully lodge itself into the part of the brain that he listened to, and it was then that Jason understood the entirety of the situation. Perhaps it was the hopelessness that overwhelmed him in that moment, or potentially the anger, but nevertheless it was the result of finding that card that was the cause of his death.
Billy Sullivan was a small time criminal who had lived in the area of Autumn Heights his whole life. He was born to rich parents, but his misbehaviour in high school and his failure at university had led to their eventual disowning of him, and that was how he found himself stealing to survive.
Petty crimes like shoplifting and allegations about minor drug dealing had earned him many slaps on the wrist, and soon his clunky car was seized by the police. Without the funds to pay the impoundment fee, Billy was forced to stop sleeping in his own backseat, and move in with ‘friends’ who lived on the rough side of the Heights.
These ‘friends’ were into harder drugs than Billy was, they broke into homes to steal jewelry and electronics that then were sold to contacts they had in the Black Market, and they were constantly fighting one another over simple matters like who would drive the car they shared.
Overall, Billy did not fit in, because despite his teenaged rebellion, he was not bad at heart and did not wish anyone any harm. Billy was unfortunate enough to fall into the wrong crowd by moving in with these rough young adults, but he did not realize how much trouble he was in, or how far over his head he had become. Billy was too busy fighting for acceptance in his new makeshift family, that he had closed his eyes completely to what he really felt and therefore was more than happy to be part of the plan for the next day’s crime.
Billy’s comrades had been planning to rob a bank on Philips Street for months. They were as prepared as they could be, but the plan was set back a little when one of their gunmen for the job was imprisoned on unrelated charges. Billy was told that he would cover his share of the rent by working in place of the gunman. Eager to please, Billy agreed and accepted the revolver he was given.
None of the young criminals would have been able to anticipate the off-duty police man who was at the bank depositing a cheque. In fact if the group had arrived at the bank a mere five minutes later, the officer would have already left and the entire operation would have worked according to plan. But that wasn’t the case.
Shots were exchanged between one of the bandits and the officer who had drawn his weapon, and it was these sharp cracks that alerted Billy, who was guarding the door, of exactly how deep he had sunk into his pit of malice. He left the building and darted down an alley, leaving the others to their dark business.
Billy ran for a time until he was in a small suburb, on a quiet street where he could not hear the sirens in the distance anymore. He had arrived on Juniper Court. Unfortunately for the father of Sam and Sarah, this was the same Juniper Court where Mr. Jason Dawds and his family resided.
Officer John Granus was working, and he hated working the weekends. Not only did it mean he could not be up late on a Friday night, but every Saturday he made it his priority to meet at the park with Diane Dawds and their illegitimate son Samuel. On this particular Saturday morning John had only the time to park his cruiser and stop to say hello to the two that he could call his family.
When Granus returned to his vehicle he heard the reports on the radio concerning the attempted robbery of a bank. He thought to himself, he wasn’t far from the crime scene so he ought to help the others out. Granus backed out of his parking spot and turned down the street towards the commotion. It was here that he first saw the running figure of Billy Sullivan.
He knew from the radio request for backup that one of the bank robbers had run from the scene and something about this running figure made Granus feel that it was not the average neighbourhood jogger.
“15 to Dispatch,” he radioed.
“Copy that, are you code 4?”
“Check, no backup needed, it might be nothing.”
“15, 10-0, the suspect is armed, I repeat, the suspect is armed.”
“Check,” and Officer Granus pulled around his cruiser and headed toward where he last saw the suspiciously running young man.
Billy’s mind was rolling with the millions of thoughts racing through it. He now had nowhere to go, and nothing but the clothes on his back and his name, which he guessed wouldn’t go for much once his roommates were caught and questioned. He needed money, or something valuable that he could sell.
Billy had never broken and entered before, but he had heard enough stories to know that if he was quick enough, wasn’t seen, and didn’t touch anything he couldn’t carry with him it shouldn’t be too hard. He knew he had the advantage of every cop in the area racing toward the bank to catch his associates. In fact, he had just seen a police car headed there now. Billy knew it was only his adrenaline, but something made him feel as if the officer driving away from him wasn’t as fortunate as he thought. He had to get off the street.
Jason heard a sound from downstairs. Was Sarah awake? He had barely gotten the chance to do some housework let alone any relaxation! He pocketed the lawyer’s business card and listened for a moment but he didn’t hear the familiar cries of his little girl. The silence did not calm him, but rather made him more uneasy. He knew he had heard something, he was sure of it.
He looked down the stairwell and saw nothing out of the ordinary, but he was certain he heard something moving down there. There was someone in the house! Jason thought of Sarah and his blood turned cold. Quickly, but stealthily, he descended the steps until he was in the front foyer. Now he stole into the kitchen and, choosing a large knife from the block on the counter, he slowly crept back into the front hall.
Sarah was in the living room in her crib. She was still sleeping soundly, but over her stood a tall man in a sweatshirt. Jason tried to speak but his throat was dry and he couldn’t make a sound. He swallowed and tried again, this time making himself heard, “You get away from her. You hear me?”
The man turned around. He was young, Jason saw, and in his hands was Jason’s wallet from the front table and Diane’s gold necklace that Jason had given her for Valentine’s Day in their first year of dating in high school. So it was a break in, but that didn’t mean that now he was caught, the man wouldn’t try to hurt his little girl.
“Who are you?” he demanded.
“I’m s-sorry,” the young man stuttered, “I didn’t know anyone was home.”
“Well that makes it all okay then doesn’t it?” Jason had been wielding the knife in front of him, but now he raised it higher, threateningly. “I said get away from her.”
The young man’s eyes widened at the wild eyes of the father in front of him and when the knife was raised he instinctively took a step back, unfortunately bumping into the baby’s crib. As he fell, he watched in fear as the man leapt at him with the knife held high.
Officer John Granus turned onto Juniper Court. This was where Diane and her family lived, and he immediately made for her house to be sure that her newborn baby was safe. When he pulled up in front of the house, his trained eyes immediately saw the smashed window through which the robber must have entered the house.
Granus ran up the driveway, drawing his gun as he did. When he came to the window he saw the back of a man holding a knife up. He couldn’t see into the room that the man was looking into but he knew that he could safely assume there would be another man and a baby under attack. He took aim at the robber’s back and drew in air so as to yell out for the man to drop his weapon.
At this moment Granus remembered that though dispatch had warned him the robber was armed, most bank robbers carried guns and not knives. This assumption was supported by the fact that the police had reported shots fired by the bandits. Why arm themselves with guns and knives.
Granus also thought to himself briefly that from behind, this robber resembled his lover’s husband and his best friend, Jason. But despite these revelations, he did not lower his gun. Instead he released the safety on the weapon almost automatically due to the threat of violence in front of him.
He did not cry out. He did not call to the armed man as he was trained to do because his mind was trying to understand the scene in front of him as well as the curious feeling inside of him that had ignored the possibility that the man with the knife might not be the intruder after all.
When the man jumped forward, as if to harm whoever had his attention, John Granus pulled the trigger and watched as a small piece of metal was launched into the back of his friend and rival.
Jason awoke to silence. It was dark, and even when he opened his eyes he didn’t see anything. Groggily he lifted his head up and realised he was in a hospital. It was as if the lights had just appeared.
In front of Jason sat a man in a chair. The man had glasses and his forehead seemed to be in the process of expanding, but despite these signs of wear, the man’s eyes shone with life. He smiled.
“You’re awake,” he said simply, but with a touch of amusement in your voice.
“Are you my doctor?” Jason asked.
The man’s smiled stretched even wider. “Perhaps,” he replied.
Jason frowned at him; this was hardly the time to play games. “Where is my daughter? My wife? And Sam! Where are they? They should be here!”
The man’s expression softened at that and he answered with a more serious tone, “No, they shouldn’t be here, but it’s admirable that you ask for them.”
At this Jason’s furrowed brow sank even lower, but this time more out of confusion than anything else. “How long have I been asleep?” he asked.
“You haven’t really, but it’s safe to say that you have indeed woken up. Do you remember what happened, Jason?”
Jason thought to himself. He could remember jumping at a robber, he remembered Sarah sleeping peacefully in her crib, and when he tried really hard he could remember a loud noise, right before he blacked out. “Was I shot?” He thought back to the scene, he didn’t remember the robber holding a gun, but then again it was a very emotional moment, who knows if what he remembered was exactly as it was.
“What about Sarah? Is she okay? Did he hurt her after he tried to kill me?” Jason continued.
“Who? The robber or the police officer?”
“I . . . I don’t remember a police officer,” Jason was confused again.
“Naturally, he was behind you when he shot you.”
After a long pause in which Jason kept trying to wrap his head around the situation, he came to a question that he really did not know the answer to. “Who are you? You wouldn’t be the most informative doctor. Are you with the police?”
The man looked thoughtful for a moment before answering the question, “No. I’m not a doctor and I’m not with the police. Why do you think that?”
“Well you know all about me, you know details that would only be in some kind of report, and we are in a hospital.”
“Are we?” The strange man seemed to be surprised, but a smile was back on his face, indicating he was only making fun. “Which hospital are we in?”
“What is wrong with you?” Jason had had enough. “I want to see my family! I want to know what’s happening. You keep answering my questions with more questions or ignoring them altogether! I want to talk to someone in charge.”
“Why, Jason, you are the one in charge.” And Jason felt as if this was the most honest thing the man had said so far.
His head was cloudy now from the yelling and his mind hummed to him, giving him an enormous headache. The other man seemed to notice this and stood up. “You should close your eyes; I’ll give you some time to yourself, okay?”
This time the man seemed older, more worn out. There were slight wrinkles around his eyes, but the same life raged within them. Jason asked him, “What is your name?”
The man laughed and smiled his dazzling smile before replying, “I am called many things, but I do not call myself anything in particular. What would you like to call me?”
“Alan,” Jason answered before really thinking about it; it just seemed right.
“Alan!” he laughed again. “You’ve called me something similar before.”
Jason looked at him curiously but couldn’t deny the tingling of familiarity that came forth each time the name was voiced. “Can you help me understand what’s happening?” he pleaded.
“Jason, I will help you to understand yourself better than you ever thought you could. Tell me, why is it that we are in a hospital?”
“Because I was shot,” Jason answered as if it were obvious.
“Are you in pain? Do you need a doctor’s help?”
Come to think of it, he hadn’t felt any pain at all, other than his headache from earlier. He felt concern for his family, but that wasn’t what Alan was asking from him. “No,” was his answer, “I’m not hurt anymore.”
“Jason, you died that day when the officer shot you. You woke up here with me. I’m sorry I wasn’t straight with you, but I was worried that you might overreact to the situation. You’re not hurt because you were never hurt. At least not here.”
Live and Let Learn by Dixon Block / History & Fiction have rating 3 out of 5 / Based on15 votes