Memory Motel: A Rock And Roll Fantasy, Part Two Section Eight: Vanessa Is Murdered
Part Two: Two Years Later (Continued)
She imagined her father holding her, squeezing her… “I cherish you…” and she crying on his shoulder. “I’m sorry daddy, I’m so sorry…” Cherish, sorry, tears.
It took another three years, it took her passing her driving test, for Michelle to begin thinking about Phillip again and the more she looked the more confused she was. Michelle started by googling him and wish she hadn’t. The first page read like a character assassination. Pictures of a shellshocked looking Phil, stories of unprofessionalism, LAPD shoot first trigger happy Rodney Kingish lives in the cross hairs in the violent projects where the thin blue line fell apart with guns and drugs, gangs and gangstas and a poor defenseless girl running as fast as she could to get out of the way and shot in the back.
Then came stories from his past, his father saying how as a teenager he was violent and had beaten him, there was film of this, the father was a big man and it made Michelle wonder how Phil had managed it. “I want nothing to do with him. The police? He should be put to death, it is a scandal this violent lunatic has a gun and badge. I hope he dies….” Michelle stopped the video and put it back again, the father’s face was a hateful mask. “I hope he dies, I hope he dies…” who hopes their son dies? Even if nobody else in the world wants to stand up for him. There was Hannah, “Not violent, but just a matter of time. I didn’t feel safe.”
There was the head of the department, “No comment, no comment, no comment…” Nobody would speak, nobody. And Verlierler, the least likely murderer she could imagine. His ashen face collapsing as he walked away from the DA office, who decided there was no case.
She read and read and read and the more she did so, the less she could understand what happened. A bad part of town, walking the beat alone, Verlerier came across a couple of pushers selling drugs, he approached them, one of them panicked and shot at him, they ran, he ran, down a dark alley, bullets ringing out in th dead of night. Phillip out of breath, he hasn’t called for back up, nothing, finally they are in what Phillip thought was a dead end street, but it wasn’t, he turns another corner and shoots again and a girl Vanessa Theresa Landsing, falls to the ground.
What a cluster fuck of bad news, what a bad bad scene.
The problem was, they gave Phillip a blood test and he was over the legal limit, and so the braying for his blood began. It didn’t help him that Vanessa was a beloved child of the neighborhood, the definition of a good girl and while some writers would look deeper and find that, well, she was dating a gang member, and yes, there was marijuana in her system, it was a story nobody wanted to pursue in the slightest. Those two pieces of information never came to Michelle’s attention, never saw the light of day and never will, though the person who researched the article would hire Michelle’s boyfriend Mike Hudson many years later and lose his job when Mike was fired. The truth is though, it shouldn’t have reached her attention. Vanessa woke up in the middle of the night, and decided to clear her mind after another fight with her Mom, who thought Vanessa was wasting her life and should buckle down and stop dating losers.
She put on flip flops and shorts and a tee and looked in the mirror like the picture of something someone once said about her at an outdoor rave the previous summer: “She looks like she means it.” Vanessa always meant it, but try explaining that to her Mom, her Mom was so blind she couldn’t see the difference between James and the other boys, that James was serious and more than that, he was true. True boys, how rare was that? She met him at a party when she was just fourteen and he was just a year older and what appealed to her was not just his approach, shy, polite, he smiled, a great smile, a smile so wide it reached her heart, and gave her his hand and she took it and were on the dancefloor swaying to Destiny’s Child. Her heart skipped and she knew he was a guy she was going to love but she said nothing while they danced and then when they walked out of the club hand in hand and spoke with the crush of the sound system in the distance and music ringing in their ears so their voices seemed even more muffled and then he called her on her cell and she put his name and she didn’t type James, she typed Boo. And it was that fast, that certain.
Sure, her Boo was in a gang, of course he was: he had a mother and three sisters, was he meant to leave them unprotected? What could he do? Mom didn’t understand it, but she had a husband, her step-father, a responsible man who took care of them, and if you are 16, a little scrawny with a sweet smile and you want to protect your family, there are no options. More importantly, James knew how to treat women, how to treat Vanessa. Never raised his hand to her, never shouted, when he was angry he went quiet and sulked but he never ignored her, never went that quiet. And he was going to a community college because while James and Vanessa might never actually get rich one thing they would do is this: get out of South LA, have a nice little house in a nice Middle-class neighborhood and raise happy healthy children away from the toxic ghetto they got out of.
She knew all this because they talked about this, laying together on her bed, hugging and kissing. They hadn’t had sex yet but they would, and they had done some serious fooling around. Tomorrow? Next week? Vanessa didn’t know when but she knew she was going to do it with him and marry him and be very very happy. And children, they wanted two, a boy and a girl, but they would have three if they had to. Secretly, Vanessa wanted three boys. There was no hurry, she enjoyed her life and knew she would have a good one as it stretched out before her life a dream where everything that could go wrong hadn’t for her.
Vanessa left her home for a joint and a walk on the housing project she knew like the back of her hand, an area where she was more than safe, where nothing but a stray bullet could kill her. So, of course, it did kill her. Vanessa had no idea what hit her, the sound of gunfire coming closer, two kids from the hood running past her and she turned to watch them run, led by the sudden terror and then she turned and watched them and she felt a terrible sting in her back and her body went into immediate shock: no last thoughts, no last words. She was just dead.
At the funeral James had broken down and three years later he still hadn’t gotten back up, didn’t smile much, didn’t date, studied and graduated and got a job and sold drugs on the side, till his Mom finally had enough and smacked him hard across the face. “Do you think Vanessa would have stopped living if it had been you? Well, do you? No, she was too smart for that, too clever, she loved you because of what she saw in you and I see in you. A true man. A true man doesn’t give up on life. I need you and the world needs you to live. Now go and live.”
Dead Vanessa had been trying to get through to James for years from the afterlife, to set him free from memories, to still love her but not to have his love for her a liability. But he was occluded, sorrow clouded his mind and he wouldn’t listen but at last she was breaking through. That night James dreamt he was in bed with Vanessa, they were in their underwear, they would have been, the window of his bedroom was open and it was mid-afternoon on a Sunday but they ignored the sun outside and sweated with a weak fan cooling their bodies as it went back and forth, over and over. They spoke in the hushed tones of those in love, fingertips touching, imagining a tomorrow with, well, with an AC at least, with a lawn, a swimming pool, with e kids playing outside and Vanessa’s voice telling them to be careful, please be careful kids and then those words “please be careful” and James remembered she was dead and looked at Vanessa to ask “where have you been, I’ve missed you” and he remembered clearly and he cried and suddenly he was on an escalator in a shopping mall going up up and up and Vanessa was by his side and she didn’t look angelic or anything, she looked like Vanessa , but she held his hand and they kept going up and up. “Where are we?” James asked and you couldn’t surprised, just interested. Not scared at all.
“This is the Aftermath, James, you’re lucky, not many people get to see it till after they’re dead but you are. Just a little peak.”
“Is this where you live? I mean exist.”
“No, it is a place we sort of go through but don’t worry about the mumbo jumbo, forget it and enjoy the ride. It’s nice isn’t it?”
They were quiet holding hands and James could feel the tears welling up again. “I miss you so much baby, I can’t take it.”
“I know you do but that part of existence is over and you have to be strong and leave me alone, you know. You have to find your way through life. You owe me your happiness, you owe me the life I never had. That part of me that could have been with you through life will live on in your happiness. It is what I want, it is what matters to me in a place where those sort of things don’t matter.”
“But I love you, I love”. And they were on the bed in their bedroom, making love in the late afternoon and then Vanessa was gone and James woke up and he could smell her in the early morning air. James didn’t quite get what she was saying, but he did do one thing: he joined the Church and became a member, he joined an insurance firm as an adjuster and he went to work and saved and he went to Church and prayed and finally, maybe two years after he said goodbye to Vanessa, he was hanging out at a Church social, trying to convince his friends he could sing well enough to join the choir with little success when he heard a girl giggling at his side. And he turned to tell her off and he fell in love, that fast, one glance, one look, and it was over. Love at first sight. Who believes it, right?
They were inseparable from that first moment, so fast it took James breath away. He just looked and jumped and never cared or wanted any other woman or anything else than what it had. A quiet, Godly life, a beautiful wife, two boys and then, a girl, who they named Vanessa. Sometimes life works that way, if what you want is a sort of quiet joy, a simple thing, a beautiful thing, maybe it will happen. It happened for James. He received the life he wanted.
Or at least to a certain place he did, but James never lost Vanessa, he loved his wife but he had loved Vanessa more and in the quiet of the night he would sometimes imagine it was Vanessa laying down next to him and he missed her so much it was like a deep unyielding never ending pain that could bring him to his knees for no reason at all. He’d be living his life and suddenly for no reason he’d miss her.
Michelle read over days about what happened to Verlierer. First the police hid him from the results of his blood test, that he was over the level, but word leaked out and the LAPD stonewalled and some hot shot DA assistant insisted on Phillips head and it was all over the papers and everything you read about his was pure criminality, a rogue cop, a bad guy. He had murdered an 18 year old girl because he was a drunk racist. “Could this guy be my Daddy? How could he?” If anybody had known about Dion or Cassie, if anybody had actually thought about it, if they had seen how Phillip broke in two, they might have noticed the full story while known was incomplete.
The next closest thing to a villain in this story, Verlierer killed the truest villain: the man who raped and murdered his friend. A 35 year old man by the name of Sam Sheppard who had raped and murdered 12 children when his luck ran out. Raised in an orphanage, raped by his foster father, Sam had risen on a different track than Phillip, to become a successful draftsman and a happily married father of twin boys, but incapable of controlling himself. Was it evil, so much as anything can be considered evil. The reason for the evil is never the desire, always the action: it takes a drastic lack of empathy to be so incapable of feeling pity for other people. Sam hid this but he could only hide it to a degree, his wife Sarah, a Jewish woman who had married out of the faith, was bitterly unhappy with him and his inability to show true affection destroyed her sense of self-worth. She had an affair with a co-worker at the lawyer’s office she worked part time since her kids entered kindergarten. Never much interested sexually in women in college, a couple of experiment but nothing serious, Sarah found her attraction to the ten-year younger girl surprising, but on reflection assumed it was simply because Sam had made her sick of men for awhile.
Sam was a rarity, to the rest of the world he never did anything wrong but he was still heartily disliked. He never payed attention, when he spoke to you, you always got the sense that he wanted to be somewhere else. It was like a form of autism, he had problem feigning interest in anything. Including his two sons. He never did anything with them. Never really spoke to them all. If Sam had thought about it, he’d have thought he didn’t like them but he didn’t even care enough to draw an opinion. Certainly his ability to attract a woman like Sarah was long gone by the time Philip killed him. While Sam always had the propensity for solipsism, the disregard for the chubby, insecure boy, sent from one family who didn’t want him to another, was such that it became magnified, and thoughts of killing the other children around him when he was 12 years old, soon became the murder of a 17 year old girl he’d known at the home and then lived on the streets.
As Michele followed Phiilip’s story on google he dropped out of the papers soon after he resigned from the force. Other than a DUI ten years ago, everything else she read was about his private investigation work: all peering through windows at women cheating on their husband’s: nothing interesting, exciting or important, a pointlessness.