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Depraved Heart: a crime novel

Chapter Four — Malfeasance

It was worse than yesterday. The rule against cameras in the courtroom made the press go crazy; they didn’t seem human. They threw themselves at our vehicles like jackals, with one last chance at a meal. They wielded their orbs and proboscises like slingshots and spears. Pygmies are right about soul spearing, I thought, as they jabbed and jabbed at us. Don’t give your picture away unless you know where it’s going. These people are looking for what they can steal and mark and soil. We huddled together, instinctively. That spiky-haired reporter who’d had the nerve to refer to us as “the Aristobrats” threw herself across our hood like an auditioning stuntwoman.

It was going to be horrible without Trevor. We clung like survivors barely afloat on wreckage. Jake was no help. Preening for the TV cameras he put arms around Shelley and me as if we were his bitches. No substitute for Trevor. I told myself the martinet and the libertine in Oz’s explosive personality seemed neatly divided between his sons.

I hoped for a chance to speak to Skylar, and I would have, too, even if she was sitting actually at the prosecution table, but in the end even I was intimidated. She was so thoroughly enmeshed in a thicket of foes. I feared I would burn up and shrivel like paper too close to a fire. Who knew we had so many enemies?

There was Colleen’s sister Ashbel Claridge, her lacquered frosting of Jiffy-Pop hair topping a face like an anvil. Oz called her “The Pechvogel” which I think means “harpy.” And who sat next to her?
Someone creepily familiar, a gypsy, a face from my dreams. An older woman with messy white birds’ nest hair and a Kabuki countenance: black brows drawn together. I thought she might be one of my mother’s sisters, the one named Shea, but if so her red hair had gone pure white since last I saw her. Trevor, who cares as much as his father about thoroughbreds says the bad thing about a mutt, is there’s no “blueprint for growth”. You don’t know what you’re getting. I hate predictability, but still. She was on the other side. I shot Aunt Shea twice with my tongue stud.

I ripped a piece of paper from my notebook and scribbled the following message: I need to borrow some of your Mom’s clothes. I promise I will take care of them and give them back. Of course you can say no. Love, Brontë. I could give it to Spike whenever he finished parking the limo. Spike never minded running little errands for me. As a former high school football star the thing he most hated was having to sit still.

There was Oz, no Lord of the Hurricane today, but mild and professorial in tortoiseshell reading glasses and heather-mixture sports jacket. He reached out to hug me even before the bailiffs removed his chains. He was bony. He’d lost so much weight it was as if he was on a hunger strike. We were not doing any better feeding him than feeding ourselves, but I wished someone would give me all the hush puppies and fried bologna he’d probably turned down.

Jake handed him the leather bound Spinoza he’d requested; his favorite philosopher. No time to exchange many words; he just squeezed our hands and gave us each a meaningful look.
“Where’s Trevor?” he mouthed to Jake and Jake mouthed, “He’ll be back.”

The judge came in and favored us with his lipless substitute for a smile. We rose and then sat. The jury trooped in next, just to show they put in the time so they could get their $37.50. I found I could not look at the individual jury members. They looked plenty at us. They got an eyeful. They seemed so ordinary, black and white, male and female, old and young, dressed as if for some sporting event. But the “event” was Oz’ life; all our lives, maybe.

Then the jury trooped out so the lawyers could argue. We rose and sat, rose and sat. It was as bad as church, really.

Craig had hired a jury consultant to try to figure out what kinds of human beings would be least likely to confuse Oz’s many peccadilloes with murder. The answer’s so obvious the founding fathers already thought of it: a jury of his peers. None of those here.

Of course Craig petitioned for change of venue and of course it was rejected. This jury pool wasn’t just poisoned, it was too damn small. Oz’s peers are internationally based. Start with the stage and screen – playground of empathic chameleons — or better yet, the pages of history; warriors and scholars, soldiers, poets, lovers, raconteurs.

In England when a lord committed a crime, he could only be judged by other lords. That was the reason the English made Lord Byron come home, so he could sit in judgment on Queen Caroline. Yes, if Queen Caroline was lifting her skirts a bit too high for someone not her husband, Byron was the perfect person to consult.

Oz winked at me, mocking my scribbling motions, not like he was bothered by this at all. He said we were in a race to write a book about all this. His book would be finished before mine; in his head he had already written it. Now I was feeling kind of guilty for doubting him. But he seemed so confident. How could he, looking at the motley crew set up in judgment, ever believe he would be set free?

Surely only guilt-free innocence would be so powerful. Oz doesn’t like being judged, so maybe he, too saw it as a sporting event. Could he escape these bulls ungored? Craig said the government had no evidence really, no evidence at all. They were just following the practice of the ancient Romans, arresting anyone found at the scene. Once the Romans in their infinite wisdom, arrested, tried, and executed a pear tree.

God knows why the press was so interested. Is it astonishment that bad things happen to lucky people, or is it something more sinister? Schadenfreude; sadistic pleasure in the suffering of others. If the lightning bolt hits you, then it won’t hit me. Then I guess there are all those people who need someone they can feel superior to: “At least I ain’t never kilt nobody.”

Mina and Craig joined the prosecution team at the judge’s bench. Whisper, whisper. Boring that we couldn’t hear this part. Craig says it’s “protecting the record”; there’s a concept. Perfecting it by making it imperfect if you ask me. Shouldn’t “the record” be everything?

“In the past people hired champions to settle these things,” said Jake.

“This is different how?” I asked, thinking of Craig’s lists of bills and expenses.

“Completely different,” Jake sniffed. “Both sides hired duelists. The champions fight a duel, and the accused would stand there with a rope around his neck. If his champion lost, they hanged him, and if his champion won, they let him go.”

Jake, swordsman would have loved to fight for his father. He would use the saber, his preferred weapon; because it has more cutting edges and any point above the waist is fair game. He would win too, in just six moves. As he always did.

They were coming back; somebody had lost and somebody won. I studied faces trying to figure out which was which; Craig would never let on within the hallowed walls. He agreed with Oz’s dictum: never let people see inside.

The prosecution was also a male-female pair, — maybe that’s trendy nowadays, trying to get the most out of the jury, but here the female, though admittedly second chair, was far less subservient, probably because the head prosecutor, Buford, wasn’t actually her boss. I had to admit she had mad skills of appearance and persuasion. According to the talking heads of Court TV, Fawna Fryssen was a single mom who had put herself through law school by performing in a “lounge act.” They probably meant singing, but maybe because she was black – (Oz would have called her “a macaroon”– his term for any light-skinned black female) — I allowed my imagination to run wild. Juggling? Fire-swallowing? Swinging from the rafters?

Like me, she favored matador’s colors; black, gold, red.

If she was the matador, Hurley Buford was the bull. I tried to imagine bull-necked Buford fighting a duel with anyone. He wouldn’t, he would throw down the sword and rush forward with a barely human roar. I saw him in animal skins, throttling someone with his bare hands. He’d never stand across from Jake light and free in a fine white fencing suit. The state would lose big time if this dueling thing ever got started. I gave Buford two rounds of the tongue stud. Bam, bam.

Only when they stepped to one side did I get a clear view of Skylar. While her companions talked to one other, she stared bleakly ahead, looking lost. She seemed almost as thin as Shelley now, just as thin as her mother and those college prep coaches nagged her to be. Was the weight she lost Colleen? I wondered if, when you aspire to be your own person, you might actually be better off neglected and ignored, instead of dragging your family like a fat Siamese twin through life. Skylar looked angry and sleepless as well as lost. I was scared of her. Maybe her mother visited every night, raging like a Shakespearean specter, choking and gurgling “Revenge!”

I wished we were alone, so I could argue with her. Maybe she hadn’t heard our side of the case. Since I didn’t have Trevor, I comforted myself by playing his part, anchoring myself with Craig’s story that at least some of those bloodstains came from the police spraying “enhancing agents” to make every drip look worse. Lots of things look scarier than they are.

Craig says we need two experts for every one of theirs. That’s expensive, but we win because the state can’t afford to expert-shop; they’re stuck with the people they’ve got on salary. Craig says nobody with any significant career credentials willingly goes to work for the state.

The police work was shoddy. Right on the scene the junior medical examiner wrote down the cause of death as “accident”; they didn’t change that till later. Nobody prevented Oz from climbing down to hold his wife; so all the “patterns” got messed up. I was less impressed than Craig by the absence of the murder weapon — if the police didn’t find The Scary General’s Luger in its hidey-hole behind the fireplace brick how hard did they really search? Not that anyone got shot.

Our expert said Colleen’s levels of blood thinner, Xanax and alcohol would send anybody nose-diving into the nearest empty swimming pool. Skylar wouldn’t want to hear that. Her mother was feeling no pain that evening, as the saying goes. She may have been humming Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry, Be Happy the whole time she was trying to climb out, falling back, and banging her head repeatedly. That’s what antidepressants are for, exactly so you won’t realize the fix you are in. You try to negotiate a poorly anchored iron ladder wobbling around on an uneven stone wall when you’re high as a kite wearing heels. That’s the field trip the jury should go on – first to The Cold Huntsman for a couple of stiff ones, next to the pharmacy for a bracer of pills, last to an empty double-sized Olympic pool in the pitch dark. See how good they do.

Our other expert attacks the state police lab as a shameful hive of scandal that never did one thing right. This guy is a very famous forensics dude who’s on television all the time although his reputation did receive a recent tarnishing in a high-profile child molester case. As Chekhov pointed out, we all have our blind spots. If he thinks six year olds can act “seductive”; what can anybody say?

I don’t see how argue with a daughter who would rather believe that her mother was the murder victim of an enraged husband rather than a way-too-happy lady who got stuck in a hole. It’s like the theory of Intelligent Design; people need someone to blame. Fundamentalist attribution error, or something like that.

I was feeling a little better when Spike, late as usual, high-fived the bailiffs and slid onto the bench next to me. He always sits too close, but where else can you sit when there’s so much of you? He’s a huge guy; Trevor calls him The Hulk. The marshals aren’t supposed to let anyone in after closing the doors but they make an exception for Spike. As the college-admission coaches say, it’s all about who you know.

Some of the marshals remember Spike before he washed out of the police academy. They reminisce about the dear old days playing wheelies and lockouts with the police interceptor. Spike says it’s the “fringes” of law enforcement where the fun is, doubtless true of any field. Maybe Spike’s habit of threatening to make people’s “eyes pop” got in the way of advancement. He’s a man of action rather than words.

In his spare time he anchors a rock band called The Washouts, and you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Spike wearing a tie-dyed headband on his bald, pit-bull-shaped head, banging a tambourine and singing Na-na-na for thirty minutes. I am privileged to have seen the video.

The press calls him The Python, (because of the eye-popping thing) but Craig says; “Mr. Munro is a licensed private investigator.”

I like making Spike laugh. It’s hard, like teasing a British Grenadier, but it can be done. You can tell you’ve succeeded when his neck muscles jerk. He rattles me by eyeing me as if speculating on my portability. I am very portable.

So here he was, smelling of some scary drugstore lady-killer cologne, parking his big football ring close to my thigh. He’s not bored yet or he’d be flexing his fingers and cracking the knuckles, but I don’t dare ask him what he’s thinking. Something unmentionable in polite society, and court counts as a very polite society, one where people go to school for years to learn how to openly discuss sex and violence without becoming sweaty and red-faced. Not that they always manage it. Fawna is unflappable; Buford has a leaky thermostat.

Back to Spike. I didn’t grow up in the South for nothing. When you catch a guy checking out your portability it’s time to start asking for favors. I slipped him my note.

“Skylar,” I whispered out of the corner of my mouth. He pocketed it and nodded.

Spike should be the one sent in to fight Buford, I thought. My money would be on him. I suggest a no-holds-barred cage match. Expect Buford to fold without even suiting up.

The lawyers had been up before the judge, hissing at each other like cats, but now it seemed things were finally getting underway. Trevor says court is oceans of boredom punctuated by moments of frenzy. It looked like a frenzy might be upon us.

Buford was speaking. Everyone in the courtroom leaned forward, either to bask in his deathless prose or to unsnarl his impenetrable accent. Buford is a local, a real down-home country boy. He knows how to say “pew,” and most importantly, when to say it. A picture flashed up on the big white screen.

We all stared at it. Was that us? It was a magical hologram of happy, sunny people from far away and long ago. I knew this picture – there’s a copy in my room – and seeing it floating in the air for strangers to goggle at felt as personally invasive as if it was a snapshot of my underwear drawer. (Which is a mess by the way.) What was Buford saying? Something about witnesses coming from far away and so this part of the case has to be presented first, and Craig was objecting about irrelevant, immaterial, prejudicial and uncharged. Prior Bad Acts, which sounds like a rock band. You could tell it was a Big Deal by the excitement among the press. Some looked ready to fall out of their very own skin they were Twittering so frantically. Mass masturbation.

I chose to disappear into the upper air and lose myself in the picture.

My favorite stories were always the ones where ordinary children find a doorway to another world. Only at certain angles can it be seen; sometimes all you need is faith that it is there. Better be ready to dive the moment you see one.

So here was my magic portal, light-filled and beckoning. I dove.

The world was again reduced to a swimming pool, but this was summer and it was filled with sparkling blue water. It wasn’t ours; the ornate design along the tiled edge suggested foreign climes. I looked up from the row of feet dangling in the water to see the pretty lady in the modest one-piece navy-blue bathing suit beside a gangly boy holding a baby on his lap and squinting anxiously at the camera.

The woebegone freckled infant with the softee-swirl of red, red hair is me, and that’s Trevor’s lap I’m sitting on. I’m not “giving him a lap dance” as Oz suggested. Trevor was afraid Oz might throw me in to test “the infant diving reflex”. He clutched for dear life as Oz snapped the picture.

Trevor at nine looked exactly like himself, the same forehead-transecting crease of worry that he was probably wearing now, at the airport, shooing Fayette towards the plane. Down in the water two other children had been caught in the act of splashing one another, whipping the water white as cake frosting. This could only be Shelley and Jake, Jake wearing glittering braces and Shelley a clown mask of white zinc oxide, juggling between them glittering crystal droplets, frozen forever.
I know I said I don’t remember my mother, but sometimes when I look at this picture, I feel the memories trembling at the edge of my mind, like surrendered dreams.

She was forty-two when I was born, forty when she had Shelley, miracle upon miracle in a barren marriage that had already lasted fifteen years. She was a professor of English Literature at the Franciscan International College of Tunisia. That was where she met Oz, whose first wife also taught there. My father was in the civil service; word was he died from some kind of valve ailment between Shelley’s birth and mine.

My mother’s name was Mary Elizabeth Shortall Barringer and she was short, like me, although it looked more elegant on her. I also know, because Oz told me, that although her hair seems brown and was styled for this photo in a modest bell, her natural color was fiery red. Oz said she dyed it because she considered red a vulgar color, but I think she didn’t like being looked at, like those orthodox Jewish women who wear wigs, accepting it as their responsibility to tamp down male fantasy.

Red hair is eye-catching. As a young girl, trying to get on in the world, I need to be looked at, but as a writer, I need to be invisible. The cat in the corner, says Bellow. So you see the conflict.
Is writing genetic? My mother kept journals, just like me (unfortunately lost). Oz said it was the second-greatest grief of her life that she wasn’t a romantic poet. Of course she was teaching Byron and Shelley and Keats, so her standards were probably too high. I, too, have a trunkful of journals, and easy, experimental standards. In fact, I’m willing to make up my own standards as I go along.
(Oz calls this trunk my “trousseau” and quotes Mae West: “Keep a diary and some day it’ll keep you.”) I went through my own phase of the English Romantics, but now I prefer the Russians. The Russians totally understand about keepin’ it real. The poor old Brits were a pale lot, except for Byron, but there’s virtually no difference between nineteenth century Russians and twenty-first century Southerners that I can see. Our nineteenth century Russian equivalents yearned for Paris, but where’s our escape? Hollywood?

Oz willingly spoke about my mother any time I cared to ask. I could tell he admired her, as much as he could admire a woman, as much as he could admire anyone who wasn’t him. She got a Ph.D. at the University of Missouri, writing her thesis on marriage in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall when she met my father and fell in love. He was the love of her life and his ill health her greatest sorrow. She came from that generation where you live for other people. Fatal for a writer. Don’t give up control of the one thing you have: yourself. Oz says their relationship only flourished because he traveled so much. Proximity is a romance killer.

Here are the other things I know about my mother; her third greatest grief was her prolonged period of childlessness and she adored word games but didn’t care for dirty jokes. Oz said that just before she died she was starting to “free herself to the great wide world.” She was raised Catholic so had all that extra mumbo jumbo stuff to recover from. Oz says it takes those types at least another decade to break the bonds. She was proud of her career but she wanted to be a mother and so when we were finally born her happiness was complete. Until her husband had his fatal heart attack.

Oz said she changed a lot after that; she started talking about going back to the States because she wanted to do whatever was best for us, and Africa was unstable at the time. (I guess it still is.) Oz was the executor of her husband’s estate and he says he backed her up in whatever she wanted to do. He was thinking of going back himself, because he’d heard Colleen was divorcing and he’d always had “a thing” for her. Then my mother got her aneurysm and died. Oz said he’d tried hard to give us the kind of life she would have wanted, and we were turning into women she’d be proud of.

Finally it was Craig Axelrod’s turn to speak. I snapped back to reality eager to hear our side. He was walking back and forth, pumping the air with his arms. Object, object, object. Nothing new there. I tried making notes for my book, but that shimmering picture was just too alluring. I feared losing eye contact with my mother, fraying that magic ribbon of connection. If she was speaking to me, what was she saying? I craned my ears but the portal failed. The picture changed. Now it was a naked skull, spliced with crosshatching.

Buford touched each one with a laser pointer. One, two, three, four, five six seven – the exact same number Colleen had suffered. But this wasn’t Colleen’s skull. What was he saying? That this was my mother’s skull? They dug it up, they shaved it, they counted the wounds, they took pictures, and now they expected me to admire their handiwork. Really, the total absolute disgusting shamelessness of some people is unbelievable. Whoever said how it’s impossible to underestimate the taste of the American public was right on. I knew I was going to lean over the bench and throw up, right in front of all these people.

Shelley was crying stormily into Jake’s shoulder. I tried to stand up. I needed to get the hell out of there. I was angry, too. I had an idea I would make a statement, or at the very least walk up to Buford and vomit on his shoes. Someone needed to tell the judge to put a stop to this. Horrible Spike’s horrible arms were round me in pythonic vise. I would have to throw up on him, instead.
Served him right. I hope I was more trouble than he had planned. I got some good scratching in, I know. He was too big for me. Couldn’t catch my breath. I saw Oz rise to his feet to protest – thank God — and heard the judge order the bailiffs to clear the room.

So I was able to throw up in private, all by myself, decently, in the ladies’ room, with Shelley in the next stall and Spike guarding the door.

This was Trevor’s fault, I remember thinking. None of this would have happened if he’d been there. Or maybe he was smart to stay away. Mina tried to warn me.

Well, I wasn’t going back in, that was for sure. Spike had to partly drag me and partly carry me into the conference room, saying, “Hey, I’m not the bad guy here.” Trevor would never have allowed Spike to manhandle me like this.

In the conference room all hell broke loose. Spike leaned against the door as if to prevent escape or rescue. Oz held me. I tried pretending he was Trevor — now that he was so thin they were more alike. I could hear Shelley yelling until Jake threatened to slap her.
Craig performed an Indian dance, complete with war whoops. He flashed me his nacreous smile, saying,

“You did it, you did it!”

“You set us up,” I accused him. “You knew this would happen.”

Mina handed water bottles. Asked Shelley and me if we wanted a Xanax. Or three. Hell, take the whole bottle.

“Calm down,” said Craig. “Everybody sit.”

We all sat down, except Craig. All eyes fixed on him. Oz had a little grin on his face. I felt Craig sucking, sucking the oxygen out of the room, forcing us to see things his way. I knew we would have to agree with whatever he said if we ever hoped to breathe fresh air.

“Of course I knew he was going to do it.” He pounded his fist on the table. “It was effin’ outrageous, but they might have gotten away with it. They want to show those disgustingly prejudicial photographs of your mother’s autopsy to the jury. Other than an actual snuff film, I can’t conceive of a sight more upsetting or disturbing, particularly if you don’t get out much.

“Yes, Buford told me to prepare you but do I get to prepare the jury? Nooooooo. So if you’d sat stoically through today’s monstrosity – or even covered your faces – or God forbid missed court – the judge might have ruled them admissible. Now, I don’t see how he can.

“If the judge rules those photos out it will be entirely owing to you girls today. This is what it’s all about, darlin’s. Listen to me, listen to me now. This is basic Gamesmanship 101, very important. I’ll bet you a Franklin he won’t let those photos in now. Plus he should be extra vigilant about that entire avenue of testimony. Prevent Buford sneaking things in. Care to make a wager?”

Jesus, I thought, that’s our money he’s betting with.

Oz put an arm around Shelley’s shoulder and a hand on my knee.
“This is war,” said. Oz “I’m so sorry. I wish I could have spared you, but this is war.”

The court clerk knocked on the door to let us know it was time to return. Shelley couldn’t keep her Valium down. This is what comes of having no breakfast. She rushed back to the ladies room.

“No more pictures till he rules,” said Craig. “I promise, no more pictures.”
I said to Oz, “So my mother didn’t die of an aneurysm?”

“Of course she died of an aneurysm. Triggered by a fall. It often happens that way. Falls are a leading cause of death. Or maybe the aneurysm caused the fall. How should we know, after all these years?”

I sought his pale blue eyes behind the glittering glass reflections, trying to read the images flickering behind them.
“But those cuts on her head—”

“Nobody knew about those. Maybe she slipped a couple of times. There were ladders standing around, buckets, rebar. It was a construction site. Something may have fallen on her. You have to realize, there wasn’t an autopsy at the time. Nobody wanted one.”

“There wasn’t a rush to judgment,” intoned Craig and Oz echoed,
“Sensitivity to bereavement. There wasn’t a rush to judgment.”

Their voices echoed falsely, the adults assuring the toddlers that monsters are unreal. If there was no investigation, isn’t that a rush to judgment? They made up their minds too soon. Too soon.
The marshals came in; slapping Spike, collecting Oz. Oz has to return to court through his special door, portal of a different kind. God forbid he contaminate the universe by standing in the public hall.

“I’ll take that Xanax now,” I said. I’m made of tougher stuff than Shelley, I thought.
Spike held the door open for me and said something as I passed through, but I wasn’t paying attention. I was thinking, the cuts came from outside, not inside of her head. You wouldn’t even need an autopsy to find them. Couldn’t they feel them? Didn’t they even wash the blood out of her hair? What did the funeral home people think when they got this body with a death certificate that said “aneurysm” but her head was all cut up?

“Not my job, boss” is what they probably said. Nobody gives a damn about anybody.
Unfortunately the arguments weren’t over. In law, they never are.

Craig went on and on about what a transparent ploy this was to convince the jury Oz was a serial killer without charging him with any other crimes. A trial within a trial, as the Court TV people say. Unconscionable, against precedent, hopelessly prejudicial. Inviting the jury to string him up without true deliberation.

“Why doesn’t the state charge him with this crime if they are so eager to tar him with it? Because they don’t have any actual evidence, that’s why, just a bunch of shocking pictures and innuendoes by persons with grudges and fading memories.”

Buford stood up to say these crimes were so similar they established a pattern of conduct. I tried to listen but the Xanax was kicking in. Both women had died in a swimming pool of seven blows to the top of the head and Oz White was the last man to be seen with either of them.

I thought I was hallucinating. I said out loud, “She died in a –“ before Spike covered my mouth. The judge looked right at me. He was a reptilian old guy sporting eye goggles behind which his eyes floated loose, like bait fish. What was he thinking? I was thinking he had so little hair nobody could get away with cutting up his head and keeping it secret. Listen up. Previously unknown benefit to baldness.

Spike had me under control in the end zone so the judge glanced away. I seriously considered biting Spike on his hand. This was war, said Oz, let the Marquess of Queensberry whirl in his grave. Everyone else was. Xanax fizzed its insidious little bubbles into my blood. I relaxed. Instead of pigskin, Spike had a rag doll.

I don’t do drugs unless really hard up for entertainment. I have the metabolism of a hummingbird so it’s all drugs to me. Booze, coffee, mustard, salt, vinegar, alka seltzer; psychedelics in my book.
The judge said he realized time was of the essence since Buford had gathered witnesses from around the world, and the state was putting them up at government expense, so he would hand down his ruling at nine Monday morning. In my imagination the judge impersonated God, draped in a tasteful bath towel, would hand a stone tablet to Buford and say, thus it is written. Then we would all dance around the tablet, grateful for the decision-making of others so we could allow our own brains to jellify. Follow, follow, follow, sang the chorus.

Spike hoisted me to my feet. I floated away up, up and away, leaving the core of my essential self, that thing Trevor calls a soul, still sitting there, goggle-mouthed, on the polished wooden bench. Soul-struck. As the poet so rightly said, you can check out all you want, but you can never leave.

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