This is the first of my writing to be created into a movie. The Death of Kevin Frye was filmed in 2009.
Waking early, Victor dressed and drove to Jazz’s apartment. Thin web-like clouds streamed across the sky like light fragments from the explosive brilliance of the rising sun. It was going to be as beautiful a day as it had been yesterday. Victor allowed himself a half smile. As far as he was concerned, any day with Jazz was a beautiful day. It was still early, but he was ready for her company.
At the door of her apartment, the cat ran up beside him winding her way around his legs. He reached down and scratched her ears. She looked up at him and meowed.
Jazz opened the door to his knock. She was wearing a maroon dress but was barefoot. Owie darted in the warm living room while Jazz invited Victor to come in. “Sorry Victor, I woke up a little late, I’m almost ready. I’ll be out in a minute.”
“That’s okay. I’m a little early, take your time. I’m not in a hurry.” And that was the truth. He didn’t want to spend Sunday alone, but spending it in church wasn’t exactly his idea of a good time either. He sat on the couch and waited. The cat jumped into his lap.
After five minutes Jazz returned from her room and lifted Owie from Victor’s lap, stroking her head. She put the animal on the couch. “Thanks for waiting. Are you ready?”
“As ready as I can be.”
“Victor, you’ll be fine. Hey do you mind stopping at an art store on the way home? I have to pick up some photos they framed for me.”
“Sure, no problem.”
After breakfast, they drove toward the church and pulled into the parking lot. The brown building was roughly octagonal in shape with an extension, an obvious addition to the main building. The moment Victor’s feet touched the ice covered asphalt of the church parking lot, a sick feeling began to grow in his gut, weighting more heavily than the bacon and eggs in his stomach from breakfast. He could do nothing about it now. They walked through the door.
Contemporary Church music played while Jazz led Victor to a seat by the middle isle of the church. Although he would have preferred the back pew, he sat at the end of the row. There was nothing to do now except wait for the service to be over.
Soon a middle-aged man walked on stage to a simple wooden podium and smiled, “Good morning. As you know, Christmas is coming soon. If you still would like to volunteer to decorate the church....” Annoyed at the mundane business affairs, Victor wished the man would get on with it.
During the announcements, a red sports car slowed down, hesitated a moment then pulled into the parking lot and parked. The driver waited until he was sure the service started and then came in quietly, sitting down on the last row, next to a grandmother and her fifteen-year-old granddaughter. The woman scooted her granddaughter closer to her, eyeing the stranger nervously. “Typical”, the man thought to himself, ignoring the women.
The man at the podium finally stopped talking about church business and the music began. The man led the congregation with great depth of feeling. It was obvious he was in love with his music and Victor had to admit he enjoyed watching, even though he had little knowledge of the words to the songs the man led.
As he listened, he found there was something in his memory which made the old hymns they sang pleasantly familiar. What vague impression of a memory was he experiencing? As far as he knew he’d never been in church until his twelfth year and third set of foster parents. That was not a good experience at all. A feeling of peace seemed to settle on his soul.
Expertly the worship leader quieted the congregation with a brief interlude of prayer. Victor, who scoffed at church services before, felt an uncanny sensation, as if an unseen presence had entered and was, in fact, sitting beside him. He could almost hear a voice whisper to him, but he had no idea what that voice was saying.
The congregation seated themselves as a man came to take the worship leader’s place. He had close cut brown hair, a hawkish nose and piercing brown eyes which suggested to Victor that he was either slightly crazy or very passionate.
“Today we’re going to talk about prayer. You may ask, ‘Brother Jim, is my prayer really effective?’ This is one of the great mysteries and questions of Christians in every generation and around the world.
“‘How can I think my insignificant prayer can make any difference?’ Let me tell you my friend, it can make a difference because God loves you and wants to give you good gifts. Let’s see what Jesus had to say about prayer. Turn to John 14: 1-14.…”
As soon as the man began to speak, Victor found himself caught up with the words and with watching the preacher pace back and forth, sometimes on stage, sometimes up the isles. Once in awhile the preacher would stop in front of one member of the congregation, speaking to that person as if they were having a private conversation.
Victor liked what he heard and saw in the preacher. Through the weaving of his words, the idea that God might truly exist and was someone who loved him no matter what Victor was began to take shape in his heart. The answers to his questions were somewhere here, not in a relationship with Jazz. As he listened, he realized what he’d seen in the man wasn’t craziness it was passion. For the first time in years, this preacher helped him feel like there might be hope for him: hope for a future with Jazz, hope for a normal life.
He leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes. But suddenly he sat up again, sorrow almost choking him. How could God love him? If there really was a God, he certainly would know what kind of man Victor had become. No, he’d never feel peace. Why even try to change?
Victor’s ears picked up the thread of the preacher’s words again, “‘...I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.’” The preacher closed his eyes and paused a moment to allow the words to sink in.
As if in answer to Victor’s slavery, he opened them again, walked to Victor, looked him in the eye and put his hand on his shoulder. Victor could not turn his eyes away from that piercing gaze that looked deep into his soul, “Let me tell you some good news friend: it doesn’t matter what you have done or who you are because God’s love and forgiveness isn’t based on what you have done or who you are. God’s love is based on what Jesus did on the cross and who He is. It doesn’t matter if you’ve committed the terrible act of murder or rape or are unforgiving toward your neighbor. God wants you for his child and he can help you make the changes you need to make through Jesus. He will change what you are now; He is the only one who can. With God nothing is impossible; he will always be The Gateway of Hope.” The preacher moved on. What that did to him, Victor couldn’t quite grasp. He felt confused. Who was this guy? And why those particular words when his hope seemed to die within his own soul. Stunned and shaken, he suddenly felt an odd but familiar prickle in his neck. Obeying the instinct, he slowly turned his head, as if idly looking at nothing in particular. He stiffened when he saw the stranger with the Mohawk sitting behind them and to the left. Pretending not to notice him, Victor made another visual sweep across the sanctuary and when his gaze returned to the place the man had been sitting, he found the seat empty.
Suddenly he was aware of Jazz grabbing his hand and leading him out of the isle, “Come on, I want you to meet Pastor Jim,”
They caught up with the preacher who stood beside his wife. She had long dark hair, streaked with some gray. She seemed a strong woman, capable of keeping any man in check. “Pastor Jim, Andrea,” Jazz said, “this is Victor. He’s a co-worker.”
Both Andrea and Pastor Jim shook Victor’s hand with firm, honest grasps. They seemed genuine.
“Just a co-worker Jazz?” Pastor Jim grinned, eyes glinting.
“Yes, just a co-worker…”
“It’s nice to meet you Victor. Are you from here?” Andrea asked.
“No, I lived in Houston before coming.”
“Did you know Jazz in Houston?”
The preacher looked into Victor’s eyes and held them; he squirmed inside.
“Well, Houston is a big place. It was a silly question. I hope you enjoyed our service. Do you attend a church?”
“No. I haven’t been to a church since I was a kid.”
“I hope you’ll come back. We may be small, but we have a lot to offer.”
“Thank you, sir.” They shook hands again,
They left the pastor and his wife, but as they were about to walk out the door, Jazz turned to the sound of a man’s voice calling out, “Jazz?”
“Oh hi, Mr. Ray. How are you?”
“I’m fine, how are your dad and mom?”
“Oh, they’re doing great. I’ll tell them you asked about them.”
“Mr. Ray, this is my friend Victor. Victor, this is our Chief of Police, Duncan Ray, he’s an old friend of the family.” Victor found himself shaking hands with a taller bald man of deep complexion. His face was lined and hard, it was obvious he’d seen much.
Cautiously Victor exchanged greetings with the chief, most definitely a man he did not want to know any more intimately than this brief encounter. Jazz soon led him away, but Victor could feel Chief Ray’s eyes staring after him.
Duncan scowled as he watched them walk away. He felt uneasy and wondered if Mike knew about his daughter’s friend. Something didn’t seem right.
Jazz led Victor out of the building and they returned to the car.
“Thanks for coming to church with me. I hope you didn’t mind Pastor Jim teasing us a little bit. He does it all the time. I’ll probably get it the next time I see him.”
“He was probably concerned about how you’d feel. He knows how to tease, but he also has a good sense when not to.”
“I see. I liked your pastor. He seems like a real person, not pretentious.”
“He is real. He and Andrea have gone through some difficult times. They even had some marital trouble, but their faith has made them stronger in their marriage.”
“You mean being a Christian doesn’t make things easier?”
“No, in fact I’d go so far as to say it makes things harder.”
Jazz laughed, “Victor, you sure aren’t afraid of asking hard questions. But that’s another one I can’t answer. I think it has something to do with Satan.”
“Satan? You mean a real person who is as evil as God is supposed to be good?”
“Something like that, but Satan isn’t as strong as God, and he loses in the end.”
“How do you know?”
“It says it in the last book of the Bible.”
“That seems fitting, being the last book.”
They got out of the car and walked toward the little art mall, a bell rang as they entered. Inside several shops surrounded an inner café. They walked into one with art from the local artists. Victor could see everything from furniture to jewelry, paintings, photographs and clothing.
Jazz picked up her photos, then fingered a few of the other pieces while commenting on each of them.
“I love this shop,” she finally said. The bell rang again, but Jazz didn’t think much about it. Victor, however, was on the alert. Cautiously he glanced around the room, He sensed a menace in the store, but wasn’t sure where the threat was; then he glanced behind him. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a shadow sneak on the other side of the window. “This place is a nightmare,” Victor thought to himself. They needed to leave now, but he wasn’t sure how he was going to get her to hurry.
He put his hand inside his jacket feeling comforted by the weight of the hardware under the cloth. Just one bullet would take care of the problem, but he didn’t want to have to take care of the problem with Jazz there, and it was too public a place anyway. His arrest was certain, and he knew Jazz would be lost to him, no matter what the outcome.
“I guess I’m ready,” she said without realizing she’d rescued him, “we need to get home. I have a roast in the slow cooker. I don’t want it to dry out.”
“A roast? That sounds good. We’d better hurry.”
When they arrived at the apartment, he was certain he’d lost the unwelcome guest, but was cautious as they walked to her door. As they entered, the aroma greeted them.
Jazz, it smells great.”
“I hope it is. I love roast on Sundays after church. I don’t get to cook one very often, not unless I have company. It’s too much for one to eat.”
“Sounds like a set up to me. You planned to ask me over for lunch anyway; didn’t you.”
“I guess I’m an easy read.” Jazz blushed, “You’re right. I’d already decided Friday night to ask you over for lunch today.”
Victor shook his head at her.
“After yesterday, I’m surprised you even want me around.”
“Victor, one of the things about forgiveness is forgetting, too. It’s time to forget it.”
“That doesn’t sound easy to me. Forgiveness is hard enough, but forgetting? How do you do it?”
Jazz was silent a moment, then said, “I haven’t figured out how yet. But it doesn’t matter. I like being with you. Besides, I made you go to church with me. I should feed you too.”
“I have to warn you, Jazz, I’ve led a really rotten life. I don’t know if you want a fiend like me getting too involved with you. You’d better be careful,” his hazel eyes turned cold, but she missed the signal.
“Rotten is a pretty strong word. I need a little adventure in my life.”
“You don’t know what adventure is like.”
Jazz laughed, “You’re too serious, you need to loosen up. Hey, I think the roast is ready, let’s eat.”
“That sounds good to me,” Victor carefully folded his jacket and laid it on the couch.
“I could hang that up for you if you’d like,” Jazz suggested while laying her hand on the jacket.
“No, it’s okay,” he said, grabbing her wrist quickly, then moving his hand to hers, intertwining their fingers. She squeezed his hand, unaware of his fears. She smiled and they sat down to eat.
“Do you have family?” Jazz asked, surprising Victor with the question.
“No, my parents died years ago. Why do you ask?”
“Well, if you don’t have anywhere to go, I’d like you to come over for Christmas.”
“Are you sure about traveling with a man you barely know? Especially after that man just told you he is a fiend.”
“We’ve worked together for a long time now. I know I’ll be alright.”
“I’m not sure Jazz. You said you didn’t want to rush into a relationship. Isn’t this like taking me home to meet the folks?”
“Yep, that’s exactly what it is. You’re going to have to meet the folks. It doesn’t mean we’re getting married. I just wanted you to have a place to go for Christmas. It’s not a time for being alone.”
“I’m used to it by now. I’m sure your family doesn’t want an intruder.”
“Don’t you know I wouldn’t enjoy Christmas knowing you were alone? Mom and Dad don’t mind. Since Christmas is on Friday we can be back by Monday and be ready for work on Tuesday. Besides, it’s not like we’ll be sharing a room or anything. Okay? I’m glad that‘s settled.”
“Jazz, I haven’t said yes, yet.”
“Oh good grief. Mom and Dad would feel better if I wasn’t driving alone. We’ll drive home and stay the weekend with them. You’re coming. I’ll just let them know.”
Victor shook his head, allowing himself to give in. He took a bite of dinner, “This is delicious. I could get used to this.”
“Thanks Victor, I’m glad you like it. You’ll have to come over more often.”
“So, is that an invitation to come over after work tomorrow?”
“Only if you want it to be.”
Not knowing what to say to that, Victor took another bite of roast. On the counter, Jazz’s camera bag sat, waiting for her to dash out with it.
“How did you get started in photography?”
Jazz laughed, “It was really by accident. I picked up a small digital point and shoot, and soon found it to be a passion. After that, my dad gave me a digital SLR.”
“You’ve got a good eye. Do I hear Owie?”
“Yeah... oh, the cat...” Jazz got up and opened the door. The cat complained as she walked in, jumped on the couch and curled up, clearly annoyed at being forgotten.
Victor chuckled softly. Yes, he could get used to a regular life. “It seems Owie doesn’t forgive easily.”
“I spoil her. She’s great company. Hey, what did you think of Pastor Jim’s sermon?”
Victor stopped eating a moment, “Why do you ask?”
“No reason in particular. Dad and Mom always have that discussion after church and it seemed a natural thing to ask.”
“I see. Well, I had some questions.”
“Yeah, well ever since Friday night you’ve been asking questions. I’m not surprised about that.”
“Your preacher said that God loves everyone, no matter what they’ve done. I can’t see how that’s fair.”
“From what I understand, it isn’t fair.”
“What do you mean?”
“Victor, I don’t read my Bible very much, but I have heard about this all my life. God loves us even though we don’t deserve it. That’s why Jesus came in the first place.”
“But he said even murderers and rapists? I don’t understand.”
“You haven’t raped anyone; have you?” Jazz teased.
“No,” Victor said truthfully, but seriously. Jazz instantly realized she’d been too flippant.
“Victor, you need to talk to Pastor Jim sometime. He could give you the answers you’re looking for. I wish I was more prepared to.”
“I heard him say that God’s love wasn’t based on what we’ve done. I guess that’s plain enough. It’s what he’d tell me if I talked to him.”
“That’s true, but I still think you need to visit with him.”
“Maybe sometime.” Victor felt a little frustrated. Why couldn’t she tell him the things he wanted to know? He didn’t want to talk to her pastor, he was asking her.
Jazz felt somewhat awkward. “Want dessert?” she finally asked.
“Dessert too? Jazz, I’m going to have to watch myself around you. I could gain weight.”
Jazz laughed, “It’s nothing spectacular, just an angel food cake with strawberries and whipped topping.”
“You’re the angel. I’m the bad man.”
Jazz handed him a plate of cake and strawberries laughing.
Finished with their dinner, Victor helped Jazz clear the table and clean up. While Jazz washed the last of the dishes, he walked over to his jacket, still on the couch. Suddenly he stiffened as he glanced out the window. The familiar red sports car slowly drove by the front of the apartment. Absently he called to Jazz, “Do you have any movies?”
“What do you want to watch?”
“It doesn’t matter.” He responded, sitting on the couch. The cat jumped into his lap.
“She’s awfully particular about who she purrs for,” Jazz said, laughing when she came in. She scratched the cat’s head playfully. Owie just blinked at her with quivering blue eyes.
“She’s not a very good judge of character,” Victor replied scratching underneath the cat’s chin. She lifted her head for Victor to continue, bringing a cat’s smile to her feline face.
Jazz rubbed her hand on Victor’s shoulder. “You may not think much of your character, but I do. Here are my movies; what do you want to watch first?”
“I’ve never seen most of these movies, you pick one.”
“You’ve never seen ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ or ‘White Christmas’?”
“No, should I have?”
“Well, they’re old stand bys, at least my family watches them every year. We’ll just have to watch all of them.”
“No, of course not. We’ll watch one at a time.” She picked up Charles Dickens Christmas Carol. “I love the way George C. Scott plays Scrooge. We’ll watch this. I’ll pour some coffee.”
Jazz poured a cup for them both. The aroma of the coffee helped Victor forget his worry. He closed his eyes, listening to Jazz making noise in the kitchen. He could almost imagine what it would be like to be listening to her as his wife. He smiled.
“What are you smiling at?” Jazz laughed, catching him in the moment.
“Just appreciating the atmosphere.”
She blushed and popped the movie into the player then sat down next to Victor as he took the coffee she offered.
The movie opened to a busy foggy street scene, the walks and roads covered in snow and ice. A bell mournfully tolled out the hour as if to announce doom and death, the wind howled icily with the haunting eerie sound of distant wailing voices.
The narrator began his opening lines, but soon Victor was lost in thought, easily distracted from the storyline. All that would register in his mind was that Jazz sat next to him enjoying the movie.
He reached over the couch, put his arm on the back and let it slip down to rest on her shoulders. It was an obvious pass and he hoped she’d allow it. She looked up at him and smiled. She didn’t move his arm and seemed to snuggle closer. Victor was grateful. At that moment, feeling genuine comfort from someone meant more to him than that smile she gave him each time she saw him.
His mind thought about nothing in particular, except that Jazz was close beside him. He let nothing else steal peace from him, not the car outside, not his own unhappiness, not his life. It would have been easy to doze off, but he wanted to savor the moment with this beautiful young woman. His arm brought her a little closer, she put her hand on his chest. He kissed her hair. Time went by too quickly and soon the ending credits played. It was dark outside.
“I love that movie. It’s funny, though. Every time I watch it, it always ends the same.”
Victor looked at her wondering what she meant, but then caught that familiar glimmer in her eyes.
“Yep,” he responded, “It’s amazing how that works.”
Jazz laughed, glad he understood the joke, “Not many people get that the first time,” she smiled broadly, “I’m proud of you.”
“Thanks,” he chuckled, “It’s getting a late. I think I’d better go.” He and Jazz both got up from the couch. Being closer to his jacket, Jazz made a step to retrieve it, but he reached for her and pulled her into his arms, moving her away from his coat. She didn’t resist, but didn’t allow the embrace to last too long.
“No, thank you. I don’t think I can remember a better Sunday.”
“Even going to church?”
“It wasn’t as bad as I thought, especially because I was with you.”
“I enjoy your company.”
“I’ll see you in the morning,” he said as he opened the door, “It’s too cold outside, don’t come out.”
“Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Victor waved, she shut the door. The night seemed colder and more menacing than ever. Going to his car he felt hot in spite of the icy air blowing his face. If she’d picked up his coat she would have felt or dropped the gun. He didn’t know what he would have said.
Not seeing any sign of the threat, he made his way back to his car and home again, being sure not to allow anyone to follow him.
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