Clarise LaRue was a survivor. The scars on her wrists ran deeply, piercing even her heart. She had run away from home nearly six years ago only to discover there were worse things in life than parents who cared too much. Like hunger, cold, beatings, and despair.
Taking a quick glance at her painted face in the liquor store window, she dabbed a garish red lipstick across her lips. She tugged at her open blouse, exposing a little more skin, and shifted her attention to the passing cars. It wasn’t long before a dark sedan pulled up to the curb and the passenger side window rolled down.
With a smooth provocative move, Clarise edged closer to the car, leaning into the window, “Looking for some action?”
“Might be. What’s your price, honey?” came the coarse reply.
“Hundred bucks should take care of it, Mister.”
Suddenly, before Clarise could react, two men jumped her from behind. Pushing her to the ground, one of the men slapped handcuffs on her wrists. The second officer began to read her the Miranda rights. “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used . . .”
“Yeah, yeah, I know the routine.” Clarise glared at the larger man.
He continued quietly, raising his head to look her straight in the eyes. Clarise felt uncomfortable under his stare. His face was gentle, but in the darkness, it was hard to really see his eyes. Strangely, Clarise felt compassion seated there—something she had not felt in many years.
The officer who tightly held her arm abruptly jerked her around. “Come on Mike, let’s get on with it and get this whore off the street.”
Mike scowled at his partner, “Pat, there’s no need for that language.” Taking Clarise’s arm in one gentle motion, Mike moved off down the sidewalk to his car. Reaching the back door, he turned to her, pointing to her cheek. “Are you okay, Miss? Those cuts look bad.”
“What do you care? You’re just a **@@* pig.” Clarise spat in his face for effect.
“See, what did I tell you, Mike? Your high and mighty, be nice attitude never works. This whore’s too far gone.”
“Cool it, Pat.”
Back at the station moments later, the officers found themselves backed up against a room full of arrests. “Guess you’re gonna be relegated to a holding cell for awhile, Missy,” Pat chortled.
Clarise rolled her eyes and huffed her disdain.
Mike’s reply, “Remember, Pat, patience is a virtue.”
“Man, you’re irritating. Give it a rest.”
Clarise found herself alone in a holding cell, feeling vulnerable and dejected. Within just a few minutes, Detective Mike O’Donnell came back bearing a bag of chips and a bottled water.
Handing the items through the bars, he said, “Here you go Miss. I’ll be back in a minute with a medical kit and we’ll fix up those cuts for you.”
“Why are you doin’ this for me?”
Mike smiled. “Could be a long time ‘til breakfast. And, I like to help people.”
Mike was back in a few minutes and proceeded to treat her abrasions with care. “So Miss, what’s your name? Mine’s Mike.”
“Clarise. Clarise LaRue.”
Clarise was uncomfortable with all the attention. “I still don’t get it. What are you doin’ helpin’ me?”
“Simple. You’re a person who deserves to be treated with respect and dignity.”
“I ain’t had none of that in a long time.” Clarise looked downward, avoiding Mike’s eyes.
“You know, respect and dignity are never taken away from you; they can only be given away.”
“Where’d ya get that choice bit of wisdom?” Clarise’s sarcasm revealed a deep-seated bitterness.
Mike watched her with concern. “From my two best friends. I try to live my life as they did.” Mike beamed. His iridescent grey eyes sparkled with understanding.
An uncomfortable silence settled in and Mike decided to continue. “Let me tell you a little bit about my two friends. Both of them spent their lives reaching out to others. They weren’t worried about what people said or how they acted. My friends always met people at their most vulnerable moments and showed them compassion. Sometimes they guided others toward a new life; other times they just listened.” Then softly, in a gruff whisper, Mike leaned toward Clarise and said, “And they both died helping others.”
“What kind of people would do that?” A look of astonishment crossed Clarise’s face.
Mike smiled broadly. “My Dad and Jesus.”
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