I was in a bad mood that day. I’d had a blinding headache, and just wanted my shift to end. I’d had fought with my wife, Lori, which had eaten at me all day.
Evening was falling, and I was ready to head my cruiser toward the station when a car shot past me with no taillights. I groaned as I turned to follow. It was an older car, a real clunker. When I pulled behind it, I saw the tags expired two years ago.
I tapped my lights, hoping they’d pull over, but it sped up. I flipped the lights on, waiting several minutes before turning the siren on. The car continued gathering speed. “Punks,” I growled, assuming it was some hotshot kid.
Then the car careened around a corner, so I did likewise. After two more screeches around corners, I called for back-up. I could feel my headache mounting. If something happened to me, it would prove Lori’s point.
Lori was always worrying and praying over me as a policeman. That was fine except she was constantly after me about God, begging me to attend church with her and the kids.
That morning she said, “I’m praying for you, Gabe.” I lost it, said some things I shouldn’t have said. Now my shift was ending with me in pursuit of some hothead.
We were approaching the bridge that crosses the Mississippi when the car screeched to a halt. The radio cackled, the dispatcher said help was on the way. I approached the car, my fingers resting on my gun.
The driver stared straight ahead – looked to be a young lady. I rapped on the window, and she cranked it down without turning to look at me. “What’s your problem?” I blurted out.
“You believe in God, Mister?” she mumbled.
“What?” I barked, sure I hadn’t heard correctly.
“Forget it.” She turned, her eyes spewing venom. That’s when I saw her black eye, swollen jaw, and busted lip.
“What happened to your face?”
“You pull me over to ask about my face?” Her voice dripped sarcasm.
I clenched my teeth. “I need your license, registration, and proof of insurance.”
While she dug around, I shone my flashlight inside the car. I saw the baby, about a year old, dirty face and crusty nose, but she flashed a timid smile. “That your baby?” I asked.
Her head jerked around to face me and something flickered in her eyes, a sorrow so deep the eyes couldn’t contain it. She didn’t answer. She shoved the information at me I’d asked for.
Her license had her name Emily, and she was nineteen years old. The insurance card expired a year ago. “Seems everything’s expired,” I said, studying the wounds on her face.
“My life’s expired,” she mumbled.
“What was that?”
“Jerk! Like to bully women and babies, huh?”
“Please step out of the car, Emily.”
Rage shot from her eyes as she yanked the door open and stood facing me. I sighed, wondering what her story was, who had beaten her. “What’s your baby’s name?” I asked, hoping to ease the tension.
“Leave Anna out of this.” She crossed her arms and glared.
I heard the crunch of tires then, and a spotlight shone on me. “Hey, Gabriel, how’s it going? Need help?” No one called me Gabriel except Chuck, the rookie. Only a rookie would shine a spotlight on a fellow officer and blind him.
“I’m fine, Chuck. I can handle it.” I waved at Chuck as he drove away. When my eyes adjusted, I saw a look of shock on Emily’s face. She dropped to her knees like she’d been shot, rocking and wailing like a wounded animal, the sound piercing my heart.
That was ten years ago. Emily had run away from home when she was seventeen. By the time she realized how abusive and controlling her boyfriend was, she was pregnant with Anna. The violence escalated, and that day she was going to drive her car off the bridge and into the Mississippi.
“God, if you really care, stop me,” she’d prayed. To make it more difficult, she added, “Send the angel, Gabriel.” She said when Chuck called me Gabriel, and shone the spotlight behind me, I looked just like an angel.
Both Emily’s life and mine changed the day I was the angel God sent to save her and Anna. Lori and I helped her reunite with her parents. We’ve stayed in touch.
Church? I go willingly now.
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