Chapter 3


by Malachi Diablo

Rookie patrolmen Frank Stang and his veteran partner, Albert Couseman were scarfing coffee and donuts in their cruiser parked under a tree two blocks from The Camelot apartment complex. Frank was a big redhead with sixteen years on the force, overweight and a little out of shape. Edna, Frank's wife, insisted he take this beat when the chance came. She always told him he'd end up getting killed in the rougher parts of the city. Albert, who Frank called "Kooze", was way to fat for a policeman but there he was, a policeman, with only two years on the force. The reason he was assigned to this patrol was to learn from Frank's experience. They heard a call on the radio for officers in the area to respond. They acknowledged the request and proceeded to finish their coffee and donuts, a good twenty minutes, before actually starting the engine of the patrol car. This area was normally very quiet. That's why Frank and Kooze were assigned to this beat. This was an easy beat. Nothing ever happened around here requiring police intervention. They joked about how it was probably some guy who's girlfriend wouldn't leave. Or maybe it was the guy who was really crazy. Frank, offering his years of experience, suggested that it would be just a routine call and everything would be back to normal by the time they got there. He figured that the caller had called in the heat of the moment and was probably regretting it right now.

Mars spun in slow motion into open air, unaware that Venus' cold fingers were clinging to his forearms with a death-grip. He saw a blurred green and gray world rushing by upside down before his eyes, but there was more. In the compressed time phenomenon he was experiencing, Mars was even aware that he was amazed at the numbers of thoughts that were running through his head. Vignettes from various parts of his past were being rapidly replayed in his mind. Each one, as it appeared seemed to last long enough to relive it. He was aware too, that the life that was passing before his eyes, so to speak, was not what he would have imagined it would be. Some of the scenes didn't seem to make any sense and Mars couldn't understand why he was seeing those images. Like the time when he was six years old and his mom dressed him up as a ballerina for Halloween. Or the time his dog took a crap on the front door-mat and his father had blamed Mars. He remembered some things he had forgotten too. There was that Valentines Day in the fourth grade when Wilma Spitzer kissed him in front of the whole class. Then there was the time when he was about 12 years old; he was sitting on the grass in a city park, basking in the sun with his eyes closed, savoring the smells of spring and the warmth of the sun. Suddenly, without warning he was hit in the head with a home-run baseball, which in turn was chased by a large German Shepherd who bowled into the collapsing Mars, snatched the baseball and ran back to the game. He was knocked unconscious and one arm had been scratched up pretty good by the dog. Somebody found him and told a passing cop "the kid must be on drugs". Mars could never understand how somebody could get in so much trouble just by minding their own business, even though it happened to him more times than he cared to count. For some reason, that brought Mars back to reality, and a futile panic overtook him as he once again realized his fate: a public death, in his underwear, at the hands of a crazy person.

Frank had pulled the patrol car up in front of the main building at The Camelot and parked across from the main entrance. The cops squeezed themselves out of the car, screwed their hats on and hiked up their trousers by their gunbelts. At the very moment they took their first step toward the entrance of the building, they heard the scream. Looking in the direction of the scream, mouths agape, they saw the couple exiting the building almost directly overhead. With the policemen's next steps they too entered the warp in time that Venus and Mars were in. Time slowed to a crawl.
Venus shrieked in terror at the realization of the forces she had accidentally set in motion and that she was helplessly caught up in them and that she was taking an innocent person with her. Her former madness now gone, replaced by a new, more horrifying experience. She could only watch as she and Mars went tumbling out of the apartment window. Mars went out backwards, Venus facing him. Her conscious mind by now had resigned itself to her impending, inescapable death. Other parts of her mind refused to give up. Even when faced again and again with the same ultimate answer, those parts of her mind replayed the totality of it's memory in vain in search of a past experience to provide a solution to her impending doom. Still another part of each of their minds was able to stand aside and watch the whole show. She saw the window sill flash past her. She saw the ground loom into view far below her. She saw briefly, the far away look in Mar's eyes. She saw the police car below them parked in front of the building and two fat policemen walking toward the building looking up at her and she still hadn't finished her scream. She started to tumble past Mars, over his head, clutching his arms with an unbreakable grip.

Still in slow motion: Frank turned back to the police car to radio for help, partly as a matter of instinct from and partly because he didn't want to have to see the couple actually hit the pavement. He also knew that sooner or later they were going to catch hell for taking so long to get here. "We could've prevented this.", He scolded himself. Meanwhile, Kooze, from all his years of inexperience, ran toward the awning that covered the sidewalk at the front entrance of the building. His hat came off and he had to hold onto all the stuff he had hanging on his equipment belt as he ran in slow motion, his great weight rising and falling out of phase with his stride. He felt totally useless. He had no idea what he would do when he got there. He was even entertaining the possibility that this incident wasn't even related to the one they were called here for.
The window sills at Camelot are low and wide. At the outer edge there are two inch long, half inch thick wrought iron spikes sticking out of the sill every three inches, adding to the bogus castle motif. One of those spikes, which aren't sharp but could hurt you just the same, caught Mars right between his left kidney and his spine and scraped a shallow cut diagonally toward his right buttock as he exited the window. It also caught the waistband of his underpants and came out through the right leg hole, which by now was stretched as far as it was going to go. He will never again complain about the price of a good pair of underpants because he was now hanging by a quality waistband, upside down three stories up with a woman hanging onto him. Mars was in a sort of upside-down squatting position and found he had to maintain it in order to keep his underpants from coming off as he hung there. Venus was still gripping his forearms with a vice-like hold. Her torn night gown was draped up and across Mars and into the apartment, tracing the path of their exit. Venus sucked air collecting herself for another scream.
Mars cried out first, having sensed the pain from the gash in his back. I hadn't started to bleed yet though. He realized that it was only his underwear holding the weight of two people and was afraid to make a move for fear of stressing that cotton/polyester lifeline. He became aware also that he was holding onto Venus almost a tightly as she was holding him. Venus, dangling below Mars, let loose her scream. Her legs ran unconsciously in thin air. Mars couldn't see very well with part of Venus' night gown over his face. He begged her not to panic and told her to hold still or they would die. His breath alternately sucked the material to his face and then blew it away. Venus got her legs under control and while looking down at her legs, she saw the two slack-jawed policemen staring up at her.
For a moment Frank and Kooze were frozen in their tracks. They didn't know whether to laugh or thank the lord. It certainly was a silly sight to behold; those two nearly naked people hanging from a big nail. How embarrassing can it get? Frank snapped out of it first. He slapped Kooze on the back and told him to stay down here in front of the building and try to keep the victims calm while he, the bigger of the two, went up to that window and tried to pull the couple back inside. As Frank dashed toward the entrance of the building, Kooze ran after him to ask him what in the world he could say to these people. Kooze caught up with Frank under the canvas canopy covering the sidewalk in front of the main entrance, directly below Venus and Mars. It was at that precise moment that the material of Mar's underpants, with a rip and a snap, gave out. The couple plummeted three stories straight down hitting the canvas canopy, which broke their fall slightly before it collapsed. Venus and Mars landed directly on top of the two policemen, without tearing through the canvas canopy. The policemen absorbed the remaining energy of the couple's fall. Both their necks were broken. Killed them instantly. Venus and Mars were stunned and bruised from the fall and now sitting on the canvas of the collapsed canopy. Real-time came rushing back to their senses though their bodies were still moving in slow motion. Mars, dressed only in a T-shirt, the gash on his back now bleeding, was the first to his feet, finding uneasy footing on the policemen under the canvas. He had the wind knocked out of him in the fall and was still trying to get control of his breathing. Venus, dressed only in her underpants, sat up and tried to shake off the stun of the fall. She, stumbling too, slowly made it to her feet and tested her limbs to see if everything still worked. She twisted her neck around to see if it was O.K.. She felt unnaturally calm and at peace with herself, as if her mind had finally had enough. Mars looked up at the window of his apartment and saw the remains of his underwear hanging from the sill. He shook his head and reached back to feel the cut on his posterior and it stung. He saw the blood. It was a big cut but it wasn't deep. It was bleeding though. Then he realized his nakedness and that of his partner in plummet. Quickly looking around he noticed that there wasn't a crowd of people gathered around them. Everything must've happened very quickly in real time. Venus too looked around as soon as she realized she was unclothed. She saw the police car and then scanned the area for any sign of the police. Nothing. She asked Mars where the cops went. Mars head snapped to the right and gazed at the lumpy canvas laying in a heap on the sidewalk next to them. Venus, following his lead, gasped and looked in horror at the heap of canvas. While they stood there in shock they heard the sound of rapidly approaching sirens.
(to be continued.)

Way Out West ©1993 Martin Scherer. Venus & Mars © 1995 Martin Scherer. E-mail: