Two Sides To Every Story
“You will meet a woman of fire and ice, a woman you will love always, one you cannot live without. You will perish without having her love.”
Raphael laughed at the prediction but he remained seated out of courtesy. The old woman was a friend of his family and his godmother, his madrina, but Raphael didn’t believe in fairy tales nor did he believe in, el decir de fortunas--the telling of fortunes.
“I know you don’t believe me,” the old woman smiled. “It’s there in your eyes.”
Raphael attempted to protest but she stopped him. “Is not necessary for you to believe. It will happen.”
Raphael continued smiling, feigning interest. He wasn’t looking for a woman. In fact, a woman was the very last thing he either needed or wanted in his life. He was a Chicago cop; loving a woman could get him killed. It was better for him to not have that burden. In fact, he thought the department should make a rule: Cops are forbidden to ever fall in love. He thought the reasons were obvious. Cops endangered the public and themselves when they did, not to mention the person unfortunate enough to receive their love.
“Raphael, listen to me. Your mother has told me of your foolish wishes to never fall in love. Love is about to find you. Soon, Raphael, very soon.”
“Don’t I have any say in the matter?” he joked.
“No. Why not?”
“Because this woman is the other half of your soul.”
“How do you know I have a soul?” he asked quietly. He’d had one when he first joined the police department, but he didn’t know if he still possessed it.
“It’s in you, Raphael. And you will have to fight to get it back where it belongs, in the light, just as you will have to fight for this woman’s love.”
“If she’s my soul mate why will I have to beg her to love me?” He felt his jaw tightening. “Beside, Titi, I don’t beg, and especially not for a woman to love me.”
“Don’t auntie me. You will beg this woman.”
“I will not.”
Raphael was tiring of the game and of the old woman. “Tell me, why will I beg her?”
“Because she will hate you. She will hate you with a hate so fierce it will stop your heart.”
“Then why the hell would I want her? Excuse me, Titi. I didn’t mean to swear, but why would I want a woman that hates me?”
“Because when she learns to love you, she will love you with a fire more powerful than the ice with which she hates you. Her love will stop your heart but it will also restart it again. She will be true to you till death.” The old woman smiled. “That is, if she discovers that she loves you. If she doesn’t she will be the one to seek your death.”
“Thanks, Titi,” Raphael said, rising from his seat. “I think I’ll pass. The one thing I know for sure is that I don’t need is a woman who wants to kill me.”
“She’s beautiful, Raphael, and she’s your soul mate.”
“I don’t care. A beautiful Puerto Rican woman who will love me if she doesn’t kill me? No thanks,” he laughed and walked away.
The old woman watched him leave, a knowing smile on her face and a twinkle in her eyes. “I never said she would be Hispanic, Raphael,” she half-whispered under her breath, deciding not to tell him. He didn’t believe her anyway. He needed to learn a lesson the hard way.
“License and insurance, ma’am.”
“What did I do?” Angela asked, her eyes blazing. She refused to adjust her defiant stare, not caring that her manner alone might annoy the man. After all, it didn’t take much to antagonize the Chicago cops.
“Sixty in a thirty mile-per-hour zone.”
“God, I hate this!”
“Then I would suggest that you don’t speed.”
For a long moment Angela looked at the officer, her dislike of cops coalescing in this one man. She closed her eyes briefly, feeling the trembling begin to wrack her body, knowing she was about to do something stupid.
“My insurance card is in my dash and my license is in my purse. If I move to retrieve them, are you going to shoot me?”
She saw the officer blink. A look of surprise came into his eyes and then a mask fell over his face.
“Why would I shoot you?”
“Why are citizens shot every day in Chicago for no reason?” She glared at the officer, challenging him, her gaze unwavering. When his demeanor remained unchanged, she frowned in surprise.
“License and insurance, ma’am.”
Angela reached for her purse and held it toward the officer. “I’m going to open it,” she said. “I don’t have a gun.”
She knew her unspoken accusation was angering the man. She’d seen the way he’d visibly stiffened. So what? If it wasn’t for the Chicago Police Department, her brother wouldn’t be sitting in Statesville Penitentiary on trumped-up charges.
Angela retrieved the wallet and slipped the plastic coated license out and handed it over. She fished her cell phone from her purse and punched in a number, her eyes never leaving the man’s face.
“Simone, I’m on Damen and Cermak. I’ll be a little late; I was stopped for allegedly speeding.” She glanced once more in the officer’s direction, this time a little more intently.
“I’m calling so you can listen; I want a witness in case I end up on the evening news. I’m cooperating and being extremely pleasant.”
She knew what was coming before it did. She heard the sigh and for just a nanosecond she thought she saw hurt in the cop’s eyes. So what? Her gaze swung to his name tag. Rafe Remeris. What the heck was an Hispanic man doing with green eyes?
“Your insurance please.”
His tone indicated he was losing patience. She could continue and cause a scene, get arrested, thrown in jail, but at this point that wouldn’t help her brother. She had to find the woman who could help him. With any luck she’d also find the cops responsible and make them pay.
“I’m reaching into the dash for the insurance card,” she said into the phone. “I don’t have any weapons. I’m cooperating.”
She fished the card out, handed it over and snatched her hand back when his fingertips touched hers. “What did you do to me?” she screamed. “You shocked me.”
She searched his hands for the cause. She’d seen nothing in them before and didn’t now. “He shocked me,” she said into the phone.
“Lady, calm down. I didn’t do anything to you. Give me a minute to check your plate. Stay in the car,” he said firmly, and walked away.
“Angie, are you there?”
Mesmerized by movements of the cop, she was slow to respond. “I’m here.”
“What did he do to you?”
“He touched me.”
“Touched you? Where? Did he try and feel you up, what? Come on, tell me what’s going on.”
“He touched me. He touched my fingers and it shocked. Now my skin is burning where he touched me.”
Angela kept her eyes on the cop as he walked to the patrol car, got in for a minute, then came back to her. She swallowed when she noticed the officer’s hand resting on his gun and fear swept over her. In a flash her mind flew to the latest reports of police shootings of civilians then to her brother and she wondered if this was how he’d felt. She moved several inches away from the open window and readied herself. The phone that was at her ear slipped.
“Here’s your ticket. You can pay it or you can go to court. The date’s on the ticket.”
Angela’s heart caught in her throat. She could almost breathe again, He wasn’t going to shoot her. “I’m going to court. I’m going to fight it.”
“That’s your right. You have a great day now and take it easy.”
For one long lingering moment Angela remained still. There was something about that cop that had taken her aback and stirred a feeling of unease.
Raphael Remeris was shaken. He got back in his cruiser and kept his eyes on the woman as he started backing away. The woman’s words, ‘you shocked me,’ still rang in his ears. The tips of his fingers also tingled from touching her. He rubbed his hand over the leg of his trouser. The tingle had turned to a mild burning sensation.
A fist twisted in his gut as he remembered what his madrina had said to him. If he ever met a Puerto Rican woman who so obviously hated him as much as this Black woman did, he would run as fast as he could to get away from her.
Of course he’d known what game the woman was playing. The department had been taking a beating for quite awhile now. Sure, there were lots of cops in the department that used deadly force but he wasn’t going to second-guess them. No one knew until their own life was on the line how they would react.
Raphael had felt compelled to escape the fury in the woman’s eyes by returning to the squad car and had written the speeding ticket there, finding the need to close his hand into a fist and shake it out before being able to complete the task. His skin still tingled from the contact with the woman.
A sense of danger had overwhelmed him as he walked back toward the woman’s car. He’d actually switched the ticket to his left hand and positioned his right hand on the butt of his stun gun, just in case.
He didn’t spook easily but he had been spooked by that woman. Her extreme dislike of him seemed so personal and so intense that it had permeated the very air that he breathed. Her hatred had nearly stopped his heart. He wondered how many people out there loathed him so much that it could affect him as intensely as this encounter had.
This surely was not what he’d expected when he’d made his decision to join the force. He’d done it to gain respect, to help, to not be a bum. But respect was the last thing he’d got on the job. He’d been spit on, kicked, hit, cursed, called every name in the book, just because he wore a badge. But never in the eight years that he’d been on the force had he ever felt the revulsion as much as he had today. Raphael hoped he never would again.
Once again the old woman’s prediction came to him. Maybe this woman was the precursor. He imagined all of the fire of a Latin woman combined with the ice of the woman to whom he’d just issued a ticket, and he shivered. Fire and ice. What a hell of a way to start the day. Only blocks from the station, he thought, as he continued his patrol.
Angela sat in her car until the officer drove away, then let out the breath she’d been holding. She wondered what had made him put his hand on his gun and what had kept him from pulling it. She could even now smell her own fear surrounding her. But it wasn’t the very real fear that he would shoot her. It was more personal, as if he would destroy her life in some other way..
She’d almost forgotten she still had Simone on the line. “I’m okay. I was just harassing the cop.”
“But you were screaming. Did he use a stun gun on you? Did he really shock you?”
Angela realized how silly that sounded. The man had had no weapon, just his hand. She rubbed her fingers together. The slight burn was fading. She wondered if her own prejudice had created the electrical energy.” Stun gun? She’d never thought of that
“I don’t know,” she answered. “It’s just…I just got back from the prison and I wasn’t in a mood to be stopped by the cops.”
“Were you speeding?”
“I don’t know. I wasn’t looking down but I’m going to fight it anyway. I don’t like being harassed.” She ignored the fact that she’d just confessed that she was needling the cop. He deserved it, she didn’t.
“Are you still moving on Saturday?”
“Yeah, I need to live in the neighborhood to find out what happened. Eventually someone will talk.”
“You don’t have to live there to find out what you want to know. Besides, your parents hired an investigator. He’s trained. Why don’t you allow him to do his job?”
“It’s not his brother in jail. He doesn’t care about Adrian, I do. I’m going to do everything in my power to get him out of there.”
“It’s too late.”
“It’s not too late,” Angela screamed at her cousin. How would you feel if it were Trae instead of Adrian? Maybe you can not care since it’s your cousin and not your brother.”
“You know better than that. I love Adrian. But maybe I can see things a little more clearly. He’s not an angel, and neither is Trae.”
Angela winced. She knew her brother wasn’t an angel. She’d long feared he was involved with things he shouldn’t be. But she’d let it go when he would smile at her and tell her not to worry, that he could take care of himself. But, now he wasn’t saying that. He was begging her for her help. Her tough-as-nails big brother had had tears in his eyes when she left him. And he’d begged her to hurry and get him out. She had no choice but to follow through with her plan.
“You’re playing a very dangerous game. You could get hurt. You don’t know anyone and you’re deliberately putting yourself in a known Hispanic gang territory. You’re Black, Angela, not Hispanic, and you don’t even speak Spanish. How do you hope to do anything but get yourself killed?”
Angela wanted to tell her cousin that if she was so worried about her safety maybe she should join her, be her roommate. But what her cousin said made sense and she didn’t really want to endanger anyone else with her plan. She didn’t even want to endanger herself. But if she lived in the neighborhood where Adrian had been accused of the crime and where he’d been beaten, maybe she’d find some answers. She knew for sure the Chicago police didn’t care about finding out the truth.
“Everyone does what they have to do,” Angela said. “He’s innocent.”
“How do you know he’s telling the truth?”
“He’s my brother.”
“That doesn’t mean he can’t lie. I hate what happened to him also, but I know there’s more to what happened than what he’s admitted to. There’s always another side.”
“Not in this case. In this case there is only one side I’m worried about and that one is Adrian’s. He wouldn’t lie to me, not about anything this important. I believe him. He just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He has a right to be wherever he chooses and so do I. I want to know what happened.”
“And if the same thing happens to you?”
“At least maybe then you won’t think I’m crazy for trusting Adrian.”
“You’re hoping for more confrontation with the police?”
Angela shuddered, remembering the fear she’d felt only moments before, remembering the Hispanic cop with the green eyes, his hand on the butt of his gun. She wasn’t looking to die. She was looking for answers. Her death would not help her brother.
“Thanks for talking to me,” she said abruptly. “I’ll call you after I move in.”
Angela crumpled the ticket she was still holding and threw it on the floor of her car. There was a time when her heart had not been filled with such anger, such rage. All that had ended two years ago when her brother had been beaten, by police only a couple of blocks from the Damen police station. They’d accused him of gang activity, attempting to deliver drugs, and resisting arrest.
Angela didn’t believe it. No one would be stupid enough to do that right in their face, not so close to the police station. Any Black person with a lick of sense knew the reputation of the police department for profiling. And the increased shootings of Blacks on a weekly if not daily base, one would have to be a stone fool to try some mess like that. Besides, she’d looked in her brother’s eyes and seen no deception. He’d told her it had to be a case of mistaken identity or profiling. She didn’t know which but she was going to find out.
Angela sat in her new apartment. She had nothing to do now but wait. Hopefully she could return to her home in a few months but for now this was home. She looked at the rented furniture, cringing at the cost. She’d had no choice in that either. She couldn’t bring her own furniture. Her parents had to believe she was out of town. It was good to know that they would be taking care of her home while she was gone. Only her brother and her cousin would know where she really was. If she encountered the private investigator they’d hired, he wouldn’t know her. All he’d ever seen of her was her checks.
Lucky for Angela, her parents always used the cell to reach her. Her job as a technical writer with Kline, Inc, which she could do at home, provided her with the means and the time to look for the mysterious woman who could alibi for her brother.
She had a reason for undertaking the investigation herself. She didn’t believe the investigator was doing all that he could. Even as she thought it, Angela knew the man didn’t have the one piece of information that she possessed: a name. Even so, she still thought he could do more. And when she found the person she was after, she was personally going to fire the investigator. Until then he could keep looking. Besides they were working different angles.
Angela felt chilled and wrapped her arms around her body to stop a sudden tremor. She hoped that what she was doing would help her brother. Her plans did not include getting arrested by the cops before she even moved into the neighborhood. The possibility of her parents having grief over another child was definitely not on her agenda.
She smoothed out the ticket she’d retrieved from her car. At least that gave her a chance to focus on something other than her extreme loneliness. She didn’t like lying to her parents about what she was doing, but she couldn’t tell them. They would be worried, and in the last two years they’d had enough of that to last them the rest of their lives.
Angela thought about the cop who’d given the ticket to her. Something about the man niggled at her way down deep. She told herself it had nothing to do with his green eyes but she could see herself getting lost in them. She shuddered and shook that thought away. She wasn’t there to drown in a man’s eyes. She was there to find Teresa Cortez, the woman her brother said knew the truth.
Still, thoughts of the green-eyed Hispanic pushed their way into her mind. She wondered how he’d shocked her and made her burn with just his touch.
Raphael did his job the same as he did everyday, only now there was something just a little bit off kilter. He found that he was on the alert for a speeder and not just any speeder. He was looking for the woman who’d had such ice in her eyes when she’d glared at him that it had seemed to stop his heart.
In the few minutes it had taken to issue her a citation he’d seen a lot that she’d more than likely wish he hadn’t, like the visitor pass on the passenger side of her car that told him she’d recently been to Statesville. Maybe that was the reason for her hostility, but he doubted it.
Despite her anger he’d noticed her big beautiful brown eyes. Iced topaz, he thought and the sound of her voice had been pleasant in spite of the sarcastic bite. Raphael bit his lip. His thoughts should not be going in this direction but he couldn’t help it. The woman had intrigued him; he wouldn’t deny it.
For days all that he’d thought about was the way his skin had first tingled and then burned on touching her and his godmother’s prediction. I shouldn’t be listening to Titi Nellie, Raphael thought. She’s just a foolish old woman. There is no way that a person’s hatred could stop your heart.
Yet his had stopped for a moment.
And it made him wonder.
Raphael laughed at his foolishness. There was definitely no way that love could restart it. But for the first time in his life Raphael was wondering if he’d been right to shun the thought of loving someone.
Why was he thinking of these things? He didn’t want a woman in his life, his job was too dangerous. Still, he wondered how it would feel to have someone love him as much as the Black woman had hated him. He had to admit that would be some powerful loving, because the woman’s loathing was definitely strong.
Angela came from the store loaded with bags and rushing to avoid getting a parking ticket. She groaned and walked faster when she saw she was too late. “I was only in the store for a second.” she said to the police officer.
He glanced at her and she immediately recognized the crystal green eyes of the cop who’d given her the ticket days earlier.
“Are you handicapped?” he asked her.
Smart ass, she thought and opened her trunk, forcing his foot from the bumper. “Look, I couldn’t find a parking spot.”
“You mean one that was close to the door?” His eyebrow shot up. “Handicapped parking, in case you weren’t aware, is meant for those with disabilities.” He smiled. “Physical disabilities, I mean.”
Angela glared. “Just give me the ticket. In case you haven’t met your ticket quota for today, I just saw two squad cars parked in the handicapped spot at the donut shop down the street.”
When she snatched at the ticket, his fingers accidentally brushed the back of her hand and she stared at him. This was not her imagination. Angela sucked in a breath and eyed him curiously, wanting to ask if he’d felt it, knowing that because of their little war she couldn’t.
The officer walked away, but not before Angela saw him glance over his shoulder toward her. His expression was one of bewilderment. She got in her car knowing he’d answered her question. He’d felt it too.
As Angela waited inside the courtroom, she looked around, then smiled. The dark-haired, green-eyed cop wasn’t around. In the past weeks she’d seen him several times but had managed to avoid direct contact with him. Twice he’d been poised to write her a ticket, but on spotting her had turned in the opposite direction and closed the flap on his book of tickets. It had been evident to her that he no more wanted to see her again than she wanted to see him. That thought gave her confidence that he wouldn’t be in the courtroom. She settled back in her seat, more determined than ever to plead innocent. Who could dispute it?
Angela blinked. The rough gravely voice that called her name sounded impatient, and the judge looked it. She gathered her belongings; it was time for justice. She walked to the podium as the judge spoke to the person standing alongside him. A second later she heard a voice and turned. The green-eyed cop was walking in the door heading toward the podium, smirking in her direction as he made his way to the front. She glared at him. Nothing had changed. She was still determined to declare her innocence.
“Fifty dollars fine and traffic school. It looks like you may not be familiar with the rules of safety, or why they’re in place.”
“But…,” Angela protested, wondering what had happened to her plea. It was as if the judge had not heard her. She shouldn’t have to go to traffic school. “I pleaded innocent. You’re not listening to me.”
“Be thankful that this won’t be on your license. Three moving violations and your license would be suspended. So I suggest you slow down.”
The same gravelly voice called out, “William Davis,” indicating that Angela had been summarily dismissed. She glared again at the cop who was staring back at her, a curious expression that she took as a sneer on his face.
Raphael felt the same sense of danger emanating from the woman that he had the day he’d stopped her. He immediately scanned her body for bulges and saw none that shouldn’t be there. What he saw was a slender, rather short, beautiful Black woman with shoulder length black hair that she wore in a ponytail. The only bulges he saw were in the right places. A nicely rounded rear and ample bosom, he thought as his eyes met hers. Not too much, and not too little.
She’d caught him staring at her and was again glaring at him. He could swear he could see a wavy line coming from the woman toward him, and the word energy flashed into his mind.
The woman wasn’t carrying a weapon; she was the weapon. She was a danger to him, and he should do everything in his power to stay away, yet he found himself searching his mind for ways to see her again. He had to find out more about her, about her reaction to him, his reaction to her. She continued glaring and again he froze, his heart seizing until she looked away and released him from her arctic hold.
Angela entered the building and looked for directions to the room where traffic school was being held. Finding the room, she sat down to wait for someone to come and tell her what she knew already. She was not to speed, it was against the law, it could get someone killed. Well, so could beating them almost to death.
Her eyes lifted and widened. There was no way the green-eyed cop should be here. Angela marched to the front of the room. “Why are you teaching this class?”
“For money,” he replied.
She closed her eyes and counted to ten. “Are you doing this to annoy me?” She watched while he looked around the room.
“There are at least fifty people in this room that have disobeyed the law. Do you think you’re so special that I’ve singled you out? Listen, if you don’t want to be here you’re free to leave. Reschedule. It’s your choice.”
He turned away from her and she stood for a moment, unsure. She didn’t have time for this. She was not spending another Saturday in a musty room being told what she already knew. “I’m staying,” she announced through clenched teeth.
He held a paper toward her and didn’t speak. Her eyes remained on him. She wasn’t sure if she’d intended to touch him, but the tips of their fingers met, and for the third time she felt a definite electrical shock followed by the same burning sensation. Angela snatched the paper away angrily, wondering what the heck was happening.
Raphael pretended not to notice her reaction to him, or his to her. But he was intrigued. The entire eight hours the woman glared at him, not smiling, not speaking. Wanting to make sure that he knew she hated him.
And Raphael was beginning to have a funny feeling. He no longer thought the woman his godmother had been talking about was Puerto Rican. He didn’t understand how anyone anywhere could have as much hatred for him as this woman seemed to have. All of this couldn’t be over a couple of tickets. Her hatred of him seemed personal, and he wondered why.
Raphael approached the car that had flown by him as though he wasn’t there. “Damn I don’t believe it. The woman’s crazy,” he muttered as he walked to her car. He’d followed her for nearly two blocks with the lights and siren on before she finally stopped.
“License and insurance.”
“You’re beginning to make this a habit. It’s becoming irritating.”
“You’re speeding. Look, I’ll make it easy for you. Don’t speed on my beat and you won’t get a ticket.”
“Are you from the Damen station?”
“I’m going to report you.”
“And just what have I done to harass you?”
Angela looked into the emerald green eyes and spoke softly. “Because you’re a cop, and just because you breathe.” She scanned the front of his shirt. “You, Officer Rafe Remeris, are a symbol of everything that I hate. I would suggest that you find something to do with your time other than stopping me.”
Raphael backed a bit away from the car, from the intoxicating presence of the woman sitting inside. He mentally shook himself, releasing the strange hold that had suddenly come over him.
He looked at the woman’s driver’s license. “You live in Naperville. Why are you always speeding here? Are the traffic laws different in the suburbs?”
Sudden laughter bubbled up into her throat, but Angela quickly tamped it down. She’d not expected humor. She had been going for anger. She ignored him, preferring not to speak. The man caused too many extraordinary things to happen when she was in his presence. Her entire body was on fire. She could feel the heat rising to her face. All she wanted was for him to write the ticket and leave her alone.
“So that’s it,” Raphael said smiling. “In Naperville you’re allowed to fly down the streets doing sixty in a thirty mile per hour zone. I thought we covered all of this in traffic school. This doesn’t speak well of my abilities as a teacher if my students can’t remember not to speed. How long has it been, Ms. Reed?”
She didn’t answer, so Raphael did. “A week? Maybe it’s not me; maybe you’re slow.” He cocked his head and looked into the window, directly into her icy stare.
“I’m letting you off with a warning today, ma’am. Please have yourself a good day.” He flipped her license over to the empty passenger seat, noting again that a fresh visitor pass was sitting there.
Angela sat for a moment holding her breath, sucking her belly inward toward her spine. She didn’t want the cop touching her again. But when he flipped her license past her, it angered her to know that he also didn’t want to touch her. Her eyes slid over to the license and landed on the Statesville visiting pass, and she cringed.
The knowledge that the cop now possessed personal information about her angered her further, and fueled her decision. She was a few blocks away from the station, and turned at the next light and headed back toward Twenty-third and Damen.