by Marc V. Ridenour
Two More Cross Rainbow Bridge.
by Marc V. Ridenour
Copyright © 2009. All Rights Reserved.
A siren moaned, and Ian MacAllister hoisted himself to his feet, rubbing at the sore spots on his body. The soft-armor vest looked rather ripped up, but it had apparently kept the spray of bullets from penetrating him. But they’d sure knocked the wind out of him; that was a fact.
Looking around, he saw body-bagged forms being loaded into a county ambulance and shuddered. The trio of convenience-store robbers had pulled into the inner pump bay, jumping out, brandishing guns, already firing. Drug-crazed addicts, hell-bent for their next fix, willing to kill anyone who got in their way.
The alarm had been radioed just a few minutes earlier; they’d hit the other convenience store of the chain Polaris Security was guarding just a mile up and two major intersections over, the first target of their robbery spree.
The goons had shot and badly wounded the other Polaris officer on post there; the man had evidently passed out after gasping a final transmission over the radio net that they’d yelled something about ‘getting the next one, too.’ MacAllister barely had time to step outside the double glass doors, shouting at the clerk to lock them behind him, drawing his own sidearm while simultaneously yelling an alert into his walkie-talkie to the dispatcher at Polaris Security.
Then the shooting had started... The shots from the bandits had knocked him down sometime during the brief but extremely violent gun battle, and for a moment he must have been out of it, but he seemed to be no worse for the wear. In fact, he wasn’t even sore any longer. He felt just fine.
“Seven-hundred-ninety-five bucks,” he muttered, eyeing the tattered vest. No way Polaris would reimburse him for the loss. A Polaris Security cruiser rolled up to the yellow barrier tape POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS boundary and Major Harrison himself got out of the car. A Metro PD lieutenant walked over, and they conferred. Nobody paid any attention to him, which surprised MacAllister quite a bit, and he was about to walk over there when a young girl’s voice caught his attention.
“Hi, Mr. MacAllister.” He looked around, startled, and saw a cute sixth-grader standing beside him. Her dark brown hair was worn in a ponytail, and she had on blue denim overalls and a yellow blouse. In her arms was a little yellow tiger-striped kitten that purred when she stroked his chin, and climbed up to bump his forehead against hers, his purr surprisingly loud and clear in the noisy environment of a convenience store & gas station. “This is Tiger, my kitty,” she smiled.
“Hi, Tiger,” he reached out to gently stroked the top of the cat’s head with two fingers. Tiger’s eyes closed to slits and his purr grew louder. “His motor’s really running, isn’t it?” MacAllister smiled.
“Why do you say it like that?” the girl asked with a lovely smile.
“When I was your age, maybe a bit younger, there was a poem in The Weekly Reader we got when I was in school, that said when kitty goes to Dreamland she must go by boat because you could hear the motor purring in her throat,” MacAllister smiled at the memory.
Why was this little girl so familiar to him? Where had he met her before? He thought about it a moment, then said to her: “I have to go report in, honey,” and walked across the oil-spattered concrete to where Major Harrison and the Metro PD lieutenant were still talking, the grey Polaris Security uniform a sharp contrast to the Metro PD’s navy-blue.
“He have any next-of-kin?” the city cop was asking as MacAllister walked up to them. Harrison shook his head. “Nope Just that old Siamese cat of his; humph—not even that, now. The cat died a couple of months ago. He was all cut up about it, too.” The cop shrugged. “Too bad. Anyone else?”
“Called the preacher at that church he went to. Said he’d take care of the arrangements.”
“Okay, then,” shrugged the cop. MacAllister didn’t understand any of it; why were they talking about him like he was dead?
He opened his mouth to speak when the little girl’s voice piped up: “Mr. MacAllister? Don’t you remember me? I’m Linda. Linda Morris.” Linda Morris. Now it all came back to him…
That day, last month, when they’d had him patrolling that East Side Mall’s parking lot on foot; he’d seen her and her mother walking toward their car at the far west end, from the western side of the building where, among other businesses, was a veterinary clinic.
She’d been crying, totally heartbroken, and her mother had had tears in her eyes too. He’d stopped and asked what was the matter, if he could help; not just out of a sense of duty, but because he genuinely cared...
“My kitty Tiger,” the little child had sobbed. “We had to have him put to sleep. He was too sick to get better. And now I’ll never see him again!”
“I’m so sorry, honey,” he had replied. “My old kitty, Sammy, died not too long ago, and I felt real bad too.”
“Will we see our kitties again?” she’d asked, gulping back a sob. “The pastor at our church says we won’t!”
“Honey,” he had replied, “God loves us, and He knows we wouldn’t be happy in Heaven without our pets. That’s why I believe this story I read is true...”
He had paused, trying to remember the words on that framed illustrated sheet of parchment he’d seen on the wall of West Valley Animal Clinic, not just that last time he’d taken Siamese Sammy to the clinic, but all the other times, before... “ “ ‘ Just this side of Heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge...’ When he finished reciting it, his eyes were blurred with tears, too.
“Is that for-real!?” she’d asked him, her eyes imploring.
“I’m sure it is,” he’d told her. “God being a God of love, I’m sure He put Rainbow Bridge there so our pets could have somewhere to go, too, while they wait for us.”
Her mother had smiled with such gratitude. “God bless you, Officer!” Then they’d gone to their car and driven away. She must have noted his name pin and Polaris Security badge number and called the office to express her thanks and appreciation, because later that same afternoon, Captain Willis had driven out in the compact pickup truck they used for patrolling to eat him out for ‘conducting nonessential conversations on post.’
She must have been quite complimentary, because Willis didn’t spend the usual amount of time in bawling him out that he did for whatever actual or merely imagined infraction of the multitude of rules MacAllister had committed that he usually did.
MacAllister had merely let it go in one ear and out the other; he’d never been able to do anything right since the day he’d first joined Polaris. The reason they hadn’t fired him was simple: they needed people willing to work the dangerous posts and he was one of the ones who would. Quite a few wouldn’t, and finding those who would was becoming ever more difficult. Two Polaris officers had been killed last year in dangerous neighborhoods on hazardous posts, and ever since then, finding people to man those posts had been difficult. Nonetheless Willis, Harrison, and all the other brass didn’t seem happy unless they were bawling out someone, or finding some other reason to blow their tops. It was like they were all working real hard in an effort to see who could have the first stress-induced ulcer, heart attack or stroke (if not all of the above simultaneously)...
Later that week a very kind note had arrived in the mail, from Mrs. Morris, again thanking him profusely for what he’d said to her little girl, and apologizing for any grief the brass may have given him for his chatting with them. ‘I hope those callous clods weren’t too hard on you; to reprimand someone who’s genuinely trying to help is beyond my comprehension. ‘When I learned of that I was truly shocked. I was informed that you had been transferred from the Mall, to where they didn’t say. I hope not to some bad post. ‘Thank you ever so much for talking with Linda. She’s ever so much better now, and has even started to smile again. We obtained a copy of that story you told her, and it hangs on our living room wall, right below a picture of Tiger her uncle painted for her.’
He remembered that now, a smile curving his lips. That simple kindness had more than made up for his being transferred from the nice, relatively safe post at the Mall to this one, located in what was now considered an urban war zone at any time of the day and especially after dark...
It was then he abruptly remembered something else, too. A short news column in the paper just four days ago.
Child Killed In Two-Car Crash:
Drunk Driver Runs Traffic Light
And Broadsides Other Vehicle.
The picture of the child had been that of Linda Morris... MacAllister swallowed hard. “Honey, weren’t you in a bad accident a little while ago?”
Linda Morris smiled and nodded. “Uh-huh. And then I went to Rainbow Bridge, and there was Tiger, waiting for me! He was real happy to see me, too! When the Guardian Angel said that it was gonna be your turn to come real soon, I asked him if I could come and get you, and he said yes!” she beamed.
MacAllister turned away, staring at the panorama before him. There were three chalk-line silhouettes drawn on the pavement in the inner service bay, right beside the bandits’ car, which was still parked there as police detectives searched it.
And just in front of the doorway of the gas station/convenience store that he had just emerged from as they’d pulled up was a fourth chalk-lined silhouette. That was where he’d been standing...
Major Harrison and the Metro PD lieutenant were still talking. “It’s amazing,” the cop was saying, “Your man managed to shoot all three of them even after he’d been shot so badly himself.”
A third man carrying a doctor’s bag and wearing a white shirt open at the neck and dark blue slacks walked over in time to hear the last. A gold badge clipped to his breast pocket said Deputy Coroner. “He was wearing a vest. That explains it. The bullets’ impacts weren’t as immediately traumatizing as they might otherwise would have been.
“So, he wasn’t instantaneously incapacitated. He was able to empty his gun and take all three of them down with him. Too bad he didn’t make it, but that vest wasn’t rated for the firepower those three were packing.”
Harrison shook his head. “A real tragedy.” By his demeanor, he wasn’t actually that cut up about it. He and MacAllister had never gotten along; one of those personality conflicts the passage of time merely served to exacerbate rather than alleviate...
MacAllister stared, momentarily stunned by the realization, then felt Linda Morris tugging at his sleeve. “Let’s go, Mr. MacAllister!” she urged. In a daze, he let her guide him away from there. Together, they walked across the broad four-lane street toward the little park he’d enjoyed looking at from the post.
Only the little park wasn’t so little anymore. A broad river ran through it now, and crossing that river was a bridge, and spanning the bridge was a glorious rainbow. As they set foot upon the bridge, MacAllister heard a delightful, joyful barking, and there, racing toward him, was a black-and-grey German Shepherd dog, his collar jingling with years’ worth of city dog tags attached.
“Smokey!” he cried, dropping to his knees, hugging his beloved dog who had left him so long ago. “Smokey!” he cried again. As he was caressing his beloved dog, a Siamese cat’s howl made him look up as a familiar masked head butted against his elbow and two glittering blue eyes regarded him.
“Sammy!” MacAllister cried, reaching for his beloved feline fur-baby who had died only a few short months ago. ‘Pet me!’ Sammy seemed to be saying, and MacAllister swept the cat into his arms, hugging him, cradling him like a baby, rubbing his tummy as Sammy had always loved to have him do.
His joyous purr resounded, louder than an outboard motor, as MacAllister, his beloved Siamese Sam in his arms, and Smokey, his dearest dog dancing about beside him, with Linda Morris carrying Tiger in her arms, resumed their stroll across Rainbow Bridge.
All about the Bridge, on both sides of the water, on the grassy meadows and the sandy banks, he saw, other animals—dogs, cats, horses, goats, lambs, birds and other animals cavorted in happy, harmonious play; barks, meows, whinnies, brays, baas, and other utterances blending into the chorus of human voices speaking their own happy greetings as they were reunited with their own beloved pets who had gone before.
Overhead birds flew and sang in a joyful medley; every kind of bird he knew and many more he didn’t. Cardinals, blue jays, meadowlarks, hummingbirds and more. With them were people of all ages, including boys and girls joyfully playing with their beloved pets with whom they’d at last been reunited.
One man, holding an ear of corn for a horse to nibble on, looked up and waved. It was MacAllister’s Uncle Harold, and his old horse, Samson! There, fishing in the river, was Mom! And beside her were her dogs and a raft of cats, some he dimly remembered from childhood!
And who was it standing beside her? Old Walt Harvey, the game warden for that district, smiling down at them all. He, too, looked up at MacAllister and waved, then tossed him a salute. MacAllister looked about, and then looked down at Smokey, again caressing the beloved head, feeling Smokey’s tongue again licking his hand.
That was when he noticed his uniform had changed; from somber grey shirt and slacks, his vest’s funereal black, a dull silver badge pinned to the tab, to pure white, his badge now a brilliant glittering gold. No tattered holes and shredded fabric remained, either.
“You’re a hero, Mr. MacAllister!” Linda Morris piped up, her smile radiant. Just beyond the Bridge, he saw the Holy One Himself standing there before the glorious Gates that seemed to have been fashioned of pure gold, glittering as brightly as his badge now.
“Well done, my son,” He said with the most wonderful smile. “Enter into the joy of thy Lord.”
And, walking together, side by side, with their beloved cats in their arms, and his dearest dog dancing beside him, Ian MacAllister and Linda Morris stepped through those shining Gates and into Heaven itself...