crystal brame 1


        This is the city of Tacoma on Washington State’s Puget Sound, thirty miles south of Seattle.  “Tacoma” is a Native American name meaning “that frozen water”.  In the late 19th Century, Tacoma was called the “City of Destiny” because it had been chosen as the western terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad.  This was once the place “where the rails meet the sails”.

        In the beginning of this 21st Century the singer Neko Richelle Case sang of Tacoma in her composition Thrice All American:

It’s a dusty old jewel in the South Puget Sound

where the factories churn

and the timber’s all cut down”.

        That is Peter Giacomo in the maroon-colored Lexus over there, an on-duty Police Commander who has just arrived into the parking lot of The Tempest Lounge.  He is going to surprise his estranged wife Helen.

        He parks.  Peter sits still in his car and stares at the entrance of The Tempest Lounge watching happy memories dancing in and out of focus.  He had often brought Helen here.

        Peter was once a candidate for Chief of Police.  Now, unfortunately, Peter has few friends in Tacoma.

        Peter clutches the folded newspaper with his right hand.  Then with his left hand he pushes the car door open with such force that the door rebounds and Peter must arrest it and swing it out again as he exits the car.

        Peter wears his .45-caliber Glock semi-automatic pistol resting in a hip holster under his untucked short sleeve casual shirt patterned with the leaping salmon motif.  Back in the Red Roof motel on the bed lays his dark dress suit still on the hanger.

        As Peter approaches the entrance of The Tempest Lounge a dreamy sort of inevitability engulfs him and he enters calmly into the darkness ahead.

        He espies Helen sitting over there at a table as close to the center of the room as she could have managed.  Helen sits so as to face the entrance but at this moment she has turned her head aside.  She is still beautiful.  She wears a tight dress with a forest pattern in green, white, and russet.  She is talking on her cell phone and she touches her Puyallup Indian necklace of cylindrical beads green and white.

        Helen turns her head back and now realizes that it is Peter who has just entered The Tempest Lounge.

        Helen says to the cell phone, “Mom, he’s here.  Yes.  No, it will be OK.  I expected this sooner or later.  Mom?  Dad!  Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.  I’m in the middle of The Tempest Lounge.  He wouldn’t dare.  I’ll call you,” and Helen quickly puts the cell phone down on the table near her drink.

        Helen is alert tensely as Peter arrives at her table staring into her eyes all the while and he pulls the chair out on his side making the chair bark like a seal.  Peter sits down heavily, still staring at Helen.  He slaps down onto the table the newspaper that he was clutching.

        Helen winces and asks, “Peter?”

        Peter asks back quietly but he provides a glimpse into the furnace, “Expecting me?”

        Helen stiffens her façade, answering, “Eventually.”

        Peter opens the furnace a little wider, saying, “Do you know what you’ve done to me?”

        Helen glances around to emphasize to Peter that there are a lot of witnesses here right now and she answers, “What are you, you talking about now?”

        Peter stabs the newspaper article with his finger and pushes it toward Helen who glances down to read the black and bold column heading:

Chief of Police candidate accused in divorce filing:

abuse, violence and sexual promiscuity

        Helen’s eyes are now wide and her mouth is open, “How…?”

        Peter taunts, “How?”

        Helen talks low and whispers frantically, “You wouldn’t give me the divorce.  I had to say things to make you understand.  But I filed quietly in King County so you wouldn’t be embarrassed.  I didn’t want this public.  I could have filed here in Pierce County on the floor below your office!  Who did this?”

        Peter stares hard, “Copies of your divorce filing were somehow mysteriously stuffed into the mailbox of Web Dirt.”

        Helen is aghast, “Web Dirt?  Asher’s blog?  He writes crime fiction!”

        Peter pronounces the obvious like tolling a bell, “And what do you know: Asher owns The Tempest Lounge.”

        Helen says, “Asher would, would never…”

        Peter says, “The News Tribune picked up on the blog ‘fiction’ story and investigated.”

        Helen shakes her head, “You must believe me: I did not want this,” and she looks down again with horror at the column headline, “I never told anybody…”

        Peter interrupts, “You must have told your parents.”

        Helen stumbles, “Yes, well, yes, but they wouldn’t, they just wanted me out, safe…”

        Peter asks, “Safe?  You were the mother of my children!”

        Helen is startled, “Were?”

        Peter catches himself and says, “You know what I mean, God damn it!”

        Helen is starting to cry, “You’re the one who threatened me.  You’re the one who told me ‘no one will miss you’!”

        Peter leans back growling, “Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you!  I’m the one who now has nothing!  Nothing!” and then he leans forward again, “And when I lose my job what the fuck are you going to do for alimony?”

        Helen is defiant, “I can stay with friends!”

        Peter guffaws, “You don’t have any friends.”

        Helen shoots back, “Thanks to you!”

        Peter shakes his head, “Oh, of course, I forgot: everything is my fault.  I should just wear a shirt that says ‘Everything Is My Fault’!”

        Helen blurts, “I can live with my parents!”

        Peter sneers, “Yeah that should last about ten seconds.  They know how psycho you are.  I don’t believe you when you say that they want you to divorce me.  I am very sure that they do not want you coming back and live with them again.  They were just so happy when stupid me finally took you off of their hands that they just shit grins!”

        Helen challenges, “I’m psycho?  What about you, trying to make me believe that your whore Lieutenant wanted a three-way.  We talked about you.  I warned her.”

        Peter shudders with anger, “You?  Warned her?  You warned her?  You actually called her?  I was joking!”

        Helen now sneers, “Sure you were.”

        Peter closes his eyes and he exhales long and his head tips down as if his neck is deflating.

        Peter whispers, “So many years.”

        Peter feels for his .45-caliber Glock semi-automatic pistol resting in the hip holster under his untucked shirt.

        He pulls out the pistol and he points it in Helen’s face and Helen barely has time to cry, “No!”, when Peter pulls the trigger.

        Click (nothing).

        Screams.  Peter quickly turns the gun to his own forehead and places it above his eyes now tear-filled and pulls the trigger.

        Click (nothing).

        In the dead center of the ensuing maelstrom, Peter pleads with Helen, “There.  Now we are both dead.  God, can we please just start all over again together?”




Inspired in hope by the tragedy of the 2003 murder-suicide of

Crystal Brame and Tacoma Police Chief David Brame.



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