On this cold, crisp morning, uncharacteristic of the southern climate for this time of year, Jude was driving his Ford F-150 white pickup truck-he refereed to her as his sexy stick shift, his working girlfriend-to the fire department's training center for a meeting with his staff. The training center was in a dilapidated area north of Memphis called Frayser, where house after house, block after block, and street after street was a rat-infested maze of house with collapsed roofs and boarded-up windows. Peeling, white paint covered their termite-infested walls. Dead rusty cars, fenders, wheels, and wrecked car bones scattered the alley-ways and sidewalks. This made it difficult for pedestrians to take straight paths to their destinations. Ruins of a once-thriving and popular community of blue collar aristocrats, Frayser remained a remnant of white urban flight. Jude felt at home here, since the community reminded him of his childhood's inner city roots in Detroit. Jude's not typical of a doctor, not that he thought there was a typical upbringing of anyone in any family.

Jude finished his morning shift and handed over the Emergency Department to one of his staff members. Jude left the Emergency Department with six patients admitted and fifteen going home. Sad that another young woman had died, Jude daydreamed about her children, who would no longer know the soft caress of their mother’s hands or her kind words. He was growing tired of the emotional strain of telling loved ones that an irreversible tragedy had just happened in their lives - growing very tired of it.

As Jude approached the courthouse entrance on the southeast corner of Madison and Adam Street, he noticed Attorney Matthew Saylor dressed in a dark-blue double breasted suit with cuffed pants. Jude never liked cuffed pants or double-breasted suits. Saylor, a family law specialist, was representing Jude in his divorce action against his second wife, Vanessa. With his white monogrammed shirt, button- down collar and cuffs, and silver- and red- tie Saylor resembled a lawyer representing a sleazy topless-joint owner charged for violating decency ordinances. Saylor's scanty, poorly groomed brown -and-gray peppered beard covered half his face, his eyebrows were unclipped and strayed everywhere, and his hair was short and unkempt, as if had bedhead from a morning of chaos or a clandestine sexual affair. His entire presence reeked of stale cigar smoke - not of a refined Cuban cigar but of a cheap drugstore brand. 

Saylor was of medium height and thick - not a fit thick like a body builder but a bouncy, pudgy, round belly thick like a large Pillsbury Doughboy. He walked with a sense of authority, a deliberate gait, but also with a rhythm of insecurity, the kind of rhythm seen in a dancer not exactly knowing his or her choreography or a running back not exactly knowing which opening to run the ball on a zone-read stretch play. Saylor carried a tattered and torn leather briefcase that appeared empty because his right-hand showed no evidence of strain as he grasped the handle while carrying the attaché case; it swung freely, as if it were an extension of his arm, wrist, and hand. Jude noticed Saylor’s silver Rolex with a swift secondhand and highly polished Roman numerals, and he wondered why Saylor was always late, considering his remarkable timepiece. 

Vanessa was of average height and weight and was always impeccably but conservatively dressed. Not wedded to fashion, she seldom, if ever wore anything edgy. Jude liked edgy. Her best features was her face: perfectly symmetrical and highlighted by beautiful and inviting green eyes, a petite nose, thin lips, and striking icicle white teeth. Her breast were small (34 and barely an A- cup), but her nipples were proportionally larger than Jude expected. She was very committed to wearing a bra with every outfit-some padded, some shear. Her shoe's repeatedly caught Jude's eyes; she lived in size-six low-heeled pumps in a rainbow of colors, textures, and prints. Either glossy patent of matte-finish leather, those short-stumped vessels of cowhide seemed to a accentuate her calves just as high-heel shoes would have. He felt if she had any excess fat, it was on her hips and butt, making her figure a bit disproportioned because of her undersized breast and  narrow shoulders. Nonetheless, Vanessa was a beautiful woman-perhaps television talk show host pretty, not movie-star quality.

—- “You’ve got a lot going on in your life. Interpretations of your life events are profoundly affected by your state of mind. Divorce. Department turmoil. Fire-department friction. Memphis City Hospital’s corruption. It all adds up! With all this negative shit in your life, your ability to sort things out is just as messed up. I’m concerned people will think you are delusional. Are you Delusional, Jude?”

No next of kin was identified on the EMS run sheet. An innocent single eighteen-year old girl. Probably did not even give us her real fucking name. Freddie felt sick to his stomach. He had never watched a pregnant adolescent woman just die for no reason. He hoped deep down in his soul that she was in heaven and nursing her baby and living a large life.

Irving walked over to the computer and looked at the screening analysis. “Damn Jude! It’s your lucky day! There are two distinct prints that are on each letter and envelope. if we get lucky, we’ll match them up to someone in our police database. You’ve got some idea who typed these letters—-don’t you?”

He walked alone to his truck. He climbed into the cab, sat silently on the bench seat, started her up, and unconsciously shifted into first gear, then second, third, and fourth as he drove out of the parking lot. Jude was preoccupied with staying safe, which meant staying alive.