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.
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.
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.
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.
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.