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Monday, October 29, 2012

THE WAY OF THE CROSS copyright 2012 m.s.

Shadows danced across the framed painting of a crucifix on an orange background. Below the painting, a caption in bold italic black read: THE WAY OF THE CROSS LEADS HOME.

Roman's eyes were transfixed on those shadows that were courtesy of the evening's dying sun. He read those words over and over, remembering the same eight and a half by eleven print that hung on the wall of his mother's house. It was the only art that appeared in the house. No one seemed to care about art. It was hard enough to find the money for their next meal when the boyfriend was drinking up the weekly checks. His mother threw Roman out when he was fifteen. It was all because that jerk off boyfriend Darren, didn't get along with Roman. The other reason was Roman robbed the neighbors next door. They had very little cash hidden, but they did have jewelry, just like their junkie son told Roman at a bar a few nights before the deed.

That was years ago, though. And a few trips to the state pen, the longest stay being for three years.

Now Roman stood in the living room of his new sponsor.

Colleen Hurst owned the small three bedroom house sandwiched between a lawnmower warehouse and a jewelry store. She'd lived in that green and white house since she and her late husband, Norman, moved in thirty two years ago. After Norman died three years ago, Colleen decided to become a sponsor to ex-cons who were young enough to turn their lives around. And Roman was suggested by a friend of her late husband.

Dan Heller called her up a few days ago and said, “Colleen, I have met an extraordinary young man. He came into my office looking for a job. He has a wonderful mind and I hired him in my store as a backroom associate. He's looking for a place to stay and I remembered you told Lana you were doing that charity thing.”

“What is the name of his parole officer?” Colleen whispered into the telephone.

“Horace Begby, I believe”

“I will call him and let you know by sunset.” Colleen sighed, feeling overwhelmed by taking in another young man so soon after the last one.

“You're a hell of woman, Colleen,” Heller placed the receiver on the phone carefully. He swallowed hard, wiped his forehead with a handkerchief he had tightly wrapped around his right hand.

He looked up at Roman and faked a smile. “You tell Horace I did this because we're old friends.”

Roman stood, pushed his sunglasses down the bridge of his nose. “You did it because you're afraid of Horace and you don't want to end up in a can of cat food.”

Roman left the untidy, overweight man sputtering in his chair. “I'm not afraid anyone, you little punk! You tell Horace that fucker owes me big for this! You tell him!”


“Well,” Colleen placed a silver tray on the coffee table in front of the sofa Roman sat. “Here is the coffee. How do you take it, Mr. Planner?”

“Oh, just call me Roman. I don't like my last name. It reminds me of my father. He was somewhat of a sad case.”

Colleen poured coffee in a rose colored china cup without taking her eyes off of Roman. “What happened to him?” He has such remarkable hazel eyes, Colleen thought.

“A bus accident. He drove for a private company, taking passengers to Dallas from Atlanta. He was among the thirty that died in a horrible fire on the side of the interstate.”

Colleen touched the gold cross she wore around her neck. “I am sorry,” She said, breathless.

“I was eight when it happened. It was tough for my mother and I for a number of years. But, she never lived alone. Many boyfriends. None of which were good at being a father.”

Colleen nodded. “I understand.” She thought of the two stepfathers she had. The last stepfather liked Colleen quite a bit. She smiled, shook the thought off as quick as possible.

Colleen drank from her cup, batted her long eyelashes. Earlier in the mirror, she wondered if her fifty year old face could attract another young man like before. Most of the men out of jail were not picky. So she had made sure she used the bright red lipstick and blue eye shadow. Never too much makeup to hide the wrinkles. Colleen found her new blue dress in the closet and put her newly dyed brown hair in a bun.

She scooted closer to Roman, put a hand on his knee. “I'm here for you, Roman. Whatever you need.”

Wow, Roman thought. That was fast. What angle is she looking to use?


Horace stared at Roman through his dark sunglasses. He didn't say a word. The sunglasses were an advantage now. They don't know about the cataracts, so they just squirm in their chairs, wondering if they had said something wrong.

Finally, Horace smiled. Roman only squirmed a little. He didn't give himself away too much. The deal was legit. “Okay.” Horace laughed. “You got it, Roman. Known you since you were a stick bitch, seventeen. Known your old man long before he turned into a stool pigeon and lost his life to a fag with a shiv in the state farm. might work out. You heard of this...woman supporting ex-con's while you were away?”

“Yeah, it sounded like a kooky thing....and this...cowboy...he shot up a bank during a robbery... was just out and he lived with her a few months. He said her house was at one point a duplex. Weird....just odd a part of that house would end up a jewelry store.”

“Sounds like a big lie to me....”

Roman drew in air, slowly let it out through parted lips. “I checked out.” He coughed, laughed. “I swear to you, I'm not yanking your chain,Horace. I know I can get diamonds easy. No alarms. No fuss.”

Horace chewed his lower lip, raised an eyebrow. “I can move the stuff, but it has to be choice, understand?”

Roman nodded his, then ran a hand through his hair.

Horace continued. “I can help you out. Get you set up with that dippy old dame. I know a guy who could give you some credibility.”

“I have credibility” Roman said sharply.

“You ain't been in the pen in a few years, dummy. I'll give this mealy mouth a shout. Go draw up your plans. Get everything to a T. If you don't look at the small print, tiny-teeny pinpoint details, you're fucked .”


Roman kissed the small of Colleen's back, traced her spine with his tongue, stopping just shy of her buttocks. She giggled and whispered, “I love you.” Roman forced her on her knees, mounted her. Colleen put her face in her pillows and moaned loudly. In the heat of it all, she yelled obscenities to the headboard of the bed and demanded Roman commit atrocities to her body. At that moment of the last dirty word that rolled off of Colleen's tongue, Roman came to a conclusion.

Roman caught his breath and pulled out of her, fell beside Colleen. She turned over on her back, her small breasts heaving, the bedroom light illuminating perspiration as it rolled down her body.

They laid there in staunch silence. Colleen's eyes were on the ceiling, looking at the water stain on the heavy rains have made.

Roman spoke first after awhile.

“What are you thinking of?” He asked.

She smiled, touched Roman's cheek with a red fingernail. “Thinking of old times. I'm sorry. I am a sucker for the past.”

“Thinking of Norman? Aren't you?” There was a tone of jelousy in Roman's voice.

Colleen nodded.

Roman sat up, took a cigarette from the shelf above the bed. He lit it, inhaled the smoke angrily, exhaled a little calmly.

“You never said what business Norman was in,” Roman said.

“No...I didn't.” She giggled. “If you must know, Norman helped the Lord's cause.”

He looked at Colleen, took in some more nicotine. 'He was a preacher?”

“No. My Norman sold Bibles. He also wrote and drew Tracts.”

“A what?”

“Like a pamphlet. Only more like a comic book. He said it was to further the Lord's message to children and those less educated. Those tracts sold very well in bus terminals, airports. After he died, this young man came here looking for Norman. Said he was an admirer of Norman's art. Oh, Norman would have loved it that young man called it that. Sometimes Norman spent almost all of his check from the National Baptist Foundation just for those things. I gave that young man a trunk full of Norman's drawings. He sure was happy....said he was going to dedicate a website to Norman. sure was nice.”

They fell into silence again. Roman stood, stamped out his cigarette in an ashtray. Colleen bounced out of bed, threw on her robe. She grabbed Roman by his arm and pulled him out of the bedroom.

“Let me show you something in the basement, Roman.”

“Not Norman's paintings of Jesus, please.” Roman reluctantly followed Colleen down a small flight of stairs into a dimly lit concrete room.

“No silly! I want to show you Norman's commitment to the Lord.” Colleen switched on the overhead light that seemed burn a thousand watt bulb. The light was so blinding, roman covered his eyes with his right hand until they could get use to it.

On the concrete floor lay a seven foot wooden crucifix. Roman stood with his hands on his hips, trying hard not laugh. Colleen was in awe of the object.

“My Norman made this,” Colleen said. She reached out for Roman's hand, fumbling for it, she found it, keeping her eyes steady on the cross.

Roman shook his head. “Why?” Colleen shot a look at him—daggers.

“ show his faith....a strong bond between Norman and the Lord.”

Roman laughed. Then apologized. “Oh...I don't mean to laugh. I'm just overwhelmed.”

“Oh, Roman. It's all right. I felt the same way when Norman first showed it to me.”

Something caught Roman's eyes. A center block was missing in the concrete wall across from where he and Colleen stood. He went over to it, got on his hands and knees, peeked through. Colleen followed Roman, stood over him. He saw two men in dark blue suits talking. They were next to a heavy black safe secured in the wall, it's door wide open.

“You are a peeping tom now?” Colleen giggled, covered her mouth.

“How long has this center block been missing?”

“Well....since another boarder of mine had left....last year I think. Silly boy had removed it...the Lord only knows why. Are you afraid rats will come in my house? You're so thoughtful, Roman.” Colleen rubbed the back of Roman's neck.

“Yeah,” He said. “I am....very thoughtful.”


At one time Sinead Powers had powerful feelings for Roman. They had worked together on many small time robberies. The last time they worked together Roman ended up in jail. Luckily for Roman, she had taken any computer merchandise and dropped it at the exit of the electronics warehouse. Sinead got away, Roman was worked over by a two security guards before the cops were called.

Roman hadn't spoken to Sinead since then. But there she was, her green eyes and fire red hair sitting across from him in a cafe a few blocks from Colleen's house.

“I want in,” Sinead said, lighting a cigarette she retrieved from her purse.

“How did you hear about this?” Roman snarled.

“Horace,” She said.

“The fucker...what did he tell you?”

“Don't get mad at Horace. He thought you and I could tag team this. We used to be a good team.”
She exhaled smoke, smiled seductively.

“We were until you left me to be crucified by the cops.”

“Please Roman. One mistake---”

“Your partner is suppose to share the glory,” Roman stood, slammed his fist on the table. The chatter in the cafe faded to silence. All eyes were on Roman and Sinead. “They are suppose to share the blame too. All I have to say to you,” Roman walked away, headed to the door of the cafe. “ Is fuck off, Sinead.”

“ You'll be sorry,Roman!” She called after him.


It was a Sunday night when Colleen went to visit her friend Vera in the country. She was coming back Monday evening. Roman bought everything to patch the missing center block in the basement and Colleen paid for it with him at the DIY Super center. What she didn't realize was he bought enough mortar and center blocks to build a wall.

And that's exactly what Roman intended to do if he had to.

He busted a hole just big enough for him to crawl through. He learned how to tumble a safe from a skin head with the first amendment tattooed on his chest. Roman followed every step he was taught, even to the tiny-teeny detail. Roman's heart skipped a beat when the safe was open and four million in jewels and a diamond necklace sat on black silk.

Carefully, but quickly, Roman placed his plunder into a green duffel bag.

Twenty minutes later, roman was out of the Jewelry store and back in Colleen's basement. He immediately began to patch the hole in the wall he'd made with a sledgehammer.


Roman went out while Colleen was still asleep. He left a note saying he was getting Donuts and Bagels. He really went to see Horace to give him the merchandise. That took longer than Roman expected. Horace was very pleased. He demanded to celebrate.

The job was done, but Roman had no intention of leaving Colleen. He had fallen in love. Even creating a planned out life that put him in the position of leaving Horace and his outfit.

When his share of the money would come in, he was going to whisk Colleen off on a trip to the Islands, a cruise possibly. He knew she would be very happy with this plan. Later in the trip, he was going to pop the question.

When he got back, there was a surprise waiting for him.

Sinead was sitting in the living room on the couch across from Colleen, drinking coffee. Roman was stunned. He slammed the front door shut. Colleen looked lost in a transient state.

“What are doing here?” Roman screamed at Sinead.

Sinead put the coffee cup back on the silver tray. She stood, gathered her coat and purse. “I'm sorry,” She said to Colleen. “I shouldn't have come here.”

“No...please,” Colleen took her by the hand. “Please stay.”

“I'm afraid roman and you have a lot to discuss.” Sinead brushed past Roman to the front door.

“I don't know what your game is,” Roman said, snarling. “If you come back here, I'll kill you.”

Colleen gasped. “Roman!”

Sinead hung her head, went out the door.

“Roman, I don't know how you could be so ugly to your wife----”

“I don't have a wife. Is that what she said?”

“Roman, keep your voice down. Please. I'll go make some more coffee and we will discuss this calmly.” Colleen took the tray, headed to the kitchen. Roman blocked her. “Roman...let me pass.”

He looked at her, fuming. “You have to believe me.” He said.

Colleen swallowed. “We'll discuss this. Over coffee.”

Roman stepped away and Colleen went into the kitchen.

She came back with the silver tray and more coffee. They sat on the couch and Roman immediately kissed her. She gently pushed him away. He took hold of himself, tried to let the anger pass. Colleen poured Roman a cup of coffee. He drank it down quickly.

“I'm sorry about earlier,” Roman said, placed the rose colored china cup back on the tray.

“It's all right,” Colleen said in a cold tone. “You were upset.”

“She's lying, Colleen. I have never been married....” Roman stopped. He felt woozy. He tried to finish his sentence several times, but his tongue would not follow his brain's instructions.

Everything went black.


The pain was immense.

Roman awoke. He noticed he was in the basement, completely naked, laying on his back , on a piece of wood of some kind. The pain in his wrists and ankles was horrible.

Then he realized he was attached to the crucifix Colleen's dear Norman had made years ago. The nails were in his left wrist and left ankle. Colleen was on his right side holding a nail to his right wrist, the hammer raised high above, ready strike it's target.


“Sweet Jesus help me!” Roman screamed.


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