Matters of the Heart: Book 1, Chapter 3

Part I, Chapter 3: Living On Dreams
by Elizabeth Johnston

Three voices started speaking together. In the end Gina had the floor. “It’s great to see you Crockett – welcome back. This is a pleasant surprise – when did you get in?”

“This afternoon.” he replied. “But how did you know I was here?”

“I didn’t. It’s just a coincidence. I came by to see Jess. I take it you two know each other,” She said with a girlish smirk on her face and a wink at Jessica.

When Gina and Jessica had first met, Jessica had mentioned something about meeting a former Miami vice detective named Sonny Crockett on a plane once, but she hadn’t gone into details. Gina had assumed it to be a casual meeting and they had never discussed the relationship, but seeing them together in each other’s arms, she guessed that maybe it had been a bit more than that.

She came on board and handed Jessica a set of keys from her pocket. “You okay for tonight?” she asked. “Frank can’t make it, but I’ll try to drop by for a while later on.”

“No problem Gina. I’ve done it alone before. If you can’t make it I’ll be fine. And besides, Black Jack will be with me.” She took the keys from the detective and asked her to stay for a while.

“I can’t. Gotta get home.” She turned to Crockett. “You’re looking great Sonny.” Then she gave him a bear hug and whispered softly into his ear. “Take care Sonny, and remember we’re all here for you if you need anything, anytime.” She loosened her hold and gave him a peck on the cheek. “See you later,” she called out as she dashed off down the dock.

In the space of a few minutes the woman had come, done her business and gone as if nothing unusual had taken place. Crockett was flabbergasted. “You two know each other?” he asked with a puzzled look on his face.

“Gina’s a good friend Sonny.”

Jessica explained that she did volunteer work with Gina’s Street Care group, which provided help to street people like drug addicts and prostitutes. On Friday nights she usually manned the ‘Street Car’, an old clapped out 1974 class-A motorhome that Jess had talked the owners into donating to the program. Every night that they could drum up volunteers, the Street Car was parked in the heart of the strip in downtown Miami. It was a safe haven for the street people, a place to exchange needles, get something to eat or drink, get information on help programs or just talk. Sometimes it was a refuge from angry pimps or dealers. Sometimes they were lucky and talked a kid into leaving the streets.

“You spend Friday nights alone in a glorified bus on the strip in downtown Miami?” Sonny was even more flabbergasted. “Darlin’, that’s just not a good idea.”

“It’s safe… and besides, it’s a dream of mine – a promise I made to myself when I left Colombia to carry on Eduardo’s work. The locals here are the street people, the druggies, the winos and the prostitutes. They’re victims Sonny, not hardened criminals. The sewers have been around forever and they’ll be around forever, but if I can help make life better for the people who live there or maybe help even one stray climb out of that sewer, it’s all worthwhile – isn’t it?”

What could he say to that? When he joined the force he thought he could clean up the whole sewer, as she called it. It was a goal that could never be accomplished and he had burned out trying to do just that. She had put it into a context that made it manageable – help the victims a bit at a time. It was the way to save your sanity when you wanted to save the world.

Sonny changed his mind and decided to have dinner with Jess and Black Jack. It would seem there was a lot to talk about after all.

“There’s something different about you Sonny,” Jessica said as they sat sipping wine waiting for dinner to cook. “You seem a lot more, I don’t know…. relaxed or settled or something. Like you were when we were together before and you finally managed to leave the job behind. It looks good on you.”

“It was a long time comin’ darlin’,” he started. Throughout the evening, he told her about why he had returned to Miami – about how Mario Fuente, a major drug lord, had kidnapped him and held him on an island in the Bahamas as a hostage against the seizure of drug shipments. He told her about how his old colleagues – no they were more than colleagues – about how his friends had rescued him. And he told her about how that experience had lead to his pulling his life together again, settling things not only from the ordeal on the island, but also the issues that had plagued him from his past life as an undercover vice cop.

In between stories, they reminisced about their times together. Jess told him more about the Street Car project and beamed as she relayed some of the successes. By the time the sun had gone down behind the city skyline and the air had cooled, it was time for her to leave. She went below to change into long pants and warmer top.

He didn’t want to say good-bye just then, so he asked if he could tag along. He wanted to be with her, and he had an ulterior motive as well. He didn’t want her alone on the streets of downtown Miami all night, no matter how safe she said it was. He couldn’t believe that Gina was part of this crazy scheme.

“Sure, if you really want to. I could use the company.”

He went back to the Vitus II and put on some warmer clothes himself. And he grabbed his gun and holster, making sure the clip was loaded. He figured a light summer jacket would hide the weapon, but Jess wasn’t fooled when he returned.

“Like I said before Sonny, no weapons.” It was a statement, not a request. “Those are the rules. No weapons or on-duty cops inside the line except in an emergency.”

“Line? Rules?” This was getting crazier all the time. “Gina’s a cop.”

“Not when she’s on the Street Car. She’s just an ordinary citizen just like any cop who takes a turn manning it for the night.” She had figured this might be his reaction, and was ready for it. Most cops had a hard time with the concept the first time they heard about it. “Look, Sonny, just put the gun back and, if you still want to come, I’ll explain it when we get there. Believe me, it works. It’s okay. We’ll be fine.”

He didn’t like it, but he put the gun away and then came back and walked with her and Black Jack to her car in the parking lot reserved for boat owners. Not bad, he thought as he saw the vehicle – a dark green Mustang GT convertible, V-8 under the hood and lots of pep. She opened the door and moved the driver’s seat forward.

“In the back, Jack,” she said, and the dog hopped into the car. Looking at Sonny and shrugging her shoulders, she continued. “Well, it’s not a Ferrari or a Porsche, but it’s fun and I can afford it. Jack likes to ride up front, but I make him ride in the back most of the time. I guess I should get something more practical, but hey… you only live once.”

“You feed him doughnut crumbs too?” Sonny asked laughing.

“Not likely,” she replied. “He’s bigger than me. He gets the doughnut, I get the crumbs.”

They headed off to the police impound yard where the Street Car was parked, changed vehicles and headed downtown to a vacant lot with a large white rectangle painted on the ground. She parked the RV right in the middle of the markings.

“Okay, so how does this work?” Sonny asked after he helped her set up. He was still skeptical, and even a bit angry. “You just hand out clean needles and food to junkies and prostitutes so they go about their business. Why don’t you just buy the junk for them too or maybe set up appointments for johns?”

“That’s not fair Sonny and it not what it’s about. Prostitution and drugs are a way of life here – you know that as well as I do.” She had heard all the arguments before, but somehow she was disappointed that he didn’t understand. “Most of these people are trapped here for some reason or other, even if it’s only in their minds, but the fact is they’re here and they need help. Most of them can’t afford buy clean needles or condoms, and when they need a fix they’re not about to take the time to sterilize anything. Here they can get what they need, no questions asked. And we get a chance to pass the word around about AIDS and other social diseases and maybe even talk some of them into climbing out of this hell hole. Yeah, they may not live in a mansion on Key Biscayne but they’re people, and they deserve a bit of dignity.”

“Whoa lady. Truce. I guess I deserved that. It’s just that I’ve been burned too many times trying to save lost souls. I worked these streets a long time, darlin’. Not all of these people are poor innocents. There’re a lot of sleazeballs in this neighbourhood too who’d stick ya for a two-dollar bill.”

“Maybe, but not inside the line. This is a safe haven for anyone who steps inside it.”

He shook his head, still not believing that this was a good idea. “What Einstein dreamed up this crazy idea anyway?”

“Jessica did,” Gina answered as she stepped through the door. “I had an idea you might be here tonight Crockett.”

Jessica poured herself a coffee and went outside for a while. Let Gina explain things. The detective sat down at the table across from Sonny and explained about how Jessica had come to her with the idea. “I thought it was crazy too, when I first heard it,” she said. “But it works Sonny. The rectangle is an island. It’s a two-way agreement: no weapons, no violence, no pimping, no dealing, and no on-duty cops unless they’re called in to deal with a problem. Anyone steps inside the line and creates a problem the police are here right now – that’s what the red button’s for.” She pointed to a red spot on the wall. “It’s an emergency call button. And everyone knows if they break the rules there’s no second chance. You’re gonna do time and you’re business, whatever it is, is down the tubes. We borrowed one from your play book Sonny – someone gets to clear his desk to work on the case until there’s enough to take the perp down for good. Anyone who tried something in the past is upstate now. They’re haven’t been any serious incidents in quite a while.”

“Marty knows about this?”

“Lieutenant Castillo is its biggest supporter. He usually spends Saturday nights down here with Mei Ying. Some date huh?”

“Mei Ying, his ex-wife?”

“His wife Sonny. He finally got her back into the country about a year after you left. Didn’t he tell you when you were here before?” There was a pause. “I guess not. The lieutenant’s not the most talkative kind of guy.”

Sonny just shook his head. More surprises he thought, but at least this was a pleasant one. “So what do we do now?” he asked.

“Just be here. If someone needs help, or wants to talk they’ll let us know.” As if on cue, a young girl in heavy make-up and showy, skimpy clothes walked into the trailer, her head down as if trying to hide her face. She couldn’t have been more than 15. She poured herself a coffee, went outside, exchanged needles, picked up a couple of condoms and left without a word.

“You seem to know Jessica pretty well” Gina stated.>

“It was a long time ago Gina.” he replied in a low voice, shrugging his shoulders. Gina sensed that he didn’t want to continue, but went on anyway.

“She’s had some tough breaks Sonny. She could use a friend who understands what she’s been through.”

He looked at her with raised eyebrows. “What is this Gina?” He sounded less than pleased. “You playing matchmaker these days? Thanks, but no thanks. I don’t need any more complications in my life.” He got up and poured another coffee for himself.

“I’m sorry,” he apologized in a quiet voice with a faraway look in his eyes. “Want a refill?” She nodded yes. He filled her cup and sat down again. “We were pretty close for while, but that was because we knew it couldn’t last. A lot of water’s passed under the bridge since then. But I have to admit, she’s some kinda lady.”

The ensuing silence was broken by loud, angry shouting from outside.

“You fuckin’ bitch! Where is she? She was my woman. You cost me a bundle when you talked her into leavin’ the streets. You gonna whore for me now, bitch?”

Sonny ran to the door to see what was happening, but Gina held him back from rushing over to where Jessica was standing just inside the line, Black Jack right beside her. The man was stoned on something, but Sonny wasn’t sure what. When he saw Crockett in the doorway, he sneered. “Ya got your pimp with you tonight slut? Maybe I can buy your ass from him, or maybe I’ll just take it.”

Sonny jumped out the door and started towards Jessica. He saw the man lunge at her with a knife that appeared out of nowhere. Before he could get there, she had knocked it out of his hand with a defensive karate block and kneed him in the groin, but not before he cut her upper left arm. Sonny slammed him to the ground as the man doubled over from the pain. He pressed his knee into the middle of his back and pinned his left arm up behind his back in a painful grip. Jack had the man’s other wrist in his mouth.

Almost instantly two uniformed police officers were there. They cuffed the man and as they led him back to the squad car Sonny could hear one of them laugh. “Well I guess you’ll be a guest of the state for a while this time Gordy.”

Sonny turned to Jessica, a worried look on his face. “I thought you said this wasn’t dangerous.” He held her and looked at the cut on her arm.

“It’s just scratch.” Jessica replied. “I’m okay.” But Sonny could see that she was still shaky. He took her inside and got a blanket to wrap around her, while Gina got out the first aid kit and started bandaging her arm.

When the pimp was securely in the back of the police car, one of the officers returned to check on Jessica. “Lucky we were just around the corner when we got your call, but it looks like you guys had everything in hand anyway. We’ll file a report and get your statements later.” He looked at Gina. “This one’s mine detective. I’ve been wanting to bust this jerk for a while. I’ll personally clear my desk for this one, the lousy creep.”

The officer then turned to Sonny. “Thanks for the help pal. You seemed to know what you were doin’. Personally I think they could use a few more guys like you down here at night.” He offered his hand. “Officer Bill Davis – anytime you need anything, you just give me a call.”

Sonny shook his hand. “Sonny Crockett. You just make sure he gets a nice comfortable room at the state’s finest boarding house. I wouldn’t want him to miss getting everything he deserves,” he said with a sly little grin.

The officer’s jaw dropped. He looked at Sonny, and back to Gina. “The Sonny Crockett? Detective James Sonny Crockett from vice?” Gina nodded. “Anything you want sir – you just give me a call.” He was blubbering like a school girl meeting her favourite TV star. “Holy shit,” he muttered. He shook his head as he walked back to the squad car. “Wait ‘til I tell Chico! Man, Sonny Crockett!”

Crockett gave Gina a puzzled look. “Sir? What the hell is that all about?” He asked quizzically.

“Standard case studies at the Academy these days, Crockett – Undercover Operations 101.”

“Losing Your Mind 101 is more like it. Who’s responsible for that piece of work?”

He shook his head in disbelief and then returned to the present situation. Sonny glared at Gina and then turned to Jessica. “You call this safe? Why don’t you just jump into a meat grinder. That stonehead almost killed you.”

“That’s what the self-defense lessons are for Sonny. Really I’m okay. I just need a coffee. I’m fine. I faced worse in Colombia.”

He wasn’t really satisfied with the answer, but he knew he wouldn’t get a more satisfactory one. He made a mental note to talk to Marty about this when he saw him on Monday.

Things quieted down after that. A steady stream passed through, some just exchanged needles or picked up condoms, some came in for coffee or soup, and some stayed around for a while to talk. About midnight Gina decided to pack it in for the night. Just before she left she dropped another unexpected piece of news.

“Oh, I almost forgot to tell you. I was talking to the lieutenant this afternoon. Rico’s coming in Monday night.”

Sonny looked up in surprise. Rico wasn’t due in ‘til the following week.

“Something about working on a lead in the Fuente investigation.”

Rico here on Monday? – super. It would great to see him again. Maybe they could work together on the Fuente lead…. Maybe Rico could talk some sense into Castillo about this Street Car thing.

They stayed for a few more hours, and then packed up, returned the Street Car and headed back to the marina. The eastern sky was showing the faintest of hint of morning light when they arrived back at the Vitus II. They were both tired, exhausted. He put his arms her and pulled her gently towards him, but as earlier, she pulled away.

“Not tonight, Sonny. I’m sorry, but I just can’t.” She gave him gentle kiss on the cheek. “Thanks for everything.” She headed to the Mountain Mist and climbed aboard, Jack waddling behind.

“Good night Sunshine,” Sonny whispered to himself. It was the nickname he had given her on the plane when they first met. Yeah, she was some kinda lady

It was after noon before he woke from a deep slumber, dressed and went out on deck to greet the day. He looked over and saw Jessica sitting on the stern of the Mountain Mist drinking a cup of coffee. As she called out a greeting, Jack came bounding over to say hi. His mistress followed with a steaming cup of fresh java which she handed to Sonny. Just what the doctor ordered.

“So whatcha doin’ today?” she asked. “How about joining me for some fishin’. We can take the Mountain Mist.” That sounded like just what the doctor ordered as well.

It was a fabulous day that stretched into a fabulous evening. The ocean air was cooler and more refreshing than the muggy heat on land. The awkward stiffness from the early morning relaxed into a feeling of comfortable togetherness. It didn’t make any difference that the fish weren’t biting and they had hotdogs for dinner. The day passed into evening. They sat there, enjoying the mood as they finished off the last of the wine and watched the brilliant sunset paint the calm ocean waters in hues of reds and blues. He looked at her as she sat there silently staring out over the water in a world far removed, obviously contemplating something. He moved closer and put his arms around her pulling her body to his. She pushed him away again and stood up. The comfortable togetherness suddenly turned cold.

“I’m sorry Sonny – I just can’t. I shouldn’t have spent the day with you, and I shouldn’t have been with you yesterday or last night. Let’s just end it right now and keep the memories in the past.”

“What’s wrong? What did I do?”

“Nothing. It’s just me.” She turned and faced him. “I’ve always been honest with you, Sonny. I told you before that I don’t believe in casual sexual relationships. I’ve loved two men in my life. One of them’s dead, the other was in a dream a long time ago. It took a long time and a lot of heartache to face reality and wake up from that dream and I don’t want to go through that all over again. It’s too painful. I don’t want to get involved again. It’s too hard saying good-bye.”

She turned around again and started pulling the pick. She didn’t want him to see the tears in her eyes. She knew it was already too late not to get involved again, but she didn’t want him to see that. He grabbed her shoulders and spun her around, and he saw the tears.

“We can make this into whatever we want it to be. Maybe we don’t have to say good-bye this time.”

“Maybe is a risk I’m not willing to take. I’m sorry, Sonny. I’m just not ready for this. I think we should just part company and forget the whole thing now before it goes any further.”

They kept the sails furled and motored back to the marina. It was a quiet, lonely ride, and a quiet lonely night. Jessica and Jack were gone the next morning when he woke up and didn’t return until late that night. She was probably right. Like he had said to Gina the night before, he didn’t need any complications in his life right now.