Lawrence E. Collins


Alyssa, a young woman, with torn, red rose-petals in her auburn hair, dressed in a knitted, sleeveless sweater and jeans, prepares to dial her cell phone for a taxi as she sits on the edge of her hastily packed suitcase in the front hallway. Her fingers gingerly touch the bandage on her broken nose as she tastes blood from her split lip, having felt an hour before the fury of her bullying, abusive husband.

She hears the loud muffler of her husband's car returning as it pulls into the driveway in front of their house. He's too cheap to get it fixed. When they first met, his carefulness over spending a dollar impressed her. He seemed responsible, until she realized, unfortunately after they were married, that he was financially illiterate, neither capable of spending it nor earning it. She knows she is much smarter than he is, and he resents it.

She hurries upstairs with her twin babies in her arms and hides in the master bedroom closet. Her face, full of terror, is ghoulishly illuminated in the lighted glow of her cell phone.

She hugs her twin babies to her hips, as they hold on tight to her sides, their tongues and lips licking and sucking at thin air, as they search in the semi-darkness for the bounty of mother's milk. Her buffeted, bra-less breasts, two enormous bladders of milk on her chest, spill drops of  precious liquid through the loose web of the wool of her sweater, which rises up, exposing her bare, battered belly, covered with the deep, dark, criss-crossed, penetrating bruises from his fists. The bruises, imprinted with a pattern of stud-like marks from his rhinestone-encrusted rings, resemble the tracks left  by the heavy, thickly-treaded wheels on a Mack truck.

Hearing footsteps, she peers out through the closet door keyhole.

The big, black pupil of his eye is glaring in.


                                                        .   .   .  .  .


Alyssa pushes the number saved in the auto-dial on her cell phone. She found it the day before in the Yellow Pages, under the reassuring, supportive, borrowed police slogan “To Serve and Protect” which listed Private Detectives.

“Harry Rush, Private Detective speaking.”

When Harry was twelve his father took him out on the lake in a row boat under the guise of teaching the dog to swim. Instead of the dog, his father threw Harry in and then laughed uproariously when the dog his father knew could already swim jumped in and saved Harry.

Harry felt he could have found some solace if he had been saved by a Saint Bernard, but by a tiny terrier was embarrassing. Harry soon taught himself to swim.

Some years later, he invited his father to join him on the lake in a rented canoe for an afternoon of fly-fishing for trout. Harry, disguising his own actions while casting his fly-line, intentionally capsized the canoe. He was amazed to discover that his father, who had tormented and bullied him throughout his young life, had an Achilles heel; he could not swim. After Harry saved his father and they drifted to shore on the capsized canoe, his father, mortified, kicked out at the dog, which nipped his ankle in rebuke. His father never bullied Harry or the dog again.

Harry realized people who are bullies become cowards when confronted. Now his ambition in life is ‘to serve and protect’. When his application to join the police force was rejected, he became a private detective instead. He sits behind his blotter-topped desk watching Esmerelda the cat’s tail swish back and forth on the floor as she eyes a mouse she has cornered behind the water-cooler in his “Private Detective” office in this run-down building. Though he has become the not-so-famous, practically unknown private detective with a reputation for a lack of success in solving cases, Harry knows no one and nothing will stop him when that awaited moment in his life comes when he can step in, no matter the odds, and make a difference.

Recently risen from the depths of a dream, Harry remains poised and ready to respond to the ringing of his phone when he becomes called upon to act.

“I need your help,” she whispers, telling him her dire situation and where she is.

“Harry Rush, Private Detective is on his way!”



Lawrence E. Collins travels, hikes, fishes and writes from his hometown, St. John’s, NL. His stories have been published in magazines, including Canadian Stories Magazine, ‘The Dress’, Vol 17 No. 96, April/May, 2014, ‘Ebenezer's Party’, feature story, Vol 17 No. 99, Oct/Nov, 2014, at [Archives 2014], and ‘Sidney’, Vol 18 No. 102, April/May, 2015.
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