Hallelujah

by Bytor

Caution: This Romantic Story contains strong sexual content, including Romantic, .

Desc: Romantic Story: In a reckless incident by two young inner city teens, the lives of several people are dramatically changed forever.

Hallelujah

by Leonard Cohen, from the album Various Positions

Thanks to Walt for helping me with the story, much appreciated!

Chapter 1: Secret Chord

Well I heard there was a secret chord

that David played and it pleased the Lord

But you don't really care for music, do ya?

Well it goes like this

The fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift

The baffled king composing Hallelujah

He opened the guitar case and placed it on the ground, and carefully lowered his Gibson ES347 into it, it was old and worn but the semi hollow body sounded sweet, the sustain, the feedback, the tone, all combined to make it a sweet guitar. It was given to him by his Uncle Ken, Mom's brother, who played back in the day, and was very good, good enough to be professional, touring with several big acts in the early 70's.

He walked out of the music room and made his way to his locker when he almost ran into Mr. Harris, a Physical Education teacher and the school's Baseball coach, when he turned the corner. He is also an idiot, a mental midget, and a bully to any and all that he comes in contact with. "What the heck are you doing here so late Mr. Cummings?" he bellowed.

Trying to be calm and cool he replied, "Uhm, I was working on my college entry with Mrs. Klinesmitch."

Rubbing his hair, or what was left of it he scowled, "Well, okay. Be careful next time, and watch out going home, it's snowing pretty bad outside."

He nodded his head and continued, quickly, on to his locker where he opened it and got out his winter jacket and put it on, he hated snow and couldn't wait until he went away to college, Southern California, he hoped.

He felt an arm around his shoulder followed by a sweet voice, "Hey there studly."

Without looking he smiled, "Right back at you smoochie."

"You know it's snowing like crazy out there!" she said excitedly.

Groaning he said, "I heard but was hoping it was all bullshit."

"Nope! Big ass flacks."

He turned his head and there she was, Jackie Reed, or as her family calls her Jacqueline, the pint sized tornado. At four foot eleven, and three quarters, never forget the three quarters as she prided herself on being shy of five foot, she was tough and uncompromising. That was due to being the youngest, and the only girl of a family of five. She had to be tough to fend off her brothers. Nobody fucked with Jackie, no one.

But with him she was different. Her rough and tumble edges that everyone saw, were just a facade, shielding herself from the fear she had with opening up. Unknown to everyone was she was molested for several years by her Father after her Mother passed away. She was of mixed emotions on this, she hated her Father for what he did to her, hated her Mother for leaving her, but loved them both for who they were.

It took time for her to open up, and it almost hadn't if he hadn't taken her into his confidence about his own problems with his parents. It started after Uncle Ken gave him the guitar when he turned thirteen. He loved his Uncle Ken and looked up to him, and when he got the guitar he began to play it and after a short time he wanted to take lessons. His Father balked, not for cost of the lessons, but that it would detract him from his studies. It took some time to convince his Father that his studies wouldn't suffer, and a lot of prodding from his Mother, before he was allowed to take lessons.

And he excelled at playing guitar, taking what he was taught and building upon it, learning intricacies of how to play as well as learning how to read music, the various scales, and music theory. And within a short time he went from playing simple beginner songs to moderately complex songs that easily astonished his Mother who had seen this before when her brother Ken started playing. His Father was unimpressed, and his only comment was that it better not interfere with his studies.

Within a year of playing guitar he had surpassed all others in the class and was moved to an advanced class, and as the years went by his skills and abilities continued to increase.

When he was a Freshman in High School he met with the Music department head, Mrs. Klinesmitch, a portly middle aged woman who loved music more than anyone he would ever know, who after talking to him for a few minutes saw his thirst in music. She began to slowly guide him moving from guitar to other instruments, from Rock and Roll to Jazz to classical. For his part he ate it up, delving into each new subject put before him, learning to play the trumpet and French horn, then to reed instruments clarinet and oboe, to stringed instruments such as the violin and cello, and finally the piano.

It didn't happen overnight and it wasn't easy, in fact it was the hardest thing he had ever done. But the part that bothered him the most was he couldn't share his accomplishments with his parents, well mostly is Father, but if he would have told his Mother she would surely tell his Father.

It was at the start of his Senior year that things got, complicated. It was a simple question that Mrs. Klinesmitch asked of him, what his future academic plans. It was no surprise that he would continue his education, his Father had it all planned out, attending Harvard as he had and attaining an MBA or a Law degree, either was suitable.

But when he did not readily answer, Mrs. Klinesmitch asked if he was interested in getting a degree in Music. Since his Father had already decided on him attending Harvard and getting a MBA, he never really thought of Music as a profession. It was as if a light bulb went on in his head. He loved music, all facets of it, and if was something that he was going to do for the rest of his life, it might as while be something he loved.

In the next few days he thought about his future, and for the most part he couldn't come up with a plan that he thought would work out between him and his Father. Finally he brought Jackie in, albeit reluctantly as he was embarrassed that he needed help.

Jackie's suggestions were pretty good, knowing that he wanted a degree in music left only a few questions, such as did he want to go to a big school or small school, live at home or go away, and what climate are you looking for.

Once he looked at along those lines it became very simple, school size didn't matter, going away was preferable, and a warm climate was a must.

Her next suggestion was to look online for colleges with the best music program located in warm states, like California, Florida, Texas, and so on.

That night he searched for just that and found several highly regarded colleges, but only a few were in a warm climate, a must for him. There was one that looked perfect, the University of Southern California which is the home of the Thornton School of Music. It would probably kill his Father, going to school in California, the land of fruits and nuts he would yell. There was a little part of him that was overjoyed with the thought of going to USC, it would probably kill his Father, he could hear him know, There is no way you are going to a school in California, the land of fruits and nuts!

The next night, he had to get his courage up, at dinner he brought up his college desire. And surprise surprise, he had called it correctly. His Father hit the roof, yelling that no son of his would go to college for a Music degree, especially to a college in California, the land of fruits and nuts! His Mother listened to the one sided conversation and tried, unsuccessfully, to get his Father from yelling and to reason with him on his Father's wishes. But all that accomplished was for him to be mad at both of his parents, not just his Father.

The discussion fell into a full blown yelling match, his Father accusing him of throwing his life away, while he countered that it was his life and his choice. The only person not yelling was his Mother who sat idly by waiting for the yelling to stop. Which it did, but only after he left the dining room.

The next morning was uncomfortable, to say the least. He did not acknowledge his Father, just as his Father did not acknowledge him. His Mother just left the room, not wanting to get in between them.

"So, did you talk to your Father last night?"

He snickered, "Yeah. It went as I thought, he screamed and yelled and told me not to have any more involvement in music, and that I am going to Harvard, end of story."

She touched his arm and asked, "And what did you say?"

"I told him that I understood his position and that I would be happy to allow him to run my life for me. That ended the yelling for a little while until I began doing my homework, which I gave to him and said, since you are running my life you might as well do my homework. That got me grounded for the week."

Laughing Jackie replied, "So, did he do it?"

"Nope. And neither did I. When Mr. Granville asked where it was I told him my Father didn't do it, and if there was a problem that he should talk to him. I'm sure that when I get home tonight I'll be grounded for two weeks. Want to get some dinner?"

"Sure. Sushi?"

Rolling his eye he said, "Oh come on, since when do I eat sushi?"

"Well, you better get used to it, I hear it's the bomb in LA" she said with a laugh.

He laughed with Jackie as they left the school. Mr. Harris was correct, it was bad outside, the snow was blowing sideways, making walking difficult. But crossing the street was damn near hazardous! When they got to the first street they were almost knocked over by the wind, seems that the buildings have created a sort of wind tunnel that could knock you off your feet. And with the snow pilling up it made doubly dangerous.

But they were able to safely cross Michigan avenue and up a couple of streets to make it to the Japanese Steak House and Sushi Bar. Dinner was good, Jackie had sushi and he had Chicken teriyaki. His philosophy was food should be cooked and not eaten raw, with the exception of fruits and vegetables and such.

Towards the end of the meal the conversation turned to the future as Jackie asked, "So, what will you do if your parents, forbid you to go to USC? What then?"

He shook his head, "I don't know. I'm hoping they will be reasonable and see what I want, not what they want."

"So, best case is you go to USC. What about worse case?"

"I don't know. No way am I going to go to Harvard, or anywhere else, to get an MBA or whatever he thinks is important. I mean, it's my life, I should have some say in it."

She raised her eye brows and said, "Some say?"

He laughed, "Okay, more than some. Hey, give me a break, it's only been a short time that I've thought of myself as a person."

She looked at him sternly, "Don't ever say that again. Not even if your kidding around. You are so much more than what THEY think you are, and you WILL exceed their expectations. And once they see that, well, than they will see HOW wrong they were."

"And if they don't?"

"Then, you walk away. You should not allow people to, take over your life like that!"

"What if they don't pay for college?"

"You'll find a way."

"And if I don't, what will I do? No job, no future?"

"So what's better? A job you hate? A future that's not your own?"

He knew she was right, but, to strike out on his own? No future?

She continued, "If music is what you want, maybe you could get a grant or scholarship. Or you put your music to work for you, get a job as a musician or something."

He shook his head

"Talk to Mrs. Klinesmitch, I'm sure she could offer you advice, or help getting into a college. A good college. And you GPA is what 3.5?"

"Well, 3.65."

"See, you're on your way. All you have to do is ASK for help."

She had a way of making, no not making, but getting him to see things differently. She was a good friend. More than a friend, more like someone that he had deep feelings for, maybe even love. She sees in him something that no one else sees, a successful person.

"I'll talk to her tomorrow and see what she can do for me."

All bubbly she replied, "Great!" and sat back into her chair.

"So, what about you? Where are going to college?"

She cocked her head and said, "Not sure. Depends on what you do."

"What?"

"Well, if you go to USC, I'll probably go there. If you stay here I'll go somewhere here."

He sat in stunned silence and looked at her.

"Did you think that we were going to split up when we went to college?"

"Uhm, I, well, don't get mad, but I didn't think that far ahead."

"So, now you know."

"Yes I do."

He couldn't say anything else. There was no need to.

They left the restaurant hand in hand. Not a first for them, but after dinner it represented something more than just boyfriend/girlfriend. And though there conversation was not full of content, nor was the word love used, it was the first time that he saw in her something more than friendship. And for her, it was the first time she opened herself up about her feelings for him, which considering her issues with sexual assault from her Dad, was a huge step.

They turned the corner and headed to Michigan avenue fighting the bitter wind and stinging snow when he said to Jackie, "I, don't know how things will work out between my parents and I, but I'm glad that your here, with me. I, uhm, don't know if I could do this without you."

She stopped and turned to him, looking him in the eye and said, "I will always be here for you."

"And I will be there for you" and leaned in and kissed her. It was not their first kiss, but it was the first time that there was meaning behind it, something that was more than sexual, it was something that was on a whole new level.

They broke the kiss and looked into each other's eyes, knowing that something had changed between them, that what they once were was no longer what they are now, and both felt relief, and fear. But there was nowhere else that they wanted to be.

As they turned and headed across Michigan avenue he heard several loud pops before being blinded by light.

Chapter 2: Faith

Well your faith was strong but you needed proof

You saw her bathing on the roof

Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya

And she tied you to her kitchen chair

She broke your throne and she cut your hair

And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Susan Carter was beside herself with fear as the home pregnancy came back positive. She didn't want a child, not now, but in the future when she was ready. When HE was ready. The He being her boyfriend Nathan Cobb.

She was an Executive Assistant, and a damn good one at that. She was twenty nine, though if you checked her driver's license it would show she was thirty, and was happy with what she was doing. She enjoyed it so much that she could see her doing it for the remainder of her career.

Nathan Cobb is a Financial Analyst with a prestigious Commercial Bank, one of their top earners, working with their largest accounts. He made a name for himself for guiding his Customers to the highest dividend generating securities stocks and bonds. His aspirations are to start his own financial planning company catering to top tier Executives. He also was planning on leaving Chicago for New York or Los Angeles.

They met two years ago at a Christmas party at the Ritz Carlton that their two companies were having there. It was pure happenstance as they walked into each other as one exited from the bar as the other exited from the lobby. There was an attraction right off the bat, and spent several minutes talking before each was pulled away to their prospective parties, but not before exchanging phone numbers.

A few days after the party Nathan called Susan, they spoke for close to an hour before agreeing to meet the next day for dinner after work. Susan almost said no, she didn't live in Chicago, but in a near west suburb called Oak Park, a place that she could afford and had good transportation in and out of the city. Her main concern about meeting for dinner was getting home at a decent hour, though Oak Park was a nice area and she always careful, but coming home at night after potentially drinking was a little out of her comfort zone.

Nathan lived relatively close to where he worked in a neighborhood called Streeterville, a very nice area bordered by Lake Shore Drive on the north and east, Michigan Avenue on the west, and the Chicago River on the south. He lived in an older high rise, on the 5th floor in a single bedroom condo.

They met at a nice Italian restaurant on Rush Street and had a very pleasant dinner with stimulating conversation. They talked of many different things, but mainly about themselves, where they came from, and how they got to where they are. But nothing intimate, first date and all.

They agreed to a second date the following Friday after work on January 5th, at Harry Carry's Italian Steakhouse on Kinzie Street. Another thing they had in common, the love of Italian food.

The date, as before, was great with stimulating conversation, but much more personal. Both were from the Chicago area, she was from the western suburb of Wheaton and he was from Chicago, a neighborhood called Lincoln Park. Susan's parents were middle class, her Father worked for DuPage County as a caretaker for the parks and public buildings, her Mother worked part time at the elementary school as a secretary, while Nathan's Father was a well respected Psychiatrist and author, and his Mother was a tenured Professor at Loyola University.

Over a shared desert they talked about their careers, what they did for a living, what they liked about what they were doing, what was missing in their professional lives, and what they would like to do in the future. The major difference between them was Nathan's plan to move from Chicago to the East or West coast at some future date.

The warning bells and whistles went off in her head. Normally a cautious person, she had been in serious relationships a few times but broke it off when differences between them grew so much that she suspected that if they married that divorce wasn't far down the road. But she disregarded it, it was only their second date and if it got serious and moving was still in his plans she would break it off, just as she did in the past.

After words they dated every couple of weeks, always on a Friday until May 5th, Cinco de Mayo. This date was the turning point in their relationship as it was their first sexual tryst. Being that their date was on Saturday, she decided to come down early and the two would make a day of it. They started at Lincoln Park Zoo and ended up walking down Michigan Avenue before heading back to his condo to change for dinner at Shaw's Crab House on Hubbard St.

After dinner both were uneasy as they walked back to the condo for what they thought, or hoped, would be their first time together. As the they entered the condo and closed the door Susan leaned in and kissed Nathan. She was nervous and the kiss was awkward but Nathan didn't care and returned it with the passion of a first time teenage boy. Neither were virgins, or as sexually active as many single people their age, but that did not diminish, or inhibit, the passion they felt for one another.

Their kissing progressed to touching and feeling each other before they moved from the doorway to bedroom where they made love, several times throughout the night. Sunday after the woke up they went out for brunch and upon returning made passionate love again.

Later that evening as Susan took the train home she fell back into the seat and let the giddiness of a school girls first crush run through her body.

Susan and Nathan fell into a grove, twice a month they would spend the weekend together, once at his place and the other at hers, other weeks they would meet for dinner on Friday nights. In 2002 they went on a surprise vacation together to St. Barts in the Caribbean. The week they spent together solidified their feelings for one another and when they came back home Susan moved in with Nathan, and began the next part of their relationship.

As fall turned to winter they began to talk of marriage. The old demons from Susan's past crept back into her mind as she began to feel the walls closing in upon her when in early December Nathan came home and nervously mentioned that an opportunity had opened up in New York. An investment firm that his former manager and mentor James Marsden had called him to ask if he would be interested in a lead position within his group that would be responsible for managing investments for their tier one customers.

If he was interested he would setup interviews between him and the Head of Personnel followed interviews with two members of the Board of Directors, and the firms COO. It wasn't exactly what he wanted but it could get him to where he wanted to be ten years earlier if he was as successful in New York as he was in Chicago.

She sat in the bathroom and sobbed quietly while Nathan was on a plane to New York for the interview that would pull him away from her.

She called into work that she would be late and went to the doctor to confirm what she already knew. The Doctor's office was crowded with most of the woman visibly pregnant, not surprising for an OBGYN's office. She waited for only a small amount of time before the nurse called her name and escorted her to an examining room. The nurse took her complete medical history and recorded her height, weight, and blood pressure. When that was complete she asked her to disrobe and put on the robe she provided and said the Doctor will be with her shortly.

Another ten minutes went by before the door opened and an older woman entered carrying a clipboard and asked, "You are, Susan Carter?"

"Yes."

She smiled and extended he hand and said, "Hello Susan, I'm Doctor Jane Ward, how can I help you today?"

She shook her hand, "I took a home pregnancy test and, uhm it was positive, but I want to confirm it. That I'm, uh, pregnant."

"Okay, well, HPT's are usually accurate. If you want confirmation the best would be to take a blood test, the results will take a day or two, will that be okay?"

She nodded her head and the Doctor said, "My nurse will come and draw blood. When we get the results we will give you a call, and if it's positive we can setup another appointment to give you a full physical and get you on vitamins."

"Thank You that sounds good Doctor."

The following day, late in the afternoon she got the call that confirmed she was pregnant and made an appointment for Friday morning knowing that Nathan would be back Friday late afternoon. She also made reservations at the restaurant they went to on their first date and crossed her fingers.

The next day she woke up and had a small breakfast before heading out to the Doctors office. As before the Doctor's office was crowded and she waited twenty minutes before the nurse called her name and walked her back to an examining room. The nurse, as the previous day went over her medical history and recorded her height, weight, and blood pressure and asked her to disrobe and put on the robe provided and said the Doctor will be with her shortly.

Twenty minutes later the door opened and Doctor Ward walked in and said, "So I see by the results that you are indeed pregnant, congratulations."

The half smile changed the mood of the Doctor quickly, "Well, not the news you were hoping for?"

Shaking her head she said with some sadness, "No. I was hoping for a negative response."

The Doctor sat down and asked, "Are you looking to, end the pregnancy?"

She felt her throat tighten stopping her from talking. She had put the thought of what she would do out of her mind until she knew for sure if she was pregnant. Now that is was looking her right in the face the first thought was to keep the baby, regardless of what would happen between her and Nathan.

Clearing her throat she said, "I'm going to keep the baby."

"Are you sure?"

"No. But, if I have an abortion and change my mind later, I don't think I would be able to forgive myself. So, yeah, not totally sure, but not willing to do the alternative."

She smiled and said, "Okay, so now we can move forward." She went over her medical history and Nathan's health, and the health of her family and Nathan's family, and then she went through a complete physical exam that included checking her thyroid and breasts, and listening to her heart and lungs, and finally an internal exam, checking her cervix, ovaries, vagina, and uterus. At the end of the exam the Doctor calculated her due date to be August 4th.

After the examination the Doctor handed her several data sheets containing information on diet, exercise, weight, over-the-counter medications that are safe during pregnancy, and a list of over the counter prenatal vitamins easily picked up at the local drugstore, a guide for scheduling regular appointments (every four weeks for the first four months, then every two weeks for months five through seven, then every week thereafter until the baby comes), and lastly contact information for when the doctor's office is closed.

Loaded with information she thanked the Doctor, got dressed, and left the office in a daze. On the way home she stopped at a book store and picked up a couple of books on pregnancy before heading home.

With the pregnancy confirmed she began to feel relieved. Gone were the what-ifs, now there only was the what to do now. Abortion was NOT something that she could do. Others could, but she couldn't. So the only question was, will Nathan be there.

At 3:30pm Nathan called her from the airport, he had just landed.

She hid the prenatal information from the Doctor and the books she had bought and prepared herself for what was to come.

With the snow starting Nathan didn't get home until 5:30 a smile on his face that told her everything she needed to know.

He smiled and said "Hey sweetie" as he took her in his arms and kissed her after walking in the door.

"Hey back at you. How was the trip?" she asked nervously, she was fine until the door opened and then the butterflies came back.

"Great. But I missed you."

"I missed you too. So, how did it go?"

"Great would be an understatement. I nailed the interview, it was shaky at first talking to the Head of Personal. But when I talked to the Board Members and the COO, it all came together and, well, all that's left is for the two Board members to submit their report to the other Members, who will rubber stamp it and send it to the COO, who will bless it, and then it's a done deal!"

"Wow. That's great."

"Yeah! This is what I've been waiting for. What an opportunity."

"Uh, I've made dinner reservations, so, if you're ready we should go."

"Great! We can celebrate!"

They put on their coats and carefully made their way to the restaurant, which on a normal day would have been a quick walk but with the snow and wind it took three times as long. It was good, she thought as they walked, it gave her time to relax and get her thoughts straight.

They walked into the restaurant and removed their coats. It was quiet and very much empty, only half a dozen tables were taken. The hostess came up and asked, "Good evening, dinner for two?"

"Yes. Something in a quiet place?" he asked.

She smiled, "Certainly. Please follow me."

They were led to a semi secluded area in the back of the restaurant and were seated in a booth.

Just as they sat down their waitress came up and asked, "I see your just sitting down, would you like something to drink?"

"You know this is a celebration, so a bottle of champagne please."

"Oh, none for me. A glass of water would be fine."

He looked at her quizzically, "Are you sure?"

"Yes Nathan, water is fine."

"Okay, well in that case, I'll have a glass of Merlot please."

She walked away and the two settled down for what Susan hoped would be a, nice productive, dinner.

"So, New York. Are you, uh, okay with moving there?" he asked with some concern in his voice.

There it was, the question. She cleared her throat, "Nathan, I, uhm"

"Susan, before you answer, I want you to know that, I'm not asking you to move as my partner, but as my wife. Let's get married, next week and start a new life, together."

Her eyes welled up with tears, this is going to be bad she thought. With a cracking voice, "Nathan, I know that this job is important to you, that you have wanted to move from Chicago, but, my life is, here, my family is here, and I want our, child to be born here."

"I know that your life is here, your family, heck my family is" and he stopped and blinked a couple of times before saying, "Our child?"

"Yes. I'm pregnant."

He was stunned. Confused. And terrified. A minute went by before he could continue, "Uhm, how?"

"I don't know, I've been on the pill, I've been very, very careful never missing a day..."

"When, did you find out?"

"Today. Well, confirmed today. I went to the Doctor on Wednesday and took a blood test. I got the results yesterday, and had my first visit today."

"I, I, uhm, don't know what to say."

Somewhat exasperated she said, "Really? Don't know what to say?"

He sat back, looking somewhat defensive said, "Well, I wasn't expecting this. I mean of all of the scenarios that went through my mind this one, well, this one never crossed my mind."

They sat in silence as the waitress came up with their drinks and asked, "Are you ready to order?"

"I think we will need a little time."

"Okay, I'll be back in a few minutes."

"So, what do you think?"

"You've had a few days to, I don't know, mull over this and your pushing me for how I feel?"

"I didn't ask how you feel, I asked what do you think!?"

When he didn't say anything she continued, "I would think it should be very simple! Easy in fact!"

"I get the feeling that no matter what I say it will be the wrong thing?"

"Why don't we just go home."

"Fine" and flagged the waitress.

"Sorry, I, uhm, just got called from work and we will need to leave" and dropped a twenty on the table.

The waitress smiled and thanked them for coming as the two got up to leave.

They exited the restaurant and headed home, south on Rush street. It was tough going as the streets were getting worse as the snow continued to fall. As they passed a Starbucks Nathan pointed to the door and led her in.

Softly he asked, "Do you want something?"

"Hot tea would be nice."

He turned to the barrister and order Hot Tea and Caffè Americano and they both took a seat in the corner.

After getting their drinks Nathan sat down and said, "This, should not have gone this way. I'm sorry. I wish I could have been here for you."

She teared up again before saying, "I'm sorry that I, put this on you like I did. We should be celebrating your new job."

"No. No celebration. Not for the job anyway. We should be celebrating about the news that we are having a baby. This should have been a happy time, a joyous time. The job, well, that's secondary, we shouldn't even be talking about it."

She broke down and started sobbing. She was happy that he came around. And heartbroken that she took away from his big news.

He moved to her side and put his arm around her and hugged her saying "We can make this work. New York. Chicago. It doesn't matter. I, just want to be wherever you and the baby are. I want us to be together."

She cried and hugged him back "I love you."

His voice cracked as he replied, "I love you too."

They held the hug for a couple of minutes and then kissed softly, Nathan smiling broadly. Seeing her cheeks wet with tears he reached his hand up and wiped them away. They sat together and softly talked of the changes that are about to come, of talking to their parents, of finding a new place to live, and of getting married.

Her faith in Nathan had come to fruition. He had put something other than himself to the forefront.

They finished their drinks and headed back out into the cold snowy winter night riding high. They turned left heading east towards Michigan avenue when Susan heard several loud pops.

Chapter 3: Marble Arch

Baby I have been here before

I know this room, I've walked this floor

I used to live alone before I knew you.

I've seen your flag on the marble arch

Love is not a victory march

It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

The wind, funneled between the tall buildings, swept through downtown Chicago with the ferocity of a hurricane making people and vehicles of all types to slowly make their way. But what made this more inhumanly bearable was the snow carried by the wind, frozen by the falling temperature, were like fine grains of sand tearing away at any exposed flesh. Not a time to be walking outside.

So as one of many poor souls making their way through the blizzard as is slowly made its way through Chicago the good Doctor lowered his head, placing one gloved hand on his hat while the other was used to pull his coat together tightly to hold turned onto Michigan Avenue in anticipation of the coming whirlwind of wind and snow.

He has walked this way for the last fifteen years so he was prepared for the cold blowing wind. Turning the corner was like being punched in the face by the cold, but what he was not prepared for was the snow, which temporarily blinded him. Thankfully his destination was only a few steps away from the corner.

He stepped into the revolving door and quickly pushed on through, stepping into the building where he lived. He stopped just inside the building and shook his jacket to throw off the snow that had covered him in the short walk from the hospital, it was everywhere. Satisfied that he had thrown off most of the snow he stamped his feet, the sound echoing throughout the cavernous entry. From his left he was greeted by the doorman "Good evening Dr. Manger. How are you this blustery evening."

Looking up he saw Joseph Simpson, the doorman. Joseph was a nice fellow, always a smile and only pleasant conversation. Smiling he replied "Very well Joseph, though I could do without the snow."

"Yes I agree with you Dr. Manger. I have had young James out shoveling the front to keep the way clear."

Young? Ha! Young James, better known as James Caldwell, was a junior attending Northwestern University who began working part time in October to gain experience in the building management field. James was also the nephew of William Seaborne, the CEO/Owner of Morris and Cedar Property Management, one of the largest firms in Chicago. James was most fortunate to have an uncle that could provide him the means to attain his career, but it was not something that he took lightly. Every job given to him was done with his undivided attention, and performed to the best of his abilities. He was definitely no slouch.

Dr. Manger looked out to see the snow falling heavily, young James will have his hands full as he said, "He is doing a fine job," he said.

With a nod and a smile, Joseph returned to his duties.

Doctor Manger turned and headed towards the elevator to take him to the restaurant in the building called The Grind Stone, a fashionable restaurant serving fine foods. It has been in existence since the building opened in 1924, and through the years has become a staple in the area, and though it has changed ownership several times over the years it has maintained its high level of excellence and opulence, catering to those of influence and power.

The elevator ride was quick as there were no stops on other floors. Exiting the elevator he made his way to the cloak room.

"Good evening Dr. Manger. A bit uncomfortable outside it seems."

"That it is Mrs. Swanson, that it is" he said as he handed her his coat and hat. He knew not to engage Mrs. Swanson into polite conversation. It would be ten minutes before he could extricate himself from her endless babbling. She was a good person but lacked the ability to know when to end a conversation.

"Excuse me Dr. Manger?" came a soft voice behind him.

Turning he saw Sandra from the restaurant. "Yes?"

"Ms. Julie has asked me to inform you that your usual table is unavailable at the moment. She has another if you do not care to wait."

Without thinking he replied, "Inform Ms. Julie that I will wait in the bar until my customary table is ready."

She nodded and went back into the restaurant.

Sandra was, odd. She was intelligent, dignified, and pretty. But what was unique about her, from all the others, was how distant and cool she was to those around her. If it were only to him, a patron, that would not be so strange, but to her co-workers? He knew this because he asked, thinking he had committed some offense to her, but when he was told that is the way she was to all, there was some sense of relief but a greater interest in why she was like that.

He made his way to the bar, picking up today's newspaper before taking a seat at the table nearest the wall. Before he was comfortably sitting in the chair a familiar voice asked "Good evening Dr. Magner, looks like we are in the midst of a light dusting outside."

"Good evening Rudy. A little more than a light dusting I think."

"What would you like from the bar?"

"Scotch, Laphroaig I think."

"Very well Dr. Magner" and he walked away.

He sat back and opened the newspaper, moving slowly page to page, browsing through the stories. Somewhere in the middle of the paper he looked over the top and scanned the room before he asked himself if it was colder outside or within his own building. Everyone one was polite to a fault, mostly out of habit as it was probably ingrained in the staff by management.

It was a the voice that set his nerves on edge, "Why hello Phillip?"

It was Judith Langmeyer, wife of Jerome Langmeyer, who was head of Neurosurgery at Chicago General Hospital. She was a high society socialite in every sense of the word. Born to wealth, she was afforded opportunities that most could only dream of. She spent most of her time on the 'cause of the day' using her political influence and wealth to help those beneath her.

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