The commuting heart
Hildy Wilder was the most powerful law enforcement officer in the world. Not the real world, mind you. Just Oregon. And only on the coast. But for as much as it concerned anything or anyone in her immediate universe she was the all-encompassing embodiment of justice and authority.
Which meant she was alone.
All the time.
It would be that way always.
And no one would ever touch her again.
She craned her hand around the swiveling laptop mounted to the center console of her Ford Fusion Hybrid and turned the volume up on the stereo. It was the third time today that To Love You More had played, and she knew she might soon regret thumbs upping the track. But, Celine Dion help her, twice had never been enough. “Take me back into the arms I love…”
Of course those melancholy thoughts weren’t entirely true. She was one of seven special agents in the Oregon State Attorney General’s Department of Criminal Investigations. So she had six peers. But each of them was assigned to a remote region and they partnered with those regions singularly.
“Need me like you did before…”
They were interagency detectives that worked alongside local, county, and state offices in areas where populations and crime rates were so low that those agencies were often unprepared to handle major crimes; however rarely they occurred.
“Touch me once again…”
So her job was important.
“And remember when…”
She was privileged, honored, and enviable.
But now, and a little more each month, she felt how alone that made her.
“There was no one that you wanted more…”
Hildy’s region was the entirety of the Oregon Coast; a stretch of seven counties that spanned the borders of Washington and California, from the mouth of the Columbia River to Pelican Bay. Every inch of it was beautiful. Incredible. Truly Heaven on Earth. And she thought about it like this:
The combined population of everyone living on the Oregon Coast was a little less than 250 thousand people. Or roughly the same number of people that lived in the city of Irvine, California. But, unlike Irvine, the Oregon Coast wasn’t a practical suburb of Los Angeles, wasn’t a happy 70 degrees year round, and didn’t occupy a mere 66 square miles of real estate. On the other hand, the FBI considered Irvine to be the safest city in America, and had for like ten years in a row, and the Oregon Coast’s rape and murder rates were just about the same. So they were similar; if only Irvine had been located at the practical edge of nowhere, was covered in fog most of the year, and stretched over 5000 square miles.
“I’ll be waiting for you…”
She didn’t mean to relate everything back to California, but she was from there, from Orange County, and when she quantified things, especially things to do with size and distance, she related them back to the place she’d grown up. It made everything feel real and seem easy to understand.
“Here inside my heart…”
And here on the coast she almost had to.
Because this life was so different.
“I’m the one that wants to love you more…”
If you took the population of Los Angeles, just Los Angeles proper, and had every one of those people hold hands, you could stretch that paper doll chain of human beings from the shores of the Pacific Ocean, through America at its widest point, all the way to the Atlantic. They wouldn’t even have to stretch that hard.
“You will see that I can give you…”
But if you took the people that lived on the Oregon Coast, and stretched them out, they wouldn’t even make it halfway down their own coastline. The beach would just be empty from Waldport to Brookings.
“Everything you need…”
Not that she thought any of that was a bad thing. You gained a little serenity and solitude by trading in some of your convenience and efficiency. It was just very different.
“Let me be the one to love you more…”
In the end, the hard part for her just boiled down to a matter of distance between objects, and how that affected time and opportunity.
When she was in high school, when she opened her locker, she could, and did, rely on just how many boys were behind her, staring at her ass. If there were 200 people in the hallway, 40 of them would be close enough to see her unobstructed. The ratio at her school favored the male gender slightly, so a little more than half of those would be boys. 21. She usually wore tight fitting jeans, and the curve of her backside was easily in the top eightieth percentile. So if there were 10 other girls near her, digging through their lockers, she would only likely be in competition with 2 of them. 7. Accounting for the possibility of girlfriends in the area policing wandering eyes, and countering with the average high school boy’s generally low level of self-control, an honest assessment was 4. So, then, whenever she’d bent down to pick up a text book, 4 sets of eyes were looking at her. Were being attracted to her. Genuinely pondered her body. Wondering. Imagining. Wanting.
That kind of information was difficult to ignore.
And just as hard to forget.
She slowed and parked her car on the side of the road, at the back of a long line of fire trucks, ambulances, and police vehicles, beside an impressively tall tussock of pampas grass, and waited for the song to end. The music was moving through her so powerfully now, like only Celine ever could, and she was actively brushing the goosebumps down on her arms.
She remembered those moments in high school as the last time she knew any boy had been looking at her.
“Believe me… I will make you see… All the things that your heart needs to know…”
She took a deep breath and blinked hard. She was definitely going to finish the song, because she had to, but she began training her mind on work so that she would be focused when she began talking to subordinates in a few minutes.
Driving straight through from Astoria, the northern tip of her territory, to Brookings, the southern, took just over 7 hours on Highway 101. Hildy usually turned that into a 12 hour day, stopping at every tragedy along the way, and that was her life. She kept an apartment at both ends, driving up one day, spending the night, and then back down to the other apartment the next; visiting the calls nearest to her, that filtered through from the three Oregon dispatch stations to the screen beside her, as she went. “To love you more…” She made appearances wherever she could and stopped at varying calls, ranging from domestic violence to downed aircraft, helping out in whatever way seemed appropriate at the time. “Oh uh eh-oh oh oh oh uh eh-oh…” All in an effort to become familiar. That way, when the inevitable day came where she needed to take control of a scene, hopefully, she would already be able to depend on the people around her, and everyone would already know she was the boss.
And a naked man’s body washing ashore certainly warranted a visit.
The song ended with thumping timpani and she sighed deeply.
She reached up to turn off her car, pausing briefly with her hand on the keys, just to hear which song might play next. “The whispers in the morning…”
She laughed and ripped them out of the ignition.
How Pandora could possibly play two Celine Dion songs, of that magnitude, back to back, was beyond her. She didn’t imagine she’d have to argue with anyone very hard to convince them it was in the interest of public safety to ban such a thing. Although, she thought, it might be just as easy to argue it was her own fault for starting a Celine station in the first place, and thumbs downing every track that wasn’t Celine, Mariah, or Whitney.
She stepped out into the cool beach air.
As she closed her door and opened the door to the backseat, leaning in, bending over to pick up her green canvas jacket and brown leather journal, she quickly counted how many firemen, paramedics, and patrolmen were staring at her ass instead of the unusually large and gleaming “Attorney General” badge on her belt, or the petite Glock 26 sheathed to the small of her back.