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Last-Minute Pardon

No one by that name lives here

By Alix McMurrayPublished 3 months ago 7 min read
Last-Minute Pardon
Photo by Sanjeev Saroy on Unsplash

Vision 1.

A couple moves to rural Idaho and keeps getting insistent calls for “Tina________.” Some callers seem genuinely disbelieving and even shocked when told, “No one by that name lives here.” The couple begins theorizing.

1. Tina __________ disappeared without a trace, owing a lot of money to a lot of people.

2. Heartbroken over a failed love affair, she jumped from a bridge.

3. She met with foul play.

Eventually, the husband loses interest in the Tina __________ story, but the wife embarks on a series of lucid dreams and fantasies.

4. Tina was single, lived alone and worked as an outreach counselor to the Amish community.

5. Tina also had a taste for roadhouses, motorcycles and tattoos. Unable to balance this dichotomy within an artistic temperament, she disenfranchised herself from the community, to conduct her life’s agenda without witnesses.

The wife leaves home, telling her husband she needs time to write her novel. She takes a whirlwind tour of some of the best galleries and artistic communities in the Southwest. The junket becomes a rhapsodic montage of pretty places and fascinating people, wherein she feels a lightness of being denied to her as a comfortable country girl.

She eventually becomes lovers with an unstable performance artist named Arturo. They participate in a mock wedding ceremony in the Nevada desert during the Burning Man Festival. Their love affair is a psychedelic experience that makes her completely lose reality testing.

After a bewildering series of days and nights, the wife wakes up on the last day of the Festival to find her “husband” gone. She realizes that the concrete life she has in Idaho is more accessible to her than the ethereal reality of “tortured artists” who can disappear in the blink of an eye. She gets into her car and begins the long drive home, basking in the vicarious reality of her past life.

Vision 2.

Tina __________ is a bewitching woman running from a turbulent past and Ingrid __________ is a frustrated but creative woman who will take any risk to feel the heat of her more electrifying alter ego’s life.

After moving into a new apartment with her professor husband, Ingrid gets calls from all sorts of people—former friends to bill collectors—asking if Tina __________ is there. Ingrid becomes obsessed with the idea of Tina, since she has nothing else to distract her from a loveless marriage and her listless job as a paralegal.

When an FBI agent visits Ingrid to ask her questions about the phone calls, this is all the invitation Ingrid needs to take a “vacation” which is really her exit from the marriage. Ingrid’s hunt for Tina is on.

As she follows lead after lead about Tina’s whereabouts, Ingrid shifts from searing jealousy to outright hatred, then back to a kind of worship. Tina is the woman that Ingrid always wanted to be but couldn’t. But, while matronly and mediocre, what Ingrid lacks in beauty she makes up for in her storytelling. She keeps a detailed journal of her entire search for Tina, and pours out her innermost thoughts and feelings in these journal entries.

The glaring contrast between Tina and Ingrid is made clear when Ingrid sees a sketch of Tina emailed to her by the FBI agent. Ingrid’s excruciating jealousy of Tina’s sex appeal and thrilling exploits prompts her to make the spiteful plan of finding Tina and turning her over to authorities.

In a fit of jealous rage mixed with hero worship, Ingrid sinks into a kind of trance and journals about their life as one.

Is all this redemption, or just something like it?

All she said she wanted was the innocence lost after that one perfect moment when her grandfather saved a baby mouse for her. Everything after that was debacle—meth and more meth, screaming fights, drones, helicopters, ninjas in the attic, knife fights around self-exploding glass coffee tables—a mess, a wreck of a perfectly good life. She was still pretty, even after the muscle wasting, lost teeth, the wear-and-tear of wedging baggies into nooks and crannies, finding old associates left for dead in the road, lost boys who were lost lovers who were like the Red Queen’s minions but in the end, she was a queen deposed who struggled to find recognition in the small moments. My summaries about her, reporting on all her naughtiness, were sought by the Public Defender, but I put a pause in there and said to them, “In defense of what? I could tell you about the baby mouse part, but….” Somehow it was all too late, but I wasn’t sure whether for her or me. But wait, a last-minute pardon?

It felt like a musical, “Suddenly Sabbatical!” Looking around my home office, there was cheese I should have eaten or refrigerated (maybe I was saving it for the baby mouse?) On my desk were the runes I had thrown a month earlier when I pondered quitting my job or just going on vacation. Getting the blank rune was a terror and a delight. I get to re-do my whole life? It felt like a privilege, finally being gifted with TIME. Still, I was worried I was going to have to change the signs to, “Forever Sabbatical!” and maybe even the lyrics. What I needed was a last-minute pardon so I don’t have to die of boredom.

The holiday season this year was heralded by my once best friend Tina texting me on Thanksgiving Day, saying she was on the way to the airport to catch a plane to Brazil. She’d met a man at a dinner party who “seemed nice,” and repeatedly invited her to come down to his house in Brazil (city never named). This immediately struck me as a ruse for sex trafficking, but either Tina wanted this and was running headlong right into it, or I was doing my usual thing of painting everything black.

Either way, the news wasn’t good, and as Christmas approached I still hadn’t heard anything from her although I did get a call and a hang-up from New York (Tina was the only person I knew in New York, now maybe the only person I know in Brazil). Maybe one of her friends was calling all the contacts on her phone to ask someone, anyone, if they knew anything?

I think Tina, too, had lost hope for redemption and had decided to cash it all out, just run headlong into her own trauma, saying, “Eff it, this is how it started, it might as well be how it ends.” (The newspaper article won’t say that, but I will know it because I know Tina.)

In fact, lately I have been wondering if I will even get a short obituary in our local paper, much less a eulogy. If anyone will still be alive to remember me. Maybe the baby mouse will come and sing for me at my funeral.

Vision 3.

A flawed but striking beauty, thin to the point of skinny, and with every mile she’s traveled etched on her face, Tina is a live wire that jolts everyone she touches. Sexually abused by her father as a young girl studying dance, Tina leaves home at 17 to live on the streets of Venice, California, even partying briefly with the women who would later become part of Charles Manson’s clan.

Tina’s street life leads her to drug use and prostitution, but when she takes a job as an artist’s model at a local university she meets a young art student who becomes the love of her life. When the two attend the Burning Man Festival in Nevada, Tina makes a critical decision that will change the course of her life. While deeply in love she is also suffocated, and strays during the festival, involving herself with some bikers and eventually leaving with them.

The bikers manufacture methamphetamine, and Tina’s involvement in this lifestyle takes a toll on her mind, her soul and her looks. One day, as Tina and her biker friends are fleeing from a burning meth house, a fireball hurtles across the fence, engulfing the home next door. A police officer and his young son are killed, and a manhunt is launched for Tina and the bikers.

Tina is unaware of Ingrid’s obsession over her, as she stays focused on keeping on the move, from city to city, job to job, man to man. She eludes the FBI and local authorities alike through her inborn gift of fitting in with her surroundings.

Tina and Ingrid meet face-to-face only once, in a tavern, and during this meeting Ingrid sees the genuine innocence of spirit in Tina and decides to save Tina’s life—by sacrificing her own.

After tipping off the FBI about Tina’s whereabouts and setting the stage for her capture, Ingrid, partially disguised as Tina sits waiting in Tina’s car. Ingrid is indeed mistaken for Tina herself by local police and FBI agents who have come to apprehend her.

Ingrid draws a weapon, inciting gunfire from the agents, who kill her before the mistaken identity is discovered.

Moments before, Tina manages to leave town in the cab of a semi driven by one of her trucker boyfriends from the tavern. She is back on the run.


About the Creator

Alix McMurray

Come join me hanging out with the Dodo Bird on the beach, waiting for the odd chupacabra, or chasing shadows into corners. And you can read about my life as a therapist on

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Comments (2)

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  • C. H. Richard3 months ago

    Very intriguing storylines. Well done! Hearted and subscribed.

  • Delightfully dark, love:) - Anneliese

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