James Bumgarner 2022 Greenview Drive Richland, WA 99352 509-628-9626
THE INTERSECTION By Somebody I Know
The commentator, appearing to be looking directly into the camera lens, read the teleprompter to her viewers, â€œThere is breaking news out of
Washington this morning. John Hoskins, our White House correspondent is on the scene. John?” The screen shifts from the commentator to reporter, John Hoskins. A gentle snow falls on the White House behind him. “There has been an attack on the White House this morning. A large vehicle broke through the fence surrounding the south side of the White House just off the Washington Monument ellipse at about 5:30 am this morning. The vehicle was a large SUV which, according to a city bus driver who witnessed the incident, slammed through the fence at a very high rate of speed, then careened directly toward the White House where approximately one hundred yards away from the residence, the vehicle exploded. Shrapnel was found resting near the footing of the President’s residence where he did, in fact, spend the night last night. We don’t yet know if the vehicle was carrying a bomb, or if it was White House Security that possibly fired a weapon to stop the careening vehicle. There was only one man in the SUV, and according to the reports we are receiving, he was apparently of middle-eastern descent.
“The president was awakened by the explosion, but according to his press staff, there will be no changes in the president’s schedule today.”
The cat ambled through the room as though he was on a stealth mission on the African plains; then jumped up on the windowsill and settled his rump on a soft pillow placed there for him. Looking out on the rainy day, he licked a paw, then tapped at the water droplets running down the outside of the pane. “It’s not going to be a good day for chasing hyena, Bull.” Hap, Bull’s master, tossed a chip to the cat and watched him pull it to his mouth with one paw. Bull roams the neighborhood 24/7. He visits Hap when he’s cold and wet, or hungry; and he sleeps on Hap’s bed. He has marked every pissin' spot within five blocks of Hap’s apartment, and the female cats in the
neighborhood all know him. It is probable that Bull has fathered more kittens than the number of tourists who show up during Seattle’s rainy season. Bull turns a disgusted eye toward Hap and meows for another chip. “Look at that rain, Bull! You don’t want to go out in there.” Nonchalantly, Bull turned his head back to the window and ran a dry tongue along the fur on his shoulder.
Rain, during this time of the year, is a daily occurrence. Generally it isn’t a hard rain, like those big drenches that fall on the Texas panhandle, and it wasn’t a trickle rainfall like those you can walk through and hardly get wet. It was a gentle rain that made everything gray, but not nearly as cold as it looked like it should. If you wear a heavy coat like you have to wear over on the other side of the mountains in the winter, you will probably get all sweaty and uncomfortable. Most folks dress smart; warm, but not too warm. They carry umbrellas, and small, thin, leather carrying cases. In the mornings, they disappear into the tall buildings downtown; then later in the day, emerge from the buildings
and disappear into the streets. Most head toward the suburbs; but some live in apartments and condominiums in the downtown corridors. Other folks sleep on the sidewalks and under the bridges. Tall and still handsome, gray hair hangs over the tops of Hap’s ears and the collar of his shirt. When his beard begins to itch he shaves; so most the time, he looks a bit . . . unshaven. He isn’t sure how long he has lived in the old building south and a little east of Safeco Field, he pays his rent on the 1 st of each month; and he knows he has memory problems. Hap picks up the cat and takes him to his food dish near the garbage can in the kitchen. “Here ya go, Bull,” he says, pouring fresh, chunky, cat food into the dish. “That’ll slow those visions of fresh hyena meat for a while.” Bull meows approval, puts his head in the bowl and starts crunching the lamb and rice pellets. Afterwards he’ll find his favorite spot on the couch, snuggle in, and purr contentedly until sleep overtakes him. Meanwhile Hap puts on his overcoat and walks down to the Mission on First.
“Mornin’ Hap,” Elaine, a large, overweight lady who works in the kitchen, says. “‘Ju get wet this morning, ‘hon?” she asks. “Mornin’ Elaine,” Hap replies. “Not too bad.” He removes his coat and hangs it on a hook in the kitchen. “Here, ‘hun,” she says, handing him a wet rag. “The tables need wiping before the morning crew comes in.” Hap is two inches beyond six-feet tall; one-hundred, eighty-five pounds; he is considered by most of the women at the Mission a handsome man. Known as a loner, yet always friendly and helpful, he’s been working, and volunteering, at the Mission longer than anyone remembers, even himself. He has no memory of his life before the Mission; and sometimes the visions he experiences confuse and disorient him. When he finishes work in the rainy season, he usually heads back to his apartment, but on occasion he stops at Occidental Park around the corner where the park benches often look as though someone has placed couchsized potatoes on them. Occidental is where homeless people congregate, and sleep beneath old, moth-eaten blankets, or newspaper, or cardboard, or whatever they can find. At night, and sometimes during a cold day, the
lucky ones stake claim over grates where warm air flows from dark and mysterious places beneath sidewalks and city skyscrapers. The wine helps keep them warm too. “Hap,” says someone sitting on a bench with only his eyes peering from the folds of a heavy blanket. Hap bends down and peers inside the folds of blanket. “Hey, Freddy.” “You got’nee hootch, man?” “No, I don’t, Freddy.” “A drink of most anything would do,” Freddy replied, shifting his large bulk under the blanket. “You gonna get wet out here tonight, Freddy. Why don’t you go on back over to the Mission. Getta dry bed tonight.” “Hap, you know old Freddy, needs a drink, bad.” “If I find you something, will you go back to shelter?” “Anything, man, anything.” Hap walks to the all-night grocery across the street that deals alcohol to the homeless people who sometimes gather enough funds to buy a bottle
and find their way over from the park; and peanuts to baseball fans who flood the park when the Mariners are in town. Hap reaches into his pocket and pulls out a five-dollar bill and buys two cans of beer. He escorts Freddy to a dry spot near a vent and opens the beers. “You know this is not what I should be doing don’t you?” Hap asks. Freddy takes a long swig. “But that’s why you’re my friend, man. You help a guy when he’s down.” “I suppose,” Hap says, swallowing a cold drink. He looks out across the park and suddenly his mind envisions a swank out-door café, Le Select, in Paris. It’s a warm summer evening and the city is humming with a joie d’vrie only found in Paris. A man in the dark suit sitting in a chair with his back to Hap, leans his head back in laughter just as the sputter from a semiautomatic firearm explodes from a limo parked on the curb. The flash of bullets hits the man straight-on. He falls back, blood oozing from a hole in his forehead.
Hap shakes his head, forcing the vision away, then he looks at Freddy and say, “C’mon, Freddy, we gotta get you over to the Mission,” and together, they trudge through the darkened streets. “Hands up old man,” a voice says behind them. Hap looks over his shoulder into the eyes of a young man wearing a dark hood over his head. “You too, old man,” the thug says to Freddy, poking him in the back. “What’chu want?” Freddy asks, pulling his arms out of his blanket and holding them up. “What do you think, you ol’ bastard.” “We ain’t got much money, kid,” Hap tells him, “you need to be over in Pioneer where the people with money hang out.” The kid pulled a pistol from his pocket and drew aim at Hap. “Fuck you. Now give me your money.” Hap pulls out the change from the five-dollar bill he used to buy the beer. “Here ya go.” The kid takes the change, then hits him over the head with his gun and runs away.
“You fucking punk, bastard,” Freddy yells after him, and throws his partially still full can of beer in the direction the thief fled. “That son-of-abitch. Guess he didn’t want my money,” he said, holding out an empty hand. Hap reached to rub his head and his mind filled with black and white pictures of dead soldiers spread across a table with a bright light shining down from the ceiling. “That’s the one,” he heard himself say to others around the table. He pointed a finger at a dead man in one of the pictures. He heard Freddy’s voice. “C’mon Hap let’s get on over to the Mission. They got some first aid over there; looks like you might be bleeding.” The pictures on the table faded from his mind, and together they trudged to the Mission.
The next morning Bull Durham stretched and sharpened his claws on the corner of the couch. He looked about the room and saw nothing out of the ordinary. He sniffed the air, in the hopes that something different than the usual smells in the room would tell him there was something he could pounce on and kill; his food bowl was empty and he was hungry.
Early that morning, just before the sun peaked over the Cascade Mountains, Hap came home with his head bandaged. He fed Bull, fixed himself a sandwich with what was left of a container of bologna and some cheese in the refrigerator. He watched the weather report on television and soon, slept. In a dream he walked with three young children in an unfamiliar city park along a river. They fed ducks and geese at a nearby pond from a bag filled with stale pieces of bread; and they ate cheese sandwiches from a basket someone had prepared for them. Afterwards they walked to the riverâ€™s edge and tossed rocks in the water, and watched the boats pulling water-skiers; then the children played on the playground equipment and Hap watched while they jumped, and ran, and laughed. When Hap awoke he looked for the children before realizing it had been a dream. He thought about the children and thought they might be someone he knew, but he couldnâ€™t think of a time when he actually had known any children, or ever been to a river park with any children. By now it was late afternoon and since he was feeling better. He walked back down to the Mission.
November 1st Two
In high school Lucy Hinkle was one of those girls who defined the term â€œair-head.â€? It seems she was constantly smiling, or laughing, and always talking - talking a lot and talking about nothing. The boys loved the way her blonde hair bounced when she walked, they loved the way her blue eyes sparkled; and they loved how she filled out a pair of blue-jeans. They were sure she should model for Playboy someday. They were also quite impressed with how well she played a guitar and sang country-music at some of the school assemblies.
Lucy thought Rocket Beaudro was the cutest boy in school. By the time they were senior he stood tall enough to tower over all the teachers. He was lanky, and she liked that, but what she liked the best were his big, blue eyes. Of course she and the Rocket, as he was known then, and now, never found themselves in the back of his truck out on old Finley road in the middle of the night where the other kids went to watch the “submarines race” back in the day. Nor did they ever put down a six-pack, or two, together, at least not like the Rocket did with Mary Stoner, and Lizzy McBeth, and Elaine Hunter, and God only knows who else. Of course everyone knew those three girls were regulars out on old Finley road along the Columbia River; and they didn’t much care who knew about it. They were bold enough to approach the guys they were interested in going out there with and coyly asking for rides. Someone once said they were never turned down. That’s not to say, of course, that those kinds of things hadn’t rolled through Lucy’s mind; after all, she did enjoy those very same things with most of the football team one Saturday night before Homecoming their senior year.
“Hey Lucy, wanna go to a party tonight,” Lance Bennet asked, that unforgettable and event filled night. Lance was the quarterback on the football team; and there were four or five of the girls in the senior class who knew Lance was good at much more than just throwing the ball down the field. In fact, the only girl in the school who hadn’t fantasized about Lance was one lonely, and pretty-darned ugly, ninth grader who wore coke bottle lenses in her glasses, and no doubt had never even seen him. “Sure,” Lucy responded, “where’s it gonna be?” “I’ll pick you up and we’ll go together.” Lance came to her house at eight and they drove out to Ronnie Hepner’s barn where Lucy quickly realized she was the only female there. “Where are the other girls?” “We took a vote Lucy, and decided you were the girl we wanted out here tonight,” he said, offering her a paper cup filled with whiskey. Lucy looked around and noticed most of the guys were looking at her. “Is that right, Lance,” she said, her heart rhythm quickening while she tossed the whiskey down.
“What did you boys have in mind? Maybe a little scrimmaging?” “Yeah, something like that,” he said, refilling her cup.
By the time she got home, the sky was beginning to turn pink. She could hardly walk. The Rocket didn’t play football, so he wasn’t there that most infamous of nights in the Hepner barn. Rocket mostly worked on his truck, and boxed groceries for the older ladies in town who shopped at Sherman’s down on Olympia. Mary, Lizzy, and Elaine knew the Rocket better than most. Afterall, it was Lizzy gave him his name after one particularly eventful night on the river. Before that night, he was known as Billy Beaudro. She was the first. Lucy, the head cheerleader that year, tried to hook-up with Rocket, but his schedule was full. That’s why they didn’t hook-up until after high school. Here’s how it happened. Lucy went to beautician school right out of high school, then got a full-time job in a local beauty parlor. She rented a small one bedroom apartment near the Rocket’s grocery store on Olympia
Street; so a couple years after graduation, Lucy went into Sherman’s Grocery to find him. “Hey Rocket,” Lucy said, standing next to him at Sherman’s late one summer night. He was on his knees pricing a box of noodles, and she stood close enough so her knees were almost touching his shoulder; but when he looked up it wasn’t the dark eye shadow on her bright blue eyes that caught his attention - she had apparently forgotten to put on any underwear. “Hi Lucy,” he said, quickly averting his eyes, embarrassed that she might see him looking up her skirt. “Wha’cha doing?” she said, touching his hair and repositioning herself for him to look up at her again. “Not much, just pricing these noodles,” he said, glancing up again. “What time you off tonight, Rocket?” “Midnight.” “I’ll be back. Ok?” Rocket’s heart rate sped up. “Sure, I’ll be here, Lucy.” At midnight he walked out the front door and saw her leaning against his truck.
“Hi, Rocket,” she said, letting her voice sing a little for him. She ran her hand over his shoulder while her eyes roamed his face. “Lucy, what are you up to?” “Come on over to my place, and I’ll show you,” she said, holding up her car keys. “Want to?” “Sure.” He crawled into the passenger seat, lit up a cigarette and let the smoke curl about his nose while he looked out the window into the dark of the night and thought about what exciting events the next few hours might bring. “Let’s go.” That was the first night of too many to count over at Lucy’s; by the time summer faded into autumn, the Rocket had moved in with Lucy.
The morning after he had been mugged, Hap, with his head still bandaged, walked back over to the Mission to get breakfast. “Hey, what happened to you?” Elaine, one of the servers, asked, “You’re all bandaged up.” “Nothing much. Guess I shoulda ducked.” “I guess. What’s the other guy look like?” “An asshole.” “Really! I think I know him.” Hap looked incredulously at her.
“Just kidding, Hap.” “You don’t really know him do you?” he asked in all sincerity. “You sure it wasn’t my ex?” she asked, trying lighten the conversation a bit. “Does he have orange hair?” “Last I saw him he didn’t have any hair at all.” “I don’t think it was him. This was some stupid kid.” She filled his plate and he shuffled over to a an open spot at a table near the front window. The eggs were hot and the bacon crispy. He looked out the window and saw a shiny black car, with dark glass windows, coming down a tree-less and unfamiliar street. A side window opened and a man he recognized was looking back at him. “Hey, Hap, watch it!” said a large black woman with a shawl wrapped about her shoulders while trying to keep from spilling the food on her tray when he bumped into her. “Sorry, I was just…” “Well, sorry ain’t gonna get it around here, Bud,” she said, filling her cup with diet coke. “You just watch it, you hear?”
The large cafeteria-style room filled with people who had spent most of the night trying to keep dry and warm in the streets. Hap looked back out the window. The black car was gone and the street was lined with trees; he realized he had had another vision. “Hap,” somebody across the room yelled. Hap looked and saw Freddy’s arms waving in the air. “Over here, Ha….” “Ok,” he nodded to Freddy and when he got up, the black car had reappeared and he saw the barrel of a rifle pointing toward him; when he ducked for cover, his food tray fell to the floor. Confused, still in the vision, and scared, he crawled toward the door. People scattered back, giving him room. “What the hell?” Someone asked, amazed at Hap’s behavior. “What’s he doing?” Elaine shouted, “Give him room,” and came running to him. “Hap,” she yelled, “Hap,” she repeated, pulling on his shoulder. He looked up at her, and realized the vision had evaporated. He slowly got up.
Someone yelled, “Stupid bastard,” but Hap didn’t respond. He knew where he was, but he was momentarily still confused. “C’mon, Hap, let’s get you cleaned up,” Elaine said, escorting him to one of the back rooms. “What happed?” Freddy asked, standing at the door, watching Elaine wipe food off Hap’s clothing and hair. “I had another one,” he replied. “Another what?” “He get’s visions,” Elaine said. “What does he think, he’s Jesus Christ or somebody?” “This is no time to try to be funny,” Elaine said, squeezing water from a rag, “he gets these more and more all the time. Haven’t you noticed?” “You all right, Hap,” Freddy asked, delaying any response he might have to Elaine’s comment. “Yeah, I’ll be ok.” “I think he needs some counseling or something, but he doesn’t want to do it,” she said. “I’ll be ok.”
Freddy looked deep into Hap’s eyes. “You know it has to be the accident.” “Yeah, he wasn’t doing this before, was he?” “No, he knew who he was before too, you know.” “I remember.” “Did he tell you how he got all banged up?” “I asked him, but he didn’t say much.” “Tell her, Hap.” “Kid had a gun. The one that mugged us. He hit me on the head with it. That’s all. Just a flesh-wound. I told you, I’ll be ok.” “Did he knock you out?” “No, it wasn’t that serious.” “Well, you take care of yourself,” she said, helping him to his feet. “Now let’s get back in there and get you some more food.” After breakfast, Hap went back to the apartment and fed Bull Durham. “I’m ok, Bull,” he said, petting the cat while it sat in his lap and purred demurely. “I just don’t know where the hell these visions are coming from.”
Hap stayed in that day. He watched television, read a book he had picked up at the Mission, slept most of the afternoon, fixed himself a bowl of soup and sandwich for dinner, watched television until he woke up on the couch and went to bed where he wrestled with his pillow and covers most of the night, and when he slept, he slept as light as a soldier in a foxhole. Lying beneath a car parked in a street filled with rubble and dead bodies. The building that only minutes earlier stood proud on the other side of the street market was no longer - piles of bricks lay on the sidewalk, people were lying dead, shattered glass sparkled in the hot sun before an immense cloud of dust covered it and rolled away in all directions. Hap closed his eyes when the cloud surrounded him and the car he was hiding beneath. He started coughing, and was struggling to get a breath when he awoke. Bull Durham was sitting beside him, meowing for breakfast. He was soaked in perspiration. He looked at the cat, and reached out to stroke his fur. What the hell was that, he wondered, thankful it had only been a dream but deeply bothered by the familiarity of its setting. Bull purred loudly and swung his head beneath Hapâ€™s hand to find that spot where he knew he could find the greatest amount of pressure against
his neck and head. Then he purred again, jumped off the bed, and looked over his shoulder telling Hap it was time to fill his bowl with more bits and bites. “You never give up do you.” Hap swung he legs over the side of the bed and suddenly the pain from the wound on his head returned. Carefully, he ran his head over the spot where the revolver had come into contact with his skull and felt the bandages. He went to the bathroom and while looking at himself in the mirror, a man wearing a mask was standing behind him. He flinched and when he did, the present scene in the bathroom came back. He turned and saw only Bull standing in the doorway, still meowing for his breakfast. “Damn, Bull, hold on, will ya?” Hap went to the kitchen cupboards and stood as though confused; then the cloud cleared and a sniper started firing from somewhere across the street from where the market had stood. He rolled from under the car opposite the sniper, pulled his Glock 38 from its holster and took aim, holding his arm steady on the fender of the car.
The sniper was firing at will. Hap watched patiently, waiting for the sniper to relax just enough to let his head appear from behind the window frame. It didn’t take long and when Hap pulled the trigger on his gun, the sniper fell out the window onto the rubble filled sidewalk below. When the vision left, Hap found himself sitting on the kitchen floor, leaning against the cupboards, wondering why this was happening with more and more frequency. Glock 38, he thought, what the hell? I don’t remember owning a gun. The visions were like movies; he was always in them, but never fully connected to what happened in them. What bothered him was his total loss of consciousness of the present moment when the visions came. He checked the clock over the sink and saw he needed to hurry if he was to get to the Mission this morning in time to help serve breakfast. Wet, cold, weather meant more mouths to feed and the lines were long this morning. Hap saw Freddy near the door. “C’mon Freddy, let’s go help dish food this morning.”
It didn’t take long for Lucy to realize she didn’t know the Rocket as well as she thought. Granted, he was good at one thing, and that one thing would keep Lucy satisfied for the time being, but since he had quit working at Sherman’s Grocery, they were “too tight,” he had said, and started working at Bodine’s Garage, now he had to be urged to shower, and take care of his personal hygiene; and he wasn’t good at things that mattered – things like picking up after himself, helping clear the table after meals, letting
her commandeer the remote occasionally, and putting the toilet seat down once in a while; but because of that “one thing,” she kept him. “You working today?” Lucy said, running a curling iron through her hair. “Not sure, Luce. I’ll call down and find out.” He picked up the phone and dialed Bodine’s number. “No one’s answering.” “What time do they open?” “Nine.” “What time is it, Rock?” He looked at the digital clock on the kitchen counter. “Seven-thirty.” Lucy sometimes wondered just how many tools the Rocket had in his tool-box, maybe he’s short one, she thought. It wasn’t that Rocket was a bad guy; he was simply missing some of the motivation Lucy had for work and meeting people. She loved Rocket, and she even hoped soon maybe they would get married. She knew as time went by, she would change him into the man she wanted. Meanwhile, she bided her time and enjoyed that one
thing he did better than anyone she had ever known; including the boys she met in the Hepner barn on that cold Saturday night in high school. The Rocket had even fewer ideas about how to fix a leaking pipe than he had about how make toast. Lucy went to the refrigerator and took out a few eggs and some bacon. Rocket loved eggs and bacon; especially since his mother didn’t cook either, he’d not had many decent meals in his life. “Would you like to help me, Rocket?” Though it was only seven-forty-five in the morning, he had already plopped himself on the couch in the living room and was watching “Good Morning, America.” “What?” “Would you like to help me?” It was the last thing he wanted to do, but their relationship was still blossoming and he knew he should do something so he turned off the television and went into the kitchen. “What can I do?” In a few minutes she had him setting the table, putting the bacon in a pan and scrambling the eggs while she went back into the bathroom and put
the finishing touches on her make-up. “You’re a sweetheart, Rocket,” she said, coming back into the kitchen. When he turned and looked at her, all thoughts about bacon frying in the pan; eggs being scrambled, “Good Morning, America;” Bodine’s Garage, or anything else, completely left his mind. “You’re so beautiful,” he said, putting his arms around her and kissing her full on the mouth. “Rocket, I have to go to work.” “You can be late.” “What about your bacon and eggs? Don’t you want to eat breakfast with me?” “Later,” he said, snuggling his mouth against her neck, and running his hands over her backside. “Rocket, honey, I don’t have time,” she said, then losing her breath, whispered, “for this. I can’t be…” she said, giggling, “… late.” “They won’t fire you.” “Rocket, I have to shampoo Mrs. Verstegen’s hair in twenty-five minutes. She will not want to wait for me.”
Rocket was relentless in his pursuit, and Lucy was weak in her resolve. In minutes they were sprawled across the kitchen table embraced in coital bliss. Had anyone come to the front door, or been in the front yard, they would have heard Lucy’s voice expressing the pleasure she had when the Rocket did what he did best. Afterwards, in the bathroom she quickly brushed her hair hoping to get it back to some semblance of what it looked like earlier. “You’re gonna get me fired,” she said, loud enough for him to hear in the kitchen, “No way.” “Yes, way, you bad boy.” She smiled into the mirror. Back in the kitchen, Rock worked on the eggs and bacon. By the time she was ready, the eggs were runny and the bacon was as limp as a man with erectile dysfunction. Standing, because she didn’t have time to sit, she tossed a few bites down and said, “Maybe you could watch Martha Stewart this morning and get some tips on cooking, these eggs might kill us both.” “What’s wrong with’em?” “They aren’t cooked, and I like my bacon crisp.”
“Didn’t hear you complaining a few minutes ago,” he said, smiling at her and pointing to the table. She tossed a dish-towel at him, said, “I’ll see you about six,” blew him a kiss and left. Rock went back to the living room, plopped back down in front of the television and hit the ‘on’ button on the remote control. By the time Martha Stewart came on he was sound asleep. At six, Lucy, tired, hungry, and worn out after a long day of washing, combing, brushing, coloring, and doing permanents, walked in the door and went into the kitchen hoping against hope that she would find Rocket fixing her something to eat. What she saw was breakfast dishes, glasses, forks and spoons, toast crumbs and all – where they were when she left that morning. The burner under the pan where the eggs were partially scrambled was still on. She felt its heat, then she started warming up. “Rocket!” she yelled, then again, “Hey, Rocket, where are you?” She went to the bedroom and found the bed like she had left it earlier, unmade; dry shaving cream lined the sink in the bathroom, a towel was lying on the floor; the television was on. She went into the bedroom and changed her
clothes; then she brushed her hair into shape, changed her make-up, and walked out the front door. Five minutes later she slammed the front wheels of her blue 1978 Pinto against the sidewalk next to the Good Times Tavern; a place where she and the Rocket frequently hung out. She walked in the front door and looked over the clientele. She didn’t see him, but she did see Charles Washington, sitting at the bar. “Hey, Charles, you seen the Rocket in here today?” she asked, her eyes moving from his, scanning the room. “Can’t say I have, Lucy. Did you lose him?” Looking into Charles’s deep, black eyes, she responded, “Yeah. I guess I did. I don’t know where he is.” “Take a load off, Luce,” Charles said, pulling a stool back from the bar for her to sit on. Lucy sat down and ordered a beer. “I don’t know where he goes. I called down to Bodine’s and they haven’t seen him today either.” “Probably went fishing, or hunting. Did you check his rods and guns?”
“Didn’t think of that,” she said, running her tongue along the edge of the cold schooner of beer, not realizing that Charles was watching her like a cat watches a fat mouse. “I know ol’ Rocket-man,” Charles said, his biggest smile lengthening across his face, “He’s gone fishing with some of the boys.” “Ya think?” “Some of’em were in here earlier talking about it. Now that I think about it, seems like someone did mention Rocket’s name. They were going out by the Snake River somewhere. I guess the steelhead are running.” “Why didn’t you go, Charles?” He watched her tongue slide over the rim of the glass. “I don’t fish, Lucy.” She let the beer run over the lip of the glass into her open mouth, swallowed, then looked at him out of the corner of her eye. “Me neither,” she replied, then looking more closely at him, she said, “I ain’t seen you in a long time, Charles. Where you been?” “A long way away,” he said, smiling at her.
She liked his smile. “How far?” she asked, flashing her pretty eyelids at him. “New York.” “Never been there.” “Furthest I’d ever been from Kennewick, before going to New York, was,” he stopped for emphasis, looked at the ceiling, then for humorous effect, said, “Finley.” They laughed and soon were involved in a conversation that led them back into their high school years, then due to the influence of the alcohol, turned toward each other. By mid-night they were parked near the river lagoon in Finley, in the backseat of Charlie’s rental. “I haven’t been out here in ages,” Lucy said. “I was never out here at night,” Charles said. “Would you like me to show you what you missed?” It was close to one in the morning when the tires on Lucy’s Pinto churned the gravel in the driveway. When the Rocket heard her pull in, he shut off the tv, and waited. “Where the hell you been?”
“Had to work late, tonight ‘hon,” she said, walking into the kitchen. “You had anything to eat yet?” He walked into the kitchen and leaned against the counter. “I ain’t hungry.” “What did you do today? Did you forget to clean the kitchen after breakfast this morning?” she asked, scraping dried scrambled eggs of the pan. He didn’t say anything, so she turned her head toward him. “Did you?” “Them ain’t the clothes you were wearing when you left this morning.” “I had an accident at work, so I had to come home and change.” “I was here all day. I didn’t see you,” he bluffed. “I spilled some dye on my uniform, so I hurried home. It was about dinner time. You were nowhere to be seen. When I got back to the shop a bunch of high school girls came in. Big dance, tonight and they thought we were open later than we are. Then when we finished, some of us went to dinner. I’ll fix you something; what do you want?” Rocket decided to change the subject. “I went fishing this afternoon with some of the guys. Here, look what I caught.” He opened the refrigerator and removed a large, shiny steelhead.
“Looks good,” she said, happy that the conversation had turned. “We’ll have it this weekend, ok?”
While the Rocket had that one thing he was good at, Lucy had a few things that she wasn’t so good at; things like cooking, cleaning, being on time for anything, and taking her birth control pills. It wasn’t long after they ate the steelhead she began feeling ill in the mornings. Sometimes at work,
she had to excuse herself to vomit in the ladies room; and it wasn’t long after that she started missing her periods, then she started thinking she might be pregnant. When she went into the pharmacy to buy a pregnancy test kit, she walked around the aisles, trying to look like she was trying to find something, but what she was really doing was trying to determine if there was anyone working the store that she knew. Seeing no one she knew, she found the aisle where the kits were displayed, grabbed one and tried to hide it in her hands while approaching the check out counter. The clerk was a woman about Lucy’s age, but Lucy didn’t know her so she took a deep breath and laid the kit down. “Hi Lucy,” the clerk said. “Hi,” she responded, thinking, Oh my God, who the hell is she? “These come in real handy sometimes,” the clerk said, swiping the kit across the barcode reader. “When me and Henry got pregnant, this is how we found out,” she said, holding the kit up. “You didn’t know Henry, he went to school over on the other side of the river.”
Lucy was so embarrassed she thought she might actually lose control of herself. “No, I don’t remember him,” she said, hurrying to get the kit into her purse and out of site. “See ya,” she said, walking toward the door. “Bye. Tell the Rocket I said, hey, ok?” Lucy kept walking toward the exit door, pretending not to hear. She walked straight to her Pinto and drove home, where she walked straight to the bathroom and unpackaged the kit. Sixty-eight seconds later she watched the “positive test” color appear on the strip. She re-read the instructions on the package and ran the test again. Sixty-three seconds later the first test was confirmed. She was pregnant. Twenty-four weeks later, and just four weeks early, little Billy Hinkle was born: seven pounds, twelve ounces; nineteen inches; and pink all over. Pink that is, until he was about five weeks old, then he started turning darker, and darker, and then darker. That was when Lucy knew Billy’s real father was Charles Washington. Not long afterwards on one of those mornings when Lucy was running terribly late getting ready for work, Rocket sat on the floor with Billy while changing his diapers. While holding Billy’s little feet in his hands and
rubbing them with his fingers, something that had been forming in his unconscious mind began to form; something was wrong. He studied the color difference between the bottom of Billy’s feet and the rest of his feet; then Rocket looked at Billy’s hands and found the same discrepancy. His eyes scanned Billy’s little body and suddenly he knew Billy wasn’t his child. “Lucy!” “Yes?” she replied, coming into the living room from the bathroom into the bedroom. “Have you noticed how dark little Billy is getting?” Lucy’s heart stopped. “I guess I have, why?” “Don’t look right to me.” Lucy wanted to grab Billy and run far away. The thick and heavy dirt cloud that she knew would, sooner or later, envelope them had finally picked up speed and was moving quickly toward its target. “What do you mean?” she asked, wanting to hold the cloud as far away as she could. “Look at this,” he said, holding Billy’s foot for her to see. “Look how much lighter his skin is on the bottom than on the top.” “Some babies are darker than others.”
“Yeah, they are,” he said, looking up at her. “‘Specially little black babies.” The cloud enveloped her and swirled about her head. Light and sound in the room was sucked into its darkness, she felt dizzy, disoriented, and suddenly sick to her stomach. “Who’s this boy’s father, Lucy?” “You are, Rocket! Why ask such a question!” She wanted to scream. “Lucy, you’re lying to me. Look at him. His father is a black man.” The dirt cloud thickened and swirled tighter around her. She sat down next to Rocket and little Billy. “It was an accident, Rocket.” “Accident? How the hell do you expect me to believe that? What, am I stupid?” “It was a one-time thing, Rocket. I was looking for you at the Good Times and I ran across an old friend.” “Who?” “Please, Rocket, that’s not important. It was a one-time thing, I swear.” She hung her head in dispair. “You’re so full of crap! I’ve always known about you.”
“I know you have.” “The famous slut who fucked the entire football team out at Hepner’s barn. God, I thought maybe you’d changed. I thought maybe it was just me and you, Lucy.” Sobbing, she replied, “It is Rocket, it’s just you and me. Nobody else.” “Except Billy!” he shouted. “How can we go on when I know he is someone else’s son? Not mine.” Rocket grabbed his jacket and headed toward the door. “See ya around, Lucy.”
When Billy was four years old, Lucy was asked to join a countrywestern band. The other members of the band had heard her sing during some of the school-plays, and asked her to sing for them. They called
themselves “Honey Bee and the Hive,” and they played weekends, mostly in the Good Times Tavern. Lucy didn’t mind being the “Honey Bee,” the problem was everyone in town knew her as Lucy Hinkle, so she couldn’t fully inherit the persona, unless they went out of town, which wasn’t very often. Once they played in Pendleton; she was a big hit down there. Pendleton was full of cowboy folks and she found she could sing louder and with more spirit when the cowboys did the Texas Two-Step to her music than when the crowd in Kennewick mostly danced the old “high school shuffle” that most of them had danced in high school. The band jammed in Joe Neel’s garage over on Seventh during the week. They guys were mostly interested in playing music popular at that time; music by Charlie Pride, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash and Hank Williams; but after telling them she needed something from the feminine side of Nashville, they ventured into Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, and a few Skeeter Davis songs. Lucy’s tendency for lateness at the beauty shop, coupled with her more and more frequent use of drugs, eventually got her fired; so when she wasn’t
practicing with the band, she fried hamburgers and fries down at the local hamburger joint on Avenue C, near the Old Bridge. She enjoyed watching the high schoolers who came in after school. “They keep me young,” she once said to a co-worker. She never thought much about the Rocket anymore. He had gone to work for a wheat farmer up in the Horse Heaven Hills south of town, and no one saw much of him anymore. Once in a while he would come into town for a beer with some of his old buddies at the Good Times, but once the “Honey Bee” started singing with the band there, he quit coming in; then he moved away. “Somewhere down in California,” someone said. Billy spent most of his time with his grandma Hinkle who lived out by the grain elevator west of town, and in those days, it was pretty quiet out there; not like today with the four-lane boulevard running through the neighborhood toward the big mall still further west. The grain elevator is still there, but it serves more as a cell-phone tower than a grain elevator. Back in those days, it was the westernmost structure in town; today it’s not far from the middle of town.
Grandma loved little Billy. She had never expected or thought about having a black baby in the family, but now that he was there, she knew she would never have loved a white child as well. Billy was the best thing that had ever happened to her. She worried about Lucy though. Lucy was running with what Grandma thought of as ‘rough characters.’ Mostly men who like to drink and raise hell, that’s who they were, she thought. If she’s not careful, she’ll end up pregnant again. I’m just glad she isn’t doing drugs or anything. Little did Grandma know Lucy had been ‘experimenting’ with some of the guys she hung out with after the Good Times closed on Friday and Saturday nights.
“How about another round?” she asked, barely able to stand up in Franky Huntley’s kitchen. “I need another shot,” she slurred. Franky picked up a bottle of bourbon and filled her glass. “Take it easy, Lucy. This is the end of the bottle.” “We got more, don’t we Franky?” she asked, her legs feeling more and more like columns of hair jell.
“I think there’s some beer in the fridge out in the garage. I’ll go check,” he said. While he was gone, she lost consciousness and fell to the floor. When she fell, her forehead struck the corner of the kitchen counter and when Franky came back into the room the kitchen carpet was soaked with blood flowing from her head. He thought she was dead, but called 911 just in case. Franky didn’t get her home from the emergency room until close to five o’clock that morning. She had six stitches in her forehead and she was hungover and sick. He put her in her bed, and left for work. Meanwhile, the night before, while Lucy drank with Franky, Grandma read little Billy his bedtime stories and put him to bed. It was while reading she felt a sharp pain shoot through her jaw. She rubbed it with one hand, while the other held Billy, and the book. “You ok, grandma?” Billy asked. “Sure, grandma’s fine,” she said. This pain had been irritating her for the past couple weeks. She had an appointment with the dentist, but it wasn’t until the next week.
After putting Billy to bed, she went into her room and laid down on the bed. While peacefully sleeping that night, her heart jerked, but not enough to wake her. Then, starving for oxygen, one of the two main pumping chambers of her heart went into a spasm and twelve minutes later, without awakening, she was dead. “Grandma,” Billy shouted from his bed the next morning. “Grandma.” When she didn’t come, he crawled out of bed and went to her room. He crawled into bed with her. “Hi Grandma.” He pulled the covers up and lay beside her. “Grandma?” he asked, wondering why she wasn’t snuggling him against her. In a little while he got hungry and went into the kitchen to find something to eat. When he opened the wrong drawer to get a spoon for his cereal, he noticed the box of matches. Ten minutes later Billy ran into the yard and watched Grandma’s house burn to the ground. Since the fire started in the kitchen, it was believed that Billy’s grandmother had probably accidentally left one of her gas burners on. One week later the welfare agency knocked on Lucy’s door and took Billy. The charges were abandonment and on the day of the hearing
regarding little Billy, Lucy was too drunk to appear. That afternoon he was placed with foster parents, Debbie and Tom Miller.
During WWII, and the years following of the Cold War, plutonium was produced on the Hanford Reservation, north of Kennewick; plutonium
needed for building nuclear bombs. Since its inception in the early 1940â€™s, hundreds of thousands of people had worked there; and over the years, the areaâ€™s economy became forged by big, governmental contractors who employed the plumbers, steamfitters, carpenters, engineers and nuclear scientists who developed the reservation. After the Cold War came to an end, and certain treaties with the former Soviet Union were drafted, the production of plutonium production stopped, and the Hanford Reservation became known as one the most highly contaminated areas in the United States. That was actually a good thing because now the workers would be funded by big, government contracts to clean the place up. A multi-billion project, expected to take many years to complete ensured the health of the local economy into and beyond the foreseeable future. Claude Jenkins spent that hot summer day in July encased inside a suit built to protect him from any accidental radioactivity in his work area. His job involved controlling the long, flexible tubes that sucked radioactive wastes from the thousands of holding tanks placed under ground maybe as
long as sixty years ago. When Claude got off that day, he was in bad need of a cold beer. He walked into the Good Times and sat down at a table with a group of his co-workers. On the stage in the corner, near the dance floor, “Honey Bee,” was practicing with one of the other band members one of her favorite songs, “We Got Married in a Fever.” “An appropriate song for this weather,” Claude said, drawing a cold drink from his schooner. “I damn near melted out there today.” The men agreed it was indeed a scorcher, and then somebody said, “She’s pretty hot, too,” pointing to Lucy. “No shit. I’ll bet she would be ‘hotter than a pepper sprout,’” Claude said, paraphrasing the lyrics to the Johnny and June Carter Cash song. “You know who she is don’t you?” Someone else asked. Claude looked at her again, more closely this time. “No.” “Lucy Hinkle? Didn’t you know her in school?” Claude ran through his mental rolodex of names. “I don’t remember her.”
“Ever hear about the night the football team did a girl out at Hepner’s Barn?” “You’re kidding. Is that the one?” “It is.” “Didn’t she have Charlie Washington’s baby?” “I’ve heard that.” “Poor Charlie.” “What do you mean, ‘poor Charlie!’ What does he make, a couple million a year back in New York City?” Someone else said, “Has to, often as he’s on tv.” “Whoever thought he’d end up being a New York City prosecutor?” Claude said. “Were he and Lucy ever married?” “No, I heard it was nothing more than a one night thing. Charlie was home from school.” “I guess Charlie thinks he’s exempt from helping her raise the boy.” “You can tell by looking she don’t have any money.” “She lost the boy to the welfare department.” “He torched his dead Grandmother’s house, out by the grain elevator.”
“Dead Grandmother?” “She died while she was babysitting him. Fire department said he must have found some matches. Poor kid, he didn’t know no better.” “Wonder if Charlie knows about this?” “Who knows?” The conversation moved toward Charlie and his escapades on the football field when he was in high school, and to anyone listening to their conversation, it was apparent early that Charles Washington was one of the most respected people to graduate from Kennewick High School. “We got married in a fever,” Lucy sang, “hotter than a pepper sprout.” And Lucy Hinkle was one of the least. But Lucy didn’t know that. What she did know was there were a lot of men in Kennewick who wanted to spend time with her. “Hey, Honey Bee,” the man dancing close to her microphone yelled at her. She didn’t recognize him, and that was good. She didn’t like spending time with men she knew, or boys she had gone to school with. The baggage they brought always made her uncomfortable; it seems most of them knew
about Hepner’s barn. How they thought bringing that up made any points with her was something she didn’t understand. “Wha’chu doin’ after work tonight, Honey Bee?” he asked, after the song was finished. She had noticed him earlier and liked how he wore his cowboy boots and his black Stetson hat. He was tall and slim and had a nice way about himself, he had charisma, he was a man who influenced other men; a man women were drawn to. She also noticed how he didn’t stay with the same woman while he danced, and how he women on the sides watched him. “Why you askin’ ‘Cowboy?’” she asked coyly, humoring him. “Thought you might like to have some fun, that’s all.” Lucy kept her eye on him for the rest of the evening and when the band stopped playing for the night, he came back. “You ready?” “Sure.” She didn’t get home until three o’clock the next afternoon, and when she did, she realized she couldn’t remember the Cowboy’s name. What she did remember was the powdery stuff he gave her, and how good and powerful it made her feel. The sex had been ten, twenty, maybe a hundred
times better than it had ever been with Rocket. She knew she was hooked. The next night she looked for the Cowboy, but he wasn’t there. Two weeks later, he came in again, and when he did, they locked eyes. When the band took a break, she went to him. “Where you been, Cowboy?” “Had some business outa town, Honey Bee. Why do you ask?” He looked deep into her eyes. “Just thought you might like to get together again sometime,” she replied, turning her hips away from him and twisting her legs together. He leaned toward her and whispered in her ear, “How about tonight?” The next day Lucy begged the Cowboy for more of the white powdery cocaine, and he provided her. Six months after Billy was taken from her, she thought only of more dope; and never once about Billy.
Debbie and Tom Miller had been fostering children since their oldest of two moved out twenty-some years ago. The children they had fostered in the early years were now gone, most of them in their late twenties. Twenty years earlier, when homes were more reasonably priced, they bought a large two-story home with four bedrooms in a relatively fashionable part of town on the main street which not led into the heart of the city and was lined with old elm trees, grown so far out over the street that driving the street was like driving through a cave of limbs, leaves, and shade. Tom was a writer for the local newspaper and Debbie worked in the home. As the years had progressed, the purchasing power brought by their single income had fallen further and further behind, and they had become addicted to the income provided foster parents by the state. At the time they brought Billy into their home, they had four other foster children: Andrea, Sofie, Ruby, and Jimmy. Their ages ranged from Andrea at seventeen, to Jimmy who was thirteen. “Who’s the new kid?” Jimmy asked. “Billy Hinkle,” Tom told him.
“Where’s he gonna sleep?” “In the other bed in your room.” “Fuck!” Jimmy responded. “Why does he have to be in my room?” “Watch your mouth,” Debbied scolded him. Later that night, Billy sat on his bed while Jimmy scowled at him. “You make sure you just stay the fuck over there, Shorty,” Jimmy told him. “I don’t need no fuckin’ baby sleeping over here.” “My name’s not, Shorty!” “Who gives a shit? Shorty.” “My name’s Billy. Billy Hinkle.” “You’re a nigger, Billy Hinkle.” Billy looked at him with surprise and wonder in his eyes. “A what?” “A nigger.” “What’s a . . . nigger?” “You, you little black dude,” Jimmy said, turning out the light. “You’re a nigger.” “No I’m not. I’m Billy Hinkle.” “No more talking, nigger. I gotta go to school in the morning.”
It didn’t take long for all three of the foster children to demonstrate ill will toward Billy. While the older kids were in school, Debbie Miller spent time with Billy, and she soon learned he had a mind of his own. “I’m not a nigger,” he told her one morning after the other children had left for school. “Who called you that?!” “Jimmy, he calls me it all the time,” Billy said, looking forlornly at the floor. “You let me take care of that. Jimmy has no right to be calling you names,” she said, pouring milk into his cereal bowl. “What’s a ‘nigger,’” he asked. “It’s a bad name, that’s what it is. I’ll take care of Jimmy and you tell me if he says it again, ok?” “I’ll kick his fuckin’ ass,” Billy said, spooning up a bite of his cereal. “Billy! Where’d you hear that kind of talk?” “My mom’s boyfriend. He said it all the time.” “Who did he say it too?” “Me.”
“Why would he say that to you.” “He was mean.” “Did he ever hit you?” Billy lowered his head. “Well?” she asked. “I don’t want to talk about it.” She approached him again, to give him a “motherly” hug, and he pulled away again. “Stop it! I only want my Mom to hug me.” He jumped off the chair and ran into another room where he sat in the corner of the room, by himself for a few minutes; then the emotion boiling inside him took over, and he picked up a small ceramic figurine off a shelf and threw it against the wall; then he picked up another one and sent it sailing off across the room and through a window. Before Mrs. Miller got to him, the entire shelf, knick-knacks, candles, and books were on the floor, and Billy was screaming, “I want my Mom. I want my Mom.” By the time the other children arrived home, Billy had settled down. He was lying under a blanket on a couch next to the windows which looked out on the street. Jimmy saw him lying there. “Hey, little nigger, you sick?”
“I’m not a nigger, Jimmy!” Billy yelled loud enough for Mrs. Miller, who was in the kitchen to hear. “Jimmy, you come here!” she yelled. But talking to Jimmy never helped. He had lived in a home where the father’s racial views were freely expressed. Jimmy had been taught to hate anyone with dark skin. He continued harassing Billy; and soon, Billy took matters into his own hands. Late one night, after Jimmy had gone to sleep, Billy touched a match to his bed sheets. Jimmy woke when the flames were crawling off the tops of the curtains onto the ceiling. No one was injured, but by early morning light, the Miller home was nothing but a smoldering pile of scorched wood and ashes. Jimmy had been punished for smoking in bed before; so, once again, no one suspected Billy of setting the fire; still it wasn’t long afterwards that he was transferred to another set of foster parents, Roger and Brenda Jones.
The Jones, both in their mid-forties, had never had children of their own or a foster child. Brenda, overweight by forty pounds, with dirty
blonde hair that she kept in a bun on top of her head, year round flip-flops that were near paper thin in the heel, and a smoker who enjoyed afternoon glasses of wine, didn’t work and spent most of her afternoons heavily selfmedicated while she watched tv. Roger was a small man with no hair on the top of his head; a thin black mustache lay across his upper lip; and he had one blue eye and one brown. He worked as a mechanic in a dirty little shop down by the Old Bridge. His hands were dry with cracked skin and his fingernails harbored a cache of grime and garage grunge; he limped as though something deep inside wasn’t how it should be. For years Brenda pled with Roger to have a foster child, but he wanted nothing to do with it; occasionally their conversations turned violent. Once, after killing a bottle of white wine and smoking most of a pack of cigarettes while watching her afternoon talk show host discuss the merits of fostering children, she sulked until Roger came home. When he walked in the front door, she rushed him, cheeks wet with tears, and yelled, “If you weren’t such a fucking blank, we could have had children of our own.” He knocked her to the floor.
“What makes you think we would be approved for a foster child?” he yelled at her. “Look at us, a couple of drunks who don’t even like each other much.” Still, Brenda wouldn’t give up, and out of nothing more than the pure inertia of the years of pleading, fighting, drinking and arguing about it, Roger finally gave in. Brenda was working on her second bottle of chardonnay the day the call came in from the foster services announcing that they had been approved. By the time Roger got home, she was sound asleep in her recliner; the television droning to an otherwise empty room. Prior to Billy’s arrival, Roger and Brenda spent the morning hours cleaning, vacuuming, dusting, arranging, and hiding bottles; Brenda made a quick run to Wal-Mart to buy some cheap plastic toys. When she got home, she and Roger put on their best clothes, opened a fresh bottle of chardonnay and sat quietly drinking and waiting. Half an hour later they saw the welfare services car pull up out front; Brenda grabbed the bottle and their glasses and quickly hid them in the kitchen. The doorbell rang and she opened the door with a broad, warm smile while Roger stood in the background.
“Oh, look at him Roger, isn’t he cute?” Brenda bent low to give Billy a hug. Roger looked at Billy and wondered why, after all they had gone through, they would get a black child. “Yeah, he’s a cute one. Hi, Billy,” he said, patting the boy on the head. “Hi,” Billy replied, pulling away from Roger’s hand. Once the necessary papers officially transferring Billy over to them were signed, and after the social worker had gone, Brenda said, “Let’s take him to McDonald’s.” A few minutes later when they pulled into the parking lot, she asked him, “All kids like McDonalds, don’t they, Billy?” He said nothing; but he saw the toys his eyes lit up. Brenda noticed and told him, “After we eat you can go play, Billy.” “I want to go now.” “Our hamburgers will be here in a minute,” she said. “Let him go play, woman!” Roger interjected. Brenda looked at him. “Now don’t get started already. We’ll eat, then he can go play on the toys.”
Tears welled up in Billy’s eyes. “I want to go play on the toys.” “No.” Brenda brushed her hair back. After Roger and Brenda were finished with their hamburgers, Billy had yet to touch his and he had eaten less than a handful of French-fries. “Aren’t you going to eat your hamburger?” Roger asked him. “Look at him, he isn’t going to eat the hamburger.” He looked at Brenda. She tried to get Billy to take a bite, but he pulled away. “I want to go play on the toys.” “You’ll eat that hamburger first, little man,” Brenda said. After five minutes of pleading, Roger became angry with Brenda. “Goddamit, let the little guy go play, he ain’t gonna eat nothin’.” Brenda looked hard at Roger; then told Billy to go play, then the tears that had been hiding behind her eyes overflowed her eyelids and streamed down her cheeks. “What the hell you crying about?” She wiped her eyes and looked out the windows, toward the bridge in the far distance. “Never mind.”
Five minutes later she pulled Billy from the toys and walked him screaming, to the car. On the way back Brenda wiped her tears with a rag from her purse, and Billy screamed from the back seat, while Roger seethed. After a few hours later she tried to get him to watch television, but he wasn’t interested. The frustration escalated. Soon they left him alone to explore the house and play with some of the cheap toys she had purchased for him. Throughout the evening, Brenda excused herself to go into the kitchen to, “check on something.” Fortunately, I have plenty of Chardonnay, she thought, opening another bottle. Come midnight, and snockered, Brenda realized it was probably past time for Billy to go to bed. She found him in the corner of the room on the floor. “C’mon, dammit, it’s time for you to go to bed,’’ she said, slurring her words. When she looked closer, she saw he had fallen asleep.
In time Billy was being left alone to fend for himself for long periods of time while Roger worked, and Brenda went shopping. Though not fully cognizant of it, he had actually trained Brenda to leave him alone by being
belligerent and resistant to her every whim. When he got hungry he would go to the pantry and eat crackers, or peanuts. Sometimes there would be cookies, or marshmallows. Sometimes he would get a little sick to his stomach. Brenda had bought a few more Wal-Mart and Dollar Store toys so he had something to occupy himself with while they were gone; and sometimes he would empty all the bottom drawers in the kitchen, bedrooms and bathrooms. He didn’t mind her yelling at him becase he had learned negative attention was better than no attention at all. When the crocuses and daffodils began blooming in the spring, Brenda started taking him to the city parks to play. She would sit on a blanket on the grass, sip wine from an emptied water-bottle, read cheap novels and magazines, and sleep while he played. Once, while sound asleep on her blanket, she heard a voice which awakened her. “Ma’am.” She looked up from her blanket and covered her eyes with a hand to filter the bright sun. A policeman was staring down at her. “Ma’am, is this your son?” he asked, pointing to Billy.
Flustered and embarrassed she grabbed her water bottle and tried nonchalantly to hide it under a blanket fold. “Yes, he’s my foster child.” “You need to keep an eye on him, Ma’am. We found him across the irrigation ditch, heading toward town.” “Oh, I’m so sorry, Officer,” she said, I was just resting my eyes, “he sure got away in a hurry.” “Ma’am it took us an hour to find you.” She began picking up her things. “Tell the nice man ‘thank you,’ Billy. We have to get home now.” “Thank you,” Billy said. “It’s no problem, Ma’am, but you’ll need to keep a closer eye on him.” He took her name, address and phone number and left. Brenda turned to Billy, grabbed him by the arms and shook him while she screamed, “You little shit, where the fuck you think you were going? You think you can get away from me, get me in trouble and shit, you got another think coming.” She slurred her words and had difficulty finding a good focus on his eyes.
When she glanced over Billy’s shoulder, she saw another mother watching her. She released Billy’s arms. “You stay right here little man while I get my stuff. We’re going home.” When they arrived home, Billy was crying in the back seat. “Shut up,” she yelled at him. “You’ve embarrassed me enough today. Now get out of the car and go to your room. You’re grounded in there young man, until I say you can come out.” It was after dinner that Roger arrived home. As soon as he opened the door Brenda started telling him about her day and how Billy had been such a ‘bad boy’ at the park that she had to bring him home and put him in his room. She had been drinking all day and was in no shape to carry on much of a conversation. Roger decided the best way to fight her onslaught was to join her so he poured himself a straight shot of Kentucky bourbon whiskey. Soon both of them were inebriated and fighting. “You wanted that little bastard, Brenda. It wasn’t me.” “Like you’re some ‘high and mighty’ with all your plans and ideas.” “We ain’t never had no kids, Brenda, and this ain’t my idea of the good times we always heard about from our friends who had kids. I knew they
were blowing smoke telling us how wonderful little Jimmy and Jo were. What crap!” he shouted. “I think we oughta take him back.” “Bastard,” she shouted at him, throwing a television remote at him. Her maternal instincts were blinded her abysmal sense of responsibility. “That little boy needs somebody to take care of him.” She lit a cigarette and blew the smoke from her mouth, emphasizing her determination, and false sense of wisdom. “Count me out,” Roger said, swallowing another drink of his cheap bourbon. “Roger, you agreed to help me with this, besides we need the money.” Roger laid his head back against the chair. “I agreed to it only because you forced me into it.” Then he stopped talking; knowing the money issue was too powerful a notion to erase as easily as the boy might be to return to the agency. “Oh, you think you’re such a fucking ‘know-it-all’,” she said, her emotions bubbling. “You’re a selfish son-of-a-bitch, you know that?” “Fuck you.”
They argued into the late evening and neither of them heard Billy crying in his room behind the closed door where he had crawled into his bed, wrapped the blankets about himself and lay like a fetus, crying silently. The next morning, after Roger left for work, Brenda awoke with a hang-over. She lit a cigarette and had a cup of coffee while one of those morning news/talk television programs droned on in the background. It was apparent Roger was not going to be supportive, but she had known that all along. Tears blurred her vision while she fixed Billy a bowl of cereal and took it to his room. If she was persuade Roger to her side, she would have to be more flexible with him, and with Billy. She opened his bedroom door, and he rolled over and looked at her with no expression in his eyes. He had only slept a few hours. “Here’s your breakfast,” she said, putting the tray on his bed. “I’m afraid after yesterday’s little display in the park, you’re going to have to stay in your room awhile longer today. But if you start screaming and having a fit, it’s going to be a lot longer,” she said, thinking this was being flexible because originally she wasn’t going to let him out for another week. “I want my Mom.”
“Don’t try to be funny. You’re Momma’s a dope addict. Last I heard they couldn’t even find her.” Tears filled Billy’s eyes. “Eat your breakfast, I’ll be back to get your tray in a little while,” she said, not looking at him and closing the door. Billy threw the tray with the cereal on the floor and started screaming at her. “I want my Mom! I want my Mom!” he yelled, hitting the door, tears streaming down his face. Brenda had gone to the kitchen, but she could hear him screaming from his room down the hall. She had a headache and not enough resolve from events of the past couple of days to hold her anger in check. “Billy, quit crying, right now!” she yelled down the hall. But his emotions were running too high. “I want my Mom,” he yelled, still kicking the door. Smoldering, Brenda headed down the hall to his room. This time when she opened the door, Billy was waiting and kicked her in the leg. She struck him across the face, and told him, “You stay right there, young man. I’ll be right back.”
She went to Roger’s workbench in the garage and fumbled about in the closet until she found what she was looking for, then returned. She threw his door open, seething. Seeing her bulk coming toward him, Billy recoiled; then jumped off his bed and bolted beyond her and through the door. When she caught up with him he was in the front room throwing whatever he could get his hands on onto the floor. It took a few minutes of scurrying one way, then the other, but eventually she cornered him, and he kicked her again; but this time she wrestled him to the floor and sat on him while she wrapped the duct tape she found in the garage around his ankles and wrists. “There, you little shit. I got you now,” she said, placing a strip of tape across his mouth. She picked him up, took him to his room, tossed him on the bed, and then closed the door behind her, leaving him alone. A few hours later she went into Billy’s room and gave him a drink of water. “You be good and maybe I’ll get you something to eat later,” she told him. She replaced the strip of tape across his mouth, then cut the tape from his ankles and wrists and took him to the bathroom. “You start kicking and screaming again and you’re gonna be one sorry little son-of-a-bitch.” Three
times during that day she went to his room and took him to the bathroom; she knew better than to leave him to soil the bed sheets.
Over the next few days Brenda realized taking care of Billy this way was fitting rather well into her schedule. She took him his breakfast in the late morning, then something more substantial in the late afternoon; and walked him to the bathroom three times a day and while she smoked and drank her afternoon away. She didnâ€™t really have to think about him very much at all, and in the meantime she and Roger spent the monthly checks on wine and booze and cigarettes, and dinners out, and movies; and they upgraded their cable services.
Robert (Bob) John Montgomery, aka Hap, was born and raised in Philadelphia. His father, a mail-clerk who studied classical music and played in for the Philadelphia String Quartet, was not an educated man. His mother, a half-blooded Cherokee Indian, worked in a bakery; and during the second World War, tossed rivets in the wing building section of a plant that
manufactured DC-6â€™s for the war effort. Neither parent graduated from a college, but they made sure there was sufficient funding for Robert when he reached the age to go to college. When he was a young man, his father taught him classical music; itâ€™s history, the composers, and the music they made, and the influences they placed not only on each other, but on the world at large. When they went fishing, or walking in the park, or just sat about with nothing in particular, it was common for Bob and his father to hum classical movements together. Years later, when Bob became a father, he would do the same with his son. Bob chose Columbia College in New York City where he studied literature, classical music and languages. It soon became apparent he was highly proficient in the study of languages. By the time he graduated he had become fluent in French, Russian, and Farsi. After graduation Hap joined the military and when his term ended he joined the CIA where, due to his Cherokee heritage, he spent four years being trained to not only take on the look of, and speak the language of a Muslim from the Middle-East, but also to move about undetected in the Islamic world.
While on duty in Saudi Arabia, he was successful in uncovering a terrorist cell with ties to connections to another group of terrorists operating within the United States. Eventually he became the prime witness in a military court where the small band of terrorists located in the United States was identified. Following his testimony he had agreed to placement in a witness protection plan. In only a matter of a few weeks, he was translocated in Seattle with a new name and a temporary apartment located near Safeco Field. By now his children were grown and he was divorced, so he entered the program fully aware of his decision to go in alone.
“C’mon,” Hap called Bull to the door to let him out. “You think you’re the boss of me, but you’re not,” Hap said, humoring no one but himself. During the warm days of summer, Bull would visit his lady friends, and scrounge around the bins in the alleys, especially the one behind the Viet Namese restaurant across from the apartment building, for fast food.
After letting the cat out, Hap walked to the bathroom and when he looked into the mirror, another vision appeared: He was looking out over a terraced garden, cell phone to his ear. “Bob,” the voice on the other end said. “Yes.” “They’re in the Grand Hotel Baghdad.” “You’re sure?” “We followed them into the parking garage.” “Ok, I’m on my way.” Ten minutes later the team assembled outside the Grand Hotel Baghdad. It was only months before the second American invasion of city. To anyone else on street the four men looked no different than any other group of Muslims in the area. Bob took charge leading the team into the hotel at the main gate where he, and his partner, Grady, took the elevators near the lobby, another climbed the stairs, and the fourth stayed in the lobby, as a look out. Each wore hidden microphones and earphones. “Mike, how’s the lobby?” “Clear.”
“Eddy, anyone on the stairs?” “Clear.” Bob and Grady stood looking at the door with the shiny golden number, 429, they tucked their earphones under their shirt collars, and knocked on the door. A man he recognized as Abdul Fataah opened the door. “al-Saad, Sameer, come quick, come in,” Abdul said, looking past them into the hallway. Once inside, the two Americans adopted their personas as Islamic fundamentalists. Bob was known as, al-Saad, and his colleague Grady, as Sameer. Only with years of training in multiple languages, disguise, diplomacy, and acting school, had they integrated this secret band of terrorists who were planning another attack an American soil with another terrorist cell in Philadelphia. The attack on the White House, would be with the intent of assassinating the President of the United States. The men in the room were intelligence gatherers and planners. “Aatif, what is the news from Philadelphia?”
Aatif, wearing a dark blue turban, and a business suit, was from Saudi Arabia. Overtly, he was in Baghdad on assignment with oil business from Riyadh; covertly he was here to plan this attack. “Out brothers in Philadelphia say the final stages are near complete.” “Good. Abdul, have you wired the monies to the designated banks?’ “Yes.” “Munof, what have you to report?” “The all high Osama has given us the permission we seek for follow up once the White House is leveled to the ground.” “Good. Saar, have you found the weapons?” “Yes, Sameer, and I have made contact with the ‘insider’ in Syria. In two months he will be ready.” “Two months?” “He reports he must complete all the paperwork involved in the transaction so that there will be no suspecting eyes when the operation is completed. There is need for additional surveillance to carry out his duties.”
“I see,” Abdullah said, handing out a list of names, duties, and responsibilities to be carried out before the next meeting scheduled one month away. It had taken six years of study and preparation for both Bob and Grady to get to a point in their careers where they were ready to go undercover in the Middle East; study and preparation that began when Osama bin Laden declared war upon the United States in the late eighties. Their first port of entry in Europe had been Paris where they infiltrated the culture with menial jobs in the city. Their assignment was to make contact with the Muslim world in Paris; to “feel out the city” and its Muslim guests for “any radicals that might be living and planning attacks on the United States, or any of its allies.” “al-Sahir, please stand up.” Bob looked quickly at the man giving the instruction. This was out of the ordinary and immediately he thought something had gone wrong. He stood as instructed and looked back at the man. “What is this?” he asked, standing and walking toward Bob. “What is it, Abdul?” Bob asked.
Abdul ran his hand along Bob’s shirt collar, reached in and pulled out the wire leading to his earphone. “What is this?” he said, holding the earphone. “I listen to music, Abdul.” Abdul pulled on the wire leading inside Bob’s shirt. Then he stepped to Bob’s side and felt the wire leading to a transmitter inside the waistband on the backside of his pants. Grady pulled his Glock 38 from inside his jacket, and pointed it at the others. “Stay calm, brothers,” he said, moving back toward the wall to more easily bring Abdul into his visual field. “No one get excited and no one gets hurt.” He maneuvered himself along the wall so Bob could join him, without being in the line of site of his weapon, and together, they moved toward the door. They stood with their backs to the door, Grady’s handgun keeping the others calm, when Bob kicked the door with his boot signaling Eddy to enter the room. When the door opened, Eddy, assault rifle in hand, opened fire.
By the time hotel security was notified of gunfire on the fourth floor, the CIA operatives were in their cars heading toward the airport. Once in the United States, the team headed for Philadelphia to make contact with the terrorist cell they had uncovered in Baghdad.
Hap woke up when he heard Bull crying at the window, telling Hap he wanted in. Hap rubbed his head and felt the confusion about the vision he had just had weave its way into his conscious thoughts. All he could see of the vision was enough to ask himself, was I ever in Baghdad? What the hell is this? Later that night he met Freddy in the Mission for dinner. The room was full, as always, with the downtrodden, the weak, the mentally challenged and the drunk and wasted people of the neighborhood. While they ate, Hap told Freddy about the vision. “They’re like dreams, Fred. As soon they’re over, I know I’ve had one, but then most of it is gone and I can only remember a little. This one today left me with strong feelings about Baghdad.”
“Weird, Hap,” Freddy said, spreading butter across the top half of a bun he had just ripped apart with his fingers. “You ever been to Baghdad?” Hap laughed. “I don’t know, never thought about it.” He chewed on a piece of chicken leg and let his mind wander into the meaningless past. His entire memory base originated with a sudden awareness of being in a hospital bed, where the doctors and nurses didn’t know his name and somehow he remembered being relieved that they didn’t. After his release, Freddy had taken him back to his apartment and reintroduced him to Bull Durham. And a few days after returning he received the first he could remember of a series of monthly checks made out to Bob Montgomery. Prior to the accident that landed him in the hospital he had known the checks made out to Bob Montgomery were for him, but he also knew that his name wasn’t Bob Montgomery. After the accident he had no recollection of anyone named Bob Montgomery and could only surmise that that was his real name. Who was sending the checks was a mystery he couldn’t solve. “Baghdad. There’s a lot of bad shit going on there; war and all. I can’t imagine myself ever being in such a place.”
“Maybe it was before the war. I’m betting you were in the army, Hap. Probably stationed there.” “Maybe.” Freddy lifted a fork-full of mashed potatoes to his mouth and savored the warm, melted butter. “I don’t think we ever had troops stationed in Baghdad. Did we?” “You’re asking me?” Hap asked, taking a last bite of his meal. He wiped his mouth then, looking through the window, watched the busy traffic on First Avenue. Freddy continued eating, and Hap fell into a melancholy state and started humming. “What’s that?” “What?” “What you’re humming. What is it?’ “Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.” “Where’d you learn that?” Hap’s eyes refocused on the cars passing by, then slowly slid over the Freddy’s. “I don’t know. It’s just in my head.” “But how is that you know the name of the music you’re humming?”
“Doesn’t everyone know Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata?” Freddy laughed. “Sure, just ask anyone of those people in the Mission. My money says probably all of them, except me. I never heard of no Moonlight Sonata, before.” Something in Freddy’s face brought another face to Hap’s mind. A man of eastern descent whose name Hap could almost remember: Abdullah? Ahmad? Mohammed? No. Hashi? Obama? Then the vision flooded him: someone was referring to him as “al-Sahir.”
After the first few days of being taped and imprisoned in his room, Billy’s tears dried. His skin was raw where the tape held tight to his skin. “Hello, Billy,” Brenda said, opening he door. “You need to go to the bathroom?” Brenda had kept Billy hydrated, and made sure he didn’t make a mess in his clothes or, more importantly, in the bed. She untaped his wrists and ankles. “Nasty burns you got there, buddy,” she said, noticing the damage to his skin. “We’ll have to put something on them,” she said, smiling at him. Billy saw her ugly brown teeth when she smiled. He hated her; but he sat quietly and said nothing. She had him and he knew it; there’s was no longer any use to be defiant of the woman. She stripped the tape off his mouth. “Ooh, nasty,” she said, bending forward to inspect the sores on his cheeks and lips where the tape had been. “Let’s go,” she said, directing him toward he bathroom. “Can I watch tv?” Billy asked. Knowing his wounds would raise concerns when the welfare agency came by for their first scheduled visit next week could be a problem, she decided to give him a strong warning and then another chance to behave.
“Tell you what,” she said. “I’ll let you watch tv if you make me some promises.” His soft face turned toward hers. “Ok.” “First you must never kick Mrs. Rogers again.” “Ok.” “Second, you must do what I tell you to do, when I tell you to do it.” “Ok.” “Third, you must never argue with me again.” “Ok.” They struck a deal and soon Billy was roaming the house freely; and being the model child Brenda envisioned. When the welfare worker came to visit, Brenda put Billy in long pants and a long shirt to cover the wounds on his wrists and ankles. The sore near his mouth could have been a problem, so she put a band-aid over it and hoped the lie she would tell, if asked, would be sufficient. “She should be here anytime soon,” she told Billy. “Remember, you don’t tell her about Mrs. Rogers putting you in your room. You tell her everything is good, that you like it here.”
Billy had no expression on his face, but he said, “Ok.” “Is that all you can say?” “No.” “When I talk to you I want to hear something other than, ‘ok’.” “Ok.” She slapped him across the face. “What did I just tell you?” “Not to say, ‘ok’.” “Ok. You gonna say it again?” “No.” The lady from the welfare agency arrived as scheduled and was escorted into the Miller’s front room dressed in slacks and shiny blouse with golden necklaces. Her hair was blonde and Billy thought she was pretty, like his mother. They sat down and Brenda served tea in plastic cups and cookies from Wal-Mart. “How are you, Billy?” the pretty woman asked. “Fine.”
“Let’s see,” she said, thumbing through the papers she held in a manila folder. “I see you have been with the Millers for, ten days.” She took her eyes away from the folder and looked back at him. “And how is everything going for you here?” “Fine.” “Do you have a room of your own?” His eyes went to Brenda’s. On the outside it looked as though he was seeking reassurance before he answered the question like all children do when questioned by an unfamiliar adult, but inside he was terrified at the reference to his room. “Tell her you do,” Brenda said, sensing his fear. “Yes.” “Do you have toys in your room?” “Yes.” “What do you have?” “Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker.” “Star Wars toys.” “Yes.”
“What happened to your mouth?” she asked, bending forward to look more closely at the band-aid on his mouth. Brenda panicked. Her eyes flared wide. Looking like a snake had just crawled over her feet she realized she had forgotten to tell him what to say if this came up. Billy turned scared eyes toward Brenda. The welfare lady picked up on the subtle interactions between the two of them. “He fell.” “Oh? Where did this happen?” “He was playing outside,” Brenda said, improvising as fast as she could. The welfare lady turned toward Billy. “What happened, Billy?” “I was running,” he said, looking at the floor. “Where were you running?” “Outside.” “In the yard?” she asked, not aware that she was leading him . “Yes,” he said, then added, “I wasn’t looking where I was going, and I ran into the tree.”
Brenda’s heart fell into her lap. She couldn’t believe he was making up a story to protect her. “Poor little guy,” she said, “there was blood everywhere, but we got him cleaned up and he’s doing fine now.” Later the welfare worker noted, “Roger and Brenda Miller: foster child Billy Hinkle. Mrs. Brenda Miller and Billy Hinkle were in attendance. Mr. Hinkle, though requested, was not in attendance. The house is older with three bedrooms; front, living room; screened porch on the street side; kitchen and two bathrooms with an attached garage. It appears satisfactory in terms of cleanliness and general care: none of the windows are cracked or broken, the locks on the doors work, Mrs. Miller reported the furnace was recently inspected, the kitchen and floors were clean, the appliances look old, but apparently are in good working order. It appears Mrs. Hinkle is taking care of her responsibilities. “Billy was nervous, but that’s to be expected. He is a recently turned, six year old; is with the second set of foster parents, and still new in their home. When questioned about a band-aid on his mouth, a subtle ‘tension’ appeared between he and Mrs. Hinkle. I could not surmise whether it was faulty perception on my part, or a reality on theirs.”
In a post note, she added, “I found it curious that on a warm-spring day, Mrs. Miller had Billy clothed in long pants with a long-sleeved shirt. I expected him to be in shorts and a t-shirt on a warm day such as this.” She filed the report in her folder titled, “Billy Hinkle,” and filed it until the next visitation scheduled fours weeks away. After the pretty lady left, Brenda said to Billy, “You told a good story this morning.” “Thank you,” he said, his eyes cast toward his shoes. “Just for that, you can stay out all day. Just don’t go out in the street.” In the eastern Washington desert temperatures reach into the upper nineties, or low hundreds, in late June, early July. Such was the weather when Brenda decided to let Billy play with the kids next door. It was obvious Brenda had a short-fuse and Billy didn’t like to be near her when it was ignited. He had the greatest freedom from her in the late afternoon, after she had finished a bottle of her favorite wine, and he and the neighbor kids would play among the monolithic trees lining the street in front of the house.
Over the years Roger had learned to conveniently spend long hours at work; it was a necessary respite from his wife, and he found it even more necessary now with Billy living with them. When he tired at work, he would often spend a few hours in his favorite tavern downtown. When he finally did come home, she was always waiting with verbal attacks and drunkenness. He would ignore her, fill a glass with whiskey and wait for her to calm. Then they would fight and argue into the night. Often Billy found himself locked in his room, again; sometimes for a few days, sometimes for a week; but she never used the tape on him again. “Billy,” Brenda called for him at the front door. When she spotted him in the neighbor’s yard, she yelled, “C’mon, we have to go to the store.” Billy dropped his head and walked back to the house. He didn’t want to go anywhere with her; he wanted to keep playing. “Do I have’ta?” “Yes, c’mon now.” She put him in the back seat and strapped him into his safety harness, crawled into the front seat, lit up a cigarette, turned on the air-conditionerr which mostly blew hot air, and pulled the car out onto the busy street.
“We’re going to Wal-Mart. I thought you might like to go in and look at the fish.” “I don’t want to,” he said, noting the odor of wine in the car. She had taken him to Wal-Mart many times by this late date in August. Each time, she would post him at the fish tanks and tell him to stay there until she was finished. Once when she returned she found hi asleep on the floor. “You don’t like the fish?” “I do, but I don’t want to see them today.” He picked up a Star Wars toy lying in the seat beside him and started playing with it. When she parked the car, she turned toward him. “If you don’t want to go in, you don’t have to. I’m only going in to pick up some milk and bread and eggs. I’ll be back in just a few minutes.” “Ok.” Forty-five minutes later, when she walked out of Wal-Mart, her shopping cart heaping, she saw the ambulance parked behind her car. She watched carefully, and then slowly pushed her cart through the row of parked cars next to the one where she had parked. When she got close enough to see inside the ambulance, she saw Billy. He was strapped to a gurney, an oxygen
mask across his life-less face, and his arms were punctured with needles that were hooked to bags hanging from wall hooks. To Brenda, it appeared little Billy Hinkle was dead. She checked the windows of her car and saw, with the exception of the busted window opposite where Billy had been strapped in, they were in the “up” position. My God, she thought, how did I forget to put the windows down for him? Looking down the street at the reader board at the bank, its temperature read, “101 degrees.” Brenda continued moving slowly, looking, watching. She walked on by, pretending indifference and moving on toward another car, farther out in the parking lot. When the ambulance left the parking lot and headed toward the hospital with red lights flashing and the siren wailing, she noticed the police inspecting her car. One was taking down her license number. When they went into the store, no doubt to find the owner, she hurried back, unloaded her cart into the trunk and drove away.
Later that afternoon when the doorbell rang she went to the basement where, through the basement window, she watched and waited for the two
uniformed policemen to leave. She went into a dark room and sat in the corner waiting; and when they went back to their car and drove away she went back upstairs and sat at the kitchen table with her head in her hands, trying to resolve what to do. Roger might know what to do, she thought. But then he would just be an ‘I told you so’ about it. I could get in the car and just drive away. Maybe I should call the hospital and see how Billy’s doing? Two hours later, she picked up the phone. “I was just wondering how the little boy who was picked up at the Wal Mart today is doing?” “Ma’am, we don’t yet have an identity for the child. Are you family?” Brenda felt trapped. “No,” she replied, hesitating. “Can you tell me?” “I’m sorry, Ma’am, I can’t share information with anyone except immediate family members.” “Ok,” Brenda said, hanging up the phone. While mesmerized by her thoughts and confusion, there came another ringing of the doorbell. “Mrs. Miller?” he shouted. “Are you in there?” Brenda headed for the basement again.
“If you are in there we need to talk to you.” He knocked on the door a couple more times, then walked around the house - looking. Brenda felt the perspiration on her forehead and underarms. The panic was escalating to levels unfamiliar to her. Oh God, what do I do? She climbed the stairs, grabbed her car keys off the hook by the back door and stepped out. I’ve got to get away from here. I’ve got to think. “Ma’am,” the officer said, coming around the corner of the house. “We need to talk.” Brenda panicked. “I didn’t mean to be in the store that long! I was only going in to get some bread. I forgot to roll the windows down. I didn’t mean to hurt Billy.” The officer turned his face to his collar-microphone. “Pete, she’s in the back with me.” “Ma’am, what is Billy’s last name? Is it the same as yours?” She told the officer Billy was a foster child, and that he had been with them only a few months. While Pete made a call to child protective services, Brenda went into great detail about the problems they had had with Billy. “He doesn’t know how lucky he is to have me and my husband. I don’t
know how his previous foster parents put up with him. He’s a nasty, mean kid. My husband doesn’t like him at all; but I’ve worked so hard to be a good mom for him. He needs somebody to love him.” Brenda rambled not thinking about what she was saying so much as feeling her words and knowing they were good words for the police to hear. “How’d he get those scars on his wrists and ankles?” “Oh, those. They were there when we got him.” “Did you ever ask him about them?” “Sure, I did.” “What did he say?” “He told me his mother’s boy friend used to tie him up.” The policeman looked hard at her, and said, “Uh-huh.” Brenda knew he didn’t believe her, but what else could she say; she wasn’t going to admit any wrong-doing. No yet, anyway. The policeman stood, folded the small spiral notebook he had been writing notes on, put it in his pocket, hitched his pants and said, “Ma’am, I’m afraid you’re under arrest.”
“For what? I told you I’ve been working hard to create a safe and sound living….” The policemen interrupted her, “Ma’am, do you realize you have yet to ask if Billy is alive or dead?” “Is that what I’m being arrested for?” “No, ma’am, it isn’t, but it seems you’re spending an inordinate amount of time telling us how good you’ve been to Billy; yet it was you left him in car with the windows rolled up today for over an hour in 100 degree heat, then fled the scene of the investigation, and have been resisting our attempts to contact you this afternoon.” Brenda felt like she was in a darkened cave. “How is he? Is he dead?” “You lucked out, Mrs. Miller. Billy isn’t dead, but he isn’t going to be same little boy anymore. Brain damaged, you know,” he said, pulling the hand-cuffs off his belt. “You’re being arrested, Mrs. Miller for endangerment, and resisting arrest. He read her the Miranda rights, cuffed her, walked her to his cruiser, parked on the main street out front, and put her in the back seat. “Is he going to be all right?”
After three weeks in the hospital Billy was sent to his third foster home. Jerry and Anita Williams, a loving couple with two children, and experienced as foster parents, believed they had been especially chosen to save children whose parents couldn’t raise them. Jerry was a real estate developer. He wore freshly polished black Armani’s, gray suits, a flashy Rolex he had picked up on a recent trip to Mexico, and a large diamond ring on his right hand. He drove a new BMW Boxer. Anita, a strikingly pretty woman, taught English at Kennewick High School, wore casual slacks and tight blouses that hugged her slim frame, she wore with her red hair straight, with a small bit of lipstick, and just a whisper of eye shadow. She liked to think the high school boys thought her ‘hot.’ The children, Isaiah, who was ten; and Marie, who was seven, were the children Jerry and Anita had envisioned: both were handsome and bright. The foster child in their home, Tommy Casaday, had been known for his abusiveness in prior foster homes; however, since he had been with the Williams, he had shown substantial improvements. Tommy was fourteen and had been in foster homes since he was three years old. Never one to be
chosen for adoption, part of Tommy’s outbursts were directly related to his feeling of rejection throughout his life; still he had improved at the Williams’ and they attributed much of his improvement to the attention they gave him and the way they included him, like their own children, into their family-life. When Billy, now eight years old, arrived; he tended to drag one foot when he walked and his overall coordination showed the ill effects of the oxygen deprivation and elevated temperatures he experienced in the back seat of Brenda Miller’s car. The Williams’ children, raised from birth in this environment of acceptance of other children, opened their arms to Billy immediately. Tommy Cassaday became noticeably dark and troubled. “The doctors said they were amazed at how little damage was done due to being trapped in that car,” Anita said, told her husband, referring to Billy’s condition. “He looks like a sweet kid, Anita.” She commented on the dark cloud forming over Tommy, and they agreed they would have to keep a close eye on him.
After dinner, Billy was amazed to learn the Williams’ had a swimming pool in the back yard. He was equally amazed when everyone was given a swimsuit and invited to get in. It was a first for Billy; he had never seen a swimming pool before, and he was shy about getting in. “C’mon, Billy. The water’s fine,” Jerry said to him from the shallow end. “The water isn’t deep on this side of the rope,” he said, pointing to a blue and white rope with white floats attached running from side to side. “You can walk to the rope on this side. It’s too deep for you on the other side though.” “Billy,” Tommy said, “Go ahead and jump in, maybe you’ll drown.” “Tommy!” Ms. Williams said, “that’s no way to welcome Billy to our family.” “Don’t care,” he said, beneath his breath. Billy immediately felt the intimidation Tommy orchestrated over him. He chose to sit and watch for a while. He didn’t know any of these people. “Do you want to wait a while?” Jerry asked Billy. “I’m ok,” he said sitting down on a concrete step and holding his head down.
“Hey Billy,” Marie said, “you’ll like it. C’mon.” Billy looked at Marie with her blonde hair tied in a loose bun at the back of her head with individual strings of hair running in all directions like spider legs. He noticed her bright, blue eyes. He was sure he had never seen anyone so pretty as Marie. “No thanks,” he said, too low for anyone to hear. When Anita came out of the house, wearing a two-piece bathing suit, Billy’s attention was quickly averted. He thought Marie was pretty, but Anita was spectacular with her long legs, and ample breasts hidden behind the top of her two-piece. “Hi, Billy,” she said, sitting down beside him. “Do you know how to swim?” “No,” he said, quietly. “I’ve never seen a swimming pool either.” “Well, you’ll see lots of this one, Billy. Mr. Williams and I put it in so our children could swim here.” He looked at her with sad eyes. “And you’re one of our children now, Billy,” she said, putting her arm around his shoulders.
Billy relaxed some. He liked her. “Would you like to sit by the pool and dangle your feet in? You can sit by me.” “Sure.” Billy kicked his feet and got both of them wet. She responded by kicking her feet and laughing with him. “See? Isn’t this fun?” she asked, still laughing. His grin spread from ear and ear, and he knew it was the answer she wanted to her question; and it was, as long as she sat beside him. But before anyone knew, Tommy had crept up behind Anita and Billy. He put his hands on Billy’s shoulders and pushed him into the water. Anita Williams jumped in beside Billy and pulled him out of the water. He had taken water into his mouth and throat and was coughing violently. Tommy was scolded by the William’s and sent to his room for the rest of the day. Later that night, after Billy and Tommy were put to bed, in the same room with twin beds, Tommy said, “This one’s mine,” referring to the bed he was in; the one nearest the window.
“Ok,” Billy said, sitting on the other bed. The room was decorated like none he had seen: model airplanes hung from the ceiling, and the ceiling was painted with big puffy clouds against a pretty blue sky. On the walls movie posters from Star Wars and other movies that Billy didn’t recognize hung on the walls; and against the far wall there were two desks, each with a computer. “What are those, tv’s?” Tommy laughed and said, “Are you crazy, man? Those are computers.” Billy ran his fingers over one of the keyboards. “That one’s mine, man,” Tommy said. “You use the other one.” “I don’t know how.” “Figures a nigger like you wouldn’t know how to.” Billy suddenly remembered Jimmy Miller and how he had called him that name, always with a taunt. “I’m not a nigger!” Billy yelled at him. “Yes, you are.” “I am not,” Billy yelled, and attacked him with his fists, shouting, “I am not! I am not!”
The first blow landed on Tommy’s lips and cut them deeply. The second blow landed on Tommy’s right eye and it was swelling quickly. By the time Jerry Williams opened the door, the boys were locked in a tight embrace on the floor: fists flying. Jerry broke up the fight and went immediately into a damage control mode to sort out what had happened. It didn’t take long. “He called me a ‘nigger’,” Billy said, crying. “And I’m not one.” “Did you,” Jerry turning toward Tommy, asked. Tommy, head down, holding a bandage on his lip, said, “Yeah.” “You do know that’s a bad word, Tommy!” “My dad says it all the time. What’s wrong with it?” “When people use that word, they are either ignorant of what it means, or they are trying to hurt the person they are talking to, or about.” “My dad says all black people are niggers.” “Well, he’s wrong, and you need to know we will not tolerate the use of that word in our home. Do you understand?” Tommy, head still down, said, “Yes.” “I think you need to apologize to Billy. What do you think?”
Tommy drug a foot across the carpet, looked up at Billy then looked away. “Sorry.” Later that night, while Billy slept, Tommy woke up and went to the closet where he found a baseball bat. Creeping carefully toward Billy’s bed, Tommy pulled the bat up over his head, then with all his might, swung it toward Billy’s head.
“Lucy Hinkle?” Lucy looked at the intercom and wondered what she was supposed to do. “Lucy Hinkle?” the voice asked again. She looked further around the room. “Are you Lucy?” A few minutes later, someone escorted her into an office area where she was shown a hard wooden chair and invited to sit. A lady introduced herself, and Lucy, because she wasn’t focused well, had to ask her name, again. “Marlene Digby,” the lady said. “I will be your counselor while you are here.” “Where am I?” Lucy asked. The entire morning had been a jumble of movements, van rides, and people. She knew she had been in the hospital earlier that day; but since then she had become confused about her whereabouts and circumstances. “You are in the hospital, Lucy. Did you forget?” “Hospital?” “Yes. Do you know why you are here, Lucy?” “In Kennewick?”
“No, you are in Spokane, Lucy.” Lucy looked at Ms. Digby and the wall behind her. She felt like she was dreaming, but she knew she wasn’t. The confusion persisted and she shook her head indicating that she did not know why she was there. “You are here because you have a head injury.” “A what?” Ms. Digby repeated what she had said. “Head injury?” Lucy asked, pivoting her head on her neck from side to side. “Me?” Ms. Digby punched a button on her console. “Mr. Greenwood, would you step in here please?” In a few minutes the door opened and Mr. Greenwood stepped in. He was every bit of six foot, four inches, and so wide, he had to turn sideways to come through the door. “You called?” “Take her to her room. She’s incoherent right now, and needs some time to sort out what’s going on.” Greenwood took Lucy by the arm and escorted her back to her room; a place where she had been residing for the past six years.
“You ok, Luce?” asked Greenwood, holding her arm while assisting her down the hall. “I don’t know. So confused today.” “You’ll be ok, Ms. Hinkle, you’ll be ok.” Once Lucy was returned to her room, she lay on the bed and rested. It had been a busy day. She needed to rest. A few hours later she awoke, and when she did she was lucid again; and she remembered.
It was late that night after work, and she was leaving with a man she’d met in the Good Times Tavern. His name was Armando Gonzales and she felt attracted to his tough, machismo style. Armanda wore a wide smile; a silver necklace; black pants and black shirt; a wide, silver belt buckle; a white cowboy hat; and cowboy boots covered with snake skin. He spoke English, but with it he brought a sexy accent that also attracted Lucy. “I like the way you sing, Honey Bee,” Armando told her between numbers, earlier that night. “You have a nice way about you,” he said, flashing a broad smile ornamented with a flash of gold.
She thanked him and asked if there was anything he would like to hear her sing. “No, any song you sing ees like a breath of fresh air to my ears.” Like so many men she had met at the Good Times before, she watched him dance with many ladies that evening. He was a good dancer, and the ladies liked dancing with him. Always smiling and smooching up to the ladies when he could; he often would look over their shoulders and wink one of his big, brown eyes at Lucy. During a break he approached her and asked if she would like to dance with him. “Maybe,” Lucy said, playing coy, “but it’s hard to dance and sing at the same time.” “Get one of the band members to sing, then you can dance with me.” Under ordinary circumstances, and management’s decree, band members weren’t allowed to interact with the patrons; but Lucy had learned long ago, the rule was loose and unenforced. “I’ll see what I can do,” she said, turning back toward the band. She made the arrangements with the other singer in the band and she was on the dance floor with Armando. It didn’t take him long to invite her to a party after the Good Times closed.
“It’s at my friend Juan’s. They’re all good guys and we won’t have any problems, I promise.” She held him at arm’s length, and while letting a small smile form, she looked into his face. “You sure?” “Cross my heart,” Armando said, crossing his arms. A few hours later Lucy found herself in a sea of Armando’s friends who were drinking and dancing to a CD player on the counter near the kitchen. The music was mariachi, and soon Lucy let down what little guard she had and started having fun. “Have you lived here long?” she asked Armando. “No, I just got here about three weeks ago.” “From Mexico?” “No, Fresno,” he said, smiling that bright smile she found so alluring, while at the same time, pulling her close to his body and placing one hand on her backside. “So, are you like, legal?” He pulled back and looked at her. “If I said, ‘no,’ would you have come here with me?”
“Oh, sure, of course. I was just . . . asking.” “So it doesn’t really matter? Is that what you are saying?” “No, it doesn’t matter,” she said, feeling the alcohol and putting her head on his shoulder. They danced for a while longer, then Armando asked if she would like to go to his place for a while. Though it didn’t really matter, especially since the alcohol was, once again, making her decisions for her, she agreed. When they got into his car, he took out a plastic bag and rolled a joint which they shared on the way. The next morning, a slamming car door awoke Lucy. She pulled the sheets up around her neck and felt her heart pounding in her head. She wondered if she had any aspirin, then she opened her eyes. It was at the same precise moment when she realized she wasn’t in her own bed that the front door flew open and two masked and armed men came into the apartment shouting words she didn’t understand. They wanted her to get out of bed, so pulling the sheets up, to protect her nakedness, Lucy stood. Three strange men pointing were pointing guns at her, yelling at in Spanish; and she was alone.
What was his name? She thought. “Armando?” “Si, donde esta Armando?” She had no idea how to respond, and she could see the masked men were getting more and more frantic. They were kicking things, and slamming doors, and then they started shooting. That was when Armando stepped inside the front door and started shooting back. Lucy fell to the floor and crawled beneath the bed. One of the masked men fell beside the bed. She could see his head oozing blood; his gun slid a few feet short of Lucy’s face. She grabbed it, and out of a state of panic reserved only for those who realize their lives are seconds from ending in a burst of violence, aimed at a pair of legs she saw at the door and fired. Someone fell at the door, gasping in pain. Another pair of legs appeared and she fired again: two men down, both groveling in pain. Without forethought or preparation, the terror still screaming in her ears, she shot both men again, from under the bed. Three dead. Where’s the other? She thought, lying still in her hiding place. She heard footsteps and the door slam. Knowing she was now alone,
again, she crawled out from under the bed, and that was all the memory she had. Later, back in Digby’s office, Lucy told her she remembered and gave her a brief run down of the events of that night; something Ms. Digby had heard maybe a hundred times, from Lucy. “But I don’t remember anything after that.” “There were four men, Lucy. The one that escaped the apartment looked back inside the side window. He shot you.” “Shot me?” “Yes.” “Was it serious?” “Yes.” “When did this happen?” “Four years ago,” Digby replied thinking she herself might go mad if she had to go through this routine with Lucy many more times.
Billy felt the bat brush against his head and slam into his pillow. “Stop it,” he yelled, grabbing Tommy by the arm. Tears streamed from his eyes, and he ran screaming from the room. “Help!” he screamed opening Jerry’s and Anita’s bedroom door. “Billy,” Jerry said, already awake from the prior commotion coming from the boys’ room. “What’s the matter, son?” “Tommy tried to hit me,” he said, sobbing. “What?” “I don’t know, he had a baseball bat,” he said, between sobs, “and he tried to hit me when I was asleep.” Jerry jumped out of bed and ran down the hall to find Tommy; but Tommy wasn’t there. “Tommy!” shouted Jerry, “where are you, boy?” he yelled, louder. “You can’t hide forever, Tommy, come on out.” He searched the bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, and rest of the house. He thought Tommy was either too well hid, or he had escaped the house and was outside somewhere.
Back in the bedroom, Anita held Billy close. She asked if he had been hurt, and he said, “No.” Then she felt the growing lump on the side of his head. When she went into the kitchen, a shadow near the laundry room door moved. “Tommy?’ she asked, gingerly. “Is that you?” She walked into the laundry room and saw him crouching by the door. When she turned on the light, he jumped forward, and delivered the full brunt of the baseball bat on her forehead. Anita fell to the floor like a dirty towel falls from a laundry basket. Tommy scrambled out of the laundry room and headed back down the hall, toward the bedroom. Outside, Jerry looked along the fence and in the street. He didn’t see Tommy; so when he opened the front door, Tommy was waiting for him and slammed him in the back of the head with the baseball bat, then ran outside and headed down the street. An hour later, Billy regained consciousness. He noticed it was still dark outside. Confused, he stood and walked into the hallway. When he checked the other rooms he found both Jerry and Anita Williams lying where they
had been clubbed; and he found their two children, clubbed to death in their beds. He picked up the phone and dialed â€œ911.â€? When the ambulance arrived, Billy was lying on the couch. The emergency technicians determined the bruise on his head was superficial and probably in need of nothing more than a bag of ice; still he had been unconscious so he was strapped onto a gurney and sent to the emergency room at the local hospital. In a few days, he was placed in his next foster home. The day after Tommy Casaday went on his rampage in the Williamsâ€™ home, he was caught hiding down by the river near the bridge. At fourteen, he had killed three people: the two Williams children and their mother, Anita. The child protective services people were dumbfounded by his violence, especially since the latest reports had been favorable regarding his progress. He was incarcerated for six months in the local juvenile facility before his case went to trial where he was tried as an adult and sentenced to thirty years in prison. The newspapers covered every move made by the legal
system throughout the entire ordeal; from the grisly killings, to the juvenile facility, to the trial, and eventual sentencing. By the time it was over, Billy turned nine years of age and was settled in with the Harold and Monica Anderson. The Andersons were a middle-aged couple with no children, two big dogs and lots of savvy about how to deal with children; they had fostered close to twenty foster children; and had one of the best records in the state in terms of the childrenâ€™s success after leaving them. For the first time in his life, Billy felt accepted, even loved. By his eleventh year, he had been regularly attending school for two years. Monica Anderson, a teacher, worked closely with him and his teachers, and Billy felt good about school; and though he still had a slight â€œdraggingâ€? of one leg, he ran and jumped on the playground, and made more friends than he ever thought possible. The summer following his sixth grade year the Andersons planned a trip to visit distant family in Lake Stevens, a small community north of Seattle. Since Billy had never been on the western side of the state, Mrs. Anderson
developed a curriculum of places to see, things to do and record on the video camera and computer when they returned. Billyâ€™s heart raced when the car entered into the Mercer Island tunnels which led to the floating bridge on Lake Washington. When the car emerged, he saw the lake and the city on the far side with the tall, skyscraping buildings just behind the home covered hill on the near lakeshore. After a day of site seeing they headed north from Seattle on a two-lane back road. The distant Cascade mountain peaks in the east, running north and south, glistening with snow contrasted against a perfectly blue sky. The traffic was light and they were running a little late; and Harold Anderson was pushing his new Lexus faster than the speed limit allowed. When the car in the other lane started moving across the center line, Harold pulled his SUV to the right just far enough to get the right front wheel into the gravel lining the side of the road. The wheel grabbed the gravel more tightly than the left wheel was grabbing the road and the resultant inequality pulled the car further toward the ditch. Harold pulled the wheel back to the left to compensate and when he did he lost control of the SUV which crossed the yellow-line and slammed into a family of four heading south towards Seattle.
Jerry Schmidt, Herb McDermott and Jim Yetter, teachers at Kennewick High School met everyday for lunch in the biology labs. Conversation generally centered around school events, their personal lives, gripes and complaints about everything from presidential politics to the principal. The ‘really’ good kids were a constant and comforting presence in their lives; but just as good news is generally left out of newspapers, these men generally didn’t discuss the good kids. It was the “knuckle-heads” that fostered most of their attention. Today was different; a minority student in the school had just received a four-year, full-ride scholarship to a prestigious Ivy-League back east. “Quite an accomplishment,” Schmidt said. “I knew Charlie would end up getting a football scholarship.” The others agreed, but then McDermott, reinforcing the obvious, said, “He was probably the best student I ever had in any of my physics classes.”
A bachelor of many years, McDermott slipped a sandwich from his perfectly folded wax paper, and continued. “I think he might have known more about it than I did.” Yetter agreed, saying Charlie had, “aced every test in calculus I gave this year. No one in my twenty-seven years of teaching has done that.” “I can understand him being brilliant though, both his parents are scientists,” Schmidt said. That next year, Charles Washington, a strapping six-foot, fully developed, handsome, black freshman, entered Columbia College in New York City. Four years later he graduated magna cum laude in Political Science, virtually assuring his entry into the law school at the highly prestigious Columbia University, the graduate-school extension of Columbia College. Charles lived near poverty during his years in New York City. The scholarship paid his tuition and boarding expenses; but to eat, he had to work. During the first three years he worked as a page in a local law office. “Where you from, Charles?” one of the attorneys asked one slow day. “Washington state.” “Long way from home.”
“It is,” Charles replied. “But I’m going back, for the first time, this weekend.” “Vacation?” “My father’s sick.” “Nothing serious I hope.” “They’ve given him only a few weeks to live.” The next Saturday afternoon his plane touched down at Sea-Tac, and since he had a four-hour layover, he took a bus to the Pike’s Place Market in the heart of Seattle, near the waterfront. His father had taken him here many times when he was a young boy, and he wanted to watch the fishmonger’s toss the salmon across the counter-top to the packagers after a sale. Next to aerial shots of the Space Needle and the ferries on Eliott Bay, it was the second most common image shown on television stations across the country when one of the local major sport teams was featured on national television. He purchased a small, colorfully beaded necklace with a wood-carved whale he thought his mother would enjoy; and a Mariner baseball for his father from one of the merchants in a
place where everything from newspapers, to rutabagas, to crab and salmon, to scarves and t-shirts were available. Four hours later he boarded the plane that would fly him over the Cascade Mountains and back into his desert home in Kennewick. That night he found his father in intensive care at the local hospital. “Got you something, Dad,” he said. “Something to remind you of all those trips over the mountains we used to take to watch the Mariners.” His father was on a ventilator and couldn’t talk, but he looked at Charles and indicated how pleased he was for Charles to be with him. He reached out and took the baseball and signaled he wanted a pen, which he then took and signed his name to the baseball. Then he handed the baseball and the pen to Charles. “You want me to sign it too?” His father shook his head affirmatively, and Charles signed the baseball and gave it back to him. Tears leaked from the corners of his father’s eyes and he tucked the baseball in the sheets next to his body. Later that night, after leaving the hospital and feeling a sadness he had never known, Charlie decided he needed a cold beer. The Good Times
Tavern was on his way back to his parents’ home, so he parked his rental car and went inside. Immediately the loud, raucous crowd told him he was home. “Hey, Charlie,” someone in the back shouted. He scrunched his eyes and looked through the smoke-filled room to see a couple of his old high school football buddies sitting in the corner. “Hey, where the hell you been, Charlie?” “Yeah, we heard you were back east somewhere.” A fresh pitcher of beer was delivered to the table and soon they were talking about the old days. Charles explained to them about Columbia and why he was back; then to change the subject started asking about some of the other guys they had all been friends with. After a while, a band started playing and his two buddies found a couple young ladies to dance with, so Charles moved to the bar. A few minutes later, Lucy Hinkle, walked in and started asking him questions that told him she had no idea he had ever left town. They talked a while and he found himself enjoying her company more and more. Months later, as he recalled the evening with Lucy, he realized it had been the beer
more than anything else that landed him in the backseat with her out near the old Finley lagoon. As the years went by, Charlie forgot about the night with Lucy; until he decided to return to a class reunion six years later. That was when he learned that Lucy had been shot in the head at some drug dealer’s place east of town. “What happened to her?” “Last I heard she was in some home up in Spokane.” Nancy Gunderson, a tall brunette who still looked like a high school student, stirred the swizzlestick in her drink while she talked in a quiet corner with Charles. “How tragic,” Charles said. “Yeah, I don’t think anyone knows what happened to her son.” “She had children?” “Only one. A little boy,” she said, swizzling her drink again. She looked deeply into his eyes, and said, “He was like you, Charles.” “Like me? What do you mean?” “He was black.” Charles’ heart sunk. “Black? Like me?”
“You didn’t know that?” “No.” “Everybody here always thought it might be yours, Charles.” He dropped his drink on the table; he thought he might be having a heart attack; he got up and asked her to come outside with him, so they could talk more. Walking casually along the river bank outside the hotel, Charles asked, “Everybody?” “Lucy made sure everyone knew you and she had a ‘fling’ out at the Finley Lagoon. Then when she gave birth to the little boy, everyone who had doubted her had little reason to continue.” “What’s the little boys’ name?” “Pretty sure it was, Billy. I saw him once, what a little cutey pie. I wished he were mine when I saw him.” “Where is he?” “Last I heard he had been put into a foster home, somewhere here in Kennewick.”
“How old would he be?” Charles asked, mostly himself and counting silently backwards. “Eleven,” he said, answering his own question. The next day Charles drove to Spokane.
It was one of those warm summer Friday nights when you can leave your coat at home, put on a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, and a pair of sandals, and go outside to breathe in the pure, fresh, air drifting into the city off the bay. One of Freddy’s favorite pastimes was watching people walk the sidewalks, or enjoy a meal in one of the many outdoor cafes lining the sidewalks, or shop the many stores lining the streets, while enjoying the city’s evening ambience. “Hap, you ever see the kids down in this part of town do anything good?” Freddy asked, his eye glued on a group of young gothics congregated on the corner. “Sure, Freddy. Haven’t you?”
“Seems to me all they do is harass the homeless people over at Occidental. I saw one them kids the other day, wearing them scarves and headrags, and shit, harassing ol’ Rickman over there on one o’ the benches.” “Anybody do anything about it?” “Not that I could see. This kid, he just kept pointing his finger at ol’ Rickman. Making fun of him and shit. Then I saw him actually kick Rick’s foot so hard ol’ Rick’s shoe fell off.” “That ain’t right. Why didn’t somebody get the cops?” “Well, I started to go find the cops, you know they’re over there all the time, but you think I could find one anywhere when I needed one?” “I suppose not.” “No, sir. Nowhere to be found.” “What happened to the kid?” “Ol’ Rick just pulled back his fist, and belted that little son-of-a-bitch right in the nose.” Freddy leaned forward in gut-wrenching laughter. “Good for ol’ Rickman. The kid got what he deserved, huh?” “I’ll say. That’s what we shoulda’ done when the kid assaulted us.”
Hap looked beyond Freddy and saw a bright light flash off the side of a shiny black car driving by and it put him into another trance. “Oh shit,” Freddy said when he saw Hap drift off into what appeared to be sleep. “You gonna be gone long?” he asked. “Damnit, Hap, you know I don’t know how long you gonna be gone here now.” He looked around. “And it looks fucking weird to the people walking by for me to be sitting next to sleepin’ man. Why didn’t you do this over’t Occidental? Nobody cares over there.” Hap’s head rested on Freddy’s shoulder and appeared to be quietly asleep. Hap was sitting in a room with one window which was covered by a large piece of black plastic. The only light was a single, naked, bulb hanging from the ceiling. The bulb tossed foreboding shadows of the four hooded men dressed in blacks and grays and sitting in a circle around him, against the wall. They were speaking Farsi, and referred to him, as al’-Saad; and he understood. “And where were you born, al’-Saad?” “Mecca.” “What was your father’s name?”
“Metupha.” “And your mother’s?” “Hosanna.” “Tell us about your family, al’-Sadd.”
He told them his father was a book seller, and where he had gone to school, and how he had found his way into the jihadist movement; all highly developed lies constructed to give the enemy the impression of credibility, and it was working. On a different mental level, Hap watched the vision as though it were a movie in his head. Mesmerized by the scene he wondered who these men were; and how he knew he was “al’ Saad”. Once the interrogation was terminated, he watched them beat him with their fists, boots, and clubs. No noises, other than the slugging and whacking were heard. Al Saad did not yell out, or protest in any way. “This is to initiate you into the Al’ Baama Brigade,” one of the masked men told him. “Should you ever reveal any of the secrets of our brigade to
anyone outside, remember what happened here and know, in retribution, it will happen again and then it will only cease when you are dead.” Then Hap heard his own response, “As you wish. Long live, Allah”. The men escorted him from the room down a long hall to a door on the side of the building, and into a car, which then drove to an undisclosed location where someone opened the door, and pushed him out. He landed on a hardpan, somewhere on a back street near the airport in Philadelphia. Dazed and disoriented he picked himself up and started walking. Eventually he flagged down a taxi. On the way back into the city the taxi driver asked, “You ok, buddy?” “I’ll be ok. Don’t worry about it,” he replied. “You speak perfect English,” the taxi driver said, exposing a middleeastern accent. “From your looks I thought you were Arabic.” Caught off guard by a taxi driver he hadn’t taken a good look at, he responded, “Oh, yes, I was raised here in Philadelphia. Twelve years of America public schools will squeeze any trace of an accent away.” “Yes, I suppose, yet you dress in the ways of the old country,” the driver said, straining his neck toward his rear view mirror.
“Just drop me off near Franklin Square, on North 7th and Market.” “Ok.” Once inside his apartment he locked the doors, went into his bedroom, kicked off his shoes, and retrieved a cell phone from a hidden location inside his closet. “Jack? “I made it. “Yes, tonight. “Yes, a little bloody; but I’m ok.” He listened for a few seconds to the voice on the other end; then closed the phone and put it back in its hiding place. “Hap! Hap! Wake-up.” Hap heard Freddy’s voice coming the thickened fog-like vision, that felt as though it had just rolled in off the bay. Once his head cleared he realized what had happened. “How long have I been out?” “Just a few seconds, I think. Not very long at all; but man, this is embarrassing sitting here with all these rich people looking at me, sitting here with a sleeping man on the bench.”
“Sorry, Freddy.” Hap sat up and rubbed his eyes. “What was this one about?” “Not sure, but I got the crap beat outa me.” “What? The crap beat outa you?” “There were three or four men. No, four. They were asking him.” Hap stopped. “Asking who?” “I think it was me. Not sure. I seemed to be watching someone who was being interrogated by these four men; only the man under the bright light was me.” “Hey, I used to have dreams like that.” “You did?” “Yeah, back in my acid days. I thought of myself back in those days as a kind of a travelin’ man. You know, Carlos Castenada stuff – he called them out-of-body experiences.” Hap looked at Freddy incredulously. “Out-of-body experiences?” “You know, you get this sensation that you’ve actually left your body and you can look down and watch yourself do whatever you’re doing.”
“That’s exactly what it was,” Hap said, staring off down the street. “You mean inside your vision, right?” “Yeah. I was watching myself being interrogated by a group of what looked like Al’ Queda terrorists.” “al’-Queda terrorists! Shit, man, what you been smokin’ today?” Freddy chuckled at his own humor. Hap sat quietly, thinking. “And after the questions, they beat the crap outa me. I mean, they couldn’t have really been Al’ Queda. Could they?” “Hap, you know Harborview is just up the hill.” Freddy pointed to the massive hospital up the hill. “They have a psycho ward up there, you know.” “Stop it Freddy,” Hap said, then he turned and looked into Freddy’s face, and said, “I feel like I’m standing at an open door looking in some kind of violent life I led before coming here.”
The end of this story will involve Charles Washington finding Hap just as he and Billy are about to be slain by members of the Al’ Baama Brigade. The brigade has been looking for him since the trial. We won’t really know how they find him, they just will. Maybe it will be due to a comment Hap makes while someone is listening: maybe an Islamic in the Mission overhears some of their conversation and reports it to someone who has connections in Seattle to the jihadist underground.
Hap’s son is looking for him. He will hear a man humming classical music to a young boy outside a theater in Seattle, and looking quickly at him will discover it is his father.
Back to Hap….daily doings in Seattle….light easy fare…... Summer – sleeping on the benches with his buddies Freddy – getting sick, or in the hospital. More visions – testifying against the bad guys. Maybe a vision about Bob (Montgomery)? The witness protection
If the traffic had been later that morning, the ambulance would have arrived sooner; but then it probably wouldn’t have mattered. By the time the flashing lights of the fire trucks, ambulances and sheriff’s cruisers were on the scene, the family of four were all dead, as were the Anderson’s; and the two vehicles were but twisted fire-balls of metal, melted vinyl and rubber tires, and glass shards. What spilled oil and gasoline that hadn’t ignited lay quiet in small pools on the ground. Two hours after the mess was cleaned off the road and the flashing lights were gone, Billy regained consciousness and opened his eyes. He was lying
on his back and the first thing he saw were the trees around him, reaching for the sky. In what seemed only a micro-second earlier, he was looking out his back-seat window at the snow-peaked mountains in the east. Now he was lying in a huge, tangled, clump of blackberries and ferns, some thirty feet away from the road. Disoriented and confused, he lay still for a few minutes and tried to figure out what had happened; then he crawled out of the tangled bushes. Covered with scratch marks and bruises, he saw nothing that looked familiar. Where’d the car go? Where are the Andersons? He looked in every direction, and still saw nothing familiar; and having no idea where he was, or what he should do, he started walking along the busy road. It didn’t take long for a car to pull over. The passenger side window went down and a woman with dirty-blonde hair, and a cigarette, asked, “You need a ride?’ “No, thanks,” Billy replied, remembering someone had once told him about speaking with strangers. “I’m just going home.” “Ok,” the lady said, then the driver of her car pulled back out to the road. Then a few minutes later, a shiny red car pulled over. “You ok, son?”
“Yeah. Just going home.” “You don’t look too good, kid. I can give you a ride,” the man said. “That’s ok. Thanks.” Billy kept walking. In a while he reached a crest where, when he walked over the top, he could no longer see where he had started. The sun was beginning to dip low in the west, and he was hungry, and scared. That was when the blue truck pulled over and someone jumped out, and said, “You’re coming with me, kid.” The man quickly grabbed Billy and tossed him in the front seat of the truck. “Who are you?” Billy shouted. “Are you going to take me to the Andersons?” “Who are the Andersons, kid?” “My foster parents. I don’t know what happened to them.” “We don’t know no Andersons, kid.” Billy looked at both of them. The driver wore an old Seattle Mariner cap, the type with the latch on the backside through which a large clump of dirty, brown hair was held aloft. The passenger, younger than the driver, wore a
dirty red baseball cap and had a tattoo of the Zig-Zag man on his forearm. Billy thought he smelled burned rope. “Where are you guys taking me?” Billy asked, looking at the driver who was squinting into the sun. “We’re the United States Agricultural Service,” said the passenger. When he smiled, Billy noticed what teeth he had were brown. “What’s that?” “We’re farmers,” the driver said, spitting big wad of brown tobacco out his window. “Yeah, that’s it,” the passenger said, “we grow agricultural commodities.” “You need a job, kid?” the driver said. Billy noticed the man had sores beneath his scraggly beard. “I’m just a kid, I don’t need a job.” “We got one for you anyway,” the man behind the wheel said. “You’re gonna love it, too,” the passenger said. The driver suddenly extended a hand toward Billy and said, “Name’s Ed,” then he motioned toward his friend and said, “and that there’s Matthew. What’s your name, kid?”
“Billy.” “Well, Billy, we’re glad to meet you,” he said, pulling a bottle of beer from between his legs to his mouth. Billy watched the beer run through the neck of the bottle into Ed’s mouth. “You’re not supposed to drink beer when you drive.” “Hey, Matthew! Look here, we got us a lawyer on board.” Matthew laughed and took a swig from his beer. “Mighty young for an attorney-type, kid.” Billy didn’t know what they were talking about. He was confused and scared, and he started to cry. “C’mon, kid. We’re not gonna hurt you, stop crying. You a little baby?” “Where you taking me?” Billy asked, between deep sobs. “Just up the road, not far now,” Ed told him. “Really, kid, it’s going to be all right. Settle down, now.” The blue truck turned east, off the main road, and onto a side road that led toward the mountains. Soon it was dark, and raining. Billy could see only the tall trees and winding road in the truck’s lights ahead. In a while, Ed pulled the truck onto a dirt road that led into thick woods. Another eight
or miles, after crossing three bridges over rivers whose raging waters Billy could hear, they pulled into a clearing where a well-worn, single-wide mobile home appeared in the truck lights. Limbs, hanging over the roof-line dripped rain-water onto an old rusty barbecue sitting near the front door; lawn chairs, covered with green moss, lay on their backs; an old mattress leaned against the side of the trailer; and there were beer bottles, pop cans, and one of a pair of lady’s white, high-heeled, shoes lying near the front door. “Get out, kid,” Matthew said, opening the door and ducking his head into the rain. Billy crawled out of the truck and felt his shoes squish in mud. “C’mon,” Matthew said, pulling Billy by the shirt toward the front door. Billy’s nose scrunched up when he smelled the inside of the trailer; he thought it smelled like poop. “You hungry, kid?” Ed asked, scrounging through the kitchen for food. “We got something in the freezer,” he said, pulling out three frozen dinners. He opened the door to the microwave on the counter, tossed all three
dinners in, closed the door, started the microwave, and pulled a couple beers from the refrigerator; one for himself, and one for Matthew. Matthew turned on the television and plugged a porn tape into the VCR. “You think she’ll be here tonight?” he asked Ed. “Said she would.” Billy sat quietly on an overstuffed chair and watched a man and woman having sex on the television. He was still having trouble with his emotions, but at least he wasn’t out in the rain, and there was food cooking in the microwave. After they had dinner, Ed picked up a flashlight, a handful of blankets and a pillow, put on a rain jacket, and took Matthew by the hand. “C’mon,” he said, “time for bed, kid.” It was still raining outside, and Billy couldn’t see where they were going because the flashlight was moving too fast for him to follow. In a few minutes they were behind the trailer where Billy saw a small shed. “It might rain a lot, but it ain’t cold at night, so you’re gonna sleep out here, kid.” He unlocked the lock on the door, opened it, and stepped inside. “There ain’t no lights, but you don’t need any,” he said, tossing the blankets
down on the cold floor. “There’s a little light coming in from the trailer,” he said, pointing at the small window in the side of the shed. “I’m cold,” Billy said, scared, and not liking the prospect of sleeping in the shed with no heat. “I don’t want to sleep out here.” “Shut up, kid,” Ed said, “we got company comin’ tonight and you’d be in the way.” He folded the blanket out and had Billy lay down on the pillow, the put the other blanket over him. “See, that’ll work,” he said, walking out the door and locking it behind him. During the night Billy heard the two men and the woman who arrived later, talking, and laughing inside the trailer. He was cold and the sounds they made, coming out of the warm trailer into his cold and lonely shed, made him cry. They didn’t come get him until almost noon the next day.
After the conversation with Nancy Gunderson at the class reunion, Charles Washington had to talk to Lucy; so the next morning, when the Department of Social and Health Servicesâ€™ doors opened, he was waiting. Using his attorney status, it wasnâ€™t difficult for him to find out where he could locate Lucy. Two hours later he was driving north, toward Spokane. He had called ahead on his cell phone; located Marlene Digby, and told her what he had on his mind. She was waiting for him when he arrived.
“She has limited recall from her earlier life. Many times I’ve asked her about her son, and each time I ask, I get a blank stare,” Ms. Digby reported. “Do you think she knows she has a child?” “Hard to say. With these types of head injuries, we never really know what they are able to remember or think, unless they tell us. I’ve heard of patients who appear to have little, if any recall about a loved one, then out of the blue, sometimes ten, fifteen, even twenty years later, start speaking either about them, or directly to them.” “And Lucy’s never said anything about her son?” “Not yet, Mr. Washington. Who knows though, maybe today will be the day. Were you a family friend?” “We went to school together.” “Did you know her son?” “No, I never met him.” “And what is your concern?” Charles looked at the floor, gathering his thoughts, then slowly shifted his eyes to hers. “I may be the father,” he said, feeling a twinge of emotion. “I had no idea, until last night.”
“And someone spilled the beans.” “Apparently the beans were spilled long ago. Mine was just the last one to fall out of the jar.” “Come, let me re-introduce you to Lucy.” Charles felt a clamminess in his palms. It had been a long time since he last talked with Lucy and though he wanted her to remember him, he was convinced she wouldn’t. “Lucy? Do you remember this man?” Digby asked, after knocking and entering Lucy’s room. She looked at him, then looked back at Ms. Digby. “No.” “Are you sure? Look at him again.” She scrunched up her nose, and wrinkles on her forehead formed while, like a radar screen, her eyes scanned Charles’ face. “He’s a good lookin’ one ain’t he,” she said, looking at Digby, “but I don’t know him.” She turned back to Charles, and asked, “What’s your name?” “Charles Washington.”
Suddenly she took on the look of someone who has heard something familiar, but can’t place it. “Charles Washington,” she said. “Do you know Billy?” “No, I…” he said, but wasn’t able to finish because Ms. Digby quickly broke into the conversation. “Lucy, who is Billy?” Lucy’s eyes went back into the darkened place they were before she heard Charles’ name. “Who is Billy, Lucy?” Digby asked again, looking at Charles. Lucy sat silently, staring at her hands. “Charles Washington,” Charles said again. Her reaction was the same as before. “Do you know Billy?” “Tell me about Billy, Lucy,” Charles said. “He’s a little boy,” she said, her eyes lighting up. “Do you know where he is?” “No, they took him away from me,” she said, wringing her hands. “But do you know where he is?”
“They won’t tell me.” Tears welled in her eyes. “Are you his mother?” Charles asked. She wrinkled her forehead again, thinking. “I think so. He was my little boy, I think,” she said, staring out the window. “Who was his father?” Charles asked. “His name was like yours,” she said, looking intently at Charles. “and he had dark skin like you.” “His name was Charles, like mine?” Lucy’s eyes softened and she slid back into the dark place again.
After a couple days of investigation, Charles learned about Billy’s travels through the foster home program; and he learned Billy had died in a fiery car crash. His body had not been located at the scene of the accident, but since no one had heard from him since, it was only obvious that he perished in the crash along with the rest of the Anderson family. Yes, their bodies had been located, but not Billy’s. The search for him, at the scene, had gone on for hours; but it was surmised that if he had been in the Anderson’s car when they were killed, he had been burned beyond not only recognition, but
beyond detection in the smoldering remains of the car. The assumption was that the fire had simply consumed him. Charles followed as many leads as possible before he had to return to Washington DC; then three months later he walked out of his legal firm’s offices near the White House, and flew back to the Pacific Northwest. Charles knew there was no evidence that Billy survived the car crash; but neither was there any evidence that he hadn’t.
Harold Anderson’s brother, Mickey, told Charles how Harold and Monica had never been able to have children on their own and had tried to compensate by working with the foster home program for many years. Charles learned they had had close to twenty foster children in their home by the time Billy arrived. Mickey knew there was some controversy regarding Billy’s whereabout after the accident; but was convinced Billy had been with them that day. “Wouldn’t he have shown up somewhere if he hadn’t been?” Two days later, with camera, voice recorder, notebook, and the accident report in hand, Charles stood at the scene where the accident had taken place. He studied the road and tried to visualize what had happened. He
studied the black and white photographs of the skid marks and walked to where they had been, he checked how fast the car was traveling; and he read the names of the family in the oncoming car. He took pictures, made notes and when the day was bereft of good light, he drove back to his room. The next day he interviewed the police and the firemen who responded the day of the accident. “That road’s killed a lot of people over the years. It’s only getting worse with all these new homes being built,” a deputy told Charles. “The commissioners dropped the speed limit out there right after that accident. They put in new lights and markers; but people don’t like to change old habits.” “How do you know the boy was with them?” “They told us he was.” “Who was that?” “Who told us?” “Yeah, who told you?” “The state investigators. They said there had a young boy in the car with them.”
“Did you find his body?” “No.” “How can you say he was in the car?” “You should talk to the coroner about that. I can tell you this: it was an odd thing all right. We found the man and woman without any trouble. They weren’t in very good shape, I’ll give you that. But I always thought we should have found that boy too. The report says he was ‘apparently’ consumed by the fire.” “I read that.” “It took a few days to learn there was even a boy involved. You know, we find only two bodies, but then we get this report about the boy. I know the coroner’s office went back out to the scene about four or five days after the accident and dug up a bunch of dirt and stuff. You know, looking for evidence.” “And they didn’t find anything; it’s right here in the report.” “No.” “So all we have is ‘circumstantial evidence’ that the boy was in the car.”
“But, if he wasn’t wouldn’t he have shown up somewhere by now?” the deputy asked. “I don’t know,” Charles said, “but I’ll tell you this. I don’t think that boy was killed in that accident, there’s not one stitch of evidence telling us he was.” It didn’t take long for Charles to extinguish all the leads he could muster. A week later he was back at work in DC; still he couldn’t stop thinking that he had a son out somewhere out there in the wide, wide world.
Billy didn’t sleep that night. Sometime before sunrise the rain stopped, but not until the sun came over the mountain peaks did sunlight stream through the cracks in the walls. Cold, hungry, and lonely, Billy positioned himself in the fetal position, pulled the blanket up over his shoulders, and cried. He thought about his mother and how she used to keep him warm and comfortable, sometimes; but mostly he thought about his grandma. As the sun rose higher, the light penetrating the wall cracks, moved toward the back wall; and not long after it disappeared, someone came to the shed. “You awake in there?” Billy recognized Ed’s voice.
“Yes,” Billy said, listening to Ed fumble with the combination lock on the door. When it loosed, Ed opened the door and looked in on Billy who was lying on the floor. “You get cold last night?” “Yes.” “You look all right. C’mon, we gotta go to work.” Billy slowly crawled from under the blanket and followed Ed to a barn located further behind the trailer in the woods. Made of cedar planks, with doors that barely closed, the barn had lost its plumb years ago. Billy thought it might fall over while he watched. Inside, Ed showed him where he tools were kept, especially the hoes and rakes. “You’ll be using these most the time,” he said, grabbing a hoe. “Do you know how to use it?” “No.” Ed took Billy outside and demonstrated the proper techniques of hoeing to him. “Here you give it a try,” he said, handing the tool to Billy. Billy cut a few weeds and gave the hoe back to Ed.
“Oh no, that’s now how it works! You don’t give me the hoe. You go to the field and use it, just like I showed you.” Billy stood silent, watching Ed’s face. “You understand?’ He didn’t understand who Ed and Matthew were; he didn’t understand who the woman was who visited them last night, and he didn’t understand why he was with these people. What he didn’t want to do was show any ignorance, so he shook his head in the affirmative, as though to say he did understand. “Good. Now follow me and I’ll show you where the field is so you can get started.” He took the hoe from Billy and started walking further back into the woods. When they reached a large clearing, Ed showed Billy where they planted their crop. “You can’t plant in one big area, it’s too visible; people in the air look for patterns. We plant in the spaces around the natural bushes that grow here. You can see where last years plants were,” he said, pointing to places where, when Billy looked, all he saw were green plants growing.
“What you’ll do is hoe the ground up. Like this,” he said, showing Billy how to turn the soil with the hoe. “You do a good job and I’ll bring you some lunch later on.” “I’m hungry now,” Billy said, his stomach growling. “Work first, then food. Now, show me how to turn the soil with the hoe.” Billy worked the hoe like Ed had showed him, turning soil in an approximate one foot square area. “That’s good,” Ed said, “just keep doing that in all the places where you see the field has been worked before.” “You want me to do all this before I can have some food?” “You get a good start and we’ll see about the food,” Ed said, disappearing into the woods back toward the trailer. Billy watched him walk away, then took the hoe and sat down on a nearby rock. He didn’t understand why he was here, other than to do the work Ed, and probably Matthew, didn’t want to do. He didn’t understand why he couldn’t have something to eat. The last meal he had eaten had been breakfast with the Anderson’s yesterday, before they disappeared. When he
started thinking about his mother, and grandmother, tears welled in his eyes and spilled over onto his cheeks; then he started sobbing loudly. No one could hear him. Two hours later Ed showed up to inspect his work. “What the hell you been doing out here?” Ed asked, showing anger. “I told you to turn this soil, and you have done nothing,” he said, swinging his arms toward the field. “I’m hungry.” “I told you you’d get something to eat after you got your work done. Now get your ass on it, or you won’t eat anything today.” Billy whimpered, but got up and started hoeing the field. “That’s better. Now keep going, and maybe I’ll find some food for you.” He turned away again and disappeared into the woods. Meanwhile, Billy hoed the field until his hands and arms were so tired he could hardly hold them up; then he sat on a rock in the middle of the field, and hoped Ed would return soon with something to eat. He didn’t understand why Ed couldn’t give him something to eat. He did understand that he didn’t like Ed, and he knew he didn’t want to make Ed mad. Billy sensed something sinister in Ed.
After resting a while and ignoring as much as he could thoughts about his mother and grandmother, he got up and started hoeing the field again. Just before the sun fell far enough in the western sky that he would have to stop on account of darkness, Ed walked back into the field. “Is that it?” “What?” “Is that all you got done?” He could hardly stand up he was so tired. “Yes.” “This is a sad start for you, Billy. If you’re going to do what is expected of you, you’re going to have to work a little harder.” Billy didn’t know how to react; so he started to cry. “Knock off that shit, little man! We don’t need no cry-babies around here. Ya hear?” Billy started sobbing. “I said, shut the fuckin’ crying up!” Billy sobbed convulsively. Ed ripped his belt from his waist band. “You want something to cry about, little man?”
Billy tried, but he couldn’t stop. Ed drew the leather belt back at arm’s length, and struck Billy across the face. “I said, Shut the fuck up!” The welt ran across Billy’s face from above his left eye, across his nose and cheek on the lower right side. He picked up the hoe and tried to swing it at Ed, but Ed caught it with his hands and laid it aside. “You little shit!” he said, pulling Billy across his knee and pummeling his behind with the belt. “I’ll show you who hits who here.” When he finished beating Billy, he took by the arm back to the shed and shoved him inside. “You just sit in there and think about what you’re going to do to make Ed happy tomorrow.” He closed the door and locked it again. Billy buried his head in the pillow and sobbed until he fell asleep; but for he second night in a row dreams and nightmares interfered with his sleep.
“Grandma what are you doing?” he asked, watching her weave leather belts into a quilt she was making. “Making you a quilt, Billy.” “Why are you using belts?”
“To keep the evil spirits away from you. When you sleep with this quilt, they will leave you alone.” Billy awoke and pulled the skimpy blanket around his chin. From inside the trailer he heard laughter, and people’s voices, and country music. The laughter didn’t die until late in the morning hours, and once again, when the lights streaming through the cracks between the planks in the walls disappeared against the wall, someone started fidgeting with the lock on the shed. “C’mon,” a voice said. Billy looked and saw Matthew. “I’m hungry.” “C’mon, I’ll get you some cereal, or something.” The trailer was a mess. Empty beer bottles were on the floor, on the television, the table in front of the couch, in the sink, on the couch, and in the refrigerator. “Damn good party last night. You shoulda been here.” Billy wondered why he wasn’t.
“Look there’s Ed’s feet,” Matthew said, pointing down the hall to where a pair of feet stuck out of the bedroom door into the hall. “I guess he was too tired to make it to his bed,” Matthew said, laughing out loud. “You ever have that trouble? Too tired to go to bed.” Billy could only hear the rhythm of Matthew’s voice; the room started twirling slowly at first, then faster, and soon Billy collapsed on the floor. “What the fuck?” Matthew said. “Hey, Billy, you ok?” He ran to Billy’s side and gently slapped his cheek, trying to revive the boy. He ran back to the kitchen and filled a glass with cold water and tossed it on Billy’s face. “Hungry,” Billy said when the water woke him. Matthew helped Billy sit up, then helped him to the table where he filled a bowl of cereal with milk. “Here you go.” Billy finished the bowl in a matter of minutes. “Can I have some more?” he asked, bringing the bowl to his mouth so he could drink the remaining milk. Matthew filled the bowl again and filled it with milk. “Did you have anything to eat yesterday?” “No.”
“Are you fuckin’ with me?” “No.” “That bastard, Ed. I told him you would need some food if he was going to have you work the field yesterday. I was on a buying trip, otherwise I woulda fed you Billy.” “More?” Billy asked, drinking again the milk from the bottom of the bowl. “What the hell you doing?” Ed yelled from the hall near the bedroom. “Feeding the boy!” “I told you not to do that. How will we ever get him trained properly if he’s has a gut full of food?” Ed stormed into the kitchen and knocked the cereal bowl onto the floor. “Ed, if he doesn’t eat he won’t have the strength to work the field. Now leave him alone while he eats.” Ed picked up the bowl and when he started to refill it, Ed struck him in the face with his fist. “Gawdamit! What the fuck you do that for?” “I told you, asshole, no food until he does his work!”
“You stupid s.o.b!” Matthew yelled, just as another fist shoved its way into his face. He fell back onto the floor near the television. He got up, mad, and charged Ed. The fight was ferocious and soon everything from the television to the toaster on the kitchen counter was lying on the floor. Eventually Ed fell against the door, knocking it open, and fell to the ground outside. Battered and bloody, Matthew jumped out the door onto Ed and seemed to have the upper hand until Ed picked up a monkey wrench lying on the ground and started coming at him. “Ed! Stop!” Matthew yelled, running away from him. “You stupid shit! How do you expect to get the crop in if you’re going to fight with me?” Ed slowed, then stopped, and pointing the wrench at Matthew said, “You feed that kid again and this’ll be embedded in your skull, you understand?” “Crap, Ed, how can you say that? The kid’s gotta eat.” “I told you, dumbshit, if he works with a full belly, he won’t do what we tell him.” “Ok, so we feed him twice a day, but we don’t let him finish his plate!”
While the argument raged in front of the trailer, Billy snuck out the back door and fled into the woods.
Early June can be an exceptionally beautiful time of the year in western Washington; this is the time of year when the sun begins to make more frequent appearances. The buds on the cherry trees that line the University of Washingtonâ€™s campus swell and burst populating the trees with millions of pink blossoms; crocuses pop up in lawns, and around building foundations; and brilliant yellow daffodils fill pots and small landscapes all over the city. The city itself shakes off the gloom of winter and sparkles with a brilliance reserved only for this time of year. People in the streets trade their winter gray and brown jackets and umbrellas for the red, yellow, and blue shorts, t-shirts, and tank tops of summer.
Hap sat in Occidental park watching a group of Mariner fans work their way through the homeless toward the multi-million dollar play-field known as Quest Field. They were a colorful lot, staying close to the sidewalks surrounding the square, rather than walking across the park and therefore, near the sleeping potatoes, wrapped in gray blankets, on the park benches. The fans worked hard not to stare at the homeless folks; but Hap noticed most every one of them would, at some point, toss a quick glance. What he enjoyed most was the children; hopping and skipping with their Mariner t-shirts and flags and signs with their parents carefully herding them toward the stadium. “Hi there,” he said to a young boy who walked a little closer than most. “Hi,” the boy replied, walking on by. Hap turned and watched the boy. He looked about seven, or eight, and there was something about him that Hap couldn’t quite place. Was it the way the boy walked, or the way he held his backpack strap? Or was it simply his shoes? Hap shifted his weight on the bench, letting his head rest against the back.
The vision came slowly. “Michele, did you get Louie’s back-pack? Mom said it was on the kitchen table.” She held it up, and said, “Right here, Dad.” “Ok, let’s go then,” he said, opening the front door. They walked to the car and put the backpack in the backseat; then drove to Louie’s school and waited for him to emerge. Once the last bell of the day announced school was out, Louie, one of the first kids out the door, emerged on the run and headed for his Dad’s car. An hour later, they were at the old Veteran’s Ballpark to watch the Phillies play the Atlanta Braves. They ate hot dogs, and cotton candy, and drank Coka-Cola, and they laughed and marveled at the players who played baseball better than anyone else in the world could play the game. And while the Braves beat the Phillies that day, Louie and his dad were sad; but they were not too sad. On the way home, they told corny jokes, laughed, counted the number of cars who had nines in their license plate numbers, and hummed classical music together. Louie was particularly adept at humming classical music, it
was something his dad had taught him when they used to take walks in the park, and go to the symphonies, and visit the zoo.
Hap opened his eyes, then closed them again. The day was warm, the sun was breaking through the new leaves on the sycamore trees growing in the park, and he was peaceful. The vision had been pleasurable and he didnâ€™t want to let it go just yet. He was afraid if he moved about too quickly he would lose the images he had just experienced; they were the most pleasurable visions he could remember. Sometimes Hapâ€™s visions whisked him away to places he didnâ€™t know; places far away - bizarre places where danger lurked at every corner. And some of them were casual, more like light dreams, or even memories. The one thing they all had in common however was that none of them were of things he knew about, or was connected to; yet after they evaporated from his mind he felt the places and experiences were in some inexplicable way a part of him.
Leaving his head to rest on the back of the bench, he and took a deep, slow breath. Who were those children? He struggled to remember their names. Michael? No, a girl’s name: Maria? No. Mary? Miranda? Mish… Mich….Michele, that was it, Michele. And he was, mmm, what was it? Larry? Larson? Luigy? No. Louis…mmm…Lou..Louie! That was it Michele and Louie. He struggled to remain in the gloam of the vision: the ball park, the cotton-candy, the walk back to the car, the children’s laughter and giggles, and the music they hummed. He wanted to keep the memory of the vision; and he wanted to know who these delightful children were. Hap thought back to his earliest memory which was when he was in a hospital bed and there was a man sitting in a chair, reading a magazine, in the room with him. “Hey, Hap, you’re awake!” the man with the magazine had said. During those first few moments of consciousness, Hap didn’t know who the man was talking to. “Who?” Hap responded, bleary eyed and filled with confusion. “You, dog. You’re name’s Hap ain’t it?” He rubbed his eyes and looked about the strange room. “I don’t know?”
“You don’t know your own name? It’s Hap, man. Hap’s your name.” Nothing about it sounded familiar, but hard as he tried, he couldn’t remember his real name, and he didn’t know where he was. “Where am I?” “Man, you got hit by a train. You’re in the hospital. You been in here for three weeks.” “A train hit me?” “Knocked you a country mile. You don’t remember that?” Hap struggled to remember. “No.” “I’ll be right back, Hap. Somebody need to know you’re back.” In a few minutes the room was filled with nurses, orderlies, interested hospital people; all strangers. They expressed a great deal of delight to see the man who had been comatose for three weeks looking back at them and talking. “He don’t know his own name,” the man who had been reading the magazine said. “That’s normal, Freddy,” someone said to him. “Comatose patients are always confused when they first wake up. Their memories are weak, and
sometimes they never get them back. Others regain most of their memories in a matter of minutes, hours, maybe days. He’ll be all right. He’ll come back.” Hap looked at the man and realized he knew Freddy’s name; but what was his own name? All he knew was, Hap, but he knew that wasn’t the real one. “Why do you call me Hap?” he asked the man once the crowd cleared. “Everybody know you as Hap. It’s because you always smilin’. Look at you, you smilin’ now.” “Did you know me before the accident?” “Sure, everybody know you Hap.” “Who is ‘everybody?’” “You know, man, everybody down at the Mission and over in Occidental Park. All the folks that hang out there, they all know Hap.” In the days and weeks following his awakening in the hospital, Freddy was Hap’s constant companion. He showed Hap where his apartment was located, south of Quest Field, and where Occidental Park and Pioneer Square were, as well as the Mission on First Avenue. He reintroduced him to
everyone and it became clear to Hap that these people all knew him; but he had no recollections of anything prior to that day in the hospital. He didn’t now any of the people Freddy introduced him to; nor did he recognize his apartment, the things in it, or the locale in which it was located. Freddy took Hap to the railroad tracks and showed him where the accident had happened. “I was with you, man. It happened right here,” Freddy said, pointing to the intersection where Freddy had been hit by the train. “It was late, man. You were drunk and sleepy. I told you earlier to go on home, but you didn’t want to. You said it was too nice a night to go home with that cat of yours. What’s his name?” “Bull Durham,” Hap answered. “What? You know your cat’s name, but you don’t know mine?” “You’re Freddy. I know that.” “Yeah, but how did you know the Bull’s name. I didn’t know it, so I couldn’t tell you.” “I don’t know. It just came to me.” Hap saw the cat in what would become the first of hundreds of visions he would eventually have. It was in the vision, that he remembered feeding and talking to Bull Durham, the cat.
The vision lasted only a second, maybe two. The huge visions came later; the ones that seemed to put him to sleep. “What was my name before the accident, Freddy?’ “I don’t really know. Soon as you showed up, people started callin’ you Hap.” By now they had walked from the site of the accident back to the park. It was late and the weather was threatening with rain, so Hap said goodnight to Freddy and walked back to his apartment. While he walked, he hummed Brahm’s Lullaby, and thought of the two children, Michele and Louie. The further he walked, the weaker his memory of the vision became. By the time he arrived at his door, he was humming another classical piece; and most of the pieces of his memory of the vision of Michele and Louie he had earlier, disappeared into the cerebral mists where most dreams and visions disappear.
Shelter for the animals living in mountain forests is plentiful; and the rivers provide nourishment and water as they flow together on their way to the ocean. Warm, lush, and green in the summertime, people flock to forests in campers and tents to fish, and hike, and recharge. Forests are also places where people can hide: hide from family, enemies, the law, each other. Billy, ran from the field he had been shoveling into the dark forest. He ran hard and soon he came to a river too wide to cross. Heaving for breath, he sat under a clump of bushes and listened for Ed and Matthew, but he only heard his breathing, the winter wrens, and the rushing river. Darkness comes early in the mountains. Billy knew it was getting late because it was getting dark. Hearing no one, he crawled out of the bushes
and started following the river. Had he been a little older, he might have known to follow the river downstream, but he was still a young boy; he turned upstream and started moving along the river. When it got too dark to continue, he stopped and struggled for a comfortable place to lie down and sleep; then as the evening temperatures dropped, he started to shiver. The night sounds were scary and he didnâ€™t know what to do. He tried doing some exercises to stay warm and that worked some, but soon he fatigued. The exercise raised his temperature enough for him to lay down and doze for a few minutes; then when his temperature dropped again, he awoke. A mist started moving into the valley along the river, and a gentle drizzle developed. Billy felt the moisture working its way into his dirty clothes, and soon he was miserable with shivering and sleep deprivation. In the early morning hours when light began filtering into the valley, he started walking on upstream. Starving, cold and wet, he eventually came across an old dirt road. He looked in both directions, but couldnâ€™t decide which way to go, so he started walking on the downhill side of the road. After walking for a couple of miles, Edâ€™s blue truck turned a far corner and
started coming toward him. He jumped in the bushes and watched Ed and Matthew drive by slowly. “Billy!” Ed shouted. “Billy, come on out. We know you’re in there?” But Billy sat quiet; and when they drove past, he stepped out on the road and started running as fast as he could. “There he is,” Ed said, looking in the cracked glass of the rearview mirror. He slammed on the breaks and turned the truck around – wheels kicking dirt and gravel. “I see him!” Matthew said, pointing down the road. Billy, running almost uncontrollably down the road, looked over his shoulder at the truck and when he saw it turning around, lost his balance and tumbled out of control onto the hard road. When he stopped rolling, he jumped up and ran into the woods. “Whoa, he took quite a fall,” Matthew said. Ed laughed, and stopped the truck at the point where Billy ran into the trees. “Let’s get him,” he said, jumping from the truck. It didn’t take long for them to run Billy down, and when they did Billy started sobbing again.
“You’re just a fuckin’ crybaby,” Ed said, picking him like a roll of carpet and carrying him back to the truck. “You’re gonna be sorry you ran from us, you little shit,” he said, grabbing a rope from the back of the truck and tying Billy’s ankles and wrists. He laid him in the bed of the truck, strapped a strip of duct tape on his mouth; then drove back down the road to the trailer. “Ed,” Matthew said, “we gotta feed him when we get back.” Ed didn’t argue this time, so when they got back he went into the freezer and pulled out a pizza and popped it into the microwave. Matthew untied his wrists, and removed the duct tape so he could eat. Before he finished his pizza, he put his head on the table and went to sleep. Matthew picked him up and put him on one the beds in back. Ed watched Matthew. “What’re you some fuckin’ mother or somthin’?” “The kids gotta have food, and he’s gotta have some sleep. You think he slept last night out there in the forest? It was cold and wet last night. If were not careful he’ll get sick and die on us.” Ed turned on the television, and hit the play button on the VCR. “Is that what you want? You sick fuck?” Matthew yelled at him.
“Look, I said it once and I don’t need to say it again, if we want that boy to work for us, then we gotta train him and that training includes keeping him in his place. If he thinks we’re gonna kiss his ass and keep him warm and fuzzy, he won’t do shit.” Later that evening, Ed took Billy back out to the shed and locked the door. Over the next few weeks Ed and Matthew took Billy with them to work the field. It was early spring and they would be planting the crop in late April, early May. They fed Billy breakfast in the mornings; and when they stopped for lunch, they fed him as well; after the evening meal, which was always something brought from the freezer and nuked in the microwave, Billy was tied up and put back in the shed for the night. Eventually Billy stopped crying. He wore the same clothes each day that he had worn the day they captured him, and he was growing out of his shoes; when he started to stink, they would put him in the shower and wash him down. Once he had worn his out, Matthew bought him some new underwear and occasionally he would get a freshly washed pair to put on; his other clothes were never washed. It didn’t take long for his hair to grow
beyond his shoulders, and then wearing dirty and tattered pants and shirt, he took on a wild look that caused Ed to comment, “He looks like he lives with a pack of wolves.” Matthew laughed and replied, “Shouldn’t he have a club over his shoulder?” Meanwhile Billy continued shoveling the dirt and turning the soil. He had learned that when he didn’t do as he was told, Ed’s belt would burn into his hide; it wasn’t something he enjoyed, so he kept working. His hands were calloused, he had holes in his knees, and his shoes were just about gone; but he kept working, turning the soil. After a month of hard work, the field was ready for planting. Matthew showed Billy how to mound the dirt, and plant the seeds. It took them a week to complete the planting. “See Billy, when the crop starts to grow, it will come up at pretty much the same time as the ferns and other plants that come out in the spring. That way the crop is as close to invisible from the air, as if it weren’t even there,” Matthew told him. “From the air?” Billy asked, turning his face skyward.
“Yeah, we don’t want the helicopters to see it.” “Why?” “Because, Billy, we’re growing weed.” “Why do you grow weeds?” Matthew was surprised at Billy’s questioning. He had thought about the fact that Billy wouldn’t know anything about what they were doing. “It isn’t really weeds, Billy. It’s marijuana.” “Marijuana? What’s that?” “It’s sorta like tobacco; you smoke it.” “Yuk, I don’t like smoking. My mother smoked cigarettes all the time.” “She did?” “Yeah, like you and Ed. You guys like to smoke cigarettes.” “Sure we do. You sure you don’t wanna try one sometime?” “No way.” Matthew smiled at Billy, then started wrapping the rope about his ankles. “Time for bed, Billy.”
The weather is still cold and unpredictable in Seattle in the Spring. People have yet to doff their winter clothing; they still carry umbrellas back and forth between work and the parking garage, or bus stop, and where they work. The people who hang out at Occidental Park still hunker down near the air vents near the buildings at night. The lucky ones find space in the Mission to spend nights. The spring rain is not unlike the winter rains, but it gradually takes on a misty context rather then one of drizzle with an occasional pour. Hap doesn’t spend too many winter or spring nights at the park. He’s one of the very fortunate people who can afford a place to sleep. It was after the accident and his loss of memory that, with Freddy’s help, he learned he
could take the check he received each month from the United States Treasury to the Washington Mutual bank over on Pike and Sixth and deposit it into an account that matched the name on the checks, and the identification card in his wallet: Bob Jones. The money was enough for him to pay his rent, keep his place warm in the winter, buy a few groceries and enough beer and wine to keep his supply stocked. He didn’t know why the government sent him the checks; and he had never known anyone named Bob Jones; but Freddy told him how he had gone with him to this bank to deposit checks before the accident and he knew he had to trust Freddy. Freddy laughed at Hap after accident. Confused about the apartment, Hap thought it belonged to someone else. He didn’t recognize any of his belongings; but after a few weeks went by, he began to accept the fact that it was all his. “All I know’s this, we started calling you ‘Hap’ practically the day you showed up. Not many people here know the real names of the others anyway, so it didn’t matter.” “Is your real name, Freddy?” “No, my real name is Marty Drake. Ok?”
“Ok, Freddy.” They smiled together at the humor. “I must be this, Bob Jones, then. But I’ll be damned if it rings any kind of a bell with me.” “Hell with it,” Freddy said, “you’re Hap and that’s all anybody around here cares to know.” Hap smiled while he stroked Bull Durham’s fur and watched television while the misty night surrounded Seattle. “What do you know, Bull?” Hap asked him, “Do you think any of it matters much?” Bull purred and moved from the couch into Hap’s lap where he searched one way then the other before finally settling down into a comfy position. “As I thought,” Hap said. The television droned and soon Hap, sleepy, laid his head back on the couch and began to doze. The next vision arrived like a deer sets his hoof on the carpeted forest floor, softly. He was sitting in a hardwood chair that matched the wood throughout the room: maple. The chair was higher than the others in the room, and there were people sitting along the side of the room, they seemed to be listening to him speak. He was wearing a sweat-shirt, a pair of sweat pants, and a stocking cap with hairs that had been colored gray curling about his ears, the long scraggly beard he had worn before was trimmed and also
colored gray; he felt very uncomfortable. Since he had returned to the United States and his style of clothing, this was not him; and it was not accidental. When he talked into the microphone, he could hear his voice, but he couldn’t make out the words. He strained to hear what he was saying, then it was as if someone fired a shot and the deer’s hooves started slamming into the dried brush and small branches; and that was when the hunters knew in what direction it ran. “Yes, that’s him,” he heard himself say, then saw himself pointing across the room. He was pointing at a man, also bearded, but wearing a turban and robes, rather than traditional western fashion. Then another man appeared; the one who was asking the questions. His hair was close cropped, he wore wire-rimmed glasses, a gray suit and black shoes; he carried an open file folder in his hand and looked at it occasionally. “Did you serve as a covert agent in Iraq before the war?” “Yes.” “And what was the name you were assigned while carrying out that duty?” “al-Saad.”
“Were you able to infiltrate this cell in Philadelphia?” “Yes.” “And how did you accomplish such a dangerous feat?” “I was able to infiltrate a group of terrorists when I was stationed in Baghdad. While with them, this plot was created and developed.” “Did you have a role while with them?” “Yes, my job was to procure the necessary weapons.” “And were you able to carry out that duty?” “My reports were fabrications. I reported being in contact with a group in Syria who would provide the weapons through their contacts in the United States.” “Did such a group, as far as you knew, exist.” “No.” “And what is the status of the group you were working with in Baghdad?” “All dead.” “I see.”
The man in the gray suit then turned toward the defendant. “Were you in this man’s presence on the day of the attempted attack?” “Yes.” “And did you have prior meetings with him?” “Yes.” “Were there any others at these meetings?” “Yes.” “Can you tell me how many?” “It varied, but there was a core of about four or five others there.” “At each meeting?” “Yes.” “Do you know their names?” “Yes.” “Can you name them?” “Yes. There was al’-Rasheed, Mohammed al’-Idris, Mustafa Akmed al’Manaan, Abdulah Songo, and Jafar al’-Awdah.” “And which is this man” he asked, pointing to the defendant.” “Mustafa Akmed al’-Manaan.”
“Were you ever in attendance when this group of men discussed attacking the White House and the ensuing plot for assassination of the president?” “Yes.” “Can you tell the court what you heard?” “Mustafa Akmed al’-Manaan was the leader of the group. He had ties overseas to the al’-Queda group I had infiltrated in Baghdad.” “Did you ever hear him refer to Abdullah, the leader of the cell you infiltrated in Baghdad?’ “Yes, of course, but after Abdullah’s assassination and my arrival in Philadelphia there was no further contact. However, he spoke of Abdullah many times. Abdullah’s group laid the groundwork for passports, money, and training prior to Abdullah’s death.” “Can you give the court any specifics in terms of Mr. Akmed al’Manaan’s involvement in this plot?” “He made the final call to the men in the field, giving them the final goahead on the day of the attempt.” “And what was your role that day, Mr. Montgomery?”
“I had a button wired to the inside pocket of my trousers. When the call went out to the men in the field, I reached into my trouser pocket and pressed the button which was connected to the Feds who were conducting surveillance on those men.” “And how did they know who these men were and where they were located?” “That was my function in the cell; to position the men in the field.” “Who assigned you that function, Mr. Brown?” “Mustafa Akmed al’-Manaan.” Bull Durham suddenly stood in Hap’s lap and stretched his legs forward. Hap’s eyes opened and the dream turned to cerebral fluff, but not before he was able to recall the scene and know he had been on the stand testifying against a man who looked of eastern descent.
In a small Philadelphia mosque, a small group of Islamist extremists, angered by their leader, Mustafa Akmed al’-Manaan, being sentenced to life in prison for an assassination attempt on the president of the United States; and the government’s continued prosecutions of the men who had been involved, began planning revenge. Omar, the man at the head of the table spoke. “Robert Montgomery, the man who took the name al’-Saad, is a dog who’s life has been shortened by his covert spying into our most holy organization” “Yes! Death to Robery Montgomery,” the other men at the table shouted in agreement. “He has been hidden by the United States government into the witness protection plan and I don’t know how difficult it will be to find him; but we
must, at all costs find this unholy vermin and take his head for delivery to the White House to make our statement about the severity of his activities; and also as a statement about our resolve.” “Praise to Allah,” the men recited in unison. Omar Jalil, a Taliban trained recruit from Afghanistan, had been sent to serve in the United States, first as a holy man working with the Philadelphia Muslims who attended this particular mosque, and second to enlist soldiers in their cause. Overtly, he lived in a respectable part of the city, drove a new SUV, belonged to one of the many Rotary Clubs in Philadelphia and often spoke publicly against the extremists within his faith; but he worked covertly to enlist others who adhered to extremist philosophies. “Because of this unholy dog, the al’-Baama brigade has disbanded, however in the name of our all-powerful Allah, we will retain that name for our organization. To achieve our tasks, we must be ever vigilant that no one on the outside knows of our existence.” “Praise to Allah,” the men responded. “But how will we find this Robert Montgomery?”
“I have contacts who tell me it is close to impossible to break through the secrecy and deception of the US government. Protected witnesses are given new identities, and money. They are moved to places far away from their families, and even their loved ones do not know where they live. They are told to change all their old habits; if they were fishermen, no fishing; if they were joggers, no more jogging.” “How do we break this code, Omar,” a man at the table asked. ‘My contact also told me there are ways; but he said none are guaranteed.” “And what are those ways, Omar Jalil,” the man across the table asked. “Many of those who are found are found because of their own stupidity. They are not allowed to contact members of the family they have left behind - ever; but many cannot stand the isolation and, in time, break the rule.” “So if we can find the son of this pig and steal his mail….” “Yes, but we have to be very careful that the son does not know we are doing such a thing.” “Yes, Omar, but how do we monitor his mail without him knowing?”
“We watch him. If he is contacted by his father, he will try to reply; either by mail, or by traveling to him.” “And how do we follow him to the airport and onto a plane?” “All we have to know is where he flies to. He will send mail home to his wife and children.” “So we would continue to monitor his mail.” “Yes.” “And what do we do if his mail is delivered in a locked box?” “We have skeleton keys, we also have contacts working in the US mail services who can sometimes retrieve mail.” “We have contacts in every city. All one has to do is provide a picture over the internet and our people can find and follow.” Omar looked at the men’s faces around the table and was satisfied with the intensity they displayed for achieving the purposes of the operation. “Imagine the chaos we will create with this dog’s head stuck on a post outside the White House.” “Victory is ours, Omar! Praise be to Allah.”
“If the protected man uses a particular medicine, he can be traced through pharmaceutical databases. We would need someone to infiltrate the database, but we don’t know if Robert Montgomery takes any of these medications.” He stopped and watched his men, then added, “We could also break into the government offices where the witness protection databases are kept.” “Can we do that without the government knowing?” “You forget, ass mouth, we have people who work in these buildings: the cleaning crews can serve valuable assistance if needed.” Three days later, while Louie Montgomery walked from his car to his office building in downtown Philadelphia, a man across the street with a telephoto lens attached to his camera, took a series of pictures of him. In the late hours of the night, a custodian, who was paid ‘under the table’, unlocked an office door and scavenged through the mail on Louie’s desk. He found only business letters and a few pieces of junk mail. Over the next three years, Louie was followed and surveilled by members of the brigade. They gained access to not only his desk and computer, but also to his home mail; they had both his credit card and social
security numbers. Through what they learned about him, they also set up surveillance on his sister, Michele, in Atlanta, Georgia, and his mother, Robert Montgomery’s ex-wife, in Philadelphia. After three years of surveillance, they had nothing from these sources. Still, they were determined. Not long after they began running the surveillance on Louie, it was decided to attempt a break-in at the Witness Protection offices in Philadelphia. At midnight, on the prescribed rainy night, three of the brigade’s members met the custodian in a darkened area in an alley doorway. The men wore masks and the custodian, who had been paid enough to drown any guilt he might have otherwise harbored, opened the door for them and escorted them up the elevator to the fourth floor offices. “I don’t see the cameras, are they hidden?” “No, this building doesn’t have cameras.” Once inside they opened file drawers, and desk drawers, but didn’t find anything particularly helpful. However, one of the men, Othman Kabir, who had been a computer expert for the US government, was able to open the hard drive files and get into the Witness Protection database. Once inside he
downloaded the information onto a thumb-drive, and they quietly exited the office. No obvious traces of their entry into the building were left behind. “I have found the information, Omar,” Othman told him over the cell phone connection. “Good, say no more on this line and let us meet to share what you have found.” Half and hour later they were sitting inside a quiet coffee shop in the downtown district of Philadelphia. “I printed the information for you, Omar.” He reached into the attaché bag he was carrying on his shoulder and pulled out a file folder. “I realize the need for security on this matter; therefore there is only this one printed copy from the thumb drive file.” He slipped the report from the folder and handed it to Omar. “So the evil one’s new identity is Bob Jones, and he lives in Seattle, Washington.” Omar sipped his coffee, and continued, “His head will soon rest on the White House fence.” “Praise be to Allah,” Othmar replied. “I will send this to our brothers in Seattle, in the name of Allah.”
“Perhaps you should also send them a picture of Bob Jones’ son, Louie. We still have it on file.” “I will. Maybe they can put it to good use.” The next day, Abu Bakr Qadeer, a Seattle real estate broker, specializing in commercial properties, spent the morning with some Amazon.com executives who were looking for warehouse space. When he returned to his office, he opened his private email from which he usually communicated with his wife during the day and found a message from Omar Jalil in Philadelphia. Abu didn’t know Omar, but when he read the subject line of the message he knew it was something needing his attention. It was a code adopted by the jihadists living in the Unites States to recognize one another’s messages. It simply read: OBL. Abu opened the email and read the message telling him about Bob Jones, an enemy of the jihad living in Seattle. The picture wasn’t attached to the email as this was too dangerous. Omar had embedded it into the body of the message itself. Abu picked up his phone and dialed a number. “We have a target.”
The next morning, three men sat together at a table in a Starbucks on Pine and 7th in downtown Seattle. They looked like ordinary men about the Seattle area: light jackets, expensive pants, ties, shoes, and folded umbrellas. To someone watching from a distance, they would see the men smiling and laughing among themselves. A casual observer would have believed these businessmen were simply taking a break from their cluttered offices somewhere nearby. These men, however, like many of their counterparts achieved a certain level of satisfaction knowing they were plotting the destruction of the America, right under the noses of those they intended to destroy. “What was his name?” “Robert John Montgomery, aka., al’-Saad.” “And now?” “Bob Jones.” “In the name of Sweet Allah, how many Bob Jones are there in Seattle?” “Hundreds, maybe thousands.”
“I doubt he lives in a palace. We could reduce the number of Bob Jones to investigate by the neighborhood they live in. The witness protection plan doesn’t provide them a fortune to live on.” “How about the type of car he drives. This Bob Jones probably doesn’t drive a new SUV either.” “Look at the people in this coffee shop. I’m sure he doesn’t dress as nice as these people either.” After further discussion regarding how they might reduce the list of Bob Jones, Abu brought out the picture of Hap’s son, Louie, and passed it to the other two men. “Maybe we can find a Bob Jones who resembles this picture enough to make the connection.” They knew the task wasn’t going to be an easy one, but they decided if they enlisted more men in the area, they would eventually find Bob Smith. “Why don’t we get some posters of son around town. Maybe that would draw him out. Something like, ‘Have You Seen This Man,’ across the top with a phone number to call. Then all we have to do is monitor the calls.”
In a few weeks a totally invisible brigade of men, some obviously of middle-eastern descent, and some not; men who silently prescribed to the jihadist movement, began running surveillance on all the Bob Jones in the telephone book. In time they had narrowed the list down to those who lived in modest homes and apartment houses. Not long afterwards, they narrowed that list even further by the cars these men drove. Hap wasn’t included in any of the lists: he didn’t have a telephone, nor did he own a car. Two weeks later, the Seattle Brigade received word from the brigade in Philadelphia - they had intercepted a blank post card with a picture of a place called “Pioneer Square.” It was addressed to Louie Montgomery; and the postmark read, “Seattle, WA.”
The people living in Seattle accept the rain as fact; it is the price they must pay for the beautiful emerald forests and rhododendrons that grow wild or they become clinically depressed and combat their depression with psycho-drugs, or they go to Arizona. Most of the outside world believes the summer months in Seattle are rainy and cold; but observant folks who watch Mariner games all summer on television in other parts of the world soon realize, just like the residents of the city, that there are few rainy days in Seattle in the summer.
Summer in Seattle is when flowers bloom everywhere, from window boxes on the homes, to municipal boxes positioned throughout the city, to even empty lots where people who buy wildflower seeds spread them. Summer in Seattle is time when tourists from all over the world come to visit the Space Needle, and the Farmer’s Market on Pike Street positioned only a few blocks from the middle of the bustling downtown area. Tourists are the ones carrying umbrellas on perfectly sunlit days when the water off Eliott Bay sparkles like diamonds in the sunlight. Summer in Seattle is when hundreds of thousands of people line the banks of Lake Washington to watch the Blue Angels rip through the airspace among the city’s skyscrapers and over Lake Washington where unlimited hydroplanes race at speeds in excess of a hundred miles-per-hour. Summer is time when the homeless people in Occidental Park don’t have to worry about freezing at night; and hope escalates for a hand-out from a Mariner fan, or two, walking through the park on the way to Safeco Field. Sunny days and the warmth they bring are also ideal for growing marijuana. This is what brought Ed and his old best friend, Matthew to the area. They made a ton of money with their marijuana fields in California, but
after getting raided by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and serving their respective prison sentences, they decided the forests of western Washington might provide them more anonymity than what they had farming in the more open areas of California. After making several trips to Pacific Northwest scouting for places to set up, and after making the move, they had more success than expected. They developed the farm, located inside the Snoqualmie National Forest just east and north of Carnation, Washington, with such precision that it was invisible from the air and in such a remote location; the chances of discovery were almost non-existent, or so they thought. The first few years had been good enough for Ed to purchase a nice home in Redmond in one of the nicest neighborhoods in town. When he and Matthew needed some rest and recuperation, they would spend a few days there. Once they decided to expand their operations to more available space across the ravine from where they started, the farmâ€™s production increased exponentially; but they needed help, so when they saw young Billy walking along the road that day, they kidnapped him.
The kidnapping hadn’t been without planning. They didn’t want to hire someone who would turn report them to the authorities. It was a matter of trust, and they trusted no one, not even each other. “We could kidnap somebody,” Ed said, one night while whittling a piece of wood he picked up near the trailer. “That could be problematic,” Matthew responded, tossing an empty beer bottle against a tree. “Yeah, it could. It’d have to be a kid. Someone we could control and train.” “Are you kidding me?” Ed was more hardheaded than Matthew. His high school buddies, like Matthew, figured him one shoe short of a pair. They also knew once he latched onto an idea, letting go was like using your hands to pull a tire off a truck wheel. “How hard is it to control a kid? You knock them around a little. You now, build some respect so they don’t think they can get away with anything.” Matthew, more diminutive in stature, but not brains, was the glue that held the two together. “So you want to kidnap a kid.”
“Well, not exactly kidnap him. Kidnap means we want money from someone who wants him back. This would be more like…,” he hesitated trying to thing of how to finish his sentence. “Slavery,” said Matthew. “Yes, that’s exactly it. Someone we don’t have to pay, only feed and provide some kind of shelter for.” “Isn’t slavery against the law, Ed” “So is cultivating and selling weed. I don’t see it as too much a bigger crime than what we’re already doing.” Matthew opened another beer and took a long, slow swig. “I don’t know, maybe it’ll work.” “There’s no ‘maybe’ about it, shithead.” Matthew felt Ed’s emotional state escalating. It was something he knew about; it explained the scar than ran over the top of his head, and it explained why Matthew had decided long ago not to cross Ed too far. “I don’t know, maybe it would,” he said, wondering what they would do after they were through with the kid; and how the kid would survive when they left the farm for long periods of time.
Matthew, resting against a tree on a particularly hot summer day, watched Billy removing weeds nearby, and reflected over that conversation with Ed before they grabbed Billy three summers ago. Granted they had trained Billy, now thirteen, for the jobs they wanted him to do, and though they took him with them back to California for the winters; those questions had yet to be answered. Matthew closed his eyes and for a few minutes fought sleep in the warm sun; then suddenly a thrashing noise coming from the direction of the trailer woke him. “I need a hamburger,” he said, thinking it was Ed coming. Then hearing nothing more he turned, expecting to see Ed; but what he saw instead was a man in an ATF shirt pointing a rifle at him. “You’re under arrest,” the man said, his rifle locked on a spot between Matthew’s eyebrows. Another ATF man approached Matthew, then handcuffed him. “Let’s go.”
Once again fate spelled an escape for Billy. From behind a bush, in the field, he watched the ATF men capture Matthew. When they walked him back toward the trailer, Billy suddenly felt free again. Summer in Seattle is also when the hikers who prefer dry hiking emerge from their winter cocoons. Such was the day for Billy when the ATF vehicles, with Ed and Matthew in them, left in a cloud of dust as they hurried away from the farm. Billy went into the trailer and filled himself with food; then he grabbed the barbecue lighter fluid, a match, and the newspaper lying on the kitchen. When he got to the shed out back, he picked up a few small twigs lying nearby, stuffed the newspaper along the bottom edge of the shed, placed the twigs on top, drenched the whole thing with lighter fluid, then touched the lighter to the paper. In moments the shed was engulfed in flames shooting toward the bright, blue sky. Then Billy disappeared into the forest.
Robert John Montgomery, now Bob Jones, arrived in Seattle with a new social security number, a new driverâ€™s license, a new address, and alone. His new name was as close to perfect as one could get in terms of having a name that would not distinguish him from anyone else. Bob and his ex-wife, Jennie, had a troubled marriage from the early years. She couldnâ€™t accept him being gone for months, then years, from her and the children the marriage had somehow produced. With children in their twenties, and long before the trial started, he and Jennie decided to end the marriage. When Bob was assigned to the witness protection plan, the government, including Bob saw no need to protect his ex-wife, or children.
After living in Seattle for two years with no contacts with anyone from his previous life, Bob struggled with the isolation. He missed his children, immensely. “Bull, you ever had any kids?” Bob asked him one day while they were wiling away some cool autumn days. Bull only purred and rubbed his head against Bob’s hand. “Not sure, huh. Oh, that many,” Bob said, playing as though Bull was talking to him. “Ever miss any of them?” he asked, stroking the fur between Bull’s ears. “Me too.” The cat jumped down and went to his dish. “I have only two,” Bob said, not missing Bull, and talking more to himself than the cat. “Louie went to the Penn State, he’s an accountant with some big firm in Philadelphia. Makes big bucks. Michele went to the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Big school, big bucks. Now she is an elementary school teacher in Atlanta.” Bull jumped up on the windowsill.
“You’re not listening are you,” Bob said. “My kids used be the same way.” Bob stood up, and looked out the window. “Not much to see out there, Bull.” He walked to the cat and rubbed him behind the ear. “Not looking for your children are you?” Later that same day, Bob walked down to Pioneer Square and watched the people; then he walked the few blocks to Occidental and struck up a few conversations with some of the homeless folks. He felt a kinship with the homeless, and a jealousy; they at least had the same names they had been born with, and if they cared to, they could call their kids anytime. Of course, few did, but the point remained the same; Bob could not contact his kids. Bob soon found the Mission over on First Ave and started volunteering there. He thought it funny how they had stuck him with the name ‘Hap’ the first time he walked through the door. People had always told him he had a friendly face, but no one had nicknamed him because of it; and under the circumstances, it was good to have a meaningless moniker. He decided ‘Hap’ would work better than Bob, so he kept his first, and real name, secret.
In time he and Freddy became close. Freddy was taller than Hap, and he had a few years on Hap. A former fisherman on huge trawlers that fished the waters off the coast of Alaska, Freddy wore an old, worn out, pea-coat, and dark blue stocking cap. Long dark hair escaped from under the cap and curled about his ears; one of which sported a small rhinestone. Homeless, “temporarily,” he always said; he was frequently invited to sleep on Freddy’s couch during cold and wet weather. “You’re too good to Freddy,” Freddy once said to Hap, speaking in the first person to reduce any embarrassment associated with what he wanted to say. “What do you mean?” Hap asked. “Letting me sleep here and all. That’s all.” “You’re a good man, Freddy. I don’t want you to freeze out there.” The two men were together often, even to the point that when Hap received his monthly check, made out to Bob Jones, he and Freddy would walk to the bank together. Though Freddy had become a good friend, he was careful to keep the name on the envelope and the check concealed until he was standing directly in front of the teller in the bank.
Freddy never noticed his clandestine behavior. One night after he had been in his apartment for a couple of years, just after he went to sleep, the dream began. “Louie, wha’d you do with the worms?” Louie leaned back, making the boat shift its weight and position in the lake, “Here they are,” he said, extending the container to Hap. “There’s a ton of’em in there.” “Feels light for a ton,” Hap said, holding the container in his hand. When he opened it, it was full of red catsup that spilled across his hand and onto his pant leg. When he looked up he was standing on a sidewalk in Baghdad, and someone near where he stood was lying in a pool of catsup. No, it’s blood. Then he heard gunfire. They’re shooting at me, he dropped to the sidewalk; but when he looked for a shooter, the street was empty. He got up and stumbled over the dead body lying on the sidewalk, now covered with wet, slimy, squiggling, worms from the worm container he still had in his hand.
He bent to pick one up and touched Michele’s hand coming up from below. Michele, so good to see you again. The next morning the dream was gone, but he was fraught with grief over not being able to contact his children. Tears filled his eyes and the agony he felt was as large as what he had experienced when his father passed away. He sat at the table with his heads in his hand, then fully aware of the danger he was about to create, he addressed a postcard with a picture of Pioneer Square on the front to Louie, put a stamp on it and left the message area blank; then walked to the nearest mail box, and dropped it inside. Later that night he and Freddy got drunk; and it was even later that night when Hap, in a bit of a drunken stupor, walked into a passing locomotive under the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Unconscious, and lying across a parallel set of tracks, the memory of anything from his previous life was stripped away. After Hap was released from the hospital, Freddy showed him where he lived, and where he banked. Freddy also re-introduced him to Bull Durham. “He’s a good cat,” Freddy said. “He knows your secrets and he’s going to keep them to himself.”
“Secrets? What secrets do I have: other than who I am, where I came from and how long I’m going to not know these things?” Freddy chuckled at Hap’s humor, while Hap handed him an envelope. “What do you make of this?” Hap asked. “Who is Bob Jones?” Freddy asked him after he read the name on the envelope. “I have no idea,” Hap responded. “I think it is you. You never told me your real name.” He opened the envelope and found a check made out to Bob Jones. “I know about this. You receive a check like this every month. I’ve seen you take it to the bank and deposit it; but I never saw the name you used ‘til right now.” The next day Hap took the check to the bank and was surprised to hear the teller refer to him as, “Hap.” After depositing the check; he walked back to the apartment confused about most everything, and humming Mahler’s “Second Movement.” Two weeks later, when Louie picked up his mail, he found the postcard with the picture of Pioneer Square on the font, and blank on the backside, except where someone had addressed it to him. Odd, he thought, turning it
back over and looking at the picture on the front. He had never been to Pioneer Square, he didn’t know where it was. He threw the postcard into the trashcan beside his desk. Then later when he looked down he saw the postmark and realized who had sent him the blank card.
Charles Washington took the shuttle from the airport to the rental car agency, charged a car against his credit card, loaded the car with his bags and drove back toward Lake Stevens where the Anderson family had died in the fiery crash. He retraced his steps through the area, then he contacted each of the people he had interviewed when he was there the first time. It didn’t take long before the old feelings of discouragement and desperation started telling him he wasn’t going to find Billy. Sitting in a Snohomish café, he opened the pages of a telephone book and called, Daniel Foster, a private investigator.
Dan Foster had no unusual or distinguishing traits. He stood five foot nine, weighed a hundred and forty-five pounds, wore running shoes with his khaki Dockers. His hair was short-cropped and he wore a wedding band on the ring finger of his left hand. “Everybody thinks he died in that car crash,” Charles told the Foster, handing him the copied documents from the coroner and the sheriff, along with pictures he obtained from the welfare services that operated the foster care program. “I just don’t believe he did.” “If he was in that car, I don’t know how he was able to survive it.” “Dan, I was involved in a car accident, many years ago. It was my fault, I went to sleep and the car rolled four times along side of the road. When it came to rest I jumped out just before it burst into flames.” “I don’t understand what that has to do with this.” “There was a passenger in my car that night. He was thrown a good forty feet from the car.” “Did he survive?” “No, he didn’t.” “Sorry.”
“No, Dan. The point is simply that not all people involved in car accidents stay in the car.” “Wouldn’t he have been in a seat belt?” “The only locked seatbelts were the ones around Mr. Anderson and his wife. All the others were loose.” “Maybe he unhooked it.” “Then the investigators would have found teeth, or bone fragments, or something metallic, maybe a button, or a ring.” “I guess.” “Look, Dan, I just want you to go from the basis that he was in the car, but when it caught fire, he wasn’t.” “We can do that, but was the area around the accident searched?” “The people who were here that day, that I interviewed, all said they thought someone else did. There’s no mention of a search in any of the documents.” “So everybody thought somebody else did a search.” “It’s water under the bridge, Dan. Where do we go from here?” “John Walsh.”
“The guy on tv who looks for, what is it..?” “America’s Most Wanted. Sometimes he puts missing people on his show.” “Do it, Dan.” “Then there’s the Amber Alert.” “You’re good, Dan. Let’s go for it.” Fourteen hours after the Amber Alert went out across country, they got a call from the lady who had offered Billy a ride that day. “I saw that boy,” she said. “He was walking along highway 22, we asked him if he wanted a ride, but he said he was walking home and didn’t want a ride.” After the call, Foster called Charles, “Good news, Charles. Now we know he was in the area after the accident.” Four days later, they received another call. “I saw that kid just the other day,” the voice on the other end of line said. “I run a small gas station and grocery here just south of Carnation on the main road down towards Fall City. I seen this kid comin’ in here just a few days ago. He was with a couple of older men; rough lookin’ bunch, they were too dirty and scroungy lookin’.”
“Did you see what kind of vehicle they were driving?” “It was an old blue truck. Looked like a Ford, probably late ‘70’s. It was in pretty bad shape, window had a big crack in it. Rust all over. Come to think of it, there weren’t too much blue on that truck, but that was the color it mostly used to be.” “What were they buying?” “Gasoline, and some beer.” “Have you ever seen them before?” “Well, now I ain’t thought much about that before, but I’ll tell you what: I do remember that ol’ truck coming in here quite a bit. I used to have a truck like that, only mine was in much better condition.” “You didn’t get a license plate number did you?” “No sir, but if it comes in again, I’ll write it down and give you another call.” A week and a half later he called back. “Hey, I got that license number from that ol’ blue truck. They was in here again today.” “Was the kid with them?”
“Yeah, but he stayed in the truck this time. You want that number?” “Yes.” “It was BVR 2389.” After a phone call with the licensing division of the Washington State Patrol in Olympia, Foster learned the truck was registered to Edward J. Ridley. His address was listed in Redmond. When Dan tried to call him, he got a recording telling him Edward Ridley was in California for the winter months. When he drove through the neighborhood, he thought they must be on to the wrong Ed Ridley; the home with the address listed on the license registration was not the kind of home one would expect an old, blue, Ford pick up in the garage; maybe a Hummer, but not an old Ford. Foster parked his car and walked up to the house. No one answered the door, so he walked around the side of the garage and looked through the window. Inside he saw the old, blue, Ford pick-up truck, broken windshield and all. Later that afternoon, Dan drove back into the neighborhood in a van with “Daniel’s Cleaning Services” painted on the side. Small, round windows, designed for peeking from the inside, were ingeniously
camouflaged by the artwork on the outside. Inside a computer monitor and a printer sat against one side, a recliner in the middle faced a small television near the front, and a singlewide mattress rested against the back door. The next morning, the garage door opened and the blue truck backed out and took off down the street. Foster fired up his van and followed. Thirty-five minutes he was following the truck into Carnation, where he turned south, then stopped on the edge of town at a small gas station and grocery. Foster parked in an inconspicuous spot and waited. The truck’s driver gassed up, then pulled back on the road where four miles later he pulled off onto a dirt road leading back into the forest. Foster stopped his van, took a few pictures of the road, marked it on a map, then drove back to the gas station. After introductions Foster asked the proprietor, “Was that the truck?” “Yes, sir, Mr. Foster, that was it all right.” “And the driver, you recognized him” “Oh yeah, he always drives, and he usually has someone with him. The other guy, and the boy.” “Ever catch any names?”
The proprietor scratched his chin and thought it over. “I once heard this one call the other’n, Matthew. Can’t think of any other.” Later Foster called Charles and gave him a progress report along with information about the location of the place he was going. “I’m going to go back to the road and drive in. I don’t know how far back into the forest the road goes, but I’m going to scope out the situation, you know, I’ll act innocent and tell them I have the wrong address if it comes to that.” “Be careful, Dan, and give me a call as soon as you get out.” Foster crawled into the back of his van and changed into his “cleaning” clothes: tan overalls with “Daniel’s Cleaning Service” stitched on the back, boots, long-sleeved shirt. Then headed on back down the road toward the turn off where the blue truck had disappeared earlier. When he pulled into the area where the trailer sat, he saw the blue truck. It was parked in front of the trailer. Foster parked the van inconspicuously behind a tree and got out. By the time he closed the door on the van, the driver of the truck was coming toward him, and he didn’t look like he had a big welcome on his mind. “What’s up? You lost or something?”
“I might be,” Foster said, rubbing the back of his neck. “I didn’t see a number of the road leading in here, but it seems to be in the general vicinity of the address I’m looking for.” The driver asked him what the address was and it sounded close, but he chose not to say anything. “Wouldn’t have a glass of water would you?” Foster asked, feeling the man’s eyes scanning him and his van. “You sure you’re lost?” “Oh yeah, shoot. What other good reason would bring me to drive down that long road into your place?” He laughed and asked, “Your not Sam Westerhouse are you?” “Sam who?” “That’s the name of the people who want their place cleaned. Oh, I’m Ernie McKinnon,” Foster lied, extending his hand. “Ed,” Ed replied, shaking Dan’s hand. “Come on in, I’ll get you some water.” Inside the trailer, Foster’s stomach nearly gave up on him. The stench was severe; he figured sewage must run out onto the ground somewhere
nearby. The place was filthy, certainly no place where people would be expected to live. Ed grabbed a glass out of the sink and filled it with water. “We don’t wash our dishes too often, this ok?” “Yeah, sure,” Foster replied, bending low to look out the window to the back. “You live out here all the time?” “Yeah, we’re trying to get some money ahead so we can move into something more respectable, in town.” “You married?” “No.” “You said ‘we.’ I thought maybe you were.” “That ain’t too much your business is it, Mr. Cleaning Service Man?” “No, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean anything by it. Just a comment.” He had to swallow slowly to keep from choking on the water. “You know.” In the back, Foster saw a shed with a door open. Inside there were stacks of fertilizer bags and insecticides; along with a pile of blankets and a pillow. “You sleep in the shed?” he asked, swallowing another drink of water. “Sleep in the shed? Why you askin’ so many fuckin’ questions?”
“Nothing really. I just saw some blankets in the shed, and I don’t see a dog anywhere.” Then, while he was talking, he saw someone coming toward the trailer from a path he hadn’t noticed before. It was another man, and a young boy. “I think it’s time for you to go,” Ed said. “I got work to do around here.” Billy walked through the door and looked at the strange man standing there with the glass of water in his hand. When Matthew stepped inside, he grabbed Billy and pulled him back outside. “Who’s the kid?” Foster asked, putting the glass back in the sink. “Time to go, mister.” “Yes,” he said, checking his watch, “I don’t have much time to find the Weyerhauses.” “Who?” Foster realized his mistake. “Westerhouses.” Ed followed him out to his van. “Go on, get outa here,” he said looking into the van.
Foster turned the keys and Ed stuck his head in the window. “Hey what’s all that stuff you got in there?” Foster slammed the van into “reverse,” gunned the engine, turned the van around and headed out. In his rear views he saw the blue truck kicking up dirt, following him. The road was treacherous and Dan came close to going over the edge of a deep ravine. He checked his speedometer on one of the bridges, it showed fifty miles per hour. Safe travel couldn’t have called for anything over fifteen, but he couldn’t slow. He had to make it to the main road, so he kept pushing the van. When he could he checked his rearview for the blue truck. It was right behind him. He pushed the gas pedal down a little further and lost control of the truck. It slammed into a tree and he cut his head on the steering wheel. “Get out!” Ed shouted. “Get out of the truck.” Foster rubbed his head, then looked at his bloody hand. Somewhat stunned, he opened the door and stepped out.
“What the fuck you really up to, Mr.Cleaning Service Man. Huh? What!” Ed shoved Foster up against the van and hit him full in the face with his fist. “You’re some kind of a fucking spy, aren’t you!” “No, no. I’m not a spy. I clean houses, and I live in my van.” “Don’t fuck with me!” Ed shouted, hitting Foster again. Foster saw his fist coming toward his head, and when he ducked, Ed’s slammed into the side of the truck. Foster hit him back, knocking him down. Soon they were wrestling on the ground, punching, kicking and shouting obscenities at each other. Foster picked up a piece of wood and swung it at Ed, but Ed was a larger man, and stronger. He knocked it away, then picked it up and started swinging it at Foster. In a few minutes, Foster lay bloodied, and dead on the ground. Ed, panicky, pulled Foster’s body back to the van and dumped it into the back, then drove back to the trailer to get Matthew. He found him in the trailer with Billy. “Put the boy in the shed, we have to take a trip.” “Are you driving that man’s van?”
“Listen, gawdamit, don’t ask any fuckin’ questions, just put the boy in the shed and let’s go!” Ed yelled, agitated far more than usual. When Matthew hesitated, Ed grabbed Billy and carried him out of the trailer where Billy saw the van turned sideways; one of the back doors was open. Inside the van he saw the man who had earlier been standing in the trailer with a glass of water in his hand. There was a lot of blood on his head. “C’mon, asshole!” Ed yelled at the front door. They climbed into the van and Ed told Matthew, “Asshole was a spy. Look at all the equipment in the back.” Matthew turned around and for the first time saw Daniel Foster’s body. “What the fuck! You killed him?” “We got in a fight. He grabbed a piece of wood and was going to kill me with it. I took it away from him.” “And killed him with it?!” “I had no choice.” “We’re in some deep shit, Ed. You killed a man.” “He was snooping around. You know we have guns to keep intruders away.”
“But we’ve never had to use them!” “If he’d walked into the field you would have.” “Maybe, but he didn’t.” “Godamit, don’t fuckin’ argue with me. I’m going to drive down where the truck is, then you follow me. I’m gonna drive this van over the cliff out on the Tolt River.” “So I’m gonna be an accomplice.” “You don’t have a choice, asshole. You already are.” Ed stopped the van when they got back to the truck. Matthew got in the truck and followed Ed in the van until he was high above the Tolt River on a precarious edge of the road over a large ravine where a river ran deep, far below. Ed got out, put the van into neutral and with Matthew’s help, pushed it over the edge. The van tumbled to the bottom where it landed upside down with a huge explosion of water,, then it sunk into the river. Nine days later the farm was raided by the ATF.
Hap went to bed that dreary night thinking about his accident and what Freddy had told him about his name. There was much he didn’t know about himself: his name, where he came from, how he happened to be here in Seattle, and what all these visions he kept having meant. Some of them had been violent with shootings, killings and threats of his life, but he wasn’t able to remember very well the things that occurred in the visions. He wondered about a character that frequently popped up in his visions: a man named al’-Saad. Generally he was left with only thinly veiled thoughts, emotions of fear, or happiness, or sometimes gloom befell him after the visions. Bull jumped up on the couch and purred at him. “What do you want, Bull? You mangy cat, you have no worries, you know. You know who you are and what your name is.” Bull meowed again and ran his head against Hap’s hand.
“Want out?” Hap went to the door and when he opened it, he saw a young boy standing in the hallway. “Hi,” he said to the boy. “Are you looking for someone?” The boy stood there, looking back at Hap, saying nothing. He looked to be about twelve, maybe thirteen years old, black hair hung over his shoulders, his eyes were a deep brown, and Hap thought his skin the color of a light, milk chocolate. “Are you lost?” “I’m hungry,” the boy said, trying to look past Hap into his apartment. “Are you with anyone? Friends, your parents or somebody?” Hap looked into the empty hallway, hoping he wasn’t about to be raided by a gang of thugs. “No.” “Where are they?” Hap asked, his eyes scanned the hallway again. “I don’t have any.” “C’mon, you have to have parents. Don’t you?” “Do you have any food, mister?”
Hap opened his door wider and invited the boy in to his apartment. “I don’t have a lot of food, but I have some,” he said. “Is there anything you like?” “Doesn’t matter.” “Peanut butter ok?” “Yes.” Hap went to the kitchen and put together a peanut butter sandwich for the boy, and tossed a few potato chips on the plate. “How about a pickle?” “Ok.” “Glass of milk? Milk always goes well with peanut butter.” “Ok.” Hap decided to have lunch with the boy so he fixed himself a sandwich and invited the boy to join him at the table. “How long since you ate last?” “I don’t remember,” the boy said, stuffing his mouth with the sandwich. “My name’s Hap, what’s yours?” “Billy,” he replied, then added, “Billy Hinkle.” He ate a few more bites then asked, “What’s your last name, Hap?”
Dumbfounded, Hap didn’t know how to reply. “I get these checks from the government at the first of the month. They’re always made out to Bob Jones. I guess that’s my last name.” “You don’t know for sure?” “I have memory problems Billy. I’m not sure.” The continued eating their sandwiches quietly, both lost in their own thoughts, then Hap asked, “Where do you live, Billy?” “Nowhere.” “You have to have a home somewhere. Are you from Seattle?” “No.” “Well then, where are you from?” “Kennewick,” Billy said. “Where?” “Kennewick.” “Is that in Washington state?” “I think so. It’s over the mountains.”
“Eastern Washington,” Hap said, “I’ve heard of it, but I’ve never been there.” He cracked a potato chip with his fingers, and put a piece between his lips. “How did you get across the mountains?” “With the Andersons, they were my foster parents.” “And where are they now?” “I don’t know. I lost them.” “Lost them?” Billy looked Hap in the face for the first time. Tears welled in his eyes, and he said, “I don’t know what happened. We were riding in the car, going to see some friends of theirs, then I was in a pile of bushes.” “What happened?” “I don’t know. I woke up in a pile of bushes and when I crawled out, they were gone.” “Did they stop and leave without you?” “I don’t remember.” Hap wondered how anyone could be so cruel as to drop a child off and drive away. “Did you know where you were when you woke up?” “I just walked away. Down the road.”
“How long ago did all this happen?” Hap asked, thinking by the way the boy looked in the last couple of hours, or days. “I was nine then. Now I’m thirteen.” “Four years?” Hap asked, incredulously. “Ed and Matthew picked me up on the road. I’ve been working for them until yesterday.” “Working? Didn’t you go to school?” “No, they wouldn’t let me. I just worked for them.” “What kind of work?” “They grew marijuana in the forest, but they were arrested a couple days ago. The cops took them away while I hid. After they were gone, I burned the shed down and walked away.” “You burned the place down?” “Just where I always slept.” “Where?” “It was the shed in the back. Ed locked me in there every night.” “And you worked for them?” “Uh-huh.”
“Did they ever pay you?” Hap knew the answer before Billy said anything. He saw it in Billy’s facial expression. “No,” Billy said, quietly. Hap wondered what he was going to do. He couldn’t throw the boy out, there was something about him Hap liked. He had a soft way about himself; he wasn’t pushy, or angry. Hap wanted to help. “Want to go for a walk?” Hap asked Billy. “I like to go down to the square and watch people. I have some friends down there you might like to meet. Want to go?” “Ok,” Billy said, “but can I have another sandwich first?” “Sure.” After he ate the second peanut butter sandwich, they walked down to the Pioneer Square. “Ever been here before?” Hap asked him. “No.” They sat on the bench for a while and watched the people moving through the square, then Hap took Billy to Occidental park where he
introduced him to few of his acquaintances from the mission. He wanted to introduce him to Freddy, but Freddy wasn’t there this time. They walked a few blocks down a side street to a St. Vincent’s and Hap bought Billy a couple t-shirts, and pairs of pants. They found a pair of shoes too that fit Billy and then they walked back to Hap’s apartment. While walking down the street, a poster hanging on a light poster caught Hap’s eyes. Across the top it said, “Have You Seen This Person?” and below it was a picture of someone Hap thought he knew. I know him. I know that person. Who is it? When they got back to the apartment, it was getting dark outside and Billy asked if he could spend the night. Hap told him he could, but that tomorrow he would help Billy find his people. “But I don’t have any people.” “Billy, everyone has people, somewhere.”
The day Louie Montgomery arrived in Seattle, the sky was packed with dark, gray clouds and rain was falling so hard the traffic on I-5, where the speed limit is seventy miles per hour, had slowed to a crawl. While checking into the Westin Hotel in the downtown section of the city, he asked the clerk behind he desk, “How far to Pioneer Square?” “Just a few blocks down First Avenue, actually, sir.” “And where would First Avenue be located?” The clerk tried to explain, but then told Louie he might as well take a taxi since the walk wasn’t short enough for a pleasant stroll, and it was raining. Louie took the elevators to his room on the 48th floor and looked out the windows at the city below. He’s down there somewhere, Louie thought, watching the cars on the streets below. In thirty minutes, Louie was walking the sidewalks of the Pioneer Square area. He took the postcard from his pocket and went to the location from
where the picture on the card had been taken. The picture had been taken during a bright sunny day; and while Louie stood looking at the picture and the square, he felt the rain dripping down the back of his neck. He spotted a bistro and went in for a cup of that world famous Seattle coffee. “Have you seen this man?” he asked the waiter, showing him a picture of his father. “Doesn’t look familiar. What’s his name?” Louie, stumped and embarrassed because he didn’t know what his father’s name, said, “Robert Brown.” “Common name, but I can’t say I’ve seen him.” Louie felt a slight tremor in his hands. He hadn’t planned on using his father’s name, and while he had thought long and hard about whether to use his father’s picture, he had pulled it out and shown it to this total stranger like it was a new car; but when the waiter asked the question, he suddenly felt stupid. Two big mistakes and I just got here! I should have used an alias; no one will know his real name anyway, and don’t use the picture unless you think you’re close. He left the bistro and walked back into the square, then decided to walk further south on First Avenue. Rain continued pelting him, but it wasn’t a
particularly cold rain; so he kept walking. He crossed the street onto the block where the Mission was located and a poster caught his eye. When he looked more closely he saw himself. Across the top, the heading said, “Have You Seen This Man?” “My God,” he said out loud. What is this? Who put this here? Then he looked around to see if there were others anywhere nearby. How many of them are there? Beneath the picture was a phone number to call. He thought about writing down the number, but then decided to remove the poster itself. With his heart in his throat, he hailed a taxi and returned to his room and picked up the phone. He didn’t see the homeless people lining up for dinner at the Mission just two doors down from where he had removed the poster. “Hello? Michelle?” “Yes.” “This is Louie, I’m in Seattle and you’re not going to believe what I found here! There are posters hanging in the area where the postcard came from with my picture on them.” “Oh my God! Are you sure it’s you?” “No doubt about it,” he said, then he read the heading to her.
“Louie, is it somebody trying to lure Dad out of hiding?” Louie admitted his heart and mind were racing so hard, he hadn’t thought of that angle. “Do you think they were able to trace him here to Seattle, too? How would they do that, the WitPro program is locked tight as a drum.” “Remember what they said about how there’s hardly been any breaches of the security when the witness follows all the rules. Maybe Dad broke more than the one he broke by sending the postcard.” “What do you think I should do? If I stick around, sooner or later, somebody will see me and call the number.” “I told you I didn’t want you to go there.” “I know, but you’ll remember we agreed Dad may be in some kind of trouble, otherwise why would he send the card?” “I know. Still, I think you need to leave Seattle as soon as possible!” Louie thought it over, then said, “No, I have to stay. Something’s going on here and I have to find out what it is. Either Dad is already in trouble and I’m too late, or the shit’s getting ready to clog the fan. For his sake, I have to find him.”
“Why don’t you call the federal Marshall’s office. I’m sure there’s one in Seattle.” Louie scratched his head, thinking. “I think if Dad wanted them notified, they would have responded by now.” “If that’s true, then don’t you need to know?” “Make sense,” he replied, then added, “I’ll call them in the morning.” The next morning, Louie drove south into Tacoma. When he returned his short-cropped hair was hidden below a wig of a lighter shade of brown that fell below his ears. In a second hand store he purchased an old worn, Seattle Mariners baseball cap; a couple slightly worn sweatshirts, one with the Sonics logo on the front and the other with an advertisement for Mexican beer; a couple pair of blue jeans; a pair of old sneakers, and a dark, gray woolen jacket that was missing some buttons. Later that afternoon, Louie went back to Pioneer Square and started walking the streets in the area. This time he noticed the Mission. Strange to find something like this here amongst all these upscale furniture and carpet shops, bistros, sidewalk cafes, and art galleries. Then he turned down a side street and found Occidental Park where the homeless people of Seattle drape the benches;
and sit together and alone beneath the tall sycamores, smoking and drinking from bottles camouflaged by brown paper bags; and by their mere presence, intimidate the tourists, which today, included Louie Brown. He stood at the far corner of the park and watched knowing there was simply no way his father would be here. By the end of the day he had found five more posters of himself, but he felt safe in his disguise, and he didn’t want anyone to see him taking them down, so he left them hanging where he found them. He also knew he was going to have to change his strategy of “just walking” around the neighborhood if he was going to find his Father.
Hap knew his dreams and visions were disturbing, but after each time he awoke, they faded quickly; about all he could surmise was that in his previous life there had been some kind of danger and maybe a family. Since he couldn’t bring up details, he didn’t worry too much about them. “The
doctor told me they’re probably due to the head injury,” he told Billy. “They either come on unannounced during the day, or they happen when I go to sleep. Funny how real they are, then how they just sorta go up in smoke after I wake up.” “I have bad dreams too,” Billy replied. “What do you dream, Billy?” “Can’t remember either. Once I dreamed me and my Mom went to the zoo. The animals all had flowers on their heads and the zookeeper was drunk.” Hap found more enjoyment with Billy than anyone he could remember. Freddy came around once in a while, and they sometimes met him at the Mission and ate with him, but Hap had to admit, he was becoming attached to Billy, and he was pretty sure that the feelings were mutual with Billy, too; after all, Hap had taught him how to hum classical music and he was quite good at it. “Don’t you think you should notify the authorities about him?” Freddy once asked.
“I will,” Freddy responded, “but so far he’s enjoying himself here. Look at him feeding those pigeons. Did you ever see such joy on a boy’s face.” “Hap, he could be somebody’s kid! They could be frantic trying to find him. Why don’t you call the child welfare offices and see if anyone’s looking for him. He told you he had been in a foster home, didn’t he?” Hap knew Freddy had a good point, he understood someone could be out of their heads looking for him; still Billy fulfilled something in Hap he couldn’t put his finger on. “Ok, you watch him for me and I’ll go down to the Mission and make the call.” About a half hour later, Hap returned. “D’ju get a hold of’em?” “Sure did,” Hap said, smiling. “They told me Billy Hinkle was killed in a car crash on highway 9, north out of Seattle heading toward Lake Stevens, three years ago.” “What?” “He was with his foster parents when the car hit a logging truck.” “So what about his natural parents? Isn’t there somebody looking for this boy?”
“All they would tell me about his biological mother was that she was in a psychiatric hospital somewhere in eastern Washington. She was shot in the head some years ago, and no one ever claimed fatherhood.” “Damn, poor kid.” “I guess he can stay with me a while longer. What do you think?” “Why not, doesn’t sound like anyone else gives much of a shit about him.” “I ran out of popcorn,” Billy said, coming back to the two men sitting on the bench. “Need more, huh?” Hap said. “Tell you what. I’ll get you some more, but first give ol’ Freddy here the first few bars of Beethovens’ Fifth. Billy hummed the notes and beamed for Freddy. “Know what it is?” he asked, his eyes riveted on Freddy’s smile. “I don’t, but I’ve heard it lots of times.” “Beethoven’s Fifth, right Hap?” Hap smiled at him and said, “You go it, maestro.” Billy looked at Freddy. “Want another one?” “Sure, what else you got?”
Billy hummed the first few notes of Pachelbell’s, Canon. “Do you know that one?” Billy asked Freddy. “I have heard that one before too,” Freddy said, but I don’t know what it is. “It’s Pachelbel, right Hap?” “You got it, Johann.” Freddy looked at Hap and asked, “What else do you know so much about?” Hap shrugged his shoulders. “I have no idea how I learned this stuff, but we’re going to go to the symphony on Saturday, right Billy?” “Yes. Can we go down there now and look at the posters?” Billy asked. “You ‘member don’t you, you said we would.” “Sure, we can go the Art Museum and the Farmer’s Market, too, if you want?” “C’mon.” Billy grabbed Hap’s hand and started pulling him. Standing outside the grand Benaroya Hall, Billy craned his neck back and wondered how glass could stand so tall and turn a corner and not break. “How do they bend the glass like that?”
Hap walked Billy around the base of the Hall, showing him how the glass only “looks like it bends” because, “it is actually made of many flat, rectangles of glass.” “Look, Billy, on Saturday it will be the Youth Symphony playing; kids not a whole lot older than you.” Hap scanned the notice to see if the price of tickets was listed. Finding it, he said, “And only 8 bucks for a ticket. Not bad. Hey, look Billy, they’re going to be playing Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2. Great music, my boy, great music.” “Proko…who?” “Proko..fy..ev,” Hap said, slowly enunciating each syllable. “His music was edgy stuff in his day. A Russian who fled to America long before the Revolution in Russia, then when he returned, was held in low regard by the Russians because they thought he had become to American. He died writing music for the Communists rather than for himself, or for the world for that matter.” Hap realized he was mostly talking to himself, so he decided if Billy could hear a few bars, it might help; so he started humming the music. “That’s the first selection,” he said after a few bars. “You try it now.”
Billy had him repeat it, the he mimicked what Hap had hummed, perfectly. “Very good! Let’s try the next one.” Hap hummed a few bars of the second selection, and one again, Billy followed suit to the note. “You’re good at this. What do you think of the music?” “It’s weird.” “Wait ‘til you hear the symphony play it. You’ll be amazed at how much better they are.” Hap and Billy walked hand and hand down the hill to the Seattle Art Museum. It was closed for reconstruction, so they walked on up to the Farmer’s Market. “Ever been here, Billy?” “No.” “Come on, we’ll go watch the fish guys throw fish.”
The barrista left work later than usual that day, tired and frustrated over having to work the busy morning hours while two of his co-workers took the day off to go to a party down in Portland. He had only been with the bistro three weeks and already he was frustrated with his co-workers and his boss for his lax attitude. He pushed his hair back from his forehead, adjusted the shoulder strap on his carrying case and stepped into the crosswalk leading to the bus stop. A horn honked and he had to jump out of the way of car pulling into the crosswalk; when he did he saw the poster on the lamppost. At first glance, it didnâ€™t register that he had seen the man featured in the poster earlier, but he stopped, and looked again. It was the man who had been in earlier looking for his father. The guy had shown him a picture of his father. What was his name? He said his fatherâ€™s name was. . . Roger? No, Robert. Yes, Robert . . . mmmm, it was a real common name. Jones? No. Williams. No. Smith? Smith . . . Robert Smith? No. Robert Brown, that was it. He reached into his pocket, pulled out his cell phone and dialed the contact number listed on the bottom of the poster.
“He was in the bistro this morning having a cup of coffee. He showed me picture of his father and asked if I had seen him. Said his father’s name was Robert Brown. “No, he didn’t have any other name. He was real nervous though.” Abu Bakr Qadeer listened on the other end of the phone, then asked, “Did he say how long he’s been in the city?” “No, he didn’t say anything else. Just the picture and the name of his father. I’ll keep an eye out for him. Maybe he’ll come in again.” “Thank you,” Abu said, “please do.” After they hung up, Abu called his number two man in the Seattle brigade, an American named Chris Wallison, and told him of the barrista’s phone call. “Unfortunately his information is useless. Who thought we would get a call about an actual sighting of his son?” “He must be looking for his father too. Maybe we should get both their heads.” “You might have a good idea, but I think we need to find this Louis Brown.”
“He could lead us to the pig we seek.” “Yes, he could, then we would have them both. Later that afternoon, Abu called for a meeting of his brigade the following day. “We have a new development. Allah is being good to us.” The next afternoon the brigade met in the basement of their mosque. They were a secret group of men subscribing to the fundamentalist beliefs that Muslims were called by Allah to kill all infidels in the world. They were no different than the hundreds, if not thousands of such groups found throughout the United States. “We have learned that Louie Brown, the son of Robert Brown, as you know, is in Seattle. We know this from two sources. First, I received a phone call from a man who sells coffee in one of the bistros in the square. He said the man, who we know is Louie Brown, showed him a picture of his father and told him his name. Unfortunately, Louie Brown doesn’t know his father’s name, so he used his real one: Robert Brown. The coffee salesman saw one of our posters and called me yesterday. “Second, our brothers in Philadelphia intercepted a postcard with a picture of Pioneer Square, postmarked Seattle, just like this one,” he said,
holding the picture for all the men to see, “addressed to his son Louie. It was a blank postcard and obviously an attempt on the part of the father to make contact with the son. Apparently even the infidel father’s, when separated from their children suffer the loss. “It is imperative that we find Louie, then let him lead us to his the pig we so fervently seek.” He pulled a sheet of paper from a folder and began assigning men to shifts to cover the Pioneer Square area. “We will cover this area twenty-four hours a day until we make contact and achieve our mission. I know many of you work and have families so if you need to trade times with someone else, please do so; however there will be no excuse for anyone missing a shift. Remember it was this Robert Brown who lived among us and spied on our brethren. Five of them are in American prisons for life because of it. “If you have special circumstances, or need help with anything, let me know. We must be successful in this endeavor, Allah is watching. “Praise be to Allah,” he said, raising his arms upward, then he faced eastward, knelt, and led the men in prayer.
The first shift started immediately after the meeting. Each lasted for six hours with three men walking the streets, sidewalks, and alleys. They sat in outdoor cafes and sipped coffee, and visited the stores while looking, watching, listening, and following, suspected men who resembled Louie. Not one of them looked for, or suspected, that Robert Brown, might be found among the homeless crowd just around the corner in Occidental Park, or in the Mission on First Avenue, just two blocks south of the Square.
Three weeks later, Louie still walked the Pioneer Square area. He believed he had covered the core of the Pioneer Square neighborhood, so in addition to some retracing of his former searches, he began expanding into the blocks adjacent to the square area. He had grown comfortable with his disguise, but he had decided he must use the picture of his father. Without the picture it be impossible to find him. He had checked the hospitals, and even the police station and found
nothing. Still, he believed his father was somewhere either in, or near the area, otherwise why would he have sent the mysterious postcard. A few days later, he walked into an upscale oriental carpet store, just a block down from the square, and a block up from the Mission. Louie was tired, and discouraged, since he had decided not to show anyone the picture of his father, he had had no luck. He wasn’t anywhere closer to finding him than he had been when he first arrived. Feeling dejected he was walking along the aisles with his head down. “May I help you, sir?” The man looked like he was probably from India, or at least his family had come from there, he wore a turban, and expensive pants and a shirt with gold buttons. Hap thought if he didn’t know better, he might be in New Dehli. Thinking further, he was reasonably sure he hadn’t. Louie reached into his pocket and pulled out the picture of his father; and asked the man from New Dehli, “Have you seen this man?” The man looked, at a distance, at the picture, Louie said, “His name is Robert Johnson. He been missing for three years. I’m his son, and I’m trying to find him.”
The man looked closely at the picture, then he took it from Louie and held it closer to his bifocal lens. He held it one way, then the other, and he turned it over and looked at the backside. “I don’t believe I’ve sent this man, sir,” the man said, “you’ve lost your father, that is indeed a sad situation,” he said, “let me ask the people in back if they have seem him.” The man turned and walked into the back room, where he accessed his cell phone, and punched in a number. “Yes, he is carrying a picture of the pig we seek, and he told me the pig is his father. This is the pig’s son, Louie. He’s wearing a disguise.” He described how Louie was dressed with his long hair, then said, “Yes, and he’s in my store, as we speak.” Meanwhile, Louie gazed absentmindedly looked at the carpets, running his fingers over them, feeling their texture; and he gazed at the people on the sidewalk outside and the traffic on the street. He was uncomfortable knowing that a man, whose name he didn’t know, had just walked away with the only picture he had of his father. A few minutes later the man returned and handed the picture back to Louie. “I’m sorry, sir, no one here recognizes this man.”
“Thank you,” Louie replied, “if you do, would you contact me at this number?” Louie handed the man a business card with his name and number on it. “I just got these a few days ago,” he said, “this is the first one I’ve handed out. Maybe you will be the one to see him.” “Thank you,” the man said, he read the name and number on the card, then put it in his shirt pocket. He extended his hand to Louie, and wished him good luck in finding his father. When Louie stepped out of the store and on to the sidewalk, the three men on Abu’s clandestine assignment followed him; one across the street, and two behind.
Five days had gone by since Foster last called Charles Washington. He was going to call me back as soon as he left that place out in the forest! Charles had tried calling him three or four times each of those days; and he was sure something bad had happened. He found a Seattle telephone book in the
library and made a copy of all the Fosters listed and began calling all them, thinking that he would eventually find a family member who might know about Dan’s whereabouts. On the seventh day, still with no communication from Dan, he made contact with a family member. “Yes, he’s my uncle.” “I’ve been in daily contact with him for a number of weeks, and he was going to call me right back the last time I talked to him.” “How long ago was that?” “He never did call me back and I still haven’t heard from him. I thought maybe someone in your family might know where I could locate him.” “I’m the only family he has in the Seattle area, and we don’t really talk that often. I don’t know where he is.” After talking a minutes, she gave Charles another number to call in San Diego, “But I doubt anyone there will know where he is, I don’t think there’s been any contact between then for years.”
After they hung up, Charles rang the number in San Diego and soon learned that not only had they not heard from Dan in years, they didn’t really care to hear from him any time soon. Charles sat at his large maple desk and looked at the map of the United States he had framed over the fireplace. Somewhere out there I have a son, he thought. And somewhere out there I have an investigator who told me he had found him. He was going to a farm area, east of Seattle, and said he would call when he got back, possibly with Billy. Something has gone wrong. The next day, Charles was on a flight to Seattle. The first place he drove to was Dan’s office address on Queen Anne Hill. It was mid-day on a Tuesday; the office door was closed and locked. He went into some of the adjacent businesses, and discovered that some of the people in those stores were wondering what had happened to the private investigator too. “He comes in early every morning, like clock-work,” the man in the insurance office next door told Charles. “If you find him, have him give us a call.”
Charles went back to his car and pulled the address of the farm Dan had given him over the phone. He didn’t know where Carnation was so he stopped at a convenience store, bought a small bag of peanuts and asked the clerk how to get there. “Carnation? Isn’t that somewhere down toward Portland?” “I don’t think so, I was told it was east of Seattle.” “East? Oh, you mean out that way,” the clerk said, pointing straight north, toward Canada. “Young man, you need to learn your directions,” Charles said, pointing east. “It’s that way.” He found the maps on a nearby rack and opened the one to Washington state. “You ever looked at one of these?” “Oh, yeah, I saw those when I was in school. I didn’t get how they worked thought.” Charles found Carnation on the map and jotted directions on the back of one his business cards. “You should study this in your spare time. Makes life less confusing when you know where you are.”
“Hey man, I know where I am. Right here. You wanna buy some cigarettes?” “No thanks.” Charles went out to his car and looked at the streets running by to see how to find his way to I-5, the main freeway that links the west coast to Vancouver, BC, to the north and San Diego, California, to the south. An hour later he was in Carnation, sitting at the light where either a left-turn or a right-turn must be made he peered through the windshield wipers and read the signs. The road to the left led out toward the Tolt River and points further up the mountains, the one to the left led toward Falls City. Charles turned right and a few minutes later saw the name on the road sign that Dan had given him over the phone. He had never seen such dense forest and he was beginning to think he was going to have to find a place to turn around; he thought he might have taken the wrong road. A few hundred feet further and the road widened into a sort of natural cul de sac with a trailer-house parked on the far side. There were no cars about; the place looked dilapidated and old.
He stopped the car and sat quietly for a few minutes thinking that maybe the sound of his car approaching might bring someone to the door. After waiting a few minutes, he turned off the engine, and honked his horn. A few more minutes went by, then he opened the door of his car, and walked to the door of the trailer. He hoped Billy had never been in this place; then he wondered that if he had, how did he ever get to such a place. He knocked on the door; then he knocked again; still no one answered, so he walked around the trailer, looking for signs that would tell him either someone was in the trailer and not wanting to open the door, in the general vicinity, or that there was, in fact, no one around. In the back he noticed there had been a fire and a small shed and burned. There were scorch marks on the backside of the trailer and a tree, near the shed and had been burned, but nothing else. He walked back to the front door and of trailer, knocked one more time, then put his hand on the knob and turned it. It was unlocked. He gently pushed the door in and asked, â€œAnyone home?â€? Still hearing nothing, he pushed the door further open and repeated himself.
What he saw once he stepped inside the trailer was disgusting: filth everywhere, dirty pots on the stove that were weeks, if not months, beyond needing to be washed; beer bottles in the sink, on the floor, on the couch; partially empty whiskey bottles on the counter and kitchen table; pornographic magazines with pages torn out; the garbage can was full and had overflowed onto the kitchen floor, the living room floor, and the hallway: empty pizza boxes, empty cans of beans, more beer bottles and tea bags; and the refrigerator held four bottles of unopened beer, catsup and mustard, and an empty container of milk. He walked down the hall to the bedroom. There was one bed with only a mattress and a couple of filthy blankets piled on the floor. A pillow without a pillowcase lay on the piss-stained mattress. Dirty clothes lay strewn about the room and pair of muddy boots stood guard over an empty wine bottle. It was apparent there was a problem with the sewage, so he didnâ€™t even go into the bathroom, other than to check to see if anyone was hiding there. He saw no signs of a young boy in the trailer, but as he took one last look at the counter he noticed a business card lying on it. He picked it up
and read, “Daniel’s Cleaning Service.” Below the title was a phone number that looked familiar to Charles. He opened his cell phone and cell phone and dialed the number. “You have reached the number for Daniel’s Cleaning Service. I am not able to come to the phone right now, however if…”Charles recognized the voice, it was Dan Foster’s. He’s been here, or someone here has come across him has. This has to be the place Dan was coming to visit. But this place looks like it hasn’t seen anyone for a while either. He put the business card in his pocket, left the trailer and walked around to the back again. This time he saw a trail that clearly led back into the trees. Later he drove back into town. His rental was running low on gas, so when he came to the gas station/convenience store on the southern part of town, he stopped and went in. “Ever see this kid around here?” he asked, showing the clerk a picture of Billy. “Lot of people looking for that kid,” he said, fingering the edge of the picture. “A lot of people?” “Some guy came in here a couple weeks ago, looking for that same kid.”
“What did he look like?” “Mr. Foster, you mean, or the boy?” “So it was Dan Foster.” “Yeah, you know the cleaning guy.” “Cleaning Guy?” “He was driving a panel truck. Said, ‘Daniel’s Cleaning Service’ on the side. Is he in some kinda trouble with the law?” “Listen, did you tell him you’d seen the kid?” “Yeah, up on Echo Glen Road. There used to be a couple of marijuana growers living up there. Everybody knew about them. They got busted a few days ago. ATF agents came in all over the place, man. It was cool. “Anyway, they had the boy with them a few times. Not all the time, but sometimes one of them guys would come in to pick up some beer or a few cans of chili, you know stuff like that. The boy only came in once, if I remember right.” “What did he look like?” “’Bout nine, ten years old, I guess. Little black boy, like you, not that you’re a little boy. of course. Hey, d’you know that kid?”
“He’s my son.” “No shit! Man, you don’t look nothin’ like those guys that had him. They was white to the bone, you know what I mean? And scary too! Ever’body in town knew what they was up to, back in them woods, though,” he stopped and looked at Charles, then said, “How’d your boy get with those two?” “I’m not sure. Billy has been lost to his family for a long time. We’ve been looking for him.” “Well, I hear that place is scheduled for cleaning out real soon. They already went in and cleaned out all the weed. They burned it a few days ago.” “Did the police get Billy too?” “I don’t know. Haven’t seen any of’em since the raid. The last time I saw any of’em was about that same time. I saw the cleaning truck going norht through town though. It was odd.” “What do you mean, odd?” “Pretty sure one of them maryjane boys was drivin’ it, the mean one. I think his name was Ed. I heard the other one call him that a few times in the the store. The other one was following close behind in the old blue truck.” “Where were they going?”
“Up the Tolt I guess. A little later both of’em stopped in here and bought some beer.” “Up the Tolt?” “River, it runs the other way outa town.” “You mean north, in the opposite direction from Falls City, right?” “Yep.” “And when they cam back, did you see what they were driving?” “Yeah, they were both in the blue truck.” “You didn’t see the panel truck when they came back?” “Nope.” “You sure the boy wasn’t with them?” “Didn’t see him.” Charles extended his hand to the clerk. “Thanks for your help.” “No problem,” he said, watching Charles leave the store. Charles pulled out of the parking lot and turned north, heading for the road up along the Tolt River. He wasn’t sure what he was looking for, he just prayed that Billy hadn’t been in that panel truck, because he was almost
certain Dan Foster was, and he was just as certain that something bad had happened to him. Charles headed out of Carnation toward the Tolt rivershed, looking for some sign of Daniel’s panel truck. It didn’t take long to find the damn on the lower Tolt River. Then he drove for miles along what looked more like a lake than a river. Finally, as the day was beginning to shorten, the far end of this swollen, lake-sized, river, he found the small river that fed it. The road continued on into the woods, paralleling the river to some degree, and the road’s surface became less ‘vehicle friendly’ at that point; it bacame narrower and it began to climb. He thought he must be crazy to follow this road into what he thought uncharted territory might look like. Eventually, he came to a high point in the road, and stopped to look over the edge. When he did, he saw vehicular tracks leading over the edge of the road. Standing dangerously close to the steep precipice, he looked and far below, lay the mostly white panel truck lying on its side, partly emerged in the water. Charles’ first impulse was to climb down the mountain side, but the more he searched for a safe path, the more he realized there was no way he
would be able to make the steep descent safely. He opened his cell phone and dialed 911. In less than fifteen minutes a helicopter appeared and began floating in the air above the canyon. By now it was dark and he watched the spotlights come and light up the panel truck; then a wench began lowering two men down into the steep ravine. An hour later Charles watched them place a body into a tethered gurney and lift it to the helicopter. He could tell from his vantage point, the body wasn’t a small boy. Then the two men who were originally dropped into the ravine were pulled back into the machine hovering above; then the helicopter lifted, and disappeared into the cloud cover, leaving Charles where he had been before the helicopter showed up: standing alone on the high precipice, only this time he stood in total darkness. He opened his cell phone and redialed 911. He wanted to know if they knew there may have been a small boy in the vehicle. The 911 operator patched him into the county sheriff’s office, where he was able to ask a deputy the question. “Sir, I’m sure the men made a thorough search of the vehicle. Why are you asking?”
“My son may have been in that van.” An hour later Charles was sitting in the sheriff’s office talking with a deputy. After he told them the entire story, an Amber Alert was issued for Billy Hinkle that went nation-wide. In less than three hours a call came in; someone had seen Billy in Pioneer Square with an older man who appeared to be homeless. Before noon the next day they had five more calls reporting the same. One of the callers identified Hap.
Chapter Thirty The Seattle days were getting shorter. The Mariners had completed another season with the wins coming in fewer numbers than wins, but the fans in Seattle weren’t surprised, and the numbers of fans who really didn’t care much anymore rose another notch on the ladder of Mariner apathy. Some figured times like the old ones in the Kingdome were just around the corner, where they could call in and ask, “what time’s the game start today?” And the answer would be, “What time can you be here?”
Hap was in the kitchen, fixing breakfast for him and Billy when the knock came on the door. “Just a minute,” he yelled, sliding the freshly, fried eggs onto a plate. “I’m fixing breakfast.” He went to the door and opened it. The man standing there looked vaguely familiar. “Can I help you?” “Are you Robert Brown?” “Never heard of him,” Hap said. “Do you go by the name Robert Smith?” The crinkles around Hap’s eyes stretched while he narrowed his eyes to more closely inspect the person asking the questions. He was slightly taller than Hap, he wore shiny shoes, a nice pair of gray slacks, a plaid shirt, and a brown, suede jacket. “Sometimes, why do you ask?” “Does the name Louie, or Michele, mean anything to you?” Hap scratched the back of his neck; then he remembered the eggs. “Hold on a minute will you? I got a boy whose breakfast is getting cold.” “Do you mind if I step inside?” the younger man said.
“No, come on in. Shut the door, though, will you?” he asked, disappearing down the hall humming Mozart. In a few minutes Billy appeared. “Can you believe it, this urchin just appeared at my door a few days ago. If you’re here looking for him, it was me that called child welfare,” he said, withholding the fact that they had told him Billy was dead. Those were words he didn’t want Billy to hear. “No, I’m not hear for Billy.” “What’s your business?” he asked, spreading butter across a piece of toast. “I’m looking for Robert Brown.” “Told you, I don’t know him.” Billy pulled a small photograph notebook from his jacket pocket. “Here, I want you to look at these.” Hap wiped his hands, then took the notebook and sat down. He opened it and slowly turned each page, large enough for only one shapshot. “Who are these people?” he asked. “Keep going, maybe you’ll recognize someone by the time you get to the back.”
Hap turned the pages more and more slowly. Louie had placed the picture in chronological order according to age. The opening photographs were of Hap and his wife, Marie; then Michele showed up, then Louie. The further back into the notebook he got, the older the people in the pictures became. He looked at the last picture the longest. “It’s me, isn’t it.” “It is.” “And this one,” he said, turning back to a picture of Louie, “is you, isn’t it.” “Yes. Do you know who we are?” “What do you mean?” “We are family. You are my father. I am your son, Louie.” Hap listened and looked intently. “This is your sister,” he said, pointing to her picture. “It is, and her name is Michele, Dad.”
Hap held the notebook with both hands. His eyes turned toward Louie’s. He asked, “How did you find me?” “Do you remember sending this?” he said, pulling the postcard from his pocket. Hap took the card and looked at the picture, “Pioneer Square,” he said, “I’m afraid I don’t.” “Dad, I found you a couple days ago. You were with this young man,” he said, casually pointing to Billy, “Billy, right?” “Yes,” Billy replied. “I’ve been following you around some. I didn’t want to blow your cover.” “Cover? What do you mean?” “I saw you talking with your friend, Freddy. After you left I approached him. He told me about your accident and how you’ve lost your memory. You must have sent the postcard before the accident. Since it was blank, I took it as a clue to where you were and a call for help.” “I don’t need help, but what do you mean by cover?” “Dad, you testified in federal court. Do you remember?”
Hap looked confused. “Of course you don’t. Well, you did. You put four Islamic terrorists behind bars for life for their attempt to kill the president.” “Who?” “The President of the United States.” “I did?” “Yes, and after you did, the government put you in a witness protection plan. That’s why you are here in Seattle with a new name.” “The government named me Hap?” “No, the guys down at the Mission did that, Freddy told me about it.” “I don’t know what name they gave you, but usually you get to keep your first name.” “Robert Smith. That’s why the checks are coming in each month, and that must be why they are made out to Robert Smith,” Hap said, wonder filling his face. “So what is this cover?” “That’s it, new name, new city, all former contacts with the family, friends, and colleagues, cut off.”
“Because these four terrorists have friends, don’t they. Are they looking for me?” “More than likely, Dad. That’s why I waited to approach you. I think they are in the area. Have you seen the posters around town?” “Which posters?” “The ones with my picture on them asking ‘Have You Seen This Man?’” “Those are you?” Hap knew what he was talking about, he had seen one of the posters. He suddenly remembered standing for a while looking at the handsome young face in the picture. “I remember, now. Yes, it is you isn’t it.” “Yes, but Dad, who put those posters up? And why?” Hap’s blank face said it all to Louie. “The terrorists friends. They don’t know about your amnesia. They think you’ll see a picture of your son and call the number on the bottom of the poster. That’s how they’re trying to find you.” Hap laid his head against the back of the couch. The information was coming at him in warp-speed. He needed some time to process. “Hap, can I have some cereal?” Billy asked.
“Yes, Billy, you can have whatever your like.” “Who is this boy?” Louie asked. “A waif. An orphan. A terrific boy,” Hap said, more for Billy’s benefit than anything else. Then he lowered his voice and said, “A boy some people that some people think is dead.” “What?” Louie asked, keeping his voice low. “I’ll fill you in later,” he said. “We’re going to the symphony on Saturday. Would you like to join us?” “I would love that, Dad. But I’m worried I might be the conduit to you. The terrorists are close; they must be in the neighborhood because the posters are all over the square and surrounding area. The main thing right now is that I found you, and other than your amnesia, you’re in good health.” “Have I been overseas?” “Yes, you were over there for years, and only occasionally came home to see us. Mom told us of the importance of your work, though. We were so proud of you; and we still are, Dad.”
“This explains the visions and the dreams,” Hap said, his eyes drifting away. “I have visions of things I don’t remember: shootings, explosions, Arabic men, and men talking in Arabic and me understanding them. I’ve had dreams recently about children. I think there was a boy and a girl; we went fishing, or to the park, or somewhere. It must have been you and Michele. What about your mother, you’ve not said anything about her.” “Mom would have joined you in witness protection, but the two of you were divorcing when the trial was taking place. It was decided that she wouldn’t go with you.” “Divorced? Whatever for, look at her, she’s so beautiful.”
Once contact with Louie had been made, Abu pulled his men in to discuss a change in strategy.
“We no long need three men in the square at all times, so we’ll pull back to two. Each will be responsible for working together to watch this pig’s son until we have enough information to put the final the brigade pulled back from three on duty for each shift covering the twenty-four hour period, to two.” “Abu, we should take this stinking infidel out today. Do you not remember the brothers he has put behind bars for life?” one of the men shouted. Others joined in by raising their voices in support. Abu held his hand in the air. “No. My brothers, if we act to quickly we only increase the probability of the authorities knowing who we are. We have much higher goals to achieve, where martyrdom may be required. Because our numbers are still low, we cannot afford to start losing members, yet. “Once we know all we can know about this man, then we make our move. I do not want the beheading to occur in his apartment. It must be carried out in a place where the blood and body can be disposed of without leaving signs. We have yet to procure such a place.” “Can we not take him into the forest?”
“That is probably what we will do, however we would have to get him into a car without suspicion, and out of town without detection.” “That will not be difficult, Abu. You must remember some of us have been to the training camps.” “How can I forget?” Abu said, rubbing his chin with a thumb. “We must carry the message deep into the America heartland if we are to accomplish the will of Allah. “So, men,” Abu continued, “I have altered the schedules to the following.” He passed the sheets around to the men. “We begin immediately. At the end of each shift, one of the pair must make a full report regarding the comings and goings of the infidel, Robert Brown.” The first shift began as soon as the meeting drew to a close when a pair of men drove to the neighborhood and parked their car outside the building where Louie Brown had met with his father the day before. “I am hungry,” Mohamed, the driver, said. “Let’s get something to eat.” Inside the apartment, Louie and Hap discussed Billy. “Dad, you can’t keep this boy. He belongs to someone and they have to be looking for him.”
“Louie, I told you I called the child welfare people and they are not looking for him,” he said, stroking Bull Durham’s fur. “Because he was reported killed in an automobile accident? How can that be possible? Did they find a body in the car?” “I didn’t get the details, all I know is what they told me, and they told me they couldn’t give me any more information because I’m not related to him.” “Billy,” Louie said, turning to the boy, “were you in a car wreck of some kind?” “I don’t know.” “Billy, you have to something like that. A car wreck is not something people forget.” “All I remember is waking up in the bushes, and the car and my foster parents were gone. I don’t remember a wreck.” “Is it possible he was thrown out of the car and went undetected during the investigation, and woke up after the cops were gone?” Louie asked. “Louie, anything’s possible. Look at me and my situation.”
“Dad, where’s your phone book, I want to call the child welfare services.” “I don’t have a phone, Louie,” he said, letting the cat down. “Why don’t we take a walk down to the square, I’m sure you can find a phonebook in one of the stores.” They opened the door to leave and Bull darted into the hallway. When they left the building, a block behind them, on the street, a small, white Honda two-door sedan slowly followed. As soon as it was obvious where they were going, the Honda parked and the two men from the brigade casually exited the car and started following them on foot. While Billy and Louie talked with Freddy, Billy played on the Monument to Firemen nearby. “I think you should give them another call,” Freddy said. “They might have something to new to tell you. I know, if his my kid, I’d be lookin’ for him.” Louie looked across the street and saw a pizza shop. “You guys stay here if you want, maybe they have a phone book over there.” As soon as he
turned, he found himself facing two men. They looked beyond him; obviously toward his Dad, Freddy and Billy. Then they focused in on Hap. “Is that boy with you?” “That one right there?” Hap asked, pointing to Billy. “Yes.” “He is, but who . . .” One of the men went to Billy and asked him, “Are you Billy Hinkle?” Louie stepped forward and offered, “I was just going to call child services.” “You don’t need to do that, Sir. We will take care of the boy.” “What is your name?” the other man asked Hap. Looking bewildered, he said, “Robert Brown, I guess.” “Mr. Brown, you are under arrest for the abduction of Billy Hinkle. You have a right to remain silent . . .” “Hold it,” Louie shouted. “He didn’t abduct that boy! The boy found him!” “That’s right,” Hap joined in. “he came to my door. I’ve just been taking care of him for a few days.”
Billy tugged at the man’s arm who was holding him. “That’s right, Mister.” After further discussion where the agents heard the entire story regarding Billy, including his time spent at the marijuana farm, and how he landed on Hap’s doorstep, the undercover agents decided they didn’t have enough evidence to arrest Hap; but they did take his name and address, along with Louie’s, then they took Billy into their custody. “No,” Billy cried. “I don’t want to go to another foster family.” “Billy, you’re father is the one looking for you,” the agent told him. “I don’t have a father. My mother told me he was dead.” “Billy, you do have a father, and he is a very good man. He’s been looking for you for a long time.” The officer turned to Hap and said, “Mr. Brown, there will be an investigation, and we will be in touch.” “Thank you,” Hap said. “Hold on.” Louie stepped closer. “Officers, there’s more going on here than you might realize.” “What’s that?”
“I’m afraid my father’s life is in jeopardy.” “How’s that Mr. Brown?” “Do you remember a few years ago, the terrorist attack that was foiled at the White House?” “The White House in Washington DC?” “My father is responsible for those men being sentenced to life in prison. He’s in the witness protection plan.” “Are you also?” “No. He got lonely, broke the rules.” “I don’t remember,” Hap said, keeping his eyes on Billy. “He sent me a postcard, that’s how I found him. We’re from Philadelphia.” Officers turned to the other. “Robert Brown, Philadelphia, undercover agent who broke the case against the terrorists. I remember that!” He turned to Hap and shook his hand. “Nice work, Sir.” Hap looked nonplussed. “Your welcome, I guess.” “He was hit by a train after arriving here in Seattle. He has amnesia. Doesn’t remember anything before the accident,” Louie told them. “I’m
confident there are friends of the brigade looking for him, right here in Seattle.” “What makes you think that?” “There are posters hanging in town with my picture on them asking anyone who’s seen me to call them. I wear a this disguise everywhere I go,” he lifted his wig just enough so they could see he was telling the truth. “There is absolutely no reason for them to put these posters up for any reason other than to draw my father out of hiding. Fortunately though he had seen the posters, he didn’t recognize me; so he didn’t do anything about it.” “You should call the WitPro number any time there’s a problem, Mr. Brown. You were given those instructions in the training, weren’t you?” Hap shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t now. I don’t remember the training.” Billy, nervous throughout this exchange because he doesn’t want to go with these men, sat down and started crying. “We need to take him to the station.” He got Louie’s cell number and told him someone would be in touch immediately; then they left with Billy.
Across the sidewalk, near the pizza store, stood the men from the brigade. They had watched the agents approach Hap, take the boy, then stand in conversation before leaving. One of the brigadiers used a cell phone to describe the events, as they happened, to Abu. “We’re not ready yet,” Abu said. “This is a new development. Did anyone know he had a young boy with him?” “No, Abu, no one did.” They two men kept their distance and continued following Hap and Louie until they disappeared back inside the apartment building for the evening. Later that evening, Louie’s cell phone rang. It was a federal agent with the Witness Program. He asked Louie a few questions to determine his identity then they set up a meeting.
The next morning at seven Hap and Louie stepped quickly from their building and into the backseat of a Ford Cruiser that arrived only seconds before. As soon as they were in the backseat, the Ford sped off. By the time it had gone a block, the small, white Honda pulled away from the curb and began following at a distance. Both the driver and the other man in the front seat were thirty-some years old, they both wore their hair cropped short, and both were dressed as typical northwesterners: khaki pants; dark socks with dark shoes; and long sleeved shirts, buttoned at the sleeve. The driver wore a dark brown jacket, the passenger – blue. “Mr. Brown, are you in jeopardy?” “My son thinks I am,” he said, looking at the young man in the passenger seat. “Do you think you are?” “Yes, what he says makes sense.” “Is it true you are a victim of amnesia?” “I have no memory past an accident involving a locomotive here in Seattle a few years ago.”
“You are his son, is that right?” the passenger in the front seat asked. “Yes, I am.” “And I understand there are posters of you hanging in the Pioneer Square area asking anyone who sees you to report to this number,” he said holding up one of he posters. “That’s right.” The driver kept his eye on the road and the rear-view mirror while he drove about the city streets until he entered the freeway and headed north. The man in the passenger seat asked how he found his father, and Louie explained. “Mistake, Mr. Brown to make that kind of contact, now we’ll have to start all over.” “You mean I’ll have to move to another city, new name again and all that?” “Yes, sir.” “Not right now I hope!” “No, sir. You’ll have a little time to get ready. But we have to be ready; they could try to make their hit anytime time, any moment actually. We have
no way to know if they have found you yet. Your son is a smart-cookie, sir. His disguise is a good one. I would never recognize him after looking at the picture on the poster. Chances are good they haven’t found you, yet; but given enough time, they will.” “Yes, I suppose you’re right.” “But we have a proposal for you Mr. Brown.” Hap looked at him. “What?” “We would like to get these guys.” “Go on,” Hap responded. “We would like to set up a sting operation. Take some of the bastards out. You know what I mean?” “I do.” “We would like to use you as bait to draw them in.” While they talked a carpenter, walked into Hap’s apartment building and approached the supervisor. In a few hours, before the Ford returned, the carpenter walked out of the building, got into his truck and drove away.
Meanwhile, inside the white Honda, someone was talking on a cell phone to Abu. “They pulled out onto I-5 and are headed north. We are at a distance behind. “No, they do not know we are here. We will stay close.” “Let us know when they are returning. We must plan the hit this afternoon. I don’t like what is going on and the longer we wait, the infidel may be whisked from under our noses. We will have to scrap our plan to take him to the woods; he must be killed immediately. I’ll put the plan into motion as soon as we hang up.” “We will stay close, Abu and let you know when they get to where ever they are going or begin returning.” In the Ford Cruiser, while the operation was being discussed, one by one, six men disappeared into the apartment building, and unmarked cars began parking along the sidewalks adjacent to the building. An hour later the Ford Cruiser pulled back in front of the building and Hap hurried into the building. Louie stayed behind. “Are you sure he will be ok?”
“He’ll be back with us inside an hour or two. Perfectly safe and sound.” The Ford Cruiser pulled away from the building and headed back to the freeway. “We can’t stick around. If they’re watching, they need to see us get completely away.” Thirty minutes later, an older model Oldsmobile pulled parked along side the building where three men got out, and two remained. The three men walked into the building and walked very quietly to Hap’s door. They stood silent and listened. Hearing nothing, one of them knocked on the door. They waited, then knocked again. Inside Hap heard the knock just as he ducked into the new door the carpenter had installed inside his bedroom closet into the adjacent apartment. The men in the hallway never noticed the building was empty. One of them knocked again. Still no answer. He wrapped his fingers around the knob and slowly turned it: it wasn’t locked. The door slammed open and the three men from the brigade burst through the door. They spread out and went room to room. When Abu went into the bedroom he saw Hap lying on his bed, asleep. He pulled the
long sword from his pant-leg and pulled it high over his head, then with a mighty swoop he swung it down. When he did, six Federal Agents stepped from the closets, and bathtub, assault rifles cocked and ready. “Sorry, asshole,” the lead agent said, pointing his rifle at Abu. “You missed.” So it was without bloodshed that the Seattle brigade met with a most sinister end that day in Hap’s apartment. The three brigade members in the apartment were cuffed; and outside, the two men waiting in the car were read their rights and taken away with them. A week later, Robert John Williams took up residence in Santa Barbara, California.
A man loses his memory and lives with the repercussions of an earlier life.