Mud Season

Chapter 18


By late afternoon things had settled down.  The morning had been a bear, but now everyone who needed to be in Boston was here, and we had a good line of communication back to Vermont.


Things were a mess when I first got to Stockton.  The town was in an uproar, of course, and rumors were everywhere, and a lot of people believed everything they heard.  The main suspect in the minds of the citizens was the father of Lori Alden’s child, and half the town swore they’d seen him around.  From the stories about him, he made a good culprit, but the truth was that he’d joined the Army and was stationed in Kentucky preparing to deploy overseas.


I could see the strain on everyone the moment I saw them:  Dana and Elenora first, then the Glovers, the co-workers, and the police I was introduced to.  I had to deal with the police first, but I didn’t have anything to offer other than what my father said we could provide.  Just that seemed to make them relax a little.  It took me until much later to realize that they had felt pretty helpless because of budget constraints, and the knowledge that there was money they could spend on their investigation gave them some relief.


Dana was holding up, as was Elenora, but I could tell that they were both terrified that something else might happen, and the whole town of Stockton seemed to sense a black cloud over the place.  People were going about their day but there were few smiles in their greetings, which were longer and more serious than normal.  It was eerie, but seemed correct in a way.  Stockton was used to siphoned gas, missing shovels, shoplifting and other petty crimes.  Murder during a robbery, and what looked like a second attempted murder were unknown.  Just from overhearing, I knew the robbery couldn’t have earned much, probably not more than fifty dollars, so pulling the trigger was an act of anger or hatred


There was no explanation for Russell, none at all.  His wallet was still in his pocket with a few dollars in it; his watch was on his wrist.  He had been beaten for some very personal reason or for no reason at all, and nobody could even come up with speculation.


My duty was to take care of his family, and I dreaded facing them.  At the same time I felt good that I could provide for them in material ways.  I still didn’t know what to expect when Dana led me upstairs, where they were talking to the State trooper from the next apartment.


Dana led me into his kitchen, where they were seated at the table with various mugs and cups.  I’d met the mister, so I walked up with my hand out.  “I’m Paul, if you don’t remember.  I’m really sorry about what happened.  Will you introduce me?”


The man stood and said, “Oh yes.  This is my wife Kait, and the little one over there is Ian.  Do you have any news?”


I looked around feeling weak and mumbled, “The last thing I heard is that there’s hope.  I don’t know how caught up you are with what’s going on.  Russell is on his way to Boston Medical Center, and I’m here to take you there. It’s about three hours by car, but we can get a plane or helicopter if you want.  My mother lives there and you can stay with her, or she’ll find you a hotel if you prefer.  We should get moving, though.  If you need anything from home, there’s someone to bring you there and back.”


Mr. Glover pointed at me and said, “Paul, we can’t pay for this kind of treatment.  We just have the basic Medicaid for the kids.”


I said, “Please. It’s covered, okay?  Every dime.”  I thought quickly, “When Dad bought this place he wanted it to be first class all the way, and that includes medical, door-to-door, for the employees.  No limits, no deductibles, no co-pays; it’s all covered.  We can’t have Russ in Boston and you here because it wouldn’t be right.  You have to be able to talk to his doctors face-to-face, and to make decisions that can’t wait for relays.


I sat down and waved Darius in.  “Let’s talk about logistics.”


It took about ten minutes to come up with a plan of action.  We’d get a plane to come into Rutland for the Glovers while they went home to pack and make arrangements with a neighbor to take care of their animals.  If the neighbors needed cash for anything they could get it from Elenora, who would be staying in Stockton with Dana.  That was a tough call for them, but was made easier when my father said he’d be back in Stockton that night after making certain everything was lined up in Boston.  Bernie Sutton had his technician in touch with the police in Vermont to set up joint communication links, and our security company was also making their facilities available.


Tom and I were going to Boston with the Glovers, mostly so they would be with someone familiar with the city.  When I learned the Glovers didn’t have a cell phone, I had the security people arrange to have three delivered to my mother’s address.


After people started moving, I hung back with the trooper in charge and asked, “Is someone taking care of things for the woman who was shot?”


He looked at me like he wondered about something, and then shrugged, “The boy is with her brother’s family for now.  Her parents and sister are driving over from New York if they’re not here already.” He sniffed and wiped his nose on the back of his hand.  “This is a tough one.  Lori was a fine little mother, a real … a real asset to this town in a lot of ways.”  His hands went up beside his head, and they were quaking when he turned away from me.  She didn’t deserve that … to get shot down for no good reason by some mindless …”  He gulped and turned back to me, his mouth hanging open and his eyes wide on mine.  “You didn’t hear that, Paul.  Please tell me you didn’t hear that.”  He sniffed and wiped his eyes, “I’m a professional.  I can do this; I have to do this the right way, but Jesus, Jesus, Jesus sometimes it’s hard.”


I stood there for a moment trying to think what I should say, and finally came up with “Thanks for giving me a minute.  I just wanted to say, if that girl’s family needs help, and I mean help with anything at all – paying for the funeral, getting in touch with people, putting them up, just have them talk to my father.  He’ll be back here tonight.”


I held my hand out and we shook hands, and I left saying, “Good luck with the investigation.  There can’t be many people who could do something like this.”


When I left the room, I stood still for a moment and took a deep breath, and I exhaled slowly so it puffed out my cheeks.  I’d been moving too fast, thinking too fast, and I was exhausting myself.  The Glovers had gone ahead, and Darius was waiting to take me to the airport.  I stopped downstairs and got a hug from Elenora and another from Dana, and I think we all needed them.  I told them I’d call when we were situated in Boston, and Dana walked outside with me.  He said, “You surprised me when you took charge like that.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad you did, but I just didn’t expect it.”


I let that sink in, and Dana’s words made me feel some pride.  It was the first time in my life when people counted on me for something that was actually important, and I didn’t trip all over myself trying.  What I wanted was simple enough: the best care for Russ, and for his family to be there with him.  It was made easy by the fact that I didn’t have to stand outside with a jar asking for donations.  I don’t know the mechanics of it, but I was sure that a large blob of cash was about to land somewhere in Stockton, and that my father, Elenora and Dana would have immediate access to it.  I barely had lunch money in my own pocket, yet I knew that Boston would also provide.


Tom had gone in to use the bathroom, and as soon as he came out we said goodbye to Dana and hopped into the Jeep with Darius.  We slowed down when we came on some police working off the side of the road, and it was apparent that it was the spot where Russell had been attacked.  It was painfully close to his house and I looked away, wondering about what exactly had gotten into someone’s head to do a thing like that.  When we got to the little airport in Rutland our plane was on the ground.  There was no security so Darius drove us right out there, and we waited a few minutes for the car carrying the Glovers to show up.  Darius left to park the Jeep while the ground people loaded the Glovers’ bags.


The pilot came out to meet us, and apologized that the short notice meant there were no snacks on board, but there were some cans of beer and soda in the refrigerator.  The plane was just a little Lear Jet in sleek white with gold-painted engines.  We followed Mr. Glover on, and he managed pretty well using both railings.  He didn’t waste any time.  The inside looked a lot like a car.  The seats were black leather, the carpet was dark charcoal, the ceiling and overhead parts were a lighter charcoal, and there was a lot of chrome trim. 


We got the Glovers situated in the front four seats, which were two and two facing each other with small tables in-between.  The rest of the seats were laid out like a car, with seats on each side facing forward.


When Ian got a glimpse of the cockpit he gasped.  “Wow!  Can I sit up there?”


The pilot smiled back at him and said, “When we’re in the air I’ll come get you.  We’ll need your help finding this Boston place, so study your map.”


In a minute, the co-pilot came through to check our seatbelts and make sure the cabin was secure while the pilot ran up the engines.  His voice came over the speakers saying, “Okay folks, we’re cleared for takeoff.  This flight will take about an hour.  We’ll head east over New Hampshire and turn southeast by Laconia.  Then we’ll head out over the ocean and come into Boston Logan from the northeast.


By then we were bumping out toward the runway, and once there the pilot spun the engines up to takeoff velocity, said, “Here we go,” and we hurtled down the runway and into the air. 


Takeoffs always thrilled me, but I noticed Tom looked more panicked than thrilled, and when the plane leveled off and quieted down I said, “You’ve flown before.  What’s wrong?”


Tom relaxed his grip on his seat and looked at me.  “Nothing’s wrong.  I just never flew in a closet before, that’s all.”


“You didn’t wet your pants, did you?”


Tom glared, “No, I didn’t wet my pants.  I bet this thing doesn’t even have a toilet.”


“Not indoors,” I agreed.  “Come on, Tom.  This is a nice plane.  It cost more then the sum of all my good haircuts.”


Tom sulked, “Very funny: a one-penny airplane with an outhouse.  To think I was going to say something nice to you.  Well I might still, but not soon.” 


I settled into my seat and said, “Would you mind seeing if the Glovers are okay?  I need a nap.”


I did need a nap, and I didn’t come to until I sensed the plane dropping out of its cruise.  Everything was whisper quiet then, and I had to pop my ears a few times, and spend a few seconds getting my bearings.  The first thing I saw was young Ian walking back from the cabin with a grin from ear to ear.  I leaned out and asked, “Did you find Boston for them?”


He grinned even more, “Yeah.  They couldn’t find it so I kept showing them.  I think I’ll be a pilot.”


I smiled, “Be a good one.  You better buckle up now.”


I had the idle thought that I’d go splash some water on my face, but a glance out the window told me it was far too late for that, and we touched down a few minutes later.  It was gloomy in Boston, and the runway was wet.  As the plane slowed, I could see that it was raining, but only a drizzle.  I actually liked drizzly days in Boston just for the atmosphere that dark clouds and reflecting streets lent to the old parts of town.  It at once made you aware of the ages of the buildings and streets, and lent a mysterious feeling to the normal things around you.  On days like this, certain sections of Boston could evoke images of the London in a Dickens novel.


There was a van waiting for us, and we were off to my mother’s in just a few minutes.  Traffic was tough due to the time of day and the rain, but I kept giving the driver go-rounds and we made it pretty quickly.  One thing I didn’t have with me was the key to the house, but Mom made a record sprint to the door when I rang the bell, and we kind of squeezed in for our welcome to get out of the drizzle.


I left the Glovers in my mother’s good hands, and tugged Tom and Darius off to the side.  “This is where you guys get a break.  Mom will take care of things until it’s time to go, so follow me.  I led them down a corridor that led past what were once rooms for the help and the cooks.  There was a big kitchen in the back with stairs up to the modern kitchen on the next level, and we went through rooms to the main stairs to the third floor. 


As I knew it would be, my room and the rooms on either side were open and the lights were on. There was a packed bag on my bed, and Tom claimed the suitcase on the floor as his own.  The rooms weren’t big, but they each had tiny bathrooms with just shower stalls, toilets and sinks, and they adjoined through my room and a shared iron balcony in back.  The furniture was fussy antiques, but the beds were modern and comfortable.  We wouldn’t be there much anyhow. 


I dropped my bag and said, “I’m taking a shower.  If there’s any hurry-up Mom will let us know.  I’m guessing, but they’ll probably want to take the Glovers to see Russ first, meet the doctors, and then go from there.  They might want me to look after Ian, but Ally might want him on her lap all night.  Anyhow, it takes Mom at least a half hour to say hello, so we have that long.  Pick a room.  I stink.”


I don’t know if I stunk or not, but I felt good after a quick shower and some toothpaste.  Nerves do make me stink, and I realized that when I was pulling on clean underwear.  There was the smell of fear and panic in what I’d just taken off, and my day had been pretty much the fear and panic that was the source of the odor.


I was calm now.  Not less worried, because I did fear for Russ, and I felt horrible for the young mother who had been so callously murdered, and I worried for Stockton because whoever did these things was still a threat there.


With all of that, clean clothes, a somewhat ridiculous bedroom, and a day of worry behind me allowed me some calm.  It was a fragile calm for sure, because I had no news on Russ or on the criminal in Stockton.


Right then, I had to learn the plan and how we fit into it.  When Tom and Darius showed up clean and comfortable looking, we walked down to the main level where Mom and Ally were in the den.  They turned when we came in and I asked, “What’s going on?  Are we supposed to go to the hospital or what?”


Ally said, “Please, Paul.  We’ll take Russell’s parents to see him and to sit with the medical team.  It will be wonderful if you can take care of Ian tonight.  He’s just too young, and this won’t be a pleasant scene.  They think Russell is out of danger, but he does have very serious injuries.  It will be difficult enough for the Glovers to learn what Russ will be facing in the next months.  It’s certainly not suitable for a ten-year-old.  Try to show him a good time in your old haunts, and we’ll slip him in to see his brother another time when he’s not surrounded by physicians.”


I said, “Okay, I don’t mind,” and patted my pocket where I usually carried money when I had some.


Ally got it and said, “Oh, there’s an envelope for you beside the toaster.”  She smiled, “It just came today.”


I asked, “Where’s Ian now?”


Ally shrugged, “He’ll be down, and we’ll find you.  We’re leaving shortly.”


She went out, and I sat down, followed by Darius and Tom.  “You heard.  What do you like for dinner?  Boston is a good seafood town, but there’s everything else too.”


Tom said, “I’ve heard of Legal Seafood.”


I rolled my eyes and said, “You need better friends.  There are good seafood places around.  There’s also Italian, Portuguese, Indian, Chinese, steak joints, sushi if you want to go without me.  You name it, but please don’t ask me to go to a tourist trap.”


Darius looked at me, a small smile on his face.  “Why don’t you just tell us where we’re going?”


“I want you to choose,” I complained, “But if you want good fish and don’t mind a short ride you won’t do better than Skipjack’s.”


Darius slapped Tom’s back and said, “Oh yeah!  Skipjack’s, of course.  Why didn’t we think of that?”


Ten minutes later, with three hundred bucks in my pocket and Ian’s little hand in mine we hailed a cab to Clarendon St. and Skipjack’s.  It wasn’t even five yet, so I asked the driver to loop through town so I could point out some tourist attractions, and the driver offered his ‘special’ tour which would show us a lot and not cost too much.


He was good, too.  He was a rough looking man with a trace of Irish in his accent, but he was entertaining and, in the space of about a half hour had taken us past the Gardens and the Common, around Government Center, past the aquarium and Faneuil Hall, down through Southie and out to the JFK Library, and back up past Fenway Park, the Pru and the Christian Science Center.  Along the way we’d seen a trolley tour and a Duck Boat Tour, and they both had Ian excited.  Tom was wired because the Mariners were in town and he wondered if we could get tickets to a game, and Darius seemed interested in everything.  There was a lot more to Boston, but the meter was sitting on forty-six dollars when we reached the restaurant.  I gave the driver sixty and thanked him.


When we got inside, the restaurant was already busy, but we were brought to a table right away.  Ian had complained that he didn’t like fish, and I promised they had other things, which I hoped was true.


The place is an old-line Boston family restaurant, loud with conversation and laughter, and the air pungent with the aromas of seafood and garlic. It’s painted up to make it seem like you’re undersea.


When it was time to order I asked for a half-dozen raw oysters and the fried oyster plate.  Tom and Darius both ordered lobsters, and when the waitress got around to Ian I suggested fried mozzarella for an appetizer, and with a huge wink ordered a plate of oyster McNuggets.  Her return wink told me she understood, and we managed some normal conversation and jokes while we waited.


Ian wanted to know if we could ride a trolley and a duck boat while Tom asked if I thought we could get tickets to a Red Sox game.  He was a fan, and had never been to a game in person.  Darius seemed most interested in the JFK Library.  I knew, and I told them, that everything was doable, but everything depended on Russ, and whatever we did we might have to leave on very short notice.


I wasn’t trying to steer the conversation in any particular direction, but everyone with me was new to Boston.  Tom had been once, but on a school trip that only visited the Science Museum.  Ian seemed quietly fascinated by the restaurant we were in.  His eyes followed servers around as they took orders and delivered big trays of food to nearby tables, and he craned his neck to see what was on the plates.  Alternately, he looked around at the undersea scenes painted on the walls.


Darius was asking about how easy it was to reach the various famous places, and I assured him that Boston is a compact city and nothing was very far from anything else.  It was too early to know how things would progress with Russ, and his parents were likely to want to hang close to him at the hospital.  That wouldn’t preclude long periods of rest and treatments for Russ, and they might well enjoy getting outside to see some of the sights themselves.  There should be cell phones at the house for them, so they could easily stay in touch.


Our appetizers came along with half a dozen pan-seared scallops compliments of the chef.  Darius and Tom both had clam chowder, while I had my fresh oysters and Ian munched on his mozzarella sticks.  He tried a scallop not really knowing what it was, and liked it enough to take a second one.


The meals were good, and I had to slow Ian down a few times, afraid that he’d eat too fast and get sick on the fried food.  He ate the same portion of oysters that I had, trying them in turn with tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, and the ketchup that was intended for his fries.  Tom’s lobster was baked and stuffed, and it actually looked good.  The stuffing had some golden coating that was probably panko, but it made the stuffing look edible by masking the look of congealed vomit that usually turns me off to seafood stuffing.  Darius had a plain boiled lobster that he pronounced wonderful after picking it to bits.


Nobody was hungry for dessert, but there was pumpkin cheesecake on the menu so I ordered a whole one to take back to the house.  That’s one of Ally’s favorite things.


I paid the bill, and when we got to the exit it was raining steadily outside.  There was a canopy, but the doorman told us he could get us a cab while we waited inside, and Darius said, “Please.”


It only took a moment before a car was waiting, and the same guy brought us out under a giant umbrella.  I handed him a tip and gave the driver the address as I slipped into the car.  He said, “Not a good night to forget the umbrella.”


I said, “For sure.  We’re here on short notice and probably forgot a lot of things.  We’ll make do.”


When we got to the house and the driver saw the place he said, “I have an umbrella.  Hold on, I can get you to the stoop.”  He got out and came around to the side where he took us to the covered alcove one at a time.  I gave him twenty bucks for a four dollar and something fare, and hoped it was the kind of tip he expected at such an address. 


My mother had given me a key, so we went in and used the grand staircase to go upstairs.  I felt in a bit of a hurry because I hadn’t had a call from anyone, nor had Darius.  I left Tom and Ian to look at all the things on the walls and went directly up myself.  There was a table at the top, and the box from AT&T was there with the phones, so I picked that up and went into the kitchen.  There were no notes around, and I didn’t want to call Mom or Ally at the hospital, so I tried my father’s phone.


Thankfully, he answered.  “Hi, Paul.  I was hoping you’d call.  Have you heard anything?”


“No.  I thought you would have.  Where are you?”


“We’re about an hour from Stockton, still in New Hampshire.  I guess that no calls means no news.  You had an easy time getting there?”


“No problem at all.  I did some things you should know about.  Not a big deal really, but I might have spent some money.  Want to hear it?”


Dad chuckled, “Only if you think it will surprise me.”


“Well, one thing might.  I told the cop who rents the apartment that we’d help the family of the girl who was killed if they need it – you know, funeral expenses and things like that.  He didn’t make it sound like they needed it, but I made the offer, and to help with the little boy if it’s necessary.”


“That’s good, Paul.  I should have thought of it myself.  Where are you now?”


“We’re at Mom’s.  We just came back from dinner and they’re not here.  They’re probably at the hospital, and I don’t want to call there until I know what it’s like.”


Dad said, “I wouldn’t either.  How are the Glovers doing?”


“Holding up, I think.  It was kind of rush-rush this afternoon, and the news when we got here was that Russ was stable.  They headed off to the hospital when we left to eat.  Ian’s here with us.  That’s about all I know right now.  Have you talked to Elenora?”


“Several times.  They’ve closed up and are staying home with the doors locked.  They’re tired like the rest of us.  She said the police have been going door-to-door looking for someone who saw anything.  That doesn’t seem too hopeful, but people are remembering every stranger they’ve seen around for the last ten years.  They have tents over both scenes to protect anything they might have missed, and our security group is sending some people up in the morning with equipment the police don’t have.  Heinrich has his own theory, but I think by now everyone does.  Are you doing alright?  You were kind of sucked into this.”


I said, “I was surprised into it.  If it ends, I’ll tell you about Shea’s party last night.”


Dad sounded surprised, “Shea Luellen had a party?”


“Well, yeah.  Why not?”


“No reason, I guess.  You get some rest.  You’re job is to look after the Glovers, not fight crime.  The hospital has counselors, and if you see the need you get the Glovers in front of them.  Otherwise make sure they eat, sleep, and get a little exercise.  I have almost an hour left and I want to close my eyes.  Let’s talk in the morning if nothing changes.”


I wished my father a good nap and hung up.  Then I tackled the box from AT&T.  There were three simple phones inside, which we had requested.  They were Samsung clamshells in boxes that had been opened, and there was a sticker on each box with the phone’s number.  I was a little distressed to see 857 area codes instead of Vermont, but it didn’t really matter anymore.  Tom came in with a tired looking Ian just then, and I held a box out to Ian.  “Here’s a little present for you.  Tom can show you how to work it.”


I looked at Tom and said, “There’s a note that says the battery is charged, but make sure you show him how to check and to recharge it.  The phone number’s on the box.”


Ian had the box opened and the contents all over the place already, and was thrilled to have his own phone.  He had it open and turned on in a minute, the phone to his ear, and he said, “There’s no dial tone.”


I said, “No.  Close the phone and I’ll show you something.”  He did, and I dialed the number on the box from my own phone and his phone rang.  “Open it and say hello,” I instructed.  “Now you can hear me, right?”


Ian nodded and said, “Yes.  What do I do now?”


I said, “If you weren’t right in front of me, we’d talk, and you close the phone to hang up.  Tom’s going to show you how to put my number in your own phone book, and I’ll put your number in mine.  You’ll figure it out.  Tomorrow we’ll show you how to take pictures and send them to people, and you can show your parents how to do everything.”  I looked at him and asked, “Do you remember where you’re sleeping?”


Ian nodded, “Upstairs.”


Well, that narrowed it down.  There were six bedrooms on the top floor.  Darius, Tom and I had three of them.  I smiled at Tom, “You don’t mind, do you?”  I asked, holding up all the cell phones. “Mark these Glover, Mr., Glover, Mrs., and Glover, Ian.  Make sure Ian gets to sleep, and come back down for cheesecake.  I’m going to start a pot of coffee.”


Tom nodded; I put the cheesecake in the refrigerator, and looked at Darius, who’d been sitting there.  I asked, “Don’t you want to check in or something?  I think we’re good here now.  It’s time to unwind.”


Darius smiled at me, a bright and friendly smile, and I asked, “What?”


He kept smiling, “I told you I spoke to Hector when you were coming home to Brattleboro.  He likes you, and told me you know right from wrong, but I’ve been watching you and I don’t think you know wrong at all, just right.  You’re a take-charge guy, Paul, and I don’t mind saying I really admire you.”


“I’m just …” I started, and Darius held up his hand.


“Let me finish that.  You’re doing what most people wouldn’t.  Believe me, I’ve worked with other rich families and most wouldn’t do anything special for Russell Glover in a situation like this.  Oh, they’d send a big bunch of flowers to the hospital, a bigger bunch if there’s a funeral, and they’d say all kinds of nice things.”  Darius shook his head and took a breath, “Nobody else that I know, or even heard of, would put their arms around a kid like Russell and own the problem, every bit of it, like you and your family have.  I saw you come up with an impossible insurance policy on the spot today, and saw the relief on the Glovers’ faces when you said it, and now they’re living it.”  He sat back a little and said, “You know, an exciting day for me is usually disproving threats to someone’s security, but today was somehow my best day yet.  And yes,” he smiled, “I do have to check in.  I’ll be in the next room; let me know when the coffee’s ready.” 


I eyed Mom’s espresso maker and said, “You’ll smell it.  You’ll hear it too if it explodes.”  I decided on the Mr. Coffee instead, because I knew how to work that one.  Mom often had exotic coffees, but there were two packages of Dunkin’ Donuts in the cabinet so I started twelve cups of that and sat back to relax.


I called Lisa and she sounded happy to hear from me.  She answered with, “Please tell me you have good news.”


I sighed, “I wish I could, but we don’t know much yet.  They moved Russ to Boston and I’m here at my mother’s with Tom.  It’s been a crazy day, and I’m just trying to settle down.  Do you want to hear it all?”


Lisa said, “I do, but it can wait.  We watched the news and there was a murder, too.  It sounds like some kind of nut is loose there.”


“It’s crazy.  There’s nothing to connect the shooting to the attack on Russ except that those things don’t happen there.  I think everyone’s connecting them anyhow, maybe for their own sanity.  If they’re not connected, then there would be two nuts out there.”


“And there could be,” Lisa said.


I sat back and said, “I don’t want to speculate.  There’s a bad person there, and I think science will say if there’s two.  That lady got shot for a few bucks, and Russ is all mangled for no reason at all.”


“How is Russ?” Lisa asked hesitantly.


“I don’t know; I really don’t.  I’m guessing that he’s still alive because I haven’t heard different, and the doctor said earlier that there was hope … that he’s stable.  That’s all I know.  My mother and Ally took his parents to see him when we got here, and I haven’t heard a thing.  I don’t want to call there, either, so I’ll find out when I find out.”  I took a breath and held it, then let it out slowly.  “Tell me some good news.  How is Brattleboro after Shea’s great party?”


Lisa giggled, “Are you asking about the survivors, or the people who won’t wake up until tomorrow?  I think everyone had a wicked good time.  I know I did!”


I said, “Tom’s here with me, you know.”


“I know, and that’s good.  I’m glad he could go.  I know it’s early, but why don’t you try to get some sleep?”


“I will,” I said.  “Right now I’m making coffee and I’ll wait for Mom and them to get home.  I’ll call later if there’s news, otherwise tomorrow, okay?  I want to call Dana and tell him what’s going on here.”


Lisa said, “Understood.  I know you’re under stress, so I’ll send kisses to you all night long.  Love you.”


I don’t know if it came out verbally, but my thought was, “Huh?”  I thought I heard Lisa say she loved me, but she’d hung up.


It made me smile though, and the coffee was ready so I got some mugs from the cabinet, put the tray of sweeteners out and some cream into a pitcher, and poured myself a cup.  I called to Darius and he said, “I smell it.  I’ll be right there.  I retrieved the cheesecake and wondered about cutting it up when Tom appeared.


I looked my question at him and he said, “The kid’s zonked, but in my bed.  It’s okay; I can sleep on a couch or something.  How ‘bout some coffee?”


“Help yourself,” I said.  “Cheesecake?”


“Oh yeah!”


I started cutting up the cheesecake and asked, “Are all the phones working?”


Tom was fixing his coffee and replied, “Sort of.  If I can use your phone and a computer tomorrow, I can copy your book to disk and you can upload the numbers they need to their phones, and they can add whatever numbers they want.”


I slid a piece of cheesecake over to Tom and another to the place where Darius would sit, and kept one for myself.  I could still hear Darius on the phone in the other room, so I took my first bite of the cheesecake and really savored the creamy sweetness.  The coffee had come out nice and strong, and the combination was really satisfying.


Darius was still on the phone when I heard people coming in downstairs, so Tom and I ran down to see if they needed any help.  We ended up taking their coats and hanging them up while they headed upstairs for coffee and cheesecake.  I was glad I’d bought that cake because they’d had a dinner of vending machine sandwiches at the hospital.


They all looked pretty ragged, so I was surprised that they were willing to give us a detailed description of Russell’s injuries.  Starting with his head, he had a moderate concussion, a broken eye socket and a fractured jawbone with some related dental damage.  There was no apparent damage to his eye, and the diagnostics they’d done so far didn’t indicate any brain damage other than the concussion, which sounded like a bruise.


His collarbone was broken, his left elbow was badly broken, and he had two cracked ribs, and possibly some testicular damage.  The rest consisted of multiple class two and class three contusions, abrasions, cuts and scratches, but no damage to his internal organs.


Mr. Glover said, after downing a bite of cheesecake, “Russ will live, but he’s gonna be one sore pup for a long time.”  He smiled, yet tears suddenly spilled from his eyes.  He put his elbows on the table and covered his face with his hands and wept openly.  His wife leaned over and pulled him into a hug while I ran to the bathroom for a box of tissues.  When I got back Ally was giving him a massage that would relax a wooden Indian, and Darius was speaking quietly.  I put the tissues in reach and backed out of the room.  Tom followed me.


I felt stifled and asked, “How about a little walk around?”


Tom nodded, and I got Darius’ attention.  He came to us and I said, “We want to go out for some air.  Is that okay?”


Darius nodded, “We have a man out there.  I’ll let him know.  Are you going right now?”


I nodded, and Darius said, “He’ll have to wait for backup, so go wash the cheesecake off your face before you leave, okay?”


I chuckled and headed to the bathroom, and I did have a bit of goop in the corner of my mouth, so I washed my hands and face and took my time drying my hands.  Tom went in when I came out, so it was several minutes more before we made our way downstairs.  I got our jackets from the closet, made sure I still had the key, and we stepped down to the sidewalk, turned left, then right at the next corner, and left onto Beacon Street.  It was a perfect night for walking the old parts of Boston.  The streets and sidewalks were wet and full of puddles, but the rain had stopped.  The gas lamps and lights from house windows were reflected on the wet pavement, and the rain had cleared the air so the scents from the flowers in the Garden and on the Common were waiting around.


Tom was quiet, and when I glanced at him he was appreciating where he was.  It wasn’t far, so I asked, “Want to see where it started?”


“What started?” he asked.


“The revolution, at least the revolution of legend.  You’re actually walking through it right now.  There were hundreds of conspirators, and these are the houses they lived in.  Simplified history says it started with Paul Revere and lanterns in the North Church, and they’re not far from here.”


Tom was agreeable to that, so we started zigging and zagging our way over to the Paul Revere house.  The house, even in daylight, isn’t imposing, and is quite small by modern standards.  The front door opens immediately onto the sidewalk without a stoop or porch of any kind.  Still, the house is famed for the man who owned it, and not for its architectural brilliance.  It was actually enlarged once after the Revere family sold it, and was shrunk back to its original dimensions during a restoration in the early1900s.


I told Tom, “This house was built in 1680.  It’s one of the oldest places in town.  The North Church is right around the corner.  The story of the lanterns is true, but they weren’t shown to tell Paul Revere to get on his horse.  He was already on his way.  They were lit to let the militia across the river know which route the Regulars were taking so they could meet them with an advantage.”


Tom smiled at the simple door to the Revere house.  “It’s good that you know this stuff.  What else is fiction?”


“A lot,” I said.  “For one, Paul Revere didn’t ride alone; a few other riders went out by different routes in case some got arrested or even lost.  This was kind of hill country back then.  And Revere never would have said the British are coming because he was British.  Everyone was British.  A lot of that comes from poetry, which became legend, and now it gets taught in schools.”  I nudged Tom, and we started walking again.  “This stuff gets simplified so first-graders can remember it, but they don’t get around to teaching the real story unless you go to a school that has an actual American History program.”


“What’s it matter?” Tom asked.


I shrugged, “I guess it doesn’t, really, but it dumbs people down.  You get people who mistake flag-waving for patriotism, and all this name calling they call politics lately.  There’s a group going around now wanting to fly the Gadsden flag – that’s the yellow one with a rattlesnake on it that says ‘Don’t tread on me’.   That’s bull.  That flag was one man’s banner, a symbol of his own vanity.  It was never a symbol of the country except on one boat, yet the people who want to fly it and claim they’re the real patriots make a cartoon of the real flag, and treat it like an article of clothing.  That’s what gets to me.  People say they’re patriots, but their reasoning is that other people aren’t.  It makes no sense.  Take America Back is a common saying now, and if those people really mean it they’re being treasonous, not patriotic.  The only possible literal meaning is that they want to give the country back to the Brits because nobody else has ever had it, unless you consider the real Native Americans.”  I snickered, “I can picture if they get their wish and suddenly have noblemen to look down on them.”


Tom put his hand on my shoulder and his face close to mine and said conspiratorially, “Don’t forget the Queen.  That would put the talk-heads off on a toot for ten years, so we’d have to leave it to Springsteen to make it sound good in two or three minutes.”


I laughed.  “That’s good!  God Save the Queen in the USA! Instant alignment of priorities.  Would you run for Queen?”


Tom snickered, “I don’t think they’re elected, but if I was appointed I wouldn’t turn it down.  You get a ton of money and get invited to all the best parties, and you really don’t have to do anything.”


We were approaching the church and I said, “Here it is – the North Church, usually called the Old North Church, but you can see by the sign it’s really the Christ Church.  It’s the oldest church building in town.  If you look way up,” and I pointed, “You can see the windows where they displayed the lanterns.  That really happened, except they weren’t hung there.  People carried them up and they were only lit for a minute or so because they didn’t want the Regulars to catch on.”


Tom smiled and said, “I’m getting cold.”


I said, “Let’s walk, then,” and set off at a brisk pace on a different route back home.  “We can get a bus if you want.  They stop at the next street.”


“I’m okay,” Tom said, and a familiar sign was coming up on the right.  I’m not nuts about Starbucks, but it was right there.


“Let’s get a coffee.  We can warm up inside or bring it with us.”


We turned into the shop, which was busy enough, but not really crowded.  I told Tom to order what he wanted, which turned out to be one of their ten-word concoctions, and I felt like I was cheating when I asked for a regular coffee, cream on the side.


My mother’s espresso machine will make anything Starbucks can, and not half as awful, but there is nothing about their flavor combinations or their brutal treatment of coffee that turns me on, and a sip of their regular coffee didn’t taste as good as what I’d just made at home.


The warmth did feel good, though, and I stood there with Tom for a few minutes while we warmed up, and we took our coffees with us when we left.  The streets had pretty much dried up, the temperature had dropped, and the magic had left the neighborhood.


The gas lamps were still on, and I was walking funny to make spooky shadows ahead of us.  It was just Tom’s and mine until we were on my mother’s block, and there was suddenly a third shadow.  I didn’t say anything and I didn’t panic, but I doubled my pace and tugged Tom along, and finally turned when we were at the doorstep.  I turned and yelled, “Goddammit, what?” to the shadowy figure there.


He stepped into the light with his security company badge out and said, “I’m sorry, I really am.  I was blocked by a crowd coming out of a restaurant back there and had to hurry to catch up.  It’s my fault.  I apologize.”


My heart was pounding, but I managed a grin.  “You could say boo or something, you know.  I mean, you’re on our side.  Save the stealth for the bad guys will ya?”


He smiled, “I’ve been taught that when people I’m covering know I’m there they give me away.”


I smiled back, “I’ve been taught to not do that. What’s your name?”


“I’m Dave.”


“I’m Paul, and this is Tom.  I’m sure you know that.  Is it okay if we don’t play any more games?  I had this guy in Florida who could come out of a blade of grass.  Spooky.”


Dave grinned, “Hector Torres?  I’ve heard about him.”


I said, “Yup, Hector.  We’re going in now, and I don’t think we’ll be back out so you can go do what you do.  If you’re on our case tomorrow, just walk with us, or whatever we do.  I think I’ll be showing some Boston first-timers around town.”


Dave smiled and nodded, and I went inside with Tom.  We put our jackets away, took turns using the foyer toilet, and went up the stairs slowly so I could point out some of Mom’s art collection to Tom.  I didn’t think he’d care much, but he did, and he stopped dead at the little Vermeer that I liked so much.  He looked at it from a lot of angles and said, “Now, that’s good.  I really like it.”


I beamed, “It’s my favorite, too.  I always stop to look at it, and when you see it in the daylight it’s a whole different picture.”


There were still voices upstairs, and we followed them to Ally’s den, which was a little less formal than most of the rooms.  It was cheery during the day, with a big window that faced south, and lit at night to be a different kind of cheery: a happy space.  My mother and Ally were together on a little settee, and the Glovers were side-by-side in plump armchairs.  There were two padded side chairs left, so Tom and I headed toward those.


Mr. Glover stood, so I went closer to shake his hand, and he started to apologize.  I said, “Please, just sit.  You don’t have to apologize to me for anything.  This must have been one of the worst days of your life.  I think we all cried today, and we did because we’re human.  Is there any news about Russ?”


My mother said, “There’s something of a schedule.  They want to fix his face bone first to protect his eye, and wire the jaw at the same time so movement won’t cause further damage.   They have him out on drugs and will do this scan and that scan overnight so they can operate in the morning.”  She sniffed, “They make it all sound so routine and simple.”


Tom said softly, “It probably is if this is what they do all the time.  What about the concussion?”


Mrs. Glover responded, “That will only heal with rest, and they said keeping him warm.  They’ll know better when he can get around a little.”


I asked, “Is there any news from Stockton?”


Ally looked shocked, “Oh God, yes!  Go find Darius; he can give you the latest.”


I asked, “You’re okay here?” thinking immediately that it was a dumb question.  They were in a cozy room in one of Boston’s finest homes, guarded by an excellent security team, and I had to ask that.


I left pretty meekly, followed by Tommy, and found Darius in the kitchen, on the phone and making notes.  When he saw us he shook his head, and I took that to mean he’d be a long time on his call.  I went into the living room and took out my cell phone.  I didn’t really want to call my father, expecting he was in the middle of something, so I called Dana, and pressed ‘speaker’ the second it started to ring so Tom could hear.


Dana came on, “Paul?  Did you hear?”


My heart rate went up just with Dana’s tone of voice.  “I heard something, not what.”


Dana’s voice sounded way out of character, like he was both excited and frightened.  “There was another shooting.   This place is crawling with police, I think every cop from Vermont is here, and I see them from New York and New Hampshire.  Let me get my breath.”  I looked at Tom and his eyes were as wide as mine must have been, and we could both hear Dana gasping for air.


“Okay,” he finally said.  “A lady up north on 100 was taking her laundry off the line after dinner.  Her kids were out playing, and she saw a guy along the wood line. He pulled up a shotgun and aimed at her kids, and she jumped in the way and it was her that got shot.  It was a shotgun that killed that lady yesterday, but she was shot real close up, like ten feet.  Today it was eighty or a hundred feet so the mother only got some holes in her, but now they have some idea about who did it.  Not who, but it was a man, and they know about size and shape or whatever it is, and what he was wearing.  I’m so freaking nervous I don’t know what to do.  This is a lunatic.  I mean, who would shoot at little kids?  Why not just shoot in windows?”


I asked, “Is Dad there?”


“Yeah, he’s back.”


“You sound calmer already.  If Dad’s there, you know people smarter than some madman with a shotgun are there too.  I know it must be awful, but call Gretchen or something and take your mind off it.”


Dana was silent for a long moment, then breathed, “You’re right.  Russ is okay?”


I sad, “I think Russ is a mess right now, but he will be okay.  It won’t be some overnight miracle, but it sounds like he’ll heal up.  Don’t expect quick.”


Dana said dejectedly, “It’s not even four am in Stuttgart.”


I grinned at Tom as I said, “Surprises are only surprises when you don’t expect them.  I think you have enough news for a wake-up call, even if it’s not good news.”


Dana sounded a little more cheerful when he said, “One day I’ll have a four am surprise for you, so remember your words.”


“Bye Dana.  Say hi to Gretchen.”


Dana made a noise and hung up.  I looked at Tom and asked, “Did you catch that?”


“It was a cough, Paul.  He coughed.”


I looked at the wall and said, “I think I’m spooked.  If you’re tired, let’s find you a place to sleep.” 


We walked upstairs and opened doors until we found a vacant bedroom, and Tom went to get his things.  I thought about school.  I wasn’t worried about missing the last few days because they were a waste to begin with, but I decided to call Ms. Warren the next day, mainly because I had her number, and tell her why Tom and I would be out, and to ask her if she could get our report cards mailed home.  I wasn’t that worried about our grades, either, but one time I got a D that should have been an A and if I hadn’t chased it down right away it would have stayed with me.


This room had a television, so I turned it on.  It was a shoe commercial at first, followed by several others including vitamins and Hyundais.  Then there was a news desk and a serious looking guy saying, “A small town in Vermont has seen four serious crimes in two days, including the death of a state trooper.  Is it domestic terrorism?  Get all the news at eleven.”


I was too stunned to be mad about being made to wait.  Another murder, and a state trooper at that?  That must have just happened since I talked to Dana, so it just happened.  I had to think about the question of domestic terrorism, too.  I would normally think that was just TV talk to get people to tune in, but could one person create all this madness and still be walking around?


Darius stuck his face in the door and said, “There you are.  There have been more attacks in Stockton, and we’re moving your family out now.  I don’t know where to, but should have that in a few minutes.  There’s no reason to think there will be trouble here, but we’re increasing the guard just in case.  There will be a man on the balcony behind our rooms, and in about four hours I’ll relieve him.  You’ve met Dave, so don’t be surprised to see him inside when you wake up.


My head felt cloudy and I said, “What makes you so sure I’ll be able to sleep?  They killed a cop?  That’s what the TV said.”


Darius nodded, “Yes, an ambush.  Another shot was fired through a house window just a few minutes before.  Nobody was hurt there, but the officer was responding.  It was a planned ambush.”


God, to say I was nervous would be comical.  I was afraid, and not for me but for the people in Stockton, yet the fear was as real as if I thought the killer was in the next room and I had no way out.


“What about my father?  What about Elenora and Dana?  You’re getting them out of there?”


“As we speak,” Darius said.  “They were leaving the premises when I came to find you.”


“Can I call them?” I asked, taking out my phone.


Darius said, “Sure.  Good idea,” as I dialed Dana.


He answered right away and in a whisper.  “Hi.  You heard what’s going on?”


I got tears in my eyes, “I heard enough.  I hope there’s no more.”


“I know,” Dana said.  “I’ve never been so scared in my life.  This makes no sense.”


Still tearful, I asked, “Do you know where you’re going?”


“Yeah, we’re going to the mountain house.  These guys think it’s easy to defend, and there’s already a lot of security built in.”


“You’re staying in Stockton?” I asked incredulously.


Dana said, “This is where we live, Paul.  When this is over people are gonna need us here, not somewhere else.  I saw what you did with the Glovers and we can do that here, too.”  He was silent for a moment and came back with a calmer voice.  “I used to think you were nuts, you know…I mean about the money and trying to get rid of it.  Shit, I’m gonna cry.  I see how you think now.  It’s way too much for us, or even ten thousand usses.”  He sniffed, “See?  You have me making up words now.  I always thought helping people with money meant buying them groceries or clothes or something, and I would still wonder about you if I thought that’s what you meant.”


I smiled, “Tell me what you think now; I want to know.”


“What I think now … well, I haven’t thought it in words really, but I think you see the money as ... as … as making people stronger.  I saw you with Mr. Glover earlier when you gave him that shit about insurance, and I saw how it changed him.  He went from lost to hopeful to … give me a word.”


“Empowered,” I said.


“Perfect,” Dana replied.  “And Mr. Glover didn’t feel one cent richer in his pocket.  He just knew he could do the best for his kid.  That’s why I want to stay here, especially now.  I really am scared by what’s going on, but I don’t want to run away, and I want to be here to help when it ends.”


“Doesn’t anybody have an idea who it is?” I asked.


“I don’t know,” came Dana’s answer.  “They might be pointing fingers at me, but this isn’t picking apples without permission.  There are drunks around, and a few people are always mad about something, but no.  Whoever’s doing this is being mean, like going after the nicest people in town.  I don’t know who the trooper was, but Lori never hurt anybody, and you know Russ … he’s just a real decent guy.  He tried to shoot little kids, too, like he’s going after the least likely people.  Nobody’s safe: nobody.”


I knew Dana was right.  Whoever the bad guy was, he’d been able to move around town unnoticed and unchallenged.  As long as he could get away with that, he could basically cause damage at will, or even at an unexpected opportunity.


I asked Dana, “Do you have any guesses?  Could this guy come from somewhere else and know enough to get around?”


“I’m not sure what you mean.  I’ll call you back.  We’re at the house now.”


I hung up when he did, and pretty much stared at the floor, wondering what kind of disturbed mind was behind all this.


I’d forgotten Darius was there, and he said, “Paul?” gently.


I looked up and said, “Sorry.  They just got to our house – the one on the mountain.  Dana said your people said it’s easy to defend.  I was just trying to think about who’s doing this.  I mean there’s a reason, there has to be.  Dana said cops are there from three states, and they’re all over the place, but this guy is like invisible to them.  The TV said maybe domestic terrorism, but would it look like this?”


Darius shook his head.  “My guess is a lone wolf: either someone with a grudge against the whole town, or someone who just snapped for some reason.  Then again, it could be a one-man cult, or more than one person acting for a cult.”  He looked at me and said, “I’m not a student of madness, but my guess is that this is someone who’s been out in the cold too long, like someone who never had friends and just lost a loved one, or even a job.  They don’t use the word anymore, but a hundred years ago he’d be called a desperado: a lawless loner with no humanity left in him.”


I noticed the news was coming on, and turned the sound up just as Tom walked in.


What the newsmen were told had clearly been filtered to protect the victims and their families.  A young woman had been murdered, a high school student attacked, a family attacked and the mother wounded, and a home fired on where the responding officer had been killed.  No names were given, no ages, no conditions of the injured or information on where they were being treated.  That was all good, but then the ‘experts’ came on and tried to dissect crimes they had no information on and made the usual fools of themselves. 


Then they went off the deep end and interviewed a guy they called an authority on domestic terrorism and the guy, who spoke like a thug himself, went off on a tirade about this having all the earmarks of a terrorist attack, without mentioning a single specific earmark, and then speculating endlessly on why a quiet little village in Vermont should have been an obvious target.  He didn’t say it, but he implied that he could have predicted this exact situation if someone had only bothered to ask him.


When they finally took a commercial break the three of us looked at each other and cracked up.


Darius asked, “That guy gets paid for this?  Boy, I feel all safe now.”


Tommy and I laughed at the sheer ludicrousness of the guy.  Tom pointed his finger in my face and said, “If I yell at youse, youse gotta know I’m right.  You heard da man, yes?  I is an authority!”


Tom’s imitation was pretty good, and we all laughed some more.  And then my phone rang.


I was expecting Dana, but it was my father, who got right down to business.  “Who’s with you right now, Paul?”


“Tom and Darius,” I said kind of dubiously.


“Okay, that’s fine.  Wherever you are, close and lock the door, and put your phone on speaker.”


I put my finger in front of my mouth as a signal for Tommy and Darius to stay quiet, and got up to lock the door.  I turned the speaker phone on and asked, “Can you hear me?”


A different voice than my father’s said, “Identify yourselves, please.”


I said, “Paul Dunn,” and Tom and Darius followed suit.


“Good.  I’m Captain Desaulniers of the Vermont State Police, in charge of the operation in Stockton.  We’re being assisted here by a good number of people from different agencies, and by specialists engaged by Franklin Dunn who are in a facility in Boston.  I don’t want this call to take a long time, so I’ll ask people to identify themselves only if they’re called on.  For the comfort of the young people, I’ll note that I’m in a room with Franklin Dunn, Elenora Morasutti, and Dana Morasutti, and that Attorney Bernard Sutton is sitting in at his facility in Boston.”  He paused, and I heard what were probably papers being shuffled.  Then the captain spoke again.


“This first part of the meeting is strictly informational.  Unfortunately, we have little information to share.  We did get a description of the shooter from Mrs. Lois France, who was shot today while protecting her children.  It was from a distance of approximately thirty yards and is very vague, but she described a big man dressed in denim, or denim-colored clothing, with what she called a body-builder physique.  She was unable to provide details as to hair or eye color, but did note that when he ran off there were no special characteristics like a limp, and she described his motion as limber.


“Next we have preliminary ballistics reports. The gun being used is a twelve gauge shotgun, most likely a single-barrel.  This is the most common shotgun in use.  The shells being used are commercial triple-ought buck, again the most common in use, and available anywhere from Wal-Mart to Cabela’s, and every shop in-between. There is nothing in the pellets recovered to indicate special packing or hand loading.


“We do have some thoughts on the perpetrator, and these are less than scientific. First, he seems to operate with great confidence and he strikes at will.  He is either extremely familiar with the local landscape or highly trained to operate in any environment, or both.  We have seventeen mobile units and thirty-five stationary personnel in a town of just under nine hundred people, and he manages to get around invisibly.  We suspect that he’s on foot, but he could easily have a vehicle.”


I heard pages turning, while he said, “Let’s see.  The most interruption to the surroundings was done at the site where the Glover boy was beaten.  That area is roughly fifteen by twenty-five feet, and it’s very irregular, which suggests there was a struggle that went on for some period of time.  We hope to have technicians with better equipment tomorrow for a closer look, but basic forensics hasn’t picked up so much as a shred of cloth or even a clear footprint.  We do know that the perp exited through shrubbery into the churchyard next door, but the bits of blood found on leaves belonged to Mr. Glover.  At that point, the tracks disappear, and a wider search hasn’t found tracks anywhere in a two hundred yard radius.  The churchyard does have a gravel parking area and several slate walks, but our perp would have had to expose himself to many potential witnesses to have used those, and everyone with a window on the area has been interviewed.”


I looked at Tom and Darius, and they seemed as spellbound as I was.


The captain went on.  “The scene at the Texaco station where the young woman was shot last night was almost sterile.  The entire lot had been resurfaced last year, and the station owner had scrubbed and hosed it down just eighteen days ago to remove this season’s mud.  I have heard rumors of a robbery, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.  The victim wore an apron where she kept some change, and when that was added to the money in the till, well, the owner doesn’t think he’s out anything.  They don’t do an exact accounting because the employees are allowed to accept payments when a customer is short a few cents.  The fact that she was shot outdoors gives a good indicator of the time of death, because she would have gone out with the lights still on to lock the pumps after turning them off from indoors, and would have pulled advertising displays inside before closing the place down.  This puts the shooting within minutes of one AM.


“There were two more shootings tonight, one involving the death of an officer.  Investigators are still on the scene there, and I only have the opinion of the first team of responders that it appears to have been an ambush.  A shot was fired into a house, and the responding officer was shot once in the head through the side window of his vehicle before the vehicle stopped.  The car was found, still running and in gear up against the house when another team arrived.”


My own head was spinning, and he went on.  “Paul Dunn in Boston, are you still on the line?”


“I’m here,” I said, wondering what he would want from me, but it wasn’t special.


“You can hang up now.  Feel free to tell the people with you about the events I’ve described, but the rest of this call will be a strategy session and I’m not free to share it with minors.  No offense to you.”


“None taken,” I said.  “Good luck.”


I clicked off and sat back heavily, and all I could think to say was, “Shit.  What a mess.”  I had already heard more than I wanted to, and it was creepy to know that a killer who might be able to walk on water was shooting people in my second home.  It was worse because he was shooting whoever he wanted to, and nobody seemed to think he was seeking out people he knew.


I said, “I feel sick. I think I’ll go to bed.”


Tom said, “Good idea.  Can I use your phone?  I should call home.”


I held the phone out to him and said, “Keep an eye on the battery.  Are you gonna sleep in here?  I’ll get the charger.”


Tom shook his head and said, “No, they put Ian where he belongs.  I’ll bring the phone back before you’re asleep; I won’t talk long.”


I said, “Fine.  I hope I can sleep,” and headed out.


Darius followed me, and we said goodnight at my door.  I left the door to Tom’s room open and tapped on the glass to the terrace to get Dave’s attention, and when he came to the door I said, “We’re going to bed now.”  I pointed to the left, “Darius is that way.  You have what you need?”


He nodded, “I picked up a thermos of coffee and a few muffins.  You sleep well, and don’t worry about a thing.”


I smiled, thinking he was funny.  “Yeah, like that’s possible.  Take it easy, then.”  I shut the door and let the curtain fall back, looked at the bed, and decided a trip to the bathroom would be a good idea.  When I came out my phone was hooked up to its charger, and all I had to do was tear the formally-made bed apart so I could get in it, climb in, and turn off the light, and I think I went out with it.


+ + + + + + + +


Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses?
You been out ridin’ fences for so long now
Oh, you’re a hard one
I know that you got your reasons
These things that are pleasin’ you
Can hurt you somehow.


“Nine-one-one.  What is your emergency?”


“Hello.  I think I see that guy you’re looking for … the one that’s shooting people.”


“Where are you calling from, sir?”


“What?  I’m out trying to get a fox that’s been getting our chickens.”

Don’t you draw the queen of diamonds, boy
She’ll beat you if she’s able
You know the queen of heats is always your best bet

Now it seems to me, some fine things
Have been laid upon your table
But you only want the ones that you can’t get


“Yeah, I have a .22 long single-shot.  I already told you I’m thirteen.  No, I don’t want to stay here and wait.”

Desperado, oh, you ain’t gettin’ no younger
Your pain and your hunger, they’re drivin’ you home
And freedom, oh freedom well, that’s just some people talkin’
Your prison is walking through this world all alone


“I told you where he is.  I want to go home now.  Oh, Jesus, I think he sees me.  I’m outta here!”

Don’t your feet get cold in the winter time?
The sky won’t snow and the sun won’t shine
It’s hard to tell the night time from the day
You’re loosin’ all your highs and lows
Ain’t it funny how the feeling goes away?


“No, mister, no!  Please don’t!”

Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses?
Come down from your fences, open the gate
It may be rainin’, but there’s a rainbow above you
You better let somebody love you, before it’s too late.




+ + + + + + + +


I must have screamed the last, because Dave, Tom and Darius were there by the time I came to my senses, and my mother, Ally, and all the Glovers came running into the room.  All the lights were on, and I was totally confused.


Tom cradled my head when I was looking around wildly, and asked with his normal bemusement, “Bad dream?  You do ‘em up good.”


He grinned and I scowled, and he asked, “What was it? Big bad monster?   High Sheriff and police chasing after you?  A math club in your bedroom?  Oh no.  No!  Don’t say it!  You were out of Cheez Whiz?”


I groaned, and then I giggled. 


I mumbled, “I think I was dreaming.  It was about the guy in Stockton: the desperado.”


… more