Dinner was served in the pastel yellow dining room. Terrie and April presented a mammoth mound of steaming spaghetti along with a garden salad and warm garlic bread. Gary wondered whether the bread came from the genetically altered wheat, but that thought passed quickly as his stomach and the breads aroma made the decision for him. April sat next to Gary and Jon rolled up and sat next to her. Terrie also broke out a couple bottles of red wine, which Will uncorked and poured for everyone.
“Terrie and April, this looks excellent” Gary lifted his glass to them both.
“I agree Mom, this looks great” Jon said
“”Let’s have a toast…” Will said and he began “…here’s to Gary and April. May your trip be successful, and may God keep his hand on you.”
“Here’s to you both also, may you both have a long and happy life.” Terrie said
Jonathan joined in “May your stories give people hope and may you continue to cause problems for the blue hats.” Jonathan smiled at his boss
“My turn now. May all of you find happiness, may you all experience love, peace and joy. One day this thing will end, wars always do. Only God knows whether our country will survive and how each and every one of us will fare through it all. Thank you Will and Terrie, for your hospitality, thank you Jon for your ‘talent’…” turning to April “…thank you for saving my life and giving me hope.” Gary sat down and smiled at each of his friends.
“My turn, here is to you Terrie and Will, may you both be totally content with your lives and may your love for one another never end. Here is to you Jonathan, may you be blessed with your knowledge.” Turning over to Gary “Finally, here is to you Gary, you saved my life and have given me something I’ve never known before….true love.”
Everyone raised their glasses and drank the excellent wine.
“Mom, did Gary tell you that he was drugged by the police and thrown into the heart of Crack-town so that he would be killed?” Jonathan couldn’t contain himself with Gary’s story.
“You were? What happened?” Will asked and Terrie and April nodded curiously
Gary had a smile that was more like a dark secret that had just been revealed. “Ok, here is the brief version. By the way Jonathan, I wish you wouldn’t make this out to be some kind of heroic adventure or something, it was simply survival.” Gary looked at Jon and gave him a stern look that said no more stories. Gary took a deep breath and started at a point after Cathi and Ruthi were killed with the helicopter “After they killed Cathi and Ruthie, they had me in custody downtown at the Police station. I didn’t know they had just been murdered, although the police did. After interrogating me about the missing weapons, they decided to release me. I guess that they thought that the press might take a critical view of what they did, which they didn’t. Anyway, I’ve heard stories that some of the folks that were interrogated later for missing weapons; didn’t make it. What they would do is evaluate the person and if they felt that he was going to cause trouble later on for them, they would give them a drug that caused a heart attack.” Gary paused for a moment “What they did with me was to drug me, and then they stripped me and tied my hands behind my back with a nylon handcuff. After that; they drove into the worst part of inner-city Baltimore and dumped my pale white fat ass onto the street.”
Gary accepted the large plate of spaghetti that was passed from April and started filling his plate. He did not want to keep everyone from their meal so he talked about his past like it was no big deal, just another day.
“Ok…so what happened?” April asked
“Do you really want to know this?”
All three of his friends said “Yes”
“OK, you asked.”
Gary first realized that he was alive was when he felt warm fluid being poured on his head. Rolling over in his drug induced stupor; he looked up and saw the black man put his penis in his pants and zip up his fly. The black man looked down at him and said “How’d you like that motha-fucker? White motha-fuckers don’t come into our hood, and you ain’t gonna make it out of here alive, cracker.”
“Yo, what up Slim?” Another black man came up and stared at Gay lying on the broken glass strewn sidewalk. “Wher’d this piece of shit come from?” The other black man bent down and said inches from his face “Hey man you smell like piss…don’t you know not to come here?”
A black woman staggered up to the now gathering crowd. “Hey man, you a junkie like us, you got any fuckin money?”
The second man said “Yo, bitch…he ain’t go no money. Where’d he put it? Up his fat ass?” The second man looked into Gary’s eyes “You junked up ain’t you? Fuckin po’lice do this to you? I hate po’lice more than I hate white folk…” the second black man continued “What’s yo name?”
Gary thought for a moment and tried to talk, but the words were slurred from the heroin the police had injected him with “Gary…Gary Martin. Where am I?”
The first black man spoke to the taunting crowd. “Yo, dude you where you ain’t posed to be” The first man had a look of pure hatred in his eyes as Gary had invaded their non-white domain. “I think I’m jes gonna cut you, like them motha-fuckers in Iraq do.” The first black man stood and produced a knife from his back pocket.
The second man stood between the first and Gary “No! Fuckin cops could be watchin right now, he could be a trap.” The second man looked up the street that divided the abandoned and boarded up row homes. “Yo, anyone seen Keeve?” Looking at the first man “Call Keeve and tell him what’s up” The first man opened up his cell phone and speed dialed the neighborhood drug king.
Gary lay on the sidewalk and felt no pain, no sense of fear or anything except being high…he now knew why there are drug addicts. A black Cadillac Escalade with dark tinted windows pulled up and came to a stop. Although the car stopped the wheels on the car kept spinning which made Gary think that he was hallucinating, he wasn’t.
The local drug king got out of the SUV and came over to the crowd. After talking to the two black men who had the original contact with Gary, he bent down and said “Motha-fucker, if you are a po’lice trap, then I’ll do you myself…”
“Help me…please” Gary muttered
Keeve stood and motioned to his two very large body guards “Get him in the car” They obeyed and lifted Gary by his arms and shoved him into the Cadillac. Keeve got in and they drove off.
“Where are you taking me?” Gary mumbled
“Away from here. Where you from?”
“Baltimore County.” Gary paused for a moment trying to recall what happened to him. The cops arrested me today and that’s all I remember right now.”
“I think they are trying to dump their shit on us. They want us to do their dirty work and kill you. Pretty convenient, we kill you and they kill us. Fuckin pigs.”
The Escalade drove for about a half hour to a neighborhood on the west side of town. Pulling into a driveway, Keeve stopped the car and turning to Gary and the body guards “Bring him in.” The body guards opened the door and helped Gary into the house. Once inside, Keeve cut the nylon handcuffs and told one of his guards to get him some pants.
Gary was starting to sober up and his thought processes were coming back to him. “Why did they do this to me?” Gary asked Keeve
“They did because they can, that’s why. They the man and the man do what he fuckin wants to do. Welcome to our world.”
“Can you help me get home? I need to get to my wife and daughter.”
“Your name is Gary Martin right? You must be the dude that was on the news today.”
“I was on the news? What did they say?”
“They say that you was a terrorist and they killed yo family”
Gary looked at his friends and saw the very same look that the Finney’s had when he told them about Cathi and Ruthie’s death. Looking at Jonathan “Like I told you, this isn’t a game. Now, can someone please pass the bread?”
Nobody knew what to say. Jonathan again broke the silence and thankfully changed the subject “Mr. Martin, I think I have a code word for you.”
“And that would be?”
Jonathan leaned over to April and whispered the word into her ear. “That’s good Jon, that’s real good.”
Gary said “Ok, now maybe you can enlighten me?”
“Troublemaker…you’re The Troublemaker, Mr. Martin.” Jonathan said
“That’s cool…Troublemaker, I guess that I am, huh?” Gary smiled and chuckled
“Now, Mr. Troublemaker, we still need to do a few things before you all leave tomorrow. April needs her cover name and Mom needs to implant both of your chips and then you need to finish what you and I started earlier.” Jonathan said
“Ok, but let’s finish our dinner first, please pass the gravy” Gary had started a small pile of pasta for seconds.
“Gravy?” April asked “Don’t you mean “spaghetti sauce”
“Yeah” Gary chuckled “I had this friend Tony Pazzouli, who was from New Jersey. Tony’s folks had an Italian restaurant and he called spaghetti sauce, ‘gravy’. I really miss that guy, he was a good soldier.” Gary lifted his wine glass in salute “Here’s to you Tony”
Gary looked at April and smiled at her. He felt her foot rub up and down on his leg, it was quite stimulating. Turning to her; he clearly saw her, a stunningly beautiful woman with chocolate brown eyes that sparkled and freckled cheeks. Her hair in the dining room light; although auburn in color actually had minute streaks of a reddish hue. Sighing, he became very aroused and if circumstances were right, he would have taken her right on the table, right there and then…he returned her smile and added a wink.
Terrie broke the silence and said “Gary, after we’re through here I’ll chip you and April. Jon and Will can take care of the dishes.” Will nodded in agreement to their deal.
Gary shook his head away from lusting at April “That’s fine Terrie” Gary felt somewhat like a school boy, with his testosterone levels peaking.
April leaned over to him and close enough that he could feel her breath on his neck; whispered in his ear coyly “Aw, did I make the Troublemaker blush?” Gary looked down and smiled, nodding in enjoyment and agreement.
The meal was finished and to be honest, it could have gone on for hours with no complaints from anyone except Jonathan, as he wanted to complete his tasks and further delve into Gary’s past. Will started to pick up the dishes and clean up.
“Gary, April…I’m ready when you are” Terrie said as she got up and the led the pair out into the office examination room. Turning on the bright overhead fluorescent lights gave the stainless steel and white exam room a harsh, sterile and clinical look.
“April let’s get you done first. Now, the first thing we want to do is take your photograph. Gary, would you give April your shirt? We want to make sure that you aren’t wearing the same top that’s in your picture.”
Gary took off the red and gray checked shirt and handed it to April; it was much too large for her and gave her the look of a country girl. He thought “Man, she even makes that ugly shirt look good.”
April smiled and the digital camera captured her image. “Now let’s see what we’ve got here” The Dr. lifted April’s hair from behind her neck and removed the taped foil covering the imbedded Encompass chip. April winced at the pulled hair beneath the tape.
The Vet then went over to a medicine cabinet and found the necessary tools to complete her procedure. “I’m going to put on a topical anesthetic, and then I will need to numb the area with a shot, ok? You’ll just feel a little pin prick. When you are numb, then we’ll give you a new identity.” Terrie then opened a clear plastic box that had the individually wrapped unregistered Encompass chips in it. Taking one out its packaging with gloved hands, she inserted it into the needle end of a rather large syringe and laid it on a stainless steel sterile tray. Moving back to April; the Dr. touched the area and asked if she could feel anything, satisfied that she was sufficiently numb. Terrie wiped the area with an alcohol swab. Taking another syringe of the same type out of its sealed package, Terrie gently inserted it under April’s skin and sucked the old Encompass chip out and set it in the piece of tin foil.
Gary said “I’ll take that chip Doc.” Gary then added April’s to the six others he carried in his foil square.
Terrie again wiped the area with an alcohol swab and expertly injected the new chip beneath April’s skin. “Now, let’s just put a small band-aid over it and you are good to go.” Terrie then took the emptied package that held April’s chip and wrote her name on it for Jonathan. Taking a portable Encompass scanning device she entered the numbers into it and pronounced “Finished…you’re a new person.”
“Gary, it’s your turn.” Gary left his shirt off and the Veterinarian performed the same procedure on him. “Hey Doc, got any dip for those chips?” Gary was the only one smiling at his lame joke.
“Terrie, how did you and Will meet?” April asked as the Dr. worked behind Gary’s neck
“You’ve lived here long enough to know that everyone knows everyone else in this town. Well, I would order specialty feeds from Will and he would personally deliver them…one bag at a time.” Terrie looked over at April and smiled. “After Jonathan’s father left us, I didn’t want anything to with a man again. Meeting Will made me realize that not all men are jerks and drunks. Will Johns makes me laugh, and he truly loves me. I couldn’t ask for more than that. When this is all over, if it ever will be, I intend on marrying that man.” Terrie paused and looked up “He just doesn’t know it yet.” Terrie and April laughed.
“You women…you certainly know how to set the hooks, don’t you?” Gary smiled
“Ok, Mr. Troublemaker, you’re finished” Terrie set the syringe down and placed the bandage over Gary’s skin deep chip. “Now if you would get these to Jonathan, he can get everything wrapped up.” Terrie gave the empty Encompass packages to Gary who left to find Jonathan.
April and Terrie were alone “Terrie….” April paused thinking of her question “…how did you know that you first loved Will?”
“Whew, I didn’t know at first. You know, feelings can sometimes cloud a persons thinking.” Terrie thought for a moment “I really wasn’t sure at first; my last relationship was such a nightmare. I guess that I knew when Will let me see inside of his heart and mind. When Will started opening up to me, that’s when I knew it was for real. I also know that Will is a faithful man; which to me is the most important thing. Once I knew that, then I let myself love him”
“Do you think Gary is faithful?”
“Are you kidding me? He still wears his wedding band, doesn’t he? Now ask yourself this; I know you haven’t known him very long, but in the time you’ve known him, has he ever said anything or acted degrading in any way towards his wife?”
“No he hasn’t. I know he still loves her”
“Then you have your answer.”
“You know what scares me? This is silly, I know; Jonathan said that when we leave and Gary takes on his role as an Indian, that he has to choose what my role will be. Jon said that I could be either his wife or mistress. What if he says that I am a ‘friend’ or something like that? I don’t know, maybe I’m just paranoid or something.”
“April, you are an adult and are old enough to know the difference between puppy love crush and love. Do you love him?”
“You know, my family was killed just a few days ago. I guess that by all reasoning I should be mourning their loss. After my Dad spoke to me, the fear and sadness just left, like it was taken away. With the negative emotions gone, I knew deep down inside that Gary was someone special; not only to me but to everyone else. Yes, I love him, but I am afraid he won’t feel the same way about me.”
“Honey, let’s look at it in a different way for a moment. Let’s say that you could go back in time to Germany in the 1940’s and let’s say that you are a Jewish woman who loved a Jewish man. Knowing what you know at this time in our history, how do you think you would act towards him? Let’s also say that two weeks ago your Mom found out that they, your Mom and Dad, would be ‘gone’ in a few days. How do you think that your Mom would act towards your Dad?” Terrie paused to let the images sink into April’s mind. “April, we are living in a time where every day that we make it through is a blessing. Honey, you just love him with all of your heart and don’t worry about what he thinks, Gary is a smart man…he’ll know.”
Terrie came over and hugged her friend. “Come on with me, I have something that might help our Mr. Troublemaker see you in a different light, so to speak.” Terrie and April went to Terrie’s room and closed the door behind them.
“Jonathan, here is the info on our chips.” Gary handed Jonathan the chip codes and he began to input the information.
“Sir, we still have to have a cover name for April.”
Gary left and called for April
“I think that they are in Terrie’s room, probably talking women stuff.” Will said from the sofa.
“Hey April, we need to know your cover name.” Gary said through the closed bedroom door.
“I’ll be out in a minute” April called back
Gary left and went back to Jonathan’s room where the two of them picked up where Gary had left off with his story.
April came into Jonathan’s room. She stood in the doorway listening to their conversation; holding a small bag behind her back out of sight. “Hey guys. How’s the story coming along?”
“Man, this is really good stuff” Jonathan said excitedly
“Good, I’m glad it is. I think I want my cover name to be Sunflower” April said to Jonathan
“Sunflower it is then” Jonathan replied and began to enter her name into his records and the Encompass system.
“Sunflower?” Gary had a strange look on his face about the name
“What’s wrong? Don’t you like that name? It is my favorite flower, so I thought it might be fitting” April said justifying her choice
“No…no that’s fine. Sunflower it is then.” Gary wasn’t really excited about the name; however he covered it up fairly well. April read through it.
“Gary, can I talk to you in private please?”
Gary got up and followed April out to the attached Vets office; where she started putting on her boots. “Where are you going?” Gary asked
“I’m going up to the room and have a nice long bubble bath; I always think better when I am relaxed. By the way, I packed the Crown Royal in the back pack.”
Gary smiled “No way…you did? Excellent!” Gary watched her as she tied her boots “What did you want to talk about?”
“You had a funny look on your face when I said that I want my cover name to be Sunflower. Is there anything wrong?” April finished and stood up.
“It’s a long story, I’ll tell you later, ok?”
“That’s fine. Do you think you’ll be long with Jonathan?”
“I don’t know; he keeps on asking questions. You know he asks a lot of questions. I’ll try to keep it brief, ok?” Gary stood in front of April who came up to him. Gary put his arms around her breaking the barrier between friends and intimacy. As he hugged her his hands found her head and they kissed. A passionate electrifying kiss which created surging feelings and hope through the both of them. “I’ll keep it really brief” Gary said smiling.
“You better” Reaching up for another kiss; April feeling flushed; turned away taking her bag and left to the room.
Gary stared at the now closed door. “Wow!” He gasped for air as the electricity flowed through his body and mind.
Will came up behind Gary. “Isn’t it funny how life is?”
“How’s that Will?”
“Here we are in the midst of the collapse of our country and tomorrow leaving for who knows what and both of us crazy over a couple of women…funny, huh?”
“Yep, it sure is…it sure is” Gary started to leave “What time are we heading out tomorrow, Will?”
“We need to be on the road at 6am so I’m getting up at 4.30 to start some coffee and breakfast.”
“See you in the morning then” Gary turned and went to Jonathan’s room to continue the transcribing.
April bounced up the steps to the barns apartment and into the room. Flicking on the light she found that her mind wouldn’t even let her concentrate on a simple task like making a bubble bath. Talking to herself “Ok, let’s just calm down, April.” April hadn’t taken the time before to look around the apartment. Walking to the sliding glass door she opened it and stepped outside to the crisp night air. Looking up at the stars, she mouthed “Thank you God.” She imagined that she heard Him say “You’re welcome”
After calming down somewhat she returned and opened her back pack taking the bottle of Crown Royal out. Finding a small glass in the bathroom she poured herself a double shot and choked it down. Shaking her head from the jolt of alcohol, she went to the night stand and found some matches for a scented candle that was on the stand. “Perfect” she said to herself. Lighting the candle, April then turned out the lights and started her bath, with a double dose of bath salts.
The bathroom mirror steamed up quickly as she stripped and stepped gently into the piping hot silky water. Remembering that she missed something, she jumped out of the water and made wet tracks to her back pack again. Taking out the radio, April found a station that was playing soft music and settled back into her liquid escape hatch. “Now, it’s perfect”
In the house Jonathan and Gary were going through another part of his story and Jonathan again stopped to ask detailed questions. “Ok Jonathan, here’s the deal. I am going to tell you as much as I can. I don’t want any questions right now, ok? It’s getting late and we have a huge day tomorrow, so you’re going to have to make do with what I tell you, alright?”
“Yes sir” Jonathan sat squirming but quiet as Gary told his tale, which included the dreams of the past and visions of the future.
April’s body was completely relaxed yet her mind and spirit was anxious for Gary. Leaving the now cooled bath, she went to the bed and opened the small bag that Terrie had given her. Inside was a black silk negligee and a gold wedding band that Terrie had from her previous marriage. April tried on the band and it fit well, as did the lingerie. April had the nightie on, but set the ring on the night stand. Setting the candle on the night stand April laid down to wait for Gary.
The sun was brilliant and the waves were perfectly crashing along the shore. Hearing laughter and looking towards the sound she saw Ruthie dancing and jumping in the waves. There were dolphins and seals with her, and they were all laughing and playing. The dolphins would lift Ruthie up and she would jump into the warm blue-green water. The seals were barking and jumping along with Ruthie and the dolphins.
Ruthie looked over and called out “April, come on over and meet my friends”
April walked across the hot sand quickly to the cool water. “Ruthie it looks like you sure are having fun.”
“I am! Meet my friends. These are the dolphins” Ruthie said with her arms wrapped around a beautiful smiling dolphin “… and those are the seals.” The seals all looked at April and bowed down in a gesture of respect.
Ruthie came out of the water and walked up to April and held her hand. “Do you want to find some she shells with me?”
“Sure, that sounds like fun.”
The two walked hand in hand down the beach, looking down at the sand for shells. The dolphins and seals followed. “April, do you like my Daddy?”
“Yes, sweetie I do.”
“I thought so. Do you know my Daddy snores when he sleeps?”
April laughed at that bit of information “No, I didn’t but thanks for letting me know”
“April, I have a secret to tell you.”
A soothing deep male voice sounded from behind April “Not now Ruthie, not now.”
“Awww ok.” Ruthie paused for a moment “April?”
“It’s ok to wear the ring. Mommy says that it’s ok. She says that you will take good care of Daddy. Will you?”
“Yes Ruthie, I will.”
“Do you want to know something?” Ruthie asked
“Sure sweetie, what is it?”
“Mommies favorite flower and your favorite flower is a sunflower. You have favorites together.”
“That’s neat Ruthie. Your Mommy sounds really nice. Tell her that I can’t do as good as a job taking care of your Daddy like she did, but I will do my best, ok”
Ruthie nodded yes and again spoke “April, Daddy was scared after his nap, wasn’t he?”
“Do you mean because of the dream about the submarine?”
“Yes, it was very scary.” Ruthi paused for a moment “April, Daddy will have one more scary dream and that’s all.”
“Ruthie will this ever end?”
“Yes, it all ends”
Gary looked at his watch, it was 1.30 am “Jonathan, it’s really getting late. I have to wrap this up now.”
“But sir, there is still a lot that we haven’t covered.”
“Sorry Jonathan, I’m done for now. This will have to do for the time being, ok?”
“Yes sir, good night sir.”
“Good night Jonathan, I’ll see you later. Jon…make sure you find out about what I asked you to, ok?” Gary paused as an after thought “Jonathan, what’s going to happen to the Finney’s place?”
“Sir, they’ll put it up for auction, or sell it to one of their people.”
“Jon, if at all possible, I want to buy it. I don’t care where you come up with the money, but I don’t want them to have it.”
“Yes sir. How will I know where to reach you?”
“Jonathan, you’re a Geek…you can find out anything, right?” Gary said smiling
“Right, sir.” Jonathan smiled back
Gary walked silently up the steps to the room, and listened for any sounds before he opened the door. Inside he saw a candle burning and heard some music coming from the short-wave radio. Gary also saw a wedding band on the night stand and wondered whose it was. He also felt his own wedding band that he still wore. Gary loved being married to Cathi; however he knew he had to let her go.
April was sound asleep and curled up, he smiled and undressed. Thinking that he might get a few hours of sleep before they set out in the morning, Gary slid under the sheets.
April woke up and rolled over “Hi, did you finish with Jonathan?”
“No we didn’t finish, although I gave him enough I think. Anyway, it’ll have to do for a while, at least until we come back.”
“Are we coming back?”
“I hope so, and the next time I won’t be living in a cave” Gary smiled
“What time is it?” April asked rubbing her eyes
“Late” Gary reached over and blew out the candle. He was wrong about getting a few hours sleep.