The winds blew hard that day. So hard that the roads were littered with roofing shingles. It wasn't a huricane or even a tropical storm, just a few gusts of wind off the ocean. No one expected the wind it just happened. It stopped within minutes. Damage was almost non existant, with one notable exception.
The wind broke a window of a vacant house. More likely the window had already been broken. A shard of glass, picked up by the sixty mile and hour wind, was thrust like a dagger into the old man's heart. The coroner said with a blood alcohol level of .21 he likely was asleep when it hit him. Even if he were awake, he likely didn't feel a thing.
His death should have gone unnoticed. He after all was a nonperson. He was in fact one of the nameless, faceless men who wander the streets. His life ended with a great deal more fanfare than his last few years. The reason was simple.
High in an office building, with a distant view of the neighborhood where the old man died, two men screamed at each other. The older man in the thousand dollar suit was the editor in chief of the local newspaper. Newspapers had begun to slip in popularity. TV could cover the news faster, if not better. The Daily news had managed to prosper.
The daily news was a local newspaper but born in the image of the National Inquirer. A little news but a lot more in depth garbage. That is how the younger man in the hundred dollar suit discribed the paper's content.
"Look Jamison, I know you were a hot shot reporter. I know you were nominated for the pulitzer. None of that matters here. You either come up with stories that sell newspapers or you are out. I don't care who or what you are. You either get on the team or find a new paycheck. Do I make myself clear?" the older man asked.
"You make yourself clear Ed. I am going to stay here till my contract runs out. You can only fire me if I don't write. You can't fire me because you won't publish the news." Jamison shouted. He had been shaking his head so violently that his long hair fell across his eyes. Actually it fell across his thick glasses.
"News, surely you don't call this crap news. Nobody cares what some doctor discovered. Not unless it is a cure for cancer or aids. All this man did was discover some kind of tiny little piece of dirt. As a matter of fact if it were some kind of dirt it might sell newspapers."
"That Doctor may have found the building blocks of all life. Ed you are as big a jerk as they said."
"Who said I was a jerk?" the older man shouted.
"Everyone who worked on the Sun." Jamison shouted trying to raise his voice to the older man's level.
"I saved that paper. It was headed into the dumper, just like this one. You have to print what people are willing to pay for. That is something you 'Journalist' never understand. If you want to be a journalist switch to TV. That's where the real news is today. What we do is print the trash people read while they take a crap. You may not like it but it pays the bills."
"I don't have to like it. Unless you want to pay out my contract, I also don't have to write it." Jamison was so angry spitle dripped from the corners of his mouth.
"You by God have to cover any story I put you on." The older man said.
"Right, but I can write it anyway I want. That my dear Ed is in my contract. Why don't you buy me out. I want to leave here as much as you want me gone."
"Why should I buy you out. I am already paying you not to write anything usable. I can just make you life as miserable as possible. As a matter of fact, I have a story here I want you to cover. I would like for you to do an indepth piece. You are famous for that liberal crap."
"Really Ed, I thought I was a hard hitting investigative journalist. At least that's what my reviews say."
"Stop calling me Ed. I think you wrote those reviews yourself. If not they were written by some woman you were sleeping with. None the less I want you to start on this story now. I don't want you to touch any of the other things that come into this office for the next week. I want at least a couple of articles on this. You know, how the homeless problem is getting out of hand. That kind of thing."
"You know it isn't going to sound like that when I finish. So what is this big story?" Jamison asked in disgust.
"Some old bum got himself killed in a freak accident over in Whitier heights. Here is the police report." The older man handed Jamison a hand written piece of paper.
"Ed you ass, this isn't a police report. It is what one of our people wrote down from the police radio." Jamison said.
"Who cares, just get your ass on over there and write something. It would be nice if it were something I could print. I do hope that isn't asking too much." The sarcasm dripped from his voice like green bile. Jamison didn't even answer, he simply turned toward the door. "You know Jamison," the old man continued. "I wish you drank. If you were a drunk at least I could fire you for that."
"Too bad Ed. You are going to have to either pay me off or put up with me. Of course I guess you could have me killed."
"That may be an option for another day." the old man said. "By the way take that kid, Ruby with you. Maybe she can write something worthwhile, you sure as hell can't.
Jamison returned to his cubical. He kicked his broken down chair. The old man had intentionally placed his cubicle outside his old office. From where he sat he could see into the office now occupied by the movie reviewer. "The movie reviewer for God's sake," he thought for the thousanth time.
He pushed his long stringy hair out of his face yet again. He knew he really needed a haircut. He would have gotten one months ago if the old man hadn't demanded that he 'get a hair cut'. He hadn't much liked his hair before the incident, now he hated it. No matter how often he washed it his hair always hung in strings. "Too damned fine," he thought.
He might have fine stringy hair but at least his body wouldn't be turning to fat. At least not if his family's genes held out. His dad had died three years ago at age eighty. He was tall thin and streight even at eighty. He was also an outdoors man. The younger Jamison was anything but an outdoorsman. He had always been a rather bookish kid. He had gone to college where he majored in what else Journalism. From college he worked on a couple of smaller papers then on to the big time. At least that is how it seemed five years ago.
The pulizer nomination looked like the beginning of his climb to the top. Then out of the blue the paper got sold. The new owners brought in Ed Martindale. Martindale had a reputation for saving newspapers by distroying them. He aimed at the based of human emotions. If it was course, vulgar, or wierd it made the front page. News if there were any at all was buried on page eight.
Ed had once remarked that one Alien abduction was equal to three Elvis sightings. One Elvis sighting was equal to any ten news stories. The old reporters were replaced by young hounds. Only those reporters with contracts remained from the old days. Jamison was one of the last three.
Jamison hated Ed as much as Ed hated him. Both hated the other because they envied each other. Ed envied Jamison's principles no matter how wrong he felt they were for the paper. Jamison envied the control Ed had over him. Ed promised to make his life miserable and he had succeeded. The only thing he hadn't succeed in doing was making Jamison write crap.
Jamison still wrote the stories as he saw them. Ed didn't publish them at all. Their relationship was a non relationship. Ed finally began sending Jamison out on stories he could bury on page eight. Jamison hated being buried in the middle of the paper but he wouldn't comprimise. He claimed it was his journalistic integrity. It was in part. It was also his pride. He could have written the crap without a doubt. He would have if he could have faced his real journalist friends. Their opinion of him matter. It mattered more than he liked to admit.
Jamison was being watched closely. The cubical next to his was occupied by a small blonde woman even younger than his thirty one years. Ruby was short on looks but long on brains. She was attractive enough, at least she would have been if she took better care of herself. She knew it must be true since everyone told her so. At five one she should have weighed somewhere over a hundred pounds. She actually weighed only ninety and that was on a heavy day. Most days she weighed in at eighty eight. Not only was Ruby thin she also was plain. She would have been much more attractive had she worn make up. Even a little would have helped her hide the almost faded freckles. Everybody told her she was too old for freckles. And of course there were heavy glasses over her washed out blue eyes. She might have worn contacts if they had been less of a hastle. As it was Ruby was almost attractive.
Hell she knew she was almost a lot of things. She could be a first rate journalist if she had landed on a decent newspaper. Instead the only offer she recieved was working at this rag. She took little comfort in Jamison's problems. He and Ed fought all the time but he was writing real news stories. When he was forced to cover an Elvis sighting, he made the nuts sound like nuts. His writing seldom made it into the paper but it always read well. Most of the trash reporters, as Jamison and his cronies called them, read his stories over their morning coffee. They were privledged to recieve copies of his throw aways. Ruby marveled at his ability to make even the trash sound like news.
She hadn't been at all surprised to hear the arguement between Jamison and Ed. After all why should today be different from any other day. Almost without exception every morning started with shouts from one or other of the three musketeers. Ed was doing his best to drive them away. They were doing their best to make him pay for the priviledge. The three of them had a not so private joke. They swore that the other reporters lived by a creed. "Write the crap, take the money, then go home and get laid." It refered to the fact that the three of them were all unmarried, at least at present. Two of the three had been married at one time or another. The third was a woman who it was rumored preferred other women.
"Ruby," The mention of her name snapped her back into the now.
"Yes Mr. Jamison," she answered.
"Do you have a car?" he asked.
"Why yes, of course I have a car." she answered not quite knowing what he was really asking.
"Good then you drive." he demaned.
"Drive where?" Ruby asked.
"To the morgue of course. You have been assigned to follow me today. This may be your lucky day kid." he said without any further elaborations. After a few seconds when Ruby didn't seem to know what to do he added, "Get your skinny ass in gear. We have to roll right now." It came out much harsher than he meant it.
"Yes sir, Mr. Jamison." she said.
"God woman, I don't bite. You look like you are going to burst into tears at any second."
"I don't cry. At least not over some pig telling me what to do," she answered angrily.
"Lord Ruby, you aren't a libber are you?" Jamison asked.
"Damn right I am you insufferable prick. I don't take orders from you."
"Then you better go talk to your boss. He is the one who told me to take 'the kid' along."
"I am not a kid." she said. She was still seated.
"Suit yourself kid. I have places to go and things to do." Jamison said as he turned to leave.
"Wait a minute. Let me get my coat." Rudy said moving quickly.
"Why do all new female reports try to dress like one of the boys?" he asked no one. He didn't expect an answer and he got none. Ruby followed his quick steps trying to slip into her suit jacket as gracefully as possible. It of course wasn't possible. She looked awkward as she stumbled after Jamison.
When they reached the lobbly jamison asked, "Okay where is it."
"The morgue?" Ruby asked.
"No your car." he omitted the 'stupid' she had expected.
"Down the street in that parking lot, Mr. Jamison." Rudy answered.
"Look kid as long as we are going to spend the day together call me Jamison. The mister was my dad." he said. There should have been a warm smile along with the words. There was none.
"Okay, then stop calling me kid. You know perfectly well my name is Ruby. We have been working together for two years." she said.
"Kid...uh Ruby, we have been occupying adjoining cubicles but we have not been working together. This little field trip was Ed's idea. He is hoping you can show me how to write that trash you fng's turn out."
"I don't much like that little epitaph. I may be a new guy to you but I am not f'ing anybody." she said.
"Right, you know that you replaced a very good reporter. One who knew the difference between news and crap. You new guys know it to, you just write the crap and pass over the news."
"Mr. Martindale doesn't see it that way." Ruby said.
"Ed is a merchant. He could be selling fertilizer as easily as newspapers." He said it like Ruby should understand. It was supposed to end the conversation. It did end it but only because Ruby didn't want to admit she had no idea what he was talking about. The block and a half walk continued in silence. The silence ended only when Ruby stopped beside her car.
"You have to be kidding," he said looking at her tiny car. "I guess not. Why not an elf car for an elf." he laughed.
"I don't think it is nice to make short jokes. I don't call you a long haired freak." she said.
"Why not?" he asked.
"It wouldn't be nice." she answered.
"Is that what this new breed is about, being nice. You know I never met a real reporter that I liked. Each and every one of the good ones was a prick." he said.
"Then you must be almost as good as you think you are." she said.
"Now that's some better. You can practice on me. We can at least have you sounding like a real reporter."
Ruby would have cried if she weren't so damned mad. She knew that when she got home tonight she would cry. This man was terribly abrasive. He was also probably the best reporter on the Daily News.
Fortunately for Ruby she knew the way to the morgue. She certainly wouldn't have like the results of asking Jamison for directions. The trip took less than fifteen minutes.
"What are we doing here?' she asked when she had parked the car in the hospital parking lot.
"We are going to find out about a homeless man. One who stopped a piece of flying glass." Jamison said without any sign of rancor. He was on the job now.
"Why?" Ruby asked.
"Damned if I know. Ed wants a piece about how the homeless bug hell out of us decent citizens. That is what you are to write. I am going to write the truth. You will get your piece on page one or two. Mine will hit the circular file." He paused long enough to open his car door. "Come on kid, lets go search for the truth." A that point he actually smiled. Ruby had never seen him smile before.
Unfortunately Jamisons father didn't believe in dentist. By the time Jamison was old enough to take care of his own teeth, it was far too late for braces. His teeth though only mildly cigarette stained, were not a matching set. Some were too large and some too small. To top it all off he had a gap between the front two upper teeth. In other words he didn't have a Colgate smile.
Ruby didn't mind. His smile was easier to take than his sarcasm. She tagged along behind as he enter the emergency room door. Jamison stopped at the desk just inside the door.
"Hello there Sally," he said to the three hundred pound receptionist.
"Where the hell have you been Jamison. I thought they had fired you." she said with a small laugh. The size of her voice and laugh didn't fit the huge body.
"I think they thought so too. I hear you got a homeless old man, who stopped a piece of glass."
"Somebody does. He was DOA, probably in the morgue. Go on down Doc Sims will be glad to see you." she said with another small laugh.
"The Doc hasn't been glad to see me since I went on the wagon three years ago." Jamison said with a grin.
"I know, we all heard about the three a.m. visits. Go on down anyway." she said with yet another laugh.
When they were safely in the elevator Rudy asked, "What three a.m. visits?"
"A long story. I will tell you sometime when I know you better." he said with a charming smile.
"Damn," Ruby thought. "I could swear he is coming on to me." She almost said something but knew it would be stupid to say a word at the moment. Jamison was so different now that he was working on a story. She had never seen him working. He was actually a personable man when he wanted to be.
The elevator dumped them into a dark corridor in the basment. Ruby followed as Jamison let the way. He knew exactly where he was going. They passed through a set of double swinging doors. Jamison ignored the employees only sign. He stopped only when he reached an empty receptionist desk.
"Sims, you old croaker, where the hell are you." he shouted. Ruby tried to hide behind him.
"Jamison, Sally called to tell me you were on the way down. I just couldn't get out the door fast enough." The very old Doctor extended a shakey hand to Jamison. "Where the hell have you been?" he asked.
"Doing pentance," Jamison said with a disarming smile.
"I heard. I stopped reading that rag when it stopped being a newspaper. I'm surprised you got the stomach to stay there." the doc said.
"I don't, I am waiting for them to buy out my contract. Or at least till I get a better offer."
The Doctor nodded knowingly. "I hear you are interested in our John Doe?"
"Don't tell me he is a real John Doe?" Jamison sounded thrilled.
"At least till the FBI finds time to run his prints. That should take about a month."
"Damn doc, did he have any marks scars or tattoes. Anything to make an identification with."
"You gonna love this. He had a army ranger tattoe on his shoulder." The doc said with a grin.
"Really how old is our ranger?" Jamison asked.
"Mid fifties at least. Probably a Viet Nam vet." the doc said.
"Did he really take a piece of glass in the heart?" Jamison asked.
"I know it was a freaky thing. It had to be aimed just right and driven by a lot of force. Cops swear the wind did it. That glass was so dirty that if it had been touched by human hands there would have been at least dirt smudges. That damned wind storm yesterday did it. The cops found glass all around him. Some of it driven into the walls. It was an accident all right. No doubt about it."
"Almost as good." Jamison said.
"Dr. Sims?" Ruby began. "Do you have any idea who the John Doe might be."
"Who is your shadow Jamison?" the doctor asked.
"Ruby Evans, meet the good doctor Sims." Jamison said with mock formality.
"Let me tell you how this works," the doc said. "I slice and dice them the cops categorize them." He seemed less informative than argumentative.
"Don't mess with the Doc, Ruby" Jamisons said. "You are going to wind up down here one day. I hear the doc can make it awfully uncomfortable even after you are dead."
Doctor Sims gave her a wicked smile, then turned toward the copy machine. "I suppose you want a copy of the autopsy report." he said over his shoulder.
"Oh course doc. Do you bay any chance have the dead mans personals?" Jamison asked.
"Nope, the cops took them. They are going to make a half assed attempt to identify the body. Just to save the county the burial expense. Of course they won't do much so Old John there will go into potters field. Maybe the FBI can ID the prints later." the doc said with obvious disgust.
"Maybe I can help my friends at the police depart." Jamison suggested.
"You don't have any friends at the police department. Besides Mike drews this one."
"Ah shit, I hate it when that happens. I am still going to try to swing a look at his personals." Jamison said.
"Who is Mike," Ruby asked.
"An old friend of your boyfriend there. It should be real interesting when they meet again."
"You Doctor Sims are a wicked, wicked man." Jamison said with a smile.
Jamison and Ruby turned for the door. Over her shoulder Ruby said, "Jamison is not my boyfriend."
"What was that?" the doctor asked.
"I said, just for the record Jamison is not my boyfriend. I don't even like him very much." she said.
"Nobody else does either," he said.
Ruby turned back to him. "They why do you help him?"
"Because my dear if he wants to, Jamison can screw anyone. He can also do the best damned job of it I have ever seen." The doctor didn't go on even though Ruby waited for him. She finally had to run down the hall to catch up with Jamison.
Ruby watched as Jamison stopped to speak with several of the nurses. He flirted with them unashamedly. They flirted back. It seemed more of a game than an actual attempt to pick up the nurses.
"Jamison, why do you flirt with all the nurses?" Ruby asked.
"It's good for business." he said flatly.
"Bull shit, they all know what you are doing." Ruby said.
"Of course they do. It is part of the image. They wouldn't believe I was a real reporter if I didn't hit on them." he said.
"Do any of them ever take you seriously?" she asked.
"Once in while, but I get slapped more than I get laid." he said with a warm smile. His smile wasn't nearly as ugly when it was sincere. At least that was Ruby's opinion.
From the hospital Ruby drove to the police station. She had to quicken her pace to catch Jamison. He hadn't waited for her even a second. The moment the car stopped he was out the car door, and striding into the police station. The two of them were halted by the desk sargent.
"Hold it right there Jamison. Where the hell do you think you are going?" he asked in a loud voice.
"Why back to the homicide detectives office sargent sir." Jamison said in a weak voice. His change in demeanor amazed Rudy, who stood watching in awe.
"Jamison, I know you are up to no good. Why don't you just go on about your business. There is no one in the homicide office at the moment anyway."
"So which donut shop are they frequenting at the moment?" Jamison asked almost respectfully.
"They are at Duncan's I think. Don't tell Mike I told you." he said with a wink.
"Jonesy you really are getting soft in your old age. I can remember the time I would have had to beg a lot more." Jamison said.
"You still would, if I didn't want you to confront Mike outside the office." he said.
"How did you know we wanted to see Mike?" Ruby asked. She didn't like being totally out of the conversation. After all she was also a reporter.
"Doc Sims called. Mike took off right after the call." Jonesy explained. "Why don't you leave the kid here Jamison. Your confrontation with Mike could be pretty nasty."
"Are you kidding, Ruby here is one of the new breed of reporters at the News. She can probably get a raise if Mike kills me. You know the eye witness account." Jamison laughed.
The Sargent joined in. Jamison shook his hand warmly before he and Ruby turned toward the door. The two of them made it outside before Ruby asked, "So what is this thing with the detective?"
"We found ourselves on different sides of an issue once. Forget it, I'm sure it all ancient history." Jamison suggested.
The coffee shop was only five blocks away. When Ruby parked her car she noted, Jamison's shiver. "I guess you aren't looking forward to this?" she asked.
"Got that right. Mike is probably going to whip my ass." he said as he opened the car door. He moved a lot slower this time.
Mike saw Jamison exit the car. The dectective had been warned to expect a visit. Well it had to happen sooner or later. Now was as good a time as any.
Ruby watched Jamison walk up to the booth holding a man and woman. She hung back not wanting to be involved. She was looking forward to Jamison having his ass kicked. The man in the booth certainly looked up to it. The man was maybe a couple of years older than Jamison. Even seated she could tell he carried himself with an attitude. One that said, "I can kick your ass. I have beaten men bigger and tougher than you." It was an attitude cops adopted so that they could avoid fighting every punk kid who came along. The attitude discouraged all but the badest of the bad.
The woman held herself pretty much the same. She had a no nonsense manner about her. Ruby could tell even though she hadn't said a word.
""Mike," Jamison said addressing the woman. "I need a favor." he stated.
"Jamison, you haven't met my new partner. Will this is the not so famous Mr. Jamison of the daily rag."
Jamison extended his hand. When the shook there was a definate defiance in both men. "That lovely young lady hiding back there is my new associate Ruby. Come on up Ruby and meet a couple of good cops."
Before she could make a move, Ruby heard Mike say, "Cut the crap Jamison, Doc Sims called. He warned me you would be sniffing around that poor old man. What the hell do you think. He wasn't an alien and he sure as hell wasn't killed by Elvis."
Jamison turned to Ruby. "Did you hear that Ruby? There is nothing in the story for you after all. You can run on back to the paper." He turned his attention back to the cops. "Come on Mike, I just want to know who the old man is."
"We got no ID off him. No drivers license, nothing." she said.
"Did you ask around down there?" Jamison asked.
"Damn you Jamison," Mike said. "Do you think we ignored the old man. Of course we asked around."
"Did you at least get a street name for him."
"Nobody knew him." she said angrily.
"Who did the asking you, or the uniforms?" Jamison pressed.
"What difference does that make? No don't answer that. The matter is under investigation and I have nothing more to add."
"Come on Mike don't make me do this the hard way." he almost begged.
"Why not?" Mike asked.
"You know you won't like the results." He threatened.
"Is that some kind of veiled threat?" Will asked with a smirk.
"Nothing veiled about it." Jamison replied just as nasty as Will's tone.
Will began to rise. "Hold it Will," Ruby said. "It wouldn't be a good thing for you to kick his ass in front of witnesses. Especially if one of them is also a reporter."
Both Will and Jamison looked at her serious face. "She's right Will, sit down." demanded Mike. "As for you," she said to Jamison. "Do your damnest, you always do."
"You know you aren't going to like this." Jamison said as he walked away.
When he and Rudy had gone, she said to Will. "We better go get all we can on the old man."
"Why, nobody cares about one homeless old man." he stated.
"Will, that prick Jamison is going to find out all there is to know about him within a couple of hours. Then he is going to write a story about the police department. In that story he will accuse us of exactly what you just said."
"Nobody is going to care what he says." Will argued. He really didn't want to be ordered around by a woman. Even though the woman was his superior.
"Just one person can be enough. If some politician thinks he can win a vote or two by jumping on the band wagon our chestnuts will be in a wringer." Mike said.
Mike stood tossed a bill on the table, then headed for the car. Mike was tall for a woman. Close to six feet tall. Her hair was red, even more so since she met Eddie Jo. Eddie Jo was her fag hairdresser. Mike was also what is called full figured. In her case it meant she carried twenty pounds too many. Also in her case, they were distributed uniformly over her body. She appeared not so much heavy as voluptuous. Will always enjoyed the view as she walked away. He even had fantasies of spending some off duty time with her. He had no way of knowing that it would never happen.
Outside Ruby asked, "Where to now Mr. Jamison."
"The scene of the crime of course," Jamison said as he opened her car door.
"Do you really think it was a crime?" Rudy asked. In spite of her professionalism she felt her heart rate quicken.
"Of course not Kid. Just take me to the neighborhood where the accident happened. I am going to find out something about our John Doe." he answered in disgust. Kids he thought. They get out of journalism school and expect this to be easy. Jamison had a story running around in his head. It was going to require more than the facts. He had to have a few of them to start but he could make the rest up as he went along. After all it would take a month, at least, before the FBI could dispute his story. He might be able to get a fire lit under the FBI but the chances were slim. "If I work this right, I can get a lot of milage out of the old man." he thought. He was immediately sorry that he thought it. No matter, the old man was past caring. He might be able to do something for the other homeless men.
Ruby's first impression of the man Jamison spoke to was, "God he smells." She wondered to herself what kind of person could let themselves go like that. The next person was even more revolting because it was a woman. Not even an old woman. The woman though dirty and disfigured by her layer upon layer of clothing was still recognizable as young. Not young like Ruby but no older than Jamison.
She was surprised and a little disgusted that Jamison stood close to these wretched people. He stood close, he also seemed to be enjoying his conversations with them. Ruby and Jamison missed lunch. There was no time. Jamison went from one rag bag to another. All the while he scribbled in his notebook. "Why couldn't he at least come into the twentith centruy. She offered him the use of her tape recorder but he refused. She suspected that Jamison wanted the only version of the interview to be his version.
"So the old man who died in that house over there was named Red?" Jamison asked.
"Yeah, at least that's what we all called him." the dirty old man said.
"Why did you call him red? I mean his hair was white." Jamison said. "Had he been around here when his hair was red?"
"Hell no, I met him a couple of months ago. Never saw him around before that." the old man said.
"Then why did you call him red?" Jamison asked again. It was painfully slow interviewing these people.
"We called him Red because he said his name was Red." the old man answered as though talking to a child.
"Did he ever talk to you about the army?" Jamison asked.
Ruby by this time had tuned it all out. She was simply gathering impressions. She began to plan a story of her own. After all that is what Jamison had told her to do.
"Didn't talk to him at all. He wasn't the social type. He drank his wine and stayed pretty much to himself. Used to run the rest of us off when he drank. He was, what do they call it. You know kind of suspecious of us all when he drank."
"Paranoid?" Jamison asked.
"Yeah, like that. He thought we was gonna steal from him or something."
"Did Red have anything worth stealing?" Jamison asked.
"Nothin' I ever saw. Onlyest thing I ever saw besides the clothes he had on, was a cloth bag he wore around his neck. Some of the others though he kept his money in it. Me I thought it was full of chicken bones."
"Chicken bones?" Jamison asked.
"Yeah, you know like them witch doctors have." the old man said.
"Was he a witch doctor?" Jamison asked.
"Not that I know of." he said with the tone of a man talking to an idiot.
"Then why did you think it was bones?" Jamison stuck to it.
"I didn't really he just acted like it was something magical." the old man explained.
Interviews like that one continued all afternoon. Ruby stood by not listening. She was working out her story in her head. It would emerge fully written by the time she returned to the paper.
When the sun began it's decent over the buildings Ruby became anxious. She finally had to ask Jamison to stop for the evening. He didn't much like the idea but he finally gave in. Ruby drove them both back to the paper. Jamison immediately began working the phone. Ruby wasn't sure who he called. She was sure she didn't give a damn. Her opinion of Jamison hadn't changed. He was still in her eyes a smart resourceful reporter. He was also digging into something which no one cared about. It was her plan to write a story but one which the boss would approve.
Ruby wrote her story while Jamison tried to track down the cloth bag. He found the bag in the police evidence room. What he couldn't find out was it's contents. The investigating officers would know but no one else had looked inside. No matter how he begged or threatened the evidence officer would not look inside. There is seldom any love lost between cops and reporters. Too many times stories appear in papers based on half truths and outright lies about cops. If a cop does a good job it isn't news, if he screws up bad enough it is front page stuff.
Jamison finally gave up. He said goodnight to Ruby as he passed her cubicle. She was so busy punching the keys on her computer, she hardly had a chance to wave goodbye. Jamison figured, rightly, that she was busy writing her version of the days events. "The easy version no doubt," he thought as he walked out the door.
Jamison walked to the bus stop. While he waited for the cross town bus he worked out a plan. His plan was simple, ask the investigation officer. It was the only way he would ever know what was in the old man's hide away bag. He hated the thought of asking Mike for a favor. The idea was abhorant to him at first. By the time the bus came he had decided that it was necessary for the good of the community. Not to mention for his career.
If this story worked out the way he planned, he would be back on top, at least for a few days. He figured the story, if done right, could be stretched out for more than one issue. It might even do some good to change the communities attitudes. If it did, all the better. He was cynical enough to realize that he was writing the story for himself and his career.
From the warm bus he stepped into a cold wind. Not a strong wind but none the less enough to chill him to the bone. He swore that when he got his drivers license back, he would never again drink and drive. Not even one drink. You can't beat a drunk driving rap when the cops all hate you. He looked at his watch as he hurried along. He was late again.
He rode the elevator from the lobby to his third floor apartment. Once inside he noted unhappily that his roommate hadn't arrived. He wondered what was keeping her. He smiled to himself thinking, "Something to do with me no doubt." He had time for a shower and even a a glass of iced tea before she arrived.
Jamison was sitting in his favorite chair with his back to the door when she entered. "You're late," he stated simply.
"It's all your fault. I have to take a shower before I talk to you." she said as she rushed into the bathroom. Fifteen minutes later she returned wearing one of his old robes.
"God you look sexy in that ratty old robe," Jamison said.
"Don't try to sweet talk me you prick. I have been out all afternoon talking to bums. I hope you are satisfied." Mike said.
"Tell me what you learned, and I might be." he said.
"You know our deal. My job stays at the office." she said defiantly.
"I know. I have a question for you as the investigating officer. Not as my girlfriend." he said.
"Ask it, reporter to cop. If it is one I would answer at the office, I will answer it."
"Okay detective, I learned from one of my many sources that the old man wore a cloth bag around his neck." He watched for a reaction. There was none. "The bag or at least it's contents were very special to the old man. I need to know what was inside the bag."
"What makes you think I know what was inside the bag. That is, if there was a bag on his body."
"There was a bag all right. You looked inside it before you booked it into evidence." Jamison said.
"You've been a busy little reporter haven't you?" Mike asked.
"Not especially, anyone could have done it." Jamison said.
"But, who else would have bothered. You have something up your sleave. Tell me what it is and I might tell you what was in the bag." she said.
"Might isn't good enough Mike." Jamison pronounced.
"Okay, tell me what you have in mind. If it doesn't hurt the department, I will tell you what it was, we found in the bag." she agreed.
Jamison nodded. "I'm thinking of a series of articles on the homeless. I am going to begin with this accident." he said.
"You aren't going to single the cops out in it, are you?" Mike asked again.
"No, you will get your share of the blame, but no more than a small part of it. I am going to write in a larger context than just this one bum." Jamison said.
Mike noted the glow in his eyes. "Mike did you go to a meeting today?" she asked.
"No, you know I don't go during the day." he said.
"Are you going to one tonight?" she asked.
"It's too late. I worked the phones during the time I should have been at the meeting." he said. He didn't seem terrible upset.
"Jamison, you know when you get like this, you need those meetings." she said.
"I know. I'm the one with the problem. I'll go to the meeting, I promise." he said. "I was just too involved in this project. I promise I will go to one tomorrow. I know I need them."
Mike and Jamison had met at an AA meeting. At first, all they found in common was their love of booze. After a while they began to find other things in common. Even though cops aren't known for their social conscience, Mike displayed glimpses of one. After six months of lively conversations, over gallons of coffee Mike and Jamison began seeing each other apart from the meetings. You probably wouldn't call it love that formed their alliance. More like a common enemy. Whatever brought them together didn't matter. They both acknowledged that they were better together, than either was alone.
"Don't change the subject on me entirely. I want to know what was in that bag." Jamison demanded.
"Three medals, that was all we found in the bag. Frankly we expected more." she said.
"What kind of medals?" Jamison asked while he rumaged through his discarded jacket for his notebook.
"Will told me, one was a silver star. There was also a Bronze star, and a purple heart." It looks like your man might have been a war hero." Mike said.
"Or he stole them from somebody." Jamison said.
"You don't believe that and neither do we. We sent his fingerprints to the FBI today. We also sent them to the DOD. They may be a little faster in matching them." Mike said.
"Why the sudden rush to identify John Doe?" Jamison asked.
"Because you are so interested. Frankly I expect you to make us look bad, if we drag our feet on it." Mike said.
"Mike honey, would I do a thing like that?" Jamison asked in a faked hurt voice.
"You bet your ass you would. Now to change the subject before I have to shoot you. How about dinner?" Mike asked.
"How about it?" Jamison asked.
"Did you forget it is your week to cook?" Mike asked severely.
"Actually, I didn't forget. As we speak the pizza man is wheeling his way to this very apartment." Jamison said.
"Why is it that I cook during my week and we eat all most of the time during your week?" she asked.
"I can't help it if you are a better cook. Besides there have been plenty of times I ate cold pizza alone during your week."
"Yeah well, being a highly skilled crime fighter does have it's disadvantages." she grinned.
The conversation that night never returned to the homeless man. It also didn't venture into the professional life of either.
Ruby stayed in the office well after Jamison left. She wrote then rewrote her piece on the homeless man's death. She made the morning deadline by half an hour. The night editor cleared the article with only a minor change. She was extremely proud to have beaten the great Jamison on his own peice. Everybody knew the news business was cut throat. Jamison should have stayed to finish his peice. It wasn't Ruby's fault he was to old or lazy to finish. She had only a minor qualm about beating him at his own game. Mostly it was a warm feeling to have an article she wrote published.
She began to question herself as she drove to her apartment. Maybe I should have waited for Jamison to at least read the article. He after all had been the one assigned to write it. The throught nagged at her during the long drive home. When she arrived at her apartment, she became much to busy to give it another thought. She had totally forgotten that tonight was laundry night. She was actually forced to do the wash. If she had a single clean pair of panties left, she would have put it off another day. Instead she found herself making the ride down to the laundry room.
Ruby was a born slob. She was constantly living amoung take out wrappers and a sink filled with dirty dishes. By the time she washed them, it would have been easier to just throw them away. She usually waited so long to wash her dishes that it took hospital disinfectant to kill the mold.
All thoughts of her slightly less than honorable treatment of Jamison passed as she buried her nose in a book. It took exactly two hours for the laundry. When it finished spinning, she returned to her empty apartment to fall into bed exhausted. Unforturnately she found the message light on her phone blinking.
She was almost afraid to play the message. What if Charlie the night editor had called Jamison at home. Jamison might at this moment be waiting to chew her out. She should have known better than to write the article without at least telling him. Her curiosity finally got the better of her.
"Hello Ruby honey, it's mom. Give me a call when you can." the metalic voice said.
"Mom, now there is a story ripe for the Daily News. Ruby's mother was fourty five years old on her last birthday. A few simple calculations informed anyone who wanted to know that she was only twenty when Ruby was born. Ruby was born into a single parent household. At least she had no father. Instead she had a grandfather who absolutely doted on her. She could never have been given more by a father.
Grand dad had paid for her education as well as all the special things she had as a child. The dad to day grind had been hard on her mother. Grand dad would never help with the bills or Ruby's everyday expenses. If Ruby wanted to take music lessons Grand dad footed the bill. Ballet and tap lessons were also provided by Grand dad. As was her college tuition.
Her mother supplied her with her needs but not a lot of warmth. When Ruby was a teenager she realized that she and her mother were friends more than anything else. They were more roommates than mother, daughter.
For instance Ruby found out about boys in the back seat of a Chevy. It became obvious to her mother shorty after that her daughter had slept with a boy. Her only response was to take Ruby to the family doctor. There she procured for Ruby a perscription for birth control pills. Ruby objected at first but her mother insisted. Ruby knew her insistance had more to do with her own past than anything Ruby might do. Ruby actually never did it again during high school. She thought she was in love once during college so she tried sex again. For some reason it was just as disappointing as her high school expierence. Ruby feared that she might need a theropist to ever enjoy sex. It wasn't a problem at the moment. She didn't find anyone expecially attractive at the moment. "Maybe Jamison," she thought. "Of course he will never speak to me again." The thought distressed her more than she would have imagined.
Ruby decided that she would not call her mother tonight. She could explain that she had worked late. Mom would understand that. Instead Ruby went to bed. She fell asleep on clean sheets that night. Something of a luxury since leaving home.
The fireworks started at nine the next morning. Jamison picked up a copy of the days paper as he entered the building. He didn't bother to read it until he reached his desk. He saw the bold faced heading on Rudy's article. He recognized it as her article from the caption. "Mystery surrounds death of homeless man." Jamison fought for control. He managed to stay in control long enough to read the article. She managed to hype the death as a mystery until in the final paragraph she explained that the only real mystery was how the circumstances all came together to kill the man. In her version if a person didn't read it through to the end, he would assume the man was murdered.
Jamison was so angry he didn't dare speak to the petite blond. He would surly have punched her in the nose, woman or not. He sat fuming when Ed's secretary walked up to his cubicle.
"The old man wants to see you immediately," she said. The doom in her voice was as thick as her Georgia accent.
"Any idea why?" Jamison asked.
"Not sure, but he was huddled with you agent all yesterday afternoon. I think he made a call to him this morning."
"Maybe I should call Jim before I go see the old man?" he said hoping for advice from Edna. Edna simply shrugged.
"All I know he told me to get you and little red riding hood," Edna said. She was pointing to Ruby's cubicle.
Jamison thought, "To hell with it. What ever the prick wants he will get. No sense talking to his agent now." Jamison walked toward Ed's office with an arogant stride. He didn't even knock he simply walked in.
"Wait right there Jamison. I want Ruby in here when we talk." Ed said.
Jamison was curious but he was more determined not to ask any questions. He stood looking over Ed's shoulder at the skyline of the city. He tried to keep his mind occupied with the story he was working on. He couldn't decide yet what effect if any Ruby's crap would have on it.
He remembered that her story leaned heavily toward the man's being a trespasser in the abandoned house. She even hinted strongly that the man might be better off dead. They talk about me being arogant he thought.
Ruby knocked before she entered. She was bright and eager. Jamison was a stark contrast to her. He dreaded every conversation he ever had with Ed.
"Well I have good news for both of you." Ed began with a big smile. "First let me compliment you on a first class story Ruby. It was really a very good yarn."
Jamison almost interrupted Ed. He wanted to set the kid streight. What she had written was garbage. It was filled with the facts all right. They were just so hidden in crap that no one was ever likely to know what really happened on Magnolia street.
"As for you Jamison, I am happy to say that you will no longer be associated with the Daily News. After our little talk yesterday, I began negotiating with your agent. We were fairly close when we broke off the talks. After I read the article Ruby wrote, I knew I didn't need you. I agree half an hour ago to buy out your contract. As of five o'clock this afternoon you are no longer employed by this paper. By the way if you are still here one minute after five, I will call security to remove you." Ed said with a large smile.
"As for you young lady, you are no longer a trainee. You are going to assume the duties of a fully qualified reporter. Of course I am going to have to start you out with the crap assignments I usually give Jamison but you showed me you could handle them. Of course you get a raise to go with the new job." He smiled a genuine smile at her.
"Now both of you get out. You go back to work Ruby. You Jamison start wrapping up what ever the hell it is you did around here. By the way, I want all your notes on current works in progress. I did pay for them you know. Don't worry I won't use any of it. It will all be crap anyway."
Jamison was stunned. He had to take a couple of deep breaths before he could speak. "Ed, you have made me the happiest man alive. You take good care of yourself now." he said as he exited the office. Ruby was hot on his heels.
"I hope you aren't too mad at me, Mr. Jamison. I didn't think you would mind me writing the article on the homeless man." she said in a rush. Better to get her ass chewing over with now. She did not intend to hide from him all day.
"Lady," he began. He turned to her before he continued. He noted her eyes darting all about. The poor kid was terrified. He had meant to blast her but just couldn't do it. "What you did," he continued in a calm voice. "Was unprofessional at best. It doesn't matter because as you heard I am leaving anyway. You might want to ignore any further impulses you get to steal a story. Some of the people around here are as ruthless as you."
Jamison realized when Ruby walked away dejectedly that the calm voice had reeked more havoc than screaming would have. He sat at his desk trying to decide what to do next. He decided to call his agent to learn the terms of the buy out.
"I was getting ready to call you. I got you everything you wanted from the Daily Rag." Jim said in a cheerful voice.
"They bought out the contract at face value?" Jamison asked.
"Of course not, I told you they would never do that. You and I agreed I could negotiate a half value in exchange for allowing you to work for another paper during the three year term of the contract." Jim said,
"Oh yeah, plan B." Jamison said. "I guess I can go looking for a new job tomarrow."
"Not unless you leave town. The recorder will never hire you. You have the stink of a pulitzer nominee."
"What does that mean." Jamison asked.
"It means you are too prestigious to just hire for slave wages. They won't pay your price. Nobody around here will."
"You are saying I will have to move to another town?" Jamison asked.
"Not at all. I have an offer for you already. Come by tomarrow and we can discuss it. Of course if you want I can put out feelers in New York and Washington." Jim offered.
"No thanks, I kind of want to stay right here." Jamison said. It was hard for him to believe that he actually meant it. He knew Mike was part of the reason but only a part. He wanted to stay around to rub Ed's nose in shit.
The day passed with Jamison either being shunned or congradulated. Shunned by the new reports. The ones who would have to continue writing garbage. The congradulations came from the other two contract reporters. Each asked him how he managed to get his contract paid out. Jamison didn't tell them that he, unlike they, refused to write crap. In the end the day passed. He noticed that Ruby stayed far away from him. It didn't matter they had never been friends. She was just too young and too immature to be his friend. It took a lot of patience and maturity to put up with Jamison's crap. Jamison never found time to call Mike. He would just surprise her.
Ruby spent the day hiding from Jamison. At least when she was in the office. She actually had assignments to cover. It was a novelty for her. Until this morning she had languished in the trainee pool. In the pool you got a desk but not assignments. You tagged along with one working reporter or another. She had learned the style she used on the homeless story from one of Ed's favorite reporters. Gloria the reporter responisble for her style, came to her desk about noon. She congradulated Ruby, then warned her to never pull that crap on her. Ruby knew that word had gotten around about her stealing Jamison's story. She was pretty sure that Jamison didn't tell anyone. It must be that honey voiced Edna. God she hated that bitch.
Five o'clock came equally for both Jamison and Ruby. Jamison left his desk at exactly five pm. He had no desire to test Ed's vorasity. At least not about the security guards. He walked outside, then down the street to the bus stop. Somehow the insecurity stuck him only after he left the building. It was the same insecurity which caused him to drink. He knew that tonight he needed to attend a meeting. He racked his brain to come up with one he could attend on the way home. He suddenly felt the almost overpowering urge for a drink. A scotch as a matter of fact. He was lost in the memory of the taste and the effects of alcohol. It hadn't always been a problem for him. He could still remember how wonderful his first few drinks had been. He was also honest enough to remember the later blackouts. The almost ruination of his career.
Ruby waited five minutes after Jamison left before she shut down her computer. She honestly didn't want to face him. She knew that he had a ligitiment bitch. She had committed the cardinal sin. She wasn't sorry since she knew that Ed would never have printed his story anyway. That is if he even bothered to write one. Jamison was a prima donna she thought as she gathered up her purse and other belongings. She caught the elevator down. It was crowded with paper people. She felt that each and everyone of them knew about her. She was sure she would be blamed for Jamison's departure. She had already heard the whispers, "Best damn newspaper man who worked here in the last twenty years. Too damned bad the owner's didn't know how to run a newspaper. If they did it would Ed out on his ass."
When Ruby stepped out the front door, she saw Jamison waiting at the bus stop. She hadn't know before that Jamison rode the bus. She would have expected him to drive a Jag or something else exotic. "Damn," she thought. "I am going to have to walk right by him. Maybe I should cross the street." She stood just outside the building door trying to decide. She waited so long that she just couldn't run from him.
"Mr. Jamison," she said as she approached him. She noted too late that he wasn't paying the least attention to her. He actually shook his head to clear it.
"Yes?" he asked in a normal voice.
Ruby was surprised that he seemed not to recognize her. My got he is loosing his mind because of me. "I just thought you might need a lift. I know you probably wouldn't like to ride with me. I mean with all that has happened today. I just thought I should ask. "Shut up," she told herself. "You are just making it worse."
"Actually, if you are going by the old Grace Church?" he didn't get to finish.
"Sure, it is just a block or two out of the way." she interrupted him. She couldn't help the smile that covered her face. He didn't seem upset after all.
Jamison really didn't think about her. It is a misconception of youth that they profoundly effect everyone around them. Jamison had already gotten over his anger at her. She had done no more than any other reporter had done at one time or another. He followed her to the parking lot where she retrieved her car.
"I really am sorry," She said as she started the car.
"Look Ruby, let's just forget about it. I am not upset any longer. The ride more than makes up for you mistake." he said.
"He really is a nice man," Ruby thought. She said, "Thank you Mr. Jamison. I hope you aren't going to church because of what happened today. I didn't mean that," she rushed on. "What I meant was that I hope you aren't that upset."
She began yet again to ease her statement. "Ruby, take it easy. I am going to an AA meeting at the church."
"Oh no, I didn't cause you to have a relapse?" she asked earnestly.
"No honey, I go to one about every night. I am just going because I remembered yet again all the good things about drinking. I need to go so that I can remember all the bad things as well."
It came from out of the blue. She said it but she couldn't believe that she had. "I have never been to one of those meeting. Could I tag along."
She could feel his stare. She waited for what seemed like a long time. "I don't see why not. That is if you promise not to write about it." he said.
"I promise but why not?" she asked.
"AA isn't about publicity. It isn't about the kinds of people you meet there. It is about staying off the bottle. Everyone there is no better or worse than anyone else."
"I promise, I won't interview anyone." she said seriously. Ruby parked her car in the rear of the church. The two of them wandered through the empty halls until they arrived at a small room. Inside the room were no more than a half dozen people. "Kind of a small turn out." Ruby whispered.
"It's pretty normal for this group. Some groups are bigger and some even smaller. More my show up later." Jamison walked into the room trailed by Ruby.
"Hello Mildred," he said to a woman who was obviously the leader. It was obvious only from the way she held the floor.
"Jamison you dog. I thought you went to the rec center meetings?" she asked.
"I usually do. I just needed to make an earlier one." He turned to the others and said, "This is Ruby, she is going to be watching tonight."
"Hello Ruby came the chorus." She simply nodded.
"Well Jamison, I guess you can go first." Mildred said.
"Hello, my name is Jamison. I am an alcoholic. I came here tonight because I am about to change jobs. Actually I am out of a job right now. My insecurities led me to remember how much I like to drink. It was either come here or go to a bar. The last time I made the wrong choice it cost me my drivers license. I slipped off the wagon right into a stop sign, then a tree, then into jail. I would rather that didn't happen again."
"Jamison, at least you made the right decission this time. Tell me, how close a call was it."
"So close that if Ruby hadn't came by I wouldn't be here now." Jamison said.
"In that case you owe her a big thank you." Mildred said. "Don't worry about the job. You are a gifted writer, you will land on your feet. That is as long as you are sober. Nobody in there right mind would hire a drunk." she said. One thing about Mildred she didn't mince words.
"I know, if anyone would hire a drunk, I might have gone to that bar." Jamison said.
"If I could hold a nurse's job drunk for more than a month, I might never have quit drinking myself. We all had to reach the bottom before we started to climb back up." she said.
Ruby sat quietly listening to the various people talk. The meeting lasted less than an hour. When they walked out she asked, "Jamison, how long have you been attending meetings?"
"Off and on for five years. I got serious two years ago. Before that I was convinced that I could get sober for a while then go back to the bottle. I had to do that a couple of times before I learned. I can't drink at all. Like a famous man once said, "One is too many and all they make isn't enough."
"Who said that?" Ruby asked.
"Me, didn't you hear me." he said with a warm smile. His real smile was actually quite nice. Especially if you expected to get blasted instead.
"What do you usually do after a meeting," Ruby asked.
"Well, I either go home or out for coffee," he answered thoughtfully.
"I vote for the coffee," she said.
"Okay, if I can buy. I think I am pretty well off right now. I'm not sure till I get home and figure it out." Jamison said.
They stopped at a coffee shop near his apartment. Jamison knew everyone. The waitresses made a fuss over him. Even the ones who didn't take his order. The grillman spoke to him. "Do you come her often," Ruby asked with a smile.
"You mean the greeting. Not really, at least not at this time of evening. I sometimes come around two in the morning. They don't get many people at that time of night. I get a chance to talk about their families and stuff." Jamison said.
"Have you really forgiven me?" Ruby asked after a few moments of silence.
"Nothing to forgive. You did what you thought you had to do. I might not have done the same but I might have done something worse. I have burned my share of friends in the past."
"Are we friends? I had no idea." she said truthfully.
"I guess we are friends. I mean we worked side by side for what? Six months." he said.
"Six and a half." Ruby paused trying to decide if she should go on.
"Ruby this is great but I have to get home. It is my week to cook. If I don't cook something tonight there is going to be hell to pay. The woman I live with let me off with a pizza last night."
Ruby was surprised by the depth of her disappointment. "Sure I have to get home myself." she said.
Jamison walked through his lobby door never knowing that Ruby watched him from the curb. She couldn't help but wonder who the woman in his life might be. Someone from the paper she supposed. She planned to find out for sure.
Mike had as rough a day as Jamison. What she saw as she drove to the parking garage didn't help here much. She passed the apartment entrance just as Jamison emerged from Ruby's car. Still she wasn't too concerned since Jamison often caught rides from his coworkers or even other AA members. She began to get really upset when the car was till outside when she walked from the parking garrage. Jamison was already inside but the young woman continued to look at the entrance longingly. Mike even recognized her as that Ruby woman. The one Jamison had tagging along yesterday. "Slut," she said under her breath as she passed the car.
Jamison was holding the ever present iced tea glass, when she entered the apartment. She also caught the aroma of oninons cooking. He turned toward the door and said, "Hi baby, I'm glad you could get home early. I have something to tell you."
Mike almost asked about the woman waiting outside the door. Instead she decided to keep quiet while Jamison explained on his own.
"I sort of got fired today." he said.
Her mind dropped the woman temporarily. "Oh honey, what happened?" she asked intead.
"I'm not really sure. Remember that kid I had tagging along yesterday?" he asked.
Mike nodded not trusting herself to speak. "Well she ripped off my story. Not really my story. She wrote one of her own. It was actually only half bull shit. Anyway, Ed was already negotiating with Jim about my contract. I guess the kid's story convinced him that I wasn't worth the grief. Anyone could be taught to write crap. The long and short of it is he bought my contract." Just then he noticed the smell of burning onions. "Damn." he said rushing into the kitchen. "You go take a shower, the spaghetti will be done in twenty minutes."
"I'm not going anywhere till you tell me what that bitch was doing outside our apartment. Don't even try to tell me she was stalking you. I saw you get out of her car."
"That, she saw me waiting for a bus. I guess she felt sorry for me. Anyway she drove me to the Grace Church meeting. She asked to stay and watch. You know we encourage that sort of thing. Afterward she drove me home. You aren't jealous are you?" Jamison asked with a grin.
"What of that skinny bitch. Hell no." she returned his grin. "Now I am going to take a shower."
"Good, I mean about being jealous. Besides you could take her easy. I would give her maybe two rounds tops." Jamison laughed.
With her mouth filled with spagetti Mike asked, "So what are you going to do now?" She hated to think that Jamison might be considering leaving town and her.
"Don't know. Jim my agent has something for me. At least I think he has. I am supposed to go to his office in the morning."
"The Record?" she asked.
Jim says, 'Not a chance.' It seems that no one around here will pay my price."
"So what are you going to do move?" Mike asked sadly.
"I sure as hell hope not. I kind of like it here." he said as he moved to stand in front of Mike. He kissed her tenderly for only a second. Then he said, "Come on let's eat the spagetti before it gets stickey."
Ruby didn't recognize Mike as she entered the apartment. She had no way to know that Mike was the woman who shared Jamison's bed. Ruby drove carelessly home. Her mind was on Jamison. He wasn't really what anyone would call a babe. He was too thin and he had that awful hair. His teeth were a wreck and he was arogant as hell. Still he was a small time star of sorts. She had also been allowed to see his vulnerable side.
He had proved himself to me more human than she had imaged. I mean it takes a real man to forgive a woman for taking away his job. Men are so insecure when it comes to their place in the world. Without a job they loose themselves. Men more than women, Ruby knew, defined themselves by their work.
Once home Ruby fixed herself a microwave dinner. She sat alone at her kitchen table. She was alone but not lonely. She had her thoughts of Jamison to keep her company. She had never felt this way about a man before. He really filled her mind tonight.
The phone startled her. "Hello," she said hoping desperately that it was Jamison.
"Hello dear," ruby's mother said. "I thought I should call again. I mean since you didn't return my call last night."
"I'm sorry mother I was working late. Guess what?" she demanded.
"I don't know honey." her mother said shortly. She hated guessing games.
"I got promoted. I am no longer a reporter in training. I am now a regular reporter."
"That is nice dear. I called to ask you when you might be coming home."
"Mother my promotion is more than nice. I have finally gotten a foot on the ladder. Why can't you be as thrilled as I am?" Ruby asked almost in tears.
"I am happy for you dear. I guess I just don't understand such things. I am pleased because you sound so happy." She paused a few seconds then asked, "So when are you coming home. Your Grandfather asks for you every day."
"I don't know mom. I will try to make it over this weekend, but don't count on it. I am going to be really busy for the next few weeks. I am taking over Mr. Jamison's work load."
"Really what happened to him?" Ruby's mother asked.
Ruby didn't want to go into it on the phone. "He seems to have quit today. Mom I have to go. I have dinner on the stove." Ruby lied.
"You will try to come see your grandfather, won't you?" she asked.
"I will try mom but I may not be able to." Ruby lied again. She had no intention whatsoever of returning to Dinkville as she thought of her home town.
After dinner Ruby tried to read. Jamison kept entering her mind at the oddest moments. She finally gave up on her book. Instead she went to bed early. She tried to dream of Jamison but didn't really know what she dreamed of.
Ruby and Jamison almost bumped into each other the next morning. Ruby was on her way to work. Her mind was drifting as she drove along. She ran a stop sign while day dreaming about her new job. The bus that missed her by inches carried Jamison to his meeting with Jim Simpson his agent.
Jamison was kept waiting in the reception room for ten minutes. His nerves caused him to become angry as a self defence mechanism. He was about to complain to the receptionist when her intercom buzzed. "Mr. Jamison, Mr. Simpson will see you now." she stated flatly.
"Jamison how are you." He went on without waiting for an answer. He did it to show Jamison how busy he was. "I got you a hell of a settlement." Jim said handing Jamison a stack of papers. The figure on top was seventy five thousand dollars. The agreement was that it would be paid in two payments. Forty five thousand now and the other fifty on January first of the next year. "Well what do you think?" Jim asked as Jamison placed the papers on his desk.
"I guess it is okay. You said you had something new for me. So what about it?"
"You don't seem very happy about the settlement. You know it wasn't easy to convince Ed to settle." Jim said.
"You didn't convince him of anything. He just got tired of fighting with me. Stop patting yourself on the back and tell me what I am going to do next."
"Jamison, you really are an asshole." he said. It took him a full second to recover. "Okay, I got you two offers. You can do either or both. The Atlanta Constitution wants you to submit a series of articles for their Sunday magazine. They are very interested."
"Articles on what?" Jamison asked.
"Anything you want." Jim said.
Jamison caught the catch in his voice. "Jim they haven't agreed to buy them have they. This is freelance stuff isn't it?"
"Not really, the Constitution knows your work. They will buy them if you do a good job."
"Sure, I go from reporter to freelance writer. Maybe they buy it maybe they don't. Some agent you are." Jamison said angrily.
"Kiss my ass Jamison. You won't comprimise. The word out is that you are too damned hard to work with." Jim said. He hated himself for saying it out loud.
"Who started that little rumor you?" He asked.
"I didn't have to start anything. Ed, at the Daily Rag, began spreading the word some time ago. Of course you drinking comes up everytime I talk to anyone. It's either write on spec or take a job as foreign correspondant. You know what that means?"
"Better than you do asshole. I was in South America a long time, remember?" Jamison said. "So what is the other offer, if that was the best one?"
"You want to write a book? Grifton house promised me that if I could talk you into it they would give it a fair shot. You write a hundred pages and a synop of the rest. If they like it they pay you big bucks while you finish it."
"I think I will go home to see how far I can stretch ninety five K." Jamison said.
"Make that eighty five K and change. I am taking my ten percent off the top." Jim said without any apology.
"You do that Jim. It may be the last you ever get from me. Ten percent of nothing is still nothing." Jamison almost shouted as he stormed from the room.
Ruby's morning went much better. Her first article on her own made it through editing with only minor revisions. This one was about a man who swore he saw tears running from the eyes of a statue. It was a pretty good piece even thought he man was obviously a nutcase.
Ruby spent most of her day trying to find out about a youth gang killing. It was assigned to her because drive by shooting were pretty ordinary these days. She didn't even try to find the gang accused of the shooting. She instead interviewed the mother of the victem. The victem was a twelve year old kid. According to the mother the child was a saint. Ruby didn't even bother to interview the neighbors. It she had she would have found that the kid sold drugs at the hight school.
Ruby wrote it up as a random act of violence. An innocent child gunned down my drug dealers. Mistaken Identity for sure. The piece touched parents because as Ruby had written it, there own child might have been the victem.
When the story was finally published, Mike would remark. "That bitch missed the real story. The real story layin the life of the twelve year old kid. What kind of life does a kid have to make him begin selling drugs at twelve. She had written a story for the readers not for the truth. Well screw her." People around Mike wondered at her sudden interest in the career of a novice reporter. No one knew that she lived with Jamison. Let alone that the woman had walked up Jamison's back to get her break.
The story hadn't even broke when Mike returned home on the first night of Jamison's forced retirement. "Hi Honey," she said giving him a big kiss. She could tell from the look on his face that he needed it. "You all right?" she asked.
"Peachy keen," Jamison said scornfully.
"So what did your agent have." she asked wishing she didn't have to know.
"Oh that blood sucker suggested I go back to writing stringer articles. Then of course he, like everyone else, thought I would be interested in writing the great american novel."
"You have talked about writing a novel," Mike said.
"I would like to have that as an option, not as a requirement. Jim also suggested that I might want to be a foreign correspondant again."
"That prick, he is really some agent if he can't get you a job at least in this country." Mike snapped.
"At least you have the proper attitude toward that prick." Jamison said. Suddenly he sat down hard in the only stuffed chair. "I swear Mike, I don't know what to do." he moaned.
She almost ran to take him into her arms. She would have if she hadn't known him so well. If she tried to comfort him, he would fall into her arms and loose himself. He had done it before. "What you are going to do is simple. You are going to decide how to best stick it in there ear. Then you are going to do it." she demanded.
Jamison at first resented her words, then he began to think about them. Mike was in the kitchen when it came to him. The sunday suppliment of the constitution was the Sunday magazine carried in most souther news papers. It also happened to be the one carried by the Daily News. If he could get his work published in it then the Daily News would be forced to carry his work. Odds were real good that he could get a piece in the Sunday suppliment once in a while at least. The more he thought of it the more it appealed to him. He had wanted to rub Ed's nose in his talent. The suppliment was one way to do it.
He went into the kitchen to find Mike working on dinner. "Hey, it's my turn to do that." he said.
Mike noted that he appeared much less depressed. "What came over you in only five minutes?" she asked.
"I remembered that the Sunday suppliment of the Constitution is the one the Daily Rag carries. I am going to write a couple of things for it after all. I understand they pay pretty well.
" Jamison said.
"Not to mention you can say, 'I told you so,' to those assholes at the Daily Rag."
"Let's not mention that. It makes me sound so petty." he said with a grin.
"You sure you don't want to return to Guatemala?" Mike asked.
"Not unless they want to make me King." he answered empatically.
"How about a book. Wouldn't you like to write a tell all?" she asked.
"All about what? I have never done anything of any importance." Jamison said.
"I don't know. You are pretty good in bed. You could write a sex manuel." she said with a wicked smile.
"Mike, I would have to practice a lot more. I would also have to stop pretty often and take notes. Then I would probably have to start all over again. It just seems like a lot to ask of you."
"First fix dinner then we can start on chapter one." Mike said with a nasty laugh.
After Ruby turned in her drive by shooting article she went home. She worked only half an hour over this time. She found her apartment cold and empty. As she heated the frozen dinner she thought about Jamison. She was trying to find a way to talk to him. A way to spend time with him. She could never hope to win him over unless she found a way to be around him.
She tried all durning dinner and even for two hours after dinner but could come up with nothing. She wasn't tired, she was in fact antsy. She first drove to Jamisons building. She parked across the street. She watched the building until midnight. Finally she became so cold that she drove home. She was miserable, first because she had gone there in the first place, then because she hadn't seen him. She tried again to sleep. Finally after a couple of hours of tossing about sleep overtook her.
Mike left the still sleeping Jamison in bed. She almost hated driving to work alone. Most mornings she dropped Jamison at his office. Those days were probably gone forever. She had no idea what the future would bring. She hoped for Jamison's sake he could keep busy. His basic insecurity would drive him nuts if he didn't stay active. Worse than nuts, it might drive him back to the bottle.
When Ruby arrived at work she sat for a long time staring at her phone. Her desire to phone Jamison turned on and off like a light switch. One minute she picked up the phone determined to call. The next she hung it hung it up, so as not to be embarrassed by his anger at her. It took her until noon to get up the courage to call.
"Hello," Jamison said into the phone. He sounded as though he might have only recently gotten out of bed.
"Hello, Mr. Jamison, this is Ruby. I wanted to call to make sure you weren't angry with me. I know you said you forgave me but I needed to know you really had." She knew it sounded stupid but she couldn't help it. It was the only reason she could think of for calling him.
"Ruby for the tenty time, I forgive you. If it hadn't been that it would have been something else. Ed was looking for some excuse to punch my ticket."
"If you are sure, I would like to take you to lunch. I know you have to eat sometime." She was hoping she didn't sound too much like a school girl.
There was a long silence then, "Sure why not. I could meet you somewhere. Of coures it is too late to do it today. By the time I got a bus to where ever we ate it would be too late for you. Maybe we.."
"How about I pick you up. If I did that I could do it today. I really would like to talk to you Mr. Jamison." she said.
He didn't answer for a few seconds that seemed like hours. "Okay, but you really don't want to be taking advice from me. If it gets out you will be out of job yourself." he said only half kidding.
"We can sneak around, if that is what it takes," Ruby said. She could have bitten her tongue off. She didn't want him to think this was romance or anything. She knew it was. She would just prefer that Jamison didn't. At least not at the moment.
Jamison like all men accepted the obvious. The kid just wanted some advice but didn't want anyone at the paper to know where it originated. "Sure meet me downstairs in fifteen minutes." he said.
"Make it thirty, I have to clean up a little something." she said.
"The little something was to try and fix her face. She found that the small amount of makeup she carried did nothing to hide her freckles. She also had no idea how to apply any other kind. She finally began to cry in dispare. She looked at her watch and realized that she couldn't do anything at all. She hurried to her car then drove it to Jamison's apartment. True to his word Jamison stood just inside the glass door. He hurried out as she pulled up in front. She barely stopped the car. Jamison was inside immediately. She expected him to kiss her on the cheek. That is how it had gone in her imagination. It didn't happen.
She drove her car to a restaurant on the outskirts of town. Parking spaces were plentiful at that time of day. It was, after all, past the normal lunch hour. Once inside they found a booth by the window. They had a wonderful view of the dumpster. Ruby didn't mind she was having lunch with Jamison.
"So Ruby, what can I help you with?" Jamison asked.
She wanted to scream, "Come home with me." Instead she asked him a lot of stupid questions about the job. She was pleased that he didn't seem to mind. He actually seemed to enjoy talking about the job. They carried on a back and forth conversation for sometime.
"God Ruby, it is after three. You are going to have to go back to work. Even old Ed will miss you after a while." Jamison said.
"To hell with them all," she wanted to say. Instead she said, "Where did the time go. You know Mr. Jamison I just love talking to you."
"If we are going to continue meeting like this please drop the mister." Jamison demanded.
"If you promise to have lunch with me again, you got it." Ruby said excitedly.
"Sure we can do this again, but not too often. We don't want the prople at the Rag to get the wrong idea." Jamison tried to pay the bill but she insisted.
"I invited you. Besides I have a job." She could have torn her tongue out. Jamison laughed. He thought it was a joke.
"Okay, but next time it is on me."
Once they were in the car, Jamison asked, "You use one of those little computers don't you?"
"Sure, everybody except you does." she laughed.
"Well, I am about to come into the same century as everyone else. Have you got any idea what kind I should buy?" he asked.
"That depends, do you plan to write on it or play video games." she asked.
"What's the difference?" he asked.
"About two grand." she replied with a laugh.
"Then the write only," Jamison replied.
"You could probably get by with an old laptop. You know one left over from the last generation's technology. Why don't you let me make you some calls. I know a couple of suplus dealers." Ruby suggested.
"That would really be great. Keep in mind, I am not working. I just need something I can write a few freelance articles on."
"I'll make the calls then let you know in a day or two." she said.
While Jamison and Ruby had lunch Mike was interviewing the gang bangers who shot the twelve year old. Once they were tagged for the murder they began rolling over on each other. They also admitted that the motive was drug turf. The kid was selling his junk in the elementary school. Everybody knew that school belonged to the gang.
The record carried that story in great detail. There version lacked the impact of Ruby's story. As a matter of fact, the Record's coverage was so different, most people thought it was a different shooting. The record covered it as a news story, the Daily News covered it as the means to sell newspapers. Ed read both stories. He knew Ruby had written crap but he also knew it was good crap.
After her lunch Ruby did what she had done when she bought her own laptop. She called Timmy the Rag's resident computer nerd. Timmy was such a nerd that he thought her interest in computer's equaled an interest in him. Ruby found him in his cubicle surrounded by magazines and things that looked like flyers.
"Timmy," she said. "I need another favor."
Timmy's eyes lit up. "For you anything." he said meaning every word.
"I need an inexpensive laptop to use at home." she said.
"I ordered you one a few months ago. Do you want a better one."
"No I want a cheaper one. One I can bag around on the road. You know if I have to go out on assignment."
"I do know a man who carries the really old three eighty six laptop. About all it has is a word processer. I can probably get one with an A drive to save your stories."
"How much would that cost me Timmy," she asked.
"Six hundred and dinner with me." he said.
"Done, get it for me. If you have it here by next Friday, I will take you to dinner." she said.
Timmy's mouth hung open. "You bet Ruby. I can get it here no sweat."
"I'll call you with the credit card number in a couple of minutes. My uncle is going to five it to me." she lied.
When she returned to her own cubicle she tried to call Jamison. His line was busy. She kept trying until she reached him after five. She was actually on overtime but she didn't care. "Jamison," she said when he answered.
"Yes," he answered.
"I can get you a laptop for six hundred bucks. That is if you trust me enough to give me your credit card number." she said.
"Why not. The thing will be max'ed out soon enough anyway." he laughed. Jamison read her the number and expiration date. He thanked her then they hung up. Ruby was extremely happy. She was going to have Jamison in her debt. Everybody knew Jamison had a reputation of exchanging favors. She could hold him to it one day.
Ruby called Timmy to relay the information. Timmy had gone for the day. No problem she would just do it in the morning. She stood to leave when Ed called her from his office.
"Ruby, did you read the article in the afternoon Record." he asked.
"I never read the Record." she said honestly.
"Well you better start. Take a look at that," he said handing her the paper. It was turned to the article on her boy's murder. She read it in silence. As she read she began to worry. She hadn't wrote about any of this.
"Well what do you think," Ed demaned.
"I think they had more time than I did. The police helped them with their article. None of this information was available when I wrote my peice yesterday. I guess I could do a follow up piece," she volunteered.
"The hell you will. Your piece was a heart grabber. That piece in the Record reads like something that damned Jamison would write. No you keep on doing what you do best. Write me things that people want to read about. Make the cry, make them afraid, just make them buy our paper. I just though I would show you that in case you hear some grief about it. Don't let it bother you. You did a fine job." Ed said. What he didn't say was that should she really get caught in a lie, he would can her ass with no regrets. Reports came and went, Editors lasted forever.
Ruby left the building feeling good about herself. She was really going places she just knew it. Not only that there was a better than fifty fifty chance Jamison would be going with her. She imaged all kinds of scenarios as she drove home.
Since her next pay check would include her hefty raise she ordered a pizza to be delivered to her apartment. She showered then changed into her gown as she waited for the delivery man. The delivery boy arrived a half hour after she placed the order. He handed her the pizza took her money and left. "God," She thought. "Did you see how that kid looked at me. I thought he was going to rape me. It must be true that men can tell when a woman is in love." Ruby smiled to herself as she sat on the sofa eating pizza while listening to her CD play.
Half a mile away Jamison had diner ready when Mike walked into the house. "My God Jamison what is that smell." she asked.
"That my dear is the smell of Yankee Pot Roast. I whipped it up this afternoon. It was the only thing I could think of that would stay good till you got home. Not matter what time." he said looking pointedly at his watch.
"I know I should have called dear but you know how it is at the office," she said mimicing the TV sitcoms.
"I know, you were probably working late at Will's house?" he said with a smile.
"Hell no, I aim higher than that. It was the chief." she said with an equal smile.
"That's okay then, you need a raise. After all you have to support me." he said with a larger smile.
Mike knew from all the smiles that something good had happened. "Okay you jerk tell me the good news."
"There is so much of it. Let me see where should I begin. I guess with the Constitution. I called the editor. I had no idea they paid so much for an article in the Sunday suppliment. I explained my idea for a short series on the homeless. The editor thought the idea was wonderful. She almost agreed to buy it sight unseen."
"That's great, I don't mean the aritcle. You just sound wonderful." Mike said. She really was excited. Jamison tended to meld her mood to his mood.
"Not only that I called the publisher Jim the prick suggested. Not only had they been expecting my call. I already have an editor assigned to me. We kicked around a few things. I think he will buy almost anything I write." Jamison said. The excitement seemed to rise to an even higher level.
"God that is great," Mike said. "It means I won't have to explain the welfare check to the doorman."
"Even better, I have a real job. One that pays a real salery." he said.
"Did the record hire you after all?" Mike asked. She was afraid he had taken an out of town job.
"Better," Jamison said. "You remember Wally Gibson don't you?"
"Only vaguely." Mike admitted.
"Anyway Wally is one of the last two contract employees at the Rag. He has a friend at the community college. The friend wanted Wally to teach at the college. Wally can't do it as long as he is working at the Rag. The college pays much less so Wally turned them down. He did however suggest me for the job."
"Really Jamison, you have got to be the luckiest man alive." Mike said.
"Not bad, it is a state job so the pay isn't much. If it had been Wally would have taken it. I am probably just keeping the seat warm for him anyway."
"None the less you won't be going hungry." Mike said.
"I wouldn't have anyway. You make enough money to support one sorry man." he said with a laugh. He wouldn't have been able to laugh this morning.
"So when do you become a college professor?" Mike asked.
"Two weeks, the classes begin in two weeks. I am going to have to spend some time at the campus getting ready. That I will probably start tomarrow." he said.
"Exactly how will you get to work since you don't drive?" Mike asked.
"I don't drive at the moment," Jamison corrected her. "I am going to be teaching at the downtown campus. You know the one in the old Belk building. I can walk there."
"You should buy yourself a bicycle. That is twenty blocks from here." Mike said.
"Why not? I'm going to have the money from the payout in a couple of days." Jmison agreed.
First thing the next morning Ruby delivered Jamison's credit card information to Timmy the nerd. Then picked up her story assignment. She was to cover a fire at a local mall. The damage had been minor. She knew her story would be buried in the inside of the paper. Unless she could find some angle. She drove to the mall to interview the manager. Of course the manager had nothing but good things to say about the mall.
On a hunch Ruby interviewed one of the store owners. The store she chose was one with almost no customers. Ruby guessed correctly that a store manager with poor sales would have plenty to say about the mall. The store manager spent a long time talking about how bad business in the mall was. He also mentioned overhearing one of the firemen talking about the number of past fire code infractions. The mall had corrected all of them prior to the fire. It changed nothing in Ruby's mind. There had been infractions.
Back in her office she called the fire marshall's office. They agreed to give her a list of the malls fire inspection records. Ruby drove immediately to the fire Marshall's office. Upon inspecting the list she found a citation for a locked fire door. Actually there had been two locked doors. The doors had been used by employees of various stores to remove merchadise. Remove was a nice way to say steal. The night of the fire the doors had again been found locked. It had made to difference since they were not needed. The fire had been minor. The doors would also have been hard for the customers to use. They were more for employees to exit from the rear of their stores in case of fire.
Ruby had her angle. Her caption read, "Mall excapes tragidy barely." The story was mostly a 'what if' kind of thing. In the last paragraph she stated that the doors were seldom used. They would probably be hard for mall customers to even find. Ruby knew that few people would ever read as far as the final paragraph. She also knew that most never got past the caption.
Ed commented to the assistant editor., "That damned Ruby is going to make a hell of a reporter. That is if she doesn't get our ass sued first."
The assistance's reply was, "There is just enough truth in her stories so far to keep us out of court. She is walking a fine line but hell reporters are like socks. You get a hole in one, just go out and get another. No big loss."
Jamison went shopping that morning. He bought himself a ten speed bike. Jamison knew nothing about bikes. He hadn't even been on one in at least fifteen years. He chose the one simply because it was the least expensive ten speed in the store. Plus it was already assembled. He spent the remainder of the morning tooling around town on the bike. "He was getting the feel of it," he told himself.
In the afternoon, he rode his bicycle to the downtown campus of the community college. He met with the director of continueing education. The woman was in her early fifties at least. She was also a large woman, at least fifty pounds over weight. She was also soft spoken and genuinely friendly. She explained to Jamison that he had been hired to teach bored housewives how to write for the company news letter. A few of the students would have a genuine interest in writing professionally but most would be 'waiting for a bus.' A term she used to represent any non academic interest.
Grace, the director, showed him to a small closet which would be his office. She explained that he was lucky to get any space at all. She then showed him to his classroom. It was in use at the moment. The class now in session was a basic computer class. Jamison was almost tempted to sit in.
Grace explained the quarter system to Jamison. The present classes would end next week. There would be a one week break then the new session would begin. When they returned to her office, Grace began loading him down with employment forms, then with books he would need to teach his classes. Since his were not college credit courses he didn't really have to follow the text book. She explained that if he didn't use it some the students would feel cheated.
Jamison was on the verge of giving up. It sounded an awful lot like a real job. Grace put his mind at ease. "Jamison. all we expect from you is that you entertain the housewives and spark the interest of the real students. Those you need to guide into a credit course after they finish you course." Jamison knew he could entertain the housewives. He figured he could spot any real talent. He was calmer by the time he left the building.
He was also loaded down with more books and papers than he could carry. Grace noted his distress at the large pile of materials. "What's wrong Jamison?" she asked.
"I rode a bike here. I have no idea how to get all this junk home." he admitted.
"Are you one of those enviornmental nuts?" Grace asked with a smile.
"No, I'm an alcoholic who got caught driving." he admitted. If he were going to have a problem with it, he might as well find out now.
"You still drink?" Grace asked. Jamison couldn't make out the tone of her voice.
"No, I have been sober over a year." he said flatly.
"I got three years. I also managed to keep my drivers license though God only knows how." she smiled a warm conspiritors smile. "Tell you what. Go to the end of the hall and take a right. You will come to a receptionist there. Ask her if there is a back pack in the lost and found. It there is barrow it to get this stuff home. You might what to return it someday. The back pack that is." she said with another conspiritors smile.
Jamison thanked her then followed her directions. The young receptionist found a fairly large backpack. She looked at the tag then declaired the owner either graduated or dead. Jamison loaded the pile of books and papers inside. The pack was stuffed but seemed to be secure enough. The ride how was difficult. It had been years since he rode a bike and the shifting weight of the heavy backpack tended to make his bike tip.
###It was well after three when he arrived home. There were no messages on his machine. A thought struck him. He dropped the pack, turned to exit the room. Once outside he rode his bike to the office supply super store only a few blocks from his apartment building. Inside the store he purchased a cell phone. Actually he signed a contract and they gave him the phone. He realized too late that he should have brought his 'new' backpack. He was forced to unpack the phone to make it small enough to carry.
It was five thirty on a Friday night when he next arrived back at his apartment. Jamison started dinner even though he usually took Mike out on Friday nights. That night he wanted to stay home to read the text books. He didn't think Mike would mind terribly.
After Ruby recieved her daily stroke from the boss, she left the Daily New's building. She drove by Jamison's building hoping to see him. He was already tucked safely in the apartment. She drove by the building twice before turning for her own apartment. She had resisted the urge to call him all day. She had to fight it again once inside her apartment. She knew that she didn't want to freighten him away. Men like Jamison were afraid of strong women. "I'll bet he is living with a cocktail waitress," she smiled. He would have to be guided into accepting a woman like herself.
Since it was a Friday night, Ruby wanted to do something different. She would liked to have done it with Jamison but she resisted the urge to invite him out. She knew he was living with a woman. She would have to take it slowly. She instead showered dressed in jeans and a faqcy blouse. The blouse was low cut even thought she had nothing to show off. She drove to a nightclub known for it's large crowd of singles. She found the parking lot empty at seven. She turned the car around to find a nice upscale restaurant.
She ordered some kind of veal. Ruby didn't know enough about fancy restaurants to know exactly what she had ordered. The food came after an expecially long wait. She would have been upset had it not been neccessary for her to kill a lot of time. The food was good but not worth the forty dollars she paid.
The parking lot of the club was half full when she returned to the club. She parked as clsoe as possible to the door. The club was a one story metal building. The front of the building was covered with some kind of fake rocks. It was still clearly a metal building. Inside the owners had decorated it lavishly. Ruby sat at the bar. Because of her petite figure she was asked to dance often. She danced with several of the men. She didn't much like the slow dances. She felt awkward when men pressed themselves against her. They were obviously more turned on the she.
She liked the attention of the men none the less. She hated when the club closed at one. She had several offers to leave earlier with men, but had declined them all. She left the club alone. Ruby was not used to the late hours, she barely managed to remove her clothes before falling asleep.
Mike returned home around six. She had been deeply involved in an attempt to find a witness to a knifing which had happened weeks before. She was spent almost the complete day trying to run the witness to earth. In the end she had accomplished nothing,. She was in less than a great mood.
Mike was gratful at the smell of cooking food. She was pleased not to be forced out of the apartment tonight. She spoke curtly to Jamison before heading into the shower. When she returned she explained that she really was happy to stay home. She was just too damned tired to be good company tonight. She and Jamison sat curled on the sofa watching an old tv movie after dinner.
"You know this is my idea of heaven," she said just before she turned to kiss Jamison.
"God you are easy to please." Jamison said with a huge smile.
"So how was school," she asked during a commercial.
"I think it is going to be okay. I was a little freightened at first."
"That is to be expected honey, it is a new expierence." Mike commented.
"I know, I caught one break. The director is a recovering alcoholic." Jamison said.
"That should make it easier. At least she will be sensitive to your moods." Mike said seriously.
"What moods, you women think whenever a man disagrees with you he is in 'A Mood.'"
"Right, just be greatful she understands." Mike said to avoid a fight.
Jamison spent Saturday and Sunday reading textbooks and pacing the floors. He wanted to work on the article but without a computer it would have been useless. He needed to type it for the Constitution. He could only think when looking at his own words.
Mike had to work on Saturday. Sunday she managed to drag Jamison from the apartment. She took him shopping, then out for dinner and a movie. He had been alone so long the day before that he was damned near hyper. She enjoyed almost all of his moods. All except the deep depressions he fell into. Those were the pits.
Ruby slept late on Saturday. She also had a slight hangover. It was almost noon before she finally got totally out of bed. Even after she was up she didn't move around a lot. TV was about the best she could manage most of the day. That evening she drove out to find a quick meal. As usual she chose a route to take her by Jamison's apartment. She fought hard the desire to stop in. She knew she might well run into the 'bitch' as she had begun to think of Jamison's roommate.
Ruby's Sunday was filled by a visit to her home. Home for Ruby was a thirty minute drive into the country. She spent the day with her mother and grand parents. Her mother tried to make her feal guilty. Her grandmother supported her mother. Her grand father though seemed just happy to see Ruby. They spent most of the time together just walking around the neighborhood. Ruby headed home well after dark. She arrived to the cold empty apartment around nine. Ruby sat on her sofa to cry. She did that only after a return from visiting her family. It was probably the reason she visited the so seldom This had been her first visit in months.
Ruby's mother had been to her apartment exactly once. After that all the visiting had been done by Ruby. When she regained control of herself Ruby moved into the bedroom. She opened a small brown folder. She gazed for a long time at the photo of Jamison. She had copped the photo from the newspaper files. It showed Jamison a couple of years younger. He was dressed in a tuxedo. The photo was made the night of the pulizer banquet. Of course he hadn't won the prize but the nomination was a big deal for the Daily News in those days. These days a pulitzer would be equivelent to walking on water. It was a miricle not likely to ever happen to a Daily News reporter.
Inside the folder was a copy of the series of articles that won Jamison the nomination. She tried to read them but found them boring. She would never admit that even to herself. She wasn't surpised to find them boring. She had found all the books on the great master's list to be extremely boring. Which accounted for the reason she was so poorly read. Ruby removed the black and white 8X10 photo from the file. She removed the picture of her mother from a frame by her bed. She replaced it with the picture of Jamison. Ruby told the picture goodnight then fell asleep.
Jamison awoke Monday with nowhere to go and nothing to do. He wasn't sure he liked the feeling at all. Without some kind of trouble to get into, he was bored. Boredom was a terrible thing in his mind. Right up there with root a canal. "I need that damned computer," he thought. "I should have just bitten the bullet and paid full price for one." It was too late to go back now. Ruby had already ordered it. "God," he thought. "I don't even know when it is due in." From that point it was a small jump to phoning her at the paper.
"Ruby, this is Jamison. How goes it with the working class?" he asked. It took Ruby a second to catch her breath. When she didn't answer immediately Jamison went on, "Surely you haven't forgotten me this soon?" He was actually afraid that they all had.
"God no Mr. Jamison," she gasped.
"You were supposed to drop the mister." he reminded her.
"I'm sorry, no we haven't forgotten you. It goes okay with us working people." she said in a rush.
"The reason I am calling is I forgot to ask when the laptop will be here?" Jamison said lamely. He hated for people to do favors for him.
"I expect it to arrive by Wednesday." She said. Then fearing she would loose the connection. "I was just about to call you. Can you spare me a couple of minutes?" she asked.
"I guess, what have you got in mind?" Jamison asked.
"I was about to go out on a story. How about riding along. You could give me some pointers." she said.
"To tell you the truth, I haven't even read the Rag since I left. I would be happy to ride with you though. I am climbing the walls around here." Jamison said.
"Good, I'll pick you up in twenty minutes." she said gratefully.
"I'll be down stair waiting." After he hung up the phone, Jamison went into the bathroom. As was his custom he hadn't shaved over the weekend. He reached for his can of shave cream, filled his hand with the lather then looked into the mirror. He took a good look at his pock marked face, then decided he would grow a beard. He had a beard in college. There was absolutely no reason to torture himself with a razor every morning. "To hell with it," he tought as he washed the lather from his hand. He did go into the bedroom to put on a clean shirt. That would be his one concession to personal hygene for the moment.
Ruby rushed around like mad to find a story. She needed something quick that she could take out for an interview. She found an old assignment with no priority. She scooped it up and out the door she went. The assignment was a non story. It was an annoucement by the city that a new park would be built in the black section of town. Ruby planned to interview some of the neighbors. They would just tell her that they were grateful for the park. Nothing in it worth the effort. The only good thing is that she would get to be with Jamison.
When Jamison was in the car Ruby asked what he was up to these days. He explained all the work he had planned. She was actually excitied about his teaching. She was expecially happy that he would be teaching night courses. She couldn't enroll in them since it would be a signal he couldn't miss. She could happen by the school before or after class. She could find him away from the 'bitch' three times a week. She was thrilled. She almost missed Jamison's mention of the park.
"So they are going to build a park on that site. That is probably the smartest thing the city could do. Not a bad political move either." he said.
"I'm sorry Jamison, what the hell are you talking about?" Ruby asked.
"Surely you knew?" he asked.
"Knew what?" Ruby asked frantically.
"The site where they are planning the park. It used to be a crack house. One of the locals set it on fire. The damned thing burned to the ground." Jamison said.
"Did they ever catch the person who burned it?" Ruby asked.
"Nobody looked. At least that was my take on it." Jamison said. Ruby simply nodded. Maybe this would turn into a story after all.
Ruby interviewed the neighbors while Jamison watched. He was more than a little disgusted with her style. She softballed her questions. Gearing them to the answers she wanted. He didn't say anything since it was no longer any of his business. She managed to drag it out for over an hour. On the way to his apartment she insisted they stop for coffee. Jamison didn't really mind. His only stipulation was that she not ask him how she had done.
"You do it your way," was his only comment. Ruby accepted it as a compliment. It wasn't in Jamison's eyes.
Over two cups of coffee they talked about the 'Rag.' Even though it had been only a few days since his departure there were stories to tell. The converstion even covered her childhood and his plans for the future. It was in Jamison's mind a harmless few minutes.
It was something very different in Ruby's mind. To her it was a first date. She talked easily with Jamison for the first time. In her mind, at least, they were now equals. She was a reporter instead of a editorial assistant. Her work might not be pulitzer but it was being published every day.
As soon as Jamison stepped from the car Ruby began missing him. She longed to return to spend the afternoon in his apartment. She hadn't made the jump from platonic love to romantic love yet. She just knew she wanted to be with Jamison.
When Jamison left Ruby it was with quite a different feeling. "How could Ed think she was a reporter. Even worse how could she think she was." Jamison was disgusted with the whole thing. Maybe he should just get the hell out of the business. This might have been the best thing for him after all.
Monday just drifted into Tuesday, then Tuesday into Wednesday. Jamison paced his apartment floor. He was about to burst from the tension which was building in him. Mike was being driven nuts during the day by her job, then at night by the crazy Jamison. She was weathering it with her usual charm. She had just about reached the end of it by Wednesday. As she left the apartment for work on Wednesday she said, "If that damned computer isn't ready today go out and buy one off the shelf. You are driving me nuts." She wasn't smiling at all when she said it.
Timmy the nerd was waiting in Ruby's cubicle when she arrived. "Guess what was in my morning mail?" he said pointing to the large box on her desk. "I do believe you owe me a dinner."
"If that is what I think it is, you get your dinner tonight." Ruby said.
"It is and tonight will be just fine." the nerd said.
Ruby wasted no time. She called Jamison moments after Timmy left her cubicle. "Jamison, your computer is here." she said happily.
"Thank god, I was beginning to think I would have to pay real money for one. I'll get a taxi and come get it." he said.
"No!" Ruby almost shouted. I can bring it over. Why don't you buy me lunch in exchange."
"I have a better idea. Why don't I fix you lunch. You can show me how it works while we eat." Jamison said.
Ruby had trouble breathing. It was more than she could have hoped for. Lunch at Jamison's apartment. "Sure, there really isn't much to one of these things. I'll be there around noon."
Ruby passed the time making phone calls. Her notes were a mess even to her. She didn't care. She was going to have lunch with Jamison. Ruby managed to get the box to her car without any help. She drove quickly to Jamison's apartment. She could hear the horns and shouts from other drivers. It made no difference she was too preoccupied to pay any attention to them.
Jamison waited for her at the door. At first she feared he had changed his mind about lunch. It turned out he only meant to carry the box for her. Once inside his apartment she was a little surprised to find it neat and not nearly as masculine as she would have thought. "The funiture probably belongs to the 'bitch.'" she thought.
Jamison had her a large chief salad for lunch. She expected him to eat with her. Instead he unpacked the computer. The computer was no larger than a volume of a good encyclopedia. It probably weighed even less. She nibbled at her salad while he hooked up the various cords. He was greeted by a message written on the screen. "What should I do?" he asked.
"Follow the directions," Ruby said hoping it was the right advice.
"I pushed the button it said. Now it says wait while it loads the software. Is that what it is supposed to say?" he asked.
"Yes," she said simply. "God, I wish Timmy were here," she thought. She drifted into the living area to sit beside Jamison while the software loaded into the computer. Her heart quickened with the closeness to him. She sat enjoying the feeling while Jamison watched the screen impatiently.
The machine went through several different screens then came to rest on the program manager. It was finally something she understood. Ruby brushed against Jamison as she showed him how to get from one program to another. He checked out a few then went back to the word processer. He punched a few keys before he said. "How do I get it to print?"
"First Jamison, you have to have a printer. You don't. When you get one you simply clink on the command then on this one. It will print out the whole piece unless you tell it to print only parts of it." The closeness of him almost took her breath away. She imaged that at any moment her would turn and kiss her. He stayed focused on the computer.
After thirty minutes he turned it off and closed the cover. "I will play with it tonight. I think I can work it out from here. I really do appreciate your help Ruby. I owe you one."
Ruby couldn't think of an answer. She knew he was dismissing her but she wanted to stay. Ruby was smart enough to know that now wasn't the time to press him. "Right, well I really have to get back to the paper. Tell you what, I'll give you a couple of days then call to see how you are doing." she said.
"Sure, I'll make a list of questions for you. And Ruby, I was serious. I do owe you a big one. Anytime I can help just call." His words were comforting, especially since he was guiding her toward the door.
"Well, I'll give you a call to see how you are doing." she said lamely.
When she had gone Jamison tried to read the manuels for the computer. There were at least five of them. In the end he decided to hell with it. He just began calling up things on the computer. He played with it until Mike came home. When she saw that he was engrossed in the computer she was thankful.
Mike used a desk top computer at work. She was able to show him all the things he needed to know. She even explained to him how to save his work without cluttering his small hard drive. Later that night she drove him to a discount store to buy a printer. He had a small black and white printer in mind but she vetoed it. "You might as well get the best color one. Sure as hell you will regret it if you don't." she explained. She also insisted that he buy several boxes of floppy disks.
Ruby went home from work that night and sat by the phone. She half expected Jamison to call. She could only hope the 'bitch' know nothing about computers. She imaged all kinds of questions Jamison might have. He never called. Ruby went to bed disappointed but not devistated. After all Jamison owed her a big one. She giggled like a school girl at the thought.
Jamison worked on his 'homeless old bum story' as he called it, for the next two days. Ruby called him on Thursday but got only his answering machine. Jamison wasn't answering the phone. He had gone so far as to put it in another room with the ringer off and the message recorder on low. He didn't even know it had rang until Mike checked the messages.
"Just who the hell is Ruby?" she asked. Mike wasn't smiling when she asked.
"She is the woman who got me the computer, why do you ask?"
"Because she has called to three times today." Mike said peeved.
Ruby had been smart enough to know the 'bitch' might get the message before Jamison. She didn't really care what she thought. It was not wanting to upset Jamison that caused her to guard her words. The messages began with a simple how are you doing with the new computer. Then she switched to Jamison are you okay, give me a call I am worried about you. Finally it was Mr. Jamison please call me. I am really worried about you. Some people go nuts with computers."
"Damnit Jamison call the poor girl. She probably thinks you are curled up with Jack Daniels by now." Mike said. She was still upset but managed to controll it.
"I don't know her number. I will call her first thing tomarrow at work." Jamison said.
Ruby wasn't nearly as concerned about Jamison as she was about herself. She wanted to talk to Jamison to further her own goals. She had to stay in contact with him if she ever wanted to replace the 'bitch' in his life. She thought about calling that evening but decided against it. She certainly didn't want to talk to Jamison with the 'bitch' in the apartment. She definately didn't want to talk to her. There was at least a fifty, fifty chance the 'bitch' would answer.
Jamison called Ruby the next morning. He explained his habit of turning off the phone when he worked. He also asked her a couple of questions about the computer. Some Ruby knew some she wrote down to ask Timmy. Jamison rang off to continue his work. Ruby understood that since she had a deadline of her own.
Getting Timmy to answer the questions was a breeze. Since there dinner on Wednesday night he called her constantly. She wanted to blow him off but hadn't found the courage. She was glad now that she hadn't. He explained to her how with the laptop she could count words in a piece and how to hook up a fax machine to the laptop. Both were things Jamison needed to know. She wrote all his answers down carefully.
Ruby even agreed to have dinner with Timmy again. She justified it as, "You never know when Jamison or I will have other questions for him. Besides Timmy had been kind of sweet. Ruby passed the information on to Jamison who accepted it with great thanks. He even asked Ruby out to lunch. Partial payment he called it.
The next few were complicated and filled with events. Jamison finished and faxed his article on the homeless man's accidental death. Unlike Ruby's article, Jamison prominantly ask who killed the homeless man. He lead everyone to believe they had. Society had caused his death and each of us as part of society had contributed. He also raised a question which he promised to answer in later installments. Who was the homeless man. He after all had a name and a past. He probably had a family somewhere. He explained about the tattoe and the medals. He left it just enough in the air to guarentee a audience for his next article. The editor of the constitution loved it. He promised it would run in the next suppliment. He demanded that Jamison fax the next installment as soon as it was finished.
Ruby continued to write articles for the Rag, while juggling Timmy the nerd and her calls to Jamison. She managed to see Jamison for lunch a couple of times during that next week. Ruby still idolized Jamison but she was becoming less obsessed with him as she spent more and more time with Timmy the nerd.
Mike worked on a new case every couple of days. She was thrilled that Jamison was doing so well. She expecially looked forward to his beginning to teach. It meant he would be gone in the evening but he had entirely too much time on his hands.
Jamison reinterviewed the street people about Red. He found out how they and Red had survived on the streets. Where they ate, when they ate. Where they slept. It did no good to try to find out why they lived the way they lived.
Jamison wrote the second installment of the article before the FBI made the final ID. It arrived just as he finished the second installment. Mike brought him the news. Red had been identified as Michael Raymond Galward. The DOD file was sent along at the same time as the official Id. On the DOD file he was listed as Michael Raymond "Red" Galward. Red was a five year veteran of the United States Army. He served in Viet Nam where he was awarded the silver star, the bronze star and the purple heart. No details provided.
His home town was listed as Marion. Marion was a half hour drive from Jamison's apartment. It was much too far to ride a bike. Jamison hated again the loss of his driver's license. He couldn't ask Mike to take off to drive him. He didn't much want anyother newspaper people around.
He finally decided to write number three with the information he could gather on the phone. He called everyone he could think of. His first break came when he got hold of a librarian who had read his Sunday Suppliment article. She was thrilled to be a partner in the research.
Janice, the librarian pulled the high school year book for the date Red would have graduated. She found him right away. By his picture was the legend. "Most likely to be in jail by age thirty. Jamison made a note. With Red's old address he had the librarian check for the occupant at the time of Red's graduation then cross check it with today's occupant. His family had moved. Jamison had her check to see if the family still lived in the town, no luck.
He applogized for being so much trouble. She wouldn't hear of it. She was thrilled to be a part of a mystery. She cross referenced about twenty five people from Red's school and neighborhood. Finally Jamison had three names addresses and phone numbers. He had kept the poor librarian on the phone for three hours.
His next call was to the Constitution. The editor knew a reporter, who knew a clerk in the records section of the DOD. It took another three hours but he got a fax on his new computer. The fax ran twenty pages. It kept his phone tied up for fifteen minutes. The pages where the total of Red's military career. At least the parts releaseable to the press.
Jamison wrote number three in his series of articles. In it he listed Red's high school achievements which were few. He then listed Red's military career achievments which were many. Red was a certifiable hero. He was credited with saving his men at least twice that made it to the citations. No telling how many other times he had done the same thing.
With the third installment faxed to the Constitutions Sunday Suppliment he was stymied. He had a copy of Red's company roster from Viet Nam and three names from Red's home town. He took a hard look and realized he would never be able to finish the piece in one more installment. The constitution wouldn't stand for more than one more. Jamison decided on the spot that this would be the book.
He wrote his last installment for the constitution on the spot. It was filled with unanswered questions. He concluded it by saying, "The next time you pass a homeless person, he or she might be a Red Galward. Someone who was more than just a common bum. Someone who other men owed their lives to. Someone who had once made a difference. Someone in other circumstances you might find admirable. Every homeless person could have once been Lt. Red Galward." The article was, as the editor put it, a fucking tear jerker.
Even before the final article ran, Jamison began getting calls. The calls were from other publications that wanted to rerun his articles. When the fouth installment hit it went from a trickle of interest to a flood. It seems Jamison had written the definative article on the plight of the homeless. It was flattering but it was also worrisome. The Tv movie people might jump in and grab off the Galward story before he finished his research. Damnit he needed his driver's license.
Ruby didn't pay much attention when the Jamison's first article ran. She read it sure but wasn't all that impressed. It seemed a little preachy to her. She changed her mind only because the people at work were impressed. The first words were from the contract duo. They praised Jamison to the sky. Ruby had trouble following it all the time. When the second one came out the other people around the Rag began to admit that it was a good piece. The critics were giving it a favorable writeup. People seemed to love that kind of crap. When number three hit with all that war hero crap, you would have thought the series was war and peace. Not that she could tell the difference. Then when that last one hit the one with all the crap about every homeless person being somebody once. People around the rag carried on like Jamison was some kind of messia. Worst of all they began comparing there writings to his. No one would admit how badly they came off. Rubvy began to hear her work discussed. Especialls since her article on the same homeless man had replaced both Jamison's article and Jamison himself. Ed began kicking himself then looked around for someone else to kick. Ruby got her share of the abuse but no more.
Jamison found himself with more work than time. Even worse he had no wheels, worst of all school was about to start. He had promised to teach the class. He would not go back on his word. The idea came to him on his way to the first class. Grace told him she didn't care what he taught as long as it kept the housewives interested. He was about to interest the hell out of them.
He looked into the faces of his ten students. He was glad the class wasn't any larger. It would be hard enough to manage with ten people. "Ladies and Ladies," he said. there were no men in the class at all. "This is your text book. The book is about journalism. I would suggest that you read it. There are a lot of good things in it. Then I would suggest you forget about half of it." There was a subtle murmur of laughter. I have something here to read you. Listen closely because I want you to ask questions when I am through. Not about what is in the story but what is missing from it."
Jamison read them the four Atlanta Constitution Sunday Suppliment articles. When he finished he was surprised that some of the women were wiping tears from their eyes. "Now ladies first of all let me warn you. I do not want compliments, nor do I want a rehash of the articles. I want to know what question you have that were not answered. You first," he said pointing to the oldes woman in the class. She had to be at least sixty.
"I would like to know about his family." she said.
"I want to know what caused him to become homeless." another stated.
"I want to know how long he had been on the street." yet another woman offered.
"I would like to know what kind of man he was." a young woman asked.
All of the questions weren't that good. Some were pretty stupid. "Okay those are all good questions," Jamison lied. "Now we are going to find out the answers to all of them. We are going to do it together. We are going to investigate, which is what real reporters do. Not all of us just some of us. First of all, you have to have the time to interview people. Then of course it helps if you really want to do it." There was again a quiet murmur. Those of you who came for a specific purpose I will help with it. Those of you who came just for the fun of learning, I will assign to this project. Write me a note now. I want to prepare a lesson for you all next time.
###When he surveyed the notes at home he found four people who wanted no part of it. He found of the other six only two could actually take off during the day to conduct the interviews. The other four interested people had jobs or obilgations. The four did volunteer to make calls at night or travel on the weekend. He almost gave up in disgust when Ruby called.
"Hey Jamison, congradulations on the articles. I hear they gave Ed a heart attack. He is so pissed that he is trying to get out of the pay off. He has been running around all day saying how you don't need his money." she said.
"I wish that were true. Teaching school doesn't pay that much." he said.
"If what I hear is true you don't need it anyway. Your old friends, the contract duo, is running around telling everyone that you have resold the article a dozen times. One account has it as going to TV as a christmas special." she said.
"Don't believe all you hear." Jamison said. He found that he was not so secretly pleased that his first at bat had been a home run. It especially please him that Ed was so angry.
"Word is that you are going to do a book?" she asked.
"I am if I can find time. I am going to be using my adult journalism class as researchers. The only problem is most of them can only work on the weekend. At that rate it is going to take me about twenty years to manage it."
"How about an expierenced reporter to help them get started. I don't work on weekends." she suggested.
"No offense Ruby but you and I don't interview the same." Jamison said.
Ruby wasn't at all offended. "Jamison, you tell me what you want to know and I will find out for you. I am damed good at it, if I know what to ask." Ruby found that she suddenly was thinking of Jamison in a different light. It might have been because she and Timmy were finally seeing each other regularly or that she was so successful at work. The problem with being successful in a cesspool was that all you did was manage to keep you head above the crap. She had overheard other journalist discribe her writing. She had stopped kidding herself she was writing crap. She wanted to do something better. Something someone would appreciate.
"I have one thing to say Ruby. I want you to understand that I am serious. If you try to steal this story I will kick you pretty ass." Jamison said coldly.
"I learned my lesson. I never step on the same rung twice." she said.
Jamison understood. "Okay come to the class day after tomarrow. I am going to pass out assignment at that time. I will team you up with one of our students. In the mean time I have to work on my other classes.
The next night Jamison taught two classes. Neither was very taxing. Mostly he assigned then criticized the students efforts. It actually was fun. That night he hurried home to dash off a column about his expierences. It was a humor piece. Jamison the serious writer had never written anything like it before. He was tempted to submit it until he realized that it would hurt his student's feelings. He put it aside for a future publication somewhere down the road.
Ruby was in the arms of Timmy at the same time. Timmy was begging and Ruby was resisting. It would have been amusing if they had both been normal people. Timmy was despirate and Ruby was terrified. The struggle ended when Ruby had enough. "Stop it Timmy. I told you we were not going to become lovers. We are just friends," she said steightening her clothes.
"Then why did you let me kiss you?" he asked.
"Because I thought it would be nice. I had no idea it would turn you into a sex fiend." she said.
"I'm sorry Ruby, I just love you so much." Timmy whined.
"Timmy you don't love me. Your hormones are just getting the best of you." Ruby said.
"No Ruby honest I love you. I want to marry you." he said despirately.
"Don't be silly. I'm not about to get married. I am having too good a time to get married. Ed said I am going to be a star reporter. Even bigger than Jamison." she said.
"Come on Ruby, Ed was just shooting the bull." Timmy said.
"No he wasn't, he is going to make me a star reporter. I am already getting more space than the old timers. Glenda is the only one writing more copy than me." she said.
Timmy was furious. "Ed shouldn't be doing this to you." he said.
"Doing what making me famous?" she asked.
"Ruby, while I was working on Ed's computer I overheard him tell Amos that you were going to get him sued one day. Amos said that it didn't matter he could always fire you. Half assed reporters like you were a dime a dozen." Timmy said.
"He did not say that." Ruby said with tears in her eyes. She could tell from his tone that Timmy was telling the truth.
Ruby forced Timmy to leave. She went to bed in tears. She cried and schemed. neither of which helped her to sleep. She knew in her soul that she had tasted success, she wasn't about to give it up. She could either become a better reporter or she could find a gimmick. The gimmick idea was simpler and quicker. She didn't have time to be an apprentice again. Even if anyone would let her. She was now branded a tabloid reporter and would never be anything else. At least not without starting over again.
All the next day she tried to think of a plan. It finally came to her. She was going to have a great deal of Jamison's research material at her finger tips. She could write her own story about Red. If she beat Jamison to the punch again, she would be back in the driver's seat. She was concerned about what it might do to Jamison. He had promised to kick her tail if she stole his research. She found that her heart raced at the idea. The extra rush she got from the idea of Jamison touching her just helped her decide.
Jamison arrive a half hour before the six oclock class. He found Ruby waiting outside the classroom door. "Damn Ruby, how long you been waiting?' he asked.
"Not long, I wanted to talk to you before the class began." she said.
He was afraid she had changed her mind. He was counting on her to help start the research. All these people were green as grass. "Lord no," she said.
"I just wanted to thank you for letting me help. I know what I did to you last time was terrible. I promise it won't happen again." she said.
Jamison was no fool. At least not about journalism. He might have missed her romantic interest in him but he didn't miss her over egarness for the research. He had a bad feeling that she was being less than honest. He decided to switch her research partner. One of the younger women had been his first choice for her. He mentally switched her partner to the old lady. He thought the old lady might be able to keep an eye on Ruby better. "It damn well better not." Jamison ordered.
That night he made the assignments first. Then he taught the class. He explained about interview techniques and how to really listen for what the subject was saying. He explained that one had to be careful not to cue the person he was interviewing. "If you cue them, you will get the answers you expect rather than the truth." he explained. Jamison was actually surprised when the bell rang. He had been talking for an hour and a half. No one not even the students seemed to notice that the time had flown by.
He gave the old lady the questions for her team. He introduced them all to Ruby and explained she would be helping with the field work. He took the young woman he had originally assigned to Ruby. He arranged for her to drive. He would of course pay all the expenses.
At first Ruby was a little jealous then she remembered the point of all this. She would find it much easier to steer the old woman than Jamison. Ruby arranged to pick the old woman up at seven am on Saturday morning. Ruby tried to give Jamison a ride home but he explained that he had his bike. She went home to field a dozen messages. Most were from Timmy, one was of course from her mother. Maybe she could swing by Mom's house on Saturday, after all she would be in the same town anyway.
Somehow everyone made it through the week. Ruby managed it by working on several stories for the Rag. Jamison did it by running down phone information and teaching his other two classes. Mike continued to work on her routine cases. The first two women to begin the research project were on pins and needles. Even the old woman was more excited than she had been in years. She was even more excited when Jamison called. He briefed her on Ruby's background and asked her to be expecially watchful of her Saturday. The old woman promised to do just that.
That night she installed the batteries into the tape recorder Jamison had provided each student. She promised herself that not only would she watch that Ruby woman, she would record every word of every interview. She was supposed to ask the questions, but Jamison told her to be careful never to leave Ruby alone with the subjects. He didn't want any surprises.
When Saturday came Jamison was off with the woman about his own age. She was more attractive on that morning, than he remembered her from class. Her name was Lucy Wilson. She was single and a secretary. Other than being a few pounds over weight she was quite well built. She had dressed to play down her rather large assets.
She confided in Jamison that she was so excited she didn't quite know how to handle it. She had gone back to the library to find all his articles on Red. "This is going to be great fun," she exclaimed.
Jamison tried to warn her that it would be anything but fun. They were likely to find out nothing of importance. He just couldn't put a damper on her enthusiasm. Jamison's first subject was a man who might have gone to school with Red. He introduced himself and Lucy to the man. Jamison stepped back and allowed Lucy to conduct the interview. It was hard. She went very slowly and read the questions from the list.
The man answered them all. Jamison waited for her to add the most obvious of the followup questions. She had been so intent on the questions that she hadn't heard a word the man said. Jamison took over for her. The man had known Red alright. Sure he even knew him after he came back from the war. Red had a hard time adapting to home. He held about a dozen jobs. He was even a cop for a couple of years. He never lasted long at any of them. He just never seemed to adjust. Then one day he just disappeared. No real reason that anyone knew, he just up and left.
Jamison got a couple more names from the man before he gave up. He figured he might want to call on him again, so he didn't beat him to death with questions. When they were seated in the car he asked Lucy what they had learned. She was a little dumbfounded by the question. It took her a long time to replay the interview in her head. When she finished she had remembered most of the importarnt items.
They had a list of places Red had worked so they tried them. It had been so long ago that no one remembered him at any of the jobs. Jamison had saved the cops for last. The cops like the military kept excellent records. All he had to do was get them to open them on a Saturday. When he explained to the old woman behind the records counter she refused to get the records for Jamison. She did however remember Red. She even remembered the incident that caused him to leave the department.
"Excessive use of force," she recalled. It seems that Red got into a fight with a blackman. Red had beat him pretty badly. Everyone knew that the blackman had a reputation for fighting the police. Red got axed because his fight happened to be during those hot years. The department was bending over backwards to keep order in the community." she said.
"So what happend to him after he left?" Lucy asked. There might be hope for her yet, Jamison thought.
"Don't know for sure. I heard he went to work for the Wilford company. Building custom vans. He might have been there six months or so, then he just disappeared. That would have been twenty years ago."
"Do you have any idea what happened to him during those twenty years?" Lucy asked.
"I heard he was once in a Veteran's hospital. Seems like one of the other vets saw him there. I can't rightly say though."
"Do you know why he left town?" Lucy asked. Jamison was proud that she had begun to listen to the woman's answers.
"No Idea," the woman answered.
"One more question," Lucy said. "Did Michael have a girl friend."
Jamison was floored. He would never have thought to ask the woman that one. He would have assumed that she would volunteer that.
"They say he kept company with some widow lady. I don't think I ever heard him mention her name. Nobody ever mentioned it to me either."
"Any idea who else might have been friendly with Michael?" Lucy asked. She had learned the number one rule. Get leads from everyone you talked to.
"Most of the people who knew Michael are gone. It has been twenty years you know. You might ask Mr. Poole down at the bank. He and Red were big buddies once. They had a falling out, but he knew Michael about as good as anyone left around here."
"Damn," Jamison thought. "Poole was on Ruby's list." He brooded about it while he and Lucy ate lunch. He worried that he either wouldn't get the information or that Ruby would use it before he finished his book. Then again she would rush off half cocked anyway.
] He debated the pros and cons of it, until Lucy asked, "What next?"
It took him a moment to recognize her. "I guess we call it a day."
"Why don't we go see this Mr. Poole?" she asked.
"Our other team of researchers is working on it. Do you know why we are eating in this old dirty cafe when there are plenty of others around?" he asked. He was so worried about the Poole thing that he had almost forgotten why he chose this place.
"No, I thought maybe you like quaint little places." Lucy said honestly.
"Let me show you." Jamison turned his attention to the old lady behind the cash register. "Ma'am," he said across the mostly empty cafe. He wanted to make sure everyone heard him. "Did Michael Galward eat here often?" he asked.
"Who is Michael Galward?" the old lady asked.
"You know old Red Galward the cop." Jamison explained.
"I know all the cops but I never heard of him." the old woman answered.
"He used to eat here some," answered an old man sitting at the counter. "Why you askin about him young feller?"
"He was killed in an accident up in the city. I an writing a piece about him. I am just looking for someone who knew him when he lived here. Did you know him well?" Jamison asked.
"Nobody knew him well. Red was a loner. Minded his own business, like I do." the old man said turning back to his coffee.
Jamison tried another tact. He must have been a pretty ordinary guy. Nobaody remembers him." Jamison said looking for a fight.
Let me tell you something kid," the old man said in a low threatening voice. "Red Galward was no ordinary man. The reason folks don't remember him was that they never knew anything about him."
"And you do?" Jamison asked changing his voice to a more sympathic tone.
"His daddy and me farmed side by side. Red his only son. Boy was supposed to take over the family farm when he got home from the war. Them damn slants did something to that boy. He weren't the same when he got back. Couldn't keep his heart into anything."
"Did Red drink much in those days?" Jamison asked.
"More'n he should have. That wasn't what got him though. It was them damned slants."
"What kind of kid was Red?" Jamison asked trying to steer the old man away from the sadness he obviously felt.
"Pretty ordinary kid. I guess he got teased a lot for that red hair. He got in a few fights but nothing more'n kid stuff. Only thing out of the ordinary I remember was him findin' that lost little boy."
Jamison's heart quickened for no reason at all. "Really how did that happen."
"Some city asshole took his kid deer huntin' down here. Kid got lost in the woods. Everybody in the county was lookin' for that kid. It was red what found him. Kid had a busted leg. Red packed that kid on his back five miles through the woods. Damn kid was almost as big as red at the time." the old man said looking into his coffee cup. "Kid probably would have died if it hadn't been for old Red."
"Did Red play sports in school?" Jamison asked.
"Naw, he would have been good at anything, but he had to help his daddy on the farm. His mama had died before the boy was ten. Him and his old man get the place goin'."
"Is Red's father still living?" Jamison asked already knowing the answer.
"Naw, he died a couple years after Red got back from the war. I think it was a broken heart. I mean the kid didn't want the farm. Then the damned bank took it. The old man just kind of quit living."
"Didn't Poole try to stop the bank from taking Red's farm?" Jamison asked.
"Poole wasn't nobody at the bank then. He was just a teller or something. He might have tried though. I just don't know. After his daddy died Red hung around a couple more years then just took off one day. Nobody here heard from him again. Never heard nothing about him till some city boy wrote a couple of articles in the Sunday Magazine." The old man took a hard look at Jamison. "Hey, you the one who wrote those articles ain't you?" he asked.
Jamison gave him his best smile, "That depends on whether you liked them or not."
"You done a good job. Old Red was somebody worth rememberin'." the old man said.
"I got kind of interested in Red while I worked on his articles. I wonder is there anyone else who knew him?" Jamison asked.
"Poole knew him best. At least after he came home. The two of them used to cat around some."
"Who was the widow lady, Red went out with?" Jamison asked.
"Got me. I didn't even know he went with anyone. I thought he just chased all the girls."
"You remember any of them?" Jamison asked.
"Not really. Tell you what, you find out who was single around her at the time and chances are Red saw them at one time or another. Course that was twenty odd year ago. They might not want to admit it now."
"Stella," another old man at the far end of the counter said.
"What was that?" Jamison asked him.
"I said Stella. I know Stella went out with him a couple of times. I think that was when he worked at the gas station." the old man said.
"That's right, Red did work at the gas station. Damn he could fix anything." the first old man remembered.
"Is Red's old boss still around." Jamsion asked.
"Yeah, but won't do you no good. He's got senile. He lives at the county home." the second old man stated.
"How about this Stella," Jamison asked.
"She's still here. Married now, her old man probably wouldn't care much for talkin' about the good old days." the first old man said.
"Why is that?" Jamison asked.
"Stella got around a bit. If you know what I mean."
"Where could we find this Stella?" Jamison persisted.
"Kid, you just determined to raise a stink ain't you?" the old man asked.
"Not really, I just want to find out about Red. I want to know about why he left town."
"Miss Stella works at the Wilco station. She is a cashier there. I ain't gonna tell you where she lives. If she ain't at work you are going to have to come back. I don't want old Ed pissed at me."
Jamison looked at Lucy to see if she had any questions. She asked the old man, "Sir, do you know what happened to Red's things when he left town. I mean did someone take his stuff."
"God missy that was twenty years ago. Red was livin' at the boarding house by then. That place burned down years ago."
"Was Stella living there at the time?" she asked.
"Stella, Poole, Red and a couple more people." the old man answered.
Jamison was again impressed with Lucy. She had asked a question he wouldn't have thought of. One that would find it's way into the book.
"So let me get this streight," she said. "Red lived on his daddy's farm until he went into the Army. Then again when he returned." The old man nodded. "When the bank took the farm where did he live, the boarding house?"
"Yeah, him and his daddy. That is until his daddy went to the home. Red stayed on there a couple of years then just disappeared."
"Help me with one more thing if you would. Okay, Red returned to the farm but really didn't have his heart in it. Was he working on it when the bank took it over," Jamison asked.
"Nah, he was working for the cops by that time. Had been with them a few months I think."
"Okay after the cops then did he work the filling station." Jamison asked.
"May have been a couple of things in between. I think he tried sellin' insurance once."
"Was he working at the filling station when he left town?" Jamison asked.
"Naw, by then him and old man Wilkes had a fight. Red wasn't workin' no place when he left. I guess he left here to look for work."
"What was the fight about?" Lucy jumped into the conversation.
"I got no idea missy," the first old man said.
"Sure you do Amos. It was about you and that damned old tractor of yours." The second man said. "Amos was having a rough year. Hell we all was. His tractor broke during the spring plowin'. Red worked on it at night in Wilkes garage. He didn't charge Amos for the labor and old man Wilkes had a fit. Red tried to tell him it was his own time. Wilkes said Red had done it in his Garrage. Either charge Amos or get the hell out. Red got the hell out."
"Is that right Amos," Lucy asked in a sweet voice. If Jamison had asked the question he would have gotten a different answer.
"Yeah Missy, that is right. Red lost his job because of me. He was gone a few weeks later. I sure am sorry but I would have paid old Wilkes if'n Red had told me." the old man almost had tears in his eyes.
Lucy and Jamison paid there bill. Jamison insisted on paying for the old men's coffee. They were in Lucy's car when Jamison said, "You know Lucy, you are doing a hell of a job. I had no idea you were this bright."
"God, I thought I was doing awful. I never would have thought to eat in that place, let alone ask if anyone knew Red. You are really something Mr. Jamison." she said.
"Drop the mister. I'll tell you one thing. You ask questions I would never ask. I am really quite proud of you."
"If I could write like you I would be proud of me too." she smiled.
"That remains to be seen. You may be able to do a hell of a lot better than me." He paused to thing a minute. "Why don't you take the tape recorder into the Wilco station. I will wait in the car."
"Are you sure. I might not ask the right questions." she offered.
"You will do fine. Just remember what we want to know." Jamison declared.
"I think I know, but tell me just to be sure." she suggested.
"How well she knew Red. If she was dating him at the end. If she knew why he left town. If she wasn't dating him at the end who was. Who was the widow lady. Got that."
"I think I can remember it all."
Jamison filled her gas tank then waited in the car. It might be an important interview but he was determined to let her do it alone. Besides Stella might talk more freely with another woman. Lucy was gone about twenty minutes.
"Sorry, I was gone so long. That Stella sure is a talker." Lucy said handing the tape recorder to Jamison.
"Let's pull out of here and find somewhere to listen to this." Jamison suggested. Lucy pulled out of the station and into a church parking lot a few blocks away.
Several things became obvious from the tape. Red had stayed in the town for over five years after his return from the army. Stella had slept with Red but not been in love with him. They 'went out' only a few months. Stella broke it off a year or so before Red left town. She didn't much like it when he went to work at the garrage. "He had grease under his nails all the time." she said. She didn't know who the widow lady was but was sure the woman wasn't a widow. At the time there were only a few Widows in town and none young enough to have interested Red. She explained that the widow lady might have been an old maid. Not an unmarried lady but a woman who kept to herself. One who wasn't known to date. One who acted like a widow lady. The term was, "She acts like a widow lady," It sometimes got shortened to "Widow Lady,"
After Jamison heard the tape, he declared, "We have done more than enough for one day. Lets go home now."
"Do we have to. Surely there is someone who remembers who Red might have been seeing at the end. I'll bet she is the reason he left here."
"Why he left is only one of the questions we have to answer. We need to know about his military life, and most of all where he has been for the last twenty five years." Jamison stated.
"God I really hadn't thought about that. Where do you suppose he was for so long?" Lucy asked.
"I have no idea. We may never know, but it won't be for lack of trying."
Lucy droppped Jamison at his apartment around six that evening. He began typing notes on his computer immediately. Mike held dinner for him until he finished. Even though it had been ready when he walked in the door. Jamison typed sketchy notes for another hour. After dinner he returned to the computer to read his notes. He had accumulated a lot of fact about Red Galward. He didn't have the feel of the man yet. He might get that from the Poole interview. That is if Ruby and grandma, as he thought of the oder lady, hadn't completely blown it.
Jamison tried to begin his book on Sunday. He was having no success at all. He knew he should wait for all the facts so he finally just gave up on it. Mike was happy to see him busy again but she also worried. Jamison was so preoccupied with the book that he hardly spoke to her at all. She worried that he might let it consume him. She worried that he hadn't been to an AA meeting all week. She knew that the meeting weren't as important when you were riding on the crest of an upward turn in your life. She also knew that people tend to forget that the downturn is only a heartbeat away. Jamison she hoped would be able to reach out for help when the downturn came.
Ruby spent Sunday listening to her own tapes of the interviews with her list of people. Unlike Jamison she had developed no additonal names. She hadn't asked and no one volunteered. She and the old lady were finished shortly after noon the day before. The first interview had been with a man who barely knew Red Galward. They had indeed gone to school together but Mr Thomas had been an athelete and Red hadn't. He remembered Red rushing off home everyday. Red was antisocial even then.
Poole, her second interview had been longer. From the tape she recalled Poole saying Red hadn't been able to keep a job. Upon his return from the war he had been fired from at least two of his many jobs. The cops fired him for beating a black man and the garrage owner had fired him for stealing. It was pretty much as she thought. Red had been a misfit before the war and had continued a misfit right up until his death.
She could get a really good story out of it. She could knock down Jamison's image of the noble homeless without any trouble. All she had to do was to time it right. She didn't really feel like baby sitting his students any longer than necessary. The old lady had insisted on being present during all her interviews. The old bat even made her own tape. At least Ruby had been able to keep her from asking stupid questions.
With the information she had she could burn Jamison anytime she wanted. He would have to admit she was a real reporter when she knocked his ass in the dirt. Maybe she could get together with him after all. It would sure as hell beat Timmy the nerd.
On Monday Jamison's class met again. He asked the students to read their articles aloud. His only requirement for the articles were that they not be about Red Galward. Jamison didn't want so half assed student accusing him of plagerism when his book came out.
For the most part the articles ranged from awful to down right illiterate. He worked with the class in a possitive manner. He tried to show each budding writer how to make his work better. The one exception to the awful rule was Granny. She wrote a really good peice on how I spent my weekend. It was also very informative to Jamison. Her piece discribed how she had been treated by Ruby. She mostly blamed it on the difference in their ages.
Granny's article took the least amount of critisism. After class Jamison went to her desk. he asked her to stay a minute. Once everyone was out of the room, he apologised. He explained about Ruby and her fast and easy way with the truth. He told Granny she could expect to see a different interpretation of the facts in the Daily Rag any time now. Granny was relieved to know that she had done exactly what Jamison wanted her to do. He even promised that next weekend he would take her out to interview people.
By Wednesday night Ruby's article still hadn't hit the papers. Jamison was beginning to think he might have misjudged her. He didn't think so enough to invite her to the next Saturday's interviews. Between classes he had called about everyone he could think of. His grand plan was to just slip off to Marion to try to find out more about Red.
All of his students except Granny and Lucy had lost interest in his project. Lucy had offered to drive to Marion again. She was excited about another trip. Granny had caught her enthusiasm. In Friday's mail Jamison found a letter which had been forwarded by the Consitution. It was addressed to Jamison.
I am sure you are having a hard time tracing Red Galward. He was a man of great mystery. I can help you. I sort of knew Red over the last twenty years. If you will drive down here I will be more than happy to talk to you. I'm sorry but I don't hear so good so the phone isn't going to be of use.
Tims encluded a hand drawn map with his letter. The drive was farther than Marion but still within the state. Jamison immediately called Lucy. He explained the change in plans. He asked if she would mind driving the extra hundred miles. She assured him that she did not mind at all. She promised to call Granny to explain the change. She assured Jamison that Granny wouldn't mind the drive.
The three of them left early Saturday morning on their outing. The drive took three hours. Lucy was careful driver or they could have made it in two and a half. Jamison was happier with the three. He hated fast drivers. Lucy probably knew that. He had asked her to slow down once the weekend before.
Lucy followed the map perfectly. The map carried them to an old farm house at the edge of a national forest. Jamison felt a little ackward with two partners but he tried to hide it. he must have succeeded because Tims didn't seem to notice at all. Tims as advertised was hard of hearing. He used a hearing aid but everyone still had to speak up for him to understand.
It had been agreed in the car that Granny would conduct the interview. She began with a streight forward, "Mr. Tims how did you meet Mr. Galward?"
"I met Red out by my well. He came down for water."
Jamison scribbled notes furiously. He didn't want to forget any of the questions Tims raised in his mind. Just in case Granny or Lucy didn't ask them.
"When was that Mr. Tims?" granny asked.
"Sometime in the seventies. Maybe seventy five." Tims didn't volunteer much.
###"You said he came down? Exactly were did he come from?" Granny asked.
"At that time, he was living in one of the government shelters. You know up on the mountain."
"He came down for water and you talked." Granny asked.
"Not really talked. I went out to show him my shotgun." Tims showed Granny a big grin. "Didn't want him coming back for chickens that night. Some of them boys done that you know."
"What boys?" Granny asked.
"Them lost boys. During the seventies there were hundreds of them in the mountains. Some of them hippies, some of them war vets. They stayed till it got too hard for them, then they went home."
"Did Red go home?" Granny asked.
"Not Red, he learned to live off the mountain." Tims said as proud as he would have been of himself.
"How did he survive up there? I mean what did he eat?" Granny asked.
"There still a lot of game up there. That is if you ain't too particular what you eat. Old Red he probably ate everything."
"You said he lived in the government shelter first, Where did he live after that?" she asked.
"He kind of took over an old farm on the side of the mountain. Some of them hippies had a commune there for a while. It got too rough for them so they ran home with their tails between there legs. Red moved in. He even farmed some. Really more of a garden than a farm."
"Surely, he couldn't just live off the land?" Granny asked.
"Nope, he got a little check from the government. Came right to my door once a month. Red and me got along. Probably never said more'n a hundred words all those years., he used my mail box." Jamison scribbled notes. He hadn't know about much less had a trace run on Red's disablility check. "How could he have missed that? Not as smart as you thought." Jamison answered his oven guestion.
"So was Red a hermit?" Granny asked.
"Pretty much. Like I said we probably didn't say a hundred different words in twenty odd years."
"Did he ever say why he came to the mountain?" Granny asked.
"He never said, but I think it was woman trouble." Tims said.
"What makes you say that?" Granny asked.
"He wouldn't have nothing to do with women. My sister tried to talk to him. Old Red took off like a whipped dog. Wouldn't have nothin' to do with her."
"So why did he leave?" Jamison butted in.
"Don't exactly know. He just stopped coming around about six months ago. I was still holdin' his checks till I read in the paper about him gettin' killed. I mailed them back to the government."
"Could we see where Red lived?" Jamison asked.
"You could but it's a hard walk. Take you most of the day to get there and back. Frankly son these women don't look like they could make it up that mountain. Hell I can't."
"Ladies," Jamison said. "Would you mind waiting for me here?"
"I would enjoy talking to Mr. Tims some more personally," Granndy replied.
"Me, I'm going with you. I work out some. I think I can make it up there." Lucy said.
Tim's just smiled as he drew another map. As Jamison and Lucy left they heard him say to Granny, "Might as well make yourself at home ma'am they gonna be a spell."
The old man was right. The walk winded Jamison first, but soon after it got Lucy. They moved very slowly up the mountain. It took them over an hour just to find the trail to Red's place. Then they walked another twenty minutes before they reached what could best be discribed as a small animal barn. It was the place Red had spent over twenty years of his life. Jamison walked around trying to get the feel of the loneliness. The place would be terrible in the summer and a pure nightmare in the winter.
Inside the shack, Jamison found a fifty five gallon drum, which had been converted into a stove. The stove pipe went out the rear of the cabin, through the wall. In the yard was a huge pile of wood. Red had cut his winter's wood before he went into the city. He may have expected to return before the next winter. Then again he may never have planned to return.
On the shelves where Red stored his belongings, Lucy found a razor, some soap, one plate and a few pots for cooking. Outside hanging on the wall were a few rusty old animal traps. Red had no doubted trapped his meat year round. He had at least brought them in before leaving the mountain. While Lucy searched the cabin, Jamison went in search of Red's garbage dump. He had more than once found the answers to mysteries in the garbage.
The dump was actually a pit. Inside it Jamison could locate no paper. He gave up digging through the rotting garbage to return to the cabin.
"How could anyone live like this?" Lucy asked.
"I have no idea. Red made it here twenty years or more. There must be something in this lifestyle. Tims really seemed to respect Red."
"I guess, but I can't find anything to read in the whole place. I mean what did the man do?"
"I imagine he survived." Jamison said.
"Do you know what we didn't ask?" Lucy said. Jamison like the way she had phrased it.
"Probably a lot of things but what do you think?" he asked.
"We didn't ask if Red ever got mail from anyone besides the government. I mean we didn't ask if he ever wrote to anyone."
"If he did it wasn't recently." Jamison observed. "No pens or paper. He also didn't save anything either. Nothing here or on his body."
"You know maybe he had it hidden. You know he had to be a little paranoid to live like this." Lucy suggested.
Jamison didn't think much of the idea but he began to search anyway. It was Lucy who found the loose board under the stove. He looked at her curiously. "The Great Escape," with Steve McQueen." she said.
"Right, nobody moves a hot stove to look for a tunnel." Inside the hole beneath the floor they found a metal box. The box was rusted and had been for years. Jamison pried open the box to find two old letters and a small bible. "Let's read these at home. I don't have to mention not to say anything to Tims do I."
"Not to me anyway." Lucy acknowledged.
"You know you are wasting your time being a secretary. You should be a cop or something." Jamison said as they began their walk back to the Tims farm."
"I will take that as compliment." Lucy said.
"You should, it was meant as one. You have a really sharp mind." Jamison went on.
"I have got to tell you I really enjoy this shit." she looked at him with her face turning red. "Please forgive my choice of words."
"You should hear me when I am not trying to be nice." Jamison said.
They walked or twenty minutes then took a break. "Jamison," Lucy asked. "You got a girlfriend?"
"Yep, how about you?" he asked in return.
"No girlfriends but I got a boyfriend. He is a jerk sometimes." she said sadly.
"Why is that?" Jamison asked. It was unusual but he was really interested.
"Oh, he thinks you and I are getting it on." she said looking away.
"I know how that is. My girlfriend is suspecious of every woman I meet. She is probably home now imaging us screwing on this mountain."
"We ought to you know. I mean if they are going to think it anyway, why not do it."
"Problem is we can not give a damn what they think. We can't not give a damn what we think." Jamison said.
"I don't get that?" she asked.
"Simple, it is a trust thing. I have your trust now, if I did that you would always think less of me for it. Those things never end well you know." Jamison tried to explain.
"I guess you are right. Besides you can have anyone you want. Why would you want fat old me?" Lucy said with tears in her eyes.
"That isn't it. I actually find you very attractive. If it weren't for the fact that you are so damned smart I would jump your bones in a minute." he paused for her to catch up. "I need your mind a hell of a lot more than your body. If I mess things up with you, I am out one hell of researcher." he said with a big smile. She must have believed him because she returned to normal in seconds. It was believeable because Jamison meant every word of it.
They arrived at the Tim's place just before dark. Lucy asked the two or three questions left. No, Red never wrote or recieved letters. No he had no idea where Red had come from, he just showed up.
Lucy's little red car was on the highway home when she demanded, "Okay open the letter and read them."
"Granny," Jamison said, "We found some letters up there. We wanted you to be here when we read them." He saw the smile of appreciation on her face.
I am sorry I haven't written sooner but you know how bad I am with words. Everything here is shut down for the winter. The harvest wasn't too bad.
I wanted you to know that I miss you. Even the old cow misses you. The place is pretty lonely without you around. I don't really have much to say. I hope you will take care of yourself. I love you and am very proud of you. Dad."
"Red saved a letter from his father all these years?" Lucy asked.
"Probably the only one he ever got," Granny said.
"It must have been from his Viet Nam days," Jamison suggested.
"How about the other one?" Lucy asked.
I got the telegram yesterday. I was afraid you had been killed. I know it is terrible but I am happy that you were wounded. At least now you can leave that awful place. I was again proud of you. The medals have nothing to do with it. I am proud that you saved other men's lives. I am looking forward to having you back on the farm. I understand you will be home soon. I miss you. love Dad."
"Well Granny," Jamison said. "His father wrote to him at least twice."
"I know how it must have been for him. My father never could write to me either. It was easier for him to say I love you, since I was a girl. I don't think he ever told my brother that he loved him. He did of course, he just couldn't say it."
"I know you hate this Jamison but I have to ask, What next?" Lucy said with a smile.
I am going to talk to some of Red's army friends on the phone next week. I think I have found at least two of them. My real concern is that I don't know what caused Red to just drop out. I also don't know where he went after Marion."
"Didn't he come streight to the mountains?" Lucy asked.
"Maybe but we don't know that for sure?" Jamison said.
"I don't know the answers to your questions, but I think I know who does." Granny said.
"You mean Poole?" Jamison asked.
"I sure do. That floozy you sent with me last week didn't ask anywhere near the right questions. She seemed more interested in the bad things about Red. I don't think she found out anything much."
"Sure she did." Jamison said. "If you take just the hard facts without putting the explaination in. I mean she can spin it so that Red was a racist, thief. Those look like the facts."
"Not the ones we heard," Lucy said.
"Sure they are. A newspaper reporter can spin them anyway they want. I frankly expect to see an I told you so article out any day now."
"What is that," Granny asked.
"That bitch wrote a nasty article about Red's death before Jamison wrote his. In her version he was just a dirty old man who was trespassing and got what he deserved. I'll bet everyone at the Rag was fit to be tied by Jamison's article. They will just be thrilled to write I told you so, in big letters." Lucy said.
"You have been doing your homework." Jamison said.
"What we've uncovered so far represents a tragidy. Society for some reason or another let this man just slip through the cracks," Lucy said.
"Lucy, you are doing just what Ruby is doing. You are making the facts fit your story. For all we know Red may have run away because he murdered a preacher. If that is the case then it would make a different story. We have to know it all before we can write the real story."
"Let's go see Poole tomarrow." Lucy suggested.
"No way, you too have done enough for this weekend. I will make some calls during the week then we can tackle Poole next week. Besides the more we know the easier it will be to pry information out of Mr. Poole."
Ruby spent the whole week and even her weekend trying to decide if she should write the gotcha story or not. She vasilated between not caring what Jamison thought and worring that he might hate her. Red Glaward was past caring what she said about him. She was strickly weighing Jamison against her career. She had been writing stories which mostly made it into the paper but nothing that grabbed any attention. Ruby wanted to be recognized as a real reporter.
Having Timmy hang around every night wasn't much help either. She could hardly think about Jamison while she fought Timmy off. He was getting more despirate and her resolve was weakening. She wanted to save herself for Jamison but then why, he certainly wasn't saving himself for her. Besides if he got angry about her stealing his story again, she would never get him at all. Ruby's mind switched from one scenario to another. None offered her everything. She knew she would have to decide soon.
Ruby was never certain exactly what happened that Sunday night. She never knew if Timmy wore her down, or if she had Jamison on her mind. In the end it didn't make any difference she gave in to Timmy that night. The expierence was no better but no worse than her college expierence. In the end she was neither upset with herself nor happy with the encounter. It hadn't done anything much for her. It was a fact, exactly like the death of Red Galward. It had simply happened she didn't feel anything emotional.
Timmy tried to hang around her all day Monday. She had to run him off continually. She didn't want the other reports to get ideas. Timmy on the other hand told everyone that he and Ruby were lovers. What he meant by that no one really knew. Few. if any, thought it anything but wishful thinking on his part.
Jamison was finally able to reach Nathaniel Jones by phone. Nat as he liked to be called had been a rifleman in Red's company. He told Jamison that he was around to see both of Red's heroic efforts. He claimed he was probably the only one left who had seen both of them. Most of the original witnesses to the original act were either dead or wounded before the second.
According to Nat he had come to the company shortly after Red. There was nothing in Red's appearance to mark him as a hero. He moved in that slow plodding manner familier to all farmers. For Red there was no need to hurry, everything would be the same in five minutes. The land after all never changed. The only feature Nat could remember was the course red hair atop Red's head. He often kidded red that there had been a niger in the woodpile behind Red's house. It never seemed to bother Red. Nothing seemed to bother him.
He and Red along with a hundred other men were the guard unit for an artillery company. After Nat had been 'in country' a few weeks the fire base came under a mortar attack. "When the happened the only thing you could do," he explained. "Was to crawl in a hole and pray. He was doing both in a hole with Red. The sound of men screaming drifted across the fire base. They drifted between the exploding motars. "When a mortar round explodes you can't hear anything else. I expect that the barrage lasted five or ten minutes. It seemed like a lot longer. After two or three rounds I watched the idiot Red jump up. Man he was askin' to be kilt. He ran out into the compound to pick up a wounded man. He dragged him back to the command bunker, then went back for another man. He pulled three men into the bunker. I never seen a man so calm. When the explosions ended, Red sat on the edge of our hole and tossed his lunch. I never seen anybody throw up past the point of bringing up food. Man he didn't look like he was ever gonna' stop."
"So Red got the bronze star for that," Jamison asked.
"Yeah and it was the worst thing could have happened to him. Red took it to heart. I mean most guys say, "Hey, it just happened. Not old Red. He was damned proud of that star. I mean he had a right to be, but it changed him man. He wasn't just there to put in time like before. After that he was looking to save everybody."
"So he became an ass?" Jamison asked.
"Hell no man. Red just done stupid things. A lot more than they gave him the silver star for. He was alway taking extra patrols. Not to be a hero just to keep some other poor asshole from having to go. He didn't think Charlie could kill him. I guess he was right. Of course old Charlie gave it a hell of a try."
"You mean when he won the purple heart." Jamison asked.
"Hell man everybody got the heart. I mean it was hard to do a year there without being scratched by some piece of shrapnel. Most of the officers who got it for a splinter. Old Red got his while he won the Star. We was out on patrol, Charlie ambushed us good. Everybody bugged out. When we counted heads we was short three men. Everybody else including the leutenant wanted to bug out. Red convinced him to sit tight while he went back to look for our men. Red went back into the ambush site alone. We heard some poppin' from his sixteen then some AK rounds. In the end old Red come draggin a wounded man out of the jungle. He was also draggin' his ass. Old Red took a graze to his hip. Shot in the ass like I always said he would be." laughed Nat.
"He was so short they just sent him on home. You know, I kind work the streets now. I see some pretty bad mothers. Ain't none of them as bad as old Red. I sure am sorry to hear he be dead. You say he was killed by accident?"
"Yes, wind blew a piece of glass into his chest." Jamison said.
"It would have to be. Man lived a charmed life. Wouldn't be no man killed old Red. It would have to have been God."
Jamison asked a lot of questions but nothing more of interest surfaced. He got the names of a couple of Red's other friends. None of them were available. Some were dead, some were in hospitals and some were just plain missing. In the end Nat's version of the truth would have to be the truth. Jamison doubted that it was the whole truth but then it is hard to find the whole truth at the best of times. After almost thirty years this wasn't the best of times anymore.
Jamison still had wholes in the story. He intended to stay at it, until he either filled them, or ran out of leads. That night at his researchers class, Granny advised him that she wouldn't be available to help the next weekend. She was going to visit Tims. Jamison almost laughed out loud. Lucy was as excited as ever. The mystery had her by the throat. She was tied to it and Jamison for the duration, boyfriend by damned.
Jamison began his book in his few spare hours. He wrote about Red's childhood with a strong emphasis on his mother's death. Then pressed hard about the marginal farm and Red's forced lack of socialization in high school. He applied the term invisible teenager to Red. Hardly anyone remembered him for school. He did nothing to stand out in anyone's mind. He worked so diligently that he would have missed Ruby's article in the Rag had not one of his Thursday night students brought it to his attention.
Ruby's banner read, "The truth about a myth." As was the practice at the Rag the banner could have been about anything. The story was about the myth being forced onto the public. The homeless are not poor misunderstood humans. They are homeless for a reason. Some have mental problems, some are homeless because they are on the run. If not from the law then at least from themselves. Most have probably done something that causes them shame if not legal problems. Take for example the now famous Red Galward. It came to our attention that Mr. Galward, the victem of a freek accident, had been romanticised for the sake of selling newspapers. The truth is that Red Galward was former cop who was probably a racest. He was for sure charged with brutality against a black man. He was also charge with theif from his last known employer. Galward cast a sad figure at the end of his life, but that is no reason to overlook his true character.
The damned thing was more of an editorial than a news article. Jamison wanted to go beat hell out of Ruby. He also wanted to write a piece to explain the incidents she described. He decided to wait instead. On which course he wasn't quite sure. He knew one thing for sure he was going to talk to Poole that very weekend.
Ruby had gone to the office not intending to publish the article on Galward that day. It was written and in her briefcase but she was still trying to decide what to do with it. She was going to publish it someday but not necessarialy that day.
Ed forced her hand. He called her into his office. "Ruby you have been covering assignments for two weeks now. I have been pleased with your work in general. I just want to know when we can expect a real hard hitting piece from you. You know something really controversial. Are you working on anything that would get you into print." He asked in the end.
Ruby racked her brain trying to think of something worth mentioning. In the end she was so terrified of loosing her possition that she gave up Jamison. She left the office to retrieve her briefcase. When she returned she handed Ed the article.
Ed read it. He knew it wasn't very good, but it did attack that arogant punk Jamison. It hit him where he lived. It portrayed him as a huckster. Someone who bent the truth to his needs, just like the Daily News. "I love it. I just wish it were a little more preachy. You know 'Beware the liberals, they are out to trick you' that kind of thing."
Ruby took the hint. She reworked the article so that it was more an attack on Jamison that on Red Galward. Jamison's name wasn't mentioned but everyone in the business knew that it was a frontal assault on his integrity.
Jamison knew it too. He just wasn't ready to send a barrage of his own. Both the events Ruby cited were less examples of Galward's short comings and more her own. She chose to write half a story.
Jamison worked on his book and fumed. He knew absolutely when he had it all he would make Ruby eat shit. It was the thing that drove him to continue when he wanted to stop. As a reporter five hundred words was a lot. In a book five hundred words hardly made a chapter. In his book Galward had hardly gotten into the army when Jamison had to stop. It was Saturday morning and time for another trip to Marion.
He met Lucy at the door. They drove the hour or so to Marion. Jamison had tried to call Poole for an appointment but hadn't been able to reach him on the phone. Lucy drove to his house. Knocking on the door did absolutely no good. Jamison began knocking on neighbors doors. On the third try he found someone who was actually awake at nine a.m.
Since the neighborhood was filled with older houses, Jamison was surprised by the young woman who opened the door. She couldn't be more than twenty. She also held a baby in her arms. Even covered by the terrycloth robe Jamison could tell she had a knock out body. A little heavy from childbirth but with large breasts and nice hips none the less.
"Excuse me miss, My name is Jamison. I have been trying to reach your neighbor Mr. Poole on the phone all week. Do you by chance know where he is?"
"Are you a friend of his?" she asked.
"Not really, I wanted to ask him questions about a friend though." Jamison said. He was beginning to get a bad feeling about all of this.
"Well then you better hurry. From what his son says he hasn't got long to live." she said biting her lip.
"Where can I find him at the moment," Jamison asked. He was hoping it wasn't too late to ask him questions.
"Marion Community," she said.
"And where might that be ma'am?" Lucy asked. She wanted to make damned sure the woman knew Jamison was with her.
"Go back to main and take a left. The hospital is about half a mile on the right. You can't miss it." She said.
"You didn't by any chance know a Red Galward did you?" Jamison asked. Lucy decided before the woman answered that Jamison just wanted to keep her talking. He probably hoped her tit would fall out of the robe.
"The bum who died in the city?" the woman asked.
"The homeless man yeah," Jamison said.
"No, but there sure has been a lot of talk about him. The Daily News carried an article and it has the whole town up in arms. You aren't from there are you." the woman asked suspeciously.
"Not a chance. I wrote the Sunday Suppliment article." Jamison said.
"Well folks around here liked that one a damned sight better." she said.
"We better get going Jamison," Lucy said. She had tired much quicker of the woman in the falling apart robe, than Jamison.
"Yeah, you are right. Thank you ma'am, we will be going now." Jamison said.
Once the car pulled away from the curb, Lucy said, "Jamison that was the most blatantly sexist thing I have ever seen you do." Lucy was angry.
"What?" Jamison asked bewildered.
"You kept that woman talking, hoping all the time that her robe would fall open even more." Lucy said.
"I did not. I was pumping her for information." Jamison said with a smile.
Lucy missed the smile. You might have wanted to pump her, but it wouldn't have been for information." Lucy said with a laugh. She had finally calmed down.
Finding the hospital was easy. Finding Poole wasn't any harder. He was confined to the coronary care unit. Fortunately he was being allowed visitors. Unfortunately it was family only. Jamison was tempted to tell a small lie. It was a good thing his conscience wasn't tested that day. He spoke to Poole's doctor. He explained everything to the doctor. The doctor at first refused. Jamison asked, "If he is up to seeing family, don't you think he should decide about me. He might like to set the record streight on his friend.
The doctor disappeared into a room. A few minutes later he returned. "Jamison you are a prick, but Mr. Poole knows who you are. He wants to talk to you but I am going to be in the room. You get ten minutes not a second more."
Lucy was told to wait outside. Once in the room Jamison wasted little time. He told Poole he was sorry he had been sick but he needed to ask him some questions about Red Galward. Poole nodded weakly. "Oh shit," Jamison thought. This is going to be a lousy interview. He tried none the less. "Sir do you feel up to this. I could come back later." Jamison said. Both he and Poole knew there would be no later.
"Notebook at home, after that woman talked to me I wrote everything I could remember down. I wanted to have it right. She didn't want to know much about Red. You get the notebook it has everything I know." Poole said weakly.
"Mr. Poole," Jamison asked," Where is the notebook?"
"My house, Eddie will give it to you." he said.
The doctor touched Jamison on the shoulder. It was time to leave. Jamison told the frail old man thank you then left the room. He explained about the notebook on the way out of the hospital.
"Why on earth would Poole write down information about a man he hadn't seen in twenty years?" Lucy asked.
"Got me, unless he felt Ruby wasn't going to tell the truth." Jamison suggested.
"Well she sure as hell didn't. Maybe the old man sensed something you didn't." Lucy said.
"I guess we will find out when we find Eddie." Jamison said.
Finding Eddie wasn't hard. Jamison directed Lucy to return to the house of the half dressed woman. When she answered the door, she was dressed in tight jeans and a tee shirt. Both the jeans and the shirt bulged. "The jean were probably pre baby," Lucy thought. The wet spots over her nipples were definately post baby. She had been breast feeding the baby when Jamison knocked on her door.
She had barely answered the door when a voice from deeper in the house asked, "Who is it honey?"
"That reporter guy again." the woman said over her shoulder.
"Tell him we got nothing to say," the man's voice said.
"All I want to know is where I can find Eddie?" Jamison said loud enough for the man to hear.
A tall heavy set man appeared in the door. "Don't you hear good friend. We got nothing to say to you people." The man was half again as big as Jamison. He was obviously in better shape. He was also protecting his home from the intrusion of a reporter. He was in Lucy's opinion dangerous.
"I understand that sir. Mr. Poole asked me to find Eddie for him. I am just trying to do an old man a favor. If I have caused you any probvlem, I am sorry. If you can tell me where to find Eddie, I will leave your home and never return." Jamison said it calmly but Lucy could tell he had tensed. He was expecting trouble as much as she.
"That no good son of Mr. Poole's is probably either in jail or down to the pool haul. Now get the hell off my porch." He demanded.
"Thank you sir and have a nice day." Jamison said as he stepped from the porch.
Lucy heard the man shout at his wife. "What the hell are you doing answering the door like that. God woman he could tell what you have been doing."
Her response, if any, was too low for Lucy to hear. Once in the car she asked Jamison. "What would you have done if he had hit you?"
"Bleed probably," Jamison said without his usual smile. "That love is one of the hazards of the business. If someone has information then you have to get it."
"We could have asked someone else, you know." Lucy said.
"Maybe but then again maybe not. You never know who has that one bit of information you need to finish a story."
Lucy drove into town once more. She parked across the street from the pool room. The two of them walked across the street dodging automoblies as they went. There was a lot of traffic in the downtown for a Saturday morning. It was due to the roots of the town. Marion had been a farming town since it's inception. Farmers had always gone to town on Saturday. Since the town hadn't been ruined by a mall. Farmes still came to town. Pickup trucks filled the streets.
Jamison and Lucy stopped just inside the door. They stood for a few moments till their eyes adjusted to the gloom. Jamison immediately made out the forms of six men. They were busy shooting pool at three different tables. He turned to see one more man behind a small bar on his right. He walked up to the bar and asked, "Eddie Poole around?"
"Who wants to know?" one of the players asked.
"Are you Eddie Poole?" Jamison asked keeping his voice light.
"Like I said, who wants to know?" the tall overweight man asked.
"Name's Jamison. I just came from the hospital. Mr Poole asked me to find Eddie." Jamison said.
"Why?" the fat man asked.
"If you are Eddie Poole, I would be more than happy to tell you. If you are not then I would prefer not to say." Jamison said levelly.
The large man looked hard at Jamison, who returned his stare. "Well Eddie won't be around today. At least not till noon, the police have his sorry ass in jail."
Jamison didn't say anything, he simply turned at headed for the door. Lucy followed quickly. "Hey, you see Eddie you tell him he owes me twenty bucks." the fat man shouted.
Jamison waved over his shoulder. He neither turned not slowed down. Once they were on the street Lucy said, "Jamison this is turning mean."
"Just another day in the exiting life of a journalist. Don't worry, if he were dangerous, he would have already killed me and raped you."
"It is at least comforting to know he would have killed you first." Lucy laughed. Jamison had a way of making everything amusing. Lucy drove the car to the police station. She and Jamison discovered that Eddie was in the county lockup a couple of blocks down the street.
###When they arrived at the county lock up Eddie had already been released. Jamison managed to con the Jailer into giving him Eddie's address. It turned out Eddie was living in his father's house.
When Lucy and Jamison again found themselves in front of Poole's house they saw a second car in the drive. This one was older then the first car. Jamison trailed by Lucy walked to the door. The sound of a too loud stereo filled the air. Jamison was forced to knock long and loud before the door was opened. Standing just inside the door was a man only a few years younger than Jamison. He was short and thin. His head was covered in long, greasy black hair.
"Yeah," he said as a greeting.
"Eddie Poole?" Jamison asked.
"Who wants to know?" Eddie asked.
"Look kid, I have been asked that question at least five times today. If you are Eddie Poole I have a message from your father. If you are not Eddie then please get him for me." Jamison said. He seemed to be more forceful with this young man.
"What's the message?" The skinny man asked.
"Are you Eddie Poole?" Jamison asked. Lucy could see that he was determined to make the man admit that he was Eddie.
"Yeah, I'm Eddie. So what does the old man want this time?" He asked.
"What a nasty little prick," Lucy thought.
"Your dad wrote something down in a notebook for me. He told me to come get it from you."
"How much?" Eddie asked.
"How much, what?" Jamison asked. Lucy could see he was playing with the younger man.
"How much is it worth to you," The greasy man didn't realize Jamison was playing with him.
"Eddie, do you have the notebook." Jamison asked.
"Sure, I saw the old man writing in it. I know where it is. How much you gonna pay me for it?" he asked again.
"That depends on what's in it." Jamison continued. "You let me look and I will give you a price."
"I don't think so. I think we should set a price first." the grease ball said.
"You know kid, if your daddy lives, I won't have to pay anything for the notebook. I am also the only one, in the world, who gives a damn what is in it. You don't exactly have a strong hand. Why don't you let me take a look, then we can negotiate a price." Jamison said.
The dirty young man stepped back from the door. Jamison and Lucy entered past him. Inside the house looked to have been well kept. Except of course for the fast food bags covering most of the tables. "Have to forgive me," The young man said. "I wasn't expecting company.' He looked at Lucy when he said it.
Lucy was dumb founded by what happened next. Jamison kicked the kid in the kneecap. Evidently not hard enough to break anything, but hard enough to drop the kid screaming to his knees. "Kid your business is with me. You don't talk to the woman. you especially don't leer at her. Not get up and get me the notebook.
Lucy took another look at Jamison. All morning she had felt he was knuckling under to the pressure from stronger men. Of course Eddie was not much of a man. She wondered if he would have done the same to the men in the pool room.
"Damn man. I didn't mean nothing. I think you broke my leg." Eddie said.
"I didn't, If I had wanted to do that I would have. Just get me the notebook and let's get this over with." Jamison quickly thumbed throught he notebook when the kid brought it to him. "Okay kid, how much?" he asked.
"A grand." the kid said.
Jamison threw it at him. "Come on Lucy the old man was wasting my time. We already know all there is in the book." Jamison said as he turned for the door.
"How about five hundred?" the kid asked.
:"You are wasting my time kid. I'll give you fifty bucks for it." The kid started to speak. Jamison cut him off, "I don't negotiate kid. Take it or leave it."
"Okay, fifty bucks."
Lucy noticed the kids eyes dancing. She recognized it even though she had never met a junkie before. Jamison tossed the money to him, then walked out the door, notebook in hand. In the car he said, "I want to get this home to read. Let's try to find the farm where Red grew up before we leave. The owner of the general store provided directions to the old Galward place. Lucy tried to follow them but got lost. The old woman with no teeth who ran a county store steightened her out.
The house sat at the end of a red dirt road. It was a frame house which probably hadn't been painted since Red's father lost the place over twenty years before. Lucy noticed as they drove up that most of the glass was either cracked or missing. The missing glass had been replaced with cardboard testifing that someone still lived it the rotting house. Shortly after they had parked the car was surround by small dark children. The house was occupied by at least three mexican migrant worker families.
Since none of them spoke english, it was good that Jamison spoke some spanish. Lucy supposed that he explained their interest in the place. No matter, they invited Lucy and Jamison into the house. Lucy stood back and watched while Jamison wandered the house. He was almost in a trance. He seemed to feel Red's presence in the house. He was after all walking on the same boards where the young Red had walked. Their vist to the house lasted a half hour or less.
Lucy was surprised when Jamison asked to go to the boarding house where Red had lived prior to his leaving Marion. They had already been told that the original owner's had sold the house. No one living there now could possibly have been living there when red and his father lived in the house. Lucy was glad for the drive. Jamison had gotten quiet after the farm visit. He seemed to be lost in his own thoughts. The drive at least occupied Lucy's mind for a short time.
Jamison explained who he was and why he wanted to visit the house. The present owners didn't much like the idea but allowed him inside anyway. They would only allow him downstairs. The upstairs rooms were occupied by tenants the owner explained. The owner was a woman in her late sixties. Lucy, with a typical womans powers of observation, decided the old lady wore a cast iron bra. Even though her breasts should have been around her knees they stood up streight and pointed. Lucy laughed inwardly at the sight of the blue hair and perfect breasts.
Jamison again became lost in the rooms. He asked a lot of questions about the rooms when the woman first bought the house. They had remained pretty much unchanged she stated. "Not much sense redecorating a boarding house," she confided to Lucy. Lucy and the old lady stood back and watched as Jamison wandered around the rooms. He neither spoke nor seemed to notice that he was being watched. Lucy almost decided he was physic. Then she noticed that he was studing every piece of furniture. She realized he was memorizing the layout and furnishing to use in his book.
Jamison and Lucy had lunch in the same cafe. This time they could find no one who knew Red. Since the food was good, it wasn't a total waste. Over his meatloaf, Jamison -asked, "We are missing something, Lucy. What is it?"
She tried to be logical like Jamison. Okay, we know about his childhood, right?" Jamison nodded. You know about his military service?" the question was in her voice. Jamison nodded again. We know a little about his life here before he took off?" Again Jamison nodded.
You know where he was for a lot of the time he spent between her and the city." Yet again Jamison nodded.
"What we don't know is why he left Marion, or why he left the mountain." Lucy said.
"And who the mysterious widow lady was. But there is something else, I don't know what but something is bothering me."
"Maybe it is in Poole's book." Lucy suggested.
"Maby but I think there is something we need to be doing before we leave town." Jamison said.
"What?" Lucy asked in dispair.
"I don't know but something. How about we go to Red's old school?" Jamison asked.
"You are loosing your mind, Jamison. That school was torn down years ago." Lucy said.
"That's right. Where else would a boy have gone?" Jamison asked.
"Probably to church. I can't think of anywhere else generic." Lucy said.
"Church of course, his father might have taken him to church as a boy. But where?" Jamison asked.
"It wouldn't be any of the newer churches. Probably somewhere near the farm." Lucy suggested.
"Right, we need to find Amos. The old man who farmed next to Galward." Jamison turned to the waitress. "Ma'am do you know the old man who was in here a couple of weeks ago. His name was Amos, I didn't get his last name." Jamison asked excitedly.
"You mean Amos Evans. He lives with his daughter down on Mill pond road." She gave directions to the house. Lucy was up even before Jamison.
"Come on Jamison don't drag your ass on me now." Lucy was excited about doing anything at all. She was amazed at how well she and Jamison worked together.
Lucy was surprised at how small the house of Evans daughter was. She was even more surprised when two children ran out the door. They ran right past the middle aged woman who had opened it. "Yes?" the woman asked.
Jamison held back to allow Lucy to ask the questions. "Yes ma'am," Lucy said. "Mr. Jamison and I spoke with your father a couple of weeks ago. We need to ask him one more thing. I wonder, is he at home?" Lucy asked.
Inside the tiny four room house, they found Amos sitting in a broken down recliner. The chair had several patches to it's vinyl cover. The patches had been made with duct tape. "Amos," Lucy began. "Mr. Jamison and and I spoke with you at the diner last week. Do you remember?" she asked.
"Young lady, I am old but I ain't senile. Of course I remember. You was askin' about Red."
"That's right sir. We have another question for you." Lucy said.
"Fire away Missy," Amos said. Before she could ask she had to refuse a coffee offer by the daughter. Lucy explained that She and Jamison had just come from lunch. After the daughter left the room she asked, "Do you remember where Red and his father went to church?"
"Sure, same as me, Brightwood Baptist. Red's daddy and mama are buried there." he volunteered. You know there is a fee to keep up the graves. Red sent that money right up until last year. I know cause I'm on the finance committee. Even sent it when he was in the hospital."
"You mean during the war?" Lucy asked.
"No damn it. I mean from the state hospital." he realized he had told Lucy something he hadn't meant to tell.
"You mean the hospital up in Morgan. The one where he went right after he left town?" Jamison asked. He had no idea what he was saying but it sounded good to him.
"I'm glad you already knew about that. I didn't want to be the one who told you. How did you find out. I thought I was the only one who knew." Amos said.
"You know there are records of those things." Jamison lied.
"Yeah, he sent a couple of checks from there. Most of them came from a state park though." Amos said.
"Who was it had Red committed?" Lucy asked. She caught on damned quick.
"Why he did. I don't know the details. I expect it is in the records though." Amos said with a curious look.
"We haven't had time to read them all." Lucy explained. "Amos is the preacher still alive. I mean the one who was at the church when Red went there."
"Sure, but he lives in Macon. At least he did the last I heard." Amos said. Lucy managed to get directions to the church before she and Jamison left. Lucy drove to the church which was in the country about five miles from town. It was no more than a mile from the Galward farm.
`The two of them searched the small well kept cemetary until they found the markers for Red's parents. The markers weren't fancy, they were simple but in good taste. "Damn." Jamison said as he walked away from the markers.
"What is it Jamison?" Lucy asked.
"That mental hospital shit is going to give Ruby another thing to use against Red." he explaiend.
"Why, that lazy bitch is never going to find out?" Lucy said. They both realized what she had said. The two of them could ignore the hospitalization as well as anything else they wanted. No one else would ever know. Jamison couldn't even answer. Since it was mid afternoon they drove home from the cemetary.
Jamison, at least, had things to check on the phone during the next week. He also had Poole's notebook to read. He had been surprised that Lucy hadn't made a fuss to see it. Jamison had Red's status as a mental patient to deal with in his own mind first. If he chose to ignore it he would be no better than Ed at the Daily Rag. Still as Lucy had said, no one was likely to ever find out about it. Ruby sure as hell wouldn't bother to interview everybody in town. That's what it would take for her to find Amos. Jamison almost wished it were Amos in the hospital instead of Poole.
Lucy dropped Jamison before driving home to William. Her live in boyfriend was extremely jealous of Jamison. He couldn't understand that there was no reason, yet. Lucy had plans though. Her plan was to replace Mike in Jamison's life. Her plan included co-authoring his book. He had after all said she was a first rate researcher. She knew he was vulnerable. She had seen the way he looked at the woman in the terrycloth robe. All she had to do was wait for the quarter to end. When she was no longer his student she could move on him. Mike made no difference. Sure she was cop, but that gave her no special advantages in the bedroom. Unless she used handcuffs. Lucy giggled at the thought.
Once home Jamison almost mentioned his delima to Mike. He successfully resisted the urge. Cops tend to see things in black and white. Mike was no exception. Her advice would be to tell everything. He knew it was the moral thing to do but no neccessary the best thing. Besides his book would probably be read by no more than ten people anyway.
He knew a way to postpone if not eleminate the problem. He could send his publisher the first parts of the book. If they had no interest in proceeding, then he would be off the hook. Jamison decided to discontinue any work on the book until he heard from the publisher. Except, of course, for the research. Red's story would be just as interesting if he published it in some magazine. If would of course be a shortened version. "I could do that, he thought." That would put him right back on the hook.
Jamison Fed Xed his pages to the agent. He knew it would take a week or more to get any reaction from the publisher. "More like a month," he thought. Lucy approached him before class on Monday. She wanted to know what their plans were for the weekend. Jamison explained that there would be no further field investigations until he got to read Red's notebook. Lucy was horrified to find that he hadn't already finidhed the notebook.
Jamison explained that he wasn't all together sure he wanted to know what caused Red to go over the edge. The reason for his confinement in the state hospital would surely be found in the notebook. He would just as soon leave it until he found out about Red's stay in the hospital. Which he also explained wasn't going to be easy. Those records are pretty much confidential, even after a person's death.
"So how do you plan to get them," Lucy asked.
"I am going to go up there during a week day and try to con somebody. Not much chance but I can try." Jamison said.
"You can't drive how are you going to get up there?" Lucy asked.
"Bus and taxi, I imagine." Jamison replied.
"When do you want to go. I need a days notice but I can get off." Lucy said.
"I can't ask you to take off a day. It is probably a wild goose chase." Jamison said.
"I can't think of any way I would rather spend a vacation day than watching wildlife." Lucy said.
It took Jamison a minute to catch on. No wonder she was a good investigator. She certainly could think fast. They agreed to drive up to the state hospital on Friday. Jamison would try to think of a ploy be then.
That night Mike gave him at least a fighting chance with the hospital. She didn't know it of course. They were talking about one thing or another. Jamison was asking her questions which seemed aimless. In there discussions he asked her where the city had her business cards printed. He hoped to get the name of someone who could do it quickly.
"The secretary does in on the computer," Mike said.
"You are kidding me right?" Jamison asked.
"No, the city has a program to make business cards. You know people come and go quickly around there. If they don't leave then they change their phone numbers regularly."
Jamison rode his bike to the computer store the next day. He bought a program for thirty bucks which printed cards. He also bought the card stock to print on. When he arrived home he spend all that day working on his cards. He had them finished before that evenings class.
Ruby called him on Thursday morning. She tried to apologize, but Jamison wouldn't allow it. He had to almost hang up on her. She didn't seem to understand that he was angry, let along why he might be. After the call he was more determined than ever to write something to rebut her charges. The charges she had brought had answers. He had to find the answers to the ones she didn't know about.
On Friday Lucy picked Jamison up in front of his apartment. It was early enough that they stopped for breakfast on the way to the hospital. Jamison was nervous but Lucy seemed calm. Over coffee after the bacon and eggs, Jamison handed her a dozen or so cards. He explained his plan, such as it was.
They would just have to trust their luck. He made damned sure she understood the risk. He didn't want her along unless she knew absolutely what the consiquences might be. The two of them were about to impersonate government officials. It had to be at least a class A misdemeanor maybe even a felony.
The receptionist pointed them to the records office without even asking their names. The records section as well as all the other administration offices were located in a non securit area. The records office was gloom as were the two women who worked there. One of them was close to sixty, in her case it might be understandable. The younger one who actually came to the counter was gloomy for some other reason. She couldn't have been any older than Jamison. She was probably gloomy because of her appearance. She was as a cast iron skillet. Serviceable no doubt but nothing much to look at.
"Could I help you?" the young woman asked.
"Yes my name is Jamison, this is Martha. We are here to check the microfilm." he said confidently.
"What microfilm?" she asked.
"The film from batch 701346." Jamison said without a hint of a smile.
The older woman came to the desk. "Sir, what exactly are you talking about.?" she asked.
"Didn't you get the memo?" Jamison asked.
"We didn't get any memo and I have no idea what you are talking about?" the older woman said shortly.
Jamison opened his brief case, took out two sheets of paper then handed them to her. He had taken the precaution of copying the originals so that the absense of color in the letterhead didn't mean anything. "This memo, It was sent by the Kodak company two months ago. You should have recieved it then."
The memo stated that all microfilm in batch 701346 may have a significant defect. The defect could cause the film to spontaniously combust under certain contitions. The memo stated that a Kodak representative would be around to check the micro film at all government offices. The Kodak representative would be in the company of a Medical records expert from the state department of human resources.
"If you have any questions why don't you call that number right there," Jamison suggested. The number was his own number. The recording machine advised any callers that day that they had reached the office of John Dilworth vice president of Kodaks Microfilm division. The office would be closed Friday and Saturday due to a death in Dilworth's family.
The phone part of the ruse wasn't necessary. The old woman bought the story hook line and sinker. Her only complaint was that she didn't have time to bring all the films from the vault. They of course could not leave the office, she informed Jamison when he assured her that he could check them in the vault.
The records were filed by month and year. They knew approximately the right month and certainly the right year of his admitance. What they didn't know was when Galwarth had been released. If they filed the records by the admissions date it wouldn't be much of a problem. It they were filed by the date of the last entry then it was going to be a bitch to find him.
"It looks like 1975 and part of 1976 are on the film in question. Do you have a film reader. I need to scan it to see if it has any soft spots." Jamison said to the younger woman. Jamison carried a half doxen rolls of film to the small office off the big office. There he and Lucy went throught the rolls as quickly as possible. The found Galward on the forth roll. He was admitted for post tramatic stress and depression. The depression lasted about five months then he was released. Jamison breathed a sigh of relief. At least Red hadn't been a homicidal maniac. At least not as far as the state were concerned. Now Jamison wanted to know what had caused the depression. It could have been the loss of yet another job. Or it could have been something not at all related to his job history.
The answer was probably to be found in Poole's scriblings. That had been another reason Jamison delayed work on the notebook. It was almost illegable. Poole probably had been an educated man but he sure didn't write like one.
Jamison had brought along the notebook just in case he wanted to review it before returning home. He and Lucy drove to a park near the hospital grounds. He and Lucy worked together to interpret Poole's writings. His Notes began with an explaination of why he wrote his account in the notebook. He had no idea he would be so gravely ill so quickly. According to the notebook it was simply to have his version in writing just in case the bitch who interviewed him wrote the article like she conducted the interview. He wanted his thoughts streight so that he could contridict her. Just in case anybody cared to hear the real truth.
Poole's version began when he moved to Marion with his parents. At the time he was fourteen years old. He was a small bookish kind of kid. He was the butt of every joke by every bully in his class. At least that is how he felt. At least until he became friends with the rugged farm boy, Michael. Everybody called him red even then. The bullies never made joke about his red hair. One had only once according to Poole's notebook. That particular boy found it hard to see Red's hair through the swollen eye. Red could have been the class bully after that but he didn't have the time. At least according to Poole's notes.
His notes told of his afternoons spent on the Galward farm. They told of how he would try to help his hero Red with his chores. Red forced him to sit on the fence and watch instead. Red knew the bookish kid couldn't take the rigorous farm work.
Poole's notes stated that a couple of years later Red enlisted in the army. Poole was devistated by his friend's decission. Poole himself went off the the state university. He returned home just days before Red. Red spent a couple of years on his daddy's farm. When the bank forclosed on the farm, Poole tried to help. There was little he could do. Red and his father moved into town. Actually they moved into the boarding house.
Poole was just starting at the bank, so he also moved into the boarding house. The house was a nice enough place. It was clean and the food was good according to Poole. He rather enjoyed the lack of responsibility while he lived in the house.
During that time Red went from job to job. Each job was less stable than the last. Poole worried about his friend. Red didn't seem in the least concerned. He once confided in Poole, "These jobs are a joke. I can't take them serious. I mean if I screw up, nobody is going to die. They just aren't important."
Red quit the police force shortly after he met the widow lady. One thing had nothing to do with the other. According to Poole Red never stopped seeing the other women in town. He saw the good time girls between dates with the widow lady. Poole wrote that he always thought eventually Red and the Widow Lady would marry. Even after Red moved on to work in the garrage he saw the Widow. He was seeing her right up until he left town.
Something must have happened between them to cause Red to just take off like that. Poole never saw Red after he disappeared. Reading closer it was possible first to sense that Red had gone into a deep depression only a couple of weeks before he left town. Jamison had the feeling that it had something to do with the Widow lady. He had always felt that way. Lucy had helped him read the scribled notes, it was only natural that he ask her who she thought the widow lady might be.
"Let's go over this closer. There are lots of hints in the notes." she said.
"I didn't get that," Jamison admitted.
"Sure look here," she said as she read a blurb from the notebook. "I don't know what Red sees in the Widow. She is about as stern and somber as any woman I have ever met."
"That sure as hell helps alot," Jamison said.
"Jamison you are an ass, make notes as I find the passages," Lucy demanded.
Jamison wrote stern and somber in his notebook. Lucy found another passage. "I'm not at all surprised that the Widow is trying to get Red to convert. She is such a devout Lutheran." Jamison wrote, "Lutheran"
"It's hard to believe she is two years younger than me. She is such a stick in the mud." Poole wrote. Two years younger, Jamison wrote. Lucy was right there were clues in the notebook. "It is hard for me to believe that she really told Red to see other women. Women more interested in the worldly pleasures." Lucy read. Jamison didn't know what to write for that one. Lucy suggested 'frigid'. Then she read the last of the entries pertaining to the Widow Lady, "It is hard for me to believe she was ever married. I mean who in there right mind would have married such a cold woman. Just goes to show there is someone for everyone."
Jamison talked that one over with Lucy. Obviously she had been married at one time. Mabye she was a real widow. That would make it a lot easier to figure out her identity. "Jamison," Lucy asked, "Did you ever hear the term grass widow," he shook his head. "It is an old southern term. It means someone who is divorced." Lucy continued. " I think that might be why they called her the Widow Lady."
When asked why all Lucy could come up with was that she just felt that way. "Jamison?" she asked. "How serious do you thing the incident with the Widow was?"
"I don't know Lucy, Red was probably pretty strung out from the war. It might not have taken all that much to push him over the edge." Jamison answered thoughtfully.
"Too bad we didn't get to see his interviews with the doctor." She said.
"Forget it. We were lucky last time. I am not going back to that hospital. Hell if they knew what we were up to, they would have kept us there as patients." Jamison said.
"Okay then, we need to go back to Marion tomarrow." Lucy demaned.
"What do you think our next step should be?" Jamison asked with a superior smile.
Marion high school couldn't have been that large twenty five years ago. We get a high school year book from Red's graduation year. We go back two grades and make a list of all the girls. We can check to see who had been married and divorced or widowed by the time Red came home."
What if her birthday fell in the crack and she was only one year behind them in school. Or if it fell the other way and she was three years behind. What if she moved to town after she graduated from some other school. What if she were married and divorced in another town or even county." Jamison asked.
"Come on Jamison we have been lucky so far. Trust your luck." Lucy said.
"Tell you what Lucy, let's think about this for a week. During that time I will work the phones. I may be able to save us another trip to Marion." Jamison suggested.
"You're the boss but I think we should move on this immediately." Lucy suggested.
"Lucy, Red will still be dead next week. The widow lady, if she is alive will still be there. We don't have to rush into this thing."
"You are afraid to find her, aren't you?" Lucy guessed. "You think your hero might have really done something terrible to her. You think that is the reason he ran away."
"I don't think anything yet," Jamison said. In his heart he knew he had dodged a bullet with the hospital records. They had told him just enough for Red to remain a sympathetic hero. He didn't know if he was ready for the last mystery to be cleared up. Maybe it would be better if they never found the Widow Lady.
"Okay Jamison, you go home and think about it. I know that you won't let it go like this. You figure out our next move." Lucy said.
The two of them began the drive home. It took a couple of hours in which each of them was lost in their own thoughts. Jamison worried over the last mystery like a dog worried with a bone. Lucy tried to figure out her next move with Jamison. Nothing was resolved for either of them during the drive.
That night Lucy had a rather nasty fight with her live in boyfriend. He was jealous that she had taken a day off work to drive Jamison around. When she told him about the ruse at the hospital, he wanted to go punch Jamison out. He realized that Lucy could have been arrested. He tried to contain himself but he finally gave in to it. "You have got a thing for this guy don't you?" he asked. He should never have asked.
"I keep telling you William, nothing happened between us. He has a girlfriend and I have you. We are just working on this book together." Lucy said. It was more her attitude than her words that gave her away.
"Listen Luce, I could understand and maybe even forgive you for sleeping with this Jamison. He has you all excited about the book and all. It isn't that. You got a thing for him. You are falling for him aren't you?" he asked directly.
"William honey, you and I have been together almost a year now. I care about you. I care a lot about you. I just don't love you. If the truth be told you don't love me either." Lucy said.
"So what are you saying Lucy? Do you want me to move out?" he asked incredulously.
"Where you live William is up to you. I am just telling you that we are never going to be permenant." Lucy said sadly.
"I ought to go kick Jamison's butt. This is all his fault." William said.
"No it isn't. He has never given me any encouragement. As a matter of fact he told me that he wasn't interested. This isn't about Jamison, it is about us." Lucy said quietly.
"If I stay, can things at least remain as they are now. I mean us sleeping together and all?" William asked.
"I guess, but remember this. It isn't going to be a permenant thing. Someday one or both of us will meet somebody new." Lucy said. She had already met someone but she didn't want to end it with William just yet.
Lucy knew that Granny was spending the weekend with Mr. Tims. She was spending her weekend with William. She also knew that Jamison was spending his with Mike. What she didn't know was that Ruby was spending her weekend with Timmy the Nerd. She couldn't help but wonder if any of them were happy with their particular partners.
Timmy mostly kept Ruby company which was about all she could hope for. He wasn't all that bad as a friend. He was just lousy as a lover. She often imaged that she were spending her evening with Jamison. She still drove by his apartment building, even though she knew he hated her at the moment. She was confident that all that would change one day. Meanwhile she had Timmy to keep her company. At least these days she wasn't eating dinner alone. Occassional sex with Timmy was a small price to pay to have a man around. She simply closed her eyes and pretended that Timmy was Jamison.
The publisher loved Jamison's first submission. He wanted the rest of the book as soon as jamison could possibly get it to him. The publisher was more than willing to send any reasonable advance against Jamison's royalties. He felt sure that with the proper promotion the book would be a run away best seller. The public he assured Jamison was ready for a social conscience book. They were fed up with petty books by lawyers.
Everything was in place, all Jamison needed was the widow and her part of the story. He hated to risk it but knew he could never live with himself if he didn't find out. Even if he knew there was no guarentee that he would include it in the book. It might be something better left unsaid.
He began calling on Wednesday. He couldn't get the kind of cooperation he needed from the local high school or the public library. He found only that the public library did indeed have copies of the yearbooks. He almost went the route Lucy had suggested. Instead he wanted to try one other thing first.
He and Lucy drove to Marion on Saturday. They planned to be holed up in the public library most of the morning. It turned into most of the day. Jamison had an idea. He got a copy of the Marion census trake just before Red had left town. He and Lucy checked the names and made a list of all the widows. There were only two who were the right age for his 'Widow Lady', so Jamison concentrated on them. He found quickly that one was now married and the other dead. He was hoping for the dead on.
Meanwhile Lucy was going at it from a different angle. She was checking the marital status of the women from Red's high school. She came up with the same two women plus three more. One had remained single all her life so she was discarded. Another one had been married then divorced during the time Red would have known the Widow Lady. The third was a bit of a mystery. She showed up missing from the city directories during the years after her high school graduation. She showed up again around the time of Red involvement with the widow. She was a remote possibility.
Lucy drove Jamison to his hot prospect. Her rememberances of Red were slight. Confined mostly to high school. It seemed to her that they might have shared a class at one time or another. No she had no idea what he had done when he returned home.
Jamison had Lucy take him to the home of the dead lady's brother. He didn't remember Red at all. He was quite sure his sister had never dated Red. He had kind of looked after her when her husband had been killed in a farm accident. He knew all the men his sister went out with. He didn't remember Red at all.
Lucy's most likely woman failed. She remembered Red alright but she never went out with him. She remembered him from the police department days. She had known him but had never gone out with him. She did happen to remember his girl friend at the time. The cashier at the service station.
On the drive to a diner for coffee, something kept bothering Jamison. He finally worked it out enough to ask Lucy. "Lucy, have you ever had a boyfiend just drop of the face of the earth?"
"You mean like Red?" she asked.
"No I mean is it concievable that a woman who had slept with a man wouldn't at least be curious about the woman he began to go out with after her." Jamison asked.
"Do you think Stella was the widow lady," Lucy asked.
"Not really, I think Stella knows who the widow lady is." he said.
"Do you think I should ask her again?" Lucy wanted to know.
"No I think a fresh face is called for." From the diner they drove to the Wilco station. Stella didn't come in until six. Jamison asked Lucy, "Do you want to stay in town until six or do you want to leave me here? I can call Mike to come for me. She is probaly home by now." Jamison asked.
"In for a penny," Lucy said off handedly. She certainly had no intentions of leaving Jamison to Mike. She had him for today and she intended to keep him.
She and Jamison spent two hours going over things from the library. Jamison crossed everyone off his list except the mysterious woman who had been lost for five years. He tried to call her house several times but recieved no answer.
He and Lucy showed up at six exactly. They even had to wait a couple of minutes for Stella to arrive. They were then forced to wait until she finished the counting of her money and a couple of other chores.
"Lady," Stella said to Lucy, "I told you all I know about Red the last time you was here."
"Stella we want you to tell us about Marsha," Jamison took an awful chance.
"Red didn't have nothing to do with that whore. Red dated some quiet reserved woman. I don't know who but it couldn't have been the whore Marsha."
"What makes you call her a whore?" Lucy asked.
"She had that bastard kid. Nobody ever knew who the father was. There were probably too many for her to know for sure. She sure as hell surprised me. I thought she was a nice lady when she came back. Her husband was killed in the war. She had been following him around the camps till he went to Nam. She came home to live beside her mother. I still don't know how she managed to have one man over, let alone so many that she couldn't name the father of her brat."
"When did she have the brat?" Jamison asked.
I don't know. Red was already gone when she delivered that snotty kid of hers." Stella said.
"How long had he been gone?" Jamsion pressed.
"I don't less than a year, I think. That kid didn't belong to red though. It was the spittin' image of it's mama."
They got to the library before it closed. Jamison found the census for the period after Red left. It listed Marsha and her daughter. The girls birthdate was six months after Red had left town. Jamison knew, even though the facts weren't really in. He knew that the child was Red's reason for leaving town. The circumstances would make a lot of differences in his book. he had to find this Marsha. He ran all the data he could find on Marsha. She had lived in the house beside her mother untill her mother had died. Jamison got the number for her new neighbor. He called and was told that Marsha had gone on a vacation. Off visiting her daughter somewhere or other. Marsha should return by the next weekend.
On the drive back Jamison had to repeatedly stroke Lucy's ego. She blamed herself for the wasted weeks. She should have gotten that information for Stella. Jamison agreed completely but be didn't say that. He, instead, told her that it happened to everyone now and again. Which is why cops often interview people three or four times to get the same information. Jamison made the same arguement five or six different ways before Lucy would forgive herself.
During the next week Jamison made repeated calls to Marsha's house. During the early part of the week she wasn't home. When he did reach her on Wednesday morning she refused to speak with him. Jamison called again on Thursday hoping she had changed her mind. He was so obsessed with Marsha that he hadn't written a word on the book all week. He and Mike were even fighting, something they almost never did.
Finally on Saturday he begged Lucy to drive him one more time to Marion. The two of them arrived just before lunch. Jamison left Lucy in the car while he went to the door. He knocked.
"My name is Jamison ma'am," he quickly said to the woman who opened the door. "I really need only a few minutes of your time."
"Young man I have nothing to say to you." Marsha said.
"I understand that ma'am. If you will just tell me that you never went out with Red Galward then I can at least leave you alone."
Jamison watched for a reaction. He expected to be told that Marsha had never even met Galward. He was really interested in her reaction to his question more than anything. Marsha asked him, "Where did Red go when he left town. I never knew."
Sometimes they crumble just that easily. "Can I come in ma'am. I will be happy to tell you all I know about Red." Marsha didn't answer she simply stepped aside to allow Jamison into the small but neat white from house.
"Let me get you a cup of coffee before you begin." Marsha said. Jamison was pleased. It gave him a chance to look around. There was something disturbing about Marsha. He hoped to find the answer in the pictures sitting around. There were pictures of a little girl but none of her daughter as a teenager or as a grown woman. Jamison gasped as he saw the picture of Marsha and her mother hold the infant. "How in the hell?" he asked himself.
"I assume you take it black," Marsha said.
"I sure do." he stood until Marsha was seated.
"Now tell me young man, where did Red go after he left me?" she was completely open in the question. It told him more than anyone in town could have told him.
"I'm curious about one thing. Would you answer one question for me first?" Jamison asked.
"If I can."
"Why did I have such a hard time finding you. I mean you don't seem to be trying to keep it a secret." Jamsion asked.
"Not any more. My mother somehow thought my baby was a virgin birth or something. We never discussed it with each other or anyone else for that matter. Memories around here are short. If anyone knew that Red and I went out, they quickly forgot. It was just never a big deal. Now your turn what ever happened to Red."
Jamison spent twenty minutes filling Marsha in on her lost lover. In the end Marsha was sad. Sad that Red have lived alone all those years. Jamison was afraid to ask the question he came to ask. He fought hard to avoid it because he didn't want to find out anything that could ruin his book.
"Marsha, why did Red take off?" he asked.
"I suspect it was his not being able to hold a job. Then of course the idea of being a father was more than he could take. It had something to do with his war expierences. You know he was in that company that killed all those women and kids. I don't know exactly what he had to do with it but he was there."
"I had no idea," Jamison said truthfully.
"When I told him I was pregnant, he went crazy. He said he couldn't be trusted with children. He cried and told me about the massacre. Then he went home and I never saw him again." Marsha paused, looking into her empty coffee cup. "That poor sad man," she said at last.
"He went right from your arms to the state mental hospital. I can't believe what a tragic story his was." Jamison said
"I had it hard Mr. Jamison, but I never considered how much harder Red's life was. I am really glad you did this research. I always hated him for leaving me with a child to raise alone. He was right, he would have made a terrible father. He simply had too many problems of his own."
"You are probably right," Jamison said.
"You know, I knew Red in high school. That is probably why I went out with him at all. He and my first husband were friends of a sort. They met playing church softball. Michael lived in the next little farm town. I followed Michael all over the place for a couple of years. When he died in Viet Nam, I was sorry I never had a child with him. Red gave me that child even though she never knew it."
"Your daughter didn't know that Red was her father." Jamison asked.
"She still doesn't. I want her to know but I just can't find a way to tell her. I guess I will have to find a way. She is sure to read your book. She idolizes you."
"I hope not. I am a pretty poor role model."
"I don't think you have anything to say about it." Marsha said.
"I have to ask you this one last question Marsha." Jamison said.
"Red was the only man except my first husband I ever slept with. That was the question wasn't it?" Marsha asked.
"Yes, I'm sorry. I had to know." Jamison said with his eyes on the floor.
"I know son. The truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Go home and write your book. I promise you at least one sale." she said with a smile.
Jamison never told Lucy about his last interview. She was content to see that he was finished. She began to worry that she wouldn't see Jamison any more. She said as much on the drive home.
"Lucy we have the story, we just don't have all the details. I am going to teach you how to research details next week. We have a ton of nit picky crap to research.
Jamsion discussed everything with Mike that same night. She advised him to do nothing about Red's daughter. "Let her mother take care of it. If not let her read the damned book," Mike said. Jamison decided to do it Mike's way. He didn't need a confrontation on his hands. At least not unless or until the book was actually published.