Copyright © 2012 - 2014 by Joe Writerman and the Revolutions Universe Partnership.
All Rights Reserved
Wednesday, November 7, 2012, Dale's viewpoint
I awakened thinking about Carl's concern about how Robbie and I would get along, as if he needed to. As far as I am concerned, so long as they are happy, that's all that matters.
No, Carl has nothing to worry about.
I opened my door and headed toward the kitchen, thinking about making a snack from the leftovers. One thing about Mexican food that I love so much, is that the flavors all marry together the longer they sit in a cold refrigerator. By the time I arrived in the kitchen, my taste buds were anticipating a marriage made in heaven… I got busy bringing bowls and containers of leftovers from the refrigerator and placing them on the island counter to get ready to nuke. I know Rachel would kill me for microwaving her food… but she's asleep, right. Right.
I'd just put the finishing touches on a humongous burrito when I saw Robbie peeking around the wall that separates the family room from the kitchen. I smiled and motioned for him to come join me. As he walked closer, his eyes glanced down to the plate I was getting ready to put into the microwave. I knew the look. Hunger. Teenage boy hunger. "I'll share; want some?"
Something from his subconscious made him lick his lips. "Yes, Sir. I'll get another plate."
As he headed to the cabinet, I said, "I thought we had 'me grandpa, you Robbie' all straightened out." I put the plate in the microwave, set the timer, then turned to Robbie to await his answer.
His eyes lit up. Oh no, not another one - he touches his teeth to his bottom lip while deep in thought, "Yes, Sir, I mean Grandpa."
I reached my arms out. Without inhibition, the child opened his arms and came into my belly for a hug. And a hug he received. I pulled his head into my chest and held him firmly. The boy was breathing hard. He was trying so hard to maintain. Jeremy and Carl had told me about his parents and how he and they had been separated, and why. Jeremy also told me that while Robbie was okay with Rachel, he didn't want much to do with him. So to say that I was a little surprised at Robbie's openness would be an understatement.
The microwave sounded its alarm letting us know its cycle was finished. Robbie pulled away. I didn't push him away. He reached up and wiped his eyes dry with his fingers, using them like a squeegee. I commented, "You give really good hugs. You'd better get used to them… because I like hugs."
"Yeah, me too."
We then turned our attention to the microwave.
I reached into the microwave, touched the plate, and said the perfunctory 'ouch' because it was hot. Robbie observed me carefully, then reached for the hot pads and pulled two off of the hooks hanging from the refrigerator wall. I set the plate on the island. He closed the oven's door. After saying thank you and rearranging the hot pads, I moved the plate to the bar, then walked around to sit down. His gaze was passing between me and the plate, mostly at the plate. I winked, "Would you mind grabbing two forks and a knife."
The boy's face lit up in a great big smile.
He'd wolfed down about half of the half of the burrito before coming up for air. When he did, he looked directly into my eyes, and said, "Grandpa, Carl told me that I could talk to you… about my parents."
"Yes, certainly. We can talk about them or anything else that's on your mind. To put your mind at ease, I've heard a portion of your story about what happened, but I haven't had the opportunity to listen to your story, from you."
"It's not a story, Sir."
"Oh… I don't mean it that way… I just want to hear what you have to say, okay?"
"Yes, Sir." The boy replied, then immediately recognized his slip up and corrected his salutation, "Sorry about that, Grandpa."
The boy nodded, giggled, picked up his fork, took a bite and happily inhaled the delectable morsels from Rachel's expertise in the kitchen.
After swallowing a mouthful, Robbie shifted his gaze from the plate to my eyes. "Grandpa, you know that I have two Dads?"
"I do. Are you concerned about what I was going to say or do?"
"Not too much… well, maybe a little."
"Let me tell you that I'm sure your daddies love you very much, and that they surely want to be home more than they want to be away. And I am positive that you want them home where they belong… am I pretty close to being on target?"
"Bulls-eye. When do you think they'll be able to come home?"
"I hope very, very soon."
"Me too." The boy said, then he took his last bite, grabbed our plates, took them to the sink, rinsed them off and put them into the dish washer. "I need to get back to bed. Thank you." Robbie started to take off. He got to the separator wall, before turning on a dime to return. He put his arms around my neck and squeezed firmly. I kissed the top of his head and sent him on his way back to bed.
A soft rap-a-tap-tap-tap on the door startled me. I turned toward the door, but was stopped by a knee in my groin. I opened my eyes to see the top of a blond-headed boy less than half my size occupying the entire right side of the bed. When I tried to move the other way… well, another half-pint size kid was at my back, lying up against me, with his arms around my belly.
I must have really slept hard as I didn't even realize until just then that two sets of continuous giggles were coming from beneath the covers. I said, "Yes," loud enough to be heard.
The door opened. Rachel peered inside, and said, "I'm looking for two knot-heads, have you seen either one, or both of them?"
"Well, I can't say that I saw them, but if you are looking for two bed bugs, then I have one on either side of me… do you have any bug repellant?"
"No, not right now, but bed bugs generally like to eat breakfast. If you see them, tell them their breakfast is getting cold." Rachael winked, then started closing the door, but before it was entirely shut, two boys bounded out of bed, kissed my cheek, then were out of there like a light switch turning off.
I put on a pair of driving pants, a company shirt, used the facilities, and then joined the kiddos and Rachel for breakfast. I noted that Robbie was kinda sort of picking at his food. He looked at me with this "I'm full" expression on his face. I winked at him. "Rachel, uhmm, Robbie and I had a late night talk, and, well, we, hope you don't mind…"
"YOU GUYS! Okay, then, YOU" pointing toward me, "'help' Robbie finish his breakfast – there's no wasted food around here. Coffee's ready. Sit down. I'll get you a plate."
Robbie moved his chair so that we could sit together. When I was sat down, he whispered into my ear, "Thanks, Grandpa."
I nodded my approval for him calling me "Grandpa", and the fact that we were in this together. Carl grinned. I couldn't help but to notice how much happier and contented my grandson was just since we'd returned from Hawaii, before the ordeal with Regina and my injuries and subsequent hospitalization, and since I returned to the family.
Rachel cleared her throat. I looked up. She was smiling, then she pointed at the plate Robbie had pushed beneath my hands. I grinned. Between Robbie and me, we had the plate cleared pretty quickly.
The boys took off to take their showers and to get ready for school, saying they had a difficult Math test first thing, and they wanted to get there early to study.
Rachel sat down with a fresh cup of coffee. "Looks to me like you have another grandson."
"I don't think anything. I know so. Dad, Jeremy says the doctors don't want you driving for a while… but we know you better than they do…"
"Yes, I was going to have you drop me by the house. I have several errands to run, one of which is making Regina's arrangements. She didn't want a funeral, so we'll just have a memorial service and burial. I trust the medical examiner is finished with her?"
"Yes, they released her remains to the funeral home. They've held her until… you were available. Jeremy insisted."
"He knows me well. So do you."
"If you'll take me home, then I'll take it from there. I would appreciate it."
Melissa was in a hurry saying she had a trig test to take. Bradley was wearing a pair of gym shorts, no shirt, no socks, and his hair was sticking out all over the place. I was just about ready to get on his case, but he said, "Dad, I don't have anything important at school; I took my tests yesterday, and, well, Dad, can we spend the day together?"
Rachel offered, in support of my son, "Dad, we arranged this on Monday. Jeremy gave his permission to the school. They know of his absence."
"Okay, that's fine. Go get ready, we've got several things to handle today, and you and I need to talk about something that I'm getting ready to do. I'll need your assistance."
Melissa, standing at the door listening to us talk, walked to Bradley, kissed his cheek, kissed mine, hugged Rachel, and said, "You guys be careful. Bradley, I'll see you later. Love ya."
Without saying a word, Bradley took off to the bedroom area of the house to shower and change. Carlin and Robbie appeared, freshly showered and dressed for another day. Both kids walked over and gave me great big hugs, then we waited for Bradley.
In record time, for Bradley that is, he returned dressed and ready to go. We dropped the boys off at their school. Rachel took us by our house. After giving and receiving hugs, Bradley and I headed to the front door. Inside, I went to the old antique roll-up desk, retrieved Regina's Life Insurance policy papers, unpaid bills, and an envelope with my name on it. I didn't recognize the handwriting, so I put it in the pile of other stuff I would take with me.
We took care of some other things. Bradley picked up the charger for his laptop, having forgot it when he and Jeremy had come to the house yesterday to get his clothes and my health insurance papers.
Bradley tagged along with me to the bedroom Regina and I had shared. On the way there, I'd looked into his room as we walked by, but didn't stop. I went directly to my travel bag sitting on the floor next to the dresser. I looked up – Bradley was watching me. His face fell. Great big disappointment passed through his being. I said, "Bradley, we have a run to make. Just you and me. This is a different run, though. It's going to help people."
"Dad, you promised."
"I keep my promises."
"That's not what I mean…"
"Some kids are in trouble. We have a chance to possibly make a difference… are you in or are you out?"
"Those two kids you hauled with?"
"They are only two of them. There are more."
I walked to my son, put my arm around his shoulder and led us to the bed where we sat down. I turned to face him. I knew this was not going to be easy for him to hear. I took in a deep breath, then slowly let it out saying, "Son, Jordan and Luke were abused. They experienced the very same thing that you… like you, their choices were taken away. Not only were they spiritually abused, but they were subjected to an adult man's sexual deviances."
Bradley flinched. I put my arm around his shoulders, squeezed affectionately. "I'm not done. I don't know how to say what I need to say - other than to just tell you what's known. There are two other boys who were subjected to abuse. The first boy's name is Lawrence. The other is Eric. These boys were subjected to rituals that mutilated their genitals to make them worthy of God's love in a very perverted way. The way Jordan and Luke explained it, well, they were confused, too."
"But why would anyone do that?" Bradley asked, while wringing his hands. I continued, "I don't know all the reasons. There are no reasons. All I know is what I was told. Apparently, the cult does not want its male children to experience sexual pleasures. It's sick. It's demented. But I'm not finished… there's more."
The expression on Bradley's face, anger, changed to 'how can their abuse be any worse?' "What's that?"
I grimaced, took in a deep breath, and said, "Bradley, an African-American boy named Eric, in addition to the other stuff, had a cross burned into the skin on his back."
My son's mouth fell wide open. He coughed, put his hands to his mouth, then got up and raced into the bathroom to expel all contents from his stomach. I got up, walked to his side, knelt down and put my hand on his back to give him support, and whispered, "We've got to help them."
He nodded his head, reached for tissue paper, wiped his mouth and nose, then stood, walked to the sink, and used mouthwash to rinse away the foul tastes. "When?"
"My clothes are all over at Jeremy's… When do we leave?"
"Tonight. After dinner."
"Is Carlin and his boyfriend coming along?"
"Not right now." Noting a tone of concern in his voice, I asked, "Is everything between you, Carl and Robbie okay?"
"We're good, Dad. I didn't think a boy could love another boy. At first I thought they were weird… now I can and do see that they can. We're cool. They've even talked to me about their relationship."
"You're a good person. Thank you. If you have anything you need to talk to me about, then I'm an open door. Things are going to be different. You'll see."
"For starters, I'm not going to drive anymore, for a living, that is. Instead, I'm going to get a job here in town so that I can be home every night."
Bradley gave me that skeptical expression; like he wanted to believe me, but couldn't quite get there as I'd said that I'd get a different job several times in the past, but never did. "Jeremy had told me that his company is interested in me. I'm interested in them, too."
My son nodded, all the while regarding me carefully. I'm sure he was attempting to convince himself that I was telling the truth about the job. This was something he would have to come to terms with in his own time and in his own way.
"I've made some mistakes in my life. The trick is to learn from them, to not make the same ones again and again." Changing the subject, "There's an extra travel bag for you to have. It's in my closet."
"How long are we going to be gone?" The boy asked as he walked to the closet.
"Two to three days. Pack for four."
"Dad, Melissa needs to know what we're going to do. I big time owe her."
"Oh? Does she say so?"
"No, no way. I feel that I owe her… she's been my rock."
I nodded. I understood. "I understand, Bradley. Really I do. At the same time, I doubt she feels the same way. Talk to her about it, sometime."
Bradley laughed. Looking at me, "She'd never admit it." He left the room with bag in hand.
It was my turn to laugh.
I proceeded to load up my bag. Once filled, I laid it on my bed, returned to the closet, pulled up the carpet remnant, then turned my attention to the safe built into the floor. My kids knew nothing about its presence. Regina and I'd had it built with the house.
Aside from our valuable papers, Regina's jewelry, the boys' report cards, Baptismal certificates, it also kept the guns my father had left me before he'd died. He passed right after Bradley suffered his attack. After the incident, my father had nothing more to do with my son. Basically, he blamed Bradley for what happened. Mom wouldn't talk about it. She passed the same year as my father.
Turning my attention back to the safe, I entered the numbers - a combination of Jeremy and Bradley's birth date day and month. It opened easily.
A second safe inside of the big one held what I was looking for. This lock was padlocked.
Inside, I pulled out Bradley's Ruger P95, Jeremy's Bersa Thunder 380, and my Sig P226 in 9mm, all of them clean and cased. I set them on the bed. Next, I pulled out my father's 12 gauge shotgun, remembering I hadn't shot it since I was fourteen years old. My kids had never shot it. I laid the bagged shotgun on the bed, retrieved several rounds of ammo for each weapon from the built in drawer, then looked at the weapons for a couple of minutes all the while thinking that I never wanted to use them on anyone for any reason; however, the terror those boys - Luke, Jordan and the others - went through was fresh in my mind. Katy was not worth spending a lifetime locked up; however, here was one man that would be worth giving up my freedom. I could hurt him. I wouldn't blink an eye. In fact, that same person had one single bullet from my Sig that had his name written all over it.
I locked the safes, then closed the false door. I turned to leave. Bradley was standing in the doorway to the bedroom looking between me and the arsenal. His expression told me that he was surprised. He was afraid as well. I walked to him, put my hand on his shoulder and said, "Son, I taught you that guns are to be used only in self-defense, and I meant what I'd taught you. You know how to handle yourself. They will only be used should an extreme emergency arise. We're not going hunting, but if hunters come to us, then it's a hunt or be hunted situation… we will not be the hunt-ee."
Bradley took in a deep breath and slowly exhaled. "Anybody who tortures little kids deserves to have a meeting with their maker." Bradley said, cold and calloused. I'd never heard that tone of voice come from my son, ever.
"Bradley Wilson, we're on a rescue mission. There is only one man on this planet who has his name engraved on one of the bullets. He's mine. He has more than earned a special place in my heart. If he shows up, which he's too much of a coward to do, then taking him out will be my pleasure. I'll sleep well for the rest of my life – even if I lay my head down on a pillow in prison."
"Reverend Phillips?" Bradley asked, cautiously.
"He's a weasel. Let's get loaded up. We have people to see, things to do, and places to go. For now, we'll put the cases in a suitcase. The shotgun I'll carry to the truck."
"I can't say for now. Besides, there are probably over a million folks already in line. Shall we go?"
Bradley entered his room and stopped at the doorway, waiting for Dale to enter. Dale stood steady. Uncertainty shown on his face urged Bradley to join his father.
After a moment of indecision, Dale asked, just above a whisper, "Son, tell me what walking into your room for the first time yesterday was like…"
"I guess… I guess it wasn't too bad."
"I just need to know."
"I just came in here for a couple of last minute things. I'll be done in a minute or two."
Dale carefully regarded Bradley. He then looked over Bradley's shoulder, surveying the scene. He noted that the room had been redone, that it looked much the same as any other time. It smelled fresh and clean, as well. The man experienced a chill run up and down his spine.
Bradley saw his father's facial skin turn a bit pale so he went to him and locked arms, and said while looking intently into Dale's eyes, "It wasn't too hard. But then again, I wasn't alone; Jeremy was with me."
Dale saw truth in Bradley's expression. He'd never known his son to lie about anything. He took a deep breath. Bradley took the two steps to get into his room, simply because Dale was too large a man for them to both enter at the same time.
Dale, seeing Bradley's confidence, took the plunge. He entered, then quickly looked around, dealing with his fear of what had happened in there. Bradley walked on into the room and went to his dresser, looked down to where his mother had lain deceased. Something had changed from yesterday to today, though. It looked different, almost like everything was somewhat normal, whatever normal means. Dale took in a deep breath, then came on into the room.
Seeing that his son was maintaining okay, he walked to Bradley and let his eyes wander down to the floor where his wife had lain dead from a blow to the head given her by him – under exceptionally extreme circumstances.
"I really am sorry for what I did, Son. Never in a million years would I have thought I would be capable of taking your mother's life."
"Dad, she shot you. I have no doubt that she was capable of killing us all… you, me, Melissa, all of us. She was a good mom until she got wrapped up in that cult. You yourself told me they were wrong and way out there with their beliefs. As you said a little while ago, the trip we're going to take will hopefully change some of that, that we can make a difference."
"Yeah, you're right. Son, let me ask you a question… this is very serious."
"Do you think you could call this your room again? Do you think you could sleep…?"
"Probably. Dad, Jeremy told me something yesterday that cut through my fear. He said that we have many, many good memories in this house, that we can't just stop going forward, that we can't make the bad things not happen… but we could look forward by remembering what we once had. When he said that, I was able to be in my room again. It's okay now."
"Okay. I'll be okay; just give me some time. Besides, I don't know where else we would live. This place is paid off… but if we have problems being here, then we'll just move somewhere else."
"That sounds like a plan."
"Tell me if you have problems with living in this house, will you promise me that?"
"I'll let you know. I have a question for you…"
Dale looked at his son and nodded.
"Promise me that you'll let me know if you're having problems being here."
"I can do that. And I will. As a friend said long ago – time takes time."
Dale excused himself to take care of his daily morning ritual while Bradley grabbed the truck keys off the key-ring hanging next to the backdoor in the kitchen, then got busy carrying their stuff to the truck parked in the driveway. After hauling his butt up there, he got into the driver's seat, made sure the powerful air brakes were set, then fired it up, sat in the seat and hoped he would drive a big truck someday. He'd watched his dad long enough that he thought he could do it without any real big problem. Satisfied the truck was running just fine, he jumped down and got their travel bags and stowed them in the sleeper section.
Dale came out of the house carrying the weapons, then Bradley went in to relieve himself. Sometimes the apparatus that controls water into the reservoir didn't catch correctly, so he waited until it filled and shut off, then made sure all of the doors and windows were locked.
Their first stop was Bradley's school. There, he went inside to Melissa's classroom. She came out. He kind of sort of explained that he'd be gone with his Dad for a few days. She didn't put up a fuss; instead they kissed tenderly, meaningfully, and shared more than one "I love you." Melissa saw a huge difference in him, just from earlier that morning. They had tried to make love as they usually did before they got ready for school, but it hadn't worked out. Bradley had gotten so frustrated with his impotence that he'd angrily left their bed and walked away while blurting out that he wasn't a man, that men don't have that happen to them, and that was final!
She was so happy to see his transformation that she no longer felt that maybe she had done something wrong.
My heart relaxed quite a bit at seeing Bradley walk across the school's courtyard with a genuine smile on his face, and with a much lighter gait. The boy effortlessly climbed up into the rig, turned to me and said, "Melissa's all good. Onward ho…" He then held his arm up and pointed at the front of the truck. It was Bradley's trademark indication that he was ready to go off on an adventure.
Knowing the truck was almost due for an oil change and servicing, I headed into town to a station that had locally serviced my trucks for years. I turned right on Oklahoma Avenue from 22nd Street and headed east, then took a left onto 1st Avenue then a right on Colorado, and pulled up to an old building on the left.
Bill Grayson is the owner of the service facility. He was a good friend from high school. We'd played football together and had kept up over the years. His wife was diagnosed with a virulent form of pancreatic cancer. She died two months after diagnosed. Bradley went to school with Tate, Bill's late in life only son. So when we walked in, there were no strangers in the room.
Bill made his greetings with Bradley, making sure to lend his condolences for the loss of his mother. "It's been tough. Thanks." Bradley admitted truthfully, sincerely, grateful for the acknowledgement.
"Need a service job, Dale?"
"Yes, Sir, the works. Bill, I know this is a lot to ask for… do you have an old beater upper to run around town in. We have some business to attend to."
"Sure. You can use my car. The keys are in the ignition. It's parked around the side of the building. I'll have you ready to go in a couple of hours."
"Think nothing of it."
After asking Bill to put new rubber all around, we took off the next order of business: Regina's arrangements at Nicholas Funeral Home on Oklahoma Avenue, not too far from the station.
Bradley said, "Dad, we don't have to do anything. I guess the medical examiner brought her here to the funeral home."
"Son, Jeremy told them to bring her here… this is where we have prepaid burial plans. As far as not making arrangements, it's just fine. You can wait here if you'd rather."
His answer was to put his arm in mine. We walked inside. A low-pitch doorbell ring announced our arrival. In the office immediately to the left of the entry doors, a lady was talking on the telephone. She motioned for us to be seated and mouthed, "I'll be right with you."
No more than a minute or two later, she hung up, then turned to us, "How can I help you?"
"We're here to make my wife's arrangements. Her name is Regina Wilson. My name's Dale, her husband, and this is our son Bradley. She died October 26th."
She turned to her computer, pushed some buttons, and then her brows furrowed. She said, "I'm going to page Mr. Mills. Just a moment, please." "Mr. Mills would you please come to the front office. Thank you."
Chet Mills is the proprietor, and also a former classmate. We'd gone to junior high school together. He wasn't so much a friend, rather we were more or less just acquaintances. Nice enough guy. Our paths simply hadn't crossed over the years.
The phone buzzed. The lady answered, "Mr. Mills, Dale and Bradley Wilson are here to make arrangements for Regina Wilson." After a brief pause, "I'll tell them."
"Mr. Mills will be here shortly. Can I get you a cup of coffee, a Coke maybe?"
"Yes, please, coffee with cream." I said, uneasily, sensing something was amiss. Bradley said a Coke would be just fine. He looked into my eyes with a concerned expression. I put my arm around his shoulder, knowing that making his mother's arrangements would be difficult.
The receptionist got up from the chair, walked around the desk and then headed down the hallway. Less than five minutes later, she returned carrying a large steaming hot cup of coffee and a can of Coke.
I picked up the cup and sniffed the steam emanating from the hot liquid. The aroma was very pleasant. The first sip was heavenly. It was a rich Bolivian fine brand. The little sacks the grounds are held in probably cost a small mint. I heard footsteps precede entrance of a man who I barely recognized as being the kid I'd grown up with. He seemed to recognize me, though. I stood, firmly shook his hand, and said, "Chet, I'm Dale Wilson in case you do not recognize me. We went to junior high school way back when. And this is my youngest son Bradley."
He looked at Bradley, but did not extend his hand as did Bradley. What a fuckwit. Truth be told Chet had always been a twit.
"Please, come into my office. Jeannie, please hold all calls."
"Surely. Don't forget your coffee, Mister Wilson." Jeannie said, warmly. Bradley reached down to get it and then handed it over.
We sat down in a large overstuffed couch that was quite comfortable, while Chet went around his desk, and sat down in his captain's chair after closing the door. "Mr. Wilson, Bradley, we have a bit of a problem."
I took in a deep breath. Then I asked, "What might that be?"
"I'm not quite sure how to tell you this, so I will just cut to the chase. My wife and I attended an out of town funeral director's convention all last week and the week before. Our sons Wesley and Robert stepped in to take care of business while we were away. On Monday of last week, your wife's remains were released to Cheryl Phillips-Rader of Burroughs West Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas."
"You did what?" Bradley asked, incredulously, angrily.
I shook my head in utter amazement at their total and complete stupidity. Chet pulled a folder from his desk drawer, rearranged some paperwork, then removed one sheet and looked at it very carefully before handing it to me. He said, "On March 16, 2012, your wife altered the pre-arrangement plan so that the church had full care and custody of her remains. Twice I questioned the validity of the document; however she signed it in front of Jeannie, a Notary Public. Everything appeared to be in order. When the benefactor made claim to the body, they showed a valid copy of the modified agreement. The transfer was legal and binding. I'm sorry."
Bradley stood, walked to the door and opened it, stepped into the threshold, and stated my same exact feelings, "That's just fucking stupid." And then he walked out. The din of the doorbell told me that he had exited the funeral home. I wanted to go, too, but felt compelled to say, "I apologize for the choice of words my son used, but my sentiments are exactly the same."
With that said, I added, "My son will be coming back. Although we are quite upset, his methods of conducting business are not acceptable."
Without waiting for any kind of acknowledgement, I headed outside, walked up to my son and said, parentally, "That, Son, is no way to conduct business. Go in there and apologize. Do it right now; don't ask questions. There's no excuse for acting like a total asswipe."
Without saying a word, without looking into my eyes, he went inside. I got into the car and waited for his return. Ten minutes later, he returned, got into the vehicle, looked into my eyes and said, "I'm sorry, Dad."
"This isn't his fault. Your mother made her decision. It was carried out. Just so you know, I had no idea that she wanted things to be done this way."
The next stop was the bank. After the funeral home thing, I was worried more than a little bit. We had two bank accounts, and had them for years and years. Most of our life savings were housed in them. At the same time, I wasn't worried at all about my retirement account. It was on a Transfer Upon Death arrangement that should I die then the distribution transaction would be to her, and only her.
We walked inside. An attractive young lady with a name tag saying 'Maria' on her left breast pocket warmly greeted us. She asked what type of business we needed to conduct. I told her that I needed to speak with a bank officer to get some business taken care of, thank you very much. She showed me to a coffee pot. I poured a cup. It smelled like the rot-gut I was used to. Bradley took a bottle of water. We sat down in the lobby and waited for about five minutes.
Judy White, a middle aged woman approached and took us back to her office. "How can I help you gentlemen?"
"I need to change banking arrangements due to the recent death of my spouse, Regina Wilson."
"I'm sorry for your loss, Sir. We can take care of any changes you need to make. Let me pull up your accounts. The system is very, very slow this morning. While we're waiting may I see your picture ids?"
She wrote down some numbers that only she could see while I pulled out my CDL to show her. Bradley held my cup of coffee.
She used a pen object to scan my license, then handed it back, saying, "You have four accounts with us: a Super Saver, a Premier Saver, a truck loan, and a 401k retirement account. By the way, your truck loan payment is eleven days past due. Would you like for me to transfer funds to bring it current?"
"Yes, please. I've been in the hospital." I said. She entered several keystrokes. The printer started up. She pulled off the paper and handed it to me.
The paper showed the truck payment transaction. Then I experienced massive shock at seeing the ending checking account balance of $217.28.
"Is everything okay, Mister Wilson?"
"No, not really. Uhm, I'll need a print out of all transactions for say the past thirty days? She did all of the banking. This account appears irregular."
I knew she'd transferred $10,000.00 to the Checking Account for the trip to Hawaii… why the balance was so low - I had not a clue.
"Dad, are you okay?" Bradley asked, concernedly, resting his hand on my arm.
"I'll be okay." I replied, turning to him so that he could really see just how 'yes' I really was.
We'd been so careful to save for our retirement and Bradley's education. We'd done well. Even with the market downturn, which had since returned to pre-crash days, we would have lived comfortably, provided we watched our expenditures.
She handed me the print outs to all of our accounts.
My retirement account was intact, just as I'd expected.
Our Super Saver account had $64,127.14 in it. However, the saver account had had two $100,000.00 withdrawals made on October 27th, the day after Regina had died.
"There you are. What would you like to do?"
"Were any changes made to beneficiaries, signature cards, or anything else related to the accounts?"
"No, I do not see any changes. Would you happen to have a death certificate? If not, I can pull the information up from Vital Statistics."
"No, I do not have one."
"That's no problem. Just give me a moment."
A few minutes passed before she looked up and said, "Okay, all done. Who would you like to name as a beneficiary and or signer?"
Something did not seem right. I had her clarify the withdrawals were made on October 27th, the day after her death.
I said, my anger rising by the second, "Ma'am, those withdrawals were made under fraudulent pretenses. My wife passed on October 26th, 2012!"
"Oh my… let me review the individual transactions. Just give me a moment, please."
So we sat there. The longer we sat, the more furious I was getting.
Finally she said, "Sir, those transactions were made online via our website. The funds were wired to Burroughs West Baptist Church. Each inbound and outbound transaction into and out of our facility is fully authenticated by strict security protocols."
"I did not make those transactions. My wife was deceased. They were not authorized."
"I understand. The only thing I can do at this point is to have our fraud department investigate. I am going to print out a form for you to complete and mail in."
"No, that is not acceptable. Print out the form. I will complete it here and now. You will then get this handled within twenty-four hours."
She printed the form, then had my signature notarized by a bank employee other than herself. She mentioned something about separation of duties… I don't know, and at that point didn't really care. This was big. It was really big. The transactions were fraudulent – that was all there was to it, period.
Once that transaction was completed, I had her create one basic account and zero out the old accounts. The old IRA was closed and immediately transferred to another tax-exempt account. I had two debit cards issued. She was able to give me a temporary card, and it was effective right then and there.
I had Jeremy named as primary beneficiary. Bradley was a contingent beneficiary. I had it set up so that Bradley would become a full signer once he turned eighteen years old.
When we returned to the car, Bradley asked, "What now, Dad?"
"It's only money." I said, starting the engine, then pulled out of the parking lot and took off for Jeremy's place of employment to talk to them about getting hired on.
Peter Granger, owner of Granger Industries, was available to talk with me on such short notice. The receptionist had me complete an application for employment, assuring me that the paperwork was standard operating procedure. I was happy to report a clean CDL. The hardest part was checking the box indicating marital status – widower.
Within fifteen minutes, she was leading us into his expansive office. She'd insisted on Bradley joining us.
Jeremy had primed Mr. Granger very well. He seemed to be a very personable man. I liked him immediately. I felt the same vibrations from him about me. He carefully looked over the application, sat back in his chair and said, "Mr. Wilson, I'd like to bring you into the company. Of course, we run background checks on all of our employees, so your employment will be contingent upon it passing. Is there anything we need to know about that is not addressed on this form?"
"No, Sir. I run clean… always have."
"Okay, great. As Jeremy may have told you, we have a plant manager spot open. I'd like to offer to you this position. The salary is $75,600.00 per year, plus a company car, and paid life, health, dental and vision insurance coverage once you have been here one year, a 401 to which the company contributes fifty percent of your contributions once you have completed two years of employment. You will be eligible for two weeks paid vacation beginning January 1, 2013. In addition, our company offers partial and full ride scholarships for eligible dependent children." He turned to Bradley, "The requirements for the scholarship include a 3.75 minimum GPA, ninety-five percent attendance, and you must be fully dependent upon your parents for support. When do you graduate?"
"May 2015, Sir."
The man deeply frowned, then said, "Unfortunately, our employees must be employed for five years in order to be eligible for dependent scholarships. I'm sorry."
I quickly did the math for salary. I knew that I was making right around one-hundred-forty-thousand out on the road, and that was taking expenses into account. I said, "Sir, thank you, but I can't take a fifty percent salary reduction. It seems to me that a plant manager would be compensated a lot more than what you are offering. Would you be willing to negotiate? The reason I ask is because being at home every night has its benefits, too, as you would expect."
"Okay, that's a fair question. What do you feel to be a salary you could live with, taking into account your being home more?"
"More? Sir, I want to be home every night. None to very little travel."
"The plant manager position… let me put it this way… a little over a year ago we opened a distribution center in Oklahoma City. It has not done well; in fact it has been operating in the red all of that time. The position I have offered to you is going to require three to five days a week, maybe more, on-site, to get it turned around. I spent a whole bunch of money getting the location marketed for maximum efficiency to us and our suppliers. I'll tell you what – I will share one percent of company profits with you, provided the numbers come up at least fifteen percent profitable."
"I'm sorry, Sir. I promised my children that I'd be home. I'm a man to keep his promises. Sometimes all we have, Sir, is our good word."
"I understand completely. Hold one second, we may be able to work something out. One of our guys, a man who will report to you, has been wanting to take on a challenge. He is, I believe, capable of taking on a very large responsibility." He got on the phone and asked, "Jenny, would you please have Roger report to my office. Thank you."
I liked that – he was professional and courteous to his people.
A few minutes later, a bright red-haired man entered the office, shook hands with Peter, me, then Bradley.
Peter explained that he had a possible position for Roger if he was willing to take it. Peter smiled as he made his position known. The man, I found out, was commuting between Oklahoma City and Woodward every week – he had an apartment in Woodward, but his home with his wife and young daughter was in Oklahoma City.
This whole business transaction was sounding more and more interesting as time went along. In Woodward, if I was to accept the position, I'd be home ninety percent of the time, going to Oklahoma City one day per week until things turned around. The 'time-home' arrangements would be acceptable.
Roger was dismissed. Peter told him that he'd have things worked out by the close of business that day.
When Roger was gone and the door had closed, Peter looked at me and said, "Dale, I can do one-hundred-seventeen, ninety percent at home, immediate insurance coverage… and I will waive the time-in-employment stipulation for the scholarship benefit we pride ourselves on making available to our employees. This is a privately held company – the buck stops here."
I looked at Bradley. He looked at me, then leant over and whispered into my ear, "Dad, it sounds good to me, but it's not my decision."
I turned to Peter, "Sir, can we have a few minutes. I'd like to talk to my son about this… he doesn't quite understand the full implications of your offer."
"That's just fine. We pride ourselves on a family-run business. We treat employees' family as our own."
We left Peter's office, found a restroom, walked to the urinals, whipped out the flesh and peed. I said, "What it boils down to is I will be home ninety percent of the time. They need some help getting their other plant operating within a profit status. Provided I stay here, they will pay your college expenses – provided your grades are up to snuff. And, I can well afford a pay cut – simply because being home nearly every night means a million dollars to me. I'm going to take the job. It's a good deal. Plus, Jeremy has been here quite a few years… have you ever heard him bitch and complain about his job?"
"No. He likes it here. And, Dad, they have taken Robbie under their wing, as well… and he's not even Jeremy's kid."
Oh wow… that I didn't know. I liked that… especially with the plans Adam, John and I were working on.
"Bradley, something I haven't told you… is that Jordan and Luke are likely going to come live with us. They really have nowhere else to go. I probably should have talked to you about this before now, but, well, due to several things out of our control-"
Bradley interrupted, "Dad, I'm fine. I've been thinking about things… you know, about helping people. I think this is important to us. This will help them get a good start in their lives. What happened to them? Why aren't they with their parents?"
I regarded my son very carefully. While I had told him what had happened to them, I hadn't told him why they were put into harms' way in the first place.
Finished with business, we walked to the sink to wash our hands. "Son, I'm going to give you the Reader's Digest version right now… we'll talk about it more later. Basically, Jordan's father ran off when he was a baby, perhaps before he was born; I don't know for sure. Jordan tells me, and Luke collaborates what he says, that his mother is a real piece of work – runs him down, tells him he's a worthless piece of shit, that he's a burden on her, that he's in the way, etc., etc., etc. So they left, took off; that's where we met… on the highway. They were hitchhiking."
Bradley nodded his understanding. I continued, "Luke's mom ran off leaving him and his father to fend for themselves. Apparently his parents are fairly well affluent. In any event, Luke's father met up with Jordan's mother. They moved in together. Jordan and Luke were close… they hit it right off, and became close friends. I'm a little fuzzy about what happened next, but do know that Luke's father ran off with someone else - and didn't take Luke with him. Luke finds this quite odd. He and his father were very close; he had no inkling that his dad would abandon him."
"That's fucked up."
"That it is. Try to use the English language as it was meant to be used. You're absolutely correct, but, you know… just don't let it slip in front of ladies."
"I'll be more careful. I don't say those things with Melissa around. I did once. It hurt her feelings."
I nodded. "Luke and Jordan have a desire to go to the west coast or to Las Vegas, they aren't totally on the same page, so, because I was coming back here to go on our trip, I dropped them in Dallas-Fort Worth with Katy. You know Katy." Bradley nodded. Continuing, "She was headed out that way and agreed to take the boys with her. Instead, what exactly happened - is unknown to me. In any event, she took them home with her until she got back on the road with a different load. But, that didn't happen at all. Instead, there was a party or something, probably a ritualistic thing… the boys because they trusted her and had nowhere else to go, fell into the swamp through no fault of their own."
Bradley swallowed, hard. "You mean they were trafficked? Like they were sold?"
"No, not quite. They were being introduced into the indoctrination process. But, yes, they, for all practical intents and purposes, were being brought in to be made available to the right buyer. I told you what happened to them."
A man walked into the restroom. It was time to leave since we were no longer alone. When we made our exit, I took hold of Bradley's shoulder so that he would turn to me to see that I really meant business, "I'm taking the job. If it doesn't work out, then I'll just do something different. The fact remains: I'm going to be home to see you grow up."
Bradley drew me into a hug. We held it for a moment or two before heading back to Peter's office.
We found him sitting at his desk. He looked up as we entered, smiled warmly, and gestured toward the chairs in front of his desk.
"Have you thought over the offer, Mr. Wilson?"
"I have. I must first disclose to you that Bradley and I are leaving this afternoon to rescue a couple of boys who have had a very tough experience. I feel partly responsible for their problems. Bradley knows that I will likely adopt them as my sons."
"That's very commendable of you. If there is anything I can do, then say so. The same benefits afforded to Bradley will be extended to them."
"Thank you, Sir. I am prepared to accept your offer. It is quite generous."
"Very well. Thank you. I'm glad to have you onboard."
"Would starting on Monday be okay with you?"
"That will be fine. Thank you, Sir."
Bradley spoke up, "Sir, thank you for hiring my Dad. Would you have a stocker, gopher, or cleanup job so that I could come to work for you, too? I'm a hard worker. And, I'm dependable."
"Well, we have open two order filler positions; however they would report to your father. We can't have that, for obvious reasons. There are also two positions that are becoming available; however they are in our Oklahoma City plant. I have a dispatcher position… I will check on the requirements, but I think the candidate has to be eighteen years old in order to qualify - state rules. I'll tell you what – fill out an application. Be sure to sign an authorization for your school transcripts. I'll check around to see if we have something else. We should have something available, I would think."
The expression on Peter's face told me that Bradley would be in the company, if at all possible. Inwardly, I smiled. My son deserves a break. He's a good kid, and I say that not only because he's my son. I'd hire him.
When Bradley left to go see the receptionist, Peter asked, "Dale, can I speak with you for a moment, in private?"
I sat back down. He closed the door.
"Dale, I'm putting you on the payroll effective today. This means that all company benefits are in full force and effect, effective immediately. We self-insure, so we don't have to worry about insurance companies, until our losses reach a certain threshold."
"Thank you very much, Sir. I appreciate everything you have done for us. It means a lot to me, and to my son, as well."
"Like I said, Dale, we take care of our people. Is there anything we can do to assist with the adoption?"
I took in a deep breath. When he sat down and leaned forward on his desk to look directly into my eyes, I felt compelled to say, "Sir, I'm not positive the boys will be coming home with me. They've been staying with a wonderful family the past few weeks. To be perfectly honest, Peter, I picked them up when they were hitchhiking along the I-10 just outside of Tallahassee. They looked like they were in trouble. Not legal trouble. They just looked so alone. And it was hotter than heck out on the freeway. Something just told me they wouldn't survive for very long. And, I was just about right."
"Oh, tell me about it. Whatever you say here stays in this office, unless you specifically request otherwise."
I looked into his eyes long and hard. Nobody knew about the plan that was about to go down. I wasn't even sure Luke and Jordan would come with me. Sure, we'd hit it off very fast. I believe we shared a bond, especially after they went to live with John… not to forget that I was the first person they called before escaping Katy's hell-hole devil's lair.
"Sir, if I may be frank…"
"Go right ahead. I appreciate total candor. You are assured of mine."
"When I got to Dallas, I gave the two boys over to the care of a fellow trucker, a female who I've known for a great many years. But… she changed. I didn't know she'd changed. She put those boys into grave danger. I never would have placed them into her care and custody had I known what I now know. Tell me, Sir, do you go to church?"
"Why, yes I do. My family and I are heavily involved in the youth ministry at our local Methodist church. We've been members there for over thirty-one years."
"Okay, here's the deal. The boys, they were taken to Katy's home. I thought she was on the road toward Las Vegas. The boys had a desire to go there and find their way into this world. I didn't think their idea was all that great, but I had to get home, and I thought I knew that Katy would do everything in her power to take care of them until I got back."
"Go ahead. I'm listening."
I nodded. Continuing, "From everything I've gathered, Katy's home is nothing more than a cult cell. The children… they were… made part and parcel of the cult. They were… they were emotionally and spiritually cut down, physically restrained, sexually abused, mentally terrified, and made to believe they were less than nothing more than to satisfy and please the cult leader."
"Burroughs West Baptist Church?"
I looked into his eyes. I knew mine were on fire. "That's correct. Do you know of them?"
"Yes, I do. We know them. Tell me the truth: are your boys, right now, in imminent danger as we speak?"
"No. They happened upon a family that took them in. The man, a physician, has four boys of his own. He's a loving and caring man. I've spoken to him several times on the telephone. The kids feel safe there…"
I fidgeted in my chair, debating on whether or not to tell him the bottom line truth. I'd just met him. But there was something about him that I trusted implicitly.
"And…" Peter said, drawing me away from my thoughts.
"Sir, I believe there are other children in grave circumstances. If this gets out, I have no doubt the children will be harmed, possibly even killed. Would you be willing to swear on a stack of 60 Bibles that what I share with you will remain here?"
"Dale, we've extracted four children from that cult. Trust me. Let me ask you this question: do you have a safe place to take them to?"
"We do. But, it is not here in Woodward. We have made other plans for their location. Right now, too many things are in flux. You may have noted that my wife is deceased. I have every reason to believe that she was heavily involved in the cult."
Peter's expression turned grave. "I'm sorry."
I nodded. I felt compelled to tell him the story. "My wife shot me multiple times. Thankfully the bullets hit no major organs or blood vessels. The doctor said I was very lucky. It was a horrible experience. I'm afraid that I had to take her life so that my son, Bradley, and his girlfriend and my future daughter-in-law would survive. She and I were married for decades. I had absolutely no clue that she would be capable of doing such a thing. She's the mother of my children."
"I appreciate your candor, Dale. This must be very difficult for you."
"Yes, it is. But… making sure those kids are safe is my first priority."
"Dale, resources, including myself, are available. We can mobilize fairly quickly, and will do so if you will permit. Everything is confidential."
I looked deeply into Peter's eyes, searching for any trace of untruth, hesitation, or any reason to distrust him. I found no such thing. "Sir, the family I have told you about is protecting a boy from a very affluent and influential man and woman. Lawrence Ashwood, the President's son."
Peter's eyes shot wide open. The color drained from his face. The expression that passed across his face, and stuck, was - way over the top - shock. Before Peter could say anything… I wasn't done, "Sir, how do you feel about homosexuality?"
Peter somewhat recovered. "I have a son and a daughter who identify as gay. I love them. We are behind them all of the way. They live in Denver with their mates. Their mates are extensions of my family. We will be going up there for Thanksgiving. I hope this answers your question."
"It does. Lawrence is gay."
"There is a God."
"I'm not finished, Sir…" I said. The man paled again. The look of disbelief on his face was incredible. A shiver ran up and down my spine.
I did realize something: this man is genuine. He had nothing to do with any people who were responsible for doing those things to the kids. No actor is 'that' good.
"My grandson, Carl; his boyfriend's parents were taken from him. Do you remember Ashwood's edict about gay parents and stuff, before it was ruled unconstitutional?"
"Yes, yes, I recall that very well. My son and his partner were in the process of adopting two kids, brothers. It didn't happen. Those kids disappeared off the radar screen. Sad. Sad. Sad."
"Hopefully, things will change. But, it's not going to happen overnight."
Peter got up and walked to a table with a water carafe on it. He drew a glass of water and drank it and another one down very quickly. He offered me a glass. I got up and took him up on it. His color was returning. He asked, "What can I do to help? Anything is at your disposal. Have the authorities been brought in?"
"No. Not in Breckenridge. Another boy reported that he was a favorite amongst the local law enforcement folks, if you get what I mean. He was a toy to them. The boy is black, too. Not only that, but the child had a cross burned into the skin across his shoulders."
Peter groaned, closed his eyes, and took in a deep shuddering breath. Slowly exhaling, he offered very quietly, "Mr. Wilson, our church took in two children, both boys, who, after about a year, finally opened up and told us what had happened to them. One boy will be eliminating his waste into a bag on his stomach for the rest of his life. The other boy will never experience the joys of sexual interaction with another human being. The news of these new boys is just sickening. Tell me, the rescued boys… are they doing okay?"
"Surprisingly enough, they are doing well under the circumstances. John has mentioned that he'd like to adopt Lawrence and Eric."
"And you are adopting Luke and Jordan, if they are agreeable?"
"Correct. If they'll have me…"
I trusted this guy. I didn't hold back. I told him everything, including the plan.
Our conversation then turned to logistics.
Peter contemplated for a moment; he was thinking. Finally, he disclosed, "Dale, we've been having communication difficulties with our drivers on the East Coast. I don't know what to make of this. I understand your need for a safe place… could you give a general location as to where it might be? I'll understand if you do not feel comfortable. I'm simply asking to see how we can be most helpful. Your plan by the way, sounds very well thought out and solid.
"Wichita? Why there? I don't know all of the ins and outs, but one of the largest aircraft manufacturing plants is there. Then you have the McConnell air boys. Quite frankly, Dale, I would not put anything past that, excuse my expression… fucking idiot in the White House."
"Fucking idiot is an outstanding label to put on the twit, a dangerous twit at that, Sir."
Peter turned to me and glared into my eyes, "My name is Peter. In this office, you will use my given name. Do we understand one another? Yes, we do."
"I don't want to be the killer of your plans, but I think Wichita is a bad choice, especially in a residential part of the city. The area you speak of is quite affluent - politicians, lawyers, the like - none of whom I trust."
"That makes two of us. What do you have in mind as an alternative?"
"Dale, every year we shut down our plants for two weeks to have a holiday - in a very deep remote area of the Ozark hills. Nobody is charged vacation time. It's a family affair. And the trip is available to all employees and their families no matter how long they've worked for us. In fact, when employees plan their vacations during the summer, aside from our annual shut down, they often go to the facility. During the winters, we rent out the place to other organizations. This year, however, with money being tight, the place sits vacant. Other than staff, nobody is there. I'm offering full use. It is fully stocked. While it isn't fancy as you may think, it is comfortable and homey."
After thinking about it for a moment, I asked, "I like your idea better than the one we came up with. I would assume that two motorhomes and my fully loaded rig would be no issue?"
"You've been driving for how many years?"
"Going on thirty-seven."
Peter grinned, and said, "Good. You'll need the experience. The camp is located deep in a very isolated spot nestled in the middle of the Ozark Mountains."
Nodding, I continued, "I will speak to the people I need to talk with… I can't commit them. And, I need to speak with my family, of course."
"Of course. If you agree, I need a few hours to get the facility fully functional… how many can we expect, should you decide to go?"
"Before we get too far, knowing I cannot speak for everyone, I need to talk with my family, Adam and John."
"Understood." Peter got up from his seat, walked to the door, then turned and said, "I'm going to step out for a few moments. Feel free to use my office as you see fit. I'll have our cyber security folks build a user profile for you. You'll have full access to anyone on this globe. If you need financial resources, say so. Also, Dale, know that you and your partners will not have to act all alone. We can and will mobilize whatever resources you need."
With that said, he walked out of his office and closed the door behind him, leaving me standing there in awe. My moment of silence was broken when the door opened. Bradley entered, looked all around the office expecting to see Peter, then he came to me. "Dad, I need your social security number to put on this form…"
I gave him the number. When he turned to leave, I said, "When you get all of the paperwork completed, please come back. If I'm on the phone, don't wait… just come on in. I'll be waiting."
Once Bradley was out the door, I closed it, walked over to Peter's desk, sat down, and contemplated for about thirty seconds before picking up the phone.
To be continued