Creative joy, daddy’s little girls. Carolyn and I

Creative joy, daddy’s little girls. Carolyn and I

Creative Writing: The SearchI used to work for the F.B.I.

, in the Portland office. It was mychildhood dream to be the one who gets the bad guy.My fiftieth birthday was in just three months. I had a wife and threechildren, still do, and the same job I’d had since my graduation from Quantico.

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We were living just outside Portland. My oldest son, John jr., was in his thirdyear at Washington. The twins were high school seniors at this time and mypride and joy, daddy’s little girls. Carolyn and I had celebrated our twenty-fifth anniversary, that’s the silver one I think, the previous Thursday night.That warm July morning, I dressed for work as I had every other. Blacksocks and slacks, a pin striped white dress shirt, and a black jacket.

Islipped on my loafers but was lost in the search for my tie. Coffee stained andstill unwashed, I found it laying on the laundry room floor. I swore to myselfto let Carolyn know about that. I walked into John’s empty room, knowing heowned some ties. It was just as he had left it, I guess, because I’d neverreally gone in his room. I picked the red one he wore in his graduationpictures and slipped it over my head.

I stepped into the bathroom, combed backmy whitening hair, and left for the office.The early morning sun shone in through the broken blinds that I noticedhadn’t been replaced as I asked. I looked over the pile of paperwork awaitingme. Why the hell do I gotta do all these damn reports?”Actually, you don’t, not today.” I turned to see a man much like myself,but older and with his piece on. He was a little taller, but with the samesagging features and large belly of my body. I’ve come here to give yousomething new.

With that, I was handed a thick manila folder. It felt like itcontained a video cassette. All you need is in there, including my card. Thisis top priority, Agent Caulsworth. You will report to me on the hour with yourprogress.

The paperwork here will wait. The man turned and left. Outside, Iheard a jet-copter quietly lift off. Funny I hadn’t heard it land.

I poured out the contents of the folder, the federal statement, a casehistory, vid cassette, and a dossier. The card that fell to the floor read’Federal Marshall Wilson R. Franklin’. He was from the Boise office.”Must be real important for him to come all the way out here.

” SteveMenschke was my oldest friend at the office, and a fine agent. I’d known himsince our days at Quantico. An hour’s flight out here, even in that thing. Hewent on while I began to read the dossier.At quarter till nine, I called a full meeting, all department heads.

Weseem to have ourselves a little situation here. I know you are all familiarwith that case in the papers, the Dean Brown thing. This S.O.B. killed not onlythe Portland mayor, but two of his security, in case you are unfamiliar with allthis. He used to work for the mayor’s office.

The court sentenced him just twodays ago, life without parole. I guess he didn’t like the decision, because Mr.Brown escaped last night in transfer to the Oregon State Penitentiary. Hiswhereabouts are presently unknown and I have been instructed to find him. As ofnow, the entire department will concentrate on this situation, all otherssuspended. This is the video, courtroom and escape. I shut off the lights andpressed play.

A small thin man, caucasian and under 5’10”, entered the courtroom. Hewore a wrinkled suit, dark blue with a white kerchief. His hair was slickedback, still wet and he was unshaven.

He wore no expression, as if he were dead.The judge spoke slowly, pausing for breath as she read the sentence. After theannouncement, the defendant simply rose and extended his hands so he could bedetained. Still the face of the small figure on the screen did not change. Hewas hand-cuffed and led away. The scene abruptly shifted to the penitentiarygrounds.

A line of orange clad men, heads low, lurched forward into the penn.Another group of like dressed men filed out, toward a waiting bus. In a flash,a man jumped from one line to the other and boarded the bus.

Then the screenwent blank.I played the end back in slow-motion, pointing him out. Steve flicked thelights on.

He escaped unnoticed. As you could tell, he was not chained at theankles, allowing this move. One guard monitoring the cameras, he just wasn’twatching. The bus’ destination was Portland. It arrived on time, the prisonersreleased. This tape wasn’t found until after he was gone so the state ishelpless.

That puts the ball in our court. As always, we get the clean up job.Menschke, you will head one of three groups, as will Hendricks. I have thethird, here. Be ready to move in an hour.As they assembled, I returned to my office and read the dossier again.

Dean Brown had lived through hell. He had a psychiatric history full ofproblems. His parents abused him sexually, but he didn’t admit it till he hadgrown and left. He overcame that, fixed his life. He had the standard wife andtwo kids, an accounting job, the whole schmeer. One day, they cross the streetand a pickup streaks from a standstill at the light. Smashed right into them.

Killed everyone but him and the son and sped away. Brown was submitted afterthe hospital, the boy went to the grandparents. He escaped the institution andcommitted the murders. Waited for trial five months, it took a week to convicthim. Life was upside down in less than a year.

Reading this, I felt for the guy. Aside from the killings, he was clean.Never even a traffic violation, then this. It didn’t make sense, and I got anuneasy feeling in my gut.”Hey, John, I’m ready to move.

I got two choppers lined up but nodestination. Where to, boss?””Steve, I don’t know about this guy, there’s something not right here. Idon’t know what he’s doing. I want you to read this.” He took the papers,kicked back to read and I left the room.”Hendricks, is your party ready? You’re heading for Washington, Menschkewill go south.

There’s no way this guy is heading east. We’ve got him, itsjust a matter of time. I’m giving you full jurisdiction, take what you need.Just make sure the border is tighter than your asshole this time.

I stillhaven’t forgotten the last time I put you in command. I’m trusting you withthis, don’t make me kill you.””Yeah, I got it Caulsworth. Just you back off too!”I returned to my office, Steve still reading. “What do you think?””Both of you are nuts.

Hendricks? Come on, you know he won’t find the guy.Especially not this one. Brown is not dumb. He could do anything.

He mightbe in a Portland hotel or on a fishing boat by now, there’s no way to know.He’s too smart to get back into his life, he’s a runner.””Get on the horn to Thompson in California, he’ll give full assistance.

Cut offs at the border and in the bay area. Go with whatever you feel, you knowyou’ve got full j.d., just find this guy for me.

I’ve got ops here and I’ll letyou know about anything that arises. I’ll also crunch some figures, give youany new leads. Now get going, I’m on an hourly check-in. Hell, I already gottacall him. I’ll buzz you.

“Steve was already out the door when I finished talking. I lifted thereceiver and began to dial the number on the card. I heard the ring on theother end over the engines roaring outside. Steve and Hendricks were moving out.”This is Franklin.””Yeah, this is Caulsworth, in Portland.” I explained the situation to him,though he didn’t seem interested anymore.

Just grunted and sighed as I spoke. I’m heading up to see the parents, get some insight. I’ll miss the next twocalls, but wouldn’t have anything to check in with anyway. Franklin gruntedagain and hung up.The air whipped through my hair, tangling it, as the helicopter warmed itsengines.

When I was in, the pilot gave me a nod then looked to the ground crewand we lifted off. I hadn’t been flown in a helicopter for over five years andthe effects were taking their toll on my stomach. My ears ached, the rhythmicthump of the blades louder than I remembered.Once we left the city’s limits, I began to enjoy the flight.

We skippedover the pine forest, an endless field of green. I had forgotten the worldoutside my office and I began to wish I was home. The sunlight created a glareas it passed through the plastic window of my door, but I could still see thetreetops speeding beneath me. Watching the scenery pass, I failed to notice thetime. The fog-covered Seattle skyline lay before me in no time.

The streets were slick and shiny black, the rain having subsided. AgentHill, of the Seattle department, drove me out to see Brown’s parents. The freshscent of rain filled my nostrils and my thoughts again drifted toward home. Itwas cool, about sixty-five degrees with an overcast sky. It was a short drive,only ten minutes. We arrived at a homey, two level house at the back of a cul-de-sac that looked like all the others in the neighborhood. I stepped out ofthe car and hurried up the drive through the fine mist.

The doorbell played a bar of a song I couldn’t quite recall the name of.After a moment, I heard the metallic click of the locks being undone and thedoor opened to reveal a small boy, his eyes on the floor. He looked a lot likeJohn jr. when he was seven.

His dark hair was combed over his forehead, shadinghis eyes from view. He was slight in stature and held his left arm still andtense, grasping the knob with his right. In a quiet voice, barely audible, heinvited me in.

Then the boy ran inside and up the stairs. The small front roomreminded me of my parents’ house, flowered curtains and brown furniture. Itsmelled of moth balls and potpourri. A large wooden television with a smallscreen stood across from the couch.

I seated myself in the worn recliner,humming the tune the doorbell played.After a few minutes, an old man came down the stairs, leaning on hiscane. He adjusted his glasses, coughed twice, and shook his cane at me.

Whatare you doing in my house? Get out now! He wore a tan sweater, unbuttoned,over his white tee shirt. He adjusted the belt on his trousers, pulled them up.”Sir, I am John Caulsworth, Federal agent. I am here to ask you a fewquestions, if you please. It won’t take long.”At the top of the stairs,hidden by a shadow, I saw the boy and pointed.

“Your boy let me in.” With that,the boy receded back into the shadows.The old man poked me with his cane. “Get out of my chair and I’ll talkwith you.”I seated myself on the couch. “Mr. Brown, I have to ask some questionsabout Dean.

How recently have you seen him?””Not since he moved out. Damn him. His mother worries about Dean so. Helost custody of his boy and we still haven’t heard from him. ” He scratched hischin, then his neck. “He loved that boy, still should.

He hasn’t even tried tosee Davey. Do you know where he is? Why do you have to bother me about mypain?”I began to respond, but Mr. Brown cut back in. “I can’t talk about this,it hurts.

Please leave now.” He did not stand when I rose to leave. I closedthe door behind me and Hill started the car.”Hendricks, this is Caulsworth, I’m coming down to join your party. I havea feeling Brown is coming this way. Did you secure the border?” I barely heardhim reply over the fury of the blades above me.

I shut off the phone. DamnHendricks. It was past one and Brown had plenty of time to have made it acrossthe border. Hendricks let him by. I’d have to deal with him later. It wastime to find Dean Brown.

The helicopter set down at the Washington border, at the weight scales. Iran out from beneath the whirling blades and met Hendricks. Down the road, Isaw the line of cars and trucks, each awaiting inspection before passing intoWashington. In the southbound lane, the cars sped by. Inside I dialed thenumber of Steve’s mobile. I asked if there were any developments; there weren’t.I hung up and dialed Boise.

Franklin was not in.”Hendricks, get over here.” I wrapped my arm around his shoulder.

“I havea feeling he’s gotten by you. He’s got to be in Washington by now, so call backthe border guards. Concentrate our forces in the state.

Meet me outside infive, after you spread the word.”The helicopter blades were still turning, the engines cooling. I climbedin and sat in the copilot’s seat. Hendricks came out shortly after, lookedaround, finally spotted me. I opened the door.”What do you want?””You’re driving, get in!”As we lifted off, I looked at my watch.

Quarter after two. At leastnightfall wasn’t for another six or seven hours. After that, we’d have to waitfor morning. Clouds were blocking most of the sunlight and my skin cooled.

It was silent for ten to twenty minutes. Then Hendricks spoke up. John?”What?””Why do you get on my ass like that? What the hell did I do?”I tried to find the words, but couldn’t. “You don’t do things like I like.Hendricks, You always have to get in my face, to do your own thing. That doesnot help the team, it doesn’t help us succeed. I’m gonna put you up fortransfer: either California or Nevada.

“He turned to me, mouth agape. “What? Why?You have got to give meanother chance!” He sighed, looked ahead again and began to scream.I lurched forward when the chopper sharply jolted, hitting my head onsomething. I felt as if I were falling and everything went black.

I could tell I was laying face down. I kept my eyes closed and tried tofeel all my body. My skin was chilled and I could feel my damp clothes stickingto my body. The scent of pine overwhelmed my nose and I tasted blood. I liftedmy head and opened my eyes. Night had fallen but I knew I was laying in a thickevergreen forest. Stars shone from behind the thick canopy of the forest. Itried to get up, but fell in pain. My left arm and side felt like they were onfire. I rolled over in the brush and did a situp. I glanced at my shoulder tosee my jacket and shirt were shredded and replaced by a sheet of blood. Myfingers slipped under my left arm for a feel. It felt like jelly in a plasticbag might.My shirt and jacket barely clung to me, torn down the left side. My tietwisted around my neck and hung behind me. I worked my way onto my knees, notedmy legs were fine. It occurred to me that I was supposed to be airborne. Islowly stood and turned to see the wreckage of a helicopter. Behind it, treeswere toppled and the ground had a wide gash in it. I stumbled around thesmaller debris toward the frame. The metal was bent and broken. Amid this maze,I saw the slumping form of Hendricks, his back to me. I could not reach him andtried calling his name. He did not respond. I walked around to the other side,knelt to peer inside. A thin slice of metal stabbed into his chest. His eyesand mouth were still open in mid-scream.I sat to think. All I wanted was to make it home. I knew the chopperhad a first aid kit and a crash kit. Walking slowly among the ruins, I foundparts of the crash kit. Armed now with a flashlight and flare gun, I searchedfor the first aid. I found the broken plastic case protruding from beneath theframe. The contents were undoubtedly underneath also or inside. Either way, Ihad no help.Still dizzy, I fell to the ground and leaned on the frame, wincedin pain. I withdrew the gun from my side and pointed it skyward. The flareshot out bright orange and it was bright as day for a moment. I watched it arcover the trees and fade as it fell. Sparks flew as it crashed into the softground.The flashlight’s beam bounced around the newly made clearing. It boundedoff glass fragments, twisted metal, and broken lumber. The beam stopped on ascrap of material hanging from a treebranch. It looked like a shirt, but I wasthe only person around. I rose and walked over to the tree, inspecting thegarment. I grabbed the size medium white tee, soiled with mud and torn on thesleeves and pocketed it. Surveying the clearing more, I found some kindling anda set of footprints too small to be my own. They led into the forest, up theslope. By their depth at the toe and the slide at the end of each step, I couldtell the person left in a hurry.I had been heading up the slope almost an hour when my legs began to screamfor a break. I stopped, hunched over in pain. Breathing came heavily, eachattempt a hot knife in my chest. My head was spinning and I felt my side again,found fresh blood still pumping. My tie slipped over my head and into my frontpocket. I removed the tee from my back pocket, tore it in two, and wrapped mybody with it. Tears filled my eyes as I staggered. The soft earth caught meforgivingly. I remained there for a while, I’m not sure how long because itfelt so good. I lifted myself, knowing I had to go on. I knew the footprintswould lead me to safety or to Dean Brown. Either way, my path lay along theirs.I struggled against the terrain and my body to go on for hours. The shirthad stopped my bleeding and the fog in my mind cleared. Clear headed, the painintensified. My vision was blurred by tears and I had a hard time finding myway through the dark. I stumbled over countless rocks, fallen trees, and otherimpediments along the way. I never lost the prints, though. I’m not sure whenit was, probably early morning, I fell over a rock into a clearing.It was about twenty feet across, lit by the light of the now visible halfmoon. At the other end stood a pile of dirt and rocks. I noticed a specificdark spot. It was not a shadow, but a hole. I followed the trail across theclearing and it led me to the hole. I knelt, trying to see inside. It wasabout three feet across, probably an old fox’s burrow. I circled the moundslowly searching for continuation of the trail, thinking the person might havewalked over the burrow to throw off followers. I returned to the mouth of theopening and dropped to my knees.I started in head first. The passage was tight and painful, jaggedstone scraping my already abused body. I paused, my heart racing and dizzy fromstraining to see in the pitch black. My body grew warmer as I went deeper intothe hole. About ten feet in, my fingers felt thin, dry stalks of straw on thefloor. I crawled further in, until my knees felt the same. I lifted myselfinto a kneeling position and pushed the button on the flashlight.A man was curled up in the corner. The light woke him and he shot up,eyes blinking. The absence of his shirt revealed his pale white skin, criss-crossed with crimson lines. His hair was no longer slicked back and his facenow showed the emotion of fear, but I could still see it was Dean Brown.I backed myself up to the mouth of the hole, held the flashlight at himlike a sword. I’ve been looking for you, Dean. I set the flashlight downbeside me and pulled out the flare gun with caution. Just stay calm, I am notgoing to try anything, look at me. I kept it pointed at him, but relaxed alittle. Why did you run, Dean, why are you here?His brown eyes were wide, unblinking in an intense stare. “Who are you?””I am John Caulsworth, a federal agent. I was assigned to find you andbring you in. What happened?””The bastards deserved to die!” Tears came to his eyes, his face red as astoplight. He sniffled and the words tumbled out in a rush. They ran us over,I barely got him out of the way. It was the mayor’s security. As hisaccountant, I discovered he was corrupt and refused to bury it. He fired me onthe spot. He shuddered and took a breath. They could have just taken me, butleft me instead. I couldn’t let him live after that. He stole my life! And Ican’t let you stop me. Brown let go of his tension, and sat down. I’ve got toget my son and you’re not going to get in my way, nothing will. I looked againinto his eyes, swollen and wet as a boxer’s. I broke out for my son, I need tosave him.”Save him? What do you mean?””I know he is in my parents’ custody. They’re beating him, just like me.I almost died, I can’t let that happen to Davey. He’s all I’ve got left. Brownheld out a picture from his pocket. He’s what I live for and this is all Ihave of him. I can’t let him hurt again.”I set the flare gun aside and accepted the photo.A man lay in a hospital bed, bandaged and casted. Beside him stood a youngboy, on crutches. They were holding hands and each managed a smile. The photowas torn on the top corners, a crease down the middle. The back read ‘My onlyson’.He grabbed it back from me. “I’m barely hanging on here, and without DaveyI’m not alive. My family was the only thing that mattered to me, and he’s allthat’s left.”I reached into my pocket and withdrew the tie. Mud concealed the redfabric. I tried to think of John. My mind strained to see his face, hear hisvoice. A tear rolled down my cheek and fell off my chin onto the tie. Iloosened the knot and slipped it back over my head. With my sleeve, I wiped myface.I lifted the flashlight, switched it off and tossed it to him. “Take it.”I turned away and started back into the world.Hendricks’ team found me a few miles west of the hole. They airlifted meto the Olympia hospital. I was treated for a broken clavicle and shoulder blade,along with my ribs.The tissue damage to my back and side was extensive and Ihave little use of either. After two days they released me.The next day, I received a call from Franklin, in Boise. I was commendedby him for putting myself on the line. He granted me early retirement, and abonus for being injured. He asked if I might know anything about thedisappearance of David Brown from his grandparents’ house in the middle of thenight. I told him I did not. I bid him farewell, hung up, and dialed John’snumber at school.

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