Friday, December 15, 2017

News at Eleven - Chapter 12


Chapter 12
Torn Between the Good and the Good 

“This has just come into the news room,” Clisty reported from the prompter as the eleven o’clock news program neared sign off. “Authorities tell WFT-TV that a woman came into police headquarters less than an hour ago. She said that a man had kidnapped her over eighteen years ago, just like the woman who was the hostage during the recent standoff between the accused bank robber and the police. For her safety, authorities are not releasing her real name. They are calling the woman, Darla.” Clisty read calmly into the camera with the same confidence she had before she froze on TV when Faith first re-appeared.
“Darla told police that she managed to escape,” Dan Drummond added to the report. “When the man stopped to use the restroom, before merging onto I-65 N, he forced her to stay in the truck. He told her she would never be able to get out. She said the doors weren’t supposed to open from the inside. The only way you could get out was when the motor was still running. He would open the door, then turn off the engine and remove the key. She believed him—she wouldn’t be able to get out of the truck because she had tried when he filled the gas tank closer to Fort Wayne. It was different at the intersection of I-65 N. This time he had failed to close his door all the way.”
“That’s right, Dan,” Clisty tag-teamed the story. “She said she was able to get the driver’s side door open, escape and jump, unseen, into the back of a truck going east. Luckily, the driver was going all the way back to Fort Wayne. She climbed out of the truck when the east bound driver stopped before entering the clover leaf at Goshen Road. The traffic was heavy as she walked along the berm of the road. Then, she came upon a patrolman who, with his lights revolving, pulled a car over. She walked over to the officer, tugged his pocket and said, “I want to go home.” At police headquarters, they quickly contacted her parents. With her mother and father present, she told her story to police.”
“At the time of the attempted abduction, Darla was able to give the authorities a clue to the town in which the perpetrator probably lived. However, they were never able to find who had kidnapped her.” Dan smiled and looked at Clisty.
He’s giving me the last word. She smiled confidently and put on her professional, neutral, balanced face. “My investigation will include several threads of this tangled story: the background of the robbery suspect who was apprehended after the stand-off with police; the backstory of the hostage he held in the house; the details of an unsolved kidnapping nearly twenty years ago; and how the information which Darla was able to remind police may answer questions to all facets of this story. All of these will be the focus of my expanded report in a new segment, Stories from the Heartland. I look forward to bringing you along as we follow the trail of clues to a hopeful resolution of this case. From the Fort, this has been the news at eleven.”
“Great show people,” Becca clapped her hands together as the network took over the feed.
Jake stood outside the studio window and watched. With his hands in his pockets, his tall slender frame exposed a leather cross-body gun holster. His eyes flashed brighter each time he looked at Clisty. “Ditto that,” he agreed as soon as the studio door opened.
“Hi Detective,” Clisty teased. “What brings you here so late in the evening?”
“You, of course,” he spoke softly and stepped closer to her.
“Then, you are most welcome.” Clisty slipped into the news room and started to pour a cup of coffee.
“Hold off on that last cup of the day,” Jake warned. “I’m taking you out for decaf. It’s late.”
“Good idea,” she agreed.
“But first, I brought in my Atlas. Come over here,” he pointed to a table and spread out the book of maps.
“What’s going on?” Becca asked as she joined them over the Rand McNally.
Jake was excited as he pointed to the map. “I read Darla’s old file and found two details that add a lot to our quest.” His index finger followed U.S. 30, north and west out of Fort Wayne. “She told police, her kidnapper said, ‘only seventy more miles but first, I’m going to hit the head.’ So ...” he traced the route that the man must have taken with his finger. “He was going to take route 65 north-west for seventy miles. He also said something about their destination being thirty miles west of Chicago.” He targeted Chicago on the map, and then drew an imaginary line directly west of the city. “Wheaton, Illinois is ... twenty-eight mile west of Chicago ... Naperville is thirty miles.” He thumped his finger on the spot between Wheaton and Naperville and drew a circle. “The place where Faith was held, is somewhere in this area.” He grabbed Clisty in a side hug and didn’t let go.
“The Freedom Temple,” Becca hammered her fist into the palm of her hand. “If authorities in that area are aware of the Freedom Temple, maybe we can close in on the precise spot.”
“Yes,” Clisty snapped to attention from her cozy niche tucked under Jake’s arms. “And, if we can find an elementary school that had a child named Pooky Jones for only two weeks, we will nail down the neighborhood.”
“The last name she used, Jones, may be too general to track,” Jake ran his hand over the back of his neck. “But, the first name, Pooky, sure isn’t.”
Clisty smiled. “It makes my hair stand up, too. It is so exciting.”
“We are all tired, Honey,” Jake said. “Let’s start the computer search and telephone calls early tomorrow morning. It’s not like Faith is still being held and we have to rescue her. It will do no one any good if we’re too tired to think clearly.”
“You’re right; you’re right; I know you’re right, but
“No buts about it,” Becca joined in. “I agree with Jake.”
Clint had listened and watched as the three had inspected the map. A quiet guy, he turned and reached for his hoodie. “Just point me in the right direction, so I can aim the camera there. I’m going home and fall into bed.” He zipped it up and started for the door. “I’ll be here at the usual time, or whenever you tell me different. Just let me know if we’re going to leave on a road trip so I can make arrangements for my cat. My wife has been visiting her mother.”
“Bad Kitty?” Becca asked. “I don’t know how you discipline that cat when you call, ‘Bad Kitty’ to give her a treat.”
“She does seem a little neurotic at times,” he admitted with a flip at the corner of his mouth. “Bye for now.”
“Are you ready to surrender for the night?” Jake asked as Clisty continued to study the map.
“I guess,” she drew out slowly. “I’m not sure I’ll be able to sleep.”
“Cocoa ... warm milk will help,” he reminded her.
“I make cocoa with water,” she corrected him and patted her stomach.
“I don’t know what you have to worry about,” Becca quipped. “You’re so thin, I’m afraid to get a side view of you on camera. You might disappear altogether.”
“Becca, don’t be silly. You know as well as I do, if I were to gain ten pounds the station would replace me with a newer, slimmer model.”
“Can’t get much newer,” Becca reminded her. “You’re pretty young yourself. Beside, you know Fort Wayne viewers wouldn’t put up with that. The station reflects the community’s values of appreciation for hard work and family ties. You are family, Clisty.”
“Thanks Becca. It’s nice to be reminded.”
“Then, ten pounds it is,” Jake teased. “We’ll stop at a grocery and pick up some milk. Made with water, it isn’t cocoa at all. That’s just chocolate flavored water.” He took her by the elbow and started to steer her out of the news room. “Then, we’ll go to your house and I’ll make a cup for you.” He stopped. “You do allow milk in your house, I hope.”
“Fat free, of course.”
“I’ll think about that.” 
• • • • • 
“But, Jake, whole milk? Isn’t that a bit extreme?” Clisty complained as she took the milk and cocoa mix from the sack he had just carried into her apartment.
“Extreme will come when we put the whipped cream on the top,” he said as he waved the squirt can in the air. He opened several cabinet doors until he found the measuring cups of various sizes. “Here we go.”
“Do you really think we’ll be able to find him and bring him to justice?” Clisty asked as she spooned some cocoa mix into the cups. Moments later, the microwave announced the hot milk.
“Find The Guardian?” Jake poured the steaming hot liquid into the cups, stirred in the cocoa and took them over to the coffee table ottoman. “Sure, I think we’ll find him. But, I don’t know when justice will be served.”
“What does that mean?” Clisty followed him to the couch, folded her right leg under her and sat down on it.
“Justice usually takes time, Babe. Not your kind of time, as measured from one news headline at 5 PM, to a verdict on the 11 o’clock news.”
“I know. That’s why I’m glad the network is giving me all the time that I need with the news magazine.” She sipped the hot, bone warming, sleep inducing liquid and smiled. “This is good.”
“Thank you,” he said softly, stirred his cup again and drank a little of the sweet brew. There was tense silence for a moment until Jake asked, “When do you leave for New York?”
“I don’t know,” she sipped noisily. “I guess, the truth is, I don’t really want to know.” She reached over and took Jake’s hand. “I just found Faith again and I know we’re going to find her captors. But ... I also just found you.”
Jake was quiet a while longer. “Have you talked to your grandmother about praying for you over this network business?” he asked and looked at the mantle. “That’s your prayer angel, right?”
“No, I haven’t called her yet … I had to talk to you first,” she sighed as her body reminded her of how tired she was.
“I appreciate that,” he said as he smiled.
They finished their cocoa in silence, except for the soft music that streamed in the background. A deep baritone was spreading musical notes on the evening air like warm butter on toast. Jake reached over and traced gentle figure eights on Clisty’s arm. Taking her cup, he placing it on the ottoman; then, he took her hand in his, all with the smooth gestures that matched the rise and fall of the melody.
“Faith just came home, Clisty, and that is wonderful. For me personally however, the real miracle is that I just found my home in you.” Jake didn’t stop. He continued, interrupting Clisty’s effort to speak. “Now, don’t misunderstand,” he said softly. “I’m not saying—don’t move to New York. That is an opportunity that very few people ever get. I wouldn’t try to stop you for a minute. I’m just saying, with you in the east, will there be a place for me in your life?”
“Jake ... I am so torn,” she began.
“Don’t be, Honey. I’d never ask you to choose between New York City and me. That’s not even a contest I want to enter. I guess I don’t want to know who the winner would be.” He caressed her hand, silently put his arm around her and drew her to his shoulder.
Clisty sat up quickly. “No, Jake, I admit I’m torn, but not between you and New York. The tug of war is between New York and Fort Wayne. See ...” she turned excitedly toward him and bubbled as she continued. "Since Faith came home; I’m seeing what really matters in my life. Yes, a job I love is important. But, the people I love, people Mom used to call my lovelies, are more valuable than anything else.”
“I’m not sure if I fit in as a lovely,” Jake laughed.
“You do, Jake Davis. You are the loveliest of lovelies,” she laughed as she snuggled back under his arm.
“What I don’t know,” he admitted, “is how can you be in both places at the same time?” His eyes, cast down like a warrior who had just surrendered, didn’t meet Clisty’s.
“I can’t Jake. But, that’s all-or-none thinking. Just because I can’t be in the TV studio and here in my apartment with you, does not mean there is no solution to this.”
“That’s good enough for me tonight,” he said as he looked up with a sparkle in his eyes. He wrapped his arms around her, and surrounded her with his love.

“This is where I want to be, Jake—in your arms. I know that. Somehow, and I don’t know how yet, I’m going to figure out how to do both. It’s an old idea to think I can do everything. But, I can choose where I spend my time. I do know I’ll have to do one thing at a time.”

Sunday, December 10, 2017

News at Eleven - Chapter 11


Chapter 11
A Sad Backstory


“It’s great to see you looking so good,” Clisty stood back and held the door to WFT-TV.
“Hi Clisty,” Faith hugged her friend and stepped into the reception area of the TV station. “I’m feeling a little better.”
“Roma and Ralph, come in. We’ll make room for everyone.” Becca directed them to the chairs and took their jackets. “Jake Davis is coming too. Brenda, our receptionist, will watch for him.”
“Oh, I didn’t know,” Faith recoiled emotionally.
“It’ll be okay, Faith. You and I talked about it yesterday when I stopped by your parents’ home,” Clisty reminded her. Then she turned, “Hi Pooky.” She took the time to hug Faith’s daughter, hoping Faith would have enough time and space to remember their conversation.
Roma reminded her softly. “We all sat around the table, Faith, remember?”
“Let’s go into the studio and look it over. It’s just a room with special equipment in it.” Clisty led the way, through the news room and into the studio.
“Maybe,” Faith’s voice trailed off as she stared with wide eyes around the room.
“I know it must look very foreign to you, but it’s really just a work room, like the kitchen in your home. We make TV news programs in here, and you prepare food in your kitchen.”
“Where is the microphone and camera?” Pooky asked as she stepped out of the background and into light.
“The mic is there on the news desk.” Clisty pointed.
“But we” Becca started.
“Aren’t quite ready for that stuff,” Clisty jumped in. She knew Faith didn’t want Pooky’s picture out in the public so they would take that slowly. On the other hand, Jake would need the interview on film so there could be no question about the process later. Pooky could not appear to say things she would not have said on her own.
“Faith,” Clisty pointed to the large, floor-camera, “Clint can film Pooky on this camera, strictly for police use. We won’t broadcast it into viewers’ homes. Or, he can use the shoulder camera if you think Pooky would be frightened by the big one.” She hoped if she gave Faith a choice, she may feel less vulnerable.
Faith’s shoulders dropped and her eyes shifted to the floor. “Maybe we’ll not film it at all,” her words tumbled out of her mouth in rapid succession. “What’s important is what she says, not what she looks like.”
“That’s right. You’re absolutely correct,” Jake added as he came into the studio. He stopped just a few feet inside the door so Faith and Pooky wouldn’t feel cornered. “The choice is yours, Faith. You’re the mom. It’s just that ...” he paused, slipped into the room and leaned casually on the wall. “If you decide not to have her filmed at all, when we catch your kidnapper, his lawyer could claim that we put the words in Pooky’s mouth. With the film, we can prove she said it all on her own. What do you think?” He paused and gave Faith time for the choices to catch up to her.
“Faith, I told you about my telling your story, using your words and Pooky’s memories too, on a news magazine. Maybe there’ll be something in the story that will help another child stay safe from a kidnapper.”
Faith looked at her daughter. Her sad eyes studied the cherished face.
“Please Mama, please,” Pooky steepled her fingers into a prayer and jumped up and down.
Clisty saw Faith smile, something she had not witnessed since they were both children. Her heart warmed. “I will do the interview myself. Jake is here only to take his own notes. As we take breaks from time to time, he may offer some questions I had not thought about. Does that seem reasonable to you?”
“Faith,” Roma said softly, “it sounds to me like Pooky will be even safer if they can find the kidnapper.”
“The Guardian won’t be found.”
“Why do you say that?” Clisty asked. “We have to be positive.”
“I am, Clisty. I am positive you will not find him. He told me he wouldn’t be found, what seems like, every day of my life.” Her voice dropped off and she appeared to shudder, like a reptile had slithered across her path.
“He told you lots of things, Faith, like you said, every day of your life. He probably said, ‘You’ll never get away,’ didn’t he?”
Faith’s eyes brighten, a positive sign Clisty had not yet seen. “He said it nearly every day, at least for the first ten or twelve years of my slavery.”
“I hate that word, Faith,” her mother set her jaw.
“I hate that life,” Faith answered, a little stronger than before.
“Hey, I thought this was about me,” Pooky insisted.
“You are absolutely right, Honey,” Becca agreed. “I’m going to be your producer-director, so ... let’s place you on the interview set here, face to face with Clisty.”
“But, where’s the microphone?” Pooky asked as she studied the cluster of chairs.
“Right here,” Becca pointed to the little clips she held in her hand. “You won’t be at the news desk, with all the equipment over there. Both you and Clisty will clip a tiny microphone onto your clothes. You can move around and we can still pick up your voice.”
“Well ... okay,” she said as she scooted back into one of the side chairs.
As Clisty took her seat facing Pooky, she attached her lapel mic. “Hi Pooky. It now occurred to me that I don’t know your last name.”
“What do you mean?” Pooky’s eyes blinked and she said no more.
“I’m Clisty Sinclair. I have a first name, Clisty and a second name, Sinclair. Your first name is Pooky. What is your last name?”
“I don’t have another name.”
Clisty stopped. She lost her next question, but gathered her thoughts again quickly. “Your daddy’s first name is Steven. What was his last name?”
“I don’t know.” Pooky looked over at her mother and shrugged.
“Steven had no last name,” Faith answered in a flat tone, as if last names were rare.
“You said he went to school,” Clisty continued to question Faith where she sat off camera.
“He used the last name, Jones. But, that wasn’t his real second name.” Faith seemed to chill for a moment. “No one was to speak the name of The Guardian.”
“So, did you use the name, Pooky Jones, when you were in school?” Clisty asked.
“Yes, Pooky Jones,” she remembered. “But, I wasn’t in school very long,” she said as she leaned her chin in her hand on the chair rest. Her expression had slipped into a pout.
“You told me about school. Do you want to tell the people about school?”
“I played Red Riding Hood in the school play. Daddy said I could go to school, but when Grandpa found out, he said I had to quit.” She shook her head in disbelief. “Why did he have to find out?”
“Do you know who told him you were going to school?” Clisty asked. “Where was your grandfather during the daytime?”
“He was at work.” Pooky swung her feet back and forth.
“Work? Where did he work?”
Pooky looked at her in disbelief. “I already told you. He’s the Head Master of the Freedom Temple.”
“That’s right, you did tell me,” Clisty admitted, allowing the child to have the superior hand. “I guess I forgot.” She slowed down and looked away, sneaking up on the next question from the side. “Your mother told me that The Guardian smelled bad.” She looked back at Pooky, like someone in need of help. “How could a leader in an organization ... stink?”
“He wasn’t supposed to eat cookies or candy. When he did, he’d act funny, sweat and stink.”
“Did you hear Grandma warn him about sugar diabetes?”
“Yeah, that was the word.”
“So, he worked at the Freedom Temple? What is the Freedom Temple?” Clisty asked, careful to use low, non-demanding tones.
“It’s like a church, Grandma said.”
“Didn’t you ever go to that church?” Clisty tried not to shake her head. Everything Pooky told her sounded preposterous. A smelly, swearing, evil man who would kidnap a child and hold her as a slave, was the spiritual leader of a congregation?
“Grandma said no one was to know that Mama was Daddy’s sister. So, Daddy went to the Temple on Friday night, but not Mama or me. She said, Grandpa brought Mama home for her, to be Grandma’s little girl and then, when she was old enough, she’d be Daddy’s wife.”
“Wow,” Clisty exhaled slowly. “You remember all those relationships?” She felt sick inside. The Guardian planned Faith’s life even before he took her. Then, he controlled her so it would all work out as he planned.
“Sure,” Pooky said. “I had to remember about Mama and Daddy. We rehearsed it like my part in the play. Grandpa said I had to always remember, ‘cause if I didn’t he could lose Mama and me.”
Clisty smiled to reassure her. “You have a very good memory. Do you know why your grandfather took you out of school after your daddy said you could go?”
“It was my teacher’s fault,” she pouted some more. “She said she had to make a home-visit to all the kid’s homes in her class. She’d already gone to the other kids’ houses ‘cause they had started school before me. Grandpa said she couldn’t come to our house and pulled me out of school.”
“I bet you miss the friends you made at school,” Clisty said as she remembered the wonderful times she had with Faith as a child. Her heart ached for Pooky and her lonely life.
“There was one girl. Her name was Leenie. She was my dearest friend,” her words seemed to drift off to a memory that hid from her grandfather in a secret corner of her mind. “In the afternoon, I would sit by the front window, behind the curtain I could see through, and listen to the kids as they laughed and played on their way home from school.” Tears slipped down her face and she brushed them away with her sleeve.
“I’m glad you had a friend, even if you couldn’t keep her.”
“Oh, I kept her,” she perked up. “She would leave a note for me under a rock near the end of our sidewalk. I’d sneak out at night and get it and leave a note for her.” Pooky turned up her chin in defiant satisfaction, folded her arms and sat back.
“That sounds like a dangerous system. What if you were caught?”
“I never was,” Pooky turned her head back and forth in an exaggerated no. “She’d tell me what she did at school during the day. Then, she’d sign it, Leenie Lambert, 1221 W. Benton Avenue.”
“You have a really good memory, Pooky.” Clisty’s pulse raced. Would she be able to get the information she needed? “Can you remember anything else?”
“I remembered the school’s nickname, something about a big dog.”
“Those are good words to remember, Pooky,” Clisty said as she reached over and patted Pooky’s knee. “I was wondering ... if your daddy didn’t want to lose you and your mother, why did he let you go?”
“Let us go where?”
“Well, he didn’t come with you. Did he say goodbye? How did you two get away when you came here?”
“Mama and I put some things in two pillowcases and walked out the front door. No one was at home. So we walked until we came to a gas station and found a man with a truck who was going to Indiana. Mama said we wanted to go to Fort Wayne and he said, ‘Perfect. I’ll call someone I know over there and he can find a place for us to rest when we get there.’ Mama said she would just find her home and he could drop us off there. He said, ‘Sure lady,’ but I didn’t like how he sounded. That’s the sassy way Kevin Ledbetter would talk on the school playground when he was lying. But, Mama believed the man with the truck. When we got here, he wouldn’t let us go.”
“You said you left when everyone was gone? Where were they? Where was your dad? Did he kiss you goodbye?”
“He kissed me goodbye three days before that. I remember. They were all gone ‘cause Grandpa wouldn’t let us go.” Tears again came to her eyes and filled them to the brim.
“Where wouldn’t your grandfather let you go, Pooky?”
“To Daddy’s funeral,” she stopped for a moment and sobbed. When she rubbed her eyes on the full length of her shirt sleeve, she continued. “Daddy got really sick. Grandpa wouldn’t let him go to the hospital, so he kissed me and Mama goodbye and died at our house.” The salty tears streamed down her cheeks again. “He whispered in Mama’s ear, ‘Take Pooky and get out of here. Promise me.’”

“Mama said, ‘I love you Steven. I promise.’” Pooky looked over at her mother where she and to her new grandparents stood crying. “Mama had never been out of the house before. At first it was so scary. We didn’t know where to go. But, when Grandma and Grandpa left for the funeral, Mama and I walked right out the front door and didn’t look back.”

Friday, December 1, 2017

News at Eleven - Chapter 10


Chapter 10
News at Eleven 

“Monday always comes when it’s not wanted,” Clisty moaned to Becca, with her cell phone set on speaker.
“I know. I know, but just think of some of the reasons why you would have to sleep all the time: recovery from the plague; really advanced old age; you have narcolepsy and you fall asleep on the creepy guy next to you on the bus; you died and were laid to rest last week; do I need to go on?” Becca quipped.
“I wonder, if I died what would my Heavenly job be?” she yawned. “I might be a cloud-comfort-tester. Then again, I’d probably chase rebellious cherubs all over the golden streets, so I can interview them and ask the age old question, “Why do you rebel?”
“Oh bother,” Becca laughed. “Maybe I’d have to direct that bunch of kids with the wings.”
“Becca, that’s it. Kids! What is it that Pooky told us? ‘Daddy said I could go to school but then Grandpa said no.’” Clisty raked her hand through her hair and looked in the mirror. “Oh Becca, I look awful. I’m glad that skype hasn’t come to the cell phone industry yet—at least not to mine.”
“I told you to cover all the looking glasses in your apartment in black fabric and not pull them down until at least, uh, two in the afternoon. Before mid-afternoon, you’re only looking at the ghost of the previous night.”
“I’ll try to remember that.” Clisty started to pace along the carpet runner beside her bed. “Let’s get back to Pooky. Becca, the child may remember more than Faith does, especially if she was given a little more freedom, like her two weeks in school.”
“You call the Sterlings and I’ll get ready and meet you there.” Becca suggested.
“Wait until I’ve had a chance to sit down with them. I don’t want to run in there with lights and camera blazing.” That settled it.  “I’ll call you after I talk to them.”
Clisty jumped out of her night clothes and into the shower. I hope this works. While the hot water peppered her body from the multiple jets, she started planning her strategy. Later, dressed in her new black spring-weight suit she had bought before the events of Friday had turned her world upside down, she hurried out to her car. 
• • • • • 
“Good Morning, Clisty,” Roma said as she opened the front door. “Come in.” She led the way through the living room. “Have you had your coffee yet this morning?”
“Just one cup. I’m ready for my second one,” she chuckled as she followed Roma into the kitchen.
“Let’s sit down here a minute.” Roma pointed to the ladder-back chairs that sat around the kitchen table. “Toast?”
“No thanks, Roma.” She reached for the sugar and stirred in a spoonful. “I was hoping to talk to Pooky this morning. What do you think? Will she talk to me?”
“Faith has wanted Pooky to stay in the background, out of the camera lights. I’m sure you can’t blame her.”
“Not at all,” Clisty agreed, and she did, but there were other issues at play. “Since Pooky was out in the world more than Faith, there may be someone who would recognize her. While they may be a friendly neighbor, they could also be the evil ones who kept Pooky in the house with Faith all those years. We all have to keep her safe.”
“That’s what I mean,” Roma agreed. “She is relaxing more and letting Ralph and I get closer to her. At first, she was so open with me. Although, it’s harder for Pooky to get near her grandpa. Literally. She talks to him now, but from a distance.” She shook her head in disbelief. “I can’t believe we have Faith home. I can’t believe a wonderful granddaughter came with her. I can’t believe that Faith was held as a strange slave for eighteen years.”
“I know,” Clisty admitted. “She didn’t have to work for them; she just ... filled some role, I guess. I think her job was to be the lady’s daughter, but The Guardian couldn’t let go of his power as supreme ... what did she call him ... Head Master?” The coffee was still hot so Clisty sipped carefully. “Of course, I wouldn’t put Pooky on the news. Just talk.”
“I’ll have to ask Faith and she’s still sleeping.” Roma picked up the coffee pot, and then put it back on the warming burner. “She sleeps so much, Clisty.”
“That’s been her way of healing her mind and body, Roma. She seems to have slept a lot over the last eighteen years. If she were awake all day, she would realize how alone she was ... for hours and hours. Those who are depressed, sleep a lot.”
“She did say she was allowed to read and enjoyed that. Reading gave her some contact with the world around her. Not just books, the lady let her read magazines when The Guardian wasn’t around.”
“Can you just imagine all the places Faith has been within the pages of her books and magazines?” Clisty thought for a minute. “I wonder how she could pronounce all the words. She was all alone in her room most of the time.”
“She probably just put her own sounds and meaning to the words. That’s what my grandfather did.” Roma smiled the smile of happy memories. “Grandpa Georgie was a self-made man. He read everything he could lay his hands on. We sometimes had to figure out what he was talking about when he was trying to explain something he had read, because his pronunciation was so bad, but we all admired his knowledge. Knowledge isn’t pronunciation, Clisty; it’s investigation, inquisitiveness.”
“I like that, Roma.” She paused and thought about all that Roma had said. “I want to investigate. I want to find out why that man took Faith, where he took her and what her life was like. And ...” again she paused to think if she was ready to tell anyone about her new career offer, “I’ve been given a great opportunity.”
“Can you tell me about it, Clisty? Maybe you want to talk about it?”
“It’s yes to both. But, there’s someone I need to tell first.” She had made up her mind. She had to find Jake. 
                                                            • • • • • 
Officer Jeremy Rhodes jumped to his feet when Clisty walked into the police station later. “Miss Sinclair
“It’s Clisty, remember, Jeremy?” she said as she smiled.
“Yes, Ma’am ... Clisty. I’m sorry Ma’am. I watch you on the news every evening and it just seems like I’m talking to a celebrity.”
“If I ever become a celebrity, I will be forced to resign. I wouldn’t be able to stand to look at myself in the mirror. Come to think of it, someone told me a mirror shouldn’t be looked into before noon anyway.”
“I think I understand that rule.” He winked and rubbed his chin. “Is there anything I can do for you?”
“Is Jake in?” She looked around the room of desks and chairs, all lined up, yet working together.
“Did I hear my name?” Jake asked as he came out of a separate office. “Hi, Babe.” His smile was large and matched the spark in his eyes. “What brings you down here?”
“I have to talk to you,” she said as she walked over to him, took his elbow and directed him back into his private office. She could feel all the eyes in the department following them. Even with the door closed, the glass in the window and in the door made her feel like she was in a glass bowl. She laughed to herself. “Men do like their aquariums.”
“Is there something wrong?” he asked. His brow furrowed with concern or curiosity, Clisty wasn’t sure which.
“So many things, Jake.” She fumbled with the oversized gray buttons on her red coat. Finally, Jake took her hands and placed them at her sides. He drew so close she could hear his breathing. As her coat fell from her shoulders, she could hear a collective sigh from beyond the windows, while Jake placed the coat on a chair. The room was full of unspoken words, but Clisty knew there were words that she had to say. She didn’t know why her hands were shaking but she had to get through all the connected pieces of her life.
“Jake,” she pointed toward the desk, “you sit there and I’ll sit here.” While she sat on one of the facing chairs, she barely perched on the edge. Jake leaned back on the desk and waited, his arms folded across this chest.
“First, it occurred to me that Pooky has lived in the same house, the same neighborhood, the same town as Faith has lived since she was born eight years ago. Maybe she can remember something, names, streets, even what town they lived in.”
Jake leaned in closer with the new possibilities. “Will Pooky talk if I’m in the room with you?”
“I think that will be okay. You were with us when we first met her and she was comfortable with you then, although her trust does fluctuate.” She looked down at her fingernails; then she hid them in her pockets. “The other thing is ... I have been given the go-ahead to chase this story as far as it goes. That will probably mean, at least, leaving the state, probably going to Illinois. Can you ...” she hesitated. She didn’t want Jake to think she was being forward. “Do you think your department would let you go with us: Becca and Clint and me?”
Jake’s eyes brightened; the corners of his mouth turned up into a boyish grin. “You’re asking me to go to Illinois with you?”
“Jake … cut it out,” she blushed. Although, she had to admit, if only to herself, she loved his embraces, each one more powerful than the previous. She took a deep breath and tried to clear her head. Self-conscious by his amused expression, she slowly drew out, “I’m asking if the Police Department wants to send someone with us as we gather information about an unsolved kidnapping.” In her embarrassment, she stood up and focused her eyes on the budding spring day beyond the window.
“Oh,” he drew out, “if that’s what you’re asking, then yeah, they will probable send me.” Jake reached out, turned her around so he could see her, and wrapped his arms around her. “That’s great. I’m glad the station is letting you pursue the story.” He leaned back and looked into her eyes.
She wondered if he saw the rest of the story. “It’s not just the station, Jake. It’s the network. They’re talking about putting it on the national news, like a spot on their Tuesday night news magazine.”
“Clisty, that is great! It could really advance your career,” he glanced at the other windows that formed the glass wall to the outer office. “A kiss right now would be most appropriate, but perhaps all the eyes ...”
What should she say next? “Jake, we haven’t actually talked about us … how fast things are going.”
Standing even closer, he whispered, “Not too fast for me.” His voice warmed in her ear. “If you want me to slow down, I’ll try … if that’s really what you want.”
Clisty stood up, placed her hands on both sides of Jake’s face, pulled him close and kissed him with genuine tenderness. Looking at him, she added, “I know what I want. I want it all. And, I agree, the kiss was most appropriate ... and a little inappropriate. At least no one can accuse me of work place harassment. I don’t work here.” She pressed her forehead into Jake’s chest. “But ... maybe not the best timing ... or perhaps it is.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, but ... I think, I’m willing to listen.” He lifted her hands and kissed them tenderly.
“The kiss may have been an effort to soften you up before my last point,” she admitted. “My career may have already been boosted.” She turned and looked out the window again onto early pale green shoots. “If the story goes well, the network is offering me a spot on their National, New York based News Magazine. They’ll call it, Stories from the Heartland. They want to offer positive stories of victory over adversity from real people who live and work in the middle of the country, away from Broadway and Rodeo Drive.”
“Babe, that’s wonderful.” He threw his head back and exhaled from his toes. “Wait,” he stopped and jerked his eyes back to Clisty. “You just said New York based.”
“That’s right. The program is a network show, based in New York City.” She turned to face him. “But, we can ...”
“Thank goodness, for a minute I didn’t know if there would be a, we can anything in there.” 
• • • • • 
“We are continuing our expanded story of the suspected bank robber and his hostage,” Clisty updated the viewers that evening on the eleven o’clock news.
Dan Drummond faced the camera. “Melvin Dean Fargo, who was apprehended by police following last Friday’s stand-off, is charged with Criminal Confinement. His hostage? The woman believed to be the witness in Friday’s bank robbery.” They did not re-run the news clip from the ATM.

Clisty continued in confidence as her back straightened even more. “The network wants this newscaster to investigate Mr. Fargo, even beyond any involvement he may or may not have in the robbery at the bank. Our investigation will go far beyond those questions. It is our promise, to pursue this case until we answer all questions. And, that is the news at eleven.”

Friday, November 24, 2017

News at Eleven - Chapter 9


Chapter 9
Backstory

“How do you want to set up this first interview with Faith, Becca?” Clisty asked as she studied the room. “It’s my apartment, but you’re the director. Hopefully, she’ll feel more relaxed here in my home.”
“First of all, do you think Faith will drink coffee? I’ll put some on before she and her parents get here. That could settle things down and make her feel at home. The taping of this first segment will probably be the hardest.”
“Coffee? Sure. If she doesn’t want any, I know I will,” Clisty flicked a little nothing fuzz off the table.
“Do you want to place those two blue Edwardian wingback chairs in front of the fireplace, facing each other?” Becca asked as she looked around and studied the room.
“Maybe,” Clisty thought as she started moving the one nearest to her. “I don’t know, Becca,” she said as she thought about the placement.
“What’s wrong?” Becca paused. “I know we moved the chairs from their assigned spots. You probably measured the distance from the couch and positioned them at a precise angle.”
“Don’t laugh,” Clisty said sheepishly.
“On, no, Clisty, you didn’t?” She threw her hands to her hips and laughed. “I knew you like minimal d├ęcor but I didn’t know you took it to a compulsive level.”
“Becca, don’t be silly. I ...” Clisty protested as she pushed the chair in front of her at an odd angle. “There, is that better?”
“It doesn’t bother me,” Becca threw up both hands. “The question is—does it bother you?”
“I’m not going to worry about it. You put the chairs wherever you want them,” she laughed. The coffee table was a huge square tufted leather piece in dark blue. “I know the usual setup for a TV interview is face-to-face with nothing between you.” Clisty stood beside the table/footrest and studied it for a moment. “I’m afraid Faith is going to want to hide, to protect herself.” Her eyes darted back and forth as she checked the possibilities. “What if we put the coffee table between us, but just a little off center? It will give her a place to put her coffee cup and provide some separation between us.”
“That is brilliant.” Becca started to pull the leather piece toward the chairs. “Wait,” she pointed to the ottoman coffee table, “I don’t want to scratch the floors. You pick up one end.”
“I’m sure it won’t hurt anything,” Clisty shrugged as she picked up the end of the ottoman. “I’ll get out some nice cups and saucers and a tray so the whole thing will balance on the footstool, while you set the stage, so to speak.”
The doorbell rang as Becca started the coffee. “They’re early,” Becca gasped.
“No, I’ll bet that’s Clint with the camera. Let’s hope. Faith may become anxious if things are still being set up,” Clisty agreed. She hurried to the door.
Clint carried the TV camera in one hand and an equipment bag in the other and plopped them on the floor behind the couch. “That’s an interesting set up,” he nodded toward the chairs and coffee table. “Open and closed at the same time. That should make her feel more comfortable.”
Everyone connected with Faith’s story knew her background. Long tall Clint would be the one to film the entire process, from Fort Wayne and west into Illinois, maybe Chicago.
The doorbell rang again and the show was on. From the moment Faith walked into the apartment, the focus had to be on putting her at ease while dragging the most horrid memories out of her fragile memory. Her parents came with her.
“It’s good to see you again,” Roma said as she gave Clisty a hug.
“Clisty,” Ralph nodded in her direction.”
“Thank you for coming Mr. and Mrs. Sterling,” Becca began. “I’m sure Faith will feel more comfortable with you two here.”
“We had to bring her. She can’t drive,” Ralph explained as he shook his head. “There are so many things she can’t comprehend. Not because she isn’t intelligent,” he whispered. “She is.” He kept shaking his head in disbelief. “Like, she hadn’t seen a traffic light before her trip home. She said she had figured that drivers stop on red and go on green.” His eyes glazed over with tears. “What has she been through?”
“We’re going to find out, I hope,” Clisty looked over at Faith and smiled sympathetically. Faith looked beautiful, although still weak and unsure of herself. “How do you feel, Faith?” Clisty asked as she hugged her old friend and took her jacket.
“It seemed like spring was late when we first got to Indiana, but now the trees are beginning to bloom and the tulips are popping up a little. It’s only been a week since ... Pooky and I went into the hospital.”
“Speaking of Pooky, my mom was thrilled to watch her today. You have quite a daughter. You’re a good mother,” Clisty kept talking as she ushered Faith over to the two facing chairs. “She took to my mom like a second grandma.”
When the doorbell rang a third time, Becca went to the door so as not to break the rapport Clisty was beginning to build. “Hi Jake,” Becca grabbed his sleeve and pulled him into the apartment. “We’re already setting the mood in here. Go slow with Faith.”
“Don’t worry, I’m here only to observe.” He walked over toward the facing chairs and stopped near the couch. “Hi Faith, it’s good to see you again.”
“Again?” Faith’s body recoiled from Jake’s presence.
“I came to the hospital several times,” he said slowly. “Is it okay if I sit here on the sofa?”
“Okay? I guess,” Faith stammered.
“Do you remember my friend, Detective Jake Davis of the Fort Wayne police department?” Clisty asked.
“Maybe,” she smiled faintly then looked around the apartment. “You have a lovely home, Clisty.” Her blue eyes searched every inch of her surroundings, “It’s so clean.” When her eyes came to rest on the fireplace mantle, her eyes sparkled. “Your prayer angel,” she sighed with a smile.
“You remember my angel?” Clisty asked, her voice upbeat. “Faith,” she paused not wanting to rush her, “we would like to film these conversations. Do you remember what we talked about the other day?”
“About what?” She began twisting a tissue she pulled from her pocket until it began to fall in tiny shreds to the floor.
“Would you like a cup of coffee, Faith?” Becca asked as she poured a cup. “Maybe a cookie to go with it?”
Faith’s eyes shifted from Becca to her mother. “Mama brought cookies to the hospital. I’m not allowed to have sweets.”
“Really?” Clisty asked, and then looked at Clint to see if he was ready to film. He gave a thumbs-up and Clisty continued. “Who told you not to eat sweets?” Then to Becca she added, “Coffee would be great for both of us, and, I know I’d enjoy a cookie.”
Becca brought the hot brew and a small platter of shortbread cookies she had brought in. “Here you are Faith and the pot is full. Roma, Ralph, would you two like some?”
“No thank you,” Roma waved her hand away.
“Yes, please. Maybe it will clear my head,” Ralph agreed.
After a quick break of coffee and cookies, Clisty tried again to make a connection. “You said you liked the flowers. There were always beautiful, large flower beds in Swinney Park. The blossoms were so fragrant; it smelled like perfume was always in the air.”
“Yes ...” Faith closed her eyes as a soft, sweet smile crossed her face. “I can smell them.” Quickly, her eyes popped open, large and frightened. “I’m not supposed to day dream.”
“You’re not allowed to eat sweets, or pause and remember? Faith, who gave you those rules?”
“They did, of course, The Guardians.”
Clisty looked at Jake and the Sterlings. “The Guardians? Who are The Guardians?”
“My family.”
Roma Sterling’s eyes flashed open wide. Ralph scooted to the edge of the couch cushion.
“Their name was Guardian?” Clisty asked and wondered if it all had been too easy.
“No. That’s what they were, not who they were.” Her coffee cup rattled in her hand so she placed it on the ottoman. With her eyes cast down, she explained. “He said, since my parents sold me to them, I was their slave. But, if I was good, he would treat me like a daughter. He said he was my guardian. So, I tried to be really good, no sweets so they didn’t have to spend money on dentists, no day dreaming because that would make me a lazy worker.”
“Is that the way they treated you, the way your life went the whole time you were with them?” Clisty asked as the camera kept rolling.
“With him, yes. I could never call him by name. But, I called her, Lady. Lady would come into my room and read to me. She taught me all the subjects of school. She would brush my hair. Their son, Steven went to school. When I married Steven, I was seventeen and he was twenty. He showed me love and gentleness.”
“Where did you and Steven live, Faith?” Clisty paused and waited patiently. She hoped she was not pushing her friend.
“In our rooms, of course. We used Steven’s old room as our bedroom and my room as a sitting room. There was a bathroom off my room. The Guardian helped Steven put a door between the bedroom and sitting room so it was like a little apartment. After Pooky was born, they gave us another small bedroom to use as a nursery. Sometimes, we ate our meals with Lady and The Guardian, but not very often.” There was a softening in Faith’s words.
“Did ... the man ever hurt you?” Clisty again waited. She didn’t want to lead her friend or coach her in any way. There could be no contamination, no recovery of false memories due to guided suggestions.
“Hurt me?” Faith’s eye lids fluttered and her voice faded. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“Did he touch you in ways that made you feel uncomfortable, as a child or any time?” Clisty’s tone was empathetic. She didn’t want to embarrass her or cause her to pull away emotionally.
“After he grabbed me in your living room and then dragged me in the house once we were at home, he never touched me again, except to hit me. The only time he talked to me was to yell rules and bawl me out.” Faith’s expression seemed to wilt, like a beautiful flower that hadn’t had enough life-giving water.
“Did ... the lady, ever hurt you?”
“Lady? No, not like hitting me or anything. She just left me all alone so much. Not ‘cause she wanted to. She treated me like her daughter when she was allowed to spend time with me.” Tears started to flow down her cheeks. “I was so utterly alone most of the time.”
“What about Steven? Did you two talk or play games or anything? Did he spend time with you?”
“The Guardian wouldn’t let him be alone with me.” Faith looked into the fireplace that burned with a soft glow.
“Then how ...?” Clisty started then stopped and let Faith fill in the rest of it.
“The Guardian locked my bedroom door every night. As I got older, and he saw that I didn’t leave my room, he stopped locking it. With no locked door between us, Steven would creep into my room at night and we’d just talk.”
Clisty wondered if Faith was ready for the next question but she had to ask. “Did you and Steven get sexually involved? Is that why you were allowed to marry?”
“No ... no!” Faith shrunk back as she denied sexual encounters. “Finally, when I was seventeen, Steven asked his father if we could be married.” She closed her eyes again. Her shoulders relaxed and she smiled.
“Do you see those sweet memories, Faith?” Clisty asked as she watched her friend’s face fill with joy. “Memories of your marriage and the love Steven had for you?”
“Yes” she whispered.
Clisty leaned forward and tried to breathe trust and love into the space that remained between them. “If you never went outside, and you never saw anyone, who married you and Steven?”
“The Guardian, of course. He’s the Head Master of the Freedom Temple. All the slaves obey The Guardian, even when he’s mean and abusive.” Faith’s sweet expression changed back to the flat, marionette face of one who never thought for herself, she only obeyed. “He cleaned himself up and had his teeth fixed and turned himself into a Head Master.” From somewhere deep within her, she began to repeat in rapid fire delivery, a pledge of allegiance by rote memory. “The Head Master is kind and good, full of wisdom and love. He is all knowing. He is the voice of God.”
Clisty was stunned. How could she get Faith to give more details of her background if some questions caused her to slip into a robotic daze? She hoped that recent memories would be easier to recall than distant ones.
“Faith,” Clisty started a new line of questioning and placed her hand on her friend’s knee. She tried to anchor Faith to the present with her touch. “Faith, let’s talk about the other day, with the bank robber, Melvin Dean Fargo.”
Faith blinked several times and looked at Clisty. “Okay.”
“How did you get away from Fargo, and then end up back at the house on North Gramercy again?” Clisty waited and watched Faith try to recount what had happened only days before.
“He said he was going to go to the bank and Pooky and I had to go with him so we wouldn’t escape.” Her gaze searched the area in the upper right edge of her memory. “We had no idea that he was going to rob it.”
“Where were you when he threatened the teller?” Clisty asked, hoping Faith was not an unplanned accomplice to a robbery.
“He kept his right hand in his pocket and held my arm with his left. He ordered me to hold on to Pooky.” Suddenly her eyes flashed with fear. “Then, Clisty, he pulled a gun out of his pocket and ordered a teller to give him all the money.” Faith put her hands to her face and covered her eyes.
“You must have been terrified,” Clisty whispered. “Where was Pooky?”
“She was still beside me. When Fargo looked at the money the teller was putting in a bag, he released his grip on me. I grabbed Pooky and we ran out. I told her to find the shop we saw you go in on our way to the bank. I would escape and try to get Fargo to follow me and not her.”
“You had seen me earlier?” Clisty asked, amazed at all the interconnected miracles of seeming happenstance.
“I had seen your news program on TV when we first arrived on Gramercy and I recognized you right away. When I saw you go in the shop late in the afternoon, I noticed it was just down the street from your parents’ house.”
“You have quite a memory.” Clisty gathered up the threads of the conversation and pulled Faith back to her escape from Fargo. “So, you sent Pooky away, hoping she could find the coffee shop. How did you feel when you saw her run out on her own?”
“I was so afraid but, she had to get as far from Fargo as possible. Then, I ran to the side when I saw Fargo race out the door. He passed right behind me. I guess he didn’t think I’d stop just outside the bank.”
“We all saw you, Faith, on the surveillance camera. Fargo had on a dark blue hoodie, didn’t he?” Clisty asked.
“Yes. You said you saw me on some kind of camera?” she asked and smiled.
“We’ll talk about surveillance cameras some other time,” Clisty assured her. “What happened next?”
“Then, I ran off and tried to find the coffee shop and Pooky. At first, I tried to make sure Fargo would see and follow me, so Pooky would have a head start.” Faith drank from her cup, touched the cookie and then put it down.
“Faith,” Clisty reached for her hand, “you were so brave.”
“I didn’t feel brave. I just ran. I darted down streets, across lawns and back alleys. I thought I had gotten away from him. It got dark but I could still recognize parts of the old neighborhood. Then I saw your parents’ house but no one was home. It was all dark.”
Clisty gasped in validation. “I thought you were in the yard.”
Faith looked over at Becca. “I saw Fargo knock you down and I panicked. I picked up a broken branch and swung it at him.” Her arms and whole body acted out the attack again. “I know I hit him, but I didn’t know if I had stopped him, so I started to run.” She looked out the window across the room and sighed deeply.
“Then what happened, Faith?” Clisty leaned toward her friend. Behind the camera, Roma held a tissue to her mouth and muffling the frequent gasps that escaped.
“I only managed to get a few houses down the street from your mom and dad’s when Fargo caught up to me.” Her hands trembled as she shifted in her chair. “He grabbed me by my hair. ‘Where is she?’ he yelled. I told him I didn’t know where Pooky was. He dragged me to the truck and shoved me in.” She stopped and looked back at her dad. “Daddy, I was a prisoner again and I just wanted to come home.”