For the least of these, p.20

For The Least Of These, page 20


For The Least Of These

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  I spend the rest of Tuesday watching a Brady Bunch marathon and waiting for Brandy to call back. At a little past five, I’m sick to death of seventies clothes, bad story lines, and whiney Jan. Even a die-hard fan like me has a breaking point. I switch the station to the Weather Channel. Hurricane Ivan does seem to be heading in our direction. Jim Cantore looks as tired as I feel. He’s broadcasting from Destin, I think, but I’m not really paying attention. I switch off the tube and stand up. No sense in wallowing in all the bad news since I can’t hold back the winds or rain. I step outside to stretch my legs. The wind is brisk and the sky is black. What does tomorrow hold? I wonder.

  I head back inside to prepare dinner. After that, I plan to turn it. It doesn’t look like Brandy is going to call me back.

  I wake up early the next morning without the help of an alarm or Mrs. Bojangles. After I look outside I realize that Mrs. Bojangles is probably snuggled up on my parents’ couch. The weather outside is not conducive to kitty visits. Rain is now falling at a steady pace and the wind is really whipping the trees around. I flip on the TV long enough to hear that Ivan should make landfall late tonight or in the wee hours of tomorrow. I wish Brandy would call back.

  A short while later, I decide that maybe I should run over and check on Mom and Dad. I cross my fingers that Brandy won’t call before I get back. Mom is not outside, but Dad is still looking for ways to prepare for the hurricane. He’s filled about twenty gallon-sized jugs with water, and he’s putting them into the trunk of an old Ford that he rarely drives. When he sees me, he calls me over and says, “If we need any water for bathing or flushing the toilet, here it is.” He points proudly towards the jugs. Only now do I notice that the backseat of the old car also contains oodles of filled water jugs. He must have sixty or more altogether. I am also aware that he now has over 20 gallons of extra gasoline stored up in one of the sheds. I wonder if this is all necessary. The hurricane is coming, but Dad seems to be overdoing it a bit.

  “Dad, do we really need that much water and all that gas?”

  “You’ve got to learn to be prepared, Alicia. When I was a boy, we had a hurricane that left us without fresh water for over three months. And no electricity either…”

  Dad has told me this story at least one hundred times. With each telling, the amount of time increases. The first time he told the story, they were only without water for two days. “Okay, Dad. I’ll try to remember that when you aren’t around anymore. Hopefully that won’t be for another fifty years or so.” After I say this, I plant a big kiss on Daddy’s cheek. He smiles like a teenager who just had his first kiss.

  “You’re a good girl, Alicia. No matter what your mother says.”

  “Ha-ha, Daddy. You are very funny. I’m going to go check on Mom now.”

  “You do that. She’s been acting plenty weird about this storm. And plenty weird for your mother is catastrophically weird for everyone else.”

  I can hear Mom inside the kitchen singing. I recognize the tune; it’s her favorite: “Barbara Allen.” Her mother used to sing it to her when she was a little girl, and she thinks it is both the saddest and the loveliest song she’s ever heard. I open the backdoor and stop to listen to her for a moment.

  “Now she was buried by the old church wall,

  And him they laid beside her,

  And from her grave grew a red, red rose,

  And from his grave a briar.

  They grew and they grew to the church steeple top,

  'Til they could grow no higher,

  And there they twined in a true lover's knot,

  Red rose around the briar.”

  The song is extremely depressing, but then my mother does love maudlin things. She is an eternal pessimist, so it is fitting that such a sad song is her favorite. But it isn’t mine, so I am happy to interrupt her. “Mom, do you need any help with anything? I have a feeling I’m going to be tied up with Brandy later, so I thought I’d check on you.”

  “So you finally found Brandy, huh? Now tell the truth, why is that good-looking man trying to find her?”

  “You mean Jack. Um…he’s not looking for her any more. He and I have just been hanging out.” I hate lying to Mom, but I really don’t want to get into the truth right now. It would take way too long.

  “Jack? No, I don’t think his name was Jack. Isn’t he the guy you’ve been driving around with? The big one? I’m not talking about him. I mean the other one. He was over here last week asking about Brandy. I gave him her cell phone number.”

  I am taken aback by what Mom says for two reasons. First, who, other than Jack, would be looking for Brandy? Second, Mom has Brandy’s cell phone number? I decide to start with the easiest question first. “Mom, how did you get Brandy’s cell phone number?”

  “The day she got her cell phone, she came over to the house and gave me the number. She said she knew you would misplace the number and this way you could get it from me. Why, do you need the number?”

  Damn. Brandy thinks she is so smart. She thinks I can’t hold on to her phone number. Oh, yeah, she’s right. “Yes, Mom, I do need that number. But who was this man looking for Brandy? Didn’t he tell you his name? Why would you give a complete stranger her phone number?”

  “If I could remember his name, I would have asked, ‘Why is Tom, Dick, or Harry trying to find her?’ instead of asking, ‘Why is that good-looking man trying to find her?’ I gave him her phone number because he told me he was the man that brought you two back from Biloxi. At the time, I assumed he was probably a good person if my daughter got into a car with him. Now that I’ve thought about it, maybe it was a lapse in judgment. I forgot that you and Brandy get into men’s cars all the time – without a thought of their character…”

  I hate to admit it, but based on my recent conduct with Jack, Mom was right. I had been driving around with Jack for several days now simply because he was handsome. I can’t stop to think about this now, however. Adam is in town and looking for Brandy. Jack was right, and now he will catch up to Adam if I don’t find a way to warn him.

  “I don’t really have time to explain why Adam…”

  “Adam! That’s his name…”

  “…is looking for Brandy. Please write her cell number down and give it to me.”

  For once, Mom moves faster than a snail’s pace. She jots down a number on a note pad and hands it to me. “Hon, you know that hurricane is heading straight for us. Please make sure you are home before it arrives.”

  I assure Mom that I’ll be home long before Ivan shows up, and then I run home as fast as I can.

  I can barely control my fingers as I dial Brandy’s number. She answers and her voice is groggy, “Alicia, do you know what time it is?”

  “Brandy, where are you?”

  “I’m in a nice warm bed asleep. Call me back later.”

  “You need to come over here right now, before this storm gets any worse. I’ve got something important to tell you.”

  “Alright…I’m at Mom and Daddy’s. It’ll take me a little while to get over there…”

  “Just hurry, please!”

  “I should be there in about forty-five minutes.”

  It seems like hours before I hear Brandy’s car outside, but the clock assures me that only fifty minutes have passed since our phone conversation. I fling the door open before Brandy can knock. The sky is turning black and the rain is getting worse.

  “Boy, aren’t you impatient,” Brandy says. She looks extremely cheerful for someone who is about to die.

  “I don’t have time to kill you for worrying all of us to death, but I’ll get around to it eventually. Right now I need to tell you that Adam is in town.”

  “I know.”

  “And we need…Wait a minute. Did you say you know?”

  “Where do you think I’ve been all this time? Adam called me Friday night while we were at Three Sheets. You were talking to that really cute tall guy. I figured that he would wind up taking you home, so I didn’t interrupt
you when I left to go meet Adam.”

  I can’t believe what Brandy is saying. She’s been with Adam all this time, and she never bothers to let me know that she’s okay. “Why didn’t you tell someone? Let’s see, there was Curt, Wayne, your parents, my parents, Terry… You could have told someone!”

  “I thought your mom would tell you that Adam stopped by. She gave him my cell phone number. How do you think he called me?”

  “She did tell me. Today. About an hour ago. You know my mom. How could you think she would remember to tell me anything?”

  “I thought you didn’t have time to kill me. I thought you had something important to tell me. Oh, wait. You just wanted to tell me Adam was in town. Okay, get on with the killing. I’m going to get a glass of water while you build up to it.”

  This is frustrating. Is this how Brandy usually feels when I act goofy? “Brandy, where is Adam right now?”

  “We split up last night. Well, we didn’t actually split up – we’re still together. We’ve been staying at the Hampton Inn – and before you ask, we were in separate rooms. Last night, I remembered that my folks didn’t have my cell phone number – I didn’t want Daddy telling me that I was wasting my money and lining some big corporation’s pockets – so I told Adam I was going to go see them in case they were worried about me. I spent the night with them so Adam wouldn’t have to pay for my hotel room for another night. Adam had something he wanted to do this morning, so we are going to meet later at the airport.”

  “The airport? Is he trying to fly out of here in the wake of a hurricane?”

  “No, he’s just turning in his rental car. He and I are going to stay with Mom and Daddy during the hurricane. Why are you so concerned about him?”

  “That cute tall guy at Three Sheets…”

  “Yeah. Did you get lucky with him?”

  “Brandy, he’s a cop. He’s here from Mississippi. He thinks Adam killed Fisher Perry. We’ve got to warn Adam. Call him now.”

  Brandy looks stricken. She grabs her purse, and at the same moment, my front door flies open. It isn’t the wind; Jack is standing there. Brandy ignores him as she gets her phone and presses a few buttons. She does move into the kitchenette – farther away from Jack.

  Jack speaks. “Brandy, put the phone down. I have to talk to you.”

  Brandy is still ignoring Jack as she holds the phone to her ear. After a short time, she takes the phone down and looks at it pleadingly. Apparently, Adam isn’t answering.

  Jack is now beside Brandy and he takes the phone from her hand and closes it. “He’s not going to answer. The local police are waiting for him outside the hotel. He should already be in custody.”

  I can’t believe Adam has been arrested. Brandy collapses and Jack catches her. He helps her into the living room and onto the couch. By now, she’s sobbing. I’m on the verge of crying too.

  “Jack, “I say, “Adam isn’t a killer.” Jack ignores me. He is removing his handcuffs from his belt. He starts placing them on Brandy! “Jack! Damn it, Jack, why are you handcuffing Brandy?”

  “She’s an accessory. I’m sorry, Alicia, but Brandy has helped Adam conceal his whereabouts. He knew we were looking for him – do you really think he didn’t tell her?”

  Brandy has stopped crying. “It’s okay, Alicia. Adam is innocent. He’s never mentioned a word of this to me. If he had killed Fisher, I know he would have told me.”

  “He’s a Christian,” I say to Jack. “He’s a good man.”

  “Christians kill people all the time, Alicia. They are human. I happen to be a Christian myself, and just look at how I deceived you. I’m not proud of it, but it is my job to catch bad guys – even if I have to lie every once in a while.”

  I want to pound my fists against Jack’s back and scream at him to let Brandy go, but I know it is no use. He really believes that Adam killed Fisher and that Brandy helped him hide out.

  Jack says to Brandy, “If what you say is true and Adam didn’t tell you about the murder, you’ll be released. Now I’m going to tell you your rights. You have the right to remain silent…”

  I tune Jack out and grab my purse. There’s no way he’s taking her in without me going too. Jack stops walking and watches me as he continues listing off Brandy’s rights. Even though I’m ready to go, he goes on and on until he is done Mirandizing her, and then he says to me, “Where do you think you are going?”

  “I’m going to follow you to Gulfport, or wherever you are taking Brandy.”

  “I’m taking her to the local sheriff’s department. They are holding Adam there, too. This hurricane is causing an exodus from Pensacola and the surrounding areas, so all roads are pretty well backed up. I’ve spoken to my boss and he thinks it is a good idea to keep them here until after the storm. You’re welcome to go down there and sit if you’re a mind to, but they won’t be getting out on bail or anything like that.”

  Just before we head out the door, Jack’s cell phone starts ringing. He shoves Brandy back on the couch, a little rougher than he should. He fumbles for his phone and I sit down beside her. “It’ll be okay, Brandy. I’ll be with you.”

  Brandy starts to reply, but Jack interrupts by slamming his phone shut and yelling, “Damn it!”

  Brandy looks at him and says, “He got away, didn’t he?” She is beaming.

  Jack is furious. “Some incompetent idiot let him slip right through his fingers! He got to his car and disappeared before they even knew he was gone.” Jack turns to Brandy, “But don’t worry your pretty little head. We will get him.”

  “So, are we leaving now?” I ask.

  “Nope,” Jack responds. He seems a little brighter. I recognize that look: he has a plan to catch Adam. “I think we’ll wait right here. Since you and Considine have become so close, Brandy, I’m betting he won’t leave town without you. All we have to do is wait for him to figure out where you are. And that shouldn’t take too long.”

  I look at Brandy and she is praying. That seems to be a good idea, so I do the same…

  Chapter 8

  I never thought I’d be running from the police. I’ve only been on the lam for about twenty minutes, and I’m already wondering if I should give myself up. Of course it would help if I knew why the police were after me. As it is, I’m really confused by what’s going on.

  For the past two months, I’ve been hanging around Raleigh, North Carolina. I thought that spending some time with my parents at their home in Cary would be a good idea, but things didn’t turn out as I had hoped. While I had been wrapped up in my life with Rick, my mother and father had grown apart. They had been unable to get past the death of my sister, and it was taking a toll on their marriage. At least they were trying to work it out, and I didn’t want to hinder their attempts by moving back into their house. So I grabbed a motel room in Raleigh so I could check in on them from time to time.

  During this period, I spent so much time thinking about Brandy and everything that happened during our brief weekend together. I have been unable to figure out why I have such strong feelings for her. And then there was the scene with Fisher Perry. I’ve tried to forget about that, but it still haunts me. It serves to remind me that even a Godly man can cross the line back to sin at any time.

  I was so angry with Fisher. I mentioned before how I went to his motel room, intent on teaching him a lesson. He had invited me into his room, and I had locked the door behind us. I wanted to make sure he didn’t leave until I was done with him. He saw me lock the door, and he said, “Paranoid, are we?”

  Before he could say another word, I punched him in the nose and sent him spiraling backwards where he landed on his unmade bed. Blood gushed from his nose, and from the looks of it, it was broken. Fisher was dazed for a moment and then he said, “What the hell?”

  I was ready to pummel him if he stood up, but he didn’t get the chance. The door to the bathroom opened, and a half-clothed woman walked out. She had a towel wrapped around her hair and a concerned look on her face. She w
as wearing only a bra and a pair of miniscule pink panties. “What’s going on in here?” she asked.

  This woman’s appearance made me immediately contrite for my actions. I dropped my fists to my sides and relaxed my stance. I didn’t speak – no, I couldn’t speak. I didn’t know what to say.

  “Fisher, are you alright?” the woman said.

  “I…I think so,” he replied. Then he added, “I think my nose is broke.”

  “What did you do this time?” she continued. Then she looked at me. “Did he bed your girlfriend? Or was it your mother? Fisher’s not choosy.”

  “This guy is an insurance adjuster. I don’t know why he hit me…”

  I finally found my voice and said, “I’m not from your insurance company. I’m a friend of Brandy’s. I thought you needed to pay for what you did to her car. But I was wrong. I should have let the police handle it.”

  “Brandy? That bitch? She thought she was better than me. And then she damaged my truck…”

  “It was an accident. And she tried to clean it up,” I was about to get riled up again. I stopped long enough to get my emotions in check. “Look, I shouldn’t have come here. Brandy’s gone now, so you won’t have to worry about her anymore.”

  I turned to leave. I thought I heard Fisher trying to get up off the bed, but the woman told him to let me go. “Do you really want him to kick your ass some more?” she asked him.

  I got into my car and drove away. A few miles down the road I pulled over. I was trembling and fearful of the rage I had just exhibited. I wanted to blame it on Brandy and this hold she somehow had on me. But it wasn’t Brandy’s fault that I couldn’t control my anger. I sat on the side of the road for several minutes and prayed. I made a new commitment to myself: with God’s help, I would never behave this way again.

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