Thread: Trying My Hand Again
February 13th 2010, 06:32 PM #1
Trying My Hand Again
Over the years I've written a lot of things. Some for my blog, some for work, and stories mostly for myself. I very rarely shared the latter with others anymore.
Thought I would try a short one, hopefully for four chapters. Just to see what others say.
(Look for references to Barstow and thereabouts )
Rusty was pleased with her new, red PT Cruiser, the birthday gift from her son Thomas that he had waiting for her at his apartment near the Penn station where she had arrived at from Albany. She had used the PT the next whole day on business appointments and visiting friends before heading home on the west side outside of New York City.
Her right hip was aching no doubt from all the traveling she had done first by train then by driving around. She eased her shoulders as she crested the road over the last line of hills towards home. The view of the land was not great because of the dark low clouds that finally started sprinkling huge drops. Usually there were rays of sun through puffy clouds but not this afternoon.
Just as she expected, the sky suddenly darkened even more, and rain exploded everywhere. In very short order it became difficult to see beyond a couple dozen feet ahead.
Rusty eased up on her gas and pursed her lips. She was not especially bothered by the weather - in her childhood home in the Mojave desert of California she had seen her share of violent cloudbursts, and learned to live with constant wet weather during her career at the Pentagon - but she disliked the idea of driving in the dark out here in the countryside.
The rain drummed on her car and the pavement. She normally liked the sound, but not now. She wanted to get home. At least she only had a couple of miles more to go.
The car lurched sharply, and she pulled over to the shoulder immediately. It might be a flat tire, but it did not feel right.
Sighing, Rusty took her hearing aid off. The rain immediately became a very remote drumming sound.
She carefully put the hearing aid in its traveling case and put it in her purse next to her. Reaching over, she pulled her walking cane to her, and buttoned her overcoat up, and put up her hood.
Quickly she swung the door open, stepped out, and shut the door. The cold water hammered against her head and shoulders.
The ground moved under her, and she stumbled back several steps.
In the rain she saw her car slide down out of view abruptly. She gasped and stared for a long second. She shut her eyes and opened them again; there was no car.
She looked down and immediately jumped back several more steps.
Where there were supposed to be pavement there was a hole showing the exposed insides of the road.
Squinting against the sprinkles of water hitting her face, Rusty craned her neck and thought she could see her car some distance down the slope of the hill, sitting upright with mud sliding around it.
Rusty never thought she would be part of a scene she had seen on TV often back home, the aftermath of the storms flooding water under the roads there and causing the collapse of pavement.
Great, she thought resignedly, her phone was in her purse in her car. Along with her hearing aid. Oh, yes…and her house keys.
The rain got wetter and colder.
Rusty grimaced and debated. Here was no place to stand out of the rain, and she was only two miles from home. She disliked waiting for traffic to come by - she was alone and she had seen no one else for miles now.
She gripped her cane and, watching the pavement closely, started her walk down the slope. It was slow going. The rain still came down, and her hip was hurting still more.
Rusty gritted her teeth. Perhaps her son and her friends were right. She needed to have someone stay with her. But she enjoyed her freedom and lack of fear.
Rusty knew a lot about fear. She still did not like to fly, she had tried it after her recovery but she was very uncomfortable. She stuck with her first love - trains. Amtrak was good enough for what she needed to do.
And living alone was preferable to the kind of fear she had lived with for years before and after September 11th, 2001.
She almost slipped. Stumbling, she drew in a sharp breath as pain stabbed through her hip. “Argh,” she groaned.
She leaned a moment on the cane, breathing deeply.
Ahead, she knew, was the final turn in the road towards home.
So, shaking her head against the rain drumming against her hood, she pressed on more carefully.
She was not sure how long it took, but she took heart from landmarks visible at the side of the road - a cluster of rocks, a tree, both wet but still there, that wood fencing sitting off the road just before that turn in the road.
Her hip was hurting worse. And now her shoulder was protesting. Rusty tried not to walk too fast - it was tempting to hurry - but she did not want to fall here and now. At least the road was now level.
And she did not really need her house keys. She had recently had a keyless pad installed on the front door for just this type of occasion.
There it was - her one-story home barely visible off the road. She stepped gratefully off the road.
But that was odd - there were at least five cars in the horseshoe driveway before the house. She squinted; she thought one was a patrol car.
Five minutes later she was at her front door and it was open.
Alarmed, she looked in from the threshold, and noticed a man in a suit standing ahead of her in the dining room, looking up at the ceiling.
“Hey!” she said sharply, loudly enough she knew, even though she could barely hear herself at the moment.
The man started and looked down from the ceiling. His eyebrows rose and he said something.
From behind him came Rusty’s son , looking worried and surprised at once.
Thomas signed rapidly - he of course would know she would not have her hearing aid on in this kind of weather.
But what he said made no sense: “Mom! We looked for you in the morgue but didn’t find your hip!”
She frowned. She told him verbally, “Never mind that - get me some dry jeans, from the third drawer of my dresser. And get me my pain meds - oh yeah, and my spare hearing aid. I left everything in the car. Then you and the cops can explain what you’re doing here.
“Come on, move! I’m dying here.”
She ripped off her dripping overcoat, and sat in the chair in the entry hall to pull off her soaked sneakers.To the King of Kings and Lord of Lords be glory forever!
February 13th 2010, 08:15 PM #2
Re: Trying My Hand Again
She limped into the guest bathroom off the foyer to change into the dry jeans. She toweled her damp hair ends and combed it all into place. Then she took a dose of her medication, and donned her hearing aid.
Thomas had a cup of tea waiting for her by the fireplace in the open living room. And a pair of dry socks as well.
She sank into her cherished armchair - a legacy from her former grandfather-in-law - put the socks on, and gratefully slipped on the slippers she always kept by the hearth. She reached out to feel the heat from the fire that had been started for her.
Her home was a country style house. It was one story as she no longer wanted to be climbing stairs, and had the best she could afford in hardwood floors and country style furniture to mix with her legacy of furniture. One of things she insisted on were fireplaces in the living room and her master bedroom. She had grown up with fireplaces.
The three cops that had come with their plainsclothes boss were now all gone, satisfied that her house was clear and safe for the day.
She looked up at Thomas.
His blue eyes were still worried as he explained, “they called me - this is Captain Moore - and told me they had found you on - on the street, with your ID and everything. I came down to - you know - identify you.”
He stopped, running his fingers through his longish blond hair. He looked distressed.
Rusty moved her gaze from him to Captain Moore.
He was well dressed, medium height, dark, and looked to be Italian despite his name. His badge gleamed on his belt; he had a noticeable bulge under the suit jacket on his left side. His eyes had a rueful look.
Acidly she said, “Did you bother to check if those were my stolen I.Ds before you scared my son?”
“We did not, Ms. Baldonado, and we apologize. The face matched your driver’s license.” He rubbed his neck ruefully, “Your son of course spotted the differences, and insisted we check for the metal in your body. Apparently, according to him, you have enough to set off the detectors at airports from ten feet away.”
“Thomas tends to exaggerate, but not by much,” said Rusty dryly, not taking her eyes off him, “So, who was it?”
She took another sip from her tea.
“We don’t know. All she had was your ID.”
Rusty sat up sharply, with some alarm at a sudden thought, and winced at her hip.
Thomas immediately told her, “No Mom. It’s not Cousin Vera. I checked. She’s still in Barstow.”
Thomas looked down slightly at Capt. Moore as he explained, “Her cousin Vera Carter, on her mother’s side. They could be twins. Vera tended to steal her ID and her credit cards so she can go on buying sprees.”
“I had those cards cancelled two weeks ago, right after they were stolen” said Rusty irritably. “Did she try to use them, is that how you found her?”
“No - she was supposedly a victim of a mugging.”
Rusty stared at him, puzzled. “Oh. And why are you all here?”
“Ah - that was me,” said Thomas apologetically, “The company called and told me you had been in an accident. They found your car off the road.”
Rusty shook her head impatiently, “What company?”
“Yeah, I forgot to tell you - you have an onboard security system. I paid for the full package, accident notification, remote unlocking, all that.” He sighed; the tension was finally ebbing from his face, “and when they called, I - we - hightailed it out to here.”
“I don’t understand. You had to have passed me, and I didn’t see you.”
“Road washed out,” said Moore, “closed to all but fire personnel. We took the long way around,” said Capt. Moore, “Full code three. We didn’t know what we’d find.”
He nodded to Thomas, “I just realized - you said your name is Wetherington.”
“Yeah - my father’s name,” said Thomas, staring at him, “Why?”
Moore’s eyes shifted from him to Rusty, “It finally jogged my memory. I knew your face was familiar. I was at the first memorial service at the Pentagon, back in 2002. You’re one of the survivors, Rosabel Wetherington. I saw you in the crowd and they mentioned you in the papers.”
The old heartache came back. It was not so strong anymore, it had been too long ago, but it was there.
Rusty put down her cup, “Not something I like to talk about much, Captain. I lost all my employees that day.”
“No of course not.”
Rusty got up. She felt a little light headed. “I’m sorry about the car, honey.”
“Ah-” Thomas waved that away, “- don’t worry about it Mom - we can get another one if it’s totaled. I know you like the PT. Don’t get up Mom.”
“I want to see this body,” said Rusty, “but it’s dark, and I’m beat. See you tomorrow.”
She did not stay to see if they disagreed. Now that she was satisfied her son was okay, and she was starting to feel relief from her pain, she wanted to go to bed.
Apparently they were willing to leave it at that. Captain Moore took his leave, and Thomas went with him since he had left his car back at the police station. He set the alarm and secured the front door. He had his own code.
Rusty changed into her pajamas and, after a prayer of thanks to God for her deliverance, slipped into her bed. Within seconds she was asleep.
The next day Thomas came to take her to the city. “They said the PT is fine,” he said in obvious relief, “and you look better, Mom.”
Rusty had decided to wear a sweater along with her silk white shirt and gray pants. Normally, at this time of year, she would wear a skirt and business suit, but she still felt chilled from yesterday. “Thanks, Thomas. Let’s go.”
It took longer than usual - the storm had shorted out some street lights in the town before New York - but they made it into the city without incident.
As Thomas fought to park his gray BMW near the mortuary, Rusty noticed a red PT some cars behind. Together they walked down to look at it, but it was not hers. “Look Mom,” he said laughingly, “it’s from the same dealership, and it’s one digit off from your license number. How weird is that?”
Rusty agreed with a grin of her own. She followed Thomas into the police mortuary, leaning slightly on her cane.
Captain Moore was there, and he escorted then down to see the mysterious doppleganger.
The assistant coroner pulled back the cloth from the face, and Rusty started just a little.
It did look almost just like her. The same age as herself she thought (forty-five plus) with nearly black hair with strands of gray, the little nose, and the pointed chin were exactly like hers. The cheeks were a little different.
Rusty wondered what her story would prove to be.
Rusty realized she had been staring at the other face for a long time. “Yes - sorry. It would have been Cousin Vera, but there’s no scar over the left eyebrow.”
Moore nodded to the assistant, who covered the face again.
His phone rang, and he excused himself.
He listened for a long minute, and frowned. “We’ll be right there,” he said abruptly, and turned the phone off.
To Rusty he demanded, “Do you know anybody named Rogelio?”To the King of Kings and Lord of Lords be glory forever!
February 14th 2010, 08:59 PM #3
Re: Trying My Hand Again
Rusty tilted her head up at him, “My ten-year-old nephew, back on the left coast. Why?”
“No relatives here?”
“Just my son. He does have a raft of relatives here through his father. What is it?”
Captain Moore rubbed the ridge of his nose. He looked perplexed. “Ah…there’s been some credit cards stolen from a Rogelio Baldonado. He’s down at the station doing reports.”
Rusty and Thomas looked at him.
Finally Thomas said, “Come on. Not all that uncommon a name, and this is New York City.”
Moore shrugged, “True. Just checking.”
“And I want to take Mom to see about her car. Anything else?”
There was not, so they parted ways with Moore at the door and went down to Thomas’s BMW.
Rusty had seen dead people before but they had names. This woman who looked so like her but lived by an identity stolen had left behind no link to her true self. She was destined for the Potter’s Field, over in Hart Island.
“Thomas,” she said as he opened the door for her, “I want to see what I can do for this woman, after we check on the car.”
“Don’t think the police can, Mom?” He was smiling.
Rusty looked up at him as she leaned her hand on the door opening, “Maybe, but they have more important things to do because they do have names. She doesn’t. Come on, Thomas. How often have you lamented over all the homeless, nameless people you see in your shelter work? And it might be extra credit for your college.”
He raised his eyebrows, “Are you sure it’s not because she had your face?”
Rusty stared down into the seat in front of her. She got in, and nursed her cane between her hands. She did not know how to answer his question.
Thomas had watched over the towing of the car from the impound yard to the garage this morning before picking Rusty up. He was on spring break, so he had ample time to oversee the repairs.
At the garage they met with the mechanic working on the car. His name label said he was Hector.
Behind him was Rusty’s PT, still slathered with mud. There appeared to be nothing wrong with it otherwise.
And there was not. “The paint might need to be fixed, the tires replaced, and the wheels realigned,” Hector said, “but the frame’s good, and I don’t see any dents, not major ones anyway. Your car took a easy ride down that hill.”
Rusty sighed; she knew she got off lightly this time. Of course the hill had not been like the hair-raising ravines of the canyons, or the steep mountain sides either here or in California.
Thomas reached for the papers the mechanic was detaching from his clipboard. “How long?”
“We’ll know better after we clean the car off, maybe one week.”
That was good, she thought; she wasn’t due anywhere until next week, and she could always get a ride with Thomas or a friend. “All right. Thomas, perhaps we should stop at the dealership, let them know about the accident. See how much the warranty might cover though I doubt it.”
She went over and opened the door. She sat in the seat and looked carefully at the instrument panel. There it was, the navigation screen - just above the radio. She had not paid any attention to it; she had assumed it was part of the state-of-the-art radio/CD player assembly.
“Yeah,” said Thomas, sticking his head in, “and it’s wired so the sound goes through the speakers. That may have to be looked at too, see if there’s any damage. Hey - “ he withdrew to speak to Hector again.
Rusty started to reach for her phone, and remembered. She called out, “also need my purse!”
Thomas turned around, “The police has it at the station. They got it out at the scene, I‘m told. Funny, the Captain didn’t bring it.”
The dealership would have to wait. She wanted her purse back.
At the precinct the desk sergeant passed them on to the elevators. The building was older, with marble floors with outdated geometric designs, and unpolished wood walls.
The offices were on the third floor, and a detective greeted them at the elevator. He took them to the captain’s office.
Moore rose and held out a plastic bag holding Rusty’s brown leather purse. “Sorry,” he said, “at the time we were collecting evidence, we thought.”
Rusty eyed him narrowly. “Evidence for what? I don’t think you could’ve collected anything until they pulled the car up, and that was this morning. You knew I was fine.”
Moore sat down, and leaned back his chair, “Actually, we pulled the car up last night, but you’re right. Let’s just say I’m a little paranoid that way.”
“Let’s not. What’s going on?” She pulled the purse out and checked it as she spoke. Nothing seemed to be missing.
Moore rubbed his nose. This seemed to be a habit with him. Then he shrugged. “Just - being cautious.”
She could feel her lip curling. She did not trust his words one bit.
“Easy, Mom,” said Thomas, putting an arm around her shoulder, “I’m sure he had his reasons -”
Rusty was not having it. “He had my purse since last night. Didn’t say a word about it at the morgue! Don’t tell me to take it easy!”
She felt some air movement behind her. She saw Captain Moore look that way, and turned to look herself.
The Hispanic man standing there had a nice brown business suit and overcoat. His wavy hair was a little tousled about his head. He looked determined.
Rusty could hear somebody protesting behind him.
“It’s okay, Rigetti,” said Moore, rising from his chair, “Come in, Mr. Baldonado.”
Rusty looked again with more interest.
He was just a little on the beefy side in build, his fingernails were neat and shiny, and a gold tack gleamed on his tie.
“Thank you,” said the man politely, “I need to understand something.” He had a slight Spanish accent.
“I was just contacted by a Detective Malloy at Major Case. I was under the impression that Major Case didn’t handle credit card theft or fraud. I thought you guys did.”
Rusty raised her eyebrows, “So was I.” She looked at Moore.
“That makes three of us,” said Thomas.
Moore sighed, “One Police Place - that’s the headquarters - decided to have Major Case handle this. Between the two of you we’re talking nearly twenty million dollars.”
“None of my credit cards were anywhere near that amount,” Rusty turned to Mr. Baldonando, “You?”
“And who,” said the man with raised brows, “are you?”
Moore said, “Sorry, I should have - Ms. Rosabel Baldonado, meet Mr. Rogelio Baldonado. Ms. Baldonado had her cards stolen two weeks ago, and the woman who stole them was found dead a couple of days ago. And - er, this is her son, Thomas Wetherington.”
“Wetherington,” repeated Rogelio with interest, “of the Wetheringtons?”
“Not exactly,” said Thomas shortly.
“Your credit cards were substantial,” said Moore, and Rusty looked at him again, “and Mr. Baldonado’s happened to be his business charge accounts, and his business is worth millions. Major Case does handle commercial cases.”
“Most business is worth millions,” said Rogelio dryly, “if only one or two million.” He was eyeing Rusty closely.
She stared back reprovingly.
Suddenly he said, “I don’t recognize your name…I’ve traced all the genealogy of all the Baldonados in this state - it’s a hobby of mine.”
Rusty said warily, “I’m not from here. California.”
He raised his eyebrows, “Lucerne Valley or Napa Valley?”
Rusty stared at him, “One and the same. My great-great grandfather was disowned by the family at Napa Valley, and he went south to Los Angeles. Grandpa and Grandma Baldonado founded the family business in Lucerne Valley. We’re not related to the other Baldonados in that area.”
He looked strangely pleased, “Two brothers came from Spain. One took his family west.”
Rusty stared; she knew this story, “and together they joined the railroad east to west.”
Moore said, “You can discuss this later. Ms. Baldonado, we will continue to investigate your case; Major Case is handling your case, Mr. Baldonado but I don‘t know if they would contact you, Ms. Baldonando. They may. Good day.”
He nodded to them all, and held the door for them.To the King of Kings and Lord of Lords be glory forever!
February 14th 2010, 09:04 PM #4
Re: Trying My Hand Again
Hm, this may take more than four chapters. Maybe two more.
Some notes of interest:
The PT cruisers's being from the same dealership and having license plates being off by one digit is based in fact. This happened to me and a co worker.
I STILL haven't really decided who the dead woman should be.To the King of Kings and Lord of Lords be glory forever!
February 15th 2010, 12:43 AM #5
Re: Trying My Hand Again
Oh, and the same name game: I know of two famiiles with the same last name, but they aren't related which was weird since they both came from the same tiny Pacific island. AND we also have two unrelated families here from New Mexico with a rare Basque name. Even more fun is they work in the same major companies and at least one is a supervisor, so they gotta track who's related to who.To the King of Kings and Lord of Lords be glory forever!
February 15th 2010, 06:06 AM #6
Re: Trying My Hand Again
Rusty looked back at Thomas, who looked puzzled but steadily at Moore.
She pursed her lips. She was beginning to think there was more to this than just a dead woman with her stolen cards.
Rusty only had a limit of five thousand on her one credit card and of course her American Express account was a charge card, where she could run up any amount she wanted but had to pay in full each month. They had not been used since they were stolen, so there was no real loss to investigate.
And according to Moore, Rogelio Baldonado also had charge cards. She did not know how business worked, but she doubted they could possibly be run up to the full value of his business. Since he had reported them, there would not be any loss there.
There was no way Major Case would be involved just for that.
She looked up at Moore at the door, and realized that Rogelio was also looking at the captain. All she could see was the back of his head.
He nodded, and left without a word.
Rusty decided to follow suit. She shouldered her bag and followed the man down to the elevator. Thomas was right behind.
They all got in the same elevator and started the ride down to the first floor.
No one said anything for long seconds.
Rusty turned to face Rogelio. He looked down at her. She could see his eyes were thoughtful.
She demanded, “You believe that?”
“No,” he said promptly, “that’s an iceberg tip if I ever saw one.”
“Yeah, that,” Rusty shook her head, “What in the world? Did you lose any on those cards before you found out they were stolen?”
“Nope. Found out that night, when my credit company called saying somebody used my card for stuff not even related to my business. I had them all shut off.”
“So, what,” said Steve, and Rusty looked up at him; he had his hands on hips, “There’s others? Major Case thinks - what - there’s other victims involved?”
The elevator lurched with that annoying move that meant their destination was coming up.
Rusty watched the doors open, and said dryly, “Maybe.”
They filed past the desk sergeant and stepped into the street.
Rusty did not hate the city, exactly. The noise of cars in the street, the sheer amount of people on the sidewalk, the amazing variety of things to be found, and the smells were okay - for a while. She disliked fighting for road, parking, and feeling the immense pressure of people around.
People could be very lonely in the midst of all that.
She was itching to be back out in the country. Even Central Park looked good right now.
They were walking to the parking garage across the street from the station. Rusty glanced over at some pigeons fluttering away from her, and stopped dead on the sidewalk, staring. Directly in front of her was a red PT Cruiser, same model as hers, exactly like hers up to the moon roof.
Perhaps it was a side effect of her medicine. Kind of like pink elephants.
Thomas was not so nonplussed; he strode over, looked at the rear bumper, and chuckled, “It’s from the same dealership -” and his smile faded promptly, “ - and one digit off on the license plate. This is the same car!”
There was no way, thought Rusty.
“What’s the matter?” said Rogelio, his keys poised in his hand. He came over to stand by Thomas, and looked, “Plate’s not wrong, what do you mean?”
Rusty stared incredulously and came forward, “Don’t tell me this is your car!”
He eyed her warily, “Sorry to disappoint you. It is. What‘s your problem?”
Thomas said, “We saw this car - by the police morgue - this morning. What, were you following us or something? Maybe he’d been following us!” He gave Rogelio a hard look.
“This morning?” said Rogelio with a shrug, “Couple of stores I do business with about six blocks from that morgue,” he waved his hand with the keys in it about as he added, “Lovely parking this morning - six blocks I walked, to and back. No parking garages, you know.”
“We just came from looking at a dead woman who had my cards,” said Rusty acidly, “who looked just like me, enough that she could fool anybody with my driver’s license.”
“And what sounds like something big over at police headquarters,” said Thomas with great meaning, “and Moore did mention your name.”
“You, you need to chill out,” said Rogelio to him with mild annoyance. He looked around at Rusty, and added, “you too. Think about it. What one place we all visited had the most access to our financial information?”
Rusty came around and stared down at that license plate.
All at once they said, “Dealership.”
Actually Rusty had never been to the dealership; her son had. So Moore saw no direct connection to her stolen cards, but the coincidence was too much for him to ignore either.
They followed Moore in Thomas’s BMW, figuring that was the better way to avoid red flags than Rogelio’s car.
Rusty twisted carefully in her seat to look at Rogelio in the back seat. “But tell me - why a PT? I would have thought you would have a Mercedes at least.”
“Try a Jaguar,” he said with a grin, “but I need cargo space sometimes for the clothes I merchandise. And I happen to like the PT too. Limited Edition, moon roof, lift gate so I don’t have to bend into a trunk, what’s not to like? It gets me around. I use the Jaguar for special occasions.”
Rusty nodded at that and turned back around. She played nervously with the cane.To the King of Kings and Lord of Lords be glory forever!
February 15th 2010, 04:10 PM #7
Re: Trying My Hand Again
Harry’s Best Chrysler Dealership was just off the web of freeways in the Bronx. The main building was a huge three-story block of brick and glass. Rows and rows of cars flanked two sides of the building, and there was an impressive set of service garages on the far side. The entrance was of glass and metal and there was beige and tan designs on the tiled floors.
Moore spoke with the receptionist, and headed off to the left.
Rusty started walking after him. Thomas was on her right, Rogelio was directly on the other side of her.
Moore had warned them to stay put, but Rusty was not interested in twiddling her thumbs, and apparently she had company there.
Ahead of them came a thin, brown-haired man of perhaps mid-twenties. He had a white shirt and black slacks. In his hands were a large sheaf of paper. His stride was long and hurried.
He saw them, and suddenly his stride became a skidding, skipping walk, and he stopped. He stared directly at Rusty.
Rusty held that gaze as she closed the space between them.
His face turned whiter. His papers fell from his hands with a loud thwup right before Rusty’s feet.
She lifted her gaze from them back to the young man’s face. He looked absolutely horrified.
“Andy?” he said hoarsely, “What - what happened? Did you hurt your leg?”
And Rusty relaxed. Her grip on the cane eased. “No, I’m not Andy. I’m sorry.”
There were some chairs on the wall off to the side. The young man staggered to them and sat heavily in one. He rubbed his face desperately and looked up at Rusty incredulously.
Rogelio knelt down and picked the papers up. Thomas joined him. They both looked up at the young man from under their brows.
“Who was Andy?” said Rusty.
He slumped, “Andrea Howards. She - she was a big fan of yours - of anybody famous really. She read Page Six about anybody here in the city. But she was obsessed with you, on account you look a lot like her. She knew all about you, about the Wetheringtons….“ he waved at Thomas - “When she saw him, she got even crazier. She…”
He glanced up again at Rusty, and swallowed, “She works in Financing - she convinced Carlos - the salesman - to let her handle all that paperwork by showing how much she knew about you all. Not you, though.” He pointed at Rogelio, “Who’s this?”
“Never mind,” said Rusty impatiently, “How did she get my cards? Ah, what’s your name?”
“George. George Greenly,” he said, “What do you mean, how did she get your cards - didn’t she tell you? She finally promised to tell you the truth and give those cards back.”
“Oh, my God,” said Thomas, still on his knees.
Rogelio had more presence of mind. He rose and stepped over. Handing the papers back to Greenly, he touched the man’s shoulder, “I’m sorry. She never got the chance to, apparently.”
Greenly grew wild-eyed again, and he stiffened, “What - what…what happened to her?”
Rusty slowly sat in the chair next to Greenly, “First, tell us how she got my cards.”
“I don’t really know…she told me she knew you were going to Albany. Something in the papers about a September 11th fireman’s fund you were - working on with people. And - she was visiting her aunt there. She said - she got into your purse from a chair behind yours while you weren’t looking, at the train station.”
Rusty sighed; she had withdrawn enough cash for her needs before she went to Albany, and so did not miss those cards until well after she had arrived. She had stayed with a friend and used public transit so she did not use a hotel or rent a car. Obviously Andrea Howards had to have been tailing her for a while, perhaps used some kind of disguise. Big sunglasses, something.
“She was so - happy,“ said Greenly, “I don’t know, but it was exciting for her. It took me hours when I found out to convince her she had to give them back. She wasn’t going to use the credit cards, you know. Just wanted to feel she was you.
“But where is she?”
Rusty held her cane tightly between her hands, and said quietly, “Yes; I’m sorry. The police called my son and said I - whom they thought was I - had been the victim of a failed mugging. They found my stolen ID on her…”
Greenly’s expression twisted from shock to dawning grief.
Rogelio tightened his grip on the young man’s shoulder and sighed.
Rusty saw something out the corner of her eye, and found Moore there, with an annoyed expression. Besides him was an angry-looking man in his fifties, probably the manager of the dealership.
She shrugged, “We just ran into him. I - well, the rest…”
She stopped as sobs began to come from Greenly.
They spent a long half hour there while Moore heard Greenly’s story again. Then Thomas, at Moore’s orders, took them back into Manhattan.
One Police Place was not happy with Moore being at the dealership and made some noise, but that was about it. Rusty suspected there was truly a connection between that dealership and Rogelio Baldonado’s stolen cards.
Papers made a feast of the story of the unknown woman being ignored by society but it all died away just as quickly. Rusty knew it was news only because of the connection to herself. She was known in New York City through her connection to her ex-husband’ and family, and her survival at the Pentagon.
At least Andrea Howards would not be buried at Potter's Field. Her family had come and claimed the body. She had a name, and somebody would remember her.
No one ever found out why she was killed. Her stolen cards were never stolen from her in turn, so the police still had a mystery as to motive.
A few days after the story broke, Rusty got her car back. As expected, the warranty did not cover much, but she chose not to demand any breaks from the dealership - they had problems enough with their tragedy of Andrea Howards.
But the car was fine. She spent some hours learning the navigation and security features. Then she decided to put it to the test for a special trip.
She had gone into Lower Manhattan many times - impossible not to - but rarely stopped at that one place where thousands of souls had met their Maker, Savior, and Judge that day.
The navigation system flawlessly guided her from New Jersey through the Holland Tunnel into Lower Manhattan. She made the right turn, and drove without incident to Liberty Street, where Ground Zero lay.
She had dressed for the occasion in her best church dress suit of dark blue with soft white blouse, and black pumps. She held on more tightly to her purse. No more theft for her.
She alighted and walked around to stand before the new see through panels while people walked by behind her.
She had an appointment here, and he was coming up the walk.
Rogelio Baldonado greeted her quietly and stood alongside to look through the panels at the activity on the new building being prepared besides the ground where the original towers stood.
“Here,” he said finally, handing Rusty a folded piece of paper, “as I promised.”
It was a check for ten thousand dollars, for the fireman’s fund Rusty had been working on. “Thanks.”
He stared at Ground Zero for a long time. Finally he said, “It took three years, but she finally died from all that asbestos.”
Rusty looked at him.
He sighed, “The firefighters…and the cops…who breathed in all that in the weeks after…they deserve more than what they got. We can only do so much though.”
“Hm,” nodded Rusty.
“You…did you lose your hearing at the Pentagon? And your hip?”
Rusty was a little surprised he asked. She paused a little. “Not entirely. There are other evils in this world. I was losing my hearing before that day and the rest went afterwards. My hip…was from the last time my husband beat me.”
He clearly had not expected that. He looked at her, opened his mouth, closed it, and stared through the fence again.
“There are all kinds of evil,” she said, “we know some part of it somewhere. We fail to name it, and that’s why it all continues. There can be no justice.”
Rogelio raised his gaze to her again, puzzled.
Rusty shook her head, “Something my son said the other day. Never mind. Sorry, Rogelio.”
“Roger, if that’s okay with you. And I promise never to call you by your real name. I heard it plenty of times on the TV and I don’t know how you stand it.”
Rusty grinned; the papers had not been so bad, but the TV’s constant use of her full name - Rosabel Ann Carter Baldonado - once again had driven her to turn the set off for some days.
“It is my name,’ she said, “but you can call me Rusty. Little easier.”
“Got time for coffee?”
“Just a little. I’m curious about Major Case.”
They started down the walk towards the corner. He said, “So am I. Detective Malloy called again with some questions. Had himself in a knot over Moore going over to that dealership.”
“Which is that?”
“Basically, don’t be surprised at injustice against people by authorities. There are people being told what to do by higher ups in the bureaucracy.”
“Yeah. That’s pretty much it,” agreed Roger with a rueful nod.
"You know of course they still haven't found her killer."
"I heard. We may never find out."
"It's just strange how that went. Why didn't they steal the money? Has Major Case said anything?"
"No," said Roger. He added in protest, "Is it something about the Pentagon that makes people so paraniod?"
"I wouldn't know," said Rusty, privately reviewing the things she had seen there during her career. Talking about bureucracy; if the Pentagon was not the mother of it all, it was close to it.
The subject needed to be changed, so she said,
“And you can tell me how you know about Lucerne Valley. How you came to find that out.”
“Meh, it was all by boring research during my travels on business. Not much to do on a plane.”
Rusty shook her head, “You would do better with Amtrak. More room and more privacy if you get a room.”
They turned the corner and strolled towards a coffee shop.
“Your son warned me about this.” He put hands behind his back.
“Got some of your own?”
“Oh, yeah. Two of each, still in college.”
Rusty nodded and they walked on towards the coffee shop below.To the King of Kings and Lord of Lords be glory forever!
February 15th 2010, 04:18 PM #8
Re: Trying My Hand Again
To the King of Kings and Lord of Lords be glory forever!
February 15th 2010, 10:14 PM #9
Re: Trying My Hand Again
I don't know the way it's done here so perhaps I should say if you have any comments go for it.To the King of Kings and Lord of Lords be glory forever!
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