“Señor, Rodolfo Guzman?” The crisp voice of the international operator asked.
“Yes. This is he.”
“Will you accept a collect call from a Mister Tim Kelly?”
“Yes. Yes. Of course! Put him on.”
“Hello mijo, how are you? I hope you know that your mother is sick with worry about you. In any case that is what Mary Beth tells me.”
“For that matter, we’re all worried about you, especially me.”
“I’m sorry to cause anyone any problems, but I’ve just got to see this through. If I’m forced to come home now, I’ll have failed.”
Rodolfo, who saw so very much of himself in Kelly sighed heavily,
“Okay. I accept that. Can I at least let your poor mother know that you’re all right?”
“I guess so, but please don’t tell her where I am.”
“Okay, I’ll do that much. But you have to promise me that you will check in with me often to let me know that you’re all right. And if you are in any trouble or need anything at all get in touch with me right away. Now tell me how can I help you, mijo?”
“Could you loan me two-hundred dollars?”
“Of course niño that’s no problem. Is that all you need?”
“That will be enough to tide me over until I can find some real work. I really appreciate this Rodolfo and I’ll pay you back as soon as I can.”
“No problem niño, don’t worry about it. Where would you like me to send the money?”
“To this Western Union office here in the New Orleans French Quarter.”
Kelly gave Rodolfo the address of the Western Union office on Decatur Street, a few blocks from Jackson Square. Rodolfo promised to get the money to him right away and after a few more minutes of casual conservation broke the connection. In just over two hours Kelly checked the Western Union office and found that true to his word, Rodolfo had sent him a money order. Instead of the two-hundred requested, Rodolfo sent five-hundred
I HOPE YOU FIND WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR STOP THIS IS NOT A LOAN STOP YOU DON’T HAVE TO PAY ME BACK STOP TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF AND BE SAFE STOP BEST REGARDS RODOLFO
He cashed the money order and left the Western Union office with the five-hundred dollars in his pocket. The amount represented a fortune to him; a new beginning for his adventure. First, he planned to treat himself to a real meal, not just a Po Boy sandwich or a bowl of red beans and rice that had been his only subsistence for the past couple of weeks; except for Fridays. On Fridays, the Bourbon House offered all-you-can-eat genuine New Orleans Cajun gumbo. This was one of Kelly’s favorite feasts for fifty cents—he was even developing a taste for okra; sort of. He still picked out most of the larger, slimier, pieces, leaving the remaining pieces to be overpowered by the taste of the chef’s secret blend of herbs and spices making the Bourbon House’s gumbo a culinary legend as far north as New York and as far west as San Francisco. As Kelly exited the Western Union office he experienced a sudden chill that had nothing to do with the ambient air temperature. The chill was followed by an involuntary shudder. His grandmother Kelly would’ve said, “It felt as if someone just stepped on his grave.” More than a little apprehensive, he headed away from the Western Union office in search of a quiet, inexpensive place to eat. Try as he might, he couldn’t shake off his uneasy feeling. He had never seen five-hundred dollars in a single sum before. Now in possession of that unbelievable amount, he was afraid that someone might rob him. The French Quarter is notorious for muggings, rapes, and even murders. Many of these crimes went unsolved. Kelly tried not to dwell on the statistics of crime in the French Quarter. Shrugging his shoulders, he changed his train of thought; it’s probably just that I’m uneasy about carrying so much cash. Five-hundred dollars; is an unbelievable amount of money. At first it was just a feeling. Then he noticed two barely perceptible shadows on the other side of the dark and narrow French Quarter Street, slowly closing; becoming larger. His mouth became dry and his heartbeat and breathing pattern began to quicken. Finally, the shadows became two distinguishable figures; the knowledge only heightened his uneasiness. There was no mistaking it, he was being followed. He thought, followed by whom? For what, purpose? His mouth was already dry, and his rapidly beating heart felt like a bird confined within his rib cage—wings beating furiously trying to escape. Barely successful in his efforts to control the natural instinct to panic, he forced himself to breath slowly and deeply. His brain admonished his body; calm down, don’t panic, look for a way out, prepare for flight or fight—the normal physiologic response to the perception of danger. There was no way out of the narrow street; he had no choice but to prepare to fight—possibly for his very life. The shadows had become clearly visible now as two men. He crossed the street. Both men crossed over, pausing as if window shopping; each one pointing to items in the window as if attempting to validate the pretense. He crossed over again, keeping his pursuers’ in view in the shop window in front of him. He dared not look at the men directly. If he delayed long enough perhaps someone would come along and foil the impending attack. His thoughts were wildly racing, you can never find a cop when you need one; maybe running away from home wasn’t such a good idea after all. His right hand was grasping the hilt of his dagger hidden from view by his jacket. Fearing for his life, he decided that he would stab his closest assailant first. The element of surprise was on his side. With any luck the men wouldn’t consider that a lone victim, a young boy—although big for his age—would dare attempt a preemptive strike against the two of them. He renewed his resolve to strike first with his dagger as-soon-as they were close enough. He frantically tried to recall the chapter on knife fighting, he once read in the Marine Corps manual on hand-to-hand combat. He moistened his dry lips and waited for the attack, why is my mouth so damned dry. His mind was chaotic, a jumble of unrelated bits and pieces of nonsense as he waited for the two men to come closer. I have to stay calm; center my Chi just as Master Hui taught me. I wish he were here now to help me. I’m way in over my head. I could be killed. I want to go home and finish high school. He continued to wait; the hilt of his dagger was wet from the sweat of his right hand that had gone numb from the tightness of his grip. He hadn’t noticed. Oh God they’re almost here. What do I do now? The, would be, mugger’s body language telegraphed their violent intentions as they slowly and confidently approached their lone prey. Having no viable avenue of escape he waited for the inevitable. The two shotgun blasts were almost simultaneous! Up close the noise from the exploding shells was deafening. The walls of the buildings lining the narrow street acted as an echo chamber amplifying the sound, causing Kelly’s ears to ring; it was painful as-well- as disorienting. Recovering from the surprise of the blasts, Kelly hadn’t seen the shooter. All he saw were the two muzzle flashes reflected in the shop window in front of him. Both men were down; each in an expanding pool of blood. They looked dead. The look of surprise in their lackluster eyes seemed to confirm that conclusion. Frozen with fear, Kelly was not able to move so much as one of his fingers, much less flee for his life, as he thought; I’m next. This is it. I’m going to die now. Mesmerized, he watched as the sawed off pump shotgun retracted out of sight on a spring loaded sling back within the folds of the shooter’s full length black leather coat. In his catatonic trance, Kelly continued to stare as the large swarthy man in the full length black leather coat brushed past him relaying the message in a heavy Cajun accent. “Don Rodolfo sends his regards.”
Kelly stood motionless for a full two minutes, his brain repeating unanswered messages to his body to flee. He felt a sudden wave of nausea. He had not eaten since yesterday; with some difficulty he managed to choke back the burning bitter taste of bile suddenly refluxing up from his stomach into his dry throat, finally he started to run away; windows and doors facing the street were opening, the morbidly curious were starting to stir, as though
somehow sensing that any possible danger to them had passed— signaling, it was safe now to investigate.
The first scavenger arrived on the grisly scene, quickly turning out the pockets of the two corpses—plundering them for any valuables. To be hocked later when the pawn shops opened for business.
From time-to-time I will be presenting selected chapters of my books, so that you the reader may come to know my protagonist Tim Kelly as his quest unfolds. In Chapter Nine, of Point Deception fourteen year old Tim Kelly almost meets a fatal ending to his newly begun quest for adventure.
From time-to-time I will be presenting selected chapters of my books, so that you the reader may come to know my protagonist Tim Kelly as his quest unfolds. In Chapter Nine, of Point Deception fourteen year old Tim Kelly almost meets a fatal ending to his newly begun quest for adventure. Hold on and enjoy as the action unfolds.
KELLY HURRIED BACK to the YMCA to pack his meager
belongings and put distance between himself and his last known address. As a runaway the last thing he needed was police involvement in an alleged case of assault along with his counter charges of attempted rape and subsequent claims of self-defense. It wouldn’t be safe for him to return to work at the port on Monday. There would be too many questions that he couldn’t answer, for fear of being exposed. As it turned out LeBeau had a prior criminal history of assault and battery, extortion, and attempted rape; he was currently on probation for other related offenses. Kelly had no way of knowing all this, but LeBeau would not be complaining to the police.
Kelly simply faded into the crowded streets of New Orleans. Just another, nameless, faceless, runaway, lost in the crowd of tourists and assorted hedonistic revelers roaming The Big Easy looking to let the good times roll. After his hasty departure from the YMCA, Kelly found his way to a no name flea bag hotel in the French Quarter. The room was cheap and reasonably clean. No one uses their real name in a place like this. Chuckling at the irony, he signed the register as Frank Nelson from Mobile, Alabama. The name of his favorite character from: The Gunboat Series of Books for Boys. Now that’s funny, he thought, a mischievous grin, lighting up his face.
Kelly desperately needed to find a steady job and quickly.
When he could get a day laborer job he worked hard to impress the boss, hoping to be asked to stay on the job longer than just for the day. On the days that he was not picked to work, he either walked the streets of New Orleans or spent time reading in the public library. He spent a lot of time in the library during those lean and
hungry jobless days. On one such day, he was walking down River Street when he passed Saint Anthony’s Mission for Homeless Men. Brother Paul stopped his vigorous sweeping of the stoop and looked up; the smile brightening his kindly face was infectious.
Stopping in front of the sweeper, Kelly returned the smile,
“Good day Father.”
“Good day young man,”
Brother Paul replied,
“Its Brother Paul not Father.”
“Oh, sorry, you looked like a priest to me.”
“No harm, no foul.”
“So Brother Paul, what is this place?”
“It’s a mission to provide shelter for homeless men down on their luck until they can get back on their feet.”
“What do you charge?”
“Could I stay here for awhile, ya think?”
“Of course you can. All you have to do is agree to follow the house rules.”
“What might those be?”
“Well we close and lock the outer doors at nine p.m. so you must be in by then. No exceptions! You’re also asked to pitch in with the cleaning and maintenance of the facility, you’re required to take a shower every night before bed, and, of course, the use of drugs and alcohol is strictly forbidden!”
“We’ll provide you two meals a day; however, from time-to-time you may be asked to help with serving and
“You think you could follow these rules?”
“That sounds fair to me. How soon could I move in?”
“Like I said; any time before nine p.m. tonight.”
Kelly moved into the mission later that afternoon.
Based out of the mission, he continued his search for permanent employment—any kind of work. He was not having much luck in his search and his cash reserve was disappearing fast. Left with no other viable alternative, he was forced to ask an old and trusted friend for help.
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