Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Fathers of Otherwise Lost Sons

Usually, when my teenage son comes into my bedroom I think, “So this is how it is going to end,” and stretch for the box cutter taped beneath the headboard. Normally, he just wants to apologize for coming home late or murmur that he mistakenly thought it was his room. “Pa?” he half-whispered the night of January 11th and I knew this night would bring an exception to our acrimonious relationship.

According to the story that unwound for the next several minutes, his worthless friend Pete was in trouble. “I just got off the phone with him and he needs me to go to the police station,” Tony said. Determined to come up with beer money, Pete was stealing things left outside of houses in one of the better neighborhoods on the other side of town. During this little adventure, he took a bag that had been sitting behind some sports writer’s house not knowing that it held ransom money for the return of the guy’s kid. Eventually, someone later recognized Pete from an image on a security camera mounted near the pool house. Before they were able to arrest him, however, he had hidden the bag of money.

The reason for the call was that Pete was now being suspected as the kidnapper. Simply having Tony retrieve the bag of money and bring it to the station, he reasoned, would clear him. “Can I do this,” Tony asked, “without getting in trouble or arrested myself?”

“Absolutely not,” I stammered and reached for my wrinkled flannel shirt off the floor. “Under no circumstances can you just walk into a police station with a bag of money and walk out free and clear. Somebody probably already knows that he called you and they’re doing their check of priors on you as we speak. Eventually they’ll send a car this way, but we need to get you out of this before then.”

Donning the pants I’d been meaning to wash for the past week, I reached over and flipped on the light. Everything in the room swam in and out of focus so I swallowed a handful of the morning’s BP pills and gritted my teeth. Since the police were still looking for the bag, that meant it didn’t have a tracking device with it. Pete would break down soon enough though and tell the cops where it was, so the window of opportunity was closing each and every minute. “Everything has to be on me and not you,” I told him with as much assurance as I could fake. Retrieving the bag was the only part I really planned on doing, but he didn’t need to know that. “Are you sure he told you the right hiding place?”

“This wasn’t something I wanted to get you into trouble for, dad,” he murmured and I could tell he was starting to suspect my motives a little.

“Everyone knows he called someone,” I quickly pointed out. “As soon as we get this taken care, we’ll talk about getting you some new friends. Calling you was probably the biggest mistake of your life so far, but now we need to fix it. Tell me where the money is and let’s get in gear before someone starts showing up.”

“Somewhere in the woods behind the ninth hole of the golf course,” he whispered and I could see the misgiving start to spread across his pockmarked face.

“Then go get some flashlights,” I commanded. “Out in the garage, there’s some winter gear we are going to need as well. No one else will be out there at this time of night and we’ll need be sure we have what we need if it takes us longer than it should.”

I opened the closet door as soon as he was gone from the room and reached for a belt. Gripping it in my left hand, I felt my wrist brush the cold metal of the extra large gun safe and I had to smile. “How about that, Derrick,” I whispered to the sports writer’s son crammed inside. “This might be your last night here after all.”