Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Chapter 1 (Updated 8/11/16)
Bill Smith was never one to mince words about his feelings on people or issues, and he definitely had no use for the guy who was lying in the bed of his Dodge Ram. He didn’t need to say anything, in fact, to let the man standing in front of him know that this trek into town was an impediment to all of the ranch work that he had to do with his very full day, thank you. This feeling was clearly written all over the weathered lines on his sunburned and grizzled face. As the septuagenarian rancher spit on the ground to take some of the wind-blown dust out of his mouth, the words that followed this action said it all.
“Normally, I just let drunks lie on the side of the road, but this guy was different than a lot of the rabble I’ve had to rouse when I chase them from my lands.”
Tony Lucas, the Blanding Chief of Police, casually nodded in agreement. He knew that Smith was right; this wasn’t your everyday vagrant. Sure, the blue and green tie-dyed t-shirt bearing the words “It Was Great; We Went to Maine” seemed like a lot of the rock-hopping, biking, kayaking, meditating, and camera-carrying crowds that managed to make their way down from Moab or east from the parks that dotted the entire southern part of Utah, but this wasn’t one of those happy-go-lucky twenty-something guys out for an adventure in the canyons. No, something about this guy said that he met something else, which was a long way from the forests and coasts of Maine. Sure, at one point in time, he might have been one of those guys, but to find someone looking this sweaty, dehydrated, dirty, and covered in blood… No, this wasn’t someone who had a rough night at the Rusty Horseshoe or Joe the Average Tourist out in some famous slot canyon.
Time and space must have collided in one gigantic meteor because this guy met something that seemed to be lying in wait for him, and the rough hand of fate left him in need of repair.
Looking at the dazed and catatonic expression on this guy’s face, both Lucas and Smith knew that there was a story behind this unconscious moment in time that filled Smith’s truck bed. Lucas also knew Smith. He was a relic from a long forgotten time in a land that was a relic to the all but dead world that surrounded it. The only times Smith ventured to Blanding’s police station were when he had reason to rabble rouse. Sometimes, he needed to be there, but other times, most times in fact, he was letting Tony know that he could be a pain the ass since it was his tax dollars that paid Lucas’s “over-inflated salary.” That said, no matter what Lucas thought about this old curmudgeon, he knew that with Smith living fifty or so miles away in the back deserts of southeastern Utah, this wasn’t a cordial visit.
Lucas also knew that for all of Smith’s requests, thoughts, and insistences, Tony would be the final arbiter of all decisions in Blanding, Utah, and at this point, just hearing that the aging rancher had some “hippie” in his personal truck wasn’t cause for concern, at least until Lucas’s glance at the bloody and unconscious mess that was in the truck confirmed Smith’s feelings.
“Where did you find him?”
“You can thank my cattle. They seemed to spy him. My eyes are trained to avoid looking for or at trash like this. No, this boy was passed out near Muddy Creek when the cattle started making noise. I suspect he had wandered down from Blackrock Canyon. God knows what he was doing up there. He couldn’t have been there long when my sons and I found him and loaded him into the truck.”
“He’s alive,” Smith said, spitting on the ground.
A wind swept through the street as Lucas mulled over the visage of the boy in the back of the pickup truck.
“You know, Bill, this kid’s got some intestinal fortitude.”
“Intestinal fortitude. Don’t you watch pro wrestling? That stuff that wrestlers summon when they get their butts kicked for five minutes straight only to come back and go ballistic on their opponents to win the match.”
“I don’t watch that crap.”
“I guess not.”
A few minutes after their short exchange, Lucas was left with a blood-covered body, still breathing, but with little else going to show he was still alive. If nothing else, at least the blood was dried up at this point in time and the kid was still breathing. Also, Tony thanked his lucky stars he made the call to get the ambulance down here from Moab as soon as he found out Smith was bringing the body to his police station
Thirty minutes from that notification he provided to Tony, Smith quickly tired of being around the police officer who he didn’t like much to begin with. He had this thing about standing around doing nothing productive, so he motioned to leave after he informed the officer that he wasn’t one to dig in the pockets of another man’s pants searching for ID. It would be up to Lucas to see if the kid had any identification, so Lucas began to think that Smith’s early exit would be a blessing in disguise. He might be left alone to handle a difficult situation, but really, he’d be left alone.
The thought of future silence was short-lived since Bill still had a few words left to say before he actually vacated the premises.
“Besides, this grubby-ass hippie might like it too much. I don’t have time to get touchy-feely with some unconscious malcontent. I need to get back to work. Little bastard already cost me six gallons of gas that I’m not getting reimbursed for…,” Smith stated, leaving the pause to imply he’d really like the money back since he felt deputized by the “emergency” of the situation.
Lucas nodded appropriately to the negative. He wasn’t interested in discussing cultural norms or reimbursements with Bill Smith, especially when Lucas knew that he had absolutely no interest in whether or not someone Smith had taken a disliking to, had the right to present himself in public however he wanted to. For those reasons and others he could have elaborated on, Lucas was just as happy to see Smith drive off with his “America: 1776-2008” and “Trump the Bitch” bumper stickers getting smaller and smaller as his aging truck proceeded south on North Black Mountain Road toward Route 191. It definitely didn’t take him long to go back to his ranch after he announced he was leaving due to the fact that Tony was not interested in entertaining the idea of paying him back for the gasoline.
“See you next time you need to bitch about the commies and the druggies and damn fool cattle who can’t stay on their own territory, Smith.”
With those words, he had nothing else to do, so he fished into the ripped up khakis and found a brown wallet with little else in it. Once again, he noticed the boy wasn’t moving, but at least he was still alive during the investigation. In the billfold, there was about $40 in bills and change that would get sealed up in evidence. The rest of the wallet contained a Visa card, a student ID from Jedidiah Smith University, and a Massachusetts driver’s license. Jackpot.
They all read the same name: Lawrence Gladwell of Lowell, Massachusetts.
Lucas looked at the boy, and he couldn’t fathom what wrecked him that badly. Gazing upon his face, he appeared to resemble Tex Cobb after those fifteen rounds with Larry Holmes in Texas back in 1982, but somehow, he was still breathing, though not even coherent in the slightest after being baked red, both from the blood and the sun, during his unknown time in the desert heat.
“Whatever was it in your life that brought you such a long way from home, Larry, and why did you feel a need to almost die on my shift? This seems to be a perfect opportunity for Sammy Marwin to refine his craft and justify his salary as our town’s fourth cop.”
The body that now was strewn out across the police lobby’s sofa didn’t respond. Tony didn’t expect it to either, but there was something about this guy that he seemed to see in the faces of so many people who made their way down to the Four Corners area. Prior to the current state he was in, he looked like he would have been healthy, intelligent, loved, and the life of the party, but he wasn’t hardened by the desert. He wasn’t a big guy, as his 160-pound frame attested. Tony was glad for that since it made it easier for the two men to lift him out of Smith’s truck bed. Nevertheless, 160 pounds of dead weight is 160 pounds of downward and resistant force.
“An object at rest remains at rest, Bill.”
“The hell with all of them white-shirt scientist assholes.”
“Yep, Bill, the hell with Newton and all of ‘em.”
At twenty-four years old, nobody could have expected Larry to take on the leathery look and cantankerousness of Bill Smith, but certainly, he should have appeared to be less of a daydreamer and more of an outdoorsman when it came to spending time in the reality of the canyons outside of Blanding.
Maybe that’s what left him here.
As he thought about these things, Tony realized that, to some degree, he was thinking about his own son Jackie, so he muttered to himself to stop this so he could focus on the task at hand. The moment at hand was all that mattered, not whether his kid could handle the reality of adult life at college or on his own anywhere.
In the time Lucas spent waiting for the ambulance from Moab to drive down to Blanding to pick up this guy, Tony started to make some notes of his appearance. Considering his state of being, he was considering him to be the victim or perpetrator of an unknown crime, most likely the victim or at the very least a witness to all things that happened. Taking pictures of the young man who was now passed out cold, he wanted to dutifully clean off the blood, but he knew that he couldn’t play the father role… potential crime notes.
“Damn it, Jackie. Why does this kid have to look so much like you?”
Tony re-established himself, and he tried to look through the blood to see whatever he could. As he did this, he quickly discovered there were only a few bruises on his face and his body, but none of them looked like they were from being attacked. Instead, they seemed to appear as if he had fallen forward into the desert canyon’s brushy ground cover, which he was trying to escape from.
This puzzled Lucas completely and left him to wonder if the kid got lost and paranoid while trying to find his way out of a world that all looked pretty much the same in its empty, walled-in prison sense. Tony knew that the desert is known to leave lost souls stranded in a place like this. Maybe Mr. Gladwell was just another unlucky soul.
Through it all, he continued to photograph and analyze the boy, who still seemed completely oblivious to the whole process. Occasionally, it would look like the guy would open his eyes, and it was obvious that he was breathing, but Mr. Body offered no other interaction to the situation than to seem to silently mouth some words that Tony couldn’t make out.
At first, Lucas tried to get him to respond to simple questions, but when he didn’t show signs of being able to communicate or wanting to talk about life, most likely from the exposure to the nasty summer heat, Tony just stopped making an effort. Besides, the situation would soon be someone else’s responsibility, and Tony had no need to make a Facebook friend out of a day’s work, so he just cut off the remains of the shirt to put in the bag with the rest of the evidence. When he did this, he found that the boy was not injured on his torso either, even though the shirt was splattered with copious amounts of blood.
The good news of this was that he wouldn’t have to use his really in-depth EMT training to deal with hidden injuries.
After getting the bloody, nasty shirt cut off, he sealed it up as evidence, and covered the boy in a blanket that he happened to have in the police station.
As far as Tony was concerned, someone up in Salt Lake could check the shirt over for gun powder residue, just to be sure, but it would most likely lead to nothing that would put this young man into Uinta, hopefully. He just didn’t seem like the kind of person who could kill someone and end up bloodier than a slaughterhouse floor. Besides, this wasn’t the kind of kid that looked like he knew how to handle a pistol, even if his life depended on it. He was too much like Jackie. For that bit of proof of innocence, Tony would let the forensic pros take care of this for sure. Machines like that were too expensive for a town of just over 3,000 canyon denizens. Policing a town of people who were often struggling to afford the police force that they did have meant that he would keep things together for those people who could afford high tech answers.
As the immediate investigation went on, Lucas checked the hands and fingers of his young acquaintance. There was no bruising there either. There were no signs of anything beneath the finger nails, other than dirt, to show that he had struggled against an attacker at close range. There was blood and dirt, but that seemed superficial.
His condition was simply a lot of bruising, heat-related injuries, and other evidence of being roughed up by desert canyons at the very edge of Lucas’ jurisdiction.
Lucas’s unofficial jurisdiction was anything to every single one of the compass points that stretched out from his town, places that weren’t closer to another town so they became his town. To the north on 191, the road went to Monticello. In the south, it went to Bluff. Bluff led along Route 162 to Route 41 to Route 160. Monticello led to Colorado through a whole lot of nothing on Route 491, which was the exorcised version of Route 666. However, since 2003, there was no Devil’s Highway, at least in number. All the same, no matter what it was called, there was a lot of desert along that road, which still had some tell-tale signs of its evil past left on it.
Tony always shuddered in these places, no matter who was with him at the time, and this was a man who could instill the fear in anyone he needed to impress the law upon.
The lack of towns for roughly twenty miles to the north and over twenty-five miles to the south said that there was a lot of desert country to the east and west side, which was also ground that needed covered. This was where he got involved in ranching type disputes and Native American concerns along the ghost roads that seemed to lead to nowhere in particular. Such was the life of the long arm of the law in a wide-open country.
Looking over the rest of the body that lay before him, Lucas could see that there were no wounds that could raise any red flags except for three long, scratched out marks on the back of his upper right leg, located directly above the back of his knee. However, these marks were completely dried and not very deep at all, although it was clear that they didn’t seem to be just casual scratch marks. Still, it was clear that these cuts definitely were not deep enough to cause all of this bleeding that appeared on his shirt, should he have taken it off to wipe off the wounds. Nevertheless, even if the boy had an itch, they didn’t seem to be self-inflicted.
“Don’t put your thoughts in the witness’s head. Let the hypothesis test itself. Don’t guide it.”
So it was clear that some other mystery had to have caused that, but if there was something else, then what was it?
Yes, Lucas knew that at one point, it was true that the gashed-open skin would have bled, but these incisions seemed like the kind of thing he might have encountered in trying to move through the cactuses and dried up desert brush if he was especially clumsy or just in a hurry to get away from something particularly nasty. Besides, this kid looked like he was a desert accident waiting to happen. Any number of things could have ripped him up like that.
Who knows how far back he was in Blackrock Canyon, if that’s where he was when stuff happened. For everything Tony knew, he couldn’t even begin to imagine what could have happened. He knew how easy it was for stuff to go bad, even on short hikes. Things have a way of happening. Murphy’s Law, the kids call it. With that, he reflected off to his own misspent and unaware youth. Nevertheless, in Southeastern Utah, there was a propensity for disaster to multiply if people weren’t careful how they placed one foot in front of the other.
Reflecting on that, Lucas looked into Larry’s blank expression and felt a sense of praise for how this young boy managed to get out of the deep rock and canyons to find his way onto Smith’s ranch in one piece, at least enough for someone else to save him from death.
Coming up for air, even after an accident like this, has to mean something.
While he didn’t like having to figure out this mystery of whether this was a murder gone awry or an escape from a murderer, it sure beat the routine day in Blanding dealing with the rebellious tumbleweeds and the Bill Smiths of the world.
Maybe it was good that he and not Sammy Marwin got this job. Things like this needed the experience of Tony’s professionalism, not another man’s inexperience.
That said, for all Smith was and wasn’t, had it not been for him when this kid got messed up out there in Blackrock, if that’s where he was, nobody would have found him for years, and by then, he would be a bleached-out skeleton picked clean by things that creepy crawl and soar over the area in the hopes of opportunistically finding free lunch.
Out here, there was lots of free lunch for the vultures.
On that note, Tony went back to his work and his thoughts. In focusing again on the kid, Tony realized that for the life of him, he couldn’t think about what a kid who was going to school in Salt Lake City would be doing on foot all the way down here in Nowhere, Utah, unless it had to do with the things that were said to be getting ready to commence at the Greer ranch. Perhaps the investigations of his officers and those of the great state of Utah would turn up evidence of a car left up on one of the dirt roads to some of the backcountry trails. This investigation would be time he didn’t really have since the drives up and back would take hours of time he didn’t have. Additionally, those southern Utah dirt roads were washboards that fired rocks up at the underside of any vehicle that dared make the journey back to them. All the same, if anyone was parked there, Tony might be able to find out if there were any other victims, survivors, or a possible attacker.
One way or another, he would find out the answer since he was a man in control. In fact, he was “THE MAN.” He even had a plaque on his office desk that said so. What’s more, everyone he knew would respectfully call him this.
This statement of his place on the totem pole couldn’t be any truer since Tony Lucas was a man’s man, a guy who was left over from a different generation. Despite having arrived twenty years too late, he did his best to try to pull himself into the current world to relate to the changes that had happened since he first became a cop in the mid-1980s. Most noticeably, sometime in the early 1990s, he stopped wearing his 1980s mustache and switched to a grunged-out goatee. As he reached his forties in the 2000s, he stopped fighting with thinning hair and shaved his head to resemble the modern tough guy look that Bruce Willis had in the later Die Hard movies. While Willis brought eternal manliness to those roles, for Tony, it was more about looking like Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Here, Tony knew that, in the end, showing a balding head could be really cool if a man made it look bad ass enough. From the talk of many women in Blanding, Tony definitely had that covered and then some.
To keep fit at age 56, Tony still worked out regularly, running and lifting weights, but he also was known to like downing a couple beers while eating extra spicy wings. Life was too short to not enjoy it, he would tell anyone who asked and many who didn’t. For this, he was always pushing himself through tough workouts to get rid of the extra calories in order to keep himself the toughest dude in southeastern Utah.
As for people who might try to warn him of the unhealthy properties of bacon, he would laugh at them for looking for a fight. However, they were more likely to face a beat-down if they commented on his wife Katy looking “shit hot for her age,” which was one of those local town mistakes that was only made once. The man in question might have walked out of the Game Seven Sports Pub on his own two feet that night, just barely, but he definitely wouldn’t show his face in the town again. While most women might find an action like that to be unnecessarily aggressive, out in the desert towns of Utah, there was still a certain chivalry in the action, such as the time that Tony actually did have to beat a message into someone remarking about the “hotness” of his truly gorgeous wife while pressuring her to go out and check out his El Camino.
In the end, Tony cleaned up his mess and threw the guy a towel to wipe the blood off of his nose and mouth, and then he threw his ass out the door while apologizing for his own “bad attitude.”
Just like that, he was a man to be feared and respected, but at the same time, he was a good man who had his world’s best interests at heart.
To understand this concept of frontier justice is to understand the harshness of the desert. Professionally, Tony ran his police office in an area that was essentially in charge of intervening in domestic disputes, drunken escapades, and cultural disputes – either between good old boys and displaced liberals or White America and Native America.
When it came to “cowboys and Indians,” Lucas always erred on the side of who seemed the most believable in his or her explanation. If people couldn’t speak up confidently for what they did or the things that they stood for, he quickly dismissed them by not paying attention to their rants, no matter how loud they were. Here, he followed the advice that he had heard from his football coach that the only time you have to worry is when he stopped correcting you or any other person who was “shitting the bed.” Nevertheless, Tony wouldn’t hesitate to discuss problems that people were causing him, but when he did, it was always short, sweet, and to the point. Give me a solution, not a song and dance. Tony felt his guidance should go the same way. Redirect, not permanently punish.
That’s just who he was.
All the same, there were the people he had to deal with for longer than he needed to. They were regulars and needed a solution to find favorable or to get upset over. Here, a busy day was a border dispute with Bill Smith types over where cattle grazed or redirecting “rummies,” as Lucas called them. He was known to deal directly with “drunk asshole” problem types by using a method that he politely referred to as “wall to wall counseling.” Much of what he did was tough love in the no harm, no foul, no police record way. This ranged from stern conversation to jacking a loudmouth drunk up against a fence or wall to state calmly that he should “redirect his life choices.”
There was no need for towels when the message came across so clearly.
Redirecting life choices was his personal joke for overly-sensitive types who refused to tell kids that they’ve been “bad.” He wasn’t a fan of spanking; in fact, he never once spanked Jackie, but his overwhelming sense of right and wrong meant that people needed to know when they were out of line, even if they were only “temporarily” being bad. In his younger high school days, he was known to put loudmouths over a fence, but old age had mellowed him out to the point that it was mostly just a lot of close quarter discussions in a stern, but normal toned voice. His presence in such an intimate place made up for the fact that, at least according to one of the state-sponsored conferences that he attended, “a modern lawman has to understand that there are no bad kids, just bad choices.” Tony laughed when he heard that for the first time, but he quickly found a way to adapt it in with his personal way of making sure people were redirected accordingly. Frankly, it was something that really worked, even if the dumbass teenagers and their parents would still call him names for being a policeman.
The references to “pigs” didn’t bother him. However, it was worse than being called a “cracker” or “whitey.” These were nonsense terms that made him chuckle, but lately, the disrespect came in a lot of strung together profanities, which made it tough to not want to squeeze the cuffs a little tighter on the grizzled parents of these youthful malcontents. And what’s worse, the parents always seemed to be the ones who got louder and angrier when he showed any degree of authority that forbid them and their kids from being assholes or no-it-all libertarian anti-government types droning on about the “militarization of the police in America today.”
Nevertheless, for all of those moments, he had always kept his professionalism when it came time for discipline and redirection in the name of the law.
Through it all, the people of Blanding generally liked him, and that was good enough for him. Besides, if they didn’t, they were known to give him some wall to wall counseling of their own at the regular town meetings, and frankly, getting tongue-lashed for hours was worse than taking a fist to the chin.
At least a punch in the head was over and done with. Prolonged verbal abuse that he had to nod or answer appropriately to could go on for hours. Professionalism was tough in those moments, but fortunately, Tony used his vivid imagination to play out daydreams in his head while nodding appropriately.
Today, there were none of these things with rummies, rednecks, or “Injuns,” as many of the locals still derogatorily referred to the Native American population as. Instead, the discussion was one that he was having with himself about who the attacker might be. As he thought about this, the thoughts meandered into the mysterious word “killer.” Tony never had a killer in his town before. He had been in Blanding for most of his adult life, at least since he left Naturita, Colorado, at age twenty-two, in search of this career that he had always dreamed about. For as exciting as he thought it might be to deal with a murderer when he was a young age, the older Tony liked not having to deal with this stuff that involved mopping up blood, at least in any way that didn’t involve throwing the perpetrator a towel.
“We all mop the floors at one time, Sammy, and this is your time,” Tony once told his youngest and newest recruit. “I’ve done my time with it, and now that I have some degree of authority, I’ll be damned if I’m not going to let you learn the life lessons of a solid work ethic and the all-important fact that ‘shit rolls downhill.’”
Nevertheless, for not wanting to clean up the mess, the “rugged dude” in Tony still had a feeling of excitement in thinking that this young kid turning up all messed up in a desert canyon could evolve into big city news to tell his wife about, even if the closest big city was only desert oasis Moab.
This city to the north was full of wild and free adults off on their adventures into the canyons and the wild life that went with a place like that. Some of these people came, and some of them stayed there. It was a paradise for the right people, and for others, it was an opportunity for bigger city issues, which got compressed into a small town where transient people and vacation seekers brought their suburban and urban issues for the local police to deal with. Lucas was thankful to have access to the town for adventures that he and his wife Katy would take when he could escape the office, which wasn’t that often anymore, but still, he was really glad that he didn’t have to deal with all of the DUIs, drunk and disorderlies, drugs, and the excessive problems with lots of robberies, at least in comparison to Blanding, which went on up there.
Nevertheless, it was a different feeling contemplating a murder, an assault and battery, or a “whatever the hell this thing with the messed-up kid” was. Sure, when it came to his current situation, there was no body, let along bodies, which needed to be sealed into industrial strength “for medical purposes only” black garbage bags, but there was an awful lot of blood on some guy’s clothing to say that bad stuff had went down, somewhere out there. With all that blood and the heat of summer, it was safe to say that somebody else probably didn’t make it out in one piece.
The only question would be what would he find when he went back to searching the desert rocks after the medics finally came and took this young man back to Hospital of Eastern Utah at Moab.
“Damn, kid. You aren’t making this an easy Sunday for me, and I’m not even getting into the fact that your appearance made that order of wings that I was eating with my wife into a takeaway order. You ought to be damn glad it’s not a Sunday during football season.”
He wiped the sweat off of his face, and he went back to sitting and waiting for the medics to arrive, still thinking about Jackie and how he hoped that his kid was safe as he thought about the bloody mess he was about to send up the highway.
It took them about an hour and a half to get there, but when they arrived, the ambulance crew was very cordial. Lucas told them all about the important details that they needed to know, and they took Larry away. Even before revving up the ambulance, they immediately started an IV on him, and with that, there was a feeling of relief that even if the kid didn’t necessarily look Ryan Gosling attractive, he was at least going to make it out alive and recover from the sunburn, the bruises, and those three cuts that he couldn’t make heads or tails of in a way that would still make college girls swoon.
The jury was still out on what had caused the blood that covered his body. When Tony stopped paying attention to the medics, he overheard them taking bets on whether it was “damn-fool hubris” or “a drug deal gone horribly wrong.” The consensus was on the drug deal. Nobody came to that side of Blanding for a weekend of backpacking, especially without an overpriced-backpack.
After overhearing that, Tony exhaled and whispered, “I’ve done what I can. The universe and the good folks in Moab will take care of the rest. I hope.”
Tony took another deep breath, and he went out the door. Leaning over the railing, he thought about saying a quick prayer for Larry to be OK, but then he realized that he wasn’t exactly the “God” type – whatever that meant. A part of him wanted to believe in some church-ordained higher power, but he had no proof, so he always felt drawn to destroy all the evil and rottenness in the world by himself. This was the moral code that led him to want to be a cop in the first place. He had no interest in sitting in church for the stand, kneel, sit of the Catholic sermons of his childhood, and he didn’t feel drawn to start over as a Protestant, Methodist, Baptist, or Mormon, which seemed to be his only choices around these parts. Thus, instead of speaking to the Lord above, he hoped to the invisible hand of the universe’s nondescript creator that the hospital and its doctors and nurses could help this boy.
For extra oomph, he made sure to cross himself, just in case something named Catholic Jesus was listening to his request.
The rational world of scientific what is and what isn’t represented his only universal truth despite his lack of understanding of the deeper concepts of chemistry, biology, and physics. Tony knew enough, but he just didn’t have the patience to learn more, so he just acknowledged what was, what wasn’t, and the limits of it all as the universal truth.
And in the end, whether he said it enough or just left it implied, the greatest truth was family, friendship, and love. He had always had his wife Katy, and that was enough. That they were unable to have any more kids was a sadness that they dealt with, but it wasn’t a tragedy. He had Katy, and he had Jackie before the tumor came to Katy’s ovary.
For this, he thought about Larry again. While the boy had no wedding ring, perhaps, the hospital could locate relatives and friends to come out and collect and care for the boy. Sunday nights weren’t the best time to call around looking for general information on people. He didn’t even think Jedidiah Smith University would have staff on duty that could or would help him with figuring out who some random kid was.
What’s more, with no cellphone, a goddamn oddity for a kid his age, he had no names to connect to this kid.
Tomorrow with the professionals would have to suffice.
When that time came, there was the university’s president to turn to, and Tony would call that person to find out what he could to help out, or better yet, he would have his down-home, friendly secretary Karen Dubrowski do this for him. In the meantime, he began to wonder if his on duty officer, Pete Thompson, had located anything when he got a radio message from him.
“I was just thinking about you. Do you read minds now?”
“That’s a skill above my pay grade. Ask my wife. I don’t get any of her thoughts to bring her flowers or take her anywhere nice.”
They both laughed.
“Hey, there’s a Subaru out here at the end of Darkbrush Road. It’s got Utah plates.”
“Did you run any kind of check yet, or do you need me to do that?”
“I did. The owner is a forty-six-year old guy named Steve Bronkowski. Nothing unusual with him or his life in that he doesn’t seem to have a criminal record or even any speeding tickets for being out of line in his driving behavior.”
“You’re shitting me. Who the hell is almost fifty and doesn’t have speeding tickets?”
“You got me.”
They both laughed, and then Pete continued with the report.
“The car does have a parking sticker on it for the Jedidiah Smith University and a kokopelli sticker as well as some microbrewery stickers. Not too uncommon for out here, even from a forty-six-year old guy trying to relive his twenties. However, it does also have a sticker for the American Archaeological Association.”
“Not something you see every day, but that’s not too uncommon either. We’ve got a lot of archaeology ruins, and you know all that stuff that’s going on way out in the middle of nowhere with the Greer place. Perhaps that could tie him in with our twenty-four-year old student friend. I’ll have Karen call the university tomorrow morning, and we’ll see what her sweet talk will find out for us.”
“OK, boss. Anything else you need me to do before I head back to the station?”
“No, you’re good. Take it easy on the SUV. You know your car isn’t the sturdiest vehicle out there!”
“And your rust bucket of an aging dinosaur is?!”
“There’s a reason that I drive a twenty-five-year old Jeep Wrangler. It still works, and it kicks butt on the dirt roads. That’s a lot more than I can say for your lazy ass and your import piece of crap.”
They both laughed, and Lucas started flipping through the digital memory of his camera to reveal all of the pictures that he had taken of the kid. As he did this, he provided details of what he had observed to Pete. Tony was very meticulous with the quality and detail of these images, trying his hardest to live out the concept of being an amateur photographer / researcher, even if he was a cop by paycheck.
Nevertheless, talking and doing other stuff at the same time kept his overactive mind settled. To this, multitasking was important in his position, especially since he didn’t want to be sitting here in an empty office trying to figure out what could have caused some young guy to end up like that.
Simply put, it was just as easy to do it in his car as waiting until the later hours of the evening took him back home to Katy and forced him to spend his personal time doing something work-related instead of marital.
Nevertheless, as the sun set on the plateaus and mesas of the Utah desert, he knew that there was nothing that could be done until morning. As he bid adieu to the police station, he called up to Moab and arranged to have their police chopper flown down here so they could get it up in the air for a morning search.
“We’ll give you our best crew, sir. Clyde Rayburn, the helicopter contractor, only hires the best.”
“I appreciate that, ma’am. Hope the rest of your night goes quickly.”
“So do I. Other than your call, nothing is doin’.”
Tony hung up thinking about how he had a bad omen that she was going to start to get busy for a while, real busy.
“Not my problem though. Not my problem. Not my monkeys. Not my circus.”
The next morning, Karen was in bright and early, as Tony had called and requested her to be, in order to catch up on weekend work that had accumulated from the injured student. The call she made to Thurmon Strong’s office was uneventful enough. Beverly Anderson, the secretary, extended her the professional courtesy that was necessary for the search and gave out enough general information to begin an investigation with.
Nevertheless, the conversation did have a few important points in it. For one, it turned out Steve Bronkowski had a doctorate in archaeology, and he was a relatively big time professor of sorts. Karen asked about whether he was like Sean “Big Dig” Caruthers, a famous archeologist and reality TV star, and Beverly just laughed.
“No, he’s more like a late forty-something Perry Trudeau!”
Perry Trudeau was a chunky Salt Lake City car salesman, who owned several auto dealerships despite having a plastered on toupee.
With this they both laughed.
In addition, as for Gladwell, he was a graduate student working with Bronkowski on the initial stages of some major research that the university was part of at the Greer’s ranch. She didn’t know much about him, but she assumed he must know something about archaeology since he would have been hand-picked by Bronkowski to go on the journey.
Beverly then enquired into the whereabouts of Jimmy Simpson and Darryl Connors, two other grad students who had gone off on an archaeology scouting trip with Gladwell and Bronkowski Friday night.
“To be honest, I didn’t know anything about anyone other than the owner of the car and the kid who was shipped off to Moab. Maybe you can call Hospital of Eastern Utah at Moab.”
The police station in Blanding was small, so they did the best with what information they could get right away. The first bits of information would help, and so would the events of the day and the leads they would create.
Hopefully, wherever Gladwell had hiked from, these other three people would surely be sitting there and waiting for him to come back to them.
Fat chance of that, she thought.