This book is inspired by true events, but the names of characters and locations of events have been changed to protect the privacy of those portrayed.
© 2011 E. Clay All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author.
Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any web addresses or links contained in this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them.
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers:
for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
“My Name is Elijah” is the prequel to the novel “Flagrant Misconduct.” This story is a fictionalized account of extraordinary but real events and its impact on an average family. For some, this fast-paced action drama will challenge your belief system; for others, it will affirm your faith. What happens when psychics and prophets both foresee imminent upheaval for your family? Is there hope for escape? Only one man knows the answer.
It was just about daybreak, moms and dads were waving goodbye seeing their sons off as they boarded the bus. The air was particularly cool and the sun began to announce her presence from behind the dark clouds. Joshua hoisted his duffle bag onto his shoulders, embraced his mother and kissed her on the forehead. She was particularly emotional and it caught the attention of other parents who were more joyful. As Joshua boarded the bus, he immediately looked for a seat where he could best see his mother Brenda. Joshua knew the tears she shed were not because of premature separation anxiety. … These tears were from carrying the weight of infidelity around like a ball and chain. You would have thought her husband Gary would have been more careful … he was. However, his mistress, a substitute teacher where he taught, was careless. Gary almost lost his job and news of the affair became public knowledge around town almost immediately. After a few weeks of damage control to keep the family together, Brenda decided to move in with her mom Maggie Ross who lived across town. Two weeks later Joshua followed suit. Initially, Joshua planned to stay with his dad, but the lack of remorse was just too much.
As the bus pulled off, she waved goodbye and began walking toward her car. Joshua kept looking through the window just to see if she would look back once more, she did and waved one last time.
The buses were packed with some of the most talented high school athletes in the local area, all vying for the attention of college scouts looking for new recruits.
The kids attending this elite and prestigious camp generally fell into two categories, either they were exceptional athletes or their parents could afford the pricey enrollment fee. Joshua was the former. Joshua was born with a genetic disorder called myostatin-related muscle hypertrophy. It’s a rare condition that promotes the abnormal growth of skeletal muscles. Joshua’s mother Brenda, a former world-class sprinter, had a mutation in one copy of the dominant myostatin-producing gene (MSTN), and she passed it on to him in utero. Joshua’s condition gave him three times the strength of the average adult male and heightened reflexes. His abnormal strength coupled with his superior reflexes rightfully placed him in a class of super athletes that dazzled spectators. At 6’7 and just over 250 lbs Joshua was already the number one defensive end in the country…as a junior in high school.
Unbeknownst to Joshua, among the passengers were two other kids who would thrust themselves into his world … and turn it on its head.
About an hour into the journey, Joshua overheard a heated conversation erupting over a window seat.
“The first time I asked you to move was with my mouth … the next time it will be with my fist,” said the bully standing in the aisle
“Why don’t you … crawl back to the rock you slithered from matey?” the boy said in a strong Irish accent.
Joshua admired the boy’s courage. The bully was a menacing figure, about 6’6 and disturbingly muscular in build. No doubt, he was a lineman. The kid seated was rather small compared to the other athletes on the bus … but that was often the case with place kickers. They didn’t need to be particularly strong; they just had to clear the football through the uprights, using a combination of technique and a bit of strength. Other passengers began to take notice of the exchange of words between the two, and it was obvious the kid sitting down was much more clever and unfazed by the towering bully.
“You can sit in my seat under one condition; you sit on my lap and let me burp you.”
Immediately, laughter erupted throughout the bus embarrassing the tormenter.
His face became red as he looked around at the laughing faces, then he lunged at the kid grabbing him around the collar.
“Say something smart now Angel Face!” the bully said as he spat while speaking.
Joshua began to get concerned and although he contemplated butting out, the aggression drew him into the equation.
“Enough already! Show’s over!” Joshua said as he exited his seat and stood behind the punk in the aisle.
“Earl Starkey, get back to your seat now Mister!” said one of the faculty staff.
“This ain’t ova sweetlips,” Earl said as he blew a kiss to the kid with the strong Irish accent. He then returned to his seat.
The kid then turned around and looked over his seat at Joshua.
“Oi! Don’t need you to fight my battles. The only time I will ever want your protection is on the football field, you got it?”
“Yeah man, whateva dude,” said Joshua.
About fifteen minutes later, Joshua felt compelled to say something about the incident.
“Hey man, I didn’t mean anything by it. … It just looked like you had your hands full that’s all.”
“I know you meant well. It’s the Irish in me; we never back down from a fight. You’re a proper Yank. My name is Brandon.”
“Yank? I’m born and bred right here in Cali,” Joshua replied.
“You all are Yanks,” Brandon said jokingly.
Brandon was a recent émigré from Ireland. His mother was Irish and his dad was a wealthy American banker from California. The two met while both were on holiday in the south of France almost eighteen years before. Their whirlwind romance was short-lived after it was discovered that she became pregnant with Brandon. Brandon’s dad Mr. Windsor was besotted with Carol and continued to court her for the next sixteen years. During that time, he pleaded with her to join him in California as a family. Against her family’s wishes, she took a gamble and relocated to the US with Brandon. Up until that point, Mr. Windsor had courted her by flying to Ireland regularly and taking a keen interest in their son. Brandon was an all-county Rugby player and had the best left foot in the region. Making the transition from Rugby to football was effortless for Brandon and he quickly became a local sensation when he settled in Antrim, California. Brandon became instantly popular at school because of his kicking ability and his Irish accent, but his mother found the transition extremely difficult. Not only did she miss her family and friends, but she was struggling to find meaningful employment in her career field. Carol was a successful solicitor for a major Irish media outlet, but her credentials weren’t recognized in the US and she couldn’t practice law. Eventually she conceded to working as a paralegal. After eight months of going to work at a job that she absolutely hated she realized the only thing keeping her in the US was the true love of her life … her son.
While Brandon enjoyed success as a Rugby player in Ireland, Earl Starkey was enjoying a different type of notoriety. Very few kids in high school were feared as much as Earl Starkey was both on and off the football field. Earl had just finished a six-month stint in juvie, related to charges of aggravated bodily harm. He had bad acne, greasy hair, horrendous breath and violent mood swings, all indicative of anabolic steroid usage. The problem with steroid users is that when they discontinue the roids, depression sets in leading to a deep emotional downward spiral.
By the time the bus had reached its destination two hours later, both Joshua and Brandon had become pals. The two were hoping they would end up in the same housing. As they offloaded the bus, they were greeted by faculty staff all dressed in athletic attire, whistles around their necks and clipboards in hand. All of the kids quickly realized this was not a typical football summer camp; it was run more like Marine Corps boot camp.
“Get off the bus! … Get off the bus ladies! Quickly … quickly, we don’t have all day!” shouted one of the instructors.
Everyone scurried to grab their belongings and quickly got in an unorganized formation in front of the platform a short distance from the bus. The chief instructor marched onto the platform followed by four junior physical instructors (PI’s) and began barking commands in a gruff tone.
“Listen up ladies … you are no longer in Kansas! For the next six weeks it is my job to transform you from the powder puffs that your mommies gave me, to men … real men!’ “Do you understand? Do you understand?!”
“Yes Sir!” everyone responded in almost perfect unison.
Immediately, the four PI’s began calling out names. All the kids were placed in cabins, which were named after Indian tribes: Sioux, Iroquois, Navajo and Four Winds.
“Four Winds … get a move on son!”
“Right here sir!”
“Sioux … move your arse!” the PI said mockingly.
“Earl Starkey! … I said Earl Starkey!”
“That’s fifty pushups! On your face Dorothy! Sioux!”
During the first week of training, Joshua and Brandon bonded like brothers. Joshua would always stop by the Sioux cabin to pick up Brandon on his way to lunch just before noon. Sundays were off days for both the staff and the trainees and it was those days that Joshua and Brandon would spend time at the recreation center playing pool, throwing darts and playing pinball. While Joshua was on the pinball machine, he noticed Brandon sitting outside at a picnic table drawing almost as if he was in a trance.
As Joshua approached, Brandon hid his artwork and pretended to compose a letter.
“Hey Chumpy … so what’s underneath the notebook?” Joshua asked.
“Nunya,” replied Brandon as he became defensive.
“Nunya? I don’t speak Irish remember? said Joshua
“Nunya business.” What language do you think we speak in Ireland anyway?” Brandon said as he laughed.
Immediately Brandon revealed his hidden artwork and showed Joshua.
“Whoa … that is amazing! It looks so life-like!” Joshua said with amazement.
One of the many talents Brandon had was that he could draw anything from memory. … If he saw it just one time, he could draw it with almost picture quality detail. His favorite subjects were nature’s creatures: squirrels, birds, butterflies and other colorful insects. Brandon was pleased Joshua appreciated his work.
“So you like my stuff?” Brandon asked as he looked up at Joshua.
“Man, you could make money … big money with talent like that.”
“What else do you draw?” Joshua inquired.
“I only draw stuff that matters to me, stuff that I care about. … When I draw nature it reminds me of my home back in Ireland.”
Joshua began to scratch his head and started to speak but stopped in mid-sentence.
“Do you think …?”
“Betcha couldn’t draw Farrah Fawcett,” Joshua said almost bashfully.
“I could for a small fee … a package of Oreo biscuits.”
Three days later during the evening meal, Brandon asked about his Oreos. Although Joshua would have loved a picture of Farrah Fawcett, he never got his hopes up and had forgotten it.
“I always keep my word,” Brandon said as he presented Joshua an 8×10-color sketch of Farrah Fawcett.
“Brandon. … Whoa! This really rocks dude. It looks exactly like her. … I mean, it really does. Can I keep it?” Joshua responded.
To Brandon, the sketch was just a sketch, but to Joshua it was a keepsake that eventually would be framed and mounted over his bed for the remainder of his high school years.
It had been almost three weeks into football training and by this time discipline seemed to be less of a struggle and more of an instinct. Most of the drops happened in week one (hell week). In just three weeks, Joshua and Brandon had grown as close as brothers and were almost inseparable during off hours. Brandon enjoyed talking about his home in Ireland and Joshua was genuinely interested in this faraway place where castles still existed.
Brandon also spoke of his dad and how he used money to manipulate people on occasion. Mr. Windsor was an influential man in town and many businesses relied on his bank’s line of credit. His bank was the center of a major scandal three years ago when it was determined that small business loans were granted to companies that never existed. Rumors spread that Mr. Windsor was complicit but it was never proven. Joshua seemed enthralled by the real life drama.
“So, do you think your ole man is guilty?”
“Aye … I see the kind of men who turn up at the house and I see my mum’s face. They make her nervous and most of the time I have to go to my room when they knock.”
“I’m sure he never gets his hands mucky; he has people who do things for him.”
“Things … what kind of things?” Joshua asked inquisitively.
“Things that I’d rather not talk about, let’s just say he’s not the kinda bloke you wanna cross.”
The fourth week was pool week. This was a new addition to the training cycle, a decision made by the executive board after the accidental drowning of a NFL player who died trying to save his eight-year-old son during a camping trip. The kids were broken into two color groups; the white group was for kids who claimed themselves as proficient swimmers and the yellow group was for the non-swimmers. The yellow swimmers were all issued pink floatation devices to wear around their wrists; they were called “virgins.” The PIs barked out names and the kids responded to the color of their ability.
“Good man!” said the PI.
“White sir!” Joshua barked back.
“Yellow sir,” Jones said ashamedly as he looked away from his peers.
“Come here darling,” said the PI as he motioned with his right hand with a grin on his face.
“White sir!!” said Brandon at the top of his lungs at the position of attention. Brandon was a certified rescue swimmer in Ireland and often did volunteer work as a lifeguard during the summers before he migrated to the US.
“Starkey. … Starkey. … I said Star—”
“White sir! Earl Starkey said under confidently.
All the yellow swimmers marched to the shallow end and the white swimmers lined up on either side of the diving board on the deep end. The first exercise for the accomplished swimmers was a crossover. A successful crossover meant that a swimmer could swim the length of the pool (50 meters) without surfacing.
“Do we have any volunteers?” asked the senior PI
“Can I have a go?” asked Brandon.
Many of the kids snickered under their breath, Brandon was one of the smallest of the bunch and it seemed unlikely that he would outshine anyone in a physical capacity.
“Off you go son!” said the PI.
Brandon dove straight in the pool with amazing precision hardly creating a splash. He immediately descended to a comfortable depth and all the PIs kept checking their stopwatches.
Halfway at the 25-meter mark, Brandon had hit his stride and was almost dolphin-like. PIs continued to check their watches. Everyone kept waiting for him to surface at any moment prematurely … but he didn’t. As Brandon approached the opposite end of the pool, all the PIs ran to greet him. Brandon emerged piercing the waterline like an Olympic champion touching the wall. Brandon had completed the entire length of the pool in less than 40 seconds. No one knew if that was a record because it hadn’t been done before by a trainee.
“Give him a hand. … Give this man a hand!” shouted the senior PI as he pointed to Brandon on one knee at the edge of the pool. Joshua started hooting and hollering, twirling his towel around his head like a helicopter.
“Did you see that? … Man, did you see that? Heck, even Stevie Wonder could see that! Joshua said as he slapped fives with other trainees. Everyone applauded the amazing feat … well almost everyone.
Brandon exited the pool with grace and humility and rejoined his peers at the deep end. Two lines were formed on either side of the diving board and it was time for the rest to try to duplicate what they had just witnessed. Most reached the halfway point before they had to resurface … but then there was Earl Starkey. Earl was last in line and he had a look about him, a look that Brandon has seen dozens of times as a rescue swimmer and lifeguard. Absolute fear.
“Lanes one and two! Prepare to crossover. … CROSSOVER! shouted the senior PI.
After the command was given, Earl jumped in making a loud splash. He descended to the correct depth and flailed a bit, then he finally settled … but was motionless. After about 20 seconds, Earl still was motionless and PIs started to walk closer to the pool to observe the situation. Then the PIs heard a quiet splash from the nearside. … Brandon had jumped in to assist. Two other PIs immediately followed. The mood quickly went somber and everyone observed with great concern. Brandon tried his best to resurface with Earl but he was just too heavy. The other two PIs relieved Brandon and successfully retrieved Earl and pulled his limp body out of the water. Dropping his clipboard, the senior PI ran to assist and began performing CPR. The trainees were ordered to look away and they did hesitantly, worrying if Earl would be all right. Joshua looked out of the corner of his eye and began to say a silent prayer. Within moments, Earl was spewing water from most of his upper orifices, coughing violently. Instantly, everyone felt relieved.
“What were you trying to prove you moron?!” shouted the senior PI.
“I was fine. … I just took in some water,” Earl said between coughs.
“Yeah … we know. … It’s called drowning you imbecile! Get over there with the rest of the virgins!”
Earl slowly stood and gingerly walked toward the shallow end of the pool feeling demoralized.
“And one more thing Starkey! Buy some Tic Tacs will ya!”
Immediately, the junior PIs turned their backs to suppress their laughter trying to keep a straight face.
“Earl! You all right mate? asked Brandon.
Earl turned around with a death stare.
Not only was Earl publicly humiliated, his first responder was Brandon, the weakest of the bunch. The combination would prove too much for his delicate psyche and at that moment, Earl became a loud ticking time bomb … that no one could hear.
It was Friday noon and the PIs showed football highlights of scrimmage games recorded earlier during the week on an 8 mm film projector in the recreation center. All the trainees were very impressed seeing themselves in action. After the last film clip, all the trainees were released for lunch and were instructed to report back for the start of the ‘77 Summer Games. This was a highly anticipated event because it marked the arrival of the college scouts and it was their first glimpse of would-be recruits in a semi-competitive environment. After the games, scouts would dine with their future prospects. These were two-man events and rules stated you had to pick someone under another PI belonging to a different cabin. Four Winds won coin tosses against the other cabins and got first pick.
All the trainees were standing at attention in front of their PIs.
Joshua got the third overall pick.
“Pernelli! Front and center!” Bellowed the senior PI.
“Pernelli reporting as ordered sir!”
“I just made a gentleman’s bet on you son … so don’t let me down. Pick a winner.”
“Sir, yes sir. … I pick Brandon Windsor sir!” Joshua yelled as he pointed to Brandon in the back row.
Brandon broke ranks and stood beside Joshua at attention.
“You’re taking the mickey right? I thought you wanted to win,” whispered Brandon.
“Relax Brandon; all we have to do is ‘shake and bake,’ Joshua whispered back.
Most of the trainees picked the biggest and strongest as their partners. However, most of the events did not favor those pairings. Earl Starkey was picked by one of the fastest wide receivers in camp. Teams that coupled speed and strength were the most competitive. As such, Joshua, Brandon and Starkey’s team dominated, placing first or second in just about every event. Joshua and Brandon placed first in the 2 by 200-breaststroke relay, the 100-meter fireman’s carry and the homerun derby. When Joshua stepped up to the plate, you could see the outfielders quickly marching backward. By the time they stopped, they looked like small dots on the field from home plate. It appeared that they greatly over exaggerated Joshua’s ability. Nope … among the ten pitches he was served, all of them went clear over the outfielder’s heads. Six of those balls were never recovered. The four balls that were eventually found, he hit as a lefty. It was clear to the scouts they were watching a true multi-sport phenomenon. Joshua’s genetic disorder amplified his reflexes, enabling him to hit with uncanny accuracy.
Meanwhile, Earl Starkey’s two-man team dominated in the 200-meter relay race, the rope climb and the spicy chicken burrito-eating contest. Earl was tied after consuming seventeen burritos and it was obvious that the other competitor was seriously struggling to keep up with Earl. The cook indicated to the organizers that there were no more burritos so it was going to be declared a tie. But then Earl’s rival sprinted away from the table unable to hold his food down. Earl Starkey was declared the winner. His cabin mates elected not to share his sleeping quarters for the next two days and slept in their sleeping bags under the stars instead.
After a two-hour break, all awaited the final event … the Tug-O-War. No one wanted to lose. The Tug-O-War was over a bridge with no middle section. Although the bridge was only ten feet high, it overlooked a stagnant body of water and had the most awful stench. Water hoses were on standby. As fate would have it, Joshua and Brandon faced Earl’s two-man team in a highly anticipated showdown for first place. Earl’s team was in second place but a victory here would allow them to lay claim to the Summer Games Championship.
“Phew, oh my Lord! What is in that water?” complained Joshua.
“Don’t even wanna know. … It’s vile. Hope you’ve got your shots up-to-date mate.”
“Hate to let you down, but I’m a kicker. … I got no upper body strength,” confessed Brandon.
“Shake and bake Baby,” said Joshua.
Brandon just rolled his eyes and shook his head with a slight smile on his face.
“Not sure what that means, but I am sure you will let me in on it at some point.
All the trainees and staff divided themselves on either side of the bridge all waiting to see what team would take the infamous plunge. The senior PI was asked if he wanted to reconsider his bet given the size of Brandon, one of the smallest trainees.
“Not a chance,” said the senior PI with the utmost confidence.
The senior PI blew the warning whistle.
“Ready on the right! Ready on the left! … Begin!”
Immediately, the direction of the rope began alternating back and forth in a tense struggle. Then it became clearer who the stronger team was as Joshua and Brandon were lured closer and closer to the edge of the bridge.
“My foot, my foot!” Brandon screamed in pain.
Brandon’s foot became stuck between two planks and sprained it as he was yanked forward.
“Sorry mate, my foot is knackered,” Brandon said as he let go of the rope and grabbed his foot in pain.
At that point, everyone was just waiting for Joshua to take his swan dive.
Earl’s team turned up the heat and pulled in perfect synchronous harmony. Joshua was pulled past Brandon on the bridge and came within 12 inches from the end of the last plank. Joshua began to smell the stench even more and looked down at the brown murky still water. Then he looked at the senior PI and the words “I just made a gentleman’s bet on you son … so don’t let me down,” echoed inside his head.
As he approached the very end of the last plank, he abruptly stopped in his tracks. Despite the oppositions favorable odds of two against one … Joshua became immobile. Joshua remained still for about 15 seconds … then he erupted in an amazing display of brute strength reeling the opposition in like ensnarled fish on the end of a hook. Right over left, left over right Joshua’s muscles exploded with might few people have ever witnessed. The seams in his t-shirt became stressed and almost split across his massive shoulders. Earl was anchorman and was horrified at the thought of losing two against one. Then it happened, Earl’s teammate was yanked into the abyss of stench with one powerful tug. All the spectators hurried to the edge of the bridge as Earl’s teammate yelled “Noooooooo!” as he went head first into the sewery gulley.
“Daaaayum!” yelled several of the trainees in unison as they winced.
“Hoses up!” shouted the PI.
The brown, soaked, stained trainee emerged from the abyss spitting and coughing up nature’s russet soup. Immediately he was hosed down by junior PIs standing by.
Earl began to realize he was no match for Joshua and let go of the rope causing Joshua to almost lose his balance.
“Boo! Boo!” yelled all the trainees as they witnessed his disgraceful act of sportsmanship.
The college scouts just shook their heads and began taking notes.
The senior PI pointed to Earl … then he pointed to the gulley. However, Earl remained on the bridge. Immediately, all of the junior PIs stormed onto the bridge and marched him into the murky water.
Covered in stench, Earl emerged to a round of boos and applause by the trainees and staff. The command “Hoses up” was deliberately delayed. Rage consumed and suffocated Earl from the inside, everyone unaware.
Joshua and Brandon began enjoying celebrity status around camp after winning the ‘77 Summer Games. Both of their names were permanently engraved on a plaque alongside past winners dating back to 1959 in the recreation center.
Three days before training camp concluded, parents were invited to visit and watch their sons receive their certificates in a formal ceremony. The buses arrived early Friday morning and the moms and dads offloaded with anticipation of reuniting with sons who were in formations behind their PIs across the parking lot.
The PIs facing the buses did an about face and dismissed their trainees to meet their parents. Joshua immediately spotted his mother the moment she got off the bus. She was wearing a white sleeveless summer dress with large black polka dots, and designer sunglasses from the ‘50s.
Within moments, the once organized formation of disciplined trainees transformed into a mob that descended on the meeting place.
“Ma! Ma! … over here, over here!” Joshua said waving his hand above his head.
“Joshua … Joshua, look at you! I didn’t know I was going to miss you this much!”
“I missed you too Ma,” Joshua said as he hugged his mom.
“Sorry, your father couldn’t make it but he said to tell you hello.”
“It’s ok Ma, I’ll see him when I get back. I want to introduce you to someone … if I can find him.”
Unbeknownst to Joshua, Brandon was standing right behind him.
“So you must be Mrs. Pernelli; I’m Brandon, pleased to meet you.”
“Love that accent; where are your parents?” Brenda asked with a smile.
“They won’t be coming; they’re on holiday, the Canary Islands,” Brandon replied.
“I heard you are quite the artist.”
“Art is a passion of mine; I draw things that I care about … mostly nature.”
“Since my parents aren’t here may I have supper with you and Joshua?” Brandon asked politely.
“I insist!” said Brenda as she hugged them both smiling.
The next day Joshua walked by the Sioux cabin to pick Brandon up for lunch. As he approached the cabin, he overheard a heated exchange between Brandon and Earl Starkey. His initial reaction was to barge in and defuse the matter, but he became conflicted. He replayed the incident on the bus ride over and over again. Ultimately, the words “Don’t need you to fight my battles” rang loudly in his head. Joshua was protective of his friendship with Brandon and he knew if he were to linger any longer, he would be unable to resist inserting himself into the equation. Joshua departed letting his emotions yield to his better judgment. Joshua went straightway to the visitor accommodations to meet his mom who was waiting outside.
“Where’s your shadow, your partner in crime?” Brenda said with smile.
“He’s on his way. I am sure he will meet up with us at the cafeteria.”
During the lunch hour, Joshua kept turning around looking for Brandon to come through the front entrance. Forty-five minutes had passed. Kitchen helpers began clearing up and there was no sign of Brandon.
“Something is wrong … something is definitely wrong,” said Joshua as he checked his watch.
“I am sure there is nothing to worry about,” Brenda said as she reached in her purse and looked in her makeup mirror reapplying her lipstick.
“Ma … I will meet you by the flag pole in an hour, but I need to check on something. I love ya Ma,” Joshua said nervously.
Joshua sprinted to the Sioux cabin as fast as he could; just praying things would be ok. When he got there, his worst nightmare began to unfold. He saw an ambulance and a camp security vehicle drive off away from the cabin amid dozens of staff and trainees who happened to be in the area. Joshua became enraged; he could feel his heart thumping in his chest. The cabin door was locked but when he looked inside through a window, he saw Brandon’s bed stripped and his personal belongings were gone. The senior PI approached Joshua.
“Son, I don’t know how to tell you this any other way but … Brandon was assaulted.”
“Where’s Earl; where is Earl Starkey?” Joshua asked angrily.
“Earl Starkey is in police custody for the incident. Brandon’s parents have been notified and are on the next plane.”
“Why … why did this happen? Will he be ok?” Joshua kept repeating.
“We will know more once the doctors complete their examinations, so I’d expect we will know something by tomorrow. If you need to talk to someone, we have a camp Chaplain.”
“Any chance Brandon will be coming back?”
“I’m afraid not son,” said the senior PI as he put his hand on Joshua’s shoulder before he walked away.
“Never again,” said Joshua under his breath.
“What’s that son?”
“Never mind sir … it’s nothing.”
Joshua took a long walk replaying the event in his head, regretting not having followed his instincts to intervene. He couldn’t help feeling responsible for what happened to his best friend. The emotion, the guilt was too much to bear and there was no way to make things right. Joshua saw his mom waiting at the flagpole. At first, she was slightly annoyed that he was over thirty minutes late but then she immediately noticed something was wrong with her son and she ran to him.
Joshua became emotional with rage as he hugged his mother and then he explained what happened. She knew there would be no consoling him for what had happened. But she had no idea things would become much worse.
On graduation day, Joshua and his mom observed a black Lincoln Continental limousine with tinted windows pulled into the campsite. The chauffeur parked the limo in the reserved parking space belonging to the senior PI. A well-dressed couple emerged from the car wearing expensive clothes, sunglasses and jewelry. The chauffer stood guard by the limousine as the couple hastily entered the Camp Headquarters.
“They must be VIPs or special guests,” said Brenda
“I think I know exactly who they are. I’d bet its Mr. and Mrs. Windsor,” said Joshua.
“Why do you think that Joshua? “Brenda asked.
“Did you see the look on that man’s face, and the way he slammed the car door?”
“I see what you mean, he looked like he meant business,” said Brenda.
Within moments, the senior PI sped into the parking lot blocking the limousine in and storming through the main entrance.
As he walked in, the senior PI discovered Mr. Windsor sitting in his chair perusing the incident file. Joshua and Brenda overheard elevated voices and could see tempers flaring as they peered into the senior PI’s office window.
“You have two heartbeats to get outta my chair,” the senior said as he snatched the file out of Mr. Windsor’s hand and emptied him out of his favorite chair.
“This camp should be closed down. It is obvious you are unable to provide for the safety of the kids,” said Mr. Windsor in a stern voice.
“I am sorry you feel that way, but we run a football camp here, not a 24-hour babysitting service.”
“Excuse me sir, but we placed our utmost trust in you and your staff, and we have been let down,” said Carol as she stepped between her husband and the senior.
“It’s quite all right, what we were unable to get from our son … we got from your file,” Mr. Windsor said calmly.
“And what might that be?” asked the senior.
“The name of the one responsible. My son won’t tell me and police won’t disclose the name of a minor … regardless of the heinousness of the act.”
“Your file is a pack of lies. I know my son and this is not what happened!” said Mr. Windsor.
Unsatisfied with just listening outside from the ajar window, Joshua snuck inside the building and stood just outside the office door. Brenda followed soon after.
“I think that’s the only thing we agree on,” said the senior.
“No way on earth was this consensual, I did not raise my son like that,” said Mr. Windsor.
“Unfortunately, it is his word against your son’s word and no real way to prove otherwise,” said the senior.
“It was not consensual! I was there!” said Joshua as he appeared in the middle of the doorway.
“What!” All three said almost in unison as they turned their attention to Joshua.
“So what were you doing there; were you the lookout?” said Mr. Windsor angrily approaching Joshua.
“No, of course not … Brandon is my best friend and—”
“And you didn’t stop it? You let it happen?” said Mrs. Windsor as she stood behind her husband.
Brenda emerged from behind Joshua and stepped in front of him.
“Now hold on; listen to what he has to say first before you start making wild accusations,” said Brenda in defense of her son.
“When I was there, they were just arguing and I wanted to …” Joshua was unable to complete his sentence.
“You could have prevented this; where were you when he needed you most,” Mrs. Windsor complained.
“You were his last line of defense, and because of you my son is damaged!” Mr. Windsor said pointing his finger at Joshua.
“Wait a second now; I know Joshua would have done anything for that boy!” the senior said in Joshua’s defense.
“As far as I am concerned you all are complicit to my son being subjected to unspeakable acts. Remember my name and mark this day. … There will be accountability,” Mr. Windsor said as he removed his sunglasses and grabbed his wife by the arm.
As Brenda and Joshua were placing their suitcases in the trunk of the car, getting ready to head back home, the senior pulled up in a camp security vehicle.
“Uh oh, what now?” Brenda said as she let out a big sigh.
“Ma, they have to believe me, Brandon was my best friend. What else can I say?”
As the senior left the vehicle, he had a large zippered pouch under his arm.
“We inventoried Brandon’s personal effects and I thought he might have wanted you to have this, so we kept it for you.”
“What is it?” Joshua asked curiously.
“Well it ain’t gonna open itself, now is it son?” The senior said as he presented it to Joshua.
Joshua stared at the pouch not having a clue what was inside, so he slowly unzipped it.
“Amazing, unbelievable! It looks exactly like you, son! How long did you have to sit for him to draw that picture of you? Must have been hours looking at the detail,” the senior commented.
“I didn’t pose for it. I never knew he was drawing a sketch of me. … I guess he was going to surprise me on the last day.”
“You mean he drew this from memory?” Brenda asked.
Joshua looked at the life-like portrait of himself and then closed his eyes and tightened his fists.
“He’s my best friend,” Joshua said placing the portrait back into the pouch.
As the car left the camp, Joshua could see the senior saluting him from inside the wing mirror.
One month after the incident, Carol permanently relocated to Ireland with her son and ended her relationship with Mr. Windsor. Brandon attended counseling sessions and responded favorably. Through therapy, he was able to come to grips with what happened that day, but more importantly he was able to move on.
Carol was rehired by her former employer and Brandon rejoined his old classmates at St. Ivo Academy. Not long after his return, Brandon enjoyed even greater popularity among his friends having developed an Irish-American hybrid accent and coining several American phrases. Among the most popular of those expressions … “Shake and bake.”
All charges were dropped against Earl Starkey (at Mr. Windsor’s request) and he was released the same day.
Two weeks before school started, Earl Starkey was killed in a multi-car collision going southbound on the 405 near Los Angles. Investigators blamed the collision on brake failure… on his new Chevy Camaro. A memorial was held at his school in remembrance; few students attended. An uninvited guest attended Earl Starkey’s funeral. The stranger sat in the back row wearing a dark double-breasted suit and sunglasses. No one knew that he was a family friend…of Mr. Windsor.
On the way home from camp, Joshua replayed all the fond times he spent with Brandon over and over again in his head. His hopes of continuing their friendship had been dashed right before his eyes. It really bothered Joshua that Mr. Windsor implied he had been partly to blame, but a part of him understood his rage.
“I wonder why Brandon refused to identify Earl Starkey to his parents. He is a predator and needs to be exposed for who he is.”
“He’s protecting him Ma.”
‘That’s nonsense. Protecting him from what?”
“His father. Mr. Windsor.” Joshua responded.
Joshua turned away from his mother and began looking out the window, then his eyes fixated on a car on his nearside.
“Ma! Ma! Honk your horn!” Joshua said as he rolled the window all the way down.”
Joshua noticed the hood on the nearside car wasn’t properly secured and it was rattling vigorously.
Brenda noticed it too and began slowing down as Joshua tried to get the driver’s attention.
“Pull over! Pull over!” Joshua screamed in fear as he pointed to the hood.
Unfortunately, this had the opposite effect. The woman became frightened by the stranger yelling at her for no apparent reason. The driver then hit the accelerator until she was speeding toward eighty miles per hour.
As the speedometer hit eighty, the wind forced the hood loose, crashing back with great force, shattering the windshield into a million glassy spider webs. The mighty force of the hood also crushed the roof of the car, causing the driver to break suddenly, giving the motorcyclist directly behind her no time to break. The motorcyclist dumped the bike to minimize the impact, but the bike slid underneath the car and he was ejected nearly one hundred feet forward.
Brenda almost ran the motorcyclist over, stopping just in time. She then put on her emergency flashers and Joshua jumped out of the car to check on him. Immediately, the woman driver checked on her four-year old twins in the back seat. After she was confident the girls were all right, she joined Joshua to assist.
“I am so sorry; I thought you were a mad man. … I didn’t know. Is he ok?” the woman asked.
Immediately, the cyclist miraculously opened his eyes and slowly sat up.
Both Joshua and the woman breathed a sigh of relief and smiled.
“I think he will make it, but your car is a definite write off,” Joshua said as he extended his hand to the cyclist to help him up.
As the three made their way to the roadside shoulder for safety, the woman’s car exploded into flames. The motorcycle had ruptured the car’s fuel tank starting a small undetected fire underneath the car.
“My babies! Oh my God … my babies are in there!” the woman said as she ran toward the car in absolute terror. The heat was too much, and she couldn’t get to them. She could see their frightened faces with arms outstretched begging for their mother in desperation. There was a call box less than fifty yards away and Joshua ran quickly to alert emergency services.
“911 – What is your emergency?”
“Please send help! There’s a car in flames and there are kids inside. … There’s no time!”
Then Joshua saw an off duty ambulance turn on the code lights not too far from the scene and hung up the phone. Backed up traffic prevented the ambulance from making any significant forward progress. Brenda got out of her car and ran toward the fire but she was turned away by the intense heat. Both Brenda and the woman were panic-stricken and were frantically telling drivers to get out of the way so the ambulance could assist.
Then Brenda embraced the woman; the worst was inevitable.
Joshua’s heart began pounding like thunder in his chest. … There was no time to think.
Joshua ran past the car and stopped. He was facing the rear of the car engulfed in flames.
Joshua sprinted toward the car and leaped onto the trunk and recoiled his powerful fist. With one powerful punch, he shattered the back window. He kicked in the glass, creating a huge gaping hole. He made his way into the backseat, grabbed both girls and mule-kicked the rear passenger door almost off its hinges.
By this time, paramedics were on scene and quickly took the two girls from Joshua. The motorcyclist was already receiving first aid and was fully coherent.
“Are my babies OK? … Please tell me they are OK,” the woman cried as she tried to make her way to the ambulance.
“Stand back. I have to advise you to return to the shoulder where it’s safe,” demanded the senior paramedic.
“We have a faint heartbeat, but the other is fading fast,” said one of the paramedics in the ambulance.
The ambulance sped off with the twins and the woman got a ride with Brenda and Joshua to Mt. Sinai Hospital twenty minutes away.
Despite Joshua’s heroic actions, the woman never acknowledged them. She had only one thing on her mind, the safety of her twin baby girls.
Brenda looked at Joshua and they both were worried for their distressed passenger.
“Would it be all right if we said a prayer Miss … Miss …?” asked Brenda as she looked at her in the rearview mirror.
“Hargrave, my name is Susan Hargrave … and yes, anything to help my two girls.”
As they pulled into the hospital emergency entrance, the woman ran out as the car was still in motion.
Brenda and Joshua sat in the waiting area for over two hours pacing and watching the clock on the wall. Finally, Susan emerged from the double doors with renewed strength and composure.
Susan motioned for Brenda and Joshua to follow her to the recovery room in the burn ward.
“The doctors said both will require skin transplants on their legs and arms, but they are expected to make a full recovery.” Brenda and Joshua tip-toed into the room where the twins were just beginning to awaken. The doctor and the three stood between the beds as they marveled at the girls in bandages. One by one, the girls began to open their eyes. Both Brenda and Joshua became almost breathless. … They were the most beautiful baby blue eyes they had ever seen. They were amazingly striking … almost overwhelming.
“My lord, look at their eyes … I have never seen eyes so beautiful in all my life,” said Brenda.
“Wow … like little angels,” Joshua said smiling.
“Awww … they have their father’s eyes,” replied Susan.
Susan turned to Joshua and looked at him with emotion written all over her face.
“If it were not for you … I wouldn’t be here,” said Susan.
“I don’t understand,” Joshua said cocking his head slightly.
“If you hadn’t been so brave and courageous, I would be in a morgue planning a double funeral for Taylor and Abbey,” Susan said as she embraced her hero.
“It was as if you were possessed almost, fearless … with no regard for you own personal safety,” Susan said as she noticed his bruised fist.
“What did I do that was so courageous?” Joshua asked.
“You have to be kidding right? You saved my little girls,” Susan replied stroking the forehead of one of the twins.
“You know, I don’t remember much. … I remember running as fast as I could to make the call. I could see the ambulance stuck in traffic. The rest is a blur.
“You must have gone into shock that’s all,” Brenda responded.
“Is your hand ok?” Susan asked.
“My hand will be fine, but I could use some aspirin. … My head feels like it’s gonna explode any minute now.”
Susan motioned to one of the nurses to take a look at Joshua’s hand. She then explained that she was in town visiting her father-in-law. Susan was from New York and left her husband behind as he had business commitments.
“I will tell my husband what you did. We are indebted to you … both of you. My husband will be in touch.
His name is Elijah.
Two weeks after the accident, things had settled, and reality began to set in. Both were still living away from home in the home of Brenda’s mother, Ms. Maggie Ross. Joshua had a special relationship with his grandmother. Joshua said Ms. Maggie Ross was proof that grandmothers were “angels in training.” Ms. Ross was an extraordinary silver-haired, bespectacled woman who was head of the usher board and church treasurer of Pure Hope Ministries. She was full of wisdom and insight and respected by all who knew her. She was very opinionated and extremely vocal about life in general, but particularly about “doing the right thing.” There were three men whom she had much respect for … all from different races. They were John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and … Bruce Lee. In addition to her lovely Christian persona, she loved Bruce Lee movies because his movies always represented good versus evil and good always won in convincing fashion. Maggie Ross and Joshua’s favorite Bruce Lee movie was “Enter the Dragon.” Maggie always attended Joshua’s sporting events and was his biggest fan. Sometimes she would take notes critiquing his performance. Joshua was more than happy to listen … because most of the time she was right.
Maggie Ross had nearly a photographic memory when it came to quoting the bible. Every now and then, she would quote scriptures that were not actually in the bible, but the way she said it, she made you think it was gospel. Two of those phrases were “Cleanliness is next to Godliness,” and “Greater is he, that lives in me.” The former, she used quite often, especially if there were children in her home. But the latter was rarely used outside the church. The saying was a two-part phrase where she would repeat the first three words “Greater is he,” and the person in need of a blessing would utter the last four words,” … that lives in me.” Years ago, a visitor at Pure Hope Ministries approached Maggie Ross in a very frail state (terminal lung cancer) immediately after service. When she turned around, she saw a broken-spirited man. Maggie Ross grabbed his hand and said those three mighty words … “Greater is he …” With a heavy heart, clinging onto the little faith he still had, he spoke the last part … “that lives in me.” Bishop Claxton, the pastor, observed this spiritual exchange realizing that the response he gave was only known among a few church members. The visitor returned three months later and testified in front of the congregation that doctors found no traces of cancer anywhere in his body. At the end of his testimony, he thanked God and he thanked Ms. Maggie Ross.
Maggie Ross lived in a small duplex and had been there for almost 25 years. Her small flat was always tidy but the wear and tear made life less than comfortable sometimes, especially when it rained. Only two burners on her stove worked and many of the electrical outlets were dead.
Maggie Ross also had an equally opinionated neighbor, Lois, who began to visit more frequently because she was around the same age as Brenda. Lois was an interesting single lady who worked in social services, but moonlighted as a psychic and a hypnotist. One day Lois knocked on the door slightly agitated holding a newspaper under her arm.
“Ma! … It’s Lois!”
“Come on in Lois, the three of us are just sitting around watching the news.”
“Brenda, I knew it, I knew it! Those bleeding heart liberals finally got their way,” Lois said as she walked into the living room.
“What in God’s name are you so excited about?” asked Brenda.
“Westside … the high school your very own son attends, will be officially desegregated.”
“The nerve of these people, it’s just plain wrong.”
“Please enlighten us Lois. Just what’s so wrong about it?” Maggie Ross responded as she put on her reading glasses.
“I’ll tell you what’s so wrong about it. You work your butt off to get good grades to get a well-paid job, to live where you want, so you can send your kids to a top-notch school. Why should some welfare mom who is sucking the system dry, have her six kids bussed into our neighborhood to enjoy the same benefit? How do you think this bussing is being funded? Our tax dollars, that’s how!” Lois complained.
“As far as I am concerned … the point you are missing is that we are speaking about a public school,” Maggie Ross responded, looking over her glasses.
“So what are you afraid of Lois? What’s the worst that can happen?” asked Brenda.
“You know how kids are. … First, there will be interracial dating, then the next thing you know there will be interracial marriages,” Lois replied.
“Well Lois, races don’t marry, people do,” Maggie Ross responded.
“Lord forbid if they were to have children,” Lois said as she rolled her eyes to the ceiling.
“We have a senior at school and she’s mixed. In fact, she is the editor of the school newspaper. She’s a looker too. I’d go out with her,” Joshua said with his right hand slightly raised.
“Things are changing and not for the better,” Lois said as she sighed.
“The only thing constant in life is change, Maggie said.
“Is that one of your scriptures?” Lois said sarcastically.
“That comes from the Book of Maggie, chapter thirteen verse two,” she replied with a grin.
Lois, don’t you think your views are tainted because of your profession? Brenda asked.
Everyone in the room became silent, because they all knew the only Blacks Lois ever came in contact with, were the ones standing in the welfare line.
Brenda grew up with many of the same virtues as her mother, loving life and regularly attending church. At the tender age of 12, a children’s game played after school would change her life forever. When Brenda was in the sixth grade, her best friend Mary asked her if she wanted to play “Tag, You’re It” with some boys from a nearby school.
“No thanks Mary, I’ve got homework to do … and besides, we’re almost teenagers now.”
“C’mon Brenda, I heard Marty will be there and you know how much I like him. Don’t be a square,” said Mary, as she buddied up to Brenda.
“Okay. Just this one time, only because you’re my best friend,” Brenda conceded.
Unbeknownst to Brenda, what would start out to be “Tag you’re it” would soon become “Catch a girl, Kiss a girl,” something Brenda would have never agreed to. When the soda can was crunched, all the girls scattered and the boys gave them a slight head start. Then the boys would chase the girls. If a girl was caught, she had to kiss the boy who caught her. Brenda took off, as did all the other girls, but was shocked to see Mary kissing Marty almost right from the start and other girls surrendering as well. Then stinky Pete went after Brenda; the thought of kissing a guy who bragged about never brushing his teeth was too much for her. She easily eluded him, then she went back to collect Mary because the game was over … so she thought.
“Okay, kissy face, time is over; let’s go home,” said Brenda with her hands on her hips.
Almost immediately, Marty stepped on the can again and he pointed to Brenda. Then all the guys went after Brenda all at once. No one ever came within arm’s length of Brenda. Up until that day, no one knew how fast Brenda was. In the sixth grade, she was the fastest person in the entire school. During her junior and senior year in high school, Brenda’s high school won the state championships in Track and Field (1958 and 1959) … with her as a lone representative. Below were her standings in the state championships during her senior year.
*100-yard dash 10.11 seconds 1st Place
*200-yard dash 21.23 seconds 1st Place
400-yard dash 50.27 seconds 2nd Place
Long jump 18’3 3rd Place
*Denotes a state record
During the summer after graduation, Brenda competed in a non-sanctioned track meet hosted by a local junior college. In the 100-yd dash, she had one of the fastest times in the country, one month shy of her 18th birthday. She soon received recognition at the national level and was invited to the US Olympic trials to compete in the Games of the XVII Olympiad, held the following year in Rome, Italy. Brenda was heavily courted by sponsors because of her promising career. The first day of the Olympic trials, Brenda surprised everyone by announcing her retirement from Track and Field … at the age of 18. When asked why she retired after becoming such a hot property in the sport, she always responded with the same one word answer “Priorities.”
Joshua’s favorite room in his grandmother’s house was her bedroom. On the top closet shelf, Maggie Ross kept all of Brenda’s medals and trophies. There was also a framed newspaper article from 1959, the title read “Glory Bound,” which complimented Brenda on her impressive string of victories leading up to the Olympic trials. While reading the article, Joshua was startled by his grandmother who he thought was at the store.
“Boy, don’t you know better than to go through a woman’s things?”
“Sorry grandma,” Joshua said as he put the picture back on the shelf.
“It just doesn’t make sense,” Joshua said as he scratched his head.
“And you want to know why she stopped running, is that right?” Maggie Ross replied as she looked up at the top shelf.
“She always says the same thing … ‘priorities.’ I just don’t get it,” said Joshua.
“Maybe this will shed a little light then,” Maggie said as she reached in an old shoebox.
She handed him an old faded handwritten letter from 1957 that Brenda wrote. The letter was written while she was dating Joshua’s father, two years before they were married.
Today I am sixteen, I should jump for joy,
But my mind is elsewhere, because of a boy,
An angelic face and soft wavy hair,
I want you to know I will always be there
The love of my life, you will always be,
I’m ready to start our new family,
I will stroke your brow, as you sleep at night,
You’re God’s gift to me, for living right,
Joshua was finally satisfied that he solved a mystery that had him puzzled for so many years.
“True love … that’s it,” Joshua said relieved.
“It was love alright.” Maggie Ross responded.
“Mom must have really loved my dad,” Joshua said.
“Indeed she did, but she loved you even more,” Maggie Ross said as she escorted Joshua out of the bedroom into the living room.
“What do you mean?” asked Joshua.
“You see Joshua, that letter was not about your dad at all … the letter was addressed to her unborn son, you.
The summer of 1977 marked the decline of the neighborhood where Ms. Maggie Ross lived. Law enforcement attributed the decline to a recent influx of hard drugs into the area, mostly heroin. As a result of the increase in drug usage, users became more desperate and creative in financing their addiction. It took about two months before the police noticed a significant spike in criminal activity. In August 1977, police changed the crime level from “Elevated” to “High.” When the police commissioner announced the change in status, no one understood the significance between the two levels, as they seemed almost synonymous.
Many of the residents who could afford to move began to relocate but kept the properties as rentals. Most of those properties were section eight rentals, which the city used to house low-income families. This action caused property values to stagnate and the neighborhood soon became comprised of mostly fixed-income pensioners and low-income families.
To combat the increase in criminal activity in the area, police implemented “Operation Whistle Stop.” A majority of the crimes were muggings against lone defenseless woman; so police issued free whistles on lanyards to any female who wanted one. The whistles were a fluorescent green so they could be spotted at night and were distributed at local supermarkets. Police believed if the assailant could spot the whistle, the woman would be a less desirable target. This initiative was a complete failure because the women never wore the whistles around their necks as prescribed; they kept them in their purses. The only persons wearing the whistles were gang members who wore them as badges of honor.
One day Maggie Ross received a telephone call informing her of the death of her bridge partner. “Maggie, this is Daisy … I don’t know if you heard or not but Bertha passed a few days ago.”
“My lord, what happened?” Maggie Ross inquired.
“She died in her sleep. I think her body was just too tired to carry on. After her husband John died three months ago, it wasn’t much of a shock.”
“The reason I am calling is I was wondering if Joshua could help out. We need someone to stay at the house during the funeral to keep the thieves away.”
One of the new trends in criminal behavior was robbing family’s homes while they attended funerals for their loved ones. Black limousines arriving to collect grieving family members advertised opportunities that drug addicts could not resist.
On a Tuesday morning, the day after Labor Day, a drug addict followed Maggie Ross on her way to the bank. She was on her way to deposit the money she collected from Sunday service. The assailant hit Maggie over the head with a metal pipe, leaving her unconscious, sprawled face down in a park across the street from her house. Witnesses described the attacker as a White male, about 6’4, around 200 pounds wearing a dark blue baseball cap and a green whistle around his neck.
Police notified Brenda at work and she fainted at her desk. Brenda was driven home by Richard Fox, a real estate attorney and childhood friend who was planning to have lunch with her. When Brenda arrived home, Joshua was already there. As soon as she opened the door she saw Joshua sitting in the recliner; his eyes were bloodshot and his shirt was visibly damp from tears. Brenda embraced her son to find consolation. Richard slowly closed the door behind himself.
“It makes no sense Ma. All they had to do was ask her for the money. They didn’t have to do that,” said Joshua in his mother’s embrace.
“I know sweetie, Richard and I are going to the hospital, come with us,” Brenda said as she wiped the tears from her face.
Just as they were leaving, there was a knock on the door. Immediately, Brenda got behind Joshua and asked Richard to answer it. Richard opened the door; two police officers were standing outside.
“Is this the Ross residence?”
“Yes it is. How can I help you?” Brenda replied as she emerged from behind Joshua.
“We’re here to advise you that it probably isn’t safe to stay here tonight,” the officer said as he removed his hat.
“Why not?” asked Brenda.
“We’ve noticed a pattern of muggings of elderly women during the day and their homes burglarized that same night. The attackers have your keys and we suspect they will hit this house sometime tonight.” We can’t put an officer on round-the-clock surveillance, but we will have a patrol in the area.”
“Brenda, you and Joshua can crash at my house. I have plenty of room,” Richard offered.
“I don’t know … just … so much is happening so fast,” said Brenda.
“Ma’am, unless you have other plans, for your safety … I would take the offer.”
“Okay, okay. I’d need to pack some things and we better get going to the hospital,” Brenda responded as she looked at her watch.
“Ma, after we visit grandma I’m gonna see if I can stay at my friend Eric’s house.”
No one spoke a single word in the car on the way to Mercy Hospital about twenty minutes away. Brenda and Joshua were preparing themselves for the worst as they pulled into the hospital parking lot. Joshua grabbed his mother’s hand as the three of them proceeded to reception.
“Excuse me; we’re here to see Maggie Ross. Can you help us please?” Brenda asked politely.
“Let’s see … oh yes. She is on the third floor, room 315.”
“How is she? Is she okay?” asked Joshua.
“I’m afraid you’ll have to speak with a doctor to get that information. Very sorry.”
As all three exited the elevator on the third floor, their hearts became laden with fear and the hospital smell cut right through the denial that protected them. Room 315 was at the end of the hall and the short walk seemed like an eternity. Joshua and Brenda followed Richard down the hall and into the room.
“My Lord, look at all the sad faces! Who died?” Maggie Ross laughed as she tried to sit up in her hospital bed.
Immediately, all three breathed a big sigh of relief as they quickly gathered around with smiles.
“Are you okay mom?” Brenda asked.
“I will be fine, but tell Bishop Claxton I’m sorry I didn’t make it to the bank. That rascal got my tithe money too.”
“Mom please, we’re just glad that …”
“I know baby … I know. But I found out the difference between Elevated and High.”
“The crime alert levels?” asked Richard.
“Yes. Elevated is when your neighbor gets knocked over the head. High is when you get knocked over the head,” Maggie Ross said with a chuckle.
Everyone managed to crack a smile, even a nurse standing in the doorway.
“Joshua … if you ain’t too busy this Friday, stop by and watch Night Gallery with me.”
“Yes ma’am; I will be here”
After about an hour of chatting, Maggie Ross dosed off with her head slightly tilted. Brenda tucked her in and everyone kissed her on the forehead before leaving. Richard dropped Joshua off at his friend’s house and waved goodbye as they drove off.
After waiting for Richard’s car to turn the corner, Joshua began to walk … back to his grandmother’s house.
As Joshua entered his grandmother’s house, the emptiness there brought reality closer than he cared for. He realized his world had been turned upside down by someone who needed a fix. As he looked around the living room, family pictures evoked emotions that would send him into a tailspin of rage and confusion. He knew he was close to losing it and went into his favorite room where he felt closest to his grandmother now laying in the hospital. He kneeled before her bed and began to pray. He prayed for her quick recovery and he prayed for himself as he missed her presence. While kneeling, he began to smell her favorite perfume lightly scenting the blanket. Her aroma prompted flashbacks of all the fond memories he shared with her, the movies, the sporting matches and all the wonderful meals she prepared over the holidays. Joshua became overwhelmed in an intense state of confusion. He began praying for answers and direction aloud. Then serenity came upon him and he could hear his grandmother’s voice as if she were in the room standing directly behind him. He thought he was hallucinating, but the voice was so clear and he felt her presence. The voice he heard spoke these words … “The Lord will be your strength. You must leave now and you mustn’t tarry.” Joshua’s prayers were answered and he immediately felt a strong spiritual presence. He got up and walked into the living room but the family pictures became a distraction as he passed them. He became weak and stumbled next to the floor model TV. The rage came back with a vengeance creating a cerebral firestorm. His heart rate spiked, his fists became tight. He needed to escape this mental turbulence. He began crashing into things as he stumbled about. When the storm in his mind settled he was remarkably calm and completely oblivious to recent events. The calm was disrupted when the phone rang. At first, he hesitated, but a voice beckoned him.
He answered the phone on the fourth ring but there was no one on the other end … just a dial tone. As he put the phone down, he heard a key in the front door.
At first, he thought it might be his grandmother coming home from church, and then he saw that it was not her at all. It was a stranger. The stranger didn’t see Joshua from the front door and turned on his flashlight to help him navigate to one of the bedrooms. Joshua turned on a light just as the stranger was about to enter his grandmother’s bedroom.
“Excuse me sir, do you know where you are? This is Ms. Maggie Ross’ house,” Joshua said politely.
Startled, the stranger approached Joshua, unleashing the stench of alcohol and marijuana. The stranger advanced toward Joshua, showing a bloodstained switchblade knife.
“Sorry buddy but your number is up. It’s lights out,” said the intruder as he began waving his knife.
Joshua turned quickly and went for the front door, locking it from the inside, then he turned around facing the intruder. This caused the unwelcomed guest great confusion; there was no begging on bended knee for mercy. … There was no fear at all in Joshua.
“Mister, my grandmother has three simple house rules. You’ve broken all of them,” Joshua said, as he approached the knife-wielding man.
The man began to retreat and fear gripped his heart as Joshua slowly drew closer.
“Stand back!” the man said as he nervously looked around for an escape route.
With his options running out and Joshua closing the gap between them, the man lunged at Joshua with knife in hand.
Joshua’s superior reflexes enabled him to disarm the junkie with amazing precision and timing causing the knife to fall on the floor. The intruder panicked as the buzz he had was quickly negated by the imminent threat that was lifting him up off the ground by his shirt collar. His feet dangled, as he looked Joshua eye-to-eye.
“Rule number one! No hats inside!” Joshua yelled as he head-butted him causing his baseball cap to fly clear off his head and rendering him prey nearly unconscious. Joshua then let him go and the stranger tried to make a run for the door as he bled profusely from his forehead.
Joshua tackled him with such force it broke the man’s femur bone causing him extreme agony.
Joshua then squatted on the man as he laid face down.
“Rule number two! No shoes on the white carpet!”
Joshua then spun around on the man’s back and grabbed a foot. He began twisting the man’s foot until it became taut with unbearable pain. The man screamed for mercy as Joshua began to chastise him. In a vice-like grip with the foot contorted, Joshua continued to twist causing the tendons to pop. The man passed out in excruciating pain.
“There we go … now off with this shoe.” The same was repeated for the other foot.
Joshua got up and began wiping his hands on his trousers. He slung the motionless body over his back, walked outside and went behind the house where there was a dumpster.
Joshua lifted up the lid of the dumpster and threw the unconscious man inside.
“Rule number three! No guests after nine pm!” Joshua said, as he slammed the lid down.
Joshua then went back inside the house and waited up for everyone to return home. He fell asleep waiting.
The following Friday, Brenda called her mother and said she and Richard had an early dinner date, but would stop by to visit afterward. When Brenda and Richard arrived at the hospital, Joshua was already there and Night Gallery was just ending.
“Hey Ma. You missed a good one tonight,” said Joshua.
“I’m sure. I still think The Twilight Zone was a better show,” Brenda said, as she walked over to her mother.
“So what have the doctors said? Any news?” asked Richard.
“I will be home in a few days. I’ve got twelve stitches in the back of my head. I’d rather he hit me in the face.”
“Why do you say that Ms. Ross? asked Richard.
Then Maggie Ross turned her head around and revealed the shaven area where the stitches were.
“Them junkies don’t know how to do anything right,” Maggie Ross chuckled.
As the end of the visit was drawing near, Maggie told Brenda of a spiritual dream she had the night before. The dream was a message to alert Brenda of two visitors that she would soon meet.
“Mom, are you sure it’s not your medication playing with your mind?”
“Brenda, when the Lord speaks to you it is very clear; he is not the author of confusion.”
“So tell me about these visitors,” Brenda asked.
“One is from the Lord, the other is not,” Maggie replied.
Later that evening, Brenda saw Lois with an armful of groceries trying to find her house keys. Brenda went to help Lois with the door and unpacked her groceries.
“So how was your dinner date with Mr. Fox?” Lois asked.
“Lois, it was not a date; Richard and I go way back to the third grade. We’re just friends.”
“What about you? Do you have a date lined up for tonight?” Brenda asked.
“Yes, but it’s not that type of date. I’m doing a reading later on for a friend.”
“Reading, what do you mean?”
“Let me show you,” Lois said, as she headed into the living room. She placed tarot cards in three separate piles. The first pile represented the past, the second pile addressed the present and the third pile spoke to the future.
“Ask me three questions,” Lois requested as she made herself comfortable in the chair.
“Am I in trouble?” Brenda asked hesitantly.
“Okay, then I will pick from the second pile of cards,” Lois stated with anticipation.
Lois looked at a number of cards, the expression on her face showing concern.
Looking at one particular card with trepidation, the looks on Lois’ face unsettled Brenda.
Brenda only got a glimpse of the card but it had a picture of a winged, horned demonic figure sitting on a throne. The figure was flanked by a naked man and woman appearing almost servant-like.
“I’ve seen enough.” Lois said as she quickly scooped up the cards and got up from the table. She went into the bedroom where she stayed for several minutes.
“Lois is everything all right?”
Lois walked into the room slightly nervous and sat down at the table.
“What about my other two questions?”
“Brenda I know you are just humoring me and you don’t believe … and that’s okay. I also am aware of your faiths condemnation of entertaining psychics. But I already know your other two questions … and their answers.”
“You want to know about the two entities and if you will recognize them.”
“Okay, we need to stop this right now. Is this some sort of magic trick? There is no way you could have known that,” Brenda said worriedly with her hand over her mouth.
“One of the entities is of the light and the other is a dark spirit, and you will not recognize either until they have finished their work.”
A loud knocking outside startled them in their seats. Lois pulled the curtains back and saw a strange man in his late sixties standing on Brenda’s porch.
Lois opened her door, inspecting the man.
“Excuse me, who are you looking for?” Lois asked.
“I’m looking for Ms. Pernelli. Is this the correct address? My name is Bennie. Bennie Lee.”
Lois immediately turned to Brenda who was shaking visibly.
Just hours before Brenda’s reading, Joshua stopped by the neighborhood club not far from school. Joshua saw captains picking their teams for a softball game.
“I’m in guys,” said Joshua as he let his backpack drop to the ground.
“Let me think about this for a second … ahhh … no thanks,” said one of the captains.
“You see this ball. It’s brand new. Do you wanna know why I have a brand new ball?”
“How come?” asked Joshua.
“Because, I still can’t find my last ball you hit into orbit. That’s why.”
“Okay, I will make a deal with you. I will play lefty and if I lose the ball, I will buy you another one, Joshua said as he reached into his wallet and revealed a five-dollar bill.
“Besides, with me, both teams will have nine players,” Joshua added.
Both captains whispered to each other and flipped a coin to see what team Joshua was on.
Joshua kept his promise during the first eight innings as he tried to keep the ball in play. However, in the 9th inning, the bases were loaded and his team was behind by three runs.
Joshua couldn’t resist and cranked the ball into flight like a missile. As Joshua approached home plate he had his five-dollar bill in his hand and gave it to the team captain.
“Here’s five dollars. That should cover both balls.”
As the other players headed home, since it was on his way, Joshua decided to look for the ball himself. After about five minutes of searching Joshua saw a black strap flapping in the wind sticking up from a pile of rocks. Joshua pulled the strap; it was a backpack bulging from all sides. As Joshua lifted up the backpack, he unzipped one of the compartments and bundles of neatly stacked fifty-dollar bills poured out.
Joshua quickly turned around and looked to see if anybody was in the area.
He was shocked at the amount of money he found, and was surprised that it was hardly concealed. It was as if he had won the lottery. An hour later Joshua came home to find his mother sitting down having lemonade with an elderly strange man.
“Joshua … this is Mr. Hargrave, Bennie Lee Hargrave.”
“Ahh … hi Mr. Hargrave, are you family?” asked Joshua as he dropped his school backpack.
“No, but I consider you as such. My family owes you a debt of gratitude. A debt that we could never repay.” Mr. Hargrave said as he slowly stood.
“Ma. What’s he talking about?”
“Joshua, the two girls you saved from the burning car … those were his granddaughters.”
“The two girls with the amazing blue eyes? How are they?” Joshua said as he became more at ease.
“The girls are back in New York with their mom and dad, and they are doing just fine thanks to you.”
“Taylor and Abbey mean the world to me and life would not be worth living without them.”
“When I heard what happened, I just had to see who this special person was who risked his life for complete strangers.”
“Sir, I don’t remember much. … I just remember panicking like crazy,” Joshua replied.
“My health is failing me and I don’t know how much longer I will be around, but it would mean a great deal to me if we could get to know each other. I own Prism Paintworks and Body shop on Fifth Avenue and I’m always there. Stop by sometime.”
“I know the place; you have a Dukes of Hazzard car on your forecourt,” Joshua said animated.
“She’s not on the forecourt anymore; she’s retired.” I have a Starsky and Hutch replica out in front now and she’s a beauty.”
“Will you be there this weekend?” Joshua asked hopefully.
“Does a bear sit in the woods?” Mr. Hargrave replied.
“I think I have heard that saying before, but slightly different.” Joshua laughed.
“I will be there,” Mr. Hargrave confirmed.
Joshua escorted Mr. Hargrave to his car and was surprised when he was hugged by the old man.
“Thank you son for what you did. My son Elijah will be in town soon and I know he wants to meet with you and your mother.”
As Joshua waved goodbye to Mr. Hargrave, he eagerly strolled into the house to tell his mother about his good fortune.
“Ma. Guess what, you will never believe what happened to me today.”
“I give up honey … tell me.” Brenda said with her back to Joshua.
“I found some money … lots of it.”
“Okay … are we talking twenty dollars here?” Brenda asked as she turned around.
“Mom! There were stacks and stacks of fifties. It was easily in the thousands.”
Brenda almost gasped and then she looked out the window.
“Did anyone see you? Who else knows about this,” Brenda said alarmed.
“No one, but I thought you would be happy. … We’re rich!”
“Where is the money now Joshua?”
I took it to the police station. They have to check their databases for reports of loss or theft first. If everything checks out they said I could claim it in sixty days if no one comes forward.
“You did the right thing; it’s just that I’m a little spooked at the moment.”
Maggie Ross had been home two days when she looked out the window and saw Joshua coming out of a nice car with an older man she didn’t recognize.
“Brenda, who is that nice looking gentleman with Joshua?”
“Oh that’s Bennie Lee; he’s a sweet old man. I’ll explain later.”
“It looks like Joshua has invited him in,” Brenda said as she peered over her mother’s shoulder.
Maggie immediately headed to the bedroom.
“Mom, where are you going? I want you to meet him.”
“I intend to, but not without my wig and some makeup,” Maggie Ross replied as she stepped into the bathroom and closed the door.
Ten minutes after Bennie Lee arrived, Maggie Ross emerged from the bathroom looking almost ten years younger smelling like a bundle of freshly cut roses.
“Brenda, I didn’t know we had company,” Maggie said as she pretended to be surprised.
“Grandma, this is Bennie Lee. He owns the body shop on Fifth Avenue. He just took me for a tour,” Joshua said.
“Very pleased to meet you … Miss … ?” Bennie Lee said as he stood.
“It’s Maggie, Maggie Ross. Please have a seat Mr. Lee.
“I go by the name Bennie Lee, but my friends call me BL.”
“Okay BL, do you play Bridge?” Maggie asked.
“Why? Do you want lessons?” Bennie Lee responded with a big smile.
Both Brenda and Joshua were mildly surprised at the innocent flirtatious exchanges.
Midway through the conversation, Maggie excused herself and went into the kitchen. Within a few moments, there was a knock on the door that startled Brenda.
“Joshua, could you please get that?” Brenda asked nervously.
After Joshua saw that it was a mail courier, he opened the door.
“Can I help you?” Joshua asked politely.
“Is Mrs. Pernelli available. I have something for her to sign,” said the deliveryman.
“Ma, you gotta sign for something, it looks like a letter.”
After signing for the envelope, Brenda sat down and opened it with unease.
“I don’t believe this, there must be some sort of mistake,” Brenda said as she began pacing.
“Ma, what does the letter say? asked Joshua.
“The bank is repossessing my car, unless I can pay the full balance owed in seven days?”
“But Ma, how can they do that? Have you missed any payments?”
“Joshua, your father makes the payments, I don’t. But we agreed that he would continue to pay my car note.”
Mr. Hargrave looked at Joshua, then he looked at Brenda.
“Please, allow me to help, it’s the least I can do,” Mr. Hargrave offered.
“Thank you for your kindness, but this matter must be settled between me and Joshua’s father.”
Immediately, Brenda went into another room to call her soon-to-be ex-husband. As soon as he picked up the phone, Brenda berated him; the others could hear her voice from the living room.
After hanging up the phone, she walked back into the living room to join them.
“It must be a mistake, the payments have been made. So why would they repossess my car then?”
That next Monday, Brenda went to look into the matter at First Interstate and Loan. After waiting in the lobby, she saw Mr. Windsor in his office; she was unaware that he was a senior Vice President there and was taken aback. She instantly recognized him from football camp and had hoped never to see him again.
Within a minute or two, the loan officer signaled for Brenda to have a seat.
“There must be some mistake; my loan is up to date yet I have this letter stating my car will be repossessed on Friday,” Brenda said as she handed the loan officer the letter.
The lady read the letter and excused herself as she went into Mr. Windsor’s office.
This made Brenda extremely uncomfortable and she began to have flashbacks of the prophetic exchanges from her mother and Lois.
The loan officer returned and sat down and returned the letter to Brenda.
“I have just conferred with my superior and the reason why your vehicle is being repossessed is because according to our records you have violated our terms and conditions. In simple terms, a breach of contract.”
“But how can that be?” asked Brenda desperately.
“According to our records, you have failed to carry the appropriate insurance. Is it true that your husband is a coach a Triton high school?”
“Why, yes. He’s the wrestling coach there. What does that have to do with anything?”
“Is it true that he sometimes transports his athletes to and from sporting venues in the car in question?”
“Maybe once or twice, but he usually uses his own car,” Brenda replied.
“The insurance policy you require is public liability, you are underinsured and we have decided to call in the loan. If you cannot pay the full amount, please return the car to our main branch with the keys. Also, please ensure all personal belongings have been removed.”
Brenda was in shock and became fearful as she looked around and made eye contact with Mr. Windsor as he was sitting in his office. Even from a distance, his eyes appeared almost demonic as if he were possessed by an unkind spirit.
“Have a good day ma’am,” said the loan officer.”
That Wednesday, Joshua dropped by unannounced to see Mr. Hargrave at the body shop.
Mr. Hargrave was having a serious discussion with one of his employees in his office, but when he looked up and saw Joshua strolling into the garage area he began beaming proudly.
Mr. Hargrave concluded his conversation and quickly greeted Joshua in the workshop.
“Look what the cat dragged in,” Mr. Hargrave said with his hands outstretched.
“Hi BL, is it all right if I call you that?”
“Sure it is son. I’d like that a lot.”
“I don’t see my dad much these days, and it’s nice to be around …”
“I know … no need to explain. Have a sit down.”
“So what’s on your mind, you look troubled?”
“You know, I’m seventeen now and most of my friends have a plan. Some are going straight to college; some are joining the military. I don’t have a clue what I’m gonna do.”
“Joshua, first you have to ask yourself the right question. The question is not ‘What am I going to do?’ The question is ‘What am I supposed to do?’”
“I don’t quite follow you,” Joshua replied.
“Life is not about working an eight hour day, and going home to wait on the next day. Life is about purpose and fulfillment. You need to find that spark, that passion.”
“So how do you know the difference between something you really like and a passion?”
“The test of any passion is the love of its drudgery. Underneath that grey tarp over there is an unrestored 1959 Chevy Corvette. It will take me hundreds of hours to get her to perfection … and I’ll enjoy every moment in doing so. That’s passion.”
“What’s underneath the red tarp?” Joshua enquired.
Mr. Hargrave escorted Joshua to the cloaked vehicle and whisked away the tarp, with the flare of a magician.
“Righteous! The Dukes of Hazzard car. Dynamite!” Joshua said as he looked inside the car.
“I have always loved this car BL, but if it were my car I would paint it matte Black.”
“Can you fire it up? I would love to hear her purr.”
“Afraid not, she’s an old lady now, and she’s got some issues that need tending to.”
“Tell you what. If you can fix her then you can have her,” said Mr. Hargrave as he shut the driver side door with Joshua inside.
“Whoa! BL. … I don’t know what to say. How can I repay you?” Joshua asked with sincerity, his hands firmly gripping the steering wheel.
Mr. Hargrave handed Joshua the car keys. “You already have.”
That Friday, Brenda drove her car to the First Interstate and Loan main branch to drop off her vehicle. Her friend Richard Fox had offered to pay the debt in full but Brenda declined the offer. Richard followed Brenda to the bank so she would have a way home.
As Brenda and Richard walked into the main entrance, they made their way to the customer service area and waited to speak to a representative. Brenda was tearing up a bit while she waited and Richard put his hand gently over hers. Richard removed his handkerchief from his suit pocket and gave it to her. As she wiped the tears away, a customer representative waved them over.
“How may I be of service to you today?” asked the representative.
“This is a voluntary repossession and I was told to drop off the car and keys at this branch before close of business today,” Brenda said as she handed over the car keys.
“Okay, no problem. … I will need some identification and the make and model of your vehicle.”
“It’s a 1975 Plymouth Duster,” Brenda replied. “I think I still owe about two thousand dollars, but I don’t have it.”
“Well I have to inform you that we will auction it off probably within a month, and we will bill you for the residue.”
“What! You mean I have to pay for a car that I no longer own?” Brenda said angrily.
“I’m sorry but you are contractually liable for the money that you borrowed, if the sale of the car does not cover the full amount, you will be responsible for the remainder. Unfortunately, auctions rarely come close to liquidating the loan balance.”
“Let me just check our files; the computers are just updating themselves. I will be right back and I will need you to sign some paperwork.”
Brenda became emotional as she placed her head on Richard’s shoulder.
“Things are going from bad to worst. … I have no fight left in me.”
Richard remained silent, holding her hand and rubbing her back for support.
After about five minutes, the lady returned with a smile on her face.
“Our computers have just completed their updates and I am glad I checked.”
“Oh really, why is that?” Brenda asked as she wiped the last tear away.
The lady presented Brenda with a certificate with a raised seal and placed the car keys on the desk.
“What is this?” asked Brenda as she pointed to the certificate.
“It is your title to the car and of course these are your keys.”
“So why are you giving me back my keys and releasing the title to me? Am I on Candid Camera or something?” Brenda said as she looked around.
“No ma’am, the reason I am releasing your title and returning your keys is because you have a zero balance. Your loan has been settled.”
“Is this a joke or something? I’m really not in the mood.”
“No, according to our bank records, your loan was paid in full this morning.”
“Paid in full?” Brenda looked at Richard and smiled.
“Well maybe Joshua’s dad had a sliver of decency after all,” Brenda said as she reached for her purse.
“Excuse me ma’am. Your surname is Pernelli, correct?”
“That’s not the name we have on record.”
“What name do you have?” Brenda replied, as she sat back down.
“His name is Elijah. Elijah Hargrave.”
Saturday morning, Brenda saw Lois at the grocery store doing her weekly shopping. Lois wasn’t paying attention browsing in the freezer section and Brenda placed her trolley in a direct path with Lois’ causing a gentle collision; Lois was mildly startled as she locked eyes with Brenda.
“Brenda, you scared me for a moment; I thought you were my stalker,” Lois said as she gasped.
“Stalker, what stalker?”
“The produce manager has a crush on me and he follows me around all the time. He always has something stupid to say just to make conversation. He pretends to throw his voice as though the vegetables are talking to me. It’s absolutely ridiculous and awkward. I almost feel I should report him.”
“Oh Lois, I’m sure he’s harmless. What are you doing later tonight? I want to speak with you about Joshua. What’s a good time to come over?
Meanwhile, Joshua was spending almost all of his free time at Mr. Hargrave’s shop. Most of the time, all anyone would see were his size 18s sticking out from underneath his new pride and joy. Joshua had already corrected all the electrical issues and was now in search of an elusive oil leak.
Mr. Hargrave was like a proud papa watching Joshua take such a keen interest in the car.
“So it looks like you finally found it Joshua,” Mr. Hargrave said as he observed Joshua under the hood.
“Not yet BL, still looking; won’t be much longer though.”
Mr. Hargrave walked away with a smile, realizing Joshua thought he was referring to the oil leak.
Later that evening, Brenda and Joshua paid Lois a visit. Brenda was concerned about Joshua’s poor memory. Joshua sometimes forgot conversations that happened in the same day. Brenda was wary about experimenting with hypnosis but she was becoming increasingly concerned.
“Come on in. Have a seat in the living room. Joshua, the recliner is for you,” Lois said as she opened the door.
Joshua walked in with his eyes rolled to the ceiling, showing his skepticism.
“Joshua, I promise not to make you bark like a dog,” Lois said to lighten things up.
“Lois. Joshua and I have talked about his memory and we were wondering if you could help.”
“Okay. I am not a memorologist, but my experience tells me that our perceptions of our memory affect its ability to perform,” Lois said officially, as she picked up a clipboard.
“Memorologist? Is that even a real word?” Joshua asked doubtfully.
“Memory in simplistic terms is the ability to store, retain and recall information. Barring any physical damage to the hippocampus, which facilitates memory, we all should have healthy recall. When we say things like ‘It just slipped my mind,’ those words act on the subconscious making you more likely to forget. Conversely, saying something like ‘It’s coming to me’ facilitates recall.” Lois said confidently.
After about thirty minutes of discussion and dispelling myths, Lois directed Joshua to recline in his chair and stare at the black thumbtack on the ceiling. Lois asked Joshua to do a few breathing exercises to relax him and to continue focusing on the black thumbtack. The thumbtack became blurry and soon Joshua’s eyes glazed over … within a few minutes, he was out. Joshua’s head titled slightly to the right and his lips parted. Lois began to deepen the trance state and told him his right hand was getting lighter and lighter. Soon his right hand elevated with no economy of motion … as if it were floating. Brenda covered her mouth in awe as she recognized her son was in a completely hypnotic state.
Lois then began a type of regression that usually draws skepticism by many unfamiliar with the discipline. Birth regression is a technique that evokes the memory of being born, which is recorded in the recesses of the subconscious. When the technique is performed, the client will recall even the slightest of details on his or her first day of life. If Lois could successfully regress Joshua to day one, she could dispel the notion that his memory was poor.
“Joshua. When I count from five down to one, you will recall the day you were born…with ease. You will not experience any discomfort. It will be as though you are watching it on your television at home. Let me know when you are there,” Lois said intently.
“I’m here … in the hospital. Ma looks exhausted,” Joshua said slowly in a low tone.
“I don’t see my dad. I’m nine pounds and I am twenty four inches long.”
“How do you know that?” Lois asked.
“It’s on my baby bed right there,” Joshua replied as he pointed, still anchored in a trance.
Brenda became fixated but unsure. Was this a fabrication or was he really recalling the information. She questioned herself.
“It’s three-thirty. The clock says it is three-thirty,” Joshua continued.
“Describe the car your parents drove you home in.”
“Ma is driving. She’s driving a white car. I think it’s a Volvo.
“Okay, let’s jump ahead to a time that may have degraded your mind’s ability to recall.
Joshua began to sniffle and tears streamed down his face. He uttered the word “Duchess,”
then awakened out of the trance, rubbing his eyes.
“Whoa. I was there; I could see and hear everything. That was a trip,” Joshua said as he stretched.
“Who is Duchess?” Lois asked.
“Duchess was our cat when he was about five or six. Joshua’s father took him to the vet when Duchess was put to sleep. I don’t know why on earth he let Joshua watch. He told me it was necessary for closure. Joshua had nightmares for weeks after that.”
“So are we done?” Joshua asked.
“Not really, you came out of the trance before I could finish the session. What you have is revelation, not resolution. But maybe we can finish some other time,” Lois said.
Joshua gave Lois a hug as all three made their way to the front door.
“Not a skeptic anymore Lois. … I feel so relaxed now,” said Joshua.
Brenda still was a doubting Thomas, although the session seemed miraculous, she remembered the car she had at that time was a red Ford Fairlane and not a white Volvo.
Later that evening, Brenda began looking at an old photo album her mother had on the coffee table. In that photo album was a picture of her mother and her father in front of a white Volvo from around the time Joshua was born. She became confused, because it didn’t make sense.
When Maggie Ross came home from bible study, Brenda asked if there were any pictures of her bringing Joshua home from the hospital. Maggie Ross then reminded Brenda that her car was in the shop that week and she drove her father’s car during the week Joshua was born. After rummaging through her makeshift file cabinet, a shoebox, she located Joshua’s birth certificate.
All the information Joshua recalled was exactly as he had said, with the exception of the time of birth. … It was three minutes off.
On the weekends, Joshua would sometimes arrive at the body shop before it opened. Mr. Hargrave surprised Joshua one day by being the first to open the shop. Mr. Hargrave planned to take Joshua to Denny’s for breakfast.
Over breakfast, Mr. Hargrave began to talk business, specifically about a new limousine service he had planned to launch.
“Joshua, I’m a simple man. But when it comes to cars, I know everything there is, and what I don’t know, it ain’t worth knowin’. Limousines at one time were reserved for the rich and famous. Imagine making limousine service available to the masses. The only difference between a limousine and a Lincoln Continental is one hundred inches and some fancy illumination,” Mr. Hargrave added.
“You mean Limousines don’t come from the factory fully equipped and stretched?” Joshua asked.
“Maybe some, but most are cut right down the middle, stretched and welded back together with some fancy interior. Prism will be an authorized limousine conversion company, and we will set the standard in limousine quality workmanship. After we launch the conversion side of the business, we will be starting a fleet of our own,” Mr. Hargrave said as he sipped his coffee.
“Sounds like a good investment BL. So out of all the investments you have made during your life, which one was the most profitable?” Joshua asked, as he inhaled his Grand Slam.
“Oh that’s easy. My granddaughters Taylor and Abbey,” Mr. Hargrave said as he beamed.
“How is that?” Joshua asked.
“Well … I give them all my spare change and they give me a million dollars’ worth of love.” Mr. Hargrave chuckled as he placed his hands over his belly.
“I’m going to tell you the difference between a high paying salary and wealth. You can’t pass on your salary to your loved ones once you leave this earth. But you can pass on wealth. That’s why it’s so important to invest. Right now, the Dow Jones is sitting at about eight hundred and fifty, back when I first jumped in the market in 1960; it was about five hundred and sixty. One day it will be over five thousand if you can believe that. And those who got in at the right time will benefit the most.”
“I taught my sons Elijah and Edward everything I knew about investing and I wanted them to be more successful than me.”
“So what’s Elijah and Edward do for a living?”
“Elijah and Edward are both big shots on Wall Street. Elijah lives in New York with his wife Susan and the girls. Most of his clients are in the Middle East. He lives a lifestyle few of us ever have a glimpse of. He even has a phone in his car. I don’t see him much these days, he is so busy. Edward also lives in New York as a permanent bachelor living in some penthouse apartment. Maybe one day he will settle down and have some children of his own.”
After breakfast, Mr. Hargrave and Joshua returned to the garage. Mr. Hargrave went to tend to some paperwork and Joshua popped the hood of his favorite pastime.
Just before noon, during the height of the work tempo, Joshua sat in the driver’s seat and turned the ignition.
“Vrooooom, Vroooom, Vroooom.”
Immediately, all the employees began applauding and whistling. Mr. Hargrave rushed out of the office in a state of excitement.
“Jimbo!” Mr. Hargrave yelled. From that, moment on, most everyone began calling him Jimbo.
The car held to a low roar and Joshua was ecstatic.
“This is the happiest day of my life Mr. Hargrave! Hop in.”
Joshua sped out of the garage like Batman responding to a crime scene.
“You gotta admit Joshua this ain’t a bad living. I come to work, I don’t have to wear a tie, and I know just how my day will begin and end. That’s just how I like it … simple,” Mr. Hargrave said as he buckled up his seat belt.
While Brenda was on her way home from work, she noticed a new white Silver Shadow Rolls Royce with tinted windows parked outside the house. As she locked her car door, Brenda noticed the window rolling down and a well-dressed man in his late forties with salt and pepper hair.
“Mrs. Pernelli? Are you Mrs. Pernelli?” asked the distinguished gentleman.
“Yes I am, and I don’t speak to scouts or agents; my son is only seventeen. Come back in about four years. Thank you!” Brenda said as she put the key into the door.
“Does that include movie and television agents, Mrs. Pernelli?” the gentleman enquired.
Brenda became extremely curious and inspected the vehicle.
“As the window was rolled all the way down, she peered into the car.”
“Maybe … haven’t made up my mind just yet,” Brenda said.
Over the last two years, Brenda had been inundated with calls and personal visits, mostly by football scouts looking to recruit Joshua. But this was a different approach with its own set of possibilities.
“My name is Matthew Kincaid and I’m a film agent. Here’s my card.”
As Brenda looked at the gentleman sitting next to the agent, she gasped.”
“I know you. … You’re Lee Majors from the Six Million Dollar Man!” Brenda said excitedly.
Brenda extended her hand into the window to shake his hand and he accommodated and smiled.
I have an urgent appointment, so I must leave soon, but we’re casting a film and I think your son would be perfect for it. In fact, I’m working on a few projects at the moment that I would like to discuss with the both of you. Are you two free tonight?”
“Free? … We have all the time in the world,” Brenda said with excitement.
“I will send a car to collect the both of you around seven-thirty. I promise to have you back before ten o’clock.”
Brenda rushed into the house and told her mother of the good news.
“Brenda, slow down. Before you go anywhere, I would call Mr. Fox first. I’m sure Mr. Fox has some connections and could check out Mr. Kincaid to see if he’s the real thing.”
“Mom, we have been through some tough times lately. It’s about time we got a break. I feel kinda good about this opportunity. Anyways … his name is Matthew, it means ‘The Gift of God,’ Brenda said as she picked up the phone to call Richard.
After Brenda hung up with Richard, her mother showed her a brochure.
“What’s this, mom?” asked Brenda.
“It’s where I plan to live next summer. I’m too old to look after this place and the neighborhood just ain’t the same anymore. Stukeley Meadows is senior assisted accommodation; it ain’t no nursing home. That’s where Gertrude and Minnie live and they love it. It’s like a country club and they have religious service during the week. I wouldn’t be caught dead at the other place, lamented Maggie Ross.
“What other place?” asked Brenda.
“Weeping Widows on Ninth and Farnsworth.”
“You mean Weeping Willows mom.”
“You heard me right the first time. Might as well send me to my grave,” Maggie Ross grumbled.
Okay mom. Whatever makes you happy.”
“I’ve got some money put away and my pension. If I’m a little short I might ask you to sell the house to cover the rest,” Maggie said.
Shortly afterward, Joshua walked into the house and was shocked by the recent news of his “potential star power.”
“Can we go in my car?” asked Joshua.
“No sweetie, a car is being sent to pick us up. Richard is coming too. Hurry up and get dressed.”
A stretched limousine arrived exactly at the precise time and a regal looking chauffeur politely greeted the three of them.
“So where are we going?” Joshua asked the chauffeur as he toyed with the stereo to find his favorite pop radio station.
“We are going to Mr. Kincaid’s private residence; he resides in Beverly Hills. Our estimated time of arrival is eight-fifteen,” said the courteous chauffeur.
Within five minutes of their arrival, Brenda and Joshua began marveling at the huge mansions they passed. Ferraris and Lamborghinis were commonplace and the neighborhood was immaculate with prominent water features and statues on many of the front lawns. As the driver pulled into the underground garage of Mr. Kincaid’s mansion, even Richard was amazed. Although Richard made enquiries regarding Mr. Kincaid that proved legitimate, he was still skeptical up until that point. The chauffer promptly exited the vehicle and escorted Brenda, Joshua and Richard up a short staircase that led to the lobby area. Mr. Kincaid greeted them at the head of the stairs.
“Brenda! So glad you could make it! Mr. Kincaid said with open arms. He was dressed like a skipper of a cruise liner, wearing white pants, a black jacket complimented with a red ascot and a white Skipper’s hat with a gold band.
“Wow! I’m impressed. Look at the white pillars; they’re so … majestic,” Brenda said looking up at the vaulted ceiling.
“Please excuse my guests in the other room. They can be quite rude even when they’re sober,” said Mr. Kincaid as he led them into his study.
“Ma, I think I saw Sean Connery, the real James Bond,” Joshua whispered.
“And right you are; you must be Joshua,” Mr. Kincaid asserted.
As the trio joined Mr. Kincaid in the study, they were still mesmerized by the lifestyle, capturing mental snapshots of fine art, expensive furniture and glimpses of other celebrities in the party room. Brenda neglected to introduce Richard to Mr. Kincaid, so he took the opportunity to introduce himself as a friend. Shortly afterward, Mr. Kincaid dove straight into business. He easily convinced Brenda that although a career in the NFL would be lucrative, a film career could be launched sooner with greater longevity and less wear and tear on the body. He had amazing rapport and had answers to all the questions raised. On the coffee table was a photograph album with dozens of pictures of Mr. Kincaid with celebrities in candid shots.
“Is that President Carter next to you?” Joshua asked pointing to the picture.
“We did a fund raiser for him and we raised almost two hundred and fifty thousand dollars that night,” Mr. Kincaid said proudly.
“Brenda, I want to put your mind at rest. First … I want to be Joshua’s agent because I think he will be a huge hit with the younger crowd. I don’t get paid if you don’t get paid so I have to hustle. I have a fiduciary responsibility here and I will act diligently to advance Joshua to where he deserves to be … at the top!” Mr. Kincaid said as he pointed up.
“I am offering you a one-year contract, and if you are not happy with me after one year you are under no obligation to renew.”
“But he still has another year of school left,” Brenda stated.
“Not a problem. First, we will get him in front of the camera doing a few commercials and we can easily work around his schedule. We do this all the time.”
After rounds and rounds of reassurances, Brenda relaxed and looked at Joshua.
“Joshua, I always knew you were special; now the whole world will know. How do you feel about it?” Brenda asked.
“A little nervous. I might need some lessons, right?” Joshua asked.
“We have a magnificent acting coach who mentors all of our newbies. You will be just fine. Any questions left for me?”
Joshua asked about the possibility of meeting Farrah Fawcett.
“When is your next football game?” asked Mr. Kincaid.
“Friday night against Glenbard Central at six pm,” Joshua said, as he unsuccessfully tried to restrain himself.
“Can’t promise we will be there for the entire game, but she’s in town and I know Lee Majors pretty well.”
“Righteous! Mom, can we sign the contract now?” Joshua asked.
“I want to look it over at home, and after I read all the fine print, then I will decide.”
Everyone was sworn to secrecy about the pending contract until it was signed, as instructed by Mr. Kincaid.
“Cool! This morning there may have been seven degrees of separation between me and Farrah Fawcett, but now—”
“Just one,” Mr. Kincaid replied with a smile.
That Thursday, Joshua was so ecstatic about meeting Farrah Fawcett and he found it hard to keep the secret he promised. Nothing in the world could bring him down off his cloud. Well almost nothing. After football practice, Coach Phillips asked Joshua to meet him in his office. Joshua knocked on the slightly opened door.
“What’s up coach?” Joshua asked as he leaned against the wall.
“I’m taking some heat from the school district about your performance on the field.”
“Okay coach, I know I’m at half speed, but I can do better,” Joshua said.
“No, that’s not the problem at all. They said you are too dominant and all the coaches in the conference are complaining that you just shred their defenses. Did you know that all the schools in our conference have defensive plays designed exclusively around you? Some parents fear for the physical safety of their kids,” Coach Phillips said as he took a seat.
“So am I off the team, coach?” Joshua asked, confused and a bit angry.
“No Joshua, but they asked me to limit your playing time and the number of touchdowns.”
“Limit playing time? … . I have a limit on touchdowns now? What if we are down on points?” Joshua asked agitated.
“The coaches want to limit your touchdowns to three and to take you out of the game if ever we have a fourteen point lead. I fought this last year and I was successful, I just never mentioned it to you. But this year, they are going to get their way. Most of the coaches in our conference have been coaching for twenty plus years, and none of us have ever seen anyone like you Joshua. You are the first person I have ever known to be considered ready for the NFL in high school … and you still have another year left. In all fairness, if I had a son playing quarterback for the opposing team I might have some concerns as well,” Coach Phillips said as he draped his arm around Joshua’s shoulders.
“So the two forfeits we had this season …” Joshua started.
“The coaches called them because of the parents,” Coach Phillips said.
“So when does this take effect. Can we at least wait until next week?” asked Joshua, as he was worried about not being on the field when his dream girl arrived.
“It started last week; I just didn’t tell you.”
On the way home from school, Joshua stopped by to see Mr. Hargrave to vent about his restricted playing time. As Joshua turned the corner, Mr. Hargrave could hear the rumble of the motor announcing its arrival. Joshua pulled into the garage and waved to guys on duty as he shut the engine off. Within five minutes of Joshua entering Mr. Hargrave’s office, the workers could hear the anger in the old man’s voice as he stood and banged on the desk.
Mr. Hargrave was visibly upset after hearing what Joshua had to say about the conversation with his coach.
“What is this world coming to? This is football for crying out loud, where the objective is to score! Does this rule apply to anyone else?” asked Mr. Hargrave.
“I don’t think so,” replied Joshua.
“I can think of two things that you just cannot do halfway,” Mr. Hargrave lamented.
“What’s that BL?’
“Competitive sports and packing parachutes,” Mr. Hargrave responded passionately.
“I think this may be my last year with football; this would never happen in wrestling. I have gone as far as I can with football anyway. Even if I wanted to go to the pros, I wouldn’t get enough playing time to be noticed,” Joshua added.
“Well Jimbo, do what you have to do. I’m afraid for my granddaughters now; by the time they get old enough to marry there won’t be any real men left … just a bunch of sissies,” Mr. Hargrave said as he plopped back down in his seat.
“Yeah, I think I made my mind up. I will sign up for the wrestling team next season. I can’t wait to tell my dad.
That Friday morning Brenda scooped up the mail from the previous day to take to work. Every Friday she would make a run to the post office to drop off official mail and would often mix in personal bills to save time.
During her lunch hour, she noticed a letter marked “Urgent” in red ink from First Interstate and Loan. Immediately, Brenda began to worry about the contents and her hands trembled. Six months earlier, Richard Fox advised Maggie Ross to transfer the property deed to Brenda to avoid the forty percent inheritance tax if she were to pass. Brenda had taken out a small mortgage against the house to retain a divorce attorney and to pay off some minor bills. Prior to that, the house had been free and clear for the last ten years. She slowly ripped one side of the envelope and removed the two-page letter. The heading of the letter read, “NOTICE OF INTENT TO ACCELERATE.”
The letter stated that the loan would have to be paid in full within seven days to preclude foreclosure. The end of the seven day grace period was the coming Monday. The letter was signed by Mr. Windsor.
Brenda became confused because she was not late on her second mortgage, but her distrust of Mr. Windsor worried her. On her way to the post office, Brenda was stopped by a plain-clothes police detective who identified himself and presented his badge. Brenda thought there was some sort of mistaken identity but the officer addressed her by her full name. The officer agreed to meet Brenda at the café across the street after she completed her mail run.
Ten minutes later Brenda walked into the café and saw the detective sitting with another gentleman dressed in a business suit who represented an FBI special task force.
“If this is about the letter from the bank, I just got it today,” Brenda explained as she handed the letter to the detective.
“No ma’am we are not here for that. We want to know if you recognize this man in the photo.”
“Oh yes, that’s Mr. Kincaid. Why? Is he in trouble or something?” asked Brenda as she felt relieved.
“Ma’am, the man in the photo is not Matthew Kincaid the film agent; he is Keith Mulligan. Keith Mulligan is a professional con artist, one of the very best in the business. Last year he swindled a bank in Kentucky causing it to fail. That’s when he cracked the FBI’s Most Wanted List for white collar crime,” the detective explained.
“There must be some mistake. I’m sure you have the wrong person because he’s surrounded by celebrities wherever he goes; he’s the real thing,” Brenda said confidently.
“Mr. Mulligan got his start that way. In the late 1960s, he secured the USO contract for parading celebrity lookalikes to all the military bases overseas. These lookalikes often acted as doubles in the film industry. But after the war was over the gig dried up. He then began using the doubles to crash celebrity parties where they were in a position to borrow large sums of cash. Lately, he has been targeting successful married businessmen. They think they are paying for intimacy with an A-lister, until they find out two weeks later that they are being blackmailed. Some of these encounters are quite expensive, up to five thousand dollars. But they often pay twice that amount after they receive the pictures in the mail, usually at work.”
“That’s ridiculous because I have been to his mansion twice already. I was just there yesterday to go over the last few details,” Brenda said.
Immediately the two gentlemen looked at each other.
“Did he as ask you for a good faith payment to cover initial expenses?”
“Yes, but in the contract it clearly stated I would be reimbursed within the first sixty days.”
“How did you pay?” asked the FBI agent.
“I paid what I could on my Visa and MasterCard, but I told him I could get the rest after I borrowed against the house for the balance. I have an appointment with him next week,” Brenda said.
“Great! That is great news. With your assistance we can finally nail this guy.”
“Why don’t you just go to his mansion? I know where he lives?” asked Brenda.
“Ma’am, he has connections all over and he never will meet you in the same place more than twice. The place you went to was probably rented.”
“It would be a great help to us if you wait until he contacts you to meet him. We’ll need you to wear a wire, but you’ll be protected at all times,” the detective assured.
“So he’s a big fish? Has he killed anyone?” Brenda asked.
“No, not that we are aware of,” the FBI agent replied.
“You’re under no pressure, but it would be of great assistance.”
“Gentleman, I have a son to think about and I really don’t want to involve myself any more than I already am. If he calls, I will tell him I’ve changed my mind … that I can’t afford it.”
“Will you please tell us if he calls?” asked the detective.
“I can do that,” Brenda said as she stood to conclude the meeting.
The two men stood and gave Brenda their cards.
“You know, we don’t know why you were targeted. You don’t fit the profile. He usually goes for the big money. There must be a reason why he placed you in his sights. Why he did … who knows.”
“It’s a good thing you warned me. In a few more days, I would have been penniless. How did you know he was onto me?” Brenda asked curiously.
“We got an anonymous tip,” the FBI agent responded.
“That’s strange because only three other people know about this and we all promised to keep it confidential until the papers were signed,” Brenda responded.
“Just be thankful we got to you in time. Someone’s looking out for you,” the FBI agent said in parting.
On the way home, Brenda became sad for Joshua who would be waiting for the promise of a lifetime to come true … only to be deceived. When she arrived at the house to change clothes, she saw Joshua’s car out front. She walked into the house and saw Joshua and Maggie Ross playing backgammon.
“Joshua, I thought you would be at the game tonight?” said Brenda as she placed her purse on the counter.
“Naw, they forfeited. Coach told us this afternoon,” Joshua said.
Immediately Brenda felt relieved that Joshua had already conceded the idea of meeting his dream girl.
“Guess it wasn’t meant to be, Ma. In a way, it seemed too good to be true.”
Brenda had one burden lifted from her heart, but there were other grave issues she needed to disclose … issues that would affect them all.
After dinner, Brenda confessed to Joshua and her mother that Mr. Kincaid was a professional con artist. She braced herself for their reaction, particularly Joshua’s. She was relieved to find out that Joshua wasn’t upset at all by the news.
“Ma, I never wanted that type of life. I was just doing it because I thought that’s what you wanted for me.” Joshua said relieved as he sat back on the couch.
“So are you ok with it then?” Brenda asked.
“I found my passion … cars. People rely so much on their cars, and I appreciated it when I see the smiles when they collect the keys. Whether you fixed a brake problem or restored their dream car, it’s always a nice feeling when you see them drive off. I want to get paid for something I love and I can’t ask for more than that. That’s my new definition of success,” Joshua said convincingly.
Maggie Ross and Brenda looked at Joshua with pride. It was such a mature answer for someone of only seventeen years. They both hugged him on the couch.
Brenda thought that was enough for one night and avoided mentioning the bank demanding that the second mortgage be satisfied by Monday.
On Saturday morning, Richard stopped by to take Brenda to lunch. When he rang the doorbell she was sitting in her chair with a mountain of bills at her feet.
Brenda greeted Richard at the door with an insincere smile and wasn’t dressed for going out.
“Brenda Mae Pernelli, if you don’t tell me what’s going on right now, I will …”
“You will what?” Brenda replied with attitude.
“I will tell everyone you made out with stinky Pete in the sixth grade.”
“Gross! … You know that never happened,” Brenda said as she became more at ease.
“Richard. I’m in trouble … big trouble. Mom wants to go to Stukeley Meadows next year and her pension and savings won’t cover the monthly payment. I cannot bear to take her to Weeping Willows, it would break her heart and I would never forgive myself. She won’t last there, she’ll be dead in a month. … she told me that,” Brenda lamented.
“Brenda, I make a good living and I think it’s time that you let me help. Just until you figure things out,” Richard offered.
“No way, Mister. That would complicate things way too much and you know it. What we have is great and I’m not going to ruin it,” Brenda said crossing her arms.
“Joshua went to the police station to see if anyone had claimed the money, and by the way, do you know how much he found? … over eighteen thousand dollars!” Brenda said agitated.
“But get this … the police are saying the money is linked to a drug investigation and now it could take months or even years … if we get it at all.”
Brenda then told Richard about Mr. Kincaid and Mr. Windsor (whom she now referred to as the anti-Christ). Brenda cared for Richard more than she let on and she could have used the support but she didn’t want to become financially beholden. She had no money and time wasn’t a luxury; the only thing she could count on was that she would wake up in foreclosure on Tuesday morning without a place to stay.
Richard finally convinced Brenda to get dressed so they could go out for lunch. As soon as she left the house, Joshua emerged from his room after eavesdropping on their conversation. These were now desperate times and he knew things were changing rapidly. He could see his mom and Richard had grown closer and he knew it would be just a matter of time before his grandmother moved away as well. His mom had done everything for him and he wanted to do something for her. He grabbed a backpack, stuffed it full and drove to a local pawnshop nicknamed Cash for Trash. The drive there was difficult because two of the most important figures in his life were moving on. He walked into the pawnshop and observed most of the contents on display were high-fi stereos, used musical instruments and old television sets with rabbit ears.
Joshua emptied the contents of the backpack onto the counter.
“So what do we have here … medals? We don’t sell medals here son,” said the bespectacled old man behind the counter.
“They aren’t just medals. … These are state championship medals for track and football. This one is an All-American medal,” said Joshua as he sighed.
“You know, there might be someone silly enough to buy these medals and put them on their mantle,” said the old man as he took his glasses off to inspect the inscriptions on the back.
“Fifty dollars … take it son before I change my mind,” the man said as he reached into the cashier’s draw to get the money.
“But that’s not enough,” Joshua said, thinking about how desperate he was to help his mom.
“Sorry son; take it or leave it.”
Joshua sighed again and remained deep in thought. Reaching into his right pocket, he placed the keys to his prized possession on the counter.
“How much for my car then?” Joshua said subdued.
Joshua took the man to the parking lot to allow for an inspection.
“She needs some bodywork, and I never was a fan of the TV show but I will give you eight hundred for it.”
“Deal! So what are you going to do with it?” Joshua asked.
“Ahh, I will probably auction it off at Murketts on Saturday.”
As the two were returning to the shop to exchange the keys for cash, the assistant behind the counter was just completing a transaction with a customer. Joshua made brief eye contact with the gentleman in front of him as he took his bag and left the store.
The old man took over for his assistant and began to count the money for the car. He noticed a receipt on the counter while he handed the money to Joshua.
“What’s this receipt for?” the old man asked the clerk in the back room.
“The medals. The guy that just left bought them,” the clerk responded.
“You mean the tall man in the business suit with the shaved head?” Joshua asked.
“Yeah, the one with the dark tinted prescription glasses,” the clerk responded.
Joshua shook the old man’s hands and although he was sad to sell his dream car, it was more important for him to rise up and do what had to be done.
On the way home, Joshua was rehearsing in his head what he would say to BL about selling the car. He was hoping he would understand given the extreme circumstances.
When Joshua walked into the house, he saw his mother, his grandmother and Richard having a serious discussion. Joshua was mildly shocked when he noticed that him mom was sitting next to Richard on the sofa … holding hands. Brenda already broke the news to her mother regarding the bank calling the loan on the second mortgage.
To Brenda’s surprise, her mother was delighted.
“God works in mysterious ways; you can never doubt his judgment. That is a sign; it’s time for me to get up outta here. Stukeley Meadows here I come. Brenda, half of my friends have either passed away or are already residents of Stukeley Meadows. I want to be with the living. I’m ready to pack!” Maggie said with elation.
Joshua greeted his mother and grandmother with a kiss on the cheek and nodded to Richard acknowledging his presence. Then he dumped the contents of the backpack onto the kitchen counter.
“Joshua, where did you get all that money? That can’t be the money you found in the park, or is it?”
“No, I pawned my medals … and the car. I hope this will help with the house. All together they gave me eight-hundred and fifty dollars,” Joshua said as he stacked the bills in three neat piles.
Brenda and Richard both stood at once.
“Joshua, I won’t accept this. We are going right now to the pawn shop and get your car and medals.”
“It too late mom. Someone already bought the medals and the car is being auctioned next Saturday.”
“Brenda, it’s too late for the medals, but not too late for the car,” Richard said with emotion.
“What do you mean, Mr. Fox?” Maggie Ross asked.
“Next Saturday, we’re going to the auction and bid on the car. Brenda, you can’t stop me on this one,” Richard replied.
“Joshua, I’m going to do this regardless, but it would mean a lot to me if you went with me okay?” Richard asked.
“Cool. I really appreciate you helping us Richard. Thanks man,” Joshua said as he placed his hand on Richard’s shoulder.
After Sunday service, Maggie Ross, Brenda and Joshua all decided that they would vacate the house. The house was quickly deteriorating and it would have cost thousands to repair and remodel. The plan was that Maggie would be a tenant at Stukeley Meadows and Brenda and Joshua would move into Richard’s temporarily. But Joshua had reservations.
“Ma I’m seventeen now and I think the best thing would be for me to move back in with dad,” Joshua said solemnly.
“Joshua, but I want you to be with me.” Brenda responded with maternal instincts.
“Ma, you’ve done everything you can possibly do as a mother. I’m seventeen now. You didn’t raise me to be a stay-at-home son. It’s your time now …” Joshua said as he tried to assure his mother.
“Well Joshua, I know you just want me to be happy. But it’s hard to imagine us not living together. Can you just think about it a little more before you decide?”
Monday morning came and the only one to get a good night’s sleep was Maggie Ross. Brenda took the day off to take her mother to Stukeley Meadows to inquire about an opening. When they arrived, Maggie Ross was pleasantly pleased as she looked around at her soon-to-be residence.
The senior administrator gave the two a tour and showed them an empty model residence. Maggie saw many people she knew there and was waving every few minutes at an old friend.
At the end of the tour, Brenda and Maggie were given pamphlets that addressed questions about finances, care, special needs and a myriad of other issues. Maggie was pleased that she could move in that week if she wanted.
On the way home, Maggie was elated and hummed a spiritual. Brenda was feeling defeated. She knew the only way to afford the pricey monthly payment was to sell the house and get top dollar. But that was a pipe dream, the house had too many issues and it wouldn’t show well to prospective buyers. Brenda began imagining how heartbreaking it would be to relocate her mother after the promise of happiness. She dreaded the thought, but it seemed inevitable. It was just a matter of time before the payments would completely exhaust her savings, forcing a move to Weeping Willows.
That same day after school, Joshua walked to Prism Body shop to visit BL. He’d rehearsed his explanation about the sale of the car to perfection in his head.
“Hey guys, where’s BL?” Joshua asked as he poked his head into BL’s office.
“Jimbo man, I don’t know how to tell you this but BL had a stroke last night at home,” the assistant manager said.
“A stroke. Is he ok? What happened?” Joshua asked as he backed up against the wall shocked by the news.
“All we know was he was having dinner with his son and he slumped in his plate. His son took him to the hospital. He’s in a coma now and no one is allowed to see him except his family.”
Joshua was devastated. BL was the father he always wanted. Someone who took a personal interest in him, like a dad would a son. Joshua had learned more from BL than his own father. More than anything, he wanted to see that smile, hear his laugh and be in his presence. Joshua left Prism with tears that never seemed to stop. Joshua began to pray for his speedy recovery.
When Joshua arrived home, he told his mother and his grandmother what had happened. Joshua surprised everyone when he said he would fast that day in hopes that BL would recover.
Maggie Ross and Brenda both huddled around him and began praying for BL.
“Joshua, I will fast with you. But your prayer should be that the Lord’s will be done and accept that for whatever it may be,” Maggie Ross said as she grabbed Joshua’s hand.
By Thursday, the house was packed and Maggie Ross was perched on her suitcase ready to move to her dream accommodation. Maggie was uplifted and tapping her foot while humming her favorite hymn. Richard had organized a moving van to place the household goods into storage, and the van had just arrived. Joshua had taken the day off to help with the move and to see his grandmother off. He was deeply saddened by the turn of events; he had seemed to lose almost everything that mattered to him. Maggie Ross saw that her beloved grandson was troubled.
“Joshua, God has a plan for all of us. When you feel at your lowest point, remember you have to get through the night before you can see the dawn,” Maggie said as she embraced Joshua for support.
His grandmother’s words reshaped his outlook profoundly. Joshua began looking at the situation in a different perspective. It was time to mend his relationship with his dad and this was the perfect opportunity. Now he couldn’t wait to break the news to him about his switch from football to wrestling. For the first time since the turn of events, Joshua began to have hope and the future seemed a little more promising.
However, Brenda was trying very hard not to think about the moment she would have to break the news to her mother about an inevitable move to Weeping Willows.
While the movers were packing items in the house, Joshua saw two men struggling with the refrigerator. The two men became exhausted because of the size and weight of the refrigerator freezer and decided to leave it for last. The four of them grabbed a large sofa and loaded it up onto the truck.
After they neatly positioned the sofa in the back of the truck, they saw Joshua standing there patiently with the refrigerator ready to be loaded.
Maggie Ross locked the door and Brenda and Joshua were waiting in the car. The van took off in one direction and the three proceeded in the opposite direction. They looked back one last time and began to reflect on all the memorable times. All of them sighed as they reminisced.
When they checked in to reception, Maggie was greeted by a small welcoming party of a few of her closest friends. One had a sign with her name on it. As Brenda and Joshua were getting ready to leave, Maggie kissed them goodbye and whispered words of hope and encouragement. Although the ride home was particularly poignant, it represented a new chapter for everyone and Maggie Ross’ words soothed their anxiety.
Richard stopped by the house just after lunch and took Brenda to the bank to drop off the keys to help finalize the foreclosure. As Brenda walked into the bank escorted by Richard, she looked to the left and saw Mr. Windsor through his office blinds. Her immediate reaction was of intense rage, but then she remembered her mother’s words and kept her emotions at bay. Brenda and Richard stood in the lobby and waited to be called.
It was almost déjà vu, but this time they were a couple as Richard had his arm around her and kissed her on the side of her face. The same lady who served them before motioned that she was free to see them.
“How can I assist you today … Mrs. Pernelli, right?” asked the customer service representative.
“Yes, that’s right. I am here to drop of the keys to the house and to let you know we have vacated it. I couldn’t come up with the money to avert foreclosure.”
“Okay, I am sure we can help you with that; just let me check our records,” said the clerk as she left her desk and went to the filing cabinet.
The clerk returned and began shuffling through a stack of paperwork.
“I am not sure why I am being foreclosed because I have been on time with my second mortgage payments,” Brenda said.
After reviewing the file, the clerk explained. “The reason why we called the loan was because the house was being foreclosed by the city for delinquent property taxes.”
“Delinquent property taxes? How can that be? I can prove I have not missed a payment. There must be a mistake. Can I speak with a supervisor?
The clerk conferred with a colleague and returned with a response.
“Ma’am, when you took ownership of the property over six months ago, the city reassessed your tax rate. You would have been sent notices indicating the shortfall.”
“I moved. The letters must have been sent to my previous residence,” Brenda responded.
“Not to worry. Your second mortgage with us has been satisfied. Your financial obligation with First Interstate and Loan is clear.”
“Clear. What do you mean clear?” Brenda asked inquisitively.
“According to our records, the balance was paid in full on Friday.”
“By who?” Brenda asked.
“Unfortunately, we can’t make out the handwriting. The signature is illegible. But, I’m sure if you visit the county clerk’s office at city hall and pay the lien for back taxes you can have your house back. But they are closed due to demonstrations and protests at the moment.”
Brenda was momentarily overcome by the news and hugged Richard ecstatically.
Saturday morning Richard and Brenda picked Joshua up from his dad’s on the way to the auction. Joshua’s father had gone away for the weekend so he was home alone. Brenda was especially happy to see her son and felt confident that things would work out. Richard pulled into the line of cars full of anxious people waiting to place their bids at the large fairground. The smell of gasoline and diesel permeated the air on this sunny day as prospective buyers revved engines. As they paid for their tickets, Joshua saw his prized possession being offloaded from a transporter.
“Ma! There she is!” Joshua said excitedly.
The car was dusty and looked untidy giving hope to Richard that it would go for a bargain.
Once all the cars were in place, the bidding frenzy began. Richard was pleased to see mostly used car salesmen there who generally paid wholesale prices for their vehicles. However, this was a public auction and there were a few non-traders among the crowd. Amongst the crowd was Dylan Lloyd, the owner of a Country and Western Bar called Slim’s Tavern. Slim’s was having a grand opening next week and it was advertised that the Dukes of Hazzard car would be on static display. Mr. Lloyd followed Brenda to the refreshment stand.
“Looks like your fella is mighty keen on the Dodge Charger,”
“We were the previous owners, and Lord willing we can reclaim it.” Brenda replied as she grabbed some sodas.
“Tell you what. Here’s fifty dollars to git yourself a fancy dress. But tell your fella to sit this one out.” said Mr. Lloyd as he handed Brenda a fifty dollar bill.
“No thanks Mr. whoever you are, and if I want a fancy dress, my fella will get it for me.” Brenda replied as she left him standing with the money in his hand.
After about thirty minutes of intense bidding, the Dodge Charger was up and emotions were high among the Pernelli party. Opening bid was one hundred dollars.
“Two hundred!” yelled Richard.
“Going once, going—”
“Two fifty” shouted a local car dealer.
“Three hundred!” Mr. Lloyd hollered two rows in front.
“Five hundred dollars!” Richard bellowed with displeasure knowing there was another very interested party.
“Your pockets ain’t deep enough son! One thousand dollars.” Mr. Lloyd yelled loudly.
Brenda became concerned because she realized that Richard had been drawn into this emotionally at this point.
The crowd became amused by this bidding war and the trash talking of Mr. Lloyd. This bidding war quickly became a two horse race and the crowd was curious as to who would come out on top.
Although Richard wanted to respond to Mr. Lloyds taunts, he refrained. The bids went back and forth until Richard yelled, “Three Thousand!”
The crowd became silent with the exception of a few whispers as this was well above the Blue Book value.
Brenda and Joshua were taken aback by Richard’s generosity and spirit.
“Going once, going twice …”
“Six thousand dollars!” shouted a man from the back of the crowd.
Immediately, all eyes focused on the new bidder and the crowd became surprised by the late entry. . This was an extraordinary price that shocked everyone, including the announcer.
Richard, Brenda and Joshua looked back with great disappointment to see who this stranger was. Mr. Lloyd took off his cowboy hat and stomped it, only to pick it up later and dust if off.
“Ma. That’s the same guy who bought my medals from the pawnshop. I remember his face.” Joshua said as he became upset.
“Joshua, are you absolutely sure?” Brenda asked.
“Absolutely! I know it’s hard to tell with his hat on, but the guy’s bald, Joshua said.
The stranger in the dark business suit proceeded to the announcer’s stand and paid cash.
As Richard, Brenda and Joshua headed home, they passed the stranger giving instructions to the crew responsible for loading the Dodge Charger onto a hired transporter. A gust of wind blew his hat off; he was indeed bald.
It became increasingly clear who this stranger was, or at least who he represented.
“I told you … he’s the anti-Christ. What gives him the right to persecute us? When does it end?” asked Brenda.
The ride back was full of emotions between resentment and increasing anger and Brenda was at the end of her tether.
Joshua was disappointed that he didn’t get his car back, but that was mitigated by Richard’s display of unexpected kindness.
City Hall opened its doors to the public on Monday despite the ongoing demonstrations and protests over school desegregation. Richard accompanied Brenda to City Hall to settle the back taxes on the house, to redeem what should have been a great weekend. Brenda took a number and was promptly called to the window.
“What can I do for you?” the clerk politely asked.
“I’m here to pay the arrears on my taxes. I moved months ago and my soon to be ex-husband neglected to forward the notices,” Brenda stated as she stood alongside Richard.
Brenda provided the clerk with all the necessary information and the clerk went to the back of the office to pull her file.
“I thought I remembered this address. A gentleman was just here and he satisfied the debt.”
“Wonderful. Brenda looked at Richard and kissed him with excitement. It’s Elijah … I know it is. So the house is free and clear, right? Brenda asked with a look of joy on her face squeezing Richard’s hand.
“Yes that is correct but you are no longer the owners. The property was sold for back property taxes.” In fact, I just completed the transaction just before you arrived.”
Immediately, Richard ran out of the building and into the parking lot. When he returned, he looked angry.
“It was him wasn’t it? The tall bald guy in the dark glasses,” Brenda asked tearfully.
Richard confirmed it and they left the building searching for answers,
“How could God let this happen? I pay my tithes without fail, read my bible and try to be a good Christian woman,” Brenda said feeling spiritually defeated.
Joshua’s hypnotic experience with Lois had a tremendous impact and he wondered if it could be used for sports. Joshua hitched a ride and paid Lois a visit.
“Hey handsome, happy Columbus Day. What’s up?” Lois asked as she opened the door.
“I was wondering … could this hypnosis stuff be used to help with sports … with wrestling?”
“Absolutely. We call it power programming and it’s used by many pro athletes.”
“Do you know how to use it?” Joshua asked.
“Of course. Where’s Brenda, I would prefer it if she were here,” Lois replied.
“I knew that would come up. But I was hoping that since it wasn’t involving any issues that it wouldn’t be a big deal. I mean, it’s just wrestling right?” Joshua asked with puppy dog-like eyes.
Lois reluctantly agreed and looked left and right outside her door before letting Joshua inside.
Lois asked Joshua what he wanted to achieve from the session.
“I want to be able to visualize myself in the state championship finals and seeing the crowd go wild after my victory. How about that?”
“S L E E P N O W,” Lois said as Joshua stared at the black thumbtack
Within seconds, Joshua was in a REM state.
“Okay Joshua, when I count from five down to one, I want you to experience the championship match. When time expires you will be the champion.”
“Five, four, three, two and one. Be there. Give me a report. What’s happening?”
“I’m here. I’m wrestling for my dad’s school. My opponent … he’s almost as big as I am. He’s too quick. Can’t figure him out. My dad is screaming at me. I’m losing my cool. Wait a minute. I turn it around. I’m in control … I’m going to pin him. The audience can’t believe I came back,” Joshua said, as his body was trying to act out the actions.
“So what happens next?” Lois says with great expectation.
“I think he’s dead.”
“What … do you mean dead?” Lois asked desperately.
“I choked him. Medic’s trying to revive him!”
“When I count from one to five, you will forget everything we talked about. One, two, three, four and five! Awaken now!”
“Whew, what happened?” Joshua asked as he wiped his eyes.
“Oh I was just explaining to you that I would need your mother’s permission to hypnotize you. You must have been really tired because you dosed off for a second.”
“I thought you might say that. Oh well let me think about it for a while,” Joshua said entirely unaware of anything that happened.
Lois was completely confused by what she had just witnessed and replayed it over and over in her head. Lois called the academy where she was accredited and asked if she could speak with Patty her former instructor. Patty was in a private session at the time, but had no follow on appointments. Lois promptly drove over to see Patty. After Patty’s session concluded, Lois marched in.
“Hey Lois. How’s business these days?” Patty asked as she placed her notes in her desk drawer.
Lois began to give an account of what she had observed.
“Lois, don’t worry. … Calm down; it’s okay. Just need to know one question. What was the suggestion you gave your client after you induced trance?”
“I told him I wanted him to experience the state championship finals … something like that,” Lois replied.
“Did you use the phrase “‘experience’?” Patty asked as she scooted her chair closer to Lois.
“I am sure, one hundred percent. Why?”
“Lois, I know that you’re a recent graduate here, but I am not sure if you will be able understand what I am about to tell you..Patty said intently.
“In trance, if you tell a person to ‘experience,’ they will interpret that in a literal sense and take you there. I think what you were trying to accomplish was a visualization. In that case, the suggestion should have been “Imagine—”
“What are you saying Patty?” Lois asked with apprehension.
“What you did was a progression. Your client skipped time because that’s what you directed him to do.
I have to go now but I’ll say this one thing. Man invented time as a means to measure. Do you think God has a watch? There is no time. … It only exists in the physical world, but it has no bearing on things that are eternal.
Within days, Brenda noticed several remodeling vans constantly parked outside her grandmother’s old house on her way to work. Apparently, the house was being gutted and completely modernized. Within two weeks, the house was completely done looking magnificent, exterior and interior. Brenda peeked inside the window on her way home from work and admired the décor, new appliances and furnishings. Although she was impressed with the upgrades, she was unimpressed with the way Mr. Windsor used his influence to affect her family.
Three weeks later Mr. Hargraves’ attorney contacted Brenda for the reading of the Living Trust. Mr. Hargrave’s condition was deteriorating and it was a family decision to proceed in this manner. Brenda notified Joshua and asked him to be excused from school so that he could hear the reading of Mr. Hargrave’s Living Trust. Brenda and Richard arranged to meet Joshua at the attorney’s office across the street from City Hall. As Brenda and Richard walked up the stairway into the main lobby, they saw a few businessmen having conversations outside of the attorney’s office. Brenda and Richard were trying to determine which one was Elijah. They assessed that the gentleman in the center of the group wearing the dark blue pinstripe suit was Elijah; as he seemed to be in charge and everyone appeared to show deference to him. Brenda could not see their faces as their backs were turned.
“Mr. Hargrave?” Brenda called out.
Immediately the gentleman in the blue pinstripe suit turned around and greeted both Richard and Brenda with a warm smile.
“Yes, that is me, and you must be Brenda Pernelli. I was hoping that you would be here today. It means a lot to our family. Will Joshua be here?” he asked.
“Yes. He should be here any minute now.” Brenda replied.
The attorney then stepped out of the office and signaled for everyone’s attention.
“We are going to start a little early this morning so if you would… please let us tend to our business here.” The attorney said.
As Brenda and Richard began to enter the office, the tall bald man with dark glasses began walking up the stairs.
“Richard, it’s him! What is he doing here?” Brenda said as she nearly collapsed in Richard’s arms.
Within a few seconds, Joshua entered the building.
“Joshua, you stay here with your mother.” I will go inside and represent the family if they will allow it. Richard suggested.
“Ma! Are you okay?” Joshua asked worriedly.
Brenda was emotional and could not bear the sight of the man that caused her so much grief. Brenda told Joshua about the man in dark glasses and immediately she had to restrain him from disrupting the reading of the will.
“He doesn’t want us to have anything, what right does he have to be here?” Brenda kept repeating on the bench outside the office. After a few moments, Brenda regained her composure and let out a big sigh.
“Have you met Elijah?” Joshua asked his mother.
“Oh yes! He is a very nice man. You just missed him; he’s the one in the blue pinstripe suit.”
After an hour of lengthy discussion, the meeting concluded and the parties began filtering out of the office one by one. Joshua poked his head in the office to see what was going on.
“Hey Ma. Richard and Elijah are talking to you know who.” Joshua whispered as he sat on the bench outside office. Brenda sighed nervously and contemplated leaving. After they were in the office alone for almost five minutes, Richard poked his head out and asked Brenda and Joshua to come inside. “Whose side are you on?!” Brenda screamed in anger. Brenda motioned to Joshua and they both started to leave.
“Brenda Mae Pernelli…get back here now!” Richard yelled with authority.
Brenda and Joshua stopped in their tracks and paused for a moment before returning. Reluctantly, they slowly entered the room. Brenda and Joshua avoided eye contact with anyone as they sat at the large conference table. Moments after they were seated, the bald man with the dark glasses stood and spoke.
“I have been looking forward to this moment for quite some time now.”
He removed his glasses and behind them were the most stunning blue eyes they had ever seen.
“My name is Elijah. Elijah Hargrave.” The gentleman said.
“These are you for you.” In his hands were two sets of keys. One key set was for the house he had remolded for them and the second set was the keys to the Dodge Charger he completely restored and painted matte black for Joshua.
Emotions ran high as Brenda and Joshua began putting the pieces of the puzzle together.
The gentleman in the blue pinstriped suit then addressed Brenda.
“I’m Edward, Elijah’s brother. I have heard so much about the both of you.”
Elijah then presented Joshua with a handmade mahogany display case. Inside were the pawned medals, which were machine polished and professionally mounted on a red velvet backdrop.
Brenda and Joshua rejoiced as they recognized the brilliance of God’s plan.
Within moments, Elijah’s daughters Taylor and Abbey both ran into the room and hugged their dad. Elijah’s wife Susan immediately joined them.
Countless hugs later, there was not a single dry eye in the room. A teary-eyed Brenda hugged Elijah one last time and whispered “Greater is he.”
Elijah replied…“That lives in me.”
Joshua moved in permanently with his father and would later lead his dad’s wrestling team to the state championship finals. In the living trust, Joshua was awarded twenty percent ownership of Prism Body shop, effective on his twenty-first birthday. Shortly after the reading of the will, Joshua and Elijah were pallbearers at Mr. Hargrave’s funeral. For years to come, Joshua would reflect and reminisce about the wonderful times he spent with his grandmother Maggie Ross, BL and his old friend from football camp Brandon Windsor.
Brandon Windsor became a successful fiction writer and married later in life. He has one daughter named Carol, in remembrance of his late mother. In June 2009, two world-renowned celebrities passed in the same week, one was Farrah Fawcett. Upon hearing the news, Brandon began to reminisce about the short-lived but special friendship he shared with Joshua Pernelli thirty-two years before. Although Brandon wasn’t able to find Joshua on a social networking site, he did locate him on the website .
Brandon was moved to discover he was the namesake of Joshua’s only son, Brandon Pernelli, now twenty years old. The two made plans for both families to unite during Christmas of 2011 in Ireland.
Maggie Ross lived ten long happy years at Stukeley Meadows. While a tenant, she was active in religious services and resumed her bridge playing. The sale of the house generated a hefty profit and easily covered her stay.
Richard took a promotion and moved to Arizona with his soon-to-be bride … Brenda Fox.
Sketch of Joshua Pernelli by Brandon Windsor August 1977
Solicitors are lawyers who traditionally deal with any legal matter including conducting proceedings in courts.
Slang term for a man. Commonly used in the United Kingdom
Biblical; King James Version Leviticus19:31”Regard not mediums, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God.”
E. Clay is a Christian who is thankful for any chance to uplift his faith. When writing the novel “My Name is Elijah” he drew from many of his own experiences and those near him. He has been a certified hypnotherapist since 1994 and has witnessed extraordinary revelations during his practice. The chapters “Remember to Forget” and “Future Shock” were based on real sessions from his practice. The chapter “911—What’s Your Emergency” was based on the true heroic story of a US Marine Lance Corporal based at Camp Pendleton in the mid-1990s.
The novel “My Name is Elijah” was written in twenty-eight days.
“Before judging a book by its cover, one should make sure it is held correctly.”
To my son Eddie IV, if all you do in life is look after your son Elijah, love him and educate him … you will someday realize that little else matters. You have been a great son to me and I know Elijah will bring you the same joy. To my grandson Elijah, you are an angel to me and being a grandfather has been an inspirational experience. I look forward to taking you places and having long meaningful talks. Love, Granddad.
[* Elijah Edward Thompkins -Hargrave *]
Brenda Lewis, Karen Thompkins, Mariea Claxton, Ann Strachan, Kim Mort, Tony Bailey. Thank you very much for all your support and dedication to this project.
Original Artwork: Martin Pope
â€œMy Name is Elijahâ€ is the prequel to the novel â€œFlagrant Misconduct.â€ This story is a fictionalized account of extraordinary but real events and its impact on an average family. For some, this fast-paced action drama will challenge your belief system; for others, it will affirm your faith. What happens when psychics and prophets both foresee imminent upheaval for your family? Is there hope for escape? Only one man knows the answer. A Chrisian suspense novel by E. Clay.