General Fiction posted December 27, 2019 Chapters: 2 3 -4- 5... 


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2,670 words. Lew, and his friends face the Vigilante Killer.

A chapter in the book A Shadow On The Street

The Homeless Network

by papa55mike




Background
Lewis Bradley is a man with a unique gift to see inside the minds of the people he passes. This power has forced him into hiding from the thoughts of others.
Looking behind me, I see the sun rising between the buildings. It's casting long shadows on the homes. I'm standing in front of Tony's Grocery, thankful that I have a friend like him. Tony accepts me for who I am and seems to know my pain. I push open the door with a smile. "Good morning, Tony."

"Well, good morning, Lew. I haven't seen you in a couple of days."

"I've been hiding."

"From the police, maybe?" Tony asks.

"Not necessarily. Are the police looking for me?"

"I read in the newspaper about the murder on Riverside Avenue. The paper said a man in a dark overcoat warned the officer on duty before it happened."

"The killer walked by me with murder blaring from his mind." I pause to check my feelings. "I told the officer what was about to happen, and he thought I was crazy. Then a woman ran screaming out of the building. I felt completely worthless."

Tony puts a warm hand on my right shoulder, and says, "You did the best you could, Lew. It's not your fault they didn't listen."

"What good is this gift if I can't get anybody to believe me?"

"The police believe you now, Lew. They have you listed as a person of interest in the case."

"Great! Have the police been here?"

"Yeah, I sent them in the other direction."

"I can't thank you enough, Tony."

"My pleasure, Lew. How is that family doing?"

"They're doing well. It's only been a few days, but Caleb has a job interview at Home Depot tomorrow. They need a crew to work through the winter, changing the store around. I've been praying for him to get it."

"I swear, Lew, you're just a beacon of light."

"I wish!"

We both start to laugh.

~

I feel something a little different walking back home this morning. Talking with Tony put a smile back on my face. "It's two weeks before Christmas and time to find some Christmas joy. I know a family that desperately needs Christmas."

I open the door to my office home; Caleb and Kathy are waiting for me at the kitchen table. "Good morning, my friends."

"Good morning," Caleb picks up his cup of coffee. "Lew, one of our friends, has a big problem."

"Is there anything I can do?"

Kathy gets up and pours herself a cup of coffee. "I hope so, but first, I need to tell you about the Homeless Network."

"The Homeless what?"

"There are over a hundred homeless living in the back alleys, behind restaurant dumpsters, sleeping in hidden corners all over downtown. Many are living in their cars as we did." Kathy sips her coffee then continues. "All most everyone has a cell phone. No one can call anybody with our unpaid bills, but we can text each other. We came up with the idea of the Homeless Network."

"It was Kathy's idea," Caleb sips his coffee.

"Whatever. We started logging in each of our numbers into phones all over downtown. When someone would hear about an opening at a shelter or a place with free food, they would text it to the next person that would share it with the entire network."

"That's amazing. I had no idea that many homeless are downtown."

"In a way, we are all like you, Lew," Caleb drops his head. "Hiding from others in disgrace."

Kathy takes Caleb's hand and says, "It was no disgrace what happened to us, sweetie. That's for another time." Kathy turns back to me. "Have you heard of the Vigilante Killer, Lew?"

"I don't watch the news, but I read about it on the internet."

"He took another victim last night." Kathy looks out the window. "One of the members of the Homeless Network saw it happen."

"If that person is an eyewitness, they need to go to the police."

"He can't, Lew. The killer is a cop." Kathy looks directly at me.

"Oh, then we have to get him here. To keep him safe."

"I was hoping you would say that," Caleb sets his cup down.

"How far away is he, Caleb?"

"Ten blocks. I can pick our friend up, but I need to do it without anybody seeing us, Lew."

"Where is he exactly? I know every alley downtown."

"Two streets from the courthouse on Crestwell Avenue."

"There's an alley that runs behind the pubs on Main. Have him meet you behind Danny's on First Street."

"Great, he'll only have a block to walk. Let me set up a time."

Thirty minutes later, I raise the overhead door and let Caleb pull inside. Once I close the door, a man and a young boy sit up in the backseat. Caleb gets out and says, "I never knew Terrel had a son, Lew."

"It's okay, Caleb. That's one less child on the streets tonight."

The man and his son slowly get out. You can see the confusion and fear in their eyes. "I don't mean to be rude, but my son and I haven't had a shower in a month. I won't talk about what happened until we get clean and something to eat."

I smile at them and say, "This way, my friends."

When they pass by me, I feel the intense determination to survive inside the father. There, in the back of his mind, I see the face of the killer.

The father and son have been in the locker room beside the kitchen for over an hour. Kathy and I are talking about what to do.

"We don't know if he's telling the truth, Lew."

"He is, Kathy. I saw the killer's face in his mind."

"What else did you see?"

"Well, his son's name is Earl. They're not from Memphis. Oakland, Tennessee, I believe."

"That's right, mister. We're from Oakland. How did you know that?" Terrel and Earl walk into the kitchen, looking completely different. Terrel is dressed in blue jeans and a navy blue tee-shirt. Earl has on a pair of khakis and a red polo. Both of them have their thick black hair combed back.

I get up from the table and reach out my hand for Terrel to shake. "My name is Lewis Bradley, but you can call me Lew. I want you to know you're welcome to stay here."

"Thank you, mister. But we're powerfully hungry."

Kathy walks up to Earl, and asks, "How old are you, Earl?"

"I'm seven, ma'am." Earl's southern drawl is priceless.

"What's your favorite thing to eat, Earl?"

"Oh! Peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I haven't had one in so long." His thick black hair falls into his eyes.

With a beautiful smile, Kathy pushes his hair back in place. "I'll make you a big thick sandwich. Would you like water or milk?"

"Milk, please, I'm so tired of water."

Amy hears her mother taking orders for food. "Me, too, mommy."

"Okay, sweetie," Kathy asks Earl. "Would you like to watch television with Amy?"

"Yes, ma'am!"

"Go ahead. I'll bring you two a plate."

"Thank you," Earl grabs Kathy and hugs her neck.

"That sounds fine to me," Terrel speaks up. "Do you have some pretzels to go with it?"

"Of course, I'll be right back."

Now that everyone's hunger is satisfied for the moment, Kathy, Caleb, Terrel, and I are sitting at the kitchen table with some coffee.

Kathy asks, "How did you two end up on the street, Terrel?"

"The same as most of us. I lost my job after my wife died two years ago, then we lost our house. We were living in our car until they found it."

"It always happens in stages," Caleb frowns.

"That's right, Caleb," Terrel smirks. "You're powerless to stop it unless you have a job."

"What about a shelter, Terrel?" I ask.

"If we go there, human services will take Earl away from me. He's all I have left."

I don't have to look inside his mind to see the pain. "Tell me about that night, Terrel."

"There's not much to tell you. Earl and I were hiding in the shadows beside a dumpster when this lawyer comes out of his office. It's right behind the courthouse. Earl was asleep in my arms when another man stepped out of the shadows. The lawyer seemed to know him. They laughed and shook hands. The lawyer waved and turned towards his car. The cop reached into his jacket - not his holster. Then he pulled a big gun out and shot him three times in the back. The weapon barely made a sound."

Caleb says, "The gun must have had a silencer, Lew."

"Probably," I turn back to Terrel. "What color was his uniform?"

"Khaki, the same color of Earl's pants."

"Then it wasn't a cop," Kathy smiles. "They all wear navy blue. I'd say it was a sheriff or an officer of the court."

"If we could get into their files," I shake my head. "I know they have pictures of all the employees."

Caleb laughs then looks at Kathy. "Do you want to tell them?"

"That's an easy hack, Lew," Kathy chuckles. "I can be in there in five minutes or less."

"What do you know about computers, Kathy?" I ask.

"I have a Masters Degree in Computer Science from the University of Memphis."

"And you guys were homeless?"

"It's because I have a felony record, Lew. I hacked a bank and got caught. I didn't steal anything. Just did it for the fun of it. After that, I couldn't get a job anywhere."

"Well."

Caleb gets up from the table. "I'll get your bag of flash drives."

"Since then, I developed a file that wipes out every trace I go on the internet. It's never failed before, Lew. Can I borrow your computer?"

"Sure, the police are looking for me already."

"For what?" Caleb asks.

Before I can answer, Kathy turns to me and asks, "Were you the man that warned that cop on Riverside?"

"Yeah."

"So that's it," Kathy shakes her head. "I knew something was wrong."

"Who is reading minds now, Kathy?"

She doesn't answer.

After Kathy installs two files and hits Google Search for a moment, she replies, "I'm in! We'll start with the courthouse. Fewer people to search through." Her fingers dance across my keyboard.

I stand next to her, watching different files pass on the screen in milliseconds. I can see inside Kathy's mind, and it's moving at the speed of light. "Your brain is on fire, Kathy."

"Who is reading minds now, Lew?"

I don't answer.

"Finally, the personnel files. We know it's not the judge or attorneys. So, let's start with the bailiffs."

Terrel sits down beside her and begins to study the screen.

"Here's the first one, Terrel."

"No." Kathy and Terrel begin to go over the files.

Caleb walks over to me and asks, "What do we do when Terrel finds the man, Lew? He's not going to the police."

"Then we bring the killer and the police here. Maybe we can wrap him with ribbon and a bow. A nice little present for the police."

Terrel hollers, "That's him!"

Caleb and I walk over to the computer.

I see murder playing out in Terrel's mind, and say, "William Davis. He's been a bailiff for twenty years. There must be a trigger somewhere?"

Kathy begins to look over the file. "It says here that Davis was recently on a three-month leave of absence after the murder of his wife."

Caleb says, "Bingo!"

"Now, we need to let the killer know his identity is breached and set up a meeting. I know I can get the police here by walking down the street, but I think there's someone that would want a chance at redemption. Do you know somebody that can pass Mr. Davis a note without him knowing?"

Caleb and Kathy both say, "Jack Johnston!"

"He can steal your underwear without you knowing it." Caleb laughs.

"Let me guess. Mr. Johnston is on the Homeless Network?"

"Yes," they both answer.

"Then he can slide a note in the killer's pocket without him knowing. It looks like I'm going to the bank again to meet an old friend."

~

The downtown foot patrol changes shift at six in the morning. I decided to be at the corner of Riverside and Third at seven. It will help me avoid a lot of foot traffic and plenty of time to get off the streets before the rush hour starts.

A cold wind blows off of the Mississippi River and billows around me. I'm standing beside the streetlight, watching the police officer I warned check doors while walking towards me. His eyes finally meet mine. "You know I can arrest you right now. Why didn't you answer our call in the newspaper?"

"I don't read the paper. Before you call for back-up, I wonder if you would like to meet the Vigilante Killer?"

"What!"

"Maybe I should talk to Captain Adams. Why don't you see if you can get him down here?"

~

Darkness has enveloped the warehouse except for one emergency light directly above me. Since this is my plan, and I didn't want to put Terrel in any danger, I decided to meet with Mr. Davis myself. I made sure in the letter that, if he didn't show, I'd go straight to the police. "It's exactly eight o'clock. Let's see if Mr. Davis takes the bait."

I hear the sound of the door open slightly then reclose. A tall shadow slowly moves towards me. The figure stops outside the light. All I see are the tips of his polished military boots. "Good evening, Mr. Davis."

"Are you the man who sent me the note?" He finally steps into the light. Mr. Davis is a tall man in a perfectly pressed uniform with a dark overcoat draped over his broad shoulders. His dark hair has streaks of gray around his temples.

"Yes, I sent the note."

"You're a brave man if I am the killer."

"No, I'm not," I open my Bible and continue. "Mr. Davis, I want you to know that you are a loved man. Jesus will forgive you for all the lives you've taken. Ephesians, chapter one, verse seven, says, we have redemption through His blood, for the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." I close my Bible. "Your sins started with the deaths of those two gang members that robbed and killed your wife. Then it was Prosecuting Attorney, Jimmy Patterson. It wasn't his fault the evidence got thrown out on a technicality. I guess that made the Lab Tech next in line. Then it was time for the Defence Attorney, Doug Richards, to die. That's when I came into the picture."

"How do you come into the picture? I've never seen you before."

"I saw you shoot Doug Richards three times in the spine. He was dead before his head hit the asphalt. My guess is, Judge Roberts is next on your list. That should finish the task you started."

"It's still your word against mine."

"No, I think the gun in your overcoat will give the police all the evidence they need."

"It would, but they will never get it, and you will never tell anyone. I guess I'll have to add another name to my list." Mr. Davis reaches inside his overcoat.

The warehouse lights suddenly penetrate the darkness. The characters in this play dramatically increase. Walking towards Mr. Davis is Judge Roberts behind Captain Adams and three Memphis Policemen. Working the lights is Terrel and Caleb.

Mr. Davis collapses to his knees. Through his tears, he says, "I failed you, Bessie."

I kneel beside him and see his murdered wife's face inside my mind. "No, Mr. Davis. The only person you failed is yourself. I want you to know that God will forgive you for what you've done. Please, remember that."

Mr. Davis looks into my eyes and says, "I will."


Recognized


We need to remember that God will forgive us for our sins.

Many thanks for stopping by to read!
Happy Holidays and God bless.
mike
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