|General Fiction posted February 11, 2020||Chapters:||...6 7 -8- 9...|
2,560 words. Searching for the truth is difficult.
A chapter in the book A Shadow On The Street
Ronald and Julio
Lewis Bradley is a man with a unique gift. He can read the minds of the people he passes. This gift forced him into hiding from the thoughts of others.
We've had typical Tennessee weather this past week. It started Sunday and Monday with temperatures near zero, and today, we might reach into the sixties.
It was a spiritual experience having all of my homeless friends in for a visit during the brutal cold. I've heard so many stories that would break any heart, but what I admired was the perseverance of each one. Despite everything against them, all of them are determined to rebuild their lives.
How can you not love that?
Since Caleb and Terrel worked late last night, and don't have to work until Sunday night. I decided to get breakfast at Tony's. It will be quiet in the office this Friday morning.
Pushing open the door, Tony turns and greets me. "Well, good morning, Lew."
"Hi, Tony. It's been a while."
"Yeah, I'm going to sue Kathy for being such a good cook. She's killing my profit."
"My goodness," I start to laugh. "Maybe you need to hire Kathy to cook?"
"That's an idea."
"No, I like your biscuits better. Speaking of which, I'd like a tenderloin biscuit. I can get my coffee." I step behind the counter and pour a large cup.
Tony starts to make my biscuit. "I know one thing, Lew. For someone who wanted to hide from humanity, you sure have become popular. The whole neighborhood is talking about what you did Sunday and Monday. How many people was it?"
"Just a few friends. It was only 143, counting the kids."
'Yeah! You're hiding from humanity," we both laugh.
Tony hands me the biscuit. "Thank you. It looks delicious."
"By the way, Lew, you got a letter yesterday."
"Someone sent me a letter here?"
"Yeah, I almost threw it away. It doesn't have a return address, but it looks handwritten." Tony digs around the cash register. "Here it is."
I sit my coffee and biscuit down and examine it like it's going to blow up. "There's only one way to find out what's inside." I slide my finger inside the envelope and tear open the top. The letter reads:
I am begging for your help. My son, Ronald Hernandez, has been convicted of murdering a man. I know in my heart that he is innocent. I feel an injustice has fallen upon him. He is not the killer but refuses to speak up for himself.
I know you have recently worked with the police helping them to solve certain cases. I cannot tell you where I heard this. Please, will you see my son and talk to him. Maybe he will listen to you. If not, he will spend the rest of his life in prison for something he didn't do.
Sincerely, Maria Hernandez
"Tony, have you heard of Ronald Hernandez?"
"Yeah, he's a young man who was convicted of murder last week. I think his sentencing hearing is next week."
"Well, this letter is from his mother. She swears he's innocent."
"Don't all mothers?"
"Yeah, I guess so, Tony."
"Something tells me you want to find out, Lew?"
"God sure is leading me that way. If I can work out the logistics."
"Be careful, Lew. Remember what happened last time."
"Thank you for caring, Tony. I will. Now let me finish that biscuit. Can I get some more coffee?"
Tony laughs, "Sure, Lew."
Back at home, I pick up the phone. "Good morning, Memphis Police central office."
"I'd like to talk to Captain Adams. My name is Lewis Bradley."
"One moment, please."
After a few clicks on the line. "Good morning, Lew. How are you?"
"I'm doing fine, Ben. I need a favor, my friend."
"What can you tell me about Ronald Hernandez?"
"Well, it was an open and shut case. The officer found him with the body. The gun was lying beside the victim."
"Was it a robbery?"
"That's what the prosecuting attorney said, even though we never found the money. I brought that up to the defense, but he never used it."
"Has Ronald Hernandez said anything about this?"
"Not a thing, Lew. He wouldn't make a statement, declined to speak at the trial. He convicted himself by his silence. The only people he has spoken to are his mother, brother, and sister-in-law when they visit him."
"Boy, none of this adds up."
"I know, Lew, but we did our jobs then handed the case over to the Prosecuting Attorney - even though there were still three questions in my mind that never got answered. What happened to the money? Who wiped the fingerprints off the gun? Why has he kept silent?"
"You always do everything you can, Ben. Can I talk to him?"
"Absolutely! I'd love to know the truth. It will be this afternoon before I can arrange it. Do you need me to send a car?"
"No, I think I've got a ride. Thank you, Ben."
"Not a problem. I'll call you later."
It's early afternoon, and I guess I'm a victim of old age. Caleb, Kathy, Terrel, and I are laughing at Amy doing some kind of dance to an annoying song called Baby Shark. Amy dances to it with perfection, matching every move in the video. It reminds me of something from the early 1990s called the Macarena. I didn't get it then, and I don't get it now. But laughter fills the room.
I hear the phone ringing and pick up the cordless receiver. "Hello."
Captain Adams answers, "We should be ready in about thirty minutes."
"Thank you, Ben. Let me confirm my ride." I place the phone against my chest. "Hey, Caleb, will you do me a favor? I need a ride to the Police Headquarters."
The happy mood falls through the floor, and concern fills every face!
"Sure, Lew. But what's this all about?"
"Don't be alarmed, my friends," I smile. "I'm going to talk to Ronald Hernandez. If he will talk to me."
Kathy steps forward. "Are you sure, Lew? Do you remember the last time?"
"It's not like that this time. Warren Sledge is evil incarnate. Ronald is a lost kid who I think is innocent, and so do a few other people. We want to know the truth."
Terrel walks over to me and puts his hand on my shoulder. "We want you to know, Lew, that everyone in this room loves you. We're worried about you."
"Thank you, Terrel. It means a lot to me." I reach out and hug him.
Caleb hugs and kisses Kathy and Amy. "Let me get my keys and jacket."
"I'll be there shortly, Ben." I turn to my friends. "Thank you, all of you."
We start towards the door when Kathy says, "Caleb, don't leave him."
"I won't, sweetie. See you in a bit."
I seem to be lost in thought until we pull into the parking lot. Caleb and I didn't speak a word until we get out of the car. He looks me in the eye and asks, "Are you sure you want to do this, Lew?"
"Our Lord is a God of Justice. If I can help in any way, then I need to."
I press the buzzer, and the voice asks, "Can I help you?"
"My name is Lewis Bradley. I'm here to see Captain Adams."
"Yes, sir," the door buzzes. "Come on in."
"After you, Caleb." I feel the worry in his mind.
Ben's office is close to the entry, and he steps out when we turn the corner. "Hi, Lew. It's good to see you."
"Same here, Ben." I stop a short distance away. "I want you to meet Caleb Bell, a dear friend."
"A pleasure to meet you," Caleb reaches for and shakes his hand.
"Same here. Ronald is just down the hall, Lew."
"Caleb, you can wait in Ben's office. We'll only be a few minutes."
"You know I can't, Lew. I promised Kathy not to leave you."
"Is it okay, Ben?"
"Sure, but sometimes it isn't pretty. I warned you."
"I understand, sir," Caleb smiles.
We walk down the hall to the room where I met Warren Sledge. Vivid memories fill my mind, but I quickly cast them down.
Sitting there at the table is a small, broken young man. His body looks like it's carrying the weight of the universe. His black hair is disheveled, and his eyes peer at the floor.
I walk over to the table, and he doesn't notice I'm in the room. Caleb and Ben lean against the wall. Another officer is sitting behind Ronald.
"Your mother is worried about you, Ronald." I pull out the chair and sit down. "She sent me a letter, begging me to talk to you." His thoughts begin to fill my mind.
Ronald raises his head. "It doesn't matter what she said in that letter. My life is over."
"I know you didn't kill that man, but you know who did. I see it in your mind. It's a record that plays continually. You walked up right after it happened then argued with the killer while blood pooled around the victim's head. He snatched the money then ran, but not you. It was you who wiped the fingerprints off the gun when you heard the sirens in the distance. Who are you protecting?"
"You know everything, tell me."
"I can't. You've blocked the killer's face out of your mind. All I see is a shadow running away."
"I'm done talking to you."
"You don't have to tell me, Ronald. Let me see his face in your mind."
Ronald hollers, "You don't hear very well!" He stands then kicks the chair out from under him, breaking the link. "Let me out of here."
I nod to Ben, and the officer takes Ronald from the room. Glancing over at Caleb, I see the shocked look on his face.
"Well, I got two of your answers, Ben."
"No, you got three answers. We know Ronald didn't kill that man. Did you see anything?"
"Only a pair of black Chuck Taylor's and ragged bluejeans."
"Every teenager in Memphis has those."
"Ronald knows him, Ben. He's close to him. Do you have the address for Maria Hernandez?"
"Yeah, but it's in a bad part of town."
"It can't be much worse than where we live, can it Caleb?"
"All right. I'll alert the patrol car that you're coming so they can keep an eye on you."
"I appreciate that."
The drive over to Maria's house takes us out onto Highway 51, which leads to the casinos along the strip in Tunica, Mississippi. The only businesses out here are pawn shops, bail bondsmen, and liquor stores. We turn down Cantrell Street, and the houses look like they're held together with baling wire, and old cars sit on cinder blocks. Prosperity avoided this neighborhood like it had the plague.
"You sure haven't said much since we left the police station, Caleb."
"Let's say; I have a new appreciation for your gift. I've never seen anything like it."
"Yeah, that's why Ben warned you."
Caleb pulls up to a small house. "I think this is it."
We both get out and walk up to the house. Daffodils are blooming along the porch. I reach up and knock on the door. A young woman with a baby in her arms answers, "Can I help you?"
"Yes, my name is Lewis Bradley. I'm here to see Maria Hernandez."
She turns and says, "Mama, there's somebody is here to see you."
Maria comes to the door. She's a short, stout looking woman with dark brown eyes that have seen too much pain. "Can I help you?"
"Yes, ma'am. Did you send me this letter?" I pull it out to show it to her.
"Oh, yes! You are the man who helps the police. Did you talk to Ronald?" She steps out on the porch.
"I tried to, ma'am. He didn't say much, but I think as you do, he didn't do it."
"What can we do now, Mr. Bradley?"
"We can find the killer. Can I meet your family, Mrs. Hernandez?"
"Yes, Rosie and Julio, come out here." Rosie steps out on the porch. Rosie is a tall woman with blonde hair and must be the sister in law. "This is Rosie and my grandson Jayden."
I reach out to shake her hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you." Her thoughts fill my mind. It's not her.
Maria hollers, "Julio, come out here!"
He slowly walks out on the porch. He seems disoriented, and his eyes don't look right - the pupils are tiny. Julio keeps his long sleeves pulled down, and he's wearing black Chuck Taylor's. I hear Caleb gasp.
I reach to shake his hand. "It's nice to meet you."
He barely smiles and shakes my hand. Julio's thoughts fill my mind. I see the argument he had with Ronald, then he snatches the money and runs down the street.
"Mrs. Hernandez, I want you to know that we are close to catching the real killer." I look Julio in the eye. "It's someone who Ronald knows well." I won't take my eyes from Julio's. "We're hoping for the killer to come forward to save his bro..."
Maria speaks up. "Mister, I can't thank you enough for all you have done."
"It's my pleasure, ma'am. Can you walk to the car with me, Julio?"
He hesitates. Maria says, "Go with him. He's trying to save your brother."
We slowly walk to the car. Caleb, Julio, and I lean against the vehicle.
"Can I see your arms, Julio?"
He quickly shoves his hands in the pockets of his jeans.
"That's why you killed that man. To get the money for a fix." Julio's bottom lip begins to quiver. "Now, you're committing a second murder by letting Ronald take the blame."
Julio's tears begin to flow down his face and drip off his chin. "He wouldn't give me the money, then said he was going to kick my butt. I don't remember pulling the trigger, and he just fell. Ronald had followed me but didn't get there in time. I had to run. I have a wife and a son."
"You did until you stuck that needle in your arm. That evil habit forced you to kill that man. Come with us, Julio, and end this now. Tell the truth and lift that enormous burden off your soul. Please, for your mother's sake. Hasn't she been hurt enough?"
Through his sobs, Julio says, "Okay."
All three of us get in the car and head back downtown.
Two hours later, Caleb and I leave the police station to start back home.
"I have a headache, Caleb. I'm so exhausted."
"I can't quit thinking about Mrs. Hernandez, Lew. What will happen to that family now?"
"I talked to Ben. He's going to try and get the charges dropped on Ronald, but he's still an accessory to murder. He'll probably have to serve some time. I agree with you, Mrs. Hernandez lost both of her sons today."
"What can we do, Lew?"
"All I know to do is pray. I have something I want you to do."
"I want you to take us home, then hug Kathy and Amy and tell them you love them."
Caleb smiles. "I can do that."
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