I wouldn't tell anyone ... ever. I cried the night sweet Amy Clark told me her mother was leaving her father and she had to go with her. Her mother and father were separating. Amy and I were fourteen and had been sidekicks for the last ten years.
I guess you could say we had done it all. Most of the exciting stuff was in the last few months when we discovered what fun it was to explore each other's bodies. The ultimate happened just before Amy told me that same night she had to leave. We swore undying love to each other. "Amy, when I get old enough I want to find you and marry."
"I accept. I want to marry you too." Deep down we both knew in all probability this would never happen.
That was fourteen years ago. A lot of time had passed and a lot of things had happened to me in the ensuing years. I graduated school, going on to university and coming out an architect and with vision. Along the way I married, which my wife and I soon realized was a mistake, we then proceeding to an amicable divorce.
Right now I was back in my home town living in my parent's former home, they having given it to me when they moved away. My situation let me work the hours I wanted to and I was pretty satisfied with my life. I suppose not too many architects of my age were as far along in their chosen careers as I was. I caught a break not long after hanging out my shingle, with my first contract to design a small church.
It was thought to be a brilliant design and it appeared in a couple national magazines. Actually the only brilliance was to choose a staff that could tune into the visions I had, and implement said visions. I was really having a good and satisfying life, only occasionally thinking of Amy Clark
Rodger Clark, father of Amy, still lived next door. We spoke seldom because he wasn't one to chat and I had been rebuffed several times when I tried to speak to him. The last time he told me to get to hell out off his property and not come back. I tried several times to find out where Amy lived and where she was. This was before, when I was married, and again after I divorced.
Looking through my eyes as an architect, I shuddered as the beautiful, large Victorian that was Clark's home slowly falling into disrepair. A rumor persisted that Clark had plenty of money, but didn't care what happened to his home or to him. I had never seen anything to substantiate that he had any money.
Who knows why a rumor starts, and in truth the rumor did die out in the last few years. Strange for when I was younger and had the run of their house, I knew Amy's father was well educated and of a friendly sort before his wife and child left. That was then, but as time went on he soured to become what he was now, pushing everyone away.
Things do change and it was a cold early winter evening when I pulled into my drive. I glanced over at the Clark house as I usually did when closing the garage. No lights tonight. Then a light came on in the upstairs front room which I knew was a study or library of sorts. The rest of the house was dark.
It was only on for a second and then went off. Again it came on. It seemed as if someone was playing with the light switch. It stayed on a little longer and then there were several rapid on and offs. Was whoever there trying to get my attention? Our houses were close enough so old man Clark, (54?) would have known I had come home as the lights from my car swung into the front of the garage.
It had been almost a year since Clark and I had exchanged words. Again the lights flickered. Maybe I had better check it out. I grabbed a two-foot hunk of rebar that was outside my garage and headed across the lawn. The lights went through the cycle again. I tried the side entrance, but that door was locked and the same with the front door.
The back door fortunately, was unlocked and I let myself in, I cautiously advanced through the darkened house to the stairs. The room where the lights were being manipulated was at the head on the right. I knew I made no sound coming into the house and I didn't as I slowly ascended. I eased the door open.
The light came on momentarily and I spotted Clark on the floor trapped under a huge bookcase which was lying across the back of his legs and shoulder. He was face down and his head was jammed against the wall. One hand could reach an electric cord that was plugged into an outlet. I watched for a moment as he went through the cycle with the lights one more time before I spoke.
"Clark, you got yourself in a bit of a bind, haven't you?"
"Dixon, hurry up and get this damned thing off. It's killing me." Usually I was addressed as kid. Having him use my name was a surprise. He still didn't use my first name of Beau, usually calling me "Kid" even now when I was twenty-eight.
"You got any broken bones?"
"Can't tell, but most likely. My legs are numb and I think my shoulder is dislocated or worse. Don't stand there, do something."
It took some doing. If this had landed on Clark's head, it would have killed him. He took the full brunt of the bookcase that was filled with heavy books. I still had the hunk of rebar in my hand and I used it to pry up one side of the wooden case. He screamed when I started prying up because the bookcase rocked onto his shoulder. Hurriedly, I slid a few spilled books under the edge.
I rushed around to the other side. Fortunately I was able to reach down and find enough books to prop up this side the same as the other. I dragged Clark from under the bookcase and turned him onto his back which brought about several groans of agony. I was surprised he didn't pass out. It was time to call 911 and rescue.
Sweat was beaded across Clark's face and I could see how much pain he was in. While waiting for the men to arrive, I asked how this had happened. "I was sliding one side of the case forward and then the other to move it. I thought I had it totally upright and stable and I turned to go around it to the other side. I didn't see it falling until too late."
"Should have taken the books out of it first." Still lying on the floor, he stared at me as if I was stupid. He didn't make a comment. There was nothing else I could see to do but wait on the rescue ambulance.
He was in agony, finally, "Them rescue bastards are taking long enough to get here." I tried to sit him up, but it hurt him and he screamed again. I left him and went in search of a pillow for his head. When I came back into the room, I looked at the propped up bookcase.
Something struck me as odd. All the books from the lower shelves were out and piled on the back of the bookcase, pressing down on Clark's body, pinning him to the floor. The thought struck me; Clark wasn't meant to get out from under the bookcase. If he hadn't figured how to attract my attention, he might have been trapped there until he died.
Just then we heard the rescue vehicle pull into the drive down below. I threw at him as I left the room, "Clark, you're full of crap. I'll let you get better and then you're going to tell me what really happened. You say you turned your back on the bookcase and it fell over. Bullshit! No way could this have happened the way you described. Not with the books from the bottom shelves piled on the back of the bookcase."
"You'll be waiting awhile to hear different and you better keep your mouth shut about this. Something like this could happen to you if you don't." Rescue was outside getting their equipment out of the vehicle. I went down the stairs to let them in. The EMTs put temporary splints on both legs and a soft boot to protect the toes on one foot, which they said at least were dislocated, if not broken. He screamed when they moved his shoulder getting him onto the board ready for transport.
Clark asked me to lock up and finished with more orders. "Go home and I will contact you when I get into a hospital room. Don't go poking around in here, either." No thanks for freeing him from what could have been certain death, if I hadn't come along when I did and being curious about the lights going on and off.
The young police officer who followed the rescue call looked into the room, but apparently didn't see the same thing I had. "That was a dumb move, trying to move the bookcase without taking the books off the shelves. That's what happens when you don't plan ahead."
It was 11:30 that evening when Clark called me from the hospital. "Dixon, I've just been moved into room 223. Get your butt in here tomorrow early. I've got to talk to someone and I guess it might as well be you."
I wondered about him demanding more of me. My work was important, but I was still curious. Curiosity won and I had to find an answer to what brought on the attack to my neighbor.
"Are you family?" This was what I faced when I announced I was Mr. Dixon to see Clark.
Why I said what I did, I have no idea. "The bastard owes me money."
"Well, okay. He said you would be in. He's in a lot of pain and angry."
"I've faced that often enough. He hasn't changed much in the last several years I've known him. He's worse if anything."
"I can believe it. He's pretty obnoxious." We were left alone. The nurse didn't even come into the room.
"Dixon, you came. I didn't know if you would. I've been laying here all night thinking. I've got a couple favors to ask of you. I'll tell you what and why this happened. I have to open up to someone."
"Maybe. First I got questions. I need to know about yesterday? Did you know the men who did this to you?"
"Of course I do. I think Mary must have sent them."
I had momentarily forgotten Amy's mother's given name. "Mary. Who is Mary?"
"The woman whom I told everyone was my wife and the mother of Amy. I claimed I was Amy's dad, but neither is true. Amy isn't related to either one of us. I don't know why I'm going to trust you with a secret that can land me in prison and most likely for life. If anything happens to me, you might see if you can find Amy and tell her. She was the only bright spot in my screwed-up life.
"How is she related, then?"
"She is just a girl Mary kidnapped for ransom. The kid was two years old when we nabbed her."
"Whoa up here, you kidnapped her? Why did you steal her?"
"For the money of course."
"You never returned the child, is that it?"
"That's it and we kept the money. I was after Mary to give Amy back to her parents, but she wouldn't and it was always a contention between us. That's when we separated. She took off with the child. You must remember when it happened?"
"I do. Where are they now?"
"I'm not sure, because I never tried to find them. Mary must have spent her share of the ransom money and contacted her brothers to get what remains of my share. They were waiting for me when I came home after dinner yesterday."
"Did they get the money?"
"Nope, they were coming back later to see if I would change my mind, but you saved me. They didn't intend to kill me at first, although they probably would have eventually. They wanted to make me hurt so badly that I would talk. You prevented that and I want to thank you. I doubt they will give up so easily. You're going to have to watch your back."
"It would be a better plan if you called the police."
"I may do that, but I want you do something for me first."
"I want you to go down to the bus depot and empty out locker number 45. It probably will be better if you don't contact me openly for awhile. It may be that I'll be killed and your trouble will be for nothing."
"What's in the locker?"
"There are two suitcases. One is full of money and the other has more money along with a few old newspapers. The papers are accounts about the kidnapping that was published after it happened. You'll get the whole story when you read them. The stories didn't last in the paper long when there was no progress to report about finding the kid."
"It doesn't sound too safe for me to be lugging around two suitcases full of money."
"It isn't. Use your head man. Rent a different locker and move it. Just be careful that no one is watching when you open the locker and take out the cases. Just be smart about things."
"I guess I can figure it out. Where's the key?"
"Here around my neck. Those fuckers had me in their hands and didn't know it. I can be stubborn. The damned doctors and nurses tried to remove it too, but I fought them off. I don't know how smart these men are, so use your cell to call me, or better yet I'll call you. If you see me at home, we'll meet across the hedge after dark back of your garage. Now get out of here!"
The last was said much louder. I thought he was serious until he winked at me. It came to me that he was trying to save my ass if those brothers came looking for that money and tried tracing it to me.
The key was sweaty in my hand and I figured I'd get the chore done as soon as possible. The nurse who had showed me Clark's room smiled at me. She figured I had been kicked out of the room.
I headed to the bus depot. There was a bank of lockers across one wall. The key I had in my hand had the number 45 stamped on it. There was a chart just inside the door at the end of the lockers and 45 was noted as being rented. Directly above it was locker number 25 and it was empty. Below it was 75 also empty and either would serve my purpose. I looked around and saw that people were milling around waiting on a bus arrival. Now was a good time to at least get this done.
I walked up to the counter. "I want to rent a locker."
The clerk answered, "You saw the chart, pick one." He pointed.
"Number 75 will do. How much?"
"$7.50 a month. If you don't pay or renew, we change the lock. If there is anything left in the locker of value, we donate what's in it to charity. We don't allow no drugs or firearms, but then who's to know. What's the name?"
"Beaudecker Dixon." A strange name, but mother liked the name of Beau and her maiden name was Decker. She made one name of it. I didn't mind and liked Beaudecker Dixon, Architect. That was the only time I used my full name. I thought it sounded like class.
I set up automatic renewal of the locker with my business account and was promised that my name would remain anonymous short of a court order. I received the key, but didn't go near the locker. I'd do that when the afternoon bus arrived. There would be a different ticket agent at the window by then.
I called Clark. Almost his first words were to get him a lawyer. He wanted to make a will. Then, "You got the business done at the bus station?"
"I'm working on it. Listen, you're giving me one order after another and I'm doing it. What's in this for me?"
"Maybe nothing, but for years you've been asking about Amy. You might want to track her down someday. Mary sent me a picture of her when she was twenty. The girl turned into beautiful woman. I can give you Mary's last known address and if you are so inclined you might want to see if you can find her."
"How long since you knew for sure where she lived?"
"Four years." Clark's answer to questions didn't always jibe. Why didn't I throw up my hands and leave Clark to his own problems ... but then I remembered sweet Amy.
"Amy's probably married by now if she is as pretty as you say she is."
"Maybe, but you got married and I haven't seen a woman living with you recently."
"I'll think about it after you get home. I'll admit I am curious."
"Forget that for now. Get me the lawyer by this afternoon if you can. I need to make a will." I called one of the lawyers who did some of my company's business and he told me to have Clark call him. I called Clark and gave him the name and phone number of the lawyer.
I went up into the attic and found a couple of old suitcases. Being paranoid, I washed them down and made sure they didn't have any identifying marks or fingerprints on them. I put saran wrap on the handles that I would remove when the time came to leave. I went back to the bus station when I knew it would be the busiest. One of the buses was unloading and I went inside with the crowd. I paid no attention at all to anyone.
I sat the two suitcases I brought with me on the floor and opened my rented locker. I opened number 45 over it with Clark's key. The cases in it were about the same size as the ones I brought with me. Slipping gloves on, I took them out and shoved them into the locker that was below Clark's. I stuffed my cases into his locker, making sure I ripped the saran wrap off the handles. If this took three minutes, I would be surprised. I walked out the door with the crowd who were getting onto another bus loading.
My mind went round and round. What in hell was I doing? I was an architect for God's sake. Clark was treating me like I was his only life raft and he was going to drown if I didn't help him. Kidnapping, I certainly didn't want to get involved in anything like that. If I could believe Clark, I was already involved. U-um, I wonder what Amy looked like now? Not much had been said about her, but she was at the center of this little mystery.
I called Clark everyday asking about his progress. His legs weren't broken. A shelf that crossed the bookcase had come down across his calves when he was face down. The muscles were severely damaged. The main problem was in the damaged left shoulder joint. The bone was chipped and some cartilage was torn. It would most likely bother him the rest of his life. Also one toe was fractured, but that was minor and would heal.
The front of his chest and belly had marks all over it where the two men had punched him. He was asked by the doctor how come the marks and he explained. "I almost was able to hold the bookcase up. I did momentarily and when I couldn't hold it some books beat me to the floor and I landed on them." Clark showed me some of his bruises and he definitely had been beat on.
A week later he told me when I called that he would be home on Friday, next, two days from today. He came home, managing with one crutch. I waited until dark and knocked softly on the back door. "Dixon, is that you?"
"Yeah, let me in. We have to talk." I eased the door open. There was only a nightlight shining from an outlet. Clark stood facing me. He had a pump shotgun in his hand.
I could see his face enough in the dim light to tell how worried he was. "You weren't kidding about being in real trouble, were you?"
"Well, who was it that smashed you up?"
"The woman that you knew as Mary Clark has two brothers. It was them. She must have sent them after me. I shouldn't have stayed here, but I love this old house."
"You haven't taken very good care of it."
"No, and that makes me sick. I still have every penny I received from kidnapping Amy, but haven't dared spend it. I get by on my wages, but that's all and it ain't enough for upkeep on this place. I'm a pretty worthless person. I wish you'd tell me what to do. Now that I've got rid of the money I feel a lot better."
"What do you mean you've got rid of the money?"
"I gave it you, so it isn't mine any more."
"I still have the key to locker number 45 and it only takes three minutes to put it back." There was silence in the room. "You know, Clark, the money isn't your money. It belongs to Amy's real parents. Why don't you send it back to them or hunt up Amy and give it to her. I'd say you need to do some confessing along the way. They tell me it eases the mind if you are troubled. Clark, you can't say you are really living and I think it is time you made some amends."
"Guess you are right. I'll think about it and let you know what I decide. You know, Beau, you're a real decent sort. Pretty smart too." Surprise, he did know my name.
"Just being neighborly. Say would you let me know what Amy's real name is?"
"Sure, it was Renee Raven. Her parent's names were Eleanor and George Raven of Detroit. It's all in those newspapers in your locker."
"I'm not touching that locker." Clark shook his head and shrugged his shoulders. I turned and went back out the door.
It was after midnight when I came fully awake. Someone was breaking into the Clark house. I heard the back door bang. Then I heard someone kicking on the side door that was closest to my house.
I immediately dialed 911. Just as the operator answered, the shotgun went off inside the other house. I asked for the police. I was so excited I couldn't remember the number. "We are ringing the police now. What is your address?"
I answered questions as they were put to me. A minute later the police dispatcher came on line and I answered the same questions. I was told there was a patrol car on the way and would arrive in about four minutes. I heard two guns going off and then I recognized the sound of the shotgun again. It was quiet for a minute and then another shot was fired.
I still had the police on the line and I hoped that they would hurry. They possibly could hear the gunshots from next door. I directed dispatch to advise the patrol car to drive into my driveway, because if the shots ceased, the shooters would likely come out on my side of the house. The shotgun went off twice more and the other gun fired a couple of times.
Two police cars pulled in and lighted up the side of the house. The screen door was broken and half off its hinges and then the other gun fired once again from inside. Suddenly a man came running out the door and into the glare of the lights. He could have been blinded by them. The cops were shouting for him to put down his weapon. He brought the gun up and got one round off. That was it for him. Three officers shooting at him ended it all.
One of the officers went up and kicked the gun away from the man on the ground. Then one leaned down and after checking for a pulse said he was dead. Three officers cautiously went into the house, shouting they were police. They turned lights on as they progressed through the house. I heard one say, "We've got another man down in here. He's dead. He looks to be another of the bad guys."
Curious neighbors were gathering in my front yard. More police came and soon traffic control appeared to take care of the onlookers. One of the officers came up to me after talking on his radio. "You're the neighbor who called this in, aren't you?"
"Yes. My name is Beaudecker Dixon."
"Can you identify the owner next door?"
"Sure, we've lived here next to each other for several years. Is he dead?"
"No, but he is wounded. He can hardly talk. For the record would you tell us his name?"
"I know him as Roger Clark. Most everyone just calls him Clark."
"The place is pretty run down, does he work somewhere?"
"He works in a restaurant across town."
"Good enough. Follow me if you will. You'll have to sidestep a body. Do you have any idea what this was all about?"
"I haven't the slightest. I do know since I was a kid I've heard he had a lot of money hidden, but I've never seen any indication of it. He certainly doesn't live like he has."
When we went by the body inside, we paused and I was asked if I had ever seen the dead man before. "No, never have." I looked around at the walls. I didn't know how large the shot was that was in the shells Clark was using, but they sure tore up the walls some.
There was blood every where around the body. It looked like he had been sawn in half. I surmised that Clark and his shotgun had done it when the guy came through the door where he was. I was led into the living room. The couch had been moved which puzzled me for a moment and then I realized Clark had been forted up behind it. He was lying on the floor. The cops had him on the couch cushions to get him comfortable. He had been hit in the same shoulder that was injured three weeks ago.
Rescue came in and stopped a second to look at the dead person. They shook their heads and gathered around Clark. One of them was the same one who was here three weeks ago. "This is getting to be habit. You keep falling down you're going to hurt yourself."
Clark growled, "I think I did that already." The EMT smiled.
Clark looked at me. "Dixon, was it you who called in the cavalry?"
"Yeah, I heard the back door bang and then someone was kicking at the side door. You must have been awake."
"I was. I couldn't sleep. I don't guess I'll sleep much the rest of the night, either."
"They'll give you something."
"Soon, I hope. Dixon, thanks for watching my back."
One of the cops spoke up, "Your neighbor called us in and told us just how to place ourselves. Seconds count in situations such as this. He was spot on."
"Yeah, smart kid."
The cop looked at me and I mouthed that Clark always called me kid.
I eased out of the way and faced more questions when I got outside. "This man had trouble weeks ago? Was it connected?"
"I wouldn't think so. There was an officer that came with rescue that time. Ask him if he saw anything unusual. Just a stupid accident that happens when one man tries to do the job that needs two. Really, I haven't had much to do with Clark for the last few years. I guess I notice things, or better yet hear things like I did tonight."
"Come down to the station tomorrow and make a statement, if you will."
"It'll be in the afternoon. I have a meeting in the morning. I do have a business to operate."
"What's the business?"
"I'm Beau of Beaudecker Dixon-Architects. I'm located in that new industrial park west of the city."
"Come in when you're free." With that I went inside my house and went to bed.
I did go into my office n the morning. I had things to do and I was spending too much time on Clark's problems. Tomorrow I had to meet with a committee that was proposing to build some senior housing in a town several miles away. I wanted to win the bid so I needed to put effort into the project.
I went to the hospital at eleven in the morning. I found Clark in a room already. He was pretty well doped up, but lucid. "Hey, I was hoping you would show. The police were in an hour ago. Next week the surgeon is going to replace the joint in my shoulder. Both the injuries together make it necessary."
"I guess you're set for awhile. I have to go in and make a statement to the police this afternoon. Have you said anything about what happened three weeks ago and this being connected?"
"No, and I wish you wouldn't either. I wasn't able to get upstairs since I got home. If the police look at the room the way it was when I was dragged out of there, it might raise some questions."
"No it won't. I straightened things up before I came in here to see you the next day. The only one who could tell different would be the officer who came with rescue back then. I don't think it will be a problem."
Clark was drifting, but he managed, "Thank you."