Blood Crumbs: Chapter 15Mature

    I got to the restaurant a little early and was escorted to a corner booth where I ordered a Hefeveizen. I sat and contemplated my dead ends on the case at first, but as with most times in the last nine years my mind began to drift.

    It was a poorly made ocean painting on the wall of the steak house that started it this time. It reminded me of one titled ‘Siren’s Call’ that I had seen a few years back at some local artists show I had been dragged to.

    It was of a small row boat sitting on the ocean. The beach from which it had launched was beautiful and sunny with a speckling of beach-goers dancing lightly on the sand. The boat, however, had moved far beyond the sunlit shores and a violent storm rages before it. There, the silhouette of a man stands upon its bows in a moment of desperate indecision. One would think he desperately wants to go back to the sun and the sand but this is not so. On closer inspection, you can see a humanoid shape just beneath the surface of the storm-ridden waters. A hand raised and beckoning above the waves of swirling darkness. It is yearning for comfort in the storm and the man must comply. It always struck me as such an accurate description of Jeremy Graham’s life.

    It was easier for you.

    Jeremy wasn’t a bad person, nor was he especially unhappy. The first twenty-one years of his existence passed with a relative uneventful ease. At least with an ease that could be expected from a righteously raised boy in a good town. He met a beautiful girl named Bethany Marks after returning home from his mission for the LDS church. They were married shortly after his homecoming.

    Bethany became pregnant with their first child seven months later. It was an uncomplicated pregnancy until Bethany was admitted to the hospital one month before the baby was to come to term with excruciating stomach cramps. The pain left her unconscious leaving Jeremy the burden of a decision that no man should have to make. The doctor approached Jeremy with an ultimatum. At this point, Bethany needed major surgery that would put the baby at incredible risk. The doctors could perform a Cesarean Section first, however, and though the baby would be premature, it was likely he would survive. The C-Section however would put Bethany at greater risk before her own care could be administered. It was possible that she would die.

    Choose between the life of the woman you love and your unborn child.

    Jeremy, unwilling to make that kind of decision opted for logic. He asked them to do whichever procedure amounted the greatest chance of survival for both the mother and son. A C-Section was performed first.

    Bethany did not live through the night.

    Billy Graham was born four weeks premature and weighed five pounds, seven ounces. He was touch and go for the first few days, but the doctors called him a survivor. Jeremy became a loving father and raised the boy under the same set of morals that had served him throughout his life. He was still a good man though many found him a little strange. These were people that noticed the crack. The little fissure in his psyche that would one day swallow us all.

    Twenty-two years passed and Billy grew up to be a wonderful young man. He struggled in school and had a mild form of dyslexia. Complications from a tragic birth some might say. However, Billy got along just fine despite his troubles and while books were not his thing; cars were another matter.

    Billy restored his first car at the age of fourteen, and the kid had a gift. He could tune any engine and find any problem. He also drove with a finesse that might make a NASCAR driver’s eyes cloud with a hint of envy. Billy got himself a job driving truck for the state of Utah at fifteen dollars per hour. It was a great job for someone his age with barely a high school diploma, and he cherished it. He just had to drive a truck full of waste to the Utah desert near the Salt Flats three times a week.

    The Salt Flats Dump Scandal.

    That was the name the papers gave it. ‘Low level toxicity’ and ‘cancer clusters’ were phrases used a lot in these articles.

    “What exactly constitutes a low level of toxicity?” The defense lawyers would ask; claiming that national standards were unreasonably strict.

    It was a debate that Billy Graham cared little about as he spent six bed-ridden months dying of brain lesions.

    It was big news. Lies had been told, palms had been greased, and the dump site had been approved under false pretenses. Toxic waste had been stored in Utah for three years while the proper safety measures had been ignored. Thirty-two employees that came in close contact with the waste would be found to have cancer or radiation poisoning. Nineteen of them would die before a settlement would be reached. Billy Graham was one of them.

    Accusations were hurled, fingers pointed, and deals were made. Standard operating procedure dictated that each lower man on the totem pole would sell out the next one up as the district attorney clawed his way up the chain of conspirators.

    The chain ended right at Brian Weston’s feet. Too many links were missing to connect it to him, but he was there and most everybody knew it. After a year and a half of investigations, and three and a half years of court proceedings, Weston, it seemed, would walk away with his reputation in tact. The whispers would end his political climb toward Washington, but he would not lose his post as mayor. In fact, he would successfully run for eight more terms, winning each vote by a land-slide. Cries for justice would fall on def ears.

    Well, not so much def, as troubled ears. Jeremy Graham had been a fragile man, and the small fissure in his psyche from Bethany's death had now ruptured into a chasm. The dead whispered to him, speaking to him of Weston and his evil ways. They demanded punishment; retribution was the only way. An eye for an eye they cried.

    “Yo, George,” A voice pulled me out of my deep concentration.

    My hands had turned white as they were grasping the perspiring mug of beer in front of me. I released my strangle hold on the ale.

    “You’re staring at that thing like it holds the meaning of life.” Isaac said as he sat down across from me.

    Isaac was skinny and pretty average height, like his father. His black hair was cut short and spiked with patches that he had dyed green. He wore glasses with the thick black frames that seemed popular with today’s youth. His shirt was dark red and had ‘I’d give my left arm to play in Def Leppard’ scrawled across it. Most of his t-shirts were like this; he was like a human bumper sticker.

    I nodded at the shirt. “That’s terrible.”

    He smiled, “Terribly awesome maybe. The place I normally pick my shirts up from had it made then pulled it off the shelves almost immediately. I had to call in some favors to get my hands on it.”

    The cute female waitress walked over and smiled at Isaac, asking him if she could get him anything to drink.

    “I’ll have what he’s having.” He said waving in my general direction and giving her a winning smile.

    “He’ll have a Coke.” I said firmly as I shot him a look. Isaac was still only twenty, a fact I doubted our waitress, whom was currently blushing under his appreciative gaze, was going to be aware of--or care about for that matter.

    “I guess I’m having a Coke.” He said. After she walked away he looked at me dejectedly. “I’ve been in college for two years. It’s not like I’ve never had a beer before.”

    “Well I would assume you’re doing something at that college and apparently it’s not getting smarter.” I said as I grabbed a slice of bread from the basket between us. “I mean, you’re still dumb enough to be telling a cop that you’ve been drinking under age.”

    He held out his wrists. “Bust me, officer. I’ll go quietly, I swear.”

    “Oh I’ll bust you alright. Bust you right upside the head with the butt of my gun.” I said taking a big buttery bite out of my bread.

     The waitress came back with Isaac’s drink and patiently took our food orders. We spent the next hour eating and talking. I congratulated him again on his acceptance to BYU and we debated the merits of switching schools to finish his Bachelor’s degree. I couldn’t provide any real world experience as I’d gone straight from high school to the academy, but I think I faked it pretty well.

    Soon we were sitting back over nearly empty plates and the conversation sputtered. I grabbed a French fry and used it to mop up some barbecue sauce left over from my ribs. I popped the fry into my mouth and said, “So this dinner. It wasn’t just about celebrating school news.”

    A small smile appeared at the corners of his mouth. “No,” he admitted, “not really.”

    The waitress reappeared and offered us Molten Cake. I am powerless to offers of dessert; especially ones with delicious names like ‘Molten Cake’. When she was gone again I motioned for Isaac to go on.

    “I’ve been looking into some things,” he said carefully.

    After a moment of silence I pushed. “Thanks for being so specific, what things.”

    He looked down at his hands. “I’m sure you’re aware of what next week is…”

    Suddenly I wished that I hadn’t just ordered desert. Whatever appetite I had left was gone now. I managed an “Oh.”

    Next week was October 22nd. Exactly eight years since Jeremy Graham had walked into Isaac’s seventh grade English class and taken thirty-two children, a teacher, and a Sandy cop hostage at gun point.

The End

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