Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Chapter 8

Chapter 8 - Outside Captain's Office

Abigail Aguilar sprung from her seat the moment she saw Lt. Reyes coming up the aisle between the rows of desks in the bullpen. She kept her eyes glued to him as he quickly walked toward the Captain’s office door. She had skipped classes today so she could spend more time in Records Department sorting through prior cases digging up background data. She had been waiting there for what seemed to be a long time, knowing the lieutenant would have to report to the Captain today. He was deep in thought and looking down at the floor, one step at a time.

“Lieutenant?” Abigail could see that her sudden greeting had derailed Lt. Reyes’ train of thought.

“Abigail, what are you doing here? Don’t you ever go to school? Don’t you have any other friends to play with .. elsewhere?

Abigail snapped back, “Ouch! That hurt, lieutenant! That’s TWICE you’ve done that to me today - giving me your condescending attitude - and I don’t deserve that .. Especially since I’m trying to help you.” Although he was a superior officer and she was an unpaid volunteer, she could just quit at anytime -  SOLVE college scholarship or not. “I could have gone directly to the Captain with this, but I was busy covering your ass .. If you don’t mind me saying so.”

Abigail was finally coming into her own and standing her ground with the lieutenant. She was right to. For three years she had followed orders, no matter how trivial they seemed, but she was thankful to the Sheriff’s Department just to be involved with the SOLVE program. It gave her life structure and something positive to do with her spare time away from school .. and the neighborhood. After her father and mother divorced, she felt somewhat lost. It was tough to have to move to a lower class neighborhood with her mother, but they could be nearer her grandmother. Her mom tried to make it on her own, but it was very tough. Dad had always worked two jobs to support the family and had taken care of everything while mom took care of the house. She was not particularly well-equipped for employment with only a high school education, but she took what job she could. 

Abigail had a boyfriend, but they quickly broke-up when he got arrested for underage drinking. Her father had been around at first, but was having trouble finding work after he was laid-off from his job of ten solid years and couldn’t pay his child support. The bank eventually took back their new house that dad had built for them. He had been back to court many times for support payments and all that involved, but he eventually faded completely from her life. She loved her father, but he was out of the picture now. Abigail always wondered why he left in the first place.

Lt. Reyes narrowed his eyes and looked steamed, “What do you mean covering MY ass?” 

Bordering on gross insubordination, Abigail responded, “Well, it seems like I finally have your undivided attention. Thank-you, very much!  I mean ..  you were about to go into the Captain’s office without reading the M.E.’s report on the dead man in the desert. Don’t you think you should do that before you go in there?”

“Corona and Barerra killed him. The Sonoran Sidewinder isn’t that lethally poisonous to humans - had he gotten treatment. We got the guys who did it in custody. They didn’t admit it yet, but they will. What’s the difference?” Reyes retorted.

“Noooo, you didn’t read it. Did you?” Abigail replied, showing a little more attitude of her own. “His snake bite wasn’t medically treated, was it? According to the M.E.’s report, he died sometime late last Tuesday night of a combination of snake-bite AND lung cancer. If the snake hadn’t bit him, he’d be dead anyway.”

“Lung cancer?!”

“Yes. Once he had confirmed the man’s I.D., Dr. Bob searched for the man’s medical records to confirm his own findings. The last time the guy saw a doctor back in West Virginia, nine months ago. They told him he had six-months to live .. maybe a year. The guy was dying and he knew it, but he never smoked a day in his life. He had been born with asthma and had been using prescription drugs for years to calm the symptoms. They eventually got to him.”

Abigail continued with her unofficial analysis. “I think, that’s why he left his the keys in the ignition of his car by the side of the highway and walked into the desert. That’s why he left his home and came west to drier air, thinking the climate might give him more life to live. That’s why his family hasn’t seen or heard from him in the last nine months. After reading the last few entries of his computer journals, I can tell you that he didn’t want them hanging all over him with sad-eyed faces. He didn’t want regular visits from any clergy. He also carried around the emotional weight of believing that he had not being a very good father after his divorce, that nobody wanted him around but it was already too late to fix that. He was out of time. He didn’t want to live his last days tied to machines in the hospital and running-up expensive bills that his family could never afford to pay. He had lived in cities and small towns all his life and really never experienced the awesomeness of the nighttime skies without light pollution. He wanted to die alone and feel close to the Universe - which for him was God - without any sort of religious ceremonies. This was his way .. according to his journal. I also found some other software on his computer that listed the names and addresses of his next of kin as well as his Living Will, if he were ever incapacitated and unresponsive. It seems, Lieutenant, he knew death was near and he wanted to die just right where he was when the time came upon him.”

“More calmly now, the Lt. Reyes replied, “You’re right, Abigail. I haven’t been very nice to you today, have I? I’m sorry. I apologize. You’ve done a lot of very good research work and thinking things through today, but then, you always do for as long as I’ve known you here. I would really have embarrassed myself going into the Captain not knowing this information. The fact is, we have another problem to solve connected with this case. I was just going in to see the Captain with a “what next” scenario. Want to sit-in with me?”

Abigail was flattered that she had finally made an impressive connection with Lt. Reyes. Of course, she would like to sit-in. 

More importantly to Abigail, while researching the missing persons files, upstairs in Records, she might have discovered a little something about why her father disappeared from her life. Pride .. or the lack of it and shame. He had done very well as a young man giving his family a respectable life, in a good neighborhood, with good schools, but when he lost his well-paying job he lost his sense of pride in those accomplishments. His employer kept saying, “what have you done for me lately” and he was under a lot of pressure. After he lost that job, then his house, then his family, his shame and loss of self was too tough to bear, so he just disappeared. In a sense, he began a new life with a whole new “identity” - not a new name, but a new characterization of himself. It just wasn’t possible to go back to being the man he used to be, or so he must have thought. Abigail didn’t see it that way, but she never understood or had a man’s pride. It didn’t seem fair to Abigail to be deprived of her father’s love, affection and guidance during her teenage years, but it was the way it was. The ex-Marine who died in the desert was emotionally suffering in some of the the same ways her father must have. He just wanted to reclaim a little of his lost pride by dying on his own terms. 

>>>> Chapter 9 >>

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