JD Dunne walked around the now empty apartment for the last time. Barely
five hours had passed since he buried his mother. Now he was leaving the
only home hed known forever. It hadnt taken long to pack, the
furniture belonged to the landlord and most everything of value the Dunnes
had owned had gone to pay for Rachel Dunnes Cancer treatments. Every
thing JD had left had easily fit into the two denim saddlebags his mother
had made for his motorcycle.
The motorcycle itself sat in the corner of the kitchen, as it had since JD
bought it. Being old and battered had saved it from the sale, and Rachel
Dunne had pleaded with her son not to sell it. His mother hadnt wanted
him to be totally helpless in the world and she had known that the motorcycle
meant independence for her child. Fortunately, there was enough, just enough
money from selling off everything else to pay off all of Rachels debts.
There was no weighty burden of financial obligation hanging over her son.
But then again there was little left to make a new start. Only the bike and
Rachels inherited Dunne wedding ring were able to be spared from the
sale. Even the picture frames from around the family photographs had been
sold. For the last several months the pictures of the people Rachel had loved
and lost hung on the wall courtesy of masking tape.
JD unconsciously tapped the left pack to make certain that the precious photos,
now tucked into his baby book, were still there. Most young men his age might
find such pictures embarrassing, but to JD they were all he had left and
therefore priceless. The ring box and some old toys were carefully rolled
up in his clothes. His grief made him feel a hundred years old, but he was
still young, only twenty-two though he looked sixteen. There had never been
a time in his life without his mothers presence, and now here he was
uncertain of his feelings.
He twisted his keys in his hand, running a wistful touch across the constellation
key tag his mother bought him that long summer years ago. Rachel Dunne had
tried to make the most of every opportunity available to her. There was no
chance that shed ever be able to give JD the life he deserved
but shed given him the best of everything out there. The planetarium
tickets had been a real treat. Discarded by the Toffler children as
boring, but for the curious young man and his poverty-stricken
mother theyd been the treasures of a lifetime. Every time they could
get away, the Dunnes went to the Star shows that summer. Naturally lively
and kind, JD had made so many friends among the staff, that if he was honest
with himself, he could guess how theyd ended up with season passes
for the museums the next couple of years. So many people had reached out
to be kind to them. It was hard for his mother to accept, but she wouldnt
allow the opportunities to pass by, not for her son. Even if she couldnt
go, she made sure that he could. Anything that JD wanted, Rachel would try
to make happen. JD found himself remembering how hed insisted that
they dress up as the Big and Little Dipper for Halloween that year.
The treasured telescope hed been given by Professor Salonpa that incredible
summer had paid for food for almost all of the last three months. Hed
regretted having to sell it, but he knew the old man would have understood.
If selling everything hed ever owned or would own would give him just
another hour he would have.
A last check of the apartment yielded a surprise. Half-hidden behind the
now empty bookcase, JD could see a tiny hand and arm. Twisting himself into
a knot, JD reached down behind the bookcase and pulled out a small stuffed
doll. As he gently pulled it free, he smiled to himself. Hoss Cartwright,
long missing and mourned over.
When hed been little the only time of day that JD had with his overworked
mom had been very late at night. Rachel took care of cleaning the Toffler
Mansion and that took all day. She was lucky to get home much before Midnight.
JD would stay with old Mrs. Leviwitcz until Rachel came and got him. Being
an extremely active child, JD would often be awake all night. When his mother
got home, hed be awake and desperate for her attention. There would
be nothing available to them except the television. Mr. Toffler had considerately
given them Cable, but the only station the ancient T.V. tuned in at all well
was an oldies station, playing every old western known. JD knew and loved
them all, The Virginian, Have Gun, will Travel, the Big Valley, the Lone
Ranger, and Bonanza.
Theyd never had much money, and certainly none to waste on action
figures even if such had been available from the classic T.V. shows.
Rachel had surprised JD with the handmade Soft action figures
one birthday, and hed never let go of them. No one could convince him
that they werent the best ones in the world. Not his playmates who
scoffed at the homemade things. Not his teachers whod been concerned
enough to put the family on the Sub for Santa list. And certainly not the
Toffler Children whod had much better things to play with, but nothing
made with such loving care.
Mr. Toffler owned the apartment, a place to keep his staff separated from
the big house as it were. JDs mother, Mrs. Leviwitcz the
cook, Mr. Dalley the gardener, Miz Cass who did the automotive repairs, Mr.
Weiss who drove the cars, Miss Emily the maid, and Mr. Long the butler and
Rachels second in command, all lived in the apartment building,
kept out of sight of the mansion. The old rambling Mansion that John Toffler
had bought from the family whod owned it for generations had been remodeled
by him so many times since then that the Historical society had demanded
a restoration to an approximation of a traditional layout. It had been a
long and exhausting task, primarily landing on the shoulders of Rachel Dunne.
Having money made the Tofflers think that they were above such things. In
fact, if Marcia Toffler hadnt been on the board of a couple of Cancer
Charities, Rachel and JD would have lost their home the first time Rachel
had been unable to drag herself to work.
JDs own job as a police officer brought in enough to keep them going,
and had paid for most of the bills, but if theyd had to find a new
place to live.... It didnt bear thinking about. The bills were paid
and everything taken care of. Rachel Dunne was gone and no amount of reminiscing
would change that. Squaring his shoulders, JD tore himself away from the
memories, both good and bad, and put his attention back to making sure that
none of the little he had left was left behind.
It was his mothers wish for him to make this trip to Denver. She was
certain that it was where he belonged, that it was the new horizon that he
needed. When she was feeling well, shed tease him about following his
compass star, his own Polaris, out west. It had been a daydream of his, but
in his dreams shed been there to share it with him. Hed wished
that he could have been some old style Sheriff or a Texas Ranger. Law Enforcement
had been his goal for a long time, though he had to admit that it wasnt
anything like it had been on TV or in books. Both he and his mother had been
voracious readers of mysteries, though having to wait for a new one to become
available at the library had often been an annoyance. JD had promised himself
that hed get a job and make enough money so that his mother could have
any book she wanted or to go to the theater, or the movies.... but that was
His Captain, wanting to discourage the young man from spending his life on
the Force, had assigned him to every dull or gruesome task that he could
come up with. Capt. Meredith was sure that JDs immense talents would
take him places and didnt want him burnt out with the day
to day ugliness that was a police officers way of life. In spite of
Merediths disapproval, JD had thrived in the world of Law Enforcement,
willingly taking on any task that was asked of him. Very much his mothers
son JD had a steely determination to do the job, do it well, and most importantly
to keep a good attitude about it.
When Rachel was his age, she had been studying advanced sciences at NYU.
A small town girl, shed come to New York on scholarships that had ended
with her marriage to her cousin Edward Dunne. Shed been pregnant and
Edward had soon abandoned them forcing Rachel to take the demeaning job at
the Toffler Mansion to keep a roof over their heads. His mother wouldnt
have called it demeaning, she called it honest work, but JDs memory
was full of slights and the weird things that Rachel would have to do to
keep the Toffler family in some semblance of order. Shed done far more
than honest work for them, shed spent almost her lifes blood
in their service.
It might have been JDs fate as well, but a fight with Allen Toffler
when they were both thirteen caused him to be black balled forever. Allen
wanted him to come beg the family for work, but JD had found jobs in the
neighborhood, often working as much as the law would allow. Hed gotten
his GED at fifteen, and gotten work as soon as he could after that. His teachers
had given him a computer and hed flown across the cyberspace
like it was his natural habitat. That computer was now sold, but JD promised
himself that hed buy a new one just as soon as he could afford it.
Applying to the Police Academy at the earliest opportunity, JD had decided
that this was what he wanted to do with his life. Being gifted with advanced
Computer skills had helped, though JD wanted to be part of the work, not
typing in reports and scanning in old case files. One whole month of scanning
in mug shots had convinced him that Computer services was not
a place he wanted to be.
Even as a rookie, JDs ability to solve puzzles had drawn amazed praise.
If hed stayed in New York, he might just have made Detective very early
on. However, Rachel had been right. He really needed to go somewhere else,
somewhere not trapped in memories. That was what made this trip so desperately
important. Hed promised his mother that hed go, that hed
try for the job.
Towards the end Rachel had been so sick that JD had taken leave from the
job. Hed check dozens of books out of the library to read to her, but
the thing that shed enjoyed most was listening to him read the
Capt.s Law and Order magazines to her. The March issue had an announcement
of the formation of a new RMETF out in Denver. It gave an in depth, sort
of, profile of the new teams leader, Christopher Larabee, and asked
for applicants for various positions. JD had gotten the feeling that Larabee
was not happy about being interviewed, and that he was very hard to please.
There was a Computer specialist/Technical operations specialist position
His mother had believed in his ability to get the position, even though it
was on a Federal level and he was so young. Rachel had made him promise to
go there directly after the funeral, not stay and not to tell anyone they
knew about it. Shed made it a sacred promise to her, even making him
swear on a Bible that he would do as she asked. JD loved his mother so he
had, but he was hard pressed to decide if it had been his mother speaking
or her illness. Her doctor had told him that the progression of the disease
had interfered with her judgment sometimes. Paranoia, hed said, was
a real possibility, but Rachel had seemed lucid all through her illness.
The only oddity was her real dislike, borderline hatred for his partner,
Rachel and Ben seemed to have a mutual pact of hatred. Ben
tolerated his partners weird mother, and Rachel had been
coldly courteous to him, never welcoming his presence in the little apartment.
It was really strange, JD decided. His mother had never shown anyone the
kind of dislike that she had for his new partner. He was really at a loss
to figure it out. But Rachel had made not telling Ben about Denver a part
of his oath. Ben was a really nice guy, always willing to discuss PD politics
with the rookie, giving him advice about how to handle people,
and especially about his idealism. Ben was sure JDs idealism would
get him killed on the street. Ramsey, his partner before Ben, had been cautious
but had told JD that idealism was what made changes in the system, and Heaven
knew that there were enough changes that were needed.
The cancer had made making changes all that more important. It was hard for
JD to remember the last few months as his mother had sickened and died, worn
out and fragile. To him, she was always so strong, he had trouble associating
his memories with the woman hed cared for. Shaking off the memories,
he went to check his food supplies for the trip, pausing as a frayed cord
caught his eye.
When JD was a child, his mother told him stories, often of the Old West,
but a few about their family. He didnt remember much of them, but there
was one that he asked for over and over again. The Dunne family was haunted,
Rachel had told him. Haunted by the ghost of a man that the Dunnes had wronged.
The Major, he was called and he was a strange ghost. Protective of all children,
but very angry with the adult Dunnes. Rachel had said that only if the wrong
was righted would the anger cease. He was a justified ghost, maltreated and
vengeful. It had made him shiver to listen to the stories about how the Major
would ride out to deal with those who wronged the ones under his protection.
Shed even told him to call for the Major if anyone tried to hurt him
or take him away. Surely the ghost would protect him because he was a child!
But Rachel warned him about calling for him as an adult Dunne. If he did,
the Major might take the awful revenge that was his right out on JD. Shed
shown JD the pretty knotted cord hung by the door. One of her aunts had taught
her to make it. The charm supposedly kept the Major away. JD frowned as he
noticed the torn cord hanging loosely from the knot.
Not really believing in ghosts, but feeling that it was token of his mother,
he pulled the knot free from its nail and added it to the packs, completely
unaware of the man in a grey overcoat who watched every move from the corner
of the room. The man watched him thoughtfully as he remembered the day Rachel
Dunne pulled the cord free herself.
Rachel Dunne gasped as she stumbled and fell against the wall exhausted.
She had to do this, there wasnt any choice. If she told her son, hed
never believe her. It would be her illness, JD would think. Not her. Desperate,
she dragged herself over to the door and stood, in shock, both from the pain
that she was in, but also for what she was going to do. There was no other
choice, and she knew it. With a shaking hand, she pulled one of the cords
free. Reeling from the act, it took Rachel a moment to get her balance
Major! she called. Major! she called again in
greater desperation. JD would be back soon and she had to get this done before
her son and that viper he called a friend came back. It was harder to breathe
and her vision began to gray out.
Rachel woke in her day bed, gently propped up on the pillows. She caught
sight of the phantom hand that was tucking her blankets around her.
Please She begged.
Dear Lady, what need do you have that you pour such energy into
faerie tales? a soft voice whispered to her. She braced for pain, but
she felt only a gentle hand stroking her forehead. Hush, now. Thats
it. Breathe in deeply, let the pain slide past you. The voice was gentle,
Please, Rachel said again. I know JDs a man now,
but to me hes just a boy and hes in danger. Please, Please. If
I have to pay the price for the Dunnes, Ill pay it, but save my
Easy now, Lady. Hush. There is no need. What danger is this that
you see for your son? Before Rachel could answer she heard the scuffling
in the hallway that heralded JDs return.
Please stay. Dont let them see you, but stay. Do not interfere,
but watch and stay! Rachel was frantic.
Gently, my Lady. I am here. I will not leave. And none shall see
me but you, if that is what you wish. No one shall know that I am here.
Rachel nodded and slipped back against the bed as if she had been sleeping
the whole time.
JD Dunne and his partner, Ben Slatterly entered the apartment.
Im going to check on Mama, but if you want a soda, theres
some in the fridge, JD said. Ben just nodded and turned toward the
kitchen. JD leaned over his mothers day bed. He frowned a little seeing
the sweat across her forehead. With a tender hand, he used a Kleenex to wipe
it away. Rachel opened her eyes to smile at her son. JD kissed her forehead.
Mama? Is there anything I can get you? he asked softly.
Im alright, John, Rachel whispered, talking hurt.
Are you off shift?
Not yet, Mama. Four more hours and then Im on leave. Are
you alright? Should I get Mrs. Leviwitcz? JD was anxious.
No, John. Im just going to take a nap. Will you read to me
when you get home? Rachel asked trying to pretend that everything was
normal. Out of the corner of her eye she could see the Majors grey
overcoat and feel the intensity of Ben Slatterlys glare.
Before JD could respond, his cell phone rang. He looked at the caller
ID. Its the Captain. Ive got to take this. Ill read
when I get home if you want, Mama, JD said. Bad reception. Ive
got to go outside. Ill be right back. JD brushed his lips against
his mothers forehead with a gentle kiss and rushed out.
Rachel struggled to sit up. She glared at Ben Slatterly whod been
watching the entire time. I dont want you here, she hissed
Your son is master here, Stupid Woman, Slatterly hissed in
a far different voice than the usual melodic one he used. His eyes blazed
red. I have the Master of the Houses leave to enter. Your life
is fading. Soon you shall know the earths embrace and he shall be
If JD had been able to see Ben as he now was, hed never have recognized
his partner. With a sickening grace, Slatterly slid over to the day bed.
He glared at the woman whod stood against his will with such iron
determination. He is mine, you can not change that. Your pitiful God
doesnt seem disposed to allow you longer life. In fact he seems quite
intent on your pain. Why would you choose such a thing for your son? He will
know eternities that you will never see. In fact, why dont I give you
a little gift? You are in such pain, Ben mocked her. Just a little
. He gave a bone chilling laugh.
Dont Rachel cried. Ben thought it was to him, but in
reality it was to the Phantom Major who burned with fury at the sight.
Bens teeth grew long and pointed and his face drained of color.
His eyes became redder and more intense. Lifting Rachel to him effortlessly,
He sank his teeth into her fragile throat.
Stupid Woman. Hes mine, Ben hissed, pleased with himself.
Lowering Rachels weakened body to the day bed, Slatterly resumed his
cheerful partner personae. JD came bounding into the apartment.
He looked at his mother with concern. She just drifted off, Ben
whispered. He moved to comfort his partner. Lets
just get these four hours over so you can get back here. Hang in there,
rookie-boy, Ben teased, using the department nickname for JD.
Lets just get back on patrol.
JD nodded, tucking his mother in with a loving hand. Only four
hours, he said. Both men left the apartment, watched by the narrowed
eyes of the phantom. The Major continued to tend the fragile Rachel. His
anger burned brightly.
His! he hissed in defiant outrage. Never!
It was almost time for JD to return by the time Rachel woke. She could
feel the comforting hands and soothing voice of the Vengeful
ghost shed roused.
Please, Rachel begged. Please. Ignoring the
ghosts attempt to calm her. Here, She said, pulling something
out from under her pillow. A flare of gold revealed itself as her wedding
ring, a ring given between sweethearts long years ago. The Major looked at
her in astonishment. I have only one treasure besides my son. Ill
give it to you, if you protect him. In vain the Major tried to speak.
She pressed the ring into his shadowy hand. If I had millions Id
give them all to you, please, its all I have left. Save my son. Please
get him to Denver and away from that creature, Rachel gasped for
But..., the Major began, but Rachel cut him off.
Swear! she begged.
I swear. I will get him to Denver, the ghost solemnly
And into the hands of Larabee. I know that name. Its almost
time isnt it? Rachel whispered. Wordlessly the Major nodded.
Just get him to safety! She slipped into a weary sleep with the
ghost caring for her.
JDs movement caught the ghost out of his reverie. The boy was packing
what food remained. The perishable things would go to the neighbor downstairs,
the non-perishable would go with the boy. Somehow hed have to do something
about young Mister Dunnes diet. Dreadful!
Putting the cans into the heavy-duty saddlebag, JD thought he caught a glimpse
of something grey out of the corner of his eye. He took a look around the
apartment but there was nothing there. Blaming his overactive imagination,
JD took the milk and the rest down to Mrs. Leviwitcz.
The Major looked around remembering his last visit to this dreary little
apartment and its Dunne family.
JD Dunne knelt by his mothers daybed. It was the only place that
she was comfortable and he couldnt deny her that now. The end was so
near. Father Kelly had given her the Last Rights and was quietly waiting
to help him deal with the loss. The old priest was a comfort, but JD wished
with all his might that this was not going to happen.
John? Rachels voice was almost a whisper. She was fading
away. A pale shadow of his lovely mother. John? she said again,
garnering his attention. She lifted her hand and gently drew it though his
long dark hair. No mother could ever have had as good a son as you
have been to me, John. I love you and I am proud of the man that youve
become. Rachel coughed and struggled for breath. Shaking off JDs
attempts to quiet her. For all of the future I wish that I could have
been there. I give you my blessing, knowing the man that you are, and loving
you. Ill be loving you forever, son. Forever. She made a little
token cross on his forehead as a sign of her blessing. JD wept unashamedly,
neither man or boy, but a son losing his mother.
Rachel Cassandra Dunne, a soft voice whispered. Rachel was
startled to see the Major was there, he was bright and she could see him
fully instead of in shadows.
Promise! Keep your promise.
I will Mama. I will, JD answered, choking on his tears.
I will, the Major said. The thread of your mortal life
is almost at its end. Rachel nodded and stroked her sons
hair until the life left her fingers.
Come, its time, the Major said gently. Do not
I didnt want it to end, she said feeling herself leaving
the shell of her body.
This is not an end, the Major laughed. The Vampyre
told you of eternities, but there are eternities beyond his comprehension
and reach. Come. He took her by the hand and stood her spirit on its
feet. For you the gate will open. He bowed over her hand then
followed her gaze to the weeping JD. I only wish that every child had
a mother such as you. He watched Rachel stroke her sons face
with fingers he could not feel. You have been and still are his North
Star. You have brought up a good young man, I do not believe that he will
lose his way completely, no matter the pressure brought to bear on him.
Rachel looked at him in wonder.
In the space behind them a great door had opened. The Major led her to
it as if they were partners in a slow formal dance. On the threshold, Rachel
stopped eyes widening, looking at the Major clearly for the first time in
Dont concern yourself, my Lady, with the fictions we tell
ourselves in mortal life. He gently silenced her apologies and handed
her across the doorway. Rachel turned to look back at JD. He is in
my charge and in anothers. Unless he willingly chooses it the creature
shall not have him. You have done all that is possible for him. There are
people waiting for you, my Lady Dunne. He turned to look back at JD.
Do not worry. You are still his North Star.
Rachel? Rachel! She turned to the voices beyond the door.
Mama? Daddy? she called out to them and stepped across the
threshold. The Major bowed to the Dunne family on the Other Side of the door
and watched it swing shut. He turned to his young charge and tried to give
what comfort a shadow such as himself could.
Startled by such woolgathering at his age, the Major watched as JD led the
motorcycle out of the apartment door for the last time. He slipped a couple
of odds and ends into the bags that the boy would find useful on the way.
Young people never planned everything out.
JD led his motorcycle out of the building hed grown up in with no
hesitation. The desire to see the horizon was on him; the need to find open
sky and new places almost overwhelming. He carefully checked his bike and
looked at the gas gage. Hed need to fill up after he left the city.
Taking a deep breath, he released it, and with it his pain. Grieving was
not something that Rachel had wanted him to do, to remain lost at her death.
It would be hard to tuck that part of himself away, but his mother had wanted
it, and JD could have denied the sunrise before he denied his mother anything.
Behind him the Major looked around the apartment for the last time making
sure that nothing was left behind except memories. The phone rang and he
picked it up. His frown turned to a twisted little smirk as he responded
to the caller.
No, Im sorry Mr. Dunne is unavailable at the moment. I believe
that the Doctor said something about giving him a sedative and letting him
sleep. Given the situation, I would imagine that his friends would let him
rest for the next day or two.... Food? The excellent Mrs. Leviwitcz has that
under control. No I dont imagine. Ill give him the message when
hes ready for it, Mr. Slatterly. Who am I? Just the Caretaker. Very
well. Good bye.
As JD left the city, a weight seemed to lift from his chest. He was still
grieving, but he was living, just as his mother would have wanted him to.
The gathering dark led to the clearest star field hed seen since the
planetarium all those years ago. Automatically he found the Big Dipper and
whispered that he was keeping his promise.
The long nights drive went easily, JDs thoughts dwelt in his
memories, his happy memories of his mother. Bittersweet now, he knew, but
those memories lived in him and always would. He decided to stop for a nap
at one of the rest sites. Hoping that he wouldnt have problems with
people out in the night or police officers thinking he was a vagrant, JD
rolled out his bedroll. It was a poor collection of blankets,
but topped by his star blanket, another reminder of that amazing
summer. JD looked up at the sky and named off all of the constellations that
he could see until he drifted off.
Standing watch, the Major sat beside the sleeping young man. Some feral animals
came sniffing around but fled at a glare from the ghost. Looking around the
so-called rest station, the Major kept all threats at bay through the long
hours of the night. He whispered gentle reassurances to the grieving young
man in his charge. The ground looked hard to him, and he could remember many
nights on the cold hard ground. Without disturbing the sleeper, the Major
removed his grey overcoat and draped it over JD.
Next morning, JD was up before dawn. Hed slept on the ground but he
didnt feel at all stiff. It was as if hed been in a soft, warm
bed. JD stretched, there was a lot of ground to cover today and he was eager
to get started. Rolling up his blankets, he gave the star blanket an extra
pat. It seemed very warm and he smiled thinking about how it had seemed to
keep him warmer than it should have. His mother would have claimed that love
made it so. Taking a moment to orient himself, he chewed on his breakfast,
beef jerky and cheese strips.
The Major frowned at the boys meal. It really would be necessary to
do something about young Mr. Dunnes eating habits. This could not be
a healthy way to eat! Such things might be okay for the trail, but that was
long ago and there were better things out there in this soft modern world.
Reaching Pennsylvania, JD decided that hed stop for gas in Philadelphia.
Hed always wanted to see the Liberty Bell and hed promised his
mother as theyd discussed the routes that he could take to Denver.
Here I am, Mama. Just like I said, he said as he waited in the
historic quarter for the line to form.
Being one of the first in line meant that he was out early. Lots of tour
groups were bunched around their leaders each following the different colored
umbrellas. It was hard to hide a smile. This would have appealed to
Rachels sometimes twisted sense of humor. They were all scurrying around
as if they could cram two hundred years or more of history into a single
Getting gas at a station in rundown area of the city, JD decided to buy a
couple of things to snack on. Out of the corner of his eye he caught a flash
of grey, but seeing no one he ignored it. The Station had coffee and various
sweets, like Twinkies. The only other customer was a tall balding man in
an overcoat. JD frowned. It wasnt that cold out. He still had his gun
and his permit, but he wasnt a cop anymore. The guy was too old, he
thought after a moment. Reviewing Ramseys laws of eyeballing suspects,
he listened to his gut and his gut said Cop. The fact that the
man was buying several containers of coffee and lots of Danish and donuts,
his instinct further informed him, stakeout.
JD caught the man sizing him up. He tried to give the nod that Ramsey used
to use to ID them as cops when on a border beat. The man raised an eyebrow,
but before he could speak three men burst into the store. They had guns and
were waiving them around. Willing the clerk not to panic, he and the older
man calmly did as they were told. One of the robbers grabbed a roll of Duct
tape and tied JD and the older man up with it. Both JD and the man kept throwing
calming looks at the teenage clerk, trying to steady her, but she was frightened.
Outside the police had surrounded the station and JD could see them pulling
out the riot gear. Four people in long overcoats, three men and a woman stood
off to the side. The woman was insisting on being given vests for the four
of them and seemed to be involved in the planning.
Damn, Lil. Let Fred do his job, the man tied to him hissed.
Is that a good thing or a bad one? JD asked.
Lils a great detective, but sometimes shes a little forceful.
I do not want to argue with Fred about it later. Nick and Will are there
too? What happened to the surveillance on Moon?
Guess the Captain is more important, JD joked. Mine always
was to me. The man gave JD the once over. JD Dunne, formerly
John Stillman, Philly Homicide.
Eventually the robbers put the teenage clerk down beside them and terrified
her into quiet. Both Stillman and JD tried to keep her calm as the hostage
crisis went on and on. JD caught that strange flash of grey out of the corner
of his eye. One of the robbers bumped into a rack, which came down on him.
It backed into the fridges and suddenly soda was exploding everywhere. A
rack of childrens toys came down and the robbers slipped all over them
like some sort of comedy routine from the movies.
Using the distractions as a cover, JD and Capt. Stillman got the hostage
out. Police in riot gear pulled them quickly along and stowed them in a van
which showed signs of long term occupation. Stillmans people, Detective
Will Jefferies, Detective Nick Vera, Detective Chris Lassing, and the
much-mentioned Lil, Detective Lilly Rush, took care of them.
Twenty minutes later the robbers were escorted to the squad cars. The nonsense
that they were spouting about being attacked and heckled by an unseen presence
made JD wonder if they were high on something.
Filling out the paperwork took longer than JD wanted it to, but Stillmans
unit took him out to dinner. The Captain gave him a card and told him that
if the Denver job didnt work out to come back and talk to him. With
a full stomach and a full gas tank, JD continued his trip to Denver.
On the way to Ohio, JD saw something that almost made his eyes bug out. A
black carriage turned over by the side of the road. Most of the cars were
just going past, but some of them paused so that the passengers could make
fun of the strangely dressed couple by the side of the road. It took JD a
moment or two to place the people. Amish, he decided. Hed read about
the Amish when studying for his GED, but had never expected to run into them.
Stopping by the overturned carriage, he looked over the situation.
Old man Toffler had kept some horses on the estate at the carriage
house and hed invested in a couple old vehicles to impress his friends.
JD had done a lot of the work to repair them back when he was thirteen. Greeting
the Amish couple gently, he took a look at the damage. Knowing that his teachers
had said that the Amish were formal and old fashioned, JD tried
to treat them as if it was Mrs. Leviwitcz. She had always been formal too.
JD couldnt follow all of the thees and thous, but what
he had on his hands were two teens who had taken the buggy out to deliver
comforts to someone who was sick. He released the horse from the tangled
traces and started looking for damage to the animal. Once the horse was calmed
and checked over, he looked at the buggy. Almost swearing, but holding his
tongue for present company, JD glared at the white stripe of paint on the
side of it. The kids had been forced off of the road. They could have been
Looking over the carriage, JD couldnt see any damage so he decided
to try to get it upright. With a little sweat and effort, JD got the carriage
righted. He checked the thing over carefully when it was righted, fearing
for hidden damage. Soon, though he found that he could let them continue
on. Re-hitching the horse, he got the kids back on the road, but followed
them to make sure that they got home. He was greeted kindly by the Amish
parents and when they were told what he had done, he was welcomed into the
house and given a very large supper.
JD was passed through the Amish community for the next day or two. He blushed
and told them that anyone would have done it, but the truth was that no one
else had. Telling them why he was on the road and that he was obeying his
mothers last wish seemed to have impressed them. Hed never intended
anything but an explanation for why he was on the road, but he was being
treated very kindly. Embarrassed by all of the attention, JD made himself
useful in every household that sheltered him. Barnyard chores he knew from
the Toffler stables, indoor chores were just self-evident. Fetching and carrying,
helping every way he could.
JD made sure to thank every family that helped him and to write down the
addresses of each farm. It would take a little research, but somewhere a
library would have something that he could send as a thank you for all of
their many kindnesses.
He rode into the farmyard of the last family, rather confused by all of the
attention. Farmer Simmons was a hearty fellow with bright green eyes and
reddish hair that made JD think of a fox. The mans eyes widened, and
JD was worried about whether hed ever seen a motorcycle before. However,
the man seemed to be focused on a point beyond JD. For a moment JD thought
he saw that flash of grey again. Telling himself that he really needed to
get his eyes checked, JD accepted the boisterous hospitality of the Simmons
Able Simmons, current head of the Simmons family, walked with his wife toward
the grey coated figure that followed the nice boy whod
come to their home.
We welcome thee, will thee join us? Both of them gestured in
I may not, the Major whispered. The great unkind act
that you have committed prevents it. Care for the boy. He is in my
We will, but wilt thou not change thy mind? Kesiah Simmons
begged. A wild cry of animal rage prevented the Majors answer. What
was that? She glanced about with a little fear.
The thwarting of Evil, the Major laughed. He is beyond
your reach, Creature, and outside your sight! Before you find him again,
there will be those that will deny you the boy! He nodded to the couple
and faded from their sight, but they could still feel his watchful
Concerned by the ghosts words, the Simmonses returned to their home
and to their welcome of the young man in the Riders charge.
When JD woke, after a particularly good nights sleep, he found that
this family had outdone the others. They filled his packs with food, castoff
clothing, and while his back was turned, the women took his star blanket,
a present from his mother that long summer ago and made it into a warm quilt.
Everything that could be packed was. The saddlebags bulged and the quilt
was rolled up like an old fashioned bedroll. The motorcycle had been cleaned
and polished, though the mechanical parts had been left alone.
He tried to protest that it was all too much, but Farmer Simmons had hushed
him and told him that it was all they could do for one under the Riders
protection. Shaking his head in confusion, JD thanked everyone profusely.
Is it thy desire to enter Federal Service or thy mothers
Able Simmons asked JD before they sat down to the huge breakfast Kesiah and
the girls had set out.
Mine. Why?JD asked. He worried for a moment that maybe Farmer
Simmons would be wanting him to stay. Trying to figure a graceful way out,
JD was startled when Able Simmons smiled.
Two of my daughters left for the world. I am not so strict that I would
never speak of them again. One became a Federal Agent and her sister married
one. I have grave concerns for my daughter.
Which one? JD asked.
The wife is dead in mind, only her body is kept alive. I sometimes
think that we do wrong by allowing it. However, I do not want to bury my
child. Here the man smiled a painful smile. We are more in the
world than our neighbors.... If thee needs it, thou art welcome to return
and we will shelter thee at any time.
Overwhelmed by the kindness of the Amish and the confusion of the Simmons
farm, JD got back on the road later than he wanted to. He took the wrong
road and ended up lost on a dark dirt path in Indiana. Eventually a testy
old man wearing overalls and carrying a lantern pointed him in the right
direction. With the old man was a friendly Irish Setter who sniffed at JD
gently in greeting. After thanking the old man for his help and scratching
the dog behind the ears, JD rode off not noticing his guide turn to salute
his shadowy companion in the grey coat.
Thank you, William," the Major said petting the Irish Setter on the
Grandfather? William asked in astonishment, his crusty expression
softening in surprise. The Major smiled and nodded in response then walked
off continuing his chase after the boy on the motorcycle. Behind them, the
dog rubbed carefully in comforting warmth against the mans leg as he
stared after the boy and the other ghost in incredulity.