10-A Man Of His Word
Coming from the right side of the tracks doesn’t always guarantee you won’t fall from grace. Life is a tight rope, always has been. No net, just you suspended high above the madness below.
Stacey loved her boys. Each with the same depth her aching heart could reach. As did Josh, their father, though he wasn’t there for the nuts and bolts of the child rearing years. Josh traveled in his job of sixteen years as a field sales representative for a large pharmaceutical company based in the northeast United States. Before that, it was medical supplies. Josh’s “I love me wall” was chalked full of awards showing the fruits of all that windshield time. He talked with his three boys as often as he could, about the importance of integrity and a man must always above all else be, a man of his word.
“If you say it, do it. It’s as simple as that.” He would say as the boys lined the couch to listen to his words of wisdom. Josh would sit in his ambitious boys chair and light his bent English Camoy pipe. It was the perfect image of Sherlock Holmes hanging in the smoke swirling above his head. The sweet smell of cherry tobacco would soon fill the living room where the Stockley boys would get their street smart schooling. Things they don’t teach you in any school, he would say.
Spiritual teaching came from Father Aquino at the Crucifixion Catholic Church. They always attended the best private schools Josh’s money could buy.
So it came as a great surprise when Scott, one of their brightest most promising offspring fell short of the highest expectations the Stockley’s had for their boys. They didn’t learn about it for many years and the heartbreak was devastating. Stacey passed a little more than a month after the news and Josh two weeks later.
I was sitting across from him looking through the one inch bullet proof plexiglass when he spoke up and began to share his story. I always wondered why it was thick bullet proof, when you’re prohibited to carry any form of weapon into a jail, prison or correctional facility in any state.
Scott slowly lifted his head and said. “I came from a good family value system, went to the best schools money could buy and graduated in the upper two percent of my class at Harvard. I had a beautiful wife who some would deem a trophy and three beautiful children. I worked many years in the private sector and lived a very privileged life envious of most. All this under the radar, undetected.”
In a monotone voice, he continued.“The night was unusually warm for an early spring in April of that year. My fellow classmates and I decided to celebrate that evening and ended up closing the bar we frequented. They walked off in the opposite direction sometime after 2:30 AM. My car was parked a block and a half back up the street as I had arrived a little later than the rest and parked as close as I could.”
“I walked along in what I thought was a straight line but didn’t see him in the shadows till he sprang out from the alleyway and slid the blade up under my throat and said in a raspy voice something about my money, of which I obligingly surrendered and he ran back down the alley with my wallet.”
I adjusted my butt on the hard seat the correctional facility provided and continued listening.
Scott focused his eyes on mine and said,“had I just gone home that night, all would have been fine. Except for being a little shook up and one wallet lighter. But I didn’t. I drove around the block several times looking for my assailant. Not really sure what I would do even if I found him. I didn’t find him, nor did I see the short stocky man that was actually not much more than a boy out of his teens when I rounded the same corner for the umpteenth time that early morning. Life happens in an instant and in that instant his life was taken.”
“I could hear my dad say, be the one that stands in the gap, have integrity. But I jammed the accelerator and flew on down that deserted street.”
“I didn’t stand in the gap, I ran. I was chicken shit and I ran.”
“Several months later around October or November I got a call that a friend of mine had been in a terrible accident and I should come see him at the hospital while I still could. I grabbed my jacket and leaped down the stairs missing every second or third stair and blasted out the door.”
“I was stopped by two big gorilla looking guys all dressed in black suits and they each took me by the arm and led me to a long black limousine. They helped me into the back seat, if you know what I mean.”
“I couldn’t see nor did I ever see the face of the man talking to me, he stayed in the shadow.”
In a raspy voice, that somehow reminded me of the mugger that night, he said, “ It took a lot of my personal resources to find you and I have used all the restraint I can muster to not simply kill you right now and leave you in the dumpster where you left my kid, dying in the street that night in April.”
“Like instant replay on an NFL game, I had the re-run playing before my eyes. I just sat and listened, what else could I do?”
“He died that night. Now I’m not a religious man, but I am a man of my word. If I say I’ll do something, I’ll do it. I prayed on the way to the hospital that night and asked God wherever he was that if he let my son live, I would let you live. They pronounced him dead on the table and three minutes later miraculously his heart began to pulse. So, I said it and now I’m going to do it, I’m going to give you a chance to redeem yourself. You will be of use to me whenever I see it necessary to call upon your services.”
“What services could I provide you, I’m a doctor.” I said, in a shaky voice.
“I don’t need a doctor.” He said and handed me a Colt 1911 45 calibre semiautomatic out of the shadow.
“No serial number, no traceability and you’ll forget where you got it. You’ll use it on whomever and whenever I call upon your services.”
“I can’t do this, I protested, I took an oath to heal and save people. I can’t hurt or kill them.”
“Tell that to my son.” His voice came from the shadow.
“This is the new oath you’ll take tonight and if you don’t render services as I request.”
“His voice trailed off then came back and named my wife and my children’s names first, middle and last and our address complete with our home phone number and mine and my wife’s cell phone number.”
“The first was an elderly man in his sixty’s and didn’t look like he would hurt a fly that landed on his mashed potatoes. The first one was the hardest, but as I became numb it got easier. I can’t remember how many, probably over thirty by now. Not all old guys either. Some were up and coming young business men that somehow crossed the path of this monster. Some were women, some were girls working on the street. Always delivered in a plain brown envelope with a black and white picture and where they would be and what time. It was up to me to get the job done and not get caught. I always knew the consequences if I refused his requests.”
The guard yelled across the room, “Stockley, you’ve got five more minutes.”
All through those years I heard my dad say, “If you say it, do it. It’s as simple as that.”
“As simple as that, I did it.”