“You didn’t eat anything!” Boy moved to set the supper tray back on the shelf built into the bars. “I thought you called me.”
“No, I didn’t call you. I’m trying to pray,” Jake said. Boy didn’t move.
“Thanks for supper. It looks good, but I’m not eating tonight.” Jake waited for him to leave, but Boy remained just outside the cell, staring at his feet, as was his usual demeanor.
“Are you a praying man, Boy?” Jake asked, hearing how dumb it sounded.
“Yeah. I go to church, too.” A big gape-toothed grin transformed his face. “Ma says just ‘cause I’m retarded, I don’t hafta be stupid. She says only stupid people think they don’t need God.” He paused. “She says I’m mustn’t call people stupid, though.
More proof that high intelligence isn’t everything, he thought.
“You can take my tray away now,” Jake said, too self-conscious to resume praying out loud in front of anybody, and too confused to pray silently. He had tried that, but it had seemed to him no different than thinking. New to this praying business, he had a notion his predicament called for his best effort. He felt more confident speaking aloud.
“Did you want to talk to me about something?” he asked Boy.
Boy nodded, licked his lips a couple of times and nodded again. “She ain’t true,” he said, finally. “That lady. The one with pointy hair.”
“Barbara? She wants me to go home with her. She’s my ex-wife, you know. What do you mean by ‘not true’?”
“Not true,” he insisted, visibly agitated. “Like when you saw boards and if they ain’t true or they don’t line up. She don’t line up.”
At Jake’s uncomprehending look, Boy shook his head as if amazed that anybody could be so dense, picked up the supper tray and slumped back to the front office.
Not true, Jake wondered. What does he mean? Is he trying to say she was lying? Hardly a revelation at this point. Perhaps Boy was simply struggling to give voice to some of Denny’s vague concerns.
He went back to talking to God, his voice low, until he couldn’t think what else to say. “Well, that’s about it, God. I’ll talk to you again tomorrow. Uh…goodnight.”
No sign of Denny. Probably not allowed back in tonight. Jake looked forward to talking to him again. He wanted to ask him how God usually answered questions. He wondered how he would know what God said about whether or not he should go back with Barbara, and did she really want him back?
Jake rolled out of his bunk at 6:00 a.m. Thursday morning, dropped to the floor and did 25 quick pushups to start his blood pumping. In one strong, cat-sleek motion he stood to his feet. He stepped over to the tiny stainless steel sink, splashed cold water on his face and brushed his teeth. As he dried his hands on a paper towel, he caught his reflection in the shiny aluminum square that passed for a mirror and saw a mug perfect for the purpose of scaring small children and sending dogs howling down the street. He’d have to ask Boy what he could do about shaving.
He grabbed the tablet and pen Faye Waters left for him, sat on his bunk and started a list of questions he wanted to ask her:
1. What legal procedures were necessary to overturn the court decision of two years ago?
2. Will that affect what happens with the case against him for having Austin in his truck?
3. Are Poppy and Kate in trouble?
4. What about Denny?
Two hours and the supervised use of three disposable Trac IIs later, he ran his hand over his smooth chin.
“No prize, Garret, but that’s a get-down-to-business face if ever I saw one,” he told his mirror. “Stripes don’t do much for you, though.” He straightened the collar of his clean prison-issue shirt.
Jake was the only inmate in the Boone County jail that day, so all of his callers talked to him cell-side to avoid the extra nuisance of having to move him to the visitor’s room.
At 9:00 o’clock, Special Agent Gil Bosch appeared. He was notably disinterested in Jake’s story, which was just as well; Jake had made it clear that he didn’t intend to discuss any of his case without his attorney present. Bosch’s sole concern seemed to be Denny.
“How do you know Turco?” was his first question.
It occurred to Jake that he shouldn’t discuss Denny without an attorney either, but decided to go ahead as long as he could do it without saying something that could put his friend at risk.
“Actually, Denny found me and I surrendered to him. He drove me to Harrison where I gave myself up to the young agent in your office.” He congratulated himself for shaving. From the looks of him, Jake wouldn’t have been surprised to find out Bosch ironed his underwear and socks.
“So, how long did he hold you before turning you in?”
“Hold me? He had me in his custody from the time he picked me up Tuesday morning until I gave myself up to your agent.”
“You’re saying he harbored you for a whole day before he turned you in?”
“No. That is not what I said. I don’t know what you’re after, but until my attorney shows up, I think we’re done here.”
“Who’s your attorney?”
Bosch’s dark glare preceded several unintelligible phrases of what might have been profanity if it had made sense.
“There’s a weasel in the hen house, Garret. You know it and I know it. I’ll be back at 3:00 with another agent and a tape recorder, and you’d better be prepared to be straight with us. We’ll be conducting a full interview and if you want your attorney present, you see to it she shows up.”
Bosch walked out without looking back.
Jake finished his lunch at about 11:30 and pushed the tray back through the door slot toward Boy who had waited, slack-jawed, during the entire time Jake had taken to eat a large bowl of chicken soup thick with plump noodles and fresh biscuits with butter and honey.
“Does anybody ever break into jail just so that they’ll be able to eat your Ma’s cooking?” he asked.
Boy appeared not to have heard him. He set the tray on the floor outside the cell and returned to face Jake. He pulled a compass from his pocket and showed Jake.
“See?” he asked, turning around in a wide circle. “The needle always points north. True. It’s always true,” he said triumphantly. He pocketed the compass, picked up the tray and shuffled down the hall.
Jake stared after him. What was that all about, he wondered, and then it hit him. Barbara. Boy tried to tell him last night. Barb wasn’t true. It was more basic than that she was lying or that she couldn’t be trusted; she didn’t have a plumb line along which to measure her thoughts or actions. No compass. No onboard GPS to tell her where she was. She couldn’t tell the truth because she didn’t know the difference between truth and deception. Memories that for years had flitted around in his mind with no place to land suddenly began falling into place. The kids, the money, her erratic behavior…
Now what am I going to do? This new understanding generated a whole new list of questions.
Considerably relieved at having his confusion interrupted, he watched Boy place a chair directly outside the cell.
Faye Waters, wearing an excellently cut suit in a flattering bronze color, sat down, met Jake’s eyes head-on, and smiled confidently.
“I have in my possession the results of the Internet search my office has conducted. We have made certain discoveries concerning Barbara Norman Garret and her activities of the past two years. I believe these discoveries will significantly impact the disposition of the case before us today.”
She tapped the stack of printouts she had retrieved from her briefcase. “We need to discuss as much of this as possible before Special Agent Bosch arrives at 1:00—“
“3:00,” Jake said. “He said he’d be back at 3:00.”
“He will be here no later than 1:00,” she corrected. “He and a U.S. Marshall will transfer you to Fort Smith to appear before a Federal Magistrate for your preliminary hearing. That is scheduled for 4:00.”
He hadn’t thought of that. Should have. “Will you be there?”
“Certainly.” she assured him. “I will be available to speak about your character and the assumed probability that you’ll flee prosecution. A federal defense attorney will be making the points I shall have provided for him. I’ve also been advised that the boy’s family has been contacted and that his father will be in attendance.”
“Austin’s father?” Jake couldn’t believe his own ears.
“Yes. At this point we are not informed as to Mr. David Page’s purpose or of his frame of mind. My intention is to speak with him before the hearing. Have you heard directly from the family?”
“No. I’ve been thinking about them. Praying for them, to tell the truth. I know what it’s like to worry about my kids and I’m kicking myself for what I put them through. I’ve been thinking about writing them a letter telling them exactly what happened and how sorry I am for not turning him over right away…” His trial balloon deflated with each decided shake of her regal head.
“No! Certainly not! We may earnestly hope that the family is well satisfied with the child’s soundness of health and emotions and that their relief at having him safely in their care again has overcome the anxiety they experienced while his whereabouts were unknown. Reminding them that you detained the child for a longer time than necessary can only exacerbate an extremely sensitive situation. You must remind yourself of the exact circumstances of the case. You did not abduct the child. Austin Page himself entered your truck—your property—without your consent, placing you in legal jeopardy, although of course we will not press that last point.”
“Will I be coming back here after that?”
“The magistrate will determine whether you will be bound over for trial; I presume you will be. At that time he will set bail. If your are bonded out you will not be required to return here, although there will likely be certain restrictions on where you can go.”
“You mean I might be able to go back to work?” Jake hadn’t even considered this possibility.
“Perhaps. We’ll discuss that later. Now we need to review your previous case and what has transpired with your ex-wife since then.”
Jake filled her in. At the news of Barb’s cell-side visit her eyebrows shot up, and when he outlined Barb’s proposal that she and Jake go back to Nebraska to raise the children together Faye shook her head emphatically ‘no.’ Before he could ask for more information she began reading from the documents she held on her lap.
“Arrest for possession of a controlled substance. Served 30 days in the county house of correction. Arrest for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, reduced to possession. Sentenced to three years, served six months and paroled. Three arrests for child neglect and endangerment. County house of correction all three times. July of last year the Department of Children’s Services removed both children from the home and placed them in foster care…do you need to hear more? You tell me she came in to see you yesterday. I find that most interesting as will her parole officer. By being in Arkansas, she’s in violation of parole. As a matter of fact, she is supposed to be wearing a home monitor unit. Her fall partner, one Michael Lee Owens, whereabouts unknown, is wanted for skipping bail as well.”
Jake hadn’t heard one word after ‘foster care’ but it had taken him a few seconds to turn his voice up loud enough to satisfy his rage.
“My kids are in foster care?” He couldn’t sit down. “I thought they were with her mother! I mean, that’s bad enough, but foster care?”
“According to my information, they’ve been placed in homes in Lincoln—“
“What do you mean ‘homes?’ They aren’t even in the same home? They separated them?”
He stopped pacing to face her, his thoughts wild. “That’s it! You have to get me out of here. I have to take care of my kids. Do something about my probation! Those kids have been through enough.”
She held up her hand. “Please hold steady, Jake. First of all, it’s highly unlikely that the District Court ruling can be overturned. You voluntarily entered a guilty plea pursuant to the plea agreement.” She flipped through the stack of pages on her lap, stopped, said “Hmmm…” flipped back a couple of pages and resumed.
Something Faye said earlier finally registered. “Mike skipped bail, too? I thought he was in jail yesterday.”
“According to my information, Owens hasn’t been heard from since sometime Tuesday.”
“She lied about that, too. I don’t know if I can believe anything she said.” Jake sank down on his bunk and leaned back against the wall, his eyes closed.
“Nice to see our felon and his attorney relaxing together,” Special Agent Gil Bosch droned. “Ms. Waters, you’ll have to leave now; our prisoner needs to change into street clothes before we hit the road.”
Boy ushered her out and came back with Jake’s clothes, mysteriously neat and pressed and showing no sign of having been crammed in a duffel bag for three days.
Boy left but Bosch didn’t.
“Do you have to watch me change clothes?”
“You have a problem with that?”
“I’m not hiding anything, if that’s what you’re worried about. Or do you get a kick out of watching?”
Probably not a real good time for jokes, Jake thought, but something about the guy rankles worse than bad-fitting jail-issue underwear. Never thought I’d reach the point where my own Jockey shorts would seem like a luxury.
Bosch stood there with a satisfied expression until Jake finished dressing and putting on his shoes. “Y’know, Garret, you’re nothing special in your whities, but this, now,” he said, snapping leg shackles into place, “this is big thrill for me.” He linked Jake’s handcuffs to his own wrist and together they walked—shuffled in Jake’s case—out of the cell, past the front desk where Boy stood worrying his lower lip, and out into the sunshine.
“I’ll be driving and Federal Marshall Blaine Osland here will assume custody from here on out.” Bosch released the cuff from his own wrist and transferred it to Osland, standing beside the van. “Your chariot, Garret. Enjoy the ride.”