STORIES and MORE by JACK
Imagine this scene. Tony Soprano sits agitated in his chair, waving his hands and cursing up a blue streak. From behind her desk, Tonys sexy psychologist Dr. Jennifer Melfi asks, What is it Anthony? Whats troubling you so?
Tony, his face contorted in rage, leans forward, and shouts, (Bleep bleep) dont you watch CNN, (bleep bleep)? Theyre gonna make da (bleeping) Supreme Court ok Frank Lautenberg! (Bleep bleep) dat (bleeping) Torricelli. He shudda kept his trap shut and just got elected!
So, Dr. Melfi inquires with note-pad in hand, what is wrong with the Supreme Court authorizing Mr. Lautenbergs candidacy?
(Bleep bleep bleep). Soprano shouts, dont you know nuthin? Some doctor you are... that judge guy Scalia...SCALIA AINT ONE OF OUR GUYS HE AINT IN NOBODYS POCKET! CARMELA TELLS ME MAYBE THE SUPREME COURT WONT LET THEM IN. SHE SEZ I SHOULD JUST FERGEDDABOUDIT, BUT I CANT! I CANT (bleeping) SLEEP! ITS DRIVIN ME (bleeping) NUTS!
Rising solemnly from behind her desk, Dr. Jennifer approaches to console him. She kneels by the side of Tonys chair, taking his hand in hers and looks warmly in his eyes. Patting his hand and summoning all her professional comfort training she coos, Anthony, dear Anthony-- Carmellas right--FERGEDDABOUDIT!
October 3, 2002
A Jersey Tale, by Jack Mason
Lillian stretches her neck to look into the rear view mirror, adjusting it with her right hand to better focus the alarming image of a closing police car. No screaming siren, just throbbing red streaks of light signaling pull over, I gotcha.
As it becomes clear that shes being tailed by a cop, Lillian snorts, DAMMIT! Sneaky bastard and begins slowing-down, turning her station wagon out of the traffic lane onto the shoulder of the highway. Howard, she whines to the old man sitting next to her, Looks like Im in hot water so get your seat belt buckled. His fumbling to get it snapped provokes an annoyed, Oh, let me do that for you!, as Lillian frantically completes her pullover and the tardy securing of the old guys safety strap.
From the passengers seat in the police car, Sergeant Patrick LeClerc spends the first few minutes just sitting and watching Lillians car, now stopped 20 yards in front of him. You cant be too careful, Joe. You cant get antsy. Take the time to take in everything. The vehicle, the people, everything! Hes explaining routine Dept. regulations to the driver, trooper Joe McNary, a recent graduate of the Police Academy and his check-ride student. If you spot anything suspicious, or out of the ordinary, just sit tight. Radio base and wait for backup. But these guys dont look like trouble, so well let them stew for a few minutes, and then go pay em a visit. Got it? McNary nods his understanding.
Sgt. LeClerc is training young Joe McNary in the business of patrolling the NJ Turnpike, one of the most notorious drug pipelines in the nation. After 18 years of building a reputation as a top-notch cop, LeClerc is a name well known and respected by everyone who wears the badge of law enforcement throughout the Garden State.
McNary is excited and just a little nervous to be riding with him, but grateful for the opportunity to learn from a real pro. When LeClerc says, Lets get on with it, they both exit the 97 Crown Victoria squad car and head for Lillians faded brown wagon. LeClerc brushes exhaust smoke from his face, as he and Trooper McNary make their way through an oil-burning cloud to the dilapidated 86 Chevy to begin the Ritual.
Although Lillian hasnt been ticketed in the last twenty years, shes uptight with worry that her luck has run out. Like a swimmer doing a backstroke, she flings her arm at her pocketbook lying on the backseat. Feeling the handle in her hands, she grunts a loud sigh as she heaves the bag onto her lap. Wheezing from the exertion to her skinny old bones, Lillian pauses for a moment to catch her breath before beginning the hunt for her license and registration forms. Rummaging through the clutter, she barks at Howard, Let me do the talking an keep your trap shut!
She then switches her attention to the Troopers, looming larger with each step in the side view mirror. Patrick arrives first as Joe McNary assumes his tactical position at the right rear of the Chevy.
LeClerc bends to peer in the window, asking politely and softlyalmost in a whisper-- May I please see your drivers license and vehicle registration, Maam. Dark sunglasses mask his eyes as they scan the automobiles shabby interior. Empty McDonalds beverage cups & hamburger wrappers share the back seat with a sweater, jacket, and tattered umbrella. The flat-bed cargo space behind the rear seat is empty. A pine-tree shaped air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror is fighting a losing battle with the stink rising from an ashtray overflowing with cigarette butts. Next to the driver is a faded black imitation leather pocketbook, a Ronson cigarette lighter and an opened pack of Kool cigarettes.
Just the ordinary debris of ordinary people confirms his first impression that hes dealing with a couple of harmless geezers, probably in their early seventies.
With Lillians documents in hand, Patrick intones the first part of the Ritual speech. You should know, Maam that at Exit 11 you passed us doing 65 in a 55mph zone. Didnt you see the speed limit sign back there? Lillian pleads, No, officer, I honestly ditnt see that sign, an anyways, I thought the speed limit was changed back to 65? LeClerc, mild annoyance now evident in his voice, reminds Lillian, Yes, but until the new limits are actually posted,...
At this point he strays from his reprimand to consult the drivers license for her name, Im afraid, Ms. Borker, that we all must still observe the 55mph maximum. Fully expecting an argument on this point, Patrick is surprised when the old guy in the passenger seat blurts out. Hey, I need tuhgo tooda batroom.
Lillian, swishing her hand at her passenger tells him keep your pants on, Howey! Cant ya see Im busy? When we get outta here well make a pit stop. Slightly amused by this outburst, Patrick for the first time takes closer notice of this character she calls Howey.
A long, blotchy face, outsized ears and a few ratty hairs on his nearly bald head dominate his appearance. The florid nose, cheeks and watery melancholy in his eyes betray lots of hard times, hard luck, and hard liquor. So many of his teeth are missing that it has deformed his jaw, making it look like a plough blade. When he talks a faint whistle accompanies his heavy New York accent.
LeClerc, trying to get back to the business of Ms. Borkers speeding, is interrupted once again by her passenger, Tell ya what, Johnny he hisses bug-eyed at the policeman in the window, the Dodgersll sweep those Goddamned Yankees in four straight! An deyll win the Series at home in Ebbets Field. Mark my woyds, Johnny! You jist waitn see...
That does it for LeClerc, who decides hes wasted enough time on these queer old fogies. The Ritual is over. He straightens up, redirects his gaze at the oncoming traffic stream, and instructs Lillian to, Wait here. Well be right back, and withdraws to the squad car, waving McNary to join him. Back in the super Ford, he flicks the toggle that shuts off the roof top flashers and stares vacantly at the dashboard in silence.
After a brief reflection on this wacky and pitiful encounter, LeClerc directs McNary to let em go. Send them on their way with a warning notice, Joe. And tell em that the next Trooper might not be such a nice guy McNary, with a coy grin agrees, Righto, Sarge.
In keeping with his own routine Patrick writes on his clip board, Stopped brown 86 Estate Chevy Wagon, Aug 20, 97, Exit 13 NJTP. Gave senior couple lecture & warning re. current limits. CN 286-54YX registered to Ms. Borker, Bridgeport CN. CN License and registration up to date and in order Patrick and Joe return to the Chevy, and McNary thrusts Lillians documents into her liver spotted hand. And now Joe delivers the Im not going to cite you this time, so be careful to not let it happen again speech, pleased to be able to execute the sergeants decision to do the right thing.
Lillian flashes a nicotine stained smile and gushes, Thank you officer...thank you very, very, much. Stuffing her papers back into her handbag, she adds, please take my word for it that men Howeys gonna keep it under 55mph from now on, an thats for sure, aint it Howey? LeClerc taps a faint salute on the patent leather visor on his blue-gray Trooper cap. Case closed.
The bulky wagon lumbers off the shoulder and back into the flow of traffic, a cloud of exhaust spewing from the tailpipe, as a haunting good-bye flies out from Howards window...ADIOS JOHNNY .
Patrick stares after them, those odd words from that odd old man still stuck in his ears. He watches the Borker car melt into the river of automobiles rushing north. McNary is already sitting behind the wheel, waiting.
Back in the police car, Sergeant Patrick LeClerc tries to return his attention to the task of schooling Trooper McNary, but hes distracted by the nagging sense of something unremembered, but not quite forgotten...
In February 1956, 23 year old Phyllis Dixson agrees to marry Howard Ramsey, the fast talking hustler she met on a blind date only six months earlier. Raised in a brass-knuckle section of Brooklyn, Howey is glib and handsome in a kind of greasy way that blinds the lonely young girl from upstate. But now, 14 months later Phyllis finds herself the suffering wife of an abusive shady character 10 years her senior, and mother of their newborn baby.
Howard left just after Easter, following a shouting match and his boozy vow to hit the road for good. True to his word he hasnt been seen or heard from since then, discarding his wife and child as he would the worthless stub of a ticket he bet on a losing horse at the track.
Hells Kitchen is the ironic nickname of the ugly midtown Manhattan neighborhood on the West Side where they live, the hell-on-earth where Phyllis and her infant son struggle to survive in the spring of 57. Even before Howard deserted, he brought home more misery than bacon; but now there is only misery, and without nearby family or friends to fall back upon, Phyllis heart stings from the pain of hopelessness.
When the letter arrives addressed to H. Ramsey Phyllis holds it up to the light in the window before opening it. She has long ceased worrying about reading mail not addressed to her.
The letter postmarked May 16 validates what she has long feared. It confirms that effective July 1; her 44th street apartment rent is being raised to eighty dollars per month. Since their flat is outside the protection of New Yorks rent control laws, she knows a rent hike is likely. But actually holding the notice letter in her hand, and feeling victimized by laws that seem to protect everyone but her, she is swamped by a wave of panic and self-pity. Crushing the letter in disgust, she throws herself on the bed and has a good cry.
After letting loose her anguish in a torrent of tears, Phyllis comes to grips with the hard reality that feeling sorry for herself isnt going to get her anywhere. A voice deep inside begins shouting, get a hold of yourself, lady. Dont just lie here. Get up and fight back! Consulting the bathroom mirror confirms that she looks terrible. Blinking away the moisture in her eyes, she proceeds to splash cold water on her swollen face, comb her hair, and put the teapot on the stove. She lectures out loud about how she owes it to the baby, and how she just has to find a way out of this mess. All of which brings a self-conscious smile to her face when she realizes how foolish it must sound to nosy neighbors hearing her talking to herself!
At the kitchen table the tea warms her hands and soothes her anxiety so that she is able to begin sorting through her options.
Confusion and despair give way to the chilling facts of her circumstances; its time to face the truth. He isnt coming back. The conventional wisdom of the times that assumes a wayward husband would eventually return just isnt going to happen. At least not when it comes to Howard Ramsey.
Its time to tell her sister in Long Branch, New Jersey, the terrible truth that the Ramsey marriage is a disaster. Its time to inform Martha that Phyllis and Patrick are alone in this world without a husband or a father. Its time to risk the shame and whispered speculations of the mid-fifties and beg for help.
Locking the door of her coldwater flat, with Patrick sound asleep in his crib, Phyllis walks down the three flights of the dismal, sour smelling apartment building, headed for a nearby tavern with a public telephone.
Trembling, and unsure about how shes going to explain all this to Martha, she hears the dime drop in the phone pay-slot, the ringing dial tone, the saccharine voice of the long distance operator announcing, May I help you... Yes, Operator, can you please connect me with 737-0087 in Long Branch, New Jersey?
Martha is waiting with an umbrella on the platform of the Long Branch station of the Jersey Central Coast Line. The 7:30 PM arrival from Penn Station NYC is only 15 minutes late: not bad by the standards of this unpredictable old commuter line. Marthas husband, Frank, is waiting in the car parking lot adjacent to the station.
When Phyllis detrains, her bundled baby locked in her left arm, she flings her free arm around the neck of her older sister. Martha drops the umbrella on the platform to better embrace her sister and child. In their crowded hug, both teary-eyed women choke to say something sensible, but the words get stuck in the silence of an understanding that doesnt need them.
Living with Martha, Frank, and their two children has its small discomforts, but succeeds in rescuing Phyllis and baby Patrick from disaster. Marthas family supplies Phyllis and her child not only a roof over their heads, but a sense of family and belonging that sustains them for the next 24 months. To help out, Phyllis takes a part-time job as receptionist for a dentist whose office is within bus-commuting distance. The work is easy and the hours convenient, affording Phyllis the dignity of participating in covering part of her own expenses.
During that time Howard Ramsey officially divorces his wife and abandons his child. For reasons known only to him, he chooses a whiskey soaked life of hustling, gambling, petty crime, and frequent visits to Rikers Island.
In the summer of 1958 Peter LeClerc enters Phylliss life. Pete, as his commercial fishermen buddies know him, is 38 years old, ruggedly handsome, and single. At a St. Martins church outing to a Yankees baseball game he first meets the woman who will tempt him out of bachelorhood.
Pete breaks the ice by buying Phyllis a hot dog & beer. On the bus going home, he sits next to his new friend, trying to make the choice of sitting next to Phyllis look casual and unplanned. But he actually had it in mind from the moment they left the stadium.
The normally quiet and bashful LeClerc chats up a storm with the pretty young women he only met earlier today. He tells her about how, before joining his father in the fishing business, he had hopes of becoming a major league baseball pitcher. He reminisces about being born and growing up a townie in the small world of Monmouth Beach. Phyllis mostly listens, but what she hears, she likes.
Their relationship evolves from being comfortable, to being interesting, to being in love. The pain and humiliation of Hells Kitchen is now forgotten in the arms of a man as good as her first husband was bad.
The church bulletin announces On July 17, 1959 Phyllis Dixson and Peter LeClerc were married at St. Martins. Fr. Joseph Ambrosini celebrated their wedding mass, and a reception of their many friends followed at Squires Pub in Eatontown. Mr. and Mrs. LeClerc spent their honeymoon at the Marriott Hotel in Atlantic City.
After a romantic candle-light dinner at the Marriot, the newlyweds stroll the glitzy Atlantic City boardwalk. They pause at the railing to watch, as theyve watched a thousand times before, the shadowy ocean invading the wide, sandy beach; listening to the kettle-drum music of the breaking waves. Looking out at the dark Atlantic, Phyllis tugs the empty sleeves of the sweater wrapping her shoulders. Peter places his foot on the lower pipe of the guardrail, his big hands gripping the top rail like a weightlifter about to lift a huge barbell. For a few minutes they just stare out at the fickle sea that supplies Peter and his family their livelihood, and their constant fear.
Thats when Pete awkwardly pops the second biggest question of their relationship, Phyllis, honey, Ive been thinkin that maybe youd let me...well maybe I could adopt Patrick, and instead of just bein his step-father... I could be his real father too...you know, let him have my name and all. It sure is somethin Id like if its ok with you?
Phyllis doesnt hesitate for a moment. She is ecstatic. Oh, Peter! Youre such a darlin Yes, yes... Of course. That would be wonderful.
On Dec 20, 1959, at the law office of Hugh Karstow in Red Bank, the paperwork is completed designating Patrick LeClerc the legally adopted son of Peter LeClerc of Monmouth Beach, NJ.
Patricks roommate, Tony Vitto charges down the Police Academy dormitory hallway, waving the Sunday, August 10, 1979 edition of the Asbury Park Press. Bursting into their room, he shouts, I gottit Pat! And lookee here, old buddy, theres your handsome puss on the front page. Spreading the newspaper out on the bunk bed Patrick was using to organize his clothes for packing, Tony reads out loud the headline, Dateline, Sea Girt; NJ State Trooper Academy Cites Patrick LeClerc Of Monmouth Beach Top Cadet At Graduation Ceremonies.
After devouring every detail of the coverage of the previous nights commencement exercises, Tony and Patrick jubilantly slam high-fives until their hands are red. Two other recently graduated cadets join in the celebration, and thats when the phone rings in the dorm lobby. A moment later, the dorm monitor hollers from down the hall, LeClerc, its for you...
Trotting down the corridor to take his call, Patrick thinks maybe its his Mom calling to advise some change in their plans to have lunch before she comes to drive him home. Or maybe its his cousin Jodi letting him know that she persuaded, Carol Healy, her friend from Rutgers to come to the graduation party tonight at Aunt Marthas house. Patrick hasnt been able to get Carol out of his mind since he first said hello to the pretty redhead from north Jersey when she was visiting Jodi last month.
Picking up the receiver left dangling at the lobby pay-phone, a raspy voice on the other end intercepts Patrick before he can even say hello. Dont say nothin. Just listen. This is your father, an I aint kiddin. I just wanna say I wuz at the track when I read the papers about your graduatin and everythin an I wanna tell ya Im really proudaya. Now I know I aint been a good father an I aint about to make any excuses. But on the Q.T. Ive bin keepin tabs on ya, ya know. Its amazin that my kids gonna be a copper, but as long as you are I wanna wish you the best. I dont know why Im doin this, an I probly aint ever gonna do it again. But, anyways, I thought you should know just because I never showed you any love, that dont mean I hate ya. Well thats it. And, bye the way, if I was you I wouldnt tell your Mother I called ya. It cant do any good tellin her. Right? In the next few seconds of silence, Patrick is so dumbstruck he cant respond. Its then that the caller tags on his strange goodbye thats all I gotta say so ADIOS JOHNNY. With that the phone connection clicks and a loud buzzing signals conversation ended.
For a full minute Patrick stands there with the receiver held up to his ear, listening to the empty hiss. When the shock wears off, and his senses tell him to put the receiver back on its hook, his hand is shaking.
Back in the room, Tony notices right off that Patrick looks pale and a little distracted. Hey, Pat, is anything wrong? Did you get shot down by that babe from Paramus?
Nah, it was nothin; Just somebody sayin hello. Unplugging his radio-alarm clock, and taking down some of his paperbacks from the bookshelf, he orders his buddies out of the room. OK, you guys get outta here now and let me finish packin. My Mom will be by soon and I dont want to keep her waitin. Patrick attempts a dont-worry-all-is- well grin. Ill see you all next Wednesday when we check in at the Bordentown Barracks. So, take care and dont celebrate too much. You dont wanna start out havin a hangover the first day on the job
When the party begins at 7:30 there arent many people at Aunt Marthas big old Victorian house in Long Branch, only Patricks parents, Pete and Phyllis, Aunt Martha, Uncle Frank, and their daughter Christy. Christys older sister, Jodi, is still on the Garden State Parkway driving her friend Carol down from Paramus. Just family, a few neighbors and thats all.
But by 10 Oclock the place is jammed with half the townspeople of Monmouth Beach, Long Branch, and Oceanport. Patrick is indeed a popular guy in this part of the world.
A mob of old and new buddies hoist brown bottles of Budweiser in countless, Heres to you toasts, followed by much sarcastic yuk-yukking about Patricks prowess as a softball player, his off-key singing voice, and his popularity with the girls of Monmouth County. The dining room table is filled cheek-to-jowl with sterno heated aluminum trays brimming with lasagna, ravioli, veal parmigiano, meatballs, and chicken cacciatore. Phyllis and Martha are kept busy filling the trays of Italian food favorites, but the sushi is about as popular as fish bait. Asian delicacies have not yet caught on with the Townies of the Jersey Shore.
When he finally gets the chance to be alone with Carol, Patrick invites her outside onto the wrap-around porch. They sit together on the two-seater swing his Uncle installed years ago. Carol cradles her beer bottle in her lap, politely taking small sips between big intervals. She hates beer. Patrick chugs the amber stuff with more gusto, but is very careful not to overdo. This girl means too much to him to risk getting blotto.
They talk about her plans to one day be an elementary school teacher; the usual stuff about always loving kids, and wanting to do something worthwhile with her life. She finds herself revealing to Patrick the arguments she has had with her parents who are pushing her to study accounting or business, confiding to him You know I wish they would leave me alone. Certainly I could make more money. But like thats supposed to be the most important thing in life?
I understand completely, Carol Patrick reassures her. Its the same with me. I could have finished college and become a salesman, or something. But ever since I was a little kid Ive wanted to be a Trooper. For me its like you said, I want to do something worthwhile, and being a good, honest cop is how I think I can do that best
Carol again surprises herself when she interrupts their where are we going in life conversation to confess, Patrick, I have to tell you something. Ive never felt more relaxed talking to a guy like this, before.
Same goes for me Carol...and I just hope we can do a lot more of it. Like maybe my first weekend furlough in October. We could go hear this new guy Springsteen at The Stone Pony, and maybe get a pizza afterwards. Are you ok with that?
Carol turns her head to look Patrick square in the face for the first time. He worries for a split second that maybe shell turn him down, but with her eyes locked on his, she flashes an encouraging smile of delight. Of course, Patrick. Id love to go with you. His heart and his libido begin their age-old struggle to determine what happens next, when Carol says But maybe we better go inside now. Jodi has to get up early tomorrow to get me back to Paramus. Its really been great. I mean it Patrick. Really great
Its almost midnight, but the party is still in full swing. Phyllis tracks down Patrick to tell him that she and dad are going home. Patrick kisses his mom and hugs his father. Thanks Dad. Mom... thanks for everything! Its a great party. And dont worry, Ill help cleanup, and hit the sack at a decent hour. You guys drive safe. Ill see you tomorrow. Uncle Frank will let me sleep on the pull-out in the family room.
When the alarm blasts him out of a deep sleep at six the next morning, Patrick hustles off to the bathroom to shower before the girls come downstairs for breakfast. He scrubs harder, shaves a little closer, and takes a little more time combing his hair trying to look good, so that he can impress Carol. After scarfing down Uncle Franks breakfast specialty, huevos rancheros, Patrick carries Carols bags out to Jodis Volkswagen. Patrick and Carol say their self-conscious good-byes as Jodi looks on with a smile. The Volkswagen buzzes down Ocean Ave. toward the Garden State parkway, where the girls hope to get a head start on the heavy Monday morning commuter traffic heading up to Newark, and New York City.
It is then that Patrick feels a strong urge to have a man-to-man with the only father he has ever known.
When Patrick turns into the gravel driveway at his parents house, his mothers car is not there. As he suspected, Phyllis has already left to go to Riverview Hospital in Red Bank where she does volunteer work on Mondays and Wednesdays. Good he tells himself, Now I can talk to dad alone.
Its the same, white Cape Cod bungalow where Patrick grew up. A huge anchor salvaged from a derelict tug-boat rusts away in the front yard where Patrick installed it when he was in high school. The last house on 3 block long Porter Street, it sits on the bank of the Shrewsbury River, originally built to be a summer vacation home. Only a mucky salt marsh with Wilt Chamberlin sized reeds stands between it and the high-waters of the hurricane season. It reeks the salty smell of decaying vegetation, while screeching seagulls almost drown out the muffled pounding of the Atlantic Ocean, a half mile to the east.
When Patrick started kindergarten, only six families lived on Porter Street, but with the growing popularity of Monmouth Beach, there are now 22 year-round residences. The larger and fancier homes of newcomers stand in obvious contrast to the dated, more modest homes of the townies aka clammdiggers. All properties, however, are well looked after, making the neighborhood look nicer than Patrick had ever remembered.
The clannish culture of the townies may be getting washed away in the flood tide of sophisticated New York accented yuppies, but the money and sky-rocketing real estate values that they bring with them benefits everyone. So, no one is complaining.
Peter LeClerc still owns the fishing boat Ellen B, but he rarely goes to sea himself anymore. Nearly sixty years old, his doctor has convinced him that because of a weak heart, his fishing days are over. His brothers son, Harold LeClerc now captains his vessel and does most of the hard work of commercial fishing. Pete enjoys his semi-retirement and manages to live a modest, but comfortable life, on his 25% share of Harolds catches.
When Patrick comes through the screen door leading into the kitchen, Pete is enjoying his morning coffee and reading todays Press. Hi ya, son he says putting down the newspaper and removing his specs. That was a heck-of-a party, last night. You sure gotta lot of nice friends, kiddo. Pull up a seat and join me.
Although pushing sixty, Pete LeClerc is still very fit. Except for thinning gray hair, a little sag in his shoulders, and the size 40 belt holding up his jeans, he looks much as he always has to Patrick. From years at sea, the wind and sun have tattooed a permanent tan on his face and huge hands. Some say his crooked smile and voice reminds them of Spencer Tracey.
Getting up from the table, Peter takes an empty cup from the cupboard, plunks it down on the chrome trimmed kitchen table, and fills it to the brim because he knows Patrick likes his coffee black. After taking a cautious sip of hot coffee from the fat white mug, probably kidnapped from a Jersey diner, Patrick tells Pete Thanks dad. Im glad Moms at the hospital because I need to talk to you alone.
Patrick begins, Dad, I want you to know how much I love you. I want you to know that even though Im adopted... well, even if I wasnt... I just couldnt love you more.
This straight to the point exclamation, the emotion in his voice, and the pleading look in his eyes catch Pete totally by surprise. Although Phyllis explained their past to Patrick when he was seven years old, he never brought it up again. It was as if once told of his adoption, Patrick seemed to prefer simply not to think or speak of it. And they havent. Until now...
Patrick tries to explain yesterdays phone call that came out of the blue, I cant even remember exactly what he said, but it doesnt make any difference. To me, I have only one father in this world, and its you. I dont know this man. I dont have any feeling for him. I dont care if hes proud of me. And that stuff about keeping tabs on me, makes me sick. Oh, God I wish he never called.
Pete pushes himself up and out of his chair, and walks around the table to Patrick who is on the edge of tears. With strength drawn from the muscle memory of a lifetime of hard work, Peter lifts Patrick out of his seat. Taking his son in his arms, he murmurs, Its ok. Its ok. I understand.
For a moment they embrace in silence, the only audible sound coming from the loud tic-tock of the wind up clock in the bed room
It was then that Pete says, Patrick you gotta know that blood doesnt guarantee anything. Sharing lifes ups and downs, like we have, is all that really counts. I know you love me. Now you gotta believe that I love you too and youll always be my son. My son, not my step-son. Dont think for a minute that anyone or anything can change that. Do you understand?
Thanks Dad. Thanks for letting me get this off my chest. After I hung up from this guy, I felt like Id been mugged. I couldnt help think how I owe you so much, and how I owe him nothing. Nothing. But I feel better now. Please dont mention this to Mom. I just think that we should keep this between ourselves.
Righto. Ill keep this under my hat. But before you go, let me remind you to try not to dwell on this. Im sure its just a one-time thing, and youre not likely to be bothered again. So, go on with your life, and put this thing back in the box where it belongs.
Patrick looking at his watch, suddenly realizes he has to get on his way to keep a surfing date with some of his buddies down at the beach; his last chance to be a beach bum before reporting to Bordentown on Wednesday. At the screen door he stops, flashes a big smile and says, Thanks again Dad...youre the best...when I get back, you and Mom are gonna be my treat for a lobster dinner at the Dockside tonight, ok? A grinning Pete hollers to Patrick as he heads for the car, You gotta deal, kiddo. See you later, and watch out for the sharks...
Patrick looks closely at the name plate on the brown metal door identifying its occupant, L. Borker. He is standing in front of Apartment 4C, Unit No.3 of Pleasant Gardens, Bridgeport Connecticuts low income housing Projects. Zorro sucks smeared large across the door in black paint from a vandals spray can is an insolent example of the abuse and neglect that, in only five years, has transformed the Projects into a skyscraper slum. Situated in the middle of Bridgeports most squalid inner city neighborhood, its one of a cluster of eight identical structures built with taxpayers dollars by patronizing politicians. From nearby Highway Interstate 95, motorists could easily mistake them for luxury high-rises.
But, up close any impression of luxury would just be a cruel joke. The stench of urine fouls the hallways. Obscene graffiti and refuse is everywhere. Vandalized elevators no longer work, and stairwells are crack dens and hide-outs for predators. The ridiculous name assigned by social engineers mocks the brutal irony that Pleasant Gardens is really a warehouse for hopeless poor people chained in welfare dependency by day; by night the prison in which they are caught in the cross-fire of drug wars, where behind bolted doors their prayers for protection from bullets and burglars go unanswered.
Patrick hesitates for a moment before pressing the doorbell buzzer, still debating himself if he should go through with this. His finger resolves the argument and stabs the greasy tan button. He buzzes two more times before hearing a shuffling sound from inside the apartment. The scratchy voice of an old woman muffled by the thick door inquires, Whoizzit? Whaddayawant?
Putting his head close to the peep-hole, Patrick shouts My names Sergeant LeClerc, maam, the policeman from Jersey who stopped you on the Turnpike five weeks ago. Do you remember me?
At first theres no response, only silence; And then the clanking and clinking of the interior locks giving way as the door opens a crack, but still restrained by the chain of the last unopened lock. Through the opening Patrick sees Lillians scowling face, smells the smoke of her cigarette. What izzit? What did I do now? she says.
Nothing, maam, I just need to talk to you... Can I come in? Theres nothin to be afraid of.
Whatever yiz want, ya can ask me bout from here. Ya dont need to be botherin me in my home!
OK, Ms. Borker, I just need the name and address of your passenger the day we stopped you down in Jersey. Only routine stuff that I need for my records. I shouldve gotten it before, but now I need it. It sure would be helpful to me, and since we gave you a break, I was hoping youd cooperate.
Putting her cigarette in her mouth to free her hands, Lillian unlatches the last of the chain locks, wincing from the smoke irritating her eyes. When the door swings open, she waves Patrick inside. If youre here ta talk about Howey, ya better come in. I dont want the whole neighborhood gettin an earful of my business.
Inside the messy little one-bedroom apartment, Lillian points to a plastic covered sofa instructing Patrick to Have a seat. Snuffing out the Kool cigarette in an ashtray already crowded with tan filter tip butts and smudged lipstick traces, she plops herself down in a nearby kitchen chair. Although its almost noon, Lillian is still in her bathrobe. OK, so whaddaya wanta know about Howard?
Well, Ms. Borker, basically all I need to know, is what is Howards full name? And where does he live. Thats pretty much it, unless you have something more you think I should know.
His names Howard Ramsey, at least thats what he told me was his name. He moved in with me last year, but he aint here no more. They took him last week in the amblance to that VA hospital in Newington. It got to where I couldnt take it no more. It just seemed that he lost all his buttons, ya know. Before that, sometimes he acted normal and sometimes he acted looney, but then it got worse, so I called the social worker. She checked the records and said he was a vet, which I never knew, and next thing I know, here they come with an amblance an take him up to Newington.
Listening to Lillian dissolves all the doubts that have haunted Patrick for over a month. The million-to-one odds stacked against the probability that this might really be the prodigal father he has shut out of his heart and mind all these years, vanishes with the mention of his name. It brings Patrick neither joy nor sorrow, only the relief of knowing that hes near the end of the trail. He decides to tell Lillian that hes come all the way to Bridgeport for something more than just completing a police report. He tells her Howard Ramsey is very likely his father.
Youre father! Well Ill be damned, she shrieks! Howey never said nothin about having a kid. But then again, Howey probly ditnt tell me lots a things about his past. He was just that kinda guy. We had a lot in common, ya know, but not everythin. We both went to the same school of hard knocks, an for awhile gotalong pretty good. Then he kinda went off the deep end, and hadda go up to the funny farm. Hes in pretty bad shape, I hear, an I think hes on his way out. But Ill never forget when we first met at that joint in Brooklyn. He aksed me if I wanted a beer, and I said why not? From then on we had some pretty good times. But it kills me to think that all along he had a kid like you, and never said a word. What else do ya wanna know?
Settling into an awareness that having come this far, he has to see this thing through, he asks, How do I get to the Newington VA hospital?
As Lillian opens the door, she directs Patrick, Take I-95 north to exit 43. Look for Willard Street. Ya cant miss it. Hearing the locks being latched behind him, reminds Patrick of the banging noise of a Monmouth County Jail lockdown. He proceeds down the smelly corridor, past the Out of Order sign taped on the elevator door, to the stairway.
Going through the electronically operated entrance doors, Patrick cant help but think the Newington VA Hospital resembles more a resort hotel than a refuge for old soldiers. But its patients are anything but vacationers. Theyre young and old veterans who depend upon government for medical treatment that they cant, in most cases, provide for themselves. Some come from loving families, and some have only the hospital staff as family. Some are hospitalized for brief illnesses, while others have been in treatment for years. Patrick marvels at how splendid a facility it is, and how grandly it expresses the gratitude of a nation for those who went to its defense.
The girl at the information desk consults her computer to advise Patrick that Howard Ramsey is in room 676 in the psychiatric ward, located on the eighth floor of the main building. She instructs Patrick to contact the duty nurse at the registration desk on that floor for information about Mr. Ramseys condition, and possible visitation.
As the elevator hums it way to the eighth floor, he still has no idea of what to expect, what he will say, or how this will all turn out. But he does know the die is cast.
When the registration nurse asks his name and relationship to the patient, he answers Im Patrick LeClerc and leaves it at that. The blonde nurse repeats her question, And youre relationship to Mr. Ramsey, Mr. LeClerc? Patrick, choking to get out those three words tells her, Im his son...
The pretty blonde then directs Patrick, Please wait in the visitor waiting room just down the hall. The ward doctor will be along shortly to tell you more. Help yourself to the coffee on the counter, if you like.
As Patrick is pouring coffee into a plastic cup, a tall young man in a white coat barges into the waiting room. He extends a business-like handshake and announces, Hi, Im Dr. Riordan, Mr. LeClerc. Youre here to see Mr. Ramsey?
Yes, doctor. Is that going to be ok?
Dr Riordan invites Patrick to have a seat, while he explains, Sure. Buts lets talk a little first. You see Mr. Ramsey is a very sick man. He came in here only a few days ago, pretty far into acute dementia. In plain language, he is living in an imaginary world very much separated from reality. You could call it senility, or Alzimers but in any case hes beyond normal communication. His condition is exasperated by a weak heart, on the edge of completely failing. So when he became very agitated yesterday, we had to sedate him heavily. As a result he sleeps mostly, and talks incoherently when hes awake. Im not sure you can get through to him, or if hell know who you are. And, Im afraid the bottom line is that even if he does return to the real world temporarily, he probably wont survive through this weekend. Hes just got too much going against him. Im sorry, so go on in when youre ready, but dont expect too much, and please dont stay long...
Howard Ramsey shares a double room with a middle aged black man. Entering their room the roommate, whose left leg is in a cast, waves a wordless hello. Patrick waves back his own silent greeting as he passes by the white curtain screen that divides the room. Arriving at Ramseys bedside, Patrick stands there, taking in the sight of a pitiful old man deep in sleep. He looks different than Patrick remembers from their last meeting. Then he was flush with color and animated by some wacky prediction about the Brooklyn Dodgers. Now he is as pale and serene as a wax figure in Madame Toussads museum.
Patrick pulls up a chair, and taking a seat, begins his vigil. Its then that the silence is broken. With eyes wide open but that dont see, like a blind man, Howard Ramsey exclaims, How the hell are ya, Gilly. I aint seen you in a coons age! Howzabout we go out to Belmont tommara..you know, for ol times sake. I gotta tip onna colt in the seventh that could make us a few bucks. Whaddaya say?
Patrick cant resist the burning appeal in Howeys voice, so pretending he is Gilly, he tells him, Sure Howey. Sure. You gotta deal. Id love to go out to Belmont with you.
Patricks pretense calms Ramsey like a sedative. He smiles a big toothless smile, sighs a big sigh, and closing his eyes, drifts back into unconsciousness, Great,Gilly...Great...Ill see ya tamarra.
In the space of the next two hours, Ramsey floats back and forth between bizarre, wide-awake fantasies involving old friends, old experiences, and silent slumber. The television blares the musical intro to the 8PM News Hour, reminding Patrick that he cant stay much longer.
Saddened by the prospect that he may never get through to Howard, Patrick is just about to leave, when Ramsey again awakens. This time theres calmness in his voice, a focus in his eyes that hasnt been there before. Howard looks inquisitively at his visitor and says, Hey, aint you the copper we ran into down in Jersey last month?
Taken aback by this sudden display of rational thought, Patrick responds, Yes I am. I heard about you being here from Lillian, so I thought Id stop by as long as I was in town. Howard smirks a wry grin, Well Ill be damned! A copper that comes ta see an ol bum like yours truly. Say, ya know I shouldda aksed you before about my kid. Hes a Jersey cop like you. He goes by LeClerc, his stepfathers name Patrick LeClerc. Maybe ya heardda him?
Patricks instincts tell him to play along. He squints as if searching his memory, bringing a broad smile to Howeys face when he says, Yeah Ive heard of him. If its the same guy, hes supposed to be a pretty good cop.
Obviously pleased, Ramsey blushes with pride, You got that right. I heard the same thing too. But I aint seen him since he was a baby, an I haveta guess he dont remember me cause I was a lousy father. Left him and his mother in a lurch, an I wouldnt blame em if they hate me. I wish I could tellum how sorry I am for bein such a rat, but its probly too late for that. Lifes like that, ya know. Ya make your bed an ya gotta lay in it. Thats all there is to it. An now Im lyin in a bed I probly aint ever gonna get outta.
Hearing Ramseys confession, Patricks emotions see-saw between rage and sympathy. After an awkward pause, he says, You know, a good man once told me that blood guarantees nothing and in many ways he was probably right. But I saw something last year you should know about. I was called into a drug bust down in Camden. It turned out to be a real shooting gallery. Four dealers dead, one cop critically wounded, and were stalled by the last perp still standing. Hes holding a 10 year old boy hostage. When he comes to the tenement doorway, a nine mm held to the kids head, one of our SWAT guys puts a.308 right through the scumbags skull. Turns out this guy is the kids father, and when we go to get the boy, hes blubbering like a baby over his fathers corpse. Ill never forget him, screaming, Daddy get up get up. Daddy, Daddy please dont be dead. It broke my heart, but it made me think; try telling that kid that ties of blood guarantees nothing. So you see, maybe you shouldnt be so hard on yourself.
A solitary tear dribbles down the old mans cheek. Does he weep for the kid in Camden, the baby he abandoned 40 years earlier in Hells Kitchen, or his own squandered life? Patrick will never know, because before he can level about who he really is, Ramseys head starts bobbing like one of those dashboard dolls. He blinks uncontrollably, and once again starts to drift off. His eyes surrender to fatigue; he puckers his lips like a fish, struggling to get out the barely audible words, Thanks copper. Thanks a lot. And dont forget ta lookup my kid, and tell him what I toldya.
Leaning over to pat his shoulder, Patrick reassures, Dont you worry old-timer, Ill be sure to tell him.
Howard Ramseys last mumbled utterance tears at Patricks soul, Adios Johnny Adios
A loudspeaker announcement invades the room, Visiting hours are over. All visitors are required to leave. Dr. Riordan appears in the doorway of room 676, and spying Patrick the preppy young physician reminds him, Mr. LeClerc, Im sorry but youll have to go now. We have some important tests to perform on your dad. Well let you know if anything happens. Did you tell the nurse how we can contact you if we need to? Patrick mutters, Yeah Doc, I did. Im on my way now. Thanks for everything.
Rising from his bedside chair, Patrick stares softly at the now comatose old man. Taking his boney, limp hand in his, he whispers,Adios, Dad...adios...
When the phone rings, 15 year old Peter picks it up. Young Peter lives in the LeClerc colonial house, built in 1990, in the colonial town of Freehold NJ, built in 1690. The man on the other end says, This is Dr Riordan calling for Patrick LeClerc. Is he there? No, the young man answers, but my mom is.
Riordan directs Peter Put her on, please. Its important
When Carol LeClerc comes on line announcing, Hello this is Mrs. LeClerc, Riordan, in a consoling voice, says, Im afraid I have bad news for your husband, Mrs. LeClerc. His father, Howard Ramsey expired a little after 10PM tonight, just shortly after Mr. LeClerc left the hospital.
Oh, my God Carol moans. Patricks on his way home, and unless the Parkway traffic holds him up, I expect him any moment. Can you give me any more details, Doctor?
It was cardiac arrest, a massive heart attack. We did all we could, so have your husband call me tomorrow for any further discussion. And please extend him my sympathy for your loss...
Thank you, Doctor. . . Ill have Patrick call you. Thanks again, and good night.
When Patrick walks through the front door, shortly after midnight, Carol is waiting, her face drawn, eyes glistening from tears she is struggling to hold back. She takes Patrick in her arms, as a mother would her child, telling him of Riordans call. In their protracted embrace, Patrick can only say, Its over, honey...its finally over.
Aunty Juvy met Sophia at the school bus drop-off along with Rogan in his stroller. It was a cool, breezy fall afternoon in Hong Kong when Sophia climbed down the bus steps, waving a limp goodbye to her bus mates, her school backpack slung over one shoulder, and a tired look on her pretty little face. But when Juvy announced that they were all going to go to Ocean amusement Park as a special treat, Sophias face brightened, as she and her little brother Rogan jumped up and down screeching with joy Hooray, hooray. Were going to Ocean Park!
Sophia hurried home to change from her school uniform to her play clothes, after which they hailed a red taxicab, excited to be on their way and happy to be visiting one of their most favorite places in the whole world Hong Kongs famous Ocean Park.
Arriving at the Main Gate, Juvy recovered Rogans stroller from the taxi trunk. She got their tickets stamped at the window, and pushing the stroller while holding Sophias hand, they proceeded to get in line to enter the park. Oh, lets go see the Dinosaurs first, Sophia begged as Rogan enthusiastically nodding his agreement, pleaded Yes, yes, please Aunty Juvy lets go to see the dinosaurs, puleeeze? Juvy grinned her approval, and pushing the stroller said, OK, OK, lets go see the dinosaurs. And off they went.
As Juvy and the Mason kids strolled the lovely Ocean Park walk paths, costumed cartoon personalities frolicked and posed for photos They were cuddly people sized bunnies, kitties and other assorted familiar characters; all of whom were happy to have their pictures taken with the visiting children.
But bunnies and kitties werent on Sophias mind when she spotted a strange looking man who was wearing a long black cape with a wide brimmed black hat pulled down over his eyes. He was sitting on a bench near the Music theatre, and as they passed by him, Sophia worried that his creepy dark eyes, leering out from under his hat, were watching them.
Just then, Juvy asked whod like to get an ice-cream cone? Sophia immediately turned her attention away from the man on the bench, and tugging Juvys sleeve said Oh, yes, yes Aunty, thank you. I would love a vanilla ice cream. Rogan, clapping his hands pleaded, Me too Aunt Juvy, vanilla for me too please, adding the all important word please at the last moment. And so for the moment ice cream was the only thought on everyones mind.
A few minutes later, walking up the road to the Dinosaur exhibit, Sophia asked Rogan, Say, Roge, did you see that scary looking man sitting on the bench back there by the Music theatre? With ice cream dribbling down his chin, and Juvy struggling to wipe it clean with a napkin, wide eyed Rogan answered, What guy? Sitting on what bench? I didnt see anybody. Who did you see? Sophia responded with a frown, Oh I dont know maybe I was just imagining things. I thought that odd man was someone we might know, or maybe someone weve heard about. But from the way he looked I dont think he was a friendly person. I cant be sure though, because his hat hid his face. Somehow he scared me and I dont know exactly why. Did you notice him Aunt Juvy?
No, I did not see any strange man, and lets not fret about that. Lets enjoy Ocean Park and not bother to worry about strangers? OK? Lets have fun, and not worry? OK? Good..good now lets move along
When Juvy and her two charges arrived at the dinosaur exhibit, they were fascinated by the life-sized models of creatures that used to roam the world thousands of years ago. Rogan particularly enjoyed sitting on some of the replica statues while Juvy would take his photograph. Occasionally Sophia would join him and they would get their picture taken smiling and hugging each other atop a Tyrannosaurus or some other fearsome monster that lived long, long ago.
Following their time in the dinosaur garden they decided to head for the outdoor theatre where the bird show was just about to begin. Finding a good seat from which to watch the wonderfully entertaining birds and their very skilled handlers, Sophia studied the crowd still entering the theatre.
It was then she tapped Rogan on the shoulder, and said Rogey look at that man coming up the road. He too was headed towards the bird exhibit. It was that sinister fellow Sophia had seen earlier, only now he was walking straight towards them, and as he came close the wind blew hard, and whipped his cape back over his shoulders, revealing the black shirt, black pants, and the black belt he was wearing.
On that belt was a huge silver & green buckle that caught Sophias attention. This buckle revealed the letters D and E that probably were his initials.
Was his first name David, or Donald, or perhaps Daniel? E could be an initial for hundreds of last names .but then, like a lightning bolt, and idea crashed into Sophias head; an idea so shocking it made her shriek, her voice quivering with fear, DO YOU THINK THAT MAYBE D&E ARE THE INITIALS FOR THE LETTERS THAT REPRESENT THE FIRST AND LAST NAME, OF DOCTOR EVIL!!!! Oh my God!
Rogan gasping, his eyes bulging, his mouth wide open, murmurs an ominous, Oh oh Oh, oh over and over again, Oh, oh. Aunty Juvy begins to share Sophias worry that this is no normal person, and even though Juvy has never seen a picture of Doctor Evil, for the first time it begins to creep into her mind that this indeed might just be the worlds master criminal, Doctor Evil himself. And it might just be her darlings, Sophia and Rogan are the only ones to have spotted him at Ocean Park the only ones who know who he is, and what danger he brings to everyone at this place. And then the awful question pops into her mind, if my sweeties know who Dr. Evil is does he know who we are?? What are his sinister plans??
What can we do Juvy, Sophia asks with her hand covering her mouth to keep the question soft and beyond the hearing of Dr. Evil who is now sitting just two rows in front of them.
Juvy mutters, I dont know, Sophia. Just let me think for a few moments. Rogan breaks the silence and blurts out bravely, Maybe I should just go down there and grab him, and hold him until the police come?
No, no Rogan, Juvy scolds, That would never work, and besides youre too small. Maybe he would hurt you, or take you hostage. We cant have that happen. Just let me think
A few minutes later, Juvy orders Rogan & Sophia to get up, Because we are leaving. Right now! But the show has only just begun cries Rogan. Juvy stares sternly in Rogans face, and with pursed lips hisses, Lets go. Lets get out of here, and lets not argue about it. Sophia takes Rogans hand and tells him, We must do what Aunty says, as they work their way towards the nearby exit.
Once out of sight of the Bird theatre, Juvy, her eyes shifting back to the show still in progress, nervously instructs now listen, children here is the plan
Rogan and I will wait here until Doctor Evil leaves the theatre. Then we will follow him at a distance so he wont know were trailing him, and Ill have my cell phone with me. Sophia will leave right now, and run to the police department office near the park entrance. Grasping Sophias hands and looking earnestly in her face, Juvy continues, Sophia I want you to explain to the Police Captain how we have discovered Dr. Evil, and that Rogan and I are trailing him. You will give the Police my cell phone number so they can call me and I can tell them where we are, and where Dr. Evil is headed. At the right moment, the police can then surround Dr. Evil and capture him. Do you understand?
With their hearts pounding, Sophia and Rogan nod their understanding of Juvys plan.
Sophia worries about splitting up with her nanny and brother as she goes to look for the police, but Juvy assures her, Sophia, youre old enough now that we can trust you will do your duty in bringing the police. So, since we know you can do it, please trust us that we will keep a safe distance from Dr. Evil, and keep him from capturing us or doing us harm. Please do that for me, darling, wont you? Sophia, answers Dont worry Aunty; Ill do as you say, and Ill try not to be afraid.
So, they split up. Sophia running as fast as she can in the direction of police headquarters, and Juvy pushing Rogan in the stroller as they begin tailing Dr. Evil.
With his black cape billowing behind him the diabolical doctor gives no indication that he knows he is being followed. Amidst the exiting Bird Show crowd, he is hard to keep in view. But he soon parts their company to travel a lonely service road. Walking briskly up its steep slope, Doctor Evil now appears headed towards the electric power plant on top of the hill.
This building is called the power plant because it contains all the equipment and machinery that provides the electric energy and power to run the rides, to light the lights, and most important to push the cable cars on their wires that ride high above the island.
Is it possible that Doctor Evil plans to destroy this equipment? Maybe hell try to blow up this machinery so that none of the rides will work, the lights will all go out, and the cable cars will get stuck in the sky, unable to move, frightening everyone in them. That would surely bring chaos and misery to every person in the park, and make this wicked genius howl with laughter.
But not if the Mason kids and their Aunty have anything to say about It.!
When Sophia arrives at the Police Headquarters, she is gasping for breath because she ran so hard, and so fast. Police Chief Chang gives her a glass of water, as she anxiously tells him her story about Doctor Evil, and how Juvy & Rogan are hot on his trail at this very moment. Sophia gives the police Juvys cell phone number, which they dial up immediately.
Hello, Aunty Juvy, this is Police Captain Chang and Im here with Sophia. She has told us the story about your tracking down Doctor Evil, and we want you to know how impressed we are with your bravery, all of you! Our Police headquarters in Kowloon has known that Dr. Evil was coming to Hong Kong, and we have all been on the look-out for him. But it seems, you and your kids have spotted this criminal mastermind first. Congratulations Now please give me a report on where this very dangerous guy is, and what he is up to.
On the other end of this conversation, Juvy softly speaks into the speaker of her tiny phone, Captain we are 100 meters from the hilltop where the power station is. Doctor Evil is just now approaching this building, and will probably try to destroy it, and knock out all the power at Ocean Park. I dont have to tell you how bad this will be if he gets away with it.
Dont worry maam says Captain Chang. In five minutes our police helicopter will descend on the power station, and before he gets a chance well have that rascal tied up in handcuffs and locked away in a prison van. Dont you worry! In the meantime, stay out of Dr. Evils sight, and keep a lookout for our chopper and the SWAT policemen who will be in it
When a tired Sophia and Rogan returned to their Parkview apartment that night, both Mom and Dad were in town and able to join them for dinner.
Over the dinner table, daddy Eric asks, Well kids, how did your day go today? Giving a sly wink to her brother, Sophia yawning as if bored, tells her father, Oh it went fine dad. You know, just the usual stuff, or whatever
When the newspaper arrived the next morning both parents, Angie & Eric, could not believe their eyes. The head line read in large black letters...
PARKVIEW KIDS ARE HEROES. WORKING WITH POLICE, THEY CAPTURE DOCTOR EVIL AT OCEAN PARK. SOPHIA AND ROGAN MASON, AND THEIR AUNT JUVY WILL BE PRESENTED MEDALS FOR COURAGE AND VALOR BY MAYOR OF HONG KONG
At the mayors office in Central, Police Capt Chang was the first to speak to the crowd and TV cameras. He told the huge audience of Hong Kong officials about the bravery of Sophia and Rogan, and their Aunty Juvy. The mayor of Hong Kong then slipped the medals around their necks in a very moving ceremony where everyone was clapping. Eric and Angie beamed with pride, as a glistening tear of joy ran down Angies cheek.
The mayor then told the crowd about how Juvy and the Mason kids had helped the police capture Doctor Evil; how he was now on an airplane headed for a large, dark prison in Africa from where hell never be able to escape, and will never again be a threat to good people all over the world.
And so my dear reader, please remember that little kids, even little kids like you can have big adventures or whatever.
Priscilla Ricky and Blackbeard
Many, many years ago when women & girls wore long dresses, and boys & men wore breeches and three-pointed hats, there lived in Charleston, South Carolina a 10 year old lad, Ricky Mason and his 12 year old sister, Priscilla. They lived with their parents, Ethan and Abigail in a big white house on Bay Street, with green shutters, and a view of Charleston harbor and the wavy Atlantic Ocean off in the distance.
This was Charleston in the days when it was still an English colony, and before it became a part of America. It was a time when there were no automobiles, buses, trains, or airplanes. People got about in carriages pulled by horses, and when they traveled long distances they journeyed on the water in big wooden ships that were moved by wind blowing through their sails. Many of these big boats traveled between Charleston and other parts of the colonies, Europe, and even Asia. Some came from as far away as distant Hong Kong. Ricky & Priscilla could look out their windows upon the bay and see many sailboats at anchor, or moving into and out of the harbor. And down at the docks they could hear many strange looking sailors from all over the world, speaking many strange sounding languages.
Some of these ships carried precious gold and jewels, while others transported food and clothing, or building supplies like bricks and wood for building houses in the New World. But whatever their cargo it was always something of value.
And so it was these vessels loaded with cargoes of treasure and booty attracted pirates.
Pirates, my dear reader, were men (and a few women) who did not obey the law, and who would steal from others rather than do honest work. In the colonial days, these stone hearted rascals would sail together on a pirate ship. Using cannons, swords, and knives they would attack cargo ships that were alone on the open ocean. After battling the cargo vessels that did not have cannons, or sailors with cutlasses and knives to fight back, the pirates would capture their prize and make their poor victims walk the gang-plank. The pirate captain would then divide the booty they captured, and give it to his men, but only after he took his huge share.
In this way, pirate captains and their crews got very rich. But it was not a nice life, and if a pirate sailor decided he no longer wanted to be a buccaneer (another name for a pirate) he could not do so. His captain would surely hang him, or toss him into the sea. To keep sailors from disobeying them, pirate captains were very cruel. They were so strict that the crews of pirate ships lived in constant fear of getting their captain angry and being whipped, or even killed.
Of all the pirates that sailed the great oceans, the most dreaded was the villainous captain they called Blackbeard. Although his real name was Edward Teach he was known as Blackbeard because his face was covered with shiny black curly hair that he liked to twirl in his fingers as he spoke. His voice was deep and scary, and when he was angry it sounded like thunder. His eyes were so fierce that when he looked at you they blazed like lightning bolts flying out from black clouds, sending shivers throughout your whole body. It was no wonder he was considered the most fearsome of pirates.
Because Blackbeard had plundered so many ships off the coast of the Carolinas, all the people there knew of him. Not a man or woman wouldnt tremble with terror if they thought his ship was nearby, as nearby it could well be. Because when Blackbeard was not sailing on the high seas, he was suspected of hiding his ship and crew at an island not far from Charleston, called Bald Head Island. Folks called it Bald Head because from far out at sea, it looked like the head of man with no hair, or a bald head. On this lovely deserted seashore was a lighthouse called Old Baldy to help guide sailors to its harbor. And even today, if you go to Bald Head Island you can still see Old Baldy. But in those days, sailors avoided going near Bald Head because they worried that Blackbeard would kidnap or kill them.
Little did Priscilla and Ricky know what was going to happen the day they went sailing in their own little sailboat. Father had given it to them for Christmas, and they named it the Ellen B after their grandma. He agreed to let Priscilla and Ricky go sailing because it was such a nice sunny, calm day. Priscilla had sailed many times before on other small boats, and Ricky had learned from her how to sail well enough that Ethan Mason felt it was now safe to allow his children to sail alone. Be sure not to go out of sight of land, he said, and be careful not to sail beyond the bay into the ocean, for the open sea is no place for a little boat like yours. Dont worry, father. Well be careful said Priscilla as she took control of the steering tiller, and Ricky hoisted the sails. Ethan, their proud father watched from the dock as the little boat glided out into the bay, his smiling children waving him a cheery goodbye.
After having a wonderful time tacking around the bay, Ricky noticed the wind was getting stronger. It puffed out the sails, making the Ellen B move quickly over the choppy water. He hollered out to his older sister, Priscilla, this is really fun! Lets try to go even faster...
So, as Priscilla steered into the rising wind, the Mason kids soaked from the spraying water and having such a grand time, didnt notice that the sun in the sky had disappeared. The white clouds that looked like giant balls of cotton when they left the dock had become dark as a cave and out of them came a pelting, fiercely falling rain.
Before Priscilla and her brother realized what was happening, the howling wind pushed them out of the bay into the boiling waves of the Atlantic Ocean. The fun and excitement of just a few minutes ago gave way to panic and fright. His face dripping with ocean spray, his hair plastered by the lashing rain, Ricky cried out to his sister, Priscilla...Priscilla lets turn around. Please...please...Lets go back to the dock. Lets go home. Im scared, Priscilla...
Priscilla, holding the steering tiller so tight her knuckles turned white yelled through the hissing noise of the storm, Im trying to, Ricky. Im trying. But the boat just wont turn around. The wind is just too strong... Its so strong that I cant make the boat turn. And as they struggled, the Ellen B passed the point of land marking the end of the bay. They were now headed straight out to sea, facing certain danger and an unknown fate!
The terrible storm tossed the Ellen B up and down the ocean waves, as Priscilla and Ricky hugged the bottom of their little boat praying to God to save them. Before long, their prayers were answered. The bouncing waves calmed down, the sun shone again in the blue sky, and the wind stopped blowing. But now Priscilla and her brother were alone on the deep, dark green sea, far from land, and far from home. Ricky began to cry. His sister urged him to be brave and hold on to hope. The exhausted children then fell asleep to the soft sound of the water slapping against the hull of their little boat.
Priscillas dream of enjoying a cold glass of lemonade with her mother, Abigail, on the shady porch of their big white house was interrupted when a loud shout awoke her. The voice boomed, Ahoy there, lad and lassie what are you doing out here on Neptunes vast ocean? It came from a big man on a big ship named the Jolly Roger that had pulled up alongside the Ellen B, and who was now close enough to reach out and rescue the frightened boy and girl in their tiny sailboat.
Oh, Mr. Captain we are lost! Please help us... cried Priscilla. Oh, kind sir, chimed in Ricky, Please save us. We want to go home...
Never you worry, children said the big man with the black, curly beard. Ive got something in mind for you, so just climb aboard me ship here that flies the flag of skull & bones. And because the weary, wet youngsters thought they had been rescued, they happily climbed aboard the big boat captained by the man with the beard as black as coal. Little did they know how they were climbing onto a pirate ship, and little did they know what Captain Blackbeard planned to do with them.
If they knew Blackbeard was actually kidnapping them for ransom money from their parents if they knew Blackbeard was headed for Bald Head Island, where he was going to lock Priscilla & Ricky in the guard room of the Old Baldy lighthouse until he got the ransom money if they knew those things they would surely have never gone on board his awful ship. They would have stayed lost at sea, and taken their chances with the sharks who were circling the Ellen B. But instead they were sailing north on the Jolly Roger to Bald Head Island. It was too late now
Back at the Mason house on Bay Street, there was much sadness. Ellen B had just been found by a local fisherman, floating alone and empty at the mouth of the bay. The fisherman, who found the Ellen B, had towed her back to the Charleston docks, and reported the empty little sailboat to the harbor police. The police captain, Caleb Johnson informed Mr. Mason who was now consoling his wife on the steps of their big white house.
Abigail Mason, a mothers tears flowing down her face leaned on her husband Ethans shoulder, sobbing, Oh my beautiful children. My beautiful children...what has become of them! Ethan. Ethan, what will we do?
Mr. Mason held his grieving wife in his arms as he said, I dont know, Abigail. I dont know. But Ill never give up looking for them. Never! I just know that they are alive somewhere, and Ill find them and bring them home. I promise I will
It was just then that a strange looking man with a wooden leg and a patch over his eye approached the house. He was very odd looking, indeed, and had a chattering red parrot perched on his shoulder. As he came closer, it was clear from his clothes and his manner that this was a sailor; but no ordinary sailor was he. He was a pirate!
Be ye the master of the house, sir? he said.
Yes I am said Ethan. And what business do you have with me?
I have a note for you, good, sir he said as he handed a wax sealed envelope to Ethan. And just as quickly as he came he turned down the cobblestone street, his parrot jabbering Abaft and belay, me buckos and disappeared, like a fog, into the crowd.
Ethan quickly unsealed the letter in his hand. It read, I have your children, and will soon send you instructions on how to get them back. It will cost you 500 pounds. It was signed, Edward T., otherwise known as Blackbeard.
When Captain Blackbeard flung open the door to the guard room of Old Baldy, the view inside was as black as ink. With a sneer he pushed Priscilla and Ricky into its gloom saying, Now in here you can stay, my pretty ones until your father pays your ransom. Slamming the heavy wooden door shut, the pitiful captives could hear him laughing, Ha, ha, ho, ho, ha, ha as the darkness closed in around them. Only a small glimmer of light shone through the bars in the window of their small dungeon.
Ricky started to cry, and soon Priscilla was sobbing along with him. It was like being in a nightmare from which there was no escape. They laid down on straw beds and fell to sleep, teardrops streaming down their innocent faces.
Two years earlier, when Blackbeard first came to Bald Head Island the lighthouse keeper and his wife escaped to the mainland before the evil captain could capture them. Since that terrifying day Old Baldys light had not shone out across the sea to guide mariners.
Bald Head was empty of all people now except Blackbeard and his crew. Or, at least that what was Blackbeard thought.
Actually, unknown to the pirate captain others still lived on the island; a Native American Indian family, Running Bear, his wife Sweet River, and their 15 year old son, Brave Fox. Hidden from view behind the live oak trees, they had seen Priscilla & Ricky being locked away, and it made them very sad.
In the deep stillness of that night, Priscilla was the first to hear a tap-tap sound at their window. She awakened Ricky, and they both heard a voice whisper, Dont worry. Ill save you. And moving closer, they could see Brave Fox tying a rope to the bars on their window. Fastening the other end of the rope to his horses saddle, Brave Fox then mounted his pony & urged him on. With a heaving grunt the horses great strength pulled out the window bars.
Quick. Be quick. You must climb out the open window. Now! he said. And following his instructions, Priscilla & Ricky were soon outside Old Baldy in the light of a shiny full moon. Free! On my horse, and be quick about it Brave Fox directed. And in a flash, the three young people were galloping down towards the shore and the canoe that was waiting for them. Paddle towards the north star said Running Bear and in two hours you will be at Indigo Plantation. The Master of Indigo is a good man, and he will help you get home. Be fast, be quiet, and soon all will be well.
It was two days since the queer looking man with the wooden leg had delivered the ransom letter. Ethan and Abigail were very upset because they heard nothing since then from Blackbeard and worried that maybe the horrible pirate captain had changed his mind. Was it possible the children were not going to be released after all? Of course they had no way of knowing Priscilla & Ricky had already escaped.
That morning Ethan tried to persuade his friends and neighbors to crew a rescue boat and join him to go to Bald Head Island. In desperation Ethan was willing to risk his life attacking Blackbeard to free his kidnapped children. But this was such a dangerous mission that no one was willing to go with him.
So, with great sadness he returned home, his heart heavy with the frightening possibility that something awful was happening to his beloved Priscilla and Ricky. Abigail urged her husband to try to rest since he had not gotten any sleep in two days. He was so exhausted that after a few minutes sitting in his favorite chair, he fell fast asleep.
It was the clatter of a big coach pulled by six big horses approaching the house that woke him from his nap. Since they werent expecting any visitors, he rose from his chair and he and Abigail went outside to see who it might be.
When, the coach door opened, Ethan recognized his old friend Ezra Bennet, the master and owner of Indigo Plantation. Mr. Bennet had a big smile on his face that indicated he didnt know of the terrible kidnapping that had brought so much sadness to the Masons. But no sooner had he stepped out of his coach and come into sight, following right behind him was the joyful sight of Priscilla and Ricky running at full speed into the loving arms of their parents.
Daddy, Daddy were home screeched Ricky. Were safe Mama, were safe hollered Priscilla. The next few minutes were filled with lots of kissing, hugging, and crying for joy as the Masons were back together. A family once again.
As Mr. Bennet looked on at the happy reunion he remarked. Well I guess Captain Blackbeard isnt a jolly pirate today!
No, said Priscilla. And Ill bet his black beard turned white when he saw that we got away. I think you got that right, dear said Ethan. Now lets go inside and have lemonade to toast your homecoming And they lived happily ever after.