Dear Universe: letters from the past


Dear Universe:

Letters from the past

Dash McCallen

1. A Letter From Dad

β€œI don’t know yet if you are a boy or a girl, but WELCOME to the family. I apologize right now for all the mistakes I will do– You don’t have an instruction book. I have asked your grampa a few things and all he has done is laugh that I will find out!”

She read on, the words written in business like block lettering with a pen on a notebook that looked as if it had been written on a vibrating surface of the helicopter that he rode in.

β€œRight now, we are flying into the back country for a fire spotted by a mountain lookout. I am in a helicopter with eleven other firefighters, the person next to me is Linda Martinho and she says β€œHi from the past!”. A nice lady, quite, pretty and tough as they come. (A secret, she is tough, but smallish, about the size of your gramma Ida). We are flying in to the fire lines, we have to cut lines around a big burn and… Will have to finish this later, we are landing now.”

The smell of smoke was still on the paper that was also stained with his perspiration after riding in his pocket for an unknown amount of time.

She held the paper to her nose and close her eyes. Imagining her dad young and strong. Appearing as he did in the pictures. Broad shouldered, smiling, soot covered. He was handsome as they could come. Her mom always talked about how he looked in the cut-off jeans he wore in lieu of swim trunks, she almost always blushed and giggled like she must have when she was only eighteen.

Tall and red-headed. Her dad often told her stories about the history of their family with the joy of the legends of the O’Danu family dancing in the glittering green eyes. As she grew, his red hair became laced with white.Β  There was no middle ground with her personal hero.Β  Like him the hair would not find an in-between color of fading red. It was red — or white.

2. be Continued

Smoke was heavy as the β€œheelo” came in for a landing on the mountaintop. Winds were unpredictable but the hand crew deployed quickly as they expertly handed out the tools of their trade.

Brush hooks – a kind of ax that looks like a shepard’s staff with a razor’s edge that they used to cut and drag brush out of the fire break

Pulaski grubbing tools – An ax on one side and a trenching and grubbing tool on the other. Looks like a cousin to a pick.

McLeod – a hoe and rake combination built on the toughest proportions. Probably the least favorite tool that the crews used, but the most useful.

The R-5 Fire shovel. A short-handled round nose shovel with a sharpened edge for cutting through roots and digging quickly. Used for scraping ground and throwing dirt on fire for direct suppression. Often used to do final clean up by the firefighter crew and are last in line of a firefight often called the drag shovel.

Firefighter bodies trained, hardened by repeated morning abuse called β€œPhysical Training”. The team of men and woman would perform a series of stretches and aerobic exercises that ended with a five-mile run. All before sunrise and breakfast.

All summer, they would sweat more before breakfast than most people did all day. Polishing and sharpening their tools, checking equipment, then a half hour after breakfast they would load up and head to scheduledΒ  projects for inspection or maintenance of brush clearing on roadways in the back-country. Gloves and hard-hats worn, and test or inspect construction areas. There was little area that they did not step foot in, a thousand square-miles that they protected with their brothers of other stations. Dad often called her “Princess” and tell her of things he did during the days he was away.

β€œContinuing: It is twelve-hours later, we have cut almost five-kilometers of line in an area that is too hazardous for bulldozers. I’m seriously tired, but we have to eat here in a bit. I see a comfy rock that we are going to sleep on in a little while. In the meantime, my meal is cooking in a can. Someone brought some spam (Yes, I know, but when you are hungry and tired, everything is a banquet!) and we are cooking it over a candle powered stove in its own can.”

Cassie made a face at the thought of can-poached spam.

β€œWe have to eat and then get back to the line, we are to join up with another crew that is cutting towards us. The fire is about two miles off.. probably you use metric when you are reading this so that would be a little over three kilometers and moving in our direction. We are cutting this line below the ridge top and backfiring as we go. (That is, we are burning it up to the ridge.) Food! Be back later. Don’t go away.”

She laughed. Writing on paper and he puts her on hold. β€œDon’t go away.” She remembered his sense of humor.

β€œBack! It is now another ten-hours later, I am on a hike out. We had crews airlifted in, but we were out of position to get a ride, so… While we are on a break from our walk out I had to catch you up. We cut a line around this old hill and hooked up with the Pine Mountaineers crew. Your mom’s old party station. My crew, Iron Canyon Kings and the Blue Mountain Forest Rangers did a backfire that did not go as planned. (HAHAHA!) The small backfire kinda backfired. But it stopped the main front in the end. It was USFS’s game plan, but the vegetation was dryer than predicted and a bit of an uphill wind did more than expected. No one was hurt, but I don’t think the US Forest Ranger will handle a drip-torch like that again. HAHA! The backfire flared a bit more than planned and there were a few moments of a significant pucker factor.”

She laughed. His stories of the line were always of adventure.

β€œAnyway, I have to get hiking again. We have fifteen miles to go, after that? I get on a bus and head back to the deployment area. We have been out here for two-weeks now and I expect the fireΒ  will be fully contained by the end of our down-time. Three days before this all started your mom said we were expecting you to join us in less than a year. This is simply awesome! Anyway. Not much to write as far as a letter goes. This little bit o’paper will get stuffed into a file somewhere along with many others I hope. Anyway. Love you, (baby boy or baby girl!) Dad.

PS. Have to get used to that now, don’t I?”

She missed him, wherever he was. The advertisement in the magazine for wildland firefighters to go to a third world country that was suffering from a severe drought and fires that were threatening to devastate the ecology and economy.

The salary offered was too good to pass up. So Dad went when it was winter in the northern hemisphere to fight fires at the bottom of the world for six months.

And never came home.

A year later, a the government sent a half-dozen boxes back. The helicopter transporting firefighters crashed with only one broken radio call for help. The pilot called the identifier with β€œMayday!” then silence. Destruction of the air transport was complete and some of the local war-clans had stripped the aircraft and burned the rest. Of a dozen-firefighters and two pilots in the flight, the charred remains of the only ones that could be identified were in coffins.

The search and rescue reported that the area around the Blackhawk transport was:

β€œComplete combustion of airframe and personnel.”

Official speak for nothing was left.

So she sat there with a file folder of hand-written letters, looking over the rail of the bridge and a jar of ashes that a fire liaison had collected at the scene and sent to the remaining six families.Five years since the crash, mom still talked as if he were just about to walk through the door.Β  When she was fifteen, it made an odd sense of being closer to him and she was wishing she was a witch practicing “white magic” and had said a spell over a few hairs she had recovered from a brush he used and some glitter that they used to make a family portrait frame years ago. She and mom had a huge fight over that, it was disrespectful mom said.

It was the last time she tried any kind of magic, until now.Β  Now it was in the water, the final act of the spell.Β  She had one last thing to do, it was an immature effort, perhaps.

Cassiopeia O’Danu dropped a yellow rose into the waters as they flowed out into the Pacific ocean with the wish.

β€œDad, come home.”

3. Dad’s Next Letter

“Hello and good morning!Β  My first day home and I’m up before the sun. Ugh!Β  Your mom is still in bed and I am making some chamomile tea and sitting on the back porch.Β  The only one else that is up in the house is the dog.Β  Cats barely moved out of my way when I got up.Β  But I was too tired to sleep from so many days on the fire line that I could not sleep. I am still so tired I can’t think straight, so a letter to you while everything is quiet. It is a Saturday and your mom will not roll out of bed until noon. Here I am, stuck on the porch with the dog looking at me like I am about to throw the pen across the yard. Oh! Just a moment!Β  Tea is ready.Β  Don’t go away.”

She smiled. He even drew time notations in his letter in the form of an hourglass going empty.Β  Her dad was creative, she had to give him that.

Somewhere in the world was a red- going white- haired man that she needed to find.

“Back, some diphenhydramine (an antihistamine known to make me sleepy) and chamomile tea.Β  I’ll write this until the tea is gone and I go to bed.Β  Again.”

He drew a frowning face. It was a glimpse into the part that she remembered as a little girl. Sometimes he sat on the back porch alone and looking unhappy.Β  She would go up to him then, and he would always smile.Β  Sometimes, she got the feeling that he was very sad.

One time Cassie asked the great god of her life.

“Why are you sad, daddy?”

He had smiled, hugged her tightly.

“I miss some people.Β  Friends who were in a plane crash.”

“Okay baby girl or baby boy.Β  I’m going back to bed.Β  I think Buzz the dog even has gotten tired of my tossing the stick so early in the AM. For a puppy, he goes until he is pooped.Β  He does not sleep– he recharges.”

She had not thought of the Irish Wolfhound in a long time. He lived until he was ten-years old — for a Wolfhound, that was ancient.Β  She still loved that old dog.

She packed up her letters.Β  The teenage spell completed, but with the lack of hope of a cynical adult.Β  She knew it was a wasted effort.

Maybe. The wish in the back of her mind tickled annoyingly.

4. Leaving (and written) on a Jet Plane

β€œDear Princess! Last few months I have done all this training to go to a country to help with wild fires they are having. The entire country is smaller than Texas they say, and half of it is burning. They have had a tremendous drought there, so now we go to the country of eastern Quo Rhea. Their national bird is a Rhea, I think that is interesting. It would be like the United States Calling itself United Eagle or some such. Britain could be Bulldog Kingdom. Anyway. I’m sitting in the plane, if I look hard, I think I can see you waving. I will be missing your fifteenth birthday, I apologize. When I come back, we will have a belated party, just you and I. You have your diving license now, so maybe a dive in Lake Tahoe? Or a week in Hawaii and dive there. Such a birthday it would be. What do you think of that?

Anyway. Plane is now rolling, I have twenty hours of flight with a stopover in Australia. We have two-hundred firefighters on board, every one of us in uniform, and another hundred in support staff I think. It looks like a weird kind of convention.

Odd don’t you think that while the glaciers have begun to spread again, that there is a fire disaster in a tropical jungle? You will have to explain that one to me when I come back. They allow us in the country no longer than ninety-days. When I come home, we will have another six weeks before they call me up again for the fire season at home. I will be home a lot more often, there is a change in schedules coming. I will take the best one. Tuesday through Thursday and every other Friday. Not counting working fires of course. So you and mom have me every weekend. Like it or not. (Hahah!)

That’s it for now. I’ll write more tomorrow, we land in twenty hours, so I am not sure I will have much to write about, so I might write after I get situated at the fire base.

Just know I love you, Cassie.


The tears crept down her cheeks. He never wrote again, it was his last letter. Catching a whiff, a long ago spill of his favorite drink. Water with lemon. Dad never drank his rum when even close to being at work.

5. Government Fail

Cassie was driving home when the phone ran. Tapping her wireless earphone her mother’s voice filled her ear.

β€œCassie, I have a letter from the government. I think it says I owe back taxes because your dad is not dead and I have received survivor’s benefits.”

β€œMom, what?”

β€œI have a letter. Your dad is not dead, according to the letter. We need to get him declared dead I guess.”

β€œMom, I’m fifteen-minutes away in my car. I’m coming over to look at this letter.”

She broke the line and tapped the button again.

β€œDial Union lawyer” She was going to get this snafu taken care of right away.

She almost thought that the mobile phone had dropped carrier when it was quiet for so long until the most annoying voice in the world came on and the pre-recorded greeting gave her a dozen selections for languages, if she wanted to hear the latest news, inquiries for contract negotiations. Upcoming elections in the union.

β€œI’ll drive there faster! Sheesh!”

Then the-most-annoying-voice announced the option that she wanted.

Checking her mirrors and all around for any law enforcement, she glanced down and pushed the number to select.

And a motorcycle officer pulled up behind with his lights flashing.

Cassie’s heart fell, until he drove around her with his siren blaring and shifting gears as he accelerated away.

β€œHoly crap, that was close.” Cassie broke out in a nervous laugh. β€œDamn non-voice activated automated voice menu systems.”

A voice email of Tyson Reddit said he was not in and to leave a message.

β€œHi Tyson, it’s Cassiopeia O’Danu. My dad was one of the firefighters that went down on the helicopter? Anyway, I’m heading to my mom’s house right now. The government has sent her a notice that she has unpaid taxes because my dad is not dead? They are the ones that said there was no survivors in the crash.”

She broke the connection and turned right at the next corner towards her childhood home.

6. Bluetooth Insanity

The phone rang and she tapped her earphone.

β€œMay I speak to Cassiopeia O’Danu?”

β€œSpeaking. Hi Tyson.”

β€œHi Cassie. I have spoken to several people today. You are not the only ones to have received the letter. I have been on the phone most of the morning with the tax rep at the IRS. We have some serious information that we need. We have…” The earphone was unintelligible…” meeting in the case of that helicopter crash.”

β€œWhat? You broke. Say that again.”

β€œThere has been a development. The radio that the pilot used while flying – their identifier. They were Fire-Crew Two? Someone used that identifier again to talk with air traffic control.”

β€œWHEN?! How? Who?” She had too many questions and the bluetooth headset was not responding.

β€œTyson, hold on. I’m pulling in front of my mom’s house now.”

Trading the wireless headset for the phone, she turned off the engine of her car.

β€œNow, what are you talking about.”

β€œThe United States base in T’Sett got a radio contact on an emergency channel with the pilots call sign, he was calling a mayday and that they were on foot. The signal was lost then.”

β€œWho is ‘they’?”

β€œThe people I have talked with don’t know. The signal was lost, whoever was speaking turned off the radio.”

β€œWhen was this? We need to start a search in the area.”

There was silence on the phone for a heartbeat.

β€œIt was, um…” the sounds of papers being moved around. β€œFebruary of last year.”

Cassie was about to scream in fury.

β€œEIGHT MONTHS AGO? Tyson, I want someone’s ass!” Cassie said. β€œThat is… that is… just wrong!”

β€œCassie. It’s worse than that.”

β€œHow could it be worse?”

β€œIt was not LAST February, it was a year ago last February. February of LAST year.”

It was Cassie’s turn to go silent.

Quietly, she said into the phone when she could think again.

β€œI am getting my mom and we will come down to your office right now.”

β€œBring the letter you mom has, there are other families here, we will meet and I will tell you all what I know.”

β€œThank you I will. Have you spoke with my mom, yet?”

β€œNo. You are the first one of your family I have talked with.”

β€œHow long have you known this development, Tyson?”

β€œAbout an hour. The phone calls started yesterday afternoon.”

7. Speechless in Stress

Cassie almost ran up the steps to the door of her mom’s house. Opening the door with her key, she yelled for her mom immediately.

β€œCassie! Why are you rushing so? It is a letter, no one is here.”

β€œMom… Mom…” She could not get it out. Looking around, nearly five years had gone past since dad was here last. His clutter he left, mom had picked up but his chair was still there. His laptop was gone, stored somewhere but now hopelessly out of date. β€œMom…get the letter, we are going to the union office to meet with Tyson Reddit now. There has been someone down in that country that called on the fire radio.”

β€œWhat? What country? What radio? Cassie, you are not making any sense.”

β€œMom, just get the letter, I’ll tell you in the car.”

They rode for the first two blocks in silence.


β€œMom.” She realized she was crying. β€œThey got radio contact with someone from dad’s fire team. Maybe the pilot.”

Mom gasped as the thought sank in.

β€œMom. It was almost two years ago!” Cassie almost screamed the news. β€œThey heard and never let us know. Now the IRS tells us he’s alive in a back-handed way.”

β€œHe’s alive?”

β€œI don’t know. But if they have not started any rescue teams, it is way too late now.”

They pulled into the union parking lot, it was exceptionally crowded and dozens of people were standing around outside the door.

β€œAre you waiting to see Tyson?” Cassie asked the woman who stood near the door. The woman looked familiar.

Then she remembered! Suzanne Riley, the sharp-eyed woman who had her husband only two years before he went on the fire fighting job. She had immigrated from South Africa to avoid apartheid. Although she was ten years older than Cassie, they looked the same age. Her skin still glowed with the smiles she carried within, but her children were now walking.

β€œDid you get a letter too?”

Suzanne almost burst out crying.

β€œThey say I owe all the money back, because August is still alive. I have to prove he is dead, and I have no body. They never brought anything back. No funeral, no flag. All I have are papers that said he was missing.”

Several others gathered around. One Cassie recognized as being the son of one of the firefighters, he was easy to recognize. Same eyes and build, it was not hard to tell that the seed did not fall far from the tree.

Tyson finally walked out to the lobby.

β€œFolks, if you please walk with me, we have a room set up for you and I will explain this serious issue.”

A serious issue? Thought Cassie. This is getting better all the time.

8. The Meeting Room

β€œTake a seat, please. Every one in? Good, good. Okay…” Tyson started, he was wringing his hands in a slow cycle. He was not nervous, but looked like a man who had a big secret to tell.

β€œTyson.” A voice came from the door. β€œPhone call, you need to take this.” An young man with thinning hair stood behind Tyson.

β€œFolks, excuse me.”

Cassie was fidgeting and then opened the file and pulled out another letter dated six-months before she was born.

β€œDear baby-bump.

Training day! Pain in my knees! Dang, we are hill-humping hose packs up mountains with tools, I’m on lead shovel at the moment. I usually do lead hook, but we have some new folks that need to train in that position. I am training others on how to throw dirt and how to clean up those things that the pulaski’s leave behind. There is very little with my crew. HAHA! Still, after so many seasons, I am getting aches in places I did not know I had places. Still, the competition for fire crews is a month off. We need to have everyone up to speed. Cross training on engines and in hand-crews is tough. But we won the golden-nozzle two years ago and the golden-shovel three years in a row, but we missed last year. We came in sixth. We were just were tired from a long spike and then we had to travel overnight to get there. We just were too tired to make a line fast enough, our tools and chain-saws were dull. I needed a bottle of aspirin, a bottle of rum and about five days sleep. Oh well, this year will be better!

Okay, we are on the move again Baby-bump! I’ll write later. We have a doctor’s appointment when I am off duty next week. We’ll get a sonogram and find if I start buying pink or blue. I want to buy hunter-green and black paints (for shadows) and paint a forest in your room, but mom has already crushed that idea.

Love you!


PS. When you grow up? Do not do what I do! Be a doctor! I don’t care in what. Doctor of Law, a veterinary, dentist! I want you home, always. Being in my business would not let that happen.”

Tyson walked back in and sat at a table with a laptop that he plugged in a cable.

β€œSorry about this old-school connection to the monitor behind me. But I do not want this being picked up by any snoops outside the office. I have just had this sent to me. It is a transcript and one other thing that has been found. Using an Earth-veiwing software.

First the transcript. I will preface this as it is not verified who it is.

Tyson tapped a few buttons and a .pdf file opened on the screen.

β€œUnknown source: Any station any station. Fire-crew strike team two. Mayday mayday. Any station any station. Mayday mayday mayday. Fire-crew strike team two out of Iridium Fire Base calling any station. Mayday.

Remy Radio Control: This is Remy Naval Station on emergency channel. Go ahead with your Mayday traffic.”

Unknown Source: Remy Station, Fire-Crew Two…

Remy Radio Control: Fire-Crew two, go ahead with your emergency traffic.

Remy Radio Control: Fire-Crew Two, go ahead with your emergency traffic.

Remy Radio Control: Fire-Crew Two. This is Remy Station, do you copy?

Remy Radio Control: Negative Contact. Remy Radio Control clear of emergency channel 1506 hours local time.”

Tyson stood up and pointed out the timestamps on the file. β€œFrom the first call of ‘mayday’ to when contact attempt ended was five-minutes. We do not know precisely who it was. They ran the voice through some-sort of secret systems and still can not tell who it was. I have asked to have the recording released to us so we can identify the voice. But I have had no calls back on that note yet. I have worked on these things in the last eighteen hours. Mr. Yount, you called and left the first message at about quarter to five. I started making calls the minute I got the message. About five minutes later. No one was in at that time, I stayed until midnight last night and emailed everyone I could think of. Ninety-minutes ago, I got this file when I took that call. Officially we do not have this transcript.”

β€œWho is keeping it? Who is saying we do not have the right to know anything?” It was Reberto Emba. The father of the Captain of the fire crew.

β€œI do not know specifically – yet. I can’t tell you if it is military, cia, nsa ..or any of the -ia things. All I know so far, is it seems that the IRS knows more than we do. I have a couple calls in to different people. This is why I need your letters. Stanford will be coming around and collecting your letters to make copies, I’ll have your originals returned to you. I might be able to find someone in the IRS to do two things.” Tyson smiled. β€œONE. Get your taxes deferred or eliminated and TWO! We will find out more information on your missing family that the government is not providing. The IRS is not overly secretive, they want their money. If we work with the IRS, they can get their money and we get information on where these missing firefighters are.”

A hand raised up. β€œQuestion?”

β€œMrs. Yount. Yes.”

β€œFirst, my name was Baker. Kate Baker, my husband worked in Yountville.” Tyson had the look of a manΒ shot in the face with a horse tranquilizer. β€œNow my question: my husband was in a box that I put in the ground three-and-a-half years ago. I remarried and I am four-months pregnant with my new husbands child. You are telling me that my dead husband is – maybe – not dead? One other thing, there were twelve crew on that ship plus a pilot and co-pilot. I count twelve families here.”

Everybody went quiet at the implication. The IRS sent letters to every family that was there.

β€œAnd one other thing!” Kate Baker’s temper was rising. β€œWHO the FUCK DID I BURY?”

Tyson, obviously without the information he had, now also got angry.

β€œMrs.” He stopped. β€œWhat is your married name now?”


β€œMrs. Castro, I will find out. We will use the IRS to crack open this problem. What do they know about your loved ones. You have that right under the tax laws. They cannot tax you without cause, so what is the cause? They have to tell us what they know or scrub the amount you owe. They will not let money go without a fight and there are very few people who can push the IRS around. Not even the President of the USA.”

β€œCan we make a class action with all of us to sue for the information?”

Tyson nodded. β€œWe can sue anyone for this. The most difficult is finding which of the government is involved who we want to address. We can drag the feds in and win, but they would shrug shoulders and say β€œWe don’t know” to the demands of the judge. But there is something more.”

He tapped on a world view software, bringing in to focus the island nation.

β€œThis was found by my assistant last night. We cannot be the only ones to see this.”

As he zoomed in on the southern most end of the island, the closer he got, there appeared numbers cut into the forest near a community. Tyson moved the mouse around and zoomed in on one number, 4440 then 4488 then another number 2500.

Gasps all around. The lines cut in the jungle were unit and station designator number, someone had cut the numbers into the forest along strangely appearing fire breaks.

β€œWhat is the date on those images.” A uniformed man asked. β€œMy wife was among those not found.”

β€œThe dates on these images are,” Tyson looked at the copyright date. β€œtwo years ago.”

The families exploded in anger with Tyson holding hs hand up for deflection of the attacks.

β€œPlease! Please! Don’t kill the messenger. I am sharing what I know at the moment. We will know more in a day or so. I need to email more people tonight and call more in the Internal Revenue Service. I will need all your email addresses. Leave them with my assistant, he is moving around taking down the emails as we speak. Us finding anything useful out tonight is unlikely. Please return home and check emails often. Also if you can, please make sure I have your current phone numbers. Please call tomorrow, or I will call you by one o’clock in the afternoon. ItΒ  will be a conference call. You won’t have to come down here, there is more to this to discover if each family received a letter from the IRS.”

Kate Baker spoke again as they headed out. β€œTyson, you have done us well. You get this taken care of, please.” Her eyes glittered with anger.

Cassie was in tears, biting her lip. The number 4440 was well-known even outside the area that used it. One of the chiefs that used those numbers was famous outside of his own ranger unit until his death in an accident when he was off-duty. Struck by a car on a dark night in winter, a fractured skull and other severe injuries, Chief 4440 never woke up.

Her dad had nothing but great things to say about the chief.

Subtle and striking, if the firefighters those numbers…

If? Who else would cut such lines? Without anyone knowing, it would take great skill and speed to cut eighty-foot long numbers in a jungle. Cassie knew this well. Golden Shovel crew can do such a thing in an hour.

IF IT WAS THEM Cassie’s mind yelled at her.

10. Hope

During the ride home mom became animated and talking like a child loaded up on soda and candy on Christmas eve.

β€œWe have to get the house cleaned up. I need to dust his chair off. He won’t like it if it is in the wrong spot. I need to go on a diet. Cassie, do you think he would miss the oak tree I had taken out after it broke the main branch? We need to go to the store and buy his brand of ale. He never liked those little yellow beers. OH! And rum! Remember that, Cassie. Rum.”

β€œMom, slow down. Dad is not coming home tomorrow. We have some information that makes it look like that someone of their team is alive. It has been five years, mom…

Mom- Beulah Kate Archi O’Danu was not listening, she kept talking. Deaf to her daughter’s words. In her mind, her best friend inthe world, the only man she had ever loved was alive and coming home!

“MOM! Calm DOWN. Take a deep breath. Dad is not coming home today.”

β€œCASSIOPEIA GRANUAILE O’DANU! You do NOT talk to me like that. Your father said he was coming back, he is late, but he keeps his promises! And I am your mother and…”

β€œAnd high-priestess of the women’s druid society, yes, I know.”

Mom’s eyes got glass-hard and she turned away. Saying nothing for the rest of the ride home.

β€œMom, what I mean is we have not yet found dad. The information they have is almost two-years old. Why they have not done a rescue? Why, oh my god why did they not tell us?” Cassie’s voice broke into sobs so deep she had to pull over.

Mom never turned her head or said a word.

11. Night Life

The expensive German luxury car was weaving too much to remain unobserved by law enforcement. Intersection cameras designed to catch red-light violations photographed a car driving through the traffic light at speed. Even midnight, it was illegal to go through controlled intersection. The traffic citation generated was mailed within a few minutes.

By the time the company processed the citation, law enforcement pulled in behind the weaving car and attempted to pull it over, although not going fast, the import’s erratic moment was getting progressively worse. Illuminating the interior of the car with the intense spotlight of the patrol car, the two officers saw the head come up and the expensive go-fast car pulled over, climbing up the sidewalk and destroying part of a picket fence. The officers called for backup in the event the stop turned into a chase.

The driver’s door opened and the driver leaned out the car, commands shouted to stay in the car by the officers, until the driver got out on his hands and knees – covered in blood.

β€œWe need medics at our location code 3, we have a man down and bleeding. Looks like a throat cut.”

Tyson Redditt went into cardiac arrest before the arrival of the paramedic unit, even with the early attempts to stop the bleeding by the EMT certified officers, his heart could not be restarted despite the best efforts of Medic-27 and the fire department.

The investigation that followed video camera’s back to the parking lot showed Tyson had worked late this night and then stopped at a convenience store where he bought a coffee, small bag of ice, the most expensive single-malt scotch in the cheap store and a large bag of pretzels. Outside of the store, two men with hoods over hats approached Tyson as he got into his car, it appeared that one of the assailants punched Tyson in the head and then the two figures ran off.

Tyson drove out of the parking lot and stopped at the next red light before proceeding through. One minute later,three-quarters of a mile down the road, his image of him driving and running a red-light was taken. The image showed that Tyson was driving with both hands on the wheel but was bleeding down the front of his shirt, looking as if he did not know that his throat was cut just under his left ear.

12. Morning Call

Cassie called the union in the morning. Tyson’s line kept going to voice mail, so Cassie called the receptionist.

β€œO’Danu for Mr. Redditt? Yes, ma’am, please hold.”

β€œHello, Mrs. O’Danu?” It was not Tyson, this voice was more clipped and slightly deeper. β€œThis is Detective Todogs. What is your business with Tyson Redditt?”

β€œHe was getting some information regarding my father. We had a phone meeting arranged this morning.”

β€œYes, well, when did you happen to see Mr. Redditt last?”

β€œAbout four-thirty yesterday with all the different families.” She paused then asked.β€œWhat is going on officer? Is Tyson in trouble?”

“Someone killed him last night in what appears like a robbery and assault, someone cut his throat after he left the office.”

They spoke further for a few minutes and he confirmed her address with the one that the secretary gave him.

β€œWe have a couple of detectives driving to everyone’s home now, you are available for a few minutes to do an interview?”

β€œYes. Oh god, am I a suspect?”

β€œShould you be?”

β€œNo, and I take offense to the question.” Cassie said coldly.

β€œWell, then you have nothing to worry about.” The voice was unapologetic.

β€œI will be here with my mom.” She broke the connection. β€œMOM! Oh my god, MOM!”