The Write Room Cafe

The Write Room Cafe
Kevin Lynn Helmick

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Good morning kids.

Here I offer with your morning coffee a short story that I've had around for, oh, at least a couple a years now I guess.
I kind of collect them in preperation for a book of shorts one day. I only submitted this once, for a contest once that it did not win or even get an honorable mention. I think the whole Arizona imigration thing was a little too hot  of a topic at the time and maybe this a was something the publication felt they could do without. Or maybe it just sucked that bad, eithier way it wasn't as cuddly and cozy as the winning entry of that contest in that particulair publication.
And it was the first and last contest I submitted to.


            Water has memory. It can change the present, but always remembers where it’s been. And like people; it tends to go where it knows. Tyler Hawk pulled off his glove and cupped a hand full of icy water from the stream running wild around his boots. Billy lit a cigarette and said something. Billy and Hawk had met working for Tom Kelly back in Brownsville. That was home to Billy Cooper. Hawk was there for another reason, a mission of his own, and now that it was done they would make their way through the Great Divide and up to Canada. Billy kept talking but Hawk listened to the water. Someone had been there…recently.

            Hawk stood and pulled his side arm just as a crack echoed though the mountains. He kneeled back down, turned and looked at Billy, his eyes wide, one hand on the strap of his pack and the other on his rifle. Hawk said, “Coop… get the fuck down.” The kid didn’t move except for a shifting of his eyes and the cigarette trembling between his lips. “Billy?”  

            Hawk knew and rolled away behind a rock the instant another shot struck in the stream just ahead of where his feet had been. The kid fell lifeless and face first into the creek. Hawk climbed up into a crevice and cocked the automatic and made his way to the top of the creek bank and waited there in the snow.                                                                                             

            He had rolled out of sight in a way that looked more like a fall and would bring the shooter in to examine his kill. He held his breath and waited. And when he heard the soft crunch of snow under a very careful step he turned and fired, pop, pop, pop. All three shots were kill shots but he ran up on the fallen man and put a final through his head.

            He pulled the assassins rifle away and knelt down and examined the man: his boots, his clothes, and his weapon. He looked at Billy’s body and let out a broken sigh. He thought of the days leading up to this and the ones that lay ahead: hard days and long nights and like the water, he knew those days must run their course. He shouldn’t have let the kid come. “Fuck.” He cursed the unforgiving sky.

            Tom Kelly’s a Marine veteran well into his fifties but could have passed for older. His sun burned and wind weathered face looked like the wood he often worked with and except for an occasional smile had the same physical properties. He sat at his desk gently tugging a rubber band on his wrist that came from that morning’s blueprint he’d gone over with the crew before they headed out. In his office loft east of Brownsville he sat at his desk and studied the men sitting before him.

            Woody Wilson, a Texas Ranger and a friend of Tom’s. He’d been invited to this meeting by Tom and unbeknownst to the federal man, Ray Steele, who had showed up on a job site asking questions, and that made Tom uncomfortable and now he was back.

            Tom wasn’t the kind of man who liked explaining himself and he especially didn’t care much for the government asking him to, but he’d play along, for a while anyway.

            Tom took a deep breath and reached for his coffee. “Not sure what I can do for you Mr. Steele. I told you all I know the other day.”

            “Well…I just needed to get as much information as I could. You know how it is, paper work and all.” He smiled in a friendly way and Tom looked at Woody over the rim of his cup as Steele continued. “When was the last time you saw Tyler Hawk?”

            “Like I said before, last Friday… gave him his check and that was that.”

            “Did you know he was wanted for a war crime?”

            “Nope. He never talked about his military service and I never asked.”

            “He’s all over the news Mr. Kelly. Hawk’s Special Forces, AWOL and unhinged. You just hire anyone without a background check?”

            Tom took a drink of his coffee and said, “I don’t watch the news, and I’ll hire anyone I damn well please.”

            Ranger Wilson adjusted his hat and prepared to speak but Steele quickly jumped in. “Of course, it’s your right. What about Angel Medina?

            Wilson interrupted, “what about him? State of Texas is working on that along side with Mexico. Are ya here for Medina?”

            “No… I’m not,” said Steele. “I’m just trying to build a mental profile of Tyler Hawk.”

            “Well put this in yer profile,” Wilson said. “Angel Medina was dangerous individual and yer not gonna get much sympathy from anybody around these parts for him turnin dead. He would’a ended that way sooner or later anyway.”

            Steele adjusted his chair sideways and looked at Wilson. “Are you justifying the murder of a man Mr. Wilson?”

            Medina was not man. He was drug lord and a cold blooded piece a shit, and if’d a had the reasons Hawk had, I’d a killed him too.”

            Tom shook his head in agreement and said, “Angel was a dead man long before Tyler got here. It was only a matter of time. You should know that Mr. Steele; in fact I think you know a lot more than yer lettin on. So what the hell do you want? You didn’t come all the way down here from Washington without knowing about all of this, all of us.

            Steele said, “true… Medina was wanted by the F.B.I. for trafficking, wanted by the state of Texas for the kidnapping of Hawk’s daughter…Mia is it? And he was wanted in Mexico for murder as well here. But everybody deserves a fair trial, don’t they Mr. Wilson?”

            Wilson smiled. “Now if I didn’t know better I’d say you were insulting my professional intelligence. Medina was an illegal, shouldnt’a been in here in the first place. He was also a goddamn predator. I think, unless ya have anymore questions for Tom, that we should just finish this up at state level Mr. Steele, and let him get on with his business.”

            “I don’t mean any professional disrespect Mr. Wilson, but Illegal immigration is a federal matter, federal law.”

            “Is it now?” Wilson said. “Do ya even have any idea of the illegal traffic coming across the border everyday? Have you ever seen twenty, thirty Mexicans crammed in five foot uhaul and left in the desert to fry after their life savings have been stolen by a coyote? It ain’t a pretty site. Thousands of people are coming across that border everyday and every night, some are good people who want a better life but some… are not, some, are predators, murderous, vicious animals with no respect for human life and they don’t give a good god damn about federal law or anything else. Don’t come down here and tell me about my home son. That girl a Hawks is back now, safe, and the world is free of one less asshole, federal law had nothing to do with that.”

            Steele looked at Tom Kelly and changed the subject. “Another employee of yours, a parole violator,” he thumbed through a folder and pulled the name up with his eyes, “William Bradley Cooper, also missing. Seen him lately?”

            “Billy Cooper comes and goes,” Tom said. “He’s a local. He’s a good kid, a little wild but he’ll be alright. He’ll be back sooner or later. Probably on a bender south of the border somewhere.”

            Woody Wilson’s eyes never left the side of Steele’s head, and if it bothered Steele in the least, he wasn’t letting it show.

            “Do all of your employees just disappear like that?” Steele said.

            “No, but it happens in this business. I’ve got a check here in my drawer I’ve been holding for six months for a guy I heard moved on to California. Coop’ll turn up…Hawk won’t.”

            Ranger Wilson stood and adjusts himself in a way that indicated the conversation was over. Steel stayed seated and flipped through his folder pretending to search for something. Steele knew Hawk was gone and could be anywhere in the world by now. He had suspected he slipped into Mexico but the closeness of that made it seem unlikely. And the possibilities of where he was heading was even more troubling.

            Woody Wilson handed him his card and said, “I’ll be in town here a few days Steele, if ya need anything from me. After that I’ll be at that number in Austin.” Steele took the card and looked at Tom.

            “Is there anything else?” Tom asked.

            “Hawks’ wife and daughter, we haven’t been able to find them.”

            “Probably at her mothers…Amarillo. Don’t know her too well, only met her couple a times.”

            “They’re not in Amarillo, we checked.”

            “That all Mr. Steele?” Woody said.

            “Just one more question. Mr. Kelly, did you know Angel Medina had kidnapped Tyler Hawks’ daughter when you hired him?”

            Tom Kelly looked at Steele for a long time and Ranger Wilson shuffled his boots and Tom understood. “I don’t follow the activities of people like Medina,” Tom said. “No I didn’t. Hawk told me he’d gotten discharged and needed work, that’s all.”

            “If ya’d like to know more about Medina Mr. Steele, I got a whole file cabinet on him up in Austin,” Wilson said. “Maybe we could talk about the kidnapping rate along the border. Maybe we could talk about immigration law too…the federal one that is.”

            Steel finally looked at Wilson with contempt. He stood and suddenly he was no longer a bookish irritant but instead, his physic suggested a man who had spent very little time at a desk or with books. “I don’t think that will be necessary”

            “I didn’t think so, but I thought I’d offer,” Wilson smiled. “What branch, exactly, did you say you were with Mr. Steele?”

            “If you hear from Hawk Mr. Kelly, you can call me at this number.” He handed the card toward Tom to no response, and after a few seconds he laid it on the desk. Woody picked it up and looked at it, a government logo, name and number, nothing else.

            “I won’t hear from him,” Tom said. “But if I did…I wouldn’t tell ya.”

            “Mr. might think Tyler Hawk is somebody you know, but I can assure you he isn’t. He is an international fugitive. He is a threat to national security. He’s highly trained, very dangerous and we have reasons to believe he’s planning an act of domestic terrorism. I would hate to see you in any trouble Mr. Kelly, because I really don’t think you deserve it.”

                         “Domestic terrorism,” Tom said, stood and shook his head. “Aint that just something. Why do I get the feeling Hawk won’t be getting one of them, fair trials? Mr. you are so looking in the wrong place. I put a guy to work. I needed another hand and he needed a job, and that’s about the extent of it. I live with threat every day. This community lives with threat and fear. Every day the drug cartel’s comin’ closer and closer to that border. A house full of folks was machine gunned to death just the other day in broad day light, not more than hundred yards from where my grandson gets on his school bus. People are missing, people are dead and it keeps getting worse. The border’s a war zone from here to California. Where is your federal law when it comes to the people of Brownsville, or Tucson, or San Diego, where’s the Mexican law when it comes to those folks. And ya come down here…stand in my office and threaten me? Ya come down here looking for a man whose served his country and was discarded and thrown away? A man, for all I know may have done something right, may have done something you should’a done. Ya damn right I don’t know Tyler Hawk, not after people like you got done with him.” Tom took a deep breath and steadied his nerves and finished up with, “Mr. Steele…get the hell off my property.”

            “Take it easy Tom,” Wilson said. Wilson hadn’t heard Tom Kelly say that many

words in the forty plus years, they’d know one another that long and longer.

            Mr. Steele looked at Tom, cold and emotionless. “So you did know about Tyler Hawk? Mr. Kelly…are you a racist, Mr. Kelly?”

            Tom Kelly grew up on the border he lived on both sides during times of love and generosity among the two cultures that blended into a kinda harmony of language, food, religion and family. Times when he played as a child south of the border and even his own kids played with all the other kids, before it all began.                                                    

            At some point in time, it seemed like a door had closed and another had opened, and his world had went out and suspicion and hatred and something dark and unrecognizable stepped in. He was tired and old, and helpless in watching everything he loved get ruined, run over, run down and nobody seemed to care enough to do anything about it, and it made him wonder if he, himself even did, and that made him bitter.        

            He glared at Steel and said, “conseguir la cogida de mi tierra. Is that clear enough for ya?”

            “It is Mr. Kelly, just call me if you hear from Tyler Hawk, You’re not aware of what this man is capable of. I’m not here to cause you problems, I’m not, but maybe I can prevent some.”

            “Thank you Mr. Steele,” Wilson said and extended his hand toward the door.

Steele picked up his folder and brief case and walked out. The two men watched from a window as Steele walked toward his car and stopped for an instant like he forgot something. He looked around the yard and continued into the black suburban and drove away.

            “What do ya think Tom?”

            “I think…we ain’t heard the last of him, but I doubt we’ll ever see Hawk again.”

            “Tom did you know about Hawk when ya put him on?”

            “Yeah I knew… I knew he was coming and I knew what for. And I knew he wouldn’t stick around long.”

            “You know Tom…you can get rid a one Angel Medina and another one’ll pop right up in his place.”

            “Yeah, I know that too. But who am I to git in the way of progress?”

            Woody looked out the window and laughed a little, but not because it was funny. It had been a long time since anybody laughed in Brownsville without that uncertain hesitation. “Is there anything else I can do for ya Tom?”

            Tom shook his head and thought of the days leading up to this and the ones that lay ahead. And like the water, he knew those days would run their course. He looked out the window and regretted and silently cursed the unforgiving sky. “No Woody,” he said. “I sure wish there was though.”

            “So do I Tom…so do I. Say hello to Maria and the kids for me.”

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