On the Run
started from the mind of Thelma
Susan checked the rear view mirror and saw that Jesse was asleep in his carseat. Her shoulders relaxed a little bit. It eased some of the guilt of the car trip she was subjecting him too if he was asleep.
The familiar landscape whizzed by. It made Susan happy. She never should have left Washington. It had seemed like a good idea when she was a new graduate from the University of Washington. Tired of the rain and living in the shadow of her older brother, Truman, who was good at everything, she had made an escape to the sunniest, least Truman place she could think of, Las Vegas.
Her mother had cried and her father had tried to get her to come back by offering her a new car and an apartment but Susan assumed it was less about them missing her and wanting her and more about them not wanting the embarrassment of having a daughter working as a cocktail waitress in Las Vegas.
She had met Damian who was also a Blackjack dealer at Caesar’s Palace, where she worked. He was handsome and charming and had a short attention span. By the time she discovered she was pregnant, he was long gone.
Susan had stuck it out as long as she could but it was hard to make good tips when you are pregnant and there’s no such thing as maternity leave for cocktail waitresses anyway. She worked in an office for a little while but it turned out she didn’t really have any skills. Her college degree in comparative literature didn’t really help with data entry or Excel spreadsheets, which was what she was supposed to do in her job. The worst part of her life, worse than even the mind numbing job or the ratty apartment with thin walls and loud neighbors, was how hard it was to find decent daycare for Jesse.
At one daycare, she walked in to pick him up and every single worker there was smoking. Smoking! Wasn’t that against the law?
Susan had to miss a day of work until she found something better. At the next place, they charged her exorbitant fees for being late and she was almost always late. Also, Jesse got an ear infection and they wouldn’t take him if he was sick.
She ended up losing her job.
In desperation, she’d called her parents. It had been the hardest thing she’d ever done and she wouldn’t have done it if not for Jesse. Susan had been so sure she could make it on her own, she had never imagined she’d have to swallow her pride like that.
They had gasped when she told them about Jesse. She could tell her mother was crying on the phone. Her dad had told her, with a slightly choked up voice (was that possible?) to come home. He asked her if she needed gas money. It had killed her to admit she did.
Her mother had hosted a family dinner when Susan and Jesse arrived. Truman and his glossy girlfriend had come too. Jesse was not his charming best. He’d spent way too much time in his carseat and he was clingy and as a newly minted crawler, when he wasn’t whining to be held, he was on a mission to destroy something in her parents’ Bellevue home where everything, everything was expensive.
It was apparent to everyone that staying there for any length of time was out of the question. Her parents seemed mildly interested in Jesse but not to th point that they would babyproof their house.
Now Susan and Jesse were heading to Lake Chelan. She had the keys to the vacation house in her purse as well as a credit card from her dad. The latter was motivated by guilt, she knew. They felt bad that they didn’t really want her, or more accurately her six-month old baby, in their home. The vacation house was a much hardier venue.
Susan was alternately thrilled at the prospect of staying at the house in Lake Chelan, which she’d always loved, and depressed that this was what had resulted from her big bold move towards independence. She was more dependent on her parents than ever and she hated herself for it.
This is only temporary she kept reminding herself. She knew that she was capable of so much more than she had settled for. As the curtain of trees grew thicker and the river flowed beside her, she felt the past being washed away and a fresh start beginning.
Jesse was cooing in the back seat and Susan smiled at the thought of being in a new place, just the two of them, where no one knew anything about her and she could be anyone she wanted. Lake Chelan was a blank canvas, and she could paint any picture she wanted now.
Susan passed the 59er Diner on Hwy 2 and looked in the rear view mirror. The flashing lights behind her was the last thing she needed.
“License and registration please.” The officer demanded.
“Sure. Was I speeding? I’m pretty sure this car can’t even make over 55.”
The officer smiled. “No. No ma’am. Your tail light is out.”
“Oh, thanks. I had no idea. Is there a fine for that? Or can I just fix it in town?” She was hoping for the latter, but expected to be handed a ticket. Her track record for getting out of tickets was like her bank account…non existent.
“There’s an auto parts store just out of Leavenworth. If you wink at them, I’m sure you could even talk them into fixing it for you.” He laughed.
Is he flirting with me? Susan considered. It’s been awhile. He is kinda cute.
“Where you headed?” The officer asked as he leaned in.
He was definitely flirting. She unconsciously twirled her hair and rested her arm on the window. “Lake Chelan. I’m taking care of my parent’s house for awhile.” It wasn’t exactly a lie she convinced herself.
“I live over that way. Maybe I’ll see you around. Drive safe now…and don’t forget to get that light fixed.”
“Will do officer. Thanks.” Susan caught a glimpse of her girlish grin in the rear view mirror and shook it away. I have a baby. What am I doing. This is not what I came here for.
After successfully fixing the tail light on her own and picking up some necessities, the two newest residents of Lake Chelan slept comfortably in their new home. Susan woke up early and pulled out the paper searching the help wanted ads. She circled several prospects and sipped a cup of tea. It was the perfect kind of day to start over.
Jesse had soon woken up and was now crawling around, exploring their new digs. Susan had passed a lot of fun times here during her summers growing up and she loved watching Jesse discover their new home. The home was simple but sturdy and a real departure from the formal environment she had grown up in.
Time seemed to pass more slowly here. Days seemed to stretch out forever. Susan’s family had called it “Chelan time.” Her family had been closer here than they were at home. Literally, there just wasn’t a lot of room to escape from each other like there was in Bellevue, but also, they wanted to spend more time with each other. Susan was hoping that Jesse would be able to experience some of those same feelings.
Susan knew that she still had most of the same issues that had plagued her in Vegas. Fortunately, she had a home and Dad’s credit card to stabilize her now. But, she still needed a job. And finding something in Chelan that made use of her degree was even more of a challenge in the small town than it had been in pulsating Vegas. She also needed to find some daycare for Jesse. A quick perusal of the paper for a caregiver left her scratching her head, so she continued her quest online. She finally came across a site with good reviews that advertised babysitting services. There were a few ladies in her area that looked promising. Mostly, they were college aged students and a few stay at home moms who were willing to take on another child. Susan honed in on the grandmother just starting out on the site who said she was ready to take on a few kids to help pass the time since she’d been retired and widowed a few years ago. It didn’t hurt that her listed prices seemed the cheapest. In fact, if this woman was willing to work for what she had listed, she would be undercutting the daycares in Vegas by half. Susan hoped she was for real.
When Susan met Thora the babysitter she knew she was supposed to ask for references and make some kind of stab at an interview, but the matronly woman with the easy laugh and fly-away gray hair put her at such ease, that she just felt this would be the right woman to watch Jesse while she figured out a job. Over tea, Susan and Thora discussed life in Chelan, the job market, and babysitting rates. Half the time, Jesse crawled around Thora’s front room without Thora freaking out even once about what he was up to. Too bad her own mother couldn’t put up with Jesse the same way, Susan thought with a bit of sadness. The other half of the time, Jesse hung out on Thora’s lap, contentedly munching on baby rice puffs. When Susan left Thora’s home several hours after she had planned to leave, she felt like she had a new adopted relative. The last thing Thora said as Susan finally left was to make sure she got a job quick so she could start babysitting her buddy Jesse ASAP.
At least Susan now had someone to leave Jesse with if she ever got an interview. She had applied at a lot of places, but they were coming to the end of the season and so much of Chelan’s economy was based on the tourists. Most businesses were gearing up to let the seasonal help go, not hire on someone new.
On Craigslist, Susan kept coming across an opening for a 911 dispatcher in Chelan county. There were so many hoops to jump through though, that she had been put off from applying. First, a statewide standardized test and then if she had high enough scores, more testing through the county. And then if she was hired, more training and psychological examinations, drug testing, the works. Susan had hoped to have something to show for her diligent job seeking, but so far, weeks into her move, she had nothing. So, with only days left until the standardized test, she signed up, paid her fees, and downloaded the study materials, hoping that any skills she had picked up in college might come in handy.
Thora was willing to watch Jesse for a few hours a day while Susan studied and then took the test. She was surprised to be handed a paper when she left the testing center that said she had passed the test. It all took a lot less time than she has anticipated and here she was with no excuse not to apply for the 911 dispatcher job. So she applied. At this point, what did she have to lose? She did it all online and now she just had to wait for a call from the county. They called two days later while she was bathing Jesse. Everything always happened when she was bathing Jesse or feeding him or changing his diaper. He had a way of infiltrating her life that she loved but was still trying to get used to. She called them back once she had Jesse out of the bath and safely in bed and set up for an interview for just one day later. She felt like her head was spinning, everything was moving so fast now. She let herself think, for just a second, that perhaps this is where she and Jesse were supposed to be for now since everything was coming together so well. Then she banished the thought and moved onto reality, like calling Thora to see if she could babysit Jesse for her interview.
One day later, Susan found herself in her one, real business suit, a present from her parents on her graduation. She was climbing the steps of the county offices. The county offices took up almost an entire block and seemed to be a connected set of buildings that housed everything from the county courthouse to the police department to the county buses. She might have even glimpsed the county jail at the end of the buildings. It was small town USA and it was where she wanted to be right now. As she opened the door she ran smack dab into a police officer.
“Oh, excuse me. I’m so sorry,” said Susan as she looked up into the eyes of the officer who had pulled her over for a broken taillight.
“No problem, no problem. I should have been more aware of my surroundings. I was just reading this article in the paper. Do I know you?” asked the officer.
“Sort of. You pulled me over a couple of weeks ago for a broken taillight,” replied Susan.
“Oh yes. Did you not get it fixed and got a ticket you have to take care of now?” asked the officer.
“No, no. I got it fixed. In fact, I fixed it myself, the very day you pulled me over,” said Susan and she left it at that. She didn’t know what else to say.
“So what brings you to the county offices? Perhaps I can help you find what you’re looking for?”
Susan just stared at the officer. She wasn’t used to men being nice to her anymore.
“My name is John, by the way,” said John as he stuck out his hand to shake with her. “It’s nice to meet you officially.”
Susan came out of her stupor, “It’s nice to meet you John. My name is Susan. I’m here to interview for a job actually but I don’t want to take you away from your work. I’m sure I can find the room,” said Susan, although she wasn’t sure she could with the time she’d lost chatting with John.
“No problem, Susan. I’m off duty which is why I was reading a paper and not paying attention to where I was going. What room are you in? I’ll show you where it is,” said John.
Susan looked down at her paper. “The interview is in room 301,” replied Susan.
“Great, you’re on the third floor and you’ll be interviewing with Jacob Marley. Let me warn you not to make any cracks about his name,” smiled John as he led me to the elevator.
“Why would I make any cracks about his name?” asked Susan.
“Well, his name is Jacob Marley. It’s the name of Scrooge’s dead partner in the Christmas classic A Christmas Carol,” said John.
“Oh, yes. I should have realized that. I did get a degree in Comparative Literature from UW (UDUB). You’d think I could at least recognize famous literary characters.”
The elevator door opened and they both stepped in.
“You graduated from the University of Washington with a Comparative Literature degree?” asked John.
“Cool, but why are you applying for our 911 dispatcher job? I’m assuming that’s why you are here, meeting with Jacob?”
“Yes, I’m applying for the job. I need a job and it’s surprising how many jobs do not require a Comparative Literature degree. I know, shocking but true. It’s a job and it pays well and I need the pay. Besides, it’s got to be interesting and steady work. You always need someone to answer the 911 calls,” replied Susan.
The elevator stopped and John stepped out of the elevator, with Susan close behind. They went down three doors and stopped at room 301.
“Well, here’s your room. Would you like to meet for lunch later this afternoon, after your interview? I could meet you back here after an hour or so. You have to eat and it would be my treat,” said John.
Did she want to meet up with this man again? He was nice, but was she ready to even put a pinky in the dating pool again? Granted, it would be non-threatening. It was lunch, broad daylight and he was an officer of the law. Thora had said to take as long as she needed and Jesse would probably be sleeping by the time she got done here.
She looked up into the face of the very handsome officer John. Her heart fluttered and she did the one thing she didn’t really want to do.
“I’d love to,” Susan replied, a little breathless. She didn’t want to seem too eager, but it was pretty exhilarating to be noticed by a cute guy again.
“Great!” John said, flashing her a smile with impossibly white teeth. “How about we meet down in the lobby at around noon?”
“Okay,” she said, ducking her head. She didn’t want this officer John to notice the heat which was creeping into her face.
“Good luck,” John said, touching her shoulder gently, making her glance up to his face again. “I’m sure it will go well. Tell him that John says hi, and he’ll go easy on ya.”
The next hour was nerve-wracking. Jacob Marley was a nice enough man. He even cracked a grin when Susan mentioned John’s name, but Susan couldn’t help feeling like she had been scrutinized from every possible angle by the time she left. She supposed that working for the police department was a big deal, demanding someone with a clean record and no skeletons in the closet, but some of the questions almost seemed impertinent. Did they really need to know all the intricate details of her personal life?
Still, Susan felt good as she exited room 301. She had been honest and straightforward, even through the uncomfortable questions. She hoped she could get the job. She was starting to feel a little desperate, not wanting to rely on her father’s credit card any longer.
John was waiting for her in the lobby, as promised.
“How’d it go?” he asked, standing up when he saw her come through the elevator door.
“Good…I hope,” she said.
“You up for a burger? Or are you more of a salad girl?”
“I am most definitely up for a burger!” she said, laughing. “This girl is a meat eater all the way!”
“Oh, good. I knew that I liked you for a reason,” John said, grinning.
They walked a block up the street to a little diner. The bell on the front door tinkled merrily as they swept into the crowded restaurant. It was evidently a favorite place for the county workers. There were a number of police officers, alongside men and women in business suits. The waitresses scurried around the room, a stack of orders balanced precariously in their hands, and wide smiles greeting their regular customers. Susan wondered how they did it. They made it all look so effortless, but she knew differently. She knew how back-breaking the work was, with few compensations for the effort.
Susan and John sat down at a booth next to one of the front windows. She began looking through the menu, but John seemed to already know what he wanted.
“What’s good here?” she asked him.
“What isn’t good here?” he laughed. “I usually get their daily special, but today I feel like a good old greasy cheeseburger.”
Susan laughed. “Sounds perfect.”
The perky waitress took their orders, two bacon cheeseburgers (hold the onion on Susan’s, extra pickles on John’s), with garlic fries and two cherry Cokes, without writing a single thing down.
“Sure thing, Johnny,” she chirped, winking at the now blushing officer.
“I think that I might be stepping in on someone else’s territory,” Susan joked, as the sixty-something waitress zipped off to the kitchen.
John chuckled. “I’ve known Prissy here since I was a little kid. My dad used to bring me to this diner almost every Saturday afternoon. I would get a chocolate milkshake, and he would order a stack of pancakes that seemed like it was never ending.”
The food came, and it was perfect, as promised. Susan hoped that she wouldn’t regret diving into the garlic fries, but they were too good to resist.
John asked about where she came from, and Susan found that her entire story was tumbling out. Her dreams of making it on her own. The excitement and thrill of a first love, only to be dashed by heartbreak and abandonment. The love and completion of meeting her son for the first time. The desperation and loneliness of starting over again.
She couldn’t believe that she had told John so much, but he was such a good listener, and she desperately needed someone to listen to her. It had just been so long.
“Well, I’m glad that your journey has brought you here, Susan,” he said softly, when she had finally finished. He reached across the table and took her hand.
“I’m glad too,” she said, looking down at their hands touching, because she was too embarrassed to look him in the face.
Suddenly a shadow fell across their table and a familiar self-assured voice said, “There you are, Susan. I’ve been looking all over for you. Do you mind telling me where my son is?!”
Crap. She had just about forgotten about Damien. And of course, he had to pick today of all days to show up out of nowhere claiming to have been searching high and low for her and Jesse, as if she had kidnapped him or something.
She peeked at John’s face and saw his confusion and concern. Was he wondering what kind of a mother she really was? Or maybe he was concerned about her safety. Probably stuck on thinking she was a nutcase and he’d be better off getting some distance from her and this late comer.
“Damien, what are you doing here?” Her voice sounded shrill in her own ears, she could only imagine what it sounded like to John. Guilty and defensive, most likely. “I didn’t think I’d ever see you again.”
“Susan, do you think we could have a few minutes of privacy? There are some things I need to explain.”
“What could you possibly want to talk about? And how do you even know about Jesse? You disappeared months before he was born, weeks before I even realized he was baking! And now you show up here like you’ve been wronged somehow?”
“Excuse me, my name is John Havenarker. You can call me Officer Havenarker. I’m afraid that Susan and I are a bit busy right now. Perhaps you could leave your local information with the hostess over there and Susan can contact you when she’s got a minute.”
“Officer Havenarker, I do apologise for interrupting your tete-a-tete, but it is really very important that I speak with Susan privately. Now.”
Susan watched as John glanced at her, as if discerning how ruffled she was and could she handle whatever Damien had to throw at her. She nodded briefly, then after apologizing for the intrusion she followed Damien out of the diner.
It was soon obvious that Damien didn’t have any clue about where they were or where they could go to get a little privacy. She wasn’t about to invite him to her home, nor was she willing to go to wherever he was staying. Finally, she directed him to a nearby park where they sat on a dilapidated swing set. It was quiet at first, there was no way she was going to make this easy for him. Instead, she contented herself with admiring the bright blue sky and the wind that had a distinct autumn feel to it as it rushed along the ground. The lake was shining brightly in the background and she could hear ski boats and other water craft as they cruised and played on the lake.
“Susan, I am so sorry,” were the first words out of his mouth after a significant time had passed. He swatted at the occasional gnat, and said it again. “I am so sorry that I just disappeared like that. I certainly didn’t mean for things to end or to hurt you. Especially when I found out about Jesse, my conscious grew heavier knowing how difficult going through that all alone must have been. Please, give me a chance to explain. Susanna, (Really? He had to bring up that tired, old nickname? Although she found herself startled when she felt a warm tingling sensation in her thorn and thistle protected heart. He sounded so sincere.) I know I don’t deserve your forgiveness but I’m hoping for it anyway, once you know what has happened. Perhaps you’ll be able to see your way past my horrible neglect and remember what we once had. We were best friends, spending time together at work as well as before and after. Talking about anything and everything. Please tell me you remember how we fit so well together. I miss you. And now that I know we have a son together, I would really like to get to know him, be involved in his life and be a help to you. To be with you. Will you give me the time to explain?”
“I don’t know Damien. Yes, we had some good times, okay some really great times, and I thought maybe we really did have a future together. But that was a long time ago and lots has changed since then. Say what you have to say, although I doubt anything could make me forgive and forget what you did to me and to Jesse.” Susan felt herself begin to shake - with fear or anticipation she wasn’t sure. But she could feel the energy in the air and she knew that what Damien was about to share with her would rock her world. If only she’d known then what was coming, she might have never agreed to this conversation.
“One night about 15 months ago, I was driving home from work at Caesar’s. I saw some lights in the sky. Just for a moment… ”
Susan listened in disbelief as Damian outlined a story of being kidnapped by aliens. It sounded like the science fiction movies he used to watch. He had always been interested in conspiracies it seemed and he liked outlining ways the government was hiding things from Americans. He was also fascinated with Area 51 in southern Nevada. All of his interest in such things had always seemed harmless enough but this was too much.
“I don’t know how you can expect me to believe all this,” she said.
“Fine,” he said, glaring at her, “Don’t believe me. I have a son though. You have to let me see him.”
Susan had to agree even though exposing her young son to Damian who was at best delusional was the last thing she wanted to do. As much as she didn’t want to let Damian see Jesse, she couldn’t see an alternative. Reluctantly she told him he could go back to the house and she’d go get Jesse at Thora’s and meet him there. She felt a sudden urge to go pick up Jesse and flee and Damian must have realized that because he insisted he go with her. “We can pick up my truck later,” he said, indicating the dusty little black pick-up parked on the street.
Susan sighed in resignation and drove to Thora’s house. She looked over at him. He was drumming his fingers against the car door. All the charm and sincerity he’d exhibited earlier seemed to have fled. Now he just seemed angry and urgent about seeing Jesse. It made her uneasy.
Jesse clapped his hands when he saw her in the new adorable way he had picked up recently. Damian didn't smile and melt at the sight of Jesse like Susan thought anyone with a heart would do because he was such a cute baby. Instead, Damian nodded his head approvingly and looked him over like he was a commodity.
When they got back to the lake house, Damian went to the room she showed him where he could sleep and she didn't see him for the rest of the day. While she was feeding and bathing Jesse and watching him play at her feet, she thought about Damian the entire time. What did he want? Granted she hadn't known him very well when they were in Las Vegas. Theirs had been a brief and torrid affair. He had always been a little quirky with his obsessions and late night phone calls and occasionally he would leave for unexplained reasons. It didn't really bother her because she wasn't looking for anything long term. Then she had Jesse. Now she realized that with Jesse here, Damian was long term.
She had asked him how he had found her and he said that she posted a picture of Jesse and her at the lake. At the time, posting the picture had seemed harmless; she had nothing to hide and no one to hide from. Now she had a nagging feeling that Damian finding them was a bad idea.
Susan was finally able to get Jesse settled in bed asleep. She wondered if Damian would like to talk but he was texting on his phone. Finally she said, “I’m going to bed,” and he hardly acknowledged her. As she walked by Jesse’s room on the way to her own, the fleeting thought entered her mind that she should put Jesse in her bedroom for the night but it had been hard enough to get him to sleep in the first place and Damian was obviously not that interested in him. Again she wondered, what does he want?
Susan awakened to loud banging on the door. She groped her way from sleep and grabbed her clock on the bedside table. The numbers glowed 3:45. Who could be at the door?
She pulled a sweatshirt over her head as she walked carefully to the door. She didn’t want Jesse to wake up but she didn’t want to let someone in either. She was grateful that Damian was there too. There was more loud banging as she approached the door.
“Who is it?” Susan called.
“It’s John. Please, open the door. It’s important.”
“John?” she thought wonderingly, but she unlatched the lock and opened the door. John stepped in the house past her. He was wearing his uniform.
“Where is he?” John asked, “Is he still here?”
“Who?” Susan asked, she felt slightly panicked and slightly annoyed.
“Yeah,” Susan said, “I think so. I was asleep.”
“Sorry,” John said briskly, “I really need to see him though. Police business.”
“Is he in some kind of trouble?” Susan asked, she pointed John down the hall to the room where Damian slept. It was empty, the bed looked untouched.
“Is your son--”
Before John could finish asking, Susan ran down the hall to Jesse’s room. It was also empty. Her head started swimming and she felt like she was going to faint. “What’s going on?” she demanded of John.
“Go grab some clothes,” he said, “I’ll tell you in the car.”
Susan looked down at her nightgown that hit her mid-thigh. It occurred to her that in another life she may have been embarrassed but she raced to her room and pulled on some jeans and found some shoes and was quickly ready to go. When she got back to John he was just finishing a phone call.
“I’ll take you down to the station,” he said, “That way you can be in touch with the latest information.”
“What?” Susan said, trying not to shriek, “We aren’t going after him?”
“Don’t worry,” he said, “We have alerted troopers all along Highway 2 and US 97. The border guards are on the lookout too.”
“What is going on?” Susan asked, panic threatening to overtake her.
“Before I lived in Chelan, I was a trooper in Bellingham. During the Vancouver Olympics we were schooled in all sorts of terrorist groups and were expected to know markings and indicators for different groups. When I saw Damian yesterday with you, I noticed the tattoo on his arm.”
“His arms are covered with tattoos,” Susan said.
“There was one right here,” John indicated his upper forearm, “That looked familiar to me. As soon as I had a chance I looked into it and it is a symbol for a militant terror group from Palestine.”
“Damian’s family is Greek!” Susan said. This was making no sense to her and not helping her get Jesse back.
“Right,” John said, “He’s not Palestinian. I did a little more digging though and he has definite ties to this group. He’s on a watch list. He’s wanted in connection with several suspicious activities.”
“But what would that have to do with Jesse?”
“I don’t know,” John said. “I called your dad though, right when I figured out who Damian was.”
“Yes. I know him from back when I worked in Bellingham. I was on the terrorist task force and as U.S. Attorney, he was involved.”
“What?!” This was certainly the strangest night of her life. “You know my dad?”
“Yeah, he’s a good guy.” John said, “He actually called when you were moving here to let me know; he wanted us to keep an eye on things.”
Susan remembered him stopping her for a taillight. She couldn’t believe her dad!
“So your dad has put a major search in motion. I can’t imagine that Damian has any chance of getting very far.”
Inside the Chelan police department, Susan paced up and down the tiny room while John went to the back to make some calls. Before long a car pulled up and two familiar figures climbed out. Her parents!
She ran out to them in the dim morning light and they threw arms around her. “We’ll find him,” her dad said.
The three sat in a row on uncomfortable plastic chairs. They waited. The police office filled steadily as the work day started. A few officers sat nearby and started speculating about Damian. “I wonder if he wants to raise the little boy in the group and then offer him as a martyr. It’s called Shahada and it’s celebrated among some,” an officer with glasses and a too tight uniform said. He looked over at Susan’s father like he was trying to impress the U.S. Attorney with his knowledge.
The woman across from him added, “When they...act as a suicide bomber...it is to the glory of their parents. They have to teach them from a very young age that dying in such a way is heroic. Maybe Damian wanted to take Jesse there to teach him.”
The first officer said, “Maybe it will help him become more a part of the group? I don’t know. Just speculating...” Eyeing Susan’s father and seeing the warning glare being sent, the officer stopped talking.
Within an hour there was a phone call. Damian had been stopped at the border at Sumas. He was in police custody; Jesse was safe.
Susan’s dad stood and shook John’s hand when he heard the news, “Well done,” he said. Then he turned to his wife and daughter and said, “What are you waiting for? We’re going to Sumas.”
Susan looked up at her dad as if she was seeing him for the first time. In the past she’d always seen his severity, his need to be in charge of everyone, his U.S. Attorney-ness. Now she saw the hero that had helped her get her baby back.
“He’s really fine?” Susan asked, “Jesse’s OK?”
“Yes,” John said with a smile. “And when you get back, you owe me a lunch date.”
“You can stop pretending,” Susan said. “I know you were just ‘keeping an eye’ on me.” She was still irritated with her dad and his constant meddling.
“Well yeah,” John said, “But lunch had nothing to do with your dad.” He ducked his head sheepishly, like he’d said too much.
Susan’s mother propelled her to the car. Susan was too stunned by the night’s events to do anything but let her.
“He seems nice,” her mother said in a conspiratorial whisper.