The Greener Mile - Part 4
I have to admit, this part was fairly easy to write and it flowed quickly from the mind. But I hope you all enjoy.
From the previous part:
“My dearest, darling Michelle,”
“I have been in a quandary as to whether or not to write this letter but over the past couple of months I have grown to love you more every day. The time has come for me to put my affairs in order because my time on this world is nearing its end. You see, when we met, I had been following my instincts because of the visions I had been having. You met me that day because you and I were destined to meet. We had all these wonderful experiences together because it was meant to happen. Please don’t ask how, because I don’t know how I knew. I just did.
“I knew we were going to get married and that we were going to have two children together. I am happy knowing they are on their way.”
I threw the letter down on the bed. What’s that? He knew about us having two children? But I couldn’t have any kids! Oh shit!
Something clicked in my mind. Morning sickness! That is the reason I have been throwing up every morning. In a panic, I grabbed a phone and called Frank. I asked him to pick me up a pregnancy test kit. Since he didn’t have to work that day, he promised me that he would get it immediately and bring it over.
For the next hour, I paced the floor by the front door waiting for him to arrive. I was out the door before he was fully at a stop. I grabbed the sack he had in his hand as he was getting out of the car. I ran back into the house and into the bathroom. I quickly read the directions in the kit and followed them to the letter.
Within minutes I had the results. I was pregnant! I promptly folded to the floor unconscious.
As I came to again, I noticed that I had a bed underneath me. I opened my eyes and saw Frank sitting on the chair pulled up next to me by the bed. He saw me looking at him and smiled.
“Its about time you realized that you were pregnant. John told me about it a few days ago but he knew you would find out in your own time. Congratulations.” He told me.
“But Frank, I can’t have any kids! I mean I *can’t* have kids at all. Oh god, this can’t be happening to me.” I wailed.
“Regardless of whether or not you think you can’t have kids, your husband knew otherwise. Believe me, he was quite convincing and I have seen the signs that I have experienced with my wife, with you. You are pregnant. We are going to an appointment with a doctor to verify this and start you on prenatal care. I told John I would take good care of you. My wife has even agreed to help you since you both were so good to our son and we are happy to be able to have him with us longer than we had been told.” He paused for a moment. “I will be having my wife go with you to the doctor’s office tomorrow. We took the liberty of making an appointment for you because of what John had said. For now, I need to have you get a good night’s rest after you have a good dinner. You have to remember, you’re eating for three now.” He said the last with a smirk.
My stomach fell into a bottomless pit. It finally dawned on me that I’m going to have a baby. No, correct that, two babies. This was going to be one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life.
Knowing I was pregnant, I ate a decent meal that night, though I knew it was going to come back up in the morning.
I went back to my bedroom and picked up the letter from John again.
“The one thing that I never told you about my gift is that I have always been able to see the circumstances behind my death. I’ve also known that my father knew his, his father knew his and his father knew his. We were all destined to die young and of circumstances that were of no cause of our own, but of someone else’s. I no longer have much time before I’m gone and you will have to carry on my legacy.
“You see, my children will carry my gift within themselves but they will get to deal with things better than I did. I altered them the other night when you were laying on the ground, dead, after being raped and murdered by those men I punished. I used the last of my gift to change them and to change you.
“I’m sorry I did so to you but I had to make sure you lived long enough to raise my children the right way. But I didn’t control my gift very well and it burnt out doing everything. As a result, I won’t be able to heal anyone again. I know who it will be that is the cause of my death and that her family will hate me, even though they had praised me a short time ago.
“As to the changes I made in you, you won’t be able to die for a while. Unfortunately, I don’t know how long that it will last, but you should live long enough for my children to grow into adults. The boy will have his own issues to deal with and his sister will have a better time at it than he will. But in the end, both of them will become the best healer that has ever existed.
“But, you will have the greater task. I require of you to find the killer of little Sarah Stanton plus several of the others that will die that are part of the ones we healed. I can’t see who did it or will do it but I can see that they will die. That is why I wanted to go to the specific park we did. I tried to beat the killer there and save her life but I was just too late. I blame myself for that. I tried my best.
“One thing that I also need for you to do is learn about my family history. Starting with my great-grandfather and what lead him to being executed. Find out who he talked to; find out if there are any records of him. I would like my children to know about their family history from my side. Create a family tree to show them about their lineage.
“Do not let anyone know of this. You will not be able to stop anything that will happen to me, no matter how hard you try. This is my destiny. I love you very much. You have made me so proud to have met you and that you allowed me into your life. I hope that I was able to fulfill your life’s dreams. I’m just sorry that I won’t be able to be there to help you with our children.
“Oh, one last thing before I close this letter. I know you worry about finances and such. I had Frank go with me the day we were waiting for you to get done with your medical and questioning by the police, to have the account that you had set up for our expenses changed into the name they were going to give you. We had to wait for the word of what name you were going to use before we could put it on the account. You just have to go sign a card to put your signature on it so that you can access the money. If things are done right, it should last you a while.
“Please be good to our babies. Tell them as they grow up that their father loved them very much and he wished he had been able to be there to see them grow up. Promise me also that you won’t always be alone. Find a good man to help you raise the children. But let them know that he may be the adoptive father, their real father will miss them into eternity. I know there will be someone very special for you to pick up the pieces with, one who will need your help himself.
“When my great-grandfather went to the electric chair, they called that last walk, the Green Mile. Be assured, my last walk has been the Greener Mile.
“Goodbye my love. I will miss you.
“With all my heart, John”
I was bawling horribly by the time I was finished with his letter. I didn’t know how long I would have before he was gone but I had to see him in the morning. If anything, to tell him that I loved him and I would miss him. I would promise him that I would find another man to help raise the children. I would promise him everything.
I finally fell asleep but it was a restless sleep all night long. I really missed his companionship.
The next morning, I woke to the now familiar gurgling of my tummy and I made it to the bathroom just in time to lose what was left of my supper. I hoped I didn’t have to deal with the morning sickness for very long. It could get tiring.
I got ready for my morning business and was almost ready to call Frank for a ride to the jail where John was, when the doorbell rang. My guard answered it before I was able to.
Frank walked into the kitchen where I was just cleaning things up.
I was about to greet him when I noticed the look on his face. I could tell something was wrong. Then it dawned on me in an instant.
I fell to my knees screaming “NOOOOOOOOOO!”
Frank was instantly beside me and had me in his arms, holding me closely to his chest. I cried out my anguish, for I knew at that moment that John was gone. It was just a matter of finding out what happened to him. More than anything else, I was now alone again. What a nasty word! Alone. I hated the sound of the word. Not only was I alone, but I was a widow also. I could get used to one but not the other.
Once I had finally shed all the tears I had in me, I was able to calmly collect my thoughts. I wiped my eyes and smiled at Frank for his comfort. He helped me to my feet and we went into the living room and sat down on the couch.
I gathered my thoughts for a moment before saying, “I need to know the details Frank. What exactly happened to John and why.”
“After the court hearing was over, they took John back to the county jail. Later when it was time for the evening meal, they let him out of the cell where he joined the rest of the inmates. None of the guards saw exactly what happened but before they knew what was going on, someone had a shank and slit his throat. He would have bled out in a minute if someone else hadn’t knocked him off his feet and then smashed his head into one of the benches at a table, which broke his neck just below his skull. He was dead instantly. With so many inmates crowded around the area, the guards were unable to see who did what. It was pure negligence on the guards for allowing him to join the general population for the meal.” He told me.
Before Frank could continue to say anything else, his cell phone rang. He answered it and then listened for a moment. His face turned pure white as he did so. He thanked the caller and hung up. Then he was the one who broke down and cried.
It wasn’t as long as I had cried but the emotions he poured out were intense, to say the least. All I could do was hold onto him and comfort him as he had done for me a bit ago.
When he was done, he looked at me and said, “My wife and son were both just killed in an automobile accident when she was taking him to school. A vehicle in front of them stopped suddenly, causing her to slam on her brakes and in turn, caused the semi that was following her to run into her vehicle and smashed it into the vehicle in front. Because of the force of the impact on her little car, both of them were crushed to death instantly. That was my supervisor calling to tell me and also that I am now on bereavement leave because of it.” There was an audible sob in his voice as he said it.
All I could do was hold him tightly as he continued to sob. Now there were two children dead who had been healed by John. Had they been destined to die of the illness and John interfered with their destinies? Something just dawned on me at that point.
“Frank, I hate to say this but something just hit me about what you said yesterday on the way to the courthouse. What were you saying about a child being killed in an accident?”
He broke off his grief for a moment before saying, “All I was saying was that a little boy had been killed in a hit and run accident. Why?”
“I’m not sure yet. Something seems fishy about what is going on. Was there any extenuating circumstances behind it or anything unusual that you remember?”
He was thoughtful for a moment. “All I remember was that no one saw the accident, just that he was found along the street with tire tracks from a car around him. That’s all I remember, since it wasn’t in my jurisdiction.”
“No, that’s not it. There was something else you said yesterday that I didn’t quite catch. I can’t remember what it was you said either.”
“Oh, I know now. I heard that he had just been cured of having leukemia. Is that what you were meaning?” He said.
“Yes, that’s it. Did you happen to catch his name or anything?” I asked him.
“Not really but I think I can find out if needs be. Do you think it could be important?” He asked of me.
“If my hunch is correct, it could play a big factor in finding out what happened to your wife and son as well as Sarah Stanton. I think they are all related issues.”
“If what you’re saying is true, that may mean that there is a conspiracy going on to kill children that…” He paused for a moment. “Oh, my god! John was right. It was someone else that killed Sarah. How many children did John cure?”
“I know it was around thirty children before the hospital caught on to what we were doing.”
He looked troubled. “If that’s the case, we could have more deaths on our hands if we don’t do something about it. We need to save those other children. So far, all we know is that someone is killing children. We don’t know who it is or what their motive is…”
“I can tell you what their motive is. It is because they are no longer earning mega bucks from insurance experimenting on your children while they get research grants from the government to find the ‘cure’ for all these diseases. They intimated something like that to me before I was injected with whatever substance they gave me. I think it is retribution to all of you that used John to cure the children.” I told him.
“I think I need to go upwards with this information. Do you have a list of the children’s names that were cured?” I was asked.
“I kept very good records as to what was going on. Unfortunately, the names and information is on my laptop in the camper. I don’t have access to the camper anymore since my keys were stolen the other night.”
He got a slight smile on his face. “You don’t have to worry about that. I have ways of getting into a vehicle that will beat all other possibilities of access. Then we can see what we can do.”
“Once we are able to get the list of names, is there any chance of being able to put a shadow on the kids to help protect them?” I asked.
“Unless there is vital proof of any wrong doings directed at the children, it might be too expensive for any police force to stake out a child on the suspicion that something might happen to them. We need proof positive to be able to do so.”
“Then let’s work on getting the names so that we can put a stop to this insanity.”
Since we had both lost our life partners that day, we went to this task with an urgency that bordered on desperation. My camper had been impounded because of my supposed death and John hadn’t been able to get it out. Frank took me to the bank where I filled out the signature card and received all the necessary documents and cards to access the account funds. I felt a moment of melancholy over the whole thing. Instead of breaking out crying again, I just gave a deep sigh. I think Frank knew what was going on in my head.
Once at the impound yard, I paid off the fees plus the interest that had accrued in storage and I was shown to where the camper sat. Frank, with an ingenuity that was impressive to me, opened the camper locks within seconds and had the ignition going almost as fast. He drove it out of the spot and then we took the camper to his house, me driving it and him in his car.
I pulled my laptop out of it’s hidden location, I had learned all sort of places to hide things that made it hard to steal anything from me. Frank and I went inside his house and connected it to his printer so that I could print out the list. I read off the list of names and felt a chill.
There were other names but I could almost be sure that they were going to go in order that they were healed and checked out of the hospital.
“Frank, do you remember what the name of the child was that was killed by the hit and run?”
“Hmm, I think it was a Charles Johnson or something like that.” He replies.
“How about a Charlie Jones?” I asked him.
“Yeah, that sounds about right. Why is it that you ask?”
“Well, Charlie Jones was the second child to be healed. Jason was the third one done. Sarah Stanton was the very first one. Do you see the pattern forming?”
Needless to say, we were off like a flash to see his supervisor with our list of names and our suspicions. Frank’s supervisor was a bit miffed that Frank had come into the office but understood when it came to police work that Frank was honestly trying to do his job regardless of the circumstances.
The higher-ups were called in to consult in the possible investigation on the suspected child homicides. All of them listened to the facts Frank laid out in front of them. He didn’t hide anything, even the fact that John Coffee died for no reason and what is was that John had done for these children. They agreed to send someone to warn the Carlson parents about the possible danger to their child. Since they lived in a different district, they had to bring the various districts in on the loop for cross checking of the individual stories.
It took several hours of conferences before all of the police districts in the city were made aware of the situation. Since the greatest danger at the moment was to Camille, she was to be the one who was going to be watched first. Since that required minimal effort, one pair of officers were assigned to watch her from the time she got out of school for the day, for a 24 hour period of time. If nothing happened to her, then it would be deemed that the other three deaths were exactly as they appeared to be, accidents or outright murder.
At 2:00 in the afternoon, a call was received from the district that the Carlsons lived in. It seemed that someone who was high on drugs and on a rampage had entered the school and took several children hostage. Camille Carlson was one of them. The police had been called in because of the hostage situation but it was fruitless. He killed Camille before turning the gun on himself.
For all the police departments to suddenly see the light for the situation, it was an epiphany to them that Frank and I had been telling the truth. It also pointed out that John was a patsy in the murder of Sarah Stanton.
A background check was ordered on the driver of the vehicle that caused Frank’s wife to be killed. It turned out that he worked for Trower Medical Center in the terminal children’s ward. As it turned out, he was an orderly whose in-charge doctor was named Amos Palmer. That name rang a lot of bells through the police department.
Frank had a smug, self-assured look on his face. An arrest warrant was immediately sent out for the driver
The shooter responsible for the death of Camille Carlson was found to have no identification on him but he did have a picture of Camille on his person. Which lead the police to the conclusion that it was a setup. He was supposed to kill her and her alone. His fingerprints were taken and ran in the National Database but came up with no hits.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, there was another child murdered and at that moment, no one knew where Dr. Palmer was. An APB was put out on Dr. Palmer but no one was sure when he or his associates would strike the next child. They had to make sure that the killers wouldn’t know they had the police on to them.
Frank and I went back to the safe house late in the evening. We stopped on the way back and ordered some Chinese take-out and ate together in the kitchen. After the day’s activities, we were both worn out and didn’t think too much about the grief that had consumed us earlier in the day. We were both exhausted.
I let Frank crash in one of the spare bedrooms. I went off to bed myself. I may have been able to put aside the pain I was feeling for the loss of John while I was busy trying to help save the children but I couldn’t put it aside as I lay in bed. I cried myself to sleep.
During the middle of the night, I was awakened by a strange sound coming from the house. It was a choking type of sound that I had never heard from the house. Curious, I got up and went in search of the source. It didn’t take long to find it. It was coming from the room Frank was in.
Feeling that I was betraying John but hurting from the pain another human being was in, I went into the room and lay down beside him and wrapped him in my arms. He sobbed even harder, he obviously knew I was awake because of him. The pain inside the man’s heart was immense, he had lost in one day the two people he loved the most. I may have lost one person, but his pain was doubled.
I held on to him for as long as he let loose his grief. Eventually, he began to settle down and fell into an uneasy sleep. I eventually fell asleep myself, wrapped up in his warm, comfortable arms.
While we slept, the search went on for a murderer. Unbeknownst to me, the world of crime solving had evolved to fine points. Most of the world didn’t know it but they had in their hands the ultimate tool to locate them in case of a problem.
Private records were accessed and eventually information on Dr. Palmer lead them to his hide-out. Oh, the information that lead to him? It was his cell phone. All they had to do was find out his phone number and track it down using the services cell site records and they had him. They were even able to tap in to his phone and monitor his conversations with his cohorts in planning the death of the next child. The police made sure that they had the conversation recorded for adding to the case against him. The best thing that happened was that they even obtained the names of all the conspirators that had joined him. They had been using blackmail against their employees to make them do their bidding in killing the children. Those employees were the ultimate patsies.
Early morning raids were staged after court orders were obtained for search and seizure. All the principals were arrested in the pre-dawn hours while the majority of the city slept. The biggest problem wound up being that Dr. Palmer had been prepared for the possibility and he committed suicide as the police rushed his hide out. He wouldn’t be standing trial for anything.
Frank and I had both been exhausted the night before from the emotions of the day. We didn’t wake up until nearly mid-afternoon. Even then we were still groggy. When we both realized that we were sharing the same bed, we both turned bright shades of red. I excused myself fro his presence and went back to my room. My emotional state from the previous day had depleted itself and my body. I hadn’t felt the need to throw up at all, which was the main reason I had managed to sleep as long as I had. I felt a tiny bit nauseous but it wasn’t anything that I couldn’t handle.
I realized that I hadn’t made it to the doctor the previous day for my exam for the pregnancy. I would have to see what I could do to get it rescheduled for after the funerals for Nancy, Jason and John. Frank and I had a lot of work to do that day in order to prepare our loved ones for their eternal rest. The thing that bothered me the most was that I didn’t have a single picture of John in my possession. I hadn’t thought about taking any pictures of him or myself because I was too focused on the goals we had set.
A pang of regret coursed through me. I thought about the goals we had set for helping the TG community that wouldn’t ever come to fruition now that John was dead. I was saddened by the thought but I could bear it. No one would really know what they missed out on anyway.
Since Frank and I shared tragedies, we decided that we would purchase burial plots next to each other so that our families could spend eternity together and wait for our arrivals later. The biggest problem was the fact that John’s size would cause a greater issue. He would have had to have a plot that was normally half again larger than a normal one. I decided to solve that issue and I set it up for him to be cremated. Frank followed my example and had the same done for his wife and son. Not that it would have mattered anyway, both the bodies were crushed beyond any mortician’s ability to make them recognizable as human beings.
All the trips we made together kept us occupied with our common goals. We shared our pain together and eased said pain from the other by the companionship we shared.
The funerals were held together a week later. It was easier to do since we now shared our lives together. Frank and I had become attracted to each other during our common plight. We didn’t share our bodies with each other but that was common agreement. We each felt that we were betraying the love we had for our deceased spouses, so we decided that it would wait until our grieving periods were over.
I was able to come out of hiding because of the death of Dr. Palmer. Everyone had pointed to him as the main driving force in the deaths of the children. It turned out the person that had killed Camille Carlson had been the one who had killed Sarah Stanton. He had driven into the area of the school with his car and had left a very detailed note about what he had been forced to do with her. He felt sick and guilty about it all but the blackmail he had been put through was so bad, that he killed himself instead of doing anything more for Palmer. The worst thing, according to the letter, was that Dr. Palmer had injected a delayed reaction poison into him and that if he didn’t do as he was directed to do, that he would slowly and agonizingly be killed. Palmer had stated that he and only he had the counter agent for the poison. Rather than be blackmailed again and again by Palmer, he carried out his order and then killed himself.
It turned out in his autopsy that he had never been injected with any poison. He had been given a mild hypnotic that made him act like he was high on drugs. He was never in any danger but it showed how callous Dr. Palmer was. He had no regard for human life and each person was just a cash cow that he could milk.
In time, Dr. Palmer’s assets were seized by the law and turned over to the courts for disbursement. The primary victims wound up being the Stantons, the Jones’, Frank, the Carlsons and myself. The hospital employees that had been blackmailed were eventually given probation and community service for their parts in the killings but the other people involved in the planning of the killings were indicted and convicted of murder, conspiracy and theft by deception. That part is getting ahead of myself.
Dr. Palmer’s assets wound up totaling over $50,000,000.00. It was split between the five families that were the victims on the plot. I wound up getting an additional settlement from the city due to the fact that John was falsely arrested and jailed and then killed while in custody of the county. I was given $5,000,000.00 as a settlement and I had to sign a paper saying that I wouldn’t sue them in the future. I took the money and signed their papers. I just wanted the hubbub to go away.
The media had a heyday with the news of the healings and the subsequent killings. The hospital where this all happened became suspect by all the residents of the city and the county and their business started going down. I really didn’t care about what happened to the hospital at all. I felt that everyone employed there helped Dr. Palmer and his evil plans.
Once all the hullabaloo settled down, I was able to get to see a obstetrician for my pregnancy. As John had predicted, I was pregnant with twins: a boy and a girl. My morning sickness wound up lasting a month, of which I was getting tired of throwing up every day. Once that settle down, I was able to finally relax somewhat.
It had been a grand total of three months since I had been completely transformed into a biological woman. If my life continued at the rate it was going, I was going to be a haggard old biddy by the time I had these two babies. It seemed like it had been a lot longer than three months but the reality of the situation was that by this point, I was only 10 weeks pregnant.
I can only shake my head at the surreal nature of the past three months. I was transformed, never even experienced a period and wound up pregnant before I knew that I could have a baby. And then wind up a widow before I could actually fully settle into married life. As the old commercials used to say, ‘Life comes at you fast.’ That is certainly true in my case.
Frank and I were spending a lot of time together these days. I had been evicted out of the safe house because my case was no longer the volatile one it had been. Frank opened his house to me and I accepted. I told him that it was going to be temporary until I could find something better.
By that point, I was flush with enough money that I didn’t have to worry about working or doing anything if I even felt like it. I took part of the money and started playing at being a day trader on the stock market. I lost more than I made but that wasn’t the point of it for me.
I even started doing research on John’s forefathers on the internet. I managed to read a lot about his great-grandfather’s history based on the crimes he was accused of. I was saddened by the fact that no one would believe him when he tried to tell them all he wanted to do was help the little girls he was accused of killing. He had sat there crying because he hadn’t been in time to help them. Actually it didn’t say that but I realized how like his great-grandson he was.
The descriptions of the man sounded so like John that I wept for his missing presence. I truly missed him with all my heart. I placed my hand over my belly where our children were growing inside of me and wished fervently that he had been able to see his children be born and grow up. I also wished that they could have known who their father was and what a wonderful man he had been. I felt like I wanted to cry but I managed to hold back.
Frank had been an absolute dear to me ever since I moved into his house. He hadn’t made any sort of move towards me, nor I to him. We pretty much shared our existences together but I hoped something would turn out for the better in the future. I had grown to like Frank very much. Ever since the death of his wife and son, he had become a silent and solemn man. Not that he was that way around me, but it was what I could see inside him and what people had told me about him.
I returned back to studying the life of John Coffee the first, again. I was fascinated about the written tale of his life behind bars, as written by the man who had been in charge of the Green Mile, as it was called in the prison. The name had connotations of something more pleasant than it actually was. Paul Edgecomb was the man’s name.
From everything that had been written about John Coffee the first, I could almost tell that there was something missing from the narrative. Almost as if it was a deliberate omission. I further searched the name of Edgecomb in the online phone directory to see if I could find a relative of his for further personal information. I couldn’t find anything listed for him so I went one step further to see if I could find out his birth date and death date, wife, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren. Amazingly enough I was able to find his records by using, of all things, the LDS Genealogical library. It showed him as being born in 1895 and then showed no death records.
I found all the records of his wife, who died in 1963 and the records of his son who was born in 1936 and passed away in 1998. The odd coincidence of having no record of Paul’s death was very strange.
One a hunch, I looked up the Department of Records and Statistics for the state of Louisiana and searched for his name again. Again, no records existed showing he had passed away at anytime. I again found his wife and son. I went looking into tax records for the name and had a hit. There was a listing for a Paul Edgecomb in Lake Charles, Louisiana. It even listed a phone number for him there.
I figured that it was Paul’s grandson or maybe even his great grandson’s phone number but I felt it was worth a shot. I picked up the phone and dialed the listed number. The person that answered the phone when it rang gave the greeting of “Porter’s Retirement Home”.
I asked to possibly speak to Paul Edgecomb and was curtly told that residents were not permitted to tie up the house lines. She did give me a private number for him and I thanked her, then hung up.
I dialed the number I was given and it rang several times before a tired, worn out man’s voice picked up.
“Hi, I’m looking for Paul Edgecomb.” I politely asked.
“Speaking. Who’s calling please?” He responded back.
“Hi, my name is LaShara Mason and I’m calling to see if there is any chance you might be able to give me some information that your grandfather might have had at one time.”
“I’m sorry, miss, but my grandfather has been dead for over 90 years. Who are you really trying to reach?” He asked me.
“I am trying to reach the Paul Edgecomb who ran the Green Mile at the Cold Mountain Penitentiary in 1935. I have some questions about an inmate by the name of John Coffee, who was executed that year.” I told him.
The sound of silence was returned back to me from the other end of the line. I waited for a moment before I asked, “Hello? Are you still there?”
He finally said, “Yes, I’m still here. Who are you really? Why are you asking these questions?”
“Sir, my name is really LaShara Coffee and I am calling about my late husband’s great-grandfather, John Coffee.”
A gasp came over the phone. “I’m sorry, but there is no way that I’m going to talk about John over the phone. Good day miss.” A click on the other end was responded by dial tone reverting on my end. I hung up the phone and contemplated the very short conversation I had just had.
Strange was the term for it. Not really sure about what to do at that point, I thought it would be a good thing to go visit the man. I started to make the arrangements for plane tickets, a car rental and motel while I was there. I thought about asking Frank to come with me but I felt that I needed to do this one by myself.
Packing myself a suitcase, I wrote a quick note to Frank and let him know what I was doing and where I was going. I let him know that I would be back in a few days and that I would be fine. I had a taxi pick me up and take me to the airport.
My flight to Baton Rouge was uneventful. I did enjoy being able to fly again since it had been years since I had flown. I picked up my rental car and headed down I-10 towards Lake Charles. I had a three trip to get there and I was tired by the time I arrived.
I found my motel and checked in for the night. I had a temptingly spicy dinner that night of blacked shrimp. I had never really had New Orleans style food before and I found the meal quite pleasant as well as flavorful. I settled in for the night and prepared my self for the morning meeting with Mr. Edgecomb.
Since I knew that he was in a retirement home, I made sure that I didn’t arrive until mid-morning. As I walked in the door, I was assaulted by the smell of disinfectant, urine, feces and other smells that were nearly enough to gag me. I was glad that my morning sickness stage had passed or I would have lost it right then.
I went up to the desk just inside the front door and greeted the person at the desk.
“Hi, I’m here to visit Mr. Paul Edgecomb, please.”
The woman was in her mid-fifties and she looked like she could be a real hard nose. “Is Mr. Edgecomb expecting you this morning?”
“No, he isn’t. I talked with him on the phone yesterday and he wasn’t able to give me the information that I was looking for over the phone. I felt that I needed to come and see him in person and get the information that way.” I told her.
“Well, there are rules for the residents that no one outside of family members can visit anyone here. You’ll have to talk to one of his family members and have them bring you to see him.” She told me, rather officiously.
“I think you know this as well as I do: Mr. Edgecomb’s wife and son are both dead and he has no other relatives living. Therefore, I could be a long lost relative of his for all you know. But let me put it this way, I am not with the press, nor am I here to harm him in any way. He is an old man but he has information that I need to get to help solve a little puzzle about someone he knew a long time ago. Would you help me in this manner?” I demanded/asked her.
“Well, I don’t know. I’ll have to ask my supervisor if it is permitted.” She turned her attention away from me and made a call on the phone. She talked quietly for a moment before hanging up.
“I’m sorry miss but our rules are quite explicit. No one is allowed to see any resident without family approval first. Especially not our extreme elderly patients, er, I mean residents. You if you would just go back to whatever rock, um, place you came from, I have a business to run.”
“Then I hope for your sake that you know what your doing. Because one way or another, I will be seeing Mr. Edgecomb.” I told her with a hard finality. I turned away from the desk and took a step away.
Then in my loudest voice I yelled out, “Paul Edgecomb! Someone is here to see you and is not permitted to visit. Are you available? Paul Edgecomb! I need to see you!”
By the time I had the last word out of my mouth, I was grabbed by a couple of burley orderlies and hustled towards the door. The facilities manager was right there scolding at me like an angry squirrel. Something to do about disturbing the sanctity of peace that they worked to establish and maintain there. Not to mention disturbing the residents with my obnoxious voice.
They were about to shove me out the door when a man’s voice called out, “Wait. I’ll talk to her.”
Everyone turned around, me by proxy since I was still gripped in the orderly’s beefy hands. I saw a very elderly man standing about thirty feet from where I was.
The manager, the biddy she was, said, “Mr. Edgecomb, this woman is not welcome here. She has disturbed our peace and must be evicted.”
“Well, Ms. Mason has come a long way to see me since she made an appointment with me yesterday on the phone but the old man I am forgot to let you all know I had an appointment with her. Now if you’ll release my guest, I have business to attend to with her.” He was a kindly old man; his soft southern voice was pleasing to hear. Not like the screeching of the manager’s voice.
“Mr. Edgecomb, we have rules about visitors and needing family members approval to see a resident. You know that as well as I do.” She said huffily.
“Yes, I know the rules as well as you do but for your information, I have no family living that can give the approval for visitors. As you so well know, also.”
‘Go Paul! Give her hell.’ I thought to myself.
“Well, I hope you know what you’re getting in to,” she said. “I don’t think it’s right for one of her... type... to be disturbing one of our oldest citizens.”
“I’ll vouch for her personally. You don’t have to worry about anything further.” He responded in a no nonsense tone.
The manager stuck her nose up into the air and motioned for the orderlies to release me. I made insulted motions to my arms and brushed of the supposed dirt they had left on me. I smiled at Mr. Edgecomb.
He gave a tired smile in return to me. Then he motioned for me to join him. I walked over to where he stood and waited for him. A pure southern gentleman, he offered me his arm. I took it gently and walked slowly with him to wherever he was intending on going.
He took me into what could only be called a meeting room for family. He shut the door and locked it behind us. Then he did something that amazed me even further. He pulled out a small plastic box and sat it on the table in the center of the room and flipped a small switch on it. Then he visibly relaxed. “One can’t be too cautious these days. That box is a bug jammer, since I know they have listening devices in here.”
He motioned for me to sit, which I did. He slowly sat next to me. He seemed lost in his thoughts for a time before he spoke to me.
“You’re a very persistent young woman, Ms. Mason. Or should I call you Mrs. Coffee?”
“If you please, sir, please just call me LaShara or Shara or even Shari. I’ll answer to any of them.” I told him.
“Shari sounds ok to me. It’s a little bit easier for my old mouth to form. But I’ll only call you that if you’ll call me Paul.” He said with graceful ease.
“Certainly, Paul.” I replied.
“Now, what was it that you wanted to ask me about John Coffee? Wait a second before you answer. I wasn’t aware that He even had any descendents, let alone a grandson, son or whatever. How did that occur?” He inquired of me.
“Well, from what my late husband told me, his great-grandfather had been taken in by a woman who saw the person he was inside…” I went on to tell Paul the story that my John had told me those months ago. He was silent until I finished telling it.
“Amazing. No one knew anything about that at all. John walked the Green Mile not even knowing that he had a son to carry on his name. Now here I am talking to his great-granddaughter-in-law. What small world it really is.” He choked back a sob. He wiped a tear that was running down his cheek. “I’m the only person still alive who remembers John. I wish I could have known your husband. He sounds so much like the John I knew. Why are you searching out his roots with him being dead?”
“I made a vow upon his death to find out everything I could about his ancestors starting with his great-grandfather, so that I could pass the information on to his children.” I told Paul.
“How many children does he have?” He asked me.
“None at present, but in about six months or so, there’ll be two arriving.” I said with a slight blush.
“Again, amazing. Somehow, the line goes on despite the world trying to remove it from existence. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that God and Satan are in the battle for the world and it has been being played on the Coffee lineage.” He said with awe in his voice. “Ok, you told me about your John, now I’ll tell you about mine.”
Over the next several hours, he regaled me with the anecdotes of his meeting John the first back in 1935. By the time he was finished, I was sobbing for the inhumanity that had befallen the Coffee line. It was so sad how badly John was treated.
Paul continued on, “The main thing that happened when John was holding Mr. Jingles when Eduard was executed was that Mr. Jingles somehow had his life extended. And John somehow gave me the same thing. You see, I was 40 years old when John walked the Mile. I am now 121 years old. My body wants to live on but my mind is so tired. Mr. Jingles passed away a year ago and who knows how old he was when Eduard was executed. But I do know he lived 80 years longer than he would have if it hadn’t been for John. Now, I have no idea how much longer I have to live. I have outlived every one of my family and I no longer have anyone who cares about me. I have been in this god forsaken place longer than I care to remember. I sometimes wish that John had never come into my life but at the same time, I praise God that he did. I just didn’t want to live this long.” The years of life weighed heavily on him and he finally broke down.
I comforted him as best as I could, though I felt out of place. My own father was only 63 when he passed away and my mother was 73. I never knew either of my grandfathers. I felt a kinship with this kind old man. As I was hugging him, I wished deeply that I could help him out one way or another.
Without knowing what I did, I felt a lurch within myself and a bright light flashed between us and through the connection with him that I had with my arms. I felt something pouring into me from him and I took every bit of it.
I was unable to break the contact I had with Paul. Whatever it was that was happening, it knew what to do. Eventually, it slowed down and stopped. I felt a fullness within me that I couldn’t explain but I knew I needed to release the bloated feeling. I felt a belch rising within myself and before I knew what happened, a force rose from the depths of my being and came out.
Relief was instantaneous. I no longer felt bloated and I was actually quite energized. I gave a little giggle and said, “Excuse me Paul. That was really rude of me.”
He just smiled at me for a moment and then with a gusto, he let out the most heart felt peal of laughter. I couldn’t help but laugh with him. It had been rather embarrassing to have belched so long and loudly when I had never done so before in my life. We laughed together for several more moments.
Once we had finally calmed down, Paul looked at me and asked, “What in the world did you do? The only time I have ever saw such a light was when John was doing his thing. Did you somehow pick it up from your John?”
“I don’t know, Paul. I’ve never done anything like that before. For all I know, it is my body’s sympathetic reaction to being pregnant with John’s children. He did say that he had altered them somehow but he didn’t say how they were altered. There are so many things that it could be, I just don’t know where I would have to begin to find out. For now, I’ll just let it be and not question it.” I told him.
I also had a bad feeling about the whole thing but I didn’t want to tell him anything that might upset him.
“Well, Paul, I guess I’ve taken up too much of your time and I really should be going back to the motel. If you need me, here is the place I will be staying and their number.” I handed him a card that gave the motel and their address with the phone number on it. “I’ll probably be leaving in a day or so, I wanted to check things out a bit more around here and see if I could dig up some more information on John the first. Do you need me to walk you to your room before I leave?” I asked him.
“No, I’ll be fine for now. I just want to sit here for a bit and reflect. Thank you for your visit Shari. I really enjoyed talking with you.” He told me, with melancholy in his voice.
I gave him another hug and left the room. I hated to leave the poor man alone but I really did have other things to do.
I had spent nearly nine hours with Paul, talking. I hadn’t had anything to eat since early morning and I was starved. I grabbed a bite in the restaurant that was next door to the motel. Deep Southern cooking seemed to had a lot to do with catfish, crawdads, shrimp and spices. I found out that I really enjoyed crawdad. It looked like shrimp but tasted less salty than shrimp did. I had their crawdad gumbo which did a lot to enhance the flavor of the 'dads but without the spices that would give me indigestion. I had enjoyed the food the previous night but the spices wound up being a bit too much for me to handle a while later. I didn’t know if it was because I was pregnant or what but I didn’t want to take a chance on it not being that.
Once I had been able to settle down for the night, I gave Frank a call to let him know what I was doing. I felt that he at least deserved to be kept abreast of what I had found out. We talked for a while and then said our good nights. I turned off the light and went to sleep.
I was awakened by a sharp pounding on my door. I looked at the clock beside my bed and saw it was almost 2 in the morning. Thinking that there was something wrong in the building, I got up and answered the door. Standing in front of it was a young white girl, probably around 10 or 11 years old. She was wearing some very ill-fitting pajamas that looked like they belonged to an old man. She didn’t even have any shoes on.
“Yes, honey, what can I do for you?” I asked her.
“What do you mean, what can you do for me? Don’t you think you’ve done enough for me?” She yelled at me.
That one stumped me. My only reply was “Huh?”
“It’s me, Paul Edgecomb! You somehow changed me into this, this child. I went to sleep as you left me and then all of a sudden I was woke up by the nurse yelling at me about not belonging where I was at. She yanked me out of bed and rushed me out the door just like I am now. If it wasn’t for the fact that I had put the card in the pocket of the shirt, I wouldn’t have remembered where you said you were staying. At the moment, I’m no longer who I was and I have no place to go. You made me like this and ultimately, I think you are responsible for me.” She told me. “I’m tired, my feet hurt from walking the three miles from the rest home to here and yet I feel like I have an endless supply of energy. More than anything else, may I come in?”
I had never been so dumbfounded in my life. If this was really Paul standing in front of me, I wished I knew what I had done to make him, her this way. I stood aside and let her in the room. She went and sat in one of the chairs next to the window. I sat down opposite her and just stared at her.
It was amazing to see her like this. Her hair had been short and almost pure white, at least however much there was of it. Now though, it had an overall length of about six inches and was a dark brown color. Her features were very delicately feminine and showed great promise of being very beautiful when she grew older. But then there was the other part of the equation: she was really over 120 years old but looked like she was 10. That part was going to be the one that would be the worst for her. The plus side was that she was young again. She mentioned that she had noticed a high level of energy. That was typical for a child.
Because of all that, I felt a strong responsibility for her. Now if I could figure out what to do about it…
End Part 4
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