Flying Man



'I've come a long way!'  With those words, the Event of the Century reached a glorious climax! -- The Leading Light

If The Ox gets any more popular, they'll start printing his image on currency! -- Aaron Hughes

Ralph Oxner has transcended into the light! -- The Leader


        Oscar Carranza reached for his remote control and zapped the flying helicopter off his 52 inch TV screen.  Immediately afterward, the Blackberry cell phone in his pocket rang.


        "Oscar, this is Simm.  How about that?!!"

        "Yeah, 'HOW ABOUT THAT!!!'  I'm a pretty cold guy, but when he said, 'I've come a long way,' it literally sent chills down my spine!"

        "Me too!  It brought tears to my wife's eyes.  Look, Oscar, even if the cards were stacked in our favor, I'd say, 'Let's drop the case.'  We've never shown any mercy on the accused--guilty or innocent--but Oxner is an exception to the rule!  I mean, there's obviously something special about the guy -- like a magical quality.  I can't describe it, but..."

        "It sounds to me like you've turned into an Ox Maniac!"

        "Ha!  Well, maybe I have.  But I won't be jumping up and down and screaming like those people we saw on TV."

        "I guess I've caught the 'Ox Bug,' too.  There's no need trying to convince me, Simm.  We're in total agreement on this issue.  I'm sure the press will want to hear it out of the horse's mouth.  I've never dropped charges in a high profile case, so the procedure is new to me.  Let me think how I'm gonna go about it.  Hmm.  Well, they'll be protesting outside the courthouse again on Monday morning.  I guess that's as good a time as any to make the announcement that we're calling it quits."

        "Yeah!  The sooner, the better!"

        By the way, of course I'm gonna drop charges on Ralph's brother and Dexter Howell, too.  Let me get on the phone with the TV stations and inform them of my decision.  I'll get back with you later, Simm."

        "All right, Oscar.  I know we're doing the right thing here."

        "So do I!"  Hang-up.

        It was plainly apparent before the eyes of the world that The White Light Liberators miraculously transformed a pathetic mental patient into an illustrious man of honor.  And that had an emotional impact on virtually everyone... even the stone-cold duo seeking to sink him!

        Having been booked on five felony counts and three misdemanors, The Ox was quickly freed on $3,500,000 bail.  It was posted by, none other than, The Leader.  Ralph had slipped out the jailhouse's back door and sprinted to a strategically parked limousine in avoidance of another media blitz.  Then he rode with his wife, his mentor, and his bodyguards to the sprawling WLL compound.  A host of V.I.P. Liberators were there waiting to meet him, including a sizeable portion of Hollywood celebrities; the most prominent among them was Aaron Hughes.

        "I'm your biggest fan," Aaron told Ralph, not vice versa.  They got each others' autographs and engaged in a lengthy private discussion of both a light-hearted and serious nature.  During the course of it, Ralph graciously thanked the activist actor for bailing out his brother, and speaking up for him on Celebrity Interview.



        When the conversation turned to his blockbuster movie, The Wild Life of Billy the Kid, which Ralph was looking forward to seeing, Aaron said, "You know, buddy, they'll make a movie about YOU one day.  That's not a prediction, it's a certainty!  Billy the Kid is a folk hero.  YOU'RE a living-legend!  There's nothing like you, man!"

        "Well, thank you Mr. Hughes," Ralph responded.  "A compliment like that coming from you is worth a million bucks!"

        "Speaking of a million bucks, you'll have that amount in no time.  You'll be rolling in the dough, but you'll have to be careful not to become materialistic!  I fell into that trap a long time ago and it hampered my spirituality.  But the White Light Liberators got me back on track.  They've done so much for me that I couldn't repay them in a thousand years!"

        "I feel the same way!  If the Liberators had not come to my rescue, right now I'd be all alone in the belly of the beast.  But now I've got a stable mind; a gorgeous wife; a world of friends; direction in my life; and a good chance at beating the rap!  Speaking of rap, have you heard Shadow on the Wall by Papa Mark?"

        "Oh yeah!  I can't stop listening to it!"

        The door was knocked upon three times in succession.  "Come in," Ralph welcomed in a raised voice.

        It opened and The Leader reappeared before them with a sweeping smile and shinning eyes.  Like a trumpet, he proclaimed, "Well, Ralph, I've got good news and... good news.  Which would you like to hear first: the good news or the good news?"

        "Hmm.  That's a hard decision," Ralph said -- playing along with him.  "I'll take the good news first, and then you can give me the good news."

        "Okay.  Here's the good news: I just called the District Attorney's home phone to try to pressure him into dropping charges.  But I didn't have to say a word.  All I had to do was listen to his words.  The recorded message on his answering machine stated that he intends to drop all charges as soon as possible.  Isn't that great??!!"  The Leader's voice was very robust and happy sounding.

        "Yes, sir!  That's wonderful," exclaimed Ralph.

        Aaron sprung up, smacked his hands once, pumped his fist in the air, and gleefully shouted, "What a day!!!"  Then he forcefully hugged Ralph, followed by The Leader.  Ralph hugged The Leader, as well.

        The vanishing of the dark legal cloud, along with the Event of the Century, made the day extra sweet.  All this combined was emotionally overwhelming.  But even more was to come... much more!

        The Leader continued: "Now for the good news!  There are some very special people who would like to see you."  As The Leader turned around and walked toward the threshold to summon them in, Ralph anticipated that they'd be some more big shots in the entertainment industry.  But when they entered the conference room, he was most pleasantly surprised!  Rather than being famous strangers, they were the folks closest to his heart.

        First, he embraced his mother, and then his father -- neither of which he'd seen in nine years.  His brother came next.  Angel was standing by the door watching them all with watery eyes.  She thought it was a beautiful family reunion.  Exuberrant Ralph wrapped his arms around her body and lifted her feet off the floor.  Then he reiterated Aaron's seintiment: "What a day!"


       RALEIGH, N.C., March 25, 2009: Forty-eight hours following The Ox's grand homecoming, and one thousand miles from the seaside site, P.I. Arnold Fetz was sitting at his office desk, about to call the Lake County District Attorney.  Throughout the morning, he'd been skimming over the voluminous documents that comprised Walter Krouse's recorded history of psychiatric practices.  By tricking him into consent, he'd obtained the files from The National Archives of Medical Information, which was housed in the nation's capital.  That was accomplished a long time ago.



Now it was just a matter of wrapping up loose ends on the "investigation within the investigation."  He was jotting down additional notes and highlighting certain sections in order to succinctly sum up his findings.  The puzzle was finally pieced together and ready to be presented in a comprehensive manner to the authority that most mattered.

        He dialed the number, and the receptionist answered, "Lake County Courthouse, D.A.'s office."

        "May I speak to Mr. Franks?"

        "Who, may I ask, is calling?"

        "This is Arnold Fetz."

        "Okay.  Please hold a few seconds, sir."

        While he was on hold, Beethoven's piano sonata, Waldstein played lightly in his right ear.  He enjoyed listening to it.  Beethoven was his favorite musician and, for some odd reason, he associated The Ox with the late nineteenth century composer.  He didn't know why because they looked nothing alike and, to his knowledge, had nothing in common.  But, nevertheless, The Ox reminded him of Beethoven.  The sweet melody flowed into its forty-seventh second, forty-eighth second, forty-ninth second... then it cut off as Mr. Franks came on the line.

        "Hello.  This is Conrad Franks," he said in a cheerless, business-like tone, bordering on grouchy.

        "Hi.  Arnold Fetz."

        "Arrrnolld Feeetzz," he slurred -- trying to place the name with a face.  "The name sounds familiar.  You must have some status if my secretary deemed you fit to be connected to my personal line.  But you'll have to refresh my memory."

        "I'm a Private Investigator."

        "Oh, okay!  Yeah, I remember you now.  You testify in court every now and then.  Big guy; long, white beard."

        "Yep!  That's me!"

        "Well, how can I help you, Mr. Fetz?"

        "I'm sure you're familiar with Walter Krouse."

        "Of course!  What about him?"  His voice was quick and impatient.  But Arnold already knew that Mr. Franks wasn't exactly the friendliest chap on Earth.

        "I'm calling you because I have a mountain of hard evidence that Dr. Krouse is guilty of multiple felonies.  The list ranges from criminal malpractice to second degree murder, and just about everything in-between.  Another psychiatrist that used to work with him is also guilty of serious crimes.  His name is Allen Thorne, and he's..."

        D.A. Franks was listening intently when he cut-in with an inquiry: "Wait a minute, Mr. Fetz, how did you come across Walter Krouse?"

        "What happened is: he initially hired me because someone was harassing him, and he wanted me to discover that person's identity.  Eventually, I got suspicious of him because certain things he told me just didn't add up.  Before long, I was conducting a personal investigation ON HIM!  By the way, all this was prior to Aaron Hughes' televised interview.  Now, under normal circumstances, no one except a patient's psychiatrist can be authorized to review his or her confidential medical records.  But Dr. Krouse told me that he suspected the culprit might be a former patient, and, furthermore, that he might make an attempt on his life.  That gave me the opening I needed!  I was aware of the 'clear and present danger' clause in the Patients' Bill of Privacy.  So the next day I went to court and informed a judge what he said, and then the judge signed the release form.  I filled in my return address and mailed it to the National Archives of Medical Information.  They shipped me a huge package containing a copy of Krouse's dossier.  Krouse had been in practice for many years, so that was an intimidating amount of information for me to study.  I knew I had my work cut out for me!  I had to consult professionals in the fields of mental health and medicine to know what the technical terms meant, and I also read a lot of medical books.



Day after day, week after week went by with little or no progress.  But I stuck with it, and, eventually, I was able to uncover a long, dark pit of sinister deeds.  I'm not ashamed to admit that my mindset was all about finding out what in the hell the man was doing to his patients.  As for actually doing the job he'd paid me to do: detective work geared toward fingering the commendable dude who was making his life miserable... I couldn't have cared less about that!  So, I..."

        "Mr. Fetz, I'm gonna have to stop you here," Conrad Franks interrupted in an irritable tone.  "All this is interesting but I have a very busy schedule today and I can't talk to you any longer.  Have a nice..."

        "You know something, Mr. D.A., I could very easily send all this 'National Archives' material to the White Light Liberators 'in care of' The Leader, along with a note saying that I contacted you and you didn't take any action.  How would you like THAT, Mr. D.A.??!!"

        "Whoa!!!  Listen, we need to get together so we can go over this stuff at length and you can tell me what charges to press.  Could you see me at my office today?"

        "Yeah.  What time?"

        "Any time.  Come by at your convenience, sir."

        "I thought you said you had a busy schedule today."

        "Well, it's not so busy that I can't pursue justice on someone despicable enough to have violated people with mental disabilities.  I think that Walter Krouse is the scum of the earth.  I feel the same way about Allen Thorne!"

        "Well, well, well... you seemed to change your tune pretty fast after I tossed in that little tidbit about going to The Leader with my documentation."

        "Oh no!!  Oh no!!  I was outraged from the start!"

        "Yeah, right!  Look, I'll drop by your office around three, so be free."

        "All right.  I look forward to seeing you, sir.  By the way, I think you're a superb P.I.  And thanks for calling me about this issue!"

        Aarnold Fetz hung up, smirking and shaking his head in disdained amusement at the District Attorney's pathetic butt kissing.  After the D.A. placed his phone down, he looked at a sixteen year-old, framed photograph on his desk.  He was in the picture, standing between two men, with his arms wrapped around their shoulders.  To his right was Walter Krouse, and by his left side: Allen Thorne.  'The Three Musketeers' as they called themselves back then were smiling broadly.  "Happier times... MUCH happier times," he thought.  Then he spoke to the images: "Well, bros, I can't get you out of this one!  Not even our Milifen masters can help us now!"  All of the bad guys painfully knew that the tables had turned, and the good guys were now winning!


        DOREAN HIX PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL: Walter Elmore Krouse was one of the most highly regarded psychiatrists in the state of North Carolina.  And he served as Chief Advisor on the Mental Health Board during his last three years of practice.  Now the same subordinates he'd ordered around were holding him down.  What happened is that when he was shuffling through a stack of magazines on the table in the patients' lounge, he came across three with Ralph Oxner on their covers.  First, he furiously ripped them to shreds, and then he viciously attacked the couch with punches and kicks as if it was a human being.  He even hurled a microwave oven through a third-story window, and was headed for the TV set before being tackled from behind by an aid.  But it would take more than one man to subdue the raging maniac.  Others rushed into the room and pinned down both upper and lower limbs.  A knee was pressed against the side of his neck in order to stabilize his head so he couldn't snap at anyone.  By final count, five staff workers were on top of his body -- rendering him totally immobile.  Two of them suffered bite wounds, and needed medical aid.  In a gurgled voice, he cursed vehemently.  Although the knee restricted his vocal chords, he managed to pronounce some choice words quite clearly.  Indeed, just about the only body part he could move was his mouth.



A nurse hurriedly entered the lounge with a syringe in her hand.  The helpless patient did not see her, but he felt the sharp needle enter his neck vein.  It took only seventeen seconds for him to lose consciousness.  At that point, the tandem got up off his inert body, only to fit it into a straight-jacket.  Hours later, when he regained consciousness, he found himself in a padded cell, still unable to move.  I must be in hell, he said to himself.  Far, far away, The Leader was looking into his crystal ball, laughing.


       MORNING DOVE BAPTIST CHURCH: "So, now you all understand how the last shall be made first, and the first shall be made last.  It's all part of God's master plan!  I think that The Ox and Walter Krouse are prime examples of his beautiful design.  The Bible also says that, in the end, the wicked will be cast into the lake of fire, and the meek shall inherit the Earth.  Until next Sunday morning when I see you all again, goodbye and be good.  But most of all, remember: God loves each and every one of you!"

        Pastor Halloway had just stepped off the pulpit when he remembered that, prior to his sermon, someone had notified him of an announcement he wished to make at the conclusion of it.  So he stepped back on the pulpit and said, "Everyone, I ask that you remain seated."  Those that had already gotten up sat back down.  "Please forgive me for nearly forgetting a very special request.  I'm sure you all will like what you're about to hear!  The floor is yours, Brother Richard!"

        Richard began, "Like Pastor Halloway said, I have an announcement to make.  Actually, WE have an announcement to make."  He made a summoning gesture with his hand, and Frances came right on up like an excited contestant on The Price is Right.  She stood beside him on the pulpit, holding his hand and facing the assembly.  Richard resumed his little post-sermon speech: "As I'm sure all of you know by now, Frances and I are romantically involved.  'The Square Pair' is the title you've assigned to us.  We'll take it!  It could be worse -- something like, I don't know... 'The Cuddling Couple.' "  Laughs resounded.  "So, like I was saying, it's no secret that Frances and I are close.  However, what you may (not) know is just how far our relationship has developed since we met in this church building a month ago.  That's not a long time, but it's long enough for us to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we're soul mates.  So, pretty soon, you all will be hearing wedding bells!"

        As Richard and Frances engaged in a passionate kiss, the congregation heartily applauded.  When the clapping finally died down, Richard said, "I have an additional announcement to make, folks.  My guess is that you'll be more pleased with this one than you were with the first one."

        Bubba blurted out, "How can that be??"

        "You'll see, you'll see!" assured Richard.  Then he redirected his monologue to the entire group: "Remember the previous time I was standing up here before you all?  I had to clear up that BIG misunderstanding!  Whew!  What a whopper of a misunderstanding!  Anyway, just to refresh your memories: after I set everything straight, I gave my word to Pastor Halloway that I'd use both my law enforcement background and inside access as a seminary student to keep a close watch on suspicious peers.  Well, I kept my word, and the extracurricular effort has paid off!  Acting on my tip, the local police arrested a guy named Andy Peevler and charged him with seven counts of sexual offenses on a minor.  That was last Thursday.  Be sure to read all about it in the next edition of The Lake Weekly."

        This time, everyone stood up first, and then clapped.

        "Way to go, boy!!!" an elderly man shouted in a feeble voice.

        A heavyset woman with a thick southern accent followed, "Don't stop with that one!  Keep busting those seminary sickos, Richard!  As many as you can get!"

        "Yeah!  Keep doing what you're doing, man!" a black gentleman reaffirmed.

        Good ole' Bubba just tossed his head back and bellowed, "WhaaaHooo!!!"



        Frances was, once again, extremely proud of her Prince Charming.  She raised his right arm just like a boxing referee indicating the winner of the bout following the formal announcement.  Pastor Halloway joined them on the pulpit, and uplifted Richard's other arm.  The standing ovation continued for minutes on end.  That marked another splendid Sunday at the "one and only" Morning Dove Baptist Church.


        On Monday morning--six days after The Event of the Century--Broward County prosecuter, Oscar Carranza, announced at a highly anticipated, internationally televised press conference that he was dropping all charges on Ralph Waldo Oxner.  That was cause for celebration across America, and throughout the world.  Fireworks were going off in every major U.S. city.  Even in remote places like Greenland and Afghanistan, people were literally dancing in the streets.  Everyone everywhere was elated!  And two days later, just when it seemed as if the news reports couldn't get any better, a whole list of charges were filed against Walter Krouse and Allen Thorne, respectively.  Meanwhile, on the cultural front, The Wild Life of Billy the Kid was on pace to become the biggest grossing film of all time.  It left all the other True-Crime flicks in the Western dust!  The most acclaimed motion pictures in the history of the Big Screen were simply no match for the cinematic brilliance of The Wild Life of Billy the Kid.  It was destined to be an unrivaled classic!  Papa Mark's hit single, Shadow on the Wall had shot up to number one on the music charts -- where it remained steadfast for the fifth straight week, and counting.  His debut album, Believe in the Shadow, which it was on, was selling like hotcakes amongst a widely diverse representation of the population, which spanned the gamut of musical tastes: from stiff-necked fans of country to high-brow classical aficionados.  It had reached the triple platinum status faster than any other record in history.  Furthermore, Believe in the Shadow was projected to eventually surpass Michael Jackson's Thriller in accumulative sales, and stand all alone as the best-selling album of all time.  Crime was on a dramatic decline.  Even the economy was flourishing.  People were much nicer to one another, as well.  Everything in society seemed to be going right.  It was an exciting time to be alive!


        At 4:04 p.m. on Friday, after another week of classes at Southeastern Institute of Theology, the unofficially authorized "undercover" student carried his bookbag to the gravel parking lot, opened his car door, sat behind the steering wheel, and strapped the seat belt across his strapping chest.  Then, he took the mini-tape-recorder out of the glove compartment, pressed the red Record button, held it up to his mouth, and spoke into the perforated microphone.  In a formal, officer-esque voice, he created a verbal log, self-titled: Beginning of Entry 'Number One' on April 2009.  A deep breath and a few seconds of recollection followed.  Then, he proceeded: I initiated small talk on the campus grounds in-between classes again today.  Two more students expressed strong sympathy for the accused, Andy Peevler.  As always, I pretended to agree with their viewpoints in hopes of acquiring more information, and also to ingratiate myself into their lives.  This is for the purpose of infiltration at some juncture.  These aforementioned additional students are Elliot Cauldwell and Kenneth Hayes.  Both of them openly stated that they work with, and hang around, children.  I consider Mr. Cauldwell and Mr. Hayes prime suspects!  Conduct a campaign of surveillance on each immediately!  End of Entry 'Number One' on April 2, 2009.



        Next, it was on to the Post Office to retrieve the accumulated mail sent to his rental box.  He'd been so busy spying that he hadn't gotten around to fetching it in over a week.  It was only a mile drive from the seminary grounds to the P.O. building.  A lot of S.I.T. students flocked there following classes.

        Richard held the front door open for a pretty Asian classmate who was exiting the edifice, just as he was about to enter it.  He wasn't a bit surprised that she failed to say "Thank you," or make simple eye-contact, not even a faint smile.  Most seminary girls acted that way, and he'd gotten used to it.  Just imagine how much worse they'd treat me if they knew I was spying on them! he inwardly thought, in amusement.  The commandment, Love thy neighbor as thyself apparently didn't hold much weight with them, he presumed.

        When Richard returned to his car, he decided to browse his mail before driving off.  Flipping through envelopes, he murmured to himself: Advertisement... Charity... Auction Information... Oil Change Notice... Dental Reminder... Business Reply... Magazine Renewal... Aah! he exclaimed.  I see this one here is from Nicolette Talley in Fort Lauderdale.  It looks like a greeting card.  And the last one is from Cornrow Records in Hollywood, California.  That's Marcus's label.  I wonder what they'd be sending ME!  Well, I think I'll open Mrs. Talley's envelope first.

        Preprinted on the right half of the Hallmark card was the message: A Friend Loves at ALL Times; That Makes You a True Friend!  On the other side of the crease was beautiful handwritting in pink ink.  It read:

        Dearest Richard,

                I've got great news to share with you!  John has, miraculously, made a full recovery!  Bit by bit, his luster and awareness returned.  Now his mind is just as clear and sharp as it was prior to the nervous breakdown.  He's completely sane!  He's trying to resume his ministry, and I have no doubt that he'll succeed.  I just told everyone he had a severe back injury, so there's not the stigma of "mental illness" hovering over him.

                I couldn't believe it when he woke up one morning and had returned to normal -- walking and talking like a normal person.  I fell down to my knees and thanked God for healing him!  Our combined prayers for John must've paid off, huh?!  I'm sure that before long, he'll be standing on the pulpit delivereing sermons again.  Thanks for the company you gave me while he was incapacitated.  I'll always remember it... and I'm sure YOU will, too!!!  Wink.




        Well, how about that! Richard said to himself.  Then he attended to the long-lenght envelope, which also roused his curiosity.  He tore it open, and found it containing four items: a letter, a check, a photograph, and a newspaper clipping.  Richard chose to deal with the letter first.  In computer type, it read:



        Yo, Rich (my Choirboy homey):

                I told ya I'd make it big!  I just didn't expect it'd be THIS big!!!  Hey, remember that prize Corvette on display in Golatto Auto's showroom?  Well, after I deposited my advance check from Cornrow Records (which was the first payment I received as a musician) I went out and bought the same make and model Corvette that we admired back in the day. [See photograph.]  A week later, I got myself a Jaguar, and soon afterwards, a Rolls Royce.  Now I'm in the market for a Lamborghini.  I might buy a Lotus or a Spyker in the future, or maybe even both.  Not to sound braggadocious, but I could well afford all six cars.  Oh, I'm also considering a Tomcruiser.  They look awesome and accelerate from 0 to 60 in less than six seconds.  Perhaps I'll have a whole fleet of vehicles!  One day you can visit my Beverly Hills estate and go for joy rides in my Vette, Jag, Rolls and Lam, and some of the other exotic cars I'll eventually own!  I KNOW you'd enjoy that!!!

        Richard took a break from reading the letter in order to examine the enclosed photograph.  After he held it up to his eyes, he smirked: Marcus was leaning against the curvy side-hood of his shiny red sports car with his arms folded, legs crossed, and a proud smile on his face.  His posture and countenance read: Look what I've got!

        Richard continued reading the letter: I know I said I'd give you $1,000,000 when my album went platinum.  Well, I'm gonna renege on that promise.  Sorry!  I changed my mind.  Since it's (triple) platinum, I decided to send you TRIPLE that amount.  So, I hope you're okay with a $3,000,000 check instead of a $1,000,000 one.  Three million dollars is chump change to me!  My financial advisor predicted that in about five years I'll be a billionare.  I'll also be the most successful recording artist ever!  And I owe it all to Shadow Moe because the knowledge of his presence inspired me to write most of my songs.  Hylja gives her regards.  Oh, by the way, I hope you bought my CD!!  Use the money wisely, and take care, Rich... or should I already start calling you 'Pastor Briggs' ?!

                                                                                           Your Best Friend,

                                                                                           Marcus (Papa Mark) Watson

        Richard was absolutely shocked!!  He had totally forgotten about the "one million dollars" pre-fame pledge.  And even if he hadn't, he never would have expected payment... let alone the excessive sum of three million dollars!  He took a look at the check and, sure enough, it was made out to him for three million dollars, and signed Marcus Watson.

        Lastly, he unfolded the newspaper cut-out.  The 'Elvis of Rap' has Finally Arrived was the glorified headline.  Under it, the superstar was pictured performing on stage: holding a microphone up to his mouth, and twisting his upper torso sideways in apparent dance posture.  The caption below that image said: Papa Mark driving his fans crazy at Madison Square Garden.

        Richard began reading the article: Sensational new rapper, Papa Mark, delivers a uniquely great sound, and eerily spiritual lyrics.  Some claim he's way beyond a mere rapper.  Indeed, it sounds as if he's taken the urban art form to another level!  His music appeals to everyone: young and old, rich and poor, black and white.



        Richard interrupted his reading and glanced back up at the picture for some further inspection.  Marcus was the epitome of coolness.  He looked just the way Richard remembered him back in the Golatto Auto days: The hairstyle had not changed; he still had those puffy cornrows and a braid with green beads; those big, dangling, gold, hoop earrings and the crazy platinum grill on his fron teeth remained, as well.  There was also an 'S'Superman symbol tattoo on his left arm.  Richard hadn't noticed that particular tattoo before, and he wondered when he got it.  The design reminded him of something he'd seen on parking lot pavement beside a man's body.  His mind snapped back to the present, and he continued reading the article.

        After Richard read the last word, he took a few minutes to gather himself and take in the fact that he had in his possession a check for THREE MILLION DOLLARS.  It was actually written out to him!  Unbelievable!!!  Then he slid the key into the ignition and drove out of the P.O. parking lot.  When he got back to the rental house, the first thing he did was play the disk Believe in the Shadow, which was already in the stereo.  The third track, Shadow on the Wall, was his favorite, but he loved ALL the songs on the album.

        After the sixteenth, and final, song expired, he phoned his fiancee to give her the great news: "We're rich, honey!" he happily proclaimed.  During the course of the conversation, they decided exactly what they'd do with the enormous financial gift: For the time-being, it was to go straight into the bank and earn interest.  On down the road, when Richard had graduated from the seminary, equipped with a degree in Divinity, he'd devote a portion of the money to build a church and start his own television evangelical ministry.  That which remained would be applied to the purchase of a big, white manor in the country on many acres of farm land, with a white picket fence and barns and goats.  That's the picturesque, pastoral paradise they painted for themselves over the phone.  And, on account of Papa Mark's generosity, it was a realistic vision.  They were tremendously thankful to him, indeed!  He was like their black Santa Claus.  The world knew him as the larger-than-life "Papa Mark."  But to Richard Briggs, that great guy would forever be imbedded in his mind as the used-car-salesman, wanna-be-rapper, hyper-active "Marcus Watson"!


        Allen Thorne's top notch attorney had promised his distressed client that he would do everything in his power to exonerate him.  Nevertheless, Allen was hopeless.  For, he knew that the writing was on the wall.  It was plainly apparent that this legal hassle was one in which the serpent couldn't sliter out of so easily.  The proof of his culpability could be found in the National Archives of Medical Information files, and that had already been delved into fully by an astute Private Investigator.  The painful knowledge of that fact caused him to grit his teeth, and curse his former colleague for signing over disclosure rights to it.  Working together, they'd committed countless atrocities.  Some were merely for their own sick, sadistic pleasure, while others were for human guinea pig experimentation purposes.  He couldn't even recall a sizeable percentage of his numerous felonious acts, but he could imagine the shocked, disgusted faces of jurors upon hearing them recounted.  He felt like a Nazi commando facing the grim prospect of a Nuremburg trial.  There was so much publicity surrounding the case that it overwhelmed him out of his wits.  He'd briefly considered fleeing to another country and living incognito.  But he assumed that he was currently under twenty-four hour surveillance.  And even if he did manage to slip out of the U.S., he figured that the FBI would track him down eventually.  Besides, he didn't know anything about disguising his appearance; obtaining a fake passport and various other documents; stealing social security numbers for identity theft; setting up untraceable overseas bank accounts; and things of that nature.



His wife also believed that the feds were anticipating that he'd try to make a run for it, and staking out their house 24/7.  That's probably the only reason they hadn't already arrested him, she surmised.  She was right!  Catching him making a dash to avoid prosecution would add another layer of strength to their rock solid case.  That is, if it would be an admissible piece of evidence at trial.

        The defense attorney estimated that a judge would set his bail at somewhere between seven to ten million dollars following his inevitable arrest because he'd be such a big flight risk.  Not having anywhere near the minimum figure, and not knowing where he could get it, made him all the more worried.  If he couldn't get sprung, he'd almost surely be stuck behind bars for the rest of his life -- never to taste freedom again.  That was a most unpleasant thought!  It seemed like the walls were closing in on him.  He didn't know precisely when the cops would come knocking on his front door, but he knew that it could be at any time.

        He flicked up a blind and peeked out the window.  That same white van with darkly tinted windows slowly rolled by his house along the street.  Shortly thereafter, it passed by again, heading the opposite direction.  Damn!! he spouted.  The man's anxiety level had reached a boiling point.  He was breathing heavily.  Beads of sweat formed on his forehead like condensation on a glass surface.  Right then, he made a big decision!

        His wife was in the kitchen at the stove.  Going in there and saying something to her crossed his mind, but he dismissed the notion -- thinking it didn't matter.  As he trudged down the hallway toward the master bedroom, he imagined the devastation she'd soon feel.  I hope that woman finds the strength strenght to carry on, he said to himself.

        Three minutes later, Mrs. Thorne heard a loud Bang!  The spatula in her hand fell straight to the floor.  Although the sudden sound jolted her nerves, the drastic action her husband took didn't surprise her one bit.  Her first thought was, At least he did it while the kids were in after-school programs and out of the house.  Her second thought was: I hope they'll be able to clean up the mess in there enough, so it doesn't stain or stink!  Without going in the blood-drenched, brain-splattered room to confirm that her husband had, indeed, killed himself, she dialed 911 and calmly reported a suicide to the dispatcher, followed by her home address.  Then she called her best friend, Victoria Krouse, to inform her of the news.  The two ladies enjoyed a lighthearted conversation until the ambulance arrived in the "grieving" widow's driveway.


        Fifteen hours later, the sun was rising in the East -- signaling a new beginning for the living.  Frances Queen Prescott's eyes opened, and her hand reached over to turn off the ringing alarm clock.  Then she rolled out of bed and walked into the kitchen where she prepared herself a bowl of oatmeal and a glass of orange juice.  Following a shower and a telephone chat with her fiancee, Frances got in her recovered Volkswagon Passat and set out to Springmeadow Nursing Center with the intention of visiting her ailing grandmother.  Seven miles into the commute, on Dollbern Avenue, she beheld a newly erected billboard up ahead in the sky.  The gigantic image of Papa Mark holding up a bottle of aerosal hair spray with a wink and a smile easily caught her attention, and caused her to be seized with a sense of awe.  She considered it astounding that Richard had actually befriended the blooming superstar.  And the monetary gift was even harder to fathom!  The billboard reminded her that life is an absolutely amazing and magical adventure, filled with all sorts of unexpected twists and turns along the way.



        While waiting for the light to turn green, she turned on the radio.  A male voice emerged out of the car speaker: "Yesterday evening, Allen Thorne, also known as 'Public Enemy Number Two,' apparently committed suicide inside his North Raleigh home.  He died from what police have called 'a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.'  Although no suicide note was found near his body, it was not ruled an accidental shooting.  At the time of his death, he'd been charged with multiple felony counts, but had not yet been taken into custody.  It is speculated that he killed himself because he feared an arrest was forthcoming.  He leaves behind a wife and two children.  His former business associate, Walter Krouse -- 'Public Enemy Number One' -- remains confined in Dorean Hix Hospital.  Charges against him have also been filed in Superior Court, and it's expected that he will be arrested very soon.  On Capitol Hill, legislators signed a bill granting same-sex couples the right to..."

        Frances turned off the radio.  She found the news report interesting.  The Bible verse, You reap what you sow popped into her mind.  Now Frances felt in the mood for music.  So she turned the radio back on, and switched the dial to her favorite rock station.  Aaahhh! she sighed.  Her favorite song, Killer Queen, was in its inception -- only a few seconds old.  She felt lucky for having picked it up so early.  The light switched to green.  She took her foot off the brake and pressed it down on the gass pedal.  The car's acceleration made the sweet melody all the more enjoyable.  And the faster she drove, the better it sounded!

        Meanwhile, inside the psychiatric facility, someone in authority had shown up to cart off the most infamous mental patient in the annals of history.  The lawman assigned to do the honor was, none other than, Officer Bright -- the poor guy that had been savagely beaten down by Ralph Oxner in Springmeadow Nursing Center a little over five months ago.  The circumstances were different, the situation was similar, and roles were reversed -- Walter was now in Ralph's shoes!  And, just like his heroic antithesis, Krouse wasn't in very much of a cooperative mindset.  The white collar lunatic with the black heart was shuffling aimlessly in the hallway when he spotted the black man in blue talking to the administrator, Mrs. Griffin.  She pointed at him -- a gesture of identification and seeming betrayal.

        On instinct, he bolted for the side door.  Officer Bright gave chase.  Upon the outside premises, he followed the broken villain past the parking lot; onto the adjacent grounds of a furniture supply warehouse; across a medical park; and over a seven foot tall chain-link fence, tearing a chunk out of his uniform's pant leg and twisting his ankle in the process.  Krouse was running like there was no tomorrow!  Despite Bright's superior physical conditioning, he couldn't keep up with him.  The distance between predator and prey increased.  Sidewalk pedestrians observed the action.  For most, it was entertainment... for some, a hazard.  One fellow almost got run-over by the fleeing madman, but he dodged him in the nick of time.  A woman also narrowly avoided a head-on collision.  He blew by two other people, as well.  The foot pursuit progressed across commercial land; up a grassy knoll; through a construction site; by a business center; and along the outer curb of the side street WHICH CONNECTED TO DOLLBERN AVENUE.  Officer Bright saw that he was headed straight for it at full speed.  He thought: That's a busy freeway!  He's gonna get killed!  He stopped in his tracks and just watched.

        A split-second after the insane sprinter crossed the road, he was smashed by an oncoming vehicle traveling 78 miles per hour down the south-bound, one-way lane.  The impact was so forceful that it sounded like a shotgun blast!  His body must have flown 200 feet in the air before it landed on the top of another automobile and fell like a heavy sack of potatoes to the pavement.



        Officer Bright was standing still with a dropped jaw, shaking his head in dismay.  Then, he jogged up to the driver's side window.  He peered through it and admired a pretty brunette sitting behind the steering wheel.  But he found her expression and stillness quite unsettling.  She was like a mannequin blankly staring out the dashboard with bulging, unblinking eyes.  The poor lady was obviously in a state of shock.  Her unresponsiveness, in addition to her motionless and panic-stricken gaze, caused him to feel some concern for her psychological wellbeing.  She displayed signs of the onset of post-traumatic-stress-disorder.

        Officer Bright knocked on the window three times like it was a door.  She just continued to stare straight ahead, as if in a hypnotic trance.  Again, he knocked on the window.  This time, her head slowly turned to the left, but her eyes failed to focus on the man outside her vehicle.  It gave him the creeps!  He twitched his index finger up and down in front of her face -- a gesture indicating that he wanted the window rolled down.  She responded accordingly.  After there was no glass barrier separating the two to impede verbal communication, she exclaimed in a frantic, shaky voice, "Oh, my God!  I just... KILLED a man!"

        Officer Bright refrained from giving the lady false hope, but he did try to offer some words of comfort: "Yes, ma'am, I'm pretty sure he's dead.  But I witnessed the entire episode, and I can attest that it wasn't your fault; he darted out in the road, and you had no chance, whatsoever, of avoiding contact.  Therefore, you won't be charged with involuntary manslaughter.  However, I do believe you were traveling in excess of the speed limit.  I'll let that slide; not even a traffic ticket for you today!"

        Nothing he said seemed to have a calming effect on her troubled mind.  Suddenly, Officer Bright got a bright idea!  In the hopes of providing her a degree of solace, he said, "The man you ran into was... get this... WALTER KROUSE!"

        Shocked by the news, her head shot back at him, and her mouth discharged the words: "What??!  You're kidding me!!!"

        "No!  He was running away from me because he didn't want to get arrested.

        That's how he ended up in the road."  That little piece of information proved to be immensely therapeutic!  A serene look of instantaneous relief arose on her face like the flick of a light switch illuminating a formerly dark room.  She tossed her head back, placed her hand on her chest over her heart, sighed deeply, and smiled wide.

        Killer Queen had played out.  Now, Another One Bites the Dust by the same group, Queen, was in progress.  She turned off the radio.

        Getting down to business, Officer Bright said, "Now, what's your name, ma'am?"

        "Frances Queen Prescott.  And pretty soon, it'll be 'Frances Queen Briggs,' she joyfully added.

        "Oh, so you're about to get married?!"

        "Yes, sir."

        "Well, congratulations!

        "Thank you.  My fiancee used to be a policeman, just like you."

        "Well how about that!  I'm sure he's a good man."

        "He's the best!"

        "Hey, you said your current name is Frances Prescott?"

        She nodded her head affirmatively.

        "Hmm.  That name sounds familiar."

        "Well, let me jog your memory: I was Ralph Oxner's carjacking victim.  I remember going back in Springmeadow Nursing Center after it happened, and hearing that a police officer had been assaulted.  By any chance, was that you??"

        "It sure was me!!"



        "Wow!  This is amazing -- how we crossed paths again like this: after a dramatic event; around the same location; with someone trying to escape from an institution."

        "Yes, ma'am, it is, isn't it!  And this event is also linked to Ralph Oxner -- with Krouse being his former psychiatrist.  It's like everything came around full circle -- fulfilling the cosmic scheme, if you will."

        "Yeah, that's a good way of putting it!  I'm so sorry about your attack!  When the ambulance came and they carried you off in a stretcher, I said a little prayer for you."

        "Well, thank you!  I was in the hospital for a while, but now I'm fully recovered and doing fine.  Back on the job, happy and healthy, with a loving wife and three beautiful children.  Life is good!"

        "I'm so happy for you!  By the way, do you have any resentment toward Ralph Oxner for what he did to you?" Frances inquired.

        "Hell no!  No animosity whatsoever!  He wasn't responsible for his own actions.  I blame that dead piece of meat lying on the road.  If it wasn't for him and how he screwed with Ralph's head, none of that shit would've happened!  Also, Ralph wrote me a really nice apology letter.  If you ask my kids who their hero is, they won't say their old man, they'll say, 'The Ox.'  Everybody loves the guy!  He's on top of the world!"

        "Yeah, he's pretty popular," Frances agreed.

        " 'Popular' is an understatement!  He's almost like the second coming!"

        "That's true!  Hey, Officer Bright, would you like to attend my wedding?"

        "Well, thank you very much for the invitation, Mrs. 'Soon-to-be-Briggs.'  I accept!  You hear that ambulance siren?"


        "The ambulance will be here pretty soon."  Officer Bright took a few steps to the front of the car and bent down.  Then he came back around and said, "Whew, your bumper is really bashed -- like it rammed into an oak tree or a brick wall or something.  It's a wonder a human body did all that damage!  How fast were you going?"

        "No matter what I say, you're gonna stick to your word: no ticket?!"

        Officer Bright raised his right hand up and said, "Scout's honor!"

        "Close to eighty," she confessed.

        "Sheesh!  That's fast!  By the way, is this the automobile that Ralph hijacked?"

        "Yep.  I've had a couple of hair-raising adventures with this baby!  I don't think I could take anymore!"

        "Well, I enjoyed seeing that bastard fly through the air like Superman!  That was pretty cool!"

        Frances chuckled.

        "I'll let you go now.  When other officers arrive and talk to you, just tell'em that Dayshine Bright responded to the scene already and will fill out the accident report.  But you will need to show them your license and registration."

        "Okay.  I'll see you again at the wedding," Frances said.

        Officer Bright smiled and walked away.



****** Walter Krouse's madness and ultimate demise were precipitated by The Caller's masterful harassment techniques.  But just who (was) 'The Caller'???

        While Walter Krouse was flying through the air in a most undesirable manner, Ralph Oxner was flying first class in The Leader's private, luxury jet.  He reclined in an easy chair, sipped champagne from a crystal goblet, and listened to Beethoven's music emanating out of the surround-sound stereo system.  Angel and Aaron Hughes did the same, while The Leader piloted his prized aircraft.  Now they were in Midtown Manhattan where The Ox was scheduled to perform at Carnegie Hall.  Tickets were sold out.  A great many dignitaries, including the British Prime Minister, were in attendance.  It was televised live on all the major networks.



        Steve Horowitz and his new family were watching news coverage of The Ox's limousine rolling along Seventh Avenue toward the famed venue.  The white limo was secured in a police-lined convoy that spanned the lenght of two regulation-sized basketball courts.  It was a grand occasion, and the Presidential-looking motorcade was a testament to The Ox's super-lofty status.  However, nothing could ever match the magnitude of The Event of the Century, with the spectacle of the Sea Gypsy sailing in after weeks on the high seas.

        Steve, Reig, Colon, and Victoria watched with millions of others as the handsome, tuxedo-clad classical composer got out of the limousine, surrounded by a host of bodyguards and policemen.  As he walked with them toward the building's main entrance, an adolescent-sounding voice passionately cried out, "We love you, Ralph!"  It was hard for him to deciper whether the young fan was a guy or a gal.  Regardless of the gender, he blew a kiss to whomever it was, and waved to all the other New Yorkers that were assembled along the east stretch of Seventh Avenue to see him make his debut concert appearance.  To them, he was the "one and only" American Idol.  It was clear to everyone that Ox Mania would never subside!

        Dr. Horowitz, being a part-time ventriloquist in addition to a cosmetic surgeon, briefly entertained his wife and step-sons by mimicking the androgynous utterance to a tee.  They all laughed, and Victoria hastily called their attention back to the TV screen upon seeing the ugly face displayed on it.  "Look!  It's the mistake I married," she exclaimed with a pointed finger.  It was a special news bulletin:

        "Less than twenty-four hours after Allen Thorne shot himself in his house, Walter Krouse met his own demise by running out in the road and getting hit by an oncoming vehicle.  The fatal accident happened four and a half hours ago on Dollbern Avenue in Southwest Raleigh.  What led to the accident is he was being chased by a policeman who'd arrived at Dorean Hix Hospital in order to arrest him.  The officer reported that Walter Krouse neither slowed his pace, nor turned his head before crossing the freeway.  It will never be known whether or not he intentionally put himself in harm's way, but his death, as of now, is not being ruled a suicide.  Walter Krouse was recently divorced, and he's survived by his two children.  His name will live on in infamy."

        The head of the household, and long-time White Light Liberator, smiled and muttered, "I really drove you crazy, Krousey-Boy!"

        "What's that, honey?"

        "Oh, nothing."



"While Ralph had heroically defied the odds, Krouse and Thorne had disgracefully succumbed to their own evil.  Aah, poetic justice!" -- Harold Oxner