In the Silence

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Monday Paul became ill, which put a damper on his plans to head for Colorado. He stayed all day in his old room, his mother at his side. The bruises on his legs were getting darker and he felt a few sores inside his mouth; the continual coughing and cold chills were draining his strength. He hoped it was only a cold brought on by cool damp fog he had ridden through on his way into Oregon.

  By Thursday Paul wasn't getting better and Mr. Miller stayed home from work to be with him. While Mrs. Miller went to the pharmacy, they had time to talk. "Dad, I'm sorry that I got sick here. I think it is time that I tell Mom."

Mr. Miller took Paul's hand. "Son, I'll tell her when the time is right. Our first concern is to get you well."

"Dad, I really should see my doctor in San Francisco. He may want to up my AZT dosage, or start some other treatment."

"Okay, I'll take you."

"What about your work?"

"Forget my work! I wasn't always there for you when you were younger.  I'm damn well not going to abandon you now. We'll leave tomorrow."

Too tired to argue, Paul squeezed Dean's hand and fell back to sleep.

The following morning the smell of Mrs. Miller's vanilla flavored waffles brought back many memories. Paul slowly packed his things into the nylon duffel bag, putting off the inevitable as long as possible.

  "You look better this morning, Paul," said Mrs. Miller as she pulled a waffle out of the iron. "Your father is down filling up the car. He told me he is driving you back to California this morning."

"Thanks Mom. I do feel better this morning."

"You must have gotten a bad touch of the flu. It's been going around.  Your father is right, he should drive you back. It's still not warm enough to ride that motorcycle back, and you could get caught in a rainstorm and really get sick. You will have to come back in the summer to pick that thing up. It will be another chance for me to see you . . .and you can . . . "

Paul walked across the kitchen and put his arms around Rose to slow her down. Almost a foot shorter than he, she laid her head onto his shoulder. Paul felt her tears soak into his shirt.  I wonder if Dad told her.  Please God, don't let me break her heart.

Mrs. Miller tightened their embrace. The baby that once suckled from her breast towered over her, but he was still her firstborn. Except for the truly unfortunate, when man is most in need his mother is always there. If it's a child born with special needs, it is the mother who is there putting herself last. If it is a misguided man that becomes imprisoned, a mother is there, not to justify his actions but to comfort their loneliness. The mother that loses a child before his time, has her soul torn in half and carries this burden better than the mightiest of soldiers. The grace of the holiest of mothers stood at the foot of her son as he hung on a cross -- that is passed on to all women.

Mrs. Miller finally let her arms fall from around Paul. It could be their last embrace, but it would never be the end of her love.

Mr. Miller came through the back door. "You look a lot better this morning son."

"I couldn't resist the smell of Mom's waffles. They pulled me right out of bed  and down to the kitchen."

The three of them ate and said not a word about Paul being sick. Immediately after breakfast Paul and Mr. Miller left for California. Dean drove as if he were on a mission, harboring  the  hope that there would be some miracle drug or something that the hospital could give Paul. Not once was the clock of the past turned back to pin blame. Paul filled Dean in on his funeral plans and that he had already had his grave site picked out at the monastery in Napa Valley.

Paul admitted himself into the hospital in San Francisco, having had  everything prearranged. They ran some tests, and his greatest fear was correct. Mr. Miller checked into a motel three blocks from the hospital and, upon Paul's insistence, agreed to only stay through the weekend. They had shared so much in the last days; there was no more to say. Neither wanted to deal with the agony of a father standing over his sick child. It was a decision they had come to without the need for words, a pact of  love between two men who respected each other.

  Paul continued to assure his Dad that through the death of Jesus he would not die but would pass through to a new life. Sunday Dean went with Paul to the hospital chapel to pray. Mr. Miller knelt down before the small wooden cross praying for a miracle, still not seeing that the love he now felt for Paul was the recently transpired miracle.

Monday morning, after a hug filled good-bye, Dean left Paul's room on the fourteenth floor of the hospital. Waiting for the elevator, he saw tiny flecks of gold reflecting off the steel elevator doors. Looking back over his shoulder, he noticed a giant mosaic on the far wall.  Over 1000 small shinny irregular brass pieces covered the wall head to toe, stretching down the wall almost out of view. Mr. Miller hadn't paid any attention to it his previous times getting off the elevator; it wasn't until just then he saw it reflecting in the elevator doors. Turning all the way around so to get a full view, he took a few steps backwards to examine the work. It looks like a replica of an early Byzantine mosaic. No, that can't be; there's no color to it. Probably goes all the way back to the 1st Century. I bet it's a Greco-Roman style. No, it looks like Jesus bending over Lazarus, which would make it early Christian . . .  Forget it,  I'll go read the plaque.

As soon as Dean approached the wall and started to read about the mosaic, he heard the ding of the elevator. He did not go back to get on, frozen by what he was reading:


Mr. Miller then looked closer at a few pieces of the mosaic, and realized on each irregular shape plate of brass held a name.

Dean was in Redding, California before the numbness started to thaw. Was that all there was to Paul's life? A small piece of metal hanging on a wall, among thousands? Aid's had always been someone else's problem; now it had reached out and slugged him right in the gut. He could not catch his breath. For a moment Dean blamed himself, but Paul had made him see that the only things important, was to accept God's forgiveness and everlasting love. Paul had brought Mr. Miller beyond his own stumbling block; the peace that comes with true faith was already starting to fill the void in his heart. It was so hard, yet Mr. Miller honored his son's wish and started to pray.

Paul was glad that his father had left. His health was slipping away fast. Tuesday he tried several times to get a hold of David, even calling the tavern Bill and David shot pool at on the list of numbers Bill had given him. By Wednesday the purple bruises on his legs had become open sores and inside his mouth was so raw he could hardly eat. Paul put all his strength into praying for a quick end to it all, yet had one regret -- not having had a better farewell and understanding with David.

It was just as well Paul never did make it to Colorado. He'd have found burned remnants of David's home, a faded yellow crime scene tape still around Bill's Electronic Shop. If he had started looking for David the ATF would have picked him up for questioning, which would have lead them back to Marcea, to Danny and his computer, and then . . . 

Getting weaker each day, Paul laid in the hospital bed gazing out the window from the fourteenth floor. The bay was clear and he could see the heavy traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge. He could just barely make out some colorful sails of windsurfers darting around in the bay. For a brief moment Paul felt alone and bitter, but then he meditated on how magnificent and great God is. God was there for each person in each car crossing that bridge, for each person holding a sailboard and God was there in the AIDS ward, loving and wanting to give each one nothing less than eternal happiness. Paul closed his eyes and in the distance he could see that bright white tunnel of perfect purity, that same image he had his first day in Vietnam. The tranquillity was getting so close . . . 

"Paul, how are you feeling today?" asked the doctor. Snapping Paul from his peaceful silence.

"A little better. Thank you doctor." returned Paul with a forced smile. 

"Is there anything you want or something I can do for you?" The doctor examined Paul's chart.

"No, not really. I finally had a good night's sleep with whatever they gave me."

"You must have needed the rest; you slept almost thirty hours."  "You're kidding. What day is it?"

"It's Thursday, the twenty first of April."

"I have to be at a Healing Service tomorrow," said Paul in a panic.

"The only healing you're going to be at is right here in the hospital," replied  the doctor as he gloved up to give Paul a shot. "You're too sick to go any place. You got yourself pretty rundown with that trip to Oregon."

As soon as the doctor left Paul picked up the phone and dialed Bill at the daycare. "Hi y'all," said Bill when he finally made it to the phone. He had been outside building a swing for the children.

"Bill, this is Paul."

"Hi, Father Paul. Y'all in Colorado? Did you hook up with David?" asked Bill anxiously.   

"No Bill, I never made it to Colorado. I got sick and had to cut my vacation short. I'm calling from a hospital in San Francisco."

"Are you okay?"

"I'm real sick. But the reason I called is I need a favor from you."

"Go ahead and shoot, I'll do whatever I can."

"I had planned to take Marcea to a healing service in Seal Beach, California tomorrow night. A good friend of mine, Father George, puts on the service. I think Marcea would benefit from it. Can you take her to it for me? I think Danny wants to go also." Paul had to quit talking for a minute to regain his strength. "I rented a room at the Coastline Drive Motel for Marcea to stay after the evening service. It would be too long of a drive to make both ways in one day. Could you make sure she gets there tomorrow, for me?" asked Paul, his voice weakening with every word.

"You bet, Father Paul. I'll get her there. Is there anything else I can do? Do you want visitors?"

"Please, no visitors right now, Bill. But thanks anyway. There is one other thing. Did you have anymore phone numbers or places for me to try to reach David?"

  "No. But I know he's okay because he calls Danny on the computer most Wednesday nights. I have been thinking about driving back to Colorado to see him myself,"  said Bill.

"I sure would like to see him. I should go now. Thanks, Bill."

"I will pray for you, Father Paul."

"God bless," said Paul. It took almost all his strength to just lean over to hang up the phone. Groggy from the medication the doctor had just given him, Paul laid back in his bed and started to hallucinate. His mind kept flashing back to that night he and David spent up on Mt. Antero last fall. He saw how David had cut his hand up on the tower. Paul's thoughts ran right into the computer that David had been using to send a message for help, and he saw evil at the other end -- a dark purple haze in an underground place devoid of truth. He saw himself back on that mountain top, a cut in his head . . . and he was freezing. Then he was running . . . now he saw his hand . . .  blood was gushing from it. 

Paul twisted and turned in the hospital bed, trying to push the drug induced vision from his head. But the mixed up messages kept coming. The blood became more vivid. David was there drifting into the distance. Paul's mind was on the verge of exploding. knowing David was in some serious trouble and must be warned. Paul had a message to give David but didn't know what it was.


Friday morning David was headed south for Atlantic City, having used Automatic Teller Machines in New York City for the past three days while having a new transmission put in the truck. This time there would be no gambling, his luck on the horses in Kentucky had almost depleted all the winning from Nevada. David knew the ATM withdrawals would soon be denied and figured now was the time to slip down to some casinos and draw out the remaining  money.

Scott, along with over one hundred Alcohol Tobacco and Fireman agents would be waiting for him. The ATF had built a psychological profile of David. They knew his height and approximate weight compiled from over thirty plus photos supplied by the ATM security cameras. They knew David was sharp because in every picture David wore a hat, dark glasses and a beard, they had yet to get a good clear shot of  his face. Between the first photo and the last David had shed almost thirty pounds compounding the problem of identifying him. Scott attributed the weight loss to depression over Marcea and the children being killed in the explosion. Scott almost slipped up and offered his diagnoses to the ATF specialist when they were in a brainstorming session. Scott knew this information would be helpful but it would implicate the Department. He was careful with what he offered. The bomb reports about the explosions were being kept top secret by the ATF. They didn't want David to know he was wanted for the death of two ATF oficers.

The consensus from the experts was that David was trying to draw them to New York. They were certain that he would be showing up in Atlantic city to try what he had tried in Reno: to hit the casinos so he could draw against the balance in the ATM account. Anticipating that David would hit Atlantic City on a weekend at the most crowded time, and when banks were closed, they posted ATF agents in every casino,  each security room. Anybody remotely resembling David would be questioned. The trap was set.


That very moment Marcea and Danny, along with Bill and Mary, were also driving south, just like David but on the opposite side of the continent. Marcea had intended to back out of going to the healing service but when she learned Paul was so sick that he had to be hospitalized, she went without an excuse. Danny would have gone by himself; somehow he was going to make sure that he got selected to be healed. He had been watching healing events on TV and wondered why nobody had ever taken him to one before.

  Bill found the Coastline Drive Motel and after some room juggling got a room next door to Marcea and Danny. Danny spotted the pool right away. They still had a few hours before the evening healing service and Marcea gave in to Danny's pleading. Bill and Mary  joined Marcea at the pool side and the three of them sat under an umbrella at a white patio table, talking and watching Danny swim. It took an hour before Danny was water logged and wore down. Marcea got him back to their room with ample of time to get ready. Danny was having the time of his life -- swimming, cable TV, and now they were going out to dinner; all without his sister there to bug him. But the best was yet to come. When they got to the healing service, Danny planned to get right up front so that he would be chosen.

Bill found a restaurant that overlooked the ocean and after a glass of wine Marcea started to relax. This was her first time away since leaving Colorado. Bill and Mary's Texan hospitality made for perfect company. The only person who couldn't relax was Danny, anxious to leave the restaurant in plenty of time to get a front row seat. Danny did not reveal why he was so excited. He couldn't wait to see the surprise on everyone's faces when he stood and they threw his wheelchair off the stage.

When Bill turned into the gravel parking lot of the small church Danny became confused. He had expected some huge stadium like on TV. From the back seat his head darted from side to side looking for other people in wheelchairs, and saw none. Danny's excitement turned to silence as Bill pushed him up to the front door where a slender, bearded priest introduced himself to them as Father George. The green vestments and his sandals made Father George look authentic. Danny so much wanted to yell out, "Heal me first," but didn't. 

Bill had just pushed Danny into the church when a beautiful woman in a light blue gown looked straight toward them. Danny felt a warm feeling in the middle of his chest and for some reason it now wasn't important to get up front. Unable to take his eyes off  her, Danny thought she looked like a nurse he once had, or maybe a nun from the old pictures around the convent. The most striking thing about her was she had the radiance of a mother. Danny could feel her eyes still on him as Bill turned him up the isle.

They found a place in the back where Danny's chair would be out of the way. The church was filling as dusk approached. A few minutes before eight Father George came from a side door onto the altar and spotted Danny in the back. He walked to Danny, bent down and started whispering. Danny smiled, shook his head and quietly spoke back, They talked privately for several minutes. Danny then took something from around his neck and put it in Father George's hand.

Marcea, Bill and Mary followed Father George as he pushed Danny to the front of the church. They squeezed into the very first pew while Danny angled himself up in front and off to the side so that he could watch both the altar and the congregation. Danny made eye contact with Father George through the sanctuary door; they nodded to each other.

The lights dimmed and Father George came to the center of the altar. "Tonight we gather here and will call for the power of the Holy Spirit to come upon us all. We have to heal ourselves spiritually before we can fully accept the love of Jesus. While tonight we will be having a healing of the soul, I ask for your prayers for a close friend. Father Paul Miller needs your prayers. He was to be here tonight but an illness has put him in the hospital." Father George then walked over next to Danny and whispered to him again.

"I would like that," said Danny.

Father George straightened up and continued. "Just a few moments ago I had the opportunity to meet Danny here. He is a mutual friend of Father Paul Miller. While talking to Danny in the back of the church he asked me to hold on to this medal during the service. Apparently Father Paul was given this medal many years ago when he was recovering in a Veteran's Hospital. Danny also told me that  as soon as he came through the door of the church tonight he could feel the importance of this healing service, more important than if God decided to heal his legs. Danny knows that the healing that will take place tonight will be for eternity. He asks God to send his healing gift to all of you, not himself." A hush came over the already silent congregation. Thanks to Danny's unselfishness words, many more souls had just been opened to receive God's forgiveness.

There were readings, incense was burned and candles were lit. Danny sat there tingling and channeling the power with Father George. He focused on his mother, watching the expression on her face intensify as Father George explained the chain of sin. One had to accept that sin, sometimes born into it, but unaware that they were living it. The sinner has to ask for the power to break the evil chain, before being freed to go further. The power of the Holy Spirit was called to battle all these sins and Father George went over them all: alcoholism, drug addiction, child abuse, greed . . . Danny watched people flinch or respond in the dimness when Father George called out their own brand of sin. Nobody was spared. When he told of a story of a nun he knew who had been sexually abused he could see his mother not even move, not even breathe.

Danny's prayer channeled and intensified toward Marcea. Her face glowed from the candle she held, and then little sparkles started to flash from the tears that began running down her silky smooth face.  Marcea was being cleansed. The feeling was so overwhelming she had to sit. Danny heard her mumble, "God forgives me and wants me to forgive others. God knows no hate, only love. Love is forgiveness, hate is sin. I was part of that sin. I did contribute to it, and I will stop it. Thank you God, thank you for . . . "

The lights were turned on. Bread was broken and all shared in the celebration. Father George came over to the first pew and returned the medal to Danny. Marcea thanked him. Never having seen the medal, Bill asked to look at it. He looked at the Risen Christ on the front then read the inscription on the back. "You are on God's team." Bill then put the medal around Danny's neck and said. "Boy, this inscription really fits you, Danny. What you said to Father earlier moved a lot of folks tonight."

It all came together: the inscription, the medal, that women smiling at him when he came into church. It was She, that special woman who had given Paul the medal years ago. Danny searched the crowd as they were exiting. She was gone, yet he could still feel her. 

Bill couldn't let an evening like that go by without stopping for a treat. Over coffee and between bits of soft vanilla ice cream Marcea couldn't quit talking. She thanked Bill and Mary for all they had always done, told them she loved them and considered them her family. That was the first time Danny had seen a man as big as Bill choke up. While Danny savored his giant hot fudge sundae, Marcea had three refills of coffee. The caffeine released a flood of conversation. She talked about David, wondering what he was doing and if he ever got thing straightened out back home. She even mentioned that she wouldn't mind seeing him again.

It was almost midnight, when they got back to the Motel. Bill and Mary said good night to Marcea and Danny in the hall. As soon as Bill closed the door Mary kissed him and whispered for him to be discrete so not to be heard through the motel wall.

Marcea was still too wound up to sleep. She went down the hall, got two cans of pop and some candy from the vending machines while Danny found a late night movie on cable for them to watch. They rolled around on the bed, tickling, laughing and being silly. After the movie Marcea held Danny close and tried to explain to him how sorry she was about his being born with more of a struggle then most. Danny put his hand over her mouth and spoke the same words he had to Father George that night. Marcea was now totally healed. 

The next morning Danny was in the pool again, swimming on his back and remembering how just last night he was there in the pool with the hopes he might walk by today. Then he could felt the peace and harmony that special woman had smiled into him when they entered the church. Danny stopped swimming and now was just floating in the pool looking up toward the early morning dark blue sky. His mind drifted to a patch of fluffy bright white clouds in the sky where he envisioned himself running among them, jumping and skipping. And then a hand reached over and grabbed his, the hand of a friend. He turned to look. Robin had arms and legs and her smile of love had not changed, they both ran and glided through the clouds and this day had no end . . .

Marcea splashed at Danny from the side of the pool. They had to start back. Saturday was the busiest night for stayovers at the converted convent. Bill calculated they would be back by four, including an hour break for lunch and two rest stops. On the drive back, Marcea asked Bill if he had heard from David at all lately.

  The last time was via Danny's computer on Christmas Eve and Bill kept his promise not to say anything. Danny also kept quiet. It had been over three weeks since he last communicated with David. Danny so much wanted to assure her that by now David was probably safe in the Caribbean Islands. Both kept their promise, neither said a word.


It was Saturday evening and David was two days short of being in the Caribbean. The unexpected transmission repair had left him short on cash so he found a cheap, run down motel east of Atlantic City where he waited for the gambling action to reach its peak . His plans were to hit several casinos to take draws against the ATM account. He calculated that by daybreak  Sunday he would be headed down the East Coast to Florida to charter a small private boat to the Caribbean.

The ATF had their army of agents waiting. One attempt to draw against that ATM account number and they would have their man. Mr. Henderson arranged to first have David brought to the Department to debug the computer virus. Kirk planned to show him the video he had of Marcea and say it was too bad he had to blow up the bitch. Then he'd arranged for David's older brother to have a car accident. If David didn't cooperate he'd assure David that his mother would be next.

Under the jurisdiction of the ATF David might try to expose the Department of Statistics. From behind bars he'd always be a threat but Mr. Henderson planned on using Kirk as a pawn to seal everything up. Mr. Henderson furnished Kirk with a one-man shoulder operated armored piercing bazooka fitted with an infrared scope. He'd even prearranged training at the Lowry Air Base.

  Kirk got excited each time he shone the ruby red dot on a target and blew it up. Kirk's instructions were simple: after David removed the virus at the Department, Kirk was to hit the car David was in, no matter who else was in it. In fact, Kirk hoped Scott would be driving or riding in the same car; it would be like killing two birds with one stone. Then he would finally get to Scott's wife.


After a ten mile jog David returned to the dingy motel room, took a shower, then packed his things into the truck. David brought his computer back into the room and connected to the phone line, wanting to talk to Danny one last time. It seemed strange that the motel room phone would be blocked from making long distant calls. David looked at his watch. It was almost five o'clock. It's getting too late, almost nine o'clock in California. I'll have to try to call Danny from Florida. David quickly reconnected the phone and headed across the parking lot to check out.

The manager's office was empty and David could hear and see into the darkened room behind the counter. There was an old color TV with a greenish-yellow, smoke-covered picture tube blaring. David walked behind the desk and yelled through the half opened door. There was no answer. He waited then went outside. It looked like a ghost town. I should leave. I  used a phony name. But  I saw her take down the license number off the truck when I registered. And with the red motorcycle tied in the back, the cops  could pick me up in five minutes.

  Back inside the office David sat next to an old cardtable that had a coffee pot, some white Styrofoam cups and a small strawbasket with sugar and creamer on it. David read the handmade sign taped between the coffee pot and a phone.  COFFEE IS FREE. LONG DISTANCE PHONE CALL: $1.00 A MINUTE. David set his computer down poured himself a cup of coffee, took a sip and reached for creamer and sugar. He had just taken his second sip of the day-old mud when he heard a toilet flush from the room behind the desk.

The short, heavy set women came out into the office, "Were you the one yelling?"

"Yeah, I need to check out."

"It's two hours past check out time, I have to charge you for tonight," said the women in a low gravely voice.

"Whatever," said David, setting down the stale coffee and reaching for his wallet. "How much is the bill?"

"Eighty four dollars, including room tax."

David pulled five twenties from his wallet. "Keep the change. I want to place a long distance phone call."

"Okay, you can talk ten minutes," she said putting three of the twenties into the till. When David turned he saw her tuck the other two twenties into her bra as she went back into the room and turned up the volume on the TV.

David went back to the card table, dialed, let the phone ring twice then hung up. Then he unsnapped the modular plug, opened up his computer and connected the phone line to it. After five minutes he hit the F2 key for the convent auto file. The screen came to life.




David paused he had been over it so often in his head. If all this had not happened he'd probably be married and Danny would be his son. David knew they might never see each other again.










David reconnected the phone, left the office, walked across the parking lot got into his truck. I've spent two much time throwing the Department off my trail. I'm almost broke again and it's only a matter of time till they close the ATM account.  Monday morning when they check the bank records they'll be rushing to Atlantic City. I have to follow through and head for the Caribbean.

  David started the truck and backed out. Just as he pulled up adjacent to the office he hit the brakes. Skidding in the gravel, dust flying all over, David threw the truck into park, jumped out and went into the office. "I need to make another long distance phone call!"

"Yeah, go ahead," yelled the women not budging from her easy chair five feet in front of the blaring television. 

Digging in his wallet, David found the number Paul had given him to straighten out their medical records. David dialed the number. "San Francisco Memorial Hospital, Records Division."

"Could you tell me if a Paul Miller is admitted there?"

"You will have to call the Admitting Department for that information sir."

"I don't have the number. Could you transfer me?" asked David."

"One moment, sir." Then David was put on hold.

  "Admitting. How can I help you?"

"Could you tell me if you have a patient named Paul Miller?"

David could hear typing. "No sir, we do not have a Paul Miller here." 

"Are you sure? Can you go back a week or so?"

There was more typing. "Sir, we do not have nor have we had a Paul Miller admitted here." She sounded somewhat perturbed.

"Okay, thanks." said David. "Wait, Hold on. Do you have a David McIntosh there?"

More typing. "I cannot give out that information, sir."

"What's going on? You gave me information on a Paul Miller but can't tell me anything about a David McIntosh. I want answers!"

"I'm sorry, I can't help you, sir. I gave you too much information already. Some patients want confidentiality."

"Look here. I'm calling from the East Coast and I need to know. Let me talk to your supervisor!" 

"My supervisor won't be in till Monday morning. You will have to call back then."

  The phone went dead. David slammed his fist on the cardtable, making the flimsy top sound like a loud drum.

  The woman came out of her room. "Are you through?"

"No, I've got to make another call!" said Paul pulling two tens from his wallet and slapping them down on the counter. Picking up the bills and stuffing them between her cleavage she went back into the room and shut the door.

David redialed the number. "San Francisco Memorial Hospital, Records Division."

"I just talked with you and you transferred me to Admitting . . . " David explained the mix up between the names of Paul Miller and his. After giving his social security number and being put on hold for ten minutes, someone else came to the phone. This person had answers.  Stunned, David hung up the phone, left the office, got in the truck and spun out in the gravel as he tore off.



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