In the Silence

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A little more than a hundred miles north of the Department on Interstate 25, David was headed to work. He turned off at the Aurora exit for breakfast at one of his favorite cafes, the same one he was at a month ago when the Airman First Class from the Lowry Air Force Base staggered in, stoned and broke. David had bought him four cups of coffee and the Airman started bragging about the new chip the Air Force was working on to unscramble any coded messages. David took mental note of the Airman's name and contacted him a week later anonymously. He said he had a tip that Airman First Class Green had access to the Clipper Chip. One thing lead to another and five thousand dollars later David had a Clipper Chip. David wondered if Airman Green was ever drug free enough to put two and two together and figure out that the man who had bought him coffee and the man who bought the Clipper Chip were one and the same.

"How are things this morning, David?" asked the plump, bleached blond waitress as she filled a cup with coffee from behind the counter.

"Just fine," David said as he gathered up the Wednesday morning paper that was spread up and down the twenty-foot counter.

"What ya going to have today, honey?" asked the waitress, pad and pencil ready for the order.

"The Early Bird Special. Make the eggs over hard," said David from behind the paper. Then his eyes locked onto the headlines: FAULTY GAS LINE CAUSES SENATOR'S PLANE TO EXPLODE. David quickly scanned the article for some statement from the bomb squad, but there was no mention of the bomb squad even being at the airport. He reread the article, hoping to find out why security had shut down the airport or possibly a quotation from an expert. There was nothing. What about the person he'd talked to who said the plane just blew up? Nothing.


Once at work, David walked through the back door of Bill's Electronic Shop and went straight to Bill's office. Bill was at his desk going through some papers and before David could say anything the phone rang. Bill picked it up and said, "Bill's Electronics Shop." David walked to the back of the shop to his bench, and while reaching up to turn on the pink boombox, he noticed the tape that the senator had given him still in it. Pulling on the headphones, he listened to the tape again — not one incriminating word on the tape. True, Mr. Henderson talked to the senator and wanted him to appropriate money for some special interest group, but this was normal in today's politics. Maybe fifty years ago reporters would have reported it as blackmail, extortion, or corrupt, but this was the new government — just the way things were done.

Bill hung up the phone and called out from his office for David. Repeatedly getting no response, Bill got up from the desk, walked to the back of the shop, and saw David at the bench with the headphones on. He tapped David on the shoulder.

David jumped, "What the hell you trying to do? Scare me to death?"

Bill laughed. "You're a little jumpy this morning."

"I guess I am. What do you have for me today?" David pulled the headphones off.

"The First Interstate Bank of Denver needs a couple phone extensions moved and they need one of their security cameras checked."

"That's good. When?"

"I told them before lunch, about eleven. I'll go fetch the work order," said Bill.

David reached up, switched the boombox off, and pulled out the headphones. He had just powered on the test equipment above his bench when Bill returned with the work order and laid it on the bench. As Bill started to walk away David asked, "Hey Bill, have you ever heard of a Jack Henderson? I think he is some high government official or something."

Bill thought for a moment. "Can't say I have."

"Thanks. I'll finish repairing this amplifier and then go take care of the bank," David said, not taking his eyes off his work. After five years of employment, David proved to be a good technician and Bill was glad he had hired him. Bill treated David, Marcea, and her children like family and hoped to sell the business to David so that he could finally retire. They had already agreed on a price of $150,000, which was a great buy. David would have borrowed the money and bought Bill's shop by now, but the Dishonorable Discharge squelched any hopes of getting a loan.

David finished the job, picked up the work order and went up front to tell Bill he was taking off to the bank. Bill was busy with a customer so when a man in a blue suit and dark sunglasses came in, David walked up to the counter and asked, "Can I help you?"

"Are you David McIntosh?"


"I need to talk to you in private."

David walked from around the counter and went outside with the stranger. Bill kept his eye on them while finishing with his customer. The man reached into his back pocket, pulled out an envelope, handed it to David and took off. David held the door open as a woman carried out her VCR. Then he opened the envelope, took out the cash, and put it in the register. Bill watched, waiting for an explanation.

"Just another distrusting husband that wants a radio microphone to hide in the bedroom. You know, to catch his wife. That private eye friend gave him my name," David explained.

"Maybe we should order more than one this time. That's the tenth set we sold this year," Bill said.

"Yeah, why don't you? I noticed in the new catalog the latest remote microphones are smaller than a quarter, can transmit up to five miles and the battery lasts almost a week."

"Amazing. I can't believe how small and powerful these new radio microphones are getting. Two years ago they were the size of a transistor radio. Boy oh boy, sure makes me happy I'm retiring soon. This new high-tech electronics is too much for me." Bill went back to his office, paged through a catalog and found several wireless radio type microphones to choose from. Not sure which one to order, he called out, "David, can you come here for a moment?"

David came into his office, looked at the catalog, pointed and said, "Order this one. It uses a Lithium battery, which should last a week without going dead."

"I'll order two," Bill said, circling the item. When Bill slammed the book closed, a yellow gummed-back notepad paper blew onto the floor. David bent down to pick it up and couldn't help but notice, in Bill's writing, the message: PICK UP MARCEA SUNDAY.

Puzzled, David asked, "What's this about?"

"Marcea called yesterday afternoon and asked if me and the wife could pick her up for church this Sunday. You know how we keep putting out an invite to take her and the kids to church? I think your priest friend Paul put a spark in her engine," Bill said, with a big Texan smile.

"That's all she has been talking about, how wonderful last Sunday with Paul was. All I've heard is 'Paul this,' and 'Paul that.' He really did light some spark."

"Sounds like you're a little jealous of Paul," Bill kidded.

"Jealous!" David laughed. "You know he is . . ."

"Yeah, a priest." joked Bill. "Hey, they got emotions too. Haven't you seen that Thornbird picture? And that Paul is one handsome fellow!"

"I don't think I have anything to worry about," said David starting to join in the B.S. session. But the fun halted, like someone telling a cruel joke. Sure, I don't have anything to worry about. Not because Paul is gay, but because he could soon be dead.

Bill saw the cheerful expression on David's face turn. Feeling awkward that he may have struck a nerve, he changed the subject. "You'd best get on up to the bank and get them there phones moved. You know how worked up that Mr. Johnson gets when y'all are late."

David drove to the bank, pondering all that had taken place. It must have been hard for Paul to tell me he tested HIV positive and for him to be so ashamed that he used my name on the medical forms. And that Sunday dinner was really something . . . especially baptizing Danny. That was really cool. Now Marcea wants to start going to church with Bill and his wife. I sure wish I'd told Paul I forgave him, I will when I go to San Francisco to get the medical records straightened out. Boy, a lot has happened — the senator and everything at the airport. I sure feel different since spending that night up on Mt. Antero. Something inside me is making my blood tingle or . . .

David drove around the block three times looking for a place to park. Finally, a car pulled away from the curb and he latched onto the parking spot. With his tools, notebook, and service order, he headed for the bank. David knew exactly who to go see. The bank was a good account and the shop averaged about three jobs a month there. David walked past the tellers, down a hall and right across from the vault, knocked on a clear glass door with the title MR. THEODORE M. JOHNSON, VICE PRESIDENT. Not even getting up from behind his desk, a man in a dark pinstripe suit and red tie motioned for David to enter. The telephone was glued to the gentleman's ear and he pointed to a blueprint marked to show where and which phones had to be moved. Not missing a beat of his phone conversation, Mr. Johnson stood up, pulled a key ring hooked to a retractable chain away from his belt, unhooked a key that said PHONE ROOM on it, picked up the blueprint from his desk, and motioned for David to go take care of it.

David went out into the lobby of the bank, located what phones needed to be moved and did the wiring. When he walked back down the hall, past Mr. Johnson's office he could still hear him conning someone over the phone. David unlocked the room that held the phone terminal board. It only took him a few minutes to move two pair of wires and return to the lobby to check if the phones were live. Picking up the first phone, he got a dial tone. Then moving to the next desk, he picked up the second phone. A loud shrieking blared in his ear! Damn. I miss-wired something. I hope I didn't accidentally disconnect one of the bank's computers. Mr. Johnson would kill me!

David hurried back down the hall to the phone room. He spent ten minutes carefully checking over the blueprint and his wiring. Everything seemed right. Confident that he hadn't made a mistake, he went to inform Mr. Johnson of the problem. When he found Mr. Johnson no longer in his office, he asked the receptionist to page him. She smugly replied that Mr. Johnson would be gone for about an hour. David went back and double checked his work, wanting to be sure everything was correct. Since there was nothing else he could do, he locked the phone room and went outside to his truck, He'd return in an hour. Not wanting to fight for a parking spot again, he decided to wait there in the truck. He had just leaned back and closed his eyes when a brilliant idea came to him. I can take my computer in there and find out what line I miss-wired. I don't want to lose this account by getting Mr. Johnson upset. And besides, he's always looking for a way out of paying for a service call. The jerk beat Bill out of $800 last year.

David returned to the phone room with his computer in hand. Three minutes after he clipped onto the terminal board he read the words: WELCOME TO INNER-NATIONAL ELECTRONIC BANK SERVICE popped up on his screen. Then another line popped up on the screen: NAME OF ACCOUNT TO VERIFY FUNDS.

What a relief! It looked like he hadn't shut down any of the bank's main computer lines, but this line seemed important because it took quite a while for the Clipper Chip to decipher it. Unfortunately, he would still have to wait for Mr. Johnson.

David checked with the receptionist to see if Mr. Johnson had returned, but she irritably informed him it would be another half an hour. After a short observation of tellers not having problems with their terminals, David went back to disconnect the computer, but obsession got the better part of him. Looking at the message on the screen David tried to think of an obscure name to type. If he used the name of someone he knew, it could be traced back to him. Mr. Henderson! The name on the cassette tape. I can use that name!

Once David typed it in, the computer flashed back: FIRST NAME PLEASE.

Did the senator call him by his first name? I can't remember. Yeah, he did; he called him Jack. David typed JACK, and the next screen came to life with about forty different Jack Henderson's. Only two, however, lived in Colorado. David selected the Jack L. Henderson, in Pueblo, Colorado, P.O. Box 66.

The computer flashed the message:






David selected 2. The screen revealed an $680,000 account at that branch. "This guy is loaded," David mumbled to himself. The message on the screen changed.



The Clipper Chip could tap into any computer system, but it was not capable of getting around systems that used passwords. Passwords were usually easy to obtain — lots of times they are written right on the computer terminal or could be found in a Rolodex or stuck to a desk someplace. There were other options. David had the expertise to change passwords by opening the computer and disconnecting the memory battery to clear the CMOS, or if need be — there was bribery.

David hit the ESCAPE key to exit. When he reached up to disconnect the wires, he caught a glimpse of someone watching him over his shoulder. He quickly turned around and found Mr. Johnson standing in the doorway.

"Sally, the receptionist, said you needed me," barked Mr. Johnson.

David's heart was about ready to explode. Swallowing first he said, "I got both lines moved. You must have made a mistake. One of them is a dedicated computer line."

"I never made a mistake! Didn't you leave the phone that was already at the second desk?"

"No, I disconnected it."

"Well, get it hooked back up! And don't be charging the bank for your mistake."

"Hey, I waited over an hour for you to get back. You didn't leave me any instructions, just the blueprints. It's as much your fault as mine," said David, not about to put up with some pompous bank vice president.

"Just get the phone hooked back up." Mr. Johnson walked away.

What a jerk! David went back to the lobby and hooked up the line. I can't wait till I purchase the business from Bill. I won't put up with accounts like these.

Returning to the phone room, David walked by Mr. Johnson's office.

"Hey, you!" Mr. Johnson yelled from his desk.

David stopped and went back to the door. "Yeah?"

"Did you look at the security camera yet?"

"If you let me know which one, I'll do that now," David said firmly.

"I thought I told you — the one in the phone equipment room," said Mr. Johnson not even lifting his head, well aware that he had never mentioned it.

It was news to David that there was a camera in the room! He walked somberly away. Inside the phone equipment room his eyes scanned the walls for a camera. Above some metal shelving, he spotted it. The red recording light was on! With an unsettled feeling, David stood on a chair to examine the camera. The problem was obvious: a spider had built a web over the lens. Lucky for me this web is so thick that no one could have spied on me. I'll still charge the jerk an hour for this job. That will teach him to make me wait.

For ten minutes David stalled, moving the camera around and acting like he was doing something. Finally, he cleared the web and cleaned the lens. Then he gathered up his tools and computer, locked the door and went to Mr. Johnson's office to return the key and have him sign the work order.

Ignoring David, Mr. Johnson picked up the phone. "Sally, have security check the camera in the phone room." David stood patiently waiting while Mr. Johnson held onto the phone. "Okay," he said and hung up the phone. "Now," he said to David, "let's go check the phone lines you moved." David followed him with his tool box and computer to the lobby.

Mr. Johnson picked up the phone on the first desk, listened for a dial tone, and then hung up. At the second desk he picked up the phone that David had disconnected and then had to reconnect. Dialing an extension, he barked, "Dan, bring up that new account verification machine that the main office sent. I want to check and make sure the repairman didn't screw anything up."

I should deck this guy, David kept thinking while waiting another five minutes for the large sophisticated machine to be wheeled out on a cart. Dan carefully positioned it next to the desk and asked, "Will this be okay, sir?"

"Yeah, fine," replied Mr. Johnson, sitting to dial another number. "Hey, what's-your-name, now you can hook up the dedicated computer line." David got on his knees, snapped the modular plug from the machine into the new line, and stood back up. Mr. Johnson was on the phone to the head office saying he was ready to check the new Account and Signature Verification Service. He wrote down some numbers on a notepad, hung up, looked at David and asked, "Do you have an account with us?"

"Nope," David snapped back smugly, happy that he didn't.

"What was your name, anyway?" Mr. Johnson asked sarcastically.

"David J. McIntosh."

Mr. Johnson typed in DAVID J. MCINTOSH on the keys of the new machine. After a beep, Mr. Johnson looked at the numbers he had written on the notepad and entered them. "Now we wait to see if you got things hooked up right."

In less than a minute the elaborate machine started printing. Mr. Johnson pulled the printout from the wire tray and read it loud enough for others to hear. "Your entire financial wealth amounts to one checking account at our competitor's bank with a balance of $720."

"I hope that didn't charge my account a service fee!" David spat, annoyed at the way he was being humiliated.

"Sally, cut a check for $5.00 for the repairman here. He couldn't afford the service charge on his one account at a different bank," boomed Mr. Johnson across the bank lobby.

David had enough. He stooped down, picked up his computer, and toolbox and said, "If that is all you need, I'm going."

"I think you messed up this phone when you disconnected and then reconnected it. Check it before you go and don't charge me for your screw-up." Mr. Johnson tore the secret password from the pad and headed back to his office.

David sat at the desk, picked up the phone and called Bill. They both agreed the phone line sounded fine and that Mr. Johnson was an arrogant ass. While talking on the phone, the Sherlock Holmes inside David instinctively made him reach for the notepad and a pencil. He looked around — everyone was too embarrassed about the way Mr. Johnson had treated him and were looking elsewhere. David nonchalantly rubbed the pencil on edge all over the notepad. It worked — just like in the movies! David now had Mr. Johnson's secret password. David said good-bye to Bill, tore off the top paper of the notepad, slipped it into his notebook, picked up his computer and tool box, and left the bank.

Back at the shop, Bill offered to buy David a beer after work as he did every time David had to put up with Mr. Johnson's condescending and egotistical personality. After closing, they headed for Bert's Bar. Bill got there first, ordered a large pitcher, and put two quarters into the pool table. David came in a few minutes later and through the dim, smoke-filled air he spotted Bill racking up the pool balls. David strutted to the back of the tavern, picked up a cue, rolled it on the table then picked up the mug of beer that Bill had poured for him. Taking a big drink he said, "Go ahead and break."

Bill broke then continued to run five balls. He was a good pool player and won three games in a row while they finished off the pitcher of beer. Having had enough of the losing, David bought another pitcher and suggested they sit at the bar. As the beer relaxed Bill, he got up the nerve to bring up the things on his mind. "David, I know y'all are bothered that Marcea called and asked to go to church with us."

"It's not the going to church that bothers me. I just don't want her to turn into one of those holier than thou types. I just hope Paul didn't get something started. Who knows? The next thing you know she might want to move out on me."

Bill had consumed just enough beer to say, "You know, y'all are living in sin."

David had already put up with enough verbal abuse that day from Mr. Johnson and did not feel like hearing Bill lecture him. Ignoring Bill's last statement, he just looked straight ahead at the whiskey bottles behind the bar, chugged down the rest of his beer, slammed the empty beer mug on the bar, and then turned on the bar stool and said, "I gotta go. See you later."

Just as David stood up, Bill's massive hand grabbed David by the biceps. Bill sat David back down on the bar stool and said, "Hey, don't run off yet. We need to talk about you buying me out."

Eager to discuss this, David ordered another pitcher of beer. He knew that somehow, with the Clipper Chip he would get his military records straightened out and be able to get the loan and become the owner of his own electronics business. The bartender brought a fresh pitcher of beer and as David poured the beer, he said, "Okay, let's talk business."

Bill regarded David as the son he never had. After taking a long drink, he said, "Me and the Misses have been mulling this thing over for quite a piece now. We figured y'all might have a problem coming up with the $150,000."

"Bill, you're right. But if you can give me just a little more time, I should be able to start talking to a bank about a loan soon."

"You know, it's almost been a year and y'all haven't been to a bank yet," said Bill.

"I know that, and I'm sorry," pleaded David. "If you could let me off work for a couple weeks, I can get some things straightened out. Then when I get back, if I can't raise the money, feel free to sell the business out from underneath me."

Somewhat stunned, Bill twisted on the bar stool. He looked right at David and said, "Hey, I want y'all to buy the business. What I wanted to say was, if you could come up with a down payment, me and the Misses would sell to y'all on payments."

David didn't know what to say. He knew Bill needed to get cashed out and could get double the $150,000. David respected Bill and valued their almost father and son relationship. "I just couldn't do that Bill. You are being too generous and I wouldn't feel right about it. But I think I should be able to get a loan when I get back from California."

"California! What do you have to go there for?"

"Oh, I just need to get some personal things straightened out."

Respecting David's privacy, Bill said, "Whatever you want. Just remember: if you aren't able to muster up the money, we can work something out."

Putting his hand on Bill's massive shoulder, David simply said, "Thanks."

Bill still wanted to coax David into coming to their church. In fact, Marcea had asked Bill to try to persuade him. Bill didn't want to pressure David, but felt it important to ask him just one more time. "David, why don't you just think about coming to church? Don't give me an answer now but when me and misses pick up Marcea and the kids this Sunday you're more than welcome."

"Yeah, okay. I'll think about it."

"David, I will understand if you don't make it Sunday. I used to stay home and watch the games while the misses attended church.

"You're kidding! Whatever made you start going?"

"Well, some years back I forgot Mary's fiftieth birthday. That happened on a Sunday. The stores weren't open early and I couldn't sneak out and get her something. So I told her I would do anything she wanted to make it up to her." Bill paused to take a drink, and then continued. "She said to me, the best present I could ever give her was to come to church with her."

"You mean to tell me you have been going to church all these years because you forgot your wife's fiftieth birthday? Boy, I'd much rather have bought her a new car or promised to send flowers once a week or something."

"No, she only expected me to go that one day. But when I saw how thrilled she was with me just being there I decided to go a few more times. Then I started to hear the message, and not being able to deny it, I started to live it." Bill paused and took another drink. "And David, our marriage has never been better since that fiftieth birthday. Even our sex life improved."

David almost spit out a mouthful of beer and laughed. "You mean to tell me that going to church improved your sex life."

This time Bill took a big swig of beer, smiled and said, "Yip."

"That might just work to get me to come to church," laughed David. "I've heard of a lot of reasons for going to church but to improve your sex life, that's a new one."

"David, y'all think I'm pulling your leg but I'm not fooling."

"Yeah, okay Bill. I believe you." snickered David.

Bill was becoming somewhat perturbed, he couldn't figure out if it was that David thought he was too old for sex or if he didn't take him seriously. Bill didn't give advice often, but the beer let down his guard. "David, forget about going to church! I know it makes you uncomfortable and y'all would find some good old excuse not to go. But if you want to keep that purdy li'l thing and those two beautiful kids of hers, y'all better start doin' more with her."

David sensed that he had hurt Bill's feelings and answered with more respect. "What do you mean, do more?"

Bill finished the rest of the beer in his mug. Not saying a word, he took two dollars from the pocket of his flannel shirt, laid them on the bar, twisted all the way around on the stool and stood up to leave. "Look son, you need to give Marcea more. Even if you married her, that wouldn't be enough. Find out what she wants out of life and then work with her. Help her achieve her dreams. Then y'all find out just how much love that woman can really give you."

David didn't like Bill's advice; it was similar to what Paul had said, as though both his friends felt that just marrying Marcea wouldn't be fair to her.

Bill had spoken his piece and knew when to shut up. With his huge hand, he grabbed David by the shoulder, spun him around on the bar stool and said, "I'm going to mosey on home now. Let me know when y'all need them couple of weeks off. And remember, if you can't get things straightened out, Mary and I would like to work something out with you on buying the business from us."

David stood up and said, "Hey, thanks Bill. Thanks for everything."

Bill now felt David's sincerity. "Take care, partner. Call me if y'all need a ride home," said big Bill. Then he walked off through the dimly lit smoked-filled tavern air and headed for home.

David sat back down and ordered a double whiskey. Ten minutes later the alcohol was really eating at his brain as he sat in solitude at the bar. Both my friends think I'm giving Marcea the short end of the stick. Where would she be if it wasn't for me? Probably still dancing in some club someplace. She should appreciate everything I have done for her and her two kids. And then Bill tries to tell me about how good his sex life is. I should have told him about Marcea and me, she is one sexy lady. After this whiskey I'll head home. I hope the kids are in bed so I can have her.

David finished the whiskey and left the bar. The thought of Marcea blended into his drunkenness and aroused him. Marcea was like a trophy, something that David had conquered and deserved. She was his.

When David pulled into his driveway, the headlight shone on all his worldly possessions under the carport, making him feel even more macho. He had it all. Shutting off the truck and turning off the headlights, David had only one thing on his mind. As he walked under the carport he noticed the wind had blown the tarpaulin off his Harley and he carefully covered it back up, like putting a child to bed. Then walking up the ramp he saw Ann and Danny through the front window, still up watching the television. David flung open the door, startling Marcea who was sitting in his recliner reading a book. Immediately David tried to act like he didn't have too much to drink and asked softly, "What are the kids still doing up?"

"It's not even eight. They wanted to wait up to say goodnight." replied Marcea.

Still trying hard not to be obvious, David said, "Thanks for waiting up, kids. You should get to bed now because I want to talk to your mommy."

Yeah, talk my foot. I know exactly what he wants. I hate it when he drinks and then comes home and has one thing on his mind. I just wish things were different. I better get the kids to bed and get this over with. Setting down the book, Marcea got up from the chair and walked over to get the children. David patted her on the rear and whispered, "Why don't you get ready for bed too."

"Okay. After I get the kids into bed," quietly mumbled Marcea. I hate this! He makes me feel like a whore.

David plopped down in the recliner and glanced through the book she had been reading. He then looked at the title: God's Exploding Love and yelled, "Where'd you get this book?"

From down the hall Marcea yelled back, "Your friend Paul sent it to me in the mail today. He also sent you a book. It's still in the package next to your chair."

David found the package and pulled out the book. The Christian R rating got his attention. He flipped through the book and found some curse words, some violence, even a sex scene. Closing the book, David studied the back jacket: Adult Christian Reading. This must be some joke. David started reading and right from the beginning didn't like the plot. He wanted to quit but didn't — maybe it was because it made him mad, or maybe he saw much of himself in it. He read on through the first few pages.

Marcea stalled getting the children into bed, hoping that David might fall asleep in the chair. She peeked down the hall and saw David reading. Taking even more time getting ready and slipping into a teddy, she smelt coffee. She hurried now because it was strange — David never made coffee. Bewildered, she went to the kitchen and found David leaning against the counter, still reading the book Paul had sent to him.

"I thought you wanted me to get ready for bed."

David lowered the book and replied, "Yeah, I do. But first, maybe we should talk for a minute."

Marcea was caught off guard. "Okay. What should we talk about?"

"I don't know. Maybe we should talk about you. What do you want to do with your life?" asked David as he poured two cups of coffee.

I wonder how much David has had to drink. He's never acted like this before. It's always hurry up and let's get to bed. Perplexed, Marcea picked up one of the cups of coffee and went over and sat at the table, speechless.

David picked up the other cup walked over and sat across from her, asking again, "Marcea, what do you want right now in your life?"

Marcea added some sugar to her coffee and thought while she stirred, silently. Never before had she told anybody about her real dream, something she prayed for, and now David was asking. She finally spoke. "David, what I would like to do right now is to setup a day care center for kids like Danny. I'd staff it with nurses and competent personnel so parents of children with special needs could feel comfortable leaving their child overnight or for a weekend."

David listened intently, expecting Marcea to say that she wished that he would marry her. "What about our relationship?"

Marcea didn't get the hint, she just continued to ramble on. "You're right, David. It would improve our relationship. With a place like this, just you and I could go someplace for the weekend. We could be really alone. Just think of all the parents with a child that has special needs, like Danny. Some of them have not had an intimate weekend with each other since their child came into their lives."

Listening patiently, David was still looking for a way to find out about how Marcea felt about marrying him. "I agree with you. The two parents really do need a place that they could feel totally safe to leave a child like Danny for a night or two. It sounds like a wonderful idea."

Marcea was so thrilled. David had actually asked her about her dream in life. Making coffee and having the short intimate conversion was a loving side of David she rarely saw. Just a few minutes ago she didn't want anything to do with David physically, now she felt differently. "Thanks for the coffee. If you're ready for bed now, I'll go finish getting ready."

David just sat there somewhat hurt and dejected. Maybe Paul and Bill are right. Marcea needs more than just a wedding ring. I was so confident that Marcea would say she wished I would marry her but, all she wants is to help others. David turned and looked at her rinsing the coffee cup. It was as though her kindness for others made her more beautiful. For the first time he thought about losing her — the bond of marriage seemed right.

As Marcea turned to leave David took in her beauty. The short teddy just barely covered her and exposed her dark shapely legs. Marcea, sensing his gaze, looked over her bare shoulder and, with a sexy smile, asked, "Are you coming to bed with me?"

"I'll be right there. I want to read the first chapter of this book," David said, returning a forced smile. David started reading and the part about motorcycles helped lessen some of his disdain toward the plot. David laid the opened book face down and poured himself some more coffee while looking at the back cover. The R inside a Christian symbol made him think about himself and who he was. It was two o'clock in the morning before David put the book down again. He tiptoed to the bedroom where Marcea had fallen asleep. As he gazed down on her, he realized then that he sincerely wanted her to be his wife.

David slid into bed, but was unable to sleep. I can't believe how things are coming together. With the Clipper Chip and one trip to the base in San Diego, I can erase my Dishonorable Discharge. Then I will swing up and see Paul in San Francisco and get that medical record thing taken care of. I might even head up to Oregon and talk to Paul's dad and see if I can get those two back on talking terms. No, I will go see Paul's dad first, then Paul, then get my military record straightened out. I hate to fly so I'll give Paul back the airplane ticket and his money. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be so sure of things right now. One never knows — my life could turn out to be as short as Paul's, and what would I have?

David turned over and looked at the alarm clock. It was just after four. Things were still bouncing around inside his head. When I get back, I can start working on getting a loan so I can buy out Bill. Then I will try to find someplace like Marcea talked about, people who can take care of Danny for a couple nights. Or maybe I'll even ask her mother to come spend a weekend to take care of the kids.

After tossing and turning some more, David finally rested face to face with Marcea. I'll take her to a romantic lodge in the mountains with a room with its own fireplace and after dinner and a few glasses of wine. I'll ask her to marry me . . . Those were his last thoughts before finally falling asleep.

The alarm went off at six. Marcea jumped out of bed for her morning exercise routine. David pulled the pillow over his head; two hours of sleep was not enough. An hour later Marcea came back into the room, gently shook David and said, "I waited for you to come to bed last night. I must have fallen asleep. I'm sorry."

David groggily said, "That's okay. I started reading that book Paul sent me and it was late before I realized it."

Marcea whispered, "Do you want to come take a shower with me?"

"Sure, okay. In a minute," replied David. Then he rolled over to close his eyes for just a couple of minutes.

Marcea finished her shower and had to wake David again. This time he made it out of bed, drank two cups of coffee and headed for work. His tiredness was soon overcome by the excitement of his plans. I'll ask Bill for some time off, then head to Oregon to talk to Paul's dad. Then I'll head down to San Francisco and fix that medical record listing me HIV positive. I might stay with Paul a few nights and let him know that I am going to ask Marcea to marry me. I should ask him to be my Best Man. Then I'll go down to San Diego with the Clipper Chip to tap into the computer at the base. Even if I can't change the Dishonorable Discharge, Bill offered to sell me the business on a contract. Things couldn't be better.

David entered through the back door and found Bill there to greet him. "Overslept, huh?"

"Well, it's your fault. I stayed up half the night thinking about what you said last night . . . about me giving Marcea more."

Bill smiled at David, glad that he got through. Bill knew now was not the time to sound like a preaching father so just put his hand on David's shoulder and said, "Don't be blaming your hangover on ol' Bill. I can't help it if y'all can't handle a few beers." Bill poured himself a cup of coffee and returned to his office.

Throughout the morning Bill kidded David about being hungover. After checking the workload for the next two week he told David that things where slow enough that he get by without him for about ten days. They agreed that Monday would be a good day for David to start a vacation. Shortly after lunch, in a fatherly order, Bill sent David home to get a good night's rest. David was riding a wave; things were finally coming together for him.



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