The Minstrel

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Jonathan felt haggard. He felt like an old man before his time. The past week had been insane for him. Raven had been sick with the flu, so Jonathan spent most of his time in the house. He would think the stress of Ashley’s sudden disappearance caused Raven’s sullenness, and then would wonder if her distraught had been the beginning of her illness, nothing to do with the trauma she’d suffered.

Jonathan spent the week grappling through the rubble that his wife had caused and sitting listlessly by his daughter’s bedside. The Thursday meeting with Al Greenwood came and went without recognition. He spent the time worrying about his daughter. He couldn’t bear it if he lost her, too.

He only knew when Monday came because the Today show said it was. Today, he would have to start rebuilding his life. He called the ADA Linda Schumacher to find her brother Steven’s phone number. Steven Schumacher was a respected divorce lawyer. He couldn’t have his daughter cry like this anymore. She was the only gem in his possession.

Still no word from Frawley. Disappearances were rampant in his life; first his key witness, then his boss and now his wife. If he didn’t know better, he’d think he was wearing a repellent, he thought, the first amusing thought in almost a week. All these vanishings could give a man a complex if he let them.

He felt some alarm when he called Linda Schumacher’s number and got no answer. It was only seven-forty, but he had always known her to be a super early bird, always eager to try and make points with the DA to hopefully to get his backing for a nomination to take his place. She had the ambition he lacked. Ashley always said he lacked ambition.

Maybe Linda was running late today, was his first conclusion, but when several more phone calls led him past nine o’clock, he became baffled. Something strange was happening. Yet another disappearance.

Raven shuffled around the room, sniffling with a cold and restless energy. She would go back to school tomorrow. She was bored; not well enough to do anything constructive but too well to want to sit around and do nothing. It was frustrating for her, and she was complaining. Jonathan found himself getting impatient, at her rovings, on the verge of snapping at the daughter he treasured. He was as restless as she was.

Local news. He wished to keep updated. He tried the radio but it didn’t keep his eyes occupied. On TV, there was nothing but talk shows, which would stay that way until twelve. He wondered if they found the minstrel. Hopefully, he was still free.

Finally, at twelve, there was news. More killings, domestic violence. It was easy to become immune to another’s terror. So much dispassion, it made Jonathan angry.

Then a clip came, no pictures. Easy to pass over in the midst of numbing violence. Linda Schumacher, assistant DA, the prosecutor in charge of the Minstrel Killings, had her legal duties suspended. The irony was not lost on Jonathan. Innocent until proven guilty, but this man was proven guilty without ever being arrested. How could she be in charge of a case that didn’t exist? But she wasn’t now. Something had gone wrong.

There were angry people thronging around the courtroom. Too many important leaders had died at the hands of a maniac, the reporter shouted amidst the din. They wanted answers from a justice system that refused to hear them. They were angry.

This Thursday, Al Greenwood would stop by the illegals and look for Raul. Perhaps, Jonathan thought, he should get in touch with the man before then. .

He called to Raven to get dressed. They were going to the library. She was quite excited at the prospect of an outing after a week of confinement. He had the Internet at home but he needed the change. Jonathan watched her glee and was glad for her. At least, if he’d failed at his own happiness, he’d been able to give just a little to his young daughter.

They drove. Raven wanted to walk there but Jonathan didn’t want her to get sick all over again in the cold. They said the temperature didn’t make anyone sick, but he didn’t believe that. Raven had been fine until she spent all day in-line skating outside. Theories changed all the time anyway. It was best to rely on parental intuition. There was a bond there that would be impossible to forget.

They should go back out to Oklahoma for a vacation. Maybe for Easter, he and Raven would go. By then, whatever was going on with Ashley would be settled, and they could take a much needed break from everything. Jonathan hadn’t been able to take a vacation for three years now, just trying to work enough to pay the bills and go to law school. The bar would be in March. He needed to pass this time. For the last two years, he’d avoided the prospect of failing again. Maybe he could take it in Oklahoma. He would probably pass. Each time he failed the New York one, it had only been by a little bit. Anywhere else, he’d be a lawyer by now. New York just seemed to make it tough all around.

Raven made a dash for the young adult and paperbacks as soon as they entered it. Jonathan smiled again at her enthusiasm. He hoped nothing would ruin that for her. It made her so special. Only until she disappeared behind the rows of stacks did he go about his work. He missed her already.

There were stacks of White Pages. Jonathan hoped that Al Greenwood was listed. It would make everything easy for him. HE took down the volumes for Putnam, Dutchess, Westchester, and, against his better judgment, took the Nassau and Suffolk volumes down as well. Greenwood was common but not terribly so. As Jonathan flowed through them there were ten or eleven entries for the name, but none that were helpful to him. No Al Greenwood, no Albert Greenwood, Alfred, Alfonse, or even A. Greenwood. He was out of luck.

He sat with his hands in his face, burying his frustration. Out of the corner of his eye, just as he was getting up, his eye caught a stray issue of the Greenwich Times lying on the table. He stared at it, getting an intuition to once more check the phone books for Connecticut. He looked for the out-of-stateNewark, Bergen, Essex; everything seemed to be New Jersey. Jonathan began to wonder if this library realized there were forty-eight other states in the nation when he came across exactly what he was looking for. Greenwich/Norwalk area.

Greene, Greenwich, Greenwood. He skimmed. Bingo. Second entry. Albert Greenwood. The only entry that would qualify, but it did. Jonathan felt his heart palpitate, not knowing if what he was about to do was the right thing.

Walking to the phone, His heart thumped like crazy as he dialed the Greenwich number. Paranoid, his eyes darted about him, unconsciously searching the people about him to see if they were watching. In no way did he want this conversation overheard. This wasn’t even his job. He hadn’t passed the bar.

Three rings, four. Jonathan got more nervous with each passing ring. He wondered if he was doing the right thing.

“Hello?” A voice cracked from the other end.

Jonathan was momentarily distracted. “H-hello. Is Al Greenwood there?”

“Who wants to know?”

Jonathan wondered what he should be saying next. He wasn’t that practiced in talking. Suddenly he was speaking without realizing it. “My name is Joseph Pfeifer. I want to help and employee of yours named Raul.”

There was a silence. For a moment, Jonathan wondered if the line had gone dead, and nearly panicked. A snicker from the other end brought relief.

“Raul. Now why would Raul need help? He’s one of the most independent men I know.”

“Have you been watching the news, Mr. Greenwood?”

“Can’t say that I do, son. All they talk about is who got killed and who got mugged. Not much interest to me, I’m afraid. Say, who did you say that you work for?”

“I didn’t. I work by myself. I’m a lawyer’s assistant.”

“Hmm.” Another silence.

“Raul has been wrongly accused of a crime. I was wondering if you could help me out.”

“What did they say he did?” Greenwood asked with a touch of amusement.

“Murder, sir. He’s been framed for multiple murders.”

“Murder! That’s absurd. Who could come up with such a thing? He’s the most religious man I know, saving up money for when he gets his family back” Greenwood suddenly stopped, perhaps afraid that he was leading himself into a trap. “I can’t imagine.”

“That’s what I’d like to speak to you about. I would like to have him hidden.” There. It was out. Jonathan’s heart was racing. Planning to hide a fugitive with someone who had illegals. Jonathan could forget about the bar if anyone discovered this. And yet, it did not feel wrong. In fact, he felt a strange calm. Something had challenged him to take a side, and he had. And he knew he’d chosen the right one.

Greenwood would meet with him. A diner in Westchester. He wanted to meet him before doing business, Jonathan knew. A man dealing in illegal endeavors had to be careful. A concept that Jonathan was going to have to learn to adapt to.

He got off the phone and looked for a couple of books of his own. It had been awhile since he’d gotten into a good book; there never seemed to be enough time. But life had changed and his mind needed a refuge to hide in. The legal thrillers were the only thing that interested him despite the fact that they were not really escapades but extensions of his work. John Grisham’s “A Time to Kill” and Richard North Patterson’s “Private Screening” came off the shelves. Lawyers like him who’d gotten out of the business. Perhaps he should follow their example and write a book himself. The business he was in was too dangerous. Perhaps he should have not gotten himself involved with Raul the minstrel’s troubles; after all, he had Raven to worry about. He was all that she had. What was he doing? If he went away to jail, who would take care of her?

Jenny’s people was a proud people. They lived lives of principle, to build character was the highest, most noble endeavor of them all. When Raven was born, he was honored to raise her in that tradition. If there was someone in trouble, she should be raised to know that it was important not to turn your back on him, no matter who he was. Principle should come before personality and prestige; too many people lived for the latter and not for the former. Perhaps that was the reason why there was so much contempt in the world.

Wednesday, this Wednesday he would go upstate. Sometime around lunchtime. Jonathan would have found it ironic if Frawley returned to work that day, expecting Jonathan to be a slave as usual. He wondered where Frawley was now. Which reminded him that he should call Linda again.

The sun was almost gone when he and Raven left the library. Jonathan had mentally engrossed in a world where Jews were bombed for being Jews and trials hung because lawyers played upon race. He had come here for rest and escape, and yet the world he’d traveled to was no different from his own. Even in the world of fantasies, there was hate. He always tried to teach Raven to love. Where could he go to show her it prevailed?

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