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(c)2003 ArtToday

Kansas Mourning

chapter one
by John Edward Gill


A young father must find his six-year-old daughter, who has been abducted by his former wife, the child's mother. The little girl has a rare disease and must be found within six months or she will lose her life.




There'll be Bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover
Tomorrow, just you wait and see.
There'll be love and laughter and peace ever after
Tomorrow when the world is free
The shepherd will tend his sheep
The valley will bloom again
And jimmy will go to sleep in his little room again.

--from The White Cliffs of Dover
words by Nat Burton, music by Walter Kent


Chapter One

Morris worried about the dog.

It was a noisy German Shepherd, outside all the time. If his ex-in-laws took him away, they wouldn't hear if I was close at night, Morris thought, near windows where Kimi might sleep.

He lay on his stomach, raised binoculars and looked at the house, empty garage, gravel driveway. He watched the dog with its mouth open, tongue out, ears high, eager to chase. Sun warmed Morris's back. Sweat glued shirtsleeves to his skin. He was in high grass near thick oak trees and listened to cars on Interstate Seventy-One behind him and thought how Evelyn, his ex-wife, was angry enough to hide their six-year-old daughter.

Then, he squinted again at that wooden house on Harrison Street where he hoped Kimi was. Large, green pine and spruce trees grew near the walls. Heavy-leafed, shiny maples and elms were nearby. Behind them, where he was, were open fields with straight, yellow sunflowers tall as his waist, undeveloped for homes or farms, even in Kansas, he said to himself.

He hoped Kimi, whom he'd won in court last year, was healthy, and wondered if Evelyn had fled with her because of the Judge's decision. But, worse, he felt, maybe Kimi wasn't in Kansas. Evelyn had left notes saying she was taking her to a "good" family. But he hadn't seen either of them here.

As if any "good" family would hide someone else's child.

Morris watched that dog as he barked and growled beside the white, one-story frame home with black shutters, peaked roof, and a front porch about thirty feet from the street.

I could pretend to be a salesman, he thought, with insurance, maybe. Park by the mailbox, ring the bell, even let myself in if Rebecca Parker didn't hear me. People in Upton never lock their doors, he'd heard, and since the Parkers wouldn't remember me from my wedding seven years ago, and especially if I wore a disguise, such an act might work: "Good afternoon, Ma'am. I'm Billy Hermes. Could I come in and sit for a minute? Do you have lemonade? Midwest summers are the hottest in America. Is your home insured properly? Your car? Never can tell with dry spells. Brush fires. Just takes one match."

I could go when my ex-brother-in-law left for work, a Persian Gulf veteran with psychological problems who runs a Ford dealership while his wife raises a dog; a worried woman, Rebecca Parker, his ex-sister-in-law, given to long winters in the kitchen, and childless; he sullen and hunting on weekends, she stoic with her church, First Methodist.

Yes, Morris thought, wiping sweat from his eyes and hands and from his binoculars. I could lift Kimi from Bugs Bunny on television while Mrs. Parker disappeared into the kitchen, cracked ice, poured fresh water from the faucet.

"Daddy's bringing you home," Morris could say. "Have you any rashes? Do your legs hurt?"

He'd practiced that speech often since learning Kimi was sick.

But Evelyn, a graduate Anthropology student, didn't know.

He looked at that dog again.

Mrs. Parker could scream; that shepherd could bark, knock me over, chase me down Harrison Street to the railroad bridge and red billboard with "Parker and Ellis Ford Cars Trucks" by the town limit. Catch me beneath a white sign with bullet holes -- "Welcome to Little Sweden, U. S. A., population 6,300".

If police checked my license, I could be arrested, custody papers and all, a New York State driver, an outsider wearing a yellow arm band....

Morris rolled on his back, looked at clear, pale blue skies. Wind blew over him. He sweated where his body pressed the ground and unbuttoned his shirt to let his chest cool, looking at pictures of Kimi from his wallet. It was over ninety degrees. Even that arm band was wet. He wished he'd brought blankets to keep grass and dirt from sticking to him. He'd watched that Parker house for more than an hour today and even his legs sweated and it wasn't noon yet.

He felt on patrol in Kuwait again, waiting in ambush, unable to move while flies and mosquitoes bit him and his eyes blurred with sweat.

He hoped the Parkers kept Kimi in shade and that his ex-father-in-law had told Evelyn to check with Doctor Zevnik.

But she wouldn't do that, he told himself. Zevnik would want to send test results.

One of the easiest ways to find parental abductors was through school and health records.

How could he tell Evelyn about prednisone then? His ex-in-laws wouldn't speak to him, and no one in Evelyn's family called her directly because they knew Morris could check phone bills.

Grass matted easily and was flat under him. Someone could see he'd been there. He'd leave footprints clear as in snow. They would see his rented blue Geo if he drove in front and his footprints if he walked in back, tracks which Parker might find or that dog could smell.

He rolled on his stomach again and hoped those pictures wouldn't crumple, thinking. They shouldn't know I came to Kansas. They should think I'd given up. Stopped pestering F.B.I. agents for Unlawful Flight To Avoid Prosecution warrants against Evelyn. Didn't nag assistant district attorneys for felony warrants, either. He wanted Evelyn's family to believe he taught summer school in Southampton, had new girl friends, didn't want his daughter.

He couldn't hurt the dog. But how would he know if Kimi was there without searching their home?

Scratching dirt from his hair, he remembered plane tickets and a second rented car by his motel in Marquette ten miles away. Escape could be simple, once he had Kimi: drive to the motel, change cars, go to Mid-Continent Airport in Wichita. He'd rented a red Chevy from there, but didn't want it seen in Upton. He'd wear a black wig and moustache and a blue sport jacket, even though it was August.



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Copyright © 2003 John Gill. All rights reserved.



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