Episode 6: “Vacation”

Created & written by Marrton Dormish

Powers: The Serial is a fictional series based on true stories. With the exception of recognized personalities, locations and institutions from the past and present, all characters and places depicted in this series are fictional.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Erika Jones leaned back in her leather office chair and took a sip from her daisy-painted mug of green tea.

“Not really,” answered her client, Nathan Patrick. “I don’t think George agreed to pay for any more counseling sessions.”

Erika raised an eyebrow. “Well, this one’s on the house. I haven’t had that many clients lately, anyway.” She took another sip of her tea. “I’d like to hear how you’re holding up, since…” She left her sentence unfinished, hoping it would prompt him to share about his ordeal in Juarez.

Nate nodded sheepishly, “Right. Well, honestly, I just came to say, ‘Goodbye’ and ‘Thanks.’”

Erika sat up. “What do you mean?”

“I’m headed overseas again in a few days.”

“You’re not serious,” Erika’s shoulders tensed. “But…They can’t possibly send you out again so soon!”

Nate shrugged. “I don’t mind. Have to get back in the saddle sometime, right?”

“But it’s only been a few weeks since you got back from Juarez!”

“I know, but I’m fed up with all the interviews. CNN here, NPR there, CBS Evening News, BBC, blah, blah, blah. It sucks being the interviewee. I’d much rather be the interviewer. If I get one more request, I think I’ll give Rico a call and ask him to put me out of my misery.”

Erika realized, vaguely, that Nathan’s appearance of normalcy and desire to end their sessions should not make her feel—how, exactly? Uneasy? Desperate? Afraid? She told herself she was afraid for Nathan, and that made her want to shake the indifference out of him. Verbally, of course.

Nathan waved his hands at her. “Kidding, Erika. Just kidding. Seriously, I’ve been writing basically non-stop since I got back, even though George is calling it a ‘vacation.’ I just can’t seem to stop. Every time I think I’ve gotten it all out, I have another idea and away I go. I’ve already sent a few long pieces out for publication. And a book proposal, too. George keeps threatening to fire me, but I know he likes the publicity, and he knows I need to get back to where the action is.”

“Well,” Erika took a deep, calming breath, or tried to. “It sounds like your passion for writing is back.”

“Yep, don’t miss the next issue of…Let’s see,” Nathan held up his fingers one at a time. “The New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, Reader’s Digest, and, let’s see, oh, Wired Magazine, among others. Juarez was my big break, Erika.”

“But,” she held up a cautionary forefinger. “I hope you will agree with me that our sessions together this year have established how destructive this pattern of rushing off to hotspots has become for you.”

“I’m over it, Erika. I promise.”

“Over what?”

“Over my destructive pattern.”

“Your destructive pattern?” She wanted to hear him say it.

“My unhealthy ways of coping. Like that better?”

“Well, Nathan, to be honest, not really.” Erika waited for her admonishment to have the desired effect, but when it didn’t, she lost her patience. “You mean you’re not going to ingest another bottle of sleeping pills in an effort to escape what you’ve seen, like you did in January, or nearly drink yourself to death, like you did last summer?” He pursed his lips, said nothing. “You don’t just flip a switch and get over depression or post-traumatic stress, and I believe you’re experiencing both, Nathan. You need to deal with your issues, not ignore them.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard you talk this much before, Erika.”

“Don’t change the subject, please. It’s not my job to change your mind, but it is my job to make sure you’re not a danger to yourself.”

“You think I’m a danger to myself?” Nathan had genuinely wanted to thank Erika before he left town, but now he just wanted out of her office.

She smoothed a wrinkle in her navy Neiman Marcus slacks with her free hand, and said, “It is my responsibility to tell a client when I believe he is in serious trouble of relapsing into unhealthy behavior.”

“If you’re talking about Tunisia, that’s not going to happen again.”

“How do you know?” Erika leaned forward.

“What do you mean, ‘How do I know?’” When he realized he had raised his voice, he paused to collect himself. “I know…well…I’m not going to let my frustration at pursuing a dead-end lead in some North African backwater cause me to casually suggest to some desperate peasant that he should set himself on fire.”

Erika sat back in her chair again. She felt so relieved by his revelation that she nearly sighed in satisfaction. She allowed her eyes to take on the veiled look Nate had grown to dread during their weeks of therapy. “You’ve never admitted that to me, Nathan.”

“Yeah, well, whatever.”

“You mean the man with the food cart? Mohamed something? The man who sparked the protests in Tunisia, and—”

Just then, the distinct acoustic prelude of “Paint it Black” by the Rolling Stones strummed out from somewhere behind Erika.

Several things happened at once. Erika panicked. She panicked because she realized she had broken one of her golden rules for counseling—she had forgotten to turn off her cell phone before their session. Because she panicked she forgot she was holding a half-full mug of tea and she accidentally dumped it onto the threaded beige carpet of her office. Because she spilled her mug, she cursed. Because she cursed she nearly fled from her office then and there, but she managed to recover the shreds of her professional dignity enough to reach for her cell phone. While she fumbled to turn it off, it sang: “I see a red door and I want it painted black/No colors anymore I want them to turn black—” Had she not noticed who was calling, she probably could have recovered herself enough to continue their conversation. But when she saw the call was from her husband, Howie, all the embarrassment, disappointment and grief she had kept so carefully submerged since her miscarriage merged into rage, and projected itself onto the five digital letters on her cell phone’s screen. “Howie, you bastard,” she hissed. “Bastard!” she yelled. She stabbed the “Ignore” button with both fingers, breaking one of her nails. She was breathing heavily now, hunched over her desk, holding her injured finger.

“Umm…Yeah…Uh…Okay,” Nate stammered. “Interesting ringtone.” He didn’t know what else to say or whether to say anything, until he recalled one of her common refrains, “So…How long has that been waiting to come out?”

When she didn’t respond, Nate opened the door and walked out into the lobby looking for some napkins. He grabbed a handful from next to the coffee maker, then returned to find Erika still frozen in place. He patted the carpet until it was only damp. “Looks like it won’t stain if you can get some water or something on it,” he offered. Erika said nothing.

“Well…umm, thanks again for everything, Erika.” He walked to the door and had his hand on the doorknob when he almost suggested she find a counselor of her own. But he thought better of it. Quietly, he twisted the knob and slipped out of Erika’s office.

Michael Airdrie had nearly finished packing for his one-week vacation to the Ozarks when Joseph Kim, his partner and roommate of four years, poked his head through the door and asked, “You sure you want to do this with this girl?”

“Um, have you seen this girl, Special Agent Kim, or have your specially trained eyes completely failed you?”

“Yeah, she’s hot, but you’ve been dating hot chicks ever since I’ve known you, and they weren’t psychos.”

“Well, there was Tina.”

“Tina, right, well, except for Tina, they weren’t psychos. And you never went home with them to meet their family either.”

Michael shrugged. “She’s been saying she wants me to visit the ol’ family farm in Missouri, and, anyway, it’s the perfect chance for us to sweep her computer and car and apartment and stuff for bugs.”

“This girl seriously thinks she’s being followed?” Joe asked.

“Her name is Courtney, dude, you and Pam have double-dated with us like four times. And yes, she does. C’mon, Joe, it’ll be fun, a chance to practice our craft off-duty in case we ever want to go private or something.”

“You really like all this cloak-and-dagger crap, don’t you?”

“It’s what I signed up for.”

Michael stuffed a short-sleeved Stanford T-shirt into a corner of his black rolling suitcase and zipped it closed.

Joe pointed to the suitcase. “Mike, seriously, you’re not flying anywhere, what’s with the wheels?”

“Saving my energy for other things, my friend,” said Michael, thumping his roommate on the shoulder and jumping into the hallway before Joe could respond in kind.

“Watch it, Airdrie,” Joe pointed a crooked finger at his roommate. “I don’t want to have to Bruce Lee your sorry ass again.”

“Whatever,” Michael grinned. “Let me know if you find anything.”

Joe shook his head in resignation. “Have fun with the parents.”

“Padre Nuestro, que estás en el cielo…” Sister Rosa Avana Paredes recited to herself, “Our Father, who art in heaven…” The very early morning had become her refuge on the other side of the world from her native Mexico. In the few short weeks of her new life at the Sisters of Charity and Mercy convent and orphanage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the dawn of each new day had called to her, and so she rose even before the sisters’ early morning Prime prayers and padded her way quietly into the convent’s tiny box of a courtyard. There were no fresh flowers there picked from a local market, no grass, no potted plants, no adornment of any kind, only chipped, seven-feet-high walls of concrete surrounding stringy weeds and gravel, and a large cracked water basin with a rim wide enough to stand on. From her perch on the basin she could see down through the mist into the city, whose rows upon rows of tiny corrugated shacks clung to the lush folds of the surrounding hills and valleys near Mount Entoto.

With her prayer she welcomed dawn’s pastel pallet, even as she mourned its unveiling of the city’s squalor. Every morning it took her breath and broke her heart, and so she folded her hands on top of the wall and she prayed for the city, for the city’s throngs of sleeping people, and for herself.

Her new life had disoriented her so fully that she had been unable even to cry since her 24-hour-long trip across the Atlantic. Although her four new sisters had proven sympathetic to her plight, only one of them spoke Spanish. Mother Agnes, the capable Irish nun who ran the Addis house, had assigned her three duties since arriving: taking pictures of each new arrival to the orphanage, learning how to nurse the sick children, and learning two new languages—Amharic so she could communicate with the children and the convent’s Ethiopian twenty nannies, and English so she could speak with potential adoptive parents and volunteers from Europe and America.

Already, the number of children who had paraded in and out of the orphanage had left her head spinning. Twelve had arrived and five had left. By Rosa’s most recent count, there were 144 children aged newborn to 16 under their care. The school-aged children were all sent to nearby schools for their education, so she had no opportunity to exercise her gift for teaching as she had in Juarez. Because so many of the children under its care needed special medical attention, the Addis house simply did not have the resources to operate a school of its own.

Rosa’s heart had already knitted itself to one particular little boy named Amare, a four-year-old who suffered his physical afflictions in complete silence. He had small white growths called molloscum on his face, neck and groin. He had chicken pox. He was severely malnourished if not outright starving, partly due to the effects of diarrhea and partly due to an obvious lack of food and proper nutrition. And like half of the other children at the Addis house, he was HIV positive.

As Rosa struggled to adapt to her new roles, she made it her goal in life to coax a word out of Amare. Perhaps today will be the day, she thought, offering up a prayer for the bereft little boy.

When the shrill call of the muezzin called the Muslim faithful to their early morning prayers, the bells from a distant orthodox church pealed their answer. Rosa climbed down from the basin and smoothed the dust of the wall from her black habit. She made the sign of the cross, and kissed her thumb, as she had learned to do as a little girl in Mexico, and steeled herself for Prime prayers with her four sisters, who were from Ireland, Italy and Spain.

It still smelled like rain even though the low gray canopy that had hovered over the Adams family farm all day had moved on hours ago. The setting sun showered the surrounding green and gold valley with brilliant strokes of peach and pink, and tinted the still face of the nearby catfish pond and the gently rolling surface of the stream beyond it. Locusts hummed their one-note symphony, accompanied by an occasional bellow from one of the Herefords swishing their tails to keep off the gathering mosquitoes. A cool, breeze whispered down the valley, sweeping away the day’s oppressive humidity.

“I could get used to this,” purred Courtney Adams as she snuggled under her boyfriend’s arm.

Michael Airdrie hadn’t expected much from his first trip to the Ozarks, but after a week in Wright County, Missouri, he couldn’t argue with her. “It’s the quiet that gets me.”

The screen door creaked open and banged shut, and Bonnie, Courtney’s mother, appeared on the edge of their canvas with two tall glasses of sweat tea. “Here, ya’r, Court, Michael.”

“Oooh, hot tea with ice,” Michael said, reaching for the nearest glass. “Bonnie, you are the best!”

Bonnie smiled, said to Courtney, “He’s taken to us pretty good, hasn’t he, Court? Even though he is a Yankee.”

Michael chuckled as he sipped his tea. Courtney sat up and took her glass. She cocked her head to one side, “He might do.”

Two headlights, one bright and straight and the other dimmer and a little crooked, winked at them briefly from the farm road on the other side of the valley. “Looks like Daddy’s home,” Courtney said.

Bonnie turned, “Well then. I’ll fetch s’more tea.” The screen door creaked and banged as she went to fill another glass.

Michael swatted a mosquito off his neck. “I’m glad we came,” Courtney said.

“Me, too. I enjoyed everything except for our little detour through Joplin. Majorly depressing. Makes me glad I don’t work for FEMA. But your family is great.”

“You mean my cousins didn’t scare you off?”

“No way! Thanks to your cousins I went gigging for bullfrogs for the first time, and I can confirm that frog legs do in fact taste like chicken.”

“And you weren’t weirded out by my uncle’s church?”

“Well, the lady who did the solo of ‘Amazing Grace’ was a little over-the-top—”

“She’s my second cousin,” giggled Courtney.

“Although she had a very unique voice,” Michael corrected himself. “I even made my first-ever church donation for your uncle’s tornado relief trip. Joe will never believe it.”

“You’re not much of a church-goer are you?”

“Uh, no.”
“Just don’t tell my daddy that.”

The mismatched headlights popped out from around a corner, and presented its profile in the rapidly fading light—it was a beat-up, mostly red pickup truck. It made its way up the Adams’s long driveway and stopped near the front porch. Out stepped a chunky bearded man in a sweat-soaked white T-shirt and faded blue overalls, “Howdy, Jelly Bean!” he said to Courtney. “Whaddya doin’?” He peeled his mesh trucker’s hat from his head and smoothed the feathery white hair over his bald spot.

“Hi, Daddy!”

Leroy Adams hopped onto his porch and flipped on the electric bug zapper next to his favorite wicker chair. Courtney breathed in the earthy smells of cattle and diesel and dirt when her father gave her his customary, scratchy kiss on the cheek. I’ve been gone too long, she thought wistfully. And I have to leave too soon.

Leroy reached for Michael’s hand and shook it firmly. “Young fella.” For the umpteenth time, he said to Michael, “I like a man with a strong handshake.”

Bonnie called from inside, “Leroy! I got your tea in the kitchen.”

“Well then,” he said, fingering his overalls. “Bring it on out here on the porch, Mama!”

“I got it in here for you!”

“Why do I gotta come in there? It’s finally cooled off and there’s a nice, fine breeze.”

“Just get in here, you ol’ goat!” ordered Bonnie, who appeared momentarily behind the screen door, then disappeared inside again.

“Maybe it’s time for you to come on back home for good,” offered Leroy, hopefully. “Your Mama is getting’ a little bossy fer my taste.” He pushed open the screen door, which slammed again.

Courtney and Michael laughed. “I like your parents.”

“Me, too,” Courtney agreed, then whispered. “So can we talk about my…problem?”

“What problem? You mean your accent? I can barely understand you now that you’ve been around your family for a week.”

Courtney batted her eyes, honeyed up her words. “Wha’s wrong, sugar, you don’t like it?”

“I mean seriously, what is it with CE-ment and JU-ly and Hawa-YA?”

She shook his arm, “Ha. Ha. You know what I meant.”

Michael pointed at the dozens of dim lights winking on and off over the valley. “Here come the fireflies.”

“You mean lightning bugs,” corrected Courtney.

“Right. Lightning bugs,” Michael agreed. He took a deep breath. “Well, Court. It’s really good that we came here. I’m certain we weren’t followed, and if we were, they cleared out as soon as they realized they’d stand out like a sore thumb.”

“Right,” agreed Courtney.

“Anyway, I finally got a hold of Joe this afternoon while you were out with your mom. I had to stand on top of the hill,” he pointed past the farmhouse, “but I finally got reception. Obviously, you were right. I found the one bug under the dash in your car—hidden pretty ingeniously, I have to say—and a tracker in the lining of your purse, and Joe found several bugs in your apartment. Your computer’s been hacked into. It’s professional work.”

Courtney absorbed his words, then asked, “What should I do?”

“I think you should go to the feds.”

“You’re a fed.”

“I mean the FBI. This sort of thing isn’t under our jurisdiction.”

Courtney thought for a minute. “But I can’t share confidential client information. If I do, I could get disbarred. Or fired. Or both. I’ve worked too hard to throw it all away.”

“I’m sorry, Court. But you clearly stumbled onto something someone wants to keep hidden. You could be in real danger.”

Courtney knew she’d been followed, but Michael and Joe confirming it somehow made it more real. “Why is this happening to me?” Courtney whispered, sniffing back tears. Michael held her head on his chest. “I don’t know, Court. But—”

The screen door banged. Out tramped Leroy with his glass of sweet tea. “Well, I guess I can sit on my own porch to drink my tea,” he grumped. When he saw Courtney hastily wiping her tears, he said, “Ah, hell, what’s the matter, Jelly Bean?”

“Nothin’, Daddy,” said Courtney. “I…I was just thinking about those folks down in Joplin.”

“Hmmm,” agreed Leroy. “Looks like the dark side of the moon down there.” To Michael, he said, “Wanna come with us next month to help those folks? You have a tet’nus shot lately?”

“Umm, no, I don’t think so. I wish I could, Leroy, but I don’t think I’ll get much more time off for a while.”

Leroy nodded. “I ever tell you we had a big ‘un come through town in ’60 when I was 15?”

“A tornado? Really?”

“Yep, plum picked up the bank and skipped it on down the road like a smooth rock on a still pond, let me tell you.”


“Sounded like a freight train, too.”

“Where were you when it happened?”

“Hunkered down, that’s where. In the cellar of the feed store with ever’one else in town, including your mama, Jelly Bean. She was 14 and—” From inside Bonnie called, “Leroy Adams! That’s enough outta you. Come on inside—”

Leroy continued, a little louder, “And I don’t mind sayin’ I was thankful to that twister for the chance to hold her real tight!”

“Do you have any idea what’s in there?” Lora Jean Jones asked from the passenger seat. She was so excited that she bounced in her seat.

Benjamin Ellis kept his hands on the steering wheel and his eyes on the road. He drove the speed limit and had every intention of returning the blue Ford Focus, his first-ever rental car, without a scratch. “I have a few ideas.”

“What does that mean? I mean, I have a few ideas, too, but you’ve known Zeke a lot longer than I have. What could be so secret about stuff in a storage unit?” LJ fingered the square, silver key from Zeke’s ever-present key chain. “This is the only key Zeke would never talk about.”

“Yeah, well, Uncle Zeke is more of a listener than a talker.”

“I know! I mean, he never told me he’d stopped taking his blood thinners. I can’t believe I didn’t notice. I mean, that’s part of my job to make sure the residents at PHRC take their medication. I can’t believe they didn’t fire me.”

“If Uncle Zeke’s stroke had killed him or turned him into a vegetable, they probably would have.”

LJ glared at Ben. “That’s not very nice. I feel bad enough about it already.”

He cocked his head to one side, “Well…I guess since you figured out his heart stopped and did CPR on him until the paramedics got there…and he got to the hospital in time to take that medicine that stopped his stroke…”

“Thank you, Ben.” LJ subsided. “So, you never answered my question. What do you think is in the storage unit?”

“You sure do ask a lot of questions.”

“Zeke says its my blessing and my curse,” LJ said, affectionately.

“Uh huh, I can see that,” Ben said.

“By the way, you’re not Zeke’s nephew are you? I thought he told me you were his god-son.”

“How many questions you gonna ask me, girl? Take a breath! You remind me of my mom, non-stop questions.”


“Anyway, you know, Uncle Zeke and my dad worked together for a long time and they…collected stuff.”

“So, wait. Who was your dad again?”

“His name was Charles Ellis.” Ben looked at her for a sign of recognition.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know who he is,” LJ admitted.

“Was,” corrected Ben. “He was Denver’s district attorney a while ago. He was really involved in the community for a long time.”

LJ wanted to ask how Ben’s father died, but something told her Ben wouldn’t want to tell her. She made a mental note to look it up on the Internet later.

“So…how did they work together?” she asked. “Wasn’t Zeke a barber?”

“Yeah, but they did work together. Uncle Zeke was a pretty big community organizer and he and my father, they…helped people.”

“What does that—”

“Ah, perfect,” interrupted Ben, glancing in the rear-view mirror. “Just perfect.”

LJ looked behind them and saw the blue and red flashing lights of a police cruiser. “What did you do? You didn’t do anything. In fact, I’ve been thinking you were driving like an old man.”

“LJ, I need you to chill, ok, just chill.” Ben pulled the Focus carefully to the side of the road, and the cruiser pulled over behind him. He pulled his wallet from his back pocket.

A muscled officer with dark sunglasses climbed out of the cruiser and approached Ben’s compact rental car with his hand resting on his holster. Ben pressed the button to roll down his window.

“License and registration,” said the officer.

“Yes, sir,” Ben slid his license out of his wallet, pointed to the glove compartment. “LJ, can you please hand me the registration packet?”

“Sure.” LJ handed the packet to him and watched as he slid his license out of his wallet.

The officer accepted Ben’s license and registration, read from them aloud. “Benjamin Ellis…21 years old…Maryland driver’s license. What do you do in Maryland?”

“I’m a graduate student. I’m on my summer break.” The officer grunted, then bent over to look at LJ. “Everything okay in here?”

LJ was confused. “Umm, yeah. Everything’s fine, except we don’t know why we got pulled over.”

Ben tensed. “You’re okay in here with this man?” the police officer asked of LJ.

“Yes,” LJ said, still confused. “Why do you ask, officer?”

He directed his next question to Ben. “I see you have a rental car here. What brings you to town?”

“I came to visit my uncle, Zeke. He had a stroke and is still in the hospital.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. What hospital is he at?”

LJ answered, “Denver General. His name is Ezekiel Thomas.”

“How do you know this girl?” the officer asked Ben.

“I work at his uncle’s nursing home,” LJ said.

“What’s your name, young lady?”

“LJ. Lora Jean Jones.”

“Wait here.” The policeman retreated to his cruiser.

The longer they waited, the angrier Ben got. “I can’t believe this, man,” Ben muttered between clenched teeth.

After 20 minutes, LJ offered to get out and go ask the officer what was taking so long. “You go right ahead if you want things to get a whole lot worse,” he said.

Finally after half an hour, the officer returned. “Everything checks out.” Ben accepted back his license and registration. “You drive carefully now, you hear?” the officer admonished.

“Yes, sir.” Ben waited until the officer walked back to his cruiser, and then he merged back onto the road, careful now to drive under the speed limit.

“Why did he never tell us why he pulled us over?” LJ asked.

“Why do you think?”

“I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking. Why did you tell him Zeke was your uncle?” LJ probed. “Couldn’t you have gotten in trouble if he found out Zeke isn’t?”

If Ben had been a teapot he would have been whistling. “You got to be kidding me. You want me to tell him that? ‘I’m here to visit my godfather.’ You crazy, girl? You seriously telling me you don’t know what just happened? You have no idea at all?”

“Well, I know I don’t like you yelling at me!” LJ responded.

Like a leaky balloon, Ben let out a long breath. “Sorry.”

He pulled into the storage facility and parked at the front office next to the automatic security gate. “Can I have the key please?” LJ dropped it into his hand, and he got out and swung open the door to the office.

A minute later, Ben got back in the car, and they waited in silence as the gate slowly opened. “I guess it’s a good thing that you have no idea.” Ben kept his eyes on the gate. “It could have been that the police are on the lookout for a vehicle matching this description. It could have been a number of things. Or, it could have been the fact that a man with this,” he pinched his dark skin, “was in the same car as a young woman with this,” he pointed to her light-skinned arm. “Welcome to my world, LJ.”

For the first time in a long time LJ was speechless. Ben pulled the Escort through the gate, took a few turns and stopped outside the unit marked “18.” He took a deep breath and reached under his seat for a thin, sealed envelope on which Zeke had scrawled, “For Ben and LJ.”

“Uncle Zeke said we have to read this before we look inside the unit.”

Ben slid his finger under the seal, tore it open and slid out a sheet of hospital letterhead. “You do it,” he said, offering the letter to LJ. Her head was still spinning, but she took it. “Okay.” She read: “Dear Ben and LJ, I have been keeping a secret for years and I have chosen to entrust you two with it. It’s not something that can be easily explained. Rather, it is something that must be lived in order to be truly understood. And so, here you are, in front of my storage unit. Turn over this sheet for your first clue as to what you will find inside.” LJ flipped over the paper. “It’s a quote,” she said. “‘If you want to be important, wonderful. If you want to be recognized, wonderful. If you want to be great, wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s the new definition of greatness. And this morning the thing that I like about it, by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love, and you can be that servant.’ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., ‘Drum Major Instinct’ Speech, Feb. 4, 1968. Two months before his assassination.”

She re-folded the letter slowly. Then she took the envelope from Ben, slid the letter back inside and put it in the pocket of her jeans.

Ben shook his head. “Uncle Zeke, the hopeless romantic.”

“I liked it,” LJ said, defensively.

Ben humphed, “Well, let’s get this over with.” They walked to the grooved silver garage door. Ben unlocked it with the key and stooped to grab the handle. “You ready?” he asked. LJ licked her lips. When she nodded he stood up, pulling the door open with him, and they got their first glimpse of Zeke’s secret.

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