By – V. J. Willis Jr.
(One year later) It was a quiet and peaceful Saturday. Mary was just coming out of the barn: Only she wasn’t Mary anymore. She was Andrea now. Brad was walking in from the field nearest the house: Only he wasn’t Brad anymore. He was John now. They had married just nine months ago. But, you’re asking, why the name changes? Well now, that’s an interesting twist that will require some explaining. We’ll get to that in a bit.
The brown delivery truck, caked with dust from the country road they lived on, pulled into the drive. The driver, wearing a brown uniform that showed the signs of a hard day, stepped out of the driver seat and walked to the back of his truck. Andrea looked toward John. He shrugged his shoulders and nodded toward her. She shrugged her shoulders back at him, indicating that neither was expecting any packages. The driver slid up the back door and walked away with two large wire cages. Of all things to be getting on this glorious day, the contents could surely be at the very bottom of a list of things they least expected. There were two owls in each cage. The driver walked them to the barn door and set them both down. “Will this suit you guys?” he asked. Mary nodded yes as she stepped toward him and looked over the paperwork. There was no doubt. The driver had the right names and address. She signed the driver’s digital tablet and he promptly left.
On one of the cages was one of those envelopes that would contain a packing list. Andrea opened the envelope. Folded neatly inside the packing slip was an index card with the words “A Parliament of Owls” and nothing else. Andrea’s face showed a quizzical look as John walked up to her. Her expression changed to disbelief as she slowly fell to her knees in the dirt. “What is it?” John asked as he stooped to the ground next to her. “Mike’s alive!” Andrea pronounced with certainty. “WHAT?” John asked in amazement. “Why would you say that?” Andrea went on to explain, “Mike was always a big C. S. Lewis fan. In fact, he often talked about The Chronicles of Narnia and about all the hidden messages in Lewis’ work. He often compared that about Lewis to Shakespeare. I can’t remember the name of the book, but he often spoke about the ‘Parliament of Owls’ in one of them. He would always be discovering some new meaning he attributed to how Lewis used the animals.” John looked at Andrea incredulously. “Okay, who else do we know that would send us a ‘Parliament of Owls’ and not tell us who sent them?”
“But we saw Mike die!” John insisted. “But, did we?” Andrea insisted. “We saw him pronounced dead, but we never saw the body after that. Remember, he was cremated right after the autopsy.” “Ah, I’ve got you there! How could the autopsy be faked?” John replied. “If he could fake his death, I would think faking an autopsy wouldn’t be that much harder.” Andrea replied.
We’ll break away from Andrea (Mary) and Brad (John) for a bit and deal with some background information that will make all this a bit clearer. David Parlin, a former FBI agent that had worked with both Brad and his dad at different times, had approached me a couple of days before I was attacked. David was listed as “Missing” by the FBI. He had uncovered some major corruption within the bureau that reached from field agents to the upper echelons of administration. Before David had joined the FBI, he had served some seven years as a U.S. Marshall, assigned to the Witness Protection Program. David had left WitSec because of corruption he had discovered there. It seems some members of the program had sold out a couple of witnesses and had quickly disappeared. David could never find absolute proof, but he suspected they had absconded to a tropical island with no extradition treaty. When he discovered the same corruption within the Bureau, he decided to disappear himself.
David had managed to make a very comfortable living as a private contractor, relocating people who didn’t trust the WitSec program. “I’ve kept close tabs on Brad over the years.” David said. “I knew what he was working on with Mary and you. I’m going to step in and help you three out. “Why not just use WitSec for Mary and me; and, why three of us? I asked innocently. “Brad has stepped into more of a hornet’s nest than he can ever have imagined. The corruption that this case is going to expose is going to involve some very powerful people. Even though some of them will be caught with their hands in the cookie jar, some will elude justice”, David explained.
“The problem is, it’s too dangerous to place all three of you in the same area. One of you is going to have to isolate himself from the other two, permanently!” he instructed. “Brad isn’t aware that he is going to have to leave too, is he?” I asked. “No, I’ll handle that part myself. He’s not going to be happy about that part, I can tell you for sure!” David exclaimed. “We don’t have time for me to be diplomatic about this,” David said, “so let me be blunt. From what I’ve seen, it looks like something might be developing between Brad and Mary. What about you and Mary?” I grinned that an outsider had come to the same conclusion about Brad and Mary. “More than anything in this world, I’d love to see both Brad and Mary happy!” I stated emphatically. “That’s some friend those two have in you!” David noted. “Okay, so let’s say that I’ll place the two of them in close proximity, and then we’ll let nature take its course.” That means you’ll have to go separately.” David noted sadly.
The encounter with Al’s gruesome twosome that landed me in the hospital threw a bit of a monkey wrench in David’s plans. He had to get creative in a hurry to make that all happen, and I was amazed at the skill with which he did it. It was like watching a famous orchestra conductor working his musical magic by pulling together a mob of amazing talent to produce an extraordinary end product.
Ah, but what about me? Well, you see, I had been writing The Jury Pool under my real name. It had a different title originally, and I was using my real name to write it. I changed my name to the pen name that you see on this story. It was an amazing success. I won’t say just how successful it was, except to say that I could retire indefinitely on my part of it. Of course, I can’t do that. Writing is like an itch that can only be scratched by more writing for me. So, from time to time, look for my pen name, and send an “atta boy” to me through my publisher every now and then.
The End (or maybe not?)