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Dec 02, 2020

Science Fiction

                                  WHAT ABOUT BOB?

                                    by John Meiners, Jr.

     Pamela Lawton looks through photos, papers, and a hastily made passenger list. This is the second time she's searched through these same papers since she found out Jesse changed into a draakar. Pamela was uncertain before after only seeing the picture Monroe drew of Jesse's transformation. Only a few draakar characteristics were present in the picture.  Now after seeing with her own eyes Jesse change into what appeared to be a full blown draakar and dive into the Mississippi River last night to save a little girl, there is no doubt. She looks through the papers for clues, anything leading to an explanation. When they escaped their home planet before it was destroyed, so many had to be left behind. Her best friend Deborah was one such casualty, but could Deborah's son be among the travelers? While migrating to Louisiana, five travelers were killed by wolves, their bodies never found,  but if Jesse is a descendant of an Osteoan, it means one or more of the five thought lost could have survived. She was sickened and shudders even now remembering those so young being lost to wolves. Pamela wonders how many Osteoans are here, and worries even more about the possibility Neville Dugat is one. If true, are there other Osteoans involved in these incidents of kidnapping and experimentation. She scans the photographs remembering all she can about the lost five; features, mannerisms, but nothing comes to mind. Many fellow travelers were strangers until the migration, and the five were lost so quickly. When they departed Avante there was no time to get acquainted. Pamela was only twenty-one, the youngest placed in a leadership role.  The pilot was the only one older at thirty. At the time of departure, it was so chaotic. There were only three ships equipped for space travel. Scientists discovered  their asteroid calculations were off and impact was eminent.  There was a frantic exodus. Pamela bid farewell to her parents, and the passengers mostly teenagers or younger, were off. Due to communications failure most of her world was still unaware. Most even in Avante believed they had another week maybe two, but it wasn't so. The other two ships prepared to leave later that night, but in flight as she, the pilot and a few others viewed her planet, Azanasdula,  a flash of light shot out.  They all looked at one another in shock and hoped the others got away in time. They waited, hoping for communication, but none came... for there was no one left. Her parents and friends, all gone as was her world. Hoping against hope,  she looked for Deborah's son but finally resigned herself to the fact, he wasn't there. Now, Pamela wonders, did she miss him somehow? Any child from Osteo would be noticeable. Their skin was the color of the great Sea of Vuage... sea foam. Could the boy have hidden his color and how? Was someone covering for him, protecting him? He was in school in Avante and a good friend would help and protect him, especially if he was older.   

 A man enters a small house on Burgundy Street in New Orleans. He smiles smelling the coffee he left brewing while walking three blocks to a bakery for beignets. It's almost ten in the morning, his usual time for starting his day. Retired for twelve years, he had been a detective in Nola for twenty-eight years, but he has a small pension and gets by. He gets a little extra income by singing blues on street corners with friends, and though he plays the guitar, he usually leaves that to his more talented friends. Occasionally if anyone has the urge to join in, they may give them a tambourine. They play on corners  in the French Quarter,  Jackson Square if they're lucky. He performs for the love of it. Often in his younger days walking his beat before he became a detective, he would look at the performers singing on the corner, and after he retired, he just had to give it a shot. He sits at the table, takes a bite of his beignet... and wonders about the naked man, who ran up and joined their group yesterday.

      Jesse and Samantha enter through the back door at Deer Run Lodge. It is 3:30 and a bright cold day. Thanksgiving is a week away and turkeys and pumpkins adorn the lobby. Samantha peeks out Monroe's office window at all the decorations but admires them from afar. Pamela Lawton also enters through the back door.  Pamela and Monroe are very well known in Community, but now they're striving to keep a low profile. It's easy to believe whomever is kidnapping people to use as experimentation subjects would love to see those two influential people out of the picture and no longer trying to interfere.  

      Pamela joins Samantha at the window. "Lovely isn't it."

     "It is."

     "This will be your and Jesse's first Thanksgiving here in Community, or do you have other plans?"

     "No definite plans yet."

     "If you stay in Community, you and Jesse are certainly welcome at my house."

     "Thank you. I'll talk to Jesse."

     Monroe  and Jesse come in and sit; Pamela and Samantha join them.  

     Pamela tells them, "I spent all morning researching records, lists, and looking at pictures. I have accounted for all who made the migration to Community. Some left Community and went their own way. Some I still know, some have passed, but all without exception I have personally seen change... and none are Osteoans. As I told you before, some were killed by wolves during the Migration. Even if all were Osteoans, they never made it to Community."

      Jesse says, "My father and mother were killed in a car accident in 1985. They had moved to the Mandeville area in 1981. I was seven, and everyone I've asked about them says the same thing. They didn't know them well, had few friends, and kept to themselves. The orphanage has no information.       I was the only known next of kin.  So far I've struck out.  

 Samantha asks Pamela, "You told us a few were killed by wolves. Is it possible some escaped and became lost? Maybe they made it."

     Monroe's desk clerk, Nina peeks  in. "A Mr. Davis would like to see you. He said you had a mutual friend."

     Monroe goes to the office window and peeks out. Nina points him out. Monroe asks Nina, "A mutual friend,... he didn't say who?"

     "No."

     Jesse joins them at the window,  "It's Bob."

     "Bob?" asks Monroe.

     Jesse's homeless friend from last night.

     "How did he find me?" Jesse wonders.

     "Maybe he didn't find you, he found Monroe. You said his name."

     Monroe asks Nina, "Could you ask him if he's looking for a job?"

     In a few moments Nina returns, "He said he's retired not looking for a job. He's been hearing a lot on the news about a little girl being saved last Friday night, and he's curious. Has questions."

     Samantha says, "We should talk to him."

     "Yes, we may learn something," Pamela agrees.

     Jesse tells them, "Let's wait out there."

     They all agree.  Nina goes out front as the others exit the back door. Monroe takes out some papers, acts busy. Nina brings in the stranger, and after short introductions, Monroe gestures for him to sit and asks, "How may I help you, Mr. Davis?"

     "You can call me Bob."

     "Very well,... Bob. What can I do for you?"

     "I was one of the three men sitting with Jesse on Iberville Street."

     "Yes?"

    Bob has heard much about Monroe and is aware he must gain his trust. Bob knows of Monroe's reluctance to share any information about Community. As a detective, Monroe traveled to Community asking questions for various cases and is all too aware of the mistrust Monroe has for outsiders. Over the years, Bob has had little contact with Community. His life is in New Orleans, but now it is imperative he gets answers to his questions. He decides to cut to the chase. "Last night Jesse ran down Iberville Street naked keeping to the shadows. Scarred me to death. He wasn't drunk, maybe high. I thought at first he'd been mugged. He seemed "out of it."  Shortly after you all came to get him, the news lit up about a little girl who was saved by a monster. She said a man walked away. I asked myself where was the monster when the man walked away? Were they one and the same?"

     "Are you a reporter?"

     "No."

     "Bob... look we were all at Jackson Square earlier, and Jesse had way too much to drink. He went skinny dipping in the Mississippi. The current swept him away. We were scared to death, but Jesse is strong and managed to get to the bank and later to Iberville Street where,  thanks to you, he found refuge and a blanket.  I want to thank you for helping him. We heard about the little girl on the news. She was hysterical.  I'm happy someone saved her. As far as Jesse having anything to do with... Well, just a coincidence."

     "We could do this all day, Mr. Cane. Give Jesse a message for me please. Tell him Mardi Gras is coming up in three months and maybe he can join me. We can be draakars."

     Monroe looks at him a little shocked, but Monroe does not rattle easily. His suspicious nature which served him well for so many years is in high gear. Does Bob know Neville Dugat, who could possibly be a draakar? Is Bob one of his men? Did Dugat see enough of Jesse to suspect him of being a draakar? Monroe realizes Bob may have a wealth of knowledge to share, but in Monroe's mind until proven otherwise, he will be cautious. He decides it's best to end the conversation, laughs and tells Bob, "I'll tell Jesse. He probably would like to dress up in a dragon costume. Listen, Bob I've got a bunch of work to do. I'll tell Jesse you came by." Monroe stands up, followed by Bob. They shake hands.

     Bob knows Monroe heard him say draakar not dragons so he has failed the trust test. He quickly writes his name, his former precinct, and phone number on a piece of paper. "Call them, talk to anyone. I was a detective and retired in 1998. They can vouch for me." Bob walks out. Monroe gets his phone out, and just as he has the phone to his ear, in walks Pamela, Samantha, and Jesse. Monroe looks at them and says, "Should have known, listening at the door." They all sit. "Well?"

     Pamela says, "He as much as said Jesse is a draakar, and he is too. He appears to be around seventy which means he came to earth as a young man about the time I did."

    "Mrs. Lawton, Bob Davis could be an associate of Neville Dugat and up to no good," says Jesse. "Can I see the number?"

      Monroe hands paper to Jesse, "Know anyone there?"

      Jesse thinks for a moment, recognizes precinct, and says, "No, but I know someone who does." Jesse hands paper to Samantha, "Doesn't Katherine work there?"

      "Yes." Samantha takes out phone... "Hello, this is Samantha Slade. Is Katherine Centrillo in the office? I'm an attorney... Samantha Slade. She knows me... Thanks...      Katherine, Hi...   Doing fine. How about yourself?...    Do you know a Bob Davis?...    Yes, retired...     Do you know what he's doing now?...     Really?...    You've seen him?    Do you know where he lives?...    No, it's not about a case. It's about a job. Do me a favor, keep this confidential...     Thanks...     I promise...  Talk to you soon." Samantha tells them, "Sounds like Bob is on the level. Katherine loves him. He's a nice guy. He's not homeless; lives around Canal Street."

     "She's seen him lately?" Jesse asks.

     "Yes, from time to time around Jackson Square playing the guitar on the corner."

     "Yeah, Bob told me he played there."

     Monroe thinks to himself, Bob has won everyone's favor, but Monroe has had dealings with Thomas Dugat, Neville Dugat's father. For Thomas, to say he would stop at nothing, hurt anyone who got in his way, is an understatement. Perhaps Bob was worthy of admiration for his career as a detective; however it doesn't mean the Dugats would not be able to "buy him" so to speak. Monroe has seen it before. Police have never been exempt from powerful unscrupulous men such as Thomas Dugat. Monroe knows he won't be popular  but decides to rain on the 'Bob parade'  and says, "I admit Bob had a career in law enforcement  and was well thought of, but there's no guarantee he is not now working with Thomas Dugat, Neville, or both."

    Pamela Lawton tells Monroe, "Bob, may be a wealth of knowledge. He could have facts about draakars who are obviously in the area. We don't know how many there are; where they came from. We have to find out."

    "I'm aware of that, but we won't be able to find out anything if we are dead."

    Pamela chimes in testily, "We'll take precautions. You needn't be melodramatic."

    "I saw Neville Dugat throw an accelerate and try to kill all of us. We then believe he changed into a draakar and swam away.  If true, this means his father is a draakar. I'm not saying I have all the answers, but I do know if we speak to him all together, when he leaves he may wave at us, and throw one of those fire bombs, and we all go up in smoke." Monroe wants to stress the seriousness.

    Jesse calmly notes, "We need to find out."

    Samantha agrees with Jesse; they must find out. Could Bob really be a draakar?  As a detective, Bob asked questions and solved puzzles. Jesse's naked appearance combined with the news report of the little girl being saved by a man/monster certainly was suspicious. Bob's conclusion was, Jesse must be a draakar. Samantha knows, in the same situation, Jesse would have also reached that conclusion.

     Jesse wonders if Bob simply seeks information as does Jesse, or are there other motivations. Suddenly, Jesse receives a phone call. The number reads  'unknown,' and he doesn't answer. Voicemail pings with a message. Jesse looks bewildered as he listens.

     Samantha asks, "What?"

     "It was Bob. I don't know what he is talking about. Maybe you do." Jesse hands the phone to Pamela Lawton.

     She listens, then listens again and shock spreads across her face. All look anxiously at Pamela waiting for comment, but she's speechless.

     Finally Monroe asks, "What did he say, Pamela?"

     "Bob and four others used the 'catupus fruit' to spread on their skin."

     "I don't understand," Replies Monroe.

     "Bob was there. "

     "What does the message mean?" Samantha questions.

     "Catupus fruit is red and when put on bluish tinted skin, it turns the skin purple."

     Jesse says, "They were passing for Avantans."

     Pamela nods.

     "So maybe some of the aliens originally thought killed by wolves were not killed after all. Maybe they just wanted to live on their own. They could be here."

     Samantha asks, "And the bodies were thought to be drug off by wolves, so none were expected to be found."

     "And if they were draakars, they could have swum off,"  Jesse adds.

    Monroe wonders where Bob could have learned about this color changing fruit. Was it from an alien, a draakar, or possibly Thomas Dugat? He decides to keep quiet about this for now.

     Traveling across Lake Pontchartrain on the causeway, Bob reflects on the day the five of them left Pamela Lawton and the others. As draakars, Bob, the Boy and three others kept their distance from the rest. This day seemed to be a day for a walk and talk about when they might leave the group. It was not designed to be the day of escape, and the walk was very pleasant at first. Squirrels scampered, crows called through the trees, and the breeze softly blew leaves that danced to the many birds' songs. Suddenly screams pierced through the tranquility of the forest. He didn't realize the younger three, all six years old had disobeyed him and followed them into the woods. He ran one way but saw nothing then the other way but still nothing. It sounded as though the other three boys had tried to catch up with them. Finally certain he was headed in the direction of the screams, wolves came upon him. As he looked, one approached the Boy.  He hurried back,  grabbed the boy, and noticed a bayou nearby.  They made it just in time, wolves nipping at their heels, and both changed into draakars  and swam off down the bayou. He was filled with horror at the thought of the other three, but now it was too late. He should have left them at camp. He should have had them with him from the beginning, protecting them. They both would be swimming with Boy and him now. The heartache was momentarily lessened as an alligator quickly approached from the bank going under for his attack. Though it was the first known meeting of an alligator and a draakar, the gator paid with his life. He and Boy swam on. The heartache and guilt returned and seldom left in all his years on earth. They were so young and dependent on him. He was supposed to protect them, and he failed. Nothing could change that, but now for the first time, there was hope.  What if some, if not all the boys made it to safety and lived? His heart lightened a little. Bob, looks out over the water on Lake Pontchartrain and smiles.

                                                                            The End      

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