Deadly Discrimination: Chapter 26

Nov 27, 2010 | 2010 Articles, Lorie Lewis Ham, Mysteryrat's Maze, Terrific Tales

by Lorie Lewis Ham
Lorie has been singing gospel music and writing since childhood. Her first song and poem were published when she was 13 and she has gone on to publish many articles, short stories and poems throughout the years as well as write for a local newspaper. Lorie continues to sing and her mystery novels are set here in the San Joaquin Valley, with five of the six featuring gospel singer Alexandra Walters.
Deadly Discrimination was originally published as a novel. The story takes place around a fictional version of the Reedley Fiesta and is being serialized here at Kings River Life Magazine in weekly installments. Be sure to start with Chapter 1!
book cover of Deadly Discrimination With a determined look on his face, Miguel set out to find Eddie. He didn’t have to go far because Eddie strolled through the door as we entered the front of the shop.
“Sit,” barked Miguel as he pointed to a table near us. He hadn’t asked me to leave, so I took a seat, too. Eddie looked confused.
“Papa, did the police find something?”
“No, they didn’t, and they should have.”
Now Eddie looked really confused. “What do you mean?”
“The cyanide I use to kill the rats. It’s gone. What did you do with it?”
Eddie stood up so fast his chair landed on the tile floor with a crash. “You think I killed Toews? I thought you believed me.” He stepped back, shaking his head. Miguel jumped up as well, reaching for Eddie’s arm, but Eddie retreated.
“I can’t believe you think I killed someone! Even him.” Eddie ran out the door and Miguel watched helplessly. My heart broke for this family being torn apart by something they hadn’t even done. I refused to believe any of them would have killed Toews, even to protect their store. Or even to get revenge for Glenda.
As I ran out the door to follow Eddie, I realized again what crummy shape I was in. He ran down the sidewalk and I thought I was going to keel over before I caught him. At last I caught up with him at Milbury Park.
He swung around with hate and anger in his eyes. “Do you think I’m a killer, too?”
“No, Eddie, I don’t. And neither does your father. He’s just scared and doesn’t know what to think. Someone got rid of that cyanide.”
The boy, who was trying so hard to be a man, slumped to the grass and put his head between his knees. “When will this thing end? It’s just not fair. An evil person died and good people are suffering.
How can your God let the happen?”
I sat down on the grass next to him feeling a little overwhelmed, but prayed for guidance. “It is man’s own sinful nature that lets this happen. God gave us freedom of choice; otherwise we’d just be robots. He wants us to choose Him and choose what’s right. Marvin Toews chose to be a stingy, bigoted creep. The All American Club chooses to be filled with hatred without cause. And someone chose to kill Toews for whatever reason. Your father chose to work hard and build a business that would help the young people of this community. You chose to stop getting in trouble and become a good, responsible young man.”
Eddie looked up at me, his face wet. “I’ve been reading that Bible you gave me. Did Jesus really die for me?”
“Yes Eddie, He did. For you, and for all sinners, so that we could have eternal life.”
He shook his head, not quite ready to accept it. “Who could have gotten rid of the cyanide? Wouldn’t it have looked bad for my father if it had been found?”
“Yes. But your father would not have hid it, and neither would your mom. Do you think someone could have accidentally thrown it out?”
“Anything’s possible, but it would have to have been Glenda. None of the other workers go back there or have a key.” He sat up straight and looked at me as he realized what he was saying. “Could she have done it on purpose because she was afraid of how it would have looked for us? For me?”
Something hit me at that moment that made my stomach turn. “Where is Glenda? Would she be at school?”
“Yes. I saw her this morning at the shop when she warned us. I suppose she could have done it then. I should ask her.” He stood up and started walking towards the high school, which was only a couple of blocks away. I fell in step beside him.
“I think it would be better if I did it. They won’t like you bothering her when she’s at school. You’d be surprised what a pastor can get away with.”
Eddie grinned. “You got a point. But what do I do?”
I patted him on the back. “Go back to the shop and talk to your father.”
“Okay. Let me know what she says, Pastor,” he yelled, as he took off back down the street. Where did kids get their energy?
Needing a few minutes to digest everything I had learned and things that were suddenly becoming clear, I just stood there for a while. I wasn’t sure where to go with what I was thinking.
Before I could make a move towards the school, my cell phone rang. It seemed to ring a lot these days.
“Hey, Pastor Mike, if you’re going to redo your program you need to get over here right now, or it will be too late. The program needs to get put into the system in the morning.”
I hesitated. Glenda wasn’t going anywhere; I could catch her at lunch rather than disrupting her in class. I was certain she had been the one to dispose of the cyanide; I just wasn’t sure what else she might have done.
“I’ll be right there, Kevin.”
I retrieved my bike from in front of Main Street and peddled over to the station with Glenda heavy on my mind. My reporter’s brain was arguing one side and the preacher was arguing the other. That sweet young girl couldn’t have killed her grandfather. I just couldn’t believe that. And yet, I myself had seen her mixing his ice cream just the night before.
It took thirty minutes to make the changes to the program I had planned. Kevin merely watched and pushed buttons, but I could tell by his face he was getting a kick out of what I was saying. I used the story of the Good Samaritan to get my point across about the foolishness of prejudice and how evil it is.
When I was done, Kevin reached out his hand. “Pastor Mike, I’d like to shake your hand. I have never been more proud of engineering a program.”
His handshake was firm and I smiled. It was good to know there were sane people in this town.
As I left the studio I ran into Cecil—literally. He had been listening at the door, and I noticed Josh standing in the background, trying to look as though he wasn’t listening.
“What exactly do you think you are doing? You can’t say things like that on my radio station. Your program will be pulled immediately and I will be informing some prominent members of your church.”
I knew he meant his fellow Club members, and I didn’t care.
Standing up, I looked him straight in the eyes, trying to control the anger that boiled inside me. “Go right ahead and call them. And feel free to pull my program. I’ll be using my column at the paper to let the community know that this station is violating my right to freedom of speech. I have a contract with this station and nothing within that contract states what I can and cannot talk about. I’ll take you to court, too, if I have to.”
Cecil stood speechless and I left him there with his mouth open. He didn’t have nearly the backbone of someone like Matthews, so I wondered what he would end up doing. If he pulled the program I’d be going after him and compromising his reputation in the community, but if he didn’t, he’d have to deal with the wrath of the Club. I was certain that Josh would report to his father what I had done.
As I headed for the back door I saw Chuck standing right outside the break room. “Pastor Mike, that was a good program,” he said while looking at the broom in his hand instead of me.
“Thanks, Chuck. Is there something I can do for you?”
He shifted from one foot to another and I could tell something was bothering him. “Why don’t we go in the break room for a cup of coffee,” I suggested after looking around to see if Cecil was around. He wasn’t.
Chuck nodded and followed me. I poured two cups of coffee and sat down at the table. “What’s on your mind?”
He sat and stared at the coffee mug. “I want to help.”
“Help with what?” I stirred cream into my coffee.
“Help stopping bigots. It’s not right. I heard Mr. Toews say he didn’t hire Eddie because he was a …a…oh, it was an awful word he used, Pastor Mike.”
“He meant because he was Mexican, didn’t he?”
Never very talkative, Chuck simply nodded again.
“Anything else, Chuck?”
He nodded yet again and continued to stare at his coffee without touching it. “They meet here once a week in the middle of the night. They say awful things, but they don’t think I hear them. I’m invisible to them.”
I sat up straight. “Do you mean the All American Club members meet here?”
“Not all of them, just a few. The ones in charge, I think. Scott Matthews, Jim, Mr. Toews, Cecil, and a couple I don’t know so well.”
“Have they met since Marvin Toews’ death?”
Slowly, he lifted his eyes to mine, and I saw anger and fear glowing in their depths. “They met to talk about you. They said they’re going to get rid of you any way they have to. That you’re trouble. I didn’t want them to hurt you, that’s why I had to talk to you. You’re a good man, a real man of God. You can’t go around hurtin’ a man of God. God won’t like that.”
Chuck wasn’t well educated, but he was intelligent. Some people thought he was slow, but I had known better. Over the last few months we’d had many deep discussions about faith and life. But because of his lack of education, the Club had thought him to be stupid. Now they were going to pay the price.
I reached out and touched his arm. “Chuck, would you be willing to talk to the police about this?”
“Yes, sir. I know I’ll get fired, but I don’t care. People like this have to be stopped.” The big man stood up and leaned his broom against the wall.
“Let’s go.”
I smiled and stood up. “Let me tell Kevin what’s up, then we can go.”
At that moment Kevin stepped into the room. “”That’s okay, Pastor Mike, I’m already here. You go for it, Chuck, and get those creeps.” He patted Chuck on the back. I noticed that Josh had disappeared and feared that he too had overhead and was off reporting to his father. There seemed to be a lot of eavesdropping at this Christian station.
“Looks like I might be looking for a new job myself. I’ve had enough of this place. I knew Marvin and Cecil were creeps but I had no idea about the meetings,” said Kevin.
We shook hands with Kevin and left. Chuck walked straight and proud, filled with more confidence than I’d ever seen in him before. He was a man with a mission.

Originally published by PublishAmerica, © Lorie Ham 2003

Lorie Lewis Ham is our Editor-in-Chief and an enthusiastic contributor to various sections, coupling her journalism experience with her connection to the literary and entertainment worlds.


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