A hit has been carried out and no suspects in custody.
|January 09, 2014, 1900, Paradise Valley, Arizona, a rather dry, raspy voice breaks through the elusive darkness with a question peppered with uncertainty, “Are you sure you want to go through with this James?”
Almost without hesitation my middle-aged beaten down response rings out with clarity, “I can’t go on in life with a clear conscious by silently standing-by while America is ripped apart,” taking a deep breath and finishing my answer during the exhale, “the truth must be told Dan.”
And with that, the unfolding begins…………..
May 24, 2000, 0813, Baltimore Regional Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland, fluorescent bulbs emit a soft cast on an already pristine white maternity room. A steady hum of electricity conducting through mercury vapors breaks up the otherwise still silence that would normally proceed after a long labor.
Unable to rest, I sit staring at both the newcomer and her mother with utter joy. Not fully comprehending what the future holds for our young family. Dumbfounded by the whole idea of being a father and a devoted husband.
Three knocks on an insolated door that deadens most of the outside noise cracks open, dropping the pressure dramatically. From around the edge of the threshold a young maternity nurse pops her head in, “How are they doing Mr. Philpot?”
Looking at the nurse then returning my gaze back to the two on the medical bed, “They’re both so tired.”
Now standing more in the room than out, “I can get you an extra pillow and blanket so you can get some rest too?”
“Why bother? I can’t sleep…”
“Well, if you get hungry or want a coffee there’s a cafeteria down the hall and if you change your mind about that pillow and blanket, just let me know.”
“Thank you! I’ll keep that in mind…”
With a small wave of her hand the nurse vacates the room going about her routine.
Staring at these two ladies, so deep in sleep, I can’t escape the thought my whole life will be of secret to them. These ladies will never fully know me, and what I’m paid to keep silent about.
Just then, the little one opens her big amber eyes. Shedding what looks to be a smile shining in my direction. Mentally silencing the hum of the lights I move in to talk to my daughter Brooklyn, being sure to keep my volume at a whisper. I all of a sudden find myself overcome with emotion.
“Hello beautiful, welcome to the world,” reacting to the sound of my voice by wiggling her tight balled fist uncontrollably, producing what looks to be another smile. But the professionals have told me it could be gas.
Afraid to touch out of fear of breaking her, I lean in to whisper, “No matter what takes place Brooke, remember, your father will always love you, and I’ll never let you fall.”
CRACK, CRACK, CRACK… Gunshots ring out jolting me from the fond memory.
November 12, 2014, 2301, Glendale, Arizona, local streets dampen by a late evening drizzle. Streets lined with Saturday night club-goers. Ignoring all traffic laws, smashing the accelerator, blowing through intersections with my late model sedan. Prior Evasive Drivers Training takes over my actions and thoughts remain calm, but concerned.
Racing towards the closest hospital that feels like it’s hundreds of miles away, I glance over towards my dying daughter that lies motionless in the passenger seat. I continue to repeat, “Stay with me Brooke, stay with me.” My human nature as a father kicks in followed by shame, “It’s entirely my fault sweetheart, my fault…”
Eyes tear up from years of pain, I cry out in distress, “Please Lord, don’t take her away from me too.”
Noticing my angel’s eyes affixed on me. A sudden surge of fear sweeps across my heart. Outside noise muted and for the moment plays of no great concern. Listening closely, I’m able to hear the faint inhales of life brushing across the lips of my pride and joy.
Eyeing the hospital in the distance I console my daughter assuring her, “Brooke my dear, everything will be fine, we are here at the hospital, stay with me baby.”
Bringing the well-crafted American automobile to an abrupt, but controlled stop, hospital staff meets us outside the emergency room lobby.
Medical staff transfers Brooke’s bloodied, limp body from the front seat to an awaiting stretcher. Following Brooke close behind, only to be halted by two heavy, what appears to be metal doors with bright reflective lettering reading, “MEDICAL PERSONNEL ONLY”, “No unauthorized personnel beyond this point.”
Mind restless with thought, slowly becoming consumed with fear and failure. Pacing back and forth between the lobby and the double metal doors for what seemed like eternity. Deciding to take a seat on a hard plastic chair in the hall far enough away from the main entrance incase of any followers.
With my elbows resting on knees and face resting in the palms of my hands, I attempt to recall the events that brought my daughter and I down this unprecedented path.
Hospital intercom blares, “Dr. Thomas, Dr. Gail Thomas, your presence is needed in the E.R., Dr. Thomas.”
Slowly I fade into memory, silencing the hectic activity that consumes the E.R. Lobby. Family members of a slain gang member release their frustration on the middle-aged receptionist, “What do you mean my son will not be admitted into your hospital?”
“Ms. Ruiz, please calm down,” talking over the frantic cries and howls of pain, “Due to the nature of your son’s injuries and insurance tier we are unable to treat him here. We’ll have your son airlifted to county.”
Shouting continues to be volleyed between torn family members and medical personnel, as the situation grows increasingly unstable. Sorry to say, the young kid, the victim never made it out of the hospital per federal government mandate that certain hospitals treat victims of gang activity. When life hinges on valuable seconds the modern day health care network seems to take a backseat.
January 7, 1981, 0930, Phoenix, Arizona, recalling the task put forth by my senior year American History teacher, Mrs. Hughes. The project was of tall order for many students, including myself. At this juncture in my life I really didn’t know how to apply myself to schoolwork, let alone a research paper consisting of twenty pages. Knowing what I wanted to write about, but the subject would have to be approved first by Mrs. Hughes.
It was quite typical in 1984 to have a handful of students researching still in its infancy stage “Greenhouse Effect” and the “Tear in the Ozone Layer”. Trying to do everything within my power to avoid a subject that has already been researched by fifty other students in previous classes, settling on a non-conventional topic, “The United States Secret Service.”
Being born into a lower middle class white family, resources for research purposes were limited to the handful of books available at the local library and the few articles written on the subject over the course of time. Of course I could visit the university, but taking local transportation could end up being an all day affair.
Gathering up what little resources possible, I attack this project like no other assignment in my formal school years. Finding myself staying up till dawn with nothing more than the bright radiance of a cheap clip-on retractable desk lamp guiding my steps on an enthralling mystic cloud of inner workings that play a very important role in our American History.
One evening in particular while preparing final details for my presentation I overhear my parents discussing something in the other room very passionately. Curious as to what’s being said, I press my ear up against the thin plywood door, “Mark, I think our son is doing drugs.”
Not believing my own mother, thinking I was using drugs because of my recluse behavior as of late. My father with trust in his voice, “Who Jimmy? What makes you say that? “
“Well… he stays up all hours of the night cooped up in that room of his, with the door locked.”
“So what, he’s a big boy!”
“So what? So what?” raising her voice, “Mark, this is our son we’re talking about here, not the law breaking Henderson boys down the street.”
“Marge, let’s calm down a bit and think about what you’re saying. Have we ever known Jimmy to be a trouble maker?”
“Have we not raised our boys to be respectful citizens, to mind the law and respect the views of others?”
“Passing on what was instilled in me during my short military career; I have given to our two boys what was never given to me, a father.”
After hearing my father express huge trust in me, I pull my ear from the door and look to the popcorn ceiling, thankful, I mutter to myself, “You did well,” turning off the desk lamp and head off to bed.
March 21, 1984, 0930, Phoenix, Arizona, chitchat over weekend exploits begin to stir in a classroom where its walls bear posters of FDR, Gandhi and Martin Luther King. A large world and North America map requiring one whole wall, but by the sound of it research topics seem not to surface in conversation while students gather in small social groups before class. What can be heard are conversations about who’s dating who and the classic “rumor has it.” What better way to spend precious minutes before class?
It’s official. Presentation day has begun. Silencing the loud class by her mere presence, Mrs. Hughes wearing a black pantsuit with a cream color blouse walks through the open doorway. Closing the door, takes her place behind a neatly kept desk. Hair pulled back into a tight bun and eyeglasses resting on top of her slightly graying brown hair. “Take your seats class,” comes the instructions. Without delay the class responds and secures all personal items, other than class material, in their school bags.
“Today, as you’re well aware, is the first day allotted to giving our presentations,” looking around seeing the nervousness in their eyes when she makes eye contact with each and every student, continuing with, “Over the course of this week we will be listening to the presentations and writing down three questions that can be asked.” Almost in unison the class moans with disapproval.
“Each presentation will be at least 15 minutes in length, but no more than 20,” pausing briefly, “Along with three questions…”
“What? You trying to kill us?” comes the smart aleck remark of a Jason Yeager. Stopping the educator from finishing her expectations.
“If I wanted to kill you, I would have done it long ago. As I was saying, along with three questions, you will also keep track of the speakers body movement and if he or she make eye contact.”
“Any questions before we get started?”
Silence is all she gets back from a classroom full of kids shifting in the seats of their desk, “Okay then, if there’s no questions let’s begin with,” the class holding their breath as Mrs. Hughes pulls her reading glasses down over her eyes and looks at a list of students, “Sarah Bradford.”
Sarah, a know-it-all and always surrounded by many people. She’s a part of the Masque-n-Gavel club and Student Government. She loves being the center of attention.
Organizing my thoughts, mulling over my paper and notes. Rehearsing my whole spill in the safe confines of my head, I tune my ears to the dirty blonde now occupying the head of the class whose voice projects confidence and conviction on the subject of what will later be known as, “Global Warming”.
The phlegmatic personality shares her findings, “The earth is warming at an alarming rate. If we don’t change our energy consumption practices and quit using aerosol, for the girls that is hairspray, the rip in the ‘Ozone Layer’ will grow, causing the Polar Ice Caps to melt and flood the surface of the earth,” making eye contact as to drive home the message and grinning continues, “This task will require all Americans to cut their carbon emissions and to think more green.”
Wearing a big smile, Sarah finishes her presentation with this statement, “Save the earth, for she is the only one we have. Thank you!” Biting her lower lip, taking what looked like a small bow towards the class, looking at Mrs. Hughes and then making her way back to her seat.
“Thank you Ms. Bradford! Does anyone have questions for Sarah?”
The same guy earlier that interrupted Mrs. Hughes raises his hand, “Yes Billy”
“So, what you’re saying is, um… you girls are one of the main contributors to earth’s increasingly growing temperatures, right?”
“That’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is, WE are the main contributor to the warming of our planet. WE need to live cleaner lives and protect our planet from poisons WE produce.”
“Is there any more questions for Ms. Bradford?” glancing over the class. Shooting my hand high in the sky. Might as well have a little fun. Can’t let Sarah Bradford get off the hook that easy, “Yes Jimmy, you have a question?”
Standing to ask my question, “Yes I do. You mentioned earlier that the earth’s surface temperatures are increasing less than a degree every year, but have no evidence for your findings. So my question to you is, does the evidence show that our temperatures fluctuate as if it were some kind of cycle the earth is going through?”
A long pause hung in the air. Coming across stumped and a bit flustered, “Um….” Sarah took a minute to gather her bearings, “the evidence rest in the world wide droughts and the lack of crop production in some of the once thick vegetated areas of the world. We see the dangers the Greenhouse Effect has on nature by the deaths of many species and the migration cycles of the Humpback Whale. I think that answers your question Jim.”
“I guess we all better hold our breath.”
“Thanks Jimmy! Are there any more questions?”
“Okay then let us move onto”, the eraser end of her pencil resting on her lips “James Philpot.”
Great! I didn’t mind public speaking, because I’m ready to deliver, it’s just I didn’t want to be the second one to give their presentation. Scooping up my papers I make the venture to the front of the class. Placing my hours worth of work on the make shift podium I dry my sweaty hands on my pants.
Clearing my throat, I begin “During the summer of 1865 the United States government created an agency that was to protect the integrity of our nations’ many currencies. During this time every state in the ‘Union’ had their own currency, thus making it susceptible to counterfeiting.”
Making brief eye contact I continue, “Over the course of time what now is known as the ‘Secret Service’ evolved taking on more duties, but the initial role of the Secret Service was not to spy for or protect our nations’ leaders, but to save our currency system from utter failure.”
The second hand on the large face clock hanging on the wall behind me was pounding away the seconds, thump, thump, thump.
Stomach growling, heart racing.
“It has been speculated that if the Secret Service pilot program was wrapped around the function of protecting the Commander in Chief, many believe President Abraham Lincoln would not have been assassinated in Ford’s Theatre the night of April 14, 1865.”
Delivering a solid performance I await questions.
Just over my right shoulder I hear, “Mr. Philpot, Mr. Philpot…”
Turning to look towards the direction of the voice, the direction of Mrs. Hughes’ desk, but with no avail.
An elusive voice still calls out to me, this time with a nudge on my shoulder “Mr. Philpot, Mr. Philpot…”