Creative Writing: The Search
I used to work for the F.B.I., in the Portland office. It was my
childhood dream to be the one who gets the bad guy.
My fiftieth birthday was in just three months. I had a wife and three
children, still do, and the same job I'd had since my graduation from Quantico.
We were living just outside Portland. My oldest son, John jr., was in his third
year at Washington. The twins were high school seniors at this time and my
pride and joy, daddy's little girls. Carolyn and I had celebrated our twenty-
fifth anniversary, that's the silver one I think, the previous Thursday night.
That warm July morning, I dressed for work as I had every other. Black
socks and slacks, a pin striped white dress shirt, and a black jacket. I
slipped on my loafers but was lost in the search for my tie. Coffee stained and
still unwashed, I found it laying on the laundry room floor. I swore to myself
to let Carolyn know about that. I walked into John's empty room, knowing he
owned some ties. It was just as he had left it, I guess, because I'd never
really gone in his room. I picked the red one he wore in his graduation
pictures and slipped it over my head. I stepped into the bathroom, combed back
my whitening hair, and left for the office.
The early morning sun shone in through the broken blinds that I noticed
hadn't been replaced as I asked. I looked over the pile of paperwork awaiting
me. "Why the hell do I gotta do all these damn reports?"
"Actually, you don't, not today." I turned to see a man much like myself,
but older and with his piece on. He was a little taller, but with the same
sagging features and large belly of my body. "I've come here to give you
something new." With that, I was handed a thick manila folder. It felt like it
contained a video cassette. "All you need is in there, including my card. This
is top priority, Agent Caulsworth. You will report to me on the hour with your
progress. The paperwork here will wait." The man turned and left. Outside, I
heard a jet-copter quietly lift off. Funny I hadn't heard it land.
I poured out the contents of the folder, the federal statement, a case
history, vid cassette, and a dossier. The card that fell to the floor read
'Federal Marshall Wilson R. Franklin'. He was from the Boise office.
"Must be real important for him to come all the way out here." Steve
Menschke was my oldest friend at the office, and a fine agent. I'd known him
since our days at Quantico. "An hour's flight out here, even in that thing." He
went on while I began to read the dossier.
At quarter till nine, I called a full meeting, all department heads. "We
seem to have ourselves a little situation here. I know you are all familiar
with that case in the papers, the Dean Brown thing. This S.O.B. killed not only
the Portland mayor, but two of his security, in case you are unfamiliar with all
this. He used to work for the mayor's office. The court sentenced him just two
days ago, life without parole. I guess he didn't like the decision, because Mr.
Brown escaped last night in transfer to the Oregon State Penitentiary. His
whereabouts are presently unknown and I have been instructed to find him. As of
now, the entire department will concentrate on this situation, all others
suspended. This is the video, courtroom and escape." I shut off the lights and
A small thin man, caucasian and under 5'10'', entered the courtroom. He
wore a wrinkled suit, dark blue with a white kerchief. His hair was slicked
back, still wet and he was unshaven. He wore no expression, as if he were dead.
The judge spoke slowly, pausing for breath as she read the sentence. After the
announcement, the defendant simply rose and extended his hands so he could be
detained. Still the face of the small figure on the screen did not change. He
was hand-cuffed and led away. The scene abruptly shifted to the penitentiary
grounds. A line of orange clad men, heads low, lurched forward into the penn.
Another group of like dressed men filed out, toward a waiting bus. In a flash,
a man jumped from one line to the other and boarded the bus. Then the screen
I played the end back in slow-motion, pointing him out. Steve flicked the
lights on. "He escaped unnoticed. As you could tell, he was not chained at the
ankles, allowing this move. One guard monitoring the cameras, he just wasn't
watching. The bus' destination was Portland. It arrived on time, the prisoners
released. This tape wasn't found until after he was gone so the state is
helpless. That puts the ball in our court. As always, we get the clean up job.
Menschke, you will head one of three groups, as will Hendricks. I have the
third, here. Be ready to move in an hour."
As they assembled, I returned to my office and read the dossier again.
Dean Brown had lived through hell. He had a psychiatric history full of
problems. His parents abused him sexually, but he didn't admit it till he had
grown and left. He overcame that, fixed his life. He had the standard wife and
two kids, an accounting job, the whole schmeer. One day, they cross the street
and a pickup streaks from a standstill at the light. Smashed right into them.
Killed everyone but him and the son and sped away. Brown was submitted after
the hospital, the boy went to the grandparents. He escaped the institution and
committed the murders. Waited for trial five months, it took a week to convict
him. Life was upside down in less than a year.
Reading this, I felt for the guy. Aside from the killings, he was clean.
Never even a traffic violation, then this. It didn't make sense, and I got an
uneasy feeling in my gut.
"Hey, John, I'm ready to move. I got two choppers lined up but no
destination. Where to, boss?"
"Steve, I don't know about this guy, there's something not right here. I
don't know what he's doing. I want you to read this." He took the papers,
kicked back to read and I left the room.
"Hendricks, is your party ready? You're heading for Washington, Menschke
will go south. There's no way this guy is heading east. We've got him, its
just a matter of time. I'm giving you full jurisdiction, take what you need.
Just make sure the border is tighter than your asshole this time. I still
haven't forgotten the last time I put you in command. I'm trusting you with
this, don't make me kill you."
"Yeah, I got it Caulsworth. Just you back off too!"
I returned to my office, Steve still reading. "What do you think?"
"Both of you are nuts. Hendricks? Come on, you know he won't find the guy.
Especially not this one. Brown is not dumb. He could do anything. He might
be in a Portland hotel or on a fishing boat by now, there's no way to know.
He's too smart to get back into his life, he's a runner."
"Get on the horn to Thompson in California, he'll give full assistance.
Cut offs at the border and in the bay area. Go with whatever you feel, you know
you've got full j.d., just find this guy for me. I've got ops here and I'll let
you know about anything that arises. I'll also crunch some figures, give you
any new leads. Now get going, I'm on an hourly check-in. Hell, I already gotta
call him. I'll buzz you."
Steve was already out the door when I finished talking. I lifted the
receiver and began to dial the number on the card. I heard the ring on the
other end over the engines roaring outside. Steve and Hendricks were moving out.
"This is Franklin."
"Yeah, this is Caulsworth, in Portland." I explained the situation to him,
though he didn't seem interested anymore. Just grunted and sighed as I spoke. "
I'm heading up to see the parents, get some insight. I'll miss the next two
calls, but wouldn't have anything to check in with anyway." Franklin grunted
again and hung up.
The air whipped through my hair, tangling it, as the helicopter warmed its
engines. When I was in, the pilot gave me a nod then looked to the ground crew
and we lifted off. I hadn't been flown in a helicopter for over five years and
the effects were taking their toll on my stomach. My ears ached, the rhythmic
thump of the blades louder than I remembered.
Once we left the city's limits, I began to enjoy the flight. We skipped
over the pine forest, an endless field of green. I had forgotten the world
outside my office and I began to wish I was home. The sunlight created a glare
as it passed through the plastic window of my door, but I could still see the
treetops speeding beneath me. Watching the scenery pass, I failed to notice the
time. The fog-covered Seattle skyline lay before me in no time.
The streets were slick and shiny black, the rain having subsided. Agent
Hill, of the Seattle department, drove me out to see Brown's parents. The fresh
scent of rain filled my nostrils and my thoughts again drifted toward home. It
was cool, about sixty-five degrees with an overcast sky. It was a short drive,
only ten minutes. We arrived at a homey, two level house at the back of a cul-
de-sac that looked like all the others in the neighborhood. I stepped out of
the car and hurried up the drive through the fine mist.
The doorbell played a bar of a song I couldn't quite recall the name of.
After a moment, I heard the metallic click of the locks being undone and the
door opened to reveal a small boy, his eyes on the floor. He looked a lot like
John jr. when he was seven. His dark hair was combed over his forehead, shading
his eyes from view. He was slight in stature and held his left arm still and
tense, grasping the knob with his right. In a quiet voice, barely audible, he
invited me in. Then the boy ran inside and up the stairs. The small front room
reminded me of my parents' house, flowered curtains and brown furniture. It
smelled of moth balls and potpourri. A large wooden television with a small
screen stood across from the couch. I seated myself in the worn recliner,
humming the tune the doorbell played.
After a few minutes, an old man came down the stairs, leaning on his
cane. He adjusted his glasses, coughed twice, and shook his cane at me. "What
are you doing in my house? Get out now!" He wore a tan sweater, unbuttoned,
over his white tee shirt. He adjusted the belt on his trousers, pulled them up.
"Sir, I am John Caulsworth, Federal agent. I am here to ask you a few
questions, if you please. It won't take long." At the top of the stairs,
hidden by a shadow, I saw the boy and pointed. "Your boy let me in." With that,
the boy receded back into the shadows.
The old man poked me with his cane. "Get out of my chair and I'll talk
I seated myself on the couch. "Mr. Brown, I have to ask some questions
about Dean. How recently have you seen him?"
"Not since he moved out. Damn him. His mother worries about Dean so. He
lost custody of his boy and we still haven't heard from him. " He scratched his
chin, then his neck. "He loved that boy, still should. He hasn't even tried to
see Davey. Do you know where he is? Why do you have to bother me about my
I began to respond, but Mr. Brown cut back in. "I can't talk about this,
it hurts. Please leave now." He did not stand when I rose to leave. I closed
the door behind me and Hill started the car.
"Hendricks, this is Caulsworth, I'm coming down to join your party. I have
a feeling Brown is coming this way. Did you secure the border?" I barely heard
him reply over the fury of the blades above me. I shut off the phone. Damn
Hendricks. It was past one and Brown had plenty of time to have made it across
the border. Hendricks let him by. I'd have to deal with him later. It was
time to find Dean Brown.
The helicopter set down at the Washington border, at the weight scales. I
ran out from beneath the whirling blades and met Hendricks. Down the road, I
saw the line of cars and trucks, each awaiting inspection before passing into
Washington. In the southbound lane, the cars sped by. Inside I dialed the
number of Steve's mobile. I asked if there were any developments; there weren't.
I hung up and dialed Boise. Franklin was not in.
"Hendricks, get over here." I wrapped my arm around his shoulder. "I have
a feeling he's gotten by you. He's got to be in Washington by now, so call back
the border guards. Concentrate our forces in the state. Meet me outside in
five, after you spread the word."
The helicopter blades were still turning, the engines cooling. I climbed
in and sat in the copilot's seat. Hendricks came out shortly after, looked
around, finally spotted me. I opened the door.
"What do you want?"
"You're driving, get in!"
As we lifted off, I looked at my watch. Quarter after two. At least
nightfall wasn't for another six or seven hours. After that, we'd have to wait
for morning. Clouds were blocking most of the sunlight and my skin cooled.
It was silent for ten to twenty minutes. Then Hendricks spoke up. "
"Why do you get on my ass like that? What the hell did I do?"
I tried to find the words, but couldn't. "You don't do things like I like.
Hendricks, You always have to get in my face, to do your own thing. That does
not help the team, it doesn't help us succeed. I'm gonna put you up for
transfer: either California or Nevada."
He turned to me, mouth agape. "What? Why? You have got to give me
another chance!" He sighed, looked ahead again and began to scream.
I lurched forward when the chopper sharply jolted, hitting my head on
something. I felt as if I were falling and everything went black.
I could tell I was laying face down. I kept my eyes closed and tried to
feel all my body. My skin was chilled and I could feel my damp clothes sticking
to my body. The scent of pine overwhelmed my nose and I tasted blood. I lifted
my head and opened my eyes. Night had fallen but I knew I was laying in a thick
evergreen forest. Stars shone from behind the thick canopy of the forest. I
tried to get up, but fell in pain. My left arm and side felt like they were on
fire. I rolled over in the brush and did a situp. I glanced at my shoulder to
see my jacket and shirt were shredded and replaced by a sheet of blood. My
fingers slipped under my left arm for a feel. It felt like jelly in a plastic
My shirt and jacket barely clung to me, torn down the left side. My tie
twisted around my neck and hung behind me. I worked my way onto my knees, noted
my legs were fine. It occurred to me that I was supposed to be airborne. I
slowly stood and turned to see the wreckage of a helicopter. Behind it, trees
were toppled and the ground had a wide gash in it. I stumbled around the
smaller debris toward the frame. The metal was bent and broken. Amid this maze,
I saw the slumping form of Hendricks, his back to me. I could not reach him and
tried calling his name. He did not respond. I walked around to the other side,
knelt to peer inside. A thin slice of metal stabbed into his chest. His eyes
and mouth were still open in mid-scream.
I sat to think. All I wanted was to make it home. I knew the chopper
had a first aid kit and a crash kit. Walking slowly among the ruins, I found
parts of the crash kit. Armed now with a flashlight and flare gun, I searched
for the first aid. I found the broken plastic case protruding from beneath the
frame. The contents were undoubtedly underneath also or inside. Either way, I
had no help. Still dizzy, I fell to the ground and leaned on the frame, winced
in pain. I withdrew the gun from my side and pointed it skyward. The flare
shot out bright orange and it was bright as day for a moment. I watched it arc
over the trees and fade as it fell. Sparks flew as it crashed into the soft
The flashlight's beam bounced around the newly made clearing. It bounded
off glass fragments, twisted metal, and broken lumber. The beam stopped on a
scrap of material hanging from a treebranch. It looked like a shirt, but I was
the only person around. I rose and walked over to the tree, inspecting the
garment. I grabbed the size medium white tee, soiled with mud and torn on the
sleeves and pocketed it. Surveying the clearing more, I found some kindling and
a set of footprints too small to be my own. They led into the forest, up the
slope. By their depth at the toe and the slide at the end of each step, I could
tell the person left in a hurry.
I had been heading up the slope almost an hour when my legs began to scream
for a break. I stopped, hunched over in pain. Breathing came heavily, each
attempt a hot knife in my chest. My head was spinning and I felt my side again,
found fresh blood still pumping. My tie slipped over my head and into my front
pocket. I removed the tee from my back pocket, tore it in two, and wrapped my
body with it. Tears filled my eyes as I staggered. The soft earth caught me
forgivingly. I remained there for a while, I'm not sure how long because it
felt so good. I lifted myself, knowing I had to go on. I knew the footprints
would lead me to safety or to Dean Brown. Either way, my path lay along theirs.
I struggled against the terrain and my body to go on for hours. The shirt
had stopped my bleeding and the fog in my mind cleared. Clear headed, the pain
intensified. My vision was blurred by tears and I had a hard time finding my
way through the dark. I stumbled over countless rocks, fallen trees, and other
impediments along the way. I never lost the prints, though. I'm not sure when
it was, probably early morning, I fell over a rock into a clearing.
It was about twenty feet across, lit by the light of the now visible half
moon. At the other end stood a pile of dirt and rocks. I noticed a specific
dark spot. It was not a shadow, but a hole. I followed the trail across the
clearing and it led me to the hole. I knelt, trying to see inside. It was
about three feet across, probably an old fox's burrow. I circled the mound
slowly searching for continuation of the trail, thinking the person might have
walked over the burrow to throw off followers. I returned to the mouth of the
opening and dropped to my knees.
I started in head first. The passage was tight and painful, jagged
stone scraping my already abused body. I paused, my heart racing and dizzy from
straining to see in the pitch black. My body grew warmer as I went deeper into
the hole. About ten feet in, my fingers felt thin, dry stalks of straw on the
floor. I crawled further in, until my knees felt the same. I lifted myself
into a kneeling position and pushed the button on the flashlight.
A man was curled up in the corner. The light woke him and he shot up,
eyes blinking. The absence of his shirt revealed his pale white skin, criss-
crossed with crimson lines. His hair was no longer slicked back and his face
now showed the emotion of fear, but I could still see it was Dean Brown.
I backed myself up to the mouth of the hole, held the flashlight at him
like a sword. "I've been looking for you, Dean." I set the flashlight down
beside me and pulled out the flare gun with caution. "Just stay calm, I am not
going to try anything, look at me." I kept it pointed at him, but relaxed a
little. "Why did you run, Dean, why are you here?"
His brown eyes were wide, unblinking in an intense stare. "Who are you?"
"I am John Caulsworth, a federal agent. I was assigned to find you and
bring you in. What happened?"
"The bastards deserved to die!" Tears came to his eyes, his face red as a
stoplight. He sniffled and the words tumbled out in a rush. "They ran us over,
I barely got him out of the way. It was the mayor's security. As his
accountant, I discovered he was corrupt and refused to bury it. He fired me on
the spot." He shuddered and took a breath. "They could have just taken me, but
left me instead. I couldn't let him live after that. He stole my life! And I
can't let you stop me." Brown let go of his tension, and sat down. "I've got to
get my son and you're not going to get in my way, nothing will." I looked again
into his eyes, swollen and wet as a boxer's. "I broke out for my son, I need to
"Save him? What do you mean?"
"I know he is in my parents' custody. They're beating him, just like me.
I almost died, I can't let that happen to Davey. He's all I've got left." Brown
held out a picture from his pocket. "He's what I live for and this is all I
have of him. I can't let him hurt again."
I set the flare gun aside and accepted the photo.
A man lay in a hospital bed, bandaged and casted. Beside him stood a young
boy, on crutches. They were holding hands and each managed a smile. The photo
was torn on the top corners, a crease down the middle. The back read 'My only
He grabbed it back from me. "I'm barely hanging on here, and without Davey
I'm not alive. My family was the only thing that mattered to me, and he's all
I reached into my pocket and withdrew the tie. Mud concealed the red
fabric. I tried to think of John. My mind strained to see his face, hear his
voice. A tear rolled down my cheek and fell off my chin onto the tie. I
loosened the knot and slipped it back over my head. With my sleeve, I wiped my
I lifted the flashlight, switched it off and tossed it to him. "Take it."
I turned away and started back into the world.
Hendricks' team found me a few miles west of the hole. They airlifted me
to the Olympia hospital. I was treated for a broken clavicle and shoulder blade,
along with my ribs. The tissue damage to my back and side was extensive and I
have little use of either. After two days they released me.
The next day, I received a call from Franklin, in Boise. I was commended
by him for putting myself on the line. He granted me early retirement, and a
bonus for being injured. He asked if I might know anything about the
disappearance of David Brown from his grandparents' house in the middle of the
night. I told him I did not. I bid him farewell, hung up, and dialed John's
number at school.