It felt strange, coming to this city where Robert and Raphael were born. He’d never been here before, but he remembered wanting to come. In his teens, he’d wanted to attend Oral Roberts University to study for the ministry. But his first couple years in the Marine Corps had changed his mind; he no longer wanted to become a minister, and in fact had given up on churches altogether. He’d loved being in the Corps, and was glad of the offer to attend Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia.
Still, Charlie remembered wanting to visit, and now he had a good reason for coming. Two of his team had family here, and they were in trouble. Additionally that trouble seemed to be right up Charlie’s alley, in line with his primary mission: to investigate corrupt practices in the child protection network that spanned the United States and had tentacles in many other countries.
The flight into Oklahoma City had been smooth as far as commercial flights went. It was better even than the old DC-9′s the Navy sometimes used. Charlie’s team deplaned and had been met by another FBI agent. Charlie introduced his team to the local agent, and they all climbed into the new Ford Econoline van for the trip to the new FBI building in O.K.C. which replaced the Murrah building destroyed by Tim McVeigh back in ’83.
After a quick courtesy briefing with the SAC, the Special Agent in Charge, to give a basic outline of their purpose in his area, Charlie signed for a large brown Chrysler passenger van and was given the keys, along with the obligatory instruction to return it when they had completed their assignment. The vehicle was equipped with a state-of-the-art police scanner and a single-sideband radio with extra channels exclusively for Agency use. Of course, that was a polite fiction, and they all knew it; if someone wanted to monitor them badly enough, a scanner could always be found or built that could monitor these frequencies.
The brothers quickly loaded the crate with Tracy’s computer equipment into the van. Charlie got into the drivers seat, started the engine and began the drive to Tulsa, following the map directions to Interstate 44. They figured on a maximum of two hours for the trip, including time spent navigating within both cities. Near Oakhurst, I-44 turned east, and I-244 branched off. They followed 244, continuing northeast into Tulsa proper.
They’d agreed to skip their usual two-week scouting to familiarize themselves with the area due to the apparent urgency of Danny’s message and get right to work. Based on the information they’d been given in Okey City, they drove into the Greenwood district. This area had been known as ‘Black Wall Street’, and had been the most successful black business district in the country. Thirty-five blocks had been largely destroyed by white rioters reacting to a false claim that a young black man had molested a young white woman. It had been rebuilt over the years, and prospered again until the advent of the federal urban renewal program. Parts of Greenwood were now turning, or already turned, into something strongly resembling a suburban slum. Their destination was in the slum area.
Given the history, Charlie wondered how they would be received there.
He followed the northbound lane of I-244, known as the Red Fork Expressway. He took the exit for the Tisdale Parkway, continuing north to the Pine Street exit. East on Pine to Greenwood Avenue, then south to Latimer Place. Turning left, he got halfway to the end and found the address he was looking for, a single small house in need of a few repairs on the south side of the street. Time from start to finish: one hour and fifty-four minutes. Good guesstimate, Charlie thought.
He and his team got out of the van and went up the walkway. Charlie knocked and stood back to wait, but it wasn’t long. After a half a minute, a black woman who looked about thirty or thirty-five opened the door. “May I help you?”
Charlie introduced himself, then asked, “Is there someone I can speak with concerning a matter of some importance?”
She looked at him with barely concealed suspicion. “What kind of matter?”
“We need to find someone, a family who may need our help. Is there anyone here who would remember events from thirty or forty years ago?”
She stared at him for a moment, then looked curiously at the rest of the team. She found it very odd, even in this day and age, that a white FBI man would be working with four non-white folks, two of them women. “Stay here a minute. I’ll be right back.” She closed the door, but was back within a minute. There was an old man with her, thin, slightly stooped and white-haired. He introduced himself as David Mosely. “Hello, gentlemen and ladies. What can we do for you? If we agree to do anything, that is.”
“We’re looking for someone who, according to our information, either lives here, or did live here several years ago. A family named Boulware. Does that name ring a bell, by any chance?”
Mosely rubbed his chin for a minute, then asked, “That depends on what you want them for.”
“It’s a family matter.”
“Well, we heard they might be havin’ a bit a trouble with the government and they kind a … dropped out of sight, if you take my meanin’.”
Charlie smiled briefly. “Yes, sir, I understand you quite well. But the truth is, we’re here to see if we can help. The state and federal governments don’t always see eye to eye, if you take my meaning.”
The old man chuckled appreciatively as he replied, “I certainly do. But why’s the FBI gettin’ involved in, as you say, a family matter?”
“It’s a long story. To tell the truth, I really don’t have the time for it now. We need to get to them before the local people do. I can get a search warrant here in a short period of time if I need to.”
“Well, now, maybe you should just leave and go get your warrant, mister FBI.”
But Raphael stepped forward suddenly. “I don’t think that’ll be necessary, Mr. Mosely. My name is Raphael Boulware, and this behind me is my older brother Robert.”
The old man’s head jerked toward Raphael. “Well, now, maybe you are and maybe you ain’t. You got some I.D. To prove that, son?”
Both handed their Bureau I.D.’s to Mosely, who studied them carefully. Then he passed them to the woman, who had remained silent and watchful while the men were talking. She looked the cards over, then raised her left hand up to her mouth, covering it, as her eyes grew wide and tears started forming.
“My lord!” she exclaimed. “Is it really you, boys? It’s been so many years!”
Tracy stepped forward then. “Excuse me, but are you related to the family? You said your name is Mosely.”
The old man smiled sheepishly. “Forgive us, miss, but that’s just the name we give when strangers come around. I’m these two boys’ uncle. My real name is Allgood Boulware, and this is my daughter Sheila. I’m sorry to say that my wife, your auntie Sharon, passed away a few years back.”
Allgood looked around. “Interestin’ company you’re keeping now. How ’bout we all go inside, have some coffee, and you can tell us why you’re here. And we can tell you ’bout what happened all those years ago.”
Allgood told the team what had happened to his brother and sister-in-law back in 1958, and how their two sons, Robert and Raphael, had been adopted by extended family. After the fire in L.A., nobody in the family had seen or heard anything more. They were never told what happened to the boys, and their letters offering to take them in again were not answered.
The brothers alternated in relating what had happened after the fire: taken into a shelter for orphans, eventually being adopted again, separately this time, and not by relatives.
Allgood and his daughter listened as the team took turns telling them who they were. Then Charlie explained how he had arranged for the brothers’ reunification and later brought the team together to investigate alleged corruption in child protection agencies. The Bureau hadn’t expected to find anything, but Charlie’s supervisor, Special Agent Rothman, had given him the go-ahead to assemble his team as he saw fit, provided they could all pass through the training regimen successfully.
Allgood looked at his daughter questioningly. She nodded.
“All right,” he said. “Here’s what’s goin’ on. Two women come to the house tellin’ Sheila they’re investigatin’ child neglect. Now, there ain’t no way any child in this fam’ly been neglected. So we showed ‘em the cupboards an’ pantry, the closets an’ dressers, an’ the bathroom, proved we got plenty a food an’ clothes. We showed ’em receipts for bills paid on time, everything we could think of. We let ‘em see the child, that he’s healthy an’ all an’ got clean clothes an’ a clean body, he keep his teeth brushed an’ all that. So they left.
“Then a couple weeks later, the boy steps up on a curb and falls an’ bumps his head; he got a tooth hangin’ by a thread out his mouth, an’ he’s cryin’ to beat the devil. So I get my wire cutters and cut that thread, then give him a cuppa warm salt water to rinse his mouth and spit out the blood.
“We went to the store the next day, an’ someone there saw the fat lip from the boy’s fall and called in an anonymous report. So now they sayin’ I hit ’im. They took him away, put him in foster care. That’s where things stand right now.”
He took a sip of his coffee. “So tell me what you can do, seein’ as how you be investigatin’ this kinda shit. An’ the only reason I’m even askin’ is ‘cause you got my brother’s boys with you. Otherwise … Truth ta tell, I don’ know what I’d do.”
The team listened to Allgood’s story. Then Charlie asked, “Is this the first time that you’ve been involved with them?”
“Me directly? And Sheila? Yes. But I’ve heard from other family members in different places that they’ve had problems. That was verified when I heard one of them say something about a ‘cycle of abuse’. I asked what that meant. I was told that it had to do with repeating the same types of behaviors from one generation to the next and the next in a continuing cycle. And they went all the way back to ’58 when my two nephews here were adopted out.”
Raphael asked, “How did that happen exactly, anyway?” He scratched the side of his head for a minute. “Hell, I don’t even know what to call you. Okay, you’re my uncle, but I don’t really remember you.”
Allgood smiled sadly. “I know, son. You can call me uncle if you want, but just call me by my name if that’s more comfortable for you.”
He thought for a minute, then continued. “What happened was that we were pressured to give you boys up. From at least two directions.
“First there was the fact that work was hard to come by, so we didn’t have the money to take care of you two properly. Oh, we had help from the community at first. They took up a collection at church, and other churches got involved. And people donated food and clothes. But everyone was hurtin’, there ain’t no getting’ around that. So the donations kinda dropped off until it wasn’t nothin’ but a trickle comin’ in.
“Then one of the white folks’ churches on the other side of town heard about the situation and decided they wanted to help. They didn’t take up no collection, didn’t donate no food or clothes. No, they decided it would be better if someone could adopt the two of you. Someone with a good income who could provide a good home. What they called a good home, anyway.”
He took a sip of his coffee, then continued. “At any rate, they talked a good game, and we took them up on it. We didn’t know what else to do. And they said the folks who wanted to adopt you were family who’d moved to California after the big riot way back in ’21. That’s the one that damn near destroyed Greenwood. Same old story. A young brother accused of messin’ with a white girl. Not true, of course. But that’s the way it is for us black folk in this country.
“Anyway, the family signed the papers, then gave us a check for what was then a whole lot of money. They were family, it turned out. They bundled you boys up and took you back to Los Angeles. A few months later, we heard about the fire. We tried to get you back here, but nobody answered our letters. We never knew what happened to you until now.”
Charlie looked from his teammates to their uncle. Then he turned his attention to Tracy. “You think you can work your magic, Trace?”
“Sure can,” she replied. Let me just get my gear out of the van.” She headed for the door, then stopped, turned back to see Allgood and his daughter watching her. She asked them, “You do have a good connection on your phone, right?”
“Okay, I’m in,” Tracy announced. Her computer screen showed a row of icons with eight-character folder names. She double-clicked on a folder appropriately labelled ‘ChldServ’, revealing a list of last names, both complete and abbreviated where the name was more than eight letters, each followed by ‘.doc’ or ‘.txt’. Basic Microsoft DOS, or Disk Operating System, filenames also used in Windows 3.1.
She went through the list of names, then found the one she was looking for. She double-clicked on the folder labelled ‘Boulware’, and discovered a list of files. She downloaded each file to her computer, then turned on the printer. Afterward she distributed the papers among the group, telling them all to go through them as thoroughly as possible. It wasn’t long before Sheila yelled loudly, “What the fuck is this bullshit?” She passed it over to her father, who read it and then passed it to Charlie. Sheila had found a case report with a hand-written memo on the bottom:
If Miss B. doesn’t co-operate,
suggest anon source file sexual
abuse report against grandfather.
There was no signature, not even a set of initials. But the intent was clear. They were being set up, and someone was stupid enough to include the evidence in the records.
Charlie asked Tracy to get in touch with her son Danny and see if he could find a private attorney who would be willing to handle this. “I’ll find a way to talk the boss into covering this through our operating account,” he told Allgood.
While Tracy sent the requested message, the others went back to searching the documents for further evidence of improper an agenda. They also needed to find just what that agenda was and how it related to their mission.
Marissa was the next to find something. She made a sound that Charlie knew from experience was just short of an explosion of anger. Something had almost set her off, and still might.
He went over to her while the rest of the group watched. Allgood and Sheila weren’t quite sure what they were watching for, but the rest of the team knew and readied themselves to restrain Marissa if necessary.
“What is it, Mare?” Charlie asked softly.
She shook her head violently, as if in denial.
He reached for the paper she held tightly in her fist. “Let me see what you found.”
She looked him in the eyes for a moment. He could see a fire in hers, anxious to bust loose and wreak havoc. Then she reigned her emotions in enough to hand the paper over. She got up and walked out the door, leaving it open.
Charlie looked at the paper. He saw what had upset his ex-wife. Allgood had another daughter, living in Chicago. Her child had been taken by CPS and died in foster care.
“Oh my God...” He turned to see Tracy looking over his shoulder; it was her voice he’d heard. He watched as the dark woman went out the door to try to calm Marissa down...