Paul and Reid were enjoying their sleepover. They sat cross legged near the television screen, in eager expectation of the program soon to begin. Reid hummed along with the familiar jingle, although muted in volume this late at night.
An older gentleman soon appeared before them, seated in a fine chair. His pleasant face glowed in the warm tones of a fire place. The show’s jingle continued to play, as he began his introduction in sign language.
“Hello there! Welcome to this evening’s program. Today we follow a story taken from the early days of my Oil. The story centers on everyone’s favorite detective with Deafness, Bruce, in his struggle to rescue one Mr. Denton Scarre.” Then, conspiratorially, “I’m excited myself to see what happens.”
The boys leaned even closer, in anticipation of the story, the screen fading.
The television lightened to present two men sitting opposite one another in a bustling restaurant, their signed speech unaffected by the clamor.
The screen focused on Denton Scarre’s face mid conversation, “I’ve been really struggling with this mortgage, having just lost my job, Alex. Thank you for buying my dinner. It really means a lot...” He paused the conversation as the server approached. While she rested the plates on the table before them, he anxiously wrung his hands together.
Alex shook his head, signing, “Think nothing of it! Money is no object, my friend. Enjoy that steak! The service here is always very quick! I come here all the time.” He waved his empty glass in a motion toward the overworked server as she nodded.
“I’ll bring you a refill right away, sir.” She hastened from the table toward the kitchen.
“I was just… Just wondering if I could ask you a favor…?” Abashed, Denton broke eye contact with his finely dressed acquaintance mid-phrase, his hands falling into his lap.
Alex, looking concerned, signed, “Of course! Anything! What is it?”
“I’m out of options, and I really hate to ask. Really. But I was wondering if I could borrow some money. I’m desperate.” Denton looked up and locked eyes with Alex.
Alex broke eye contact, signing, “Oh, man. I’m sorry you’re having such tough luck lately. Well…” Alex scratched nervously at the back of his neck as he continued, “Let me think about it. I worked really hard for what I’ve got…” He said with a gesture to the table before him.
He then signed, “Okay, how about you come by my place in a couple days, and we’ll work out some way you can repay what I can give you? Meanwhile, here’s fifty dollars to help you until then.”
Alex pulled out his wallet and opened it. Bright green bills burst across the table, as if they had been forcibly stored under intense pressure.
“Oh, my…!” Alex signed in alarm. He apologized and began quickly sweeping the dispersed dollars into a pile before him. Denton picked a couple green bills out of his steak and potatoes in disbelief. He held the cash in his open palms staring in surprise. A deep-seated need arose in his face, his expression darkening.
In his haste, Alex failed to notice the change in Denton as he gingerly retrieved the money from Denton’s open hands. Denton quietly watched as the bills were wiped off and stacked neatly on top of the tidy pile before Alex. Alex counted out a couple bills and lightly slid them across the space between them, while refusing to make eye contact. Denton didn’t even raise his eyes from the absurdly verdant stack as he absently crunched the money in his fist and shoved it into his pocket.
“Well then…” Alex signed. “How about we get the check, and we can get out of here. The red pasta sauce is already burning another ulcer through my stomach.” He signed as he patted his rotund gut. He flagged down the server and gave her a handful of cash to cover the bill. The two dismissed themselves from the table, making their way to the exit.
The scene opened to the following morning. Yellow “Do Not Cross” police tape cordoning off the investigation’s scene. Persistent dew remained visible on the parked cars along the street in the cool morning.
A gentleman with a thick, dark mustache, and a neatly pressed peace officer uniform, lifted the tape and stepped through to appraise the scene.
The boys cheered gleefully at the introduction of their favorite television hero.
“What have we got?” He signed, removing his signature sunglasses, his sharp blue eyes squinting into the morning glare.
A young officer approached from the direction of commotion, to welcome the senior detective. “Bruce, good to see you. Glad you could make it. We recently started processing the scene.”
“Thanks, Paige.” Bruce signed. “Carry on.”
Paige, the brash young rookie, lead the way, signing, “The body was found over here, in the doorway of this empty shop front. All we know so far is the body has been identified as 45-year-old Alex Childers. An otherwise empty wallet containing his ID was found behind those bushes. We believe he expired following blunt force trauma to the head. Last night’s rain makes setting an exact time of death more difficult. The body was unnoticed until this morning, when a jogger saw blood pooled beside the body. A blanket had been placed over him, assumingly so he would be mistaken as a person sleeping outside, without a home.”
Bruce signed, “We do have a large number of those unfortunate individuals in the area...” He thoughtfully ran his fingers through his thick mustache, examining the abandoned storefront. “Disguising the body was a clever decision by our victim. I wonder what could have been their motivation? And why here? This is a well trafficked area to commit a crime. They must have been in such a desperate state... The restaurant around the corner stays busy on weekends. It’s closed right now. Maybe we can get some info from the owner and staff on duty last night. I’ll head over there to see if the owner is around.”
Paige looked at her watch, “Okay. I believe it opens within the next hour. I’ll head over to Mr. Childers’ residence. I’ll canvass the neighbors and see if there’s any more information to be had.”
Bruce signed, “Great idea. We don’t want to get too far behind our victim. They’ve already been on their own for several hours. Who knows what state they could be in by now? The guilt and shame must be crushing them…” Bruce paused in distant existential thinking. He placed his sunglasses back on, and signed, “Thanks, Paige. I’ll let the other officers finish processing the scene. Contact me if you find any more crucial information. I will reconvene with you in the precinct at lunch to discuss our findings.”
The scene faded to a boring commercial about community job needs. Blearily, the boys pantomimed their favorite detective, using their index fingers as a mustache and laughing a little too loudly. Reid jabbed Paul in the arm as the programming returned to the show.
Alex Childers and Denton Scarre left behind the dry warmth of the restaurant’s foyer, stepping out into in the night’s drizzle. The rain pattered upon them as they approached the dimly lit parking lot.
They first neared Alex’s late model luxury sedan.
Indicating its smashed rear end, Alex emphatically complained, “Can you believe this? So much for buying this fancy car with the automatic brake sensors. The other day, the car stopped perfectly when I didn’t see someone suddenly cross in front of me. Unfortunately, an uninsured, and I’m fairly sure unemployed, bum in a beat- up sedan rear ended me! The driver broke his arm. Serves him right! He ought to be ashamed of himself, driving such an unsafe car! I made sure he got arrested and off the streets. After all, it’s my taxes that pay for the streets!” He exclaimed to Denton who vacantly acknowledged his old friend’s complaints.
Denton timidly turned to walk to his vehicle, shoulders low.
Denton exclaimed, “I can’t believe this! My tire is flat!” He ran over to his car and stooped to inspect the rear tire of his beat-up car. He kicked his tire in frustration. “I must have run over a nail on the way over here tonight!! Perfect! Just one more thing I can’t afford to fix!”
“I always invest a little more in my things, so they are more reliable…” Alex signed indifferently. “Sorry to see your tire is low…” He shrugged, then signed, “I guess I could help you change it?” He took off his fine suit coat, handed it to Denton, and rolled up his sleeves. “Here, can you put my jacket in my car? Now, let me take a quick look at your tire.” As Alex kneeled beside the car, Denton hurried over and placed the coat in the driver’s seat of Alex’s fancy blue car. He took a moment, noting its quality, then returned to his own beat up jalopy, dejected.
“What do you think of it, Alex?”
“Go ahead and grab the spare and tire iron so I can get these rusty lugs off.” Alex replied, wiping rainwater out of his eyes while inspecting the wheel. Denton opened his trunk and pulled out the tire iron. He felt the cold steel in his hand and hefted it to feel its weight. He paused with the tire iron in his hand, standing behind the car, shaking his head in consternation.
Alex carried on, “I can see a tear or cut on the tire right here, but I can’t tell what caused it…” He looked up into the rain to see Denton standing over him. A bolt of lightning tore through the sky overhead, lighting their faces and their eyes met through the darkness.
The two boys shrieked aloud as the scene cut to a commercial. The familiar infomercial was regarding the weekly community bike rides. Their families always participated in these community events. They both grumbled at the untimely placed commercial.
“SHH!” Reid gestured to Paul. They both tensed in restrained silence. Reid thought he had heard shuffling upstairs. They remained hushed as the commercial break ended.
The precinct was noisily at work around Bruce as he seated himself at his desk across from Paige.
“Hello, Paige. Any news from the scene or Mr. Alex Childers’ neighborhood?”
“Not much more was gleaned from the scene. Records show Mr. Childers is the owner of this vehicle… pictured here.” She held up a photo of a blue luxury sedan, while she continued to sign her message.
“His vehicle was absent from his residence. Nor was it found near the scene of the incident. I’ve issued notifications to the department to watch for it.”
“Great. That is some very helpful information. I interviewed Mr. Childers’ server from last evening and she recognized him. She was able to provide us with a description of the man at the table with him. Let’s get this sketch out to the force as well.” He handed a copy of the man’s approximation to the rookie as he went on, “She didn’t catch his name but described him as seeming very distressed during the meal. She reported the meal was ultimately paid for in cash by Mr. Childers. No tip for her apparently.”
Paige looked thoughtfully at the sketch. “This man... I think I saw him in a picture at Mr. Childers’ residence… Yes. The photo must have been from years ago… They must have known each other well. Maybe one of his neighbors can identify him for us.”
Bruce smiled grimly, “Excellent. Meanwhile, the secretaries are at work on getting a list of his phone records to find any further leads. We have to find this man, Paige. Before things worsen for him. He needs Dawson’s Oil more than anybody. Mr. Childers may already be lost, but we can still save him!” He jabbed a finger at the sketch.
Paige nodded in agreement as her computer lit up indicating a call. She squared herself to the view screen and signed a greeting.
Bruce sat back in his chair, running his mind through ways to reach their victim as quickly as possible.
Paige ended the conversation, excitedly. Bruce blinked as he returned to their conversation at hand. “That was Mr. Childers’ sister who lives across the city. We finally contacted her. She saw the sketch of our victim, and she instantly knew who it was. Apparently, he has been struggling for some time. His name is Denton Scarre. She gave us his address and everything she knows about him. She stated he has had some health issues with related bills and added that he has been unemployed for some time now. She said she has been worried about him for some time stating her inability to help him herself, you see…”
Bruce’s jaw set as he stood. “I’m going to go to his residence. You helm a search around town to find the lost vehicle. Let’s go save Denton Scarre!”
Bruce drove through the streets towards Denton Scarre’s residence, observing the dilapidated conditions of the neighborhood. Approaching the address, he noticed a blue, immaculately maintained, luxury sedan parked across the street. It matched the description of Mr. Childers’ own vehicle. He intently examined the vehicle while slowly driving past it. He didn’t stop, so as to avoid drawing attention to himself. His thoughts were nearly interrupted when he felt his police cruiser lurch. He continued over the hole, or bump, in the poorly maintained street without a thought.
Bruce hurriedly continued around the corner to circle the block. His excitement grew as he considered that his victim may be somewhere near the area. Bruce eased to a stop at the intersection near Denton’s residence. He peered around the corner to ensure the blue sedan was still there. He sighed in relief to see it had not moved in those moments out of his sight. He continued through the intersection to park inconspicuously within view of the misappropriated car.
As he moved forward, a gathering of people came into his view. Curiously he rolled his car nearer the crowd. He halted a wary distance from the vehicle in question. There appeared to be several people crowding around something. He squinted to make out what was happening. Soon, a few individuals broke away from the crowd and ran toward the nearest houses.
Curious of the commotion, and assured by the absence of a driver in Childers’ vehicle, he exited his car. He adjusted his officer’s cap and made his way toward the crowd. Observing the concerned appearance of the onlookers, his pace quickened. He pushed his way to the front of the crowd to find a grisly scene. Two people knelt over a man lying in the street, bloody and mangled.
“What happened?” Bruce signed, demanding, of the person nearest him.
“Thank goodness! Peace officer! This poor man was hit by a car! The driver sped off around the corner and left him here!”
Bruce removed his cap and nodded to a young woman kneeling beside the man. He leaned down beside her, to observe the man’s face. Surprised, he realized this was the man he was looking for. It was Denton Scarre! He had found him. The anguish in the man’s face twisted in horror as he faintly gestured toward Bruce.
You… He silently mouthed, You hit me…
The two boys gasped in unison with the onlookers.
The crowd stepped away from the officer. The two people sitting beside Denton looked quizzically at the officer. Bruce, taken aback, leaned even closer to the man before him. The woman placed a firm hand on his chest, as if to protect Denton.
Bruce wilted. The firm confidence in his stature eased. Carefully, he placed a hand on the woman’s shoulder.
“Let me explain,” Bruce signed urgently, as much to the woman as to Denton. Respecting the woman’s guard, he continued, to Denton, “Do you partake of Dawson’s Oil?”
I don’t… understand… Denton mouthed slowly, appearing ashamed and bewildered.
“Would you accept the Contract at this time, so I may administer a dose to control your pain?” Bruce spoke in a raspy voice loudly so as to be heard by Denton. He slipped a thin silver vial out of his cleanly pressed jacket.
“You are already forgiven for the injuries your friend, Mr. Childers, sustained. I am sorry for your life’s situation which I have now, in part, been responsible for.”
In dismay, Denton winced as he painfully nodded understanding, and eventual approval of Bruce’s offer.
Bruce nodded pleadingly with the woman beside him, urging the vial into the woman’s hands. She grabbed the vial and quickly dosed Denton.
The scene faded on the bloodied, now smiling face of Denton Scarre as the life left his body.
After a moment, the screen lightened to a glowing fire warming the features of Richard Dawson. He absently pressed his glasses up on the bridge of his nose as he signed.
“Thank you for joining us tonight on another story of Bruce. Our hero was able to save this poor man by administering that vital dose, even so near this man’s death. The smile on his face is an indication of my Oil’s importance. The relief of his pain- emotional, -physical, spiritual. So Powerful. He forgave himself, and Bruce, before ultimately passing away from his injuries. Not only Denton, but all the other people who observed this event, signed Contracts after being so moved. Thank you for sharing your time, a so very valuable gift, with me. And never forget- What is the most important natural resource on this planet? It’s you! There is nothing more dynamic or powerful than you. And what’s more powerful than just one person? Two people! Engage your relationships, and you can change the world! Make the most of your tomorrow! Until next time.” He smiled gleefully and awkwardly from behind those iconic glasses.
The boys turned off the screen and sat in wonder, trying to understand all that had happened in the story.
Paul’s father swept them up into his arms. They both wriggled and protested happily, caught staying up too late. He set them both down and they laughed, looking at him sheepishly, nervous to hear what he’d say to them.
“You boys better get to bed! We’re going out on the early ride tomorrow. Got to get going early if we’re going to see the sunrise! Your mommy isn’t going to like it if she finds out I let you two stay up to watch Bruce. Get to bed before I get in trouble!” He signed all this and then shushed them with a finger over his mouth. The boys quietly crept up the stairs to rest for the night.