At Providence's Gate
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Chapter Ten

        I watched the police officer run after the guy who ditched the aluminum case.  In the distance, I heard sirens.  Having heard the dispatcher advise the officer on the radio to wait for backup, I realized it wouldnt be long before my bedroom would be crawling with cops.  I looked at the case in my hands.  It seemed to be pretty expensive, maybe worth a hundred dollars or more.  I knew I could sell it for 25.

            I shook the case and it sounded like it may have contained some marbles or coins.  Not willing to let the police get a hold of it, I quickly beat feet south along St. Marys.  I saw a patrol car coming toward me and I ducked in the shadows.  Finally I made it to the Andrews and Zieks Funeral Home near KSAT TV and went around to the back where I knew there was a light over a door.  I would often come here to read at night and no one, living or dead, ever bothered me.

            John nearly tripped over a two-by-four board as Officer Bravo was running headlong through the darkness after him.  As he regained his balance, he picked up the four foot length of wood.  Realizing his pursuer was gaining on him, Boucher got behind a concrete cylinder and held the board over his shoulder like a baseball bat.

            He stood perfectly still, even to the point of holding his breath, which was difficult under the strenuous circumstances.  He heard the quick footfalls of the cop getting louder and louder until he could even hear the tortured inspirations and expirations of his breathing.  The tired officer stopped to see if he could hear his quarry as he slipped through some bushes or ran down the hard concrete.  He heard nothing.

            Then, as if out of nowhere, he noticed a two-by-four coming toward his face at lightening speed.  Too late to deflect it, Jaimes face took the full force of the board on his face.  Rivers of blackness poured from the huge gash and depression where seconds ago a nose had been.  In daylight, the viscous black liquid would have shown bright red, but in the blackness of the underpass, it simply seemed to be an oily substance darker than the night.

            Officer Jaime Bravo fell to the concrete with a sickening thud.  John, grinning from ear to ear, dropped his weapon and continued running into the cloak of darkness he hoped would shield him from discovery by the back up officers. Police cruisers could now be heard coming to screeching stops near Bravos vehicle.  Moments later, Officer Dan Shields came running toward where Bravo lay mortally wounded.  His plaintive calls to Bravo could be heard through the portable radio laying on the ground near the fallen officer.  A few seconds later, Jaimes mobile phone began to ring.

            Shields aimed his nine cell flashlight toward the ringing and saw Bravos lifeless form next to a cell phone.  Officer down, officer down, Shields shouted into his radio, We need EMS now, officer down, he repeated.  The telephone stopped ringing as Shields, a veteran of 10 years on the force knelt down to take Bravos pulse.  He thought he felt a faint one and again called for EMS.  He talked to Bravo as if the injured officer could hear him, Youre gonna be alright, Jaime.  Your gonna make it Jaime, I promise, your gonna make it goddamn it. YOU ARE GONNA MAKE IT!

            Two other officers arrived at the site.  Shields sent one back to wait for EMS.  He told his partner to call dispatch and get a sergeant down here.  Just as he turned his attention back to Officer Bravo, the mobile phones loud ring startled him.  Picking the phone off of the ground and depressing the green Talk button, Shields said, Dan Shields here.  Julie, expecting her husbands sleepy voice, said, Who in the hell is Dan Shields and where is my husband?

            Mrs. Bravo, Shields replied, a lump growing in his throat because he didnt want to do this, he didnt want to do it at all, Mrs.Bravo, Jaimes been hurt, the veteran cop told his fallen comrades wife, trying to keep his voice as calm and confident as possible.  What hospital is he in? Julie cried, Where is he!  Seeing the paramedics and more police officers coming toward him, Officer Shields said, EMS just got here maam.  Theyll be taking him to Downtown Baptist I think, or maybe Metropolitan, at least they are the closest hospitals.  Mrs., Bravo wanted to talk with her husband and Dan Shields didnt know what to say.  Just a minute Mrs. Bravo, he finally said softly, Sergeant Cox, our supervisor, just arrived.

            Placing his hand over the phones receiver, Shields filled his boss in on what had transpired so far.  Julie waited what seemed to be hours for Cox to come on the line.  When he did, all he would say was, Mrs. Bravo, this is Sergeant Cox.  A police officer is coming to pick you up.  Hell be there any minute and will take you to whatever hospital the EMTs take Jaime.  Ive got to go now Mrs. Bravo, Ive got to try to catch the man who did this to your husband.  Cox didnt give Julie a chance to talk.  He pushed the red End button on the mobile phone then depressed it a second time, turning its power off.

            While all of this drama was taking place less than a half mile from the funeral home, I was carefully inspecting the aluminum case.  It had combination locks on both hasps, four numbers for each one.  I hoped they werent locked because this was a substantial case and would be difficult to break in to.

            Finally, taking a deep breath, I attempted to open first the left hasp, it opened; then the right hasp, it too cooperated.  I slowly opened the case and right away noticed the diamonds.  Picking up a few ziplock bags, I held them to my eyes, just to marvel at their beauty.  It occurred to me that the contents of the case might be worth millions. Then I noticed the money and took it out to count.  I could not believe I found millions of dollars worth of diamonds and thousands of dollars to boot.

            I decided to hide the case and looked around for a likely place.  I remembered a field across the street from Providence High School that had an unusual landmark in the middle of it.  Sometimes I would sit in that place at night, my back to a tree that was leaning at a forty five degree angle toward downtown and just listen to the sounds of San Antonio.

            I put the case in some shrubbery, found a trowel in a flower bed and walked down St. Marys Street until I was at the gate to Providence High School.  Facing the field, my mind sought landmarks and then I began to pace.  I walked until the two radio towers atop the River Center Marriott Hotel were lined up, then I turned right and paced off a distance into the field and stopped when the leaning tree lined up with the center of three trees on its eastern boundary.  There I used the trowel to extract a large chunk of sod and dig a hole deep enough to contain the case.

            I returned to the funeral home and took the aluminum case back to the hole.  Quickly I placed into the ground, putting some soil around it and the chunk of sod on top.  Then I took all the extra dirt I could find and spread it out so no one would realize a hole had been dug there.  Finally, I found an old piece of paper and wrote out cryptic instructions to remind me where I had hidden the fortune in diamonds and all but one thousand dollars of the cash that I pocketed.  I titled the note Key to the Treasure.  Here is what it said:  Pray to the mother of Jesus 1200 times.  Turn your back on Providences gate and trod until the two become one.  Facing the two, go towards the light until the one that leans intersects with the second of the Trinity.  You are now standing on a treasure beyond your wildest dream.

            Placing the piece of paper in my pocket, I began walking down St. Marys toward town.  A half dozen police cars and an ambulance had passed by in the past half hour.  The ambulance had just returned, siren blaring.  I wanted to get as far away from the action as possible.

            It was nearly 4 am when I approached McCullough Avenue. I felt headlights bearing down on me from the north and I decided to run across McCullough and lay on the bus bench on the other side of the road, pretending to be asleep.  I didnt see an oncoming pickup truck and just as I made it to the middle of the road it struck me a glancing blow and I went down hard.  It was all for nothing, because the headlights I was worried about were from a regular car, not a police cruiser.

            As I lay in the street, the truck driver stopped and came over to assist me.  He was a very nice Hispanic man out delivering the daily newspaper, the San Antonio Express-News.  Although the accident was totally my fault, the poor driver displayed a great deal of anguish.  I told him not to worry, tried to get up and he made me lie down again.  Pulling a mobile phone from his pocket, the driver called 9-1-1 and requested an ambulance.

            Before I knew it, EMS had arrived and I was being examined by a very pretty and empathetic female emergency medical technician.  My legs, back and neck were immobilized, I was placed in the ambulance and whisked away to the Downtown Baptist Hospital.  When I arrived there were dozens of police officers standing vigil in the emergency room parking lot.

            As my litter was being taken out of the ambulance, a man who looked to be the chief of police came out of the hospital with a pretty young woman who had been crying.  There was a Catholic priest with them and I passed the sad trio and wondered what had occurred to cause such a scene.  Soon I found out that moments before my arrival, Officer Jaime Bravo had been brought in and pronounced dead.  The young man who threw the case at me had killed him.

            I was quite sure my injuries were not serious, but the emergency room nurse insisted I must see a physician.  A young man in a white smock named Chris Manning was told to remove my clothing and he immediately took my loose fitting sneakers off and began cutting my best trousers, Army issue camouflage pants I had gotten at the River City Mens Rescue Mission just days before.

            Hey, I objected, These are my best pants!  Manning continued to cut them saying, Weve got a lot more clothes we can give you, this is standard procedure for trauma cases.  After I was essentially naked save for my socks and underwear, a white sheet was placed over me and I proceeded to wait.  After covering me, Chris asked if I had any valuables in my pockets and I told him, Yes, Ive got my life savings, some important papers and other stuff in those pockets.  He said hed inventory them and make sure they were safeguarded.  I told the young man I wanted a receipt.  He chuckled and said, Yes sir, Ill give you a written receipt.