At Providence's Gate
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Chapter Thirteen

Ina Walstein, Maggie Wong, Maggie Wong, Ina Walstein, said Detective Hammond as he introduced the co-owner of the San Antonio Diamond Exchange to Great Western Indemnity Companys insurance investigator who was waiting at the diamond exchange when Matt brought Ina and her father back from the hospital.  As far as Matt was concerned, she was the best in the business and she didnt even have a law enforcement background.  Her field was psychology and she held three degrees that included a Master of Science in Behavioral and a Doctorate in Forensic Psychology.  It was said by her peers that Maggie Wong knew more about people 10 minutes after meeting them than their own mothers did.

            Although I never met her, I am told Maggie was a knockout;  a tall brunette with finely chiseled Nordic features inherited from her Swedish mother who was a physician and an olive skin and black almond eyes from her father, a physicist of Chinese extraction.

            We call Maggie the human lie detector, Ina, said Hammond, taking the striking insurance investigators right hand in his. Oh, Matt, there you go exaggerating again, said Maggie.  Well, youre holding my hand, does it say Im lying? responded the grinning cop.  Maggie just blushed.

            Ina glared straight into Maggie Wongs eyes and said, What do you read in me, Ms. Wong? Instantly understanding the defensive posture Abes daughter was displaying, Maggie said, Oh, Ms. Walstein, Im not here to investigate you.  After talking about the case with Dan, Im quite sure John Boucher was the master-mind of this robbery.  

             Dan, Detective Foley, was sitting on a sofa in the corner taking it all in.  He had help too Matt.  The power went out at the Alamo Security Company just before the robbery started.  We know that from matching the time a pickup truck knocked the utility pole providing electricity to the block with the time on the videotape when Boucher spray painted the lenses.

            What happened to the guy driving the truck? Detective Hammond quickly asked.  The truck exploded. Must have been on impact.  Two bodies were inside, burned beyond recognition.  When the power went off Alamo became deaf and blind, said Foley.

            Could have been a coincidence.  Too bad they didnt have a backup power generator, said Matt.  They did, said Dan, It was sabotaged, sugar in the fuel tank.  Did the lab dust for prints? asked Matt. Yep, perp musta worn gloves when he took the cap off, said Dan, But he didnt when he bought the bag of sugar, and he left the bag on the ground, it was from HEB.

            Great, we got a break, said Hammond, Dan, theres the HEB Central Market about six or eight blocks from Alamo Alarm.  Get over there in our car and see if they have any video of someone buying just a bag of sugar in the past few days.  Its a long shot, but my long shots have paid off in the past.

            This kid Boucher is what 20, 21.? Asked Matt to know one in particular.  Ina answered, He just turned 21 last week.  Great again, said the black detective, who was quickly becoming euphoric at the breaks that were already showing in the case, Youve got his resume, maybe his accomplices were old school chums. Where did he go to high school?  Alamo Heights, Ina said as she pulled Bouchers personnel folder from the file and handed it to Matt.

            Looking it over, Matt then handed it to Maggie. Isnt Bexar Savings about two blocks from here? he asked.  Again it was Ina who answered, Yes over on Pecan.

            Matt and Maggie huddled for a moment, devising a plan for conducting interviews in the most efficient manner.  They decided that while Dan was getting any videotapes he could from HEB, the two of them would walk over to the bank and talk to this Pete Delgado in the Bexar Savings mail room.

            Although he had halfway expected it, Maggie and Matt struck out at Bexar savings.  Not only was the mail room supervisor not named Pete Delgado, she had never heard of John Boucher and had either been supervisor or a clerk in the mailroom for the past seven years.

            A visit to Alamo City Delivery Service was equally unrewarding.  There was no Ben Hansen and no one knew Boucher.  In fact, when Matt checked the phone numbers on the would-be-master-criminals reference sheet, he learned one belonged to a long-disconnected mobile phone.  The two others, Pete Delgados and Ethan Woods, a guidance counselor at Alamo Heights High School had been disconnected and reissued to two innocent citizens.

            This kid thinks hes slick, commented Matt as he and Maggie drove to Alamo Heights High School to meet with the real Ethan Woods.  They hoped the counselor would remember John Boucher and could shed some light on who his best friends were.

            It was around 3 pm when they arrived at the high school.  Classes were just letting out and Maggie, driving because Detective Foley still had the unmarked car he shared with his partner, easily found a parking spot.

            Ethan Woods was a nervous little man of about 57 years.  Balding with fingernails bitten to the quick, he said he welcomed the change from his daily routine.

            Im always happy to help the authorities, he said.  But Maggie could not help to notice the slight deprecating grin on the educators face.

            Well, first wed like to see the schools yearbook from 1998, Matt said, trying not to sound authoritarian. Well, if you will tell me who you are looking for Woods replied as he reached to the bookcase behind him for the yearbook, Ill find him for you.

            His name is Boucher, said Maggie, John Boucher.  Oh there must be some mistake, said the guidance counselor, John Boucher is in Germany I believe, yes Im sure of it, moved there in the middle of his senior year.  He was very upset at not being able to graduate with his class.

            As Matt thumbed through the big blue book, Woods continued to rattle on nervously, His father was an Air Force colonel, you know and John was such a fine student, good citizen, hard to believe hed do anything of a criminal nature.  I didnt say he did, replied Matt, pulling the DMV photo of John Boucher taken last year to match with the one from the yearbook he had just discovered.

            Looking down at the two photos, Matt held up the DMV one and said, This isnt John Boucher. And he handed it to Ethan Woods.  The guidance counselor studied the driver license photo for a few seconds and said, Of course not, this is Jason Biggs.  They were in the same class.

            Jason Biggs? said Hammond, quickly turning back a couple of pages and finding the person who had stolen John Bouchers identity staring him in the face.  Well Mr. Woods, what can you tell me about Mr. Biggs?

Ethan Woods had a great deal to say about Jason Biggs it turned out.  The young man was not the guidance counselors favorite student, too humorous, lacked the discipline and seriousness to be a good student.  He played too many practical jokes and tried too hard to be accepted by everybody, were some of the comments that immediately came to Woods mind.

            As the guidance counselor was filling Maggie and Matt in on everything he knew about Jason Biggs and his friends, the former Jason Biggs and John Boucher, now known as Jeff Begley, was spreading posters with Nick Sotos photo on them around the homeless community.  Earlier in the day, he had gone to Kinkos and fashioned a wanted poster of sorts.  It read HAVE YOU SEEN THIS MAN? NICK SOTO If you know where he is, please call (210) 555-5555.  His wife is very ill and wants him to come home REWARD REWARD REWARD.

            After making 500 copies, Begley began circulating them wherever homeless people congregated.  He began in Travis Park a little after noon.  Many of the street people who eat lunch at the nearby soup kitchen were sitting or laying on the grass enjoying the unseasonably warm temperature.

            The homeless are, as a rule, a suspicious lot and not prone to helping a stranger locate one of their own.  Each person he approached looked at Jeff with a hard stare and usually said, What do you really want him for? refusing right off to take the flyer.  Begley told them each a pitiful story designed to gain their sympathy as well as their cooperation. 

Some bought it and took the flyer, but they had never seen Nick Soto.  Some recognized me from the photo, but to them the code of the street was more important than the promise of a reward.  Still other would do anything for the reward and thankfully did not recognize me, but they took the flyers anyway stared at it a bit and meticulously folded it and placed it into a pocket.

This scene was repeated outside the Salvation Army mens shelter n Nolan Street and the SACA Shelter on the other side of town.  Gratefully, Begley must not have known about the River City Mens Rescue Mission for had he distributed his poster there, surely some of the men would have recognized me, for it was there I spent more nights than anyplace else aside from my dumpster.

After arriving at the Transit Hotel and settling in my simple but clean fourth floor room, I fell asleep and didnt waken until my phone rang at 4 pm.  It was Chris Manning who disturbed my well-needed slumber.  I washed my hands and face in the community bathroom at the end of the hall, then took the ancient elevator to the first floor to meet Chris.

He was sitting in a rather forlorn and ratty chair near the small 19 television at the far end of the lobby.  Rising as I entered the room, he came over to greet me and we sat on an equally old and threadbare couch that didnt match any of the other furniture in the sad lobby.

I just wanted to see how you are doing, Chris said, shaking my hand. Well, Ive got a few aches and pains I didnt have yesterday, I replied as jovially as possible.  I have a part time job and they are always looking for good help, he told me, getting to the real reason for his visit.

This apparently caring young man then went on to tell me about Cosmo News, a telemarketing company that sold  subscriptions for some of the biggest newspapers in the country.  Chris had been working for them part time for nearly a year and he felt with my verbal skills Id be able to make a lot of money.  How much is a lot? I asked him.

Chris went on to tell me every full time employee, that is, everyone who works five-and-one-half eight-hour shifts earns 270 dollars a week before bonus.  After selling 40 daily and Sunday subscriptions in a week, earning 120 points, the telemarketer is in bonus and they earn one dollar per point after that.

He told me some full time employees consistently take home more than 500 dollars a week.  With less than 500 dollars to my name desiring to get accustomed to sleeping in a real bed again, I thought it was an excellent opportunity.  I also decided to take the job because it allowed me to keep my treasure buried, thereby not risking it being discovered by anyone who may happen to see me digging in that field.

The telemarketing job would also allow me to start picking up the pieces of my shredded life again, to become a productive person and regain my self-respect.  I told Chris I sure would like to apply for the job.  He said he was scheduled to work at Cosmo News at noon the next day and he would be by at 11:30 am to take me over there.  In the meantime, he said, I should get some decent clothes and a good haircut.  I also decided to shave the beard I had worn since I was able to grow one.  This was going to be the beginning of a brand new me.

 

 

 

Ina Walstein, Maggie Wong, Maggie Wong, Ina Walstein, said Detective Hammond as he introduced the co-owner of the San Antonio Diamond Exchange to Great Western Indemnity Companys insurance investigator who was waiting at the diamond exchange when Matt brought Ina and her father back from the hospital.  As far as Matt was concerned, she was the best in the business and she didnt even have a law enforcement background.  Her field was psychology and she held three degrees that included a Master of Science in Behavioral and a Doctorate in Forensic Psychology.  It was said by her peers that Maggie Wong knew more about people 10 minutes after meeting them than their own mothers did.

            Although I never met her, I am told Maggie was a knockout;  a tall brunette with finely chiseled Nordic features inherited from her Swedish mother who was a physician and an olive skin and black almond eyes from her father, a physicist of Chinese extraction.

            We call Maggie the human lie detector, Ina, said Hammond, taking the striking insurance investigators right hand in his. Oh, Matt, there you go exaggerating again, said Maggie.  Well, youre holding my hand, does it say Im lying? responded the grinning cop.  Maggie just blushed.

            Ina glared straight into Maggie Wongs eyes and said, What do you read in me, Ms. Wong? Instantly understanding the defensive posture Abes daughter was displaying, Maggie said, Oh, Ms. Walstein, Im not here to investigate you.  After talking about the case with Dan, Im quite sure John Boucher was the master-mind of this robbery.  

             Dan, Detective Foley, was sitting on a sofa in the corner taking it all in.  He had help too Matt.  The power went out at the Alamo Security Company just before the robbery started.  We know that from matching the time a pickup truck knocked the utility pole providing electricity to the block with the time on the videotape when Boucher spray painted the lenses.

            What happened to the guy driving the truck? Detective Hammond quickly asked.  The truck exploded. Must have been on impact.  Two bodies were inside, burned beyond recognition.  When the power went off Alamo became deaf and blind, said Foley.

            Could have been a coincidence.  Too bad they didnt have a backup power generator, said Matt.  They did, said Dan, It was sabotaged, sugar in the fuel tank.  Did the lab dust for prints? asked Matt. Yep, perp musta worn gloves when he took the cap off, said Dan, But he didnt when he bought the bag of sugar, and he left the bag on the ground, it was from HEB.

            Great, we got a break, said Hammond, Dan, theres the HEB Central Market about six or eight blocks from Alamo Alarm.  Get over there in our car and see if they have any video of someone buying just a bag of sugar in the past few days.  Its a long shot, but my long shots have paid off in the past.

            This kid Boucher is what 20, 21.? Asked Matt to know one in particular.  Ina answered, He just turned 21 last week.  Great again, said the black detective, who was quickly becoming euphoric at the breaks that were already showing in the case, Youve got his resume, maybe his accomplices were old school chums. Where did he go to high school?  Alamo Heights, Ina said as she pulled Bouchers personnel folder from the file and handed it to Matt.

            Looking it over, Matt then handed it to Maggie. Isnt Bexar Savings about two blocks from here? he asked.  Again it was Ina who answered, Yes over on Pecan.

            Matt and Maggie huddled for a moment, devising a plan for conducting interviews in the most efficient manner.  They decided that while Dan was getting any videotapes he could from HEB, the two of them would walk over to the bank and talk to this Pete Delgado in the Bexar Savings mail room.

            Although he had halfway expected it, Maggie and Matt struck out at Bexar savings.  Not only was the mail room supervisor not named Pete Delgado, she had never heard of John Boucher and had either been supervisor or a clerk in the mailroom for the past seven years.

            A visit to Alamo City Delivery Service was equally unrewarding.  There was no Ben Hansen and no one knew Boucher.  In fact, when Matt checked the phone numbers on the would-be-master-criminals reference sheet, he learned one belonged to a long-disconnected mobile phone.  The two others, Pete Delgados and Ethan Woods, a guidance counselor at Alamo Heights High School had been disconnected and reissued to two innocent citizens.

            This kid thinks hes slick, commented Matt as he and Maggie drove to Alamo Heights High School to meet with the real Ethan Woods.  They hoped the counselor would remember John Boucher and could shed some light on who his best friends were.

            It was around 3 pm when they arrived at the high school.  Classes were just letting out and Maggie, driving because Detective Foley still had the unmarked car he shared with his partner, easily found a parking spot.

            Ethan Woods was a nervous little man of about 57 years.  Balding with fingernails bitten to the quick, he said he welcomed the change from his daily routine.

            Im always happy to help the authorities, he said.  But Maggie could not help to notice the slight deprecating grin on the educators face.

            Well, first wed like to see the schools yearbook from 1998, Matt said, trying not to sound authoritarian. Well, if you will tell me who you are looking for Woods replied as he reached to the bookcase behind him for the yearbook, Ill find him for you.

            His name is Boucher, said Maggie, John Boucher.  Oh there must be some mistake, said the guidance counselor, John Boucher is in Germany I believe, yes Im sure of it, moved there in the middle of his senior year.  He was very upset at not being able to graduate with his class.

            As Matt thumbed through the big blue book, Woods continued to rattle on nervously, His father was an Air Force colonel, you know and John was such a fine student, good citizen, hard to believe hed do anything of a criminal nature.  I didnt say he did, replied Matt, pulling the DMV photo of John Boucher taken last year to match with the one from the yearbook he had just discovered.

            Looking down at the two photos, Matt held up the DMV one and said, This isnt John Boucher. And he handed it to Ethan Woods.  The guidance counselor studied the driver license photo for a few seconds and said, Of course not, this is Jason Biggs.  They were in the same class.

            Jason Biggs? said Hammond, quickly turning back a couple of pages and finding the person who had stolen John Bouchers identity staring him in the face.  Well Mr. Woods, what can you tell me about Mr. Biggs?

Ethan Woods had a great deal to say about Jason Biggs it turned out.  The young man was not the guidance counselors favorite student, too humorous, lacked the discipline and seriousness to be a good student.  He played too many practical jokes and tried too hard to be accepted by everybody, were some of the comments that immediately came to Woods mind.

            As the guidance counselor was filling Maggie and Matt in on everything he knew about Jason Biggs and his friends, the former Jason Biggs and John Boucher, now known as Jeff Begley, was spreading posters with Nick Sotos photo on them around the homeless community.  Earlier in the day, he had gone to Kinkos and fashioned a wanted poster of sorts.  It read HAVE YOU SEEN THIS MAN? NICK SOTO If you know where he is, please call (210) 555-5555.  His wife is very ill and wants him to come home REWARD REWARD REWARD.

            After making 500 copies, Begley began circulating them wherever homeless people congregated.  He began in Travis Park a little after noon.  Many of the street people who eat lunch at the nearby soup kitchen were sitting or laying on the grass enjoying the unseasonably warm temperature.

            The homeless are, as a rule, a suspicious lot and not prone to helping a stranger locate one of their own.  Each person he approached looked at Jeff with a hard stare and usually said, What do you really want him for? refusing right off to take the flyer.  Begley told them each a pitiful story designed to gain their sympathy as well as their cooperation. 

Some bought it and took the flyer, but they had never seen Nick Soto.  Some recognized me from the photo, but to them the code of the street was more important than the promise of a reward.  Still other would do anything for the reward and thankfully did not recognize me, but they took the flyers anyway stared at it a bit and meticulously folded it and placed it into a pocket.

This scene was repeated outside the Salvation Army mens shelter n Nolan Street and the SACA Shelter on the other side of town.  Gratefully, Begley must not have known about the River City Mens Rescue Mission for had he distributed his poster there, surely some of the men would have recognized me, for it was there I spent more nights than anyplace else aside from my dumpster.

After arriving at the Transit Hotel and settling in my simple but clean fourth floor room, I fell asleep and didnt waken until my phone rang at 4 pm.  It was Chris Manning who disturbed my well-needed slumber.  I washed my hands and face in the community bathroom at the end of the hall, then took the ancient elevator to the first floor to meet Chris.

He was sitting in a rather forlorn and ratty chair near the small 19 television at the far end of the lobby.  Rising as I entered the room, he came over to greet me and we sat on an equally old and threadbare couch that didnt match any of the other furniture in the sad lobby.

I just wanted to see how you are doing, Chris said, shaking my hand. Well, Ive got a few aches and pains I didnt have yesterday, I replied as jovially as possible.  I have a part time job and they are always looking for good help, he told me, getting to the real reason for his visit.

This apparently caring young man then went on to tell me about Cosmo News, a telemarketing company that sold  subscriptions for some of the biggest newspapers in the country.  Chris had been working for them part time for nearly a year and he felt with my verbal skills Id be able to make a lot of money.  How much is a lot? I asked him.

Chris went on to tell me every full time employee, that is, everyone who works five-and-one-half eight-hour shifts earns 270 dollars a week before bonus.  After selling 40 daily and Sunday subscriptions in a week, earning 120 points, the telemarketer is in bonus and they earn one dollar per point after that.

He told me some full time employees consistently take home more than 500 dollars a week.  With less than 500 dollars to my name desiring to get accustomed to sleeping in a real bed again, I thought it was an excellent opportunity.  I also decided to take the job because it allowed me to keep my treasure buried, thereby not risking it being discovered by anyone who may happen to see me digging in that field.

The telemarketing job would also allow me to start picking up the pieces of my shredded life again, to become a productive person and regain my self-respect.  I told Chris I sure would like to apply for the job.  He said he was scheduled to work at Cosmo News at noon the next day and he would be by at 11:30 am to take me over there.  In the meantime, he said, I should get some decent clothes and a good haircut.  I also decided to shave the beard I had worn since I was able to grow one.  This was going to be the beginning of a brand new me.

 

 

 

Ina Walstein, Maggie Wong, Maggie Wong, Ina Walstein, said Detective Hammond as he introduced the co-owner of the San Antonio Diamond Exchange to Great Western Indemnity Companys insurance investigator who was waiting at the diamond exchange when Matt brought Ina and her father back from the hospital.  As far as Matt was concerned, she was the best in the business and she didnt even have a law enforcement background.  Her field was psychology and she held three degrees that included a Master of Science in Behavioral and a Doctorate in Forensic Psychology.  It was said by her peers that Maggie Wong knew more about people 10 minutes after meeting them than their own mothers did.

            Although I never met her, I am told Maggie was a knockout;  a tall brunette with finely chiseled Nordic features inherited from her Swedish mother who was a physician and an olive skin and black almond eyes from her father, a physicist of Chinese extraction.

            We call Maggie the human lie detector, Ina, said Hammond, taking the striking insurance investigators right hand in his. Oh, Matt, there you go exaggerating again, said Maggie.  Well, youre holding my hand, does it say Im lying? responded the grinning cop.  Maggie just blushed.

            Ina glared straight into Maggie Wongs eyes and said, What do you read in me, Ms. Wong? Instantly understanding the defensive posture Abes daughter was displaying, Maggie said, Oh, Ms. Walstein, Im not here to investigate you.  After talking about the case with Dan, Im quite sure John Boucher was the master-mind of this robbery.  

             Dan, Detective Foley, was sitting on a sofa in the corner taking it all in.  He had help too Matt.  The power went out at the Alamo Security Company just before the robbery started.  We know that from matching the time a pickup truck knocked the utility pole providing electricity to the block with the time on the videotape when Boucher spray painted the lenses.

            What happened to the guy driving the truck? Detective Hammond quickly asked.  The truck exploded. Must have been on impact.  Two bodies were inside, burned beyond recognition.  When the power went off Alamo became deaf and blind, said Foley.

            Could have been a coincidence.  Too bad they didnt have a backup power generator, said Matt.  They did, said Dan, It was sabotaged, sugar in the fuel tank.  Did the lab dust for prints? asked Matt. Yep, perp musta worn gloves when he took the cap off, said Dan, But he didnt when he bought the bag of sugar, and he left the bag on the ground, it was from HEB.

            Great, we got a break, said Hammond, Dan, theres the HEB Central Market about six or eight blocks from Alamo Alarm.  Get over there in our car and see if they have any video of someone buying just a bag of sugar in the past few days.  Its a long shot, but my long shots have paid off in the past.

            This kid Boucher is what 20, 21.? Asked Matt to know one in particular.  Ina answered, He just turned 21 last week.  Great again, said the black detective, who was quickly becoming euphoric at the breaks that were already showing in the case, Youve got his resume, maybe his accomplices were old school chums. Where did he go to high school?  Alamo Heights, Ina said as she pulled Bouchers personnel folder from the file and handed it to Matt.

            Looking it over, Matt then handed it to Maggie. Isnt Bexar Savings about two blocks from here? he asked.  Again it was Ina who answered, Yes over on Pecan.

            Matt and Maggie huddled for a moment, devising a plan for conducting interviews in the most efficient manner.  They decided that while Dan was getting any videotapes he could from HEB, the two of them would walk over to the bank and talk to this Pete Delgado in the Bexar Savings mail room.

            Although he had halfway expected it, Maggie and Matt struck out at Bexar savings.  Not only was the mail room supervisor not named Pete Delgado, she had never heard of John Boucher and had either been supervisor or a clerk in the mailroom for the past seven years.

            A visit to Alamo City Delivery Service was equally unrewarding.  There was no Ben Hansen and no one knew Boucher.  In fact, when Matt checked the phone numbers on the would-be-master-criminals reference sheet, he learned one belonged to a long-disconnected mobile phone.  The two others, Pete Delgados and Ethan Woods, a guidance counselor at Alamo Heights High School had been disconnected and reissued to two innocent citizens.

            This kid thinks hes slick, commented Matt as he and Maggie drove to Alamo Heights High School to meet with the real Ethan Woods.  They hoped the counselor would remember John Boucher and could shed some light on who his best friends were.

            It was around 3 pm when they arrived at the high school.  Classes were just letting out and Maggie, driving because Detective Foley still had the unmarked car he shared with his partner, easily found a parking spot.

            Ethan Woods was a nervous little man of about 57 years.  Balding with fingernails bitten to the quick, he said he welcomed the change from his daily routine.

            Im always happy to help the authorities, he said.  But Maggie could not help to notice the slight deprecating grin on the educators face.

            Well, first wed like to see the schools yearbook from 1998, Matt said, trying not to sound authoritarian. Well, if you will tell me who you are looking for Woods replied as he reached to the bookcase behind him for the yearbook, Ill find him for you.

            His name is Boucher, said Maggie, John Boucher.  Oh there must be some mistake, said the guidance counselor, John Boucher is in Germany I believe, yes Im sure of it, moved there in the middle of his senior year.  He was very upset at not being able to graduate with his class.

            As Matt thumbed through the big blue book, Woods continued to rattle on nervously, His father was an Air Force colonel, you know and John was such a fine student, good citizen, hard to believe hed do anything of a criminal nature.  I didnt say he did, replied Matt, pulling the DMV photo of John Boucher taken last year to match with the one from the yearbook he had just discovered.

            Looking down at the two photos, Matt held up the DMV one and said, This isnt John Boucher. And he handed it to Ethan Woods.  The guidance counselor studied the driver license photo for a few seconds and said, Of course not, this is Jason Biggs.  They were in the same class.

            Jason Biggs? said Hammond, quickly turning back a couple of pages and finding the person who had stolen John Bouchers identity staring him in the face.  Well Mr. Woods, what can you tell me about Mr. Biggs?

Ethan Woods had a great deal to say about Jason Biggs it turned out.  The young man was not the guidance counselors favorite student, too humorous, lacked the discipline and seriousness to be a good student.  He played too many practical jokes and tried too hard to be accepted by everybody, were some of the comments that immediately came to Woods mind.

            As the guidance counselor was filling Maggie and Matt in on everything he knew about Jason Biggs and his friends, the former Jason Biggs and John Boucher, now known as Jeff Begley, was spreading posters with Nick Sotos photo on them around the homeless community.  Earlier in the day, he had gone to Kinkos and fashioned a wanted poster of sorts.  It read HAVE YOU SEEN THIS MAN? NICK SOTO If you know where he is, please call (210) 555-5555.  His wife is very ill and wants him to come home REWARD REWARD REWARD.

            After making 500 copies, Begley began circulating them wherever homeless people congregated.  He began in Travis Park a little after noon.  Many of the street people who eat lunch at the nearby soup kitchen were sitting or laying on the grass enjoying the unseasonably warm temperature.

            The homeless are, as a rule, a suspicious lot and not prone to helping a stranger locate one of their own.  Each person he approached looked at Jeff with a hard stare and usually said, What do you really want him for? refusing right off to take the flyer.  Begley told them each a pitiful story designed to gain their sympathy as well as their cooperation. 

Some bought it and took the flyer, but they had never seen Nick Soto.  Some recognized me from the photo, but to them the code of the street was more important than the promise of a reward.  Still other would do anything for the reward and thankfully did not recognize me, but they took the flyers anyway stared at it a bit and meticulously folded it and placed it into a pocket.

This scene was repeated outside the Salvation Army mens shelter n Nolan Street and the SACA Shelter on the other side of town.  Gratefully, Begley must not have known about the River City Mens Rescue Mission for had he distributed his poster there, surely some of the men would have recognized me, for it was there I spent more nights than anyplace else aside from my dumpster.

After arriving at the Transit Hotel and settling in my simple but clean fourth floor room, I fell asleep and didnt waken until my phone rang at 4 pm.  It was Chris Manning who disturbed my well-needed slumber.  I washed my hands and face in the community bathroom at the end of the hall, then took the ancient elevator to the first floor to meet Chris.

He was sitting in a rather forlorn and ratty chair near the small 19 television at the far end of the lobby.  Rising as I entered the room, he came over to greet me and we sat on an equally old and threadbare couch that didnt match any of the other furniture in the sad lobby.

I just wanted to see how you are doing, Chris said, shaking my hand. Well, Ive got a few aches and pains I didnt have yesterday, I replied as jovially as possible.  I have a part time job and they are always looking for good help, he told me, getting to the real reason for his visit.

This apparently caring young man then went on to tell me about Cosmo News, a telemarketing company that sold  subscriptions for some of the biggest newspapers in the country.  Chris had been working for them part time for nearly a year and he felt with my verbal skills Id be able to make a lot of money.  How much is a lot? I asked him.

Chris went on to tell me every full time employee, that is, everyone who works five-and-one-half eight-hour shifts earns 270 dollars a week before bonus.  After selling 40 daily and Sunday subscriptions in a week, earning 120 points, the telemarketer is in bonus and they earn one dollar per point after that.

He told me some full time employees consistently take home more than 500 dollars a week.  With less than 500 dollars to my name desiring to get accustomed to sleeping in a real bed again, I thought it was an excellent opportunity.  I also decided to take the job because it allowed me to keep my treasure buried, thereby not risking it being discovered by anyone who may happen to see me digging in that field.

The telemarketing job would also allow me to start picking up the pieces of my shredded life again, to become a productive person and regain my self-respect.  I told Chris I sure would like to apply for the job.  He said he was scheduled to work at Cosmo News at noon the next day and he would be by at 11:30 am to take me over there.  In the meantime, he said, I should get some decent clothes and a good haircut.  I also decided to shave the beard I had worn since I was able to grow one.  This was going to be the beginning of a brand new me.