Blood & Lies Chapter One
Andy Carnes followed the teen into Grace Evangelical Fellowship in Odessa, Texas once again. A Saturday night and instead of going on a date, Robert Marcus Davis, Junior, attends church. Did this rascal live here? What ever happened to black kids roaming the streets tagging buildings and stealing beer? Poor kid.
When would be best time to nab him? Andy sighed. He perched a few rows behind the kid. Of course the goons who worked for Marcus’s dad had all of Odessa — in fact, the entire Permian Basin — locked down. Each time he thought about grabbing Marcus, one of these associates would appear.
Wonder why Junior used his middle name? Because he didn’t like being identified with his father? Interesting.
A chubby woman took her place behind the podium. “Good evening. I’m Carol Dobbs with the Ukraine Street Children’s Outreach Ministry. Thank y’all for joinin’ me tonight to learn about the plight of these forgotten kids in Ukraine.”
Oh joy. Andy checked the time. How many hours would this tiresome woman drone on extolling the hardships of those pitiful street children? He’d pretty much grown up on the streets, thanks to his no-good louse of a father and his mom who’d clerked in a convenience store at night. It didn’t hurt him none.
The heifer powered up a slide show and the first photo, a boy climbing into a sewer, drew oohs from the crowd. At least those kids had somewhere to go. Next, a picture of the tunnel popped up. Large pipes filled most of the dirty shaft.
“The children make cardboard pallets on top of these hot water pipes in order to stay warm in the winter. Death from exposure to the cold happens far too often.” Dobbs flipped to the next slide. A different angle of the hole. “Because the sewers are damp and are filthy with human excrement and other waste, the children contract diseases like tuberculosis.”
Andy shivered. Okay, maybe the Ukrainian kids had it worse than he ever did…at least he’d never lived with feces in the same room. Who gave a flip about brats half a world away? Not him, and he wasn’t about to listen to their problems. Swallowing over a lump in his throat, he tried to blot out the woman’s words by opening up his email on his cell phone. He had come for one thing and one thing only. Marcus.
At the end of her presentation, Dobbs gave a big smile. “I’ve told you a little of the plight of the street children in Ukraine in part to raise money to build shelters for these kiddos, but also to invite you to join me on a mission trip in July. We’ll fly into Kiev and from there, we’ll go to Kherson.” She itemized cost and concluded her presentation. “Anyone under the age of eighteen must have a release signed by a parent or guardian. A member of your congregation donated scholarships for three teens who otherwise wouldn’t get to join us. Any questions?”
Marcus stuck his hand up first. “How do we apply for a scholarship?”
Andy sat up straighter. If Marcus went to Ukraine, he could grab the kid over there, leaving Davis helpless. Andy would snatch Junior and get the diamonds back from Davis — before the chief decided to put him in the ground.
Andy grinned as Marcus traipsed to the front to sign up for the trip. Four months — plenty of time to set up a contingency trip to Ukraine. Marcus’s mission to save the world might cost him his life.
The kid sure didn’t follow in his old man’s footsteps. Good. Since Junior wasn’t street-wise, it would be easier to nab him.
Andy flipped through a copy of the itinerary, eyeing Marcus to make sure he completed the paperwork. Once the teen left, Andy approached the organizer. “Mrs. Dobbs?”
She responded with a warm smile. “Yes, may I help you?”
“Did Marcus Davis apply for a scholarship?”
The woman nodded.
“I’m an old family friend, and I’d like to make sure he gets to go.” He paused and held her gaze for a few seconds. “May I pay for his trip? Anonymously? I don’t want either him or his family to know.”
“Certainly.” She smiled. “You can make the check to Ukraine Children’s Outreach Ministry.”
Andy counted out the money. “I’d prefer to give you cash. I’ve included extra so Marcus will have enough for meals and a little spending money.” He exhaled. Glad he’d listened to the boss and stuck some money in his wallet before he followed Junior.
“Thank you.” She picked up a notepad. “May I get your information so we can send you a receipt?”
“Naw. I don’t need one. I’m just happy the kid is involved in something worthwhile.” He flashed her a big smile. “You know, nowadays many teens go down the wrong path.”
“Thank you so much,” Dobbs said. “I’ll be sure to meet with his mom so we can get the consent all filled out.”
Andy slipped out the side door. Yep, if he couldn’t get close to Marcus here, he’d catch him in Ukraine. No way could Davis Senior rescue his son there.
He chuckled. Time for Davis to pay.