Somehow, I knew you were going to call
Neill sat on the bench in front of the statues along the wynd on the north side of the church. The feelings about calling and what to say were confusing. With all his being he wanted to return to before the wounds of disagreement had separated the lines of theirpassions and hopes. Before the quarrel's unpleasantness split the understanding that had been taken for granted, but it wasn't for keeps, it never is. To climb from the dark place of not knowing or touching, that had frozen his heart.
Resistance paralyzed reconciliation. The phone seemed to weigh a hundred pounds and his arms pinned by unseen forces. He summoned the will from the depth of another time, and dialed…
"Hello" said Natalie Sullivan.
The pause seemed interminable… "Hi"
"Do you know who this is?"
"Yes, of course"
"If you don't want to talk, that's okay."
"No, I mean yeah, it's okay."
"Do you have time?"
"I never told you this. It's about the day you were born. It was cold and snowy that day, but the sun was shining through the flurries. When we got to the hospital, your mother was pretty far along and they took her right in while I handled the admission's stuff. By the time I joined her, the contractions were only a few minutes apart. You were coming and you weren't wasting anytime." Neill said and chuckled. He could hear her laugh a little too.
"Actually you were very active the whole time she was expecting. Later in the term we could actually see the outline of your little hands and feet pushing out. When you were delivered you squirmed and kicked, your eyes were open wide and blinking furiously, but you didn't cry. They wrapped you in a sheet and placed you in my arms. I said 'hello there' and your whole body immediately relaxed, completely calm in my arms. I held you over your mother and you seemed to smile. You knew you were home.
"When it was time for you to go maternity I wouldn't let them have you back and told them I'd carry you. They told me that was impossible. I said to them 'look, if Lufthansa flight attendants couldn't get an oversized carry on from me, what chance do you think you have of taking her', as I held you tight." He could hear her laugh quietly. "The nurses looked at the Doctor who nodded to them that it was alright.
"In the maternity ward I gave you your first bath, and eye drops and the chord treatment, and dressed you in a little gown, as the nurse directed from behind, with you looking at me whole time. Your eyes were so beautiful, big, bright and blue. Grandma, Grandpa, and Nanny and Poppy watched through the glass. They didn't recognize it was me with you because I was dressed in scrubs and cap, and they probably were too enthralled with you to notice anyway.
"After you were settled into the bassinette I talked to you for more than an hour. I told you how the world is a beautiful place and that I'd be right there with you, and we would have a wonderful life together, and I can't remember what I said, but you seemed to listen intently to me every minute of it as you slowly fell off to sleep. I'll never forget it." Neill's eyes filled with tears and he could hear a faint sniffle over the line.
"You know Dad, I shouldn't be able to remember that, but somehow I do."
"There's something else. You are the greatest reward in my life. I'll always love you."
"Oh yeh, Noel's big day is coming!"
She laughed. They talked a while longer, and he knew that they would again. It would be different from then on. He would make sure of that…
He called Nicole too…"Hi", she answered enthusiastically. "Somehow, I knew you were going to call. I'm glad you did."
"Me too", he said happily. They talked and laughed for a long time. She had always been a joyous child. "Do you have your mother's number?"…
"Hello" Nancy Murray answered tentatively.
"Hi", he said awkwardly.
"Yeah, is something wrong?" She asked concernedly.
"No, I ah, just wanted to touch base."
"Are you sure? I got a feeling you were in trouble."
"No, No, I'm okay. You know, I'm sorry how it all went. I think about you often, and you'll always have a special place in my heart."
"Thanks", she said sweetly. "I'll always care about you too."
"I won't hold you, there's just one other thing. You were right all along, I don't know shit."
She laughed earnestly…
He had found new strength, there was no stasis, no running in fear. What had to be done would come more easily now…
Neill knocked on the door of the St. Edwards' rectory. Father Samuels opened it. "Hello" he said with a smile.
"Hello Father, my name is Neill Murray. I wonder if you might have few moments to talk."
"Certainly my son, come in", he motioned Neill inside with wave of his hand. "Murray? Are you related Rowena Murray?"
"Yes, she's my mother."
"Your mother is a very special lady. The work she's done for charity is very admirable. Have a seat." Father Samuels directed Neill to a chair in front of his desk.
"Yes, she is a special person", Neill said solemnly. "Father, to be honest, I've been away from the church for a long time, since my daughters were children. And even for many years before that I've been conflicted about my faith. My problem with Catholicism, and most organized religion for that matter, is that when I was in school they taught us that it was the one true faith and all others would be deprived of salvation.
"I always felt that it was an exclusive covenant, impossible to reconcile with the teachings of God as a forgiving and all merciful being, a god who would offer his only son for the redemption of all men."
"I understand your confusion. In a traditional Paulist view, one of election, this was the accepted dogma, one that ascribed to a strict scriptural approach to Christianity. To a great extent this has been supplanted by a Thomistic concept that is inclusive of all men, human nature and natural law. Promoting a morality that is realized through meditation that contributes to human goodness, fulfillment and happiness. A morality not imposed by an outside legislator, but from within, a morality that contributes to human flourishing.
FIND YOUR OWN RELATIONSHIP AND DEFINITION OF GOD BY GOING WITHIN YOURSELF, AND THEREIN YOU SHALL KNOW AUTHENTIC TRUTH IN BEAUTY, LOVE, AND PEACE.
"You must look inside yourself to find your place. As the Persian poet Rumi wrote almost 800 years ago, 'I have lived on the lip of insanity, wanting to know reasons, knocking on a door. It opens; I have been knocking from the inside!'"
Neill tried to fit this into his belief system, into his reliance on science for an understanding of the physical world. "I think I understand Father. But in an existence governed by physical laws, where mathematically speaking there is a potential of eleven dimensions and multiple universes, and the prevalence of beings of higher intelligence is a high probability, how do you reconcile that with the existence of God?"
"You're referring to m-theory, the evolution of the five string theories in an attempt to unite general relativity with quantum mechanics, a theory of everything, so to speak."
Neill was stunned.
"You look surprised. You see I was a physics major in college before entering the seminary. It's a subject that has always fascinated me. In my mind those potentials do not preclude the existence of God. It's a given that we all question our faith at one time or another, and it's natural and okay to do that. And an unquestioned religious orientation isn't a necessary component of, or a foundation for faith. A quote from Vonnegut sticks with me, 'say what you want about unquestioning faith. I consider the capacity for it terrifying'".
"You like Vonnegut? He's one of my favorite authors! I just reread 'Cat's Cradle' the other night!" Neill enthused.
"I love that one too! It's obvious you're a well-read individual, who has an analytical mind. In light of that, consider the phenomenons of quantum nonlocality and entanglement, or spooky action at a distance as Einstein called it. It has been proven experimentally that changes in the spin or charge of a particle, through some yet unexplained interconnection, will instantaneously affect another particle from the same system in exactly the opposite manner, even over tremendous distances, unbound by the speed of light.
"Now, think of people as being part of the same system connected to a universal consciousness, what some refer to as a proto-consciousness. This is more than a clumsy analogy. The research of Penrose and Hameroff proposes the existence of a quantum consciousness. They argue that a process is at work in the microtubules within nerve cells of the brain which operates at the sub-atomic level, and is non-computational by nature. I like to think of it as intuitive, although that is not exactly what they say.
"They relate this to quantum entanglement and the collapse of the wave function or rather state vector reduction (R), or objective reduction (OR) as Penrose has referred to it. This process is not yet fully understood, but they believe it the basis of awareness and free will, different than that which could ever be exhibited by purely computational devices, i.e. computers.
"There are scientists who disagree and believe in physicalism, contending the human brain is purely an organ that functions much as a computer. And still others believe the mind and soul are external of the brain and have no relation to any scientific theory, let's call that mysticism. Most of my colleagues hold such a view.
"Personally, I agree with Penrose and Hameroff. I have read their work and their scientific proofs are quite elegant. However, I believe that this quantum consciousness goes beyond their proposition. I believe that an individual's consciousness is inter-connected with others, and also connected to a universal and eternal consciousness, which I believe to be God, as love. Love is what connects us. It is the path to spiritual fulfillment, and that love is described by its' actions; love is as love does. Keep in mind many in the church would dismiss my…ah, analogies as nonsense. But if any of it is useful in helping you to rediscover your faith I can accept that.
"Actually, I'd like to suggest some reading." Father Samuels took a piece of note paper and started to write. "The first is St. Thomas Aquinas' 'Summa Theologiae', the second is Brian Greene's 'The Fabric of the Cosmos, and the third is Roger Penrose's 'Shadows of the Mind'. I think you'll find them interesting."
"You're a Jesuit, aren't you Father", Neill suspected.
"Yes I am."
"I thought so." Neill leaned forward to accept the reading list. "That reminds of something else Vonnegut said, 'new knowledge is the most valuable commodity on earth. The more truth we have to work with, the richer we become'".
Father Samuels smile broadly in satisfaction.
"Thank you Father, I appreciate your time. You've given me a lot to think about."
"Not at all Neill, stop by anytime. I enjoyed our chat. I hope to see you again soon."
"I hope so too, Father…"
Marina Drive, Palm Beach Gardens
Tony Savani tossed the phone on the faded green Formica kitchen counter as Dom Minelli prepared capicola and cheese sandwiches. "I talked to the scoitollo. He'll be calling back around seven thirty to tell us where he'll meet us." Tony said.
"You accepted that? I don't like it." Dom shook his head.
"I don't like it either, but there isn't a lot of choice to it…The other thing is that he says he cracked the code on Harvey's accounts. That was a pretty big inducement to go along considering you haven't made any progress, and there's over two mil in the bank. That'll make this whole thing more worthwhile."
"What if it's a set up? There's nothing to say he don't have the cops involved."
"I don't think so. If he had already done that, he wouldn't have avoided my calls, and if he was going to do that he would've done it by now…We'll do this someplace secluded so we won't be interrupted." Tony reasoned.
"Whatever you say," Dom answered. He had his own plan. "Oh yeah, the little one wants to talk to you…"
"What can I do for you", Tony asked Kim.
"It's not so much what you can do for us, it's what we could do for you. I've got twenty thousand, and I know missy there has a nice nest egg. It's all yours, we wouldn't say a word. You can do with Neill as you must.
"I'm willing to say that I have spent the last two days out looking for Neill, out of concern for him and what he might do, considering the trouble he was in. Vanessa accompanied me the whole time. We never saw you guys, isn't that right Vanessa?"
Vanessa nodded enthusiastically. Dom stood behind Tony holding the plate of sandwiches. "Oh, brother" he said shaking his head. Tony frowned and looked back at him.
"If you let us go I promise we'll never say a word. Even if she did say something, I will testify to the fact she was with me, the whole time." Kim continued with calculating certainty. "As far as the disk goes, I will make sure it gets back to you. Don't worry I can handle Neill. Besides the disk really doesn't do him much good, and I'll also explain the peril it could bring to his loved ones. He'll cooperate, I'll make sure of it. You won't have to worry about any copy of it ever seeing the light of day."
"Your arguments are persuasive, and it's not that I don't believe you but I think we'll do it my way. I like your chutzpah though", Tony declined…
Sunrise Avenue, Palm Beach
Neill stood on the seawall looking out over a gleaming emerald expanse of the Atlantic. The sky seemed a richer blue than usual, and salt air had a fragrance of unusual sweetness. He sat down and reviewed the arrangement. No matter how it went down he needed back up. He dialed The Big Boy…
"Hey buddy", David Hollis answered.
"It's set, I'm meeting them later tonight. Can I count on you?"
"Fuck yeah!" The Big Boy said forcefully.
"Here's what I want you to do…"
Neill felt better right away. He could always depend on David to walk into the breach with him. He didn't know if it was loyalty, or insanity, but he didn't care…
The location was a question, Neill contemplated various scenarios. A public place for the exchange would probably be the best bet, but nothing was a certainty. Although, he still believed he could handle it. He lit a cigarette, pawed his contacts to the Goat and dialed…
"What's going on?" Curtis McGann answered.
"I've got to meet them later. You were right, the money made them see it my way. I'll be coming back to your house before the exchange, I'll fill you in then. Where are you?"
"I'm on a job, but I'll be home by five thirty. What time are you meeting them" Curtis inquired.
"I'll call them back at seven thirty, we'll figure out the exchange then."
"I've got to tell you Neill that you should go right to the police."
Neill let out a breath of exasperation. "We're beyond that now. If anything happened to the girls I'd never forgive myself, not to mention the additional trouble I'd be in…I'd rather have them shoot me than go through that."
"You know, that just may be their plan. You're not going to do this alone, are you?" Curtis asked.
"No, I've got some muscle slash back up."
"We'll talk about this when I see you. But I'm telling you, as a friend, that you're in way over your head."
"Just do me one favor."
"Don't mention the police again" Neill insisted…
A little more insurance would be useful. Neill considered his circle of friends and dismissed the lot of them. Then there was Bob Kohler, he had the perfect resume. If anything he might be too volatile, although The Big Boy was even more of a loose cannon. Bob might actually be able to help keep him on task. He zeroed in on Sniper and dialed…
"Hi Neill", Bob Kohler answered.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm at the job dealing with incompetents. You know, same ol' same ol'."
"I'd like to see you this afternoon, to get your advice on a developing situation."
"I've got a big mess here. I'll be tied up until six or so."
"That's going to be too late. This is really important. Ah, I wouldn't be exaggerating to say life or death."
"You're kidding, right", Bob asked.
"I wish I was", Neill sighed.
Bob paused. "Look, let me make some arrangements. It's about three now, I could meet you at four thirty. Will that do?"
"Yeh, that would be good. I'll tell you what, let's meet at the West Palm Country Club. We'll hit a few balls."
"Okay, I'll see you there", Bob agreed.