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By S. Alan Schweitzer
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 S. Alan Schweitzer
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe quest to recover memory is a tough ongoing ordeal. Howard Questor was one of many hapless inhabitants of Millvale, Ohio, a run down suburb of Westland, a city of some 25,000 inhabitants. Millvale was once a thriving small but busy suburb a century ago but lost much of its financial and social influenced due to excessive downsizing and outsourcing. Millvale was a place avoided by the majority of the elite and middle class citizenry. Howard knew himself to be a man of at least 30 years of age. However, he could only recall the last ten years during which he spent most of the time committing acts of various levels of crime. At first Howard worked alone. He decided it would be better for him if he enlisted, or, if he had joined a group of specialists who were successful in their acts of theft, forgery, if not worse acts of violence which had plagued Millvale.
The year was 2095. Howard had lived in Ohio most of his life. His memories of the last several years were acute; however, he was unable to recall much of what happened during life prior to ten or eleven years. He did not consult with any medical personnel concerning possible amnesia. He just went on with his uncompromising acts of crime and theft with his fellow cohorts and participated in their shared consequences as well as their benefits.
On a late Sunday night Questor and three others were ordered by their chief to become involved in a robbery the results of which would be stunning. "There's 50 million dollars at stake," one of the men encouraged Howard. This was Questor's latest attempt at a robbery which would involve him as well as three cohorts he had known during the brief time he spent at Fairlane Prison five years ago. Two of the criminals spent much time together talking about revenge. Howard thought he was set up . He was judged guilty and spent two years behind bars. A year later he met with two acquaintances, Tim Brampton and Ben Harvey. The three agreed to commit a major robbery. The three men had operated together under their commander in chief, namely Fred Henderson. Henderson worked part time as a book editor for a publishing firm in Westland. At least this is what was told to Howard. Henderson suggested that the Burns estate would provide untold riches for those who dared to cross over into Westland and pull off a significant heist at the Burns mansion. Howard was told by his team worker John Walters, that Henderson knew all the smart moves and could avoid ubiquitous authorities' scans. The mansion, located on Park Valley, a rich suburb of West Land, was the residence of state senator James Blake, a town legend whose ancestry traces back two centuries of wealth, influence and political influence. Henderson was well aware that it was common for city police to drive up to the mansion of the town's one senator, whose family wealth was lovingly devoted to collect and to maintain the growing gigantic commercial empire within a small town which had influence over several neighboring states.
Questor at first was hesitant to go along with the heist despite the possibility that the robbery culprits might no longer need to attempt further legal fractions. The men who joined Howard functioned as a team. Tim and Ben had committed five acts of home invasion and burglary in the past, and each had managed to escape with just enough money to last until their next robbery.
The time had arrived. Of the four villains Questor was the driver and the one who warned if and when there would be potential sources which could either hinder or damage the robbers' intentions. As usual, whether he was driving or performing acts of cracking open safe pads or delving into financial accounts on victims' computers, Questor felt diminished and hopelessly out of sync with most of his cohorts. Despite the fact that Questor's gang recognized his abilities and diligence, nevertheless he felt estranged and alienated from the team. On his part Questor was cautious and fearful. He had a sense of vision or apprehension of a deadly confrontation with a potential trigger man, one who could ultimately eliminate any possible problems in which Questor was involved. Yet Howard Questor had executed his role and responsibilities without hitch in over 10 cases.
As he silently waited in the car while his teammates were busy in the mansion, Howard always feared potential troubles during any or all criminal acts. In his ten years experience Howard successfully escaped as the authorities arrived a good five to six minutes after the robberies had been consummated. Even as he was silently waiting in the car, Questor felt uneasy, troubled. He could not determine the cause. Howard spent many hours trying to make some sense of why he was doing this. What was the purpose? Why indeed did he exist? Howard felt somewhat confident yet troubled and fearful because of his shortcomings along with his socially alienated, criminal past. Over the past ten years Howard's memory was acute. He recalled with deadly precision the plans that were laid out by Henderson, who, even several years ago, was a crouched, squishy eyed, bald man in his late fifties. Henderson managed to form his own group of volunteers whose mission in life would be highly dependent on Fred's judgment and decision on how to live and survive in a world which for him and for many of the others in the asylum, has become mysteriously distant and oblivious of basic needs of certain inhabitants, some, indeed, many of whom wound up in Devonshire Hospital, an asylum of sorts located in WestLand, Ohio, which apparently was reserved for the care of special patients. Howard was one of them. His ailment was never explained to him. The doctors all concluded that Questor was a victim of intense fatigue, an ailment that was heart related. Tim and Ben, plus so many other patients, had made an oath to stick together and to survive in the traitorous, muddy realities of slander, hate and deviousness which dominated the entire varying political or social class of Westland, Ohio.
Day after day, month after month, Howard and his crew of thugs would sit and discuss their recent past. Each member of the team reminded himself that fellow cohorts were assigned one specific floor for one reason. All had blank memories of anything which happened before they found themselves at Devonshire Hospital. Howard basically reminded all of the same mystery which haunted his him as well as the others. Each and every individual who found themselves in a strange collective institutional environment suddenly awoke one day for no specific reason or purpose.
Howard never received the answer to his unending query about why the infamous Devonshire Hospital existed. With greater anxiety Howard asked himself why did the facility close its doors and cease all operations. Ultimately the patients were forced to live and to survive on their own.
As he waited for the heist to be completed, Howard Questor would ponder over the same question. Why was he here? For the last 10 years he became what his team would call themselves "professional criminals." The leader of Coward's small group, Henderson, said it simply and directly. "Something happened to us before we reached a certain age. I've spoken to several government officials at various rallies and speeches." Henderson was the most adroit at achieving the opportunity to make contact with society and to establish some dialogue about Devonshire and its patients. The few people Fred got to see in stores, restaurants, factories, did not know what Fred was talking about. With the stolen items and accounts the team did occasionally visit places where they would be unrecognizable, but they were few indeed. Legal authorities were gaining more access and privilege to arrest and to interrogate potential criminals or anyone who demonstrated social misbehavior.
Over the months and even years Howard would try to make sense of Fred's meanderings and hopelessly illogical views on his lifestyle and how his one and only refuge lay in committing acts of theft and even violence over the last several years. Howard then asked himself why all those months spent in prison were no more than planned stages toward ultimate fulfillment of achieving a comfortable and well planned lifestyle well beyond the torments of Westland." Committing small acts of theft and related acts would put you in prison,"Fred would say. But, if the acts are small and petty enough, you'll never be sought out or blamed for the more serious crimes, usually of those which involve grand theft of solidly entrenched nobles or celebrities. Howard then remembered the case of Joel Ackerman, a noted drug dealer who avoided violence of any kind but was imprisoned for years for acknowledged criminal dealings with drug cartels. To this day, Fred knew that Ackerman, now living in a mansion somewhere in Latin America, was ultimately involved in the massive assassination and murder of the vice-president plus ten of those who were in attendance at a major political gathering. Ackerman was never identified with the killings, and he cleverly avoided any arrests or court trials. Howard would try to draw out the reasons for this phenomenon and was considering a detailed question and answer session with team members on what they thought of Henderson's bizarre if not unrealistic views on why certain criminals knew that they would never become part of the general society. Consequently the commission of small, almost unnoticeable acts of theft would make them immune to more serious crimes of either economic or political persuasions.
After this Howard convinced himself that this was it. Regardless of what Fred had insinuated about his newly achieved freedom and ultimate escape from further criminal pursuits, Howard remained doubtful. He never trusted anyone, much less Fred Henderson. His thoughts blanked out as he heard sirens in the distance. "Christ!" He muttered and stated the car as he knew the sirens were getting closer. He looked at is watch and was appalled that the robbery was taking longer than 30 minutes. "Fifteen minutes," Howard growled. "Fifteen minutes the job was supposed to be done. Fred had told his allies exactly where the jewelry was kept and that he knew how to break into the safe were the senator had stored many important financial and other personal documents. Fred had told his fellow cohorts that he had known someone who served as adviser on Senator Blake's staff, and that he and the staff member had been friends for a long time. The senator's staff worker had actually helped Henderson in executing his many crime exploits over the years. Henderson stopped there and would never mention the relationship until recently when he convinced his team that the robbery undertaken would make them millionaires. Then each could retire and go whenever or wherever he wanted.
Howard remained skeptical, and again he pondered over the erratic life had shared with several criminals and with an array of disinherited alienated souls which populated the city of Westland. He always had money, Howard told himself many times. Why did he have to assume the life of a thief? Why, Howard continued to ask himself, did Fred always include me in his plots and exploits?
Howard called Henderson on his A1- Net- device, but there was no answer. Quickly he made the decision to get out of the area without scrutiny or possible consequences of his decisive furlough from Henderson and his "team," as Henderson persistently called the group of thieves. Howard became more certain that he would leave Westland, and he began to indulge in his dream of final escape. The sirens grew ever louder and became closer to the senator's home. Howard had parked his Nissan three blocks south of the mansion on Milan drive.
He got out of the car; left the keys and cautiously approached a small but growing crowd near the home of the planned burglary. It was dark, and Howard did not stand out. Physically Howard was moderately tall; six feet, somewhat overweight and unshaven although he had no beard. He looked his age of 29 years, although he was not certain. He convinced himself he would consult an expert, possibly a shrink, who could reveal many things that plagued Howard Questor, one central problem being his memory failures. All this would come later, he told himself. He was wearing a stained sweatshirt and dirty jeans, and he accepted the probability that he would be unnoticeable.
Fifteen minutes later three policemen came out of the house and joined the others. An hour later practically the block was filled with people asking each other what had happened and what did the police discover at the home of Senator Blake. Questor became surrounded by scores of interested onlookers who were both curious and yet anxious and appalled that a crime had actually defamed their blessed vicinity and could very well have started a possible threat to the sanctity of their protective suburb. Although he was forced to survive in the ghetto of Millvale, the small town a few miles from Westland, Howard would occasionally wander into the outer fringes of town in search of necessities of survival. He had been looking desperately for work. He could not count the times he was asked to provide any identifying ID source, be it a driver's license, a place of birth, residency, current or recent jobs, schooling, and so forth. Each interview ended more or less with Howard's failure to produce any personal background. Further inquiries could then reveal him as jobless and uncommitted and could possibly reveal his criminal background.
Howard became ever more frightened as he waited in the background to absorb any activity or news about the current situation. The mansion was located in an area in which 200 new homes were constructed every year. Several near by neighbors were staring at the mansion to catch some glimmer or understanding of what was going on. Howard felt he would not be apprehended at this point. He decided to join with the growing cluster of nearby curious neighbors who world directly learn from the police what was going on. Briefly Howard would get some minimal information.
Howard's body was visibly shaking as he realized the length of time it was taking the authorities to provide answers to the public or even to several local news reporters who were becoming ever more demanding in their own quest for what was happening to one of the most powerful members of the state elite. What was taking so long? Why was there no response to his question when Howard was well aware time was getting short? Howard thought to himself again, this time should he wait it out to see his cohorts being dragged off to the Westland. Jail. Perhaps this may turn out to be an uncertain outcome; the purpose of which had to involve the overall community, so Howard thought. For a split second he believed that for several seconds his heart had experienced several spikes of intense pain. Howard was terrified over the possibility he actually might have been set up.
Suddenly a large group of local authorities was seen walking out of the house. Howard immediately noticed there were three of his partners in handcuffs but saw no sign of Henderson. Howard waited another ten minutes when he finally noticed Fred, who was walking along with the police. He was not handcuffed.. Swiftly he maneuvered his way out of the growing number of police authorities and curious onlookers and walked back to where he parked the car a couple of blocks away. His hopes were enlivened as he noticed the vehicle was exactly where he had parked it. He was breathing heavily as he began forging in his mind the possibility of collusion and conspiracy among officials and felons of whatever order or level of the criminal act.
Howard wasn't in the mood for worry over any notice of his speed driving along the suburban streets as he convinced himself to acquire a good spot to rest and be close enough to the Eastman Bank. There he had several stolen items and cash kept in his personal account, a safety deposit box filed under an assumed name.
Excerpted from Questor by S. Alan Schweitzer Copyright © 2013 by S. Alan Schweitzer. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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