Monday, March 19, 2012

Sunrise In Tibet...

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night and it took me a while to fall back asleep. While I was awake I thought of this little short story, so today I wrote it all down. It's a little long--hope you like it.

Sunrise In Tibet

By Scott Taylor

             “Mr. Perkins, I appreciate you coming down to the station,” Detective Carter told me when I met him in his small office. “You don’t know how much time it saves us when people do—you’d be surprised just how much. Please have a seat.” I obeyed. I find it useful to follow the instructions of a man wearing a 9mm pistol and handcuffs on his hip.
            “I’m glad to meet with you in person, but I hope I’m not wasting your time. I really don’t know what else I can tell you that I didn’t already tell you over the phone yesterday.” The detective sat down, his large frame making the obviously overused chair grown in protest. He didn’t answer right away but looked at me with tired eyes.
            “Did you do what I asked?” He said. I gave him a blank look as my palms became sweaty. What did he ask me to do? I thought and nothing came to mind. “We’re you able to think about just why Mr. Hansen would contact you after all these years?”
            The detective’s follow up question bailed me out. “Yeah, I mean…a little,” I said honestly. The question seemed to bother me as much as it did the detective. The only thing more odd than Frank sending me a message completely out-of-the-blue  on Facebook was the message itself. And now Frank was missing and I was sitting across the desk of a police detective trying to figure out what happened to him. “I’m still at a loss as to what the message means or why he sent it to me,” I told Detective Carter. I hoped he believed me because it was the truth.
            “I see,” was all the man said and he opened a file that had before been ignored on a corner of his desk. “If you don’t mind, I need to ask you some questions.”
            “Of course,” I said. “Anything I can do to help.”
            “When was the last time you saw Mr. Hansen in person?”
            “In person? Probably about five…no, it would be closer to 10 years ago.”
            “And what circumstances precipitated that meeting.”
            “Let’s see…I remember a few buddies from college got together and had a little school reunion…I thought it was only about five years ago, but I remember I went by myself because my wife had just had a baby and now Julia is almost 10 years old. I can’t believe it’s been that long.”
            “Uh huh…” Detective Carter grunted as his left hand feverishly scribbled notes in the margin of one of the papers found inside the folder. “Do you remember any other people who attended the reunion from the list of five people you gave me over the phone yesterday?”
“No…I’m pretty sure I got them all.” It was strange. When Detective Carter asked, I not only remembered the faces of who attended, but their names as well.
“At this reunion, did you notice anything strange about Mr. Hansen’s behavior?”
            “Strange? No, not really. He was pretty much the same as when we were in school together. Frank was kind of a quiet guy…didn’t party too much…kept to himself for the most part. When he was around his friends he opened up. I remember at the party he looked happy.”
            “Was he not very happy in school?”
            “I don’t know if he really liked school that much. I remember he told me he wouldn’t miss college after he graduated.”
            “Did you and Mr. Hansen graduate at the same time?” I said we did.
“And when did you graduate?”
“It was maybe six or seven years before the reunion.” The detective kept writing without lifting his head to look at me or anything else.
“Did you and Mr. Hansen stay in touch following graduation?”
I thought back. “I might have seen him twice in that time.” I wasn’t completely sure, but I didn’t think it would have been more than that. I also thought if I had forgotten one or two meetings, it wouldn’t be a big deal. It shouldn’t be a big deal, anyways.
“Were these meetings social calls or random occurrences?”
“What do you mean?”
Detective Carter stopped writing and looked at me. Again my hands felt clammy. Maybe not remembering every little detail was a big deal. “I mean, did you just run into him, or were there other reunions?”
“There weren’t other reunions—nothing organized. I know that,” and I did. “They must have been just times I ran into him. Yes.” I remembered something. “I was shopping once…groceries, I think…and I ran into him in the parking lot. He was coming; I was going. We talked for a few minutes…I asked if he had gotten married. He said no. He asked about my family. I said they were fine. I remember I didn’t have a lot time to chat. I don’t remember why. You know, we promised to e-mail or call, but I never did. I found out where he worked and I told him where I worked so we could have corresponded, but we never did.”
“You were in the same program at school, right?”
“That’s right—mechanical engineering.”
“Didn’t you ever meet in any professional setting after school?”
“No, I never did. He was hired right away at a firm in the city. I ended up working for my father-in-law in his business so I never had a reason to go to any conventions or work on any projects with his firm.”
“I see.” Detective Carter began writing again. We sat in silence for a moment.
“Let’s get back to your Facebook account.”
“Sure,” said and I unconsciously looked at my watch. Only after seeing the time did I think my action could be interpreted as me being bored by the questions. I did, however, wonder just how long our little session would last. I had blocked out the entire morning for the interview and could go longer, if needs be. Hopefully it wouldn’t, but you never know. “What would you like to know about my Facebook account?”
“When did you set up the account?”
“I’ve probably had it for three or four years.”
“Would you consider yourself an active participant in the social network?”
I thought about the question…active participant. Depending on the variables, I could answer either way. Compared to my kids—no way, but compared to what I considered to be active, I most likely was. “I usually check maybe once a day…maybe more on the weekends if I’ve got nothing else to do.”
“And how many Facebook friends do you have?”
“Maybe a couple of hundred…I’m not sure the exact amount.” A thought hit me. The police department probably knew all this information since the message sent to me by Frank last week could be considered evidence. If so, the man sitting across the desk from me writing in a file knew every answer I should be giving.
“Did you send Mr. Hansen a Facebook friend request, or did he send one to you?”
This should be an easy question to answer, but I honestly didn’t know. I wasn’t one of those people from high school that tried and “friend” everyone they’ve ever talked to. But, I would sometimes send a request just to see how somebody was doing. “I honestly can’t say,” I said. “In truth I probably sent it. Maybe I can find out from Facebook.”
“Don’t worry about it,” the detective said waving his non-writing hand. Yeah, I thought. I’m sure they know already all about my Facebook account.
“Let’s focus on the message,” Detective Carter said. I breathed a sigh of relief. This shouldn’t take long. The message didn’t make sense to me when I got it and made even less sense now that Frank was missing. “Okay,” I said.
“You told me yesterday that this was the first time you had ever received a message from Mr. Hansen either on Facebook or any electronic medium, is that correct?”
“Correct,” I said with authority, even though I didn’t mean to sound so authoratative.
“After you received the message, did you respond?”
“I was going to, but I didn’t right then. I thought maybe he’d send something else to explain what he was talking about. After that, to be honest, I kind of forgot about it until I got your call yesterday.” After I received the call from Detective Carter I had thought about the message a lot.
Detective Carter searched in the thin file for a specific piece of paper. I could see from my vantage point that the police officer held in his hand a screenshot of my Facebook message.
“Mr. Perkins, I know I asked about this message yesterday, but I’m going to ask you again, do you have any idea what this means?” I sat up and scooted to the front of my padded chair as the detective tossed the paper to my side of the desk. The black and white picture of someone I once called a good friend appeared before me. Ever since I heard Frank was missing the smile in his picture struck me very different lythan when I first saw his picture on Facebook years earlier. Next to Frank’s picture was the cryptic message: Steve—Long time…You even seen a sunrise in Tibet?
I read and re-read the short message as Detective Carter reclined back in his chair for the first time. “Back in school, did Mr. Hansen every talk about traveling in general or Tibet in particular?”
I had wondered the same thing. “Nope…not that I can recall.”
“What about political leanings…did Mr. Hansen have any political viewpoints that he talked about?”
“No,” I said. “In fact, we were in school during a presidential election and we used to kind of make fun of him because he was so non-political. He said he’d rather talk about anything else.”
“Sunrise mean anything to you?”
“That’s funny too…Frank was not a morning person. He used to schedule afternoon or evening classes because he hated mornings.”
“Well, we’re at a loss,” the detective said and gently tossed his pen on top of the papers in the file. “Yours was the last message he sent to anybody. He sent it on Sunday night and it’s as if he just vanished. No one at his firm knows where he’s at. His parents are dead and he’s got no siblings.” I looked at Detective Carter and wondered why he was telling me this. He didn’t have to, but he looked tired and frustrated, hoping just conversation might help solve the mystery.
For a long time no one spoke. Each of us tried figuring out Frank’s message. I looked over at Detective Carter and something in the way he leaned back in his chair reminded me of something and it had something to do with Frank.
“I just thought of something. I think it might help,” I said. I watched as the detective’s eyes widen at the possibility. “What’s that?”
I searched my mind and details returned. “I think it was our junior year. Frank and I had an afternoon class, Design Methods, I think, but it’s not important. I remember one day Frank came to class and he was in a great mood. If you know Frank, you know what I mean…he was hardly ever in a good mood, let alone a great mood.”
Detective Carter picked up the pen and began to write. I tossed him the screenshot I had been holding in my hand. Once it reached the other side of the desk, the detective waited for me to continue.
“I remember we were in class and he walked in. We could all tell something had changed so we asked him what was up. I might have even asked him if he had finally found a girlfriend. But that wasn’t it. He said he had just woken up from an overnight camping trip. I couldn’t believe it because they guy never did anything like that. Yeah…I remember. I thought it was so strange…Frank and camping did not fit.”
“Did he say where he went camping?”
“It was up one of the canyons near campus, but I don’t know if he ever told us which one.”
“There’s seven canyons near the school. Are you sure he didn’t say which one?”
“If he did, I can’t remember which one, but one thing’s for sure…it couldn’t have been a tough place to get to.”
“What do you mean?” Detective Carter asked as he scribbled notes at a quickened pace.
“Well, he drove a piece of crap Toyota. It barely got to the Health building—it was gutless. If he took that car up a canyon, it would have had to be a tame climb.”
“So what made you think of this? Did he say anything else about camping.”
Finally Frank’s message might be making sense after all. “Yes…he came in and we asked him what had happened. He said he had spent the night up the canyon and then he asked us if any of us had happened to catch the sunrise. I don’t think anyone had…we used to pull all-nighters back then and sleep most mornings—especially in third year. He said it was too bad because it was almost like a religious experience for him…like it was transported somewhere else.”
Detective Carter stopped writing and looked at me. “Mr. Perkins, I want to thank you for your time. I don’t believe I have any further questions at this point, but if you could, please have your cell phone available. We may need to speak with you again concerning this matter.” He offered his big hand to me and I took it as I rose from the increasingly uncomfortable chair.
“Uh,” I said somewhat surprised at the sudden ending of our meeting. “Sure, anything you need, just call me.” We shook hands and I turned to leave the small office. “Would it be inappropriate for me to call you for an update—I mean, if you find anything?”
“Yes, it would, but please call me if you do remember anything of if you receive another message from Frank.”
“Definitely,” I said. Anything I can do to help.”
We said goodbye and I made it to my car. The June sun had warmed the inside to the point where I cranked the a/c and raced the engine in hopes of cooling the leather seats quickly. I remained in the police parking lot until the car reached an acceptable temperature and I thought about Frank. “Funny,” I said to only myself. Detective Carter always called Frank Mr. Hansen, except that last time…I wonder why he changed.
I drove to work and tried putting in a full day even with the morning interruption, but my mind wasn’t in it. I pulled up the Facebook message several times now convinced that Frank was reminding me of that day years and years ago when he was truly happy and it was something about the sunrise that make him so happy.
I drove home thinking about Frank. I even considered taking a drive up one of the canyons to see if he was there, but I thought better of it. It would do no good and I really needed to be home with the family—I needed to get my mind thinking about something else.
Later that night my cell rang and even though I get a lot of calls on that phone, I somehow knew it was Detective Carter calling and I knew he had news about Frank. They found the body in his car. The car had been pulled off the road where it was hard to see. He said a hiker could have been only feet away and missed it. Frank was inside. He chose pills and alcohol as his choice of departure and he left a note. They’d run an autopsy, Detective Carter said, just in case, but he was pretty sure they wouldn’t find anything new. He thanked me again for the help saying if I hadn’t remembered that day back in school, Frank might not have been found for months, maybe even until after next spring when they re-opened the canyon. I said goodbye and hung up the phone.
I told my wife about what happened. Even though she never met Frank, she still felt bad. So did I. That night I couldn’t sleep so I got up, made some coffee, and sat in the front room looking at our mountain view to the east. I decided that—at least for that day—I wasn’t going to miss the sunrise.

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