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Bryan’s Road, Maryland

Head throbbing, Evan sat up. He put his hands down to steady himself. Still dizzy, Evan sat waiting for the room to stop spinning. He moved his jaw back and forth, “No, not broken.” He looked around at the unfamiliar surroundings and was startled when he saw the man who earlier had watched him from the window at Salvatore’s, sitting quietly next to him in a chair.

Startled, Evan inquired,
“How did you get in here?”

“Are you working for Mr. Stiller?”

“Who are you?”

Sitting with his hands in his lap, the man smiled and said,

“As far as how I managed to get in here, I have my ways.”

“No! I am not working with JD Stiller.”

“And some call me Hyland Powers among other things.”

Evan rubbed the side of his aching face where Anthony had hit him.

“Am I having a nervous breakdown?”

Hyland reached over and patted Evan on the arm said,
“No, my boy, you are not having a breakdown or hallucinating.”
“In fact, I would say you are well on your way to healing.”

Evan stiffly kicked his feet over the edge of the cot and sat up.

“Are you here to help me?”
“You know, help me escape?”

Hyland shook his head, “No when the time is right, you will leave here on your own.”

Evan looked at Hyland like he was crazy.
“JD has already told me that he would kill me if I tried to leave again.”
He says, “I am too valuable to him to let me go.”

Hyland nodded and said, “I know exactly of what value you are to JD Stiller.”

“Truly, It might not be what you think.”

Evan shook his head and replied,
“So, you know that I am a computer programmer who wrote a program that helps him hide his illegal activities.”
“He thinks if I leave that I might turn on him.”
“He said he still has a use for me and my skills.”
“I am all but his slave.”

Evan put his head in his hands,
“No, I am his slave.”

Hyland reached over and raised Evan’s head so that he could look at him.
“Do you remember when I spoke to you in DeNile and again when you were on the street before you came into the club?”

Evan sat up eyes wide and said,
“That was your voice I kept hearing in my head?”
“I thought, I was losing my mind.”

Evan breathed a sigh of relief and then pensively stared up at the barred window as he tried to recall what Hyland had said to him.
“You told me I needed to trust you and that I was going to get through this.”

Hyland smiled, and his voice began to fade while he repeated,

“Trust me at this moment.”
“Then trust me at this moment.”
“Trust me at this moment.”
“Then trust me at this moment.”
“Trust me moment by moment by moment.”
“For I am with you, and I am you.”

Evan began shaking as Hyland vanished out of sight.

“Hey!”
“Wake up pretty boy.”
“You’ve rested long enough.”

Evan opened his eyes to see Anthony leaning over him lightly shaking him.
Anthony stared intently at him and then said to him,
“Are you all right?”
“JD is afraid I might have permanently damaged you.”

Evan shook his head yes.
“Yeah, I am all right — I guess.”
“ My head is throbbing from where you hit me.”

Evan’s eyes darted around the room searching for Hyland Powers. Disappointment set in when he realized it was only him and Anthony, JD Stiller’s goon.

Anthony grimaced,
“Get up!”
“Mr. Stiller needs to see you.”

Evan slowly sat up. Beside his head throbbing his body was sore from hitting the floor when he was knocked out earlier.

Anthony grabbed his arm and yanked Evan to his feet. Evan stumbled into him. Anthony grabbed him by the collar and pulled him close to his face.
“Watch what you are doing.”
“These are expensive threads.”
Anthony released Evan with a little shove.
Evan stumbled but regained his balance.
Anthony pointed toward the door. Evan headed out of the office with Anthony right behind him.

JD was sitting at the bar with a drink in his hand when Evan came out of his office. He looked over at Evan and smirked,
“Hey, Sleeping Beauty.”
“Did you get enough shut-eye?”
“Nice of you to join me.”
“Why don’t you come sit right next to me so we can talk.”

Evan walked over and sat next JD. JD stared at Evan for a moment.

Anthony walked around to the other side of the bar to get himself another beer.

“Evan, Could I have Anthony get you something to drink.”
“I know.”

“Maybe a Scotch?”
“We can pick up where we left off before my overly zealous bodyguard put your lights out.”
JD’s eyes met Anthony’s; they both smirked.

Evan sheepishly replied,

“Mr. Stiller?”
“If it would be okay, I would like a coke or a glass of water?”
“I am parched.”

JD looked at Anthony and said,

“Get the man some water.”

Anthony picked up the hose and sprayed carbonated water right in Evan’s face.”

JD and Anthony laughed almost hysterically.

Anthony then gave Evan a bottle of water.

With carbonated water dripping down Evan’s hair and face, He opened the bottle and drank until the twenty-ounce bottle was nearly empty.

JD looked at Evan and said,

“I guess you were thirsty.”
“I bet you are starving.”
“Did they feed you while you were in that Mayberry jail.”

Evan shook his head no then said,
“Yes sir, I am famished.”
“I haven’t eaten since at the club in DeNile around noon.”

JD perked up like a thought had just hit him.
“That is right you did eat their today.”
“If I remember from what Stu reported to me, you were shining on that pretty little college grad bar tender OF MINE.”

Evan picked up on the way JD referred to his employee with a sense of ownership. He valued people only as long as they were useful to him then he discarded them at will.

Fortunately, JD still valued Evan, or Evan would already be dead.

Knowing how JD operated Evan downplayed any interest in her. He knew that if she meant anything at all to Evan, JD might try to use her as leverage.

“She is just a friendly college girl who served me lunch at your bar.”

JD eyed Evan for a long moment and then mumbled, “We shall see.”

As JD and Evan were conversing, Jimmy, JD’s bodyguard-driver, came in with the food.

The aroma of the garlic from hot Italian food hit Evan’s nose like a tsunami and went straight to his stomach. His stomach immediately went into a twist and somersaulted. He did not realize how hungry he was until then.

Jimmy plopped the bags down onto a table and began pulling the aluminum “To Go” containers out and setting them on the table. Steam rose off of the steamed plastic lid marked in permanent marker- Tortellini. Another, Insalata Caprese, an Italian salad. The container with the garlic bread was the culprit torturing Evan’s olfactory glands. The final container was marked Cannoli.

Evan’s mouth would fill with saliva as soon as he swallowed.

He started to get up, and JD immediately interjected,
“NOT YOU!”
“If there is any left over I may let you have some after we finalize our deal.”

Evan just sat there watching like a drooling dog, as JD, Jimmy, and Anthony dug into the visually tantalizing delicacies and ate.

JD finished chewing a mouthful of tortellini crammed a bite of bread in his mouth, chased it down with some expensive Italian wine from his bar then looked over at Evan out of the corner of his eye.
“Evan this food is delicious.”
“Sure wish you could join us.”
“Alas, I am a man who sticks by his principles.”
He looked back at the boys who were chowing down like wolves on a dead elk.
“I may need to revisit buying this place off of Salvatore.”
“That stubborn little Italian will not sell to me.”
“This is the best Italian food in the state.”
In between chewing and smacking Anthony managed to get out a few words,
“Boss, you want us to put some pressure on him?”
“Ya know.”
“Help him in his decision-making process?”
Anthony smiled and had what looked like spinach in his teeth.

JD Scowled, “Anthony you have food in your teeth.”
“Take a drink or something.”
“That is disgusting.”

Jimmy burst out laughing.
Anthony just looked at Jimmy with a look that would kill.

JD wiped his mouth after a bite of garlic bread,
“No.”
“Salvatore’s place is small change.”
“Also, it is too close to home.”
“The food is great.”
“It would be a good asset to have.”
“It is just a minnow, in this big lake of mine.”
“I don’t want to draw attention or jeopardize what I already have.”
“Salvatore is getting old.”
“It is only that pretty little daughter of his.”
“What’s her name?”

Jimmy piped in,“Tina!”

JD smiled at Jimmy,

“You like that, don’t you?”

The three continued conversing while they ate almost forgetting Evan was sitting at the bar watching them as they ate.

Evan was starting to feel shaky, so he continued to drink his water hoping it would fill the emptiness in his stomach and refresh him a little.

JD looked at Jimmy after taking a big drink to wash down his food,
“Did you find out any information on the old man?”

Jimmy looked back at JD and shook his head,
“I spoke with Tina.”
“Tried to be nonchalant.”
“She did not know much, other than the man’s name was Hyland Powers.”
“All she knows is that he had been there a few times before.”
“He might be a friend of her fathers or something.”
“Strange though, he did come up and introduce himself to me.”
“We talked for a few minutes.”
“I think he is harmless, maybe a little senile or something.”
“That’s all I remember from our conversation.”

JD was too preoccupied with the name, Hyland Powers, to catch Jimmy’s last statement.
JD looked up as if trying to recall,
“Where have I heard that name before?”

Evan perked up at the name Hyland Powers. Hyland Powers was real and not just a figment of his imagination; just hearing Hyland’s name gave Evan renewed strength.

Evan’s mind raced back to what happened in the car after the sheriff released Evan to JD Stiller’s custody.

Jimmy sped away, JD speed dialed the Judge.

Evan closed his eyes to try and escape his dismal future.
Anthony and Jimmy were quiet as JD spoke with the judge about the need for him to act immediately.
Evan tuned out the world around him and turned inward to his thoughts. He was lamenting his hopeless, lonely situation.
As he was spiraling downward in despair, a thought dawned on him.

“You feel alone, but truly you are not alone.”
“I am here with you.”

Evan immediately looked up scanned from Jimmy to JD to Anthony.
Jimmy quietly focused on his driving.
JD was speaking on the phone with the judge.
Anthony was staring ahead probably listening in on JD’s
conversation.

Evan thought to himself.

“Am I losing my freaking mind?
“Am I hearing voices?”

Evan laid his head against the window and closed his eyes trying to relax his mind from his worries.

Again he heard a thought break in amongst the anxious chatter going through his mind,

“You are not alone.”
“Be strong, for I will help you.”
“You are going to get through this.”

Evan blurted out loud,

“WHO ARE YOU?”

Then He remembered the voice he heard before they entered the club,

Evan looked around frantically as Anthony hustled Evan out of the car. He happened to glance over at Salvatore De Assisi’s Restaurant. Standing at the bay window, a man looked directly at him. The man smiled and gave him a knowing reassuring nod.

The longer Evan made eye contact with the man, Evan realized that the man was aware of what was happening to him, but did nothing but stare and smile.

Anthony shoved Evan toward the club. Evan stumbled but regained his footing. He paused and turned to look at the man for one last moment. Silently pleading with his eye, Evan dared not wave or say anything. With JD, retribution is severe.

Though they made eye contact for only a split second, time seemed to stand still. Evan just stood there quietly looking at that odd man staring back at him. The man did not move, but his presence drew closer until Evan felt like he could reach out and touch him. Though JD and his two thugs were right there, Evan felt as though only he and man were present.

Evan saw love, concern, compassion, and wisdom deep in the man’s eyes.

Like a warm blanket on a cold night, peace settled over him. It was then that he heard these words in his head. The words pierced the anxiety and fear that gripped him. They soothed his rage, his fear, his anxiety like a shifting wind on the seas.

“Evan, fear not for you are truly not alone.”
“Know, in your darkest hour, I am with you.”
“You shall be strengthened.”
“Your deliverance is near.”
“Your healing has begun.”
“You are free.”
“You don’t realize it yet.”
“But, you are free.”
“Trust me.”

Evan just stared. Anthony looked over at Salvatore’s then smirked,
“Evan.”
“No pastries or coffee for you.”
“ You have been a bad boy.”

JD lowered his cell phone looked back at the Jimmy and Anthony and impatiently said,
“Quit playing around.”
“Time is wasting.”
JD put his phone back to his ear continued his conversation as he walked into the dimly lit nightclub.
Jimmy was right behind him carrying Evan’s luggage.
Anthony had Evan by the arm as they disappeared into the club.

“I am FREE!”

Evan slowly opened his eyes and tried to speak, but nothing came out. He had tubes stuck down his throat.

Confused, He thought, “Where am I? How did I get here?”

IVs and all sorts of wires hanging off him.

Evan’s throat aching and dry from the tubes. His chest felt like someone had pummeled it. Weak, his body felt like lead.

Evan lifted his head slightly to see a short, round, middle-aged woman in a nurses uniform standing with her back to him at a hospital tray filling out paperwork.

The movement set off some alarms. The nurse turned with a concerned expression said,

“Careful Mr. Williams, you have had quite a roller coaster ride. You died twice, and we revived you both times. You have been in a coma for weeks after a fentanyl overdose.”

Evan smiled thinking, “I am ALIVE and I am FREE.”

Writer, philosopher, humorist, observer of life, an all-around lovable guy.

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