David Smith awoke to strange sounds, eyes not yet open, just awake enough to realize the difference in this morning and all the others before. He heard muffled sounds of voices and … traffic? He was very groggy with pain behind his eyes; hell, his whole head ached, but why? He slowly opened his painful eyes. The world that was revealed to him was not the world he'd known for the past twelve years. He was in a hotel room. The muffled voices were of people walking past his room in the hallway. His memory of the night before began to slowly come into view. I remember now. Oh god, the drinks—the many drinks—the raucous laughter….. the relief of finally being free again! He groaned and slowly stretched his long 6 foot 2 inch frame to relieve the tightness in the muscles of his body from having slept in one position all night. He instinctively put his hands to his head in an effort to minimize the pounding effect. He glanced at the clock on the nightstand beside the bed and saw that it was 9 o'clock in the morning. He'd only slept about five hours. It was his first full day of freedom; he had things to do, people to see, and places to go.
It had been twelve years since he'd taken the fall to save the livelihood and reputation of an old friend and was put in prison for embezzlement. He knew the risks of doing this; however, without the trust and surety of his influential and powerful friend who promised him a new life once he was released, he wouldn't have done it. One thing he knew implicitly, deep down in his soul; he could trust Teddy Reed to follow through with his promise.
David Smith slowly got out of bed and walked to the mirror that was situated above the four drawer dresser of the hotel room. God, it was a hell of a party! he thought to himself as his memory continued to slowly reveal the events of the night before. His thick salt and pepper hair was tousled; his dark brown eyes bloodshot from lack of sleep, the booze, or both. Despite the physical effects from the night before, he was younger looking than his 54 years and, other than today, felt it too. He wasn't one to preoccupy himself with his good looks, just pleased the aging process was evidently slower for him than for others he knew that were around his age. He noticed he was alone and relieved to discover this—there'd be time for women, but not now. His primary focus was reestablishing himself using the money Teddy Reed promised would be deposited into a bank account for him upon his release. He'd spent endless hours rehearsing his strategy—the money will be deposited into an account bearing my name on the same day of my release. A key will be left at the hotel front desk in an envelope addressed to me that will open a safe deposit box at a designated bank containing an ATM card and legal papers verifying that my prison record has been expunged, among other documents, granting me a new beginning.
He decided on this first full day of freedom to soak in the tub with hot water rather than showering. To shower would remind him of the time constraints he lived with for so long in prison. No sir, this bath was going to be a long and relaxing one. An hour or so later, he was bathed, dressed in a pair of blue jeans, boots, and light blue denim shirt, and getting ready to walk out the door of his hotel room when the telephone rang. His head still ached. Damn, now who could that be? He walked over to the phone on the nightstand beside his bed and answered cautiously.
"David? It's Teddy. How are you this morning?"
"Teddy," David replied, wincing at the pounding pain in his head. "As well as can be expected, after last night. Thanks for keeping it a small affair."
"You're welcome, my friend. You sure put away more than your fair share of drinks and understandably so. " Teddy said with a slight laugh. "It was one hell of a party. Listen, I am forever indebted to you for what you endured on my behalf. There just are not enough words to express my gratitude. I am humbled by your loyalty to our friendship."
"You've thanked me profusely, enough already. I did what I wanted to do. It was my idea. Hell, Teddy, you had a wife and family to protect. I had no one. It's over now. By the way, I suppose I have you to thank for my being put into a soft prison environment—had it been in a hard core one, I'd probably be asking you for a date."
Teddy laughed heartily. "Well, you'd be hard to turn down."
They both laughed and then the mood changed to match the task at hand. "David, the envelope was sent by courier earlier this morning and is waiting for you at the front desk in the hotel lobby. If there is anything you need or want, you know that all you have to do is ask."
"Thanks, Teddy. I was just about to leave to go downstairs to the lobby to check on the envelope. You know, I have a lot to digest and I plan to take my time. However, the first thing I'm going to do is buy a Harley. The freedom of the open road is calling me. I'll be leaving town in a few days anyway after I tie up some loose ends. I don't know where I'm bound, but I know it'll be far from here—maybe Oregon. It's nice this time of year."
"Well, wherever you decide to go, travel safe and keep in touch. But first, do retrieve that envelope waiting for you before you do anything else today, ok?" Teddy asked.
"Sure. Anything you say." David sensed a slightly urgent tone in Teddy's voice. "Thanks for calling, and thanks for everything," he said with a surprised tinge of resentment.
"You're welcome. Take care of that headache. Goodbye for now."
David Smith hung up the phone. This tinge of resentment was unexpected. He knew his decision to take the rap for his friend Teddy would be a risky one. David's reputation would be destroyed, friends of his would be surprised by his conviction, and as expected, they were. He was resigned to sacrifice all and for what reason? He owed his life to Teddy. They went back a long way. They were as close as any two guys could be, like brothers.
It was Teddy who risked his life so that David could live. It was during the Vietnam War and both had only been in for six months, joining the Marines at the same time to leave tough and volatile environments at home. On this particular day, Teddy and David were with their respective platoons involved in a gun battle with North Vietnamese in Cambodia. The skirmish had ended badly with fifteen total casualties from their Marine platoon battalions. Those remaining were rushing to others who were injured to get them out of harm's way quickly. Teddy, also injured, saw David, bleeding and badly wounded. He called out to him to make sure he was still alive. He saw that he'd been shot twice. He lifted him over his shoulders and proceeded quickly for almost a mile with other Marines through a hail of gunfire to one of several rescue helicopters waiting to load injured troops. They finally made it to the last rescue helicopter just minutes before its scheduled takeoff. David never took for granted having survived that unpopular war.
Perhaps it was a sense of envy that Teddy had been able to carry on with his life without a hiccup, whereas David's life was halted for twelve years—that's a long time to think about your life and where it had gone up to that point. But, for now, he would complete the mission of retrieving the envelope containing the key that would give him life again. Perhaps his new beginning would rid him of this cancerous emotion.
David arrived at the front desk of the hotel and asked for the envelope. He took it from the receptionist and walked to a quiet corner of the lobby and sat down on a chair placed next to an indoor palm away from open windows and piercing bright sunlight. He took a deep breath, wishing his headache to leave him, and began to open the contents of the envelope. In it, he found a safe deposit box key and a bank account identification card. As he left the hotel, he found that the location of the bank that held his account was only a couple of blocks to the right from the hotel. Teddy thought of everything David said to himself.
David arrived at the bank and went inside. He presented his identification to a young female customer service representative who, after verifying his ID, proceeded to escort him to the safe depository. They entered the large cold room and the young woman proceeded, with key in hand, to locate the number of the safe deposit box. She found it and proceeded to unlock this for him. "I can get that," David said, taking the key from the woman. "I can take it from here." "Very well, sir. Have a good day," she replied with a slight smile as she returned the key to him. "Thank you, you too," David said. The young woman then walked out without looking back and closed the door quietly behind her unaware that David's lingering gaze had been upon her.
He proceeded to unlock the small door to the depository and withdrew the box. Within the contents of the box he found an ATM card with a pre-issued PIN number attached to it. I'll have to change that he thought to himself. He'd developed a sense of distrust during his prison term that was not likely to vanish any time soon. In addition to the ATM card, he found a bank statement showing the balance of his account. He gasped as he read it: What? $675,000! Well, I be damned! He remembered Teddy telling him early on that he'd make sure there was ample compensation for him to start a new life. He allowed a few minutes for this to digest, his mind racing, comprehending this windfall. Then it suddenly occurred to him; he could fulfill his dream of buying a tavern. He'd think about getting a partner for this venture. It would be a nice place for patrons to frequent and even bring their families. He envisioned a fireplace, dark wood furnishings and bar, much like the one he frequented while he lived in Ireland working as a software engineer for an American company before his life changed. He could give it an Irish name, and, perhaps, have an authentic Irish musician play on the weekends. His mood was lifting and he began to feel hopeful and confident, feelings he hadn't felt for a long time.
Other official papers included those expunging his prison term and reinstating his honorable military discharge and veteran status. It was difficult enough being a Vietnam veteran, but losing that designation was hard to swallow. This relieved him. He sighed and closed his eyes momentarily as if to erase this train of thought and then continued looking through the rest of the box's contents. He found a brown manila envelope tri-folded to fit in the safe deposit box. What the hell? he asked himself. He opened it to find a motorcycle license in his name (the picture was a little outdated, but he hadn't changed too much) and an invoice for a Harley Davidson motorcycle (hog to Harley aficionados). He read its contents which revealed that his favorite hog model, a Sportster, refurbished and the engine rebuilt, was waiting for him, in his name, at a local Harley Davidson dealership. A note, dated on this day of David's first full day of freedom, was attached to the invoice. It read:
I wanted to do one more thing to show my appreciation for what you endured. I remembered our conversation a couple of years ago about your plans to purchase a new 'hog' as you called it, and getting away from it all. Well, here's your chance. I remembered you were fond of the Sportster. I came across one and as you will see on the invoice, it's been refurbished and is waiting for you at the Harley Davidson showroom. Ask for the salesman, Adam Benson. He's aware of my scheme. Enjoy it! It's a beaut! Drop me a postcard sometime!
David couldn't believe his eyes. He certainly didn't expect this! This is too generous he thought to himself. But the more he thought about it, the more it felt right. David wasn't a greedy guy, but damn it all, he felt he deserved it. He would accept it graciously. Teddy was certainly a man of his word, a powerful and generous man with powerful connections. David would not forget this. He took the motorcycle license, invoice for the hog—he would need that when he picked up the motorcycle—and the ATM card. He left the rest of the documents in the envelope to retrieve later.
He closed the box and returned it to its proper numbered space and locked it. He left the bank, hailed a cab, and was on his way to the Harley Davidson showroom. David couldn't remember the last time he'd felt this excited about anything. He felt like a kid at Christmas. Twenty minutes later he was walking through the front door of the showroom. A young salesman walked toward him and asked if he could be of help. David asked to speak to Adam Benson. The young salesman excused himself saying he'd get him. A few minutes later, Adam Benson appeared. He was about David's age, a few inches shorter, with a receding hairline and a rather large paunch. After shaking hands and introducing themselves, David explained he was there to pick up his hog and presented the invoice and his ID to him. Adam Benson remembered the sale and escorted David to the area of the showroom where his hog was waiting. Teddy chose pretty much what David had in mind. It was a beaut, alright—black and shiny with polished chrome that glistened in the sunlight. It had a cushioned, black leather covered, double seat, to make room for company, no doubt, David thought to himself smiling, knowing Teddy made sure every detail had been covered. Saddlebags were added to provide storage for any provisions needed on trips. David was given the key and the invoice, and after a handshake and a thank you, he pushed the hog outside, seated himself on the smooth leather seat and stowed the invoice in one of the saddle bags. He took a few moments to take in its beauty, started the rumbling engine, and drove off.
David didn't want to go immediately back to the hotel. He decided to ride a while. The hog was full of fuel, an added contribution by Teddy. He decided to ride south along Highway 1 for a while before returning to the hotel. It didn't matter that the hog didn't have a radio. The wind and the sound of the rumbling engine was music to his ears. When he cleared the heavy traffic out of San Francisco, he gunned the motor and sped off.