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Authors: Randy Wayne White

Dead Silence (48 page)

BOOK: Dead Silence
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Yet whenever I hinted at the subject, he would demure, saying, “Next time we’re at the Explorers Club, old boy, we’ll trade stories over a whiskey.”
Hooker weakened, though, when I e-mailed him an article from a Cartagena newspaper about the political changes taking place in Cuba. It had to do with an organization that for decades had operated underground on the island because Fidel Castro feared the group might undermine his power. It was about the Freemasons.
Translated, the article read, in part:
The Cuban population, however, has always embraced the secret knowledge that one of Cuba’s greatest heroes, José Martí, was a devout Freemason, as was Simón Bolívar, the “George Washington” of South America. In the secret lodges of the island, José Martí’s writings were preserved and shared.
In Havana, Freemasons are now uniting and saying publicly what they could not say even before Castro came to power: Independence demands the overthrow of tyrants, including the tyranny of religion.
I could imagine Hooker smiling and chuckled, “Ford, old man, please don’t tell me you’ve joined the lunatic fringe and begun to believe in silly conspiracies.”
uring those easy weeks, Tomlinson often dropped in, but that was okay. I hadn’t told him about his father. If the time was ever right or if he asked, I would. Not until. It wasn’t as if the two men were close.
Hanging out with Tomlinson can be similar to being alone, particularly when he loses himself in a marathon meditation session or a research project . . . or a bag of something recently harvested and dried.
My definition of friendship varies with the friend, but certain traits are mandatory. Friends can occupy the same room without robbing the space of solitude. They appreciate the difference between conversation and pointless noise. They don’t snipe and bitch about other friends. They do their share of mundane tasks without prompting. They seldom whine, are secure in their own purpose and don’t anchor themselves to an energy-sapping cloud of defeat and ready-made excuses when a challenging project presents itself.
In those two weeks, no new projects came along, but inevitably one would. And it wasn’t as if Tomlinson and I didn’t already have old projects to pursue—or dispose of.
Tomlinson had become obsessed with finding out the truth about the skull that Hump had tossed into Will Chaser’s coffin. Was it really Geronimo’s?
It’s one of the traits I admire in the man and that separates him from at least a few of our fellow boat bums: He’s not content to lie around theorizing and yapping. He gets things done, when he’s in the mood.
First, Tomlinson conferred with a few of his friends in the American Indian Movement, who then recommended him to leaders of the Chiricahua Apache Tribe, Fountain Hills, Arizona.
With the tribe’s permission, he had enlisted the help of a brilliant archaeologist, Dr. William Marquardt, University of Florida, to help lay the plans and also use his credentials to take temporary possession of the skull. Delicate tests would be required.
On a winter-scented Friday morning, I found the two men still awake in my lab, opening breakfast beers while they debated the best way to extract DNA while also preserving the integrity of the specimen.
Tomlinson had been wise enough not to burden Dr. Marquardt with his Joseph Egret theory, possibly because Will Chaser himself hadn’t provided support.
“It’s none of your damn business,” the boy had told Tomlinson over the phone. He was too busy to talk, he said. Will had been selling interviews to newspapers, saving his money to buy an expensive horse.
What Will didn’t tell Tomlinson was that he was also fine-tuning plans to run away if government social workers came to take him to Oklahoma.
But the boy didn’t run away. He was packed and ready when social services arrived at the Guttersen home.
“Of course he’s ready,” Otto Guttersen told reporters. “Pony Chaser never had a dumb day in his life and he knows he’s gotta play it straight now.”
The Guttersens were playing it straight, too, jumping through all the bureaucratic hoops required to adopt Will Chaser as their son.
For people who choose to attack their potential, to live fully, not simply exist, “life,” as Tomlinson says, “is a target-rich environment.”
As for me, on that tropic-blue Friday, I was taking it easy, hoping there would be a reason to stay up late, to load the boat with ice, a couple of beers or even a bottle of champagne.
Friday sunsets at Dinkin’s Bay are pleasant. You never know who might stop by.
BOOK: Dead Silence
2.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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