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Episode 17: "The Soup Kitchen Saga"

The next episode was manifested under a freeway bridge in Houston, Texas. It was a summer day. The hot days of summer with 100 degree temperatures were uncomfortable for Jesse Tomlin. Especially, as he lay on a crumpled, cardboard Sears refrigerator box splayed out on concrete. He could only remember the last two months of his life. The name Jesse Tomlin was given to him by a skid row bum who found him unconscious by a roadside park. His new friend Jake helped him to survive in the mean streets of Houston. He fed Jesse and clothed and cleaned him up.

Jesse didn’t seem to be a guy that belonged among the outside street campers. He knew how to read and write and his comprehension of everything seemed to be of high intelligence. But he could not recall any of his past.  He had no identification of any kind. Apparently he was also mugged while he was unconscious.

Sometimes Jesse and Jake would wander into churches that would throw them out because of their shabby appearance. Church buildings would mesmerize Jesse every time he would pass them by on the way to the soup kitchen at the Salvation Army. He seemed to get along very well with everyone who met him there. Someone at the Salvation Army noticed this out of place individual and asked him if he wanted to work with them on a part time job at the distribution center. It did not pay much, but it was a good start for Jesse. Jesse agreed and he wanted a job for Jake too, but by that time Jake had slipped out into the streets again.

Months went by and Jesse was learning a lot in his newfound occupation. A dustpan, broom and vacuum cleaner were his best tools. Jake would come by and check him out every now and then. Jesse would always try to keep up with the very one that found him that day. Some newfound street friends would live on and others would pass away but Jesse would always try to help any way he could with a loaf of bread or carton of milk or sometimes even a can or two of peaches. He had an unquestionable and natural compassion for everyone who was in need. He didn’t believe in filling out questionnaires when hunger or lack of clothes was evident. He had an uncanny way of winning the confidence of the prideful poor.

He somehow sensed the frustration and the hopelessness of both immigrant poor and the American poor. When someone mentioned the word bureaucracy in Jesse’s presence, it would bring anger and disdain to him. Something was about to break through in Jesse’s memory after three long years of amnesia. He tried to remember but couldn’t quite put the puzzle together.

It was time for Jesse to get back to his part time job at the center. A certain Mr. Dawson walked in through the front entrance and recognized Jesse immediately.

Dawson exclaimed, “Samuel, Samuel McCain, is it you? The report we got was that you had died in a car wreck three years ago in Washington D.C. No one knows and no one knew anything more about you. As far as anyone is concerned, you don’t exist anymore. What are you doing here? This is not what you used to do Samuel. You were supposed to represent us in Washington. You were supposed to contact me as soon as you got there but I never heard from you again.”

Jesse answered, “What else do you know about me sir? I don’t remember too much, but I am trying to put it together. With your help I can probably come around slowly. Was I married? Did I have children? Where do I come from? What was my profession?”

Mr. Dawson answered, “Well, It is kind if complicated but I’ll try to fill in as many blanks as I can. I can’t talk to you here. Meet me at Frank’s restaurant down the street about seven this evening.”

The awaiting hours went by for Jesse like melting butter in a kitchen in the wintertime. The anticipation was great but now was the time for Jesse to finally know who he really was. Mr. Dawson was waiting at Frank’s and Jesse walked in and the conversation started.

Dawson greeted him and said, “What do you want me to call you, Jesse or Samuel?”

Jesse answered, “For now call me Samuel.”

Dawson said, “Well Samuel, you were married. She thought you were dead and so she moved on and married someone else. You didn’t have any children. You had only been married a couple of months when all this happened. You are a Harvard graduate and a lawyer who dealt with both white collar and blue collar crime. You rose to significant status in the public eye when you quit your profession to represent the voters of this great state. The information that was put in your lap was very sensitive and could have impeached a lot of people in Washington. It seems that this information got to the ears of the wrong people who tried to stop you from exposing them. They almost did.”

Jesse answered, “Who told you where I was? How did you know I was here?”

Dawson answered, “The Salvation Army had read about your case and spotted you but they were not sure if you were that person. They had gotten in touch with my office and I followed up on the case. I am in the intelligence field. I am the person you informed about the sensitive information you possessed. Someone in my office ratted you out. They are not with us any more. After they had made money off the deal, they disappeared. Apparently, they were caught in the whirlwind of blackmail and were never heard from again.”

Jesse said, “It is a miracle that you found me. The people that found me were kind enough to help me when I was half dead. I don’t recall everything but I am starting to remember bits and pieces.”

Dawson interrupted, “What do you mean a miracle? You were a confirmed atheist when I knew you. You were kind and always wanted to help but you were never a believer. You were always curious about the faith but never dared to darken a church doorstep. You used to call them extreme hypocrites and sellers of pie in the sky dreams. You’d say that if you were ever in a tight spot you could never depend on anyone but yourself to get you out of trouble. But now this is between you and your conscience or between something that you may understand in the sweet bye and bye. I personally am a believer and we used to talk about it every now and then until you told me you didn’t want to hear about it anymore.”

Jesse answered, “I don’t think I’m that individual anymore. I see things differently now.”

Dawson said, “Well now is not the time to stop and think about it. I got the word from my sources that certain people know you're still alive and they will be out to kill you. Do you remember where you stashed the information? I know that it’s been a while but if you could try to recall where you put it, the case could be exposed and be done with. Your life is on the line but I’ll try to protect you as much as I can. From now on you’ve gotta hang around me for now.”

Jesse answered, “I do recall a locker in the train station in Jackson, Michigan. The number was 22-45.”

Dawson said, “I’ll put my men on it right away. Do you remember what it was about at all? Any names, addresses?”

Jesse answered, “I believe it was about money laundering in the White House but I am not sure.”

The questions started to sound suspicious to Jesse and he quieted down a bit about his recall. After all he didn’t recall Mr. Dawson very well from the past and now Dawson was sounding like an interrogator more than a concerned friend. He heard Dawson’s cell phone ring and overheard the conversation.

They had retrieved the information in Jackson and everything was saved. But he also overheard that one loose end needed to be dealt with and that loose end was Jesse’s life.

Jesse ran but the door was jammed. Dawson pulled out a nine-millimeter magnum and was about to shoot. Jake showed up and got in front of Jesse and took the bullet for Jesse and died at the scene.

Dawson froze for a minute, completely bewildered at how he had missed as where Jake had come from. The FBI had been tailing Dawson and rushed in when they heard the shot. Dawson quickly regained his senses and raised his gun at the agents. But before he could get a shot off, they shot Dawson.

Jesse was in their custody and was taken to their headquarters for questioning. The whole story was revealed. Jesse was brought back to his real life of being Samuel McCain with his complete and restored memory. During his transport to the headquarters the first question out of the mouth of Samuel McCain was, “How is my friend Jake?”

The FBI agent answered, “I’m sorry sir, there was no one else in the room. We thought you had been shot. But we still can’t find the bullet that Dawson fired. He missed you and we don’t know how because it was almost a point blank shot.”

Mr. Samuel McCain went on to be a builder of orphanages and a helper in the building of churches all over the country and all over the world. He remarried and lived a lovely life with children and grandchildren that would eventually become a great legacy of the life of Samuel McCain. He was 94 when I knocked at his heart's’ door while he enjoying a quiet cup of tea.

We reminisced for a while and then he told me he was ready and this is what he said:
“Thank you Jake for being there and thank you for being here. Take me on my dear friend.”

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