JUSTICE FOR ROBERT
By Milton Cust
Normally it took Amy Heron one-half hour to complete her walk from the supermarket but on this particular Saturday morning she did it in about 20 minutes.
Why was the 65 year old woman in such a hurry? It was the photograph she had seen on the front page of the local paper. She had been idly scanning the headlines on newspapers and magazines while she waited for her turn to pay for groceries when the picture caught her attention.
Despite it having been years since she’d seen that face, the recognition was instantaneous. She didn’t need a second look to know who it was. It was the diplomat Robert Turner. His thick thatch of brown hair had started to turn grey and there were some age lines on his face but it was him all right. She could never forget that face or the ordeal she and her friends had gone through.
Amy’s mind was drifting back to an event that had happened 40 years before. There had been four of them, all nurses and so full of noble ideals they thought tending and caring for sick and poverty stricken people in a strange, foreign land could make a difference. At first it had been fun and exciting but then reality set in and they realized they were in a lot of trouble.
Amy was brought back to the present by a nudge on her shoulder and someone saying,” You’re next ma’am.” She didn’t realize she’d spent so long starring at that face out of her past that she was holding up the line.
Amy grabbed a copy of the paper and quickly paid for her purchases. Once out of the store, she stopped long enough to take another look at the picture and read the caption that said Robert was going to be visiting the city in a couple of weeks.
With that, Amy was homeward bound, walking as fast as she could with her bag of groceries in one hand and the paper clutched firmly in the other. Her thoughts were a jumble as she marched along the streets at her record setting pace but by the time she had arrived at her house huffing puffing from her strenuous workout she knew what she had to do.
The first thing was to tell the others to let them know that Robert was going to be in town. Next they must decide what they were going to do about it. They only had a couple of weeks but surely they could do something to make sure he didn’t escape with his past deeds unnoticed.
When Amy reached her house she barely stopped long enough to catch her breath before she was on the phone to her friend Winnie whose reaction was immediate.
“Robert in town, what are we going to do about it? Remember the way he treated us. Kept us down in the basement of his house with just a bit of food and water for days while the authorities searched everywhere for us. Then when things got too hot and the authorities were closing in on him, he moved us to the top section of his old barn. Remember how we were able to look down through bales of hay and see the police all over his yard. Winnie finally stopped talking when she ran out of breath and Amy was able to interject something.
“But we did finally managed to escape from Robert’s premises and make our way across the border to safety,” she reminded Winnie.
“Still, never the less, Robert has remained silent all these years and it’s time the rest of the world knew what he did,” Winnie concluded.
“I agree,” said Amy. “I’m going to call the others and we’ll plan something to make sure everybody knows about his past deeds.”
As soon as Amy finished talking to Winnie she dialed up Susan, the third member of the nursing group and explained the situation. Although she hadn’t been feeling that well and was living a couple of hundred miles away in another town, Susan vowed to be there when Robert finally got what was coming to him.
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world and if you need any money to hire somebody to help us, just let me know and I’ll throw in as much as I can,” Susan promised.
The next call Amy made was to the fourth member of their group. Caroline at 75, was the oldest of the group and in frail condition but she too was very enthusiastic about Amy’s plans for Robert.
“What do you think, should we hire somebody to help us or do you think we can do it by ourselves,” Amy asked her old friend.
“Of course. We’re all old ladies and none of us has done anything like this before,” Caroline quickly replied.
“Okay, I’ll ask around and see if we can find somebody that can do the job,” Amy replied.
“Oh, just a second, I know somebody,” Caroline interrupted. “I think he’s retired from the business now but apparently at one time he was really good at this type of thing. Pulled a few of them off so good that nobody ever found exactly who planned it.”
“Fine, tell him about Robert’s schedule and he can go from there. Hopefully we’ll catch Robert by complete surprise and he won’t even know what’s happening until it’s too late,” Amy said.
Amy, Winnie and Susan waited impatiently for several days before Caroline finally got back to them.
“I was right, I found the perfect guy. He told me to just give him the money and he’d handle everything very discreetly,” Caroline gushed enthusiastically. He promised me Robert won’t even know what’s happening until it’s too late and nobody will have a clue that we’re involved,” she added.
After that conversation a week passed without any word from the man the women hired and they were getting worried that maybe he’d chickened out because he thought the job was too difficult.
“Time is running out. Unless we hear from your guy pretty quick us girls are thinking of doing it ourselves. It may be very sloppy because it’s a rush job but the girls say it’s going to happen regardless of the consequences,” Amy told Caroline.
“You’re right, time is running out. I’ll talk to the guy and find out what’s happening,” Caroline replied.
A few hours later she phoned Amy back.
“I talked to him and he says he was too busy to keep in touch with us but it’s all set,” Caroline happily announced. “It’s going to happen this Saturday evening at the high school. It’s his final public appearance. Fitting don’t you think, him getting his due right after talking to the grade 12 graduation class.”
Amy laughed in agreement. “Very fitting, I’ll tell the girls and tell them to be there.”
“Our guy said he’s made arrangements for somebody to sneak us in through the back door. It leads right to the stage and we can hide in back behind the curtains until Robert finishes his speech. That way when it happens we’ll be right there, front and centre and there’ll be no escaping us,” Caroline added as she finished giving the instructions to Amy.
Saturday evening came and the four women met at the back door of the school. They knocked lightly on the door and a few seconds later a man poked his head out. “You’re just in time,” he said as he ushered them in and pointed to four chairs set conveniently behind the stage curtains. “He’s almost finished his talk and it’ll happen right after that.”
The women were so excited they could barely sit still as they sat there and listened to Robert finish his speech.
“A real nice talk, very inspiring for the students,” Caroline whispered to her friends when it was over. “But now dear Robert is about to get his.”
The women left their chairs to peek through gaps in the stage drapes. From their position they could see the back of Robert and the students rising from their seats to applaud his speech. Then suddenly their loud clapping was interrupted by a man striding quickly and purposefully towards the stage.
“Hold on, hold on,” he was shouting as he made his way through the rows of chairs. “Before Robert leaves, there’s something you have to know about him. Although he gave a great talk, he hasn’t been entirely truthful about his diplomatic adventures abroad. There was one that happened about forty years ago and involved four young nurses.”
By this time the man had reached the foot of the stage and Robert stared down at him, a look of shock on his face.
“How do you know about that,” he stammered. “That happened so long ago I almost forgot about it.”
“Well those young nurses haven’t,” the man replied. “As a matter of fact they’re here tonight.”
That was the cue the four women had been waiting for. They immediately stepped out from behind the drapes and surrounded Robert.
“You know the last time we tried to thank you for saving our lives, you slipped away from us,” Amy said.
“Just helped load us into the back of a truck that was headed for the border and that was it,” Caroline added.
“Never even gave us a chance to say goodbye” Susan scolded Robert.
“Or even a chance to give you a proper thank you,” Winnie piped in. “So we’re going to thank you now,” she added. With that she stepped forward and before the startled Robert could move, she reached up and gave him a kiss on his cheek.
“You know all that time we were hiding, I kept telling myself if Robert can get us out of here alive, I’m going to give him a great big kiss. So here it is,” said Susan as she stepped up and gave him a kiss on his other cheek.
“Me too, that’s what I kept thinking,” said Amy as she too gave Robert a kiss.
Caroline was next to give Robert a kiss and announced “That’s what you get for getting away from us for so long.”
“Well ladies,” said Robert. A big grin on his face as he tried to wipe away the traces of lipstick they had left on his cheek. “If I had known I was going to get all these kisses, I might have dropped around sooner.
“By the way, who’s this guy who so rudely confronted me,” Robert asked. He pointed down at the man who still stood starring up at the stage.
“That’s my friend Mel,” Caroline explained. “Us girls hired him to provide the food, refreshments and entertainment for tonight’s party.”
“There’s going to be lots of dancing and we expect you to save some for us because you’re not going to slip away from us so easy this time,” Susan added.