I remember reading a book about Richard the Lionheart, journeying from England to the Holy Land on the Crusades, seeking to kick out the infidels, praise the Lord, and ransack the magnificence of Jerusalem. It was my own interpretation. I can only imagine what it must have been like for him to emerge from the desert and gaze upon the splendor before him.
Wichita was nothing like a holy city, although it surpassed anything I had seen since growing up in Chicago and a darn sight more fast-paced than Ark City. There were by far more cars which meant more frustrated drivers. If more women fancied being behind a steering wheel, it might have been catastrophic.
By the time I arrived in the city, all thoughts preoccupying my mind seemed to vanish like an afternoon spring rain. I was on an assignment and nothing else occurred to me. It took a bit to find the police headquarters. I didn’t realize they made them as big as it was. Seemed more like a castle to me.
I walked in through the front entrance, head held high, a feeling of pride because I was being asked to assist in something so important. When Jay Davis ran up to me, I understood where the whole thing started. I wasn’t too cocky to believe I had earned a large reputation from my showdown with Jake Hickey or my investigations into horrific murders. Somehow, Jay Davis blabbed to his fellow cops in Wichita about a hotshot cop named Baron Witherspoon in his old town of Ark City who was real smart and could probably help out. I was hoping he didn’t build me up too much.
“You made it,” he said, a smile plastered across his face.
“So it was you?”
He leaned in close, like we were speaking of the Devil while in church.
“It’s been real bad. No one wants to admit it. I figured you had more know-how than most of what they got passing off as detectives.”
He wrapped his arm around my shoulder and started guiding me through the station house. I noticed other officers turning away, not even saying anything to Jay. My earlier bravado was starting to dwindle. It’s not that I had any doubts about myself or concerns about my appearance. The whole notion of not knowing who I was when looking into a mirror, the conflict between being Eric Kimble and becoming Baron Witherspoon, the uncertainty about the future—all of this had been brought under control to a point where I could manage living each and every day. It wouldn’t have bothered me if a young child stared at me or cried or even laughed. But these were police officers, like me, who, one would imagine, had seen far worse things than a man with a scarred face. Without so much as speaking with me, it hurt knowing I was already being rejected.