December 14, 2008

The Good Samaritan

  News-at-Eleven is just finishing when the front doorbell sounds. Henry is already in his pajamas and bathrobe, and ready for bed.

  He looks through the peep-hole and sees two women, both fortyish — well dressed. He opens the door slightly.

  "Sir, excuse us for bothering you, sir," one woman says. "We know it's late, but our car died on us right in front of your house, and we wonder if you have jumper cables and can help us get started?"

  "I'll be glad to call a wrecker," Henry says, then changes his mind. "What the heck. Sure, I'll give you a jump-start." He picks up the car keys from the foyer table, leaves the front door slightly open and walks across the front lawn to the garage.

  "I'll back out and pull up in front of you," he says. "You'll be back on the road in no time." Henry bends down to raise the garage door. A big guy behind the bushes slips quietly out of his hiding place. He's got a tire iron in his gloved right hand.

  It's three hours later when Edna stirs in bed and realizes her husband is not beside her. She looks in the den, but the TV is off. No lights on in the kitchen. Then she notices the front door is slightly ajar and the porch light is still on.

  Standing on the front steps she quietly calls out, "Henry? Are you there, Henry?" Worried, she steps down onto the lawn. A street light two doors down sheds the only light.

  In front of the garage Edna sees what looks like a bag of grass clippings. Both garage doors are open and both cars are gone. Edna walks slowly toward the "heap." In a quiet panic she stoops to get a closer look. It's Henry, and he looks dead.

  Before dawn detectives have placed both missing cars on the FBI's NCIC. A bloody tire iron is found in the bushes next to the garage, but there are no fingerprints.

  "He is always doing something nice for people," Edna tells a detective. "Henry is an incurable good Samaritan. I pray that he'll be all right. He will be okay, won't he?"

  The detective stares across the lawn, avoiding the woman's pleading look. The doctor has already told the detective that Henry's brain-stem is severely damaged. His EEG is flat-lined — there's little hope of recovery.

  Four similar cases follow in other areas of the country until a cop on late-night patrol spots two women and a man beating up a man in his own driveway. Police clear all four cases, but there's not enough solid evidence to connect the cases.

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