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The Flag Waved

It all happened on a morning when I was a little late in my daily outing. Fast walking down the trail I came to the little bridge over the first stream I always passed in my daily jaunt. I was approaching at my usual speed of about 4 miles an hour. Not too fast but fast enough to please my doctor. He wanted me to do at least 20 minutes of aerobic exercise everyday. I did him one better and did 40 minutes. It was good for me. I'd been walking since the wife and I had moved to our new townhouse in the college town nearest to our little village. We moved in and I began my workouts. It'd been virtually impossible where we lived before. No sidewalks and mostly dirt roads. Not conducive to walking.

Anyway, as I said, I was approaching the bridge when I saw the American flag waving out of the stream. Of course I stopped and looked down into the stream bed. It was worse than I had expected. The flag was attached to a wheelchair. And in the stream was the body of a man. I scrambled down the slope to him and grabbed his shoulders. He had been face down in the water and I pulled him up on the bank as far as I could and began doing CPR. I had no idea if it would work, but I knew this guy. I was not going to lose him if I could help it.

It was no use. I had pulled my cell phone out of the bag I carried on my shoulder with my ID and keys. I called 911 between working on his chest and breathing into his mouth. I don't know if I was doing it right or not. I was just doing what I had learned years before when I was in school. No go. He was gone.

The EMTs arrived in about 8 minutes. I checked my cell phone. They too scrambled down the bank and tried to revive him. They worked on him as they took him up the bank to a gurney. They had driven down the nearest road until they had to come down the cycling trail. Not done usually, but this was not the usual. They hauled him away still trying to revive him as the police arrived. I was there alone with them now.

While the forensics staff started their investigation a detective took me aside to get my statement. It was not too long. I related what had happened. It was straightforward enough. I told him about seeing the flag and investigating, then doing what I did to try and save him. Also I made it clear that I knew him, or at least I had seen him almost everyday. We often passed each other on the trail. He was wheeling himself in his chair and I would say "hey" as I passed and he would do the same. After my statement the detective gave me his card and told me to call if I remembered anything else, anything at all.

It was looking like an accident. He was handicapped and had probably lost control and went over the edge. Anyway, I turned back and didn't finish my walk that morning. I went home to tell the wife all about it. I changed out of my Army PT uniform at home and washed up. Then I waited for her to wake up and when she had risen and did her stuff I told her the whole story.

Mulling over the story for the next few days I tried to think of anything I could that might help. I remembered the tracks of his wheelchair going into the stream. Then it struck me. I had seen no tread marks! I mean, you know, tread marks like squiggles you see from tires. I had seen flat ruts in the wet bank, like he had been holding the wheels and someone was pushing him against his will. I needed to call the detective.

So I used the card and called. It was maybe a week after the incident.

"So what do you have for me Mr. Fargo?"

"You remember the tracks of his wheelchair, Sgt. Winston? I just remembered, I saw no tread marks. You know what I mean?"

"Yes, I do Mr. Fargo. We already know about that. We saw it the first time we examined the scene. But thanks for calling. By the way, he was an Army vet. That's why he flew the American flag on his staff connected to his chair. I thought you should know because I noticed you were a vet too, by the PT uniform you were wearing that morning. We're calling this a homicide now. Please keep that to yourself. Talk to you again, perhaps."

"Wait, Sgt. Winston, don't hang up yet. You jogged my memory. The flag. Yes, he flew the American flag at the top of his staff, but he also flew another flag. Now I remember. It wasn't there."

"Not where, Mr. Fargo? And what flag?"

"On the staff attached to his chair. He flew the rainbow flag under the American flag. It wasn't there. It wasn't on the staff when I was there. He always flew that flag."

"Are you saying he was gay Mr. Fargo?"

"No, but he flew the flag. He may have just wanted the world to know he supported LGBT people, you know?"

"This gives us a line of inquiry Mr. Fargo. Thanks. If you remember anything else be sure to call. Bye."

The next day I was doing my morning exercises and I noticed that police officers were stopping all the traffic that passed over that stream on the bridge. I was stopped but when they saw my ID they just passed me through, but everyone else was being taken aside for a short interview. Something was up. Then I remembered something else.

I walked back to the officers and told them I had something to tell Sgt. Winston if he was available. He was. They called him and he was there in 5 minutes.

"What did you have for me Mr. Fargo?"

"Just one thing. I'm not the only one who wears a PT uniform on this trail. I've seen another vet, or I guess he's a vet. He once jogged by me and said 'Hooah' so I expect he was regular Army. Anyway, I was behind him on the trail once when our handicapped vet approached us. I'm sure this guy didn't know he was also a vet. I just know one thing. He called him a faggot as he passed by. And he spit on the trail. That was months ago, but I remember it well now. This guy's on the trail almost everyday. He always nods at me."

"Thanks Mr. Fargo. That's the kind of thing that we need. Anything else?"

"No, sorry. But I hope this helps me. Now I'm really hoping you'll solve this."

"If we do it'll be because of people like you Mr. Fargo. Thanks again. I'll be in touch."

He didn't get in touch with me until the DA had charged someone. The vet on the trail.

"You were right Mr. Fargo. It was him. We found the rainbow flag in his room. He must have been keeping it for a stupid souvenir. It had our dead vet's fingerprints and DNA on it. We have our case. You'll have to testify. I don't think you'll mind, will you?"

I didn't mind in the least. He was sent up for 20 years to life.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

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