UNLIKELY HERO © 2017 Anthony D Darden

© 2017 Anthony D Darden

I have never considered myself a hero. It would seem unfounded and far from the truth. And to be honest, it would seem impossible in anyone's mind. Even mine. But here I was sitting in a jail cell feeling good about myself. Maybe the best I’ve felt in years. For the first time, I didn't mind sitting behind bars. I had been here a million times before. I was considered a career criminal, a loser. Of my thirty-two years, seventeen of them had been behind bars. And so deserving I must admit. I've done some pretty dumb things. I can't say I've had a luxurious criminal career. Far from it. I had been forewarned. One more strike and that’s it.
Now here I was, three strikes out, sitting here with a big smile on my face, eating a steak sandwich and drinking a soda the guard had slipped illegally through the slot in the door. Plus, he had dropped off some commissary that had been collected and sent to me with gratitude from fellow inmates who had heard the news. To them, I had made a great sacrifice.
When they came, I was ready. I did not resist. I did exactly as they ordered. “Put the gun down, lay on the floor, and put your hands behind your head.” Reservation of not being taken alive gone right out the door. Maybe in different circumstances. But this time, it was like exhaling. A calm peace swept over me. I felt something real and endearing. Something I had never felt in all my thirty-two years.
When I saw her, I fell in love. So beautiful and innocent. She looked at me and smiled. “Hi”, she said shyly. “Are you here to take me home?”
“Yes, you are going home. Are you okay?”
“I think so. I’m just hungry and want to go home.”
I looked her over carefully, and then removed her from the dog cage. I picked her up and she latched onto me, wrapping her arms around my neck and holding on for dear life. I felt her body trembling. A tear broke and ran down my cheek. I nested her head on my shoulder so she wouldn’t see my emotional state. “Now, you’re going to have to be very quiet and do as I say, okay.”
“Okay”, I heard her whisper in the pit of my neck and squeezing tighter.
I held her close and looked around the room. The old office was dingy. It had not been used in years, an old discarded warehouse that was secluded two miles off the main road. No one would ever think to look back here. It was falling apart. The windows were boarded up. The few that didn’t have boards was broken and laced with overgrown weeds. I would have never found it, except for the fact I had used it, back in the day, to store hot cars.
When he called, I was home. It was 6 am. I had not seen 6 am for a year now. I usually slept till noon. I would not have answered the phone if not for the persistent ringing. Finally, I reached over and grabbed it off the nightstand.
“Buddy Chest?”
“The one and only.”
“This is Jeff.”
“Not ringing a bell.”
“Jeff Lawson.”
“Still not ringing a bell.”
“You dated my daughter eight years ago. Janus Lawson.”
I sat up quickly. “Janus. Yes, I remember her. How is she? Is something wrong? Why are you calling, Mr. Lawson?” Everything kicked in at the same time. Janus had been the love of my life until she dumped me 8 years ago, while I was in prison. When I was released, I went looking for her. She was long gone, without a forwarding address.
“Janus is dead.”
The shock that ran through my body left me fighting for breath. I was sure I wasn’t hearing right. I swallowed hard. “Could you repeat that.”
“Janus is dead. She died 5 years ago from a pulmonary embolism.”
“I’m sorry to hear that”, I finally said. I was confused. “Why are you calling me, Mr. Lawson?”
“I need your help. It’s very important.”
“Why me Mr. Lawson? I haven’t seen or heard from Janus in 8 years. And the last time I talked to you, we were at each other’s throat.”
“It is very important Buddy. I’m sure if Janus was still with us, she would be making this call herself.”
“Because 8 years ago, when she left you, she was pregnant. You have a daughter.”
Talk about being floored. I was flabbergasted. And for the first time in my life, speechless.
I jumped in the shower while fresh coffee was brewing, still not believing what Mr. Lawson had told me. A daughter kept playing repeatedly in my head. I wondered what she looked like. If she looked anything like her mother, she was a beauty.
I made my way to the address Mr. Lawson had texted me. I cut a forty-five-minute drive into thirty-minutes. Mr. Lawson met me at the front door, looked around cautiously and ushered me quickly inside.
“Thank you for coming”, he said. “I didn’t know what else to do. And I’m afraid to call the police. They said they would kill her if I did. I can’t take that chance.”
“Do you know who took her?”
“I’m not sure. But I do have an ideal. After you went to jail Janus was seeing someone else for a short period. His name was Tim Rochester, a local spoiled rich kid. Said he went to school with her. But after he found out she was pregnant, he ended the relationship claiming she was trying to trap him. The relationship didn’t end well, and he started bad mouthing her all over town. He used to call her every day to harass her. I will never forget that voice.”
“So, what makes you think it is him?
“Like I said. I will never forget that voice. Tim Rochester is no longer the spoiled rich kid. His father lost all his money and is serving sixty years for a Ponzi Scheme. The family became local pariahs, and Tim became a druggie and took to the streets. He is involved in anything and everything. He was in the newspaper two years ago. A big kidnapping case that made international news. He was acquitted because witnesses disappeared. No charges could be brought against him because he was sitting in jail the whole time. It’s believed he’s in with a local gang called the Scorpions. They specialize in extortion, drugs, and kidnapping. The gang has been shaking down the town for years now. People are afraid.”
“Are you sure it’s him?”
“Like I said. I will never forget that voice. It’s engraved in my mind. The same voice that ran my daughter out of town. I will never forget it.”
I knew a lot of the Scorpions from being in and out of jail. A few had been good friends. But to say clean and out of jail, I avoided contact with anyone that was trouble. I knew they had a clubhouse in the city. The Wayby Room, a private pool hall where they hung out. Danny Fights was the leader. A fitting name, and just as dangerous. I remember Danny as the local drug boy in school. Weed, pills, go to Danny. He had evolved after high school, from a small-time dealer to a feared and believed to be killer.
I made a few stops first to gear up. Old friends were shocked to see me. “Man, I thought you had given up the life”, one had said. “Anything for you, Buddy”, another had said. “I owe you. I’d be in a grave rotting if not for you.”
I made it back to town. Two hours later I was making my way through the doors of The Wayby Room. Familiar faces popped up and greeted me with handshakes and brotherly hugs. Danny was happy to see me. “My brother! How long has it been? Go grab us a bottle and a few glasses”, he said to the fine girl sitting on his lap.
“It’s been some time. Since prison.”
“So, what brings you this way? Tired of the straight life? Need a few bucks?”
I waited until he poured us both a drink. Held up the shot glass. “To old times.”
“To old times”, he repeated.
“I’m looking for someone. Tim Rochester.”
“Can’t recall the name.” He held his composer, but I could see it in his eyes. “Personal business,” he asked after pouring us another shot.”
“An old friend.”
“I see”, he finally said. “Wish I could help. Isn’t that that rich kid from back in the day?” He said matter-of-fact.
“That’s him.”
“You know he’s not rich anymore. Heard he packed up and left town. He owes you money?”
“So, where you know Tim from?”
“He dated a friend of mine some years ago. I’m trying to locate her. I figure he knows.”
“I see”, Danny finally said after trying to read me. “This girl got a name?”
“Janus Lawson. She dumped me in prison.”
The look on his face said it all. “Doesn’t ring a bell. Can’t remember much about the rich kid other than I heard he left town after his father went to jail.”
“I heard he had joined the club.”
“I would have known that brother. I would have had to approve it. No matter how low on the totem pole.”
I picked up the bottle and poured us another shot. “Listen hear, Danny. I’m short on time and patience. Me and you go a long way back. And right now, I’m in a murderous mood. I’m ready to kill anything moving, including you right now if I don’t get the answers I need. Your men may get to me, but not before I put a bullet in your head. Tim Rochester has my daughter, and I’m willing to do anything to get her back. So, you can be straight with me, and I walk out that door. Or, I end our friendship right now.”
“I didn’t know”, Danny had confessed. “I had nothing to do with it. He’s on his own, I promise you. I would never sanction something like that.”
I knew he was lying and just trying to save his own ass. It’s hard not to lie with a desert eagle pressed up against your temple. He was quick to give up the location. I figured I had a thirty-minute head start before he showed up with his crew. Then all hell was going to break loose.
I held her tight and had just made my way to the SUV I had parked out back, when I heard the first explosion. Then there was a second screaming explosion moments later. Then the quietness told me they were regrouping. I put her in the SUV, made her promise to stay down, and geared up. I hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, and promised to be back. I made my way back inside and set up. If they were going to get to her, they would have to come through me first.
I saw the third explosion. Blood and body parts flew everywhere. They had made it inside. I saw two teams split up. Danny the leader signaled his men to move in different directions. They tried to flank me after I fired off a volley of rounds, only to trip more explosions. By the time the police showed up, Danny and two of his crew members were the only ones left. Tim had been killed in the first explosion.
I felt relief as they handcuffed me. She was safe, and that’s all I cared about. When they walked me to the SUV and open the door, she leaped onto me and hung herself around my neck, squeezing tightly. The officer, having a little empathy, released the handcuffs so I could hold her in my arms. I kissed away her tears until she stopped crying and trembling in my arms. I tried to hold the tears back, but I couldn’t. I cried and held on, until her grandparents showed up. It was only then she let me go. They both thanked me repeatedly, and held me close until it was time to go. They promised they would bring her to see me. And even got me a lawyer, who said I would most likely only have to do three years for the illegal firearms.
“You’re a hero”, he said. “An unlikely hero, who not only saved a little girl, but the people of this town.”

Where the heart lies ©2017 Anthony D Darden

Where the heart lies
©2017 Anthony D Darden

Without the key elements of devotion, honesty, and trust, it is a sham. It generates and breeds nothing but deception.
The second day of the year 2017. I would imagine many goals and resolutions have been set. I imagine many goals and resolutions will fall to the wayside, as many always do. Though, many will rise to the occasion. For many it is pertinent. Time is a valuable thing. Often it is not realized until it is gone. Then it is too late. We can't turn back time no matter how hard we wish or try. It is impossible. It is also gracious and a blessing if we take advantage of the time we have. More important, of the love we have for those in our life. Life often gets in the way. Valuable time is lost. And sometimes there is regret. Regret is often part of life if one does not take heed and redefine strength, faith, and belief. Even if one regrets something, they do have the power to amend or change, if that regret has not set in. Time is a very precious thing. Life and love is a very precious thing. Combined, they define us. What we do, how we handle time, and what we make of it, defines the outcome of our life and how we deal with our relationships. In love, we want the best. We want to give the best of who we are and expect the same in return. If you are in love, and wish to remain in love, it is time to stand and redefine your beliefs and strength. Complications sometime disable regret to stand in the eye of redemption or fate. Especially if there is or has been no communication. Some believe if nothing is said, the problem will go away or just be swept under the rug. It will not. Communication is a must. Whether it is good or bad. It is integrity and honesty. It is the door that opens to the soul. It is enlightenment, endearment, and humbleness. It speaks for one's character and who they are. It provides strength, will, and ambition that is needed to grow and prosper emotionally throughout life. No one should demean their character to save grace for another, even if it hurts. If anything respect is earned. No one respects a coward. Plus it does not provide trust. Nor can you find redemption in cowardliness. It diminishes character. It depletes morality, and most often is followed by another cowardly act or act of deception. Love is hope and faith. If it is believed to be true in the heart, then it is a choice to be pursued righteously for whoever is involved. Love becomes complicated when other entities persuade or direct. The strength of a relationship is built on devotion, loyalty, and trust. It is an inner circle, the parallel of hearts, through good and bad, trying times, and even in misconception. This is where its power and strength derive from. Strength and power is earned and not a given. It is what makes it great. It is what makes it true and real. Without the key elements of devotion, honesty, and trust, it is a sham. It generates and breeds nothing but deception. In the end, it is not just a lie to avoid responsibility and accountability, it is a lie of self degradation. A fools act in reprise, that lead to self deception, and self destruction.

The Desk of Anthony Darden: Christmas Stress © 2016 Anthony D Darden

The Desk of Anthony Darden: Christmas Stress © 2016 Anthony D Darden: Christmas Stress © 2016 Anthony D Darden Christmas reflects the depth of true blessings, a gift you cannot put a price on. Does ...

Christmas Stress © 2016 Anthony D Darden

Christmas Stress
© 2016 Anthony D Darden

Christmas reflects the depth of true blessings,

a gift you cannot put a price on.

Does it seem like Christmas? If not, it’s most likely because you’re feeling the high demand of Christmas stress. Sometimes the stress is so vast, people find themselves wishing it would “just be over already”. Christmas of old, is nothing like Christmas of new. Children and people are different now. Christmas was once about family and friends, sharing a specially day of true love and gratitude. It was once a day that brought hope, spirituality, embracing, and a warm comfort  that drove you forward to the coming day. The Christmas tree was bright and alluring with presents wrapped and tucked all around to tease with joy. And you could always smell the fresh baked cookies and pies. Joy would boil with excitement, just waiting for that day to get here. Sometimes it would just be too much for an overzealous kid, and a small gift would be slipped to them to calm them down. Christmas of old was so exciting. You really didn’t need much of anything. As long as you had each other, family and friends, and some great food.
Now it’s a high demand consume day. Christmas has been taken out of the family, and is now media driven and a demand from entitled children who believe they are entitled to your soul. Good parents struggle to provide all year for their children only for Christmas to come along and wipe them out and start their New Year in the hole. It is especially concerning and dishearteningly when a parent can not afford demanding gifts. Forget the fact of great parents. Forget the fact they have given all they can. Forget the fact they love you and will do anything in the world for you. These days, a lot of children don’t understand sacrifice or love. They only understand their own selfish needs and wants, and don’t care how you get it, as long as you get it.
Christmas is about family. It’s about love. It’s about caring, love, and comforting. It’s a special day to celebrate in the comfort of God. To be gracious, appreciative, and humble in the gifts that you have and share with each other. It is about embracing the spirit, spreading cheers and joy, and touching the heart of those fortunate and unfortunate. It’s not about a gift without meaning. It’s about a gift that reflects the depth of true love, caring, and support, a gift you cannot put a price on. It could be something just as little as a card that renders what you have to say and touches the heart not only on Christmas day, but years to come. Something real and of substance. Something that will always bring happy tears and a gift to be passed on down.
So, if you are feeling Christmas stress. Stop and think. Are you really feeling this Christmas? Or are you just trying to get through it to please others. Granted, you'd like to give everyone you love the world. And in most cases you are driven by guilt, which is the common nature of do-gooders. They sacrifice and take it on the chin like true troopers. Though, beating yourself up to please others, is no way a gift of Christmas. Not for you or the ones you love. It is simply enabling. In the long run, it will hurt your relationship. If you continue to feed entitlement, where entitlement is not due, it can become crippling and debilitating.

It you truly love and care for someone, you’re going to have to buckle down and deal with the real facts of life. If you want to give someone something great, give them the strength to stand and face the real world. Give them undying love and support. Always have a home for them to come back to when they stumbling and fall. Always welcome them with open arms, an optimistic view, a shoulder to cry on, and a listening ear. Always let them know you are there, no matter what. Always let them know they are loved, and will always have a special place in your heart. Don’t just mean it, say it. Let them know not only from your words, but let your actions reflect even when they may seem sometimes ungraceful or unappreciated. But most of all, let yourself know you are special and deserving of the utmost love and respect. Let yourself know you don’t have to buy love or meet the high expectations the media has fed your children or loved ones about Christmas. If you can afford it, it’s all good. Though not in terms of entitlement, but because it has been earned and it brings you the greatest joy to reward and be rewarded with true blessings on Christmas day.

The Desk of Anthony Darden: Time for Lovers © 2016 Anthony D Darden

The Desk of Anthony Darden: Time for Lovers © 2016 Anthony D Darden: Time for Lovers © 2016 Anthony D Darden It’s a powerful gift from nature to be embraced, taken advantage of, and cementing the loo...

Time for Lovers © 2016 Anthony D Darden

Time for Lovers
© 2016 Anthony D Darden

It’s a powerful gift from nature to be embraced, taken advantage of, and cementing the loose ends that have been neglected by the hustle and bustle of life.

It is cold outside on this December day. A winter white snow is falling, laying a bed for making snow angels, sled riding, and playful snowball fights. One of those days to snuggle up with your lover and enjoy the warmth and comfort under a nice fireplace with some toasted Marshmallows. One of those days for laughter, comfort, reintegration, and watching some good movies. One of those days for listening to some great music, and slow dancing. It’s that time to embrace and connect, look into the eyes and the soul of your lover, and find that special place only the two of you share.

Time is precious. And maybe it’s God's way of bringing us together, locking use in, and giving us the opportunity to evaluate what we have to make it that much more stronger. It’s a way to slow down, exhale, embrace affection and passion, and soar. It’s a powerful gift from nature to be embraced, taken advantage of, and cementing the loose ends that have been neglected by the hustle and bustle of life. It is a time to look into the eyes of your lover and pull out the substance and value of your deepest and most trusted emotions, and put those emotions to work in laying out serenity, setting goals, and reaching for a gracious and prosperous New Year.  It is a time for lovers to embrace, wrap your bodies around each other, and stay toasty on this cold winter day.

The Desk of Anthony Darden: Hope on Christmas Day © 2016 Anthony D Darden

The Desk of Anthony Darden: Hope on Christmas Day © 2016 Anthony D Darden: Hope on Christmas Day © 2016 Anthony D Darden To those who have nothing, and the gift of something as small as a hug. What will y...

Hope on Christmas Day © 2016 Anthony D Darden

Hope on Christmas Day
© 2016 Anthony D Darden

To those who have nothing, and the gift of something as small as a hug.

What will you be doing Christmas day? I’d like to think the world will wake full of cheers and joy. I’d like to hope that on this day, blessing will pour and love will spread like wildfire and one big gracious happy smile will consume the world. I’d like to think it will bring families together, and those that have been torn apart by bitterness and misfortune, will embrace forgiveness and find some way to find their way back home and into the arms of love. I’d like to think deep down, all people are good inside and that they can overcome all their adversities, especially with family and those they claim to love. But as we know, the world doesn’t always have a forgiving heart. And most times, it is not someone in the street that hurts you, it’s within your own family and with those who claim to love you. It is sad, but it is true.

Though, I do believe there is always hope. Most likely, because it’s in my nature. No matter how I feel, or what I may sometimes believe, hope always rise to the top. So, on this Christmas, I inspire hope. I hope all will wake with a smile and a blessing. I hope if you have suffered any misfortunes or mistrust throughout the year, your year ends with praise. I hope any displeasure you may have in your heart, is distilled with forgiveness, to make your heart strong and pure. I hope the weak will rise to stand against adversity in the New Year and find peace of mind and prosperity. I hope tears will be washed away with rejoice and joy will ring in the New Year with inspiration, motivation, and innovation. I hope all that find misfortune on Christmas day, that have nothing to give, or cannot afford to put anything under the Christmas tree, find that one spark of Christmas magic in a kind heart and a helping hand. But most of all, I hope this message is carried to not only embrace the Christmas spirit, but the spirit of kindness, love, humbleness, grace, and thankfulness to be passed on down to the less fortunate, to those who have nothing, and the gift of something as small as a hug, will bless their day and give them hope and belief for the bettering of mankind and the start of a new and brighter future.

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