About the Author
He traveled to Europe and North Africa in 1969, then throughout the United States, working as a dishwasher, truck driver, and various other blue collar jobs until 1972 when he did a years postgraduate work at Kent State University (Ohio). He enlisted in the United States Air Force, serving with the Strategic Air Command until 1976.
Returning to Santa Fe, New Mexico, he began work on an earlier version of this story entitled Soldier of Aquarius. In 1977, he entered the University of New Mexico School of Law on the G.I. Bill, graduating magna cum laude in 1980.
Since 1981 he has served with the New Mexico State Police and District Attorney Offices in that state, as well as the Office of the Attorney General of American Samoa. Cassell is married and the father of five children. He currently resides in American Samoa.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Minutes later we were hand-in-hand walking up Dwight. Roberta was quiet and her head was down. She was thinking very hard. I was concentrating on the Berkeley vistas stretched out before me. These were the sights and sounds I had come to love. If I could only find a job, this was going to be my home for some time to come.
Both our trains of thought derailed in gasps of fear the second we rounded Dana. We stopped short just feet away from over 200 cops, drawn up in what looked like twenty or more ranks. The line extended curb to curb for at least two blocks down Dana toward the campus. There was a cavalcade of blue, gray and khaki uniforms, and badges of every shape, color and description. All wore their own departments blue, black, white or gold helmets, and the black or olive gas masks and flak jackets. All had batons. Some had grenade launchers and shotguns.
From deep within his gas mask, the voice of the cop nearest us rumbled "you better get out of here if you know whats good for you." Roberta and I needed no further prompting. We spun around and ran at full gallop all the way back to the apartment building. Arriving at the front steps and gasping for breath, Robertas face flushed crimson and her lower lip began quivering. She lowered herself to the steps, buried her head in her arms, and began bitterly sobbing. Her two clenched fists stuck upward. Wisps of her hair fluttered around them in the soft morning breeze.
"Oh GOD!" she sobbed. What is HAPPENING here! Get me OUT of this, John! Get me HOME!" I sat close beside her on the steps. She reached out and twined her arms around my neck and pulled me toward her. Our faces rested against one another. I could feel her warm, salty tears running down my cheek. My arms went around her back and pulled her even closer to me.
"I will, Roberta, I will." The momentous words fell without effort from my lips. Her arms wrapped tighter around my neck. Sitting in silence holding the girl who had taught me Lesson Number One, I could hear a faint roar coming from the general direction of Shattuck and slightly toward the Oakland city line. Once again Destiny seemed to have opened a new deck of cards. Waiting for me in Albuquerque was a rogue cop who had sworn to kill me. I would also find waiting the intensely painful vista of the little window where once had lived a beautiful young girl with a terrible disfiguring burn. A girl who would never in her life love another man but me. I would watch as Will and Roberta melted into each others arms and hungrily began catching up on all the time they had lost. The time I had stolen, however innocently and unintentionally, from them. I would not be there when Olivia came for her boxes. I would not be enjoying all the progress we had made getting to know! and care about one another. Yet in the end the decision had come as easily as sliding down a greased chute. No doubt a variety of twists and motivations would be ascribed to it. In the end, though, it came down to this: for the first, or at most the second, time in nine long months on the road, I was needed.
Roberta moved her hands to my shoulders and pushed back. She looked into my eyes, smiling broadly through the tears that were still falling. To our left around the corner of Dwight and Dana came the heavy footsteps of the large force of men in full riot gear. We watched in silence as the huge formation slowly trudged past in route step. They were moving in the direction of the distant muffled roar. As they marched past, I noticed some of the patches on their sleeves: San Francisco, Emeryville, Richmond, Oakland, San Francisco County, Alameda County, the California Highway Patrol. The City of Berkeley, its own police force exhausted after nearly twenty-four hours of working without letup, and with much more to come, had called on the surrounding areas for help. They had responded, as brothers and sisters should. They had responded just as I had responded to Robertas call for help. Gazing distrustfully across barricades drawn by age, race, and economic class, the various segments of Divided America were learning that ones own were all one had to rely upon. It was late April, 1970. The mood was turning ugly.