This is the 14th in this series of those not accepted by journals for publication also has its first line from The First Line Literary Journal. This is the second of four submitted as a group to the journal.
Ravi Locked Out
The door was locked. Ravi mumbled and knocked another time, this time as hard as he could. There was no response, he had five minutes. I’ll get it to his aid and have her time stamp it. Jordan Swain’s chair behind her desk in the office at the end of the hall was empty. None of the other aids had seen her all day.
Nellie Bligh, with whom Ravi had shared coffee-time on occasion, suggested he call the professor’s cell and gave him the number. It went to a message. “The number you are trying to reach is temporarily out of service. Please leave a voice mail message or try again later.” The switch to voice mail gave a message, “Mailbox full. Try again later.”
Ravi tried the aid’s cell and got the same response. “Can you time stamp my paper and put it in his mailbox?” he asked Nellie.
“I could, but I’ll need her stamp.” Nellie went to Jordan’s desk, but all the drawers were locked. “I’ll use mine and put a note on it. I can’t leave, so you get to take it to his mailbox in the faculty office.”
Ravi thanked her then she said, “Haven’t seen either of them since yesterday. You’re the third with a paper this morning. But no one else asked for a time stamp.”
The mailboxes were not secure – just wooden drawers with faculty names inserted into brass escutcheon frames. The box was full to the point where several papers and envelopes were visible over the opening notch. Ravi put his in a prepared envelope and stuffed it in about halfway down. With that many in there, mine shouldn’t seem any different. He returned to the aid station hoping to ask Nellie to lunch before going to the library to check his finals grades again. She was gone. He put a ‘thanks’ note without his name on her chair and decided to skip lunch.
Halfway to the library his no contract, pay by the month phone, rang. Ravi recognized the number. Boss want me in early or pull another double? Need to get the grade thing confirmed or settled. He declined the call. If it’s important, he will call back. It rang again as he started up the library steps. Better – don’t want it to ring inside. “Ravi here, what’s up Boss?”
“Hate to put this on you Reynolds, but Crenshaw wasn’t sick. He’s been arrested. If you can come in early, I’ll relieve you about mid-graveyard. I’m interviewing two people referred by social services this afternoon. Hard to find someone these days who isn’t on something, but they’ve supposedly cleared both of them.”
“An hour ago would be great, but ASAP.”
Twenty minutes later, Ravi parked his Volvo next to a marked police car in the assistant manager space behind Grimm Street 7-24 Market. Well, I guess Crenshaw isn’t needing it. He hung his jacket on a hook in the storeroom, stepped out, and saw an officer just inside the back door. At the swinging door store entry, he was met by another officer and the store manager.
The officer asked, “Ravi Reynolds?”
Ravi redirected his eyes. “What’s up Boss?”
Ravi saw Crenshaw through the Plexiglas vision panel in the swinging door behind the boss and officer before there was an answer. Must have brought him here for questioning or…
“Mr. Reynolds,” the officer said as Ravi sensed the second officer stepping closer, “you are under arrest for illegal sale or distribution of drugs including marijuana and cocaine and conspiracy to do so. The second officer was holding Ravi’s jacket and car keys. And the speaker continued with standard handcuffing instructions and asking, “Do you have any weapons or something we should know about before I search you for our safety?”
“I … ah … what? No sir, but…?”
Boss stepped aside, and handcuffed-Crenshaw moved through the swinging door followed by a fourth officer. The speaking officer searched Ravi while saying, “We would like to have permission to search your car.”
Ravi said, “There’s nothing in there except my school things, clothing, and my sleeping bag. I don’t understand.”
A third officer stepped inside the back door and the second tossed the keys to him. He exited.
The city newspaper ran an article on its third page:
Four persons were arrested yesterday for illegal distribution and sale of drugs. A student, university professor, his aid, and a convenience store assistant manager were taken into custody at two locations in the city. The professor and his female aid were arrested as they arrived at the university and the student and assistant manager just after noon at a 7-24 Market where they worked. Police are tight mouthed about how the small ring was discovered. The student will have a public defender and the other three have hired their own. The professor, aid, and assistant manager have posted bail, but the student remains in custody until a hearing next week.
Seven days later, Ravi went before a judge and the other three failed to appear. The judge issued warrants for them, and the assistant district attorney agreed to hold charges against Ravi in legal limbo until those who had accused him of participation could be found. Ravi was released to the streets with no job, no student status, no car, and no clue about what might be next.
It took most of the day for Ravi to step through the formalities for refunds of his master’s degree application payment and his half tuition pre-payment. The corporate position of 7-24 Markets was that Ravi could no longer be employed, but character witness Boss would allow university refund checks to be sent to the store address. Pending legal action made Ravi effectively unemployable except for cash work, but he had filed taxes for the prior year and expected a refund. It had been easy with just one W-2 from 7-24 Markets corporate office. Boss had let him use the store address for the refund.
A non-paying 4-hour cleanup job at Thursday Night Mission gave him two meals, a place to shower, and a dormitory bunk at night. He knew his earned college credits would follow him to another university, and the two test scores he’d wondered about continued his 3.5 gpa. Status of the class for which he and 20 others had written papers was undetermined. Even under inditement, the professor was still legally employed, but the university was going through hoops to give someone else authority to determine grades.
The university did not by academic or social policy disallow Ravi to enroll in classes. His inability to pay tuition was the problem. But he wanted to be ready should enough income become available. He used the mission’s office computer to download his next three required classes reading lists. With no student ID he didn’t have access to the campus library, so he sought out a community library within walking distance from Thursday Night Mission. Except for post breakfast and after evening meal cleanup, he had hours of free time for reading and had no desire to hang around on the streets. But he was essentially locked out of everything familiar.