oliver was not rich and famous, a prominent and respected citizen, or a regular guy.
but he promised his mother he would always try to be a good person.
after his mother’s death, oliver lived alone In the house he had grown up in.
oliver had never been able to find employment after his graduation from high school. he had no friends or relatives, nobody to give him “references”, and he did poorly in job interviews.
his mother had received some sort of pension from his dead father’s employers, but the pension ceased with her death. so oliver lived on the money his parents had saved - not on its interest, but on the money itself.
an amount of money which was being depleted rapidly.
oliver lived frugally. he had no vices. he did not smoke - his mother had been a passionate anti-smoker although his father had liked a good cigar and the effluvia of his smokes lingered in the house thirty years after his death. oliver had never had a drink of liquor in his life and had no idea how or where to procure drugs even if he had been inclined to try them.
oliver’s diet was mostly cereal in the morning, and vegetable soup at night.
when she was alive, his mother had mostly fed him campbell’s vegetable soup. oliver had consumed many thousands of cans of campbell’s vegetable soup in his lifetime.
in order to save a little money, oliver began making his own vegetable soup from a recipe in a cook book his mother had owned but never consulted. it was not as good as campbell’s vegetable soup.
once a week, on saturday morning, oliver treated himself to a jelly doughnut or a creampuff from the local bakery. but as his money dwindled, he began to consider forgoing this indulgence.
despite this spartan diet, oliver was somewhat fat and flabby. and had a generally unprepossessing appearance.
oliver was the sort of person who, in an earlier age, might have been taunted and had objects thrown at him by the local children. but there were few children in his neighborhood, and such as there were spent their days indoors.
most of them were under the constant supervision of adults. and even those that were not, were also indoors attached to televisions, computers, and play stations. so oliver was spared this particular form of indignity.
oliver had inherited an ancient ford mustang, which he had learned to maintain himself, but which he drove very slowly.
his chief abusers and adversaries on a daily basis were other drivers. the sound of horns blasting behind him was the soundtrack of his life.
over the years he was rear-ended numerous times, but was never in any other accident or one in which he was at fault.
oliver was not much of a reader. his mother had been an avid reader of mystery novels and thrillers, especially those of agatha christie and james patterson, and oliver would occasionally try to read these, but his attention would quickly wander.
he did read newspapers. he walked to a cvs every morning - no matter what the weather - and bought a copy of the omaha world-herald, and sometimes the local weekly or an “alternative” paper with a lot of personal ads.
he did not have cable tv or a computer of any sort or a smart phone.
like most 21st century humans, he received many unsolicited phone calls, mostly from telemarketers. unlike most 21st century humans, he always answered them, and if there was a live person on the other end, he would engage them, or attempt to engage them, in conversation, although he never gave them any money or bought anything. he never gave them his credit card information because he did not have a credit card or even a debit card. (once a month he withdrew cash from the bank at a teller’s window).
he spent long hours staring into space and daydreaming.
despite all this, which might strike the reader as amusing or pathetic, oliver was not without a certain restlessness of soul.
and he took seriously his dying mother’s admonition to be a good person.
from reading the newspapers, and watching documentaries on network tv, two subjects attracted oliver’s attention.
missing children. and serial killers.
one fateful afternoon oliver presented himself at the local police station.
a young woman in uniform was sitting at the front desk and politely asked what she could do for him.
oliver told her he would like to help the police in any way he could to find missing children.
the young woman looked at him alertly.
“have a seat, sir. i will see if one of the detectives is available to talk to you.”
she disappeared and came back in a few minutes with another young woman, this one in a suit.
the young woman in the suit walked over to where oliver was sitting alone on the bench.
oliver stood up.
the young woman tried to look friendly but her eyes were cold. she did not offer to shake oliver’s hand.
“good afternoon, sir. i am detective fletcher. will you come with me, please?”