I was 15, alone on the streets of a strange city at 11 pm, and more miserable than I’d been since the day my mother died. In my head I heard the over-dramatic TV announcer guy plugging the next episode:
WHERE….IS…..ROMAN? he says.
Well what could I do? I went to the only place I knew in Portland—the bus station.
Settling down on a cracked vinyl chair to spend the night (a tried-and-true strategy for vagrants like me), I closed my eyes. A jingling sound woke me I don’t know how much later.
There was the dude in the stinky red velveteen suit. Instead of his striped suitcase he carried one of those Salvation Army collection buckets. I reckoned he stole it.
“What?” I groaned. “What now?”
“Sweetie,” he said, “it seems to me like you need that Christmas present you asked for.” He pulled a thick wad of bills out of the bucket and stuffed them in the front pocket of my pack. “Good luck to you.”
I’d barely managed to sit up before he was gone. I’ll bet the nice people donating money had no idea it would end up in the hands of a no-account runaway.
Spurred by their good-will, perhaps, I went up to the ticket counter. I figured I’d best go back to school and face the wrath of Stella Chumwith. I knew what usually happened to teenaged girls trying to make a living on the street.
“Are you Anastasia Groschenko?” the ticket man asked. His name tag, I was not surprised to see, read SETH COHEN.
I sighed. “Yeah, so?”
“There’s a telegram for you.” He handed over the note.
TO: ANASTASIA GROSCHENKO
FROM: ROMAN ARCHER
COME TO NEHALEM
I FOUND IT
“Mr. Cohen,” I said, digging the cash out of my pack, “a one way ticket to Nehalem, please.”
Yeah, I know. I heard that announcer too.
DID ROMAN WRITE THE NOTE?
IS SETH COHEN THE SCARY CLOWN?
WHAT WILL ANASTASIA FIND IN NEHALEM?
TUNE IN NEXT TIME…