Recap: The three civil rights workers were arrested, and Yonah was allowed to go free because his relatives were associated with the Herrings. He’s racing to try to get help for his three friends, but he’s accosted by Jed and hit over the head.
The next morning, my head was throbbing with pain. I cleaned up the blood on my pillow and on my neck and forehead. I showered quickly and headed to the dry cleaners. I was anxious for Ben to tell me how James, Mickey, and Andy were doing. They must have slept at the Chaney’s home last night.
When I got to the cleaners, Ben rushed over to me. “Do you know where James is?”
“He’s not at your house?” I asked.
Ben shook his head. Worry furrowed his forehead. “Ma was up all night. It’s not like him not to call and to just not come home.”
I whispered in his ear about the arrest and that they must have been bailed out. They weren’t in the jailhouse. Where were they?
“Can you go to the Freedom School and find out if they’re there. Maybe their phone broke, and they couldn’t call or something.”
I decided to cut school. I didn’t want to bump into Jed and his gang again. “I’ll catch a bus to Meridian and go see,” I said. “Don’t worry. I’m sure they’re fine.”
Panic engulfed me. What if they weren’t fine? What if the KKK got them? There were so many threats.
I sat on the bus. It was another stifling June day. The black people were sitting quietly in the back of the bus. I stared out the window as the bus traveled by lush greenery. The towns were small here. Mississippi was a whole different world, I mused. I kept replaying what had happened last night. James was an expert on the winding roads in Neshoba County. He could have easily outdriven the police car if it wasn’t for that flat tire. Had someone punctured the tire? I wondered. Was this all a setup – a trap for my friends? I shuddered, thinking of the KKK meeting I’d seen and the men with their white spooky hoods and their hate-filled hearts. I pictured Sheriff Price with his cowboy hat and spurs. There was a gleam in his eye when he arrested the three civil rights workers. He looked like a man who’d caught a big fish he had hoped to trap. He arrested my friends on trumped up charges. He knew whom he’d snagged, and he was triumphant about it.
I remembered the cold fear in the pit of my stomach. He’d let me go just because of the Herrings. And my friends? What happened to them after they were driven away in that police car? I knew they’d been taken into the jail. Mrs. Herring’s book proved that, but then what? It sickened me. I felt nauseous when I thought of what might have happened. No, they must have been bailed out and they must be somewhere. They had to be at the Freedom School. I prayed they would be there. I hurried off the bus at Meridian. The sun beat on my head. My head was still throbbing from the attack last night.
I ran towards the school. The door was slightly ajar. I knocked. No one answered. I stepped inside. The room was empty. The readers Rita used with the children were piled on a desk. There were forms with the Preamble to the Constitution and pencils and a magnifying glass that one of the older black men used to read the forms. There was a bowl and a spoon and a box of cereal on the table. I suspected Andy or Mickey must have eaten breakfast here, but when? Was this from two days ago? Gandhi scampered over to me with his tongue hanging out. “Hello, Mickey?” I called.
My voice echoed in the empty room. I poured water into Gandhi’s water dish and I found some dog biscuits and emptied them into her food bowl. “Where’s your master?” The dog’s eyes seemed to echo my question. I had a terrible, sinking feeling inside. They weren’t at the Chaneys. They weren’t at the Freedom School. Where were they?
I found the CORE office number on a paper near the phone and I dialed. Sue Brown, a volunteer, answered. “Do you know where Mickey and Andy Goodman and James Chaney are?” I asked breathless.
There was a beat. “We’re worried. We haven’t heard from them since yesterday morning.”
I told her about going to the Zion Church and then their getting arrested by Sheriff Price.
“I went to the jail house, but they weren’t there. I assumed they were bailed out.”
Sue put someone else on the phone. “This is Mary King,” She sounded really upset. “They weren’t bailed out. We don’t know where they are. I’m going to call John Doar, the federal justice down there. He’s sympathetic to us. He’s the only one. We have to contact the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol. I’ll have someone call Andrew Goodman’s parents and Rita.”
I would call Mrs. Chaney, as well. This was an emergency.
To be continued…
Susie Garber is the author of Denver Dreams (a novel, Jerusalem Publications, 2009), Memorable Characters…Magnificent Stories (Scholastic, 2002), Befriend (Menucha Publishers, 2013), The Road Less Traveled (Feldheim, 2015), fiction serials and features in various magazines including A Bridge in Time – historical fiction serial (Binyan Magazine, 2017). She writes for the community column for the Queens Jewish Link and she writes the Queens page for Hamodia. She works as a writing consultant in many yeshivos and she teaches creative writing to students of all ages.