“Hi. This is”

The call would come from someone at the Berkeley Free Church

“I have a friend Joe”

or Glide Memorial Church or the MidPeninsula Anti-Draft Coalition or the Black Antidraft Union,

“who needs a place to stay for a while.”

The caller would be someone known and approved.

The person receiving the call would say, “I have a cousin in the country where he could stay” or something along those lines and make an appointment for Joe to meet this cousin or a friend or sister of the cousin. Jimmy preferred the parking structure at 5th and Mission.

Theirs was one filament. They were not privy to, did not want to know the others, ad hoc threads, decentralized, lightly drawn through rural houses, communes, tract homes, terminating in Vancouver, Toronto, Montréal. Lynn made first contact, dressed professionally so no passing cop would think hooker, drug deal and spook the Joe, wore an agreed-upon identifier (red scarf, purple sweater), made her awkward businesslike manner a reassurance to the young disquieted shorthaired men who sometimes brought a dufflebag though told it was only the first step, not time to go. No one ever looked up from the sidewalk to the first tier of the parking lot where Jimmy watched beside a pillar, Lynn’s backup and second-opinion.

This Joe was black, had no jitters, looked around him once or twice, used to watching his back, not straight from boot camp, not about to be shipped out. Not not not. Jimmy clicked into suspicion, but Lynn did not drop her purse, the signal to intervene. She told the Joe where a message would be left, telling him if the trip to the country was on or off and if on, where and when to meet. He nodded, asked a question, strode east toward the waterfront.

She liked him. “He’s a vet. Reupped. Something happened in Nam, he didn’t say what. He came here from Bangkok and wants out. He feels right.”

“Not too right?”

“He’s not shiny. Didn’t ask the wrong questions or too many.”

“What was that he asked at the end?”

“Did I think Canadians were as racist as Americans. I said how could they be? They never had slaves.”

Then things went badly. The Quaker family (some aspects of underground railroads never change) in Santa Rosa was leaving on vacation that night, had no substitute, the next stop was Portland, who would drive? The Quakers always arranged that leg of the railroad, and if this Joe were who he said he was, and all the Joes so far had been, he was already down for desertion. Jimmy did not like to improvise.

At 2 that morning the phone rang; Cathy dragged it to her ear.

Got the wrong number,” she said, “No Willy here.”

“Gimme it,” said Jimmy. She handed it to him, already back to sleep.

“Who is this?” he said.

“Wihlee?” The voice was in the wires, of the wires.

“Dwight? Is this Dwight?”

“In Redding,” said Dwight. “Hree oh nine Canal Treet.”

“309 Canal Street?”

“Yhes. In Redding. Dwight and Lake, you take us der.”

“Lake? Who’s Lake?”

“Lake. Rhun Ee-et nahn. The guy she tawk to.”

“This morning.”

“Negro soljer, yeah.”

“Ok, man, tommorrow.”

He set down the phone, imagined FBI agents in earphones, confounded, hearing only his and Cathy’s voices and on the other end a shudder of static on the line.