Ninth in a series.
“You want to play in the back yard, son?” April Gallop says to the lanky 10-year-old tailing her on the front walk of a neat frame house in a Richmond suburb. “You go around; I’ll be right there.”
Elisha Gallop wears a straw hat and flip-flops in the heat of a July afternoon. He gives his mom a smile and runs to lift a heavy padlock from a side gate. The half-finished fence, being built by volunteers, remains open at the rear; anyone could walk in. But she still craves the reassuring click of a solid padlock.
“I won’t let him outside by himself,” Gallop says in a low voice, looking down the street. A woman walks her dog across the way, not glancing over, not giving a neighborly wave. “There have been some comments.”
Gallop leans against her car, a cherry-red BMW with a license plate that reads “A OVRCMER” and a fuel door that is slightly ajar.
“Now who’s been messing with this?” she murmurs, pushing it closed, scanning the yard again.
A “No Trespassing” sign is tucked into a trellis. Another is planted by the door. A third, askew between the glass and the closed blinds of a front window, warns that the property is under video surveillance. On a tidy, sunny block, it’s a house in a defensive crouch.
Gallop leans against the car and pulls papers from an envelope that a Chesterfield County deputy sheriff hand-delivered a few hours earlier. It’s another threat from the landlord.
“Why is this happening?” she asks.
The lease payments are up to date, paid during the past six years by a Pentagon Sept. 11 survivors’ fund. She thought she was renting to own, but now the property owner wants the house back. Gallop has an appointment with a lawyer the next morning. A new one. Is this the sixth or the seventh? It’s hard to remember all the lawsuits filed, the claims denied, the appeals that go ’round and ’round.
“Evidently he has formed some kind of opinion about me,” she says of the owner.
Maybe he’s like the neighbor who spit on her driveway a few months ago as Gallop hustled back behind the lowered blinds, away from the growing wariness of the neighborhood, ignoring the invitation to explain her “un-American” views and this business of Gallop v. Cheney.
“I think they Googled ‘April Gallop’ and didn’t like what they saw,” she says.
Ten years ago, there was no contrail of derision attached to her name. That was before she had fought with government agencies and private charities and school systems and she hadn’t yet sued airlines and banks and Osama bin Laden and the highest officials in the United States.
Before she had formally accused her government of making up that story about an airliner crashing into her Pentagon office.
She holds up her hands.
“All I’m doing is asking questions. When you walk out barefoot and you don’t step on any plane parts. . . .”
The hands come down, tired.
“Lord, help me make sense of this.”
Things stopped making sense on that brilliant September morning just as she pushed the button on her computer to start the day. In that moment, everything secure and understandable in the world fell on her head in a deafening avalanche of ceiling tiles and body parts.