Copyright 2008 by Terriblethom (Thomas Bailey). This story may not be reproduced in any form without the author’s written permission.

 

 

The Protector

 

 

 

Chapter # 1

 

 

 

What was I doing in this small town in Arkansas? I was going to stick out like a sore thumb while I looked for the child I had been sent to find and return to his mother. I stopped at a sign that said “Diner” and decided to go in for some food since I had been driving all night. I figured since it was the only place I had seen to eat, it would also be a good place to hear all the local gossip.

 

Before I go any further, I think I had better fill you in a little on what I do.

 

My name is Jon Morgan and I am called a protector by Children’s Services. I take on the jobs the local authorities won’t bother with. Like hunting for children that spouses have taken without the court’s permission or looking for dead beat parents who won’t pay support or help their kids out. That pretty much is the meat of most of the jobs I accept.

 

I am thirty two years old and single, and have lived in France for most of that time. My parents were killed in an automobile accident while on holiday there, and I was put in an orphanage. I was three at the time and had no papers or passport. They had all burned in the accident. When I was sixteen, I ran away and lived on the streets of Paris for over a year until I was befriended by a Captain in the French Foreign Legion. He talked me into joining so I spent the next eight years in the service of France. I traveled all over the world, mostly spending time in the armpits of war and countries that didn’t want us there. I made squad leader in my fourth year and was in charge of my own unit. We were in Ethiopia when I rescued a family that was about to be executed by some rebels. The man I rescued was a manager for a Nigerian Bank who had gone there to get his family out to give them a better life. I was lucky enough that he spoke French and was able to give me his name and where he lived.

 

We escorted him and his wife and kids to safety. Before he left us, he told me if I ever needed his services, all I had to do was contact him. I didn’t know it at the time, but he would turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. We went from Ethiopia to Algiers to help control the drug trade and to try to stop some of the smuggling going on.

 

It was in Algiers that I lost my whole squad, but gained much after I got over the grief of losing the men I had been so close to. We were on patrol in jeeps in a little burg along the ocean, when we saw several cars parked near an abandoned barn. We went to check it out and as soon as we got close, we were caught up in a gun battle with the owners of the vehicles.

 

To make a long story short, we won, but I was the only survivor of my squad. I had been wounded three times, but they were not crippling wounds. As soon as I stopped the bleeding, I called for assistance for my men. When I went into the barn, it was apparent why they had opened fire on us. There were more than a hundred kilos of high grade raw opium and hashish on a table inside the barn. That’s when I found six duffel bags of U.S. Dollars to be used to pay for the dope. I didn’t know how much was in them, but being the only person still alive, I hid them until I could figure out what to do with all that money.

 

By the time the investigation was over it was almost three months later. I found myself being discharged from the Legion because of nerve damage in one of my hands. I was sent back to France for further medical treatment and that’s when my mother's father found me. It seemed he had been looking for me for all those years, thinking I was dead along with my parents, but was hoping I wasn’t. He had my DNA checked to confirm my identity and I was given dual citizenship because of my service in the Legion. He went back to the U.S. where I was supposed to join him as soon as I was discharged from the hospital. I went to Algiers first and recovered the money I had hidden. I took it to Nigeria and let the man I had rescued take control of it. He promised me he could double it in a few years by using offshore accounts and wise investments. I gave him ten percent off the top for his services and he said that was more than enough to put his children through college. His name was Quanta Mutamba and he was true to his word. I am now a multi-millionaire three times over, thanks to his good management of my investments and stock portfolio. I have it mostly in offshore accounts that he set up and I use a credit card for anything I want to buy. I live in my grandfather's house in Virginia and have a maid and a handyman who live on the property. My grandfather passed away five years after I came to the states and left it to me since I was his only relative.

 

Thanks to his contacts and friends, I was able to get a Federal Gun Permit and I was appointed as a National CASA representative for all states. I get called in when a case is at an end because of interstate flight or they can’t get cooperation from the state they are trying to get the kid or kids from. It's not a glamorous job, but it has its moments.

 

Now that you have been brought up to date on my history, let’s get back to the case I am working now. I was contacted by the Tennessee Department of Children Services about this one. A child had been taken away from his mother by the father who was a drunkard and an abuser. She had full custody and when he found her, he put her in the hospital and took the three-year-old with him. The local law was related to him and refused to cooperate with Tennessee in recovering the child, so they called me and asked if I would try to get him back. I visited the mother in the hospital. Her story and condition helped me make up my mind to take the case. I got the court order from CASA in case I needed it, and headed for Slagston, Arkansas. I had stopped to make a courtesy call at the State Police and told them who I was and what I was doing there. I was warned by them that I was on my own until I got out of that county. If I needed help anywhere else, then they would come running. This was nothing new and I had been in the same situation before.

 

I had the father’s address and directions to get there, but I had been told by the mother that he was always hanging out at the diner. I got out of my truck and walked into the diner. As was common in a small town, I was eyeballed by the four or five people sitting inside as I walked in. I took an empty seat at the counter and ordered coffee and the breakfast special. I was asked a couple of innocent questions by the waitress, and I answered her loud enough so that everyone could hear. This seemed to take the attention off me as I figured it would, so I just sat and listened to the old men talk. I was sipping my coffee when the boy I was looking for came in the door with his dad. I could tell he wasn’t happy, because he was dirty and his dad was yanking him by the arm to come inside. They sat down in the empty booth to my right where I could watch them out of the corner of my eye. I was looked over pretty closely by his dad because I was a stranger, but he didn’t seem to be suspicious of me. I don’t know what the little boy said, but his dad reached across the table and slapped him hard and he started crying. It was all I could do not to go over and slap the asshole silly, but I knew I would have my chance later.

 

I finally got my food and to my surprise, it was excellent. Whoever the cook was, he knew what he was doing. The eggs and bacon were cooked better than most of the expensive restaurants I had eaten at in Virginia. I took my time eating and kept watching the two of them as I did. He had to have been one of the most foul mouthed parents I had ever heard as every other word out of his face was a cuss word. The little boy was miserable from the way he was acting. I watched as the waitress tried to cheer him up but his dad said he was just a little cry baby and needed to get toughened up.

 

The boy was three and was being treated like he was full grown. I think the topper of it all was when his dad pulled out a bottle of whiskey, poured it in his coffee, and then tried to get the little boy to drink some. I was almost ready to explode after watching all of this, but I knew I had to act like I didn’t know them in order to affect the rescue I had planned.

 

I looked up when the door opened and a uniformed officer came in and sat down with the father, pushing the boy over against the wall so he could fit into the booth. The dad then offered him some whiskey for his coffee when the waitress set it down on the table. To my surprise he accepted, smiling as he did. Man, no wonder the State Police didn’t want to come in here. The way this was accepted by the other people, it must have been an everyday occurrence here.

 

I finished my meal and left a nice tip and went to my truck to wait. As I sat in my truck, I made a couple of calls and was surprised by the information I was able to gather about the Police Chief here. I was told this was a two-brother force and they had a really bad reputation in the county. They were related to half the people who lived here and had several complaints about being heavy handed with strangers who came into town. They also were suspected of growing weed and selling it, but nothing was ever proven.

 

When I had talked to the mother, she had filled me in on the whole bunch that lived here, and she also had said that’s how most of the men in the area lived. They grew weed and sold it, using the money to drink while they smoked their own product. I watched as the chief came out and got into an old unmarked 4x4 that needed a muffler and drove off. Let’s see, I had a three-mile stretch of highway to be clear of the county line, so I didn’t need to worry about pursuit. Maybe I would just knock the dad out and grab the boy and go. No, I didn’t want the boy to see that, but I needed some way to keep the father out of the way. I needed at least an hour so I could get far enough away so the father couldn’t find me before I could turn the boy over to the authorities. My thoughts went out the window when the boy and his father came out of the diner. He opened the back door on the old rusted out Chevy and almost pulled the kid's arm out of its socket when he threw him into the car. I could hear the scream plainly from where I was sitting in my truck.

 

When he started the old car, I wondered how it ran, it was smoking so much. He pulled out and headed past me, going toward the city limits on the same road I had come in on. He wasn’t going home if the directions I had gotten were right. I waited until he was almost out of sight and pulled out following him. He went right out of the county, headed for I didn’t know where but now I had my chance. I got on my cell and called the State Police and identified myself, giving them my location. I was told they had already positioned two cruisers about a mile from my location and asked for a description of the car. I gave it to them and just waited for them to make their move. When they came in behind him, I could see he must have floored the old car because the fog behind it got twice as thick. The so-called chase didn’t last long and I heard the old car’s engine blow above the sirens.

 

He drifted to the side of the road and came to a stop. The troopers went to the car and he came out fighting. They quickly had him down and cuffed before getting the boy out of the car. That’s when I went forward and approached him.

 

“Hi Tommy, my name is Jon and I was sent to get you by your mother. Do you want to go home?”

 

He just jumped into my arms, sobbing his head off. I hugged him to me, thinking this is what’s it's all about.

 

“Is my mommy ok, sir?”

 

“She will be fine and is waiting for you to come home.”

 

I got a tentative smile when the Trooper came up to me and the boy.

 

“Mr. Morgan, I just found out there is a Federal warrant out on him for kidnapping and child abuse. Do you want us to take the boy and make sure he gets home?”

 

“Not necessary. I will make all the arrangements and make sure he gets back to his mother. I have court papers giving me temporary custody until he is returned. I will get him to the nearest airport and make sure he gets on the plane. I have a friend who will escort him back to Tennessee.”

 

“Ok Mr. Morgan. We will do the paperwork on the dad, so I guess you and the boy are free to leave.”

 

I watched as he walked back to his cruiser. I felt the little hand slip into mine. I stood there and looked down at him and he was looking up at me and smiling.

 

“Come on Tommy, let’s go get you cleaned up, and get you on a plane with my friend.”

 

Aren't you taking me home?”

 

I have to drive my truck back but I am sure you will like Sarah. She is really pretty and likes to help kids get home where they belong. Have you ever flown on a plane before? I think you will like it, and you can tell your mom all about it when you get home.”

 

When we got in my truck and I got him into the car seat, he almost immediately fell asleep. I looked over at him and wondered how much he would remember as he got older. Maybe later in life his dad might change and want to be part of his life. I called Sarah and told her I was on my way in and what sizes of clothing I thought would fit him. She said she would be waiting and would book an immediate flight back to Tennessee for them. I had to smile because Sarah had been bounced around in the system for years. She had finally graduated from High School with honors and had gone on to graduate from College at the top of her class with a degree in Social Work and Sociology. She had come to me and asked if there was any way she could help with the kids. I immediately jumped and made her my official helper by flying her to wherever I was with a kid and having her escort them back home. So far, it had worked out great. She had helped by counseling them as much as she could to get their lives back to normal after the shock they had gone through. She also got paid a good salary by me, but it came through one of the companies I owned stock in so it would be legal and tax deductible. She seemed happy with what she was doing, and the kids all seemed to like her almost immediately.

 

I had realized in the first six months she worked for me that she had a crush on me. But, to her credit, she had always kept our dealings and relationship professional. Besides, she was only 25 and looked like she was still in high school. She had been thinking about starting her own practice, specializing in abused kids only, for any agency that needed her. I had already told her I would front the money for her to get started when she made up her mind. I hadn't heard her mention it now for quite awhile.

 

I pulled into the Holiday Inn Express by the airport where she was waiting for us in the lobby. Tommy, like every other child, was immediately captivated by her bubbly personality and youthful looks. He went off with her after giving me a hug and thanking me for sending him home to his mommy. I hugged him back saying he was welcome and watched as they walked off chatting with each other. Sarah had told me their flight would leave in an hour, and she had to get him bathed and fed before they took off.

 

I went to the front desk and got the key for the room I had booked. I was going to sleep for about twelve hours, then drive back to Virginia. I got in the room and took a shower, then waited on Sarah to call me, letting me know they were safely on the plane before I went to sleep. Forty-five minutes later she called and said they were boarding and would be in the air within ten minutes. I was finally able to relax and sleep, remembering a bad incident that still haunted me to this day.

 

It had taken six months of hard work for me to track a twelve-year-old girl who had been taken from a foster home by her uncle. He had taken her to some kind of religious group in Texas and I had a hell of a time getting her out. I finally got her away and put her on a plane for home, but during a layover someone had cut the stewardess' throat and snatched her again. The stewardess lived but she didn't have any idea who had taken the girl. I spent the next six months trying to find her, but in vain. It was like she had been whisked off the face of the earth. I did know the group had compounds in several different countries, so I used my contacts to watch for her just in case she was in one of them. I had a large reward standing for her recovery, just in case. The uncle had bonded out of jail and had disappeared also. I still was holding out hope she would be spotted so I could go get her again.

 

 

 

Chapter # 2

 

 

 

I woke the next morning to the ringing of my cell. I sleepily got up and answered it and it was Sarah. She was calling to tell me that Tommy was back safe with his mother, and that Children’s Services was helping them find a new place to live.

 

“Sarah, if they need anything to get started, use the credit card to get them what they need. I will be heading out to Virginia in about a half hour. If you need anything else, call me.”

 

“Ok Jon, and I do need to talk to you when you get back. I’ve had something come up I need to discuss with you.”

 

“Whatever you need Sarah, you know I will help all I can.”

 

“Ok Jon, and thanks.”

 

She hung up the phone. I went into the shower to get woke up and then I headed out. I got my kit packed and went to the front desk to settle up. I grabbed a free cup of coffee and headed out of town. I stopped to fill the truck with gas and check the oil and other fluids. I figured I would stop again later at the little truck stop I had found on the way up and have breakfast. Then I would try to drive straight through, like I did coming up. As I drove I let my mind wander back to how I had gotten in to all of this.

 

When I first came here from Nigeria after depositing the money, my grandfather met me at the airport. He seemed to want to tell me my whole family history on the drive to his house in the country. As it turned out, my father had been a juvenile court judge and my mother was the Director of children’s services for the State of Virginia. I had to admit that I wasn’t impressed by what my parent’s vocations had been because I never knew them. They had gone to Paris for their fifth anniversary. It was there that they had the accident that killed them both. My grandfather had made more than fourteen trips to France to try to find out what happened to me. He finally got his first lead when he talked to Interpol and they did some checking for him. They found some old records and he hired a detective at that point. That’s how he was able to track me down.

 

I had worked for Interpol on several assignments as most Legionnaire members did between wars. We were used for undercover work, watching drug kingpins, and that type of thing. When I came here to the U.S., I still had my ID from them. My grandfather used it to get me sworn in as a Special U.S. Marshal. I only had to promise that if I was needed, I would be available. In return, I got this shiny round badge and an ID with my mug shot on it. As I had dual citizenship, I still had my Interpol identification. That caused quite a hassle with the Marshal’s Service. Interpol wanted me to keep my ID from them so I could be called upon to help out in international cases if I was needed. Since I spoke three languages fluently, I would be very useful to Interpol if they needed someone interrogated in the U.S. It was finally decided I would use the Marshal’s Badge for domestic arrests, and if I was called upon by Interpol, I could use that ID for international cases. Either way, I could carry a firearm anywhere I went.

 

My thoughts were interrupted when I came up on the exit where I remembered the truck stop was. I got off the highway and went in to eat. I had stopped here by accident the first time because I was low on gas and hungry. I discovered the food was outstanding and the portions were enough to feed two people. Once again, I left feeling like I was going to bust out of my pants. I topped off my tanks and hit the road with a large thermos of black coffee. I was determined I would keep going until I got home and then I could sleep for a couple of days. When I got settled into the monotony of driving, I went back to my thoughts about why I had gotten into this CASA position.

 

It was an incident that I got into the middle of in a little town near where I lived. I had gone to the little town to look at a horse I had heard about. It was supposed to be a registered quarter horse with all the papers. I finally found the farm, and to say it was a dump would be putting it mildly. As I pulled in, I wondered how someone who lived like this could afford an expensive horse like that.

 

When I slowly got out of the truck, a little girl I would guess to be about five years old came running out of the house. She had on a ripped and dirty dress and no shoes. She was bubbling over with enthusiasm and had a big smile on her face as she came up to the truck.

 

“Hello mister, what brings you out here?”

 

“I heard there was a horse for sale and I came to look at it.”

 

Well her little dirty face fell and she looked at me with big eyes before she spoke again.

 

“That’s Sparky, and he was mine until Daddy decided he wanted to sell him. I raised him from a little thing when his mama died while he was being born. I tried to talk Daddy out of selling him but he says he can’t afford to feed us both. I would give what little bit I get if he could eat it. If you buy him, will I be able to come and see him if I can find a way to get there?”

 

I started to answer her when a man I took to be her dad came out of the house walking toward us. He was filthy looking and had dried tobacco juice on the side of his face. I could smell him even before he got to me. He walked up and without saying a word, slapped the little girl so hard along side of her head that she flew about five feet, hitting the dirt on her face. I just stared at him in shock, not believing what I had seen with my own eyes. I was heading toward the little girl who was struggling to get to her feet, when he grabbed me to stop me from going to her.

 

“Just let the little bitch be. She needs to learn some manners. She knows not to talk to strangers unless I give her permission. Her mama was a whore and she is turning out the same way. If she was mine, I would sell her to the highest bidder so I wouldn’t have to feed her.”

 

I hit him so hard I broke off four of his teeth at the gum line, I found out later. Then I proceeded to kick the hell out of him. If it hadn’t been for the bleeding little girl, I might have kicked him to death right there. She grabbed my arm, begging me not to hit him again. Seeing her skinned and bleeding face brought me back to my senses. I backed off and called the law to come out and bring an ambulance.

 

I got my first aid kit out of the truck and was doctoring the little girl’s face when the sheriff pulled up.

 

“Mister, I don’t know who you are, but you just got yourself into a lot of trouble. Now I’m gonna have to arrest you and make you pay all the hospital bills for this man. You don’t come into my county and beat up my friends.”

 

“Sheriff, you need to pick your friends a little more wisely. As for arresting me, I was defending myself against this child abuser.”

 

“She may not be his kid, but as long as he feeds her he can treat her how he wants. Now you can come along peacefully, or I will give you a little bit of what you gave him before I take you in.”

 

“Sheriff, if you ever try something like that with me, you’ll be in the hospital next to him. Now if you pull that gun you’re reaching for, I will break your arm before you get it out of the holster.”

 

He didn’t stop, so I kicked his wrist, pinning it against the handle of the pistol and distinctly heard it crack. To my surprise, he pissed himself as he screamed that I had broke his arm. I stepped back and pulled my gun to make sure he didn’t do anything foolish while I waited for the ambulance I could hear coming. He was jabbering into his radio so I just waited to see what was going to happen next. The little girl had moved over by my side and was crying. I knew her face hurt her, the way it was all skinned up, but I didn’t have anything in the first aid kit to help her. We were both at a standstill until the ambulance arrived. It finally slid to a stop in a cloud of dust and two people piled out. One was a woman and she immediately came over to the little girl while the sheriff corralled the man, begging him to do something about his broken arm. The woman went down on her knees opening her medical case and started treating the little girl.

 

“What happened, Sally? Did he get drunk and beat you up again?”

 

“I don’t know why Daddy hit me this time, Miss Mertie. I was only telling this fella about Sparky, and Daddy just up and walloped me. Then this fella stomped him when Daddy grabbed him. He was only trying to help me get up out of the dirt. God, I hate it here, but I ain’t got nowhere else to go since mama ran off. He is so mean to me all the time, and now he is selling Sparky off. Miss Mertie, ain’t there someplace I can go where I don’t get beat on all the time?”

 

“Child, there isn’t anyone here that has room to take in another mouth to feed. Besides your step pappy won’t let you leave, you know that. Mister, I don’t know who you are, but I can tell you they will beat the hell out of you once they get you inside the jail. I suggest you call a lawyer right now if you have one. The sheriff ain’t knowed for being nice to strangers, let alone one who hit him. He called for help, so I suggest you better make some quick calls before his men get here.”

 

That’s when I realized the significance of what I had done because I let my temper get away from me. I made a couple of calls and reached into my pocket and got out my badge. I hung it from my pocket in plain sight. If I remembered correctly from the classes I had taken, he couldn’t arrest me without first calling a Federal prosecutor and going through the paperwork involved. But, I had the power to arrest him and his men if they wanted to push it. I hadn’t identified myself to him, but I had never had the chance to either. Well, he would know now, and so would his men when they got here. I heard the sirens coming and it was two cars this time with two men in each of them. They all skidded to a halt, raising a cloud of dust. They ran over to where the sheriff was being treated. He was pointing at me and yelling at them and all four headed my way. They were all mean looking, but the one in front I knew was going to be trouble, just by the way he swaggered as he walked. I had seen his type all over the world. He was big and a bully who thought muscle and meanness would make him king of his domain.

 

When he got within five feet, he spied the badge. He stopped so fast I thought he was going to fall on his face. He squinted and read it, and then backed up, looking a little white around the eyes. He turned around and motioned for the other three to follow him as he went back to the sheriff. I heard yelling and several “you’re crazys” before he came back to me by himself.

 

“Marshal, I was told to be polite and get a statement from you about this. The sheriff offers his apologies for what happened and would like to offer you a cup of coffee in town to talk it over. He didn’t realize you were a Federal Marshal when he drove up.”

 

“Deputy, at this stage of things, I could care less what the sheriff wants. I will also tell you that the head of Children’s Services with an attorney for me and the little girl will be here shortly. That man on the ground is lucky the girl pulled me off or I might have killed him for what he did to her. I will tell you this; she won’t be living here anymore if I have any say about it. My attorney will handle the matter when he gets here. As for your sheriff, I could arrest him for assault on a Federal Officer but I don’t want to see him piss and moan anymore than he already has. My suggestion to him would be to drop it and I will too.”

 

He just looked at me for a second and went back over to the sheriff. From the yelling that was going on, I didn’t figure the sheriff liked the idea. The surprising thing about this whole thing was that the man who was out cold on the ground seemed to have been forgotten about by everyone. I bent over and grabbed one of the ammonia capsules and broke it under his nose to see if I could get him awake long enough to talk to him. He came around but was very slow about it when he saw me standing over him. I went to one knee and talked softly into his ear.

 

“Mister, you can go to prison or make a deal with me. I will buy the horse for top dollar but the little girl goes with me. I will give her a good home and a good education, but you will be required to stay completely away from her from now on. I will also throw in five thousand dollars for a bonus if you agree to my proposal.”

 

I watched as the dollar signs were spinning around in his head as he first looked at me then the little girl. He seemed to ponder the whole thing for a few minutes and whispered to me; “I won’t take any less than fifteen thousand for the both of them.”

 

“I will give you twenty, but you have to sign the papers and come to court to testify that you are giving up all parental rights, if it’s needed in the future.”

 

“I kin do that, and I want half of the money up front as soon as I sign release of custody papers.”

 

“Ok, but you do realize that if I give you the money and you try to get greedy, I will come back and kill you or have it done by someone you don’t know?”

 

“Hell mister, I been tryin’ to get rid of that little bitch ever since her mom left with the carnival three years ago. I won’t back out, and once I get all the money, you won’t ever hear from me again. I can sell this dump and go out west with my brother on his sheep ranch. I won’t even try to press charges against you, now that I know you are a Marshal. No sir, once I get the money I am gone forever.”

 

“You got a deal then. I will take the horse and all the papers needed to register him with me today when I leave.”

 

He just nodded his head yes and wearily lay back down in the dirt. The female ambulance attendant came over and started to examine him, giving me a suspicious look as she did. I backed away and waited for the car I saw coming in the distance to arrive. When it pulled up, my grandfather’s attorney came directly over to me. I told him what had happened from start to finish. When it came to the deal about the horse and girl, he just looked at me like I was crazy. He shook his head and went over to the woman who came with him and talked quietly to her for about ten minutes. During their talk, she kept looking at me in a strange way. He must have thought of something, because he pointed to the house and the little girl. She went to the girl and bent down and talked to her for a few minutes. She took her hand and they went into the house. My attorney came back to me with a smirk on his face.

 

“Jon, I don’t know you very well other than what your grandfather has told me, but I can see you take after your mother and father. They couldn’t resist helping a kid if they needed it, and gave thousands of dollars to different orphanages and organizations that helped kids. We have never discussed your parent’s will, but this is because your grandfather said not to bother you until you got used to being in this country. Jon, their estate is rather large including property and other holdings which we will discuss later. Mrs. Simkins will give you temporary custody of the girl, but if you want her to become your ward, I will have to file papers through the court. I have no doubt that you will win, but we will also need to track the mother down to be sure that she doesn’t want to come back and take the child.”

 

“If you find her and if she is the type I think she is going to be, then offer her a large cash donation to have her sign any papers we need. I would be willing to bet she will take it, but make it plain she will never come near the girl again. I will keep track of her and when the girl is old enough to decide, it will be her choice if she wants to see her mother. Let’s get this done so I can load the horse and get the hell out of here.”

 

To make a long story short, we found the mother and ten thousand dollars was more than enough to convince her to sign any papers we needed. Sally was legally declared my ward and now is in junior high and a straight-A student. She and Sparky have won several ribbons and trophies together. I in my own mind, I think watching them both grow up together was worth the money I had to spend to get them.

 

When I brought her and the horse back to the farm that day, I did a lot of soul searching. I decided I would try to help out kids like this whenever I could. I don’t get paid and sometimes the expenses are quite high on a case, but I have the money to do it. Since it was taken from drug pushers originally, I figure if I could do some good with it then I could.

 

I missed my grandfather when he passed away. I had only known him for a few years, and I had gotten quite fond of him during this time. Sally on the other hand was heartbroken when he passed. Those two were the best of friends and did everything together. Since he had passed on, she became even closer to me than what we already were. Now I only took cases that wouldn’t keep me away from the farm for more than a few days. Although I would never admit it, I missed her every minute we were apart. She always called me at least three times a day to get my report, as she called it, and to find out when I would be home. School was almost over for the year and her prom was coming up. She wanted me home to help her pick out a dress and arrange for a limo for her and all her friends to arrive in style in, as she put it. About a month ago I had asked her about a boy friend, but was quickly told she was too young to be thinking about boys. Besides, she had said, they were all pests who thought that girls were only good for kissing and cheerleading. I almost busted a gut laughing at that little bit of wit. She didn’t speak to me for several hours afterwards.

 

This year she had asked if we could go to the Grand Canyon and ride the mules down to the bottom and camp for a few days while she was out of school. Of course I had immediately said yes. I wanted to see it too since I hadn’t seen much the U.S. had to offer since I had come over here. I was teaching her French and was planning on taking her to France for a couple of months next year. We had a lot of plans going and I think I was as excited about it as she was.

 

I would be home in about five hours. My cell rang just as I was pulling into a gas station to fill my tanks and empty my personal one from all the coffee I had been drinking. It was Sally and she wanted my report. I filled her in and when she found out I was on my way home, and she perked right up saying that we had several appointments to go to tomorrow to look at prom dresses. I told her I would be there in plenty of time and we hung up. Well, I was thinking, there goes my make-up snooze. As I pulled out to hit the road again, I was still smiling to myself.

 

 

 

Chapter # 3

 

 

 

I finally got back to the farm about four in the morning and was dead on my feet. I set the thermos down on the counter as I went to my room. I didn’t even bother to undress, just fell on the bed, asleep before I quit bouncing.

 

“Jon! Jonnnn! If you don’t get up, we are going to be late for my fitting.”

 

“What time is it anyway, Sally?”

 

“It’s eight in the morning and your feet stink. Didn’t you bathe while you were gone?”

 

“What time is your appointment?”

 

“It’s at eleven and I want to have breakfast at Denny's before we get there.”

 

“Ok, get me a cup of coffee and I’ll shower and get dressed, Ok?”

 

“Well hurry up or we’ll be late.”

 

I made my way into the shower half asleep, but woke up quick when I turned the wrong knob on the shower, and got ice cold water instead of warm as I had expected. I yelled and heard Sally laugh from downstairs. I had to smile at her impatience when her fitting was several hours away and the shop we were going to was about six miles away from the farm. I could only hope as she got older she would settle down a little, or I would have grey hair before I was forty. I heard the house phone ringing as I was drying, and wondered who would be calling at this time of the morning.

 

I finished getting dressed, and quickly shaved, then dabbed a little Old Spice on my face when I was done. “Now I’m ready”, I thought as I headed down the steps to get the coffee that was supposed to be ready for me. Sally must have given Myrna the day off again or I would have heard the familiar sound of pots and pans rattling. She had to quit trying to take over when I was gone, I was thinking as I walked into the kitchen. Myrna was sitting at the counter with Sally whispering back and forth.

 

“Ok you two, what are you cooking up now? Myrna you’re supposed to be the adult here, so act like it.”

 

“Oh shush, Mistah Jon! This is girl talk and you don’t know much we despise being interrupted when we is just hatching our little ideas. You take yore coffee into the study and let us finish our hatchin’.”

 

I grabbed the cup and left, knowing better than to try to argue with Myrna when she gave an order. Hell, she had to be sixty and thought she was the boss. My grandfather always said when it came to the house, it was better not to upset the status quo. He always said Myrna treated him like she was the boss, not him.

 

Before he died, he had told me her story. But, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why she preferred to stay here, with all the money she had. He had said she had been in the family since she was eighteen and had never been married except to her job. Her family tree was almost as long as ours, I had been told, and she was one of the smartest women he had ever met. He said her stock portfolio was worth millions and that she had made it all herself over the years. Now she had pitched right in the moment Sally had come and had adopted her as her own. The only problem I had with that was the fact that Sally thought she could get away with bossing me around like Myrna did. In a way it was funny, but sometimes very irritating. I did notice that she only did it in the house, and was always polite and respectful when we were away from the farm. Sometimes I wondered if Myrna was teaching her this so that Sally could replace her if she ever decided to leave. God, now there was a scary thought. Sally as a mini Myrna. The only difference was that Myrna was a woman of color, as she had told me on several occasions. She said she hated the term Negro or African American. She said this was just a polite way of saying they needed to be called something society wanted, instead of facing the fact that we were all a nation of people of color, just different in colors and shades.

 

I had already learned that lesson in the Legion. We had a very large African instructor. Mean bastard he was. I remember the first time one of the recruits had called him a derogatory name. He found out real fast that regardless of what color we all were, we all bled red and the worse the wound the redder the color. From then on, if anyone had something smart to say, they kept it to themselves.

 

“Come on Jon, Sarah is meeting us at Denny’s for breakfast. She says she has something important to ask you.”

 

My suspicion meter went through the roof as I went out to the truck. Now I knew something was up, and all the whispering I had heard had been against me.

 

“Who called while I was in the shower, Sally?”

 

“That was Sarah wanting to know if you had made it back yet. I told her we were having breakfast at Denny’s and that she could join us if she wanted to.”

 

“Did she say what she wanted to talk about?”

 

“No, just that she needed to talk to you as soon as possible.”

 

I looked over at her and she had that teenage “I know everything” smirk on her face. God, I hated that look, but Sally and every teenage girl or boy that I had met since being here all seemed to have it. Sometimes I wanted to just smack them on the back of the head to see if it would go away. I knew the conversation with her was over when she turned on the local country station and started singing along with the song that was playing. I knew she was baiting me, but I didn’t say a word, just drove. She had done this before when she wanted to keep me from prying something out of her. I personally thought it was inborn with women, but it seemed to be stronger when she and Myrna had a chat whenever I was home. I didn’t know what these two had up their sleeves, but this time I wasn’t buying into it like I always had. Over the last few years they had gotten me a few times by ganging up on the only man in the house. Every time they got their way, I swore they wouldn’t do it again. But they seemed to be able to keep doing it, somehow. One of these days I was going to sit Myrna down and have a serious talk about who was boss in my home.

 

When I recovered from all the knots and bumps from her favorite iron skillet, she would still be boss in the house. But I would have at least let her know how I felt about the whole thing. She had already chased me out of the house when I first came over here because I told her she didn’t know how to cook chicken like we Frenchmen did. As she was chasing me with the skillet, she hit me and reminded me after each bang that I wasn’t in France now, and that this was the South. If I didn’t like it, I could starve or eat in town. It took two whole days before my grandfather could get her to let me back into the house and near her kitchen. I walked on eggshells for another month until she forgave me. Needless to say, I learned real quick that she was worse than any instructor I had in the Legion, and that iron was a lot worse on the skull than a wooden truncheon. The knots took a lot longer to heal and the headaches were a killer.

 

Of course my grandfather thought it was all a big laugh. He warned me that Myrna could run faster at her age than any man on this end of the state. He also said that I better get used to her cooking, or I might have to go back to France to eat anything even remotely tasting like a woman had made it. He said all the other women in the county followed Myrna’s lead when it came to their cookin’. I never claimed to be the smartest one in the crowd, but I knew if it was like my grandfather had told me, I needed to stay friends with her or starve. We did almost come to blows again a few years later when she insisted that I eat grits for breakfast before she would cook my eggs and ham. This time I told her I detested them and if she expected me to eat them, she could forget it. We stared at each other for what seemed like hours before my grandfather had put a stop to it. I’ll never forget what he told her and from that point on it changed her whole attitude toward me. I quote; “This boy has eaten things that you stepped on and thought they were delicious. The French Foreign Legion trains their men to eat anything that moves or crawls as long as it’s not poisonous. If you are in a battle and cut off from your supply lines, anything you can put in your stomach is protein and if it’s alive or wiggles, it’s considered food. I know because I have seen the French eat food that I would bury during World War Two while I was over there. Myrna, if they hadn’t eaten it, most would have starved to death because the Germans stole for themselves anything that wasn’t tied down. If he doesn’t want to eat something you fix, then don’t fix it or try to make him eat it.”

 

From that day on Myrna seemed to change her attitude, and we had a nice long talk with me telling her about some of the countries I had fought in, and how we had to eat what the natives did or die. I told her about eating spiders, snakes, weevils and lizards. Sometimes it was raw because we couldn’t build a fire, but we needed the protein to survive. She gave me a funny look and from that point on, never said anything about my eating habits. It had taken a few years but we became good friends, and when my grandfather had died, she had come to me crying and wanting to know if I was going to kick her out of the only home she had ever known.

 

“Myrna”, I had told her, “As long as you want to stay here, you will always be welcome. Besides who would watch over Sally while I do what I do to help others? Just remember that I am the boss in my own home.”

 

She understood me perfectly, and even after all these years, she is still the boss of the house.

 

When we pulled into Denny’s, I saw Sarah sitting in her car waiting for us. Sally was out and at her door before I could get my seatbelt off. They came walking over to me and with one on each side, linked their arms in mine and led me inside. We took a booth toward the back with me between the two of them. This did not bode well for me, I was thinking, as they gave the waitress their orders. Sally ordered for me, seeming to think I was starving, with all the food she was ordering.

 

“Whoa there, I don’t want that much to eat this early.”

 

“Jon, we have a busy day and we may not be able to eat lunch. You need your strength if we expect to get everything done today I need for us to do.”

 

“Waitress, I’ll have two eggs over easy with hash browns, ham and coffee. I want white toast lightly buttered. That’s all for me.”

 

When the waitress walked away I turned sideways and looked directly at Sally.

 

“Since when did you start lying to me, young lady? I know the fitting for your dress won’t take over an hour, because I already called and talked to Violet. I made the arrangements with Tiny for the limo a week ago. Now why are you lying to me, and what are you not telling me?”

 

I was looking directly into her eyes as I spoke and saw them filling up with tears. I almost broke down myself thinking I had hurt her in some way I hadn’t realized.

 

“Jon, please don’t be upset with Sally. This is all my fault, I’m afraid. I got evicted from my apartment a week ago for not paying the rent. I have been staying with friends, but I need to move my furniture out today or the landlord will throw it all away. I still have a lot of personal possessions I can’t afford to have taken or stolen when he sets it out by the curb. Sally volunteered your help and said I could store it in the barn in the tack shed. I’m sorry Sally, but you should have told him like I said. I told you it wasn’t a secret, and that I could have rented a U-Haul to load it on.”

 

“No, it is a big deal Sarah. Why didn’t you pay your rent? Don’t I pay you enough to live on? If I don’t, then you should have said so before it came to something this drastic. Both of you know me well enough after all this time that I hate secrets, especially between the ones I consider my friends. Now why didn’t you pay the rent, Sarah?”

 

“Do I have to talk about this Jon? I feel ashamed enough about the whole thing without telling you and Sally.”

 

“Sarah, you’re my right arm when it comes to these kids, and I need to know you’re safe if I’m not around. As for Sally hearing the story, it should be a good life example for her to remember and learn from. Now tell me what happened, Sarah.”

 

“I was living with a man I thought I cared for, but he emptied my bank account last month. I filed a report with the police, but since he was living with me, there was nothing they could do about it. I’m sorry Jon but he took everything I saved since I went to work for you. I didn’t know it until my rent check bounced.”

 

“You mean that little weasel Kenny Voles stole all your money while you were on the road helping me?”

 

“How did you know about him? I never told you I was seeing anyone?”

 

“Sarah, in the job we do, the injured spouse will do anything to get back at whoever he or she thinks is responsible for them losing their kid or kids. Right after we started doing this I hired a private security firm to watch our homes around the clock whenever we were out of town. When I first got a report there was a man going in and out of your place, I had him checked out. He didn’t have any record, but according to my sources, he is nicknamed “The Weasel” by the men he works with at a downtown brokerage firm. Your private life is your business, but I will not stand by and let someone who you cared for rob you of all you worked hard for. I will have a talk with your landlord today and get it straightened out. Sally, Sarah will take you to your fitting appointment while I go to Arlington.”

 

We didn’t say anything more as our food had arrived, but I could feel my inner beast raising its head at what had happened to Sarah. She had been through enough, I thought, and if I had anything to do about it, he would pay back every cent with interest. The brokerage firm he worked, for I owned fifty eight percent of, because it was the same firm where Sarah got her checks from. She had to have met him there while picking up her check, or he had targeted her because of the money she got every two weeks. Either way, he would rue the day he had pulled his little stunt on her.

 

“Jon, I appreciate it, but you don’t have to get involved in my personal problems. I’m the one who let him use my account and didn’t give it a second thought. I have friends I can stay with, but I just didn’t want to lose all my personal stuff.”

 

“Have you been served with an eviction notice from the court?”

 

“No, but it’s in the lease that if I bounce a payment check and don’t pay for thirty days, then they can throw me out.”

 

“That’s wrong Sarah. Even if it’s stated in the lease that way, they still have to go to court to make it legal. You have sixty days by law before they can start eviction proceedings. That old law you quoted was thrown out last year and the new one went into effect, and it was grandfathered for fifteen years. It was in all the papers because the landlord association tried to fight it in court and lost. You still, by law, have thirty more days before they can to take you to court to evict you. If the landlord moves one thing out of your place, he can and will be sued for any losses you occur. Like I said, I will drive in and have a little talk with him and straighten it all out. Meanwhile, you and Sally go to her fitting, but under no circumstances is she to get anything with a plunging neckline to wear. That is my final word on that subject.”

 

Sally busted out laughing at me. We had this argument a few weeks back when she showed me a picture of a dress she wanted to get. Hell, she might as well have no top on to wear that thing, and I was quick to tell her so. To my surprise, Myrna took my side on the matter, telling her she was a young lady and not some trollop. She had the pride of the Morgans to uphold in everything she did. I had no idea what she was talking about, but apparently Sally did because she immediately got red faced and apologized to both of us.

 

When we finished eating and went outside, Sally kissed me and got in the car with Sarah. Sarah didn’t say a word to me, but she did look a little ashamed as she drove off. I climbed into my truck and headed for Arlington but remembered something I would need and on my way, stopped by the house to get it. Myrna asked where Sally was, so I told her the whole story. She looked at me a minute before saying to me, “She needs help”.

 

“Mistah Morgan, if you talk to dat boy, you tell him if he don’t give that precious girl her money back, I will have to take a little trip to de big city. I don’t like men who steal from little girls and I won’t put up wit it. You make sure you don’t lose yore temper, cause I don’t wanna have to come and get you outta jail. You hea me Jon Morgan?”

 

I assured her I had since she was yelling again, but all I got was a big grin from her as I went out the door. I looked at my watch and was surprised to see it was only ten-thirty. I had plenty of time to stop at the landlord’s first before I went to the brokerage firm. I knew I didn’t look like a prosperous business man with jeans and run down cowboy boots, but I knew that this was the look of everyone who lived outside the big city. I would get by acting like a hick unless I needed to go further. I had about an hour’s drive ahead of me, and I used it all to think out my plan for dealing with this thief. I had to smile thinking how he would feel if Myrna came looking for him with that big iron skillet. She hadn’t left the farm in fifteen years, according to my grandfather, but knowing her, anything she did wouldn’t surprise me.

 

 

 

Chapter # 4

 

 

 

I headed out on the back roads, hoping to miss some of the traffic going into Arlington. I had a general idea of where Sarah had her apartment. When I finally got on the interstate, the traffic was fairly light. I mashed the pedal and cruised along as fast as I dared. I wasn’t totally sure of where Sarah had her apartment, so I called the security company and got the address. Since my attorney lived in the area, I called him and asked about the law to make sure I was right about what I had told her before I left. Other than a couple of minor things, I had hit it exactly on the nose. When I pulled up in front of the building, there were two men carrying a large couch out the side door.

 

I watched them for a couple of minutes as they wrestled the couch down the short drive way and heaved it next to the curb. The arm broke off it when it landed. They thought it was funny and were laughing as they went back inside. I called the local Police Department and identified myself. I asked for a car at my location. I was told there was a unit in the area and it would arrive shortly. As I was waiting, the two men came out carrying a small coffee table which they heaved on top of the couch, laughing as they did. I was getting madder by the minute. I was just about to jump out and stop them by force, when the Police pulled up behind me. I got out and showed them my ID, saying I had a couple of arrests I wanted them to make for me. They both smiled and said it would be a pleasure.

 

We headed for the door where the two men were coming out again. They had an entertainment center held between them and they didn’t see us coming. They heaved it on top of the other stuff and I heard glass shatter when it hit. That’s when they saw us coming. They stood there and waited with smiles on their faces. The officers were behind me so I did the speaking.

 

“Hey fellas, don’t you know it’s against the law to litter in Virginia?”

 

“Hey this is only junk from an evicted tenant we have to haul out. I’m the owner of the building and she broke her lease.”

 

“May I ask the lady’s name, sir?”

 

“It’s Sarah Ferguson and her check bounced for this month. I have the law on my side and can evict if she breaks her lease within thirty days. Since today is day thirty one, I am renting the apartment out as soon as we get it cleaned out. Why are you here anyway? I ain’t breaking any laws.”

 

“Sir, do you have keys for her apartment or did you have to break the door in by force?”

 

“She had the only set of keys so we had to force the door open. What’s this all about anyway?”

 

“You’re both under arrest for breaking into an inhabited dwelling and destruction of private property. There will be other charges I will add on later. If any of her personal possessions are missing and you have taken them, you will be brought up on more charges. Arrest them, officers!”

 

I watched with a smile on my face as they resisted arrest and hit one of the officers. This was the last straw, so the owner got tasered and put down fast. He was cuffed and stuffed before he recovered from the effects of the shock. He was still yelling that he hadn’t broken any laws and that he was going to sue me and the Police for false imprisonment. I just laughed in his face as I followed the cruiser to the jail to book him. I couldn’t believe Sarah had to put up with this asshole for the right to rent from him. I decided to call my attorney and see if there was a way we could either buy the property cheap or sue him for what he had done with her stuff. I talked to him as I followed the officers down to the booking area. He said he would check it out and get back to me within the hour. I sat at one of the tables and filled out the report and turned it into the booking desk.

 

I called Sarah and asked her where she was. She said she was on her way to her apartment to get her personnel effects out before they got lost or stolen, so I filled her in on what had happened. She was mad by the time we were ready to get off the phone, so I asked her to come to central booking and file her own charges against her landlord. She said she would be here within fifteen minutes. I told the booking officer she was coming in and he said he would make sure she was sent right back. He said he knew her, and that she was a good influence on several of the children the department had sponsored for summer ball games. He asked if it was her stuff they were breaking up so I told him most of the story about how it had come about. He was red in the face by the time I was through. He made a call, telling someone which cell they were to put Mr. Hammond in for his stay. Then he looked at me, grinning from ear to ear.

 

“I think he and ole Fred will get along just great together while he is here. Fred likes older men and hasn’t had a cell mate for about three months. I think your Mr. Hammond will get an attitude adjustment within five minutes after they close the door.”

 

I just laughed saying it couldn’t happen to a nicer person. He agreed with me and offered me a cup of coffee. I accepted and drank it while we waited for Sarah to arrive. When they brought her to the back, she was greeted by half of the officers on duty. It seemed as if they knew Sarah and had a high regard for her. I sat down at a table with her and helped her fill out her complaint sheet. Just as we were finishing, the DA showed up. He wanted to know why Sarah hadn’t called his office when this had first started. The booking Captain came up asking the DA if he could get a search warrant to look for Sarah’s things in the rest of the building.

 

“I will not only get the warrant, Captain, but I will personally accompany Miss Ferguson as she searches. If any of her things are found anywhere in that building other than her apartment, I will file charges personally against the owner. Give me a half hour to get it typed up and signed, then we can go.”

 

I watched as he walked away in a huff. I had to smile at the look of confusion on Sarah’s face as he did.

 

“Jon, why are they going to so much trouble over some furniture and stuff?”

 

“Sarah, you don’t seem to realize that with what you do with the kids and with me, you are considered one of them. Believe me when I say it is an honor. They take care of their own any way they can. I have to go now, so why don’t you wait here for the warrant? Use the credit card to get a truck and some men to move your stuff to the farm. There are six or seven empty bedrooms, so take your pick and settle in. I’m sure Sally and Myrna will love to have another female to help overrule everything I want to do.”

 

I got up and left with the sound of her laughter in my ears. I got in the truck and headed for the brokerage firm. This was the part of the problem that was going to be mine to enjoy to the limit. When I arrived at the brokerage, I pulled up into the parking place in front marked as private and put the placard that said Official Business in my window. When I went inside, I scanned the directory and saw the company was on the fifth floor and caught the next elevator up. To my surprise, the place covered the whole floor. In big letters on the door was the name, “Morgan and Associates.”

 

Hell, I thought, it had been named after me instead of the bank which controlled the other majority interest. I did know that the acting Director owned fifteen percent of the stock, but between me and the bank, I had controlling interest. This had been another business that my Nigerian friend had set up so I would be legal with the Internal Revenue Service. I didn’t know a thing about the other businesses I owned or controlled, other than this one, because this was where Sarah’s checks were written through. When I had found this out, I had checked it all out to protect Sarah.

 

When I walked up to the receptionist, she took one look at me and the way I was dressed and immediately got an attitude.

 

“May I help you, Sir?”

 

“Yes you may. I would like to talk to Mr. Jackson as soon as possible.”

 

“Just a moment and I will see if he is available to talk to you. May I ask who you are, sir?”

 

Before I answered her, I had to take a deep breath to hold my temper in check. I knew right then and there I would make some personnel changes before the day was over, starting with her and her attitude.

 

“My name is Jon Morgan and I believe I own this company, if it’s any of your business. Now, get Mr. Jackson down here before I have to go looking for him.”

 

I watched with a smirk as her eyes bugged out when she realized that her whole world was going to collapse around her because of her actions and attitude. She fumbled with the phone for a couple of minutes before she was able to dial the extension I was sure she had memorized. She told whoever she was talking to that I was here and that I immediately wanted to see Mr. Jackson at the front desk. Just then another younger girl walked up smiled at me. She told the woman she was back from lunch and that she could go back to her desk. I thought she was going to run, she was moving so fast to get out of sight.

 

“Sir, may I offer you a cup of coffee or something to drink while you’re waiting for your party?”

 

I watched her face and there was no deception or falseness when she addressed me. This was a lovely young woman who enjoyed her job and strove to do it well.

 

“Who was the woman who just left if, you don’t mind me asking?”

 

“Oh, that was Millie. She is one of the typists who work here. She hates to work the front desk. It’s a part of her job to relieve me when I go to lunch or if I miss a day because of sickness.”

 

“How long have you been working here, Miss?”

 

“I started right after college. I was trained as a public relations consultant, but I ended up being the receptionist because no one else wanted the job. They keep giving me raises every time I remind them I wasn’t hired for this job. I can’t complain though because I like greeting people, and the pay is great. I’ve already paid back all my student loans and now I’m saving to buy a house.”

 

“What does your husband say about you staying a receptionist instead of going into public relations?”

 

“Oh I’m not married. To tell the truth, I make more doing this than I ever would have in public relations. It’s like having a treat every day. I never know who will walk in the door. Last week it was a Senator that has a large stock portfolio with the company. He was sixty or older, but he kept trying to get me to date him. I thought it was so funny and it made all the other girls jealous because I turned him down. There are a lot of women who work here that took jobs so they could meet rich men. I just like my job and have a good time while I do it.”

 

The conversation stopped while she answered her phone. Whoever it was on the other end must have told her whom she was talking to because she kept looking at me while she listened.

 

“Um Mr. Morgan, Mr. Jackson is on his way down. He said to tell you he was sorry for keeping you waiting, but he was in the middle of a meeting with the senior staff. I’m sorry I talked your ear off, but I always seem to do that. Why didn’t you say who you were, Sir? I would have taken you into the lounge instead of having you stand in the lobby listening to me rattle on.”

 

“To tell you the truth I enjoyed listening to you rattle on. I can see why they want you to be the receptionist, young lady. You seem to have a way about you that makes your visitors feel at ease while they are here. I was in a bad mood when I first came in, but listening to you seems to have helped it a little. If you do that with all your visitors, I can see why this firm is so busy all the time. I have enjoyed our little talk and I hope you decide to stay as the receptionist and don’t move on. You would be greatly missed if you did.”

 

She was beaming by the time I was done speaking to her but before she could reply, an older balding man came out of a door with a smile on his face and his hand extended.

 

“Mr. Morgan, I finally have the honor of meeting you after all these years. Won’t you come up to my office where we can talk in private?”

 

He turned to the woman and thanked her for keeping me entertained while I was waiting. I followed him out of the lobby through several work areas to the back of the building. I was shown into a spacious office with a large table and desk being the only furniture in the room. The moment we got inside, his whole demeanor changed and he became totally professional toward me.

 

“Now Mr. Morgan, you didn’t just stop in for no particular reason. Is there some kind of problem I need to know about?”

 

“Yes there is, Mr. Jackson, and I fully intend to settle it while I am here today.”

 

“Just call me Art, please. I am not aware of any problems that would bring you in on such short notice. I have never had a complaint about the way I have been running the company. I have almost doubled our profits every year since I started it up. Oh, I realize you and the bank own most of it, but it was my baby and it still is. If you have a problem with something I may have done wrong, please tell me so that we can get it straightened out to both of our satisfaction. Mr. Morgan, I know you could buy me out immediately under the option rule, but I love this company and don’t want to retire yet.”

 

“Hold on Art, I’m not here for any personal vendetta against you. We both have a problem with an employee that I want to resolve. I have no desire to try to take over the company or interfere in its operation. Hell, I wouldn’t know the first thing about running a business like this. I am here about a theft by one of the brokers you have on staff. Do you know a man by the name of Kenny Voles?”

 

“Yes, he is a detestable little weasel, but he is good at handling our minor accounts. He makes money for us and his clients. I have only met him a couple of times, but that’s normal since he is a commission only broker. Why would you be interested in someone like him?”

 

I told him to call me Jon, then I explained the reason I was here and what I planned on doing to Voles by the time the day was over. I had a hard time not letting my temper show through. Art saw right through me and knew how mad I was about the whole thing. He didn’t say a word; he just let me lay out the whole plan. Then sat back for a few minutes, thinking.

 

“Jon, I agree with you, what he did was bordering on criminal. I think I know a better way to hurt Mr. Voles without the bad publicity your plan would bring to our firm. Don’t get me wrong, I do like your plan better. But, in this business, one hint of any kind of scandal and our larger accounts will transfer to another company without a second thought. If you let me handle it my way, I guarantee Miss Ferguson will have all her money plus interest within twenty-four hours. Within a week, Mr. Voles will never be able to work in this business again. I know it doesn’t have the same flair that your plan does, but believe me when I say what I will do will not only put him out of a job, but in order to find any kind of work he will have to move to another state. As a matter of principle, I will strongly suggest that to him when I fire him.”

 

“I am not here to cause problems for the company, but Sarah is my assistant and one of my closest friends. In case you didn’t know it, I am also a Deputy U.S. Marshal. Believe me when I say that if you don’t succeed in your plan, I will take over even if we lose half of our accounts. I don’t worry about money, Art, but I do take care of my friends. I will leave it in your hands for now and give you the week you asked for. But, if I find there have been no results, I am taking over and I guarantee you Mr. Voles will wish he hadn’t targeted Sarah. Oh, by the way, you have a secretary named Millie who works the front desk sometimes? I want her gone by the end of the week. With her attitude, she doesn’t need to be working in a firm that deals with the public. Especially if she treats our customers like she treated me when I came in. That young lady with whom I was talking when you came in needs to be kept with the firm. She is the greatest thing since valium for stressed out people.”

 

“Ha! Don’t think I don’t already know about her. Every time she mentions why she was hired, I give her a raise just to keep her on the front desk. Every one of our clients has nothing but praise for her and how she is a breath of fresh air. No, I won’t ever let her get away, Jon. I don’t know this Millie, but if she upset you that bad then I tend to agree with you. Maybe we need to do some personnel interviews for the sake of our reputation. Jon, I want to thank you for not going ahead with your plan. This is one that I personally want to handle, especially after you told me all about the circumstances. I had to admit, when we first started sending her weekly checks, I did have my accountant investigate the circumstances. I contacted the bank, and was quickly told that neither the company nor I had any say over the matter, and that she was to be carried as a field representative for as long as they said. I checked with some friends of mine and when I found out what she did, I had to admit I admired her and what she was doing for the kids she worked with.”

 

“Art, I’m not trying to beat a dead horse, but changing the subject doesn’t dissuade me from my original statement. If you don’t do what you promised, I will do it my way and damn the consequences. Now, I know you think my interference with this may cause problems, and I think it would, but I, like the bank, have the last say. With the funds I have available to me, I guarantee you the closing of this firm won’t hurt me. I can use it as a tax write off, just like you can. I have to go now, but I will expect your call within twenty-four hours. I want to hear that you are overnighting Sarah a check for the money that little weasel stole from her. Here is my card with the address written on the back. You can send it to her in care of me since she lost everything because of this. Art, I hated meeting you under these circumstances, but as you said, I can pretty much do as I please. You won’t lose a thing if I decide to do it my way. I guarantee you if it has to happen, I will cut you a check and buy you out before I do.”

 

“I have a lot of myself invested in this company, Jon, and I guarantee you I will hold up my end of it. I don’t want to have to start over again at my age, and I sure don’t want my name splashed all over the papers. I’m sorry too that we had to finally meet this way, and I hope the next time we do it will be over a pleasant dinner or something. I will contact the bank and let them know what went on here today and what we decided to do about it. Our yearly meeting is coming up and I don’t want them thinking I can’t handle something like this. You will hear from me by close of business day tomorrow, Jon.”

 

I walked out of his office, cursing to myself because I had let him do it his way instead of mine. Then I remembered all the people who worked here and depended on this company to pay their bills and support their families, so I reined my temper in. When I went through the lobby, I got a cheery smile and a wave good bye from the girl behind the desk and I just smiled at her. I got into my truck thinking I had better stop by Sarah’s apartment to see if she needed any help moving. I had told her to use the card, but knowing her like I did; I knew she would try to do most of it by herself to save me money. That I wouldn’t allow or condone, she had been through enough today without worrying about moving too.

 

 

 

Chapter # 5

 

 

 

By the time I was half way across the bridge, I remembered my attorney hadn’t called me back yet and I wondered why. I finally made it back to Sarah’s place, only to see officers swarming all over the house and grounds. Tiny was there with a few of his friends and a big truck to move her things. I was glad she had called him, because I knew I could trust him and anyone with him. I had met him through Myrna right after I came over here from France. He was her sister’s son and made three of me. I certainly wasn’t a small man, but next to him, I looked like a midget. I knew he had a record, but in all of my dealings with him, he had never screwed me over. I knew he was deathly afraid of Myrna for some reason, and he knew I would tell her if he ever treated me badly. When I got out of the truck he came over to me immediately.

 

“Hey Jon, why didn’t you or Sarah call me when the trouble started? I would have been glad to set it all straight for her. Man, I can’t believe I missed out on all the action again. Now Sarah called me, then a couple of minutes later I got a call from Aunt Myrna telling me I better get over here to help Sarah with moving. Why are the cops crawling all over the place?”

 

I spent the next half hour telling him about all that had happened so far. He looked at me again before saying that he still should have been called.

 

“Jon, you know I would do anything for Sarah. If it wasn’t for her, my daughter might never have graduated and gone to college. My daughter is on the Dean’s List this semester and it’s only her first year there. My wife and I are so proud of her. Jon, I have to tell you that Aunt Myrna is already planning a big supper for Sarah tonight. She says the poor girl looks too skinny and needs to gain a few pounds. She also said that you get to play host and help out with the meal.”

 

“Oh God, Tiny, there she goes again, telling me what to do in my own house. Why don’t you and your wife invite her over for an extended visit?”

 

“Are you crazy? Myrna and my wife in the same house? They would kill each other in the first ten minutes. If you think Myrna’s bad, then you need to meet my Mrs. one time. I think they are both cut from the same cloth. Nope, you can keep her. I love her to death, but one of her is quite enough, thank you.”

 

I looked at him and we grinned at each other in perfect understanding. I told him to stand by and I would find out if it was ok to start moving her stuff. When I went in the door, I was checked immediately for identification. I asked why there were so many officers to search just one house. I was politely told to ask the DA and then he said I could find him and Sarah in Sarah’s apartment. He said, “The second door on the right” when I looked at him in a puzzled manner so I headed that way. When I walked into the room, Sarah was deep in conversation with a man I hadn’t seen before. When she saw me, she jumped up and ran into my arms weeping.

 

“Oh God, Jon, I am so glad to see you! You’re never gonna guess what they found in the basement. I can’t believe I lived here for over two years and never knew or suspected.”

 

“Calm down, it can’t be that bad.”

 

“Jon if I had known, I would never have stayed here. Every time I think about it I get the heebie-jeebies. I am only taking my two file cabinets and my stereo. The rest can stay here because I certainly don’t want it now. I am so glad I am moving in with you today, Jon.”

 

I got a funny look from the guy sitting on the couch before he grinned and stood up.

 

“Mr. Morgan, I am Jeremy Buxton, Assistant DA of the Arlington City Prosecutor’s Office. I have finished with all of my questions for Miss Ferguson and she can move her stuff at any time.”

 

“Mr. Buxton, I want to know, why you felt the need to question her in the first place? You know better and I will make sure your boss hears about it, as soon as I get outside and call him. Sarah is the victim, not the perpetrator of this mess. As distraught as she is, for you to question her without an attorney is way over the line.”

 

“Whoa, Mr. Morgan! Sarah, my wife, and I, graduated from college together. I wasn’t questioning her about this; I was asking her if she needed a place to stay for awhile. I think you misunderstood what I was saying. My wife and I would love to have Sarah stay with us for awhile. My parents gave me their country house as a wedding present, and it is big enough for ten people to live in. Sarah is our friend too, and we would love to help her out.”

 

Well needless to say, I felt about two inches tall by the time he finished speaking. I apologized to him and explained that Sarah had a home with me for as long as she wanted or needed it. He sent one of the officers for Tiny and his crew. They had the file cabinets and the stereo loaded in less than fifteen minutes. Sarah had several boxes of CD’s she had already packed. She decided to follow Tiny to my house, leaving me standing in the room with my thumb up my butt. I went out the door feeling like I had lost my best friend when I literally ran into one of the officers who had arrested Mr. Hammond earlier. I asked him what they had found in the house that had everyone so excited.

 

“You ain’t gonna believe this shit, Marshal. He had his parents and an older brother stored in coffins in the basement. From the paperwork we have found so far, it seems they died several years ago and he has been getting their Social Security checks all this time. There is another body, but we haven’t been able to find out who it is yet. That one has been down there for a long time. We are checking to see where his ex-wife is now and anyone else he has come in contact with over the years. Man, you should have seen that rookies face when he opened the first one. I bet he has nightmares for a long time to come.”

 

He busted out laughing as he walked away from me. Knowing cops’ sense of humor, I would be willing to bet the rookie would have a new nickname by the end of shift, if he didn’t already. By the time I walked to my truck, I remembered what Tiny had told me about tonight’s dinner plans and wondered if I could find something to do to stay away from the house for a few days. I had a lot of respect for Myrna, but sometimes she just got on my last nerve. As I got on the Interstate, I was grinning to myself, wondering if I could get her to retire or maybe go visit some relation for a few years. Then I felt ashamed of myself for thinking such thoughts, because I knew how much she cared for Sally and me. Now she had another girl to take care of whether Sarah wanted the attention or not. This got me to smiling again, thinking ahead about their first battle when Sarah wanted to do something that Myrna didn’t like. I knew Sarah could usually hold her own against anybody, but I had a hunch that like me, she would lose the battle when it came to accosting Myrna about anything.

 

Then I got to thinking that maybe I ought to build a small A-frame cabin out in the woods for me to live in. It would be away from all of them and I could have some peace and quiet. Nah, then Sally would kill me. Damn, I was trapped either way I turned. I was still scheming and trying to figure a way out as I drove toward the house and my fate for the evening. For some weird reason, the trip home was a lot shorter than the trip into town. I had just pulled into the driveway when my cell rang. I pulled over and stopped to answer it.

 

“Jon, forget about taking Hammond’s house. He owes more back taxes and mortgages on it than what it’s worth. From what I could gather, the bank is about to put it up for auction. I have some contacts that would be able to find Sarah a good house or apartment if she needs it.”

 

“Thanks, but we decided she would move into one of the empty bedrooms at the farm for now.”

 

I went on to bring him up to date but before he hung up, he said something that shocked the hell out of me.

 

“Well Jon, it’s about time you two got together. Anybody that looks at her can tell she is in love with you. I bet Myrna has a ball with this one. Click.”

 

“Now, what the hell did he mean by that?” I wondered as I drove up the drive to find Sarah’s car parked in my spot under the overhang outside the back door. I honked the horn and Sally came out. I told her to tell Sarah to move her car into the garage as this was my reserved spot. I was promptly given “the look” and was told they were still unloading the car. I was also advised that maybe I should park in the garage because it was going to take awhile before they were done. I glared at her and she stuck her tongue out at me before going back inside.

 

I backed up and drove the twenty feet or so to the big garage and pushed the button on my sun visor to open the door. Nothing happened. Then I realized I hadn’t used it for a year or so and the battery was probably dead. This was getting out of hand real fast. I was starting to feel my inner wolf raise its head so I took a deep breath to get myself back under control. I climbed out of the truck and walked toward the back door, pushing the remote for the truck to lock it up, and again nothing happened. Damn, the battery was dead in it too or I had broken it somehow. This was enough to make me want to yell at someone or something, so I decided to take a walk to the barn instead.

 

As I walked, I could feel the anger and frustration draining away and I was actually starting to see the humor in the whole thing. I was about fifteen feet from the barn door when it felt like someone had hit me in the chest with a sledge hammer. As I was falling, I heard the sound of a rifle shot echoing over the area. I managed to get my gun out and when I saw a shadow in the door to the barn, I fired at it. I was thinking I was seeing double when I saw someone go down and another go to one knee. That’s the last thing I remember seeing as I went into shock and passed out.

 

When I opened my eyes again, I saw Sarah above me crying. Sally was trying to hold a bandage on the pressure point on my shoulder. The pain was almost unbearable and I remembered groaning. Sally was telling me to hold still, and that the ambulance was on the way. I rolled my eyes to the left to look toward the barn and almost laughed out loud at what I saw when I did. Myrna was standing with one of my grandfather’s double barreled shotguns pointed at the partially open barn door. I passed out again as I heard sirens in the distance.

 

When I woke up again, I could tell I was in the hospital because of the smell. Anyone who has ever been in one knows what I mean. There was a nurse fussing with some IV bottles hanging by the bed and I wondered where Sally and Sarah were. I started to roll over and found I was strapped to the bed like I was being tortured again. The nurse noticed my movement and immediately came to my side looking concerned. When she saw my eyes were open, she smiled and I noticed she was missing a front tooth. For some reason, I busted out laughing, remembering a video I had seen when I first came to this country. The nurse looked a little shaken at my laughter, but smiled at me with that front tooth missing. I was in tears I was laughing so hard and couldn’t seem to control it.

 

“Calm down Mr. Morgan. I assure you that you will be fine in a few weeks with a lot of rest. I really don’t see the levity of the situation you’re in. We removed the bullet and there are some Marshals outside that want to speak with you. Your daughter and wife are outside and they both are worried to death. There is a black lady with them and she has already threatened the Marshals with harm if they bother you. That woman is the bossiest person I have ever met. She seems to think you are her son or something from the way she took over.”

 

“Nurse, I suggest when it comes to her, you better tell everyone not to get on her bad side. She is my adopted mother and she can hardly stand to look at me when I am not busy, let alone when she sees me lying here in bed, not working on the farm. As soon as I am released, she will have me back out in the fields, and be calling me lazy because I ain’t doin’ a full days work.”

 

“What? Well, after I have a little talk with the doctor, he will set her straight on a few things.”

 

She left the room in a huff and I lost it again with the mental picture of what was gonna happen next. “It must be the drugs”, I thought, because I haven’t laughed this much in years. I dozed off again, wondering why the Marshals wanted to talk to me and about what.

 

 

 

Chapter # 6

 

 

 

When I woke up again, I could see I was in a different room. The bed now sat so that it faced the open door. I used the little device pinned to my pillow to raise the head up to where I could see into the hall. Since I wasn’t strapped down anymore, I was able to grab the cup at the bedside that was sweating from its cold contents and take a drink. Damn, but that felt good going down my parched throat. I started thinking about the desert training I had gone through when my thoughts were interrupted by the sight of my three closest friends coming around the corner together. Myrna was leading and they were all in a deep conversation as they walked.

 

I had just started to call out to them when a small man in glasses caught up to them and said something. From what I could see, it upset Sally bad enough that she started crying. Now this made me furious. My arm was well wrapped and there was a sling on it, so I got up and sat on the edge of the bed long enough to let the dizziness pass. I would know better than to try any sudden movements like that again, I thought to myself. The two IV bottles were on a rolling stand so I could move them. I had pajama bottoms on instead of a gown, so I didn’t have to worry about showing my skinny butt as I walked. I headed for the door to see what was going on. They were in animated conversation with their backs to me, so I was able to get pretty close before any of them noticed me.

 

The little bald guy was telling them to stay out of my room until he had a chance to take my statement about what happened, and if they disobeyed his orders, he would have them arrested for impeding a Federal Investigation. I had no idea what he was talking about, but the three people standing there were the only friends and pseudo family I had. Nobody was going to threaten them as long as I could still breathe.

 

“Mr., I don’t know who the hell you are, but if you ever speak to my family like that again, you better hope that I don’t heal. Now take off so I can spend some time with them without your threats!”

 

“I am the field supervisor for the Marshals Service in this area and we need to take your statement before we allow anyone else to talk to you, Mr. Morgan. I suggest you drop the attitude before I have to place you under arrest for failing to cooperate.”

 

“You little self created Hitler, you don’t even want to try to push that one. I will have your ass in a sling so quick your head will spin. You need to check my files before you make threats, because I have three Senators that would love to hear you threaten me. If you wish I would be glad to call them for you. Also, I don’t work for you or your service so I don’t follow your orders or rules. I am an Interpol agent on permanent assignment to the States, and answer only to them and the FBI. Now leave before I completely lose my temper.”

 

“Oh I will leave, Mr. Morgan, but I will be back with men to back me up. If you think you’re so powerful, you are mistaken. Maybe you better call an attorney, because if they go into that room with you, I will have them all arrested and you will be the first.”

 

I watched as he stomped down the hall. Then I turned and smiled at the girls because they were all standing with their mouths hanging open and a stupid look on their faces. Myrna was the most obvious one, and that made it even sweeter for me because I have never seen her without something to say in any situation.

 

“Umm girls, do one of you have a cell phone I can use for a little bit?”

 

“Oh Jon!” Sally ran up and hugged me, reminding me of my shoulder wound real fast. I must have grunted, because she quickly let loose of me and stepped back.

 

“I am so glad you are ok. For awhile I thought you were going to bleed to death. The doctor told us you would be just fine in a few weeks without any permanent damage to your shoulder or chest. He said you were very lucky they were high velocity rounds and went through without doing any permanent damage.”

 

“The nurse said they recovered a bullet from my shoulder.”

 

“Yea the doctor told us about it, but he said it had been in there for many years, and was in the muscle mass. He said he figured it had finally worked its way out far enough to where he could take it out. Jon, how many times have you been shot?”

 

“Well Sally, if you’re in the service long enough, you’re bound to catch one sooner or later. I don’t think I want to talk about it now, but I do need to make some calls before that runt comes back. Does one of you have a cell phone I can use?”

 

“Here, I have yours in my purse. They tried to take it but I hid it from them. Jon, why did he say we weren’t family? I mean, you practically raised me since I became your ward. To me, you’re the only family I have except for Myrna and Sarah.”

 

“Sally, as far as I’m concerned you’re the daughter I never had and always will be. I would have adopted you, but your mom probably would never sign the papers, if we could even find her. Now I need to make some calls, so can we talk about this later please?”

 

I knew exactly where her mom was, but I wasn’t about to tell her unless she asked me point blank about her. I had seen the look in Sarah’s eyes as we talked, and I knew she wanted to ask me a couple of personal questions also. I had side stepped it by asking for the phone, but I had a feeling she wouldn’t give up. I knew I would have to sit down and have a serious talk with her sooner or later.

 

I headed back to my room with all three following me as I slowly walked. Sally was steering the IV bottles so I could dial the phone. I was still a little puzzled as to why Myrna had been so quiet, but with the look on her face, I wasn’t about to ask. I climbed back in the bed and made myself comfortable. I took another sip of water and hit the dial button. When he answered the phone, my grandfather’s attorney immediately asked if I was going to be ok and if he could come and visit me. He also said he had some papers I had to sign concerning the estate. I answered yes to all his questions, and then asked him to call Jerry Lumus and tell him he was to come to the hospital immediately because I was going to need him. He wanted to know what was going on, so I filled him in on everything that I knew about. To say he was pissed, would be putting it mildly. He hung up with me after saying that Jerry would be there within the hour or he would be looking for a new job. He was the only one besides me that knew I secretly owned Jerry’s law firm and paid the salaries of the attorneys that worked for him.

 

Three years ago, Jerry had been a young Federal Prosecutor. He had a case on some scumbag taken away from him, so that the powers to be could make a deal to keep their dirty laundry out of the press. He quit and started his own firm, but didn’t have the funds to run it like he wanted to. Jerry’s father had been a war buddy of my grandfather’s attorney. My grandfather’s attorney had helped put Jerry through law school because Jerry’s father couldn’t afford it. He was asked by Jerry’s dad to be Jerry’s godfather when he was born. I don’t know the entire story, but I was asked by my grandfather’s attorney to loan Jerry the funds from my parent’s estate so he could get started. Now, me being a look ahead type of guy, I realized that having a complete criminal case staff at my beck and call might come in handy. I had immediately suggested that I start the firm and he would run it without any interference. Jerry had jumped at the deal and now had one of the top criminal litigation firms on the east coast. I had a contract with his firm that put him on retainer to me and he was required to immediately come to my assistance if I needed him.

 

I knew deep in my gut that little runt of a Marshall was power hungry, and would try to carry out his threat, so I decided to have Jerry handle it. I had only met him a couple of times, but from what I had seen, he was a powerhouse in a business suit. He had fifteen of the best on staff and they flew all over the States to handle the big cases. Their fees were enormous and I had made a lot of money over the years. I had wisely let him run it the way he wanted to.

 

“Jon, do you really think that Marshal will have us arrested for coming into your room to visit?”

 

“Sarah, he is on a power trip and has to have his own way, so yes, I think he will TRY to follow through on his threats. Don’t worry about it because I have just the man to handle him if he does. Now, will one of you tell me who shot me, and what were they doing in the barn?”

 

I no sooner got that out of my mouth when Sally broke out sobbing. I looked at Myrna and she avoided my eyes. That’s when I realized that there was something going on that I didn’t know about and that none of them wanted to tell me about. Sarah had just moved in, so I knew she wouldn’t have any idea of what was going on. It was up to Myrna to tell me, since Sally was sobbing her heart out on my shoulder.

 

“Myrna, I think it’s time you told me what’s been going on. I can tell you have been hiding something from me, so out with it.”

 

She looked at me with tears in her eyes and to say I was shocked wouldn’t even cover it. She was sitting there in abject misery after my question.

 

“I’m sorry, Mistah Jon, I should have told you about it weeks ago, but I really didn’t think it was real. I mean, I told Sally not to worry, ‘cause it was probably some nut just trying to be funny. I never thought he was serious.”

 

“Myrna, will you please quit jabbering, and tell me what’s been going on?”

 

“Well Mistah Jon, about three weeks ago, after Sally and Sparky won first prize at the regionals, we started getting’ these phone calls at de house. The man who called said if Sally entered Sparky in any more competitions, he would kill her and Sparky. I didn’t think nottin’ of it cause he was laughin’ and sayin’ all kinds of stupid thins’ about nobody standin’ a chance when she entered cause she always won. I mean, he was never mean or anythin’, just said stupid thins’ like dat. We started recording his calls after I called Tiny and tole him about it. He said to tell you but you was on a case so I didn’t want to worry you none. Now, ‘cause of my stubbornness, you got shot an Sparky is dead. I’m so sorry, Mistah Jon, it’s all my fault.”

 

I just looked at her as she broke down in tears. I didn’t have the slightest idea what to say to her. Hell, no matter what, she wasn’t at fault for not telling me. I probably wouldn’t have believed the calls either if I had heard some nut threaten something like that. I mean, it’s a kid’s competition and Sally and Sparky had been entering them since they had moved in with me. They had lost a lot of them, but had a respectable win record in certain classes of competitions. Now I knew why Sally was so upset, because Sparky had been a part of her since she was little. She had raised him from a bottle and you could tell they understood each other by just watching them. When they had first come to the farm, he had followed her around like a dog and seemed to understand everything she told him. I had gotten such a big kick out of it that I had spent hundreds of dollars taking pictures of it.

 

Now I was laying here watching two of the people I loved the most sobbing their hearts out and couldn’t for the life of me think of anything to help them. I knew I had to say something, but I just couldn’t think at the moment. I was interrupted from my thoughts by the arrival of the runt from the Marshall’s Service as he came into my room uninvited with three men by his side.

 

“I told you I would be back, Mr. Morgan. You’ll find that I take my job seriously and you will follow protocol as long as you carry the badge you do.”

 

“Well runt, then as of now I resign. I won’t talk to you for any reason, and I will have an attorney present before I say a word to anyone. I suggest you find someone else to do the interview because I hate self-imposed dictators in any form. If you harass my family, I will file a law suit so fast your job will go right out the window as part of the settlement. I guarantee you that I will win.”

 

He just looked at me in silence and all three of the men with him were openly smiling as he stood in shock. Jerry came walking in just as he opened his mouth to speak again.

 

“Marshal, if you have something to say to my client, I suggest you go through me since I am his attorney. Allow me to introduce myself.”

 

When he said his name, the three men’s eyes opened in shock, and one of them was silently laughing at the look on the runt’s face.

 

“May I suggest we step outside so my client can have some privacy while he visits with his family?”

 

 

 

Chapter # 7

 

 

 

When Jerry and the runt left the room, Sarah turned to me and gave me some more news that I could have done without at this time.

 

“Jon, they also searched the house and all the buildings. They used a torch to cut open the gun safe and confiscated all your guns. They left the whole house in a mess and wouldn’t even let us get a change of clothes. We have been staying in a motel down the street. They have the house closed off and a Marshal standing guard so we can’t get in.”

 

I looked at her in shock and felt my inner wolf raising its head. I told them to wait here, then pulled the IV from my arm and went out to the waiting room. They were all sitting there. Jerry and the runt were arguing about something. I walked up and when the runt saw me coming, he got a smirk on his face. When I got close enough, I kicked him in the mouth as hard as I could. I then stepped back as he fell over, out cold onto the floor.

 

“Jesus Jon, why did you have to go and do that?”

 

I then set him straight on why. I told him what had happened at the house and the mess this runt had made of my home and how he had treated the girls. He looked at me in shock for a minute before he spoke.

 

“Jon, I could have taken care of it, but now I will have to get you out of jail first. As for the house, this is the first I heard about it. I think we ought to immediately file a motion in front of the Federal Judge and have an immediate hearing about the abuse of power. I will also make sure he stays away from you and your family from now on. I promise you, Jon, I will have his job, and all your things returned within seventy-two hours.”

 

“Jerry, that’s only part of what I am going to do to his ass. I want a class action suit filed against him and the Marshals Service on behalf of the girls. I also want my house restored to its original condition within forty-eight hours and the girls put up in the best and most expensive hotel in town on the government’s dime. I am going to call the Director of Interpol and have him start making some calls to some very powerful people because of the way we, my family and I, were treated. Your godfather has a video of my home and a complete list of the guns that were confiscated, for no reason. If any of those antique firearms are scratched or damaged in any way, I expect to be fully reimbursed for their full value. The shooting happened at the barn, and that’s a half mile from the house. Who issued search warrants for my home, and what was the probable cause? Jerry, find out, because I am going to stir up a shit storm over this.”

 

“Calm down a little, Jon. I promise you I will have some answers before the day is over. I will also be glad to file the lawsuit for the girls. As for the warrants, they never should have been issued for your house since it is more than five hundred yards from the actual shooting. If he lied on the forms, I will nail his ass and the men with him. Jon, will you please hold off calling your boss at Interpol for at least twenty-four hours so I can get some answers for you? I don’t want the politicians in it yet if I can avoid it. As for the girls, I will make immediate arrangements for them and have your friend Tiny put on call as their driver. You know when he wakes up, he is going to put you under arrest. Don’t worry about it, I have a bondsman on call and will take care of all the arrangements for you, if it happens. I don’t think your doctor will release you to be put in jail, so you will be confined to your room with a guard. The girls will be able to visit as often as they want, though.”

 

“Jerry, I don’t give a damn about him or what he wants. He overstepped his authority big time along with his men, and I want them nailed and nailed hard for it. I also want Tiny to send a backhoe out to the farm so Sparky can be buried before he makes a mess in the barn and I have to tear it down. I don’t want Sally to know about it until it’s all over. I also want to know who shot me and why, and what happened after I was brought here. There were two people in that barn and I want to know what happened to them. I suggest you better stick close for a while, Jerry, because I am just getting started. NOBODY and I mean NOBODY threatens my family and friends in front of me for any reason. I will file lawsuits until hell freezes over if I have to, but I will have satisfaction for what happened. Do you understand me, Jerry?”

 

He just looked at me in shock, and the three Marshals were grinning. I turned around and headed back to the room, but not before telling Jerry he better get busy if he expected to earn his keep from me today. I also told him he better have a talk with his godfather about me before he went much further into this, because he was in for some heavy surprises when he did. I also told him before the day was over, I wanted to have a quiet chat with him about a few things. My arm was throbbing to beat the band as I walked back to the room. When I came in, Myrna and Sally were talking and Sarah was looking miserable.

 

“What are you so down in the mouth about Sarah? I’m the one who got shot. Now I want all of you to get whatever things you have out of that flea bitten motel or hotel, and get ready to move into something more befitting my family. Tiny will be here shortly, and I want all of you to go shopping and buy yourselves all new clothes. That’s an order, Sarah. Use the charge card you have of mine since it had no limit, and don’t worry about money. Believe me, by the time this is over, I will recoup everything you three can spend. Myrna, that means you too, and I don’t want to hear your excuses. I am tired of those old clothes you’re always wearing and it’s time you got some new ones. Sally, I want you and Sarah to make sure Myrna gets some decent clothing. If you have to, have Tiny hogtie her so a clerk can measure her for her size.”

 

“Now see hea, Mistah Jon, I won’t have no man buyin me new drawers and clothes. That’s not yore place to do dat, and I shore won’t stand still for it.”

 

“You will if you want to continue living at the farm. I’ve had enough crap out of you to last me a lifetime, Myrna. You’re just like family to me, so I suggest you start acting like it. You aren’t my boss, and I damn sure don’t need your permission to buy clothes for my family. Do we understand each other?”

 

The phone by the bed rang and I picked it up. It was Tiny, calling to tell me he was downstairs in the car, waiting for the girls. I hung up and told them to take off. I told them to do as I said and I would see them later tonight. Sally came over and hugged me, but Sarah and Myrna got up and walked out of the room like they were sleepwalking. I watched them go down the hall and broke out in a big grin when they were out of sight. I almost reached back and patted myself on the back for being so devious. Hell, I was proud of myself; I had gotten Myrna in a position where I was giving the orders for a change and for some oddball reason, it made me happy as hell. I lay back in the bed and realized my arm had bled all the way to my fingers when I had pulled the IV out. I bet I had been a frightening sight as I walked down the hall dripping blood. I waited for the fireworks I knew were still to come from the runt. I must have dozed off because the nurse woke me wanting to know how I had lost the IV out of my arm. Thankfully it wasn’t the one with the missing front tooth or I would have lost it again.

 

“I must have been having a bad dream or something.”

 

“Well Mr. Morgan, if it happens again we will have to strap that arm down to prevent it.”

 

“Nurse, I mean no offense, but don’t ever try it. I won’t stand to be strapped or restrained for any reason. Besides, the only thing in the bag is saline and it’s not that important. I also would appreciate it if you would tell the doctor that I refuse any more morphine injections for pain. If he has to give me something, I want something non narcotic. Ill be damned if I become an addict because of a little pain.”

 

“Mr. Morgan, you were shot twice and the pain is going to be bad for a few days. I suggest that you reconsider about the pain medication.”

 

“Nurse, just do as I ask and tell the doctor, “No narcotic medication of any kind.” I will be checking myself out of here in the next couple of days and going home.”

 

“The doctor won’t release you that quick. I’m sorry, but you are not a super hero or something, Sir.”

 

I just laughed and told her again to tell the doctor what I said, and to make a notation of my request on my chart. I had seen first hand what happened when men became dependent on morphine injections for pain. I wasn’t about to become a slobbering idiot begging for my next shot. I was realistic enough to know I would be in a lot of pain, but it wouldn’t be the first time, and I had a hunch it probably wouldn’t be the last. I dozed off again after she left and slept like a baby for several hours.

 

I woke to the sound of murmuring voices and the click of heels on the hard floor. When I opened my eyes, I went into shock at what stood before me.

 

“My God, I’ve died and gone to heaven.”

 

I hadn’t even realized I had spoken aloud until all three of the broke out in laughter. I was looking at three visions of utter beauty standing at the end of my bed. The most shocking of the three was Myrna. She was dressed to the nines and had gotten her hair done. It looked to me like she had a complete make over. I couldn’t put into words how beautiful she looked after seeing her in frumpy old dresses and aprons for all the years she had worked for me. She may have been sixty, but even I had to admit, if I didn’t know her, I would have made a pass at her. This was a completely different person that stood in front of me. Finally Sally spoke up and broke the spell.

 

“Well, are you just going to lay there with you’re mouth hanging open or are you going to tell us how beautiful we look? You know, we spent all afternoon getting everything just right so we could make a good impression on you.”

 

“Well you’ve certainly accomplished what you set out to do. Now, will someone please tell me why there is a strange woman with you instead of Myrna? I thought she was supposed to go with you and Sarah to get new clothes.”

 

They both looked at me like I was nuts before it finally sank in that I was talking about Myrna who was smiling from ear to ear.

 

“Do you really think I is pretty, Mistah Jon?”

 

“Myrna, I think you are beautiful. I don’t understand why it took so many years for you to finally let everyone know just how attractive you are.”

 

“Now, since you three beauties are all dressed up, why don’t you have Tiny take you out to the best restaurant he can find, and then all three of you go out for the evening? I just wish I could be the one escorting all three of you. Man, I would be the talk of the town with all of you on my arm. Now go and enjoy yourselves, all three of you deserve it.”

 

They all smiled at me and went out the door laughing. I swear Myrna wiggled at me as she went out, and I had to smile at her. What a difference a day makes, I was thinking as Jerry walked into the room. His head was almost backwards, trying to watch them as they walked down the hall. He came in and sat down, and I waited to see what he had to say.

 

“Jon, who were those three women who just left? They looked familiar to me but I can’t place them. They were all beautiful though.”

 

I busted out laughing at him before I finally got myself under control.

 

“Jerry, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you. Now, what news do you have for me?”

 

“Oh, sorry, the women got me distracted for a minute. Well, it’s not all bad. You have been placed under arrest for assaulting a Federal Officer. Your bail’s already been posted so you are free to go. The runt, as you call him, has been suspended pending a full investigation into his actions. Your house is being redone as we speak, and is being fully paid for by the Marshals Service. Your guns will be returned and a new safe put in to replace the old one that was ruined. The gun inspector will examine every weapon in your collection for any mars or scratches. You were right, he did lie like a rug on the warrant papers. He said under oath that the house was used as the firing point when you shot at the barn. The Judge who signed the warrant is suspended pending a revue since he and the runt are brothers. The lawsuit for the girls won’t be necessary since they will all have a formal apology from the head of the Marshals Service and you and they will be fully reimbursed for any out of pocket expenses that were caused by the runt’s actions. All three of them will receive an additional ten thousand for pain and embarrassment. You have been relieved of duty pending the assault charge. I don’t think you have to worry though, because by the time I’m done, the runt will be begging you to drop the charges I filed against him. I had a long talk with Grandpa Bill this afternoon. Jon, why didn’t you ever say anything about you owning my firm, or that you put up all the money to get it started?”

 

“Well that’s a hard one to figure out, Jerry. I have the best criminal attorney in the nation on retainer. The retainer is a tax write off for me, so having you at my beck and call is a no brainier. Besides, your godfather is getting ready to retire. I know you have a corporate division, so I will still have the best in the nation handling my legal stuff. Which reminds me, I need to get a will done and soon. If this is any indication, I need to make sure Sally and Sarah are taken care of.”

 

“What about Myrna, Jon? She has worked for your family all her life. I think you ought to consider her too.”

 

“Jerry, Myrna is a millionaire and then some. According to what my grandfather told me, she has made millions in the stock market, and is damned good at it. He said she had money socked away in several different accounts all over Virginia. Your godfather has been her attorney almost all her life, and he has all her papers in a safe place. Myrna will be able to stay at the farm as long as she wants and I will put that into the will. That was a promise I made to my grandfather. He also made me promise that I would not leave Myrna any money because she would be highly insulted if I did. Now, when can I return to my home, and how soon is the hearing about the shooting? Jerry, did you find out who it was that I shot and where they are?”

 

 

 

Chapter # 8

 

 

 

I had listened to Jerry tell me all about what was being done to rectify my house, but I hadn’t heard a thing about who was shot and what happened after I passed out that second time.

 

“Ok Jerry, you’ve beat around the subject long enough. Tell me what happened after I passed out at the barn.”

 

“Well, umm Jon, I don’t know quite how to tell you the rest. Bill says I should just tell you, but I really don’t feel comfortable doing it that way.”

 

“Dammit Jerry, just tell me!”

 

“The man you shot in the barn opening was named Spiros Richards. The other person, they found her bled out about a half mile away near an old pickup. Her name was Marianne Homes, your ward Sally’s mother. She was armed with a pistol.”

 

“Have you told Sally yet, Jerry?”

 

“No way, Jon, but it’s all over the news and she is bound to hear it sooner or later. The best the Marshals could figure, was that they were trying to steal Sparky and maybe kidnap Sally. When they saw you walking toward the barn, we know that Spiros cut the horse’s throat to quiet him down. He then waited and opened fire on you when he thought you were close enough. We will really never know why they were out there, but that is the theory the local law enforcement put together. I’m sorry, Jon, it had to be you that killed them, but it was them or you.”

 

“Yea I know Jerry, but how am I supposed to tell Sally I shot and killed her mother? She’ll never forgive me and I don’t blame her.”

 

He just looked at me funny as I lay back thinking about what he had told me. My God, how would I ever explain this to Sally? With her prom and the death of Sparky, and now her mother all in the short time I had been back. She would hate me for the rest of her life. Maybe I should have left her with her step father, and maybe her mother would have come back to get her from him, or maybe I should have never paid her mother off to sign her daughter away. There were a lot of maybes, but it was all that was going through my mind at the present time. I had made mistakes in my life, but nothing that hurt as much as this was hurting me now.

 

Jerry left the room but I didn’t even see him leave, I was so deep in thought. I was wondering what I was going to do now. Sally was the only thing that had kept me here after my grandfather had died, and now she would hate me and probably never want to see me again. As I lay there, I did something I hadn’t done for years, I cried in my self pity and frustration over the unjustness of it all. All I had wanted to do was to help a little girl have a better life without being abused. How had it all gone so wrong?

 

I got up and grabbed the clothes Myrna had brought me and got dressed. Then I walked out of the hospital headed for the nearest bar. I found one about three blocks from the hospital and took a table way in the back. I ordered a fifth of whiskey and a glass and sat and drank. I had finished the first fifth and started on the second when two local officers came in the door. They checked out the bar and left so I figured they were just on their rounds. I was sitting at the table about half passed out when I realized there were three women standing at my table looking down at me. I looked up and there stood my girls, looking mad enough to beat the hell out of me if I was able to talk. Fortunately I was too drunk to be able to speak coherently. I just took another drink and sat back and waited to see what they had to say. They all sat down at my table and I had to lean back because I was too drunk to hold my head up.

 

Of course it was Myrna who started, as I figured she would.

 

“Mista Jon, why you in hea gettin drunk when you is supposed to be in de hospital?”

 

I thought about it for a moment and just grinned at her. Wham! I couldn’t believe it, Sarah had smacked me so hard I almost fell off the chair I was sitting on. I straightened up and took another drink and then grinned at her too. They were all looking at me like I had two heads or something. Tiny came up to the table and took one look at me and picked me up like I was a baby then took me out to his limo. He sat me in the front seat and told the girls to get in the back. By the time we pulled out, I was asleep from all the booze. If you’re maybe wondering how I remembered all of this, I didn’t. Tiny gave it to me the next day, play by play. I didn’t remember a damn thing other than I woke up in a soft bed with a splitting headache, wondering where the hell I was at.

 

I sat up, wondering why I wasn’t in the hospital. Then I remembered leaving and going to a bar to have a drink after I found out that I had killed Sally’s mom. I got up and my shoulder felt like it was on fire. I used one hand to splash some cold water on my face and looked in the mirror at my bloodshot eyes. Damn, how much had I drunk last night I wondered, and where am I now? I hope I didn’t pick up some hooker or something, I thought as I heard voices coming into the room. I grabbed a robe that was hanging on the bathroom door. I didn’t have anything on but my underwear. Tying it was a bitch with one arm, but somehow I managed. I heard Sarah calling my name, so I went out the bathroom door to catch the hell I knew was coming.

 

I walked out and all three of the girls were there as was Tiny, setting coffee and breakfast on a table I hadn’t noticed. I went over and sat down, sipping the black coffee Sarah had poured. They were all looking at me like I was a freak and at this point, I felt like one.

 

“Jon, whatever possessed you to walk out of the hospital and get drunk?”

 

I turned to Sally with tears in my eyes and just said: “I’m sorry Sally.”

 

She just looked at me and ran around the table, hugging me and crying on my shoulder. I just hugged her back and cried my own tears, thinking I had lost her now.

 

“Oh Jon, please don’t blame yourself. You couldn’t have known who was shooting at you. We all knew last night who was dead, ‘cause that little runt, as you called him, couldn’t wait to tell us. I don’t blame you for what happened, Jon, I blame her. All these years she could have contacted me or written, or even come to visit. But no, she and her so called boyfriend tried to kill the only father I have ever had. Jon, I love you like you are my real dad and that won’t change because of this. I have talked to Sarah and thought about it all night, and it still doesn’t change the fact that she was never there, even when my step dad used to beat me. I still remember how he treated me and if not for you, he probably would have sold me to one of his friends or something. I love you Jon, and don’t ever think I don’t. Everything I am and have is because of you and your love for me. To me, that’s more important than an absent mother that couldn’t even take the time to let me know she was alive. Jon, I do want you to take me to her funeral, because it’s the right thing to do for us both to heal.”

 

I leaned back and looked in her tear filled eyes and hugged her to me before I spoke.

 

“I thought when you found out you would hate me, Sally. I will take you, but I still can’t forgive myself for what happened. When you graduate from high school, I am going back to France to live. I have had my fill of this country. When you start college I will give you the farm and move back.”

 

Myrna was looking at me in shock and Sarah had a strange expression on her face, but neither one of them said another thing. Sally climbed down and breakfast was a silent meal. When I got up and asked Tiny where my clothes, were the girls went out. That’s when Tiny gave me a play by play of last night.

 

“Jon, I have liked you since I first met you, but this news will tear your family apart. Sarah is deeply in love with you, whether you realize it or not, my friend. Myrna thinks you walk on water and she had a fit when Sarah slapped you. She threatened to take her outside and whip her ass if she touched you again. I have never seen her so mad at anyone. She took Sarah into one of the rooms and yelled at her for over an hour. I didn’t catch all that was said, but I will almost be willing to bet Sarah gets her own place real soon, cause Myrna is not the forgiving type. Sally and I had a long talk about what happened, and she just kept saying over and over, it wasn’t your fault. Jon, you were almost catatonic last night when I carried you out. How damn much did you have to drink?”

 

“I don’t know, Tiny. All I remember was the shock when Jerry told me I had shot and killed Sally’s mother. I don’t even remember leaving the hospital, to tell you the truth. I haven’t had that much to drink since I went on a three-day bender when I lost my squad in Algiers.”

 

“Algiers! What branch of the service were you in Jon? I didn’t know we had troops in Algiers.”

 

“Tiny, I spent eight years in the French Foreign Legion. I lost my whole squad in a gun battle with dope smugglers there.”

 

“Holy Shit! The Legion, huh? Man and I thought the Navy Seals were tough. I trained with some of your guys in Norfolk for a mission. You guys are all whackos! Well, you know what I mean. The hotel nurse will be here in a little bit to change your bandages before we head back to the farm. Your attorney called a little while ago and said we could move back in again. They are still installing the new gun safe, but other than that, the house is supposed to be spic and span again. Myrna wants me to take you back to the hospital but I told her you probably wouldn’t go. What do you want to do, Jon?”

 

“I am going home, Tiny. I am not about to lie around in a hospital. I will call the family physician to look at my shoulder and side if it gets too painful. Now, where are my clothes so I can get dressed?”

 

He went out the door and returned in a few moments with the clothes I had worn last night. They had all been dry-cleaned and pressed. Now, who would press jeans, I was thinking as I tried to put my socks on with one hand. I was starting to get frustrated when I couldn’t. Sally came in and saw me struggling and helped me get dressed. Talk about feeling embarrassed, I sure did. She thought it was fun and made a point of telling me in slow talk how to hold this side and that side so she could help. I just glared at her and she giggled through the whole thing, much to my chagrin.

 

“Come on Jon, let’s check out of this dump and go home where we belong. I hate living in a hotel, even if it’s the most expensive one in town. A little hint, don’t say anything about the hospital in front of Myrna. She wants us to take you back so you can be cared for right, as she put it. She is still mad about you leaving and getting drunk last night. Jon, I hope you woke up with a splitting headache this morning. We spent three hours trying to find you after the hospital called and said you had walked out like you were sleepwalking. Myrna was worried to death that you would get into trouble again. She said you have a worse temper than your grandpa had.”

 

I looked down at her and smiled then hugged her to me and whispered in her ear, “I’m more afraid of Myrna’s temper than my own. She swings a mean iron skillet.”

 

Sally busted out laughing at me and I felt better hearing her laughter, until I came face to face with Myrna’s frown as we stepped into the other room. Oh oh, I thought as I looked at her. I was in for it now.

 

“Mistah Jon, you eber pull a stunt like you did last night and I will bend a skillet ober yore head. You had us all worried sick. Is you goin back to de hospital or is we goin home?”

 

“We’re going home Myrna. I think I will heal a lot faster with your cooking than I can with hospital food.”

 

“Doan you be tryin to butter me up, Mistah Jon. You still on my list.”

 

As she turned around to grab her suitcase from the bed, I caught the grin on her face. I sure wasn’t stupid enough to let on I had seen it. We all went down to the lobby and checked out, with Sarah using my credit card and me telling her to keep all the receipts for us to turn in to Jerry. That got me a dirty look and left me wondering what she was mad about. Then I remembered the conversation I had with Tiny and shut my pie hole before I made someone else mad at me. We all piled into the limo and when I went to reach for a drink, I caught holy hell from all three of them immediately. I looked up and Tiny was looking through the rear view at me and smiling his head off. I put the center window up telling him to shut up. As the window rose, I could hear him laughing at me. We had a pleasant ride back home with light conversation until I reached for the scotch again about half way there. I got a glare that would melt ice from Sarah and Myrna. Sally was a little bit more physical; she slapped my hand and closed the lid on the liquor cabinet.

 

“Look ladies, I’m quite sure I am old enough to decide if I want a drink or not. Now I think someone better have a good reason why you are all acting like I am a drunk or something.”

 

“Jon, don’t you think after last night, the last thing you need is another drink? You were almost dead by the time we got you back to the hotel.”

 

“That was the idea Sarah, and don’t think I will forget you tried to knock me off the chair last night either.”

 

She got red as a beet and Myrna totally lost it.

 

“See, I tole you dat man don forget nuttin.”

 

Well, Sarah got redder, and then Sally started laughing along with Myrna at Sarah’s reaction. Me, I didn’t say a word or even grin, because Sarah was glaring at me the whole time they were laughing at her. I just knew if I opened my mouth she would go off on me.

 

We finally made it home without me getting in any deeper, and that was when I noticed my truck and Sarah’s car were missing.

 

I asked Sarah and she just looked as shocked as I was mad. I stomped into the house and called Jerry on the phone. I was told he was in a meeting and would call me back as soon as it was over. I very calmly told the operator who I was, and that they were to take an immediate message to him that I wanted him to call me immediately. She got kind of snotty about it, so I asked with whom I was speaking. She airily told me her name was Barb and that she was the head operator.

 

“Well Barb, if you plan on keeping your job, I suggest you do as I ask. Also, when I talk to Jerry, I will be sure and mention your attitude to me on the phone. I am sure he will appreciate it as much as I do. Oh, and Barb, don’t plan on retiring after today.” Click!

 

By this time I was really pissed and the girls disappeared into the house. I went to my study and there was a big hole where the gun safe had stood. I went to my files and they were all gone too. Now these were CASA cases and my personal notes on several hundred cases. Why the hell they would be taken I had no idea, so I called everyone into my study. I waited for them to gather, and then told them all to check and see if anything was missing of a personal nature or otherwise. Sarah informed me all her case files were missing too, and that all her CD’s had been taken. I looked at Sally and she said the only thing left in her room was her riding clothes and the trophies and ribbons she had won with Sparky. Myrna informed me that all her stock information and her personal papers were also gone. Anything that was on paper in the whole house had been taken we discovered as we looked around. All of my grandfather’s papers from the Civil War and all the old documents were also gone from the garage where they had been stored. Some of those things were personal letters from Grant and Lee and were worth a lot of money on the market to collectors. I was ready to explode by the time we all got back to my study again. That’s when the phone rang and it was Jerry returning my call.

 

“Hey Jon, I was just getting ready to come to the hospital to see you. I have some good news.”

 

“Damn the good news Jerry, I thought you told me that all of our possessions would be returned?”

 

“That’s what I was promised by the head of the Marshals Service. Why, what’s wrong, Jon?”

 

I spent the next half hour chewing his ass because he hadn’t followed up on it all, and what we had found when we got to the farm. I also told him about my grandfathers Civil War papers and the CASA files that were missing from my and Sarah’s file cabinets. I reminded him that these were sensitive documents and that anyone with them could be charged with a felony for just having them. I also said it was time I made a few calls of my own, since he couldn’t seem to get the job done. Needless to say he was pissed at me and the Marshals Service by the time I got through reaming him out. I told him it was ten in the morning now and if I didn’t see my stuff being returned by two this afternoon I was going to stir up a mess for the Marshals Service and some others including him for not doing his job. He was sputtering into the phone when I hung up grinning, and called Bill, his godfather. I told him word for word what I had told Jerry and he said he would get on it from his end also and call in some markers from some old friends in the government. I thanked him and hung up, wondering what was going to explode first, my arm or Jerry after Bill chewed his ass all over again.

 

 

 

Chapter # 9

 

 

 

Myrna made me a cup of coffee as I sat at my empty desk, wondering how our CASA files figured into the investigation. All of my grandfather’s stuff had been in unmarked boxes, so anyone finding them wouldn’t know what they were unless they took the time to sit for hours like I had and go through them.

 

The CASA files were what were worrying me because of their sensitive nature. The locations and addresses of several cases were written down, and would be a good tool for someone looking for a particular family or child. Sarah’s were the same way, but hers contained personal case files on the mental evaluation part of a lot of the cases we had worked on. There was no way the Marshals could have missed what they were because of the big letters stamped on every file. I could understand them taking the weapons, even if the warrants had been rigged, but the files were completely separate from the shooting case, and never should have seen the light of day.

 

My thoughts were interrupted by a tapping noise I couldn’t immediately identify. I looked around my study and heard it again. I looked at the window and a man in a suit was standing outside with his finger over his lips. He motioned for me to come outside and disappeared from my sight. I didn’t have a weapon to grab so I reached under my desk and got my old combat stiletto I had taped to the leg. I went out the door leading to the small porch off my study, and found him sitting on the step behind the big bush waiting on me. I immediately figured he was trying to stay out of sight by the way he was hunched looking around. I went over and sat down beside him with my finger on the button of the stiletto waiting, to see if I was in any danger.

 

“Mr. Morgan, my name’s Steve Ashton. I am undercover, working for the NSA. I was put in the Marshals Service to work for Dwight Medford, the supervisor you have nicknamed the runt.”

 

“Why are you coming to me, Ashton? You are taking a big chance of being seen by coming here.”

 

“I know that, Mr. Morgan, but if you will shut up a minute I will tell you why I am here and sneak out before someone sees me. The runt took all your case files to his home instead of booking them as evidence. He belongs to the National Free Church, the same group you tangled with out in Texas a couple of years ago. I have worked my way up to being his number two. Right now he is looking for someone, and you are the only one who knows where she is. He wants the girl’s mother, who you freed from their compound. His raid on your house was his excuse to get his hands on your files. Along with several of his men, he is some kind of an enforcer for the Church. They want the mother bad. Her brother is pushing it from the compound in Maryland, where the girl is right now. She has been married and has a kid with one of the leaders there. I know she is only fifteen, but that’s their way and God help anyone who tries to do anything about it. I shouldn’t be here, but I wanted you to know. It’s time he was put out of business and this whole mess cleared up. My superiors told me to stay out of it but I wanted you to know. Now, I am leaving and you haven’t seen me. No, I don’t have the luxury to answer any questions right now. I will contact you again as soon as I think it’s safe. Good bye Mr. Morgan.”

 

He walked away before I could react. I went back in the house and sat down at my desk. The files didn’t contain the girl’s mother’s whereabouts or address because I never filed it after the girl was taken the second time. I had kept all of that in my hiding place that only I knew about. The whole file was there along with pictures and dates and addresses of everyone involved. I had several cases like that hidden there because of the danger involved to the subjects in each case. I had always kept these kinds of cases separate from the others and always would. Sarah hadn’t been involved so she wouldn’t know anything about it or have anything in her files either. Looks like the runt lost his job and went to a lot of trouble for nothing. He would have more trouble when it was discovered the files taken from the house had never been logged in as evidence. The ones he had were every day run of the mill cases that had already been solved or settled in court. Knowing Sarah like I did, I already knew she wouldn’t write anything down that was sensitive in her home files. She had shown them to me once and all her stuff was mostly notes on meetings and some kind of made up code about some of her active cases. I already knew her stuff was in the Clerk of Courts office in the big safe there. It all came back to the National Free Church, which I had already lost one kid to. But thanks to Ashton, I now knew where she was. I still had a few weeks before my shoulder healed, and then I was going to get back into that case. It still haunted me, even after all this time.

 

The phone rang and it was Jerry on the other end. He didn’t sound too happy with me when I answered.

 

“Jon, there is no record of any files or paperwork from your house being booked in. I am on the other line with the Head of the Marshals Service and he wants to know what you’re talking about.”

 

“Jerry, tell him the runt didn’t book them as evidence, but took all of them to his home. I just got a call from a snitch of mine who said he watched them carry a truck load of boxes into his house. I suggest you get the FBI involved in this since they are all CASA files. I think the Marshals Service would be better off to bow out of this before it blows up in their faces. I also want my personal pistols returned immediately as I have no defense if my house is attacked.”

 

“Jon, I will pass the word on, but it is going to stir up some hard feelings against you. As for your personal weapons, I was told they would be returned after they have been inspected along with your antique fire arms. The Marshals don’t want any trouble over those guns. The press is already sniffing around, and they have had several calls from some powerful Senators who control their budget. They are all walking on eggs right now because of the way this whole thing has been handled.”

 

“Where the hell is my truck and Sarah’s car, Jerry?”

 

“You mean they took those too? Damn let me get on it and get them back to you right away. What the hell didn’t they take, Jon?”

 

“They also took all of Myrna’s papers, and a lot of everyone else’s personal stuff including all of the girl’s CDs. Jerry, you have four more hours before I start making calls.”

 

“I know, Jon, I know.”

 

He hung up. I was smiling at his apparent frustration over this case. I called Bill and asked how his connections were for me to buy a pistol from a private individual as soon as possible. I went on to tell him about what Jerry had told me, saying I wanted a gun right away because we were defenseless as it was right now.

 

“Jon, I have a friend that lives about five miles from you. He sells at all the gun shows because he hates all the red tape. He has a lot of top of the line weapons, and I am sure he can find something you will like. He isn’t cheap, but his guns are not registered and all of them are clean. He is a little weird when it comes to strangers, but I am sure I can convince him to come see you. He only deals in cash. Jon, how many years have we known each other?”

 

“Since I took Sally in as my ward. Why Bill?”

 

“There’s something else going on isn’t there?”

 

“Yea Bill, but I won’t talk about it on the phone because it might be tapped after what I learned today. Do me a favor and call Tiny and tell him to have the Geek come out here with his equipment right away, will you?”

 

“I sure will Jon, and I think I will call on ole Jeb Marley myself and come out with him in about an hour or so. I will tell him to bring his special line out with him. I have a feeling that’s what you are looking for and he has it all to sell, if the price is right. See you later, Jon. I also will call Doc and have him give me some pain pills for you just in case.”

 

“Thanks Bill.”

 

I had just hung up the phone when Myrna called me for lunch. I went into the kitchen and the girls were already there waiting. When I sat down at the counter Myrna sat a big plate of ham and eggs in front of me, saying I hadn’t had any breakfast and I needed the protein to heal. The girls were served cold sandwiches and I caught Sally staring at my plate full of ham and eggs several times as she ate her sandwich. Myrna went to the stove and I scooped a big fork full of eggs and fed them to her. I then slipped her a big piece of ham and we almost got caught because Myrna turned back around as I was moving the fork back to my side of the counter. She looked at Sally then me but didn’t say anything, but Sarah almost gave it away because she almost choked at the look I got from Myrna.

 

I had just taken another bite when Myrna spoke up talking to Sally.

 

“Young Lady, if you wanted a hot meal you shoulda asked instead of wanting peanut butter and jelly. You betta quit bummin Mistah Jon’s food.” Sally looked at her in shock and Sarah just started laughing at the look on her face. Sally looked at me and I just shrugged my shoulders. We all looked at Myrna for some explanation and she just smiled at us.

 

“Next time wipe de grease from around yore mouth, girl.”

 

I looked at Sally and sure enough there was a trace of grease above her upper lip. She turned red and I laughed at her red face. From that point on, the whole mood lightened and everyone was laughing and kidding back and forth. I told them I had an electronics wizard coming to check the house for bugs and explained why. To my surprise they were mad because they thought it was a personal affront to them. I also told Sarah what Jerry said about our vehicles and that seemed to make her happy. When we were through eating, the girls said they were going for a walk. I told them to stay close, just in case. I knew Sally wanted to go to the barn, but I didn’t know if Tiny was able to do as I had asked. I hoped they didn’t go that far for all our sakes. After they went out the back door, Myrna told me that Tiny had buried Sparky next to the barn in a deep hole and had put up a metal cross for Sally. I let out a sigh of relief when I heard this and smiled at her.

 

“Myrna, is our emergency cash still in the hole?”

 

“Yea Mistah Jon, I checked first thing.”

 

“Good, dig out ten thousand for me, will you? Bill and a friend of his are coming and I want to buy a couple of guns from him. Until we get ours back, I have no way of defending the house. Plus, I have to pay the Geek when he gets through checking the house. I probably won’t use it all, but I want it close at hand just in case.”

 

“I still gots my ole grandpap’s pistol. They didn’t get it because it was in de hole wit our money. I is gettin it out and keepin it close, just in case Mistah Jon.”

 

I just looked at her for a minute until the picture of her standing guard at the barn came back to me. I didn’t say anything else, just shook my head at her and grinned. I got a big smile in return before I went back to my study. I picked up my binoculars on the way and used them to look toward the barn. Sure enough I saw Sally and Sarah walking that way, waving their arms in animated conversation. I panned to the side of the barn and there was a big pile of fresh dirt about a hundred yards from the side of the barn. Sally must have seen it, because she pointed, and she and Sarah headed toward it. I noticed they both walked wide of the barn like it was out of bounds or something.

 

I watched as they walked up to Sparky’s grave and stood. Sally turned and Sarah hugged her, and even as far away as I was from them, I could see she was sobbing as Sarah held her. I felt my eyes tearing up and wiped them with the tail of my shirt. God did I feel bad for her about this. I knew Sparky was her pet and friend. They had grown up together and both of them had, I was sure, comforted each other over the years. I remembered there was an old moth eaten, battle scarred cat at the orphanage. We all used to feed it when the adults weren’t looking. No one could ever touch him, but it seemed like whenever one of us got upset or sad he was always able to sense it and just stood looking at us. One day he didn’t show up for the scraps we had been sneaking to him, and every kid there spent every second we could sneaking out looking for him. We never saw him again, but we all missed him for a long time. I have remembered that incident several times over my adult years, and could never figure out why.

 

I watched as they turned and walked back toward the house, with Sarah’s arm across Sally’s shoulder as they talked and walked. I caught a movement in the woods line and immediately focused the binoculars on it. There was a man in a suit standing partially behind a tree watching the girls with a pair of binoculars. The fact that he was in a suit only confirmed my suspicions that this wasn’t over yet. He had to be working for the runt, but unless I could catch him I couldn’t prove it. Then I had an idea I would put into motion as soon as the Geek made sure the house was clear. I had thought about doing this before, but my grandfather had talked me out of it saying it would be too expensive. Well I had the money, and if I called the right person, it could be done in less than a week if he put both his crews on it.

 

The Geek didn’t know it yet, but he was about to bring my home and property into the new age. I was going to have the whole property covered with cameras. That way there would be no uninvited visitors. I had a few other ideas I was going to run by him when he got here today. I felt sure he would take on the job, since he liked a challenge. Then I would have a talk with Tiny about buying some of his friend’s guard dogs. I figured four of them roving the property would do nicely. If I was going to tangle with the Church again, I would make sure that this time I had the home front covered the best I knew how. I didn’t plan on losing the battle with them again, and would involve the right authorities before I moved in on my prey. The motto “persevere” would come in handy. I didn’t plan on losing and would be as hard and cruel as they were, if it was called for.

 

 

 

Chapter # 10

 



As I waited for someone to show up, I thought about the church and started to get mad. I couldn’t believe after all this time, the girl I had been looking for was in Maryland, of all places. I still had the reward in effect, but they had hidden her well. I had never even thought about her being in the U.S., let alone just a few hundred miles from me. I was in a deep funk when I heard someone knocking at the front door. Myrna beat me to it. The pistol she was carrying looked bigger than she was. From what I could see, it was an old Colt Dragoon from the Civil War Era. Damn, that thing would kick like a horse if she decided to shoot it.

 

By the time I got to the door, Myrna was opening it. I very distinctly heard her cock the pistol that she had behind her back. I think the Marshal standing outside did too because he immediately stiffened. I knew him, so I quickly told Myrna it was ok.

 

“Hey Jon, we brought your truck and Sarah’s car back. I have to have you look at them before you sign the release papers, but I don’t know why since they were never impounded. We found them in a small clearing with the keys still in them, down at the edge of town. I ain’t supposed to tell you this, but the FBI is raiding Dwight’s house as we speak. Man, the head Marshal is having a cow over all of this. He got called on the carpet twice today. First about your arrest, then about the CASA papers.”

 

“Mike, are there any of your men watching the house?”

 

“What the hell would we do that for, Jon? We all thought the shooting was righteous and that you were lucky to be alive.”

 

I went on to tell him about the suit out by the back road watching my house. He just looked at me for a minute, and then he asked for directions to the shortest way to get to where I had seen him. I laid it all out for him and then signed the papers he had. He jumped into the unmarked unit along with the driver and the extra man they had along. They talked for a few minutes and then tore out of the driveway, headed for the shortcut to the back road.

 

I walked over and gave Sarah’s car a good look. It looked like it had never been searched nor did my truck. I quickly grabbed the little star wrench and took the back light on my pickup out of its mountings. I pulled the box out that was wedged in the fender well behind it. I opened it, and the little .380 was still wrapped up and the money I had hidden with it was all there too. I had just finished getting it all back together when Bill’s car, with a rust bucket of a pickup following it, pulled into my driveway. Bill got out and motioned for me to come over. He was laughing at something the driver of the pickup said as I walked up to them.

 

“Jon, this is Jeb Marley. He and your grandpap did a lot of business together.”

 

I shook his hand and he handed me a card with his address and phone number on it. Then to my surprise, he started the old truck and left. I turned and looked at Bill and he was laughing at the expression on my face.

 

“Jon, he just accepted you as a customer. You will find very explicit directions on the card to his workshop in town where he does all his business. He is a very private individual. He sold a lot of guns to your grandfather over the years. Half of his collection Jeb found for him. I will stay here until you get back so the girls won’t be alone. I also have some pain pills in the car for you.”

 

“Bill, I can’t leave here for a couple of hours. I have the Geek coming to go over the house for bugs and then I want to call Pete and get him out here today.”

 

“Ok, I can call Pete, he and I are old friends. I don’t know who the Geek is, so that’s on you, my friend.”

 

He grabbed the sack from his front seat and handed it to me as we walked into the house. Myrna was standing inside the door still holding that big old pistol. Bill got a big grin on his face at seeing her with it and quickly gave her a hug, laughing the whole time.

 

“Myrna, the last time you shot that thing it knocked you on your ass.”

 

“I was but a little girl den, Mistah Bill.”

 

“Oh for shit sakes Myrna, don’t you think it’s about time you quit talking like a slave? Jon, she graduated from Princeton with honors and speaks better English than either of us. I have no idea why she keeps talking like that, but I hate to hear it, as did your grandfather.”

 

This came as a big shock to me and from the looks Bill was getting from Myrna, he would be poisoned if he stayed in the house much longer. After I thought about it for a minute, I totally lost it. I still hadn’t completely lost my French accent, and all this time she could have been helping me with my pronunciation. There were all the new American words I had to learn when I came over here from France. Sarah and Sally came in and both of them were grinning at the expressions on our faces. If a lady of color could blush, then Myrna was doing a good job of it because her face was red as a beet. Sally asked what was so funny and of course Bill told her too. I thought Myrna was going to explode. Sally went off on her in a flash.

 

“Myrna Robbins, if I was a little older, I would smack you so hard you wouldn’t wake up until tomorrow! All these years I been trying to help you with your English and you graduated from Princeton with honors. If you ever pull a stunt like that on me again, I will hit you over the head with one of your own iron skillets. I can’t believe you made a fool out of me for all these years, and Jon too!”

 

“I’m sorry I had to fool you, Sally, but Jon deserved it. He was a snooty little Frenchman who thought my cooking wasn’t good enough for him. It took years for me to realize he wasn’t insulting me, but thought I was just a dumb cook. Then when he called me his family in the hospital, I didn’t know how to come out and tell you both the truth. I have always thought until that night, he just kept me here cause of his promise to his grandfather. I never realized he really cared about me. I love you both like you’re my own children, and now I feel like a fool because of my actions. If it wasn’t for this old fool, I would never have said anything at all. But he had to open his big mouth, just like always.”

 

We all looked at Bill and he was grinning from ear to ear, watching us.

 

“Oh God, this is so funny. I can’t believe she got away with it for all these years. Jon I can understand, but I figured Sally or Sarah would have caught on by now. Myrna, I have to give you credit, but now the cat’s out of the bag so maybe you better rethink how you talk and act from now on.”

 

“Thanks to you, you old fool. If you had just kept your big mouth shut, I could have kept on. Now I have to act like I’m educated.”

 

She stomped out of the room, muttering under her breath about being made to feel like a fool. I lost it again and they all looked at me like I was nuts.

 

“Hell guys, I thought all people of color talked that way. I never had a cook until I came here and it took me a year to realize she didn’t belong to my grandfather. I thought that maybe some richer Americans still kept slaves in secret. Since I wasn’t American, I didn’t figure it was any of my business. When she came to me begging to stay, I thought I had inherited her or something. Grandfather had told me that she had been in the family her whole life. I didn’t even know that she had ever gone to school until just now.”

 

They all looked at me in surprise and Sally busted out laughing at me. The other two quickly joined in and they were having a great time at my expense. Bill was shaking his head and Sally and Sarah were almost hysterical, they were laughing so hard. Of course it was my ward that put the cap on the whole thing while gasping for air.

 

“Jon,” gasp, “even I knew,” gasp, “that it was against the law,” gasp, “to own slaves when I graduated from the first,” gasp, “grade.”

 

“Well for all of your information, I have been in countries where slavery is still a big money maker for the rich. I have seen whole families broken up and sold to the highest bidder. I hated every minute of it, but I couldn’t do a thing about it. I have been in places where they welcomed being a slave over starving. It still goes on to this day, and it is still an accepted way of life.”

 

I left them and went to my study and sat down behind the desk, fuming at myself for letting their laughter get to me so badly. Hell, they all knew more than I did about this country. If they had seen half of what I had around the world, they would be sick to their stomachs every time they thought about it. I had seen and smelled the fear and desperation that surrounded the slave pens where the bidding went on. It made me think of the girl again, and I got madder as I thought about what she would have been forced to endure. If it was the last thing I did, I would break up this so called church and their way of life. If I got my hands on her uncle, he wouldn’t survive the encounter, if I could help it.

 

I heard the knock at the front door and then heard Tiny saying something to Sally. Then he and the Geek walked into my study.

 

“Hey Jon, I brought the little fella. What do you want him to do?”

 

I had to laugh since the Geek, a.k.a. Jimmy, was almost as big as Tiny was. He looked like a weight lifter except for the thick glasses that he wore to see his computers. I told him what I thought might be going on and what I wanted him to look for. He said there wasn’t anything on the market that he couldn’t find with his equipment. I told him to go to work and to check out the whole house. He should be sure to check the phone box and the junction box out by the road. He grinned and gave me a thumbs up and went to work. Bill told me that he had already called Pete to come out and see about setting up security. I sent Tiny out to the kitchen to tell Myrna that I needed some coffee to take a pain pill. I sat back and thought about how I was going to protect the house when I went after the church. The ideas just kept rolling through my head. I was deep in thought when Tiny and Bill, followed by Myrna with a tray came into the study. She poured us all a cup of coffee and handed me a pill bottle.

 

“Jon, you’re pushing too hard so soon after being shot. I called the doc and he is going to stop out tonight to change your bandages and look at your wounds. You need to slow down a little or you’re gonna end up back in the hospital.”

 

“I know what I’m capable of, Myrna. These wounds are minor and I still have a lot to do today. I know you’re worried, but I think I know when to slow down better than you do.”

 

“See, there he goes again, being a smart aleck Frenchman toward me. You know, I could just clobber you sometimes, Mista Jon.”

 

She gave me a shit eating grin then went out of the study in a huff. Bill and Tiny were grinning at me again so I just flipped them both the bird, forgetting I still had a hot cup of coffee in my hand. Needless to say I paid for my blunder by having to go to my room and change pants. Of course they thought it was funny too. When I got back down, Pete was in the study drinking coffee and laughing up a storm with Bill.

 

I told him why I had called him over and he said both his crews were between jobs and could start on it tomorrow morning, if it was ok with me. Bill was frowning by the time I finished telling him what I wanted.

 

“Dammit Jon, the neighbors are going to have a fit about that last part. I can understand wanting the woven wire fence eight foot high, but do you have to have barbed wire on the top of it? This place will look like a prison and your grandfather will roll over in his grave. Will you please reconsider the barbed wire?”

 

“Ok Bill, Pete, let’s do it another way. Don’t put tension bars on the top and interweave razor wire in the wire on the top two feet, letting small loops hang down on the inside. That way, if anyone crawls over it, they will get tangled up in the loops and cut the hell out of themselves. With no tension bar on top, it will give easily and they won’t be able to balance themselves without the fence wobbling. Does that sound better to you, Bill?”

 

“Jon, I’m not sure what’s going on, but do you really think someone will try to crawl over the fence to get on the property?”

 

“I think it will happen, Bill, but I hope it’s not soon. Pete, I want the posts set back three inches inside the property line all the way around. That way, if someone tries to sue me, I will be protected since they will be on my property in order to climb the fence. I also want signs put up every twenty feet. They will say the usual about trespassing and private property, but they will also say guard dogs roving free inside and to enter at your own risk.”

 

“Jon, you don’t own any dogs.”

 

“When the fence is done, there will be. I will have three or four highly trained guard dogs roving the property at all times from now on, Bill.”

 

He just looked at me in shock and I told him I would tell him why later. He was still thinking about it when Myrna called us to dinner. We all got up and headed for the dining room and to my surprise, all three of the women were setting the table. Jimmy came down from upstairs saying he was done up there and I told him to eat before he did the downstairs. He set his stuff down and came over and sat down next to Tiny. As we ate, I watched him. I thought he must not have had a home cooked meal for a long time, the way he was putting it away. I smiled to myself knowing Myrna would have plenty for everyone, no matter how much they could eat. We sat around the table eating with Myrna talking without the accent. I almost laughed out loud at Tiny as he watched her during whole meal. He couldn’t believe this was his aunt talking to everyone. I was grinning to myself throughout the whole meal, as was Sally. She winked at me because she was watching Tiny too. Sarah just rolled her eyes at us and didn’t say a word for a change.

 

 

 

Chapter # 11

 

 

 

We had just finished dinner when I told Bill I was going to his friend’s and would be back in about an hour. As I went out the front door, I heard him tell Tiny where I was going. I had just climbed into my truck when Sarah came running up to the door.

 

“Jon, I want you to pick me up a nine millimeter for my own protection. I already know how to shoot, so don’t worry about that. With all that’s going on, I think it’s time.”

 

“I will if that’s what you want, Sarah. You do know you will have to take the course to carry it concealed?”

 

“I have already taken the course and sent the paperwork in. The Judge in Juvenile Court told me he would make sure it got expedited for me.”

 

“Ok, let me see what he has and I will pick out something for you.”

 

“Thanks, Jon, I really appreciate it. See you when you get back.”

 

I watched as she walked away, wondering why I had never paid much attention to her. She sure was pretty, I thought, as I headed for the town and Jeb’s workshop. I paid careful attention to make sure I didn’t have a tail as I drove, and it seemed I was the only vehicle on the road all the way to town. I found his shop without a problem and went inside, marveling at all the weapons he had displayed on the walls behind the counter. This man, I realized, really took his business seriously. I watched two men who were wandering around, watching me as I walked up to the counter. I could plainly see both were armed and both looked mean enough to bite a snake’s head off if they got mad.

 

This had been a marvel to me since I came to this country, the casual ease in which the people here seemed to love their guns. For the most part, they all seemed to know how to shoot them well too. In France, it wasn’t illegal to own a gun, but it took a lot of paperwork and checks before you could even buy a pistol legally. Shotguns were the main weapon of choice by all the farmers there. Here, anyone who lived in the country or the rural areas owned both pistols and rifles. My grandfather had told me a lot of them slept with them under their pillows from habit. Now me, I would keep one close, but not under my pillow. The way I tossed and turned and with the nightmares I still had, I would quite possibly shoot myself by accident. Nope, under the pillow was a little too close for me.

 

“Mr. Morgan, I am glad you decided to come tonight instead of tomorrow. Bill told me you didn’t have any weapons in the house and wouldn’t until yours were returned.”

 

“Well, Myrna had her grandfather’s cannon.”

 

He busted out laughing and looked at me for a moment.

 

“That old Dragoon she has is worth thousands of dollars. It’s one of the styles that was converted to use cartridges instead of black powder. Tell her if she ever decides to sell it to think of me first, will you? Now, come on to the back and look at what I have to offer. Since you’re almost family, I will give you a good price on anything you pick out.”

 

I followed him to another area that held an indoor shooting range. The place was huge and looked to have at least fifty firing stalls. In front of it were at least twenty large tables with red felt on them and covered with pistols of every size and shape. He went down the line, telling me which tables had new guns, which were slightly used, and so on. He also said the last table was junk that you could throw away if needed, winking at me as he said it. I was almost halfway back to the new guns when what he said and the wink that went along with it sunk in. I hoped I would never need to use a throwaway while I did my job. If I ever did something like that, I knew I would quit and return to France for the rest of my life.

 

I went down the side of the first table looking around before I saw what I was looking for and picked it up. Yep, this will do for my personal weapon, I thought. I also saw a nice lady’s hammerless pistol with a two inch barrel that I thought would be perfect for Sarah. I remembered she wanted a nine, but this she could carry in a small holster, or in her pocket or purse while she worked. I picked it out and then looked for a backup weapon for me for my ankle holster. I found a beautiful stainless Sig Sauer with the extended mags in the .380 caliber. I had really liked that gun when I was in France so I grabbed it immediately. Now that’s two Sigs and one S&W. I had another thought as I walked toward Jeb, sitting in his office.

 

“Jeb, do you have the extended mags for the Sig forty I want?”

 

“I think I have ten of them if you want them all. I will give you a wholesale price on all of them. I have three in stock for that little .380 there, if you want them too.”

 

“Jeb, I also have an odd request for you, if you can find it for me. I want a twenty-two magnum rifle with a nine power weaver variable scope zeroed in at a hundred yards. I also want two noise suppressors for it, the type that twist and lock on instead of screwing on. I want the silencers both to be repackable by a person in the field, if necessary. Can you lay your hands on something like that? Preferably with a bull barrel and double spaced rifling.”

 

“Jon, that’s the first time I have ever heard of anyone using a twenty-two mag for a sniper rifle. You sure that’s what you want?”

 

“Jeb, we used them in the Legion for just that purpose and they worked great up to a hundred and twenty yards. Anything over that and they are worthless, but they work great under rough conditions. If you can find the breakdown style, I will pay you extra.”

 

“I can get what you want, Jon, but it will take me a couple of weeks to do it. You want single shot or mag fed?”

 

“Bolt action mag fed if you can find one. Preferably ten shot mags. I want hi-grain hollow points for it with a full jacket, not soft lead points.”

 

He just looked at me for a minute before he went out the door and came back with the mags for the pistols and several boxes of shells. He also had an ankle holster and a fast draw breakaway shoulder for the forty. He had a small universal holster for the S&W and several speed loaders and shells for it. I immediately put the shoulder holster on and asked for a mechanical loader for the mags for the forty. I couldn’t load it with one arm not working right. He sat and loaded all the mags for me, then bent down and attached the ankle holster to my left ankle. He finished up, sat back down, and looked at me for a couple of minutes before he spoke. What he said was disturbing, but I was glad for the offer he made.

 

“Jon, for what it’s worth, I think with what you are going to do, you will need some help. You have my card and I know a couple of ex navy seals who would love to get back out in the field. I suggest that if you get in over your head, you give me a call and I will send both of them to you. They are both meaner than junk yard dogs, but they know how to follow orders. Your grandfather was a good friend to me for many years and that’s why, to me, you are family.”

 

“I appreciate the offer, Jeb, but I am staying home until I am healed and won’t be getting into any trouble. I don’t know where you think I am going, but I will promise you that if I do need help, I will call. Now, add up what I owe you so I can get back to the house before Bill comes looking for me.”

 

We both laughed. He added it up much too quickly, I thought, and the total was hundreds less than I would have paid normally. I started to say something but the look on his face killed my words before I could say them. I paid in cash and didn’t sign a paper of any kind. I looked at him and he quickly told me the guns weren’t stolen or anything like that. They were on consignment from friends of his. They didn’t want any paperwork, just the money. I shrugged and smiled as I paid. He said he would deliver the rifle as soon as he got it and it would be sighted in at a hundred yards. He said he would be able, he thought, to get the survival type I wanted without a problem. He would also have a special case made for it to hold all the extras. I thanked him and he walked me out to my truck. I got in and his parting remarks made me realize just how much my grandfather had been respected all around this area.

 

“Jon, don’t hesitate to call me if you need help. I owe your grandfather my life three times over from when we were in the war. He was the one who loaned me the money to get started when I moved here. Bill is in the same situation as I am. Neither one of us will ever be able to repay all we owe him, so we have adopted you as his surrogate. Now, you take care of that arm and those beautiful women. You tell Sally that when she is ready for another horse, I have lots of friends I can call to help her find a good one.”

 

“Thanks, Jeb, I appreciate it and I will pass on your message.”

 

I drove home, wondering how I had acquired so many friends from my grandfather, with me being a foreigner to this country. When I came around the curve before the farm, I noticed an unmarked car sitting in the small pull off about a hundred feet from my driveway. The driver looked like the Marshal that had brought my truck back. When he saw me coming, he got out of the car and waved me down. I laid the forty on the seat in easy reach until I could see what he wanted.

 

“Hey Jon, I wanted to let you know we got your spy. He is back at the office doing some explaining to the boss. He pulled a gun on us when we caught him and he got a little bruised up in the scuffle. He was one of Dwight’s men who were suspended along with him yesterday. I don’t know quite what’s going on, Jon, but a lot of us have worked with you several times and we don’t like the hassle you are getting. You have my number and if you see anyone else snooping around, just call and we will take care of it for you. I also alerted the Sheriff and he is going to put some extra patrols around the area until this is cleared up. I know you’re not originally from here, but we take care of our own. If you need us, just call anytime.”

 

“Thanks, David, I appreciate it. After this week I will have dogs patrolling the property. Maybe the runt will come over to visit me and accidently get chewed on a little.”

 

He got a laugh out of that, saying it couldn’t happen to a nicer fella. We said our good-byes and I went to the house. The Geek was just walking out the front door. He walked up to my truck door saying he was going out to check the junction box and would be back in to talk to me in a few minutes. I thanked him and he laughed, saying I would feel different after I got his bill. Then I told him I had another job for him if he wasn’t too much of a geek to do it. He glared at me, saying he would meet any challenge I could throw his way. I laughed saying we would see. He walked toward the road, mumbling under his breath as he walked. I was laughing out loud as I went into the house. My arm and side were thumping, so I stopped at the kitchen before going to my study. I asked Myrna if I could get some coffee and another pain pill. She gave me a dirty look, telling me to go sit down before I fell down. I was smiling as I went into my study and flopped down in the chair behind the desk. I set the bag with the extra mags and Sara’s gun on the desk. I just hoped she liked it and not just because she thought it was a woman’s gun. For what she would want it for, it would be perfect. It would be easily hidden and there was no hammer to hang up if she needed it in a hurry. I was still sitting there but sound asleep when Myrna came in and woke me up. She had a small tray with two cups and my pill. She poured us both a cup and watched as I took the pill with the first swallow.

 

I knew she wanted to talk to me in private, and with the house being so quiet, this was a good time. Then I wondered where everyone was.

 

“Jon, I wanted to say I am sorry for acting the way I have for all these years. I guess I resented you for taking up all of your grandfather’s time, when he was running back and forth to France, trying to find you for all those years. He used to come home so mad and frustrated because he couldn’t find out what happened to you. Before he became obsessed with finding you, we used to sit and talk for hours on end. I missed him and our time together. I took out my frustrations on you for the time I lost with him. When your grandmother died, we became good friends. I nursed her for years before she passed away. He wanted to bring in a full time nurse, but I wouldn’t let him because I loved them both so much. Your grandparents and my parents were good friends for twenty years or more as I grew up. He was the one who paid for my college and taught me all about the stock market. He always said I was like a sponge and could absorb anything that caught my interest. I know I should have stepped up and helped you when you came over here, but I failed because of my jealousy toward you. Then when you brought Sally home with you, it was like I was seeing a whole different person. I saw all the love you had for her and was so proud of you both. After you got shot, I ran out and saw you laying in a pool of blood. All I could think about was that I was going to lose the two people I loved the most in this world.”

 

“Myrna, now that you have stopped for a minute to take a breath, let me get a word in. I don’t resent you in any way for the way you treated me. I deserved a lot of it because I didn’t understand the customs in this country. As for Sally, well let’s just say I didn’t like the way she was treated. I thought I could do better for her here than where she was living. Now look at the mess I caused by doing so. I have killed her mother and she lost her best friend because I interfered in the natural way of things here.”

 

“Jon Morgan, don’t you ever say that again! Sally and I have spent hours talking about it and she in no way blames you for what happened. That girl loves you like you’re her natural father. She’s more worried about losing you and her home here than she is about her mother’s death. Now Sarah is another matter. I think that you made a mistake by letting her move in here with us. No, I don’t dislike her, but she is so deeply in love with you that it will break her heart when she finally realizes what I already have figured out. Jon, I don’t think you will ever marry because I can see the restlessness in you. I think the case you are about to start on will be your last one in this country. Sally and I figure you will move back to France like you said, and I have a feeling that Sarah won’t be going with you. She is such a sweet girl, but as I said, she is in for a rough awakening when it comes to you. Jon, I know I am an old woman, but if you need a house keeper when you go over there, I would love to go with you. Sally would be happy anywhere you are. You better give it some thought, because you ain’t gonna leave us behind when you go. We are your family and you are ours, like it or not. Now, I think you better get things settled soon with the Geek and Bill, because the doc will be here in about an hour to change your bandages. Then you’re going to bed to get some rest, whether you like it or not.”

 

I watched, deep in thought, as Myrna poured the last of the coffee into my cup. She took the tray and left, headed for the kitchen. She was right, I knew. I didn’t want to hurt Sarah, but how do I get her to realize I wasn’t going to ever marry, at least I didn’t think I would. I had seen too much hurt and grief in the eight years I had been in the Legion. I had promised myself I would never put myself in a position to feel that kind of grief if I could help it. I just hoped this would resolve itself naturally without breaking Sarah’s heart. I liked and respected her too much to want that to happen. She had a bright future ahead of her, and I hoped she would have a family as she started her own practice working with the kids. She had a God given talent that shouldn’t go to waste. Hmm, maybe I could push her to start her own practice like she had mentioned last year. If she got busy enough, maybe she would forget about me for awhile. I would have to think about it another time, I thought, as I heard the Geek talking to Tiny and Bill as they came toward my study.

 

 

 

Chapter # 12

 

 

 

Myrna had been right about me needing rest. By the time I finished with the Geek and Pete, I was wiped. Bill wanted an explanation, but Myrna told him to come back tomorrow because I needed my sleep tonight. Sally was driving me crazy about resting, so I went ahead and went to bed to keep from hearing all three of the bugging me about it. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow. I slept like the dead and woke up at the crack of dawn. I felt a lot better than I deserved to because of the way I had been pushing myself yesterday. I knew I had to take it easy for a while, but hated the idea of just sitting around waiting for my body to heal.

 

I got my shower and headed for the kitchen, figuring I had beaten Myrna up for once. But as usual, I was wrong. She was in the kitchen in an old robe sipping coffee. I sat down and she poured me a cup. She didn't say a word until I had finished my first cup. She handed me a pill and I took it immediately.

 

"Jon, Jimmy found several listening devices in the house, even in the girl’s rooms. All the phones had been tapped. He also found three tracking devices on your truck and Sarah's car. He said to tell you he would be back out this morning sometime to go over in detail how you wanted the cameras laid out on the property. Why do they want to keep tabs on you like that?

 

"They think I will lead them to someone they want to find badly. Myrna, when this gets started, you and the girls are going to have to be extra careful in everything you do. I don't want any of you going anywhere by yourselves. I am going to arrange it with Tiny to make sure all of you are covered where ever you go. I am more worried about Sally, what with her prom coming up and her mother’s funeral that we are going to. She is at the age where they might try to abduct her to get to me. I will tell you now that if they touch or threaten any of you in any way, there will be hell to pay before it's all over. The fence and the dogs will help, but if they want in here, there is always a way to get around all of that."

 

"Jon, if you need help with money or anything, you remember that I have it. I would gladly give it to you to help out."

 

"Myrna, I have more money than I could ever spend in my lifetime. I have investments in so many places I don't even know all of them. Bill has been investing for me over the years, and he has always made me even more money with his choice of investments. I am sure you have some with him too, and if you don't, then you might have been very unwise with your money."

 

This got a short laugh from her as she looked at me. She went on to tell me that she had been buying and selling penny stocks for over thirty years and had made more money than she could keep track of. She also told me she had invested in several of the dot com companies and had sold out at a large profit in a very short time. She was explaining to me how she did it, when Sarah came into the kitchen. She looked like she hadn't slept at all. I noticed the dark rings under her eyes, but I didn't say anything until she sat down with her morning tea.

 

"What's wrong, Sarah? You look like you haven't slept at all, girl."

 

"Jon, I'm worried about all my files and the personal stuff they took. There were a lot of active case histories in those files that I don't want to get out. Some of the cases haven't gone to court yet, and I need my notes in order to testify. I just can't understand why they thought my files had anything to do with what you were working on. It just keeps rolling around in my head that I let the kids down because I wasn't smart enough to keep the files in a safe place. I had a hundred or more recorded personal interviews on those cds. Those poor kids poured their hearts out to me and they don't deserve to have it become public knowledge because of some power hungry government bureaucrat."

 

"I don't think you have to worry about that, Sarah. The runt was raided by the FBI yesterday and all of our files should be returned to us today. If for some reason they aren't, then I will put Jerry on it with his whole firm. When Sally comes down, we are going to have a little family meeting. I have a lot to tell all of you and I don't want to keep repeating myself."

 

That was just about the end of the conversation until Sally wandered into the kitchen, dressed, and with a big smile on her face.

 

"Good morning, everyone. Man, did I sleep like a baby last night. What's on the agenda for today, Jon?"

 

I just shook my head smiling at her. Myrna and Sarah just looked at her in disgust as if thinking nobody should be that chipper in the morning. Myrna got up and started breakfast and I held off discussing anything until we were all finished with our food, and just sitting around the table. I sat back in the chair and proceeded to tell them what was happening, and what we all would be faced with. I went on to tell them about the church and the previous case I had been involved in. I told them that the only reason our files and personal stuff had been taken was because the runt and several of his men were enforcers for the church. I didn't hold back anything and laid it all out for them, so they would know what we were facing when I started after the church. When I finished, I looked at all of them and said that I wanted their opinions and any advice they could think of. There was total silence for about five minutes before Sarah spoke up first.

 

"Jon, I heard about that case but I wasn't working with you then. I also heard that her uncle had disappeared, and was still wanted for jumping bail."

 

"That's true, Sarah, and now I think I know where he is. I wanted to make sure all of you knew what was going on before all of this starts. I will do everything in my power to make sure all of you are as safe as possible, but there is always a chance they might try to grab one of you if they think it will make me back off. I won’t lie to you and if you want, I will send you to a friend of mine in another country to make sure all of you are safe. I will bust up this church at least as much as I can. I waited for Sally to speak but to my surprise it took her longer than usual. I knew I didn't have to worry about Myrna because she already knew about most of it. I for one wouldn't want to try to grab her cause it would be like tangling with a grizzly bear. Sally finally spoke and like most kids her age, she spoke from a kids point of view, which I had always found to be refreshing.

 

"Jon, I don't want to leave and I don't want to get grabbed either. I think from what you have told us so far you are in the right. If it were me, I would want you out looking for me even if it took years to do it. That poor girl needs you, and I will be glad to do all I can to help. I think having Tiny as my driver for the prom is a good idea as I wouldn't want to be the poor soul who tried anything with him. God is he big. I am sure all the girls won’t mind, but you will have to call the school and make sure they know he is my bodyguard. You know how the principal is, he won't let Tiny in if he isn't informed about it. I do need to have a few minutes of your time later to talk about Mom’s funeral. Don't worry, Jon, we will all make it a point to watch out for each other while you’re helping that poor girl."

 

"Sally, Sarah, Tiny is my sister’s boy, and if he lets something happen while he's supposed to be watching you his life will become miserable. Not only will he get it from me, but from my sister and her husband too. He doesn't know it, but we are all good friends and tell each other everything that goes on in our lives. He has a lot of friends that are as big and rough as he is, and I will make sure they are around close by at all times when we are out anywhere. Jon, you just worry about getting well, and getting that poor girl out of that hell she was forced into. We will handle the home front, so don't you worry about us. Now, if everyone is done talking, I want to clean up the kitchen. Sally, you and Jon go to the study and talk. Sarah, you and I will have a little discussion about the house, and what we can do to make it safer for all of us."

 

I knew a dismissal when I heard one, so I filled my coffee cup and headed for the study with Sally following on my heels, giggling at Myrna. We went in and I sat behind the desk while she perched herself on one of the chairs sitting in front of the desk. I didn't say anything, figuring she would tell me what was on her mind when she was ready. I had always made time for her and we had many discussions about quite a few subjects, including the dreaded sex topic and girls’ behavior as their bodies changed. Looking at her sitting there fidgeting in the chair, I realized she would be a beautiful woman when she grew up. I just hoped when she went out on her own that she would have learned something from me and Myrna about life and behavior.

 

"Jon, Mom didn't have anyone but me, and I don't even know if she had any insurance. I told the funeral director I wanted her cremated, but I did want to have a service for anyone that wants to come. Can I borrow some money to pay for it?"

 

"Sally, you tell the funeral director to set her up with the best and I will pay for it. You make the arrangements however you want, and don't worry about the cost. Honey, you’re all I have and anything I have is yours too. I should have thought of it instead of letting it all fall on your shoulders. Honey, I'm sorry for not doing it for you."

 

"Jon, it isn't your fault, it’s hers. She never even took the time to visit me or write. She left me with my stepfather when I was four, and I never heard another word from her. He was mean and spiteful after she left and always took it out on me because of what she did. You took me out of all of that, and gave me a life any girl would be thankful for. I know I'm only thirteen, but I really think that if not for you, I wouldn't have made it this far. Jon, since I don't have any family, will you adopt me and give me your name? I know I haven't always been easy to get along with. I just did it to get your attention and you always just let me get away with it. I love you like you’re my real father, and if something should ever happen to you, I want to be able to have a say in my own future. Myrna and I have talked about just this situation and she always said I would never be happy until I asked you. Will you think about it Jon?"

 

"Sally, there's nothing to think about. If I can legally do it I will. I’ll put Bill on it immediately. I have watched you grow from that little dirty faced girl into a beautiful young woman and I have always been proud of you. I would give anything to undo what's happened but I can't. I love you like you are my own daughter, and I think I always have, Sally. I feel honored and proud that you would consider me to be your family. What about your real father, won't he object? I never heard you mention him but if I were in his shoes, I would throw a fit."

 

"I don't think she knew who he was, Jon. According to my stepfather, she got pregnant when she was on one of her monthly binges. He always said she didn't even know she was pregnant until her fourth month, when she started to show. He always made it a point to scream at me that she couldn't even remember who she slept with. Whenever he beat me or sent me to my room hungry, I used to dream my real dad was like you, Jon. He loved me and would rescue me from all the misery I was living in. Then you came, and it has been like a fairytale ever since. Jon, I truthfully think you were somehow sent there that day to rescue me. Even if you don't adopt me, I will be happy living here with you and Myrna. I will always miss Sparky, but at least you gave us both a chance to grow up together. I never would have gotten that if not for you."

 

I just looked at her with tears running down my cheeks, thinking how happy she had just made me. She looked up at me with hope in her eyes, saw the tears, and was around the desk and in my arms in a flash. I hugged her, letting all my love for her wash over us both. I looked up, and saw Myrna was peeking around the door with a big smile on her face. I smiled at her, and she smiled back and stuck her thumb up in the air as she disappeared again.

 

 

 

Chapter # 13




I don’t know how long Sally and I sat and looked at each other, sharing our feelings, but it must have been quite awhile. Finally, she sniffed and kissed me on the cheek and went out of my study. I had just wiped my eyes when the phone rang. It was the FBI on the other end, asking when would be a good time for them to return all of our personal possessions. I told them they could do it anytime but they were going to have to have someone do the filing since I was wounded and was unable to do it. The agent said they were sending along two of their office clerks to handle that and they should be arriving within the hour. When I hung up the phone, I smiled to myself thinking that since they were furnishing the clerks, my grandfathers papers could finally be filed after all these years. He had filing cabinets in the office out in the garage, but for some reason had never got around to putting anything away. I had thought about it several times, but never got into them either.

 

The phone rang again. This time it was Tiny and Jimmy saying they were on their way out. I had just hung it up when it rang for the third time. Pete was on his cell, telling me they were starting on the fence at the back of the property. I told him to go ahead and to remember what I wanted with the razor wire. He said he had fifteen rolls left from a job that he would use. It wouldn’t cost me much since it was surplus and nothing he would ever use on his normal jobs. I thanked him and was hanging up the phone for the third time when I heard Myrna answering the door. Man this place was like a public toilet, everyone wanted in today. It was Bill, and Myrna was giving him hell saying for a change he better keep his big mouth shut unless asked a question. He was protesting and they both were laughing as he came to my office. When he came in, he had a big smile on his face. Myrna was still scowling at him as she went by headed for the kitchen. I was grinning at them as he sat down.

 

“Ok Jon, I came back because you promised to give me an explanation about what’s going on. I was up most of the night wondering why you are taking so many precautions.”

 

“Before I get into that, Bill, I have a more serious matter to discuss with you.”

 

I went on to tell him about Sally’s wants and my thoughts about it. He sat there and looked at me for a few minutes then started grinning like an idiot.

 

“Jon, I filed the papers this morning and I don’t think there will be any problems unless her dad comes forward to contest it. Before you go off, Myrna called me first thing and told me to get them filed immediately. Jon, I’ve had those papers drawn up for about three years, just waiting on the word so I could file them. I have watched you two interact together for years and I knew this day would come sooner or later. I’m just glad I got to live long enough to see it. It will take about sixty days to finalize so now, will you please tell me what’s going on?”

 

I spent the next hour filling him in on my history with the church. I told him about the three year old case concerning a 12 year old girl who had been taken from a foster home by her uncle. It had taken me six months to find her and get her out of a religious group in Texas, where she was being held. While on a layover during the flight home, she was snatched again and no one had any idea who had taken her or where she was. I told him that her uncle, who had been jailed at the same time, had bonded out and also disappeared. I had spent six more months looking for her, but had come up empty. I had recently found out that the church, called The National Free Church, wants the girl's mother back. The "Runt" is connected with a branch of the church located in Maryland and that is where the girl is being held now. I told him that I felt that that was the reason for my case files being stolen. Someone wanted to find out how much I knew.  As I finished filling him in, I told him that the case was still haunting me, and that I wouldn't rest until the case was finally solved.

 

“Now I understand what’s going on and if I may, I would like to offer a few suggestions that might help you out on the security end of it. I had a case similar to this about fifteen years ago and I had to make sure the security was almost impossible to break for the client’s sake and his family’s.”

 

Before he got a chance to speak to me about it, the door bell rang. It was the FBI with all of our files in a large unmarked truck. There were two cars full of people with the truck. I needed to tell them where everything went and called Sarah down to help. Sally came in from somewhere and when she found out that all her stuff was in the truck, she immediately tried to get the agents to dig it out. I finally had to put a stop to it. I left Sarah in charge after telling Sally she would have to wait until her stuff was brought in. I opened the garage and showed the agent in charge where all my grandfather’s papers had been before they were taken. He thanked me, saying they would all be re-filed by the end of the day. I moved my truck and Sarah’s car away from the garage to give them room to back the truck in and unload. Bill and I went out on the side porch off my study and finished our little talk. We almost got done before Tiny and Jimmy arrived to interrupt us again.

 

Jimmy was carrying a small briefcase instead of his usual duffel bag. I wondered why he was so light today. I knew I wouldn’t have long to wait for an explanation from him because he was very excited.

 

I had Myrna bring the small card table out to the porch and set it up with coffee and sweet rolls. I almost didn’t get any because between the three of them, they were piling their plates high with all the goodies.

 

“You guys act like you never get fed or something. Look at you, it’s like a bunch of animals sat down and someone made the mistake of putting food in front of them.”

 

They all mumbled apologies, but their mouths were so full it came out in a spray of crumbs. Myrna came out with more coffee and I just pointed at them and shrugged. She looked at them a little closer then set the coffee pot down and smacked Tiny along side his head. He got the most shocked look on his face, trying to chew and swallow at the same time so he could speak to defend himself.

 

“Look at the three of you, acting like hogs at the trough. Tiny you should know better, wait till I have a talk with your wife about your manners. Jimmy, I know you’re a bachelor and don’t get home made sweet rolls, but I know your mom too, and if I told her how you’re acting, she would have a fit. Bill, you old fool, you’re supposed to be setting an example for the younger ones, not leading the way. If you all don’t start acting like you’re not pigs, I promise all of you there will never be another bite to eat for any of you in this house.”

 

I was watching them as she gave them hell and I was hurting from keeping the laughter inside. I thought I had it under control until Myrna looked at me and winked and I lost it. When I finally quit laughing and wiped my eyes, they were all glaring holes through me. I just smiled at them, took a sip of my coffee and a bite of my only roll, while making sure I had my pinky stuck straight out. I very carefully set it back on the saucer and wiped my mouth. It took about a minute before Tiny lost it and the other two joined in the laughter. I smiled at them before talking.

 

“When are you three stooges going to learn you can’t get away with anything as long as Myrna is around? Boys, she doesn’t miss a trick.”

 

Tiny quipped back as he was rubbing his head saying; “Yeah and her hand is as hard as a two-by-four.”

 

We all laughed and then Jimmy decided to get down to business.

 

“Jon, I got three cameras out of the bedrooms yesterday. They all have short range wireless transmitters and wide lenses. There is a computer hidden on the property somewhere that’s receiving the signal and recording it. I figure it’s in the barn and I want to see if I can find it. While I do that, I have drawn a map and shown the prices for you to put the same kind of camera on your property. You look at it while I see if I can pinpoint the computer’s location. The types that I’ll install won’t be easy to find or pinpoint by normal methods.”

 

“Go to it, Jimmy, and when you find it, I want the computer brought back to the house so we can examine it. Also, don’t say a word to the girls about the cameras or we will have a riot on our hands. Tiny, I want you to get with Sally and make arrangements for her and Sarah to be covered while they are out of the house. Myrna says you have some very big friends that might like to earn some extra cash for the next few months. Tiny, from this point on I would like you to be Sally’s personal bodyguard. Do you want the job?”

 

“You know I do, Jon. She’s like part of my family and I appreciate the honor of being the one chosen to take care of her. I promise you that unless I am dead or unconscious, nothing will happen to her.”

 

“Tiny, even though I approved of you being the one to watch her, she was the one who chose you for the job. To her, you’re like a big brother because of all the time you have spent together. I think she trusts you as much as she does me. Besides, Myrna said if you screwed up, she would take care of you in her own way, whatever that means.”

 

“Oh God, my goose is cooked for sure.”

 

Bill busted out laughing at the look on his face. To me, it looked like the cross between abject misery and pain. He just looked at us then got up and shuffled through the door. I guessed he was heading for the kitchen to have a talk with Myrna. Jimmy got up too, and took the little case with him as he headed around the back of the house towards the barn. That left Bill and me sitting at the table, and to my surprise, he didn’t have anything to say as he sipped his coffee.

 

“Bill, do you think the adoption papers can be expedited somehow? I know she doesn’t have any other relatives, and neither she nor her mom knew who her dad was.”

 

“I can try, Jon, but by law, there has to be a certain amount of waiting time to let any relatives file a restraining order to stop the adoption. I had a friend of mine check into her mom’s personal finances, and other than a safe deposit box she doesn’t have anything. I am in the process of getting a court order to open it as Sally’s attorney. Do you want me to go through it first or do you want Sally to do it?”

 

“I think in the name of peace and harmony, I will let her do it if she wants to. I have no idea what her mom might have kept in it as she didn’t have anything, but I think that should be Sally’s choice. After all, she is thirteen and old enough to make that decision. When will the court order go through, Bill?”

 

“I think I can have it first thing in the morning, Jon. The bank is in the county seat where Sally used to live, so it’s not far from the funeral home. I know the viewing is tomorrow from one to two, so we can get the bank done first thing. Jon, I suggest you have a couple of Tiny’s friends accompany you to the funeral, just in case there’s trouble from the locals who knew her. I know for a fact that a lot of the circus people are planning on showing up, so it might be safer for the both of you to have someone with you that you can trust.”

 

“That’s a good idea, Bill, and I will have a limo drive us there and back. That way the extra men won’t be as noticeable as they mingle with the crowd. I will fill Sally in a little later, so you be sure to tell Tiny what’s going on, will you?”

 

“I already have, Jon, I just wanted to see if you would go along with it. I know how stubborn you can be, but for now you’re in no shape to be tussling with someone if it comes down to a confrontation. Besides, it will get Tiny back in Myrna’s good graces. You and Sally are her kids, as far as she is concerned.”

 

“I’m a little worried about Myrna, Bill, she seems to think the house security is all on her. I think it would be a good idea to have Tiny put someone he trusts at the gate house when it’s built this week. I don’t want her to have too much responsibility in this because she has enough to worry about with the household. I know she’s going to throw a fit about it, but that’s just too bad.”

 

We didn’t say anything else, just sat and drank her coffee until Tiny came back out. We both busted out laughing at the expression on his face. He looked like a little schoolboy that had just been punished for doing something wrong. He had that hang dog look of a little boy who had been in detention. He sat down at the table and just glared at us while pouring a cup of coffee and sipping it.

 

I could see right now, this was going to be a long day. Thankfully I got a break when the lead agent came out and said the files in my den were all done. He also informed me that Sarah’s files were also done. He said the girls were going through the CDs to make sure that there were none missing. He said that the group was going out to the shop to file the rest of the paperwork out there. I thanked him and his people for all the time they were putting in doing this for me. I asked if they had been offered coffee or sweets, and was informed that my housekeeper was taking very good care of them. I just smiled as he turned and went back into the house.

 

“If he only knew who the real boss in this house was, he would probably faint.”

 

We all smiled at that statement. Jimmy came walking back around the house with a big metal box and his hand. He sat it down next to the empty chair where he had been sitting before.

 

“Jon, I finally found it, but they sure were trying to keep it well hidden. From what I’ve been able to find out, it is a small notebook with a big hard drive. This thing could have stayed buried for months, recording everything that went on from those three cameras. Jon, this is privately owned it doesn’t belong to the government. I would say that if you had to purchase it, you would have almost three thousand dollars in it. I’m going to take all the information from it and then reformat the hard drive. Then I am going to go through it to make sure there are no tracking devices buried inside. When I’m done, I will give it to you to use as your personal computer.”

 

“Jimmy, since the cameras were in the girls bedrooms, I would prefer that no one looked at them. I think that part of it can be erased. Anything else on there that will help find out who owns it, I want. After that is done, then just sell it to one of your friends or keep it for your self. I don’t want anything to do with it.”

 

“Okay, Jon, I can do that. I will keep it in this little briefcase since it’s lead lined. That way if it’s still broadcasting, it will not be able to get its signal out. I had a chance to look around, and from what I saw, your property can be well protected by remote cameras. I will put the main security screens in your den, over by your desk in that small bookshelf. It will take me and my two friends about three days to do the whole place. I have already called them, so we will start today and do the close in areas first.”

 

I really didn’t want anyone, particularly the agents filing the papers to know I was putting in cameras, so I told him to wait and start tomorrow morning. He was agreeable since it would give him time to find everything he needed. He and Tiny got up to leave, with Tiny saying he would be back as soon as he dropped Jimmy off. He said while he was gone, he would start lining up his friends that wanted to work. Bill got up to leave, saying he was going to make some more phone calls and would catch me later. I was still sitting and thinking when Myrna came out and said lunch was ready.

 

 

 

Chapter # 14

 

 

 

I went into the kitchen and to my surprise, the FBI team leader was coming out of the door with a tray full of sandwiches. He smiled as he passed me, thanking me for feeding his team. I smiled back at him as I sat down at the counter with Sarah and Sally. We had a pleasant meal and Sally was happy about getting her stuff back. Sarah told me that as far as she could tell, all her stuff including her CDs and interviews were all back. She said she had checked our files and could find nothing missing. I didn’t say anything, but I was happy because they both were. I asked Myrna if all her stuff had been returned too. She said as far as she could tell it was all there, including her doodling pad.

 

I waited till the meal was over before telling Sally I wanted to talk to her for a few minutes in my study. I went out of the kitchen, with her following along behind me, and went into the study. We sat down in the same positions we had before. I explained to her what Bill had said about the safe deposit box at the bank. I asked her if she wanted to open it, or if she wanted me or Bill to do it. She immediately said she wanted to open it, but she wanted me to be there with her. I told her I would be glad to accompany her, but it was up to her whether or not she wanted me to see what was inside. I watched the emotions across her face as she thought about it.

 

“Jon, I think it would be best if you opened it with me. I don’t know what we’re going to find and that worries me.”

 

“Sally, whatever it is, it’s your mother’s and now it belongs to you. I have no idea what she had that she would keep in a safe deposit box. Whatever it was or is, it must have meant a lot to her. It might answer the question of who your father is or it might just be papers and other stuff she thought was important. Honey, whatever it is, it’s yours.”

 

She came over and hugged me, then headed out to talk to Myrna. I knew this was a shock to her, but I would never lie to her about anything. For some strange reason, I fell asleep sitting in the chair again. This was getting to be habit forming for some reason. I woke up with a pair of lips pressing against my cheek. It was Sally, waking me up to tell me that the FBI was done and I had to sign their paperwork. I hugged her and walked out to the front room where the team leader was waiting on me. I signed all his papers and was thanked for being so courteous to his team. We shook hands with me telling him that he was welcome to stop back anytime.

 

I asked Sally if she wanted to take a ride with me to check on Pete’s progress with the fence. She said yes, so I told her to tell Myrna where we were going and that we would be back shortly. When we got outside, Tiny was just pulling into the driveway. He parked and climbed in the back seat of our truck. I took the long way around, because we all needed time to talk a little among ourselves. Of course, I didn’t get a word in edgewise because of the banter back and forth between Sally and Tiny. It always went on when they got together. With everything that had gone on in the last few days, I knew she needed the stress relief so I didn’t say a word.

 

We finally made it around to the back end of the property. I pulled up and stopped next to where Pete’s truck was parked alongside the road. We climbed out and walked over to where Pete was standing and yelling at one of his men. When he saw us coming, he turned around and gave Sally a big grin, then smiled at the rest of us.

 

“Hey, Jon, good to see you again. What, you don’t trust me? You know I really don’t need a supervisor or a gorilla looking over my shoulder. Now this pretty young lady can come out here and tell me what to do any time.”

 

That got a big laugh from everybody standing around listening. Of course Sally turned red in the face, and the men got another big kick out of that. I didn’t say a word because I knew, like any young girl, she was enjoying the attention. Sally and Tiny started talking again in their usual kidding manner, so I turned and started to ask Pete a few questions. That’s when I saw the speeding car come around the lower curve headed straight toward Tiny and Sally, who had their backs turned to it. I yelled a warning as I pulled my gun. The car slid to a stop about 30 feet from where Tiny and Sally had been standing. I ran toward the car with my gun pointed at them, telling them not to move. When I got close enough, I could see it was just a couple of kids sitting in the front seat.

 

“What the hell are you trying to do? At the speed you were going, you were lucky you were able to stop before you hit someone. Also, I could have easily shot both of you while trying to protect everyone standing here. Now I suggest that both of you slow down when you’re on these narrow roads.”

 

“Yes Sir! We’re sorry, Sir. I promise I will slow down from now on. I’m sorry I scared everyone by driving so fast.”

 

“Son, I remember when I was young and didn’t have a brain in my head either. Slow that thing down before you end up wrapped around a tree because you missed a curve in the road. Now take off, and act like you have some sense before I arrest both of you.”

 

I watched as he very carefully and very slowly went around everyone by the road. I hadn’t realized I was still holding my gun in my hand until Tiny told me I better put it away before I shot myself. I holstered it and when I turned around, Tiny and Sally both had big grins on their faces. I didn’t think it was very funny, and to be truthful, it had scared the hell out of me. My shoulder was throbbing and for the first time I could feel shooting pain in my side. I put my hand down to the bandage on my side and realized I was bleeding again. When I pulled my hand out, Sally saw the blood and screamed, scaring the hell out of me again.

 

“Jon, are you okay? Have you been shot again? How come you’re bleeding?”

 

“I think when I twisted around to face the car I ripped the stitches loose in my side. It might be a good idea if we go back to the house and let Myrna take a look at it. If I did, she will have to call the doctor to come out to the house to sew me back up again. Tiny, why don’t you drive this time so I can keep pressure against the wound?”

 

He did as I asked and we made short work of getting back to the house. Sally drove me crazy by asking if I was all right every five minutes. When we pulled up in front of the door, she bailed out and went running into the house. Sometimes I wondered about her being wound too tight. Now Myrna, and Sarah if she were downstairs, would be all excited and worried. I kept pressure against it, but I could tell I had done something bad because it was bleeding profusely by this point.

 

“Jon, I don’t know what you did, but you’re leaving a blood trail. Maybe I better take you to the hospital and let them look at it for you.”

 

“Tiny, if I know Myrna, the doc is on his way already. Unlike Sally, she doesn’t panic that easily. I would be willing to bet that as soon as Sally told her I was bleeding from torn stitches, she called him on the phone. I will probably be even worse off by the time she gives me hell for doing it.”

 

“Better you than me.”

 

I was right on every point. I did catch holy hell, and the doc had already been called. Sally was a nervous wreck, thinking I had somehow been shot again. Myrna finally actually had to grab her by the arms and shake her before she would settle down. She finally quit sobbing. I just held her hand and explained what had happened. She broke down crying from relief and Myrna was smiling at her.

 

“Child, that man won’t listen to anyone but you, so I suggest you need to calm down so you can ride herd on him until he is healed. Panicking at the sight of blood is not helping him or you. Sally, I know you worry about him, but you won’t change him, regardless. The best thing for you to do is get as tough as he is so you don’t repeat this little scene. Now, all of you clear out of here so I can get him undressed, so the doctor can sew him back up. Tiny, I want you to have one of your closest friends move into the house until this is all over. It better be someone we can trust around the girls. I will beat you with a baseball bat if he makes a pass at either one of them.”

 

“Yes, Auntie Myrna.”

 

I couldn’t help it, I just busted out laughing at his childlike voice when he talked to Myrna. She looked at me and grinned. She must have realized what I was laughing at. Tiny gave me a dirty look as he went out of the room as if to say I better not tell on him.

 

“You shut up, Jon! Because of you, I have to put up with strangers in my house. You can bet I will be keeping an eye on whoever he sends out. If he even looks sideways at the girls, I will shoot him with my pappy’s pistol. I won’t put up with any tomfoolery in this house while I am in charge.”

 

I looked at her and snorted and got a grin in return. Before she could say anything else, the doctor came in and wanted to know how I could possibly rip the stitches out of a wound that low in my side. Before I could form an answer Myrna answered for me and the doctor thought it was funny.

 

“He was acting like a damn fool as usual. This time it came around and bit him where the sun don’t shine.”

 

When I glared at her, all I got was a smile and a wink. Then the pain hit me when he ripped the tape off the bandage, along with a lot of hair.

 

“Damn, doc, leave me a little hide, will you please? You know your bedside manner stinks.”

 

“Yea and so does my breath, but you’re not paying for that. Myrna, if he complains again, put a gag in his mouth will you?”

 

She laughed and said that was the best idea she had heard all day. She and the doctor got a laugh out of that one. Me, I didn’t think it was very funny, but I was only the one in pain. From the way they were acting, I didn’t count in the equation. Dammit, doesn’t anyone take me seriously anymore, I thought as I felt a needle in my right buttock. I started to complain again, but I was asleep and couldn’t remember what I was about to say.

 

While I was in that half asleep and half awake state, I could have sworn I heard someone saying my side was badly infected and I needed to go back to the hospital until the infection was gone. Nah, I thought, it was just my imagination and then everything went black.

 

When I woke up, I knew I was back in the hospital. I could smell it and it pissed me off. Why couldn’t they just let me recover in my own home like a normal person? I immediately thought about Sally and the funeral, wondering if I had slept through it and if I hadn’t, how I could sneak out and go with her. I knew Bill and Tiny would look out for her, but it made me feel guilty because it was my place to be with her.

 

I opened my eyes and there was Sally sitting in a chair next to my bed. I went to move my arm and that’s when I realized I was strapped down. My feet and arms were tied to the bed along with a wide belt across my chest. I just about panicked, but was able to control it enough to croak out a word. Sally immediately came over with a smile on her face and held the straw to my lips so I could drink. It was water and ice cold. I took several small sips before I turned my head away, signaling I didn’t want anymore.

 

“Sally, where’s the doctor?”

 

“He is out at the front desk. Do you want me to get him?”

 

“Yes, then leave us alone for a minute, will you please?”

 

I watched as she almost ran out of the room. It took a few minutes before he came in and the artificial smile on his face just finished pissing me off.

 

“How are we doing today, Mr. Morgan? We got your fever down and put a drain in the wound in your side. Now, what is it you wanted to see me about?”

 

“Doc, you don’t know me, but if you don’t take these restraints off of me immediately, I promise you when you finally do, I will make sure you need new teeth to go with the phony smile. Now, unless you want to bring a lot of problems down on yourself, I suggest you remove them now.”

 

He looked at me in shock for a minute but he must have seen the anger and hate in my eyes because he came over and immediately released me.

 

“I’m sorry about that, but you were having some bad nightmares and we were afraid you would undo several hours worth of work by the surgical team. You tore the IVs out several times while you were under, so we had to restrain you. They weren’t meant to be permanent, Mr. Morgan, just a temporary way to prevent you from harming yourself and our staff.”

 

“Doc, I’m sorry about the attitude, but I was tortured while laying on a gurney with the same type of restraints on me. Maybe now you can understand my dislike for being tied down in any way. How soon can I get out of here and how badly did I tear the stitches?”

 

“Mr. Morgan, you didn’t tear the stitches. The wound was so badly infected it burst and caused an excessive amount of bleeding. When the surgical team opened you back up to clean it out, we found several pieces of what looked like your shirt that was left in from when you were shot. This is what caused the infection. It would have killed you if the wound hadn’t burst by itself. I don’t know what hospital you were previously in, but they did some damned shoddy work. From what I saw, they just sewed the entrance and exit wounds shut without cleaning them out at all. We opened your shoulder back up and it was infected too. We didn’t find any foreign matter, but the wound hadn’t been cleaned or stitched up like a good surgeon would have done. It looks like an amateur worked on you, from what I saw. I think in a few days you will be well enough to return home to recuperate, if you take it easy for a few weeks. You are very lucky it was old Doc Palmer who looked at you. He probably saved your life by having you brought in right away. If you had waited too much longer, you would have bled to death or the infection would have killed you. Now, get some rest and I will check in later to see how you’re doing.”

 

With that, he left the room. I thought for a while about what he said, and it pissed me off. This was going to set my plans back a few more weeks. I watched as the girls came into my room and I smiled at them.

 

“Well, the doc says I am going to be fine. I will be able to go home in a few days, if I am better. I’m sorry about all of this, and I hope you aren’t mad at me.”

 

I knew I was sucking up. Sally and Sarah had smiles on their faces but Myrna was giving me the eye. I knew then and there I hadn’t fooled her a bit with my little speech, and I figured she was going to call me on it. But this time, I did need to talk to her, so when she got me alone, she could raise hell all she wanted. I was more worried about Sally and what was coming up than I was about my own safety or health. I had to figure a way to mend faster and get myself back into shape for their sakes. I knew they were in good hands with Tiny watching over them, but it still was my place to protect my own family and I couldn’t do it lying on my back, waiting to heal.

 

 

 

Chapter # 15

 

 

 

I had a good visit, but I thought a little short until I realized it was almost three in the morning. I finally caught Myrna’s eye and looked toward the door and the girls. She caught on immediately.

 

“You girls go on down to the car and I will catch up with you shortly. I need to find out a couple of things from Jon before we go.”

 

Sally and Sarah didn’t offer any objections. They kissed me on the cheek and forehead respectively and went out the door, headed for the elevator.

 

“Ok, Jon, what was so important that I had to run the girls off?”

 

I told her about the safe deposit box and to have Tiny make sure Sally and Sarah were well-covered tomorrow at the funeral. I told her I didn’t think I could sneak out to attend because my room was across from the nurses’ station. I had noticed that they were watching me closely for any tricks. She looked at me and grinned.

 

“They better watch you close, Jon. I told the doctor what you pulled the last time and if it happened again, I would sue him and the hospital. You don’t need to worry about Sally or Sarah tomorrow. We are all going together in the limo with several of Tiny’s friends following in another car. I talked to Bill and Sally and she decided that Bill could pick up the contents of the safe deposit box. Sally said she would wait until you got out of the hospital so you both could go through it together. Jon, I told Bill what the doctor said about your wounds, and he has already contacted Jerry to start action against the hospital for malpractice. You should have told me they were bothering you so much, Jon. I would have had ole Doc Palmer over every day to check them. You could have died of sepsis if you hadn’t twisted and burst the side wound. This time you stay in here until the infection is gone. I have Tiny and his friends covering the house and Pete said to tell you he would try to finish the fence a day or two early. Then he would put up the guard shack after he installed the new gates you wanted. Now I better go before Tiny comes up looking for me. Jon, this time, will you please stay in bed until you’re well enough to come home?”

 

“I’ll try Myrna, but you know me. I can only lay here for just so long before I have to do something. Keep me posted about what happens tomorrow, will you? I am worried about some of the people from the church trying to grab her. Tell Tiny I said to be extra vigilant.”

 

“Don’t worry, Jon, Sally and I talked and she will be by my side through the whole thing. Now you get some rest and I will see you tomorrow.”

 

With that she got up from the chair and left. The nurse came in and asked me how I was feeling and I said fine, but after tomorrow I wanted a notation put in my chart that I would no longer accept any narcotic pain medication. She just smiled at me and said they had already been told that by my mother. I just looked at her dumbly for a minute until I realized she must have been talking about Myrna. I almost laughed, but instead I smiled, remembering that last time she had been bad, but that now she really had everyone thinking she was my mother. For some reason it tickled my funny bone and I wondered if she had told Sally about it too. That was about my last thought before I fell back asleep.

 

I woke up to find the food person rolling the tray over to my bed and raising it so I could eat. When she got me all set up, she took the lid off the tray and I just looked in shock at what was on it.

 

“No offense, but what in the hell is that? It looks like someone regurgitated on the plate. Take that crap out of my sight before I throw it out the door.”

 

“You are on a soft diet by order of the doctor. This is dry toast and oatmeal to help your bowels move.”

 

“Lady, I know you’re just doing your job, but believe me when I say I will do what I said. If I can’t get people food, I will have it brought into me. That stuff isn’t fit for a dog to eat, and I doubt if he would, even if he were starving. Now get it out of here and tell the doctor if he doesn’t order me some decent food, I will sue him for abuse of his patients.”

 

She took the tray but not until I got a dirty look from her as she stomped out of the room. I almost laughed out loud at her, but thought I had better not make her any madder at me or I might end up wearing the whole thing. I didn’t have long to wait for a reaction to my little bitch show. The nurse came in immediately with an attitude. This was a different one from last night and she was cute as a button, or as my grandfather would say; as cute as a speckled pup under a new wagon. She came in with an attitude, and I had to smile at the way she was slamming things around before she could get the courage up to talk to me.

 

“Mr. Morgan, how do you expect to get well if you refuse to follow the doctor’s orders?”

 

“Well, nurse, I will get well just fine, but it won’t be by eating that slop that I was just told was food.”

 

To my surprise she broke out in a short laugh at my smart ass answer. Man, she was cute. She had freckles across her nose, and two cute little dimples that made her almost perfect teeth more pronounced when she smiled. Her hair, from what I could see under her cap, was a bright red and I would be almost willing to bet she had a temper to match.

 

“Between me and you, I wouldn’t eat that stuff they try to pass off as food either. I just wish the hospital would hire a cook who knows how to cook. I’m due to go on break shortly, and I go to a small restaurant across the street. I can pick you up some scrambled eggs, home made biscuits and a large coffee. I think I can sneak it back in without losing my job.”

 

“I would be forever grateful. Don’t worry about your job, because if they are stupid enough to fire someone as pretty as you are, then the whole place is nuts.”

 

She laughed out loud at me as she went out of the room. I had to smile at myself for flirting with her while lying flat on my back in bed. She was cute though and I would guess her to be about thirty or so. She had a mature way about her that said she wasn’t a new hand at this. I thought it was becoming to her. Then it hit me what I was thinking and I was surprised at myself. This was the first time since I had been in the states that I had thought about a woman being attractive or anything other than as a friend or work partner. I hadn’t seen any rings on her finger, but that didn’t mean anything. The women here didn’t wear them half the time even if they were married. Hospital staff, as I well knew, didn’t like to wear rings because of the chance of passing on an infection from one patient to another. None the less, there weren’t any marks on her finger either like she was wearing a ring outside the hospital.

 

I was still thinking about her dimples when I heard my cell ringing from inside the drawer next to the bed. I was able to roll over without too much pain and finally managed to get it out and answer it. It was Bill calling from the bank and he sounded upset.

 

“Jon, I just finished opening the safe deposit box. I hate to tell you this, but Sally’s mother has a sister in Montana that she wants Sally to live with. Jon, the court will take this into consideration before they consider any adoption from non-relative. She also had a fully paid up life insurance policy that goes to Sally when she turns eighteen. She had burial insurance, and as Sally’s attorney, I will file for the money in her name.”

 

“Bill, don’t say a word to her about it for now. Have Jerry send an investigator out to her sister’s and do a complete background on the family. If I remember correctly, Sally’s step dad went out there to live with his brother. He is supposed to own a sheep ranch or something. That’s just too much of a coincidence for me to accept. I am not giving up on this yet. Sally will have a fit when she finds out, because I doubt if she has ever met her mother’s family. Tell Jerry to put a rush on it and get the report back to us as soon as possible. Now about the funeral…...”

 

“Don’t worry about it Jon, Tiny has enough men in the crowd that anyone with a lick of sense wouldn’t dare try anything. I have already called Jerry; I did it as soon as I found the will. Another thing Jon, it’s never been filed or recorded with any court. I don’t think it would stand up if it came to a serious challenge. Besides, she signed all her rights away, remember? I have all of those papers in my safe and they were also filed with the court when you became her guardian.”

 

“Bill, I don’t care about the legal mumbo jumbo, but I don’t want to lose her for any reason. She, for all intents and purposes, is my daughter and nobody takes a member of my family away from me without a fight.”

 

“Calm down Jon, we know how you feel about her. I promise you she won’t ever have to leave your side, as long as there is a court we can file a motion in. I really don’t think her mother’s sister has the financial means to fight us here in Virginia. Since it’s all filed here, they would have to come here to fight it. Now, you quit worrying about things and get better. I will call you after the funeral is over and let you know how it went.”

 

“Thanks Bill, I appreciate it.”

 

He hung up. I laid there in shock over what he had told me for about three minutes. Then I made a phone call to Nigeria to talk to my friend the banker. It took me about five minutes before I finally got through to him, and from his voice he was glad I had called.

 

“Jon, my friend, what can I do for you today? Is there something wrong I need to know about?”

 

“No, Quanta, but I do need a few things from you that I never asked for before, and I need them yesterday.”

 

“You name it, my friend, and you shall have it as soon as possible.”

 

I went on to explain what was happening, and that I wanted him to send me a complete accounting of all my cash assets and all my investments. Like I told him, I knew I had never asked for anything like this before, but I needed to know as soon as possible what I had and owned. I wanted to get some idea of where I stood financially if I needed large amounts of money. He was quiet for a moment then his laughter came over the phone.

 

“Jon, I think maybe I have an answer that will give you a lot of clout with the courts, if you should need it. As you know, I have always kept a complete set of books, which are updated every year for your IRS. You own your own island, and it is a French Sovereign entity on its own. If you have a facial shot of Sally, I can have her declared a French citizen and also have a French Passport issued immediately with your island listed as her home. Her name is on the ownership papers and has been for four years, ever since I bought it for you as an investment. I can have all the papers legally backdated to that date as well as her passport, if you wish. She will then hold a dual citizenship as you do. By French Law, she is an adult at thirteen and can make her own decisions which your country cannot influence.”

 

“I have several pictures on my cell. I will e-mail them to you immediately. Get this done as soon as possible, Quanta. By the way, how are you and your family doing?”

 

“Both of my children are in college and doing very well, thank you. My wife still asks me if you will ever come and visit. She wants thank you in our traditional way for saving all our lives. I am now the vice president of the bank and I think I will be president before the year is out. Thanks to you and what I have been able to do with your account, I now have several of your fellow Americans that invest with me also. This has brought me great prestige with my bank and country. I will ship you an up to date copy of your financials as soon as we get off the phone, my friend. Jon, if you need anything, please call me and I will help out from my end all that I can. When I get the photos, I will start the paperwork and should be able to complete it within two weeks. You will receive her papers and her Passport at the end of that time. I will make sure that her citizenship is recorded and that all her information is sent to Interpol, so they can intercede in her behalf if needed. Is there anything else you need, my friend?”

 

“You have made me a very happy man with this information, Quanta. I can’t think of anything else right now. Tell your lovely wife I said, “Hi,” and make sure your daughters get good grades in school. Thank you again, Quanta, you have helped relieve a lot of worry that I had about my ward.”

 

“Jon, the thanks are mine. This is the first time you have ever asked me for help since you saved my family. This has always bothered me, and I am very glad I can finally help you out for a change. Oh, one more thing, Jon. If you decide to take your ward for a vacation when you get her papers, it might be a good idea to go to your island. It is beautiful and would be a good place for you to rest and heal with the sea air and sunshine.”

 

“That’s a good idea, Quanta. I just might take you up on that and spend the summer there. Send me the information I need to make arrangements to get there and who to contact about it.”

 

“Jon, you own seventy percent of the airline that services the islands, so the air fare will be free. I just thought you ought to know. I will send pictures and all the other information when I send the financial package. Goodbye, my friend, it was nice talking to you again.”

 

I said bye and he hung up. I was shaking my head in wonder about how well he had done handling my money. I wondered what all I owned and had investments in since I had never asked before. I decided I would let Bill look at the financial package. Maybe he would be able to give me a better picture of it than I could ever hope to figure out, since I didn’t know anything about this type of thing. I just knew I had spent a lot, both helping out people from the cases I had worked on and what I spent myself and family. My thoughts were interrupted by the cute nurse coming in my room with a bag in her hand.

 

“Boy, I feel like a criminal sneaking this into the hospital. Here, let me slide the table up so you can eat in comfort.”

 

The smell coming out of the bag was making my mouth water. I watched as she set it up on the little table. When she opened the “to go” box, I was almost drooling. She set my water next to the large coffee saying she hoped I enjoyed it. She said that she would check on me later as she had to clock back in. She was out the door before I could ask her what I owed her for the meal. I didn’t waste any time digging in and it tasted great. The biscuits were homemade with honey and butter already on them, and the home fries had onions cooked in them. They weren’t the plain style most restaurants served. By the time I got through shoveling it all in, I was stuffed and felt great. Even the coffee tasted like it was freshly brewed. I carefully put all the empty containers back in the bag and sat it on the small table by my bed so she could get rid of the evidence. Of course, that depended on if she came back in before the doctor or another nurse came in to draw blood or something. If that happened, I was prepared to lie like a rug about where the food came from. I hoped that she would come back in, because I really did want to ask her what her name was.

 

 

 

Chapter # 16



I was so stuffed by the time I got done eating, I was feeling sleepy and decided to take a short nap. Since I wanted to make sure the little red headed nurse didn’t get into trouble, I put the empty bag under the covers where it couldn’t be seen by anyone coming into the room. I had just dozed off, when I was awakened by the local vampire. She wanted to take my blood for the second time in about four hours.

 

“Why are they drawing blood so often, Nurse? I am starting to feel like a pin cushion or something.”

 

“I guess they are monitoring the infection to make sure it didn’t spread into your blood stream. According to your chart, they were worried about you having an adverse reaction to the broad spectrum antibiotics they are pumping into you. According to this you won’t be due for another check until tonight. By then they will be able to tell if the antibiotics are doing any good. I’m sorry, Mr. Morgan, but I am just doing my job.”

 

“I’m not upset with you, but I just fell asleep. Waking up to the sight of an eight-foot needle is a little upsetting.”

 

She looked at me and then laughed at my description of the needles on the tray she was carrying. She was a professional; I had to give her that. She took three tubes of blood about as quickly as anyone I had seen. Then she thanked me for letting her do her job without getting mad, like some of the patients do. She was out the door before I could tell her she was very good. I hadn’t felt a thing as she drew my blood. I lay back and tried to drift off again, but again I was disturbed by the doctor coming in. He was accompanied by the little red headed nurse. I noticed she quickly looked around to see if the bag she had snuck in was anywhere in sight. I could see the relief in her eyes when she didn’t spot anything. Fortunately, I had put the bag on the opposite side from my wounds so the doctor couldn’t see it as he changed my bandages. He was very thorough as he checked my side and shoulder to see if there was any sign of the infection. He told the nurse to put fresh bandages on and left, saying that he had several other patients to see this morning.

 

I was glad when he left, but before I could get a word in, the nurse beat me to the punch.

 

“Please don’t tell me you ate the bags too, Mr. Morgan.”

 

I busted out laughing and reached under the covers and handed the empty go containers to her. She looked at me and gave me a big smile before she took it and pushed it down inside the waste bag on her cart.

 

“Please call me Jon, Miss, Umm, I don’t think you said your name, before you saved my life.”

 

“It’s Kathleen, but everyone calls me Kat and you can call me that too, Jon. I’m afraid I won’t be able to sneak in your lunch, so you’ll either eat hospital food or go hungry. I get off at three, so I won’t be here for the evening meal. If you don’t mind me asking, how did you get shot? Are you some kind of criminal or something?”

 

I busted out laughing and told her most of the story, and how I ended up back in here. She was looking at me wide eyed as I finished my tale.

 

“Gee, I never would have guessed you were a law enforcement officer. With the accent and your politeness you just don’t seem to fit the part somehow. Did I hear you say you only work CASA cases?”

 

“Yes, but it has its own rewards when the kids are happy.”

 

“This hospital is one of the main ones listed for child abuse checks by all the staff. We all had to take special courses to become state certified. I never knew that the program had national CASA investigators. I bet with your job, you see a lot more of the horrors than we do. It breaks my heart every time we have to give some small child an examination. They are so afraid to talk to any of us it’s like pulling teeth to even get them to let us touch them. Do you work on a lot of cases?”

 

“I pretty much go all over the U.S., if they have need of me. I have the ability to be able to pick the cases I work, and I try to take the ones that reunite kids with their mothers rather than the abuse type of case. I don’t think my temperament would let me work too many of that type.”

 

“Jon, how long have you lived in the states? I am still trying to place your accent, but it sounds like you spent a lot of time in France.”

 

“I grew up outside of Paris. I came to this country a little more than seven years ago, and I still am trying to adjust to the American slang. Why, Kat, have you ever been in France?”

 

“I went there on my honeymoon, several years ago. I loved the sights and the activity in the bigger cities. This year would have been my sixth anniversary if my husband had lived. He was killed two years ago in Iraq by a roadside bomb. We had made plans to go back, but they didn’t work out like we planned. I’m sorry I’m laying all of this on you, but this is the first time since he was killed that I have been able to talk about it with anyone. I just feel so relaxed when I’m talking to you.”

 

“That’s fine, Kat, I spent time in the service too. I know how hard it is to talk about it to just anyone. It took me several years before I could adjust to a normal life after I got back home. If you ever want to just sit down and let off steam, please don’t be afraid to come in and talk to me. I may not be the smartest person in the world, but I do know how it feels to lose someone you care deeply about. Remember, I have been there too. If I can help in any way, I would be glad to. It would be like reverse therapy for both of us.”

 

“I think I understand what you’re saying. I went to a shrink but all he seemed to want to do was pry about our personal lives and my feelings about him not being there for me. I put up with it for about two months. I finally told him where to get off and that our personal life wasn’t any of his business. This is the first time it has come to mind since then and I feel better just talking to you about it, for some reason. It’s like you feel what I do and I can sense it somehow. Well, I better get out of here before they send the head nurse to look for me. Thanks, Jon, I will try to stop back in and check on you before I go off shift at three.”

 

“You’re more than welcome Kat. Besides, you already saved me from a fate worse than starvation.”

 

“How’s that Jon?”

 

“Hospital food.”

 

She was laughing out loud as she pushed her little cart out the door. I heard her all the way to the nurse’s desk. I just smiled to myself, enjoying her laughter. It sounded like a little girl who had been tickled by someone, and for some reason it made my day a lot brighter.

 

My cell rang, interrupting my thoughts. It was Myrna on the other end.

 

“Jon, all was quiet at the funeral, but Sally’s stepfather showed up. He tried to talk to her several times, but Tiny finally got tired of him. Tiny escorted him to the side away from the crowd and had a few words with him. Jon, the way he was looking at her made my flesh crawl. I never realized why you took her away but after watching him, I understand fully. Sally refused to even look at him or let his presence disturb her. You would have been so proud of her today. She shook hands with all the circus people who came and even let a small person kiss her on the cheek. I am so proud of her. We are on our way home now and she has been silent the whole trip. I am going to have Tiny bring her to visit you as soon as she changes. I think she needs you right now more than ever. Jon, Sarah didn’t even show up and no one has seen her since this morning. The man Tiny had watching her said she hasn’t left the house. I hope you don’t get mad, but I am going to have a little talk with her when Sally leaves to visit you.”

 

“Myrna, you’re closer to it than I am, and as you know, I trust your judgment. You do what you think needs to be done. I think it’s time she started looking for a place of her own. I am starting to think you might have been right about me letting her move in. She has been acting strange since she came. See if you can find out what’s going on, will you? This is a distraction that none of us needs right now, and we need to get to the bottom of it. Tell Sally I’m really lonely, and to bring me a couple of chicken sandwiches when she comes. The food here is horrible.”

 

That was all it took to crack Myrna up. She was still laughing as she hung up the phone. I could hear Sally in the background asking her what was so funny. I thought about what Myrna had told me and wondered why Sally’s stepfather had traveled all the way here to attend the funeral. That wasn’t at the top of the list though. The thought that he would try to talk to Sally after the way he had treated her, pissed me off to the max. Then I wondered if he somehow knew about the life insurance policy, and thought for some insane reason Sally might give him part of it. Either way, I was going to have Tiny put a tail on him and make sure he didn’t get near Sally for any reason. I knew if I went after him again, I wouldn’t stop until he was six feet under this time.

 

I lay there thinking about what Quanta had told me about the island. I made up my mind that as soon as Sally got her papers, we were all going there for the rest of the summer. There I would be able to heal and get ready for the fight I was about to get into with the church. I wanted that girl free, and I would do whatever was necessary to accomplish my goal. But unlike the Runt, I would do it legally if at all possible. The area where the church had its buildings was between two states, West Virginia and Maryland. This would make it a lot more difficult, unless I could bring the FBI into it because of the underage child involved. I would have to spend some time with a good long range camera in cold weather to gather evidence to go after them legally.

 

I also knew if they found out I was close and spying on them, they might move her again or come after me. I would relish them coming after me because I knew I could take care of myself, but I didn’t want to lose track of her again for any reason. Any way you looked at it, I was due for a long protracted battle with them until I could accomplish my goal of setting her free.

 

I lay there running all the scenarios through my head and I almost missed the arrival of Sally. I could tell immediately she had been crying, so I just held out my arm to her and let her climb into the bed with me. I held her, feeling the sobs racking her little body. I didn’t say anything, thinking she would feel better if she got it out of her system. Tiny was with her and sat down in the chair out in the hall, allowing us to have some privacy.

 

I don’t know how long she lay there, but when I finally was able to roll her to the side so I could see her face, I realized she was sound asleep. I just looked at her beautiful face, thinking about the first time I had laid eyes on her and the changes I was seeing now. It came to me then I had to be the happiest person in the room as I held her and watched her sleep. The stress on her must have been really bad if she was sleeping this soundly. I tried not to disturb her so she could sleep, but it was not to be. Kat came into the room and seeing her laying on the bed, started to open her mouth to say something, but I quickly shook my head.

 

“This is my ward, Kat. She just came from her mother’s funeral so please don’t disturb her.”

 

I was whispering, but it immediately woke Sally. She smiled at me before saying she forgot my chicken sandwiches in the car.

 

“That’s ok, honey, I think you needed the nap more than I needed the food. I’m sorry you had to go through all of that without me. Oh, this is Kat, one of my nurses. I was whispering to her when you woke up. Kat, this is Sally, my ward and soon to be daughter, if she doesn’t get mad at me for some reason.”

 

“Nice to meet you, Kat, and don’t pay any attention to old grouchy here. He wouldn’t be in here if he hadn’t acted stupid and wouldn’t listen to anyone’s advice.”

 

Kat laughed and Sally joined in. They started talking to each other like I wasn’t in the room. I listened for a few minutes before I interrupted them.

 

“Sorry to disrupt all the gossip about me, but my arm is asleep. Sally, do you think I can have it back long enough to wake it up again?”

 

Sally got up and sat down in the chair, still talking to Kat while she checked my vitals and made notes in my chart. Tiny looked in with a smile on his face and I just shrugged at him. The girls talked non stop for at least fifteen minutes before Kat finally remembered I was there.

 

“Sorry, Jon, I came in to check your vitals and to tell you I will be going off shift in a few minutes. I hope Sally comes back tomorrow so we can talk some more. She is a lovely girl and knows so much about you. I think I would like to know more myself. Bye Sally, see you tomorrow.”

 

Sally was smiling as she said bye and I was frowning. I hadn’t expected the two of them meeting would cost me my privacy, but Sally seemed to take an immediate liking to Kat, and I could see the feeling was mutual. As I was wondering where this was going, Sally leaned over and kissed me on the cheek.

 

“Today wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, at least until my stepdad showed up. I was scared to death and he kept trying to talk to me for some reason. Why was he even there, Jon? I haven’t seen him since you took me out of that hole I was living in. I know he made my skin crawl, the way he was looking at me the whole time. The circus people were really friendly and they all seemed sad about Mom’s death. One little guy even asked if he could kiss me on the cheek. I had to bend down to let him, and I almost started giggling when he whispered I was pretty, and he wished he was my age again so he could ask me for a date. It all went so well until my stepdad showed up and ruined it.”

 

“Sally, I don’t know why he showed up but he is in trouble for doing so. He agreed when I took you never to show his face around here again and not to ever try to contact you in any way. I just wish I wasn’t in the hospital so I could have a little talk with him. Don’t you worry; I don’t think he wants anything to do with Tiny, so he won’t try to come near you. Do me a favor and go out to the nurses’ station and see if they will let me get up so we can take a short walk.”

 

She went out and I waved Tiny in.

 

“I don’t have much time to talk. Put someone on her stepfather, and let them have a little talk with him. Find out why he came back and what he wants, will you? Tiny, have your man remind him of the agreement he made with me before he left. If he has to get physical, it won’t hurt my feelings any.”

 

“I already have a man on him and I promise you, I will know everything before the night is over, Jon. I saw the way Sally reacted to him, and it was all I could do to keep from losing my temper. I didn’t like the way he stared at her the throughout the funeral, either. No, Jon, you leave this one to me and my friends. I had a little chat with him at the funeral, but he seemed like the type who doesn’t like to listen to a little friendly advice. I will take care of it tonight, so don’t worry.”

 

Sally came back in followed by a nurse, so we had to drop the conversation for the moment. The nurse informed me that I could take a short walk as far as the waiting room, if I took it slow. She helped me out of bed and assisted me to get my robe on since I had one of those butt hanging out gowns that hospitals loved so much. Sally was smiling as she slowly pushed my IV down the hallway. Tiny followed along behind, snickering at Sally’s comment about my hairy legs. I gave him the finger behind my back and he snorted at me when Sally looked at us funny.

 

 

 

Chapter # 17

 

 

 

We finally made it to the waiting room. Sally had a pocket full of change, so she bought us all a soda. I had a chance to look around to see what kinds of machines there were, because I was thinking that what they might offer would be better than hospital food. Sally seemed happy just being with me and I knew I was glad she was here. She started asking about Kat. She wanted to know how old she was and the typical daughter type questions, which I didn’t feel comfortable answering, even if I had known the answers. Tiny was watching the two of us with a smug smile on his face, which I hated. I knew what he was thinking, but they both were wrong.

 

“Ok, you two, enough is enough. Sally, I just met her this morning and found out her name, just before you came in to visit. Tiny, if you open that big yap of yours, I will have a little talk with Myrna about you gossiping behind my back. Now, Sally, if you want to know more about Kat, then you will have to ask her yourself. I have told you everything I know.”

 

“I’m sorry, Jon, but she is so sweet and pretty. Besides, if she is interested in going out with you, I need to know more about her before I give her my blessings. I can’t just let anyone go out with my dad.”

 

I looked at her in shock and big mouth just plain lost it. Tiny was guffawing so loud, one of the nurses came around the corner and told him to hold it down, there were sick people here. Well duh! I thought, as I glared holes through him. He just shook it off, still laughing at me. Sally had a sweet smile on her face, so I didn’t have the heart to tell her she was way off track about me and Kat. Before I could say anything, Sally turned to Tiny and asked him if he thought Kat was pretty and did he think we would make a good pair.

 

He looked at her thoughtfully, then at me, before he said anything. I tried to glare him down, but it as usual didn’t sink through his thick head. Tiny being Tiny, he had to have his say.

 

“Sally, honey, I think she is just perfect for your dad. With that red hair, I bet she has a temper and could keep him in line. I would even go as far as to say that if they had kids, they would all be pretty, just like their mother. Of course your dad’s not a bad looking guy, but he is a bit plain around the edges.”

 

I just glared at him as he rolled his eyes at me as if to say, “Pay back’s a bitch, ain’t it?” Sally took it serious and sniggered at him, then looked at me in a weird way.

 

“I think you’re right, Tiny. They would make a good pair together. But knowing my dad, he will never muster the courage to ask her out. I think I better step in and see what I can arrange. I really like her, and I bet she would like Jon if I gave her a chance to get to know him a little better. I think I will have a little talk with Myrna and see what we can come up with.”

 

Now this was getting totally out of hand, if she was dragging Myrna into it. I decided to just keep my mouth shut and head back to my room before I said something that made them both mad at me. I stood up and started toward my room. I forgot about the damned IV holder and almost tipped it over. Sally grabbed it and looked at me with that ornery grin she always used when she had something she thought I didn’t know about. We walked back to my room, with Sally pushing the IVs and humming to herself. Now I was worried. When Sally hummed, that usually meant I was going to come out on the wrong end of one of her little plans. The trouble with the whole thing was that Myrna always helped her. I had never out thought either one of them yet. Whenever they got their heads together, I always lost out in the end.

 

We finally made it back to my room, only to find Bill and Jerry sitting in the vacant chairs waiting on us. Sally helped me back into bed and said she had to go because she had an early dress fitting in the morning. She kissed me and gave me that grin again before she and Tiny escaped through the open door, talking up a storm to each other. I wished I could have heard that conversation, but from the look on Bill and Jerry’s faces, I had more important things to worry about. Bill reached into a bag beside his chair and handed me a large coffee before he opened his mouth. I took a sip, thinking this wasn’t going to be very pleasant just by that little action itself.

 

“Jon, Sally’s stepfather tried to file a motion in court to return her to his guardianship. Fortunately, I had a call from a clerk I knew and got there in time to quash the motion. He also filed a restraining order against you and all the immediate members of your family to keep away from him while he was in town. That one was granted. Of course he didn’t know that Sally is your only family. He told the Judge that your half brother made threats against him at his wife’s funeral. He also said they wouldn’t let him speak to his own daughter to pass on his grief over her mothers passing. I showed the Judge the previous paperwork that was on file, and he just laughed at him. Jon, I don’t know what’s going on, but he has someone with deep pockets backing him. The lawyer he used is from Maryland and is well known and very expensive to hire.”

 

“Bill, I would almost bet he got a call from the church, or someone connected to it and got paid to come in. This is just the start, my friends. From now on, it will be down and dirty, using any legal argument they can to keep me away from the church. They know that I know more about their dealings than anyone else but the members. They are going to use every means necessary to tie me up to keep me at a distance from them. Bill, Jerry, use your contacts in the courts to keep you informed of any legal moves they try. I can’t do a thing until I get healed and out of here. Tiny and his friends will watch out for the girls until that happens. Meanwhile, we can pull a few legal maneuvers of our own, like filing a return restraining order against any member of the church and it’s contractors to keep them from approaching me and mine. Bill, in the meantime, I want you to call Jeb and have him put his two friends on alert to be waiting for a call from me. He will know what you are talking about. Jerry, I want that report on Sally’s mother’s family as soon as possible. Have your investigator check to see if there is a tie in between the stepfather and the mother’s sister. I also want to know what happened to the Runt and his people as soon as possible, Jerry.”

 

“That last one is easy, Jon. He was fired along with four of his men for gross negligence of duty. The other men have been reassigned to other districts and put on ninety day probation. You have been returned to duty with full honors. As you were acting in the line of duty, they have cleared you in the shooting. It was entered into the books as self defense. I brought your gun and badge with me. You can put them in the drawer next to your bed, just in case. Don’t worry, Jon, if they want to play dirty, I will have all my staff drop what they’re doing to handle anything they can throw your way. You know me well enough to know that I hate losing. I am not about to let some God talking child molester beat me in court, or anywhere else. You have our numbers, so if you need us, call any time. One of us will come running. Jon, you may own my firm, but to me you’re a friend. Bill here thinks you’re the son he never had. We will see you through all of this, and we won’t lose while we are doing it. I don’t know what your plans are, but until you have them formed, we will make sure your family and you are safe.”

 

“Jon, your grandfather and I grew up together, and the day he finally found you, was the happiest I ever saw him since Helen died. To me, you are like family, and he made me promise that I would always look out for you like we used to do for each other. I am the last of our little crowd, and we always were there when the others needed us. What I’m trying to say is, that I will be there for you too, if you will let me.”

 

“Bill, you have been there for me since I came to this country and made Sally my ward. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have a plan in mind, but it will take a couple of weeks before I can lay it all out to you both. I know you want to know now, but if you wait, it will give us an edge that even the courts can’t overlook. My friend in Nigeria is setting it all in motion as we speak. I promise it will throw everyone who tries to do anything to Sally into a complete state of confusion. I have a sick feeling that, within the next month or so, the church will try to say Sally is one of their members’ daughters and try to take her. That won’t hold up with DNA testing, but it will drag it out more. Let them try, and then we will pounce with on them with both feet, using the information Sally gave me. Bill, make sure you call Tiny and bring him up to date so he will know how to react until I can get out of here. Fellas, our war has started and it’s going to be expensive for awhile because the church has deep pockets. I know they will approach me in a few days to try to make a deal, so I want a good voice activated recorder with me at all times. Have Tiny or Sally bring it in tomorrow when they come to visit. Have the Geek get me a good one, made for just this purpose, Bill. He will know exactly what I need. Now, Jerry, why don’t you go home to your wife and Bill you make the calls we talked about? I need some time to do some heavy thinking.”

 

They just smiled at me, and Jerry handed me my gun and ID before they went out the door. I immediately checked the gun by taking it down to bare frame to make sure it hadn’t been tampered with. I could find no signs of it even being torn down since the last time I did it. I had a special way of marking my weapons when I cleaned them so I would know if they had been tampered with in any way. The Legion had taught us this, and with the extra training I had gotten from Interpol about how to work on them in the field, I knew more than the average soldier about my own weapons. This one hadn’t been touched and the ammo in it was brand new, which I didn’t like until I looked at the mag and realized it was my extra from the house. I got it when I had bought the other forty. I had also given them a certain mark in a place only I would know to look for. Evidently they had stopped by the house before they came here for some reason. I put one up the spout and put it along with my badge in the top drawer of the bedside stand. I rolled it a lot closer to the bed and plugged in the phone charger to charge my cell. That’s when I noticed a strange wire coming out of the bottom of the stand. It was sticking out about an inch from the bottom connected to nothing. Dammit, I thought, my room had been bugged.

 

I got out and walked around to the side, rolling the IVs along with me, and got down on my knees to look under the stand. I grabbed the wire and pulled hard on it, and to my surprise it came off in my hand. I carefully lay the stand on its side and almost dropped it because it was so heavy. The IVs were not helping matters, but I didn’t want to tear them out. Then I might have to stay in here even longer. I finally got it on its side and almost busted out laughing at what I found on the bottom. Glued to the bottom of the stand was an old fashioned telephone jack, with several old wires hanging out of it. I pulled it apart and it looked to be almost as old as I was, and just as cumbersome as I was feeling. I wasn’t stupid, and went ahead and checked out the whole stand, but there was nothing to worry about. While I was on my knees, I checked under the bed and it was clean as far as I could tell. Well, now I had to set the stand back up and believe me, with one arm not working, it wasn’t easy. I finally ended up squeezing it between my knees and lifting the heavy damn thing up that way until I could set it upright. It made a loud band when it hit the floor and I froze for a moment. I quickly put the water and pitcher back on top and rolled it close to the bed again. I had to walk around the bed and get in from the other side because of the IVs. I finally got settled back in and relaxed a little, but it didn’t last long as another vampire came in and wanted my blood again. I knew it was just a matter of time before someone else came in wanting something so I tried to stay awake. I didn’t make it, and dozed off thinking about Sally and her ornery grin as she left the room this evening.

 

 

 

Chapter # 18

 

 

 

I finally fell asleep after the nurse brought in some pills I was supposed to take. To my surprise, I wasn’t bothered the rest of the night. I slept well without the usual dreams that always woke me. When I woke up the next morning, it was to the smiling face of Kat carrying a bag.

 

“I brought you a couple of egg sandwiches I made at home. I stopped and got you a large coffee, too.”

 

“You still haven’t told me what I owe you for the meal yesterday.”

 

“You don’t owe me a thing Jon. I was wondering though, when is Sally coming in to visit today?”

 

“Some time later this morning, I think. She has a final fitting for her prom dress this morning, and then Tiny will bring her by. What have you got up your sleeve, Kat? I don’t mean to sound suspicious, but I know my soon to be daughter too well to think that was an innocent question.”

 

“Well, Umm, I promised her I would show her around the hospital. By the way, Jon, who is Myrna? She sounded so nice when I talked to her last night.”

 

She quickly put her hand over her mouth and exited the room before I could say anything in return. Oh God, I thought, she has been talking to Myrna and Sally together. I was still wondering when Sally had time to give her our number when Myrna and Sarah came into the room and sat down. Sarah wouldn’t look at me, and as I looked at Myrna, she looked a little upset for some reason. I just munched on my egg sandwich and waited to see who would break the silence.

 

“Jon, I have to tell you something and I don’t want you to take it the wrong way. I am moving to California to take a position as the director of Children Services for one of the hospitals out there. I will finally have my own practice with my own office and staff. I’m sorry I’m running out on you, but I really want to do this. I also found a Federal Express envelope addressed to me in care of you. It was in the stuff that the FBI brought back. Jon, how did you manage to get all my savings back from my ex? It was every cent that he stole. When I called him to thank him for returning it, they told me he didn’t work there anymore and had moved to Texas or someplace.”

 

“Sarah, don’t worry about that. Let’s just say he saw the error of his ways and decided to return it. Sarah, you are not running out on me or Sally. This is what you have been thinking about for years and now you have a chance to fulfill your dream. Hell, if it were me, I would jump at the chance. I want you to take the credit card and use it until you get yourself settled in out there. When you’re done with it, just make sure you cut it up. I will call and have it cancelled in sixty days. That should give you plenty of time to get what you need. Sarah, you have been a great partner and a big asset for the kids you have worked with since I hired you. Now you can help more of them by having your own practice. I won’t say I’m happy about losing my partner, but I will wish you the best because you deserve it. If there’s ever anything you need, don’t ever hesitate to call me.”

 

She broke down and came running over to the bed, sobbing against my chest. I just patted her on the back and let her get it out of her system because I knew it had been building up for the last week or so. I had to admit I was sad about losing her as a partner, but I was also relieved that I had one less person to worry about with what was coming up. She finally rose up and grabbed several of the tissues and cleaned herself up a little before smiling at me.

 

“Jon, without your help, I never would have gotten a job like this. Working with you these few years made me realize there’s more to what these kids go through than any adult can ever realize. I have loved you almost from the first time I saw you, but it took me almost a year to realize you were the ultimate professional and would never feel the same way I did. Myrna and I were up most of the night talking and she helped me realize so much more about you that what I knew. She told me about some of your background and it made me take a long hard look at myself and where I was going with my life. I have to be there by this weekend, so I will say good bye now. I probably won’t see you again before I leave. Tiny is having my files and stuff delivered to Human Services, so all I have to do is pack and catch my plane. Jon, thanks for letting me use the card to get set up out there. I know even with what I have saved I didn’t have near enough to buy the things I need. The hospital will help me find a house or an apartment if I need it, which I do, but I still have to furnish it. I promise I won’t go overboard with the money and I will just buy the basics. If you ever come out there, you better stop and visit me or I will never speak to you again. I love you Jon Morgan, and always will.”

 

With that, she kissed me and walked out of my life. I looked at Myrna and she had tears running down her cheeks too, but she smiled at me and left behind Sarah without saying a word. I just lay there on the bed with the partially eaten sandwich in my hand, wondering what was coming next. I laid the sandwich down and sipped the coffee, wondering if I had more feelings for Sarah than what I had thought. Any way I looked at it, I respected her and thought of her as my partner. I loved her as a person, but not in the way she obviously loved me. Damn, this was starting out to be a long day.

 

I lay sipping the coffee and thought about Kat. That brought a smile to my face until I remembered she had asked about Sally’s visit today. I knew how Sally thought, but I had no idea what was in Kat’s mind or even what she was thinking. The fact that she had talked last night to Myrna and Sally made me worried and wary about what they were planning together. I had to admit, I liked Kat a lot from talking to her, but I wondered why her sudden interest in me. Oh well, I thought, worrying about it wouldn’t make it go away. I knew I would have to keep my eyes on all three of them.

 

I had just taken another sip of coffee when my cell rang. It startled me so bad I almost dropped the coffee. When I answered, it was Tiny on the other end.

 

“Jon, I am calling from the dress shop. Sally is getting her fitting but I have news I think you would like to hear. We had a little talk with our friend and he had some interesting things to tell us before he left to go back out west. Sally is not going to be bothered by her family anymore. It seems that his brother is married to Sally’s mother’s sister. Her aunt knew about the insurance policy and sent him to see if Sally would let them have it. He didn’t know she couldn’t inherit the money until she turned eighteen. He also told us the Runt paid all his bills while he was here, and that he had paid his attorney to file the motions. He told us that the Runt was mad as hell when Bill presented filed papers, showing the mother and he had signed their rights away to ever bother Sally again. There was no mention of the church by him at all, Jon. I don’t think he knew about them and was just a tool they used to go after you. The Runt is some big wig in the church, at least that’s what we been able to find out from a few people that know him. He and your grandfather tangled several times over your mom’s and dad’s property in West Virginia. I don’t know what property they are talking about, but you might want to talk to Bill about it. As soon as Sally’s done, I am bringing her straight to the hospital to see you. She said she had a date with a pretty redhead to talk about your future. That’s the news and nothing but the news, my friend, and from where I stand, it is all good for a change.”

 

“Yea, I agree, and it would take a load off my mind, except for the fact that Sally has a date with a redhead to talk about my future, as she put it.”

 

“Well, if the redhead is that little nurse, then maybe you should think about it a little, my friend. She is beyond a doubt very pretty and also very smart. You could use someone like that in your life. Face it, Jon, you should think about settling down a little. Look at me, I have a good wife and a beautiful daughter. Which reminds me, what’s with Aunt Myrna? She seemed a little out of sorts this morning when I picked up Sally. Has something happened that I don’t know about?”

 

I quickly told him about my early morning visit and the news about Sarah’s departure. He just sighed into the phone when I was done.

 

“I’m really sorry to hear we are losing her, Jon. She has helped me as well as a lot of kids since she started working with you. One way to look at it is our loss is some lucky kid’s gain in her new job. Jon, I still feel like I owe her for the help she gave to my daughter, so if she ever needs help, will you let me know?”

 

“Of course, Tiny. If she does, we will both go running to help her. After all, she is my partner.”

 

“Thanks, Jon, and we’ll be there as soon as Sally’s finished with her fitting. Oh, did you call the principal like you were supposed to do? Sally told me to remind you about it, just in case you forgot.”

 

“I did and I will make the call when you quit gabbing.”

 

“Go to hell, Jon, see you shortly.”

 

He hung up with a loud click, which I figured was him slamming the lid closed on his phone. I had to smile at the mental picture. I got the number for Sally’s school and had a talk with the principal. I explained to him what was going on, or at least what I thought he should know and made all the arrangements. He asked if I thought there would be any problems at the dance. I told him I could see nothing that would endanger anyone, but this was for my own peace of mind since I was in the hospital and would be unable to accompany her. He said he hoped I got better and that he would make Tiny welcome. He would ask him to help chaperone the kids since he would be there anyway. I told him I was sure Tiny would like nothing better before hanging up the phone. I laughed out loud at that picture and was startled by someone talking to me from the door of the room.

 

“I’m glad to see your feeling better today. The doctor will be in to see you shortly and I think he has good news for you today, Jon. How come you didn’t eat your breakfast?”

 

“I’m sorry Kat, but my partner stopped in earlier and her news made me lose my appetite. The sandwich was delicious but I just couldn’t eat anymore after she left.”

 

“Is there anything I can do to help, Jon?”

 

“Not really, Kat. It’s just something I have to accept. I hate to lose my partner, but she got an excellent job offer she decided to accept. I guess I will be working alone for awhile, until I can find someone to replace her.”

 

She just gave me that cute smile before saying the doctor would be in and that I was warned.

 

It was about five minutes later he came in and to me the news was the best I had heard since being admitted here.

 

“Well, Mr. Morgan, from the results of all your tests, I think we can let you go home tomorrow. Your wounds are healing nicely, and there is no further sign of infection. I’ll call ole Doc Palmer later and let him know so he can follow up on your treatments. I will prescribe several antibiotics that I want you to take for a couple of weeks. But barring any further relapses, I think you will make a full recovery. I’ll have Nurse Conlin come in and change your dressings later, but other than that, you are free to leave tomorrow. We will take the IVs out this afternoon and start you on the pills. I want you to take them three times a day until they are gone. Have a good day, Mr. Morgan.”

 

I could have shouted for joy at the news, but I remembered Kat and wondered if she would be sad I was leaving. I was wondering who Nurse Conlin was, when Kat came in pushing her little cart in front of her. I decided to be a smart ass without thinking out the consequences of my actions, as usual.

 

“I thought Nurse Conlin was supposed to change my bandages?”

 

She stopped and gave me a dirty look and roughly rolled me on my side and slowly pulled the tape off the lower bandage. Man did that ever hurt. I quickly asked her what happened to her nice and gentle bedside manner.

 

“I don’t know, maybe you need to ask Nurse Conlin.”

 

“I would if I knew who she was. At least maybe she would not make it so painful on my last day here.”

 

She didn’t say a word back just efficiently changed both bandages and rolled me back to a laying position before speaking.

 

“You know, Jon Morgan, I see what Sally means when she says you can be so dense at times. What is my name?”

 

I looked at her for a few minutes, thinking back over our previous conversations, and didn’t have a clue to what she was asking.

 

“You said your name was Kathleen but that everyone called you Kat, and that I should too. Why am I supposed to be so dense, as you put it?”

 

She looked at me with a surprised look on her face before she started laughing up a storm. When she finally settled down, I must have been looking at her like she was nuts or something, because she gave me that cute little grin before explaining to me.

 

“Oh Jon, I am so sorry for laughing at you and being so mean. Nurse Conlin is me. I forgot I hadn’t told you my last name, but I did remember telling Sally my whole name last night. I think I owe you an apology for being so spiteful. Now, will you let me formally introduce myself before I say I’m sorry again? My name is Kathleen Conlin, known to my friends as Kat, and I’m sorry for being so rough with you.”

 

I looked at her trying to count her freckles before I replied to her.

 

“Well Kathleen Conlin, known to her friends as Kat, I’m glad you consider me to be a friend, because I would hate to be your enemy and under your care.”

 

Well that one totally got her because she was laughing so hard she was doubled over next to my bed, holding her sides. That’s where she was when Sally walked into the room. She took one look and got a big smile on her face as she came over and kissed me. Kat went over to her cart and got one of those wet wipe things out and was wiping her face, still trying to hold her laughter in. Sally went over to her and they both headed out of the room. Kat was still laughing and Sally was asking her questions as they walked. The last thing I head was Sally saying; “Oh my God Kat, he didn’t say that, did he?”

 

Tiny came in, smiling at me and watching them as they walked around the corner.

 

“Do you want me to follow them, Jon?”

 

“No, Tiny, those two are up to no good. I can feel it in my bones. I think they will be ok while Kat shows her around the ward. I called the principal and it’s all set up for you to be with Sally at the Prom, but there is one catch I had to agree to.”

 

“What’s that, Jon?”

 

“You not only have to watch Sally, but I volunteered you to be a chaperone for the night while you’re there.”

 

I waited for the explosion I was sure was coming, but to my surprise, he looked thoughtful for a moment then looked up at me and grinned.

 

“Thanks, Jon, this will be fun. I chaperoned my daughter’s freshman dance and she said if I ever volunteered again, she would never speak to me again. Now I get to chaperone Sally and her friends. I am going to have a ball. Can you imagine some little teeny boppers, sneaking off to a dark corner to have a kiss and me showing up just as they try? Yep, I think I am going to enjoy this one a lot.”

 

Oh my God, I thought, what have I done? Sally is gonna kill me when this is all over. I was smiling, though; thinking about her reaction when she found out that Tiny would be one of the chaperones. In a lot of ways, he was like a second dad to her and treated her like his own. I may not be there, but having Tiny there was almost the same as if I was. God help the boy who might try something out of line with her. Just the picture in my mind almost made me want to rub my hands together in glee.

 

“Jon, why have you got such a sneaky smile on your face?”

 

“Never mind Tiny, you wouldn’t understand.”

 

 

 

Chapter # 19

 

 

 

Tiny and I sat and talked about everything that had been going on for about an hour before Sally returned to the room. She had a big smile on her face and was upbeat and humming to herself.

 

“Hey, have you two had a nice visit? Jon, did you know that Kat is the first shift nursing supervisor? Man, she is in charge of everything and everybody. I think you and she will get along just fine. Oh, I forgot to tell you, since you’re getting out of here in the morning, I invited her to dinner at our house tomorrow night. Myrna is fixing leg of lamb and all the trimmings for us.”

 

This bit of news hit me with a jolt, and when I looked over at Tiny, he was smirking at the look on my face. I didn’t have the heart to tell Sally no, it wasn’t a good idea right now with all that’s going on. She seemed happy that Kat was coming to visit. I was numb and didn’t know how I felt about it. I did know I wanted to see her again, but maybe not so soon. I didn’t get a chance to say anything to Sally because the subject of my thoughts came in. She proceeded to remove the IVs from my arm, all the while chatting with Sally like they had known each other for years. Watching them interact, I could see they both were completely comfortable with each other, and it made me wonder.

 

Sally had known Sarah since I had hired her, and they always were friendly. However, the ease of conversation and camaraderie I was seeing between Kat and Sally had never been there with Sarah and Sally. Even Myrna had never completely let her guard down with Sarah and it made me wonder what the difference was in this friendship.

 

“Earth to Jon! Earth to Jon!”

 

“What, can’t a man even think in peace around here?”

 

When I saw the looks I got from both of them, I realized I had stepped in it again. Dammit, couldn’t a man have a private thought without making someone mad at him? Kat looked at Sally and got a grin in return.

 

“I was asking if it was ok for me to come to dinner tomorrow. I know Sally wants me to, but what do you think about it?”

 

I looked her straight in those big green eyes and got lost and I think she felt the same. We just stared into each other’s eyes until Sally cleared her throat and broke our connection to each other. Oh God, I thought, I am a goner. If looking into her eyes did that to me, I knew I couldn’t trust myself to be alone with her for very long.

 

“Umm, I don’t have a problem with it, but my daughter and my housekeeper run my life. It wouldn’t do me any good to complain, especially if I ever wanted to live in peace again. Yes, you may come, but only if you promise not to let Myrna or Sally get you alone for any amount of time.”

 

Kat looked at Sally, who was grinning, and then she started up that little girl laughter of hers. She pushed the IV cart into the corner and walked out of the room. I could still hear her laughing down the hall when Sally jumped on the bed next to me and hugged me.

 

“What was that for?”

 

“Oh I don’t know. Maybe because I like you so much.”

 

Tiny, who had been sitting quietly in the chair, busted out laughing. We both looked at him asking at the same time, what was so funny?

 

“I think I better start pressing my tux. She has you hogtied and roped, my friend. Now that I have seen for myself how you two react to each other, I am sure your daughter and my aunt Myrna have already got the wedding plans in the works.”

 

I quickly looked at Sally who was grinning and looking way too thoughtful.

 

“Ok, that’s it, time for you two to go home. I think there has been enough underhanded shenanigans for today. Besides Sally, your prom is day after tomorrow and Tiny is going to help out by being a chaperone while he is there.”

 

She looked at me in shock and then at Tiny, who had a big grin on his face. He got up and headed for the door. Sally gave me one of those scorching looks that all females have before following him out. I heard her start chewing on him before they got ten feet away from my door. He was laughing and she was like a dog with a bone, just giving him hell as they walked. I leaned back and laughed, remembering the look of shock on her face. Plot against me, will she? Now if I could figure some way to get back at Myrna, then this whole thing would work out to my advantage. I figured getting Myrna wouldn’t happen in my lifetime, but just thinking about it gave me a big laugh. Kat came in and sat down in the chair next to my bed and smiled at me.

 

“Jon, I saw Sally leave and she looked mad for some reason. Was it something I did?”

 

I looked at her and smiled before telling her why Sally seemed so upset. Tiny had almost been hung by his daughter the last time he chaperoned. She listened and started smiling part way through the story.

 

“Oh Jon, she will be so mad at you. I have to admit it was sneaky though, especially after she sprang the supper thing on you the way she did. Jon, I’m not trying to intrude into your life, but I have to tell you that for the first time since my husband died, I am interested in someone. I never thought I would find anyone else that I could connect to, but I have to you for some reason I don’t quite understand. If I make a pest out of myself, please tell me before this goes too much further.”

 

“Well, Kat, you are a pest, but a nice one. I’m still trying to count the freckles on your face. Seriously though, this is for me a first too. I haven’t dated anyone since I got to the States. It hasn’t been easy for me to adjust. With my grandfather dying so soon after I got here, it has been a little strained for me. I just mostly threw myself into my work and forgot about everything else in life. Sally has been a godsend to me, she has made it all worth while.”

 

“Sally told me how she came to be your ward and soon to be your daughter. Jon, you are very lucky the courts allowed it to happen. A single man in this state taking in a small girl is somewhat of a rarity.”

 

“No, it was having a good attorney. He is well known and respected all over this area. He and my grandfather were war heroes. They also grew up with all the judges and government officials in this area. I hadn’t planned on taking in Sally, but when I saw how she was being treated, I couldn’t help myself. I have never regretted it, but I sometimes wonder which one of us is the ward and who is in charge.”

 

She broke out in that little girl laughter of hers and it sent tingles all through me. As I looked at her, I knew I was in serious trouble with this beautiful young woman. Then I asked a question that I probably shouldn’t have, but I really wanted to know.

 

“Kat, if you don’t mind me asking, how old are you?”

 

She abruptly stopped laughing and glared at me a moment before I saw her relax and smile at me again.

 

“I will be thirty-three in a few months, Jon. Is that too old for you?”

 

“Huh! Of course not, and I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, Kat. I was just wondering, is all. I will be thirty-four in a few months and sometimes I feel like I’m sixty. Umm, how many freckles do you have and are they just on your face?”

 

She looked at me for a moment and lost it again, and again I felt that tingling feeling.

 

“Maybe someday you’ll find out, but no I have them in other places too. Why the fascination with freckles? I always hated them but my mother said it was my Irish heritage. She was covered with them too and my dad just loved to kid her about it until she got mad at him and they changed color. That’s the only time I remember seeing my father run out of the house.”

 

I would find out much later that the next thing I said was the thing that made her fall in love with me. It was said without thinking, as usual, but was heartfelt, which she realized at once.

 

“Not a fascination Kat, I was wondering how hard it would be to lick them off, and if they would even come off that way. I also love trying to count them when you’re up close to me.”

 

I thought she was going to fall off the chair, laughing at me. She got up and left, and I heard her mumbling something about licking them off. At least that’s what it sounded like. The nurse who dispensed medicine came in just as she was leaving, and was smiling at her too. I was given two pills to take, and was told I needed to get up and walk some today. I just smiled at her, still hearing Kat laughing out by the nurses’ desk. When the pill nurse left, I discovered I was hungry. But looking at the egg sandwich, I decided to pass on it. I lay back and dozed off, thinking about freckles for some strange reason.

 

I slept, dreaming I was chasing big freckles through a field. Every one I caught turned into a big M&M of a different flavor. I kept chasing and then for some strange reason I was smelling food cooking. The food smell was so strong it finally woke me up. As I did, I swiped my hand across my mouth and realized I had been drooling in my sleep.

 

I opened my eyes and saw a set of blue eyes, about three inches from mine and it startled the hell out of me. I jerked back and heard laughter, and then I realized it was Sally and she had been standing over me. I could still smell food cooking, and realized Myrna was sitting in the chair next to the bed. When I raised the bed, she got up and started to lay food out on the table the hospital used for that purpose.

 

“See Sally, he’s just like his grandpop used to be. The smell of food would bring him back to the living in just a few minutes. Maybe we better find him a bib, though, ‘cause he looks a little wet around the neck.”

 

“Jon, what were you dreaming about? You kept muttering something about peanut butter and chocolate the whole time.”

 

“I don’t remember, Sally, but next time, don’t scare me by being so close to my face when I wake up.”

 

“Sorry, but I was trying to hear what you were saying.”

 

I grinned at her as Myrna pushed the food over to where I could get to it. We all had a nice meal together, chatting back and forth about what was going on at the house and how far Pete and his crew had come with the fence. Myrna also told me that Jimmy had installed a state of the art burglar alarm system in the house. He was busy setting up all the cameras so that I would be able to see any part of the property day or night by using the joy stick and the keyboard. She grumbled that the place was like Grand Central Station, with everyone running in and out all day. I laughed and just looked at her.

 

“I bet you send them to town to eat lunch too, so you don’t have to cook all morning.”

 

That got me a dirty look, and when she started to say something, Sally piped up and shot her down, much to my delight.

 

“Are you kidding me? She has the back screen room set up like a restaurant. She is feeding all of them. I set up a tip jar, but she got mad about it until she saw how much money was in it. Now it sits in the middle of the table where everyone can reach it. I heard a couple of the single guys ask her out, but she says she is taken already. I still haven’t figured out what she means by that. I’ve never seen her leave the house until you got hurt. Why I bet she has a hundred dollars tucked away by now.”

 

“Sally Homes, if you don’t shut that big mouth of yours, I’m going to have a talk with Jon about your sneaky little scheme.”

 

I watched as they glared at each other and thought it was funny until it hit me what Myrna had said. I started to ask, but when they saw my mouth open all I got from both of them at the same time was two words; “Shut up!”

 

I decided to just stay out of it after that. I could see they were going to have a long discussion when they got home, if the looks they were giving each other were any sign of things to come. I hoped they had it all straightened out by the time I got home tomorrow. If not I would fake a relapse and stay here talking to Kat until it was safe to go home again. The really sad part of the whole thing was that it was my house, but I didn’t have a thing to say about how it was run and never had. It didn’t take them long after that to pack up the dirty dishes and get ready to leave. They still weren’t speaking to each other, except for a glare now and then. Sally came over and kissed me goodbye and whispered in my ear.

 

“Don’t worry, Jon, she’s just ashamed to admit she likes the attention from all the guys. I think she really likes the older one but won’t admit it. Maybe Kat and I can set her up for a date with him.”

 

“If you need some help, you can call on me and Tiny.”

 

She laughed out loud and Myrna was staring holes in both of us. I heard Myrna ask her something but not Sally’s reply. Myrna was saying something about wait till she got Miss Big Mouth home, or something of the kind. I got out of bed after they disappeared and dug through my pants. I got some change out, and headed for the machines to get some coffee. It was like all machine coffee, not very good, but it was hot and it hit the spot after the meal I just had. I made it back to my room and sat on the chair and sipped it watching the news on TV. I must have dozed off again, because I was awakened by the night nurse helping me to bed where I slept a dreamless sleep the rest of the night.

 

 

 

Chapter # 20

 

 

 

When I woke up the next morning, it was very quiet and I was feeling totally refreshed. I looked at my watch and realized it was only 5 AM. Even though I knew they wouldn’t release me until after the change of shifts, I decided to grab a bath and get dressed. Myrna had brought me clean clothes and taken my dirty ones with her when she and Sally left last night. I idly wondered how things had worked out after they got home, and I had to smile to myself thinking about it. Those two were closer than most mothers and daughters, but they did have their little falling outs like most people who loved each other.

 

I managed to get a shower without getting my bandages wet and got dressed. It felt good to have jeans and boots on again after wearing the drafty gown that the hospital had furnished. I had a little trouble spreading the clip on the pancake belt holster, but finally got it in place to suit me. I let the badge hang on the outside of my belt on the opposite side since it was made to be worn that way. I looked into the big mirror on the door and other than being a little pale, I was ready to go home where I belonged. I headed toward the coffee machine to get some of the stuff they called coffee, and almost ran over the nurse that had helped me to bed last night. She was coming out of another room.

 

“Mr. Morgan, you can’t go home until the shift change and the discharge papers are ready for you to sign. Why are you wearing a gun in the hospital?”

 

I just turned so she could see my badge and when she saw what it said, she shut up and quickly walked away from me. I got my first cup of rotten coffee and was sitting in one of the visiting room chairs, when Kat came around the corner. I quickly stood up and that’s when I realized just how petite she really was.

 

“Jon, you shouldn’t be up yet. I just talked to the night nurse and you gave her quite a fright. My, but you do look a lot different fully dressed. I have a sandwich and some good coffee in your room if you’re interested.”

 

“You betcha. This stuff is hot, but has no kick to it. What time are you supposed to come to dinner tonight?”

 

“Well, I’m off for the next two days, so we figured around six or so. That will give me time to go home and get cleaned up. Besides, it’s a half hour drive to your place from mine.”

 

We walked back to my room together and she chatted the whole time. I noticed that she barely came up to my shoulder, I was so caught up in the lights shining in her hair that I didn’t hear a word she said. At least not until we got to the door of my room, where she abruptly stopped. I banged into her so hard I had to grab her to keep her from falling. That was my undoing, because when she turned to face me, I kissed her. The moment my lips touched hers, I felt like I couldn’t stand. She must have been feeling the same thing because I felt her weaving to the side. I backed away and looked at her. She was standing there with her eyes closed so I started to kiss her again. She must have realized where she was because she stepped back, still smiling at me.

 

“Jon Morgan, if anyone else had done that, I would have slapped them silly, but I liked it too much. If anyone saw us, I will be the talk of the hospital. Now, eat your sandwich and I will see about getting your paperwork together.”

 

She went out the door, leaving me standing in the room, wondering what the hell had just happened. I went to pick up the coffee and noticed my hands were shaking. Damn, I needed to stay away from her if she did this to me with just a short kiss. I sat down on the edge of the bed, fumbling with the sandwich until I finally got it unwrapped. I ate it on automatic because my mind sure wasn’t on eating.

 

I was still sitting on the edge of the bed in a daze when Sally came in.

 

“Jon, are you ok?”

 

“What! Oh, Hi Sally. What did you say?”

 

“I asked if you were ok. What’s wrong, you look like you saw a ghost or something? We came in to get you and take you home. I’ll be right back, I want to say hi to Kat.”

 

She was back out the door in a flash and Bill came in right after she left. I got what little I had together, and put it in the bag that Kat had brought the sandwich in. I was stalling for time to get my wits back together so I wouldn’t look like a total fool in front of Bill. He had a smile on his face. I remembered what Tiny had said about my parents’ property and decided to ask him about it on our way home. He walked out to the front desk with me and we found Sally and Kat laughing up a storm about something. I could feel my face getting red as I walked up to the desk where they were.

 

“Jon, I have all the paperwork ready for you to sign. You do know I will have to wheel you out in a wheelchair though? Don’t make faces, it’s hospital policy. We do it for everyone, whether they can walk or not.”

 

I signed all the papers and let her push me and the wheelchair into the elevator, with Sally smirking the whole time. I waited until everyone’s attention was off me, and then stuck my tongue out at her. That was all it took to wipe the smirk off her face and have it replaced with a look of shock. Then she was laughing at me. When we rolled out of the elevator, she was holding my hand and still sniggering. Kat and Bill were looking at both of us like we were from another planet. Finally Kat couldn’t stand it and had to ask, but the question was directed at Sally and I think it caught her off guard a little.

 

“Sally, what is so darned funny? First you were smirking at Jon, then you were laughing, and now you’re holding his hand and smirking again. Would you like to let the rest of us in on the little joke?”

 

“I don’t think so Kat. This one is between me and my dad. Besides, you already had your fun this morning.”

 

Kat got red as a beet, even redder than her hair. Bill looked at me, then at her in a bewildered way. Then he looked at Sally, who was smirking again. I figured I had better head this one off before someone got their feelings hurt or even worse, got mad at me.

 

“Bill, I need to have a talk with you on the way home. I think you have been holding out on me.”

 

This time it was Sally and Kat who looked lost at the direction this conversation had headed. Bill went to get the car and I stood up and waited. Kat and Sally were talking quietly with their heads close together.

 

“If you two can’t say it so everyone can hear, then don’t say it at all. I hate for anyone to whisper behind my back. Sally, you know better. Kat, I am going to miss your company, but I am glad to be going home. I hope you don’t decide to back out of dinner for tonight. I am looking forward to it.”

 

We climbed into the car, leaving her with her mouth hanging open in shock. I smiled at her and Sally waved as we pulled away from the hospital. We got out of the city before I started on Bill.

 

“Ok, Bill, tell me about the property in West Virginia. How come you never mentioned that my grandfather and Runt had words over it before?”

 

He glanced at me with a shocked look on his face, and then it hit me. He hadn’t known about Runt and my grandfather. His next words confirmed it immediately.

 

“I’m sorry, Jon, but this is all news to me. Many years ago, your grandfather bought a hundred and fifty acres on one of the few high spots along the PawPaw River. He had an a-frame cabin built and we all used to go there at least once a month to fish and play cards. I never knew that he and Dwight had argued about the property. How did you find out about this when he never said a word to me?”

 

“I just found out about it myself. How come you never told me about the cabin, Bill? I need to know where it’s located and what kind of shape it’s in.”

 

“We have a caretaker who keeps it repaired, so it should still be in good shape. Why is the cabin so important all of a sudden, Jon?”

 

“The church has a compound that straddles the state line in that area. If the Runt was trying to force my grandfather to sell it, it must be close to their compound or even border it. This could be the break I been looking for, Bill. I need to know more about it and its location. Do you have a plat of where it lies and how close it is to Maryland?”

 

“I can do you better than that, Jon. I have up to date aerial photos of the whole area that were taken last year. Your mom and dad had so many parcels of land that I commissioned aerial photos of all their properties so we could find them easier. It was all done by a professional. The photos are clear and very detailed with G.P.S. readings for each corner of the boundaries. I will bring them over to you this afternoon.”

 

“Bill, does Jeb know where the cabin is located?”

 

“Sure, Jon, he used to go with us when his wife would let him slip out for the weekend. She always thought we were bringing women into the cabin. Your mom used to love the place and would go fishing there every summer with your dad. There are some huge catfish in the river and she loved to eat them, just like the rest of us.”

 

We had pulled up in front of the house, so any further conversation was halted. I was greeted by Myrna and Tiny, who had been standing in the driveway waiting for us to arrive. From the way she jumped out, opened my door and tried to help me out, Sally must have thought she was helping an invalid. I just grinned at her and let her put on her little show. Myrna hugged me and said “Welcome home”, and Tiny, being Tiny, just stood by with a stupid looking grin on his face. I knew something was up by the way he refused to meet my eyes when I looked at him. Bill said he had to go back to his office for awhile, but would be back later and would bring all the photographs with him. He almost ran back to the car, he was in such a hurry to leave.

 

“That’s it, you three, stop it. What the hell is going on? Myrna, I don’t know what you have up your sleeve, but knowing you, it has to be something I won’t like. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have been waiting for me to arrive. Now what’s going on?”

 

Sally and Tiny looked at each other and started for the front door.

 

“Hold it you two! I know you both know about whatever is going on, so you can stay and take the heat too. Besides, I don’t think it is fair for you two to abandon Myrna when she is so upset and guilty looking.”

 

Myrna looked at me with wide eyes, and then suddenly she had tears in them that were running down her cheeks. This shocked me to the core and without thinking; I hugged her to me, trying to apologize for shouting. I looked up, and Tiny and Sally were disappearing into the house like their pants were on fire. Then I realized that this was something very personal that Myrna wanted to talk to me about without an audience.

 

“I’m sorry Myrna, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. If you’re in trouble, you know I will help you all I can.”

 

“I’m not in trouble Mr. Jon. I have something to tell you, but I feel so ashamed for not discussing it with you before I did it.”

 

“Myrna, you have nothing to be ashamed about. You’re the one person I can depend on when everything else is falling apart. Just say what you need to, and I’m sure we can work it out.”

 

“Promise me you won’t get mad and fire me?”

 

“Myrna, you’re family and I wouldn’t fire you, regardless of how bad you might think it is. Besides, if you left who would look after me and Sally?”

 

“I moved into the old caretaker’s cottage with Carver.”

 

If what she was saying was what I thought it was, I felt like shouting for joy. Myrna had finally met a man she could love and take care of. If she felt as happy as I did at this moment, then we both must be shouting inside. I decided I would play along and see what else she had to tell me. But whatever it was, I would be happy for her.

 

“His name is Carver Pierce. He works on the crew with Pete. I don’t know how it happened, but we just sort of connected. Jon, I never thought I would care for anyone besides you and Sally, but he just kinda wormed his way into my heart. He is a kind and gentle person, and is well liked by all the men who work with him. He was looking for a place to rent and talked to me about it. Before I knew it, we were moving in together. Oh Jon, am I being an old fool? I mean, at my age, I shouldn’t be chasing men, but I think I want to see where this goes. He is coming to supper tonight so you can meet him. I already told him that if you didn’t like him, he would have to look for somewhere else to live. I don’t want to lose my home and family over a man, even if he is special to me. There ain’t no man worth that, Jon.”

 

“Whoa, Myrna. You are old enough to decide what makes you happy. I don’t think I have a say in it. If he is who you think you want, then go for it. I wouldn’t dream of firing you, and I certainly wouldn’t dislike someone just because you live with them. Myrna, as long as you’re happy, then I am too. I will say one thing here, and I want you to fully understand what I am saying. If he ever lays one finger on you, he will become a cripple as soon as I find out about it. Tiny would kill him if he found out something like that was happening. Myrna, I will give him a chance, and I really hope it works out for you and him. Nothing in this world would make me happier that to see you happy and enjoying all life has to offer. Besides, if you have someone to keep your attention, then maybe you and Sally won’t plot against me so much. Maybe after all these years I can be boss in my own house.”

 

She hugged me and stepped back with a smile and clearly said; “That’ll be the day.”

 

I broke out in laughter and hugged her again as we walked toward the front door. As we went in the house, I wondered about this man and if him meeting Myrna was on the up and up. I would have a quiet talk with Pete to find out how much he knew about Carver and his background, before I made a few calls and had my own checks done on him. I didn’t want Myrna to be hurt, but he might not be what he seemed. I was thinking that the sooner we knew for sure, the better it would be for her and the rest of us. I would reserve judgment until I had him checked out and met him, and formed my own opinion. Damn, now I had another monkey wrench thrown into the mix.

 

When we got in the house, Myrna went to the kitchen and I headed for my study. When I stepped inside I immediately noticed that the gun safe had been replaced. I went over to it and it wasn’t locked. I opened one of the massive doors and from what I could tell, all the guns had been returned and they all looked like they had been recently cleaned. The older guns looked like the stocks had been treated with something to make them shine like new. I pulled out one of the old shotguns and looked down the barrel. It was spotless. Man, this was great I thought. I had been putting off cleaning them because of the work involved. Now it looked like it had all been done for me. My pistols were lined up on their hooks and looked like they had been gone over too. I took one down, and as soon as I pulled back the slide, I knew it had been cleaned by somebody because my marks were all gone. I would take them to Jeb and have all of them test fired to make sure they hadn’t been tampered with. I took off the one I was wearing then went to my desk and unlocked the bottom drawer. I pulled out the Sig and put the shoulder holster on, after making sure my marks were still on the slide and mag. When I opened the top drawer, there laying with the speed loaders was the pistol I had bought for Sarah. I had never given it any thought after I gave it to her, but she had been smart enough to know she couldn’t take it with her on the plane or in her luggage, and had given it back to me. I decided I would have Jeb ship it to her when we got her new address. He could do it since he had a Federal Firearms License for dealing anywhere.

 

I sat down at my desk, thinking about her and wondering how she was doing. I looked at the gun safe, then realized it was different than the old one. This one had a combination lock instead of a key lock. I didn’t like this at all, because if I needed one of them in an emergency, it would take too long to get into the safe. Besides, I liked the key style better because then Myrna could have one of the keys, just in case. I would have to call the manufacturer and have it changed over to the key style as soon as possible.

 

I sat back, thinking about the property, when Myrna came in with coffee and some sweet rolls.

 

“Jon, Carver is here and asked if he could speak to you in private. Will you talk to him and see if it’s ok for him to live here?”

 

“Of course Myrna, send him in. We can have coffee together and get to know each other a little.”

 

She gave me that special smile of hers before she went out. It was about three minutes later when there was a knock at the study door and I said it was open. When he came, in I was impressed by him immediately, thinking to myself that Myrna had quite a man here. He wasn’t young by a long shot but he certainly didn’t look his age either. He asked for permission to sit and I waved at the chair. I poured us both a cup of coffee as he sat down.

 

“Mr. Morgan, my name’s Carver Pierce and I’m in love with your house keeper. Before you ask, I know it’s kinda sudden, but I want to stay here with her. I know you will have me checked out, but I have nothing to hide, so go ahead. I don’t have a record and I am retired from the Army after twenty-five years of service. I’m originally from North Carolina and since I retired, I have just been driving and seeing the country. I went to work for Pete as a job supervisor and have been with him for eight months. I have never been married because I made the Army my career and didn’t want to drag a wife and kids all over the world with me. I think she feels the same way about me as I do about her, and we are trying to find out if we were meant for each other or not. So far, we are very happy and I think the world of her. Oh, and I am sixty years old. If wish to know anything else, just ask, Sir.”

 

“Ok, Carver, I can see it took a lot for you to swallow your pride and come in and talk with me this way. You are right, I will have you totally checked out, but that’s not important to me. Myrna is and always will be a part of my family. She is my ward’s mother in almost every sense, and my strong right arm. I have no problems with you and her in any way, and you are welcome here. I will tell you the same thing I told her, so you better take this to heart. I am not threatening you in any way, but if you ever lift a hand toward her, I will cripple you for the rest of your life. If her nephew Tiny gets to you first, he will kill you with his bare hands. There is a lot going on right now, so I would appreciate it if you would keep your eyes open for strangers on the property. If you see anyone that hasn’t been to the house, let me or Tiny know immediately. Also, from now on, just call me Jon, please. Mr. Morgan was my grandfather’s name, and he deserved the respect of being called so.”

 

“Ok, Jon, now let me clear the air a little too. I have never and will never hit a woman. Myrna is very special to me, even though we haven’t known each other that long. I have already talked to Tiny and he told me almost the same thing you just did. I know about the things going on here, and will be glad to help out in any way I can. I will keep my eye out, not only on the house and grounds, but on Myrna and your ward, Sally. If I am here, I promise I won’t let anyone touch them for any reason. Jon, if you need some extra eyes or help, don’t be afraid to yell. I have served in several wars and seen more action than I care to talk about, so I am not afraid to do what’s needed. From your manner and the straight forward way you speak, I would be willing to bet you have commanded too. Now, if you will excuse me, I need to get back to work before I get fired for taking too long of a lunch break.”

 

He nodded his head at me and went out the door. I sat back in the chair and thought about what he had said. I realized the way he had conducted himself told me right then he could be trusted and that there was no worry when he was around my family. How I knew this I couldn’t say, but I knew I was right. It still didn’t stop me from making the call to find out about him from some of my contacts in Interpol. They would run him and I would know everything about him in a day or so. Then I had to smile, wondering if Myrna would boss him around like she had always done to me. If she did, then he would be in the same boat the rest of us were in. We would all be members of the “Myrna Brow Beat Club”. I chuckled at the thought and then looked at the small monitors set up next to my desk in the little bookcase.

 

I had a plan starting in the back of my mind, but it all hinged on what the maps showed when Bill brought them out this afternoon for me to look at. If the cabin was where I thought it was, then I knew I had the perfect cover for what I wanted to do. If the location of the cabin was right, I would have a meeting in the morning with Jeb and his two men and set it all in motion. This was coming together a lot easier than I thought it might. Then I remembered the safe. I got up and got the packet of directions off the door where it was taped, looking for the company’s phone number. It was toll free and I called and found out they would come out tomorrow and change the combo lock to a key lock with no charge to me since it was under warranty and brand new. The man I was talking to told me that they had already been notified I would probably want the change, so they had the parts in stock. When I hung up the phone, I called a locksmith I had done business with before. I asked him how hard it would be to change the tumblers to fit a different set of keys. He told me it would take about an hour and to call when I wanted it done. He would send someone out right away to do it.

 

I sat back, wondering if I was being a little paranoid, but then I remembered the government in this country, like all others, had long arms. They wouldn’t hesitate to have an extra key put in file, just in case they wanted to raid me again. If I had it changed after the factory rep put in his tumblers, then they wouldn’t have any idea that they no longer had access to my safe. I wasn’t stupid enough to think that the Runt wouldn’t still have his contacts, and could get his hands on a copy of the key so he could set me up if all else failed. If I didn’t have Sally and Myrna to worry about, I would make this into a little game of nerves. I would be willing to bet theirs would snap first. This would be guerilla warfare at its finest, if there weren’t civilians involved who could get hurt.

 

 

 

Chapter # 21

 

 

 

I dozed off again in the chair, thinking about my plan to do a little information gathering on the church. Jimmy woke me up when he came in to check on the monitors.

 

"Oh, hey Jon, I didn't know you were back already. We have about ten more cameras to set up and we will be done outside. When Pete gets the gatehouse finished, I will come back out and do it too. There won't be any wires lying around so there won't be a mess. Man, I gotta tell you, it has been fun to be working outside again. I have missed it since I started my own business. Tiny is like a big kid out there, climbing trees and acting like he never grew up."

 

"I hate to be the one to tell you, Jimmy, but I don't think he ever did. Are these cameras going to be easy to spot and are they waterproof?"

 

"Jon, these are my own invention and I own the patent. This is the first time we have used them, and I am anxious to see for myself how they do. I have four receiving antennas set up so you should never lose communications with them. One is on the house and one on the barn, and two others are hidden on the grounds. When I get the monitors tested, you will be able to switch back and forth between each one or let the system do it automatically. They will run about a year before I have to change the batteries, and are virtually undetectable by most field equipment. Weather has no effect on them and you can see at night, almost as well as day, by a simple flip of a toggle switch. They all have auto focus so the picture will be clear and precise at all times. If they do well, I plan to market them commercially."

 

"Well, Jimmy, if you need an investor, you can count on me to help. Bill and I are always looking for new products to invest in. If it's all run by radio frequency, can't someone hear or get a lock on them?"

 

"They are almost silent and the frequency they operate on is so rarely looked at, I doubt if anyone would think of it. The nice thing is if you need another monitoring station, it only takes about a half hour to install before it's up and running. Your office, as you can see, has four monitors, one for each corner of the property. Oh, I forgot to tell you, the cameras have built in motion detectors that are preset for sensitivity. A deer might set one off but a squirrel or bird won't. Jon, I’m not charging for the cameras, just the labor and monitors. This is my field test before I go public with them, so I will be watching them from my place also. If there is any kind of problem, I will know immediately and can make the adjustments or repairs. Man, you couldn't have come along at a better time."

 

I just smiled at him and decided to go to the kitchen for a cup of coffee to get out of his way. The safe guy was due, and I was also anxiously waiting for Bill to return so I could get a look at the maps he was bringing with him. I went into the kitchen and found Myrna was sitting at the counter. If the look on her face was any indication, her mind was a million miles away. I got my coffee and sat down at the other end of the counter, trying not to disturb her train of thought. Boy, as usual, she didn't miss a thing.

 

"Jon, what did you think of Carver? Do you think it will be ok for him to live in the cottage house?"

 

"Myrna, I told you before that I didn't have a problem with it. As for what I think of him, he seems to be ok. You have to take into account that I don't know him very well yet. From our conversation he seems to be serious in his intentions toward you, though. So, how did you two meet the first time, and please don't tell me you offered him food, and he fell in love with your cooking."

 

She busted out laughing at that before she answered me.

 

"No, not really. The day Pete and his men started on the fence, he came in and asked if it was ok to fill the water jugs from the outside faucet. I guess it kind of went from there. It seemed like every time I turned around, he was there with that big smile and soft voice. We finally got a little time to talk, and before either of us knew it, over an hour had passed. Finally one of the men came looking for him to find out about their water. I guess it kind of snowballed from there. Jon, do you really think I am not too old to fall for someone?"

 

"No one alive is too old for that, Myrna. What you have to remember is that you have been in this house for years, doing your job and taking care of my grandfather. That would make anyone lonely and craving for some companionship. I can only advise you to take it slow and just be yourself. If it's meant to be, then it will all work out for the best. I will say that, as the owner of this fine home we all live in, if you treat him any different than you do me, you both can move."

 

She looked at me in shock before what I said finally dawned on her. She was laughing to beat the band as she poured me another cup of coffee saying she would start supper for my guest in about an hour. It was my turn to look shocked because I had completely forgotten about Kat coming to dinner tonight. I gave her a dirty look and got that grin I loved so much in return.

 

"Where’s Sally? I haven't seen her or Tiny since they ran into the house after we got home."

 

"Those two are acting like kids; they are out in the woods with Jimmy’s men. I swear, you would think they didn't have a lick of sense, swinging from trees and throwing sticks at each other like a couple of kids or something. Sally I can understand, cause she's a tomboy through and through, but Tiny is supposed to be a full grown man. He's worse than she is with his carrying on. They both are trying to avoid you because Kat is coming tonight and Sally planned the whole thing."

 

"Yea, like you didn't have a hand in it. Myrna, I know you better than that, so we better drop it before you and I end up like you and Sally at the hospital last night."

 

I got a grin from her, and then Bill came in with about ten document tubes in his hands. I told him to take them to the dining room table where we would have more room. Myrna said to go ahead, she would bring coffee in as soon as she made another pot. I followed him into the dining room and he was pulling a laminated aerial map from one of the tubes as I walked in. I grabbed several small brass statues from a shelf so we could use them to hold the edges of the map down and keep it from rolling back up.

 

"This is less than a year old, Jon. It shows the cabin and the surrounding property. As you can see, the cabin sits on top of a tall knoll overlooking everything in the valley. I don't know who did the original survey, but he must have been drunk because of the way it twists and turns. Here is the Paw Paw River, which is the lower boundary. I don't know what all these buildings are, but they are directly below the cabin. One of them sits about a foot across the line at the upper end."

 

"Bill, that has to be the church’s compound. See, there are people working in the fields in the upper part of the picture. This just made my day, my friend. I can put someone in the cabin and they will have a clear shot for some camera work. No wonder the church wanted the property so bad. It had a direct view directly down on them. Anyone moving in their compound could be plainly seen from the cabin."

 

"If you do what I think you are planning, you are going to stir up a hornet’s nest, Jon. They will have a fit about anyone living in that cabin, if they are trying to hide something from outside view."

 

I went on to tell him about Jeb and the two men he said would be glad to help out. The more I explained to him, the more his whole demeanor became animated. I also told him that while this was going on, I would be taking Sally and Myrna away for a month on holiday. I wouldn't be around in case they tried to do anything because I leased the cabin to someone. I told him some more of my plan and he almost exploded, he was so excited.

 

"Jon, this sure fell in your lap. I can't believe anyone would suspect anything, the way you are going to do it. But, if you can get Myrna to go with you and Sally, I will be surprised. Hell, Jon, she hasn't left this house except to visit you in the hospital since Helen died. Umm, if you don't mind me asking, what did you think of Carver?"

 

Before I could formulate an answer, Myrna came in with fresh coffee. She refilled my cup and poured Bill one. Then she saw the map and got excited.

 

"I know that place. It's the hunting cabin on the river. Your mom and I used to take some of the older kids there for a weekend getaway. They loved it and it got them out of the orphanage for the whole weekend. Those were the good ole days, Jon. I have walked all over this place and fished in the river for hours on end. The kids loved it and would beg to go every time they got a holiday or weekend free. The only bad thing was the neighbors who lived in the valley below. They were the most unfriendly people I have ever met. They were always complaining about this and that."

 

I looked at Bill in surprise and went on to tell Myrna about what we were planning on doing. She looked at me for a few minutes and sat down in one of the chairs, seeming to go into a trance. I looked at Bill again and he just shrugged at my puzzled glance. I watched her and had decided to shake her when she jumped up scaring the hell out of me. She went to one of the cupboards in the corner, digging in one of the drawers. When she turned around, she was holding a red grease pencil in her hand, smiling at us. I watched as she went to the aerial map and looked at it for a few minutes before drawing several circles at different points on the property.

 

"Jon, if it were me looking for good evidence, I would put several of Jimmy's little cameras at each circle, hooked up to DVD recorders. Then you would have a way to review all that’s going on at the church. Jimmy showed me the little tiny recorders that are the size of a small hard drive. They could be hidden easily, and the discs could be changed every two days. I bought one of them from him to use for my stock listings, so I could record the different trends I was watching."

 

She gave me a smile and walked out of the dining room, leaving Bill and me in shock.

 

"You know, Jon, that woman never ceases to amaze me with all she knows. She does have a valid point, though. With you being a CASA investigator, it would be legal to do what she is saying, if you are looking for a child that is missing. Those discs could also be used in court or to get warrants to raid their compound. Also, if you were able to get a picture of the uncle who kidnapped her, that is also grounds for a warrant. The FBI, from what I gathered, would love to have an excuse to get their hands on some of the records from this group. The one you got into in Texas had hi speed internet, and I bet this one is in touch with all the other branches. I have been doing some subtle checking myself. This group is well known to all the different agencies, but none have been able to get inside to investigate. Even the IRS said that they file taxes and legal paperwork every year. They have audited several of them and found nothing out of the ordinary. If that girl is there like you were told, that’s all the excuse the FBI would need to get search warrants. Jon, I think this is going to move a lot faster than you can imagine."

 

"I would love nothing better, Bill. Can you call Jeb later and have him call his two men in to meet with me tomorrow? Also, I want you to draw up a legal lease for me to use when this comes off. I need to talk to Jimmy about getting more of his little cameras and some of those recorders. Oh, and another thing, he is looking for some backing to take his invention public. We need to check into it because if they do everything he says, we stand to make a lot of money out of the deal. I suggest you have a talk with him about buying into his company. I think we can garner a lot of contracts from the government for them. I think we better stop now and meet again tomorrow. I have a guest coming tonight for dinner and I need to get a shower and change before she gets here."

 

He laughed and said he already knew. He also said that he thought she was very pretty and that Sally had already told him she was going to get us together, if it was the last thing she did before she went back to school this fall. He was laughing at the look on my face as he walked out the door to leave. Me, I sat down in a chair thinking about what he said, wondering why I seemed to always be behind in all the schemes going on around me. I was a fairly smart man, but for some damned reason, I was always behind my daughter and Myrna when it came to anything I should have been informed about first. If those two thought for one minute I would fall for her, then they were probably right. I had to admit I was smitten by her. All I had to do was close my eyes and think about her and that cute little smile with the dimples would instantly fill my mind. This was getting me nowhere, I thought, as I rolled up the picture and put the statues back on the shelf. I leaned all the tubes in the corner and headed for my room to see what I had to wear for dinner. I had to chuckle at myself, because now I was getting excited, wondering what she would look like in street clothes and how she would dress away from the hospital. I was singing in the shower and hadn’t even realized it until Sally walked by my door and yelled in at me.

 

“Jon, if she hears that, she will leave before you get done washing. You sound like a bullfrog with a cold. Now hurry up, will you, she should be here at any minute.”

 

Jeesh, now I was catching it from a thirteen year old. I could see right now I was going to have to have a talk with Sally about her manners. I had to grin to myself though because she sounded almost as excited as I felt. When I got out of the shower and shaved, I found a pair of almost new jeans and a clean western shirt to wear. I dug out my snakeskin boots. I had paid a fortune for them but never had anywhere to wear them, so they stayed in the closet. I took a good look at my wardrobe and realized I was going to have to go shopping, and soon. Everything I owned was looking ragged and worn. I had one suit to my name and no casual clothes at all. I had never been a clothes horse, unlike a lot of my friends. In the Legion, everything was furnished and you were never out of uniform under threat of ten lashes for insubordination. I heard the doorbell ring and hurried down the steps, hoping to beat everyone to the door for a change.

 

Of course Myrna beat me by a mile, with Sally running a close third to us. When Kat was shown in, I froze in total panic. My God! She looked like a living Barbie Doll, the way she was dressed. I was frozen in place in total amazement at the sight in front of me. It didn’t bother Sally any. She ran up to Kat and they hugged, then Sally introduced Myrna to her. They all started talking and coming toward me. I didn’t know whether to run or hide. I was wondering how any man could be expected to have a conversation with a vision like the one in front of me. I didn’t have long to find out as she spotted me and smiled. I swear, I thought I was going to pass out when she did that.

 

“Jon, I’m a little early, but I thought it would give us time to talk a little more. Jon, are you ok?”

 

“God you’re beautiful,” I blurted out with the blood rushing out of my head.

 

Well, Sally and Myrna totally lost it. I couldn’t think of a damn thing to say when she smiled at me again, after I blurted out my now famous household line. For the rest of the night, Sally and Myrna repeated it over and over. Kat told me a little later over drinks that she thought the line and my deer in the headlights look was sweet. I didn’t know it at the time, but Sally and Myrna had arranged for her to stay over so she wouldn’t have to drive home so late at night. We had one of the greatest evenings I could ever remember having. We sat and talked about each others’ life, and all the things we had been through, and how we had both handled them in our own way to cope and go on living. She told me all about her husband, how they met and a lot of their life together. I told her about my time in the Legion and all the places they had sent me over the years. Myrna finally came in and said it was almost two in the morning and since Kat would be staying over, maybe we should continue with this tomorrow. I must have looked shocked, because I got a laugh out of both of them as she kissed me good night and let Myrna lead her to the room she was sleeping in.

 

I cleaned up the dirty glasses and headed for bed myself, wondering what tomorrow would bring from this childlike woman that I realized had stolen my heart in one night. As my head hit the pillow, I just hoped she felt the same, because if she didn’t I was going to be hurting for a long time to come. I finally fell asleep, thinking about the girl in the compound wondering how much longer it would be before I got her out of there and back to her mother.

 

 

 

Chapter # 22

 

 

 

When I awoke the next morning, I felt like I had been reenergized somehow. I got washed and headed for the kitchen for my first cup of coffee. To my utter astonishment, Myrna wasn’t there. I had already started a pot of coffee before I made the mistake of looking at the clock. It was only five in the morning, but I felt like I had slept for ten hours. Neither my shoulder nor side was hurting, which I was happy about, because I had a full day today. I was taking my first sip of coffee when Myrna came wandering in the back door. I almost choked on my sip, because she looked like she had been out in a windstorm. When she saw me sitting there with a big grin on my face, she gave me a dirty look. I decided I would get the first word in for a change to see how she reacted. Big, big mistake on my part.

 

“Hard night, Myrna?”

 

“Don’t be a smart aleck Mr. ‘Oh My God You’re Beautiful!’”

 

I busted up laughing at her early morning rendition of my reaction to Kat last night. She just grinned at me with a silly look on her face. She got a cup of coffee and came over and sat down beside me looking thoughtful.

 

“Jon, I don’t mean to make fun of you, but I have never seen anyone react the way you did last night when you first saw her. I can’t believe how beautiful she is, Jon. I know I always ride you about getting out to meet someone, but now someone has come to you.  If you let her slide through your fingers, you’re crazy. I watched you two in the den last night, and you reminded me of your father and mother. You both were so at ease with each other. If I hadn’t known you had just met, I would have thought you were married. You do know that she and Sally are already trying to figure out a way to keep you interested in her? If I thought it would help, I would join them, but I think you are already hooked. I thought my falling for Carver was quick, but after last night, I think you hold the record in this house.”

 

“Myrna, I have been all over the world, and over the years have met a lot of women, but never have I ever been around one that does what she does to me. It’s like when I am near her, I have a cloud in my mind. All I can see is her, and for the life of me, I can’t concentrate enough to pay attention to anyone but her. When I first saw her last night, I thought I was going to pass out. Myrna, I don’t know why, but I think I’m in love for the first time in my life.”

 

“Well, Jon, if it means anything, I think she feels the same way about you. All evening she couldn’t keep her eyes off you. Sure she talked to everyone, but her eyes were on you the whole time. I saw the same thing every time your mother looked at your father. I don’t know what you have planned for today, but if you’re as smart as I think you are, you will include her in your plans. I don’t think she will accept anything else but to spend more time with you.”

 

“I have that meeting with Jeb this morning, to get all my plans for spying on the church set into motion. I don’t think it’s a good idea to drag her to that. Some of what she would hear would shock her enough to drive her back to the city in shock.”

 

“Don’t underestimate her, Jon. I watched her last night, and under all that beauty, I have a feeling she is hard as iron. I have a feeling the feminine side of her only comes out around you and Sally. With that red hair, I would bet she has a temper almost as bad as yours. Jon, you told her what you do, and she still came, so your plans to rescue a girl from a bunch of fanatics shouldn’t bother her at all. Jon, that is a very smart woman, and it wouldn’t surprise me if some of her insights would be a help to you. Besides, I’ll give her my little ball bat to keep you in line.”

 

I just laughed and got a big grin from Myrna when I did.

 

“I’ll be back in a little bit. I have to wake Carver and get dressed. Think about what I said, and if I know you at all, I think you will agree with me.”

 

I watched her leave, wondering if, once again, she might be right about Kat. I really wanted to spend all the time I could with her, but I still didn’t want to shock her or drive her away when she saw some of the dangers of my job. I did know that if she couldn’t accept it, then we would go our separate ways. The kids were more important to me than my personal feelings. Hell, it would tear me apart if we did, but I had to be realistic, this case meant more to me than any other I had worked on. I felt driven, for some reason, to rescue this girl and get her home where she belonged. I had nightmares over this one, ever since she had been taken the second time. This group needed to pay for all the harm they had done to the kids, and I would do all I could to make that happen. Being the fatalist I was, all I could do was shrug my shoulders and hope for the best outcome for our relationship.

 

I got up, filled my cup, and went to the dining room and unrolled the map again. The first thing that caught my eye was the red rings Myrna had put on it. The more I looked, the more I had to admire where she had suggested putting the cameras. I went to the desk, got out the big magnifying glass, and went over the area an inch at a time. Yep, she had hit the best spots for observation right on the head. The farthest camera would have a complete view of the fields and garden area where I figured all the women worked every day. If the girl was there, then she had to come there sooner or later. I almost jumped on the table when Kat spoke behind me. I wondered why she was up so early.

 

“I’m working on a plan to free a girl from a bad situation. Why are you up so early? I figured as late as you went to bed, you would sleep in today.”

 

She came up beside me and as I turned to her, she took my face in her hands and pulled me down and kissed me. Oh God, I thought, here we go again. It lasted for a couple of minutes then she stepped back to look at me. I felt kind of dazed and she must have seen it on my face, because she smiled that dimpled smile and stepped back up to me and kissed me again. This time I couldn’t hold back and kissed her like my life depended on it. I did’t know how long we had been kissing until we were interrupted.

 

“Would you two like a private room, or would you like something to eat besides each other?”

 

If she wasn’t my daughter, I would kill her, I thought, as Kat turned red and started laughing at the look on my face. She and Sally were grinning at each other as they turned to go to the kitchen. They went out the door, talking back and forth a mile a minute. I followed them, and if someone could have read my thoughts, I would have been arrested for murder. Oh, but Sally had one coming, and I would have a little private talk with Tiny before she went to the prom. Two could play this game, I thought, as I went into the kitchen for breakfast.

 

I sat down in my usual spot, and Kat sat down beside me, with Sally sitting across from us. When I looked at Sally, I got that dirty little grin she had when she thought she was smarter than I was. I saw Myrna look at Carver and he just shrugged at her. I sat and ate, listening to Sally and Kat talking back and forth between mouthfuls of food. To my surprise, Kat loved grits and ate them with butter and sugar. Myrna was smiling when Kat asked for seconds. I was so busy glaring at Sally and being ignored, that I didn’t see Carver get up and kiss Myrna before he left. Sally did though, and made the ahhh sound and got smacked with a spoon. She giggled and Myrna smiled at her.

 

“Jon, what were you saying about making plans to rescue a girl?” Kat asked.

 

Before I could say a word, Sally was telling her the whole story. Kat sat and listened, totally fascinated by what she was hearing. I looked at Myrna and got that “I told you so” look. I just shook my head and finished eating. I knew I wasn’t going to get a word in edgewise with Sally around. I finished my breakfast and grabbed my coffee, telling Kat I had some calls to make and Sally would show her around until I got finished. I got a funny look from Myrna, but she didn’t say anything. I went to my study and closed and locked the door as I went in. I felt ashamed of what I was about to do, but at this stage of the game, I couldn’t take any chances on anything.

 

I was following something that wouldn’t come to the surface, but like when I was in the Legion, I knew I had to do it. I got a card out of my wallet, pulled out my cell, and dialed the number on it, trying to justify to my conscience what I was doing. I knew my feelings for Kat were real, and I had a feeling hers were too. I asked for Maurice and he came on right away, asking when I was coming back to France to live. We were speaking in French, and shot the breeze for a few minutes before he got down to business, wanting to know what I needed. I spent the next five minutes, giving him the information on Kat that he needed to answer my questions to right away. He said he had the information Carver that I wanted and was faxing it to me as we spoke. He also told me that the check he had done on the church had found some interesting facts that he had passed on to his boss. He said he was including those in the fax too. He asked how soon I needed the information on Kat, and I said I needed it immediately if he was able to look it up on the computer. He told me to hang on until he could get to his desk, and then put me on hold. The dedicated fax line in my den rang, and the paper started spitting out of the machine. I got up and added more sheets to the tray so it wouldn’t run out. There were about thirty pages by the time the fax ended. I picked them up and sat back down at the desk. I had to plug my cell into the charger as the low battery indicator was blinking.

 

What I was looking at was a complete background on one Carver Pierce. I had just started reading it when Maurice came back on the line. The news he gave me made me sad and guilty at the same time. Well, I thought, now I knew what had been bugging me. He said he would fax me a picture and what information was on their computers about Kat. I thanked him and we talked about the church for a few minutes before he said he had to go. I thanked him again and sat back looking at Carver’s service record and background check. He had retired alright, but he had been a 1st sergeant and had been decorated more times than any man I had ever heard of. He had more than just a few wars under his belt, if what I was reading was correct. He hadn’t told me he retired from Special Forces and had a top secret clearance. I didn’t bother reading any further because I already knew that my first feelings had been right about him. If anyone came on the property and accosted him, they were in for a big surprise. I was starting on the sheets about the church when the fax rang again.

 

I was standing in front of it before the first sheet started out, hoping I was wrong, but knowing I wasn’t. Maurice was too good at his job to be wrong and the picture on the first sheet proved it. It was Kat all right, but she was a lot younger in the picture I was looking at. I let the rest of the sheets feed through before I picked them up and sat back down at the desk. I put the information about her on the desk with the picture on top and started reading the information from Maurice about the church. I was just starting the third page when what I read made me sit up straight in the chair. I reread it and I had to admit from the information I was reading, I had stepped into it big time. I now knew why the NSA was so interested in the church. I wondered how much of the information I was holding they already knew. Knowing Interpol, they probably hadn’t shared it, but had already put a watch on the branches listed. The one that stood out was the one I was about to put under surveillance. It was the only one in the U.S. that was on the list. Now I knew I would have to confront Kat and see how much she knew before I moved any further. I knew Kat didn’t know which one I was planning on watching, so I knew she couldn’t tell her superiors anything.

 

The maps weren’t marked, but I had left the one map still spread out on the table. I got up, putting the information in my top drawer and went out to grab it. It was still where I had left it, so I rolled it up and took it back into my study. I didn’t see Kat or Sally, but I caught Myrna coming to bring coffee to me. I told her to come in and lock the door, we had to talk. She looked at me in surprise when I told her to lock the door, but did as I asked. She poured me some coffee and sat down in front of my desk. I got the papers out with Kat’s picture on top and handed them to her. She looked at the picture with raised eyebrows and started to read the sheets she was holding. I sat and sipped my coffee, watching her reaction to what she was reading. I hadn’t read them yet, but would when Myrna left. When she finished, she handed them back to me with a shocked look on her face.

 

“Jon, I’m not going to ask why you had her checked out, but I still say she is in love with you. Before you lose your temper, I suggest you sit down and have a private talk with her. I think there’s more to her being an agent than what we know from these records. It says she resigned when her husband was killed in Iraq. It also says she is a registered nurse with a Master’s in health care. Now she can’t be an agent and attend school full time. Especially if she was carrying the caseload to get her masters at the age of twenty eight. It doesn’t add up, Jon.”

 

“Myrna, records can be changed, especially by the agency she works for. Also, for your own peace of mind, the check on Carver came back and we don’t have any kind of problem there. He is welcome and you two can live in the cottage for free. Dammit, Myrna, what the hell am I going to do? I sure can’t take her with me this morning, and I don’t want Sally finding out about all of this, because she will hate Kat for tricking me. I’m not even sure I want to confront Kat with all of this. God, what a mess I got myself into.”

 

“Jon, do you still plan on going after that little girl?”

 

“Hell, yes. I won’t leave her there any longer than I have to, now that I know where she’s at. My feelings for Kat and this mess are not going to stop that rescue. I will get her out, if I have to do it by myself.”

 

She just smiled at my outburst and shook her head.

 

“There’s your answer, Jon, forget about going any further with Kat for now and concentrate on going after the girl. This case has haunted you since she was taken the second time, so now you can put it to rest by getting her out of there. You let me handle Sally and do what you do best; “help kids.”

 

“I think you better read this before you make any judgments, Myrna."

 

I handed her the sheets Maurice had sent to me on the church. I poured another coffee, and waited to see what she would say. When she finished reading, she just looked at me, and I could see she was thinking hard.

 

“Jon, if what I am reading is correct, you can’t call in any help, can you?"

 

“If it’s right, and I have little doubt it’s not, I can’t because it could get a lot of people killed. I am going to have to figure another way to get her out. Fortunately I have some good people helping me. Myrna, I want to have a private talk with Carver later tonight. I think his insights could help me a lot."

 

She looked at me, but to my surprise, she just nodded at my request. That made me wonder if Carver had told her more about his past than he had told me. I figured he had. She got up and left, and I put the sheets in the bottom drawer and locked it up. I called Jeb and asked if his men were there yet. He said they would be there by one and I could come over any time after that. I thanked him, wondering what to say to Kat without giving away what I knew about her. Dammit, of all the times for this to happen, it had to be now. I got up thinking there’s no use putting it off. I would have to face her sooner or later. I just hoped we could get through it without losing the feelings we had for each other. At least the ones I had for her. Hers, I felt were real, but didn’t have any idea if they would be there by the time this was over. It was going to be a long day, I thought, as I walked out of the study with the coffee tray, heading for the kitchen.

 

 

 

Chapter # 23

 

 

 

When I went into the kitchen, Myrna was there by herself. I asked where Sally and Kat were, and she said she thought they were out by the barn. I told her that when they came back in, to tell Kat I needed to speak to her in my study and that it was private. She just looked at me and said she would tell Kat, but not the last part because it would raise Sally’s curiosity too much. I nodded then went back into my study and got on the phone. I made a couple more calls to check with my contacts to ease my own mind. What I found out helped, but I still wanted to hear it from her before I decided anything.

 

I sat back in the chair, thinking about Kat and how all this had happened so fast. Now I knew I had heard of it, but I never figured it would happen to me in my lifetime. I was still thinking, when a soft knock at the door interrupted my thoughts. I took a deep breath before I said to come in. She came in, smiling at me, and I asked if she would close the door. I got a funny look, but she did and sat down in the chair by my desk.

 

"Kat, I need to talk to you, and I don’t know how to approach this and not hurt the feelings we have for each other."

 

"Jon, I don’t know why you look so upset, but just say what’s on your mind. My feelings are not the problem here, but whatever is bothering you is."

 

I handed her the papers with her picture on top. When she saw them, her face turned white and she looked at me with a puzzled expression. I watched her as she sat back and read the sheets. She handed them back to me, smiling as she did. It made me wonder what was so funny, but as I had the thought, she started speaking to me.

 

"Jon, I worked there part time as a systems analyst while I went to school. I had to live and to be able to afford the accelerated classes I was taking at the time. God, I never figured it would come back to haunt me years later. If you’re worried about me telling someone about the rescue you’re planning, then your secret is safe. I would love to help in any way I can. I know this may be a bit soon, but I think I’m in love with you and if your actions tell me anything, then you feel the same. Jon, I would never do anything to hurt you or Sally."

 

"Kat, I know I’m in love with you, but I have to know about these things. Please don’t ever hold anything back from me and I will do the same. The rescue of this girl just took a turn I hadn’t expected, and I won’t tell you because what you don’t know won’t hurt your career or your standing at the hospital. Let’s just say I don’t want you involved in this any further and I don’t want Sally to know more than she already does. Myrna knows everything because I don’t hold any secrets from her. Other than her and me, the information is not public knowledge. Even if you don’t work for the Government anymore, it could cause you problems if they thought you knew something and didn’t pass it on."

 

She looked at me in a quizzical way for a second, then came around and sat down in my lap and kissed me. I was lost again. I wondered to myself if I would ever be able to get control of my feelings when she did that. She leaned back and smiled at me before whispering in my ear the words that would go though my mind all the rest of the day.

 

"We are going to have to go to my place, Jon Morgan. I think we need to spend some serious time getting to know each other a little more intimately. If you feel like I do when we kiss, then we need to get away for awhile by ourselves. What do you say after your meeting, we slip off to my house and spend the afternoon together and see where it takes us?"

 

"I don’t think I’ve ever had an invitation like that from a beautiful woman before, Kat. I think it would be a good idea, if you can slip away from my daughter long enough to leave. I don’t think it will be easy the way she has attached herself to you."

 

"Oh Jon, you are so dense at times. She was the one who suggested I grab you and take you to the side, and ask you out for a few drinks and maybe supper in town. She said you would be too much of a gentleman to ask me so soon."

 

"I’m gonna kill her."

 

She busted out with that little girl laughter. I tried to kiss her to quiet her down, but it made her laugh even harder. Then came the sound of a fist, beating on the door. Sally was yelling, “What are you two doing in there so long?” When she opened the door, we both were laughing.

 

"Jon, don’t you have something to do besides bother my guest? I would like to spend some more time with her before she has to go back to town. What’s so funny, anyway?"

 

Kat got up, kissing me on the cheek as she did, and went over to Sally, still laughing. She grabbed her in a head lock, pulling her out the door as she did. I heard Sally yell; “Hey what’s with the…..” before she shut the door behind her. I sat back and laughed at the sight before I thought about our conversation.

 

Since I never had the luck to ever have a long term relationship with a woman, I was hoping that what she said meant what I thought it did. If not, I would have to tread very carefully, or end up getting slapped for doing something about what I thought she was saying but hadn’t. This was like sneaking through a jungle to take out a sentry. One slip and your goose was cooked in more ways than one. I had to stop being so distracted by her, I thought. I had a rescue to plan and I really didn’t need the distraction, although I was enjoying the feeling of euphoria from it.

 

I looked at my watch and realized I had time to go to Jeb’s and start on that end of it. I got up, grabbing the map tube, and headed for the front door to go to my truck. I was still thinking about Kat and almost ran over Tiny. I got a fist shook at me and the bird, which I returned to him with a smile. As I pulled out, I could see him smiling and shaking his head. For some reason, the drive to Jeb’s didn’t seem to take any time at all. Probably because all I could see was Kat’s face as I drove. I was still hearing that little girl laughter ringing in my ears. When I pulled up, there were several cars in the lot. The one that stuck out was an old Chevy pickup that had West Virginia tags on it. It was covered in mud and there were several dog cages in the back and a rifle hanging in plain sight in the back glass. Hmm, I thought, I bet I can guess who that one belongs to. I got out and headed inside with the tube under my arm.

 

When I went inside, one of the men that were here the last time saw me and motioned toward the back where the office was. I headed that way after nodding my head to thank him. Jeb was in his office with two men who, from reading and seeing pictures, looked like a modern day example of mountain men. At least by my inexperienced eyes they did. They both had jeans and flannel shirts, and full beards that were longer than my hair. I knocked on the door and Jeb waved me in. The smell that hit me was a mixture of pine and sweat, and was almost too strong to bear. Jeb was watching me, so I didn’t let on, but I had a feeling he could tell what I was thinking. I sat down in the only vacant chair and waited for Jeb to speak since it was his office.

 

"Jon, this is Jubal and Farley, the two men I was telling you about. Now, if you would, will you tell me why you changed your mind about asking for help? I know you’re not healed enough to do this, so why ask now?"

 

I introduced myself to both of them, and was in turn told they were ready to follow my orders, if they thought they would be interested in my plan, whatever it was. I spent the next hour or so explaining the situation to them. I told them what I had deduced about the rescue, and that we would have no backup because of what I had found out about the church. I went on to tell them what else I had planned, when they started looking at me a little strange. I stopped and asked if there was a problem.

 

"Yes there is, Jon. Jubal and I don’t do kidnapping."

 

"This is not a kidnapping, fellas; this is the rescue of a fifteen year old girl who is being held against her will by a bunch of fanatics. They think the law about child slavery and molestation doesn’t apply to them because they are a so called church."

 

I went on to tell them about my first round with this bunch in Texas, and what happened after I got the girl free. Jeb hadn’t said a word, he just sat back in his chair listening to me talk. I went on to explain what I did, and how many cases I had handled in my short four or five years of finding missing children. I started to explain a few more things when Jeb interrupted me.

 

"Jubal, Farley, this is the kind of thing we can use your help on, but if you are squeamish about it, just go home. I have others who would give their left nut to help with this kind of thing. Now, if you boys decline to help and open your mouth to anyone about this, I will take it personally if you get my drift."

 

I watched as they both got a little white around the eyes as they looked at each other. Now I was wondering just what else Jeb had his fingers in, if just a few words could scare a couple of ex Navy Seals to the point that they would squirm in their chairs. Whatever it was, I decided, I didn’t want to know and waited to see where this would go. Jeb was staring at the both of them pretty hard and they were getting antsier as he did. Finally Farley spoke up and directed his question toward me.

 

"Jon, we ain’t doubting your word, but we thought we would see a little action. I mean, it ain’t like we’re not sorry about the girl, but we did too much surveillance in the Navy without being able to get in on the final act."

 

"Farley, if we get caught in the middle of setting this up, don’t doubt for a minute we won’t be tortured or even shot if they see us as a threat. Me especially, since I’m the only one who knows where the mother is, and they want her bad. They have contacts in some high places and won’t hesitate to make us disappear, if they think it will keep their secrets. Tell you what; I will pay for your motel and food for the night and give you time to think about it. But, as Jeb said, if you decide not to go, then don’t open your mouth to anyone about this. They might kill the girl to keep her from being rescued, and if that happens because one of you had a loose tongue, I will kill you myself."

 

Farley looked me in the eyes and asked the question I knew was coming.

 

"Do you really think you could handle both of us, Jon?"

 

I looked back at him and let him have a glimpse of my inner wolf as I answered him.

 

"You wouldn’t stand a chance against me if I came after you. You don’t know what battle is until you’ve spent a few years in the hell holes I have been in."

 

Jubal grinned and looked at Farley before saying to me.

 

"I don’t give a damn whether Farley decides to go or not. You can count on me, Jon."

 

Farley looked at him in shock and then at me, before grinning at me.

 

"Oh hell, it ain’t like I got anything else to do besides get drunk and fish."

 

That seemed to break the tension and we all had a laugh before grabbing a cold beer and rolling the map out on Jeb’s desk. I got a surprise as Jeb pulled a forty-five out to hold the corner in front of him down. Jubal pulled a fifty and Farley a forty-four and did the same. I pulled the three-eighty out and did my corner with it. This brought a big laugh from both of them before I lay the Sig down beside it then my trusty stiletto. They both looked at me and then grinned at each other before asking what I had in mind about surveillance, looking at the map as they did. Jubal asked immediately about the red circles Myrna had drawn on the map. I told him about Jimmy’s cameras and what I was planning to do with them. They both said they had never heard of anything like I was describing and wanted to know more about them.

 

We spent the next hour hashing out the best way to accomplish our goal and to make sure the girl wasn’t harmed while we did it. We finally ran out of talk so I suggested they think about it. I told them to take the map with them tonight and try to come up with any ideas I hadn’t thought of. I gave them both five hundred and told them to get a room and to stay out of trouble. I told them to make sure they safeguarded that map, because it was the only one I had. We decided to meet here tomorrow evening to go back over the plan and any new ideas. I told them I would have Jimmy build us five of the cameras. He would show them how they worked and how to set them up by the time they were ready to leave in a few days. That concluded our planning session for the afternoon. They went, out talking back and forth. When I got up to leave, Jeb motioned me to stay behind. I sat back down to see what was on his mind.

 

"Jon, I personally vouch for both of them. Now, why the hell did you feel the need to try to show how tough you were by saying what you did to them?"

 

"Jeb, I meant every word of it. When they got a look at my eyes up close, they recognized what all veterans see; a fellow warrior who has been there and knows what it’s like to put your life on the line for an ideal that a civilian or a normal person would never understand. Jeb, you have been there too, so you know what I’m talking about. They didn’t see that in me when I came in and started running off at the mouth. When I gave them what they were looking for, they knew they could trust me from that point on. Now I need to get back as I have a very beautiful guest awaiting my return to go to dinner."

 

"Yea, I heard about your famous household line to a woman. Jon, how the hell do you ever expect to have a family if all you can say is; ‘God you’re beautiful’?”

 

I stood up and put my weapons away. I looked at Jeb and gave him the courtesy finger and walked out to the sound of his laughter. Someone is going to catch hell, I was thinking. I could feel my red face as I went to my truck to leave. I was still wondering who had opened their big mouth as I climbed into my truck. I was also wondering how I was ever going to live it down, since everyone I knew had already heard about it. Sally didn’t know Jeb nor did Kat, so I knew it wasn’t them. Bill hadn’t been there, so it had to be Myrna who had let the cat out of the bag. What the hell ever possessed her to tell Jeb about it and when did she do it, I was wondering as I pulled into my driveway. Well, I guess I am going to have a little talk with her and Sally both about privacy, especially mine. I was jolted out of my thoughts by Sally running up to the truck.

 

"Jon, there are two men in the barn. We called the Sheriff, but Myrna told me to watch for you. Jeb called and said you were on your way back."

 

I told her to go back in the house and spun out in the drive in my haste to get there to see who was in the barn and for what reason. I had already figured they were after the hidden computer. It made me mad that they would dare to try to recover it in broad daylight, as if they knew I was gone. I was almost up to the barn when a stranger stepped out and saw me coming toward him. He didn’t hesitate, just pulled a gun and started shooting. Me, I didn’t even slow down. I just ran him over, watching him fly in the air about ten feet as I kept going straight into the double doors.

 

When I crashed the truck through the doors, the other man must have been just inside because I heard him scream as I went through. I slid to a stop in the middle of the barn by Sparky’s stall. I got out with my gun in my hand, but when I got a glance at the man squashed under the big door, I almost lost my beer. Thinking about the beer made me realize I needed one of the mints I had in the truck. I went back and grabbed the pack out of the console, putting one in my mouth as I did. I went over and felt for a pulse and didn’t find one. I kicked the gun away from the body and went outside, looking for the other one.

 

He was lying in the dirt by Sparky’s grave. Looking at his head which was almost twisted backwards, I knew he was dead. I still carefully went and checked for a pulse, but didn’t find one. His gun was lying where I had hit him and I didn’t touch it. I saw Myrna, Kat and Sally headed in my direction from the house and I waved them back. Myrna and Sally went back, but Kat kept coming. I tried to wave her back, but she just shook her head and kept walking toward me. I was heading toward her to stop her, but she saw the body and veered toward it. I met her when she was almost to it.

 

"Dammit, go back to the house. This has nothing to do with you, Kat."

 

"Jon, don’t talk to me in that tone of voice. I’m a nurse and it’s my duty to help it I can."

 

"Neither one of these assholes will ever need help again, so please, go back to the house, Kat."

 

"Jon Morgan, they might not need me, but you do. You’re bleeding again. I need to make sure you’re ok before I move from this spot, so shut your mouth and take your shirt off. I want to look at your wounds and see if you’ve torn them open again. If you did and ruined my evening, I will be so mad at you."

 

With the adrenalin wearing off from what had happened, I sat down and started laughing.

 

"Jon Morgan, get up out of the dirt before you get it in your wounds. If they get infected again, I will give you all your antibiotics by needle in your butt. Now get up, you idiot."

 

I looked up at her and that picture will forever stay blazed on my mind for the rest of my life. She was standing with both fists on her hips with the sun shining off that red hair, trying to glare a hole through me to make me do what she wanted. I finally got my laughing under control and was able to speak.

 

"Will you please put a hat on, that red hair is blinding me."

 

I watched as that grin of hers started and then she kicked me in the shin.

 

"I really don’t see the humor in that. Now get up so I can look at you, you look ridiculous, sitting there on the ground."

 

I heard sirens in the distance so I did as she asked. She turned totally professional on me as she pulled my shirt up, checking the bandages on my side to see where the blood was coming from. As it turned out I hadn’t torn anything loose. I had scratched my hand when I checked the pulse of the body in the barn. I must have scraped a jagged piece of the barn door when I reached down. When she found out I was ok, she gave me a dirty look and turned and walked back to the house. I let out my breath, which until that point I hadn’t noticed I was holding and chuckled to myself.

 

"That’s not funny, Jon. You could have torn your stitches out."

 

Damn, she had ears like an elephant, I thought. I saw a sheriff’s cruiser coming around the side of the house. I stood and waited as one, then two more, came to where I was standing. It was the sheriff himself who got out of the first car. I had met him once, about six months before my grandfather died. He had dinner with us, and talked politics with my grandfather. I didn’t remember his name, but he seemed to be good friends with my grandfather.

 

"Jon, you wanna tell me what happened here? I got a call from Myrna saying there were two men in the barn she didn’t know. Now I have one body and from all that’s already happened out here, I bet there’s another inside."

 

I went through the whole thing with him. After I was done, he didn’t say anything as he looked around. He told his deputy to call for the coroner and went to his car. He came back with a report pad and handed it to me.

 

"Write it all down while I get my men straightened out. Don’t leave anything out, no matter how trivial it might sound. Jon, there will be an inquest over this and the new DA is going to want to make an example out of you, so cover your ass. I have no doubt it is a case of self defense, but he is an ass and will try to say you used too much force in handling the situation. Me, I would have done the same, but I don’t think I would have totaled my truck trying to do it."

 

He walked away, yelling for someone to bring a camera. I just shrugged my shoulders, put the pad on the hood, and started writing.

 

 

 

Chapter # 24

 

 

 

I had almost finished writing when the coroner arrived. I didn’t go over to where he and the sheriff were, just waited at the car. He had sent a deputy to the house to get the girls’ statements. The deputy was walking back with a sandwich in his hand and a smile on his face. Leave it to Myrna, I thought, feed them and make them her friends forever.

 

I started thinking about what the sheriff had told me about the new DA and wondered if he was friends with the Runt too. I would give Jerry a call before I went to town with Kat later. I also had to make arrangements to get some kind of transportation, since I had no doubt mine would be towed. I hadn’t looked to see how much damage I had done to it, but with the brush guard on the front, it shouldn’t take too much to have it fixed. The only real damage, that I remembered, was the holes in the front glass where the one man had tried to shoot me through it. If there was one thing about this whole stupid situation that was good, it was that I hadn’t fired a shot and I wouldn’t lose my gun again. The sheriff had already checked both bodies and there were no bullets in either of them.

 

I was jarred from my thoughts by hearing my name called. I looked up and the sheriff was waving for me to come over to where he and the coroner were talking. I walked over and was introduced to him. He had a few choice words about the people getting tired of all the strangers on their land, but after that, he got in his van and left. I looked at the sheriff and he didn’t have too much to say either.

 

“Jon, I have no reason to hold you, but I will have to tow your truck and keep it in impound for now. I will have my shooting team go over it then release it back to you in a few days. Other than a few dents and a bullet pocked windshield, there’s not much damage to it. As far as I am concerned, you are free to go. Remember what I said about the new DA.”

 

“Oh I remember, and I will call my attorney as soon as I get to the house. I will let him handle my end of it. The new DA can speak to him from this point on. Thanks sheriff, I appreciate the kindness shown toward me and my family.”

 

“Don’t thank me, young fella, I am just doing my job. I know you’re a Fed, but next time give me and my men the chance to handle it. This is my county you know. I also want to tell you that neither of the men were carrying any identification. Until I can run their prints, I won’t have any idea who they are or who might have sent them. Jon, you be careful from now on, will you? Seems like you have become someone’s target, for some reason. Watch your back!”

 

I smiled and shook his hand, then started back to the house. The wrecker passed me about halfway back and the driver waved as he went by. When I got to the back door, Carver was standing there waiting for me.

 

“I told Pete I was going to stay a little closer to the house for awhile, since we are almost done with the fencing. I will keep an eye out around here, so don’t worry about that. I don’t know what that was all about, but from now on, I will be armed whenever I am wandering around, Jon.”

 

“I don’t have a problem with that, Carver. But remember, whoever these people are, they are playing for keeps. Don’t take any chances. Myrna and Sally must be guarded at all times from now on, especially Sally. If they can get her to use against me, they will. So be warned, Carver.”

 

“Jon, we don’t know each other very well, but as long as I am standing, they won’t touch a hair on Sally or Myrna. I give you my word on that.”

 

“Good enough, Carver. I better go inside before they come looking for me. I figure I am going to catch hell from all of them as it is.”

 

“Ha, I would almost be willing to bet on that. Myrna is madder than a wet hen. Why do you think I am out here instead of in the kitchen drinking coffee?”

 

When I walked inside, Sally was in my arms almost before the door closed. She kept asking if I was ok over and over. I finally got her settled down and assured her that I was fine. Kat had a grin on her face as she watched us. Myrna had her back to me doing something at the stove and I was waiting for her to blow up. To my surprise when she turned around I could see she had been crying. I went to her immediately and stood and held her for a few minutes. Then I asked if there was any fresh coffee.

 

“Oh, and Myrna? You better give Carver the all clear to come in. I got the impression he was afraid to come into the kitchen. Something about you being mad or something.”

 

I watched with a smile as she put her hand over her mouth and rushed to the back door. She went out and I sat down next to Kat. Sally was sitting next to me like she was afraid to let me out of her sight. I knew one of them was going to ask, and I sat and sipped my coffee, waiting to see which one it was going to be. Sally was watching Kat, and Kat watched Sally, until I finally got tired of the silence and spoke up.

 

“Ok you two, it’s all over so quit trying to talk to each other with your eyes. If you have a question, just ask.”

 

I still hadn’t caught on to the pecking order here, and to me, it looked like Sally was trying to get Kat to ask me something. As usual, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

 

“Dad, can I go to town with you and Kat tonight? I really don’t want to stay here all alone. Myrna has Carver to keep her company, and that leaves me in the house all by myself when you leave.”

 

“I think Kat will be going back to town by herself tonight, unless she decides to stay over again. I don’t have a truck, and I certainly am not going to leave you in this house by yourself. I’ll tell you both what I’ll do, I’ll call Tiny. Then we can go out to supper in town, and come back here for the night, if that’s ok with you, Kat.”

 

“That’s fine with me, Jon. All I want is to spend some more time with you before I have to go back to work. Besides, it’s more fun here than at my place in town. Is it always this exciting around here?”

 

Ok, that did it. The floodgates broke, and she and Sally were jabbering a mile a minute. I got up and headed for my study to make some calls. I don’t even think they noticed me leaving. At least if they did, the jabbering didn’t slack off any.

 

I sat in my chair and pulled the cell off the charger. That’s when I noticed the small crack on the side of the case. I looked at it a little closer, and realized that somebody had pried the case apart, and recently. There were a few other scratches around the seam. That raised the hair on my neck when I noticed them. I got on the phone and called Tiny, asking him to come out and bring Jimmy and his special case with him. He caught on to what I was saying immediately and said they would be there shortly. I leaned back in the chair, looking at the phone, trying to remember when it had been out of my possession. The only time I could think of was when I was in the hospital, or here in the house when I had left it on the charger while I went to Jeb’s for my meeting. Aww no, I thought, Kat surely wouldn’t do something like that. I had to admit to myself that she was the only stranger with run of the house that was here today. I thought about Carver for a minute, but dismissed that immediately. I knew his record, and I also knew he had been working all day. Man, I hated having these suspicions. I decided before I worried myself sick, I would wait until Jimmy had a chance to check it out again with his expertise. He, I knew, I could trust, because he and Tiny were like brothers in every sense of the word. Damn this electronic snooping age we were living in. I sat and impatiently waited for them to show up. When they came in, I motioned for Tiny to close the door.

 

“Jimmy, I want the house checked again. I also want you to check my and Sally’s cell phones. Mine has been pried open recently for some reason, and I don’t think it was for maintenance.”

 

I got a big smile from Jimmy and then a chuckle. I gave him a dirty look and then he explained.

 

“I am the one who pried it apart, Jon, and I did the same to Sally’s. Hers had a G.P.S. system in it. I disconnected it so she couldn’t be traced by someone with a twenty dollar piece of electronics. Sorry, I forgot to tell you about it. If the crack bothers you, I can replace the cell with a newer one.”

 

“I have a better idea, Jimmy, what are the chances of getting those satellite phones with the built in scrambler? I read an article about them and they sound like what I would like to have for us to use. I know they are a lot smaller now and although they are expensive, I think I would like you to look into it for me. Also, I want five or six of your little cameras for another project. If possible, I want the recorders for them too. They will need to be camouflaged for the woods. When they are ready, I will pay you to teach two men I have waiting how to install and set them up. The recorders will have to be battery operated also because of the location they are going into. Can you arrange that for me Jimmy?”

 

“The cameras won’t be a problem, Jon. I haven’t tried to hook the recorders up to run on batteries, although it does make a lot of sense to do it that way. Give me a couple of days and let me see what I can work out. Hell, I can sell them as a complete package when we go public with them. Jon, sometimes you have some good ideas that I hadn’t thought of. Oh, why were all the cop cars out by the barn when we came in? I thought for a minute they weren’t going to let us through. The deputy out front was pretty quiet about what happened.”

 

I spent the next half hour or so explaining it to them before Jimmy blurted out; “If I had known taking that computer would cost someone their life, I would have left it alone.”

 

“Jimmy, when they decided to come on my land without permission, they were trespassing and I would have arrested them for it. This way they got what they deserved. Remember, I didn’t pull a gun and shoot at the owner, they did. By the way, what did you find inside of that computer anyway?”

 

“It had a G.P.S. tracker, just like I thought it would. They screwed up when they set it up and had it on the wrong frequency for the cameras, so that was blank. It did manage to catch about all the conversation the mics were close enough to pick up, including the phone conversations you and Sally had on your cells. I deleted them and everything else, then I did like you said, and reformatted the hard drive. The computer software was registered to some church I never heard of. They probably stole it, and after they did, decided to use it.”

 

“Do you remember what church Jimmy?”

 

“I think it was something called The New Freedom Church, or something along that line. I don’t really remember now, Jon.”

 

“Ok, Jimmy, thanks. You go ahead and check out the house again while I talk to Tiny about Sally and her upcoming prom.”

 

When he got up and went toward the door, I heard him mutter; “Poor Sally, having Tiny as a chaperone”.

 

I laughed and he looked embarrassed that he had been overheard, glancing at Tiny who was smiling.

 

“Sorry Tiny, but I remember what happened when you volunteered to chaperone at your daughter’s dance. She was so mad she would have gladly killed you by the end of the night. She told me all about it, and I have to admit, I would have hit you over the head, if half of what she said was true.”

 

He went on out and left Tiny busting a gut laughing. I just looked at him until he got himself under control. He looked at me with a big smile on his face before he finally said something.

 

“Don’t worry, Jon, I won’t be as bad this time. I would like to think I have learned my lesson. After all, I was the talk of all her friends for months. When she was home last time she told me I better never show up at any of the college parties or she would drop out and join a convent.”

 

“Tiny, all joking aside I think you better stay on your toes the whole time.”

 

I went on to tell him the rest of the story about the barn incident and what I had surmised as to what was happening. He looked concerned when I finished, and sat back thinking for a few minutes.

 

“Jon, I think I am going to have a couple of extra men shadowing us the whole night. Don’t forget, there will be five other girls involved, so the extra help might come in handy. Don’t you worry about Sally, ‘cause no one is going to get their hands on her for any reason. I will admit, I thought you were over exaggerating a little, but now I can see you’re worried and serious about all of this. With what’s happened, I won’t take any chances on her safety.”

 

“Tiny, do you have an extra vehicle I can borrow for a few days? I don’t know how long the sheriff will keep my truck, and I don’t want to lease one right now.”

 

“I have that Oldsmobile that I bought at auction last month. It’s armor plated and has an interceptor engine in it. It was the personal car of some ambassador until he got called home and had to sell it. I will call and have my friend bring it out here immediately. I guarantee, unless they have a sniper rifle, nobody could shoot through the windows. It has every little trick built into it you can think of. The guy who owned it must have thought he was James Bond with all the extras he had put in. I still don’t know half of what is in it, and neither does my mechanic. He is about half afraid to touch it for fear he might set something off. I wrote to the guy, and asked him for the manual or for him to tell me who built it, but I haven’t heard back from him yet. You can use it as long as you need to, Jon, but remember not to start pushing buttons or it might blow up under you.”

 

“Sounds fair to me, Tiny. What are your plans for this evening? I have a date with Kat for dinner and drinks, and I thought if you didn’t have any plans, you could go as Sally’s date. I won’t leave her here by herself, and after what happened today, she is scared to death to be out unless I am nearby.”

 

“I don’t foresee any problems, Jon. My wife is upstate with her sister, who is expecting at any time, so she won’t be mad about me taking another woman out. Besides, if I didn’t, and she found out, I would be sleeping on the couch when she got back. The last thing she told me was to make sure I kept a close eye on Sally, and not to let you get me in trouble.”

 

“Tiny, I think your wife and I are going to have to sit down and have a little talk, and soon. It seems she has the wrong impression about me, and I wonder where she got that from?”

 

“Jon Morgan, you stay away from my wife. I have everything under control and I don’t need you to come in and stir things up between us. I am sure my Aunt Myrna does enough of that behind my back, without your help. Nope, let’s just keep the status quo right where it’s at.”

 

“Not to change the subject, but I think before too long, Myrna and Carver will be getting married. I know how she feels about him, and I can plainly see how he feels about her. What we need to think about is how big of a wedding to have for them, and where to have it. Tiny, you don’t know this, but I own my own island in the Caribbean, and I would love to fly us all down there to have the wedding. It won’t cost much of anything, because I own most of the airline that services the islands down there. It will mostly be a matter of logistics and making sure every one is legal to leave the U.S. for foreign travel.”

 

“Jon, I can’t get a passport. Remember I have a record, and although I have been off paper for eight years, I don’t think they would let me go.”

 

“Tiny, I know it’s none of my business, but what did you do?”

 

“I got in a bar fight and almost killed a man with my bare hands. They said because I was a former Seal, my hands were considered registered weapons and that I was in the wrong. I spent a year in jail for it. When I got out, I went back and paid all his hospital bills and supported his family until he could go back to work. Hell, Jon, you met Tommy. He was the one I got into the fight with. When I started the construction business, he applied and now practically runs the whole works. If it weren’t for him, I would have probably gone under a couple of times. I did my time, but they still won’t let me forget the whole thing. If it weren’t for Tommy, I wouldn’t have my license and bonding. Myrna was the one that loaned me the money to get started when no one else would take a chance on me. I paid her back, but I still feel beholden to her for giving me my start.”

 

“Tiny, have you ever filed for an expungement of record? You’re a business owner and have not been in any trouble for many years, so you would have a chance.”

 

“Never heard of anything like that, Jon. I will check it out though. I would love not having a record and no longer being called an ex-con.”

 

“Tell you what Tiny, you’re like a second father to Sally, and I trust you with her life. I will have Bill or Jerry see what they can do. Meanwhile, you concentrate on keeping Sally safe until this is all over. I also want you to find someone you trust completely to start watching over Kat, without her knowing about it. Tiny, my friend, I think I am in love for the first time in my life. I am almost positive she feels the same way, and I sure as hell don’t want anything to happen to her because she is close to me.”

 

“Jon, I am happy for you, but I already knew you two were meant for each other. Sally saw it first and told me. When I started watching the two of you, I could se it too.”

 

“Jeesh, now you sound just like Myrna.”

 

He got up, giving me a big grin and headed out the door while saying back over his shoulder, “Ain’t it hell being the last one to know what everyone else already does?”

 

He was laughing as I glared at him. I sat back in the chair, thinking about all that had been said here today. I was smiling as I picked up the phone to call Jerry. He must have been able to sense I was in a good mood, but he was a little upset when I told him what had happened and what the sheriff had told me about the DA. We discussed it for a little while and I also told him about Tiny and what I wanted him to check into doing for him.

 

“Jon, if he hasn’t been in any trouble and has been a business owner and successful like you say, I will go ahead and file the papers as soon as I have one of my staff check the records. I know a judge that will sign off on it without a problem. Do you want me to tell Tiny or do you want to do it?”

 

“Let me do it, Jerry. He is like a second father to Sally and it means a lot to me to be able to do this for him. Have you heard from Bill today? I haven’t heard a thing from him since last night when he left here. I tried calling him but his service said he was out for the day.”

 

“That’s not like him, Jon. Let me see if I can find him and find out what’s going on. Don’t worry about that DA. I will personally give him a call and tell him anything to do with you has to go through me first. I haven’t met him since he moved here from Maryland a couple of years ago. And from what the country club bunch has to say, he wants to get into politics.”

 

“Jerry, seems strange to me that all of these people are moving here from Maryland. Don’t forget that church has a lot of fingers in the bowl and a lot of money is involved. Keep that in mind when you talk to him. Maybe I’m getting a little paranoid, but with all that’s happened, I am worried.”

 

“I see what you mean, Jon. Don’t worry; I will be on my toes with him and any others I have to deal with. You be careful, because it seems to me they want you bad because of what you know. According to Bill, you know where certain people are that they want to find. Just remember, Jon, I own the security company you have been using and it is at your disposal if you need it. If you need specialists, I have contacts that I can call to get you what ever you need.”

 

“Let’s just see where this goes for right now, Jerry. My main worry is keeping Sally safe and myself in one piece.”

 

“Ok Jon, if you need me I am here. Besides, I don’t want to be fired from my own firm, now do I?”

 

We both got a laugh out of that one, and I apologized for threatening him in the hospital. He just laughed and said he accepted my apology, but I had been right in chewing his ass because he hadn’t been doing his best for me at the time. We hung up with him saying he would check into all I had told him about and would be careful.

 



Chapter # 25

 

 

 

I was sitting in my study about half asleep, when Sally came in to remind me it was getting late and I needed to get dressed, if we were going to town. She told me to dress casual since she and Kat were going that way. I got up and went to my room to see what I had clean to wear that could be considered casual. I felt a little let down as I went through my closet, looking at my worn out clothes. I found a pair of almost new jeans in my dresser drawer, that for the life of me, I couldn’t remember buying. I got them out and they were the right size. I went into the shower, still trying to remember where they had came from when it hit me. I had bought them while I was in Texas looking for the girl. I had stopped at a Wrangler Outlet and bought an even dozen pairs. I thought was a real good price. As I washed, I was trying to remember what I had done with the rest of them. Suddenly it hit me, the shirts and jeans were still in a suitcase that I had never unpacked. I dried off, and with only the towel wrapped around me, I dug in the bottom of my closet, got the suitcase out and opened it. Sure enough all eleven pairs of jeans and twelve brand new western shirts were there, still neatly folded. I went through the shirts until I found one that was trimmed in a dark red. I decided to wear it, thinking it would match Kat’s hair almost perfectly. I finished getting dressed, humming to myself without realizing I was doing it. I got out the snake skin boots and put them on and then looked at myself in the mirror. Not bad for an old man, I thought.

 

I went down the steps and almost ran into Jimmy. He was coming out of the kitchen with a huge sandwich and a grin on his face.

 

“Man, I do love coming out here, Jon. I get tired of eating microwave food all the time and Myrna is a great cook. You wouldn’t consider renting a room to me, would you? Nah, I better stay where I’m at, ‘cause I would weigh three hundred pounds from all the good food. By the way, I haven’t found any new surveillance equipment in the house. As soon as Sally and her friend get done dressing, I will check their rooms again. As far as I can tell, nothing new has been added.”

 

“I want you to check the caretaker’s cottage too, Jimmy. Myrna and Carver are living in it now and I don’t hold any secrets from her. It might have a mic planted because it’s empty most of the day. It would be easy for someone to plant something in there. Jimmy, there has to be a mic or camera somewhere close, because those men today knew I was gone. That tells me either there is a set of electronic eyes or ears in here, or someone is reporting our movements to them. I know that nobody in the house is doing it, so that only leaves the electronics to think about.”

 

“Ok, Jon, no problem. I will do a sweep outside the house and check the lines again. I brought a scrambler that I can mount on your trunk line to the house. It will make anything said sound like gibberish if they are using a tap of some kind. Other than that, I can’t think of any way they could know what’s going on in the house.”

 

“Jimmy, you’re the best at this, so just do what you need to do and let’s hope it works.”

 

“Ok, Jon, let me finish up. Tiny is dropping me off on his way to town with you guys.”

 

“Ok, Jimmy, but make it a priority to check on those sat phones I asked about. Let me know as soon as possible, will you?”

 

“I’ll have your answer by tomorrow, Jon.”

 

He walked away, munching on his sandwich. I went to the kitchen to let Myrna know what was going on for the evening. When I walked in, all three of them were sitting at the counter drinking coffee. When Tiny looked up and saw me, he immediately snickered, drawing a dirty look from Myrna. She, of course, was the first to speak.

 

“My, but you look nice, Jon. Where did you get the new clothes? I have been going to get on you about your wardrobe, but forgot with all that’s going on.”

 

“You know, I forgot all about buying these. They were still in the suitcase in my closet. I bought them years ago when I was in Texas looking for Michelle in that compound. They have been in the closet all this time.”

 

Tiny was still snickering so I blasted him, “What is so funny, Tiny? You seem to be a little overdressed for dinner, if you ask me.”

 

“Well I didn’t ask you, and you just helped me prove the point I was trying to make earlier.”

 

“What point is that, big mouth?”

 

“That you are already feeling the effects of having a good woman to impress. Since I met my Mrs., I learned to always dress neatly to keep her happy and in a good mood. You ain’t even formally dating yet, and you seem to have already got the message. I would hate to see you when you really get serious.”

 

“Very funny! The girls said to dress casual so I did. Anyway, what’s wrong with the way I’m dressed? I thought I looked like a gentleman rancher. At least I don’t look like an oversized weight lifter.”

 

Myrna broke out laughing and we both looked at her.

 

“He’s right, Thurman, in a suit you do look like an oversized gorilla. Your wife says the same thing, but doesn’t want to hurt your feelings. I think Jon looks nice and neat. He does look like his grandfather used to. He wore the same type of clothes when he was a Senator, years ago.”

 

I was watching Tiny’s face, and I could see he was getting upset. I just had to put my two cents worth into the mix.

 

“I never knew your name was Thurrrrrman. I am going to have to tell Sally so she can address you properly, Thurrrrrman. I always thought your only name was Tiny ‘cause you had such a small brain and big muscles.”

 

Well that tore it loose. Tiny was so mad he was glaring holes in me and gritting his teeth. I just glared back and smirked at the same time.

 

Myrna got up and grabbed us both by the hair and quietly said; “You two are acting like asses. Both of you settle down before I hit you both over the head with a skillet. Tiny, you deserved it by making fun of Jon. He is trying to impress Kat the only way he knows how. Remember, he ain’t from here so he doesn’t understand how women in this country act. Jon, you had no right making fun of Tiny’s given name like that. Now both of you shake and start acting like the friends you’re supposed to be.”

 

While she was whispering to both of us she kept tightening her grip on our hair. We both were saying ow, ow, ok, ok. She let loose and poured us some more coffee. I looked at Tiny, he looked at me, and we both broke out into laughter. I was the first to speak.

 

“See Tiny, I never win an argument in my own home. She always tells me where to go and how to act.”

 

“You think that’s bad, try growing up with her looking over your shoulder. I guarantee it doesn’t make for a happy childhood.”

 

Now it was Myrna’s turn to glare at us. We looked her right in the eye, grinned, and ran for the dining room. We were still grinning at each other when two plonks sounded. She had hit both of us on the head with a skillet. We both went down laughing and rolled over. We laid there looking up at her standing over us with one of her skillets in her hand. She was grinning down at us, looking smug as hell.

 

“You two will never learn, never insult the cook or her friends. Now get up before Sally and Kat come down and I have to explain why you’re laying on the floor laughing like a couple of big kids.”

 

She turned and went back to the kitchen and over the sound of our own laughter, we could hear her chuckling as she walked. I rolled over and got to one knee rubbing my head and reached a hand down to Tiny to help him up. We froze in that position when a voice from the top of the stairs said; “Aren’t you two a little old to be laying on the floor when your supposed to be getting ready to go out?”

 

I looked at Tiny and we both lost it. I just sat down where I was and Tiny gave up trying to get up, he was laughing so hard.

 

“Will you two please get up and act like adults before Kat comes down and sees you like this? I would be so mortified if she did.”

 

We finally got ourselves under control and helped each other brush off. We headed back into the kitchen with Sally close on our heels. When we sat down, I looked over at Carver. He had a big grin on his face and was shaking his head. I looked at Myrna and she seemed to be avoiding our eyes. I waited for Sally to ask why we were on the floor, but she never did. She and Tiny started talking as usual, and I remembered something I had forgotten and went into my study. I quickly put my weapons on, and for extra measure, I hid the S&W that I had bought for Sarah in a place where I didn’t think it would be found. Jimmy came in and handed me a bug with a recorder attached to it, saying he had found it under the edge of the garage and that it had been wired into the garage extension. He got into his case and handed me a little recorder the size of a Bic lighter.

 

“I made this from scratch, Jon, for you to use. Tiny told me you needed something that would be small and extremely sensitive. This thing will pick up about any conversation within five feet of you. It automatically filters out background noise and it’s voice activated. It will record up to five hours of conversation. Put it in your shirt pocket and forget about it. I have a patent pending on it, too. Also, it will light five times just like a lighter, just in case you need it to light a cigarette. I also have a private message for you from Bill. He said to tell you he will be out of touch for a couple of days, but not to worry. He also said to tell you he is using some of his friends to gather some more information that you will be able to use. Jon, you now own almost half of my newly formed business venture. I just hope it goes as well as I think it will and we both make a lot of money.”

 

“Jimmy, did Bill say where he was going? I am worried that he is taking this too serious.”

 

“No, Jon, just the message I already gave you. He called this morning, just before Tiny picked me up. You don’t think he’s in any trouble, do you?”

 

“Bill is a wily old buzzard. If I don’t hear from him in a couple of days, I will start an all out search for him. He is probably meeting with some of his government pals and calling in a few favors to help me out. Jimmy, I want you to get me those phones, regardless of the cost. If you can figure out a way, make some kind of a small stick-on homing beacon that can be used in the field and will be easy to locate.”

 

“Hmm, I thought about something like that before, but couldn’t figure out how they could be used and for what. It seems strange you would mention it again after I had given the idea up. Let me check into the situation again and let you know. This could also be used for government work and we might be able to make a lot of money, if I can build a small enough tracker for them.”

 

“Ok, Jimmy, if you hear anything else, let me know immediately. I am worried that Bill is getting a little too old to be playing cops and robbers. I will let you know how well the recorder worked after tonight. I have a strange feeling I will be approached while we are out tonight, and it will come in handy if I am. Keep all of this under your hat for right now. Oh, when did I buy into your business, if you don’t mind me asking?”

 

“Yesterday when Bill approached me with an offer I just couldn’t refuse. I kept controlling interest and gave some of the money to my friends that have been helping me for a couple of years. With what Bill gave me, we are set to rent a small building and begin making all the specialized equipment we might need. I am still trying to think of a name before I make it into a small LLC company.”

 

“You just said a good name, Jimmy, ‘Specialized Equipment for Special Jobs.’”

 

He looked at me for a couple of minutes, then smiled and walked away, chuckling to himself. Great, I thought, I now owned part of another company I didn’t know anything about. I figured Bill would buy into it with me and handle the business end, but he had turned it all over to me. The more I thought about him being out of touch, the more I was worried. I wondered what he was doing that was so secretive that he couldn’t call and let anyone know he was ok. I went back out to the kitchen, just in time to see Kat come in. To my surprise she was dressed almost like I was, but looked a lot better in her jeans than I ever would. We all got, up telling Myrna to lock the house and set the alarm before she and Carver went to sleep.

 

“Don’t you worry yourself about the house, Jon. Carver and I will take good care of it while you’re gone. You kids have a good time, and try to stay out of trouble. Jon, remember, you have Kat and Sally with you.”

 

We went out to the car. I opened the door for Kat to get in and went around to the other side. Sally started to get in the back with us, but Tiny put a quick stop to that.

 

“Sally, you’re my date tonight, so I think you can sit up front with me for a change. Kat and Jon need a little privacy.”

 

Sally gave him a dirty look, but got in the front with him. When he started out of the driveway, he closed the glass separating the front and back. I could hear Sally chewing on him as he did. I didn’t hear his reply because as soon as the glass was up, I got kissed and almost forgot where I was. When she leaned back, I almost fell on the floor because of the angle I was sitting at on the seat.

 

“Jon, I don’t think Sally is going to be very happy with Tiny over that little trick. I am glad he thought to do it, though. I wanted to spend a little time alone with you, since we can’t go to my place. Do you have any idea where he is taking us to eat? I hope it’s a buffet, because I am starving.”

 

I just looked at her in surprise, and got that little dimpled grin back when I did.

 

“Knowing Tiny, it will be somewhere he can get his fill, even if he knows I am paying. He’s a meat and potatoes kind of guy, but he does have good taste in restaurants. I want you to stay close to me as much as possible tonight, Kat. Even if you go to the girl’s room, I want either me or Tiny close by. Oh, and before you ask, I am armed, so if you feel it hitting you, don’t be afraid.”

 

“Jon, I am never afraid when I am with you. I know you wouldn’t let anything happen to me or Sally, even if it meant dying to protect us. I hope it never comes down to something like that. I want you to know right now, Jon Morgan, I love you and if it’s in my power, I am going to claim you for my own.”

 

I had no come back for that one. I just stared at her in shock before I leaned in and kissed her. I was really getting into it when I heard the window coming down between the front and back. Before I could break the kiss, I heard a little voice tell Tiny, “I told you so.”

 

I snorted, and Kat started laughing into my mouth before I could sit back. I heard Tiny giving Sally hell for snooping and interrupting grownups while they were talking. He got out voted by the next words out of Sally’s mouth, which made Kat and me laugh that much harder.

 

“Tiny, they may be adults, but with all the kissing going on, you would think they are in high school. I love my dad, but he has no sense of timing at all. Kissing, just because they’re in a limo and think we can’t see them. I tell you, Tiny, it’s just disgusting.”

 

I gave her a dirty look and she stuck her tongue out at me, and then busted up in sniggers for the rest of the trip. Tiny didn’t help much, but kept saying things to her that we couldn’t hear and keeping her going. I was about ready to do a Myrna on him and smack him in the back of the head. Of course, Kat thought the whole thing was hilarious and laughed right along with the both of them. I finally got so disgusted I just sat back with my arms folded, thinking about fixing myself a drink from the bar. Kat must have been on the same wavelength, because she quickly fixed us a rum and coke to sip. Her toast threw me for a loop as she clinked the plastic cups together.

 

“Here’s to fast courtships and even quicker weddings.”

 

I almost dropped the drink in my lap. I looked at her and she was grinning at me over the rim of the glass as she sipped her drink. I took a drink, but for some reason I couldn’t swallow for a few seconds as what she said sunk in. Damn, I thought, am I ready for this and for her? We pulled up in front of the big steakhouse we had always gone to when my grandfather was alive. I got out and helped Kat out of the car, and of course Sally had to be treated the same. We stood in front of the restaurant, waiting for Tiny to park the limo so we could go inside together. I was looking around as we waited and spotted a familiar face getting out of a Crown Vic. It was the Runt, but although I knew he had seen us, he kept his face turned away. Well, I thought, I wonder where he will decide to approach me? Probably when I go to the bathroom, or somewhere where he could talk to me without any ears in close proximity to our conversation. I would let Tiny know and make sure he stayed with the girls at all times while we were here. This looked like it was going to be an interesting evening, I thought, as we walked into the restaurant.

 

 

 

Chapter # 26

 

 

 

I waited until we were seated in the restaurant before opening my mouth.

 

“Tiny, the Runt and two of his men are here too. Let’s make sure the girls are covered every minute. I am pretty sure he came to talk to me and will wait till I go to the men’s room to do it. Don’t worry about me, just keep the girls safe. Oh, and make sure Jimmy checks the limo for tracking devices. That’s the only way I figure he knew where we were going to be this evening. He has no eyes or ears at the house now, so it has to be the limo since it’s always coming and going. Tiny, regardless of what you hear or see, stay with the girls. I can take care of myself.”

 

“Jon, he is in for a big surprise if he or any of his men start something here. I have four people spread throughout the restaurant and a couple outside watching the entrances. Believe me when I say he would go down quick if he tried a snatch here. The friends I have around us don’t play, and they hate child abusers with a passion. I think we can enjoy our meal in peace.”

 

“Ok, Tiny, let’s go with the flow and see where it takes us. I know he will try to talk to me about some kind of deal, and I am curious to see what he comes up with. Kat, Sally can explain what we are talking about since she knows the Runt from the hospital. I really don’t want to go through the whole thing again because it would ruin my evening to do so.”

 

“Don’t worry, Jon, Sally already told me all about what he tried to pull on you. She saw him before you did, I think, and pointed him out to me while we were still outside. If we have to go to the lady’s room, I think one of these steak knives could do a lot of damage in the right hands. Sally and I will be just fine. On the other hand, you need to be careful with your wounds, so don’t try kicking any butt tonight please.”

 

“Spoken like a true nurse.”

 

We all got a laugh out of it. When the waiter came over, we ordered and then sat back, chatting and enjoying a pleasant evening. Since this was the first time any of us had been out since I tied one on, it was a fun and laughter filled evening for me. Sally and I had always tried to eat out together several times a week, but since all of this started, she had been confined to the house, and I knew she was bored to tears. Tomorrow night was her prom, and there was no way in the world she was going to miss it. She had been looking forward to it for months. I knew deep inside that she would be perfectly safe in Tiny’s hands for the evening. Besides, I had that meeting set with Jubal and Farley and I sure wasn’t going to miss that. Maybe if it got over early enough, I would join Tiny at the school for the rest of the evening. I was brought back to the present by the waiter setting our food on the table. Kat ordered another glass of wine, and Sally asked her for a drink when it came. Kat looked at me and I nodded my head that it was ok. Hell, I thought, in Italy everyone drank wine instead of water, so this sip wasn’t about to hurt her.

 

Kat and Tiny started laughing at the face she made when she took a sip. Of course Sally wasn’t about to let it pass. She immediately started chewing on Tiny, much to Kat’s amusement. I was watching them and trying to pay attention to the Runt too. I noticed he and one of the men with him were having an intense conversation. If the looks of anger meant anything, then the Runt was not in charge like I thought he was. The other man was obviously the leader of the group and I could tell the Runt didn’t like what he was hearing. He was talking intensely to the man, and from what I could see, he was being over ruled at every turn. He finally said something then sat back with a look of disgust on his face. The leader started talking on a cell phone and I didn’t like the look of it. I felt my inner guard raising its suspicions and I had a feeling the whole night had just changed for the worse. I immediately suspected the worst and watched them carefully as they got up and left without leaving a tip for their waitress. The movement caught Tiny’s eye and he too watched as they left. When they got out the door, I saw a look of relief on his face.

 

“I don’t think this is over, Tiny. The older man was the boss, and from what I saw, he didn’t like what the Runt told him at all. I think when we leave, we had better keep a sharp lookout all the way home. I think they are going to try something, and it will probably be tonight. You girls be sure and listen to whatever either of us say if it goes down.”

 

“Jon, my people will be following us to your house, so we will have some backup if we need it. I just find it hard to believe they would have the guts to try something when they know we saw them.”

 

“That’s just it, Tiny, that man who was leading them acted arrogant, and the Runt was forced to accept what he said. I think we just saw the leader of the church in person. He doesn’t strike me as the type of person who would take no for an answer from one of his underlings. He was just too smug when he got off the phone. I have learned over the years, when someone in power looks that way, he is already sure of what he’s ordered someone else to do. The only one at this table who would be any good to use against me would be Sally. Kat, as far as they know, is a nurse from the hospital. I don’t think they would take that much notice of her, figuring I had hired her to take care of my wounds. They might try for me or you, except for the fact either one of us would be more trouble than it was worth to try to control. No, it has to be Sally, and I will shoot to kill if they make a move on her or Kat.”

 

“Jon, I am an excellent shot with a small pistol. My husband taught me how to handle several different types. He used to get mad because I could out shoot him on the range with one. If you have a backup and something does happen, pass it to me and I will make sure we are safe so you don’t have to worry about covering us too. I know Tiny has a gun in the limo, because I saw the stock of it under the seat when Sally got in the front.”

 

“Dammit Tiny, suppose you got stopped or something? You could go back to jail or even go to prison for having a concealed weapon. I don’t want to lose the closest thing to a friend I have over a damned gun. Next time, leave it at home and don’t take any more chances like that.”

 

“Jon, that shotgun has always been in the limo in case one of my customers has trouble. The local police know I carry it because they were the ones to suggest it years ago when I got my bond to operate Limo’s for Hire. I haul the U.S. Attorney General around on his time off. He gave me his personal numbers to call if I ever had a problem with any of the authorities. I really don’t think there will be a problem for me, and if what you’re anticipating comes true, then it will come in handy. Don’t worry, Jon, I won’t go to prison. Oh, and thanks for considering me your friend. I always thought I was just a muscleman with a tiny brain to you.”

 

“Smart ass!”

 

He and the girls busted out laughing as we got up to leave. I dropped a twenty on the table, feeling bad for the waitress who hadn’t gotten a tip from the Runt’s table. I looked over and it hadn’t been cleaned yet, so I took the long way past his table as I headed to the cash register and dropped a five-dollar tip as I passed. Since they hadn’t eaten, the five would be more than the coffee, so she would at least have a little bit for her time and trouble. When I got up to the register, Kat gave me a big smile, and I knew she had seen what I did. Tiny had gone out ahead of us to get the limo while we paid the bill with my credit card, but he ran back in before I had even signed the receipt.

 

“Jon, the limo’s been towed! The boy who handles the cars said a company called Packard towing took it less than five minutes after we went inside. It was parked legal and I don’t owe a thing on it. What the hell is going on?”

 

“Well, I think I just got one question answered. They must have had a recording device hidden in it that they wanted to recover. Call the police and report it stolen. I bet they will find it within ten minutes, abandoned on some side street. Let’s get a cab home. Tiny, you wait here and fill out all the forms for the police, but have your people follow us home at a distance. I don’t think we will be bothered any more tonight. When they finally hear that recording, there are going to be some mad people. They gave themselves away for nothing. Now I know why the Runt was looking so disgusted.”

 

“Ok, Jon, but you be careful until you get home. The Olds is hidden out of sight at your place, in the garage,. The keys are under the mat on the passenger side. Use it until you can get your truck back, but remember what I said about pushing buttons.”

 

We left Tiny there and caught a cab home and weren’t bothered at all. I was surprised I couldn’t catch the tails I knew Tiny had on us, so I knew his people were good at what they were doing. I tipped the cab driver heavily and he thanked, me giving me his card, saying if I ever needed him, just call. I shut down the alarm and we went inside. All of us headed straight for the kitchen. I had just started a pot of coffee when Myrna and Carver came in to join us, asking how our night went.

 

Of course I didn’t get to say a thing, as was usual. Sally took over telling them everything that happened. I had to chuckle to myself a couple of times, hearing her put herself into the first tense as she told the story. I grabbed a refill and saw Kat was looking at me, so I nodded my head toward the other room. She slipped out behind me, leaving Sally still telling her story. We went into the studio and sat down on the couch, sipping our coffee.

 

“Jon, I don’t want you to think I am prying into your business, but just how dangerous is this bunch you are going up against?”

 

“Kat I won’t lie to you about this, but to be truthful, I really have no idea. You know about the brushes I’ve had with the Runt so far, and he has come out on the short end every time. This incident tonight is the first actual move they have made against any of us personally. I got a good look at the leader tonight and snapped a couple of pictures of him with my cell phone. I am going to send them to a couple of contacts I know and get a check done on him. I have this little nagging at the back of my mind that keeps telling me I know him from somewhere. I don’t recall ever meeting him, but I have seen him before, and it hasn’t been since I’ve been here in the US.”

 

“Jon, you be careful how you handle him. I’ve seen men like him before in my husband’s old unit. They are power hungry, and in his case, he has the money to do whatever he feels like doing. From what I observed tonight, he thinks he’s a god with an Armani suit. That’s the kind of man you put out of his misery if you have a chance. He doesn’t know right from wrong, just what’s in his best interest.”

 

I just looked at her with wide eyes and got a kiss when I did.  Then I dropped my cup of coffee on the floor in shock. She started giggling into my mouth before she could sit back.

 

“Jon, I think you need to start keeping your hands empty when we’re together. Every time I kiss you, it seems you drop anything you are holding on the floor. Can’t you control yourself any better than that? After all, it’s just a kiss.”

 

“Oh, very funny, Kat, it may be just a kiss to you, but when you do that, I can’t seem to control my muscles. The moment your lips touch mine, it’s like I spasm or something. To be truthful, it’s damned embarrassing to me. I have never reacted like that before to anyone. I have been all over the world and a kiss has always been just that, a kiss. With you, it’s like someone turned out the lights to my muscles, and nailed me to the spot almost instantly. I just don’t understand how anyone could affect another like that.”

 

“Jon Morgan, you do the same thing to me, only it reaches places I don’t want to discuss. Let’s just say the feelings are the same, but in a woman’s mind and heart. I haven’t felt this way toward anyone since I met Jerry. I am not trying to compare you to him or anything like that, but we were married almost seven years. I can truthfully say in all that time, as much as I loved him, I never felt the way I do with you. When they came to the door to tell me about Jerry, I thought my whole life was over. It took two months before I realized I had to do something besides sit and cry. One day I looked in the mirror and realized how bad I looked, took a deep breath, and told Jerry I was going to finish school and try to have a normal life. I felt like a hundred pounds had been lifted off of me and I swear I heard him laugh and say; “That’s my girl, go get ‘em.” The next day I enrolled back in school under the accelerated program and never looked back. In retrospect, I think that’s what he would have wanted me to do. Then you showed up and turned my whole world upside down again. First, the attraction I felt toward you; then, the first time I met Sally and sat down with her. I could tell immediately she had been raised in a loving house from the way she conducted herself. Then when I got the whole story of her life from her, I knew right then we were meant for each other. I love what you do to help kids and since I been here these two days, I can see it’s more than just a vocation to you, it’s your life. I want to be part of that, Jon, and down the line I want a couple dozen of my own kids to love and share with the right person.”

 

I just stared at her for a while before I swallowed and managed to squeak out; “A couple dozen?”

 

Before she could say anything, Sally walked in, looking at the both of us with that I know something you don’t grin.

 

“Tiny got the limo back. He just called Myrna and told her to tell you. Why do you have your cell turned off, Jon?”

 

I grabbed it out of my pocket and it wasn’t off, just had an almost dead battery. It had switched itself to standby so the information on it wouldn’t be lost. I quickly plugged it into the charger on my desk, and asked Sally what else he said after telling her about the phone.

 

“He said it was untouched other than a hole being cut into the bar in the back by where you always sit. He told me he would have it fixed and be ready to go tomorrow night like he promised. Oh, and he said before he left tomorrow, he would have Jimmy check it out. Now, can I have my guest back? I want to talk to her about tomorrow and maybe get a few tips on wearing a prom dress. I think you have been purposely keeping her away from me and Myrna for some reason. We are going to the kitchen to talk about tomorrow night. Carver is coming in here, ‘cause Myrna said you wanted to talk to him about something. I will bring you some more coffee since you spilled yours on the floor. Jon, you’re a slob. No wonder Myrna is always cleaning up whenever you’re home any length of time.”

 

With that, she grabbed Kat’s hand and off they went before I could even formulate a comeback to her insult. Me, a slob! I couldn’t believe she would say something like that, especially in front of Kat. She and I were going to have to have a heart to heart talk, and soon. She was beginning to imitate Myrna too much for my taste. I was interrupted in my thoughts by Carver coming in, carrying a tray with a clean cup for me and more coffee. He set it on my desk and sat down, sipping his cup. I got up poured myself a fresh cup and sat down behind my desk, while wondering if Sally was planning on wearing make up to the prom.

 

“Jon, Myrna said you wanted to talk to me about something?”

 

“Yea, but I forgot what it was, Carver. I know it’s none of my business, but how are you and Myrna getting along?”

 

“Jon, I just wish we had met twenty years ago. If we had and felt about each other like we do now, we would have half a dozen kids running around here getting on everybody’s nerves. God, I have never been so happy in my life.”

 

I just stared at him and blurted out the next sentence in shock.

 

“You too! God it must be in the water or something. Kat just told me she wanted a dozen or more kids too.”

 

I thought he was going to fall off the chair, he was laughing so hard. I just sat thinking, what the hell was so funny about what I said? His next wheezing statement made me almost panic.

 

“Well, Jon, I think if that’s what she wants, then I’m afraid you’re gonna be a daddy to a very large family. She is like Myrna in that she has a will of iron. She is not afraid to fight for what she wants or thinks is right for her and the ones she loves. Jon, we both love two very strong willed women. I, for one, love it, ‘cause it makes life more interesting. Your lady has a worse temper than Myrna has, if that bright red hair is any indication. I have known a lot of men with red hair, and to a man, they would never give up getting what they went after. I can only wish you luck with that one. She is not only beautiful but is very smart to boot. I think you will have your hands full in the years to come.”

 

I just stared at him, wondering what I had let myself in for. I knew I was hooked and wondered if I would ever be able to win with any of the three of them. Nope, I thought, ‘cause I hadn’t won with two over the years and now it looked like I had three to contend with. Hmm, maybe it’s time for a long vacation alone, somewhere where there are no phones. Maybe after this was all over I would leave Sally with Myrna and sneak off for a couple of weeks, all by myself. Of course, I might get beat to death when I got back, but it would be worth it to get to make my own decisions for a change. Carver must have either been reading my mind or somehow sensed what I was thinking.

 

“It won’t do any good to run off and hide, ‘cause they would find you, and there would be hell to pay when they did. Jon, I don’t know much about you, other than what little Myrna has talked about, but let me give you a little advice. When a woman sets her cap for a man, he doesn’t stand a chance. Now that little redhead has decided you’re her man, so you might as well accept it. You know the other two better than I do, so what do you think they are going to do when she enlists their help for her cause? If it was me, I would just lay down and give up, ‘cause you ain’t gonna win.”

 

“Oh, thanks, oh great wise man. How the hell did you become so knowledgeable about women since you’ve never been married?”

 

He looked at me and grinned, then looked to see the door was clear. He leaned forward toward me and whispered; “My mama taught me,” and broke out in laughter when I spilled coffee on my desk in shock. I just cleaned it up, looked him straight in the eye and said very politely; “Go to hell, Carver.”

 

He grinned at me, got up and said, “Boy, you got a lot to learn. I hope I get to see the outcome, because it will be one for the books”, and walked out of my study.

 

Now what the hell did he mean by that, I wondered as Sally came in and took the tray, giving me that grin again as she left. This was getting too cryptic for me, so I decided to go out and look at the car Tiny had left for me to use.

 

 

 

Chapter # 27

 

 

 

I was going out the front door, heading for the garage, when it hit me. Something had been bothering me about this whole thing. None of this had started until the shooting at the barn. That made me wonder if Sally’s mom had been approached and paid by the church to have her and her boyfriend grab Sally. Still, it just didn’t make sense to me because I had done my little raid on the church years ago. I hadn’t had any contact since then. I stopped and sat down on the porch to work this out in my own mind.

 

Thinking about it from that angle, everything that had happened didn’t make any sense to me at all. Why did the church come after me after all these years? What were they looking for in our files, and why, after all this time, were they pushing so much? There had to be a reason, and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what it would be. I was as puzzled now as I was when all this started. I wished Bill would contact me, ‘cause I needed someone to bounce all this off of who was familiar with what had gone on. If I hadn’t heard from him by tomorrow evening, I would contact everyone I knew to start looking for him. Since he was a former senior Senator, there would be a lot of people who wouldn’t take kindly to anyone that harmed him. I already had a list of numbers he gave me to call if there was an emergency.

 

Then it hit me between the eyes, now I would have to keep a careful watch on Kat. If they had listened to the tape from the limo, they would know how much we cared for each other. Dammit, just what I needed, I thought, another target for them to snatch. I had to warn Kat before she went home tomorrow so she would be aware of any strangers hanging around in her vicinity. I would also make sure Tiny had someone on her at all times. I opened the garage and got my first glimpse of the car I had been loaned. It was an older Olds but it was in almost pristine condition. Looking it over and underneath, I could see it had self controlled air bags on each side as well as a beefed up suspension. The bottom was completely covered by a sheet of what looked to be steel, with small holes cut to change the oil and grease it. I counted eight airbags underneath it, and upon closer inspection the new style run flat tires. I didn’t know what Tiny had paid for this boat and I would be willing to bet the gas mileage sucked. Speaking of that, when I opened the trunk, I noticed that there was a large extra tank in it, surrounded by plating. The trunk lid was also plated with steel, and it wasn’t the light stuff either. No wonder there were so many air bags under it. It had to weigh a good two or three tons over what it had been when it left the factory. I sat down inside and there were buttons all over the dash where the radio used to be. None of them were labeled as to what they were for and I wasn’t about to be the one to find out. I pulled the hood release and got another surprise when I looked at the engine. Tiny had said it had some kind of interceptor engine in it, and from the label, it was an Olds 455 ci. It had headers and dual carburetors on top of the engine. I won’t pretend I am a mechanic, but everything I had seen so far said money and a lot of it. As Tiny had said, this had been custom built to someone’s specifications, and it had cost a pretty penny to build. I went back to the driver’s side and got the keys from under the mat on the passenger side, and cranked it up. It started with the first turn and sat and rumbled. I gassed it and it was so quiet I had to put my head outside to hear the engine. Damn, this thing was quiet and powerful, I thought. It rocked from side to side as I gassed it. I shut it down and closed the hood, then headed to the back to close the trunk. That’s when I noticed the other car sitting in the far stall. I almost laughed out loud when I got a full view of it.

 

Kat and her car definitely matched. It was as small and dainty as she was. I walked over to look at it still chuckling to myself. It was a baby blue colored Ford Festiva. It looked like it had just come off the showroom floor; it was so clean and shiny. When I looked inside, I broke out laughing at the decorations. She had fuzzy dice hanging from the mirror and the seat covers made me laugh even harder. They were both were big pictures of a nurse in white with a big needle in her hand with the caption saying; “Nurses have bigger needles to work with.” I was laughing out loud at her sense of humor when I noticed the back seat had the same thing. Only there, it had a man lying on a bed, looking scared to death with the nurse standing over him with a syringe that she was holding with both arms. It had to be a foot long and she had a big grin on her face as she looked down at the patient. I was still laughing as I went out and started to close the garage door. Then I noticed her personalized license plate. It said NURSE 1 with a frame around it that said “I like big needles.” I closed the garage door and laughed all the way back to the house.

 

While I went up the steps still laughing, I wondered what I was letting myself in for with her and her sense of humor. I had to admit to myself, it would be a refreshing change for me since I had a very dry sense of humor and always had. The experiences I had with the Legion had been responsible for that. All of us always had a macabre sense of humor to cope with all the gore that seemed to surround us wherever we were sent. Then I had another thought, I wondered if Sally had seen her car yet. With her sense of humor, she would be in hysterics when she did. I sat down in the porch swing, and thought about everything that had happened, still wondering why the church was pushing so hard after all this time. There had to be a reason, but I sure was in the dark about it.

 

I was still sitting there watching the sun go down when I was joined by Kat with a kiss for me.

 

“Hello, did you miss me? I was finally able to slip away from Sally for awhile after enlisting Myrna’s help. Jon, she is so sweet, but I think she is starved for company her own age.”

 

“Yea, you’re probably right, Kat. The only time she’s around kids her age is when she goes to school. She used to go to the fairs and stuff with Sparky until he was killed. I guess it’s pretty lonely around here. I am going to take us all on a vacation in a week or so. Maybe it will help her overcome her boredom.”

 

“Jon, aren’t you going to ask me to go too? I have almost a month of vacation time coming and I would love to spend it getting to know you better. Besides, if we can find something for Sally to do, then we could have a little private time to ourselves.”

 

“Well, I don’t mind the idea, but you’re gonna need a passport to go where we are going.”

 

“That’s no problem. I still have mine from when I flew to Germany to meet Jerry when he was on leave. See, I’m all set to go. Just let me know a week ahead of time so I can give the hospital notice. They will need to get someone to cover my shift while I’m gone.”

 

I turned to her grinning and was about to say something when I got kissed again. This time I didn’t move for fear of falling off the swing. When she moved back I told her the bad news I hadn’t wanted to tell her.

 

“Kat, I am going to have someone watching you round the clock after you leave here. If they heard the recording from the limo, they know how much you mean to me, and might go after you to get at me. I’m sorry that this is getting so complicated for us, but I can’t take any chances until I can figure out what they are after.”

 

She looked at me and then gave me that little dimpled smile before answering; “You do what you need to do, Jon. I will alert the hospital security to be watching for strangers hanging around. When we go on vacation, I expect your full attention without all these distractions.”

 

“I don’t think that will be a problem for me because you already have it whenever you’re close to me. Kat, promise me you’ll be careful. I really don’t know what these people are capable of or what they are after.”

 

“Oh I will, Jon, you just make sure you stay in one piece until we can get out of here. Now come in the house so I can change your bandages and check to make sure there isn’t any infection.”

 

We got up and went in and to my surprise, she had a doctor’s bag with her that had everything in it except an operating room. She changed the bandages and after examining my wounds, said I was healing well and would be back to a hundred percent in a couple of weeks, if I didn’t do anything stupid. Then we sat back and had a couple of drinks, with Sally, Myrna and Carver joining us. When I told the group about my plans for us to take our vacation and where, I thought Myrna and Carver were going to break their faces, they were smiling so much. They both said they had passports and they were current. I wondered why Myrna had one, because from everything I had been told, she never left the farm. Before I could ask her, Sally jumped all over me because she didn’t have a passport. I smiled at her and explained what I had set up for her, and to my surprise she started bawling when I finished. I moved to her and took her in my arms, waiting to see what this was all about. I was looking around and Kat and Myrna were smiling. Carver was just shaking his head with a grin on his face too. I was still perplexed as to why Sally was crying, when she sat back and Kat handed her a box of tissues. She wiped her eyes and blew her nose before looking at me with a big smile on her face. What she said made me almost fall off the couch.

 

“Oh, thank you so much, Jon. Now I don’t have to worry about someone taking me away from you. When we get to our island, will you and Kat, and Myrna and Carver be getting married? Does this mean I am finally going to have some brothers and sisters to look after? Oh I hope so!”

 

I sat there in shock with the rest of them laughing like crazy at my expression. Kat was the one who answered, and when she did, I just looked at Carver with a look of defeat. He about fell off the chair he was sitting on.

 

“Sally, I don’t know about Myrna or Carver, but with your help I think we might be able to drag Jon in front of a Justice of the Peace or a Preacher. I don’t know about Jon, but I have already made up my mind that he is mine for the rest of our lives. How about it Sally? Do you want a new stepmother to boss you around?”

 

“Only if it’s ok with Myrna too. She is my closest friend and the only family besides Jon that I ever had. I like you a lot, Kat, but it’s not just up to me.”

 

Kat looked at her in shock while I looked at Myrna who was sitting with her mouth open in shock and the tears were pouring down her face. It looked like Sally’s answer had shocked her as much as it had me and Kat. Then the thought hit me, didn’t I have a say in any of this? I looked at them all one by one, and when I opened my mouth all three women immediately said; “Oh shut up, Jon!”

 

The next thing I knew, Myrna and Kat were hugging with Sally talking a mile a minute. I head something about wedding plans for all of us as they headed for the kitchen. I looked at Carver and he had a shocked and sickly look on his face so I couldn’t resist; “Didn‘t your mama warn you about this too?”

 

He looked at me, shook his head, and then gave me a dirty look. He stood up saying; “Go to hell, Jon” and walked out of the room.

 

I sat back, chuckling to myself before it all hit me like a ton of bricks again. Oh God, I thought, I had been out maneuvered again. I didn’t say anything as I climbed the steps to get a shower and go to bed. I was right in the middle of rinsing the soap out of my eyes when a pair of arms wrapped around my waist. I was so startled I almost fell. I grabbed the first thing I could to stop myself and I heard a squeal when I did. I caught my balance and when I realized what I was holding on to, I let loose immediately.

 

“I’m sorry I scared you, Jon. Myrna is keeping Sally with her tonight so we can have some privacy. She said they would be up for awhile discussing the trip and making some plans. I hope you don’t mind me joining you, but showering by myself all the time is no fun.”

 

I didn’t say anything, trying to get my eyes rinsed since they were burning from the soap. I was finally able to see although it was blurred, and the sight took my breath away. I didn’t know what to say so I just grinned and kissed. I don’t have a clear memory of the rest of the night, but I do remember her saying something about birth control and loving me. I woke the next morning by myself, and when it hit me what she had said about birth control, I about fainted in my own bed. I hurried through a shower, dressing on the run as I went downstairs. When I walked into the kitchen the only one there was Myrna. She took one look at my face and smiled.

 

“Jon, are you ok? You look like you just got shocked or something. Why are you looking so glum after all my planning to give you and Kat some time to yourselves?”

 

I told her what Kat had said last night about birth control, and not realizing what I was saying, told her about not wearing any protection last night. She looked at me in shock for a minute, then when I turned red, she started laughing. I did not need her next comment as I was already panicked.

 

“Congratulations, Papa! Is it a boy or a girl?”

 

I fell off the chair!

 

 

 

Chapter # 28

 

 

 

I sat back down, listening to Myrna chuckling at me. For the rest of the morning everything was a complete daze. Later I walked Kat out to her car and got kissed again. She said that she was looking forward to our vacation. Sally and Myrna stayed on the porch and waved as she went out the driveway. I headed back to the house, telling Sally she had better start getting ready for the prom.  I told her I knew it took hours for girls to get the right look before they would go out all dressed up. She got a shocked look on her face and ran for the front door. Of course Myrna wasn’t that easy.

 

"That was a good move, Jon. Don’t worry though, I will make sure she looks like the young lady she is. Now, I think you have some phone calls to make before your meeting tonight. I will have an early supper for you both."

 

She turned and went back inside. I just sighed to myself, wondering if I would ever have my way in my own house. I followed her inside, went to my study and got on the phone. I called Jimmy first to see if he had gotten the cameras and the recorders ready to go. I wanted to turn Jubal and Farley loose this weekend to start watching the camp. He said he was just putting the final touches on them and would send them out with Tiny. I reminded him that he had to come himself. He needed to show my people how to wire them and what to do in case there was some kind of trouble. He said he would be there and wanted to know when we were eating supper. I just laughed and told him it would be before he got here, so he would have to settle for one of Myrna’s sandwiches. He didn’t sound too disappointed when he hung up the phone. Next I called Tiny and told him my thoughts about Kat and the recording from the limo.

 

"Jon, I already thought about that and I have a good man assigned to her. I called a couple of markers in, and the police will be patrolling the area where she lives pretty heavy for the next couple of weeks. I have five extra guys tailing us tonight, so don’t worry about Sally or her friends. Jon, I hate to ask, but I need some money to help cover expenses. Several of the guys owe me big time, but the rest I have to pay. I got nothing but the best, and you know they don’t come cheap. Normally I wouldn’t ask, but it’s been a slow year this year and I can’t afford to do both and still keep the Mrs. happy."

 

"Dammit, Tiny, I didn’t expect for you to shoulder the load and expense for all of this. You should let me know each week what you need, and I will write you a check to cover it. If that’s not fast enough, I will transfer the amount into your account each week. That way you won’t have to wait for the check to clear. You just let me know which way you would prefer. By the way, you will be bringing Jimmy out here tonight. He is going with me to meet the men who will be handling the cameras. I will take him home, so you don’t need to worry about that. I might just have him stay over. If the meeting ends early enough, I may be able to make it to the prom to see Sally. Tiny, in case I don’t get to the prom, will you do me a favor and get some good pictures for me? When she gets older, she will want them for her scrapbook, and I want some for my personal album."

 

"Jon, will you quit worrying? I have one of the guys I am using for extra eyes bringing along his camera. He is a professional photographer and he will take all the pictures you might want. I guarantee you they will all be good. Now settle down and get your mind back on your problems. Let us take a little of the load off this evening."

 

"Ok, Tiny, and thanks for all the help."

 

"Hey, she is like my own kid, and I sure wouldn’t let anything happen to her while she is in my care. You do your thing and don’t worry about Sally or Kat. Besides, I’ve already been read the riot act by Aunt Myrna about this. She included Kat in the whole thing too. Jon, what’s going on out there? Myrna said something about multiple marriages and kids, or something like that. She sure was excited and happy. Well, I gotta go pick up the limo and have Jimmy go over it again. Catch you later."

 

He hung up with me wondering how my whole life had been taken out of my hands by my adopted daughter and my housekeeper. I decided to call Bill’s cell. It went to voice mail but I didn’t leave a message. I was starting to worry about him, and decided to call Jerry. When I got him on the phone, he said he hadn’t heard anything from him either, and was as worried as I was. He said he was going to give it until the morning and then start making calls. I told him I had a list of numbers too and I would start calling them in the morning. He asked if I had heard anymore about the shooting, and I said no and I wasn’t worried about it because it was a case of self defense. Jerry agreed and said his call to the new DA hadn’t been returned yet, so maybe he decided to drop it. We chit-chatted a few more minutes before I hung up and used my cell phone to call Maurice. When I got him on the phone, he sounded beat. I told him he needed to go home and get some rest for a change.

 

"Jon, my friend, it has been hitting the fan for the last four hours. That church in El Salvador was raided by the Army, looking for a wanted fugitive. When they went in under a white flag to talk to the church leaders, they were fired upon with automatic weapons. You know how it is down there; they don’t worry about anything, just open up and shoot the hell out of everything. Between the mortars and the heavy artillery, they almost flattened the whole area. Jon, they only found thirty people alive, and most of them were women and kids. From what we have been able to find out, almost all of them were citizens from your country. They are in jail, waiting for the American Consulate to make an appearance. Jon, they were hiding several bands of rebels, and were furnishing them with small arms to keep fighting the Salvadorian Government. Intelligence is still coming in, but from the count of the dead, it doesn’t look good."

 

"Damn, Maurice, I hate to hear that. I am sending you a couple of pictures from my cell phone. I think they are of the leader of the church here. Give them a good look see, will you? I think we have seen him before, but I can’t remember where. If you can figure it out, let me know right away, will you? Maurice, you be careful with this one, because he might have fingers in places we don’t expect."

 

"Ahh, Jon, you always worry about your old comrade. Do not worry, my friend, I will make sure I get an ID on him before I report anything to my commander. Of course it will be after I fax you the information. Jon, you be careful too, my friend, your name has come up in some radio traffic. We do not know who was sending it, but they mentioned you several times. I think maybe you have something these people want or need. The compound in San Mateo has been very active for the last couple of weeks. There has been a lot of night activity and truck traffic in and out of there. They have a small airport on the grounds, and it also has been very busy lately. We have not been able to get close enough to see what is going on because of all the armed guards. Jon, all the compounds we are watching have been very active of late, and no one here can figure out what’s going on. I have to go now, my friend. Send the pictures to my personal cell and I will get back to you as soon as I know something. Goodbye for now, my friend."

 

He hung up and I immediately sent the pictures to my computer. Then I uploaded copies back into my phone and sent them to his cell. I got a text back almost immediately that said, “Got them.” I was sitting at my desk staring at the two pictures, trying to remember where I had seen him, but it just wouldn’t come to me for some reason. I was interrupted by a vision that I would have imprinted on my mind forever. It was Sally all dressed up for the prom.

 

"Boy do you look beautiful, Sally! I always thought you were really cute, but dressed like that, it seems like I have lost my little girl and gained a beautiful young lady in her place. Has Myrna seen you yet?"

 

"Yes, silly, who do you think helped me get my hair and makeup done? Do you really think I look beautiful, Dad?"

 

"Yes, Sally, I do, and I always knew you would be when you grew up. I remember that dirty faced little girl who looked so cute when I first saw her. I remember that smile, even under all the dirt on your face. I think, even back then, I knew you would turn out to be something special as you got older. Now look at you, about to start high school and the best looking girl at the prom. Wait till Tiny sees you, he will have to beat the boys off with a ball bat tonight. Why I bet he doesn’t let you out of his sight the whole night long."

 

"Dad, I love Tiny, but if he follows me around all night, I will beat him with his own ball bat. A girl needs a little space, you know."

 

"Remember, Sally, he is there not only as your chaperone, but as your bodyguard too. Remember what’s been going on, so don’t be too hard on him. Please, for my sake, don’t sneak away or get out of his sight for too long. Remember our talk and what I told you about the church."

 

"I remember, Dad, and all of us girls are going to stay in threes all night. All my friends will be close, and they already said if an adult grabbed me, they would start screaming as loud as they can. We all decided we would watch out for each other all night long. I’ll let Tiny know as soon as we get in the limo. All the girls are meeting at Judy’s, so Tiny will only have one stop to make. We arranged this yesterday with all their parents. By the way, they all said to tell you thanks for letting us have our own limo to go in. This is gonna be so cool."

 

With that she went back out the door after kissing me on the cheek. She said she didn’t want to mess up her makeup or hair. I was a little miffed, because I wanted a hug. I sat back down at my desk and called Jeb, asking if the meeting was still on for tonight. I was assured it was and that Jubal and Farley had some good news for me when I got there. I was thinking about this when Myrna came in with coffee. Carver was on her heels with a smile on his face.

 

"Jon, doesn’t she look beautiful? Carver and I decided we are going to get married on this island of yours. What are your plans for you and Kat? Are you gonna ask her to marry you?"

 

I looked at her in shock before I finally blurted out; "Dammit, Myrna, why do you always have to ruin a perfect day? Can’t I ever make any decisions on my own?"

 

"Not in this case, Jon. Besides, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t push you in the right direction. I think we ought to make it a double wedding. Carver has already got our rings, so we are ready. What about you? Have you thought about getting her a ring yet? If you need any help, I know what she likes. We had a nice discussion about it, and what we thought should happen down there."

 

"Yeah, Dad, I think it’s time you got married. I also think she is the perfect one for you. After all, Myrna and I decided she is what you need, and I need some brothers and sisters to help keep you on your toes. Kat and I decided she would have two of each, and when I got old enough to get married, I would have three. I think a double marriage on a beautiful island is really romantic, don’t you?"

 

I felt like screaming. How the hell did I ever get myself into this and how was I going to get out of it? Did I want to get out of it? I thought about Kat, her smile, the way I felt when she kissed me, and I knew I was sunk. I knew I didn’t want to get out of it, but just be able to make up my own mind when and where. I looked over at Carver. He was looking at me and just shook his head slightly. I immediately took this as a clue to keep my big mouth shut, so I decided I would. I was saved by the arrival of Tiny and Jimmy. When Sally answered the door, I heard them both give out wolf whistles and Sally was giggling at them. I had to smile, because if nothing else good happened in my life, I had her.

 

Myrna gave me one of those looks that conveyed that this matter wasn’t over yet, so I just grinned at her and got a glare in return. She went out, leaving Carver sitting in his chair with a smile on his face. I gave him a dirty look and he just laughed at me.

 

"Jon, I tried to warn you what would happen when they all got together. I personally am happy to marry that woman. She completes something in me that I have missed all these years. How old are you, Jon? How many years have you beat around this world like I did with nothing but uniforms and a gun for company? Sure, we had friends we would give our lives for, but having a smart and beautiful woman to be with is a whole new ball game for us both. I will tell you that Kat loves Sally like she is her own, and she will wait until you decide to marry her. But if you don’t, you will be missing out on something, and you will regret it the rest of your life."

 

"Carver, it’s not that I don’t want to marry her, but I just want to be the one who decides when I will and how it will happen. Myrna and Sally have done this to me for years, and to tell you the truth, I am getting tired of it. I love them both, but for once I would like to make my own decision about something."

 

"I understand that, Jon, and I been in your shoes. Remember, I grew up with four older sisters, and I could never get to make my own decisions about anything. When I got picked on at school, one of my sisters would always beat the hell out of the bully who picked on me. I watched two of them die of cancer, and to this day I regret that I never told them how much they meant to me as I was growing up. I still have two living, and they still treat me like I don’t have any brains. It took me many years to see this was how they showed their love for me. When I came home from Nam, they both were at the airport to meet me. They almost started a riot when one of those hippie chicks called me a baby killer. It took me and three of my buddies to hold them back from beatin’ the hell out of that girl. One of my sisters married one of my friends, but he died of Agent Orange a couple of years ago. I stay in close touch with her, because she still hasn’t recovered from his death. Yea, Jon, I know what you’re feeling. Just remember, although Myrna don’t say so, she loves you like the son she never had. Sally is something else entirely. There’s a bond there even I don’t understand. You heard her when she asked Myrna about getting her permission. Myrna talked about that most of the night. She was so proud that Sally thought that much of her."

 

"Carver, to Sally, Myrna is the mother she never had. I know she doesn’t talk about it much, but Myrna has raised Sally since my grandfather died. Hell, even I think of her as Sally’s mother. But I got to tell you, sometimes I could just turn her over my knee, because she acts so much like Myrna."

 

Well, Carver thought this was funny for some reason, and was still chuckling when Tiny and Jimmy came into my office. It looked like Tiny had a new suit on, and I had to admit this one seemed to fit him better than his other one. At least he didn’t look like a gorilla in a suit, as Myrna put it. Jimmy was smiling and sniffing the air like he was testing to see if there was food somewhere close. Sally was behind them with a big smile on her face, and again, I was struck by her beauty.

 

"Dad, supper will be ready in about ten minutes. I am going to talk to Myrna before I leave. Tiny, Dad has something to say to you, and so will I, when we go to pick up the girls."

 

With that statement, she was gone. Tiny sat down in the chair looked at me with a smile, shaking his head at some private thought.

 

"Jon, she sure is a beautiful young woman. I remember when my daughter was her age. Then it seemed like the years just flew by, and she was gone out of my life to make her own way in the world. I promise you I will make sure she and her friends will be safe tonight."

 

"Tiny, that’s not what’s bothering me. I was just informed that Myrna and Carver are getting hitched on our vacation. They want me to marry Kat and make it a double wedding."

 

"What’s wrong with that, Jon? You know I would be the last one to interfere in your personal business, but I think Kat is quite a catch for a footloose old Legionnaire like you. Jon, anybody that watches you when she’s around can see how much you love her. That same look is on her face when she looks at you. I think you won’t find a better woman, and I know she will always be there for you and Sally. I think you better give this some serious thought, but from my own observations, you two won’t be able to stay away from each other too long. By the way, the man I have on her said she was followed after she left your place. He cut them off long enough that they lost her. He says he got the plate number and called it in to a friend of his to have it run. Jon, why is the church pushing so hard? I mean, I thought you said your brush with them was years ago."

 

"It was, and I have been thinking on just that. I have no idea why after all these years they are pushing me. I will tell you, Tiny, if they harm any of my loved ones in any way, they will have a war on their hands they won’t win. I have people I can call in to help and they will show them what war is all about. Still, it has me stumped, and I still can’t figure out why any of them haven’t approached me with some kind of deal or offer, if I have something they want."

 

"I was telling Jimmy they same thing coming out here. I kinda figured the Runt would have tried to talk to you at the restaurant. When he didn’t, I was really surprised."

 

"I think the man he was with is the big boss of the churches here in the states. Tiny, I have seen him someplace before, but I just can’t remember where. I have a couple of photos of him being checked by Interpol as we speak. If he is known anywhere, they will have a record of it. Well, I think dinner’s ready. Jimmy, you came out here early on purpose, didn’t you?"

 

We all got a laugh out of his guilty look as we headed for the kitchen to eat. Sally had this big apron on that covered the front of her completely. I almost laughed, and was informed it was to keep her from spilling anything on her beautiful dress. I just smiled and sat down. We had a pleasant meal, with Jimmy eating enough for three people. I was seriously thinking about renting him a room, if he was starving that bad for home cooking. Of course, Sally and Tiny kept picking on him throughout the whole meal. He took it in good grace, but never missed a bite every time he filled his plate. Carver and Myrna just watched with big grins as we sat back with coffee. Jimmy finally finished and looked around like he was trying to see if he missed a crumb or something. Myrna was watching him with a puzzled look on her face before she finally asked what he was looking for.

 

"Umm, I was just wondering if there was any pie or something for dessert."

 

As if we all were of one mind, we all threw something at him. He busted out laughing with the rest of us joining in. We finished up, and Tiny and Sally headed for the limo, after I got a few good pictures of her. I turned around and asked Jimmy if he was ready to go and all I got was a nervous nod of his head. We headed for the garage, with Jimmy carrying a big silver case. I knew it had to be heavy from the way he was holding it. When we got to the garage door, I reached down to pull it up, but the hair on my neck started standing up. I backed away from it with Jimmy looking at me with a puzzled look on his face.

 

"Back up some Jimmy, something’s not right."

 

I checked around the edge of the door but couldn’t see anything. But, I still had that nagging sensation in the back of my neck. The last time I had this feeling, I was in a sniper’s scope in Ethiopia. My man took him out before he could fire, but I still remembered the feeling for many months. I learned to let my senses watch over me from that point on. I went to the back door and looked inside and still didn’t see anything. I took my gun butt and broke the window pane out because I didn’t want to open the door. I reached inside, flipped the light switch on, and nothing happened. At this point my, senses were screaming at me. I backed off and went back around to the front.

 

"Jimmy, set the case down and come back to the house with me for a moment while I get a flash light."

 

"What’s wrong Jon? I can open the door for you if you’re afraid of hurting your wounds."

 

I told him my suspicions, and he got big eyed and beat me back to the porch. I noticed when he hit the front porch, he still had the case in his hand. I went to my study and got a flashlight. I picked up my small cutters from the junk drawer in the hall and headed back to the garage. Jimmy stayed on the porch, but was shifting from foot to foot. I went back around to where I had broken the window and stuck my head and an arm inside with the light. I shined it all around, but didn’t see anything out of place at the big door. I was still feeling that nag in my head and checked out the door and frame. I finally saw what I had missed on the first check; a wire was running from the door bolt to the roof area. There was another wire tied to it so that when I threw the bolt back, they would separate. Someone, in a very short time, had wired the door, and in a very simple manner. I was concentrating on following the wires with the light, when a hand tapped my shoulder. I was so startled I dropped the light and banged my head on the window frame, opening a nice gash from the broken glass still in the frame. When I backed out, Carver was standing there with a grin on his face. When he saw the blood he immediately quit smiling at me. He stepped back when he saw the look in my eyes.

 

"What’s wrong, Jon? Jimmy said something about you not wanting to open the door for some reason. What happened, why are you bleeding?"

 

"Dammit, Carver, you know better than to sneak up on a person like that! You startled me and I cut my head on the broken glass. Somebody wired the garage after Kat left this morning. I was trying to trace the wire to see where it led when you spooked me. Now I have dropped the damn light on the floor."

 

"Jon, maybe you better call the authorities and let them handle it."

 

"Not hardly, Carver, this I will handle myself. Go get me another light and a concrete block to stand on, will you? For God sakes don’t let Myrna call anyone either. I have demolition training, and this looks like a simple circuit break bomb. I want to find the charge and disarm it."

 

I stood and waited for him to return, wondering why things had escalated to this stage, when it hit me. This wasn’t done by a professional because it was too crude. Who in the hell besides the church was after me and for what? This mystery was getting way too complicated, and I decided we were getting out of here tomorrow. If someone died because of me, I would never be able to forgive myself. I would turn Jubal and Farley loose and get everyone else out of here, first thing tomorrow. The fence was done, and all we were waiting for were the gates and the guard shack to be built. I had been assured it would all be done in one day when the materials arrived. Carver came back with Myrna’s kitchen light and the step ladder she used in the kitchen.

 

"Jon, she about had a fit when I told her what you were going to do. She said to tell you if it wasn’t something you could handle, then to back off and call the sheriff."

 

"I just need to get inside without breaking the circuit. If I had pulled the bolt back, it would have separated the wires and caused it to go off. Carver, this was done by an amateur. Just give me a few minutes to trace the wires to the charge, and I will open the big door in front."

 

I cleaned the glass out of the frame with the metal body of the light and climbed in. I put the light Carver brought into my back pocket and picked up the one I dropped. I started following the wire along the floor to the far side of the garage and it looped back to the overhead door. On the floor was a big block of what looked like plastique explosive with several wires running out of it. I got on my knees and pulled the wire from the door out and there was no detonator on the end. It had been stuck down in the block with just a bare end showing. When I pulled the second one, it was the same way and I started smelling a skunk. The rest of the wires were all just stuck into the block of explosive. I pulled them all out, and none of them were set to blow by a detonator. I checked all around the big door and didn't see a battery or any way to set it off. I followed the wire from the front door to the back door, then back around to the block sitting on the floor. The big garage door was the same way, just one big loop of wire going back to the block. I had a hunch and squeezed a pinch of the block off and put it in my mouth. Damn, it wasn't explosive at all, just a big block of modeling clay. What the hell was going on? I rechecked the garage door for any hidden wires or anything else that didn't look right. I couldn't find a thing that triggered my sense of danger. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and opened the door. Nothing happened, other than the squeak of the garage door opening. When it was fully opened, I could see Myrna, Carver, and Jimmy standing on the front porch. When I stepped out, Myrna was running to me, asking if I was ok, and where did all the blood come from? I grinned in relief and pointed at Carver. If looks could kill, he would be dead from the look Myrna gave him. He looked at her, then at me, and just hung his head.

 

"Jon, what's going on? Did someone set a bomb in the garage or something?"

 

"No, it wasn't a bomb, Myrna, just someone’s sick idea of a joke. I want all of you to go back to the porch while I finish checking the garage and the car. Something’s still wrong, I can feel it."

 

"Well, when you’re done, come in the house and let me bandage that cut. Then maybe you can tell me how you got it."

 

She led them back to the porch, staring daggers at Carver the whole way. When they were clear, I went back in the garage and checked out the whole interior, including my grandfather’s old office. I found out how they got in, the lock had been pried away from the door jam on the outside door to his office. I didn't find anything that looked suspicious, so I headed back into the garage to check out the car. I popped the hood and checked the engine over but didn't see anything attached to it. I got down on one knee and looked under the driver’s side, and that’s when I saw what had set my signals off. There were two sticks of dynamite stuck to the plate under the driver’s side seat. I knew this one was real, because my senses were screaming and it was remote controlled. There was a small antenna sticking out of the receiver, which had a red blinking light on it. I got up and almost ran out of the garage to the porch.

 

"Myrna, call the sheriff and tell him to come out with his bomb expert. There is a remote controlled bomb stuck under the driver’s side of the car. Tell him to come without lights and sirens so we don't tip anyone off that we found it. I need to call Tiny and put him on full alert and have him call his man on Kat and fill him in."

 

I got on the phone as Myrna ran in the house to do as I said. Jimmy sat down in the swing and was shaking. I patted him on the shoulder which he smiled at. Carver was sitting next to him looking guilty for some reason. I finally got Tiny on the phone and filled him in. I told him to call his man on Kat and put him on alert too. He said it would be done and he would send another warm body over to make sure she was fully covered. I told him I didn't care what it cost, but to get it done right away. I called Jeb and told him what happened and he said we could meet tomorrow morning instead.

 

I sat down in the chair, and when the reaction set in, I had to grit my teeth to keep them from chattering. I hadn't had the shakes like this since Algeria. I wondered what the hell was going on, and why someone wanted me dead.

 

 

 

Chapter # 29

 

 

 

I was still trying to figure out who was after me when Myrna came out, carrying a pan of water and a rag with the first aid kit tucked under her arm. I just sat and let Myrna clean the blood from the back of my neck while I waited for the sheriff to arrive. After about five minutes, he came sliding into the driveway. When he got out of his car, he came directly up to the porch.

 

"Jon, what the hell’s going on out here? Myrna said something about a bomb?"

 

I had him sit down and brought him up to date on the explosives I had found, as well as my thoughts about the block of clay. He said that when his demo man got here, he would have him send the clay in immediately to check for fingerprints and DNA traces. He questioned me a little more intently on the car bomb, and who I thought might have put it there.

 

I told him I had checked out the car this morning and it wasn't there then. I also told him whoever had set up the fake clay bomb had been an amateur, because of the way it had been done. It was almost as if he or she had actually thought they were handling the real thing. When his demo man got there, the sheriff sent him to the garage after talking to him for about fifteen minutes. I couldn't hear what he was saying, but the directions must have been pretty detailed because the deputy just kept saying, “Yes Sir.”

 

"Jon, not to interrupt what's going on, but you need a couple of stitches in this cut. It's pretty deep and I can't get it to stop bleeding. I am going to call Kat and have her come out to look at it."

 

"Oh no you don't, Myrna, I will be fine! Just go in the house and get some flour and press it into the cut. That will stop the bleeding. I am not leaving here tonight, and I certainly don't want Kat back out here with all that’s going on. This time you will listen to me and do as I say!"

 

She didn't say anything else, but took the pan back into the house and returned with a cup with flour in it. I bent my head down and hissed to myself as she roughly pushed the flour into the cut. She did it twice before finally telling me it had stopped bleeding. I was also told that when I changed my shirt, to give it directly to her so she could get the blood out before it had time to set in.

 

I got up and went in to change. When I came out wearing a t-shirt, I handed her the bloody shirt. The sheriff immediately tried to take it away from her, saying that since I had been crawling around the garage with it, there might be trace evidence on it. Oh well, I thought, so much for another new shirt. I thought Myrna was going to go off on him. He finally had to pull the shirt out of her hands.

 

"Myrna, I promise you if my lab guys ruin his shirt, I will personally pay to have it replaced. Now will you calm down? And if you don't mind, will you get us some coffee? I have a feeling we are going to be here for awhile. I have my mobile forensics truck on the way as well as a bomb container truck so we can get that thing away from here."

 

That seemed to mollify Myrna, because she grinned at the sheriff and went back into the house. He turned to me and started talking, and a lot of what he said was very interesting to me.

 

"Jon, do you think Dwight had anything to do with this? I never liked him and we have clashed several times over cases here in the county. It seemed like he always had his nose in my business until you got him fired. I almost jumped up and down when I heard he had been let go and was under indictment. I personally hope he gets convicted and has to spend a few years in jail. I heard that before this happened, he was planning on running for sheriff against me next year. Could you imagine the people having that little dictator as their sheriff? I will tell you that he and the new DA seem to be close friends. That one I don't understand, but as long as they don't try to run my department, I'm not gonna worry about it. Jon, what the hell’s going on? I mean two shootings, and now this? Someone’s got you in their sights for some reason. Oh, and I also have extra deputies working the Jr High Prom tonight. With what's going on, and knowing Sally was planning on going, I thought it prudent. My daughter is with her and those two are as thick as thieves."

 

I looked at him and smiled, saying I also had several people watching them. That got me a crafty look and a big smile from the sheriff. I couldn't see anything other than honesty in him. I knew he and Bill were friends, so I brought him up to date about the church, the Runt and what this was all about, as far as I knew. I went on to tell him that I had no idea why, after all these years, I was having so much trouble with them. He just looked at me and smiled. Myrna came out and gave us all coffee and sat back down in the swing with Carver. I waited to see what the sheriff would have to say.

 

"Jon, Bill and I have discussed a lot of this after the first shooting. As you know, we are friends, but what you don't know, is that he, Jeb and I were in the same outfit in the war. I'm like you; I adopted my daughter because I thought I had a lot more to offer her than living in some orphanage. I still have a flyer on the girl’s uncle that you talked about. The charges were upgraded to murder about three years ago. He went after another one of his relatives in Kentucky for some reason, and things went south and he ended up killing him. He is on the FBI's ten most wanted now. What I don't understand, like you, is why after all this time the church is pushing you so hard. Jon, there has to be something you know about, or did, that they want forgotten or buried away. I also want a copy of those photos you said you sent to Interpol. I have a lot of contacts in law enforcement around the country, and maybe somebody knows him. Don't worry, I will be discreet about it."

 

I started to say something more, but his men called him over to the forensics truck to show him something. I heard several raised voices before he came back to the porch with a puzzled look his face.

 

"Jon, they found one print on that block of clay but it doesn't match anything in our database. I have them checking Federal and NCIC as we speak. My guy says the bomb under the car was a dud too. It was two road flares taped to a magnet with a blinking LED from an alarm clock. If it could have gone off, it would have just caused a bunch of sparks under the car. I am having them dust the rest of the garage, including your grandfather’s old office. Jon, this is damned strange, I don't know as I've ever heard of anything like it. That bomb under the car, according to my man, was a professional job. He said it was all tied in like someone who knew what they were doing did it. They found bits of skin on the ends of the bare wires where whoever did it twisted them with his bare fingers so he could push them into the clay. We will send all that to the state lab for DNA analysis. Jon, if you have anymore vehicles, I want my men to check them out too."

 

I looked at Carver and he returned the look with wide eyes. I told the sheriff about the farm jeep and Carver's truck, which were kept in the caretaker’s small garage. He said he would send his bomb guys to check it out. I told him to tell them to be careful, just in case. He said he would, and got up to go to the forensics truck. I waited until he was out of earshot and turned to Carver.

 

"Do you have any enemies from your past that may be looking for you?"

 

"Not that I'm aware of, Jon. You know as well as I do, with my past, it's always possible."

 

"That's what I'm thinking. I think maybe we need to change our approach to this. Suppose it's not the church, but someone looking to get back at one of us for something in our past? I have been out of the Legion for almost six years, but you just retired a year or so ago. I think we both need to sit down and do some soul searching, and think about who would still want to do harm to either one of us. Carver, looking at it from that point of view, it makes more sense than the church being behind it. Damn, this is getting more and more complicated, and we still don't know what the church is after or why after all these years."

 

"You know Jon, you might have something there. It might be someone from one of your old cases or someone from my past, but either way, we need to start standing watches here to insure that this doesn't happen again."

 

"I have a better idea, I will call Tiny's friend and have him send a guard and a dog out to patrol the grounds around the house and buildings. He has a security license and he has good men and the dogs are attack trained. I will have it start tonight after the sheriff and his men leave."

 

I pulled out my cell and put the call in to Bert. I told him what I had in mind and what had been going on.

 

"Jon, business has been pretty slow for the last month or so. I will have uniformed men and dogs there within the hour. I will have a single team on days and second shift, and a pair working late night so they can spread out a little further. I will come out with the first team and have you sign our standard contract. Jon, I know you and Tiny are close, but I want to be up front with you. This isn't going to be cheap."

 

"Bert, I don't really care as long as you and your dogs keep my family safe. Do me a favor will you? If an intruder does sneak on the property let the dog chew on him for a little bit before his handler calls him off."

 

That got a laugh out of him and he then said this was standard operating procedure, because the dogs deserved a reward for finding someone sneaking around. I also told him the whole property was already posted about guard dogs. I also told him that according to my attorney, if they came on the property without permission, they can't sue if they get chewed up by the roving dogs I have. He got another laugh out of that one saying that it made his men's job a lot easier with the local authorities. He hung up saying he would be out in a couple of hours.

 

"Jon Morgan, this is my house too. I am paying for this one with my own money. I don't want to hear any argument about it either. You been paying for everything out of your own pocket and it's about time I helped out. You sign the contract and I will write him a check for six months’ service when you do. I want us safe too, and I am tired of watching you worry yourself sick trying to insure our safety. I don't know what's got all of this stirred up, but I am about tired of pussyfooting around these asses. It's time we took after them, and gave some of them a little payback. That's my final word on the subject, Jon."

 

I looked at Carver, almost at the same time he looked at me. We both looked at Myrna and got a glare in return. I could see she had her mind made up, so I just settled back with a sigh. I got up to get some more coffee when one of the deputies came running around the house yelling for the sheriff. He came over and talked to him a few minutes and from the look on his face I could see it wasn't good news. The deputy took off to the back again and the sheriff walked over to us with a tired look on his face. I handed him a cup of coffee and he took a sip before starting to speak.

 

"Carver, when Pete hired you, he had a background check done as his insurance company requires. I have to admit, it came back clean faster than any I had ever run. From what my deputy just told me, I don't think they are after Jon at all, but you!"

 

We all looked at Carver in shock, but it couldn't match the look of surprise on his face as he absorbed what the sheriff told him.

 

"My bomb tech said they found a device attached to your truck that he had only seen once before. Fortunately, he graduated at the top of his class in Quantico. He said it was done by a professional and it was so sophisticated, it took him ten minutes to figure out how to disarm it. It was tied into your speedometer cable and would have gone off at a preset speed as you drove. I have an explosives dog on the way, Jon. We are going to go through every building and house to make sure there isn't something else we missed. Carver, I don't know much about your background, other than you retired from the Army Special Forces. I think you need to sit down and think about who might want to do you harm and who you know that’s a professional bomb maker, cause this one is a real doozy."

 

He finished his coffee, gave Myrna a smile, and walked around the house headed toward the caretaker’s garage. Myrna got up to gather the tray and cups, and I noticed her hands were shaking and that tears were welling in her eyes. I stood up and hugged her to me whispering in her ear.

 

"Don't you worry, we are getting out of here in the morning and going where we will all be safe. I am depending on you to make sure Kat goes with us, job or not. You will have your wedding, Myrna, and we will all be there safe and sound."

 

She just hugged me back, whispering; “Thanks, Jon. I love that man and I shore don't wanna lose him before I have a chance to marry him. He means the whole world to me, along with you and Sally."

 

I looked at Carver and he was deep in thought. Jimmy was looking around with a bewildered look on his face, so I told him to go in the house and grab one of the spare rooms and relax. We would go to our meeting in the morning, and I would take him home after it was over. He looked up at me and smiled, saying thanks as he went in the house. I had turned to follow him, when a FedEx truck pulled into the driveway. He had a pouch under his arm and asked for me by name. When I signed his electronic receipt, he punched some more numbers in and had me sign it again, this time asking me for my ID. I showed it to him, asking what that was all about. He said he was also a bonded Diplomatic Courier, and that the pouch was a French Diplomatic Pouch that had to have special handling. I had to sign two more times before he was satisfied and got back in his truck. I went to the porch and opened it, and found all of the stuff Quanta had promised he would send me for Sally. Everything he had promised was there, including a new passport with her phone picture on it. She was now a citizen of France, as well as a U.S. citizen. Now this couldn't have come at a better time, and it would make a great surprise for her when she came home from her prom. I wanted to go so bad, but with what was going down, I knew I couldn't leave. I just hoped and prayed she had a good time with all her friends.

 

I went in the house, thinking about Bill again, wondering where he was and if he was ok. I just knew this was going to be a long night, and wondered if Myrna would be able to convince Kat to leave with us. I got on the phone again and chartered a jet to take us to the Virgin Islands so we could catch the hop to the island where we would be safe. I was planning on taking both my IDs, because I was taking several firearms with me. I knew with both IDs, I wouldn't get any hassle from customs when we arrived. I sat back in my chair, thinking about Kat, the island, the church and my upcoming marriage. Oh my god! Now I was thinking about marriage. Just what I needed to top off a perfectly shitty day, I thought.

 

 

 

Chapter # 30

 

 

 

When I got inside, I immediately got in touch with Pete and ran my new idea by him, asking if it could be done this evening while there was still light. He informed me it would take about an hour to do, and that he and two of his men were on their way. I got off the phone with him and called Jerry. I was told that he was out of town for the evening, and that my message would be passed on to him as soon as he called in. I sat back, thinking about everything that had happened today. Although I was worried about Carver, I had to admit I was glad to find out they weren't after me. To have harm come to anyone in my circle of friends and family, would really piss me off, but I was smart enough to realize that Carver was well able to take care of himself. It was the innocents who always got hurt in these power struggles. I had seen it first hand all over the world, as I was sure Carver had. I was wondering how Myrna was doing, convincing Kat to leave, when a deputy leading a dog came in my door. The dog hit on the safe and the bottom drawer of my desk, but other than that it was clear. Myrna came in after the deputy went out with a big smile on her face. When I looked at her, she busted out laughing. I waited until she calmed down a little to hear the reason for the mood change from what it was earlier.

 

"Oh Jon, that's quite a lady you have there. When I finally got her on the phone and explained everything, and why we were leaving early instead of next week, she only had one thing to say to you. I am supposed to pass the message on word for word. I quote; “If I leave tomorrow and lose my job, and Jon doesn’t make an honest woman out of me, I will sue him for breach of a verbal contract.” Oh God, it was so funny the way she said it!

 

“Jon, I have another question I want to ask but you don't have to answer. It has been bothering me since you got cut."

 

"Go ahead, Myrna, you know I won't lie to you."

 

"Where did you learn to use flour as a clotting agent for open cuts and wounds? I read about it when I was in college, but never heard of anyone doing it until today."

 

"When we were in the Legion, half the time we didn't have proper medical care in the field. Since most of the rebels we fought used machetes, our medic made all of us carry a large bag of flour in our field packs. He saved a lot of lives with it, and we all got in the habit of using it for almost anything, including gunshot wounds. It was the best clotting agent we had in the field, and it worked."

 

"I remember reading about it in my nursing class, but to see it used that way is almost unbelievable. Jon, who do you think is after Carver?"

 

"That one I can't answer, Myrna, but I will say, I wouldn't want to be the one who got on his bad side."

 

"Jon, I know you, and I know you had him checked out. Will you tell me what you found out? He has only told me a little, and I want to know more about his time in the service."

 

"Myrna, I have his whole file, but to be fair to him, I won't let you see it unless he gives me permission to do so. Myrna, I love you and Sally, but you have to remember that Carver and I are a lot alike. We talk about some of our past, but there's a lot of it we don't want to talk to anyone about. And sure as hell, we don't want to relive the bad parts all over again."

 

"I understand, Jon, but I love him, and if there's something I can help with I want to know about it. I am not trying to be nosey but, oh never mind, I will talk to him about it. Jon, thanks for thinking about all of us and Carver too. I guess I always took our lives here at the farm for granted. Your grandfather always had a security detail around him, so we never had to worry about strangers. I guess I hadn't realized how much stress you have been under with all of this going on. Jon, if you need help with all the extra expenses, will you ask me? I have the money, and I might as well use it for something constructive for a change. Right now, it just sits in the banks, doing nothing but making them money. Oh, and Kat said she would be here ready to go after she got off work."

 

After that last statement, she was smiling as she walked out of my office. I heard Jimmy corral her, wanting to know if there was anything to snack on. I heard Myrna laugh and tell him to come with her. I sat back, thinking about the church again. I wondered what Jubal and Farley had found out that had Jeb saying it would be good news for me. I heard the sound of a drill working and headed out the front door again. Pete and two men were just finishing up drilling two holes to put the final touches on the two massive iron gates, which were up and closed. I looked around and saw there were still two sheriff’s units at the garage, but no one was around them. I walked down to where Pete was putting away his tools, and when he saw me coming, he smiled and waved. When I got up to the gates, I saw how heavy they were. I wondered how the three of them had managed to get them mounted to the two large steel posts set on either side of my driveway.

 

"Well, Jon, they're up and working just fine. We will finish them up and run the electronics when the package comes in. I don't think it will arrive for a couple more weeks though. These came in this morning, and we were going to come out tomorrow to mount them. By doing it today, I won't have to pay any overtime."

 

"Pete, we will be gone for awhile, so any work other than this will have to wait until we get back. I'll call as soon as we do. I need you to do one more thing for me before you leave. Can you take a drive around the fence and make sure it's intact? I am going to turn a couple of dogs loose in here, and I don't want them getting out through a hole. There will be a security company watching the place while we're gone, and they will have several guard dogs roving loose."

 

"Be glad to, Jon. When we finish, I will call you and let you know. If there are any holes, which I doubt, we will patch them immediately. I have some fencing with me we can use. Jon, I heard what happened this morning. Jeb is going to spread the word to everyone who lives in your area to keep an eye out for any strangers. If there's anything I can do to help, don't hesitate to call me."

 

"Thanks, Pete, I appreciate it. Do you want a check now for the gates, or do you want to wait until the whole thing’s done?"

 

"Let’s wait till the job’s finished. I have already been paid for the fencing, so it won't hurt me to wait till I finish this up before you pay me. Oh, I have a couple of almost new doors that will fit your barn. I can put them in while you’re gone and haul off the smashed ones, if you want. You can have them, and I will only charge you for the labor for hanging them. They are just taking up room I could use in the warehouse."

 

"That would be great, Pete. I was wondering what I was going to do about the repairs. I probably shouldn't have run my truck through them, but I was a little pissed at the time."

 

He smiled and the other two broke out laughing. I heard one of them murmur to the other something about that being a helluva way to treat a nice truck. I had to smile at that one, because I agreed with him. I watched as they piled into Pete’s truck and drove to the edge of the garage. They made a u-turn and came back, driving along side the fence until they disappeared into the distance. I started back to the house when I heard a horn honking. I turned to see two cars and what looked like a dog pound truck come up to the gate and stop. I walked back and opened both gates. They drove in and parked to the side. I closed both gates and heard another beep that sounded like a sick puppy. It was Kat in her little car. I just smiled at her, opened one gate, and pointed toward the garage. When she came up to where I was standing, she motioned me to bend down and got a kiss for doing so. I almost let loose of the gate it startled me so bad.

 

"I hope Myrna passed on my message, Mr. Morgan, you are mine from now on."

 

I got a grin from her and another sick puppy beep as she drove to the garage. I did let loose of the gate in shock and it smacked me as it went swinging by. I had to run to catch it, laughing to myself at her actions. I finally got them closed again, but not before looking down the road in both directions to make sure there wasn't anyone else coming. I walked up to the security guards, who were unloading several Rotties from the pound truck.

 

"Hey, Jon, I know we never met, but I am Bert. I talked to Pete earlier and he told me he was putting up the gates. We brought three roving dogs that are trained to guard the property. Since they don't require handlers and can live on premises, the only cost to you is their food and water. If you have an outside hose, I won't have to worry about hauling water for them. Besides, it's good for me, because they hate to be locked up in the kennel all the time. They won't bother any livestock you have, and if they catch a prowler, they are trained to hold him or her until one of the men show up. When everyone is here that is part of your home, and is considered ok to be inside the gates, let one of the men know. They will call the dogs in and let them have a smell of everyone. That way, if someone is out walking around, they won't bother them. Jon, I guarantee when they are out roving your property, nobody is going to get inside without them knowing it. I will ask that you leave the garage door open for a few days until they get used to the place."

 

"That's all great, Bert, but I want to clear up a couple of things so there won't be any hard feelings later on. If my daughter, or anyone from the house, is out walking and any of the dogs act in a threatening manner toward them, I will warn you ahead of time that I will shoot them. I will pay you for their loss, but I won't stand for any one to be hurt that shouldn't be. I will also tell you that when we come back, I do want to buy three of them for my own. My daughter loves animals, and I don't want her bitten because she tried to pet any of them."

 

"I would react the same way, Jon. Now, let me fill you in a little bit more on how they are trained. There won't be a problem for someone from your home that has been introduced to them and they are trained to accept. Your daughter can play with them, and they wouldn't hurt her in any way. They would love it, and they are all trained to play fetch with a ball or a Frisbee, just like any other pet. If she is out here walking, they won't let any stranger approach her or touch her in any way unless they are dead. Jon, they are like big kids except they know they have a job to do. They take it as seriously as you do yours. The three I brought are young and worked a big building for six months before the bottom fell out of the economy. They love being outside and running free. For them to hold a trespasser, he has to be inside of the fence. They won't bother him until he hits the ground inside, then they consider him fair game. Let them have a couple of days to get used to your place, and then you won't have any worries about anyone breaking in. As for buying the three of them, why don't you wait and see for yourself how they act and then decide. I will give you an excellent price on them, but it won't be cheap. I will come twice a year and run them through their training again to keep it fresh in their minds. That's part of the service when you buy them. Now I have to get back to town, so let’s get the contract signed and you can pay me for the first month of service."

 

"Bert, I will sign the contract, but Myrna insists on paying for all the charges and wants to pre-pay for six months, if that’s ok with you."

 

"Six months in advance? Man, that’s great, Jon. I have to admit, that will be a big help to me, because I was starting to have a hard time meeting my payroll. Business has been lousy, and this will help me stay afloat until I can get a couple more contracts signed."

 

We went into the house and to my study where I read the contract. It was a standard form contract, so I signed it and made a copy for my records. Myrna brought her checkbook in and wrote out the check for him. They already knew each other which shouldn't have surprised me, but as usual it did. I think Myrna knew half the state personally. Bert explained about the roving dogs again, and how everyone who belonged here needed to meet them. Myrna said she had already been told by Tiny how it worked. He took the check and contract, shook my hand, and went back out the front door to get the shifts set up. I got up to go with him, but was told by Myrna to stay. She said that as soon as Kat got her stuff in her room she wanted to talk to me. I sat back down with a sinking feeling in my gut, wondering what this was going to be about. I had to admit to myself I was glad to see her, but I was still a little on edge about this marriage thing Myrna was so happy about. When she came in it was like she had been doing it for years. She came around the desk and plopped herself in my lap. She was kissing me so hard I thought the old chair was going to tip over, the way she was pushing me back.

 

"Well, Jon, since I'm now out of a job, I hope you took my words to heart."

 

"They fired you! Why those dirty sons a…..”

 

"Now, Jon, control yourself. I was the one who made the decision. I figured being with you was more important than a job, especially after Myrna told me what happened today after I left. How bad did you cut your head, darling? Myrna said she thought you might need a couple of stitches."

 

"Will you stop changing the subject? I want to know why you were fired. Was it because of my wanting you to leave early? If so, I will have Jerry look into it. It just doesn't sound right to me, especially since you were the head nurse. Hell, they can't get away with that. Kat, I'm sorry I cost you your job, I know how much it meant to you."

 

"Jon, will you stop? I didn't give them any choice in the matter. When I went to see the director, he informed me he didn't care how much vacation time I had. He said they couldn't let me take it because they were so short handed. I had already put in for it, so I asked him if I would be able to take it when I asked. He told me again he didn't care how much time I had coming, he had already turned the request down. I lost my temper and told him what I though of his leadership skills, and a few other things I probably shouldn't have said. Needless to say, when I brought up his professional conduct with a certain nurse, he fired me on the spot. To tell you the truth, I felt relieved when he did. Jon, are you really going to marry me like Myrna says you will when we get to your island?"

 

I leaned back and got lost in her eyes again, forgetting about the question. I don't know how long I sat looking into her eyes, before she hit me on the shoulder, snapping me out of it.

 

"Well, are you gonna answer my question or not?"

 

"Umm, what question, Kat?"

 

"Oh for God sakes Jon, will you get hold of yourself? How are we ever going to be together if you keep phasing out every time you get near me? Now listen to me! ARE YOU GOING TO MARRY ME OR NOT?"

 

I was in a daze when I answered, and I still don't remember what I said. It must have been the right thing, because she kissed me and jumped off my lap, running to the kitchen hollering for Myrna. I watched her leave, wondering what all the excitement was about. I decided to get some coffee and got up and headed for the kitchen to get some. When I came around the corner, Myrna and Kat were hugging and both of them had tears running down their cheeks. I looked at Carver, and he was so deep in thought he was oblivious to his surroundings. I got my coffee and headed back to my study to wait for Tiny to call to say when they were coming home.

 

"Hold it right there, Jon Morgan! Have a seat; we need to do some talking and a little planning before we leave tomorrow. "

 

Oh God, I thought, Myrna's in command mode. What was there to talk about, I wondered. I had already made all the plans needed so we could leave after my meeting in the morning. I sat down and waited to see why she was being so bossy this time. Kat came over and sat down beside me, holding on to my arm. She had a big smile on her face as she looked up at me. I almost spilled my coffee before I could set it down. I was fast losing my control as I looked into her eyes again. Smack! Damn that hurt, Myrna had done a Tiny attention getter on me. I gave her a dirty look, and Kat started up with that little girl laugh of hers. I looked at her, then at Myrna, starting to get pissed at being treated this way in my own house. Myrna must have seen the look in my eyes, because she immediately said she was sorry. Kat stopped in mid laugh when she saw the way I was looking at Myrna.

 

"I'm sorry, Jon, I shouldn't have done that. It's just that you can't seem to concentrate on anything around you when Kat gets close."

 

"I accept your apology, Myrna, but don't ever do it again. I am not a child and no one puts their hands on me that way. If you have something you want to talk about, let’s get it done so I can go back to my study. I am waiting for Tiny to call to give me an update on how the prom’s going. I have a lot on my mind right now. If you’re worried about traveling arrangements, I have already chartered a jet for tomorrow to take us to the Virgin Islands, where we will catch our hop to my island. When we get there, I will find out any particulars we need to know. Now, is there anything else?"

 

"No, Jon, I'm sorry."

 

I got up and headed into my study, leaving Kat sitting at the table with her mouth hanging open in shock at my tone of voice.

 

 

 

Chapter # 31

 

 

 

By the time I got back to my study, I was in a foul mood. I felt liquid running down the back of my neck and knew that Myrna's slap had opened the cut again. I sat down and leaned, back thinking about what I had done. To my surprise, I felt a little guilty about the way I had talked to Myrna. Even though she shouldn't have slapped me like a little kid, I was still wrong in the way I had handled it. I had not only shocked myself and her with the venom in my voice, but I could still see the look of shock on Kat's face as I walked out. In all the years I had lived here, this was the first time I had ever used the command tone of voice, as it was always called in the Legion. I heard a knock at the door and said, “Come in.” Carver came in, closing the door behind him. He sat down in the chair across from my desk and looked at me.

 

"Jon, what happened out there? I was thinking and not paying attention. I only caught the last part of the conversation. I do know Myrna and Kat are crying and upset about something. I've heard that tone of voice before, ‘cause I have used it myself. Jon, what happened to set you off?"

 

I explained to him what happened, even though I didn't feel I should have to explain. He listened and didn't say anything for a few minutes while he thought about what I said.

 

"Jon, I know I haven't been around you and your family for long, but I think you did the right thing in this instance. You’re right; she shouldn't have put her hands on you. I will say that even though I agree with how you handled it, you know you’re going to have to apologize to her when you get control of your temper. I didn't come in here to castigate you, but to talk about what's going on. You know, I have thought about that bomb all afternoon, and for the life of me, I can't figure out who would be after me. I haven't been on any missions for years. I spent the last six or seven years training other men at Ft. Bragg. This just doesn't make any sense to me at all. Jon, I will kill any son of a bitch who tries to harm anyone in this house. Whether you like it or not, I am in, and I mean all the way on this one. I swore I would leave my service life behind me when I retired, but with all that's happened, I am declaring myself into this. Do you have any ideas as to who, other than the church, would want to harm any of us?"

 

"I'm like you, Carver, I have no idea who would go to all the trouble to set that fake bomb up or who would even carry a grudge against any of us. Hell, I haven't even figured out why, after all this time, the church is pushing me so hard. What has me stymied is, if they are after something I either know or have, why haven't they approached me with some kind of offer. The records they were looking for, they never found and I know why. I have them locked up in a safe place they couldn't get into if they wanted to. I have always kept my more dangerous cases separate from the others, just for that reason. I do know that the two men out at the barn were the church’s, because I already know what they were looking for, and it wasn't there. Carver, to tell you the truth, I am stumped and I'm not afraid to say so. I do know that I have seen or crossed paths with the leader of these churches before somewhere. It wasn't in this country, but I have no idea of where. I have Interpol checking a couple of photos for me, but I am still in the dark as to the reason why this is all happening now."

 

We sat and threw ideas back and forth until my cell rang and it was Tiny, just checking in. He was laughing into the phone as he was talking to me. I could hear Sally in the background, giving him hell about something, but I couldn't make it out over the noise of the music. He said everything was fine and that the kiddie party was just about over. They should be home in about an hour or so. I told him about the gates and guard now on duty, and to make sure he honked when he pulled up to the gate so the guard could let him in. I told him under no circumstances was he or Sally to walk around outside because of the roving dogs. They didn't know any of us yet. He laughed and said not to worry, ‘cause he had already seen what they could do. We hung up with him laughing at Sally, saying she could talk to me when she got home. I had a relieved smile on my face when I hung up the phone. From what I had been able to understand, Sally was doing fine, but I had a feeling Tiny had overstepped his bounds and Sally was mad about something. I felt like a hundred pounds had been lifted off my shoulders, knowing she was safe and having a good time. I knew I would get the whole story, blow by blow, when she got home.

 

"I take it Sally is having a good time from that grin on your face."

 

"Yeah, but I could hear her in the background giving Tiny hell about something. I have a feeling he is gonna be in trouble when she has a talk with Myrna after she gets home. Those two are always at each other about something. Hell, he is a bigger kid than she is and they fight like cats and dogs. I stay out of it because they love each other so much. Carver, I have that meeting with Jeb in the morning, then we are out of here for at least two weeks, maybe longer. That will depend on what my two men come up with while we're gone. I may have to fly back early, but until this is over, under no circumstances will the girls come back. As long as they are on that island, I know they are safe. If I come back early, I don't want to have to worry about them. You will be there and watching over them. I am taking several weapons with me, and I will make sure you are well equipped to handle security if I have to come back."

 

"How the hell are you going to slip weapons through customs, Jon? With all the new laws and restrictions, I don't see how you will be able to accomplish that little trick."

 

"Carver, I have a U.S. Marshall’s ID, as well as an Interpol ID. According to International Law, an Interpol agent can carry any firearm over any border he chooses. That is an international agreement signed by over thirty countries. Since we will be landing in the U.S. part of the Virgin Islands, I am safe there. I own the island, which is a French Sovereign Entity. I can legally carry there too, since I have French citizenship. As of two weeks ago, Sally is also classified as a dual citizen. I received all her papers this morning, as well as her passport showing her dual status. She is also on paper as being part owner of the island we are going to. Hell, I haven't seen it yet myself, and I didn't know I owned it till I was told about it a few days ago. I also own majority share in the airline that does all the transport among all the islands down there. Carver, I own business and different stocks that I don't even know about. I have a Nigerian banker that has invested for me, and I don't think he remembers just what all I have my fingers into."

 

"Damn, Jon, you sound just like Myrna. She told me she has made millions playing around in penny stocks, and has money in twenty or more banks. I gave her my life savings two weeks ago, and from what she said, she has almost doubled the amount in that short of a time. I don't understand half of what she says, but I do know she is a lot smarter than I am. I tried to tell her I wasn't after her money, just her. She got mad at me, and wouldn't talk to me for two days. I had a nice chunk of savings that would have lasted me for the rest of my life, until she got hold of it. Now I have no idea how much I have. Jon, that woman scares the hell out of me sometimes. I asked her why she stayed here as a house keeper doing menial work. She flat out told me she was as much a part of your family as you are. Her mother worked for and was friends with your grandmother, and that she and your mother grew up together. They even went to college together, and you and Sally are the only two people she considers family.”

 

I just sat and looked at him, feeling shittier by the minute, for the way I had spoken to her. I sat looking at the photos on my computer, trying to remember where I knew that man at the restaurant from. I pictured several different scenes in my mind, the different places I had been, and all the countries the Legion had sent me to over the years. Then I thought about him in bush clothes, and it hit me where I had seen him. I almost dropped the cell in my haste to call Maurice. When my call was answered, they said he was sleeping in the back room and they would prefer not to wake him unless it was an emergency. I told them it wasn't, but it was extremely important that he call me when he woke. I gave the operator my name and told her he already had my cell number. She asked what connection I had to his office, so I gave her my ID number. She thanked me and said she would give him the message as soon as he woke up.

 

Carver was staring at me in surprise as I hung up the phone, but before I could say anything, it rang again.

 

"Jon, this is Pete. Someone cut out a whole section of fence in the back, and from what I can see, they drove a vehicle into your property. Jon, the cuts are fresh and so are the tracks. If I am right about this, I suggest you look for some company real soon. We fixed the fence, but I don't like the looks of things."

 

"Thanks, Pete, call the sheriff and let him know what you found, and then finish checking out the rest of the fence, will you?"

 

"I just talked to him, and he and one of his deputies are headed back here as we speak."

 

I thanked him and opened my bottom desk drawer, handing Carver the extra forty and a couple of mags. I also got the thirty-eight out for Kat and motioned him to follow me. When we got to the kitchen, Myrna and Kat were drinking coffee and talking. I handed her the pistol and two speed loaders, putting my finger up to my lips. I whispered to Carver to lock the back door while I headed out to the front to see where the guard was. He was just walking by the porch with his dog as I came out.

 

"We have strangers on the property. I suggest you call the roving dogs in and get me introduced to them real fast."

 

He didn't say a word, just put a whistle up to his lips and blew into it. It must have been the type only a dog could hear, because to me it didn't make a sound. Within a couple of minutes, three Rotties came from three different directions and sat down in front of him. He had me walk up and stop along with him. Then he had all the dogs sniff my outstretched hand. When all four of them had finished, he said something to them, in what sounded like German, and they all seemed to relax as if waiting for me to say something. I looked at him, and he said I should command them to guard. I did and the three roving dogs were off like a shot in different directions. I told him what Pete had said, and that he should be on alert. I told him that I was going to look around a little. I also told him that Tiny and Sally would be coming home shortly, and what kind of a car they would be in. He said he would direct them to go straight into the house, since I was the only one the dogs would allow to be outside.

 

I headed around to the back of the house, and then remembered that I didn't know how to tell if the dogs had someone down and what to do next. I went back around the house and caught a movement from the corner of my eye by the garage. It was a man with a rifle, and he was drawing a bead on the security guard. I didn't hesitate, I drew and fired all in one motion. He went down to one knee and was hit from the back by a hundred pound Rottie. When he went flat, the dog grabbed him by the back of the neck and growled. The security guard had whirled around and seemed to immediately know what happened. He let his dog go too, and instead of running to the other dog, it headed toward the other side of the house with me running and trying to catch up with him. The guard yelled at me, telling me to watch the one by the garage. He would handle his dog, unless I spoke German and knew how to call him off. I slid to a stop and he went past me with his pistol out and disappeared around the house. Carver came out and I shouted at him to go back to the kitchen and to stay inside. He closed the door and I headed toward the garage. One of the other dogs joined me as I walked up to the man on the ground. I kicked the rifle away and patted him down while the Rottie still held him by the back of his neck, growling. I took a pistol out of a shoulder holster and threw it next to the rifle. I backed off about five feet and decided to see if the dog holding him would follow hand sign and waved him away from the man. He immediately released him and stepped back, still growling.

 

"Mr., if you plan on living, I suggest you move to a sitting position very slowly. Now, who the hell are you and why are you on my property?"

 

He just looked at me and hung his head, refusing to say anything. I motioned the dog forward again, and it grabbed him by the neck in almost exactly the same place while growling. I shook my hand side to side and the dog started shaking his head and neck like I was waving. Now that’s cool, I thought, and then the man started screaming out that he would talk, just call my dog off. I motioned for the dog to back off and he did immediately. Man, I thought, I gotta buy these guys, they are great at scaring the hell out of a prisoner. I did notice, other than having some teeth indentations on his neck, the skin hadn't been broken at all. Damn, these guys were good.

 

"Now, I'll ask again, why are you here, and for what reason?"

 

"We were hired to either grab a man named Jon Morgan or his daughter."

 

"Who hired you and when?"

 

"I don't know his name, but he said if we got either one, we would be paid twenty five thousand each, providing they weren't harmed. We weren't told about dogs or security guards."

 

"What did the man who hired you look like?"

 

"He was dressed in an expensive suit and didn't give his name to us. He just told us how to get here and who we were after. Mister, he gave me the creeps just talking to him. That's all I know, I swear."

 

"All right, slowly stand up with your hands locked behind your head and walk to the porch. I have a feeling your partner will be showing up shortly."

 

By the time we got to the porch, the security officer was coming around the house with another man that looked a little worse for wear. He was bleeding around his neck and arms. He must have decided to fight the dogs, and I found out later that’s just what happened. The security guard handed me a set of cuffs. I got him cuffed, just as two cruisers pulled up to the gate with their lights on. I told the guard to watch the prisoners. He just laughed and told the dogs to guard. All four of them sat down, watching the two men like they were hoping they would move. We walked to the gates and opened them, letting the cruisers in. The sheriff climbed out immediately, and just froze when he saw the dogs.

 

"Dammit, Jon, when did you get them? Is it safe for us to get out?"

 

The security guard laughed and told the dogs something that sounded like Du Sluff to me. All four immediately lay down, still watching the two men.

 

"Come on up sheriff, they won't bother you or your deputy. Now those two are a different matter."

 

"Jon, before I make a move, I want to know what happened. When we left here today, everything was quiet and peaceful. Now it looks like an armed camp. Who are those two and why do they look like they tangled with the wrong end of a buzz saw?"

 

I took him through the whole thing, from the time I got Pete's call about the fence until he pulled up. I lowered my voice and told him what the one had told me about being hired. I also told him that I now knew who the man in the pictures was, and that he was a wanted man in five countries. I also informed him that he wasn't wanted here, as far as I knew, but if he were delivered to any of the countries’ consulates, they would immediately fly him back to their countries for immediate execution. He just cussed for a few minutes, and then had his deputy put different cuffs on the two men and load them into one of the cars that had a cage. After the security guard and I both filled out the reports and gave them to him, I reminded him their car was out on my farm somewhere. He said he would send a wrecker out tomorrow to tow it. I then told him that we were all going to be gone for a couple of weeks and that the security company and the dogs would be patrolling the property. He said he would wait till I got back to have the car impounded. I took him over to the porch and let him collect the rifle and pistol, which he put in his trunk.

 

"Jon, I'm glad you decided to get everyone away for awhile. Maybe it will settle down a little with you gone. I am going to have to take your pistol for ballistics, though. Don't worry, I will personally see that it's returned to you. Did he give you any reason why he wanted you or Sally?"

 

"I really don't think he knew. He was just hired for a job. Sheriff, I've about had my fill of this church, and I guarantee you that if there's one more incident, I will take the fight to them and they won't like the way I fight."

 

"Personally, I don't blame you there, Jon, but officially I have to warn you against any aggression toward any member of that church. Just be careful until you can get out of here tomorrow. Call me when you leave, and I will have a couple of cars discreetly follow you to the airport and see you off. I will be sure to let it be known to the right ears about your new guard dogs, and that should deter any further moves until you leave tomorrow. Man, those things are huge and look mean as hell. Jon, be careful and call me before you come back, and I will let you know what's happening. I will book these two on several charges and the one for attempted murder."

 

After he thanked me and shook my hand, they pulled out with their prisoners. Just after they left, Tiny and Sally pulled in. I stopped them at the porch and told them both to stay in the car for a few minutes. I opened the door and called for the others to come out and stand on the porch. I had Tiny and Sally get out of the car and stand with them, so that the security guard could introduce them to the dogs. They all had questions, but I didn't say a thing. I almost laughed out loud at Jimmy as he jumped about three feet in the air when one of the dogs licked his hand. After the introductions were done, I commanded the dogs to “guard” and all three roving dogs scattered in different directions again. Sally watched them with wide eyes as they disappeared. We all headed into the house but the guard held me back for a minute, saying he wanted to talk to me.

 

"Mr. Morgan, I owe you my life. I didn't know he was getting ready to shoot me, or even realize he was there. If there's ever anything I can do for you, just yell. I promise you, while your family is away, I will make sure no one bothers anything you own."

 

"You don't owe me a thing. You would have done the same for me if you had been in the same situation. Do me a favor and tell your boss he is gonna have to teach those mutts English or French, because I don't speak German. "

 

He was still laughing when I went in the front door, right into the middle of a big argument between Sally and Myrna. They were giving Tiny hell over something. Carver and Kat were just watching with big grins on their faces. I started to turn around and sneak back out, but before I could, Sally grabbed me complaining that she had been bullied all evening by Tiny. Oh God, I thought, and rolled my eyes at which Kat totally lost it. She and Carver headed for the kitchen like a couple of chickens running away, leaving me to play referee between the three of them as usual. Myrna was really giving it to Tiny and Sally was standing there watching with a big grin on her face. I started toward the kitchen and Sally asked where I was going.

 

"Young lady, you need to learn that I am not going to fight your battles, especially when Myrna is in the middle of it. I don't know what happened, and I don't think I want to. Besides, being shot at makes me thirsty and I need a coffee. I also want to have Kat look at my head because it's still bleeding."

 

With that, I beat a hasty retreat before she could say anything. I walked into the kitchen with a grin on my face and Kat looked at me and got white as a sheet. I looked behind me, thinking something had happened. She ran over to me and pulled out a chair, telling me to sit down before I fainted. I looked at her like she was nuts, then looked at Carver and he was shaking his head.

 

"Will one of you tell me what's wrong this time? Kat is shaking like a leaf, and Carver, you’re just shaking your head. What's wrong, anyway?"

 

"Jon darling, how long have you been bleeding? You’re covered in blood, all the way to your waist. Why didn't you tell me you needed medical attention? You could have fainted from blood loss. Oh God, Myrna is going to feel so guilty."

 

"Will somebody please tell me what the hell you’re talking about?"

 

When Carver brought over the big kitchen mirror and held it up in front of me, I almost did faint. I had blood running from my head and it was running down my neck in a steady stream. My whole side and back were soaked, as well as about half way down my leg. I knew when Myrna smacked me on the head it had started to trickle again, but somewhere in all the excitement, the cut must have opened all the way again. Kat ran from the room and I just looked at Carver in a dumb manner.

 

"Damn, Jon, you're a mess. You didn't get shot again, did you? All of that couldn't be from that cut from this morning. I am sorry I startled you and caused it to happen. You’re right, I should have known better than to creep up on someone like that. Do you want to tell me what this latest episode was about, and why those men were sneaking up on the house?"

 

"Carver, let’s wait until everyone settles down a little. I will tell everyone together so I don't have to keep repeating myself. Don't worry, they were after me or Sally this time, and were hired by the church. I will explain as soon as I get changed and wash some of this mess off of me."

 

"Before you do that, you better let Kat check out that cut. If it's bleeding that much, it's more serious than you thought."

 

"Bull, Carver, you know as well as I do a head wound bleeds heavier than anything but arterial wounds. It looks a lot worse than what it is."

 

"Yeah, but Kat don't know that. If you keep putting off letting her look at it, she will enlist Myrna and Sally to hold you down. Face it, Jon, you have a registered nurse, soon to be wife, to look after you now. Believe me; they are bossy as hell when it comes to someone they care about. Just sit still, and I'll get you a cup of coffee till she gets back with her little doctor’s bag."

 

 

 

Chapter # 32

 

 

 

I sat sipping my coffee, waiting for Kat to return. I was thinking about those dogs and how they had handled the prisoner. The one dog had gotten hold of the man, and with all the growling and fang showing, the skin hadn't been broken. Not even when he shook his head back and forth. I had pretty much made up my mind that when we got back, I was going to buy all three of them for my own. Of course I knew Sally would have them eating out of her hand, the way she was with animals. At least when I was gone, I wouldn't ever have to worry about anyone grabbing her if she were outside. That set my mind to thinking about Jason Boudrie, now that I had figured out who he was. The last time I had seen him was in a little African town called Kumba. He and his so called rebel fighters, had just finished wiping out a whole village when we came upon them. He was just moving his men out when we attacked them. We killed fifteen of them, and only had one of ours wounded. He had gotten away in a jeep, running for his life. When I had gotten back to camp and reported, I was told that if we ever saw him again, we were to make every effort to either kill or capture him. My Major had let me read Boudrie’s file, and I read that he had been an ex Legionnaire who had deserted and gone native. His record folder was as big as a book, and he was wanted by at least five different countries for every charge you could think of. There was a huge bounty on him from three of the countries.

 

Kat came back in with that little bag of hers, followed by Myrna. She told Myrna to fill a basin up with warm water and put a tablespoon of bleach in it. Oh no, I thought, this is gonna burn like hell if she washes my wound out with bleach water. She did and it did. I yelled when she washed my neck and the cut in my head with it. Then she gave me hell for not calling the doctor to stitch up the cut when it first happened. She asked Myrna what the white stuff was, and when Myrna told her, she looked at me in surprise for a few seconds. She hauled out a suture pack and laid it on the table, along with a pair of scissors and a can of spray of some kind. I looked up at Myrna and saw she was grinning to beat the band. Tiny and Jimmy came in and sat down, then Sally came in with her jeans on and sat down too. Man, I thought, this is turning into a three ring circus. Myrna poured coffee for everyone but Sally, who got milk and cookies. Kat said something to me, but it took a few seconds to register what she was saying.

 

"Jon, this is gonna hurt. I have a topical anesthesia, but that's only going to make it easier to sew this gash up. It's not going to deaden the pain you’re going to feel. I have to trim your hair, and then I will sew up the cut. This should have been done when it first happened. Now, while I trim this, do you want to tell us what that little scene outside was all about? Maybe if you run your mouth, it will take your mind off the pain."

 

I was going to come back with a smart retort for that one, until I saw her pick up the scissors and move toward the back of my head with them. I bit my tongue and started to fill them in on what happened outside. I froze in mid sentence when Kat said she could see glass particles in the wound and would have to flush it before she could sew it up. I was wondering how she was gonna do that, when she spread the wound open and started to wash it out with the bleach water. I bet Jeb heard me yell at his shop. The rest of them were cracking up in mirth. I told Kat it hurt like hell and to hurry up and finish. Sally came over and leaned down and whispered in my ear; "Will you quit being such a sissy about a little cut? I know it hurt worse when you got shot."

 

"Sally, that pain came later, and I didn't have someone probing my skull with a pair of scissors. So don't tell me I am a sissy, because it hurts like hell. If it hadn't been for Carver there, I wouldn't have to go through this. I am telling all of you if you keep laughing, I will get even with every one of you."

 

Well that seemed to quiet the mirth down a little, but I could still hear that little girl giggle of Kat's as she finished washing out the cut. She was trimming the excess hair around the cut in preparation for sewing it up and I went back into my story. When I finished, Kat said she was finishing the last of the six stitches and that I needed to just relax for awhile. I told her I had some phone calls to make and that they were important. She finished up and sprayed my cut again, saying she wanted to check it before we went to bed. My head came up rather quick at that statement, and I immediately noticed Sally had that smirk on her face again. I was afraid to say anything, so I quickly kissed her, grabbed some fresh coffee, and went into the study, closing the door behind me. Phew, I was thinking as I sat back in the old chair. I got back up and got the Capitol phone book off the shelf. I started making calls to five of the Embassies I knew would appreciate the news about Boudrie. I figured if he was being hunted and got word of it, he would go to ground and leave me and mine alone for awhile. I also knew that if he were located, he would be grabbed immediately and flown back to whichever country could get him. There he would be immediately executed, probably by a firing squad. I knew from past experience, the nations I was calling had long memories, and even longer jail sentences. Just the thought brought a smile to my face as I dialed the number of the last one. To my surprise, I was immediately put through to the senior attaché.

 

"May I inquire as to why you wish to speak to our security chief, Sir?" I went on to tell him who I was, and that I had worked in his country several years ago. He immediately switched to fluent French, and we continued our conversation. I told him what I knew about Boudrie, and the last place I had seen him. He in return told me his security chief had been killed just last night in the same area where I had seen Mr. Boudrie. I inquired if his country still was looking for him, and was told in return they would be very glad to question him about several instances that were still unsolved. I knew immediately that he was a dead man if they found him. I went on to describe Dwight and the other man I had seen in his company, and was soundly thanked for my information. I was also told if I ran across any further information, I was to call the Embassy and ask for him, no matter the time of day or night. I was thanked again before he hung up the phone. I put his personal cell number in my cell, and sat back with a big smile on my face, thinking about my previous conversation. I knew, without a doubt, if the runt was spotted by any of his men, he would be snatched. He would probably be tortured until he didn't have any more information, and then dumped in the river. Little did I know that I had just set into motion a chain of events that would cost a couple of senators, as well as several high ranking military officers, their jobs. This was something I wouldn't know about until a year or so in the future.

 

The only thing on my mind now was my upcoming nuptials. I sat back and tried to remember what I had told Kat in my dazed state that would make her so happy. For the life of me, I could not remember what I had said, and it really bugged me. She was right, I was going to have to quit phasing out every time she got near me. I was still wondering to myself how the hell I was supposed to accomplish that, when there was a knock at the door. I said come in and Carver did, but he looked like he had been beat up, he was so tired looking. He sat down and stretched out his legs and looked at me before he started speaking.

 

"First of all, I want to thank you. Now I remember how a recruit feels the first time he gets his ass chewed by a DI."

 

I looked at him for a moment and started chuckling at the absurdity of his words. He just grinned and went on with what he was saying to my snickers.

 

"I have been informed I have to sleep on the couch tonight, because according to Myrna, I caused her little boy to get hurt by my interference. That I understood, and she is right. I should have let you know I was behind you instead of doing what I did. Jon, I know you had me checked out and so does Myrna. She asked me to tell her about my past and some of the things I have been involved in. How the hell can I do that without breaking the oath I took? Most of what I did was top secret, and I am not allowed to talk about it to anyone. You know what I'm talking about, I am sure you took the same oath for your country. Jon, what can I do or tell her without hurting her feelings? I love her and I don't want her to think I am holding things back from her or lying to her. If you have any ideas, I am open to suggestions."

 

I didn't say anything, just sat for a few minutes thinking about what he said. I knew this was tearing him apart, because I had already thought about how I would handle it if Kat ever asked me. I was a little different than Carver, because I knew she could never get her hands on my records. They were buried in the vaults at Interpol, and Maurice had already sanitized them for me. I had a thought and reached into my desk. I pulled out the file Maurice had sent, handing it to Carver.

 

"That's the file Interpol sent to me about you. I'm not sure about what's in there, since I quit reading it when I got to the part that said you had a top secret classification. Look through it, and see if there's anything in there you don’t want anyone to know about. If there is, there's a paper shredder in the corner. The rest of it, if you deem ok for someone to know, keep it and give it to her to read. Carver, that's the only suggestion I can offer. I will suggest that if you have a friend in the records department, you have him go through your jacket and sanitize it. I had it done to mine, and it was the best move I ever made. Now the only people that know things about me are the ones who were there, and they won't talk about it any more than I would."

 

"You know, I never thought of that, Jon. That's one of the sneakiest ideas I have ever heard of, and a damn good one. I have a couple of close friends that can do it for me without any of the brass knowing it's been done. I think later tonight while I am supposed to be sleeping on the couch, I will make a couple of calls."

 

I was snickering again at his mention of the couch, while he was looking through the files he was holding. I watched as he pulled two or three sheets out of the folder, and put them through the shredder before sitting back down and looking at me. I wondered what he was going to say about me knowing his past history, even if I hadn't read any of the folder, other than the first couple of pages.

 

"Jon, how did Interpol get some of the information in this file? Some of this stuff is classified top secret, eyes only. Man, if the brass knew that they had some of this stuff, the fur would fly. I do admire them though, ‘cause it was right on the money and well documented. How much of this file did you read, Jon?"

 

"I won't lie about it, Carver, I read to the point where it said you had top secret clearance and quit. That answered any question I had in my mind about you being here, and I knew you weren't a plant from the church."

 

"I appreciate your vote of confidence, Jon. To ease your mind, I did already know about the church, but never connected the dots until you said their whole name. I was on a mission in Columbia where we blew up a warehouse they owned that was full of small arms and ammo. That's the only contact I ever had with them, and that was ten years ago. If they have their fingers in pockets that deep, maybe I was recognized from my picture. That's why the bomb on my truck. It does make sense, if you think about it that way, but hell, that was ten years ago and the mission was a complete success. We were in and out in less than three hours."

 

"Carver, I told you I recognized the man who is the head of that church, didn't I?

 

"Yeah, but what does that have to do with me after ten years?"

 

"That man was a deserter from my sister unit in Africa. He went native on us and became a killer. He had no guilt about who he killed, as long as he got paid for it. He is the type of person that would hold a grudge for twenty years, if he lost money, and from what you said, you cost him a pile of it. I have an old comrade in Interpol that says all of their churches in six different countries have been a frenzy of activity for the last week or so. Something big is coming down, and I have a feeling we both are being forced to play a role in what's happening. I don't know and can't figure out what they want from me or you, but I still think after today’s fiasco, we will be hearing from them and soon. That's why I want everyone out of harm’s way, Carver. It's gonna get down and dirty, and that I can almost guarantee. I don't want any of the women harmed or used in any way because they have a crow to pick with one of us. I think I know what they're after, or at least I have a glimmer of an idea. I need to check a couple of things in the morning, after my meeting with Jeb, and before we pull out of here tomorrow. I suggest you get a good night’s sleep on your couch, because we are going to have to be alert tomorrow until we get aboard that plane and out of this country."

 

I got up and he gave me the finger with a grin on his face. We both went out the studio door and found three women, who were obviously listening at the door because when I opened it, they all fell inside my office. I looked at Carver and he grinned, and we both, as if we were on the same track, stepped over them. He headed toward the kitchen, and I headed for my room to take a shower and go to bed. After all, it was past eleven, and I was tired and had a mild headache. I fell asleep almost as soon as my head touched the pillow.

 

When I woke the next morning, it was just under five am. I had a warm body pressed up against my back. I slowly rolled over and got my first glimpse of the woman I loved without make up. She was still beautiful and looked like a little girl laying there with her hair loose and spread out over her pillow. I softly kissed her on the forehead and just lay there looking at her, knowing my life with her was going to be very interesting. To my surprise, she had a pair of Sally's PJs on. They were big and loose except in the chest area. I really wanted to pull the sheet down and see just how many buttons were still buttoned, but I knew if I did, I would never accomplish anything today. I decided to do the gentlemanly thing and slip out of bed to get a shower and shave. She was still sleeping when I came back. I dug the suitcase out of my closet to get some more of the new shirts and jeans that had been packed away so long. I also wanted to pack my bigger suitcase and have it ready to go when I got home from my meeting, to save time.

 

I set the smaller suitcase on the big dresser and then dug my big one out. I packed my personal things in it, then started transferring the jeans and shirts to it from the smaller one. I picked up a stack of jeans, and as I lifted them up, a ring of keys fell out and hit the floor. I immediately looked over at Kat to see if it woke her, but she hadn't moved. I put the jeans in the bigger case and picked up the ring of keys. I looked at them with a frown, trying to remember if they were mine from somewhere a long time ago. Then it hit me, what I was holding. I looked at several of them and recognized them for what they were. Every one of the thirty keys was for a safe deposit box. A couple of the keys had bank names on them, but neither one of them were from this country. The rest just had a series of numbers stamped into the tops. Now I knew why after all these years the church was after me. I held the church’s main funding in my hands. How I had gotten them was still a mystery to me, but I would almost be willing to bet the keys I was holding were worth billions to them, and one man. No wonder he had come out of hiding looking for me. It had to be a case of simple deduction, but why had it taken so long?

 

I didn't give it any more thought, just went out the and door headed to my office to make some calls. The excitement I was feeling was getting me more fired up than my usual cup of morning coffee. When I got to the office, I immediately got on the phone and called Maurice. This time he answered the phone personally, and was excited, saying he had been trying to reach me since last night. I didn't give him a chance, just said two words. He about went off on me, wanting to know how I had figured it out. He said when he had identified the picture, he had told his boss and he in turn immediately put him on the terror list sent to every country. He said the pictures I had taken were the first they had seen since he disappeared. It turns out he had been arrested early this morning in French Guiana by an alert policeman in customs. He had tried to run, but was shot and in serious condition. They had immediately put agents on his hospital door, and were questioning him as we were speaking. He wasn't expected to live, and he, of all people, had asked for a priest to give him last rites. I took a couple of deep breaths to calm myself down before I spoke again.

 

"Maurice, my friend, I have more good news. I am holding the reason why they are after me after all this time. Tell me something, was there a little short man with him by the name of Dwight?"

 

"Yes, I think that was one of the men’s names. There were four arrested all together. Why do you ask, my friend?"

 

I went on to tell him that Dwight was out on bail here and was not supposed to leave the state, and that the American Consulate would be very interested in him if they were to be tipped off. Maurice told me he was traveling with a Bolivian passport. I told him it was a fake and that he was under indictment here. I suggested that he should call the Consulate and give them the information so he could be shipped back here for immediate incarceration. I also told him to check the Legion files on all the men, and I would almost be willing to bet they were deserters from his old outfit. He got excited again and told me to hold on a second while he called his boss. I got put on hold, but had a grin from ear to ear at the news. Carver came in, giving me a cup of coffee, and looking puzzled at my grin this early in the morning. I threw the ring of keys at him and he looked at them with a puzzled look on his face. I covered the receiver and said to him; "You holding over a billion dollars in your hand. That's what the church was after."

 

If you could wear your eyebrows on top of your forehead, Carver would be. That's how high they went when he realized what I was saying. He just flopped in the chair with a shocked look on his face, staring at the ring of keys. Then he started grinning at me, almost as wide as the grin on my face. When Maurice came back on the line, he was out of breath.

 

"Jon, he just died. I am having the records pulled on the others."

 

"Maurice, tell your boss to have his body x-rayed with an agent present. I think they will be surprised at what they will find. Also, have the others x-rayed. I will call you later with more information."

 

"Ok, Jon. I am happy we finally caught that deserter and child killer. My boss is about dancing on his desk, he is so happy. They are going to ship his body back here to our morgue immediately for positive identification. Then he will be cremated and his ashes poured in some farmer’s outhouse, as per tradition for deserters. I have to go for now, but you be sure and call, my friend. Oh, the boss said to tell you that you have done an excellent job for a transplanted Frenchman."

 

"Tell you boss I said to go to hell, Maurice."

 

"Ah, but Jon, we have already been there and they kicked us out, remember?"

 

He hung up laughing and I sat back. Carver threw the keys back at me with a question in his eyes. I told him all I knew up to that point, and by the time I was finished, he was grinning almost as much as I had when I got the news from Maurice.

 

"Does this mean we can stay home instead of running to the island and hiding?"

 

"Oh no you don't, Carver! Myrna and Kat would kill us both if we didn't go this morning like I promised. What's wrong, getting cold feet?"

 

"If you weren't the fair haired little boy of my wife to be, I would take you outside and teach you some manners."

 

We looked at each other and totally lost it. We were laughing and almost rolling on the floor, when Myrna walked in, glaring at both of us. I got up walked over to her, grabbed her around the waist and kissed her, spinning us around in circles.

 

"Put me down, Jon Morgan, have you lost your mind?"

 

"Yep, and so have you, Mrs. Pierce."

 

She looked at Carver, then at me, and started giggling. I was so shocked I quit grinning. Myrna giggling? She looked at me with tears in her eyes, and gave me a hug that almost broke my back. Me, being me, I had to start something, so I did, but it backfired big time.

 

"Well, Myrna, did Carver sleep on the couch last night?” I asked with a grin.

 

Her answer shocked me so much, I just sat with my mouth hanging open.

 

"Yes he did, he was cut off until we got married. After all, he is an old man and should keep something in reserve for his honeymoon."

 

Carver fell off of his chair and my chin hit the desk.

 

 

 

Chapter # 33

 

 

 

Well that started the morning out right, I thought, as I followed Myrna and Carver to the kitchen. We were all sitting and laughing when Kat came in, still in Sally's pajamas. I noticed she had the top buttoned up almost all the way, although it was a little tight. She looked good enough to kiss, which I promptly did.

 

"Kat, I have a pair of pajamas that you could have borrowed that wouldn't have been so binding for you to sleep in."

 

Boy, was that a mistake.

 

"Well, if a certain person had awakened me the way I planned instead of being gone when I woke up, I would have been in a better mood this morning. By the way, why are you three so happy this morning? I would think with all that's happened you would be a little more concerned."

 

Before I could answer, Sally came in looking like she was sleepwalking and sat down, asking for tea. I got up and went to my desk and got the pouch I had gotten yesterday. I walked back in, sat down, and slid it across the counter to her. She looked at me in a quizzical way as she opened it. It took her a few minutes to realize what she had in her hands. When she saw the passport, she ran around the table hugging me and kissing me. I hugged her back and the others were exchanging glances, trying to figure out what was going on.

 

"Thanks, Dad, I was worried I wouldn't be able to go with you guys today. Now no one can tell me what to do, ‘cause like you said, I have the full protection of your country plus my own. Ok, let me get dressed and I'm ready to go."

 

"Slow down, young lady, we still have a few hours before we have to worry about that. I need to bring you all up to date on what's happened since we went to bed last night. I'm sure this is news you will all want to hear."

 

I sat and did just that, and when I was finished, Myrna and Kat were both smiling, but Sally looked like she had missed something. Then I remembered, she hadn't been told about anything that happened yesterday. She had been gone all afternoon and evening. I told her what had happened, and why everyone was so happy about it. She was smiling like the rest when I finished.

 

"Just to clear things up a little here, girls, we still have to be on guard. I don't know what the church’s reaction to the news is going to be, but you can bet they will want to do something. Just because their leader is dead, it doesn't mean they will drop the whole thing. I still want to get that girl away from them, and I hope her uncle tries to interfere. He is wanted for murder, and I would love nothing better than to see him behind bars for the rest of his life. I don't want any of you leaving the house until it's time to leave for the airport. Also, I am going to make a few changes in our travel plans, since we are all legal to leave. I still have that meeting with Jeb to go to this morning. By the way, has anyone seen Jimmy?"

 

"I think he's still sleeping, Dad. His snoring kept me awake half the night. I have never heard anyone make that kind of noise before. I'll go wake him up and tell him Myrna's fixing breakfast. He will be here so quick I’ll bet he beats me down the steps."

 

We all got a big laugh out of that one, and Sally left to wake him. She came back in and sat down, and it wasn't two minutes later that Jimmy arrived in the kitchen, looking disappointed that breakfast really wasn't ready. Myrna was chuckling at him as she started cooking. He had hot tea like Kat and Sally, and several times I noticed him sniffing the air, smelling the food cooking. I noticed Carver watching him also, and he had a big grin on his face as he did. Jimmy got the first plate. It was piled high with all the food she had stacked on it. It wasn't just a plate, I saw in surprise, but one of her bigger platters that she used to put meat on. When we all had our plates and dug in, I was still watching him eat in shock. I had been all over the world and had gone hungry more times than I cared to think about. To see him put it away, if I didn't know better, I would guess he hadn't eaten in over a week. I looked around, and Kat had her fork halfway to her mouth, watching him in shock. The other three were watching him just as intently as I was. I waited to see how long it would take him to notice. It was when he was using his toast to wipe up his plate, that he noticed that we were all watching him in shock. I don't think any of us had eaten more than a few bites, we were so amazed. He looked around at all of us and grinned.

 

"What, haven't you ever seen anyone hungry before?"

 

Sally had just taken a sip of her milk and snorted it out her nose when she started laughing and choking. Laughter erupted all around the table as we went back to eating. From that point on, we totally ignored him as we ate our cold food. The final icing on the cake was when he asked Myrna if there were any more eggs. She went totally off on him, and it brought us all to tears, we were laughing so hard. When Kat, Sally, and I got up laughing and headed for the steps, Myrna was still giving him hell and Carver was choking on his coffee. I found out later that Myrna relented and fixed him another platter of food, and he ate every bite. I made it to my room after being soundly kissed and thanked by my daughter.

 

Kat was another problem altogether, because she brought her clothes into my room and shut the door. She was grinning at me as she took her pajamas off headed for the shower. I had just gotten myself under control when she called out, asking me if I would wash her back. I never undressed so fast in my life, even considering the time I had jumped into an anthill when shots were fired at us on patrol. Needless to say, I got a second shower that morning, and I had a smile on my face as I redressed to go to my meeting.

 

I went back down the steps yelling for Jimmy, saying it was time to go. I was trying to remember when I had ever felt so happy. Although I tried, I couldn't bring to mind anything like I felt at that moment. I went into my study and got my other pistol and shoulder holster out, along with my backup. I got everything on, and had just put my ID in my pocket, when my cell rang. I quickly grabbed it off the charger, and it was Jerry on the other end.

 

"Jon, I just got back from identifying Bill's body at the DC morgue. He was shot execution style last night sometime in his hotel room."

 

I went to sit down and missed the chair. I ended up on the floor in shock from the news. At first a wave of anger swept across my mind, then sorrow because I had lost someone that I cared for very much without ever having realized it. He had been my right arm since he had come to my rescue when I had gotten Sally.

 

"Jerry, what do you know?” I asked in a voice I didn't recognize as mine.

 

"Not much at this time, but I have already put two of my best on the case. Jon, where are the Runt and his men?"

 

I quickly brought him up to date, knowing that there was no way he could have been personally involved. Then I had a sudden thought and asked Jerry to have his people check on the girl’s uncle. I wanted to know if there was any news on him from the FBI, since he was on their list. We chitchatted about nothing, and he said he would let me know about the arrangements, as soon as he could set something up. I thanked him, asking that he not let anyone else know until I could tell my own family. He said he would call me later with an update. I thanked him and hung up the phone, pulling myself up off the floor. I sat down in my chair and felt the tears come. I didn't try to fight it and I knew I would be shedding more when I told Myrna and Sally. I did know I was going to get the person responsible, if it took me the rest of my life. He would suffer, oh how he would suffer, while he was begging for me to kill him. It took me awhile to pull myself together enough to start thinking coherently again. I decided I would wait until the meeting was over to tell Myrna and Sally, because if I told them now, I wouldn't be able to go because of their grief. I also wanted to be there for both of them without having to rush off. I headed to the front door and Jimmy was waiting on me. He must have seen something in my face, because his smile disappeared and he followed me outside in silence. The security officer was the same one from yesterday, and he just waved, saying he would open the gate for me. I just nodded and went directly to the car. I quickly looked under it and under the hood, and when I didn't see anything, backed it out of the garage. When we went out of the gate, my anger was coming back again and my inner wolf was starting to growl.

 

When we pulled up at Jeb's, the truck I had seen before was there, so I went in with Jimmy at my heels. The guy inside just waved toward the back, and I nodded as I headed toward Jeb's office. When we went in, Jubal and Farley were all smiles until they saw my face. I turned to Jimmy and told him to put his stuff on the table.

 

"Show Jubal and Farley how to set the cameras up and the recorders. Jeb, lets step outside a minute, I need to talk to you privately."

 

He looked at me and got up, and we went outside the office. I pulled the door closed and looked at him a minute before I spoke.

 

"Jeb, Bill’s dead. They found him late last night in his hotel room. He had been executed. Jerry has his best men working on it, but I think it has to do with the church."

 

He looked at me and fell back against the wall like I had struck him. When I saw his eyes, I knew there was more to him than I could ever imagine. He had the look I had seen on a hundred battlefields, the look of death. He took a couple of deep breaths before he spoke.

 

"Jon, so far I have kept clear of whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish, but no more. I want to know anything and everything you find out, from this point on. I have contacts your lawyer friend can't even imagine. I will find out who did this, and then he will pay. From this point, on I don't care what it costs or what you need. You call me and you will have it, and I do mean anything. Bill was more than a friend to me. He was my daughter’s godfather and my business partner. He and I, as well as the sheriff, were the only ones left out of our old outfit. Now that he is gone, I guarantee you we will find out who did it. This damned church just stepped into something they will regret the rest of their lives. I will turn Jubal and Farley loose on them. Whatever you do, don't come near them for at least a month, and don't ask any more questions about the church. Leave it to me and my friends, from this point on. We will rescue your young lady, and I will make sure she comes directly to you when we do. For the rest of it, just stay away from this point on. Don't look at me like that, we won't harm innocents, but I am going to destroy this church if it takes me the rest of my life. I owe it to Bill and to his memory. I know what he was doing, and I warned him how dangerous it could be, but as usual he wouldn't listen. Listen to me Jon! Take your family to your island and stay there for awhile. I will contact you when the time is right. You can come back and it will all be over, and you can return that little girl to her mother in Vermont. Yes, I know where she's at, because she is my wife's cousin. We have been watching you for years, and helped when we could, but always out of sight. This time we are going to work out in the open. We know more about this church than you ever will, and we will use it to our advantage."

 

I just looked at him in surprise and was totally speechless. I didn't know what to say or even what I wanted to say about anything. I knew if I opened my mouth, he would just tell me to butt out, even though it was my case from the beginning. I didn't know what I was feeling or if I even wanted to at this point, so I just nodded my head.

 

"Jon, my family settled this country and I have relatives from one coast to the other. We number in the thousands, and we all come from mountain people. I know since you weren't raised here, that concept is hard for you to understand, but believe me, we are all close and still work together if it's needed. We have several hundred of our own people that are members of this church, and have wanted to take it down for years. Your snooping, and the fact that you're the only one who has ever gotten someone out, has helped our side immensely. It has separated the internal membership, and now there are two distinct groups battling for control. When it first started, it was almost like the Amish, but outsiders corrupted the whole thing. Now maybe we can help the ones who want it to be like the old ways to restart it. They will run it like it should be run, with no secrets and any outsider is welcome. It looks like your friend is done so why don't you take him and go home to your family. Bob has your rifle out front and you can pick it up on your way out. Jon, don't worry, we will rescue your girl and several hundred others who have been held against their will."

 

"Maybe you’re right, Jeb, but it galls me that I am being excluded from it all. I still haven't told Myrna or Sally about Bill, so I would appreciate it if you would let me do it. Jeb, if you get Michelle’s uncle, he is mine. I have a feeling he might have killed Bill, and I want him bad. I am going to make him suffer like he never has before. I don't give a damn about what the law thinks, he is mine. Get it straight, he is already a dead man, I just want to be the one who makes sure he knows it for hours."

 

He just looked at me and nodded his head, and then we went back into the office. Jimmy said they knew all that he knew about setting the cameras and recorders up, so we could go if I was ready. I just nodded my head and went out the door with Jimmy following me. Bob was waiting, and handed me a custom aluminum case as I went out the door. We got back into the Olds, and I headed back into Arlington to take Jimmy home like I had promised. We chatted a little, but he seemed to sense I didn't feel like talking. It was a quiet ride to his house. When we got there he opened the door and looked at me for a second.

 

"Jon, I don't know what's going on, but if you need me you have my numbers. I know something’s happened and you don't want to talk about it, but if you need someone to talk to, remember I am here and I have a good head on my shoulders."

 

I thanked him sincerely and headed back to the house to impart the news. It was going to put a big damper on an otherwise happy occasion. I knew Myrna, and I also knew she would refuse to go anywhere until after Bill's funeral. Personally, I felt the same way and hoped that Kat would understand. Knowing her, I would bet she would understand and be there for Sally and myself. Well, I was thinking, the morning had started out well but it had sure gone to the dogs quick. I had done death notifications before, because all NCOs were required to do it, but never to people I loved as much as I loved those two. I was closer to Myrna than I had been to my own grandfather, and this was going to hurt a lot for me and them. I felt the tears coming as I parked the car in the garage, and slowly walked toward the house. When I stepped up on the porch, tears were running down my cheeks. Not for me, but for the ones whom I had to tell that a friend close to them was gone, and for no damned other reason than greed and power. There was one bright spot in all of this, I was thinking, there wouldn't be a happy ending for the one who ordered it. He was no longer around to gloat about how powerful he was. I took a deep breath, opened the door, and headed toward the voices I could hear talking and laughing in the kitchen.

 

 

 

Chapter # 34

 

 

 

While I walked toward the kitchen and the happy voices I could clearly hear, I was thinking how I was going to tell the two most important people in my life that their best friend had died while trying to help me. When I rounded the corner, the girls were sitting together, with Sally in the middle, laughing at something I hadn't heard. Sally saw me come in and immediately seemed to know there was something wrong.

 

"Dad, what's wrong? Why do you have tears running down your cheeks? Dad, talk to me, you're scaring me!"

 

"Calm down, Sally. Myrna, Sally, I have some bad news I need to tell you. I don't know how to tell you gently because I never learned how to break bad news to people I love."

 

They were all staring at me now and I took a deep breath.

 

"Myrna, Sally, I need to tell you that Bill is dead. Jerry called me and said they found him in his hotel room this morning. I don't know for sure, but I think the church might have had something to do with it."

 

"Jon, how did that sweet old man die?"

 

"Myrna, he was executed by someone, but the police don't know who."

 

I watched her face as the news set in. I walked around the table and she was in my arms, sobbing on my shoulder. Within seconds, Sally joined her and I was holding two sobbing women. I was at a total loss as to what to do now. Dammit, all my training from years ago hadn’t shown me how to handle this. Kat was looking at them with wide eyes and had tears in her eyes too. I looked over at Carver and he just seemed shocked. As soon as I caught his eye, he got up and came over, taking Myrna in his arms, just holding her and letting her cry. I sat down with Sally in my lap and just held her, hoping I could figure out some way to ease the hurt I knew she was feeling. Here she was, only thirteen going on fourteen, and had seen more death in the last few months than most people saw in a lifetime. I had killed her mother, and now Bill, the only other person she knew outside the family, was gone. No wonder she was sobbing so hard, I thought as I held her.

 

"Jon, who's handling the arrangements for his body and the funeral?"

 

"Myrna, Jerry said he was going to set it all up and would call me later today to fill me in."

 

"Jon, do you think this church had anything to do with it?"

 

"I don't know for sure, Myrna, but he was checking into them on the sly, trying to help me get ready to go after them."

 

As she was talking, Myrna twisted out of Carver's arms, and came over to where I was sitting and sat down across from me. She motioned Kat to come over beside her. When she sat down, I knew she was going to give me a lecture. I sat and waited to see what she was going to say, and it sure wasn't what I expected.

 

"Jon, when you came here to live, I could hardly stand to be around you. I thought you were stuck up and snooty towards me and your grandfather. Do you know we spent many nights, right at this table, talking about you? I told him if you kept treating me like I was your hired help, instead of a member of the family, I would quit working for him. He kept telling me to wait, to give you time to adjust to living in this country, because you never knew you had a family. He told me all he had found out about you in the years he looked for you. I spent a lot of time reading everything I could about the French Foreign Legion, to try to understand. I even rented all the movies about them, so I could watch and try to understand you a little better. He used to sit here and watch them with me, telling me what was real and which were Hollywood Scenes. Some of the things I read made me finally realize some of the hell that you must have gone through, and you were still so young. Tiny told me a lot about your time as a Legionnaire also, and he told me about what they called training. It took me several years, before you even arrived, to realize you were a trained killer, or that's what I thought you were. When you came home with that sweet thing in your arms, I just about fainted from shock. I never would have believed you had an ounce of feeling in you. When I saw how much you loved her and how, right before my eyes, you changed from a cold and distant person to a loving father almost overnight."

 

She got up and got us all coffee, kissing Carver on the top of his head before she sat down again. I noticed Sally had stopped crying and was holding me, listening to Myrna as closely as I was. This was a side of Myrna that I had never seen before, and I wanted to know why she had changed her mind about me. I couldn't remember ever acting that badly. She picked up where she had left off, as soon as she was seated. Kat was watching me and Myrna, and seemed fascinated by what she was saying, and Carver seemed to be also.

 

"The first time I saw you watching her and that horse, and saw all the pictures you took and the money you spent on her, it seemed to me that you were trying to give her something you lacked as you grew up. Love and affection was what she needed, and you spent hours lavishing it on her to make sure she was happy. I loved her like she was my own, almost as soon as I laid eyes on her. She was so helpless and afraid to leave your side the first few weeks she was here. It seemed like she would never pull out of the shell she had covered herself with. I watched her change and gain something she didn't have until you showed it to her. She gained her pride and confidence because of the open and clear love you showed her. When you got shot at the barn, I almost died because I realized you had become like a son to me also. I was still never sure about your feelings toward me, until you said what you did in the hospital. When we came home, I cried for two days because I was so ashamed of the way I had treated you for all those years. I realized I had never given you a way or even an opening to show or tell me how you felt about me. Carver and I had a long talk last night, and it made me realize that you and Sally, and now Kat are my family. The tears and hurt in your eyes, when you told us about Bill, tore me up worse than the news about his death. Only a man who loved someone deeply would have that hurt in his eyes because he dreaded giving news that would hurt the ones he loved most. Jon, we have to attend the funeral before we leave, and I think Carver will agree with me that we can wait for a few more days before he makes an honest woman out of me. The big question now is, what are you and Kat going to do? Jon, I know I'm sounding bossy again, but if you let her slip through your fingers, it will be the biggest mistake of your life. She loves you as much as I love Carver."

 

When she finished, she got up and filled our cups again. I looked at Kat and her eyes were moist, and I knew deep inside there was no way I would ever let this beautiful childlike woman slip through my fingers.

 

"Dad, I agree with Myrna on this. I love you with all my being and always will, but you need Kat as much as she needs you. I want my father happy and she is the one who seems to make you that way. Besides, I also want some brothers and sisters to grow up with, and what girl in her right mind would not want two sets of loving parents like I will have soon. You and Myrna have been there anytime I needed you, and I am proud of all the kids you have helped over the years. I want you to keep helping them like you've helped me. We have what a lot of kids I know will never have, each other, and I don't think that will ever change. I will always do my very best to make you proud of me, and I will even quit bossing you around if you marry Kat like you promised her."

 

I looked at Sally and thought about whole situation, and even with my thick head, I knew she was right. I looked over at Kat, and all I could see was her love for me and how beautiful she was. I hugged Sally and kissed her, and got hugged and kissed back. For the first time in weeks, I felt at peace with myself.

 

"I love you, Dad,” she said as she hugged me.

 

"I love you too, even if sometimes I don't show it. You are growing up and it scares me that you are growing up so fast."

 

I got up and set her on the chair, and walked around the table to where Kat was sitting. I kissed her, and almost lost it again when I felt her lips against mine. I fought to keep my senses about me as I stepped back and looked at her. I went down on one knee in front of her, and loudly said so all could hear me, "Kat, will you consent to marry me and become my wife in name as well as my heart?"

 

She looked at me in total shock and started crying and shouting, “Yes, yes, I will.” She grabbed me and kissed me, and I wasn't able to control my emotions this time. I felt like I was being drawn into a black pit that I would never be able to get out of. I don't know how long this went on, but again, my daughter had a smart comment. She was giggling so hard, it sounded like she was stuttering as she said; "Will you two get a room, that's disgusting."

 

Kat snorted in my mouth, and everyone broke out in laughter. I looked at her, or I should say I glared at her, when I could get my eyes uncrossed. Once again I got the tongue from Sally, and this time I went after her. She went running, with me right behind her. She was screaming and laughing until I caught her at the steps. I put her over my knee and smacked her butt, but before I could get two swings in, we were both on the floor laughing hysterically. She tried to stick her tongue out at me again, but ended up spitting on herself, she was laughing so hard. I backed up and told her that was disgusting. She jumped on me, hugging me and laughing her head off. We finally got ourselves under control, or at least I did, but Sally was still snickering as we walked back to the kitchen. She was holding my arm and almost dancing, she was so happy. Then it hit me, I hadn't shown her any personal attention in a long time, and immediately felt ashamed of myself. We used to wrestle around outside with Sparky pushing me off her whenever I got on top tickling her. We always found time to go out to eat and to a movie every week. I was still trying to remember how long it had been since we had been out together, when I was tackled by a little redhead wanting to know if she was going to have to wrestle me to get me to talk to her. I stuttered a couple of times before I was finally able to answer her, much to Sally's delight. She was still snickering when we finally got settled back at the table. Then, of course, Myrna started on me, much to Carver's delight. He was grinning and trying to keep from laughing out loud, if the red face was any sign.

 

"Jon Morgan, that's the first time in months I have heard laughter in this house. From now on, we leave our troubles at the front door.  That includes Kat, because she's now a part of this household. We need to start being a family again, and doing things together like we used to. And another thing, Jon, from now on, I am paying half of any expenses, including household and other incidentals. I have been living here all these years and haven't had to pay a cent, and it's about time I started. Lord knows I have enough money to have some fun with, and so does my future husband, since he let me take over his finances."

 

This time it was my turn to laugh, as Carver got a mortified look on his face when she said that. I did and caught hell immediately from Myrna, because I spent too much money on my cases while I ran around in rags with my butt hanging out of my jeans. Now I thought this was a bit of an overstatement, but Kat and Sally lost it when I got red. I thought all the castigation was over, until Kat dropped the other shoe.

 

"By the way, Jon, what are we going to do about my house and things? You have all this beautiful antique furniture, and my more modern stuff just wouldn't fit in here. I don't want to sell it, but we have to do something, since from now on I will be living here with you and Sally. Besides, I have a frog collection that I have a lot of money wrapped up in. I have been collecting them for ten years, and they mean a lot to me. I won't just abandon them to a yard sale or something."

 

I looked at Myrna and Carver, and they both were grinning. I then looked over at Sally and she had a big grin on her face too. I had never been to Kat's house, and didn't even know where it was. I knew I had to answer this one right, or she was gonna be mad at me for the rest of the day. Oh God, I thought, why didn't I just stay a bachelor? Then I had one of my on the spot inspirations or dumbspirations as it didn't come out of my mouth the way I was thinking.

 

"Well, dear, we better keep it just in case you get mad at me in the future and I have to kick you out. Umm, I didn't mean it that way, Kat. I'm sorry, hon, that didn't come out right."

 

I was getting looks that would kill from all three women, and I had to think quick to get myself out of this one. Then it hit me, and for better or worse, I decided to run with the idea.

 

"How ‘bout we move your frog collection out here and rent the house furnished to Jimmy? That would be a step up from that hole he lives in. Besides, if there was a basement or garage, he could have a workshop and maybe finally meet some nice girl that can cook, before he starves."

 

I thought I did myself proud with that one, and sat back with a smile on my face waiting to see everyone’s reaction. Believe me it wasn't long in coming either.

 

"Jon Morgan, are you crazy? The reason Jimmy still lives in that little shack of his is because he had to buy it after he blew the back wall out of it, when one of his experiments went wrong. It took him and Tiny three months to rebuild it so it could pass the city inspectors. Now, I don't know what Kat's house looks like, but I will bet it is a mansion and very clean compared to what Jimmy lives in. No Sir, you will not rent her house to him, or anyone else, unless one of us okays it first."

 

I looked at her in shock, then at Kat. She was grinning at me, so I just put my head in my arms on the table and gave up. I really hated it when one of my good inspirations got shot down. Then Kat leaned over and whispered in my ear.

 

"Don't worry, honey, I have an older sister that lives in a run down tenement in the city. She would be glad to rent it from me to get out of there. She's a nurse too, so you will have two of us to treat your little boo boos."

 

I just groaned out loud, and thought Kat was going to fall off the chair, she was laughing so hard. Of course Sally had to open her big yap and ask what was so funny. Kat proceeded to tell them about our whispered conversation, and they all started laughing then. Then I was trying to figure out something to do to get away from them, ‘cause there was just no winning when all three of them worked together. Besides, if I left, Carver would be the next target instead of me. I told them I would be back in a minute and went out of the kitchen like I was headed for my study. When I wasn't followed, I quickly and quietly went up to my room and stripped to my shorts. I laid down to catch a snooze for an hour or so. I was lying on my side facing away from the door and had almost dozed off, when I felt a pressure on the bed behind me.

 

"Did you actually think you were gonna catch a nap when you left me hanging and all alone this morning?"

 

"Aww Kat, I'm really tired after all the excitement, with you guys having such a good time at my expense, I really need a short nap to recharge."

 

I was still thinking that when she climbed over me and lay on her side facing me, and then I realized she didn't have a stitch on. Well there goes the nap, I thought, and when she kissed me, I went into another dimension. I do remember mumbling something about locking the door, but I just didn't have the will power to get up and do it. Besides, to do that would mean I would have to uncross my eyes and actually try to move away from the soft body that was up against me. As I got lost in her kiss, I wondered what it was like to be me.

 

 

 

Chapter # 35

 

 

 

When I woke up, Kat was in the shower. I could hear her humming as she washed and I had to smile, because I wasn't the only one feeling satisfied with myself. Then I remembered I hadn't cancelled the plane to take us out of the country. It made me mad because I had just lost a thousand dollar deposit by not calling them. I got up and went into the bathroom. I joined Kat in the shower and was kissed immediately.

 

"I was wondering if you were going to wake up. Here, wash my back, will you?"

 

I did and any other parts I could reach, which had her giggling at my clumsy efforts. When we finally got out, she told me I had better get more practice in washing other bodies, because when she got pregnant, we were both going to be taking turns caring for the babies. She also informed me in the same breath, that twins run in her family and it was her generation to expect them. I dropped the shampoo bottle in shock. She took one look at my face, and started laughing up a storm. Me, I didn't think it was very funny at all. One baby to try to feed and stay up nights with was bad enough, but two? Oh God, I thought, why did I let myself be talked into getting married? As I stepped out of the shower to the sight of a nude Kat drying herself and I looked at her beautiful body, my question was answered for me.

 

"Will you quit staring and dry my back? We need to get dressed, because it's almost time for dinner. Sally will be knocking on the door again."

 

I did as she asked, whispering in her ear that I could afford to miss a meal for a change, if she wanted to stay up here with me. The loud knock at the door put the quietus to that thought.

 

"Dad, is Kat in there with you? If she is, Myrna sent me up to tell both of you supper’s almost ready. If you don't come down, she's gonna be mad at both of you."

 

"Sally Homes, quit fishing for information and tell Myrna we'll be down in a little bit. Can't a man have any privacy in his own house?"

 

"Not if he has a teenage daughter who loves him, he can't. I need to keep you two apart until you’re married. That's what daughters are for, Dad, to look out for the man in their lives."

 

"Well, this man is gonna turn you over his knee, if you don't quit snoopin’ on him."

 

As she went down the hall, I could hear her laughing, and so was Kat at my mock indignation. We went out of the door with smiles on our faces, and Sally was waiting at the bottom of the steps.

 

"What took you two so long? It seems like I have been standing here for twenty minutes. What were you two doing that took so long?"

 

I looked at Kat, growled, and went down the steps three at a time. Sally took off running for the kitchen, squealing in mock terror with every step. I almost had her but she slid around the corner like she was on ice. I missed her and ran into the edge of the table.

 

"Jon Morgan, will you quit running in the house? Look at the mess you made."

 

"Sorry, Myrna, but I know one little girl that's gonna get paddled before the night’s over for snooping on Kat and me. Besides, she should be helping you and learning how to cook, instead of beating on my bedroom door asking stupid questions."

 

"Well gee, Dad, if I don't ask, how am I gonna learn about the birds and bees?"

 

I didn't have a smart comeback for that one. It brought me up short, remembering that once again, we hadn't used any protection. I knew I had broken a cardinal rule that I had given Sally when we had a discussion about sex many months ago. Thank God, Kat came around the corner behind me and heard the last part of the conversation.

 

"Don't worry, Sally, if you have any questions I will be glad to answer them for you. Remember, I am a nurse and know all the answers about this subject."

 

"Don't worry, Kat, Dad explained it all to me months ago in one of our father daughter discussions. I know all about it, and the consequences if a mistake is made. I probably have better control over my emotions than he does, especially when he gets close to you."

 

They both broke out in laughter over that one, and I felt like hiding in the corner.

 

"Sally Homes! What have I told you about acting like a lady and conducting yourself like you have been taught? I think tonight it's your turn to clean up after supper, and you can also wash the dishes. You know better than to talk that way in front of adults."

 

"Yes, Myrna, I'm sorry. I won't do it again."

 

If she hadn't stuck her tongue out at me, I would have thought her feelings had been hurt. I almost gave it away, but caught myself at the last minute by coughing in my hand and Kat must not have seen it. She asked me to meet her in my study after dinner so she could change my bandages. She said she was afraid I might have gotten them wet in the shower. Boy, was that a boo-boo on her part, ‘cause Sally jumped right on that one, laughing in delight.

 

"I knew you two weren't just talking!"

 

Kat turned three shades of red, which made her red hair seem dim by comparison. I looked at her, then at Sally, and totally lost it. I had to sit down I was laughing so hard. Myrna looked at us and at Kat, then started grinning and shaking her head. I couldn't see Carver as he had his head on the table with his arms hiding his face. I figured he was laughing, ‘cause his shoulders were moving up and down in a regular rhythm. Kat sat down beside me and leaned over, whispering in my ear.

 

"Jon Morgan, if you don't quit laughing, I'm gonna get even with you, if it takes me a month."

 

I tried, I really did, but I just laughed harder if that was possible. It finally got to the point where I couldn't breathe and had to stop or suffocate myself. Sally was still grinning and Kat was glaring holes in me as she sat beside me. It finally got settled down when Myrna told us to act like adults. All through the meal, the undercurrent was brewing, and I hoped that Sally didn't open her big mouth again or I would be sleeping alone on my honeymoon. I tried to act normal and quickly finished eating, excusing myself saying I had to make a couple of calls, and that when Kat was ready she could come in and change my bandages. I thought I exited quite gracefully. Of course if wishes were horses, we all would own one.

 

I went into the study and called the airlines to cancel the flights. I was informed that since I hadn't given them 24 hours notice on my cancellation, I would lose my initial deposit. I knew I would, but it still made me mad. I then called the embassy and got the vice-attaché on the line and filled him in on what happened to Boudrie. He actually sounded sad because he had escaped so easily. He again thanked me, saying if I ever needed anything to be sure and give him a call first. He would be sure to expedite matters for me. I didn't figure I would ever go back to Ethiopia again, so I just filed it away in my mind. I called Jeb and made sure that Jubal and Farley got off ok. He said they were well on their way and that he would see me at Bill's funeral. He told me not to worry about our safety, ‘cause he had it all covered from his end. I thanked him and promised he would have a seat with us for the Military Funeral. Bill had been a Decorated Veteran. He said that the services would be in the local cemetery, since that's where Bill had a plot. He would be buried by his wife's side as he had arranged years ago. I thanked him for the information and Kat came in as we finished. She quickly changed my bandages and checked my head. After shutting the door, she came over and sat in my lap.

 

"I'm sorry I got mad at you. I was just so embarrassed, and when you started laughing, it got my dander up a little. That daughter of yours has a wicked sense of humor. I have been around you long enough to know she didn't get it from you, so she must have got it from Myrna over the years. Jon, I love you, but we are going to have to find somewhere to be alone for a few days when we get married. I did a little surfing on the net today, and booked us into a private villa for a week. It's not far from the Virgin Islands, so we won't be too far away. Besides, Myrna and Carver need some time too. You know, we are going to have to sit down and have a little talk with Sally. I know how much you love each other, but she is curious as all girls are at her age. She needs to be told what the boundaries are, as far as her curiosity. Jon, you’re going to have to do it, because if I tried, she would resent me for interfering. I don't want that to ever happen between us. I am the newcomer here, so it will be you or Myrna. I have a feeling it would mean more coming from you. I hope I am not making a big thing out of this, but we do need our own space and privacy."

 

"No, you’re not making a big thing out of it, because you’re right. If I thought you were trying to come between us, it wouldn’t matter how much I love you, I couldn't shut her out. I know how much I love her, and I know all that she has been through on her own and since she's been with me. Kat, I love you from the top of my head to the tips of my toes, but don't put me in a position where I have to choose between you. As much as I love you, I think you know the answer to that one."

 

"No Jon, that's not what I meant. Oh God, how do I explain it so you can understand how I feel without hurting anyone feelings in the process? I know how you two feel about each other and I certainly don't want to be the so called wicked step mother to her. I love her, Jon, but I also love you and I just want some private time with you. She is so open and forward, she doesn't realize what that means and I love her for being that way. You have taught her never to hide her curiosity or feelings, and that's great. What I'm trying to say in my stupid way is, can you explain to her when the door’s closed, that's our private time together and not to knock and ask what we're doing?"

 

When it finally dawned on me what she was saying, I started to laugh but she grabbed me around the throat with both hands.

 

"It's not funny, Jon! It's hard enough for me to repress my sounds when we're making love, without knowing a thirteen year old girl might be standing with her ear against the door listening. You don't realize how embarrassing that is to me. I just want to be myself when we're together."

 

"Ok, ok, don't choke me to death. I'll figure something out by the time we get back from the island and our honeymoon. We still have to attend Bill's funeral, and that is going to be very unpleasant for all of us. I personally would not go, but for Sally and Myrna's sake, I have to attend. There will be a lot of very important people there, and it will be with full Military honors. I am going to have to wear my full dress uniform. I hate to do it, but it will be expected of me. I don't know if I told you, but I am still in the service of France for another five years. I was discharged, but there is a clause in the enlistment papers that lets them call on me in times of emergency and I would have to go back on active duty. I don't expect it to ever happen, but I think you need to know this for your own peace of mind. I know you lost Jerry to war, but I don't think I will be called back because I have already served and was formally discharged several years ago."

 

"Oh God, Jon, I hope not! I don't think I could take all the worry and fear if you did. I don't ever want to go through that again."

 

She started crying and I just held her, wishing I hadn't opened my big mouth. I had meant all along to tell her, but hadn't gotten around to it with all that was going on. I had promised I would never lie to her, and I never would, but if it affected her like this, I might have to rethink that strategy. Maybe I would learn to omit a few things or not be so blunt about how I told her. Kat was right about how Sally was acting, now that I looked back on it. I realized she was feeling left out and maybe a little jealous because of my attention to Kat. I was going to have to sit down and talk to her, but it wasn't a chore I wanted to tackle. I was going to have to give it some serious thought. I could sit down with Myrna and see how she thought I should approach it. Then again, maybe that's why Sally never got too close to Sarah, because she saw her as a threat to my attention. Damn, it sucks to be me, I was thinking as a knock sounded on the door. This time it was Carver. When he came in and saw Kat crying, he was embarrassed.

 

"Sorry to disturb you, but Myrna asked me to tell you when you got a chance she wanted to talk to you about something. Sorry Kat, I didn't mean to disturb you two."

 

He quickly backed out and closed the door again. I heard him say something and couldn't tell who he was talking to, but I figured it was Sally coming to check on us again. Kat was right, this had to stop, but I didn't have the first clue as to how to go about doing it without alienating my daughter or hurting her feelings. Damn, it sucks to be the authority figure. I finally got Kat calmed down and she said she was going to watch some television. She suggested that maybe I would like to join her after I had my talk with Myrna. I didn't answer yea or nay, because I was trying to remember the last time I had watched the big TV in the front room. Sally had always taken it over to watch her movies on, but to me it was a waste of time. Of course, I wasn't about to tell Kat that. She headed to the front room while I went to the kitchen to see what Myrna wanted. When I walked in, just she and Sally were sitting at the counter. I took a seat, accepting the cup of coffee she poured me.

 

"Sally, we need to have a little talk. I have a question I want to ask and I want you to take your time and think about it before you answer. You said earlier you wanted brothers or sisters to grow up with, right?"

 

I didn't say a word just sat and waited to see where this was leading. Sally was looking at Myrna, and doing as she asked, and seemed to be giving the question a lot of thought.

 

"Yes I do, but what's wrong with that, Myrna? I want to have brothers or sisters ‘cause I was an only child, and if it hadn't been for Jon, I wouldn't be as happy as I am. I really like Kat. She and Jon are a good pair and love each other a lot. It's really funny the way he seems to go off into la la land whenever she's around."

 

"Ok, young lady, then there are going to have to be a few changes on your part."

 

"What's that mean? I get along with Carver and Kat just fine, and Kat treats me like a grownup and I love it."

 

"Then you need to change a few of your habits, young lady. The first thing is, when a door’s closed, don't go knockin’ on it, wantin’ to know what's going on. Adults need privacy too. We don't bother you by knockin’ on your door when you close it, and you need to have the same respect for other people’s feelings. Second, and the most important to me, is the rude and smart mouthed comments. You don't make fun of people or ask personal questions of them. I know we talked about this before, and it hasn't sunk in yet, but it better start, young lady. Your father’s getting married, and so am I, so you need to quit snooping on everyone. That's not how a young lady acts. Sally honey, if you want to do something or need someone to talk to, just ask one of us. I saw you with your ear up against the study door, and that's snooping. I don't ever want to see it again. Sally, you need to realize that once we get married, you’re not gonna have our full attention like you always have had. We will never stop loving you, but you won't have our full attention like you’re used to having. If this is going to be a problem, we need to discuss it before we leave for Jon's island."

 

I sat and listened, but didn't have a thing to add to the conversation, so I waited to see what Sally would say. It seemed like it took forever before she answered Myrna.

 

"I guess I am a little jealous of both of you. I love you both, and it seems like I am losing both of you at the same time. I don't like that feeling, and after all this time of it being just us, it's bothering me more than I thought it would. I want to see you both happy, but I feel like I'm losing both of you and I'll be all alone again."

 

This time I looked at Myrna and I decided to get into the conversation before it tore me completely apart inside. The sound of sadness and the tears in her eyes hurt worse than I ever thought it would.

 

"Sally, you’re not losing us in any way. I love you as much as Myrna does, and even though we have found others to love too, you'll always be the first one in both of our hearts. I don't care if Kat and I have a dozen kids, I promise you, I will always love you the most because you'll always be my first love. That won't ever change, and I am positive Myrna feels the same way about it. You’re our child and always will be first in our hearts. Ever since I became your guardian, I have always tried to let you see and know how much I love you. I love Kat, but as I said, you're my first love, and I will always think of you that way. I don't know how else I can assure you that you won't be left out or forgotten, now or in the future."

 

"Sally, honey, I feel the same way as Jon does about you. Sure, I love Carver, but you're my baby and always will be."

 

Sally looked at me and ran to Myrna. Then they both were crying as they hugged each other. I just sat and watched with tears in my eyes, vowing I would never do anything to make her feel this way again. I got up, got another cup of coffee, and sat back down. I wondered if all fathers who had kids and wanted to re-marry had to go through something like this. My situation wasn't quite like that, but to me it was almost in the same bracket. She broke free from Myrna and kissed her, then came over and crawled up in my lap like she used to do when I first brought her here.

 

"Dad, I love you so much. I think maybe I owe you and Kat an apology for the way I have been acting. I know I shouldn't feel this way, but I was worried that if you got married, I would lose you. I know how much you and Kat love each other, and I really am happy for both of you. I just wish this thing with the church was over so I could go visit some of my friends, and have a sleep over like I used to. It seems like I have been stuck in this house all summer with nothing to do. I don't even have Sparky to ride anymore. Can I get another horse when we come back? I really want to start riding in some of the competitions again. I really miss it."

 

"Honey, when we get back, we'll start looking for another horse for you. As for this church thing, I have a feeling it's about over with. I have a feeling the church will be breaking up, with all their leadership out of the picture. It's only a matter of time now. All I am after is the girl, and I could care less about the rest of it. When I get her back to her mother, then my job’s over and they should leave me alone. Hey, I got the information on the island I haven't gone through yet. Want to help and then we'll both get to see what we will be getting into?"

 

"Sure, Dad, why don't you bring it out here and we can all look at it together. Will I be able to swim and do some snorkeling while we're there?"

 

"You get Kat and Carver and I'll get the packet, and we will see what it has to offer."

 

"Cool, Dad!"

 

She was off my lap and out the back door in a flash. I looked at Myrna and got a smile and a short statement as I got up.

 

"Jon, just when I think she's being the beautiful young lady we raised, she goes and does something like that. I don't think I will ever get used to her being so changeable in such a quick way, lady to tomboy in a split second."

 

I walked around the table and hugged her, saying in her ear; "You raised her to be what she is, and I think you have done a helluva job for an old woman."

 

Well I got punched and quickly told it was just as much my fault as it was hers, and she wasn't that old. I laughed all the way to my study. I pulled open the second drawer and retrieved the big pouch. I saw the paperwork on Kat that I had gotten from Maurice, and I dropped it in the shredder as I headed for the kitchen. I almost got knocked over as Sally rounded the corner, looking for Kat. I told her she was in the living room, watching TV and I went on into the kitchen. Carver was there sipping his coffee. I helped myself while I waited for Kat and Sally to come in. When they came around the corner, they were holding hands and both of them had smiles on their faces. This in turn brought a smile to my face, because they seemed to have settled something while they were in the front room. When everyone was seated, I opened the thick packet and spread it across the table. It was full of pictures and all types of printed sheets. Everyone seemed to gravitate toward the pictures. They were being passed around the table, with me being the last in line to get to see any of them.

 

I picked up the papers and started reading them, and as I read, I was glad I did. I had not only bought the island, I had inherited with it, a complete tribe of natives that grew different crops on the island. The whole thing, according to what I was reading, was self sustaining and the natives had little need for outside intervention. Since I now owned the island, I was responsible for their well being and care. Hold it, I thought! How the hell did Quanta get me into this one? I needed my cell and quick. I dropped the papers on the table, and almost ran for my cell. It was in my study on the charger. I know I looked like a fool, but this was very upsetting to me to say the least. I needed information and fast. When I came back to the counter, everyone was looking at me like I had lost my mind or something. Sally passed me a picture, and as soon as I looked at it, I didn't like the connotations of what I was seeing. It was a large black man without a shirt, and he had a whip hanging off his belt. The caption below gave his name, and the fact that he was the overseer and ran the day by day operations. As I looked at it, I remembered seeing what happens to a person being whipped by one of those. I started to see red, even before I dialed the phone. There was no answer at the bank, and I realized it was after nine pm in Nigeria. I rang Quanta's home number, and when he answered, I about went off on him. Then I took a deep breath before I started asking questions.

 

"Quanta, how much investigation did you put into the island before you bought it?"

 

"Not much, because it was offered at a very cheap price and the main house and buildings had just been totally remodeled. Why are you asking, Jon?"

 

I went on to tell him what I had read and about the picture I was holding, and said it better not be what I thought it was. If it were so, I would be up for murder, because if he was whipping those people, I would kill him as soon as I landed. I went on to tell him we would be flying in the day after tomorrow, and he better be there to meet me with several of the banks security people by his side. He immediately said he would fly out tomorrow with four of the Police Squad the bank used as security, and would be there when I arrived. He went on to say he was sorry that he had upset me.

 

"Quanta, you’re not the one upsetting me, this picture is. I don't know who the previous owner was, but if he allowed this to happen, he will be arrested as soon as I can contact Interpol and give them his name. Quanta, you know how I feel about this type of thing. Before you ever invest in something like this again, you make sure you have it completely investigated. Now, I think I better end this conversation before I say something that might hurt our friendship."

 

"Jon, I promise you that we will take care of the problem before you land. If what you are thinking is correct, then it's my responsibility to do it, not yours. I will see you and your lovely daughter when you land."

 

"Quanta, not only will you get to meet my daughter, but my future wife also. I have another couple who will be coming with me and we all plan on getting married while we're on the island. I just hope this little incident won't mar our stay. If it does, I will not be very happy with you, my friend."

 

"Do not worry, Jon, it will be all settled before you and your party land. I will have the plane waiting for you when you land in the Islands. It's only about an hour’s flight from the U.S. Territory to the island. It will be by seaplane, and it lands right by the house."

 

"Ok, Quanta, I will leave it in your capable hands, but if you can't handle it I will, and my government may not like the way I do it. I will see you day after tomorrow then, my friend. Why don't you bring your lovely wife and daughters and make it a holiday for them?"

 

"That is a very good idea, but I think I will leave them at the hotel while I handle this matter. Goodbye for now, my friend."

 

I hung up, knowing Quanta would have the problem settled before I got there. He and his family had been slaves for awhile, and they all still had whip scars from their ordeal. I don't think I would want to be the overseer when Quanta got there, I thought. Then I noticed the silence around the table, and when I looked up, everyone was staring at me like I had two heads.

 

I spent the next hour explaining to them about some of the old time Frenchmen and their views on slavery, and what I thought about it. I then gave them a brief history about how I met Quanta, and what he had gone through to rescue his family. That seemed to lighten the mood a little, and then we were all looking at the pictures. The girls were going crazy over the pictures of the white sandy beaches. Then they started in on how to help the locals if they had been mistreated. They went on and on and I kind of tuned them out. I looked at Carver and he was just watching them with a smile on his face. That was when I realized he was under Myrna's thumb as I was, but I had two more to contend with. I sat back listening with half an ear to what they were saying when my cell went off. It was Jerry, asking if I could talk. I motioned to Carver and told the girls we had to take this call in the study. I don't even think they heard us, because there wasn't any lull in the conversation at all.

 

 

 

Chapter # 36

 

 

 

When Carver and I got to the study, I motioned for him to close the door and switched the cell to speaker phone. I told Jerry we were in my study and he could speak freely.

 

"Well, the news isn't good, Jon. Someone broke into Bill's office and made a mess. Even the safe was pried open. I know he never kept his important papers in it, because he always said it wasn't strong enough for that. They did take the cash he had in it, but his secretary said she couldn't find anything other than that missing. Your hunch about the uncle was right, Jon, his fingerprints were all over the place in the hotel and the office. I now have heavy security on his home, and all the alarms have been upgraded. Jon, the funeral will be tomorrow at four in the afternoon. Since it will have to be a closed coffin, we will all meet at the funeral home and go directly to the cemetery. Jon, I have another problem I need help with. This is going to be a full Military Honors Funeral, and I was wondering who should receive the flag since he doesn't have any family."

 

"Well, Jerry, you are his godson, so why can't you accept it as his closest relative?"

 

"Jon, I hate to say this, but as you know, I come from a family of war heroes like Bill was. But, I ah, well, I vehemently abhor war in any form, and I wouldn't feel comfortable accepting it. I loved that man like a father, and to me it would be a dishonor to him for me to accept it. Jon, can we have Myrna be the receiver? She and Bill were friends for over twenty five years, and I know he would be proud to see her accept it for his family. I don't know if he ever told you, but he and Myrna were engaged at one time, way back when they were in college. I don't know the whole story, but I do know they were friends and she was the maid of honor at his marriage."

 

"Whatever you think is right, Jerry, but I need to let Myrna know. I don't think it would be fair to her to spring it on her at the last minute. You know how she is, and both of us would have to move if we did something like that. Has the FBI found any traces of the uncle?"

 

"No they haven't, and they are mad as hell that they can't seem to get a lead on him. It's like he disappeared into thin air. Not to change the subject Jon but we opened his will this morning and to say there were some surprises would be an understatement. Is Carver in the study with you?"

 

"Yes he is, since he is part of this household now."

 

"Well this concerns him and Myrna, so I'm glad he is the one that has to tell her this news, because she is gonna explode. He left his home and property to them both as a wedding present. It's already been deeded over and has been for two days. Jon, he left Sally two million dollars in a trust fund for her education. It all comes to her when she graduates from college. He made allowances for her to attend Princeton and has already paid for her first four years. I have a hand written letter I'm supposed to give to her tomorrow before the funeral. He also left five million in a special account for you to use to help the kids you save and their families. Jon, he left me his business and twenty five million to use to make my business larger, and with explicit instructions that I was to use it to help the indigent as much as possible. Oh, you're the only other one, besides me, who decides who we help. Jon, there are a couple of surprises for you in this too. Sally is now your daughter. It’s all legal and filed in D.C. in the Federal Court. I have no idea how he swung that one and bypassed the waiting period. I also have a complete expungement of records for Tiny, which is also legally filed in DC. Jon how did he know you asked me about this? These are dated a year ago, so I wonder why he never told Tiny about them."

 

"Jerry, I haven't known Bill that long, but I do know he was always full of surprises. It seemed that he could do the impossible, whenever he set his mind to it. If he were still here, we would be in a big argument because I would have had a fit about him leaving me money."

 

"Yeah, I know how you feel. Jon, he also left his partnership papers to Jeb's business, signed completely over to him along with a half million to keep it operating. Did you know he and Jeb were partners?"

 

"I just found out myself, and it was a surprise to me too."

 

"Well, I have another one for the sheriff tomorrow. Bill prepaid for four years of college for the sheriff’s little girl Judy to attend Princeton with Sally. Did you know Judy was adopted?"

 

"Yeah, I was told so by the sheriff the other day. She and Sally are best friends, and have been since Sally came to live with me. Jerry, this is a lot for all of us to take in at one time. If you have any more surprises, would you wait for a few days before you spring them on me?"

 

"I'm sorry, Jon, but dammit, I can't believe he's gone, and now he’s left me as executor. I am at a loss as to whether I should be happy about his business acumen, or cuss him for getting killed. Jon, he was a father to me, even more than my real one was. Did you know he paid for my college and pushed me to become a lawyer? He put up with a lot from me when I was younger, and was always there to support me. He was the one who got me the job as a Federal Prosecutor, and was the first to support me when I got disgusted and quit. Jon, I just don't know what I'm going to do, now that he's gone."

 

"Well, Jerry, you were always close to him. Why don't you go have a drink and think about what he would want you to do? Think about all the good times you two spent together, and it will come to you. If you concentrate hard enough, you will hear him in the background, giving you advice like he always did. That's what I would do, Jerry. I am going to let you go, and see if I can get a few words with Myrna before tomorrow. We'll all see you at the funeral tomorrow, my friend."

 

"Oh, before you go, he asked that you and Carver wear your dress uniforms and be the head pallbearers."

 

"We would be honored, Jerry. See you tomorrow."

 

I hung up and looked over at Carver and he looked like he was in shock.

 

"You ok there, Carver?"

 

He looked at me and I could see the inner conflict in his eyes, like he was fighting something inside and didn't know how to handle it.

 

"Carver, listen to me! This is what Bill wanted, and besides, it's too late to change it now. I don’t think you and Myrna could ask for a better wedding present. When you move in, I guess I will be looking for another house keeper."

 

I had just been kidding with him, but when he looked at me, I could see I could see the anger in his eyes.

 

"Jon, don't even try to kid about something as serious as this. It's gonna break Myrna's heart. Jon, she will never leave here as long as you and Sally are alive. She even told me what you said about going back to France to live, and told me I could go with her or stay here, because she wasn't leaving you and Sally. Have you ever been to Bill's house?"

 

"No, can't say as I have, because he was always over here mooching meals from Myrna. Why do you ask?"

 

"I worked with Pete over there for two weeks when I first came down here after I retired. Jon, that place is huge. He took us through it when we bid on the job, and it has over thirty bedrooms and as many baths. It’s three stories high and has everything that any person could ever want to live in luxury. Why the hell would Myrna or I even want that, with just the two of us? Your caretaker’s cottage has three bedrooms, and it's better than the house I was raised in. That house of his has an intercom in every room and every room has its own television and computer. Can you imagine us living in something like that? We love where we are at, and I have to admit, other than my sisters, I finally found something I never thought I would. A good woman that I can love, and an extended family that I have had more fun with than I have had in more years than I care to think about. No way in hell will we move, and I know Myrna is going to feel the same way, Jon."

 

"Carver, don't blow up on me, because I am not saying you have to leave. It would break my heart to lose Myrna after all these years. Sally would have a fit because like I told you before, to her, Myrna is her surrogate mother. There is no way I am stepping into this one. That's between you and Myrna, what you decide to do. You both are welcome here as long as you want to stay, and that won't change."

 

"Sorry Jon, I didn't mean to get mad at you. I know it's not your fault, but what am I going to tell Myrna?"

 

"Ha, don't ask me. I think if you two decide to, you might talk to Jerry about leasing it to him. He has kids, and also his is one of the largest law firms on the east coast. It would be a good place for him to live and host parties for all his important clients. I know he has been looking for a bigger place for a couple of years now. I think he would love to have his godfather’s place to live in. You might want to run it by Myrna when you tell her about it later. Speaking of later, I feel like I haven't eaten for hours. Let’s go out and remind the women the men are hungry and they need to cook some food."

 

He was laughing as we got up and looked over his shoulder at me as we went out the door saying; "Good luck with that one."

 

When we got to the kitchen, it was like we had stepped into the middle of a hen party. Myrna was waving her arms, and Kat and Sally were laughing up a storm. I cleared my throat loudly to catch their attention and got a glare from Myrna.

 

"You don't suppose we could break up this little gossip meeting and talk someone into fixing us something to eat, could we?"

 

Myrna glared at me and Sally was sniggering again. That's when I got the distinct impression Myrna was talking about me. I don't know why, but I just seemed to have that feeling all of a sudden.

 

"It's too late for dinner and too early for supper. I guess both of you will have to settle for a hunk of cinnamon crisp and some coffee. That should hold you over until I get supper ready. What was the phone call about? Was it news about the funeral?"

 

"It's going to be tomorrow afternoon and we have to meet Jerry around four in the afternoon. The rest of it, I will let Carver fill you in on while I go outside to get some air and enjoy my food."

 

With that, I beat a hasty retreat out of the kitchen, leaving Carver to fend for himself. I was grinning to myself as I went out the door and sat down in one of the chairs. I set my coffee on one of the little tables and dug into the apple crisp. I could taste the cinnamon on it, and it was delicious. I had never had anything like this before, and I wondered if I could talk her into making it again. I was down to the last bite and when one of the Rotties showed up. He came up and put his head on my knee, begging for the last piece. I debated on eating it, but felt sorry for him with his sad look, so I leaned down and let him lick the plate. It was gone before I was straightened back up in the chair. He lay down at my feet as I sipped my coffee, wondering how Carver was handling this one. I had to admit, it felt good for a change, not to be the one on the spot with Myrna. I leaned back in the chair and almost dozed off, thinking about the funeral tomorrow and if I should put my medals on or just wear the plain uniform. I knew my Kepi Blanc was clean, and was as white as it could be. They had a tendency to turn a brownish yellow if not cleaned correctly. I dozed off thinking about the Legion Honor Code.

 

1.  Légionnaire, tu es un volontaire servant la France avec honneur et fidélité.

 

2.  Chaque légionnaire est ton frère d'arme quelle que soit sa nationalité, sa race, sa religion. Tu lui manifestes toujours la solidarité étroite qui doit unir les membres d'une même famille.

 

Somewhere in there, I fell asleep, thinking about the camaraderie and the friends I had made over the years.

 

I think what woke me was the Rottie rumbling against my feet, which he was laying on. I thought it was his stomach growling, but he was actually snarling deep in his chest. I didn't move, just let my eyes rove in the direction he was looking. Through slitted eyes, I could see a shadow outside the fence in the shadow of the garage. I couldn't make out who it was, just the shape in the shadows. I watched as he went back into the woods. The Rottie quit snarling in a few minutes and lay back down. Hmm, I was wondering, what that was all about and who it was. I didn't feel that I was being watched, but I called Jeb and told him what I had just seen, asking if he had any of his friends watching the house.

 

"No, Jon, but within five minutes I will have several roving the woods out there. Do you have any idea who it was?"

 

"No, but I have a feeling it was the girl’s uncle, looking for something he never found at Bill’s office."

 

I went on to tell him all that Jerry had told me about what the FBI had found. I thought I knew what he was looking for, and I did have it, but would keep it hidden it until this was all settled. I went on to tell Jeb to tell his people to be careful, because this man would kill at the drop of a hat. He just laughed at me saying the ole boys he was sending still had the bark on, whatever that meant. We hung, up saying we would see each other tomorrow at the funeral.

 

That's when it hit me, I had the keys, but without the passwords or the list of banks, nobody would be able to get into any of the accounts. Then I realized where I must have gotten the keys. They had to have been slipped into my stuff while I was at the Wrangler Outlet. That was the only place that any one had access to my truck. I thought back, and realized I had gone to lunch after I had taken the duffel bag of clothes out to the truck. I was anticipating being without anything but snacks, and had eaten a hearty meal as was my habit. I sat and thought about who had been in the store, but I just couldn't remember because it had been so long ago. Then I had another thought, what if I had the list and the keys? I hadn't looked or packed anything else after I had found the keys. I got up and headed into the house, and was glad I wasn't in the kitchen, when I heard Myrna yelling at Carver about something. I sneaked up the steps and went into my room and Kat was sitting on the bed.

 

"Boy, that woman has a temper, doesn't she? Sally and I snuck out when she went off on Carver. He had started telling her about Bill’s house. Jon, why wouldn't she want her own place, free and clear?"

 

"Think about it a minute, Kat. She has lived here almost all her life, and to her, Sally is her daughter. If someone left you a house and you had to move away from your daughter, would you do it?"

 

I left her thinking about that one, and went to the suitcases I had been packing. I started taking the shirts and pants out, and thoroughly checking them for anything else that might be hidden away. I took the jeans out one pair at a time and checked them thoroughly, then refolded them. I packed them in the big suitcase as I finished each pair. I went through them all and didn't find a thing. I started on the shirts and was about through with them, when I picked up the ugly purple one. As I squeezed the package, I felt something hard inside of the shirt. I slipped my hand inside the cellophane package in the folds of the shirt and pulled out two floppy disks in plastic covers. Hah! I had a feeling I had just found what everyone was looking for, besides the keys. With the information I thought these contained, you wouldn't need the keys to open the safety deposit boxes. I knew if you had all the information, the bank would open them without the keys.

 

"What's that, Jon, and why are you digging through all your new clothes? Why would you buy a purple shirt, of all things? That thing is ugly. I can see right now, when we get married, I am going to have to do some clothes shopping with you."

 

I sat her down on the bed, kissed her and told her what I thought I was holding on the two disks. She looked at me for a minute with big eyes and just said two words; "Oh my."

 

We sat and just held each other a few minutes, and then she asked what I was going to do with the keys and the disks. I told her what Jeb had told me about the church, and said I was going to give them to him tomorrow at the funeral. From that point on it would be up to him and his people to decide what to do with the cash I knew was in the boxes. I did know I was going to look at both the disks, to verify that they held what I thought they did. I had an external floppy disk drive for my laptop in my study, but I wasn't about to go back downstairs until Myrna had settled down a little. I figured she would blame me if I showed my face. Better Carver than me, I was thinking as Sally knocked on the open door asking if I thought Myrna was going to fix supper soon because she was starving.

 

"Come over here and sit next to me, honey. I have something to tell you, and I also want to hold the two women in my life for a few minutes."

 

That got me a one of the smiles from her that I loved so much. She came over and sat on the bed on my empty side. I put my arm around her and hugged her for a minute kissing the top of her head. I went on to explain to her what Jerry had told me about college, and that she was now officially my daughter, thanks to Bill. I explained about the papers he had filed, and why Myrna was so upset right now. She looked up at me with tears in her eyes, and just hugged me tight, silently sobbing against my chest. I looked over at Kat, and she was looking at me with wide tear filled eyes, so I hugged her tight against me too. I let Sally sit and get it out of her system, before I kissed her tear covered cheek.

 

"Why, Dad? Why would he do something like that? I liked him a lot, but he wasn't related to me or anything."

 

"Sally, do you remember when he came out to your stepdad’s farm when I first met you?"

 

"How could I forget something like that, Dad? That was the greatest day of my life."

 

"Well, honey, I think he took one look at your dirty skinned up face and fell in love with you, just like I did. I think he saw something there he admired. I would almost be willing to bet if I hadn't become your guardian that day, he would have. Sally, I know he never said much about that day, but I do know he loved you and Myrna. Since he didn't have any family, he wanted to make sure you and Myrna were taken care of. I think both of you were his family, in his mind."

 

"Yes, and if the old fool were here now, I would punch him in the nose. Oh Jon!"

 

Just then Myrna came in, and I stood up. She was in my arms, sobbing her head off against my shoulder. I just stood and hugged her, and didn't say a word. She finally settled down and stepped away from me, looking at me intently.

 

"After I got through yelling at Carver, I finally realized I was yelling and blaming the man I love for something he had no control over. Now I need to explain to you and Sally and Kat, some things that you never knew. Bill and I were engaged at one time, but we both realized it wasn't the love between a man and a woman that we felt, but it was the love that a brother and sister felt for each other. I was the one who introduced him to his wife. She was my best friend and roommate at Princeton. She thanked me, because she had fallen in love with him the first time she met him. I was and still am happy for them both. They made such a perfect pair, but when she died, it was like he didn't have any direction and withdrew from everything. He pretty much closed his practice and just flitted here and there for years. After you called him, when you found Sally, that was the first time in years I saw him excited about something. Jon, for that I thank you from my heart. He changed almost overnight, and became the Bill I used to know. It was all because of you asking him for help. Jon, that man loved you like a son, and Sally like his own daughter. It doesn't surprise me that the will was done the way it was. He did it because he knew I would have a fit about him leaving me that warehouse he called a home. Why, I bet he's up there laughing his head off about it. Jon, tomorrow I will accept the flag, but it's to be taken to his home and mounted above the fireplace with the rest of his medals from the war. If it's ok with you, I also want to put your grandfather’s flag and medals up beside Bill’s. Those two were thick as thieves, and I think it would be fitting. Jon, I will tell you the same thing I told Carver, this is my home, and I won't leave for any reason. You three are my family, and Carver is my husband, or will be soon. I will talk to Jerry about buying Bill’s house after the funeral tomorrow, ‘cause we sure don't want it. I don't know any of the other properties he owns, but we will probably just sell them and give the money to the orphanage your mother started in town. I send them a check every month to help out. Now if you three are done hiding, supper is ready."

 

She turned and went out, leaving me standing with my mouth open in shock. Sally came to my side and slid under my arm, looking up at me.

 

"Come on, Dad, I'm starving. Let’s go eat before she gets mad again."

 

Kat broke out laughing and slipped under my other arm. She and Sally grinned at each other before pulling me out of the door to go eat.

 

Tomorrow would be another day, and none of us could know what it would bring.

 

 

 

Chapter # 37

 

 

 

We made it downstairs with a lot of laughs, all three of us were trying to walk side by side down the steps. We were squeezed, but it only seemed to matter to me, because Kat and Sally were having a ball squeezing me. We walked into the kitchen and found Myrna setting the table, so Sally pitched in to help. Carver was sitting in his usual place. He had a smile on his face, so I figured he and Myrna had patched up their differences. We had just sat down, when my phone rang in the study, and I excused myself to answer it. It was Tiny, wanting to know if he and Jimmy were welcome to come to the funeral with us. I assured him that he was more than welcome, and if he brought the Limo, we could all go together. He said they would be here at three sharp, and hung up. I went back to the kitchen, and was immediately asked by Myrna about the call. I told her who it was and the arrangements I had made with Tiny. She just smiled at me when I finished. As usual, the meal was delicious and we quickly polished it off. While Sally and Kat cleaned off the table, Myrna gave us refills and a big slab of the apple crisp for dessert. I noticed the girls were putting the dishes in the dish washer, and me, being the dumb male at the table, I had to ask the question I had always wondered about.

 

"Myrna, if you have a dishwasher, how come you always seem to do them by hand and make Sally do them that way too?"

 

"Jon, if I need to teach Sally a lesson, there’s no better way than to make her wash them by hand. It also gives her time to think. I do it because I don't like that dishwasher thing, ‘cause it never makes the dishes shine like when I wash them by hand. It also gives me time to think and plan, to keep ahead of the men in the house."

 

I knew then I had better shut up before I got in any deeper, so I just smiled and took another bite of my dessert. I had a sudden thought and decided to ask Carver about it.

 

"Carver, are you going to wear your medals to the funeral tomorrow?"

 

"I hadn't really thought about it, Jon, why do you ask?"