When he reached the house, he leaned over. “I take it that smile is because you had the last word?”
She chuckled .“Oh, don’t tell me you’re going to be a bad sport. I’ll pay you back the tip money you gave her.”
“No need, the ending was worth every cent.”
She looked at him appreciating the fact that he liked her new look.
“Oh, I didn’t mean your new look. I meant being able to tell them that you had finally been released from the Mt. Pleasant Mental Institution and I could finally get rid of that mental patient hairdo for you. I left them a big enough tip, I’m sure they believed me.”
Now Colton was laughing at the expression on her face. “Remember, you want to be a good sport, don’t you?”
Unable to use her arm quickly due her injury, she couldn’t just slam out of the car. Colton was around it and opening her door before she could react. Giving him a go to hell look, she marched toward the house. He stood next to the car, leaning against it, still laughing. “Was that a good bye I just saw on your face?”
She turned to go and had not taken many steps when she heard him yell and saw the wheel chair going sideways with him only partly in it. She ran and made a valiant grab onto the chair, landing on him and tipping the chair over. They lay in a heap together, then she heard him laughing.
“Can you believe this? If it was a comedy skit it wouldn’t be any funnier.”
She began to laugh with him. Eventually, she righted the chair and held it while he struggled on to it. “Much obliged, I’m Billy Lomax. Formerly one of the police officers in this fine community.” He extended his hand. Noting her reluctance to shake, he said simply, “It’s my legs that are disabled, not my hands or my manners.”
Pride began the meeting explaining that Colton had come for information regarding the whereabouts of Marki Tabor. “Agent Sparks will tell you his questions, and why he needs to find her.”
As an undercover agent, Colton had played to some tough groups before, but even the drug lords had seemed friendlier. He started by thanking them for coming; no response. He appreciated their time; no response. He knew they might have questions; no response. He began to feel an agitation at the fact he came here in good faith thinking they were anxious to help him and now they might as well be bumps on a log. He tried a new tact and transformed himself into his ‘federal agent persona’.
“It is vital that I find her for reasons of protection. I don’t have clearance to disclose the details of the case at this time, but your full cooperation is absolutely necessary.”
There was no response and not one board member blinked an eye.
Frustrated, he abruptly stood up facing them as his chair moved backwards at such a quick rate it tipped over. As though in one movement, five of the men present laid guns on the table in front of them with their trigger fingers in place. The Sheriff moved his hand to his holstered gun, and Colton was stunned. He could not imagine they were threatening a federal agent, or for that matter, had a reason too.
“I only knew one other person like you in my life. My grandma. She gave me this crucifix before she died. She pretty much raised me because my mother couldn’t stand the sight of me. She called me her bastard son and cursed my father. He died in prison when he was convicted for her rape. She never could get it that I wasn’t him.”
“Can I know your real name? Or at least your first name?”
He sat shaking his head as though in disbelief she would even ask. A lopsided grin appeared as he considered the irony. “Christian. My grandmother named me. My mother didn’t even care enough to pick one out. My grandma used to say she was a cock-eyed optimist, but at least she had hope that one day, I’d live up to my name. The only name my mother ever gave me was Snake.”
The bartender started to say something but it was drowned out by the high pitch snivel of the man behind Colton. “Edmund Glouster, you bastard you.”
The bar patrons became instantly silent. Ratatouillie’ stood shuffling his feet as he waited for “Edmund” to acknowledge him. The entire room watched as the big man picked up his glass of bourbon and very slowly turned on the bar stool. His face was completely devoid of expression and he sat sipping; staring and not responding as Ratatouille’ began to squirm.
“Uhh, it’s me Mr. Glouster. Ratatouille, “The Rat”. Legion’s man. You once told me about the joke of being the bastard from King Lear when I met you before. I helped you, remember?”
A slow smile spread across the big man’s face. “Well little rat, you’re still alive? I figured someone would have capped you by now for sure. Lucky for you you’re a rodent and can weasel in and out of things.” He watched as Ratatouille’ tried to decide if that meant he was now welcome or in trouble. Colton considered Ratatouille’s thin face and emaciated body resembled a skeleton with a fat lady’s skin hanging on it. His thin, wiry , hair was combed straight back and hung in a greasy disarray to his shoulders. Small, round, glass frames were bent causing the frames to sit at an angle on his nose, yet still projecting his beady eyes to a proportion that could only make one think of a rat. “If he just wiggled his nose “…. .No sooner had the thought come to Colton than Ratatouille’ did the very thing that made him look like the human form of a rat. He twitched his nose and mouth in a nervous tick fashion.
“Ahh come on up here you little rat. Let the ‘Trigger’ buy you a drink” blustered an entertained Colton.
“Eve, you don’t believe me, but if you were still named Marki and my friend you would. She would know.”
Silence fell around them. No one knew what to say next to the small traumatized boy. He had just described the man who helped him hide and saved him, and yet it couldn’t be Billy….
“Anyway, the message is for Marki, not for Eve.”
“What message, Conner?”
The little boy looked near tears and refused to say anything or look at anyone.
“Please, Conner. I’m sorry. I’ll listen as Marki. Do you have a message for me?” No one could miss the plead in her voice as she negotiated with the little boy.
Turning in his seat to look at her with direct eye contact, he put his hands on either side of her face forcing direct eye contact between the two of them.. “Marki, there aren’t any wheelchairs to shove off the cliffs in heaven, but Conner has lots of armadillos to play with.”
The effect of the message impacted not just Marki, but Tucker, Dalton and Matt. Each of them was privy to the knowledge of the wheelchair incident when Billy and Marki met, and that baby Conner’s favorite and first toy was a leather armadillo from Uncle Pride. It was buried with him. Marki knew there was no way for this little boy who had taken Conner as his underground name, to have that information; except that Billy had given it to him.
She thought back to the strange comment Odetta made about having an alibi when Legion was killed, though she couldn’t have known, it happened as she was in ICU. Turning to Tucker, she asked the question. “Tucker, what time did you shoot Legion?”
Tucker looked puzzled by the question, but without hesitation answered, “3:15 give or take by my watch. Why?”
Eve was also considering the comment of Legion’s mother Isabella as she reached out grasping at the air at 3:16 telling her son to come with mother, then she died. It would appear, in a prophetic way that he had.
“Conner, thank you for the message. I now know it was Billy who helped you as you thought ,and he is watching over you. I’m sure Conner is helping him too. I will never doubt again for a minute that your guardian angels are with you, as they are with Colton and me.”
Colton held Eve’s hand as they walked to the Chapel and entered in quietly. They were alone and had their choice of seats, but Colton continued up to the altar and the candles. He took an igniter from the alter candle table, and lit one candle. He spoke Billy’s name softly, then handed the lighter to Eve. She lit the second candle, and spoke Conner’s name, then turned to face Colton.
“In our life together, whatever we do, or where ever we go, let’s never forget where we’ve been. Promise me, Colton”
“Or who we have been. After all, in some ways, you are three times a woman; Abby, Marki and now Eve. I love each and every one of you. I promise.”