Mike went out to lead Gwen back to the house. It was just like her to arrive after the place was warm and had had some small amount of comfort. I sure hoped that Mike had explained that we were living operational, not at all like we would have lived in a motel. Since it was such a small town, she couldn’t just slip in and out unnoticed as she might have in Boston. She had to be worked into the cover story.
We had too large air beds on the floor. I had swept the cheap carpet in the bedrooms several times to be sure there was nothing sharp to puncture them. If they went south, it would be foam mats on the floor. Neither the air beds, nor the foam was even close to a real bed. That was a good thing. It was an even bigger incentive to finish this mess and get home quickly.
Martin slept in his underwear and I slept in a tee shirt and panties. It wasn’t a perfect arrangement, but it had worked so far. Gwen was a new dynamic.
“I would prefer to sleep alone,” Gwen said after the situation was explained to her. “But since that isn’t an option, I guess my choice is Mike. At least I do know and trust him.”
“You have no idea how relieved I feel,” I whispered to Martin.
“Good morning,” I whispered into Martin’s ear. Let’s get this show on the road.”
“Not this morning please, I have a headache,” he said with a grin.
“Good idea, but this is not the time. I’m going to start the coffee. You go shower.” I demanded. “Try not to wake the TV crew.”
“Good luck with that,” Martin said. “You know I sing in the shower.”
I don’t know if he sang or not, but they woke up anyway. I had plenty of coffee ready. It took an hour to get everybody in and out of the shower. By that time I was hungry.
We took two cars, but we all had breakfast together. Me and Martin at one table in the interstate McDonalds, and Mike and Gwen at another with their cameras going. Who was in the show, and who wasn’t, would depend on the editing. The TV show would have little to do with the reality of the work.
“So we are going to find a site for the church today?” Martin asked.
“No, we are going to look for a site today. We still don’t have a bad guy cover yet. Somewhere along the line we are most likely going to need a criminal enterprise.” I said.
“Well I can’t help you there. I have never been a cop. All my experience is in field ops.” he admitted.
“That’s fine, just listen to me in these matters and I’ll listen to you in those,” I suggested.
“That’s what the boss said to do,” he replied.
“We need to get stated,” I suggested after we quickly ate our breakfast. We had both been in situations where eating quickly was necessary, if we were to eat at all. We were finished and out the door while Mike and Gwen were trying to stuff food in their mouths so as not to lose us.
Since it was 9AM, I had no problem with using the burn phone to call the number on the windows of the empty stores. Haymarket had a high percentage of empty downtown storefronts, as does almost every downtown these days.
We called for a closer look at three of them. Since two were owned by the same person, it didn’t take all that long. We did waste the time until noon with the project. We left it with both owners that we would make a decision soon, and left it at that.
I wondered which, if any, of the businesses in Haymarket were honestly what they seemed. It was hard to tell, all of them could be fronts for something else or they could all be honestly what they appeared to be. We couldn’t ask the rape victim, since she had gone missing. Most likely she had moved away, I know I would have, but only after I killed the son of bitch who raped me. I had to stop thinking like that. This was hopefully going to end in the arrest of the brothers, not their murders. I wasn’t ruling it out. I was just hoping it didn’t go down that way.
Thanks to cards produced on Mike’s mini Ink Jet printer, we were able to leave my burn phone number with each of the store owners. I expected to be hearing back from them soon. Any interest in those buildings would surely warrant a follow up call from the owner.
We drove Martin’s SUV to the farmer exchange store. Those things always have a bulletin board with items for sale. We weren’t looking for anything. I just wanted to be seen in each and every store in town. I was all part of our no plan, plan.
Somewhere we were going to bump heads with the Atwood brothers, or someone would call them. Either way a meeting with Thomas and Blain Atwood was bound to happen.
We found our talkative informant at the local daycare. I saw the sign and I stopped in to do a pastoral visitation. “Hello.” I said to the grossly overweight woman who came to the door with a baby in her arms. “I’m Pastor Stone, how are you?”
“I’m busy as I can be right now,” she said.
“Then maybe we can help.” I said it opening her door. “It’s cold why don’t we come in and talk and I’ll help out. Martin here might not be much good with kids, but I have had a little experience.”
I pretty much forced my way inside. “The town looks like it is having some growth issues,” I commented after all the usual small talk. It would be a natural question for someone thinking of settling in the town.
“Yes, we have a bunch of thugs here. They are scaring everyone off.” she said.
“Oh my, maybe I can show them the true path,” I suggested. “Maybe if we get them into church, they will become part of the community.”
“I don’t think so Reverend. These men are very, very bad.” she said.
“The Lord can soften any heart, when the time is right,” I suggested. “How bad can these men be?”
“I don’t know what all they are into, but it’s bad enough so that people won’t walk in the woods anywhere near their place.”
“I see, well thank you sister Evans,” I said. I knew her name because it was on the small sign in her yard.
“So are they growing pot out there?” I asked Martin when we got back into the car. After having seen Mikes lizard cam, I was suspicious of everything. I was sure he was capable of wiring up Martin’s SUV and probably already had done so.
“No idea, so what’s next?” Martin asked.
“Next we keep making preacher type noises till dark. Sometime tonight you are going to go find out what they are doing out on the Atwood family farm.” I suggested.
“So there is a place for a retired ops guy?” he asked.
“Of course there is. Just try not to kill anyone tonight.” I didn’t add, I wanted some of the fun.
We looked at more places during the afternoon, but I didn’t want to commit to anything just yet. Just before dark I screwed up big time. I saw a man standing in front of what appeared to be a metal barn just outside the downtown area. “Stop the car Red, I think I want to talk to that guy.”
“Come on Max, he is a nasty looking red neck,” Martin said.
“Now Irish, stop the SUV or I’m going to shave your legs and show everybody what a pussy you are.” Martin turned the SUV around and pulled up beside the building.
“Hello there friend,” I said as I climbed down from the SUV.
“Howdy little lady,” he replied. ‘What can I do for you?”
“Well my name is Reverend Maxine Stone, and I’m looking for a place to hold church services. You have a big building here, I thought maybe it would do.” I suggested.
“Well it’s an auction building. We use it for auctioning off cattle and horses. If you can stand the smell, I expect I can let you use it for church services.”
I looked in through the open door. He was right it smelled of disinfectant. Most likely that was used to cover the smell of animal feces. It was a wonderful space though. It had a set of bleachers on each side. Animals were walked in one end and led out the other.
“Why it looks like the perfect place to hold temporary services. How much would you charge to rent it for two hours on Sunday morning. Most likely there won’t be many people so I can’t really pay much.” I admitted. Whatever he said was going to be too much. I had no desire to hold services anywhere.
“Well I’m a God fearing man, and the building is just empty on Sunday. Tell you what, you can use it no charge until the congregation grows some. Then I guess I’ll just figure out what it costs to turn the lights on. There ain’t no heat, I got a couple of Salamanders you can use those and just pay for the kerosene,” he said.
That leads me to why it was a screw up. The problem he left me with was that if I didn’s say yes, he would tell everyone I refused the offer. I would quickly be found out as as a liar and fraud. That, I would just as soon the people of Haymarket found out a little later. “Okay I’ll accept your most generous offer. I can’t get the word out in time for much of a congregation of any size for tomorrow, but I will be here next Sunday morning at 11AM and see who else shows up.”
“Fine, check with me during the week and we can work out the details,” the old man said.
It actually was going to prove to be a positive move. It gave us an excuse to talk to everyone in town. I could invite them to the Sunday service. It also gave us eight days to figure out how to nail the Brothers, before I had to make a fool of myself in the pulpit.
The four of us had dinner in the same restaurant where we ate the night before.
“Mrs Williams this is Mike’s wife Gwen,” I said reluctantly introducing Gwen to the owner. I also explained that we wouldn’t be able to hold services the next day, but that we would be ready on Sunday a week away.
I pointed to Mike and Gwen then said, “These two are newly weds, I think they would prefer to eat alone. Do you mind, if they have a seperate table?” I asked as we stood waiting to be seated.
“Of course not, I can remember being a newly wed. Of course that was a very long time ago.”
The explanation allowed them to film us without the Gecko cam. It also allowed me to eat in peace, away from Gwen.
We returned home shortly after dark. Martin slipped out of the house without telling anyone. There would be no question of the two camera people following. I would have to kick their collective asses if they tried. I would hate to cut Mike off and the knees, but I would not have had a problem cutting Gwen down to size. I felt that it was my duty not to get along with Gwen.
“So what is the Irishman doing?’ Mike asked.
“People who have things to hide, tend to be very careful, so it is hard to look around in the daylight hours. In the dead of a cold night, it is much easier to get an idea of what is going on. The Irishman is just looking around at the Atwood farm. We want to know what is going on out there. It will help us formulate a plan.”
I drank a lot of coffee while Mike and Gwen took turns making me talk in bits and pieces. The bits and pieces would end up in the TV show. Since I knew that, I kept my cool.
Almost four hours later I heard the SUV, so I slipped out the back door. I crept around the house to be sure that it was Martin and that he was alone. When he reached the door, I stepped out. Since I had the capsule there was no advantage in standing in the cold to talk.