Even though we had the state police car outside, we stayed up a couple of hours after we got home. It was mostly to check out the cook shack, and of lesser importance to watch the drive on video. We watched Someone leave the cook shack about 1AM. He walked out of the camera frame for a few minutes, then back inside the shack.
“Does he look familiar to anyone?” I asked.
“Not one of the brothers for sure,” Martin said.
“That’s what I was afraid of. Cooking that shit is too dangerous for the brothers. One misstep and you got a room full of bodies. You can make crystal Meth or you can make poison gas. It all comes from the same ingredients.”
“So now what?” Martin asked.
“Well, we still might get them on tape going into the place, but the odds are slim. There is no reason for them to be at the shack. They can take care of business anywhere. Pay off the cookers and take delivery of the shit.”
“You mean I did that for nothing?” Martin asked.
“No worse than other things you have done for nothing,” I replied.
“Yeah, there is that,” Martin agreed. “So what is the next plan.”
“Well they have been telling everyone we aren’t really the good guys, let’s let them think they are right.”
“Oh, what do you have in mind?” he asked.
“A little power play gone wrong,” I suggested.
“You heard that cop Maxine. We cross the line, we are going to jail. Not something I signed on for.” Gwen said.
“Gwen you are allowed to leave anytime you think a plan puts you at too much risk. What you can not do is roll over on us, while we are still operational.” Then I turned to Martin and Mike. “She does have a point though. If we so something illegal while filming for TV, we are screwed.”
“Yeah it would be like a confession. You can’t say it is fiction, if you have people bleeding on tape.”
“Lets give this some more thought. Maybe we should just run with the preacher thing for a while and think. We are not on the clock or anything. We make a move today, or next week it’s all the same.”
“You have a point none of us have a life,” Martin said.
“Speak for yourself Martin. I have a boyfriend I want to see some day.” Gwen said. When she said that I thought of Cheryl. It was just a passing thought, before I forced it from my mind. I had really serious shit to think about.
“You know I’m getting really tired of your whining,” Martin said. “I know we have to treat you TV people with kid gloves, but you are really getting on my nerves.”
I changed the subject just to give everyone the chance to cool off. “Why don’t we start a terror campaign on the bothers. Nothing serious enough for them to call the cops, just enough to be a pain in the ass. Then set up a meet and get them to incriminate themselves on tape.”
“I’m telling you, we need to just kill them.” Martin said.
“Hell Red, where is challenge in that?” I asked.
“Okay what is your plan?” he asked.
“First we watch the cook shack. We also gather intelligence everywhere we can, then we make a real plan. In the meantime we stay inside the cover story.” I could see that Martin didn’t like the inactivity. I thought that he sometimes forgot that everything we said was being recorded. I took Martin aside and whispered in his ear, “Trust me. As soon as we are alone we can talk. Right now, we have to play to the camera.”
He nodded but still didn’t look happy. I’m sure it was more the bullshit of the TV show, than the Atwoods. I went to the bedroom to pass out. I was that tired. I had been stumbling around for the last twenty minutes. I can watch the video the next morning, I thought.
I still wouldn’t let Gwen leave the house alone, so I rode with her to get breakfast for everyone. We even took the cop’s order. In order to get anything worth eating as takeout, we had to drive back to the highway interchange. Since I was the one who wanted biscuits, I should be the one to go. If I went, I had to take along a shadow. If I had to take along a shadow, I chose Gwen. I still didn’t care for her, but it gave the guys a break from her. At least she was a woman. Not that I don’t like men just as well, but her questions just sounded a little less abrasive, than Mike’s.
After breakfast we decided that we should make noises like a group of religious zealots, since that was our cover story. Mike printed up some ‘prayer of the day’ fliers, so Martin, Gwen and I went into town to pass them out.
“So, are we still allowed to use your action house for our services, even after the shootout at our house?” I asked the auctioneer
“Absolutely and I’m sure it will be a full house,” he admitted with a good humor smile.
“I certainly hope we have a full house, but even if only two of us are meeting in his name, God will be with us,” I said.
“Good morning,” I said to everyone I met. I also passed out the prayer sheets along the streets of town. Even in flea markets and the farmers exchange we made pests of ourselves.
“So do you think the Atwoods are going to lay low?’ Martin asked.
“Oh yes, just as long as the state police are around.” Martin and I were in his SUV. Gwen was following us around in her econobox. I made the signal for him to do his ‘black out’ thing with the microphones.
“They will stay low and this is the ideal time to put some hurt on the boys. We can’t kill anyone, but we can reek havoc on rolling stock and fixed assets of the business. They aren’t going to put their pet cop on us with real cops around.”
“That’s a good plan. So what do we do first?” he asked.
“We need to figure a way to get the cooker away from the shack, then we need to get the dogs out. We are not going to injure those dogs,” I said. I added with a smile, “Then we burn the mother to the ground.”
“The surveillance tapes will tell us what his routine is, then I just have to cut the lock, open the gate, get mauled by the dogs, and set the fire.” Martin said with a laugh, “Piece of cake.”
“Well the dogs look pretty underfed. When we know his schedule and he is gone, drop by and throw some fresh meat over the fence. Do it a couple of times, then open the gate and throw a steak in the opposite direction. When they take off after the steak throw a railroad flare in the shack and run like hell. It is going to go up with a hell of a bang.”
Another good plan. That is going to bring the Atwoods out to play regardless of the state police,” Martin said.
“I don’t think so, but two or three attacks like it and they are going to want to talk. We get them on tape, then give it to Marshal Hall, and it’s over for us.”
“You hope it is over, but we might have to fight our way out of this town yet.” Martin said.
“Well I figure if it come to that, I couldn’t be in better company,” I said.
“Nor could I,” Martin said with a grin.”
“Just feel the love,” I said with a laugh. Now turn the microphone back on.
Martin and I studied the tapes closely everyday until Friday evening. We drove back to the highway for dinner Friday evening. Martin and I in one car the two TV producers in the another. He used his jamming device almost immediately.
“Okay I figure he is going out most evening for about three hours. Probably a woman or a bar and a woman,” he said.
“So nine till midnight is our best times, but you setup and watch for one hour after he leaves before you go in to feed the dogs. That camera doesn’t cover a very wide field of view.”
“I figured that out too, I can do it without being seen. This ain’t my first square dance little lady.” he said smiling.
“Then after dinner lets start to get it done.” I said.
“Two nights of dog food, then on Sunday night it goes up.” Martin said. “That means I get to hear you preach at least one time.” He said it with a great belly laugh.
After dinner Martin disappeared for a couple of hours. I knew where he was, but I played dumb when asked. Saturday was a repeat of Friday only it was the start of the weekend. There were more people in town, so more hand shakes and invitations to church.
“I know our cover isn’t going to hold up forever, but I would like to keep it intact for a few more days anyway. This sermon thing has me terrified.” I explained to Gwen.
“You will be fine, here I made you a cheat sheet,” she said with one of those sisterly smiles taht women use now and then. What she gave me was the outline of a sermon, she had found it on the Internet.
So Sunday morning I dressed in my one nice pair of pants and top. Then I went to Church in the Cattle auction building. I had seen lots of preachers, when I was young, but not so many since I was grown. The one I liked, and remembered the most, was an air force Chaplin who visited me in Germany, while I was being put back together.
He just talked to me like any other person. He let me know always that he was a man of god, but other than that admission, he was just like anyone else you would meet. That being my best memory, I tried to mimic him as much as possible.
The sermon was about doing the right thing, even when it hurt. “If it doesn’t hurt, it’s hard to know what the right thing is. The right thing to do often is the most painful of the options you have. Whether you make the right decision, or not is something the world may never know, but God will always know.
Most of us when we are dealing with a hard decision will often ask, not what Jesus would do,. but what would my dad or mom have done. That usually is the right thing to do, because we tend to forget all the wrong things people we love have done. The ability to forget is also a gift from our loving God.”
“We will not be taking an offering today. I know times are hard and brother Willis has donated the use of his building, so buy your children a hamburger and tell them it is a gift from their loving god.”
“God bless you all and drive carefully.”
I stood and shook hands with everyone who came forward. I wasn’t interested in saving souls only in do a creditable job as a preacher. I must have done alright judging from the remarks made to me.
“Holy shit Maxine, I can’t believe how inspiring that was. It was just like listening to my mom talk.” Gwen said. “I just loved it.”
“She is right, it is going to make great TV,” Martin said sarcastically.
“Don’t laugh Martin, she may have found her calling.” Mike said with a laugh.
“What I have done, is work up a great apatite,” I said
“Then let’s all go to lunch, on the TV network,” Mike said.
“Okay, but I want pizza and salad, not much of a bill for your network to absorb.” I said.
“Even better,” he replied.
We found something called the house of Pizza. We had already seated ourselves, when agent Hall came into the dining room.
“It’s hard to believe you aren’t really a preacher,” he said. “Which one of you has the pistol pointed at me under the table?” He asked.
“No need for that, you are a friend,” I suggested. “So what can I do for you?”
“Wanted to let you know the Atwood’s slipped out of the shooting at your place. We never found the forth man to make him talk.” he said.
“My guess is a bullet in the brain and a shallow grave somewhere,” I said.
“Yeah, just wanted to warn you to watch yourself. I have to take the babysitter away.”
Then we better get home,” I suggested. I saw Mike lay his fancy telephone on the table and knew that he would be watching the place till we got back.”