It turned into a whirlwind. I stopped the car for gas, and Tom went to a quiet spot several paces from the SUV. He talked into the cell phone for a long time. Well past the time it took to fill the SUV’s gas tank and the axillary tank as well. The receipt show $123 so I knew he had been a while. I got back into the car to wait for him.
It took him at least ten more minutes to finish the call. A lot of the time he was on hold or listening to the other party talk. It took him so long to finished the call that I moved the SUV away from the pumps. I went inside the little convenience store attached to the gas station. They had chocolate milk so I bought a small carton.
Finally Tom returned to the SUV. “They ran me around a bit. Since it is Sunday, they had to track down a duty officer and patch him through to me. I explained I had a family emergency and had to return to Philly. He had to get some answers, but he said there would a ticket waiting for me at the Augusta Air Port. So I guess we are going to have to stay there tonight.”
“It’s going to be late when we get into Augusta for sure. I guess we can check into a motel there, so you can fly out tomorrow. I have till Friday to get to Memphis, so that is no problem. You may hear form Miami PD before you fly out, but I doubt it. Unless they found something major in that warehouse, they wouldn’t bother with you. When they get the evidence the bad guys will most likely plead guilty and it will be over,” I said. “You know I couldn’t take the chance on having them force you back down there at the last minute and leave me with no backup?” I asked.
“What I really know is that I didn’t do what you told me to do. You feel you can’t trust me to have your back, and you want me replaced. I covered you, by telling the family emergency thing, but we both know it’s about you Silvia,” he said. “You just don’t trust me to be your partner in crime. I want you to know that the duty officer questioned me, but I didn’t give you up. I stuck to the family emergency crap.”
“That was up to you. either way I figure you were gone. Swamp Dog would not have been any more understanding of you calling the police, on something the surely is none of your business, then I am,” I said. “Whether you took me with you or not would make no difference.”
“I know that, but I could have gotten you for spite and I didn’t,” he said.
“If you change your mind go right ahead and tell them. I got no more to lose then you have. I love to work and I like the money, but I can get by without it,” I explained.
I got two rooms at the motel by the highway. I would never have stayed there, if it was just me. Tom knocked on my door shortly after we checked in at 10PM. “Sylvia check in time for my flight will be noon is that going to be a problem for you,” he asked.
“Not at all, I’ll just carry my dirty laundry and do the wash after I drop you off.” I replied.
“Good, I have no idea how I will get the pistol home,” he said.
“Just UPS it to yourself. You will beat it home,” I suggested. “Don’t tell them what is in the box. We can take care of all that in the morning.”
“Okay, I’ll see you in the morning,” Tom said and left.
I chose that particular motel, because it has a convenience store within walking distance. I walked down to it and bought a quart of milk. When I got back I poured about a forth of it into the tea pot. I made one cup of hot chocolate before bedtime. I filled the smaller of the coolers with ice from the machine and put the remainder of the milk in it then went to bed. I fell asleep quiet easily even in the midst of all the turmoil.
I awoke at 5AM the next morning and went out for my run. I ran until 6:20 then fixed a bowl of cereal. It was my usual routine. I prepared the hot chocolate with the last of the milk. I had about a third of the Hershey bar left. It was enough for one more cup of hot chocolate before I needed to consider my next move.
I read the news on my computer before Tom arrived. I read the same articles on the conservative news website, and then read it on the liberal website. I felt like I got a pretty fair idea of what really happened that way. I probably didn’t really know any more that way, but I felt like I did anyway.
When Tom came, I realized that I really was going to miss him. What he did might not have been that bad. Maybe I had just over reacted, because he let me down. I never thought he would let me down, since I was screwing him. At least he hadn’t thrown me to the wolves so far.
The next time I got a wild hair to do something for kicks, I promised myself no one would know about it. If I hadn’t involved him, he would still be my partner. It really was my fault for involving him. I would not have, if I had any indication he had the hero complex. He just had the deep seated need to be part of the action again. I should have realized that was the case. So it was really my fault Tom was forced to leave.
I spent the day in a funk. I drove Tom to a UPS store and got a box. Then we went out and put his pistol and some packing inside it. After we sealed it up well, we went back and shipped it.
From there we went to have an early lunch, since he might not get to eat for a while. It was 11:20 when I dropped him off. He wanted to be earlier than the recommended time for his check in. I offered to wait but he insisted that I leave. I was glad he did. He might well blame me for his having to resign, but the real reason was what he did, not my reaction to it. Yes I had done a hell of a lot of soul searching.
I spent the afternoon in the laundromat. It was the chore I hated the most. There was no hot spot so the laptop was useless. I did not have a cell phone plan that allowed me to tap into the Internet, so I was looking forward to an hour of complete downtime.
All that changed when I got a call from Swamp Dog. “Sylvia this is Martin,” the voice on my cell phone said.
“Yes Colonel, what can I do for you?” I asked.
“I just wanted to inform you that I’m picking the next replacement for your little operation,” he said rather testy I thought.
“It isn’t my operation. I never had anything to do with your hiring Tom,” I replied.
“You know passing the buck doesn’t become an operative,” He said.
“Oh am I passing the buck? Maybe you should remove me as well,” I suggested.
“Frankly Sylvia I had considered that. The client said you were doing an exemplary job, or I would have just sent in a whole new team. It would probably take them a week or two to develop the rapport you already have, so I chose to keep you in place.”
“How very kind of you. I think now I wish to be replaced,” I said.
“That is your choice, but if you do I want you to refund that part of our payments to you, that are in excess of the fee for the shows you have done. Since you were paid half the contract fee in advance and you have worked only five weeks of a three month assignment you owe us one more show or refund the money,” he said thinking I would do the one more weekend.
“Figure out how much I owe you and I will send you the refund. In quarters so it will hurt more when you shove it up your ass. Now I’m either getting a plane ticket home, or you can pick up your SUV in county seat. Now Colonel fuck off.” I shouted into the phone.
I finished my laundry, then drove back to the motel to await his arrangements for my return home. It was just Monday and I had a days drive to the next show which I could make on Thursday, so either was I wasn’t too worried about it.
The phone rang about 4PM. “Sylvia this is Joyce at Swamp Dog. We have an operative on the way to Augusta are you still there?” the voice on the phone said.
“Yes I am still here,” I said.
“The Colonel asked if you would please stay and meet the operative and turn over the company vehicle to him. I am not sure who the operative is at this time, but he will arrive at on tomorrow’s American flight at 2PM.” she said.
“Sure have you booked my flight yet?” I asked.
“No Sylvia, but your replacement will not leave you stranded,” she said.
“Good,” I replied. “Once my mind close the door on the body guard gig, I began looking forward to going home to County Seat. Until I was told I was going home, I hadn’t thought about how much I missed it.
Since over the last couple of weeks the bones in my hand had set, I was able to do without the elastic bandage. That allowed me to work the hand a lot more than before. I couldn’t make a fist but I could grip large things. I began to make plans to make my bike more handicapped friendly.
Back in the motel I began looking for things to make my new life easier on ebay. I didn’t really find anything since nobody worried about small disabilities. It didn’t matter I could work it out when I got home, I decided.
I actually slept well that night. The end was near and a new beginning was about to start. I was a little bummed that I wouldn’t have a chance to say goodbye to the band of gypsies, but life goes on.
When I awoke on Tuesday, I ran my hour and choked down my cereal. I was getting a little tired of it. I still didn’t know whether I would be on a flight that that day, or the next so I didn’t check out of the motel.
At noon I went into Augusta and found a very nice restaurant for lunch. I managed to get a steak and baked potato with a salad. I got a fillet because I hoped it would be tender enough to cut with one hand. I still could not grip anything as small as a fork handle with my left hand. When the meat came I found I could cut it with my fork. It took some heavy duty pressure but it was worth it. I finished my meal well before 2PM, so I had a very nice Boston Creme Pie for desert. Even that didn’t kill enough time, so I took the SUV to the airport. I sat in the parking lot to hijack their WIFI. The connection was tenuous, but I was just reading the news, so it didn’t matter at all.
At 1:45 I went into the the terminal. I carried a home made sign that read simply ‘Swamper.’