By Cindy and Walt
When he parked in front of our homes, Bart asked, “Do you have any antibiotics?”
“I have all I need. That antibiotic ointment will work fine at the site. It should take care of any infection at that point. My blood will handle anything inside my body. In spite of all that jungle shit, I have the immune system of a thirty year old virgin,” I replied with a tired smile.
“Well take your thirty six year old worn out ass to bed. We have been up almost forty eight hours straight,” he said.
“Bart, I cat napped all the way back. You could have as well, if you had let me drive your truck,” I replied.
“Honey, if you were 100%, I wouldn’t let you drive my truck. And if I were totally out of it, and had to let you drive, I couldn’t have slept.” he said with a smile.
“Prick,” I said and gave him a quick peck before I gathered my few things and climbed the stairs to my condo. Once upstairs I fell into bed and slept till 2 PM the next afternoon.
Since I had tossed the burner out the window of the truck as we crossed some unnamed river, my real phone’s voice mail was full. I redressed the wound with a thick sterile dressing coated on the inside with antibiotic ointment. The dressing was held in place with duct tape. The duct tape helped to hold the ends of the skin together around Bart’s less than perfect stitches.
I took a couple of painkillers left over from the days after my return from the forced vacation in the sun. I felt a little dopey, so I walked to the diner.
“Hey you sure are good for business,” the boxer said as he came out from the kitchen. “We done had the Feds all over the place yesterday and today. They all be looking for your skinny white ass.”
“Just popular I guess,” I replied. “You willing to cook breakfast for me before you close for the day?”
“Long as it’s bacon and eggs. I ain’t got not no sausage made up,” the owner of the diner replied.
“Bacon and eggs with whatever bread you got will be fine,” I replied. “And some of that swill you call coffee.”
While I waited I called Steve’s cell phone. “Hello,” Steve said.
“You working in the houses today?” I asked.
“Whenever I can. The Feds have been all over the place. Me and Sterlin shot down that drone. It was pretty easy since it flew about ten circles over the farm. Just running nice and slow. I told the Feds it took about three circles for us to get the shotguns, then about five more to figure out how much lead to give it. But when we did it came down like a fucking rock,” Steve said with a laugh.
“Very good, I knew I could count on you two,” I said.
“Thanks, there have been guys in those hazmat suits all over us. I think we got a clean bill of health but you never know. Since we had the houses sealed they didn’t have to do anything but take samples there,” he added.
“That’s good to hear,” I replied. “Do you reckon Sterlin would have time to drop the girls, or should I come get them?”
“If we can keep them till after work, we can both bring them,” Steve said.
“Sure that’s fine. My breakfast is ready anyway,” I replied.
When I got back to the condo and apartment building, I found Hanes leaning against the hood of my pickup truck. “Glad to see you made it back,” he said.
“Thanks,” I replied. I was determined to keep my answers short and on point.
“I promised to keep you updated on Roman. It looks like he pissed somebody off,” he said putting a piece of gum in his mouth after offering one to me.
I took the gum then replied, “Damn shame, I was looking forward to meeting him,” I said.
“Yeah, well it was one of those car bomb kind of things,” Hanes said.
“Really, sounds like terrorist to me,” I suggested.
“Oh I will definitely keep that in mind,” he said as he walked toward his own car. “You know, I got to ask where you were yesterday, when he went to pieces, so to speak.”
“You know I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the motel where Bart and I went to celebrate. He might remember,” I suggested. “I was pretty drunk you know.”
“Yeah, I know. Somehow I don’t think Bart is going to remember either. I also expect when I ask he is going to refer me to that lawyer for Swamp Dog,” he replied.
“Could be, they are tight,” I replied.
“I hear that Washington has added a new phrase to the congressional hearings,” Hanes said.
“Oh what is that?” I asked.
“The Sacre Mercenaire connection, kind of catchy don’t you think?” Hanes added. “You got to give it to those politicians. They got such a way with words.”
“If you say so,” I replied turning my back on him. I wondered if they had a tape of our call to Roman from the deserted farm. That would not be good.
I climbed the two flights of stairs to my condo. I went into the living area and then over to my built-in desk. I flipped on the large screen monitor and began reading the news. The bomb made yesterday’s news along with an update to the Senate hearings on the America Foreign Legion. I prayed they would not call me to testify.
Before I knew it, Steve and Sterlin were at the door with my two other best friends. The four of them were happy to see me. It took a little effort not to scream from the hugs and the doggy kisses. The bullet graze across my ribs was in a painful place for sure.
The two guys sat down and talked about their experience with the Feds. It sounded as though someone had told them to take it easy on the pot farm. We were clean but according to Steve they didn’t even do a search.
Since I hadn’t done any financial shuck and jive dances since well before I came back, there was very little to find even if they did a search on me. Well the batteries might take some explaining, but I did have receipts for about half the gold and silver and all the diamonds. Those corresponded with electronics transfers for the purchases. There should not be any problems with confusing the Feds. Still they weren’t looking at me for anything from me at that moment.
I heard the story from the guys three times, about how they shot down the drone. Roman hardly got mentioned at all, because I made it clear I wasn’t going to talk about it. While I was sitting there, I got a call on my cell phone. I saw that it was Wilson. I debated with myself about answering it. I knew that NSA was listening, but I decided I would have to at some point.
“Hello Wilson, do you want your toy back?” I asked.
“Not why I’m calling. You probably should keep it,” he said.
“A girl can never have too many toys,” I said in my best sexy voice. “If not the Toy what do you want?” I knew he was about to pass a code key to me.
“Nothing just calling to see how things were working out for you. Now that I have talked to you I feel better.”
“Good, then everything got done on your end okay?” I asked.
“Yeah everything was great. So if you ever need it, I still owe you,” he said.
“Yes you do. Send me a box of Mel’s cupcakes,” I said.
“Can do,” he said hanging up. Melody his girlfriend was the chef at the Swamp Dog compound till they went underground. I had no idea what she was doing at the moment. I knew that Church Camp needed a chef, but it was a long way from the Swamp to the mountains. Well I mentally filed it under ‘not my problem’.
“So what are you doing for dinner,” Steve asked.
“I was thinking Mac and cheese with bacon bits. Maybe some corn muffins,” I said.
“We were thinking steak at that barn looking place on the Williamston road,” Sterlin said. “You know table for six kind of thing.”
“So who are the other three?” I asked. I had a feeling something had changed but I didn’t know what.
“Well Bart of course, Sterlin and I met these twin sisters,” Steve said. He had the look Lady had after she ate the extra food she found laying around the house. Lady didn’t have to know that I hid soft treats when she and tramp were outside.
“You have to be kidding me,” I said with a laugh.
“Not at all Tina and Tonya are real cute,” Sterlin said with a grin. “Come on you are Bart’s date.”
“Have you asked him?” I asked.
“He said if you agreed, he would go, so agree so we can all be together at least one more time,” Steve suggested.
‘He seems to know things were going to fall apart,’ Liam’s voice in my head suggested. I nodded.
“Count me in but only if one of you feeds the girls and put them out, then go out to inspect the yard,” I agreed. The girls were going out to leave their addition to the solid waste container which eventually found its way to the farm’s compost pit.
After Lady and Tramp had eaten, done their waste thing, and then settled down, we walked down to the next block and to Bart’s place. I hadn’t been inside for a while, so I was really impressed with Rita’s redo of the downstairs. She had moved the kitchen down stairs to a spot under the stairs. The half bath had been sacrificed but it was very effective. I imagined they spent most of their time upstairs anyway.
“Come on Princess,” I said to Bart. I didn’t mind teasing him, since he had seen me pretty much naked. It hadn’t been sexual, but it was a bonding moment. I think a man who is able to sew up a half naked woman, and keep his cool is a guy worth having around.
“Princess my ass you closet dyke.” He laughed when he said it. “How’s your scratch.”
I shook my head to warn him to stop. I didn’t want him to spill the beans. “I’m fine,” I said.
“What is he talking about?” Sterlin asked.
“I snagged my chest on a nail in that old barn. It was nothing,” I said looking at Bart.
“Yeah just an accident,” Bart said. “I put a Band-Aid on it. That’s what I was kidding her about.”
“Have you had a tetanus shot?” Sterlin asked.
“Yes I’m good. So about that steak house. We need to get moving, I want to meet your dates,” I said.
“Dates?” Bart asked.
“Twins no less,” I informed him.
“This I got to see,” Bart suggested. He looked at me as if appraising my condition.
“Stop looking at me like that. You are not my mother,” I whispered as the boys left.
The girls were twins, but there was just enough difference to make them not quite identical any longer. First of all one of the Twins was about twenty pounds over her ideal weight. The other was about ten pounds too skinny for my taste. They also had different colors of hair, neither of which was their natural color. They did have that beautiful deep south drawl that was so attractive on a woman, but not so much on a man.
I really couldn’t do justice to the steak. Too much had been going on recently for me to think much about food. I was still way too thin to allow me to eat the half pound steak. It was delicious but I just couldn’t finish it. I had even ordered mine without a potato or bread and still couldn’t finish.
I did eat half a piece of cheesecake before we called it a night. The three men were fighting over the check when the twins and I went to the bathroom. Once we were in the bathroom I asked, “How did you two meet Steve and Sterlin?”
“Our great aunt Sadie introduced us,” Tonya, the heavier and more outgoing of the two, answered, “It was really a blind date.”
“So how many dates have you all had?” I asked from the bathroom stall.
“This is our second date. They had to cancel one more date the day before yesterday,” Tina added.
“Sorry about all the questions, but they are kind of my family. So, what relation to Steve’s helper are you?” I asked.
“Boyd is like our cousin or second cousin, we aren’t really sure. We know him of course from school, but our parents didn’t really socialize much with the rest of the family,” Tonya explained. “They wanted us to be more than the others.”
The story was fast approaching more than I wanted to know. My guess was their combined IQ was a few point shy of an idiot. I sure as hell hoped they were good in bed, because they could bore the hell out of a monk, I thought.
Back at the table the scraps of the meal had been cleared away, but I sat down anyway. Every other meal I had with my friends ended when the plates were gone. We usually all had other things to do. That night people hated to leave. Even though the girls most likely would forget anything we said, I still made sure no one commented on anything. It was a little easier than it might have been since the boys from the farm knew nothing about Baltimore and never would, I hoped.
That dinner officially brought the incident to a close. Well except for the rip in the skin over my ribs. I had to take another pill since I was out and couldn’t just go lay down.
“You don’t look so good Rose. I think you need to go lay down,” Bart said.
“I’m fine you are just trying to get me into bed,” I suggested drunkenly. “Maybe you are right. It’s just all this wine I think but you are right I need to head home.” What really was effecting me was the mix of Vicodin and the red wine. I seldom drank wine and even less often took Vicodin.
Bart got me home without me throwing up inside his car. “I’m coming in,” he demanded. It never even crossed my mind to refuse him.
While I slept, he made phone calls. He slept on the narrow sofa bed in my living area. I never in my life had a guest room. All my guests slept in my bed or the sofa bed. I didn’t even check my mail, I just passed out in a cold sweat.
I also didn’t wake at 5 AM, but Bart did. He fed the girls for me then let them outside. It was too early for them to romp, so they just checked out the perimeter and did their pee things. When they came back I did wake up when they climbed onto my bed. They went back to their own bed eventually and I went back to sleep.
It was afternoon when I was back in the world of the functioning humans. I grabbed some clean clothes and went into the bathroom to shower. When I got out of the shower naked, Bart was sitting on the sofa with his laptop. He must have run home for it at some point. “You left me alone to go get your computer. You really are a thoughtless prick,” I said then laughed.
“You weren’t in any danger. I only stayed to be sure you didn’t take off in the truck. You were in no condition to drive,” Bart said.
I knew it was bullshit, but I didn’t care. “Thanks for taking care of me,” I said.
“You would do the same for me,” he said.
“No I wouldn’t. I might call Rita,” I replied. Suddenly I was sad, since I didn’t have a Rita to call.
After that morning things began to slowly return to normal. Normal being defined as boring, but profitable. The guys were a long way from owners of the farm, but they were inching their way forward.
They were a lot like me. They had little desire for the trappings of wealth, so they doubled up on their payments for the lease. Instead of my agreed upon cut of the harvest they doubled it.
With their share of the profit they bought a few things. Sterlin who owned a Cadillac sedan, bought a large Ford pickup truck. Steve, who owned a pick up truck, bought a Mercedes sports car. Other wise they still wore desert camo fatigues to work around the place.
Since Steve had been with me over a year he had worn out parts of his fatigues, so he wore fatigues tops over jeans. He actually was right in style with what the kids were wearing at that moment.
Sterlin still has his fatigue pants that weren’t too far gone. He did wear sweatshirts with a black silhouette of a soldier with a sniper rifle on the front. He must have had a half dozen of them. I knew that because I have seen him in at least three different colors.
I, on the other hand, was most likely to be in sloppy tee shirts and skinny jeans in the summer months. Then in the winter, it was sloppy sweaters over tight thermal tee shirts and skinny jeans. I had lots of the tops in different colors and necklines. Other women wore fancy camisoles under sloppy sweater, not me. I wore boy’s tight fitting thermal tee shirts. I was definitely not into fashion.
It was almost six months after the extortion episode before my name finally came up in the Senate hearings. My involvement with the Swamp Dog crew was mentioned as an intelligence asset. I knew that I was going to have to brace for some pretty nasty attention from the press, who were in a feeding frenzy. That is if they could trace me.
I hoped that I had made it difficult enough so that it would take a while. I planned to get ready for an extended road trip. The people hunting me wouldn’t be carrying weapons, unless one considered a TV camera a weapon. I knew that there were other people who still held a grudge. They would be happy to use the press to find me.
So it appeared that I would need Wilson one more time at least. “This time you prick, I want a clean ID even if it takes you a month to put it together.”
“I learned from the last fiasco Rose. I know how to fix you up with a past all the way back to the delivery room,” Wilson said.
He was right. He went with one ironclad ID, rather then ten shallow ones. Her name was Grace Allen. The real Grace Allen had been a school teacher in Indiana of all places.
She was two years younger than me. She was also a bit of a nerd, so when she died in a car accident, a few months before Wilson chose her, only her family seemed to notice.
He immediately put her onto a leave from the school board rather than a death notice to them. Her teacher retirement account was frozen until she went back to work as a teacher, so it was finished but not closed. The same was true for her social security number. It was just left open, but she showed no active employer. She was after all on a leave of absence.
Wilson found and infiltrated her bank account, so that it didn’t get a death notice either. He set up a complicated annuity for Grace Allen. It was paid for with a one time purchase from my clean bank account. The payment was to a legit insurance company, one who would make monthly payments to her account. That account was made available to me by Wilson.
He alerted Social Security, who reactivated her number but also flagged. Gracie was one of the non-working people in this country, one who made their money from the stock market and other investments. In the new government they were the enemy. But it was a class hate, nothing personal you know.
Wilson had the new identity ready for me to assume before the press found me. I sent a text message to Sterlin asking him to take care of the girls, then one to Bart telling him not to blame Rita for my outing. Then I disappeared.
The bank had my power of attorney but it was just there to wind down my business interests. Even though I wouldn’t be involved any longer I didn’t want anyone suffering.
Wilson also set up stock accounts for her. Just in case I wanted to dabble. For the actual get away, he purchased a cruise ship ticket in my new name. I had no intention of setting foot on the boat. No one would have any idea the cruise was a sham since a young woman my age, wearing dark glasses, checked in the ship in my name. She had a grand time during her four day cruise. Wilson arranged that as well. It was all one giant hoax to allow me to disappear yet again.
Wilson had arranged for Gracie to purchase a new car online and to have it ready for me when I got off the cruise ship. Since he had a copy of my new signature he splashed it all over the place, so closing the sale was a breeze.