After what seemed like an interminable ride to O’Hare, Gus tossed the fare to the cabby and ran for check-in.
“Your flight is on time and leaves from gate H12 Mr. Walker. Have a nice trip.” the clerk said in a perky voice. Gus nodded, grabbing the ticket. He walked briskly, his coat under one arm and his ticket grasped tightly.
Finding an unoccupied sitting area, he pulled out his cell phone. “Just time for one call.” he reasoned – “… best make it count.” Hitting the chosen name in speed dial, Gus fidgeted while he waited for his call to go through.
‘Thank God, it’s you!” came the answer. “We’ve all been wondering where the hell you were! Are you OK??!”
“Sorry, Pete. It’s been dicey but listen I’m short on time here. I need to know if you’ve heard from Jessie. What’s the latest?”
“Sure.” Pete responded.
Gus listened intently and Pete spoke quickly, bringing Gus up to speed on the dangers facing the women at the farm. With no time to spare Gus cleared his throat and interrupted ‘Yeah, Jess left one message about the flowers. Where are things now?”
“Well,” Pete replied, “She’s hoping to get them away from what she knows is coming… she’s called in ‘The Dawgs’ for backup. Not sure where they are now but they’re on the way as we speak. The plan is for them to stay with Angie there on the farm and look after her. As soon as they arrive, Jessie plans on taking the girls and hopes to be in the wind before it all comes down.”
Gus breathed a sigh of relief. “If she calls again let her know I’m on my way. She may not be reachable by the time I can get to the farm but let her know I’ll be trying to catch up.”
Stuffing a Tums in his mouth Gus added, “Call Arlo and tell him to have a car for me at JFK. He knows the place to park it and the kind. Gotta run, Thanks buddy.”
Putting his cell back in his pocket Gus made his way to the waiting area. His flight would begin boarding in mere moments.
“Last call for Alaska Flight 116 to New York’s JFK airport now boarding at gate H12.” This time it was Gus who was the last to run and board the plane as the door was closing.
It was dark now and Jessie’s car was positioned to make a fast get-away, hidden in the hay barn. Returning to the old root cellar where the girls and Jip were hunkered down, her mental list was nearly complete: a blanket for Blue Eyes, ammo and water, cheese, bread and a few apples from Angie’s pantry, clean T-shirts and baseball caps. Those were the items already packed in the car. She carried a couple of lanterns for illumination in the dank, pungent cellar and some dog bones for Jip.
At the signaled knock, Angie opened the planked wooden door leading down into the cavelike darkness. The old root cellar had been dug over 150 years ago when the original homestead was built. Still used for storage and old implements for canning and ‘putting things by’ it had been replaced some 40 years ago with a new cellar nearer the house. Still, this was a much better place to hide and hopefully allow more time to get away if worse came to worst.
Closing the heavy door behind her, Jessie climbed down the rickety steps. Lighting the lanterns, she turned to face the women and squared her shoulders. Clearing her throat, she spoke softly but with all the authority she knew it required to keep the resolve that was so desperately needed.
Reaching out, Jessie gently took Blue Eyes’ hands in hers as they huddled together in the dim light. ‘I’m so very proud of you…” she began talking slowly to the frail and bewildered woman. “By now you must realize that we’re here to protect you and we must all work together to escape whoever is after you. We’re so grateful for the trust that is evident in your eyes and the good fight you’ve made to recover. It’s a blessing that you’re able to navigate a bit and I’ll require that you keep on with that good fight. We WILL survive this, come hell or high water. Jessie’s voice cracked with emotion. She squeezed Blue Eyes’ hands with those last words and was pleased at the faint attempt to squeeze back.
Turning to look squarely at Theresa and Angie, she continued, “We’ve been over the drill backwards and forwards-with a couple of contingency plans thrown in- so now, if it’s at all possible, let’s try to rest a bit until ‘the cavalry’ arrives.” With this, Jessie spread out burlap bags on the dirt floor and each one took a place in the waiting game.
A little over an hour went by, with no one actually resting, as thoughts raced.
They were jolted out of their ponderings by a low growl from Jip. Angie grabbed him by the scruff and tried to quiet him but he persisted. They all sat frozen as they heard footsteps approaching the cellar door. Then came the signaled knock and Jessie breathed a grateful sigh of relief and announced “It’s the guys, Thank God!” and she opened the heavy door.
Barely visible in the moonless night were two large men carrying guns and gear. With them was also a large German Shepherd standing at full alert. Jip wasn’t the only one intimidated.
“We made it, Jessie! We brought Molly along for extra backup – but I see you already have some!” The voice sounded confident, capable and oh so welcome to the worry-laden women.
The two men and Molly climbed down to join the rest of the group while Jessie made introductions: “Ladies and Jip, meet Syms, Dyson and Molly- three of the best Bounty Hunters in existence! These guys have seen it all and nothing gets past them.” With that, her eyes moved to Angie and she continued, “They’re not going to let you out of their sight Angie. You will be safe and sound once we’ve gone.”
Angie’s eyes misted with tears but she did her best to remain strong. She took Jessie’s hand and squeezed it. “Thank you Dear. I’m sure we’ll make the best of it.”
Turning to Theresa, the gray haired woman crinkled her face into a smile and she tried to look reassuring. ‘Your Dad is a fighter, Sweet Girl. All shall be well.”
With that, Angie pulled out a small paper bag and handed it to Theresa, patting her gently. “Horehound drops for your trip. Your Mom always loved them and I keep some in my apron pocket to remind me of her. They’ll give you strength when you need it.”
Theresa let loose a little sob and hugged Angie tight.
Syms and Dyson looked on and took their cue from Jessie. “Time to roll!” Syms bent down and gently picked up Blue Eyes, carrying her up the cellar steps and through the darkness to Jessie’s waiting car. And with that, a new chapter in the dangerous saga began.
Gus arrived at JFK airport and made his way to the outermost parking garage. “Good ol’ Arlo…he always comes through.” Gus smiled a slight smile.
He readily found the car key taped under the left rear fender. He quickly opened the car door, got in and again searched the secret place he and Arlo used for info and messages. In the magnetized small box hidden behind the ashtray, Gus found what he needed: a time stamped parking ticket and an update from Arlo in the form of a note. It cryptically read:
‘The impounded vehicle in question was ‘inspected’ at the auction by those anticipated. Inspected VERY closely -but rejected with dismay. Looks like the ‘cleaning’ took what they had hoped to find.’ A smiley face was in place of a signature.
Gus nodded his head as the information sank in. Reaching for a cigarette, he guided his vehicle to the airport exit.
© copyright 2018 Laurie Allyn all rights reserved
Laurie Allyn is a professional jazz singer with a storied past. Singing in smoky clubs in Chicago during the 1950’s and 60’s, she went on to record an album in Hollywood. When the recording label went bankrupt, she turned her attention to professional modeling. Now living outside Seattle, she writes mysteries and continues her singing career.