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Freedy didn't join the others in their target-shooting jaunt into the night. Every few minutes he'd hear firing, and could see the gun flashes in the distance.
They wouldn't really shoot Alex and his brothers, would they? He wasn't altogether sure about all his companions. Billy had seem pretty pissed, that's for sure. Fat Jim and Slim Jay seemed mild-mannered, but he suspected they were more volatile than they appeared. Steve and Sam looked like hardcore badass bikers -- well, mini-hardcore-badass-bikers -- but that could all be for show for all Freedy knew.
Just thinking about it made him exhausted. It was as if someone had taken his inside guts out, and stuffed his brain with them.
He went inside, dropped onto the couch, and immediately fell asleep.
The unmistakable sound of bustling woke him up. Worse -- people bustling and trying to keep quiet. "Arrrgghhh..." he moaned.
"Hey, look who's up. Our Master Thief!" Fat Jim stopped by the couch, carrying a huge axe.
"What's going on?" Freedy managed to say.
"We're heading out," Charlie came out of the kitchen. He approached just as Freedy swung his legs onto the floor and held his head in his hands. Did they drink last night? He couldn't remember. He just remembered being extraordinarily alive one moment and totally hollowed out the next. A stab of fear went through him, followed by a strange satisfaction. As if he'd done something right.
Charlie pulled out a chair and sat next to Freedy. "I have to admit, Freedy, I doubted Garland's choice of you at first. I'm here to admit I was wrong. I'd like to shake your hand."
He stuck out his hand in a adamant motion, and before Freedy could think, he was shaking hands vigorously. Charlie had barely let go, before Fat Jim took his place, and then Slim Jay and Steve and Sam. Billy came over, ignoring his hand and giving him a solid hug. Finally Bob kneeled down and took Freedy's shoulders in each hand. His face was almost completely bandaged, leaving only his eyes and mouth uncovered. His eyes were moist.
"You saved my life, brother," he said. "I owe you."
And then the whole embarrassing scene was over and they started bustling again. Freedy felt inordinately proud and a bit of a fraud. If they only knew how frightened and helpless he had felt!
He watched them weaving around the house like dancers, and realized they were gleaning anything useful out Charlie's ancestral home.
"Take it all, boys," Charlie bellowed. "We won't be back until this is over..."
Garland came in, shaking off the morning dew. Freedy realized it was cloudy outside again, the heat was dissipating. The old flower child was wearing his hair in a ponytail, and his beard looked like it had been trimmed. If Freedy blurred his eyes, he looked like a mild-mannered, middle-aged clerk.
"Our hero awakes!" he exclaimed. "Didn't I tell you, boys! Guts of a Mama Crow fighting off an Eagle!"
"Yeah, yeah. We told him," Steve said, and the others agreed with "Here! Here!' sounds...
"Get going, Freedy," Garland said. "Look around, anything you think you can use, pack it up. We'll be hauling a trailer and the less often we have to stop for supplies, the better."
"What's the hurry?" Freedy asked. His voice sounded peeved, so he squared his shoulders and tried to look as if he was being businesslike.
Charlie answered. "Well, you have to figure that Alex called his Corporate Overlords, either before or after last night's confrontation. Factor a few hours to fly to Albuquerque and another hour and a half to drive up here, and we have to be out of here..." he glanced at his watch..."in one hour."
Freedy stumbled around the house a little, mostly to no purpose but to get in the way of the others who seemed to instinctively know where their fellows would move. Freedy was a rough rock in the smooth running gears. Within a short time, he was outside, sitting on the deck.
He wondered in amazement at how he'd gotten there. Usually around this time of morning, he'd be kicking back with his first cup of coffee and a newspaper. As if reading his mind, the screendoor screeched open and Garland backed out onto the deck carefully carrying two mugs of something steaming in the morning cool.
It was black coffee, which was usually a little strong for Freedy's taste but on this morning tasted just right. Garland sat in the other deck chair and crossed his legs with a sigh, taking a big gulp of coffee.
"Nothing like an Adventure to make you appreciate the smaller pleasures..." he said. He smiled at Freedy as if amused by what Freedy was thinking though Freedy wasn't aware that Freedy was thinking of much of anything at all.
Freedy scalded his tongue taking too big a gulp trying to hide his confusion. They really seemed to believe he was something he wasn't, and he wasn't sure whether to try to live up to it or talk them out of it.
"Ah...where we heading?"
"I have a friend who can help us," Garland said. "If he wants to, that is..." he trailed off, as if this was anything but a certainty. "I'm sure he will..."
He shook his head, as if shaking off a worry.
"We're driving to Texas."
4 days ago