SWITCH (season 1)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Commercial Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Through no nefarious acts, Johnny Burell finds himself with the identity of another man. Just so happens this other man is rich. Mo money, mo problems. He must deal with a drug cartel while trying to keep a steamy relationship with a girl he just met.

 SEASON I

Episode I

It was just a typical blue-collar 1978 Chicago neighborhood. Ann and Charlie Burell sat with their son Johnny on the front porch. The Cubs game was on the radio this hot summer evening, they were wrapping up a three-game series in St.Louis. The family rented the second-floor apartment of the two flat. Even though it was a hot box in the summer, the three of them lived a nice life there. Never a lot of extra money, but Charlie’s truck driving job kept a roof over their heads and food on the table. Pretty much like every other family in the area.

"Boy is it hot!" Said Charlie stating the obvious.

"It's not the heat, it's the humidity," replied Ann.

“Why don’t you go play with the other kids?” Dad asked Johnny.

“I’m okay,” answered his son, sitting in the middle of his parents as they were all hoping to catch even the slightest breeze. Staying inside on a night like this was the worst possible option.

“He’s just shy,” his mother said. She knew that her husband was worried about their son’s unwillingness to make friends.

 

Autism wasn’t understood back then and hardly ever diagnosed. ‘He’ll outgrow it,’ the family doctor would tell Ann and Charlie. They thought it was a confidence problem so they enrolled him in karate. Kung Fu was a popular T.V. show and dojos were popping up everywhere. When one opened up on the next block over, Charlie signed him up. Johnny loved it and really excelled. Whenever Johnny would see his instructor Master Choi walking down the street, he would come off of his secure stoop to give a bow of respect.

“He’s got to get over it,” Charlie said.  “He’s going to have to make a living someday and needs some social skills.”

 

The heat was adding to an argument that Johnny’s parents had far too many times. Knowing he should not have raised his voice, Charlie told Johnny to go upstairs and grab the gloves. The kid came down with two baseball gloves and a rubber ball. Charlie and his son Johnny played catch on the sidewalk in front of their apartment, until the sun went down. The heat in the two-bedroom flat would be a little more bearable then.

 During his high school years, Johnny pretty much stayed to himself. He would recognize kids from the neighborhood in the halls and say hello or nod. Typically, and unfortunately, he was picked on for being a quiet kid. Johnny pretended it didn’t bother him and never lost his temper. Karate taught him that. The inner-city school was very diversified. After baseball tryouts one day, Johnny was walking home and a couple of Puerto Rican gang bangers wanted his money. Johnny refused to hand it over. The thugs made a mistake and put their hands on him. He broke one guy's jaw with a single punch. The other guy suffered a dislocated knee and a broken rib courtesy of Johnny’s kicks. No one at school asked Johnny for his money again. In fact, he wasn’t picked on much after that. They would call him grasshopper once in a while, referring to the character from the Kung Fu television series. Johnny actually thought that was funny.

After high school, Johnny wanted nothing to do with college. Mom and Dad saved enough to send him to junior college, but Johnny thought he would rather learn a trade. This was great news for Dad. You don’t need to play nice with others to swing a hammer or turn a wrench. Johnny decided on HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) and enrolled in trade school. Mom and Dad were so proud of Johnny when he got his technician's degree in less than two years. Dad used the money he saved for college to buy his son a work van and some tools to get started. Charlie had a friend paint J&B Heating and Air Conditioning on the side of the van. J&B was easier and cheaper than Johnny Burell.

“You are your own boss now,” Dad told Johnny when he showed him the van and handed him the keys. 

“Now all you need are customers,” he laughed. They shared a group hug with mom.

 

Like most small businesses, things started slow. There were no social media back then and Johnny advertised with brochures at the local businesses. The grocery store had a bulletin board that the neighbors pinned up anything from lost dogs to babysitting services.

 

After a duct cleaning job one day, Johnny met his Dad at a tavern for a sandwich and a beer. Mom was at a Tupperware party and the boys were on their own for dinner. They were sitting at the bar having a corned beef sandwich. Charlie accidentally knocked over his beer reaching for the mustard.  The beer rolled off the bar onto the guy’s lap that was sitting next to him.

“I’m so sorry,” Charlie said, grabbing some napkins trying to clean up his mess.

The big man grabbed Charlie by the shirt and lifted him in the air. “I should put you through the wall,” the out of control giant said. Johnny jumped up to protect his Dad. He hit the guy with a karate punch right in the throat. The man’s hands let go of Charlie and the bully fell to the floor. Johnny had broken his windpipe and the guy took his last breath a few seconds later. As the man lay dead, the bartender had the phone with the long cord calling the police

“He’s an FBI agent, you idiots.” He told them.

 

At the arraignment, the judge called Johnny a cop killer. He set bail so high there was no way Charlie and Ann could come up with the money. The trial didn’t go any better. Johnny’s public defender didn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground. Johnny was sentenced to twelve years in jail for voluntary manslaughter. They used the fact that his black belt in karate was somehow a weapon. He also had to serve his time in Texas. Giving no consideration that his only family, his mother, and father, lived in Chicago.

Days disappeared into months into years.

Charlie and Ann would try to visit at least once a year, usually around Christmas. Tatum Prison in the town of Dilley, Texas was the most depressing place on earth. It was here about halfway through his sentence; Johnny found out that his mother had died of breast cancer. He didn’t even know she was sick. His folks thought it better not to add to his sorrow. Although he wrote often, Charlie made fewer and fewer visits. About ten years into his son’s sentence, he made his final trip to Texas. He parked Johnny’s van in a storage unit in Dilley. During his visit he let Johnny know where the van was and gave him bank account information that had two thousand dollars in funds.

“I wish I had more to give you son,” Charlie said coughing between every sentence. “Try to make a life for yourself. I won’t be here when you get out. I’ve been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer.” The two packs of Winston’s a day finally caught up with him. Johnny was heartbroken but not surprised. As usual, he didn’t say a word. Incarceration put him into a shell more than ever.

When he was finally released, Johnny got in his van and drove out of Dilley. When he got to I-35 he had to choose north or south. Chicago was north. ‘Nothing there for me,’ he thought. He drove south till he couldn’t drive anymore. He found himself in Laredo, Texas.

 

 Episode II

In 1975 a five-year-old little Steve Carthage Junior sat in his Batman pajamas, with his babysitter, watching Six Million Dollar Man. His dad, Steve Senior, and mother Mary were at a dinner party. They lived near Hollywood, California and there seemed to be a dinner party every night of the week.  Just before midnight, a limping Steve Senior with a neck collar entered the front door. Steve Junior and the babysitter were asleep on the sofa with the TV on when the door closed it woke them up.

“Daddy,” little Stevie jumped up and ran to his father.

“Easy easy,” Senior said, holding out his hands to protect the child from jumping at him.

“Where's Mommy,” the kid asked looking out the front window.

“Come and sit here,” Senior instructed his son to sit back on the sofa. “Mommy is gone; she went to live with Jesus in heaven.”

“Oh my God,” the babysitter started to become hysterical and upset Junior even more. “What happened?” she asked with her hand over her mouth

“Where's mommy daddy?” little Stevie asked again, even more scared and confused.

“I told you, a truck cut us off on the Hollywood freeway, we crashed and Mommy went to heaven,” Steve said, trying to answer both of their questions.

This was the same lie he told the highway patrol when they pulled up to the crash scene. The truth of the matter was Mom and Dad were both drunk, and Dad drove his 1970 Cutlass 442 convertible off the road. Mary didn't have her seat belt on and was ejected from the drop-top Oldsmobile. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

It took Steve Carthage Senior less than a year to re-marry. She was a pretty girl, not much older than the babysitters that Steve junior was being left with constantly. It wasn’t that unusual for kids to have moms and stepmoms, dads, and stepdads. It seemed normal going to school in Hollywood.

Steve Senior became a stone-cold drunk. He was drinking from morning till the time he passed out every night. He once told Junior he drank because of the guilt he felt for the death of his mother Mary. That was just another lie. He drank because he was a stone-cold drunk, period. He embarrassed little Steve all the time. He would show up drunk at school events or neighborhood block parties. Steve Junior started spending more time alone to avoid shame. It took about 10 years for wife number two to leave. She had enough, she explained to Junior as she walked out the door. She seemed more like a babysitter than a mother, Junior felt. He didn’t miss her for a minute. Taking care of himself wasn't going to be much of an adjustment. He had been doing it since he was five.

On graduation day from high school, a drunken Steve Carthage Senior threw up on the stage while trying to take Juniors' picture. Little Steve had enough also. He packed a duffle bag full of clothes and a picture of his mom. He bought a bus ticket to Alaska and left to find a job in the oil industry. It was an effort to live shame-free. No one in Alaska would know him. He left his father a note that he was leaving and not to worry. ‘As if he would,’ he thought to himself.

In Alaska Junior found a union job quickly. He was working fifty-plus hours a week making great money. There was really nowhere to spend the money. Housing was cheap, no nightlife to speak of. Not that he would have the energy for a nightlife. He did physically demanding work. He didn’t do drugs or gamble, which was how a lot of his coworkers blew their money. And he didn’t drink much. He vowed to never become his father. So he would work, sleep and occasionally get dinner out at the local pub to watch a sporting event on satellite.

Days disappeared into months into years.

Steve Junior sent his father a handful of letters over the first couple of years in Alaska. He never heard back from him and figured he was looking for his next wife or next bottle. Either way, it didn’t bother Junior much. Actually the fact that it didn’t bother him ...bothered him. After about six or seven years he stopped sending letters completely. Not even a Christmas card anymore.

In what seemed like the blink of an eye, Steve Junior was receiving his ten years of service pin from the union. He wrote a letter to his dad, feeling proud of himself and his pin. Again there was no reply. About eighteen months later, he received a letter from a Los Angeles law firm. ‘Dear Mr. Steve Carthage Junior, we regret to inform you that your father, Steven Carthage Senior has died. Please contact our office with instructions on how to proceed with your inheritance.’ Steve Junior couldn’t force himself to mourn. Was it the climate or did his soul become that cold? ‘Inheritance’ he thought, ‘I don’t want anything from him.’ Junior had saved about two hundred and fifty thousand dollars in the last dozen years living in Alaska. ‘What is he leaving me?’ he thought, ‘a half a bottle of scotch.’ The next day, the curiosity was too much. Steve Junior called the lawyer.

“There was no cash or stocks to speak of,” the attorney handling the case informed Steve Junior. ‘Just as suspected,’ he thought. “But there is a deed for the land,” the lawyer continued. “It seems your father inherited about seventy-five acres near Laredo, Texas from his brother, your Uncle Bill Carthage. And now you are the owner of the land, being next of kin. There is also furniture and personal belongings that have to be dealt with.” Steve Junior needed a minute to process this.

“Okay, I’ll tie up a few things and be back to take care of all of this,” Junior said.

“Great, see you soon,” replied the attorney.

“Do you know how he died?” Junior asked.

“Alcoholism,” the lawyer said as a matter of fact.

“That figures. See you soon,” Steve Junior said. He packed the same duffle bag with clothes, the picture of his mother, and headed for Los Angeles.

 

Episode III

Steve Carthage Junior decided to check out a possible relocation to Texas. He now owned seventy-five acres of land and set out to see what it looked like. He bought a new pickup truck with some of his savings and drove to Laredo.

Johnny Burell was placing ads in the local papers all around Laredo trying to drum up some business. He was low on funds after buying a cell phone so he sleep in his van until he could make some money to afford an apartment. Johnny bought some essentials like water, toothpaste, deodorant, etc., at the local twenty-four-hour Walmart. He would park in a different spot to sleep every night.

The phone rang while Johnny was trying to create a website. He learned computer skills in Tatum Prison.

“J and B heating and air conditioning. Johnny Burell speaking.” He was very professional. A lesson his dad taught him. He knew the only person calling him would be a potential customer.

“Hi, Johnny Burell. My name is Steve Carthage. I got your number from the Laredo Morning Times. I need some A.C. work done and was wondering if you could give me an estimate.

“Sure,” Johnny said. He was a man of few words.

“Good,” Steve replied. “When could you meet me at the property?” He asked. Johnny was going to say 'now'.All he was doing was eating corn chips in a Walmart parking lot.

“Tomorrow morning,” he said, trying not to look desperate. Another lesson from dad. “Nine a.m. work for you?" Johnny asked Steve.

“That sounds good. I’ll text you the address and see you then.” Steve replied

 

The next morning Johnny pulled up to the house. It was in the middle of nowhere about ten miles out of town. He saw Steve unloading some things out of the back of a new F- 150 pickup.

“You must be Johnny Burell,” Steve said, walking to the van and taking off his gloves to shake hands.

Johnny nodded and shook his hand. “Nice truck,” he said.

“Thanks,” Steve said. “The house has been empty for quite a few years. This was my uncle’s land. He left it to my dad and my dad left it to me. I’m not sure what works and what doesn’t work. I’m here from Alaska. I can’t live in Texas without proper air conditioning. If you could give me a price on testing and making sure the system is clean and efficient, that would be great,”

“Sure,” Johnny said, putting on his tool belt and pulling some equipment out of the van.

“Okay then, I’ll let you get to it,” Steve said. He put his gloves on and went back to unloading his pickup.

Johnny worked a couple of hours testing and checking out the entire H.V.A.C. system. He handed Steve a written estimate. Steve grabbed a couple of bottles of water from the fridge. He cleared off a spot on an old kitchen table where the two of them could sit.

“Looks like most of the material costs are for Freon,” Steve said, looking at the paperwork.

“The system is nearly empty,” Johnny said. “The labor figure is based on time. It’s probably a couple of days of work. I’ll need material cost upfront and the balance due upon completion.”

“Sounds fair,” Steven said. “When can you start? Is cash okay? I haven’t had time to set up my banking yet.”

“Cash is king,” Johnny said, sounding like his old man. “I could start now.”

Steve would not normally hand over money to a complete stranger, but he felt Johnny was very professional and something about him seemed trustworthy. Besides, it was only a few hundred dollars and Johnny already worked a couple of hours. Steve didn’t completely trust anyone. Unfortunately, ‘his’ father showed him that.

For the next couple of days, Steve followed Johnny around the house talking his ear off. ‘What’s that for? What’s this for? Where are you from? Etc. Johnny wasn’t much for conversation but he listened to Steve tell him his life story. They did talk sports though. They argued about running backs, Walter Payton vs. Eric Dickerson. Basketballs’ Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant. Cubs vs. Dodgers. The Chicagoan and Californian got along well. Steve had beer and grilled steak after Johnny was done working each day. Johnny probably talked more in two days to Steve, than he did for twelve years in prison. After dinner, Johnny would drive back to Walmart to spend the night. He didn’t tell Steve he was homeless. It was a pride thing.

The job took a little bit longer than expected. Steve’s constant interrupting with conversation was a contributing factor. On the third and final day of work, Johnny was wrapping the outside A.C. coil with insulation. He had his radio playing loud while he used zip ties to secure his work. A radio and toilet paper are a few essential tools a tradesman always carries. Johnny had a 1970’s boombox with a coat hanger for an antenna. Steve pulled up with some lumber from Home Depot. He had some stairs to fix on the back porch. He walked over to Johnny and handed him a present.

“This is for you,” he told Johnny, “I can’t take another minute of listening to that static box you call a radio.”

Johnny opened the bag and pulled out a new Milwaukee Jobsite radio. It had weatherproof speakers and shock absorbing housing. Johnny stood speechless.

“You’re welcome, go plug it in,” Steve said trying to get through the awkwardness. 

Steve was working in the back of the house. Johnny was just about done when he felt a hand on his back. With the radio on, he didn’t hear the visitor pull up. Johnny jumped and took a karate stance. In prison, he would too often have to fight off would-be gang rapists. Unfortunately, he didn’t always win. But he always fought. This was the reason he never got parole. His file said he was prone to violence and spent a lot of time in solitaire.

 The rapes and attempted rapes stopped the last few years of Johnny's sentence. They ceased after one day when Johnny went to shower. He came across a brand new prisoner, Willy Brown, being gang-raped by Arian nation members. Two guys with white power tattoos were holding the young black man down while the third man was savagely sexually assaulting him. Johnny knew he should walk away and mind his own business, but the agonizing screams of Willy Brown were too much. Johnny used his skills like never before and beat the living shit out of the three Nazi's putting two of them in the infirmary. Johnny was immediately taken to solitary confinement not only for punishment but for protection as well. 

With it being Willy Brown's first day of a five year stretch on gun charges, word hadn't gotten around that Willy was the son of Travon Brown. Travon was in for life on three felony X convictions. Like father like son. He was a high ranking member of the Black Brotherhood. He was an O.G. (original gangster), shot caller. The Brotherhood was the largest and toughest gang in the prison. They pretty much ran the place and nobody crossed them. The white and brown gangs would talk shit occasionally but never dared get physical knowing it would be suicidal. This went for the guards also.

A week later, when Johnny got out of solitary confinement, he expected to be greeted by the Arians looking for revenge with shivs. He almost welcomed it. Johnny was tired of life. Instead, he was met by Willy Brown and his father Travon. Travon thanked Johnny for looking out for his son and told him he was now untouchable, meaning that anyone who messed with Johnny would have to answer to the Brotherhood. Johnny had carte blanche at the commissary, and at mealtime was served the best and largest portions of the daily slop. He never saw those three Nazis again, never asking or wanting to know what happened to them. A few years later Willy was released on parole, Johnny thought he would be back soon. Like father like son.

But the time's Johnny was raped scarred him forever. So when he felt a hand on his back, he kind of flashed back ready to fight.

“Easy Amigo,” said a sharp-dressed Mexican man with his palms out. “I’m Carlos Cruz. Are you the new owner?” the man asked, reaching out his hand introducing himself. Johnny noticed the gold rings, chains, and expensive-looking watch.

“No,” Johnny said, shaking hands. He pointed to Steve who was walking towards them wiping the sweat off of his glasses.

“Hi I’m Carlos Cruz,” he said to Steve shaking hands. “Are you guys brothers?” he asked.

“No,” Steve said.

“You guys look alike,” Carlos said. “I just wanted to welcome you. I’m your neighbor.”

“Thank you.” said Steve, “Nice to meet you.”

“Well, I’ll let you guys get back to work. I just wanted to introduce myself and say hello. Are you sure you are not brothers?” Carlos asked half-jokingly. Both men were about the same age. They were both around six feet tall and one hundred and eighty pounds. “You know all you white boys look alike to us Mexicans.”

“I’m sure we're not brothers,” Steve laughed. “Thanks for stopping by.”

“Are you interested in selling,” Carlos asked.

“Haven’t really thought about it,” Steve answered.

“Well, have a nice day,” Carlos said. He walked back to a black s.u.v. that was parked in the driveway. He dusted off his fancy boots and got in the passenger side. The shiny truck with the blacked-out windows drove away.

Johnny turned the volume back up on his new radio. He had lowered it when Carlos and Steve were talking. A U2 song was playing.

“U2s 'Joshua Tree' was the best album of the ninety’s,” Steve said, trying to be heard over Bono’s vocals. Johnny didn't hear much music inside the prison walls during the nineties.

“The Clash is the only band that matters,” Johnny yelled back. It seemed their friendly differences over sports had spilled into music.

Johnny was finished with the work and was checking the cold airflow in the house. In one of the upstairs bedrooms, he felt no air at all. He reached into the ductwork and pulled out an old rubber football. It had a rip in it and came out of the register hole in the floor with no problem. Johnny brought it to Steve who was working on an old golf cart next to the shed.

“That should do it,” Steve said, turning the key and hearing it start.”Success,” he said proudly, wiping his hands with a rag.

“This was in one of the vents,” Johnny said, holding up the ball.

“You know how to throw that thing?” Steve asked.

“Go deep,” Johnny said. He remembered that's what his dad Charlie used to tell him when he was a kid running down the middle of the Chicago side street where he lived. Steve started running and Johnny threw it as high and far as he could. He heard something rattling in the ball as he released it. The ball didn’t have much air in it because of the tear along the seam. It didn’t travel very far at all. Steve stopped running and put his hands up in front of his face to catch it like a good receiver should. It was like when you catch a water balloon and the balloon stays in your hands but the water soaks you. Well, the football ripped open in Steve’s hands but the contents covered his face neck, and torso. SCORPIONS!  About a dozen of them. They were in attack mode and continued stinging Steve relentlessly in the face, neck, and chest. Steve screamed falling to the ground and trying to slap the creatures off of him. Johnny ran to him as fast as he could, he did not know what was going on.

“GET THEM OFF, GET THEM OFF,” Steve kept screaming

Johnny was afraid to touch them with his hands. He ran to the front of the house and grabbed a broom out of his van. He ran back and started brushing the scorpions off of Steve’s body. Steve was shaking like he was having a seizure. He was grabbing his throat like he couldn’t breathe.  Johnny looked down and saw a few scorpions crawling up his own pant leg. He knocked them off with the broom and ran back to the van. This time it was for protection from the little predators. He caught his breath, got back his courage, and ran back to help his new friend. By the time he got there, Steve lay motionless with his eyes wide open and his head swollen like a Macy’s Thanksgiving  Day Parade balloon. Johnny just stood there looking over him in disbelief about what just happened. A scorpion was crawling in and out of Steve’s mouth. Johnny tried timing it up. The scorpion came out and Johnny tried to hit it with the broom. For some reason, Johnny thought about the whack a mole game he played at the arcade when he was a kid. He took his phone out of his pocket and thought about calling for help.

Johnny knew Steve was dead. What was he going to tell the police? He threw a ball and accidentally killed someone? That’s what got him twelve years in prison. Maybe just leave and someone else will find him. Carlos Cruz, Steve’s new neighbor saw them together. Leaving the scene could get the ex-con back behind bars. Johnny didn’t know what to do. Cruz could have seen the J&B van with the temporary plates. Johnny was feeling guilty for thinking about the fact he hadn’t been paid for the job yet. But he had no money and the seven hundred dollars owed him was very important. He checked for scorpions then took Steve’s wallet out of the corpses’ back pocket. No money, just an Alaska driver's license, and a MasterCard. He left the wallet on Steve’s chest and went into the house to see if he could find seven hundred dollars. In the master bedroom, he found an old milk crate. It had a couple of paperback books, a jar full of loose change, a pair of glasses, and a manila envelope. He opened the envelope to find about five thousand dollars in cash, an old checkbook, the title to the truck, and the deed to the land. He knew he could take all the money and leave. Nobody knew how much money was in that envelope except the dead guy in the yard. But Johnny took seven hundred dollars and put the rest back.

Still not knowing what to do, Johnny went back outside to see if Steve somehow came back to life. He stood over him in sorrow, ‘Why did I have to throw that ball,’ he thought. When Steve’s phone rang, Johnny jumped. ‘Should I answer?’ he thought. Not knowing why, he checked for scorpions and pulled the phone out of Steve’s pocket.

“Hello,” he said, still not knowing what he was going to say.

“Hello Mr. Carthage, this is Mr. Johnson from the Laredo branch of Chase Bank. I’m calling to tell you that the funds you transferred from Alaska National Bank have been cleared. Stop by and see me to pick up your new checks for your account. We just need an I.D. and a signature to finish the paperwork. We also have a new toaster for you for opening a new account with Chase. Your balance is two hundred and ten thousand dollars. You should probably open a savings account also.”

“Okay,” said Johnny, not knowing what else to say.

“When can I expect to see you, Mr. Carthage?”  Mr. Johnson the banker asked.

Johnny stared down at the open wallet on dead Steve’s chest. He looked at the driver's license behind the plastic. He felt his own face. He had about a three-day beard going. In a few more days it will be as thick as the one that Steve had in the picture he was looking at.

“I’ll be in on Monday,” Johnny said.

“Great see you then,” Mr. Johnson replied, “have a nice weekend.”

 

Johnny’s mind was racing. Could he really change his identity? If it didn’t work he could spend the rest of his life in prison. He went upstairs to get a blanket and covered the body. He went back into the house and laid down in the master bedroom, trying to sort through the thousand ways that this was a bad idea. He remembered how his mother told him he could do anything he put his mind to. ’All mothers say that’ he thought, trying to dismiss it. Should he bury the body? Should he burn it? Where would he bury it? Where would he burn it?

He was so overwhelmed he fell sound asleep for hours. .When he finally woke up, it was pitch black outside. He was no closer to a plan. He found some coffee that Steve had bought and made a pot in the new coffee maker.

At dawn, he went outside to get the body out of the yard. He was worried another neighbor might stop by. When he pulled back the blanket that covered Steve, the body was gone. Johnny almost fainted. Maybe he wasn’t dead, woke up and wandered off, Johnny hoped. He took a quick look around the property and found him about thirty yards away. He was still dead. The coyotes got to him and tried to drag him off the property. He got tangled in the water hoses, so the animals ate him there. There was nothing left to his face. His lower legs and hands were nearly chewed off. Johnny turned to throw-up as the buzzards were picking at Steve’s eyes.

As gross as this was, it gave Johnny an idea. He grabbed the blanket and wrapped the body, trying not to puke. He put the body in the back of the J&B van. Johnny put his wallet and phone in Steve’s pockets. The plan now was to not only steal Steve’s identity but to switch identities. The body in the back of the van was unrecognizable. The animals saw to that. The only I.D. 's on the body will be Johnny’s. Therefore Johnny is dead.

Johnny was careful to put all his tools back in the van. He found a backpack in Steve’s room and filled it with water and fruit from the fridge, then headed out. He drove about twenty-five miles until he found the perfect spot. It was a side road with a sharp turn. If you missed the turn, you would go down a cliff into a tree line. Johnny put Steve’s body in the driver's seat and put the van in drive. He stood at the top of the cliff and watched the van crash into some trees, almost completely out of sight. He ran down the cliff, pulled Steve’s body out of the van, and laid it next to the open driver’s side door. He pulled some empty beer bottles from the backpack. Johnny left the bottles on the floor of the van to make it look like the driver had been drinking. He grabbed the blanket and backpack and started his long walk back. The fruit and water came in handy. He ditched the bloody blanket about five miles into his journey in a wooded area near a stream. He felt bad about wrecking the van his parents gave him but confident that this plan would work.

He finally made it back to Steve’s house. He was pretty sure he hadn’t been seen. Now that fake Johnny was dead, fake Steve had to become Steve Carthage Junior from Los Angeles, California. Who spent his adult life in Alaska.

Johnny Burell went up to the master bedroom to find as much as he could in Steve’s personnel things to help him become Steve. He found the checkbook again with a voided check that had Steve’s signature. He began practicing how to write it. Johnny memorized Steve’s L.A. address, Alaska address, birthday, etc… The Autism Johnny had was a blessing in this case. A lot of people with disorders like his have an incredible recall. Plus he never talks to people. Loose lips sink ships. He had two days to practice before he had to convince a banker he was Steve Carthage Junior and gain access to two hundred and ten thousand dollars.

 

Episode IV

Monday morning Johnny was so nervous. He had hardly slept all night He walked into the Chase bank in Laredo, Texas bright and early. He asked to speak to Mr. Johnson and took a seat in the waiting area.

“Steve? Steve? Steve?” Herbert Johnson kept asking

“Oh yes,” Johnny finally replied, realizing Herb was talking to him. Not off to a good start. “Sorry daydreaming,” Johnny said.

“No problem,” Herbert said, shaking hands. “Please step into my office. I just need some signatures by the xs,” he instructed Johnny putting some paperwork in front of him. “And I need to make a copy of your driver’s license. Please check that all the other information is correct.”

Johnny checked the address, previous address, birth date, and everything was right. He signed the name Steven Carthage Junior about four times on different forms. Each one was a near-perfect match to the original that was on the voided check. ‘Mom was right, practice makes perfect’ Johnny thought. He reached into the wallet and handed Mr. Johnson the driver’s license. Herbert looked at the license, and then looked up at Johnny. Then back at the license, then back at Johnny. Johnny pushed Steve’s glasses up his nose a bit.

“Your hair is a lot shorter,” Herb noticed. Johnny was able to grow a little beard to look like Steve, but Steve wore his hair much longer.

“Kept my ears warm in Alaska,” Johnny said. “No need for it here in Texas,” he added, rubbing his hands along the side of his head.

“That’s for sure,” Herbert laughed, “The last few summers here have been brutal. They are already predicting another hot one this year.”

“Out of the freezer and into the oven,” Johnny joked, trying to get Herbert Johnson, the banker, to stop looking at the license.

“You know what,” Herbert said, “My sister works down at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Your license expires soon.”

“June 15th,” Johnny interrupted having memorized Steve’s birthday.

“Yes,” Herbert continued, “We could take a quick ride over there. She will set you up with a new Texas driver’s license with a current address and photo that we could attach to all your documents.”

“I don’t want to bother you,” Johnny said. He didn’t like the idea of another person to fool.

“No bother, I insist,” Herbert said. “Also I set you up a savings account as well as a checking account. How much do you want in checking? You need at least a thousand dollars to get your free toaster.”

“A thousand,” Johnny said.

“Great,” Herbert said, writing that down, “Now let’s go get that license. I’ll be out of the office for a little while,” he told the person in the office next to his. Herbert and Johnny walked out of the front doors of the bank.

“I’m parked in the back, you mind driving?” Herbert the banker asked.

“Sure,” Johnny said, sounding more like Johnny than Steve. They climbed into the F-150 and drove towards the D.M.V.

“Nice truck,” Herbert said. Texans love their pick-up trucks.

“Thanks,” Johnny replied.

“Did I mention that my sister is very pretty and very single?” Herb said, trying to play matchmaker. He knew that Steve Carthage Junior was single from the bank forms. Johnny didn’t care if she looked like Farrah Fawcett or Frankenstein. If she could give him a new license with his picture saying he was Steve, he was home free.

The Department of Motor Vehicles wasn’t very crowded at all this morning. Herbert and Johnny walked back to Herbs’ sister’s office.

“Herb,” she said when she saw her brother. “What brings you around?” Herbert wasn’t lying, she was very pretty, maybe thirty years old, with long dark hair and pretty brown eyes.

“This is Steve Carthage Junior,” Herbert said, making introductions. “Steve this is my sister Sally.”

“Nice to meet you,” they said at the same time, shaking hands.

“Steve’s new in town,” Herb continued, “He needs a current license. His is ready to expire and the bank would like something with his current address.”

“I’m sure I could help you with that,” Sally told the two of them. "Let me get your old license and we’ll take a new photo with your ner address.” She gave him a little change of address card to fill out. When he was done Sally led him over to the camera. “Remove your glasses please,” she instructed him as she adjusted the camera. Johnny took off his glasses realizing it made him look less like Steve.

“Your license says brown eyes. They look more hazel to me,” Sally said. Johnny felt panic.

“Depends on the lighting,” he answered.

“Either way, they’re very nice,” Sally said. She took the picture and in a few minutes was bringing Johnny his new license. He and Herbert were waiting for her in her office.

“Steve? Steve? Steve?" she said, trying to hand him his new license.

“Oh yes,” Johnny said, once again not answering to his new name. He didn’t want to use the daydreaming excuse again in front of Herb. “Please everyone calls me Junior,” Johnny said, trying to explain away his lack of response to being called Steve.

“Okay Junior,” Sally continued, “Here’s your new driver’s license. You owe the State of Texas eighteen dollars for renewal fees. He handed her a twenty-dollar bill. She gave him his change with his receipt. “And you owe me a beer for the personal service,” Sally said, pushing her hair back behind her ear.

“Sure,” Johnny said.

“Good. I get off at six and I’ll meet you out in front,” she said, never breaking eye contact.

“Sure,” Johnny said again, wishing he was better around people.

“Herb you’re coming for Easter right?” she asked her brother.

“Of course,” Herbert said, “What should I bring?” he asked.

“Just some pies,” Sally replied. “Nice meeting you, see you later,” she said, as Johnny and Herb headed back to the bank.

 

When Johnny got back to the house, it started to settle in that he may have actually pulled this off. He was now Steve Carthage Junior. ‘Junior’ was the name he could make work best he thought. Maybe the name Steve reminded him of the guy he killed with a football. ‘Junior’ it was. ‘Junior’ needed a big screen T.V. and headed into town to get one. ‘Junior’ had a date with a pretty little thing for a beer at 6:00 p.m. ‘Junior’ owned seventy-five acres of land, a house, a truck, and bank accounts with two hundred and ten thousand dollars. Junior had a nice life ahead of him.

At 5;45, Junior was waiting for Sally in the D.M.V. parking lot. He was early for everything. Sally greeted him with a smile. She suggested they walk down to a little sports bar a couple of short blocks away. Junior felt very comfortable with her and had no trouble making small talk. He informed Sally that he was Bill Carthage's nephew and the new owner of the property. 

“Tell me about your past. Do you have a big family? Ever married?” Sally asked. They just ordered their second beer. Junior started to feel the pressure. He didn’t want to talk about a past he never lived.

“No,” he said. “Never married, an only child, parents dead. You want some wings?” he asked, trying to change the subject.

“Okay,” she answered, “What about Alaska? Tell me all about it,” she continued.

“Look,” he said, taking her hand, “I don’t like talking about my past. I’m the kind of guy who looks forward instead of backward.” Their eyes were locked. “You are so pretty,” he said, hoping that would make her stop asking so many questions. He was leaning over to kiss her when he saw the Cubs game come on the big screen behind the bar. He stopped and put all his attention on the T.V.

“The ivy should be green in a couple of weeks,” he said to her, with the excitement of a kid in a candy store. Sally looked up and saw Wrigley Field.

“You’re a baseball fan?” she asked. She had a disappointing tone. Sally really wanted a kiss.

“Yep, a lifelong Cubs fan,” Junior said.

“I thought you were from Alaska,” she said.

“And before that L.A.,” he said, remembering who Steve was. “There are Cub fans everywhere.” He was justifying his allegiance. They ordered some wings.
 

"Sally!” They heard someone say, as they were dipping their hot wings into some ranch dressing. “How are you?”

“Miguel,” Sally said. She got up to hug her old friend. Junior was glued to the game. Second inning, no score. He was eating wings, drinking beer, and watching the Cubs.There was a calmness running through him that he hadn’t felt since before hitting that FBI agent with a karate punch so many years ago.

“Junior, this is my friend Miguel. Miguel Rivera’” Sally said. Johnny answered to the name Junior immediately.

“Nice to meet you,” he said, spinning around in his barstool. His hands were full of wing sauce. “I would shake but,” he said holding up his hands.

“Junior is the new owner of the Carthage ranch,” Sally informed Miguel. “Miguel is the owner of Rivera Real Estate. We went to school together,” she told the men.

“Actually I inherited the ranch,” Junior said.

“Really, I didn’t know Bill had kids,” Miguel said, referring to Bill Carthage.

“I’m his nephew. My Uncle Bill left it to my father, and I got it when he died.” Junior said, making sure he got the story right.

“Well welcome to the neighborhood. What do you plan on doing with the property?”  Miguel asked.

“Always the realtor,” Sally joked.

“I can’t help myself,” Miguel said apologetically.

“Not sure. What’s it worth?” Junior asked.

“Well I could come out and take a look at the place and let you know,” Miguel said. He handed Junior a Rivera Realty business card.

“How about tomorrow?” Junior asked.

‘Sure. Does noon work for you?” asked Miguel.

“Yep, that works,” Junior replied.

“Can I come? I work Saturday so I’m off tomorrow. I always wanted to see that ranch,” Sally said.

“Of course,” Junior said. He was really starting to enjoy Sally’s company.

“Well, I'll see you both at noon tomorrow. It’s a shame what happened to your uncle,” Miguel said. He went back to sit with the people he came into the bar with. Junior wasn’t sure what he meant about Bill Carthage. Maybe it was something the real Steve should know. Junior didn’t ask. He spun back around and continued on his wings and the ballgame.

“I have to get home,” Sally said.

“It’s only the third inning,” Junior replied.

“You could stay. I could walk back by myself,” she told him. She gently wiped some sauce off his lips with her fingertips.

“Let me pay the bill and we’ll get out of here,” said Junior. He felt a little twinge in his pants from her sexy touch.

 

They walked down the street back to the D.M.V.  where their vehicles were parked. Junior walked with his hands in his pockets, like Johnny always did. Sally had her hand holding on to her escort's arm.

“This is me,” Sally said when they got to her car, “I had a really nice time,” She reached up and kissed him with the sweetest softest kiss imaginable. His knees got weak. He was speechless, as she took his breath away. “See you tomorrow,” she said starting up her car.

 

Episode V

Tuesday morning Junior was up early. Prisoners wake up at 6:00 a.m.  It was nice to wake up in a big bed. Some of the best things about the identity change were the little things. The bed, his own toilet, that he almost melted from his morning chicken wing shit. His ass was on fire. And it was nice to take a shower without having to worry about someone trying to fuck you in the ass.

Junior wanted to make the house show the best it could for Miguel the realtor. He also couldn’t get his mind off Sally. He dreamt about her all night. Naked mostly. His sheets were a mess and he still hadn’t figured out the washing machine's reason for not working. He was off to the twenty-four-hour Walmart to buy some new sheets. He also needed some clothes. The few things that Steve had in the duffle bag were wearing thin. It wasn’t comfortable in another man’s underwear. He bought some essentials.

About ten minutes after noon, Junior heard a couple of cars pull into the driveway. He heard some small talk coming through the upstairs window. ‘Why can’t people be on time,’ Junior thought. He was trying to mount a fifty-inch television on the wall in the master bedroom. The house was a nice size. It had four bedrooms, three baths, a kitchen, a family room, and a big dining room. With all this room, Junior was more comfortable staying in one bedroom. He felt blessed.

“Hello, hello,” Miguel said, knocking on the screen door. The door was pretty loose on the hinges.

“Come in,” said Junior. He was coming down a nice hardwood staircase. Worn but nice.

“Door needs some work,” Miguel said, trying not to let it fall off the hinges completely.

“Already trying to low ball the price,” Sally kidded her old friend walking in behind him.

“I can’t help myself,” the realtor said again. When Miguel moved out of the way, Sally stood in the doorway with the sun peeking through her little sundress. Junior could feel his jaw drop.

“Hi,” she said to Junior, with a lot of eye contact and a sweet little smile.

“Hi, how are you,” replied Junior. He wanted to tell her he had wet dreams about her. Miguel was already looking at the property.

“Let’s start upstairs,” Miguel said. He took out a folder from his briefcase. “Stairway is worn but nice,” he said out loud, writing notes. “Good size bedrooms. Master bath a plus.”

“Really? A television in your bedroom?” Sally said.

“Isn’t it great?” replied Junior. They headed downstairs and walked through the rest of the house.

“Good bones, Needs some updating, let’s check the land. I brought a Plat of Survey. I didn’t know if you had one,” Miguel said, pulling the survey from his briefcase.

“I’m sure I don’t have one. I’m not even sure I know what one is. All I have is this,” Junior showed the realtor the property deed.

“Well that’s important also and you should put it in a safety deposit box. But a Plat of Survey shows you your property lines,” Miguel Rivera said, trying to educate Johnny as they walked outside. “If I remember correctly, this land was surrounded by a fence to keep the cattle in.”

“Cattle?” Junior asked.

“You don’t know anything about this land?” Sally asked Junior.

“Nothing,” Junior answered, “We weren’t a close family. I never met my Uncle Bill.”

“Well if you want to hear its history, we could take that golf cart for a ride and I’ll tell you what I know,” offered the realtor.

“Sure,” Junior said, the three of them got in the cart and headed straight south from the house.

“Everything inside this broken-down fence belongs to you. It’s about seventy-five acres. At one time it was a working ranch. Your uncle raised longhorn cattle. It was a tough business,” Miguel said. They went as far south as they could. “Just beyond that fence and that road is Mexico. That big barn out there is the southwest end of your property. That’s where trucks would pull in off the road to deliver supplies. Feed, hay, equipment, etcetera.” They drove the cart up to the barn. It was a long way from the house and could hardly be seen behind some trees. Miguel continued, “After a few years of terrible drought, your uncle gave up. He was losing money year after year, and just quit."

“What did he do after that?” Junior asked.

“Well he partied a lot,” Sally said, “He was always drinking and chasing young girls.” ‘It must run in the family,’ Junior thought to himself, remembering the stories Steve told him about Steve Senior.

“It’s still a shame what happened to him,” Miguel said.

“What happened?” Junior asked.

“Oh, I thought you knew,” Miguel said.

“We weren't very close,” Junior repeated.

“Well, he was shot and killed about five years ago. They found his body in the middle of the ranch. The Laredo Police said it was Illegal alien’s crossing over from Mexico through his land. He tried to stop them and they shot him. I never really bought that,” Miguel added, “I worked on this ranch when I was a kid. Mexicans came back and forth over the border every day to work with us. Bill had no problems with the Mexicans.”

They were pulling up back to the house on the golf cart. It had a bench seat and Sally sat in the middle with her leg rubbing on Junior's leg the entire ride. Junior purposely made some sharp turns so she would slide even closer to him. Men are dogs. “That was a great history lesson for me guy’s, Thank you so much,” Junior said. “Now for the big question, how much is this ranch worth?”

“Do you plan on rehabbing the house, or selling as is?” Miguel asked.

“I’m leaning rehab, but price it both ways please,” Junior requested.

“I have a crew that could make this place look nice for not a ton of money. I’ll get back to you tomorrow with some numbers,” Miguel said, shaking Juniors' hand goodbye. He hugged Sally.

“Are you coming by for Easter with the family?” Sally asked him.

“Of course, wouldn’t miss it,” Miguel started his car and left.

“Do you want some ideas on remodeling? I could give you a women’s opinion. I watch all those rehab shows on T.V.” Sally said. Johnny didn’t watch much television in prison.

“You mean like ‘This Old House’ with Bob Villa?” Junior was referring to a twenty-year-old public television show.

“I don’t think I know that one,” Sally said. They walked upstairs. “New carpet and paint will go a long way in these bedrooms. The tile work in the bathrooms isn’t bad, just outdated. What kind of budget are you working with?’ Sally asked.

“I’ll know more after I talk with Miguel. What do you think about downstairs?”  When they walked in the family room, Junior snuck a kiss. He had been wanting to do that since the moment he saw her that day. Then he stole a second kiss, then a long third.

“What about the fireplace?” Sally asked, backing away. She felt him getting hard when he pressed against her. He tried to disguise the rub as a hug. Sally loved it.

“Let me look up the chimney and see if it’s clear,” Junior said. He knelt down on the hearth and looked up. Sally walked over to the fireplace and banged on the wall above it. Soot dropped and covered Junior's head and shoulders. Sally couldn’t stop laughing. Junior didn’t think it was that funny at all. He went upstairs to shower the black grime off. He had his head down watching the watered-down soot run into the drain. He felt a hand on his back. Johnny would have taken a karate stance, ready to fight. But Junior just softly turned his head. He saw Sally standing next to the shower door. She was as naked as she was in last night’s dreams.

“You need some help getting that off?” She stepped into the shower taking the bar of soap from his hand. She started the grinding first this time and they ended up exhausting each other for about an hour in the shower and bedroom and shower and bedroom. Junior was beat.

“I’m getting water, do you want one?” he asked Sally, putting on a pair of new Walmart underwear.

“Yes please,” she answered. She was beat too. Junior grabbed a couple of bottles from the fridge. They weren’t that cold.

“Do you think I should get new appliances?” Junior asked. He got to the top of the stairs and saw a fully dressed Sally.

“Maybe. I have to go. It’s my only day off, and I have a lot to do,” Sally said

“I thought we could grab some lunch. No hot wings.” Junior said. His ass was still recovering. He was glad she didn’t play anal games.

“How about a rain check?” She asked, kissing him and heading down the stairs.

“How about tomorrow?” He asked, forgetting his father's advice about looking desperate.

 “I’ll call you later?” she said and drove away.

 

Junior decided he might want to stick around. The sex he just experienced was incredible and he knew he was going to want more. He called Miguel Rivera the realtor later that day. “Hello, Miguel this is Junior. I think I’ve decided to fix the house. Is your crew available?” he asked.

“They will be, in a few days. I’m glad you are going to stay awhile. My friend Sally seems to like you,” said Miguel.

“Maybe,” Junior replied. He wanted to brag about how they made slip and slides out of each other earlier. “Can you give me a ballpark figure on the property?”

“Well ballpark, and I mean ballpark, about two million dollars give or take,” Miguel informed Junior.  There was silence. “Hello,” Miguel said. He thought he lost his connection.

“Okay. Let me know about the work crew. I think I’ll start demolition myself. That always looked like the fun part on This Old House.” Junior said.

“This old house?” Miguel asked

“Never mind, we’ll talk soon,” Junior said, and hung up.

Junior had been up since 6:00 a.m. And with Sally wearing him out, a nap was in order. He laid stretched out across the queen size bed. His balls were sore and the new sheets smelled like sex again. He just found out he’s a millionaire. He fell asleep smiling.

 

Episode VI

On Wednesday, Junior ordered a dumpster first thing in the morning. He went to Home Depot for a sledgehammer, gloves, safety glasses, and some other demolition tools. He thought he would start by removing the carpet throughout the house. ‘How hard could that be?’ He cut it, rolled it up, and carried it downstairs. After about thirty minutes he was still in the first bedroom that he started in. He was sweating like a pig and his heart was beating like a scared rabbit. He wondered how people could do this all day long. It wasn’t as much fun as he thought it was going to be. Maybe knocking down a wall would be better.

 He took a break from the carpet and tried to remove the wall between the kitchen and family room. ‘Open concept’ he remembered Bob Villa say on that old T.V. show. He made sure it wasn’t a load-bearing wall. He put on his gloves and safety glasses. He swung the sledgehammer into the kitchen side of the drywall. The plaster crumbled into a thousand pieces with each swing. It was plaster and lathe. Not sheets of drywall. This was going to take a lot of work. A lot of messy work. Again not much fun at all. He went to the family room side of the wall to pull off some knotty pine paneling. One swing of the big hammer put a hole right through it. This is much better, he thought. Junior shook the loose paneling and it came off easily. There was something between all the 2x4s. He pulled out a blue plastic-wrapped package. He thought it was some kind of insulation. He unwrapped it a little and hundred dollar bills fell out. He grabbed another package from the wall and tore the plastic off. Again hundred dollar bills littered the floor.

 Junior ran to make sure the doors were locked. He didn’t know what was happening but he knew he didn’t want anyone walking in on him. He counted out the money from the one package. There was one hundred thousand dollars. He was shaking so much he had to count it twice. He wrapped it back up and counted the second package. Again there was one hundred thousand dollars. Junior pulled out the rest of the packages from between the 2x4’s. He put a little hole in the top and bottom of each package. There were hundred dollar bills in each one. The packages were the same size so Junior concluded each one contained one hundred thousand dollars. He counted forty-five packages. He counted them three times. Forty-five packages. He immediately knew it was four and a half million dollars in cash sitting on his family room floor. He pulled off all the paneling in the room but found no more money.

He had to hide it until he could figure out what to do about it. He couldn’t put it back in the wall. It was full of holes and ready to be knocked down. He thought about burying it outside, but he was afraid of scorpions. The basement ductwork is the perfect hiding place for an H.V.A.C. guy. Junior took some things apart, hid the money, and then put the things back together. No one will ever find it there, ‘Uncle Bill was making a lot more profit on the ranch than people believed,’ Junior thought. The phone rang. “Hello,” said Junior.

 “My thighs are killing me and I can’t stop thinking about you,” Sally said.

“Who is this,” Junior joked. He wanted to tell her about the money but knew he shouldn't.

“Very funny. Can I buy you a beer?” She asked.

“Sure,” Junior said.

“Meet you at the sports bar in about an hour?” Sally asked

“Sure,” answered Junior. Even Though Johnny morphed into Junior, he was still a man of few words. We are who we are, no matter what name they call us.

“When were you going to call me?” Sally asked.

“Didn’t want to look desperate,” Junior continued joking.

“See you soon,” she said, hanging up.

Junior looked at the time on his phone. 5:00 p.m. already. No wonder he was hungry, he hadn’t eaten all day. Time flies when you’re trying to hide four and a half million dollars. He showered and went to meet Sally.

When Junior got to the bar, Sally was there waiting for him with a cold beer. She got off of work a few minutes early. She couldn’t wait to see him. They sat and made small talk for about two minutes.

“Do you want to get out of here and go back to your place,” Sally whispered in his ear while she was sneaking a feel of his upper thigh.

“I’m so hungry,” Junior said. He wasn’t sure he had enough energy to keep up with a naked Sally.

“We could drive-thru somewhere on the way,” she replied, moving her hand higher up his leg.

“Let’s go,” Junior said. They were hardly finished with their burgers and fries when the pick-up truck pulled up to the ranch. They were kissing and undressing all the way up the stairs to the master bedroom. They laid exhausted in each other’s arms after a simultaneous orgasm.

“That’s why you don’t need a television in your bedroom,” Sally said, as she was rubbing her finger up and down Junior’s abs. “I have to go,” she said getting up and getting dressed.

“What, why?” he asked. He really wasn’t ready to get up and drive her back. “It’s early.”

“I have things to do,” she said. She reached over and gave Junior a sweet little kiss.

They were walking down the stairs to leave. There was a knock at the door. ‘I have to fix that doorbell’ Junior thought. Sally said, “This place is a mess.” She just noticed the demolition process had started. She was too busy sucking on Junior's tongue to notice it on the way up to the bedroom.

“I think this is my dumpster being delivered,” Junior said, expecting to see a truck driver when he opened the door. It was two Webb County Sheriff's Police officers

“Excuse me, sir, do you know a Johnny Burell,” officer one asked.

“No,” Junior said, panic-stricken.

“Hey, guys. How are you,” Sally asked the officers. She gave them both a hug.

“Hi Sally,” they replied, surprised to see her. Sally seemed to know everybody.

“This is my friend Steve Carthage Junior. He’s Bill Carthage’s nephew.” Sally said introducing the three of them. Everybody knew Bill also.

“We found this invoice in the back of a van that was involved in a fatal accident.” Officer two handed Junior the invoice. It had a J&B Heating and Air Conditioning letterhead. It was the estimate that Johnny wrote up for Steve. It had Steve Carthage Junior and his address as the customer. Johnny was very professional. How did Junior not see it in the back of the van? ‘That’s how you get caught. Mistakes,’ Junior thought.

“Oh J and B, that must be Johnny Burell. He did some work for me about a week ago. What happened?’ Junior asked

“He drove off the road in the outskirts of the county. It looks like alcohol is involved. He got thrown from the van. Looks like coyotes got to him. Strangest thing, he had a dead scorpion in his mouth,” officer one said.

‘I knew I whack a moled it,’ Junior thought.

“Wow, that’s too bad,” Sally said.

“Can you tell us anything about him Mr. Carthage,” officer two asked.

“No. He was kind of a quiet guy. He did some nice work, I paid him and that’s about it.” Junior said.

“How did you pay him, cash or check?” officer one asked.

“Cash,” replied Junior. He didn’t leave money in dead Steve’s pockets. He hoped this wasn’t another mistake.

“He had no money on him. Maybe the illegals found him before we did,” officer two said. “It looks like he got out of prison recently. No money, no next of kin, I guess the State of Texas is going to foot the bill to bury him,” the officer said. “Sorry to bother you folks, have a nice evening.”

“Hey, are you guys coming by on Easter?” Sally asked them as they were walking away.

“We have to work, but we’ll try to stop by for some dessert.” one of them replied. They drove away.

“Wow, that's a shame about the air conditioning guy. Did you like him?” She asked.

“Didn’t really know him,” said Junior. He was a little shell shocked over what just happened. He started driving Sally back to her car.

“Let's see if I could get your mind off of it,” Sally said. She loosened Junior's sweatpants and put her head on his lap. Junior slowed down and tried not to swerve down the road. He dropped Sally off at the D.M.V. to get her car.

“I expect you to come for Easter,” Sally told Junior when she was getting out of the pick-up.

“I have some social anxiety,” He told her honestly.

“You’ll be fine. It’s just a few people. It would mean a lot to me,” She said in a sweet voice, trying to convince him.

“Sure, will I see you before then?” he asked her.

“Don’t sound desperate,” she told him and closed the truck door.

Junior drove back to the ranch and lay in bed counting his blessings again. Johnny Burell is officially dead, he has well over four million dollars in cash, property worth a couple of million more, he’s spending time with an incredible girl with an insatiable sex drive. ‘Tomorrow I will buy a new washing machine. I could afford it,’ he told himself.



 

Episode VII

Thursday morning, just after 6:00 a.m. and Junior was having a cup of coffee. He was doing some stretching.  All the wild sex and the rehabbing had him sore from head to toe and all points in between.

There was a knock at the front door. And Junior panicked. Maybe it’s the police. Maybe they found another mistake. They knocked again. Junior took a deep breath and opened the door. This time it was a truck driver.” Where do you want me to drop the dumpster?” the man asked.

“Anywhere in the front here is fine,” said Junior, exhaling away the anxiety.

He was once again off to the Home Depot. He seemed to always be forgetting something. He picked up some dust masks and work boots. The house was getting messy.  His teacher in trade school always taught safety first. He also ordered a new washing machine. The salesman told him he could deliver it that afternoon.

He got home and got to work. There was itchy fiberglass insulation in the exterior walls. Junior found one of Steve’s long sleeve flannel shirts and started making trips to the dumpster. After a while, he decided to pull the carpet off the stairs. He was curious about how the hardwood would look. “Fuck!” he said out loud. A staple cut his finger through his gloves. “How many fucking staples did they use?” He swung open the door to take more carpet to the dumpster. Standing in the doorway, ready to knock, was Carlos Cruz.

“Let me get that for you,” he said, opening the broken screen door. Junior walked to the dumpster and dropped the carpet off his shoulder. He remembered meeting Carlos Cruz when he was Johnny Burell, and Steve Carthage Junior was alive and well.

“Thanks,” Junior said, walking back in the house. Junior wore Steve’s light prescription glasses less and less. They gave him a headache. He left his safety glasses on, to look more like the Steve that Carlos would remember. He took off his gloves and checked his cut finger. Carlos was reaching out his hand to shake hands but pulled it back when he saw the blood.

“Hey neighbor, I brought you a house warming present,” Carlos said. He was holding up a bottle of tequila. “It’s from Mexico. You can’t buy it in the States.”

“Thank you. Please come in, I have to find a Band-Aid.” Junior said.

“Duct tape works,” Carlos said, looking around the house. “You have a big job here. I could send you some cheap labor to help you,” Cruz offered.

“I think I have it covered,” Junior was expecting Miguel the realtor to send a crew any day. “But I’ll keep that in mind.”

“You have a pen? I’ll give you my number in case you need anything, Steve. It is Steve, right? Carlos asked.

“Yes, but please my friends call me Junior.” The two men walked into the kitchen. It was one of the few rooms in the house not destroyed. Junior was searching through a junk drawer for a pen. He was living there for less than a week and already had a drawer full of shit. Waste not, want not, mom always said. There were paperclips, bolts, screws, paper, pens and pencils, and a Band-Aid. “I knew I had one,” Junior said. He gave Carlos paper and a pen. He cleaned and bandaged his finger.

“Here you go,” said Carlos, handing Junior his number.

“Thanks, and if there is anything I can do for you, stop by anytime, “Junior said, trying to be neighborly.

“Well, as a matter of fact, there is something. I would like to offer you a business opportunity. I want to rent your big barn at the edge of your property. I only need it a couple of nights a month for a few hours. I will pay you well.

“What do you need it for?” Junior asked.

“That’s not your concern,” said Carlos

Junior was afraid it might be something illegal. He knew if he got in trouble with the law, he would be fingerprinted. He’s in the system and Johnny Burell would have a lot of explaining to do.

“No thanks. I think I’ll take a pass. But thanks for dropping by and for the gift,” Junior said politely.

“Please let’s have a seat,” Carlos Cruz told Junior. Both men sat down at the kitchen table. “My family tells me I have to work on my communication skills, so let’s try this again. You see this is the same deal I had with your Uncle Bill. A truck pulls in your barn on the first and fifteenth of every month. The next morning there will be a package with one hundred thousand dollars for you left in the barn. I told you I pay well.” Then Carlos changed his tone. “NOW, Steve or Junior or whatever the fuck your name is, you have two choices and only two choices. A. Make my family a family of happy Mexicans. Happy Mexicans will make you wealthy. Or B. Make my family a family of angry Mexicans. Let me tell you a story about your Uncle Bill. We had done business for a few years. He started drinking too much, and I believe the booze clouded his judgment. He wanted to renegotiate our deal. The Cruz family doesn’t renegotiate. He threatened to go to the police and tell them about the tunnel that runs from Mexico to underneath the big barn. So your uncle turned happy Mexicans into angry Mexicans. The next morning he was found shot to death.” Carlos said.

Junior started to visibly shake. “Relax,” Carlos continued, “You look like a smart man, I’m sure you will choose option A. Now let’s have a shot of that tequila and toast our new partnership.”

Junior was frozen to the chair. Carlos grabbed a couple of glasses from the cabinet and poured the tequila. “To neighbors,” Cruz toasted, he slammed the glass on the table and left. Junior had a couple of more shots to settle his nerves. He now knew where his hidden fortune came from. He needed some time to process all this. He kept loading the dumpster trying to figure out what to do.

The washing machine was delivered and hooked up. Junior was no closer to a solution to his dilemma, but he was happy to be able to wash some clothes. He didn’t want to go back to Walmart to buy socks and underwear. It was starting to get late and he had a sore back, so he showered and hoped a good night's sleep would provide him some answers. He was just about asleep when the phone rang. It was Sally.

“How was your day?” she asked him. Again, he wished he could tell her things, but he knew he shouldn’t.

“Good, got a lot done. Dumpster came; I bought a washing machine and did some laundry.” Junior told her,

“Thank God,” Sally replied, “your sheets were a little smelly.”

“What are you doing?” he asked her.

“Just laying here thinking about you,” she said, with her little sexy voice.

“What are you wearing?” Junior asked her. Men are dogs. Even the phone sex was amazing. Sally loved it every bit as much as he did.

 

Episode VIII

Friday Junior was outside of Rivera Realty, waiting for them to open. The sign on the front door said they open at 10:00 a.m. and it was already 10:10. ‘Is anyone ever on time?’ Junior asked himself. Miguel Rivera was walking up with keys in his hand.

“Junior, it’s good to see you,” he said unlocking the door. “My work crew got tied up today, but will be at your place first thing in the morning.”

“That’s not why I’m here Miguel. I want to sell. I want to sell it right away. I don’t need any workers. I’ll just sell it as is. The sooner the better,” Junior told Miguel.

“Okay, we could do that,” Miguel said. He was very happy to get a two million dollar listing. “Why the change of plans, if you don’t mind me asking.”

“Rehabbing isn’t as much fun as I thought it would be,” Junior lied, holding up his bandaged finger.

“Okay let's get the paperwork started. Are you looking to stay in town? I have a lot of other homes available. It’s a real buyers’ market right now,” Miguel said.  We are who we are. Miguel Rivera was a real estate agent.

“Not sure,” answered Junior

“Is Sally a consideration in your decision?” Miguel asked. This time he was talking like Sally’s friend.

“Not sure,” Junior answered honestly. “Could you keep this confidential for a couple of days until I figure out how to tell Sally about this?”

“Of course. We’ll get the paperwork filled out but I won’t actually list it until Monday. Will that work for you?” asked Miguel.

“Sure,” Junior replied.

“Are you coming by Sally’s mom’s house for Easter?” Miguel asked.

“I didn’t know it was by her mom’s. She said it was just a few people,” Junior said.

“Yes, a few hundred,” Miguel informed him. Junior could feel the anxiety just thinking about it. They finished the listing paperwork and decided two million dollars was a good asking price. The men shook hands and Junior was ready to leave.

“Stop by the sports bar and I’ll buy you a beer,” Miguel invited Junior. “It’s Friday and Sally usually stops by after work.”

“Maybe,” Junior replied, and walked out the door. The real estate office was just a few storefronts down from the bar, and just down the street from the D.M.V. He thought about stopping in and saying hello to Sally at work. He still had not figured out what to tell her about his decision to sell. The real reason was he was scared of the Cruz family. He didn’t want to tell her that, so he just went home, and tried to make the house as comfortable as he could. He wasn’t sure how long it would take to sell.

Sally walked into the bar and saw Junior sitting there watching a baseball game. She was genuinely excited to see him. She gave him a hug and a kiss and sat next to him.

“No Cubs?” she asked. The Rangers were playing the Royals.

“They already lost. They had a day game,” Junior said. He ordered her a beer and got right to the point. He spun halfway around in his stool and held her hand.

“I’m selling the ranch,” he said. “Selling it as is, and hoping it sells quickly,” he added.

“Wow, are you moving away?” Sally asked

“Do you care if I do or not?” he asked her.

“Of course I do,” she said. She rubbed the back of her hand on his bearded face. “I know I’ve only known you a few days, but I’m crazy about you. I think about you all the time. I’ve never felt this way about anyone.”

“Shit,” Junior said. Sally took her hand off of his face.

“If you have to go, then go,” she said, taking a sip of beer, and feeling rejected.

“No, you don’t understand,” he told her. He spun her back in her stool to face him. “I’m crazy about you too. I think about you all the time. I’m constantly walking around with a little boner.” he laughed as she play slapped him.

“Hey you two get a room,” Miguel joked as he walked into the bar. “Bartender three beers please.” The three of them had a few rounds of drinks, played some music on the jukebox, played some darts, and had a few more rounds.

“I have to go.” Miguel said, “Angela is going to kill me for being late.” Angela was his wife.

“Okay we’ll see you on Easter,” Sally said, giving her friend a hug. Junior shook his hand, and Miguel left.

“This Easter thing,” Junior said. “How many people are going to be there? Miguel says a few hundred,” he threw his new friend under the bus. “And it’s at your mom’s house?”

Sally explained, “Yes it’s by my mother’s house. My grandmother used to do it before she died. It’s an open house. People stop by all day long from morning till night. They bring a dish and some love to share. There might be a lot of people, but not all at once. My grandmother had been doing it since before I was born, and now my mother does it. I’ll probably keep the tradition going someday. It would mean so much to me if you came.

“Sure, anything for you,” he told her with a little kiss.

“I have to go. I work tomorrow,” Sally said

“I’m too drunk to drive. Can I come home with you?” Junior asked.

“I’d like that. I live around the corner,” Sally said. The two of them left their vehicles and walked. Sally also had a little too much to drink. They stumbled into her cute little studio apartment and were naked in each other’s arms within minutes.

Saturday morning Sally woke Junior up with a kiss. She was already dressed for work. “Good morning sexy. Lock up on your way out. There’s coffee made. I have to get to work,” she told him.

“Wait, what time is it?” Junior asked, sitting up. “What happened last night?” He was holding on to his head. All the alcohol made it hurt.

“It’s eight o’clock. You and Miguel bought each other too many shots of tequila last night,” Sally said, answering both of his questions. Junior hadn’t slept that late in forever. “I have a lot of cooking and prepping to do after work. So I’ll see you tomorrow, right?

“Sure, what time?” Junior asked.

“Whenever,” Sally said. She bent over and kissed him. “No pressure.” She was aware of his social issues and tried to put him at ease. She kissed him again.

“Why don’t you come back to bed for a while,” he asked her.

“I’m late. I’ll text you my mom’s address,” Sally said, walking out the door.

Junior got up and had a cup of coffee. When he stepped into the shower, he saw a few of Sally’s single girl sex toys. His prostate hurt. ‘What did she do to me last night’ he wondered. He was too hungover to do any work on the house. He stopped for some fast food and spent most of the day in bed listening to his new radio.

 

 Episode IX

On Easter Sunday, Junior got to Sally’s mom's house at about noon. There were already cars parked all over the property and people everywhere. He took a deep breath and headed into the house. He didn’t know what kind of food to bring, so he brought a couple of bouquets of flowers. One for Sally, and one for her mother. Sally met him at the door with a hug.

“The flowers are beautiful, thank you. Come and help me put them in some water,” She told him.

“Some are for your mom,” Junior told her.

“Mom, Junior brought you flowers,” Sally said, as she walked with Junior into the kitchen.

“Thank you so much, that’s so thoughtful of you,” Helen Johnson said, giving Junior a hug. She was a very pretty lady. Junior knew where Sally got her looks and hugging habits. “You make yourself at home. Help yourself to anything. There is food everywhere, and booze and beer in the garage. If you leave my house hungry or sober, it’s your own damn fault,” she said, as she was pulling something out of the oven.

 “Come on, let me introduce you to some people,” Sally said. She led him by his hand out of the kitchen and into the family room. “Say hello to Junior,” she said. People were sitting around with plates of food on their laps, or beer in their hands.

 “Hello Junior,” a bunch of the crowd yelled.

“Hello,” he said, waving his hand. Everybody was so nice, but he felt very uncomfortable around so many people.

“You want a beer?” Sally asked him.

“Sure, I’ll come with you,” Junior told her. He didn’t want her to leave him alone with all those strangers.

“Sit here, I’ll get it,” she told him. She could tell he was a little anxious. She kissed him on the cheek. 

“Relax you're among friends. By the time she got back, Junior was sitting on a folding chair in the corner watching ESPN. She handed him his beer and said,” Wait here I’ll be right back.” She returned with a little boy. He looked about nine or ten years old wearing a little league baseball uniform.

“Hey, this is Miguel’s son. We picked him up from practice this morning. His family will meet him here later,” Sally told Junior. Miguel and his wife Angela both worked. If Miguel had a showing or Angela was working late, friends and family would help out the couple with their three kids. Sally turned towards the boy, “Miguel this is my friend Junior. That’s right he’s a Junior too,” Sally said trying to tickle little Miguel. He was the only kid there and was bored as hell.

 Sally’s mom came into the room with some appetizers. “Baseball practice on the holiest day of the year. Those coaches are heathens,” she said like a true bible belt Christian.

“Nice to meet you, Junior,” Junior said to the kid. He just put out a fist for a knuckle bump. “What position do you play?” he asked

“Pitcher and shortstop,” little Miguel said proudly.

“You have an extra glove? I’ll give you some ground balls,” Junior said

“I sure do. I’ll meet you out in front.” Little Miguel took off running to the garage for his equipment bag.

“Thank you,” Sally told Junior. “The poor kid was so bored.”

“Sure,” he said. Sally knew it was good for her Junior too.

After about fifteen minutes, a few kids Miguel's age showed up. “Can we be done now?” the kid politely asked. He wanted to go play with the other kids.

“Sure,” Junior said. Little Miguel grabbed his gloves and ran around to the back of the house.

Junior felt more comfortable outside than he did inside the house. He grabbed a beer from the fridge in the garage, and stayed out in front. Herbert Johnson, the banker, AKA Sally’s brother walked out of the house to get a beer. He saw Junior standing alone in the front lawn.

“Is everything okay Junior,” Herb asked.

“I’m fine. Just getting some air,” Junior replied. “Hey Herb, can I ask you a hypothetical question?”

“Of course,” said Herb.

“Suppose someone left their kid a cash inheritance. I mean like millions of dollars that nobody knew about. What should that person do about it?" Junior asked the banker.

“Well at Chase we are a full-service bank. Offering investing advice and portfolio managers,” Herb said.

“You sound like an advertising commercial Herb,” Junior said.

 “Sorry about that. Well here's the deal.  A lot of wealthy people in the great state of Texas leave cash to their kids. Remember many people including lawmakers believe Texas should secede from the union. Texans don’t like to give their wealth to the federal government. There are enough loopholes and laws to minimize your tax exposure. Chase has some of the best tax accountants in the business. We could clean your money and make it legit. That’s hypothetically speaking of course.” Herbert Johnson said.

“Of course,” said Junior.

“There you are,” Sally said, finding Junior.

“He’s all yours. I’m getting some more food,” her brother Herb said, walking back to the house.

“Come here I want to show you something,” Sally said. She led Junior around to the side of the house where no one could see them. She stole a kiss, and then another, and then a third. They both noticed the police car pulling up to the house. “To be continued,” she told him. They walked back out in front to find the two officers that told them Johnny Burell was dead a few days ago.

“I’m glad you guys could stop by,” Sally said, of course giving them a hug.

“We’re here on police business,” a stone-faced officer one said. “Sally where is little Miguel. We need him to come with us.

“He’s out in the back playing pickle with his friends. What’s wrong?” She asked.

“Please just get him. I’ll explain later,” officer two told her. Sally went out back and brought Miguel Junior to the front of the house.

“Hi guys,” little Miguel said to the officers.

“Hey Miguel, you want to take a ride in the squad. Your mom wants us to drop you off at home,” officer one told him

“Cool.”  little Miguel said. Officer one walked the kid to the car. Officer two hung back.

“What’s wrong?” Sally whispered to him.

“Miguel was hit by a car. He was coming out of Walmart with diapers. (Miguel had a six-year-old and two years old besides Miguel Junior.)  The driver didn’t even stop,” officer two explained

“Oh my God!” Sally exclaimed. ”Is he alright?”

“No I’m sorry honey, he’s dead,” officer two said. Sally grabbed on to Junior's arm so she didn’t fall over.

“I have to get the kid home,” he said and left in the squad car. The sirens were on, but little Miguel did that.

Sally let out a scream of sorrow that brought the whole house running to see what was wrong. Everybody seemed to be in shock. People were hugging and crying in disbelief. As word got out, car after car kept pulling up to Sally’s mom’s house. It was a close community, and everybody loved Miguel and his family. They came to give and find support. Junior didn’t leave Sally’s side for hours. It was getting late, and traffic was starting to die down.

“Why don’t you go have a beer while we clean up,” Sally told Junior. There were tons of leftovers. Sorrow has no appetite.

“Sure?” Junior said. He grabbed a beer from the garage and stepped out front for some fresh air.

A Cadillac pulled up to the house. One of the passengers said, “Hey amigo, come here.” More of Miguel's friends, Junior thought.

“What’s up guys,” Junior asked, walking up to the car. He looked inside and saw two well-dressed Mexicans.

“We have a message for you from Carlos Cruz,” the man in the passenger seat said. Junior froze. He thought he was going to be shot.

“What’s that?” Junior asked. He was trying not to show fear. He learned that in prison.

“Putting your ranch up for sale was not an option,” the man said. The Cadillac pulled away.

Junior stood motionless as he watched the car drive off. He knew right there and then, the Cruz family killed Miguel before he listed the property. ‘What have I done’ he thought.

“Who was that?" Sally asked, as she was walking up to Junior.

“Not sure,” said Junior

“Can I come home with you? I really don’t want to be alone tonight,” Sally asked.

“Of course, but let’s go to your place. Mine is a mess, and I think I saw a mouse,” He was just making shit up. He suddenly didn’t know if it was safe at the ranch.

“My place is fine,” she said. “I hate mice. How is Angela going to raise those kids on her own?”

 Sally fell asleep in Junior's arms with her clothes on. That was a first. She was exhausted. Junior laid awake all night with guilt gnawing at his soul.

 

 Episode X

Monday morning, Sally woke up with swollen eyes. She was hoping yesterday was a dream. It wasn’t. She tried to pull herself together and get ready for work, Life goes on. Junior was in the kitchen having coffee. He was up all night.

“Good morning,” she said. She poured herself a cup of coffee and sat next to Junior at the table.

“How did you sleep?” Junior asked her, rubbing her head.

“Not bad I still can’t believe that Miguel is gone. How did you sleep?” Sally asked’

“Not bad,” he lied. He just didn’t know how to tell her about the Cruz family. If he did and she went to the police, would they kill him and/or her. That wasn’t one of the options Carlos gave him.

“I have to shower. You want to join me, and help me get my mind off the sadness for a while.” Sally asked?

“Sure,” Junior said with a smile. He didn’t need to be asked twice. “You think you could maybe brush your teeth first?” She had bad morning breath.

“Don’t push your luck,” Sally joked. She led him by his penis to the shower.

"What's with all those toys I saw in there?" Junior asked.

"You'll find out," Sally said. Once again Junior tried not to show fear.

Junior was sitting in his pick-up truck in front of Chase bank at 8:50 a.m. The lobby opened at 9. It was 9:03 when the security guard unlocked the door. Junior didn’t even notice he was late. He kept running different scenarios through his mind. It was to a point of obsession.

He asked the receptionist to see Herbert Johnson. She told him to have a seat and Mr. Johnson would be right with him. Junior was reaching for a copy of Baseball Digest Magazine when Herb greeted him.

“Junior, It’s nice to see you. Please come into my office?” Herbert said. Junior walked in behind him and closed the big glass door. “What a shame about Miguel.”

“Yes, it is,” Junior agreed.

“It sounds like they are going to have a vigil for him tonight outside his office, and a family-only funeral tomorrow” Herb informed Junior.

“That’s pretty quick,” Junior noted

“The hundreds of crying friends are just too overwhelming for Angela, and the boys. She realizes how loved Miguel was, but she needs to do what’s best for her family. I hope you could make it to the vigil tonight,” Herb said.

“Of course,” replied Junior.

“How’s my sister doing?” Herb asked

“She’s doing better this morning,” answered Junior

“You know it was great that you were there for her yesterday. She really likes you, and I appreciate you helping her through this. If there is anything I could do for you, just ask,” Herb the banker told Junior.

“Well there is something,” Junior said.

 

The crowd outside of Miguel's office was already huge, and more and more people kept coming. The sidewalk in front of the storefront was full of crosses, flowers, and dozens of stuffed animals for the kids. Laredo Police, State Police, and Sheriffs Police were everywhere. Some were there for traffic control, others for support. Angela was there with the kids. She wanted to show them how much their father was loved.

Sally found Junior, and they made their way to the front of the crowd to give Angela and the kids their condolences. Since there was going to be family only at the funeral, many people brought sympathy cards. There was a giant pile of them in front of the office door. There was probably a lot of money in those cards, but no one would dare try to steal them. Especially with the police presence that was there. Sally saw Angela and they hugged and cried for a few minutes. Little Miguel saw Junior and gave him a fist bump.

“He really loved you,” Angela told Sally. The tears poured. Sally wiped her eyes and reached past Angela to put a card on the pile. “Thank you,” Angela said, wiping her eyes.

“This is my friend Junior,” Sally said introducing the two.

“Oh yes, you're the one who got my husband drunk the other night.” Angela joked. It seemed Miguel threw Junior under the bus as well.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” he told her with a hug. Junior handed her a card, and whispered in her ear, “Put this in your purse. It’s very important.”

“Thank you,” Angela said. She looked at him a little strange but put the card in her purse as he asked. Other people were trying to see Angela and the kids, so Sally and Junior kept the line moving.

“What was that all about with the card?” Sally asked.

“Nothing. I just didn’t want her to lose it,” Junior answered.

“You're a strange bird sometimes,” She said. A priest had a megaphone and led the huge crowd in prayer. He read some passages from the Bible, and there wasn’t a dry eye to be found.

“Come home with me?” Sally asked when the vigil service was over.

“Sure,” Junior said. They walked hand in hand around the corner to Sally’s apartment

Episode XI:  

Tuesday morning the Rivera family buried their beloved Miguel. Tuesday evening Junior was waiting for Sally outside the Department of Motor Vehicles parking lot. He was standing next to his truck when she came out

“Hey handsome, you want to buy me a beer?” Sally flirted.

“No, I’m taking off. I’m going to do a little traveling,” he said to her.

“Just like that?” Sally could feel her heart was breaking. “Where are you going?

“Not sure. East coast, maybe Florida. Come with me,” he told her, with his hands on her shoulders.

“Sure just leave my job and family, and run away with a man I’ve known for a week,” Sally said very sarcastically.

“I’m not saying forever, I’m just saying for now,” he tried to reason.

“I do have some vacation time coming,” Sally began to think. “When are you leaving?” she asked.

“Now,” Junior said.

“I think I could make this work,” Sally said with a little excitement in her voice. “I have to make some calls about work, tell my mother and brother what I’m doing, and pack a few things. Okay, I’m in. Can you pick me up from my apartment in about thirty minutes?” she asked Junior.

“Sure,” Junior said, smiling ear to ear, “I could get an oil change while I wait.” Sometimes he was a strange bird..

“I’m so excited!” she said. She kissed him and drove off in her car.

When Junior went to pick up Sally, she was waiting for him outside her apartment with a small suitcase. She put it in the back seat next to his duffle bag. “That’s your suitcase?” she asked him. He didn’t answer. “When were you going to tell me?” Sally asked him.

“Tell you what?” Junior answered. There were so many things he hadn’t told her, he didn’t know where she was going with this.

“About the ranch,” she said. This didn’t really narrow it down for him.

“What about it?” he asked. He was trying to get more information before he confessed to something he didn’t need to.

“I talked to my brother.” she said, “You gave the ranch to Angela and the kids?”

“It wasn’t really mine,” Junior said

“It was your uncle’s,” Sally said. That wasn’t the case either. Junior didn’t elaborate.

 

The card he had given to Miguel’s widow Angela the night before contained a key and a note. ‘OPEN IMMEDIATELY’ it said. It also had Herbert Johnsons’  business card in it. The key was for a safety deposit box. On Tuesday morning, before she went to bury her husband at 10:00 a.m., Angela stopped by Chase bank and talked to Herb. He had her sign some paperwork and opened the vault to the safety deposit box. In it, she found the land deed to the Carthage ranch. The same ranch Miguel worked on as a kid. There was a quitclaim deed attached to it transferring ownership to her. There was also fifty thousand dollars in hundred dollar bills with a note that said 'rehab money.'

“How will you live? That ranch was worth two million dollars” Sally asked.

“I’ll be okay,” Junior answered. He reached under his seat, pulled out a folder, and handed it to her. The letterhead said Chase Bank Investment Group. “Open it,” he told her. It showed he had over four million dollars between stocks, bonds, and cash. The donation/loss on the ranch offset any taxes. “I could live off the interest for a while. I’m very diversified,” he said. It was a word he heard Herb use when they spent Monday putting this whole thing together.

 

Carlos Cruz knew the ranch had a new owner. He somehow knew everything that went on in that town. He was on his way to introduce himself to his new neighbor. He was going to present her with a business opportunity that had a few options. Just like he did for Junior and the same thing he did for Bill Carthage. When he was pulling up to the house, he saw a bunch of police cars on the property. State, County, and Local squads were everywhere. Carlos told his driver to back out as quietly and quickly as he could. Cruz did some investigating and found out that the new owner of the ranch was the widow of the man he killed. He also found out that she went by the title Sergeant Angela Rivera of the Webb County Sheriff's Police Department. That was a fact that Junior heard from Herbert Johnson on Monday morning.

Angela was loved by all her friends and co-workers. They were more than happy to help her rehab her new house and land. There would be police personnel at the ranch constantly.

After learning the news, one of Carlos Cruz’s associates asked him, “What do we do now boss?”

“We cave in the tunnel and start digging somewhere else. Our business with the Carthage ranch is over,” he said.

 

Junior got on I-10 heading east with Sally sitting next to him. ‘Rock The Casbah’ came on the radio. “Hey that’s the Clash,” Junior said, turning up the volume. Sally slid over close to him, undid his pants a little and put her head on his lap. This was going to be a great road trip.

End season 1

 


Submitted: January 05, 2020

© Copyright 2021 T S Air. All rights reserved.

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