Mother Mary

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
A man on the verge of death is forced to relive the last three days of his life.

Submitted: July 11, 2014

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Submitted: July 11, 2014

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Mary Mae.

Oh, God, why is she haunting me as I lay here dying? All I see is her face and those three days. Why not my wife and my two daughters? Shouldn't they be my last thoughts in this world? After all, they are the reason I stole $1.5 million in cocaine and $5 million in cash and drove half way across the country.

Mother Mary.

Is that smoke I smell? I remember there was a fire. Everything is getting hazy. My entire past is disappearing, except those three days. Is this Hell? Is God punishing me for what I did in that small Kansas town?

Mary Magdalene.

Oh no, it's starting again.

1

Washington's top DEA agent, or ex-DEA agent of two days, James Whitten (Dane Cole by his drivers license) drove his Government issue Expedition down a deserted stretch of Kansas highway. His eyes moved nervously from the road to the rear view mirror behind his sunglasses.

The hazard of carrying one point five million in cocaine and five million in cash.

He had stayed on these little used highways since leaving Washington to avoid police and anyone who might be looking for him. Which were law enforcers of the entire United States.

It amazed him that one day he is considered the greatest hero America has ever seen, then America's most wanted the next. But the real question was, would he still be a criminal if America knew that had stolen the cocaine and cash to save his family from the very man the cocaine and cash were taken from?

Actually, he thought not.

It really surprised him that he hadn't been caught yet. After all, he was driving a Government vehicle. He guessed the most obvious means of escape were the last to be thought of. It made him want to laugh.

The only reason he didn't was the signs that lined the side of the road.

JESUS SAVES

JESUS IS COMING

REPENT AND LIVE FOREVER IN GLORY

And that was just a few.

He wasn't a religious man, and chills ran up his spine every time he saw one.

James sighed and glanced into the rear view mirror for the 12,439th time before reaching for the pack of cigarettes on the dashboard. Before his fingers could touch the cellophane-covered box, there was a loud pop under the hood, followed by a pounding. If he looked close, he could see the hood jump up slightly at every bump.

"What the fuck?" James muttered and looked to the instrument panel.

All needles dropped and the engine died.

"This is just fucking great," James said ripping the sunglasses off and throwing them into the passenger seat. James turned the wheel and coasted to a stop on the shoulder.

Once the Expedition came to a stop, thick white smoke billowed from under the hood. James threw the Expedition into park and turned the key off. Not that it needed, just a force of habit.

James then angrily threw the door open and climbed out. Time was short and this was the last thing he needed. He popped the hood before slamming the door shut. There was a loud click and the hood lifted slightly.

Cussing under his breath, James walked around to the hood. This was the last thing he needed. If he wasn't in Texas by morning, Joy, Kristin, and Anna would be dead by the hands of Enrique Mandez.

James reached the hood and lifted it. Smoke poured out and James could taste the sweet nauseating taste of antifreeze. Before the smoke could clear, James was turned away from the Expedition and facing a green highway sign.

REDEMPTION 8

He pulled his cell phone, well the cell phone, from his pocket. His cell phone was sitting in the front seat of the moving van at the bottom of the river. This was the cell phone Enrique had left in his mail box two days ago, the only means he had of being told his next move. James dialed 411.

"Redemption," he said when asked the city.

2

Ten minutes later, James saw the red tow truck coming his way. The closer it got, the more he wondered if it was red or just covered in rust. It slowed and pulled onto the opposite shoulder and James saw the words GARRET'S GARAGE painted on the side of the door in yellow.

James stood next to the Expedition as the tow truck backed up. When the tow truck stopped, the engine shut off and a skinny man dressed in grey coveralls and covered in grease climbed out of the drivers side. The man had long curly greying hair sprouting from under a cap, a five o'clock shadow and wire rim glasses and had the slight look of a simpleton.

Redemption must be a small town, James thought looking at the man. He was the exact stereotype for the small town garage owner.

The man started towards James and the Expedition, a small smile on his grease streaked face.

"You're obviously the one who called, so I won't ask," he said. When he reached James he extended a hand. "I'm Garret."

James looked at Garret's hand. It was the only part of him not streaked with grease. James took Garret's hand and shook it. "Dane Cole," James said. He wasn't sure if Garret watched the news, but he gave the alias to be on the safe side.

Garret's smile widened slightly. "Well, let's get 'er hooked up and take a look"

James nodded as Garret released his hand and went straight to work hooking the Expedition up. He wasn't sure why, but he like this man immediately. He just had the feel of a good man.

3

James was looking out the window when they passed the city limit sign.

WELCOME TO

REDEMPTION

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE A CLEAN SLATE WITH THE LORD?

James tried not to laugh.

They drove down Main street, the perfect Rockwellian small town. Brick buildings, clean streets, white picket fences, polished lamp post, I guess you get the picture. Before they could reach the court house and town square, which James could slightly see ahead of them, Garret turned the tow truck into a small garage and filling station.

Garret backed the tow truck perfectly into one of the two spots in the garage and lowered the Expedition. James and Garret got out and Garret unhooked the Expedition in seconds and parked the tow truck off to the side.

When Garret came back into the garage, he walked straight to the Expedition. "Let's have a look see," he said lifting the hood.

James stood next to him, not that he knew any thing, he was as illiterate in the car business as Garret was in brain surgery.

Garret looked over the engine, poking and prodding here and there. After two minutes, Garret lifted his head and looked to James. "Well, the good news is, the engine's fine."

"What's the bad news?" James asked.

"Well, your drive beat snapped and wrapped around the alternator pulley and spun around cutting the battery wire, and most of the power wires, plus it put a large gash in the radiator."

James sighed heavily and closed his eyes.

"The good thing is," Garret started seeing the defeat in James face. "I can fix it, but it's going to take a while."

James looked at Garret. "Like how long?"

"That depends," Garret said. "I don't have the parts here and nothing's open today," There was a short pause. "I could call a friend of mine in Tulsa and see what he's got."

"Good," James wanted to say more, like what are you waiting for? But he knew the man was doing the best he could, it wasn't his fault. James pulled the cell phone from his pocket. "I need to make a phone call myself."

Garret nodded and walked into the office. James walked out of the garage and dialed Enrique's number.

There were two rings then, "Why are you calling me James?" Enrique said in his heavy Spanish accent.

"I've got a slight problem," James said holding back the anger at this monster. There was silence on the other end. "I had a little car trouble and the garage I'm at doesn't have the parts I need."

"That's rather unfortunate for you and your family," Enrique said. The sounds of screaming in the background erupted.

"No," James whispered.

At that moment, Garret stepped out of the garage. James turned to him. "I can have it done Tuesday morning," he said.

Garret stood there a moment, Joy and the girls screams filled his ears as he looked at Garret. Garret finally turned and walked back into the garage.

"I'll be back on the road Tuesday morning, I promise," James said, tears welling up behind his eyes.

"Not good enough," Enrique said. James could hear the smile in his voice.

There was the ear shattering sound of a gun shot that silenced the screams.

"NOOOOO," James yelled.

"Now the real question you have to ask is, did I really shoot your wife and kids or not. And if I did, who did I shoot?"

The phone went dead in his hand. James dropped to his knees and started to cry. His life had been in order, he had a good job, and his family was nearly perfect. All destroyed by a single man who by all rights should be behind bars right now. The glory of the American Judicial system. It amazed him how one small technicality could put a murderer, drug dealer, and all around monster back on the streets.

James slowly wiped the tears away and stood up. He took a deep breath and walked back into the garage. Garret was already busy under the hood of the Expedition.

"I think I'll take a walk around town," James said.

Garret looked out from under the hood. "Okay, but you won't find nut'un. Everything's closed for the revival."

James had to smile. "Revival?"

"Yeah, everything in town closes every Sunday for church. Or revivals. The glory of living in the bible belt."

"Why are you open?"

"Not much of a God man," Garret said, then smiled wide. "And the wife hates it."

James smiled back. "I just might check this revival out myself."

"Have fun," Garret said and went back to the job at hand.

James stood there for a moment before turning and walking out of the garage. James didn't know it at the time, but he was about to make the biggest mistake of his life.

4

The streets of Redemption were lined with cars, and main street was overrun with shops, but there was nobody out, and all the shops had CLOSED signs hanging in the door. As James walked west towards the town square, he could hear singing. With every step closer, the singing grew louder. He could also see a large red tent revealing itself with each step.

Once the town square was fully in view, he could see the large tent standing in the center with a posterboard sign.

REVEREND HANNAM

AND THE

LADIES OF CHRIST

INVITE ALL TO REJOICE IN THE GLORY OF THE LORD

James crossed the bright green grass and pushed the tent flap aside. The heat, smell of saw dust and sweat, and singing hit James, nearly suffocating him. Hesitantly, James stepped in.

The chorus of some Hymn James didn't recognize bellowed from the choir and the people in the audience. Some voices were too high, some too low, and most were completely off key, but one voice rang out like crystal. James scanned the audience and choir until his eyes fell on one girl that stuck out like a sore thumb.

She had long blond hair, bright blue eyes, and skin that looked flawless from where he stood. She was also the only one in the tent dressed in a color other then black, white or tan. She wore a pink v-neck blouse that revealed just a small fraction of cleavage and was nearly sleeveless, and tight blue jeans. She was a vision of beauty, and the voice to match.

James and the girl locked eyes for just a moment. James felt his heart speed slightly and a heat rise in his groin, but thoughts of Joy and the girls quickly killed the fire.

The choir finished and the girl smiled at James as they sat down. An old man dressed in a three piece blue suit stepped up to the podium on the stage.

"Let's give our wonderful choir a hand," he said wiping sweat from his brow.

The crowd clapped loudly.

Reverend Hannam leaned against the podium and spoke into the microphone. "Let's give praise to the Lord for this glorious Sunday morning."

"Amen," the crowd chanted in unison

"Our Lord and Savior came to me in a dream last night," Hannam continued. "He said, 'My son I have a job for you.' And I told him speak and I shall obey."

"What did he say?"

"He told me, 'My son you are my voice in Redemption. And I want you to be my voice there.'"

"Amen."

James looked from Hannam to the girl again. She wasn't paying any attention to Hannam, she was watching James. He felt nervous and edgy suddenly. Did this girl know him? Was his rescue attempt over? He felt his throat close at the prospect of being turned in. He had to get out.

"And from here, he told me to spread his word to the world. He wants Redemption to be the center of his great and holy word."

"Amen."

"I feel my job is done here, now I must branch out."

"Hallelujah."

"But to branch out, I beg of you children of God, dig deep and give so the word of God can reach the ears of the world."

James had had enough. Not only was the girl making him paranoid, but this pompous ass had this whole town brain washed. He would bet everything that the whole town was reaching deep into their pockets or purses to fund this asshole. It was probably money to pay for his whores, no, the old women of his "flock" would do that for free if he said it was what "God" wanted. It was more likely for drugs or gambling debts.

"Fuck this," James muttered as he turned and exited the tent.

5

James found himself sitting on a bench in front of what could only be described as a soda shop. It was closed, but through the large front window he could see the bar and stools. It had an authentic '50's look to it.

The sun felt good on him, and the cigarette he was puffing on tasted even better. The paranoia of the girl staring at him had ceased and through the power of deductive reasoning, he decided that Enrique more then likely didn't shoot Joy, or one of the girls. James had just as much advantage over Enrique as Enrique had over him. If not for his current situation, life was good again.

After an hour of sitting on the bench, he started seeing people walking around. The revival of the "Great and powerful Hannam" must be over. James was about to stand and walk back to Garret's when the blond in the pink blouse sat down next to him.

James jumped slightly.

"Why'd you leave?" she said smiling at him. "You missed my solo."

James looked around. This had to be a dream, he didn't know this girl, yet here she was talking to him like they were old friends. James looked back at her.

"I'm sorry," he said. "Do I know you?"

"Oh sorry," she said and gave a small laugh. "Mary Mae," she said "And you are?"

James opened his mouth but stopped. He had forgotten his alias for a moment. "Dane Cole," he said after a moments pause.

"Now that we know each other," she said, the smile never leaving her face. "Why did you leave the revival so early? You missed my solo."

"Sorry," James said. He suddenly felt at ease. Now he knew this girl, Mary, but didn't know who she really was. "But I feel the Reverend Hannam is a bit of a pompous ass."

Mary laughed. "Thank God, I thought I was the only one who felt that way."

James laughed, he couldn't help it, her laugh was contagious.

"To be honest, the only reason I go to his church is because it's expected from the towns pride and joy," she said rolling her eyes.

"Pride and Joy?" James laughed slightly.

"Don't laugh," she said still smiling. "This is a small town and I'm the first to be accepted into an ivy league college."

"Oh yeah, what college is that?" James asked. Just as with Garret, he couldn't help but like Mary. Not only was she beautiful, but she was smart too.

"Yale," she said, lifting her head slightly. She looked to James and laughed again. "Sorry, I have to practice my snotty look."

James shook his head and smiled at her. "I never would have guessed you as a high school graduate, I was thinking along the lines of sixteen."

Mary hit him lightly on the arm. "I'm insulted."

James rubbed his arm. "Believe me, when you reach my age, you'll enjoy people saying you look younger."

"What do you mean? You can't be more then 24."

"33," James said.

"Wow grandpa," she said.

James looked at her a look of fake hurt on his face. She leaned closer and shoulder bumped him. Stop, he told himself. She's flirting and you're flirting back. You are a married man. The voice quickly quieted.

"So, you're obviously new to town," she said. "What brings you to Redemption?"

"I had some car trouble outside of town, and now I have to wait a few days for it to be fixed."

"Well, it's a good thing you broke down now," she said.

"Why's that?"

"There's a fair tomorrow night, but for tonight I'll take you to Della's, the best café in this part of Kansas." she said.

James looked at her and smiled. "Boy you don't beat around the bush do you?"

Mary only smiled.

"Besides, I can't. I'm married," he said showing her the wedding ring on his left hand.

"Well, where's the wife?" she asked, never losing her smile.

"She's in Texas," he said truthfully. "We're moving there and her and our daughters went ahead and are waiting for me," he lied.

"Well, it doesn't have to be a date silly," she said. "I just thought I could show you around the enormous town of Redemption. I can even show you the way to the hotel."

James could only stare at her. He couldn't take his eyes off her. "Okay," he finally agreed."

Her smile widened and she slapped his leg before standing. "Good, let's go."

James stood and followed her west.

6

Twenty minutes later, James and Mary were seated in a both at Della's café. The café was filled to capacity and boomed with overlapping conversation. All patrons were still dressed in their Sunday best. James didn't say anything, but he was never more uncomfortable.

A large plate of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, corn, a large slice of apple pie, and a large glass of iced tea sat on the table before him, barely touched.

"You haven't eaten much," Mary said looking at James. Her plate was nearly clean.

"Not much of an appetite," James said faking a smile. In truth he was feeling more then a little guilty sitting here with Mary. Sure they weren't doing anything, but he would be lying if he said those thoughts weren't running through his mind. Mary was full of energy and a very bubbly young woman. She had talked ever since they had sat down and James half listened. And when Mary would lean forward to tell him something she didn't want the rest of the café to hear, his eyes shot straight to her chest. Each time, she seemed to lean slightly more forward, revealing more of her cleavage.

James didn't realize it, but the Reverend Hannam had approached their table.

"Your singing was angelic today," Hannam said, startling James.

Mary looked to Hannam and smiled. "Thank you," she said smiling. James let his eyes linger on Mary a moment before looking to Hannam.

"And who is your friend?" Hannam asked looking at James.

"Oh, sorry Reverend," Mary said. "This is Mr. Dane Cole. He is visiting our little community for a few days."

"It's just Dane," James said extending a hand to Hannam. Hannam took his hand and shook it.

"I saw you at the revival this morning," Hannam said almost accusingly. "You didn't stay long."

"Yes," James said. "It was just a little too hot in there for my taste."

"I see," Hannam said stiffening slightly. "Very well. See you Wednesday for choir practice Mary?" he asked turning to Mary.

"Wouldn't miss it for the world," Mary said smiling.

"Good," Hannam said and turned to James. "Mr. Cole," he said bowing his head slightly.

"Father," James said, smiling at Mary. Mary smiled back.

Hannam took a deep breath and walked away. Mary couldn't old the laugh, she let it out and James followed suit. Her laughter was still contagious.

"You shouldn't insult the Reverend that way," Mary said still smiling. James hadn't seen that smile waver since the moment he saw her in the tent.

"Fuck 'im," James said. "No thanks," Mary laughed. "He's a little too old for my taste."

James looked at her surprised. "Oh, I guess I found the black sheep of the flock."

"Maybe you have," Mary said wiping some of the pie filling from the pie plate. She stuck her finger in her mouth and sucked the filling off her finger, raising her eyebrows as she did it.

Oh shit, this is heading in the wrong direction. Stop flirting, James told himself. But once again he quickly quieted that voice. After all, he was a man, and men have needs of their own. It had been two weeks since Enrique had taken his wife and daughters, and three months since he had last had sex of any form. He couldn't help but be aroused by this beauty sitting across the table from him.

7

As the sun set, James once again found himself walking down the sidewalk next to Mary. She was walking close enough that he could smell the shampoo in her hair. It was vanilla scented.

Street lights, and porch lights lit the streets up. He could not shake that Rockwellian feeling.

Just on the opposite side of the Court house stood a two story, forty room hotel. Mary walked with James to the front desk.

"Hi Mary," the rather large red head behind the counter said.

"Hi Mrs. Wetherby," Mary said with a smile.

James looked at Mary. "Is there any one you don't know."

"Not a soul," Mary said with a laugh.

"What can I do for you Mary?" Mrs. Wetherby asked.

"This is my friend Dane Cole," She started. "His car broke down and he needs a place to stay for a couple of days."

"Well you've come to the right place," Mrs. Wetherby said with a smile. She opened a registry book and quickly skimmed down it. "It seems we have 32 rooms open Mr. Cole."

"Just one will do me fine," James said and Mrs. Wetherby laughed loudly. He couldn't help make the childish joke. There was something about this town that got deep into the blood and made you want to act like it was 1955 again.

Mrs. Wetherby turned the book so James could sign and turned towards the row of keys behind her. James took a pen and signed Dane Cole quickly.

"I'll put you in room 109," Mrs. Wetherby said turning around with a key in her hand. "Do you mind showing Mr. Cole to his room Mary?"

"Not at all," Mary said taking the key from Mrs. Wetherby

"Thank you dear," Mrs. Wetherby smiled.

Shortly after, Mary was leading James outside and down the sidewalk. To his left were odd numbered rooms. They soon reached room 109. Mary turned to James and held the key out to him. James reached for it, but Mary pulled it away.

"Since I showed you where the hotel is, you owe my a favor," She said.

"What's that?"

"I just want you to walk me home," Mary said smiling.

"Okay, I can do that," James said smiling back.

He was relieved. He knew that if he walked her home, there was no way there was going to be any sex between them. Unless her parents weren't home, that is.

Shit.

8

When they reached Mary's house, James mind was set at ease. All the lights were on in the two story house. The house was surrounded by a waist high white fence, manicured lawn, and flowers lined the walkway from the sidewalk to the house and along the house. Once again, a home straight from a Rockwell painting.

Redemption was grossly stereotypical, all except Mary.

James followed Mary up the porch steps and they stopped at the front door.

"I guess this is good night Mr. Cole," she said with a smile.

"I guess so Mary," James said. "Thanks for the tour."

"No problem," Mary said.

"It was nice meeting you," James said extending a hand.

Mary leaned in and gave James a hug and kiss on the cheek. "It was nice meeting you too Dane," she said smiling.

"Bye," James said and turned away from her. He started down the porch steps.

"Dane," Mary said from behind him.

James stopped and turned to her.

"The fair starts tomorrow night," she started. "I was wondering if you would like to accompany me?"

James smiled. "I'll think about it."

Mary smiled at James before turning and stepping inside the house. James stood on the walkway looking at the door, a large smile on his face. He actually hoped this was the last time he would lay eyes on Mary. He was afraid that if he saw her again, he would succumb to the temptation and do something he would regret.

James turned from Mary's house and started for the garage. He needed something from the Expedition before returning to the hotel for the night.

9

After leaving Mary's house, James realized that he hadn't had a smoke since Mary had set next to him on the bench in front of the soda shop. He immediately lit one and at once felt the light headedness that comes with not smoking for a long period of time. It was exhilarating.

By the time he reached the garage, the cigarette was done. He thought himself lucky that the lights were still on and the garage doors were still up. James stepped in to an empty garage.

"Garret," he called and got no answer. James walked straight to the driver's side passenger door and took one quick look around before opening the door. He leaned in and took the duffle bag off the back seat. James took another quick look around. The garage was still empty.

The back end of the Expedition was covered with a black tarp. James lifted the edge of the tarp and saw that the tightly wrapped packages of cocaine were still there untouched. He sighed his relief.

"Mr. Cole?" Garret's voice broke the silence.

James dropped the tarp and looked to the garage door. Garret was standing framed by the doorway holding a wrench. "Hey Garret," James said backing out of the Expedition. He closed the door. "I thought you had gone home for the night."

"Just getting ready to," Garret said. Garret crossed to the Expedition and opened a cooler sitting on a barrel. "Just wanted one more of these," he said holding up a beer. "Want one?"

"Sure," James said setting the duffle bag on the roof of the Expedition.

Garret tossed James a beer. James opened it and took a long drink.

"This is the only place around here that you're going to get one of those," Garret said opening his own beer. "Damn dry county."

James laughed and took another drink. He walked around the Expedition and stood next to Garret. "I hope my truck and I aren't any trouble. I mean you don't have to be here all night working on it."

Garret gave a small laugh. "Are you kidding? I'm glad you came along, it gives me an excuse to be away from the misses."

James laughed.

"What's so funny?" Garret asked.

"Nothing Al," James said taking another drink.

Garret took his last drink from the beer, crushed the can and threw it into the corner. He gave a long loud belch. "Well that's it for me tonight," he said.

"Me too," James said finishing his own beer. "Just came back for my clothes," he said walking back and lifting the duffle bag off the roof of the Expedition.

"Do you have a place to stay?" Garret asked.

"Yeah," James answered. "Mary Mae showed me to the hotel."

"Oh," Garret said. "Pretty little Mary uhh?"

Garret and James walked out of the garage and Garret pulled the garage door down.

"Oh yeah, she's pretty all right."

Garret put a lock on the door and moved to the next one. "Just between you and me," he said pulling the other door down. "I've thought of her on more then one love making sessions with the wife."

"Can't say I blame you there," James said smiling.

Garret put a lock on the last door and looked back at James. "Any man that gets into those pants is a God among men in my book," Garret said with a laugh.

"I'll remember that," James said with a smile. Just a little guy talk, no harm in that.

Garret laughed. "You sound rather confident in yourself."

James only shrugged his shoulders.

Garret shook his head. "You're just asking for trouble there Mr. Cole."

"It's Dane."

"Okay Dane," Garret said. "Well you have a good night Dane."

"You too Garret."

Garret crossed the parking lot and climbed into the drivers seat of the tow truck. The engine roared to life and James watched as he pulled out, giving him a wave before pulling onto the street. James waved back and started for the hotel.

A shower and bed were all that was on his mind. Tomorrow, he would more then likely stay in the hotel room, then Tuesday morning he would be off. No more Mary Mae.

10

James used the key to the hotel room, stepped in, turned on the light and threw the keys on the little table by the door. He looked around. Just your normal everyday hotel room. A bed with a night stand next to it, a dresser with a tv setting on it, a table with two chairs by the door, and a bathroom door straight ahead and to the left.

He walked to the bed, dropped the duffle bag on the bed, picked the remote from the night stand and turned on the tv. A weatherman was telling viewers that the next three days were going to be sunny and nice. No rain in sight.

As James opened the duffle bag and pulled out a small bag full of bathroom necessities, the weatherman handed the news over to a reporter named Susan Day.

"The manhunt still continues for James Whitten," Susan started.

James turned his attention to the tv at the mention of his name. There was a blond reporter in the center of the screen, and his photo in the upper right corner. It was a file photo, his graduation from the academy photo to be exact. Not one of his favorites.

"Agent Whitten, as many may remember was an agent of the DEA who arrested known drug dealer Enrique Mandez."

The screen now showed a full screen photo of Enrique standing next to a limo outside the Washington court house. Then the scene changed to a view of a crane pulling the moving van from the river.

"This was the scene two days ago, when agent Whitten stole the 1 million dollars worth of cocaine he had confiscated two months prior."

The scene changed back to Susan Day.

"Government officials are asking that you keep an eye out for Mr. Whitten and contact local authorities immediately. He is to be considered armed and extremely dangerous."

James shook his head and laughed. "Thanks Edward," he said, referring to Edward Anderson. The head of his old department, and next hopeful for head of the DEA. There was no doubt a reward out there for him. Which meant that every man with a gun, and knew about the reward was out looking for him.

James took the small bag and walked straight for the bathroom. This shower would feel so good. The closest he had to a bath or shower in the past two days was wiping off with a paper towel in gas station bathrooms. Of course that's not counting the soaking he got when he drove the moving van in the river.

11

The bathroom door opened nearly half an hour later, steam billowing into the room. James soon followed, a towel wrapped around his waist and drying his short hair with another towel. He took three steps and stopped. There was something different about the room, but what was it? It suddenly dawned on him. He had left the tv on, and now it was off.

James lowered the towel and looked at the blank tv screen.

"Feel better?" he heard a familiar sweet voice say.

James turned to the bed to see Mary laying there, her knees up. His heart sped.

"How did you get here?" he asked.

Mary smiled. "I have a master key," she said sitting up and patting the bed next to her. "Come sit down, I don't bite you know."

James crossed the room and sat on the bed next to Mary. Their legs were close enough that he could feel the heat from her. His heart raced more and he felt butterflies in his belly. They were alone for the first time since he had met her and that spelled bad news for him.

"Not to sound like an ass," James started. "But, why are you here?"

"For this," she said raising her shirt. James caught a glimpse of her bra, and his imagination ran away from him. In his mind he saw her entire breast, the seductive lower curve of each breast, the perky nipples. In his mind, he slapped himself across the face, in the hotel room, he kept his eyes on Mary's chest for the whole second and a half she had her shirt raised.

Mary dropped her shirt and laughed.

James shook his head, and the daze off. He couldn't believe she had just done that.

"You aren't very sly Dane," she said still smiling. "I watched you trying to look down my shirt every time I leaned forward."

James felt the heat rise in his cheeks. "I'm sorry," he said looking to the floor.

Mary gently put a hand on his cheek and turned his face to her. "It's okay, I actually wanted you too."

James looked deep into her eyes, there was no lie there. He had been trained to detect lies, and she wasn't.

"The truth is Dane," she said letting her hand slowly slide down his cheek. "I couldn't stop thinking about you after you left. So, I snuck out and came straight here," Mary looked to the floor, her smile fading for the first time today. "I hope I didn't do something wrong."

James put his finger under her chin and raised her face up so he could look in her eyes. "No, but you know I am married. There could never be anything between us."

"I know," she started and James could see a tear start down her cheek. "But she's not here, couldn't we just have a fling?"

James giggled slightly. A fling? He had seen enough movies that a fling usually turned into more. And with his luck lately, Mary would probably end up pregnant. That was just his luck now. "I've seen enough to know that it's never that simple."

"But it is." she said. "I'm going to college in a few weeks and you're going to Texas Tuesday. It is that easy."

She had him there.

"But I love my wife and daughters," he said.

"I know that," she said wiping away a tear. "I'm not asking you to love me forever, just be with me until you leave."

"I..." James started, but was quickly cut off when his and Mary's lips met. It started as a peck on the lips, but he soon felt her tongue pushing against his lips. He resisted at first, then submitted. She was right, this could be easy, they would soon be on separate sides of the country.

Fuck it, he thought. No, fuck her you dope. He suppressed a laugh.

He felt Mary's hand on the towel around his waist pull, then he felt cool air on his groin. It was only moments before Mary had her hand wrapped around his stiffening penis. James placed his hand on Mary's thigh and slowly let his hand slide up her hip and under her shirt.

Mary gently pushed James back and pulled her shirt over her head. James closed his eyes and prayed silently that God forgive what he was about to do. It nearly made him laugh, all his life he had never prayed or went to church, except for his wedding, and here he was asking to be forgiven for what he could very well stop before it happened. The real problem was, he didn't want to stop it.

When James reopened his eyes, Mary had her bra off and was quickly pulling her jeans off. Her breast were just as perfect as he had imagined. Once Mary was out of her jeans, James let his eyes fall to her crotch, it was shaved, just like he liked it. This was too perfect.

Mary wrapped her arms around his neck and lay back, pulling him with her. She kissed him again as he lifted himself to get on top of her. Before he could enter her, she stopped kissing him and moved her mouth to his ear.

"This is my first time," she whispered, her hot breath against his ear sent chills down his spine.

James let his penis slide in slowly at first. She arched her back and moaned loudly, arousing his excitement even more. She was warm and soft inside, and he felt like he fit perfectly. He moved slowly inside her, feeling her flat stomach against his, rubbing his hands up and down her body, and relishing in the tightness of her arms around him.

"Fuck me harder," she moaned after what felt like a welcomed eternity.

James did as she demanded. Mary dug her finger nails into his back as he quickened the pace. They moved in unison, slapping their hips together as they work their way to the magic moment. When Mary finally orgasmed, she clamped down on his shoulder, drawing blood.

He collapsed on top of her and they both breathed heavily, Mary still held him tightly. After a moment, Mary let go and quickly turned over on her belly. James let his eyes run down her back to the curve of her ass.

"More," she said.

James grabbed his penis and directed it back to her vagina. He was nearly inside her when she stopped him.

"No," she said wrapping her own hand around his penis, pushing his hand away. "Here," she said redirecting his penis to her anus.

James felt his heart race. In all his 33 years, no woman had ever allowed him to enter "The Forbidden place" before. This had to all be a dream. If it was, he was going to take full advantage of it. He could feel her anus against the tip of his penis, it was almost like a wall, but with Mary slowly prodding it with his penis, he finally felt the wall give and he slid every so slowly inside. It was pure ecstasy.

Mary closed her eyes as James entered her and buried her face in the pillow, muffling a scream and biting down against the pleasing pain.

James made love to her in this position until they both orgasmed once again. By the time they were finished, the sun was starting to break the darkness.

12

James found himself sitting on the floor leaning against the bed and watching the outside turn from black to blue. The smell of sex still lingered in the air. His mind was full of regret and triumph over what he had just done. He loved Joy with all his heart, but Mary was so beautiful and seductive, he couldn't help himself.

Excuses, excuses.

Mary moved on the bed. James looked back at the bed, she was still asleep.

James closed his eyes and rubbed them before standing and crawling back in bed next to Mary. He cuddled close to her and put an arm around her. Mary grabbed his hand and wrapped it around herself tighter. James fell asleep feeling her warmth and smelling the intoxicating smell of her.

When in Rome, he thought before full sleep completely took him over.

13

Three hours later, James awoke and went straight to the bathroom for a shower. With only three hours sleep, James felt very well rested, almost young again actually. Funny how a "fling" could make him feel like this.

He had just finished rinsing the shampoo from his hair when the bathroom door opened. He stopped and watched the dark shape though the shower curtain as it got closer to the tub. A moment later, Mary pushed the curtain aside. She was still naked, and James felt himself stiffening from the sight of her. Even with her hair a mess and still not fully awake, she was a vision of beauty.

Mary smiled. "Good morning," she said stepping in the shower with James.

"Morning," he said. Before he could say another word, Mary had her arms around him and was kissing him deeply.

She pressed herself against him. He could feel her vagina against his penis, it only took a moment before he was once again inside her.

In the steam filled bathroom, the two dark shapes through the shower curtain that were James and Mary merged and became one. He was digging himself deeper into a hole he could never escape, but he didn't yet know it. And if he did, he wouldn't have stopped. It felt too good being inside Mary, and having her naked body against him.

14

Though he thought it was better he be away from Mary, he couldn't bring himself to tell her to go. He enjoyed her company, and then some.

After their shower, they returned to Della's for lunch. James actually had an appetite this time. He ordered a cheese burger and fries and a large tea. Mary had ordered the same, her smile had returned, slightly bigger.

James looked around the café, it was nearly empty. Either it was because there was no church, or the fact that it was 3 in the afternoon. "Are you going to take me to the fair today?" Mary asked taking a drink of her tea.

James turned back to her and smiled. "Is that what you want to do?"

Mary nodded.

"I guess so."

Mary smiled again. Under the table, James felt her bare foot rub the inside of his lower leg. She was dressed in a white tank top, blue jean shorts, and sandals. She had slipped the sandal off before rubbing his leg with her foot.

"Eating a little late aren't we?" a voice said. James and Mary turned to see Hannam standing next to the table.

"Good afternoon Reverend," Mary said, never taking her foot off his leg. Instead, she moved it closer to his crotch.

"Yeah," James said, his voice nearly cracking. "Miss Mary was just showing me the wonderful sights of Redemption."

"Yes," Hannam said looking to Mary. "I sure hope it's all public sights."

"Of course," Mary said. "You know me Reverend."

"Yes, but him, I'm not so sure of," Hannam said never looking at James.

James struggled to keep his mouth shut.

"Oh Reverend," she said looking at James. "He's quite harmless."

"Yes, well," Hannam finally turned to James. "Afternoon."

"Morning and night too," James said raising his eyebrows and smiling at Hannam.

Hannam puffed out his chest before turning away. They both watched Hannam leave the restaurant before laughing.

"What a fucking asshole," James said before taking a bite of his cheese burger.

"I agree," Mary said before taking her own bite. James looked her in the eye for a moment.

If I had only met this girl seven years earlier, he thought. He could see a life with this woman. If his situation was only a little different. Like unmarried.

15

Next to the Redemption city park was a large empty field. That was where the fair was set up. Half the field was devoted to the rides, and the other half was lined with food stands and games. James and Mary had already had their share of the rides, now it was time for James to win his "date" a stuffed animal and get an elephant ear, and a lemon shake-up sure would hit the spot too.

They walked along the food stands, careful not to put their arms around each other, or let there hands touch more then a mere pass, which they did often, so's not to rouse the suspicion of the people of Redemption. Sure they were doing exactly what everyone would think they were doing if they walked hand in hand, but James felt more comfortable to let them think and not truly know. It was the best bit of chivalry he could do for her.

"Dane," he heard a familiar voice call.

James and Mary stopped and turned around to see Garret walking along with a rather large woman with greying curly black hair.

"Hello Garret," James said with a smile. It was nice to see a friendly face.

Garret and the woman crossed to them, Garret was empty handed, and the woman had a shish-k-bob in one hand and a large cup of pop in the other.

"Hello Mrs. Martin," Mary said with a smile.

"Hello Mary dear," Mrs. Martin said with a large smile of her own. "Who is this?" she asked her husband.

"This is Mr. Cole dear," Garret said. "He's the man whose truck I am working on."

"Oh," Mrs. Martin said. "Well, it's nice to meet you Mr. Cole."

"Please, just call me Dane," James said with a smile.

Mrs. Martin turned to Mary. "And what are you doing Mary?"

"Showing Dane around."

"Yes," James interrupted. "She is quiet the ambassador for Redemption."

"Yes well..." Mrs. Martin started, but Garret broke her next words off. He knew she was about to sprout off about the sins of the flesh or some other sermon. He didn't feel like hearing any of that tonight.

"I will have that radiator put in early tomorrow morning Dane," he said. "Your truck should be back on the road by ten."

James gave a laugh. "Not only did I meet Redemptions greatest tour guide, but I also Redemptions miracle man."

The four laughed, Mrs. Martin's was the shortest.

"Yes," Garret said. "We should let these youngsters be on their way." Garret took his wife gently by the arm and started to pull her away. "Good evening Dane, Mary."

"Good evening," James said as Garret and the missus walked away. James looked to Mary. "Now shall I win you that teddy bear I promised you?"

Mary smiled. "After you Mr. Cole."

James gave her a crooked smile before leading her away.

16

The park had one feature that attracted the romantic in everyone, a pond. The pond was surrounded by a wooden walkway lined with white Christmas lights wrapped around the railing facing the water, and on all four points of the compass sat a pavilion with picnic tables set up. It was the perfect family setting by day, and the perfect romance movie scene at night.

James and Mary made their way down the walkway, at Mary's suggestion, alone for the first time since leaving the hotel. They took advantage of the moment and held each other in their walk. James had his arm around her waist, and Mary rested her head against his shoulder, holding the pink stuffed teddy bear James had won her close to her chest.

When they reached the pavilion on the north side of the pond, and furthest from the fair, Mary led James to the picnic table. They sat down and looked out on the water. The Christmas lights threw diamond sparkles on the still surface of the water. It was perfect.

"So," Mary started, breaking the silence. "I guess you're leaving tomorrow."

James could hear the disappointment in her voice. It upset him more then anything, but he couldn't let her know that. "You knew I was leaving tomorrow from the beginning," he said, trying his best to put an edge of tenderness in his voice.

"I know," she said giving a small fake laugh. "But the past two days have just gone by too fast."

"Yeah," he said. The tenderness in his voice must have worked on her, but not for him. He stood up and walked away from Mary and leaned over the railing looking out on the water. Anger filled him and he knew why, he just didn't want to face that fact.

He was falling for this woman.

"What's wrong Dane?" she asked from the picnic table.

James turned around and leaned back on the railing. He shook his head. "Me," he said. "I'm a fucking ass."

"Don't say that," Mary said standing up. She set the teddy bear on the table and crossed to him. "You are a sweet man," she said when she reached him.

"No I'm not," he said stepping away from the railing. He felt he had to be away from her a moment. "I'm a married man, and here I am with you. Nearly forgetting about my wife and kids completely."

"The Lord does work in mysterious ways Dane," she said. James nearly lost it. "There's a reason you're here in Redemption, there's a reason you and I met, there's a reason why we have what we have together."

James did laugh. "Maybe, but it's not the reason you think."

"What do you mean?" Mary asked.

James looked at her before he stepped closer to her. He put his hand gently on her cheek, a tear spilled over her eye lid and James wiped it away. "I wish I could tell you Mary, I really do. But I can't."

Mary nodded and looked down. "I understand," she said sadly. "We all have our own little secrets I guess."

"I'm sorry," James said softly.

Mary looked up at him and smiled. More tears had fallen now. "I understand Dane," she said and sniffled. "Can we just act like this conversation didn't happen and have a good last night together?"

"I would like that," James said and kissed her. The kiss started out soft and tender, but Mary had soon turned it into something more passionate.

James took Mary under the arms and lifted her onto the railing. He kissed her a little longer, before working his way down her chin to her throat. When he reached her chest, he planted kisses on the top of her shirt where he thought her nipples were hidden underneath, he felt them harden under his lips. He worked his way down the belly to her waist.

When he reach the button of her shorts, he took a quick look around. Not a soul in sight. He quickly unbuttoned her shorts and kissed the skin under it. He worked the zipper down, letting his tongue run down over her panties. With her shorts undone, he lifted her slightly and pulled her shorts and panties down over her hips and buried his face between her legs.

Mary took a deep breath as James lips touched her bare skin. She reached down and ran her fingers through his hair as he went about his work.

Mary had orgasmed there on the railing shortly after, then the two made their way back to the hotel for their last night together.

17

James awoke the next morning in the hotel bed alone. For a moment sadness gripped him, then relief. It was better this way. No complications in his leaving. If Mary had been there when he woke up, who knows what would've happened.

He couldn't help but wonder. If she had still been there, naked and cuddled up to him, there was the possibility that he would have stayed, or even taken her with him the opposite way he needed to go. Then where would that leave Joy and the girls?

Dead. That's where.

James sat up and saw the note on Mary's pillow. He picked it up and unfolded the paper.

Dane,

I felt that maybe it would be better if I not be there when you woke up this morning. I knew that we would only be together a few days, so I guess there is no one to blame but myself. You're a great guy and I hope you and your wife live a long and happy life together. And I hope this don't cause problems, but I think I was starting to fall in love with you, so it's best you go without seeing me again.

Love,

Mary

James read over the note three times, a grin on his face. It felt good to know that he wasn't the only one feeling the way he did, but it didn't make things any easier. As much as he hated to, he ripped the note into tiny squares and tossed them into the trash before heading to the bathroom for the last shower he would take in Redemption.

18

It was noon when James reached Garret's. The garage doors were open, and the place looked ready for business, but when James went in and looked around, there was no sign of Garret anywhere.

"Garret," he yelled as he walked around the garage, looking in every corner and opening every door. After a ten minute search, James gave up. He went in and went through some papers at the front desk. There was no bill on the Expedition. "Fuck," he said.

He took a piece of paper and an envelope. He wrote Garret a short note telling him thanks for fixing the Expedition and that he didn't know how much was owed. He put ten one hundred dollar bills in the envelope and closed it. He set the envelope on the cash register and went back to the garage.

James took one more quick look around. Still no sign of Garret. James climbed behind the wheel of the Expedition to find the keys in the ignition. He grasped the keys and turned it.

The engine roared to life.

"Thank you Garret," James smiled. He threw the Expedition into drive and pulled out of the garage. Once on the road again, he called Enrique to assure him that he was on his way and would be at the meeting place in two days.

Things were starting to once again look better for him. Thank God.

19

James had nearly reached the west end of town. He could see the city limits just ahead. And it actually felt good to be nearly out of this town. Sure meeting Mary had been great, and Garret had been nice, but the rest of the town looked at him like he was the devil.

He passed the city limits sign and left Redemption behind him. Ahead, he could see three crosses sitting on the side of the road. As he got closer, there seemed to be something on the center

cross. He figured it was some sort of statue or maybe a dummy. After all this was the bible belt.

Just before he reached the crosses, he saw the red cap that Garret was always wearing. James slowed and saw that it was indeed just as he feared. It was Garret hanging on the cross. The coveralls and his face were covered in blood.

James slammed on the brakes and skidded into the ditch. He eased the Expedition forward so he could stand on the hood. He quickly jumped out and climbed onto the hood. He was nearly eye to eye with Garret.

James grabbed both sides of Garret's head and lifted it. His face was bruised and bloodied, most of the blood had already dried. Fresh blood spurted from a long slit in his throat.

"No Garret," James said. "Wake up."

He was too late. Garret was dead. Who would do this? Why would some one do this? Garret was a good man, and didn't deserve this. James lowered his head. The only other time in his life he had felt this helpless was that day in court two months ago. As he lowered his head, his eyes caught sight of something he hadn't noticed at first. His mind had been too focused on Garret to really register anything else.

There was a large bag hanging from Garret's neck, and James knew the bag the moment he saw it. It was the bag that held the 5 million dollars.

James stared at it, stunned for a moment. He then took the bag from Garret and jumped off the hood. He was scared to open it. It was too light in his hands to still have the money.

James walked to the back of the Expedition. He grabbed the door handle and took a deep breath before opening the back. The tarp was still there, but it looked a lot different. He grabbed the tarp and held it for a moment, scared to lift it. He lifted the tarp and glanced under it, then he pulled the tarp violently out of the Expedition.

Nothing.

"No," James whispered. He had been so glad to be done here, he didn't even think about looking to see if everything was where it should have been.

Had Enrique come here? Did he do this to Garret? If he had, where was Joy and the girls? Why hadn't he said something on the phone earlier?

The bag. The answer had to be in the bag. Why else would it be around Garret's neck?

James grabbed the zipper on the bag and unzipped it. Just as he had suspected, the money was gone, but the bag wasn't empty.

He pulled the pink teddy bear out and held it up.

"You fucking bitch," James said through clenched teeth.

Maybe he wasn't done in Redemption like he had hoped.

20

The Expedition came to a stop, the front tire jumping onto the curb, in front of Mary's two story home. James opened the door and climbed out, leaving the engine running. He stood on the sidewalk looking at the house. This woman had told him she loved him, kept him company, and slept with him for the past two nights. This woman had been something special in his life, but she had also killed Garret. He had a feeling things were about to get real ugly.

James reached into his pocket and pulled the cell phone out. Without looking away from the house, he dialed the number only a few people knew. There were two rings before a female voice filled his ears.

"Edward Anderson's office," the woman said. "How can I help you?"

"Hello Lois," James said. "I need to speak with Edward."

There was a silent moment. "Right away Mr. Whitten," she finally said before the line went silent.

James didn't move.

After a long wait, there was a click on the phone.

"Where are you James?" Edward said. James now started for the door.

"I'm not going to tell you Edward," James said. "Because I already know you're tracing this call."

"Then why did you call James?"

"Because there's about to be some shooting in this small town," James said. "You have about thirty seconds before it starts. So you better hurry, I know the election's coming up and you are so close to getting that head position. But let's see how the public likes knowing that you knew about this before it happened and could've stopped it."

"James, what ever you are about to do, please don't. We can work this out."

"No we can't. Goodbye you piece of shit."

James pulled the phone from his ear and dropped it into the flowers that lined the walkway to the house. He climbed the steps and stood on the porch a moment before trying the door knob. The knob didn't budge.

Locked.

James took a step back and kicked the door open. The door shot back and bounced off the wall. James stepped in the house before the door could shut. He pushed the door and saw a woman in white


© Copyright 2018 Derek Stepler. All rights reserved.

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