My schedule for the next few weeks is completely nutsoid. There are edits coming back. I'm finishing a book. (Which is taking much longer than it should because of said nuttiness.) There are Visiting Dignitary interviews to go out, come back, be posted, the blog, and, of course, this story.
I am about to make a confession. I cannot keep 3 worlds straight in my head for any length of time. Just doesn't work. I drop the ball somewhere. Since I don't want any of the three to be crap I have made a decision. (Don't panic. It's not what you think. Keep reading.)
Instead of writing the serial in segments off the top of my head for the next month or so, I'm going to do one massive(ish) shift of writing today on it, break it into chunks, and schedule it to post on the next several Sunday mornings. Then I can get my head where it needs to be for the book and (toes crossed, fingers are for typing) have it done when the edit letter comes back. Maybe. I hope.
But before I do that, I'm going to give you all a chance to catch up (or get started if you haven't been following yet). Below is the Sunday Morning Breakfast Serial Boone Carter to date:
Who in the Hell is Boone Carter?
“This is Boone Carter. I have good news and I have bad news.” I spoke into the cell phone. It was an old one, a little bigger than they make them now, so I didn't feel like I was talking into a credit card. It also had the advantage of being cheap. It was a pre-paid model, the kind they call a“burn phone” on tv. But I've had it longer than my most recent apartment. Then again, that's not saying all that much. I tend to be pretty mobile.
“Tell me.” The client sounded tense. Then again, from what I could tell Melodee Bigbee was always tense. Probably the meth. But maybe just her nature. I didn't know. Didn't much care either.
“The good news is, I found your car. The bad news, the police are going to be asking you lots of question and I'm not sure you're ever going to get the smell out.”
She started swearing and hung up on me. I wasn't surprised. I'd be willing to bet that a visit from the cops would be a life-changing experience for Melodee, and not in a good way. Particularly not when they were going to be asking her questions about the murder of her dealer/boyfriend-maybe-commonlaw-husband Dirk. Ah well, not my problem. She'd paid me to find the car. I found the car.
Trey Jefferson is my current roommate. His full name is Theodore Thomas Jefferson III. He hates it. So he goes by Trey. Trey is everything I'm not: Small, wiry, and black, he's quick, and clever. He gets a lot of exercise jumping to conclusions. I stand 6'7" in my bare feet, am whiter than your average lily, and tend to think things through very carefully before I take any action. The latter is a product of my "colorful" upbringing.
I met Trey at my most recent job. I'm a roofer for Carmichael & Sons Roofing Professionals in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I wandered out here in search of sunlight and warmth after spending a couple years working on cleaning up the aftermath of Katrina and establishing my identity. We hit it off well enough. He needed a roommate. I needed a place. So far it's worked out better than most of my living arrangements. Trey knows enough not to ask too many questions.
Trey and I clattered down the stairs to my battered old pick-up. We needed to hustle if we were going to make it to work on time. No surprise. It's like this every day. Every day I swear I won't wait for his sorry ass; and every day as I'm headed to the truck to leave without him he comes dashing down after me, swearing under his breath and threatening a whole lot of shit he has no intention of actually doing to me.
When we reached the front door, though, I stopped in my tracks suddenly enough that Trey rammed into me from behind.
"What the . . ." he complained.
"We have company."
He shoved past me to look out through the lace curtains that adorned the window built into the front door. His eyes went wide. "A limo."
"And they've blocked in the truck."
He gave me a long look. "You know somebody owns a limo?"
"Who do you 'spose it is?"
"Only one way to find out." I pulled open the door and we strolled out onto the porch. Trey waited as I pulled the door closed and set the deadbolt. It was a waste of time really--what good is a deadbolt on a wooden door that is almost half window? But old Mrs. Cunningham gets pissy if we leave it unlocked, and she's the landlady.
Trey and I walked over to the limo together.
The car was a 2010 Rolls Royce Phantom, cream colored with long, beautiful lines. Nothing tacky about this number. Pure elegance. The driver was pretty elegant too--a leggy blonde with wide blue eyes, her short hair slicked back under the traditional driver's cap. Her gray driver's uniform was fairly effective at hiding her figure, but there's only so much camoflage can do when a girl's got a body like that.
"Which of you gentlemen is Boone Carter?" She asked.
I raised my hand. "That would be me."
The blonde opened the door to the rear compartment. "Get in," she ordered. I stepped forward. When Trey started to follow she blocked his path. "No. This is a private conversation between Mr. Carter and the boss."
I took a look inside the passenger compartment of the limo. The only person there was a little white-haired old lady. Maybe eighty pounds, and probably at least eighty years old. I was betting I could take her in a straight-up fight. Reaching into my pocket I pulled out my truck keys and tossed them back to my roommate. "It's all right. You take the truck. I'll meet you at the job site."
He looked at me doubtfully. I've never let him drive the truck. It's not much of a vehicle, but it's all I've got. I don't usually trust him with it because he has the attention span of a gnat on speed. He's always distracted. He can't help it. But today I was willing to take a risk. Mainly because I was curious. Who was the old girl and what did she want with me?
"Positive. Just don't wreck it."
"I," he assured me with a huge grin, "am a great driver."
Yeah, right. And if you believe that one I've got this land in Florida . . . I sighed and climbed in the limo. Either my truck would make it to the job site in one piece or it wouldn't. I'd made my choice. Still, I felt a little chill run down my spine when the driver closed the door with a solid, almost ominous, thunk.
I sat across from the "boss" my weight sinking into butter soft carmel colored leather that still had that new car smell. The woman across from me watched me with the bright dark eyes of a bird magnified only a little by the pair of rimless glasses she wore. She wasn't a beautiful woman, never had been. Even softened by age and wrinkles her features were too harsh for that. But she was striking, and impeccably neat. Not a wrinkle marred the dark rose suit she wore, and her jewelry was both conservative, and obviously expensive. Even if the limo hadn't clued me in, I would've known she had money. She wasn't being crass about it. Wealth was just a fact of her existence, like the sun and the tides.
I heard the front door slam, and the car started up. A moment later we pulled smoothly away from the curb. We sat in silence for a few blocks. I wondered if we were following Trey in the truck. The driver hadn't asked for a destination. I did hope I'd wind up at the work site eventually. I like my job, and Mr. Carmichael has no sense of humor about missing work.
"You're not much of a talker." She observed.
"I figured you'll tell me what you want when you're ready."
She gave me what might have been a smile, or not, just a bitter little twist of the lips. "My son is Jimmy Carpenter Carmichael."
"Jimmy" Carmichael, as in Mr. Carmichael the owner of the company I worked for. So maybe I wouldn't get in trouble for being late. Assuming, of course, she told him we'd met.
"Jimmy is a good boy." She told me. I didn't mention that at 56 he was twice my age and hardly a 'boy'. He was her son. He'd always be a boy to her. "A little weaker than I'd like. Not like his father was, or even his brother Ron."
I'd worked with James Carmichael long enough to know he wasn't exactly a sissy boy. Which meant that Mr. Carmichael Sr. had probably been a world class asshole. Ron, had been the Carmichael's older son. If rumors were to be believed he'd been killed in a bar fight. He may have been tough, but obviously someone had been tougher. Then again, there always is.
"So I can't count on him to do what's necessary."
I didn't like where I thought this was heading, but I kept my mouth shut. I've found I can keep myself out of an awful lot of trouble just by staying quiet.
She paused, waiting for me to say something. When I didn't she gave me an irritated look over the top of her glasses.
"I need someone smart, tough, and ruthless. I had someone check discreetly with the men working for my son. Your name came up repeatedly. They also say you do odd jobs for people, for a price."
"That would depend on the job."
"And the price I assume."
Not necessarily. But I wasn't about to tell her that---yet. "What exactly did you have in mind?"
The limo dropped me off a block from the worksite. Apparently Mrs. Carmichael didn't want her "boy" knowing what she was up to. I didn't mind. It gave me time to think. I had a lot to think about.
I really hoped it wasn't him. But it probably was. And if it was, Mrs. C was right. Jacob is, was, and always has been, someone with his "eyes on the prize." Just not the prize Mrs. C was thinking of.
Not that he wouldn't take the girl's money. He would. In a red hot second. He'd also take the girl, up to the mountains, to the Children of Abraham encampment where she would be indoctrinated so thoroughly that, if she ever was seen again, her own parents might not even recognize her.
I'm a big fan of God, think he/she does great work. I mean, take a look at the Grand Canyon, a waterfall, the average sunset. Pet a kitten, watch a puppy romp. Look at a newborn baby in its mother's arms. God is good. The Children of Abraham are not. They are a cult, pure and simple, created by Abraham Keene out of his enormous ego, greed, and lust for power.
I was a Child of Abraham.
# # #
I arrived at work fifteen minutes late, and caught hell from the foreman for it. He was standing toe to toe with me, pointing his index finger into the middle of my chest and shouting when Mr. Carmichael came up.
"That's enough Joe. He gets the message."
Joe turned, mouth open to argue, until he realized just who it was talking to him. His eyes got dark, and narrowed, but he didn't argue. He just stepped back a couple of paces, giving me a look that said as clearly as words that this isn't over. I didn't doubt that. Not for a minute. Joe Sanchez hates me. Pure and simple. Don't know why. Don't particularly care, either. I show up every day, on time, do a good job, I keep my nose clean, don't argue or mouth off. So he doesn't have any ammo to fire me. But he would if he could.
"Boone, come with me to the office. We need to talk." Mr. Carmichael smiled, nice and friendly. It just pissed Joe off more. Carmichael cared even less than I did. Old Mrs. C might not think he was tough, but everybody on the site sure did. If Joe crossed him, Carmichael would fire his ass faster than you can say jackrabbit, despite the fact that Joe's worked for the company twenty years and has a passel of young kids to raise.
I followed Carmichael to the corner of the site where one of those classic silver Airstream travel trailers was parked. For small jobs it stays on the company lot. But we'd won the bid to re-roof all of the dorm buildings for the local college, so we were going to be here a while, and the old man wanted to be on site making there were no grounds for complaint about how we behaved around the co-eds. Thus far, everybody'd been behaving pretty well. A couple of guys got injured because they were distracted by some sunbathers, but that had been bound to happen.
Carmichael climbed the trio of metal steps and opened the door "Darlene," he called. "Go buy yourself some breakfast or something."
"Yessir." Darlene hustled up from the back, where the bedroom area had been converted into an office. She took the twenty he pulled from his wallet with a big smile. "Can I get you anything?"
"Naw. I'm good. And Boone here won't be staying long."
"All righty then." She squeezed through the doorway past the boss with a little extra wiggle and teetered off toward the parking lot where the "BurritoMan" truck was waiting. We both watched her go. Today she was dressed in jeans that were practically painted on, and that had been bedazzled as heavily as one of Elvis' jumpsuits. Big hair, big boobs, high heels: she was flashy, a little trashy, and hard as nails. But somehow the whole thing worked for her---at least as far as Carmichael was concerned. I pretended not to see his hand twitch as he fought not to patt her on the ass as she passed.
"Come in. Sit down." He gestured through the door at the built-in dining area across from the miniscule kitchenette.
When I was comfortably seated he pulled a pair of cups from the cabinet, pouring us each a cup of coffee. He set mine in front of me and took a seat.
"So, tell me Boone. What did my mother want you to do that she doesn't want me to know about?"
I took a long pull from the coffee, buying myself time to decide how to answer. The drink was smooth, rich , but with enough caffeine to give me the requisite kick in the ass to start the day. You'd think it was a completely different beverage than the harsh brew the "BurritoMan" serves of the same name.
Carmichael stared at me. He started out with a good, hard glare. But as I took my time his eyes started to sparkle, and the muscle at the corner of his mouth began to twitch. A relief really. I didn't want to piss him off. I like my job, and I'm good at it. Also, unlike a lot of the folks I've worked for he doesn't have 'cash flow problems.' He makes his payroll. On time. Every time.
"Let me guess, she told you not to talk?"
"Okay, fair enough. I'll tell you what I think. You just sit there. Don't say a thing. I'll know when I'm getting warm."
I wasn't too sure about that. I'm an excellent poker player. On the other hand, keeping the boss happy is seldom a bad thing. So maybe I'd be a little less stoic than usual. Or not. Either way, I was stuck here. Might as well enjoy the coffee, make the best of it.
"It's a family thing. Mom only sticks her nose in on family business."
I sipped my coffee.
Carmichael smiled, sure he was right. "Okay, it's not me. She knows better than to interfere in my life."
I doubted that, but kept my mouth shut and wished, heartily, for something to eat. If it hadn't been for Mrs. C I'd have arrived in time to buy myself a breakfast burrito. Now I wouldn't be seeing any food until lunch. Dammit.
"So, I have three daughters. Amanda's married, moved off to Utah. No problems there. Paid off the ex and she's remarried, so she's out. That leaves the twins -- Cookie and Candi."
I didn't say anything, unless you count my stomach growling, which it did . . . loudly. Carmichael rolled his eyes. Hauling himself awkwardly up from his chair he strode down to the door, threw it open and bellowed loud enough to be heard in the next county. "Darlene, grab me a couple burritos." He glanced back at me, taking in my size and changed his mind. "Make that four of 'em, and a couple of donuts." He slammed the door and stomped back over.
"Where was I?"
"Cookie and Candi." I prompted him. After all, he was buying breakfast, and the coffee really was excellent. I'd have to find out what blend it was. Maybe I'd get some for the coffeemaker back home. Of course I'd probably have to share it with Trey. But still, it might be worth it.
"Right." He turned the chair backward and swung his leg around it. Leaning forward, he rested his forearms on the chair back. It was supposed to look casual, tough and masculine. But he was too short to really do it well. He looked uncomfortable as hell. But I didn't say anything. Nope.
"Cookie is tough and smart. She can handle herself."
I didn't laugh. I didn't snort. Hard as it was, I maintained my composure. Even when the words 'a tough cookie' flashed through my mind.
"So, it has to be Candi."
Bingo. Right on the money. I took another sip of coffee and prayed he wouldn't say Candi was sweet. I mean, my self control is good. But there's only so much a man can handle---boss or no.
Carmichael stopped talking. Just . . . stopped. He was thinking hard enough that I could almost hear the gears whirring, half-expected smoke to come out of his ears. After what seemed like an eternity he looked me straight in the eyes and asked a question I had no answer for -- yet.
"How much trouble is my little girl in?"
# # #