When I heard the racket I thought it was the big buck back in the house—he’d broken through the kitchen door while I slept, to graze from the torn sack of flour.
I got up and grabbed the broom to shoo him out, walking slowly down the hall in case he rushed me with lowered horns.
Two men in black suits and dark glasses stood at the bottom of the front steps.
I came out on the porch in my shorts.
“Buck Cole?” the shorter one said.
I wasn’t Buck Cole anymore, but they didn’t know that. I hadn’t known myself, till yesterday, when by accident I found the ring in the barrel by the faucet—
True Forever, Travis and Jodie
“How are you?” said the short man.
The tall man nodded at me.
“Fine,” I said. “What can I do for you?”
They were a long way from Waverly.
“Your wife sent us, Mr. Cole.”
He looked strange standing there in a suit and tie with the barn behind him.
“What’s wrong?” I said. “Something with Jodie?”
I looked at the tall one’s face. It was blank.
“No, she’s fine,” the other said quickly. He smiled. “Just worried.”
“She asked us to come out here to see if you were all right.”
“I’m fine,” I said. “Come on in and have some coffee. I’ll call Jodie and then I’ll get us some coffee. If I can find some—”
I turned to go back in the house.
“Thanks, Mr. Cole. We appreciate it but we’ve got to get back.”
I looked again at the taller man, then back at the other. Except for their size they looked alike.
I stood there in my underwear and blinked.
The morning sun was behind them, golden bright. I wasn’t used to daylight without my sunglasses.
“Okay, then,” I said.
They kept watching me and didn’t step toward the car.
“Mr. Cole, your wife asked us to ride back with you.”
“Thanks,” I said. “I’m fine. I’ll call her again, if that’ll make you feel better. I want to shower before I drive into Reno.”
I needed to get my suitcase from the car, get a fresh t-shirt and shorts.
“Is your phone working now, Mr. Cole?” the taller one asked.
“I just unplugged it, to get some sleep.”
“We’ll wait for you, Mr. Cole,” the short man said pleasantly. “Why don’t you ride with me? Jake here can drive your car.”
“We promised Mrs. Cole.”
“Promised her what?”
“That we’d make sure you got back safe and sound.”
“That’s crazy,” I said. “I’m going to drive my own car.”
The two men looked at each other.
“Why shouldn’t I?” I said. “What’s supposed to be wrong?”
For the first time they looked a little uncomfortable.
“Mrs. Cole’s afraid you might be drinking,” Jake said.
“Well, I’m not,” I said. “Do I look drunk? Who are you? FBI?”
Had Jodie called Washington?
I started to tell them to get out, that I’d come on to Reno in my own sweet time, if I came at all. I glared at them.
“I’m right as rain.”
But I didn’t say anything. I watched their faces.
“We’re from Harrah’s,” the short man said. “VIP detail. I’m Reg Phillips. This is Jake Summer.”
“Travis Jackson,” I started to say, then thought better.
“I guess I’m the notorious Buck Cole.”