Faithless…new writing, unedited, incomplete…

Paddy brought Lilly a perfectly grilled steak and a heap of steak fries on a plate and presented it with a flourish. “Here you go, darling,” he said, giving Lilly a warm smile that lit up his eyes. He turned to me and placed a cold chunk of hamburger steak in front of me.
“Shut up and eat your food,” Paddy snapped, as he sulked back into the kitchen.

Esther gave me a look and lit another cigarette. I cut into the hamburger steak, it was as nasty as a cold burger from anywhere else, and I swallowed it down. I enviously watched as Lilly tore into her steak with wild abandon.
“Do you know why Paddy is livid?”
“No, Esther. I haven’t the faintest idea as to why he’s upset.”

“Fredericksburg has had race riots, burned down businesses, heaps of murders, and a bank robbery. Not once did you come to see about us, and I’m not speaking for myself here, Konan, we deserve better from our nephew.”
“Esther, all that you named, I investigated. In the center of all that was me and Lilly.”
“I know,” Esther said, putting down her cigarette, “I told Paddy you were busy.”

“This steak was fantastic,” Lilly said, tossing her napkin in her empty plate, “may I go hug the cook, Esther?”
“Sure, hon. Go on in the back, he’ll be glad to receive it.”
Lilly excused herself from the table and went back into the kitchen. Esther and I sat quietly for a while. She watched as I finished my cold lunch.

“Your absence pained him, Konan. Did you forget that loss touched us as well when Michael died?”
“I wasn’t out to hurt either of you, Esther.”
“I know that Konan. Ever since Michael passed away, Paddy’s had his hands full. As long as your dad lived, our enemies stayed away. Now, they’re like buzzards circling a cadaver, hungry for anything they can rip from the bloody grasp of the dead. It’s open season on us.”

“What enemies?”
“People hated Michael, Konan. They see no difference between your dad and Paddy.”
“That’s not an explanation, Esther. What do they want?”
“These people figure Michael left his criminal enterprise to me and Paddy. They want us out of the way.”
“Did he leave his criminal connections to you and Paddy?”
“Yes. We haven’t used it, and we haven’t involved ourselves in anything illegal.”

Laughter sounded from the kitchen, and Esther smiled.
“He needed that, Konan, and he needs you. Paddy will never tell you that, but it’s true.”
“Excuse me, Esther,” I said, as I stood. She gave me a tight grin and nodded.
I walked back into the kitchen. Lilly had Paddy in a headlock, her brown curly hair tousled, her eyes wide with wildness, and a crooked grin stretched across her face.
“Don’t resist, Paddy. I’d hate to slap the clamps on you!”
“All right, darling,” Paddy chuckled, “I give up.”

Lilly released him and looked up. “Oh, hey,” she said, after she blew a curl from her forehead. Paddy stood and glared at me. I gave Lilly a smile, and then took a deep breath.
“If you don’t mind, Lilly, I need a word with my uncle.”
She nodded as she walked by and patted me on my arm. Paddy walked over to a stool and sat down.
“What do you want? Was there something wrong with your lunch?”
“No, the hamburger steak was fine.”
“Then, what do you want?”

I knew it. He’s not going to make this easy.
“I came to apologize, Paddy. Okay? I’m sorry. Things got nuts for a while, and I let you and Esther slide. I let you down, and I am truly sorry.”
“We’re the only family you have left, Konan.”
“I know.”
Paddy tapped two fingers over his heart, and tears wet his eyes. “You hurt me here,” he said, as his voice cracked. He wiped at his eyes and cleared his throat, so did I.

“Tell me about your enemies.”
“They ain’t worth mentioning.”
“Give me some names, I’ll go talk to them.”
“Oh yeah? You gonna go act like your dad now? Gonna go for the jugular? Hmm?”
“No. I’ll flash a badge and warn them to get out of town.”
“I don’t want you involved in it, knucklehead. I want you to come around and be family.”
“Yeah, okay. You made your point.”

“Don’t serve me no more cold dishes, Paddy. I’ll call the Health Inspector on you. Tell ‘em you got rats or somethin’.”
Paddy’s eyes darkened, and slowly he grinned when he noticed my smile. He threw his arm about my neck and shouted, “This guy! Tell ‘em you got rats or something!”
We laughed together and walked back to the table. Lilly and Esther looked up at us, and both women smiled. Hours passed as we sat and visited. Paddy made coffee and brought it to the table.

“What are you two working on?”
Lilly spooned in sugar and cream into her coffee, and said, “You remember the Bradley Freeman murder, Paddy?”
“Yeah. Who can forget the aftermath of that cluster?”
“He was killed by two cops and a woman. One cop is in jail, the other escaped. Now, the trio that ran the country club are dying, and we think the cop that killed Freeman is back.”
“Jackson Titus,” Paddy said, as he sipped his coffee. I frowned in Paddy’s direction. He took another sip and let out a heavy sigh.
“His dad ran with Michael for a while,” Paddy said, answering my unasked question, “That all went away when Michael got sent up.”

“Where does his family live?”
“I don’t know, Lilly. From what I recall, they lived outside of the city limits, and I don’t associate with racists.”
“Can you find out, Paddy?”
“Yes, I can find out.”
“Okay,” Lilly said, as she stood. “We appreciate it.”
She hugged Esther and Paddy and said good night, and I followed her example. I hugged Esther first and squeezed her tight. “Thank you,” I whispered in her ear. She gave me a nod and a wink. Then, I hugged Paddy.
“Do not hesitate to call me if trouble comes looking for a fight.”
“I won’t, nephew.”
“I mean it,” so Paddy and Esther would know I was serious.
Lilly waited by the door, and we walked to out into the warm Southern air. Lilly wrapped her arm around mine and leaned her head against my shoulder.
She was right; family is important.

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