Faithless…the conclusion…unedited but finished…finally…

After we finished up with securing the site, and recovering the body of Michelle Karter, I drove Lilly and Gareth home. Our conversation was light, and we didn’t speak of what occurred at the barn. It was enough for us to have survived the experience. Now, Lilly and Gareth would head out to Myrtle Beach for some much needed rest and relaxation. 

I couldn’t wait for them to get back, for I too needed to get out of the area for a bit. 

From the car, I watched as Lilly and Gareth walked up the steps. She turned at the door and gave me a smile and blew me a kiss. I swiped it from the air, and then headed for O’Shea’s. One last piece of business remained. 

The Feds watched Paddy’s customers go in and out, but they were only interested in those with connections to Don Viejo. I knew from the pictures, the Feds had dug into the third floor apartment building adjacent to the restaurant. It was the only place that provided that line of sight. 

Titan stood on the second landing, his massive arms crossed his chest. He snarled at me as I walked up the stairs, but he kept his peace. 

“Hey, Titan.”

He turned and looked at me but said nothing. I grinned at him and gave him a wink. 

“You’re a career criminal, right? How did you miss the Feds watching this place? I thought you guys possessed genius level smarts.”

“What Feds?”

“You’re smart. Figure it out.”

Then, I walked into the restaurant in search of my aunt and uncle. The restaurant was booming, civil servants, businessmen, political busybodies, it seemed the whole town was in Paddy’s joint. I saw him hurrying in the back. Esther sat at her usual spot, and I made my way back there.

She looked up at me as I sat down. Her dark eyes followed my movement, searching me over but never lingering too long on any one thing. I waited until she lit a cigarette and blew smoke toward the ceiling before I spoke.

“Did you get the book?”

“We haven’t had time to get to Biloxi, nephew. We’ll have to deal with whatever comes our way.”

“You do know Don Viejo isn’t going to accept no for an answer, right?”

“I know.”

“So, what are y’all going to do?”

“We’re going to set up the pipeline like your father said, and then you are going to stop them.”

I rubbed my head and took a deep breath. Then, I cracked my knuckles and neck, and finally shook my head in disbelief. Esther smoked her cigarette and said nothing. She watched me struggle to comprehend her words in silence. 

“Tell me Esther, who gave you this hare-brained idea?”

“Your pals, the Feds. They came in after you and Lilly left the other day, and they laid it out for us. We help them, we serve no jail time. Don Viejo and his cartel is captured or killed.”

“Uh-huh. Tell me you got all that in writing.”

“I did. It’s already done, nephew. We only have to inform on what we see the cartel members do, and if things get hairy, the Feds put us into witness protection.”

“Did Titan know that you’re informing?”

“No, we kept Titan out of the loop.”

“Well, I told him the Feds are watching this place. Sorry I made more work for you.”

“It’s okay, nephew. Titan is all muscle and no brain. He’ll believe you, and he’ll notice the Feds hanging around. I’ll tell him they don’t know nothing.”

“And he’ll buy that?”

“Yeah. He’s a great bouncer, but a horrible thinker. Besides, he’s only concerned with making enough money to hang out is his own shingle.”

“Meaning what? Titan’s Pot Dispensary? Or is he going to instruct people in the fine art of martial prowess?”

Esther laughed and shook her head. “No,” she said, as she crushed her butt into the ashtray. “He wants to operate a bookmobile in the impoverished areas.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“No, I’m not kidding. You know better than to judge a book by it’s cover, Konan.”

I shook my head and stretched. Esther watched me. Paddy came over and slapped me on the shoulder. 

“You and Lilly get the bad guy this time?”

I told them what happened, and how Michelle Karter had died in the pursuit. Paddy brought me steak and fries for a late lunch. We laughed and picked at each other. In the loudness of the room everything seemed light and right. 

Things could always take a turn for the worse, but for now, I was pleased to have solved another case with my partner. Everyone had made it home safely, and the cost hadn’t been more than we wanted to pay. 

Across the room, a shaved, bald man watched the crowd, and he smiled. He watched me, Paddy and Esther celebrate the closing of another case. Then, he put on his dark shades and walked out into the brisk fall air. 

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