Callie was out in her back yard when Rus showed up late that afternoon. His presence on her back lawn threw
her for a loop. Caught off guard she couldn’t think what to say. She had a funny sensation in her belly as if a million
butterflies had been set free inside her and were all flitting around in the small space.
Callie brushed the dirt off her hands, face, and the knees of her jeans. She knew she must look a mess and
this made her feel self-conscious.
But to Rus she looked like a million dollars. The way the sun cast its glow upon her hair made her seem like
she was a serene goddess. Her beauty was indescribable. It was pure and simplistic.
"Callie, I hope I didn’t interrupt anything. I’m sorry I didn’t call first. I just needed
to see you and make sure that you were okay."
Callie smiled in a wistful way that made Rus’s heart shudder. "Why don’t I pour us some lemonade
and we’ll drink it out on the porch."
Before the two of them turned, Rus noticed how large the flower bed was that Callie had been working on.
She’d been plucking the weeds out of it. The flowers seem to add a certain life to the back yard. They were healthy
and flourishing as if Callie devoted every spare moment to that one spot in her back yard. As he walked away, he saw a small
metal stand with a plastic card attached to it. The card read, "In Memory of Johnathan Alexander Martin. God Bless you Always."
The date on the card was just two years earlier. This made Rus curious.
Callie had caught him staring. She didn’t want to have to explain anything to him, but she knew she’d
have to now.
After she poured the lemonade and they were situated on the back porch, Callie took a deep breath and plunged
ahead. She knew Rus was too polite to pry into her life, but it made her uncomfortable knowing there was a wedge between them.
"Johnathan was my son. He died of Leukemia two years ago. The doctors did everything they could for him,
but it wasn’t enough." There was sadness in her voice, a remorse so vivid it made Rus’s heart cry out with a grief
all his own. "I stopped working for a long time and then I decided to go back to work. God sent me here."
"I’m glad he did," Rus said sincerely.
She stared at him questioningly, then she asked, "Why is that?"
"Because you’ve made a difference in Ricky’s life." When he didn’t further lament, her
eyes darkened as if she were disappointed in his answer. "And mine," he quickly added at last, watching her expression closely.
A smile beamed across her face in satisfaction. The two of them slipped into a quiet lull after that. Callie
thought how pleasant it was just sitting beside Rus out on the porch. It wasn’t long before Rus was speaking again.
"I’m sorry about your son, Callie. It must have been hard for you."
She got up from her seat and walked a few feet away. Her expression was pensive and a little strained. She
went to the flower bed and plucked a small yellow rose bud and put it to her nose.
"It was a lot harder than it should have been," she said at last when she knew Rus was not too far behind
"What do you mean?"
"My husband left Johnathan and me just a few months after he found out about the Leukemia. He was a coward.
Left me to face my sons death alone. Do you know how hard it was to stand beside his grave without anyone to lean on?"
Callie’s posture turned rigid. Rus cringed inside just thinking about Callie being left alone like
that at the worst time in her life. He was livid with anger at the man who would do such a thing to his own wife and his son.
At last he could not contain his wrath and he lashed out. He swore under his breath dragging Callie into his arms and cradling
her against his chest. For a long time Callie clung to him.
Rus smelled the perfume of her shampoo. This time it was like sunflowers. He basked in its sweet fragrance.
At last his arms fell away. It was a long time before Callie could move again. There wasn’t much she could say. She
gripped the rose in her hand until a thorn pricked her finger and she began to bleed.
Rus looked at her in alarm. He plucked the rose from her hand and placed it near her chair. He gently led
her inside to the sink in the kitchen. Immediately he ran cold water over it. After a few minutes he patted the finger dry
with a clean cloth from one of the drawers in her kitchen.
Callie looked at him with pleading eyes. He held his breath. He wanted to kiss her so badly. But he knew
he had no right to do that.
Frustrated and aggravated Rus took a seat at the kitchen table raking his fingers vigorously through his
"Rus, I wish you would talk to me," Callie begged. "I didn’t like the way you left me the other night.
I know something is bothering you."
Rus wanted to change the subject, but that would make him just as much a coward as Callie’s husband
had been. She deserved much more from him than that. So he opted for the truth. "I can’t tell you much, Callie," he
admitted. "Most of it is privileged information. If I could tell you everything, I would. You understand that, don’t
Callie understood perfectly. "I understand about patient confidentiality. Everything I hear during a session
can never be repeated unless on a court order. I assume it is much the same way with you."
"Well there is no court order in my case, but if I were to divulge certain information to you, it would put
my case in jeopardy."
"You mean the shooting?" Callie asked with raised eyebrows. By now she was sitting across from Rus. He clasped
her hand gently in his.
"Yes, that’s exactly what I mean. Just knowing me could get you hurt or killed." He said this without
a hint of a smile or any sense of irony at all.
Callie was frightened. Her face turned gray as a sick feeling churned in her stomach. She’d almost
forgotten to breathe. "What about Ricky?"
Rus was stunned. He’d just mentioned that knowing him might get Callie killed and she was more worried
about his son than her own welfare.
"Woman, you keep amazing me more and more all the time."
"I’m not worried about myself. I know where I’ll be going if anything were to happen to me. Then
I’d get to see my son again. I worry about Ricky," she said calmly. "He’s not saved, is he?"
The question came as a surprise to Rus but he took no offense by it. "I’ve tried several times to talk
to him about Christ. But he would never listen. He was too busy being angry with me."
She contemplated her next few words very carefully to save offending Rus in any way. She knew how he felt
about her relationship with his son. He was protective and a little possessive, but Callie could clearly understand why. "I
bet if you were to try now, he might listen to you."
"What makes you so sure?" Rus asked in bewilderment.
"Because he’s been asking questions. He’s curious to know more."
"He told you that?"
Callie shook her head. "Not in so many words. But he admitted that he’s never given you a fair chance.
I think he feels bad about that."
Rus was dumbfounded. He sat with his mouth hanging open, speechless. "You’re working miracles in my
life, Callie. Why couldn’t God have sent you sooner."
Her eyes darkened and she lowered them to shield them from his view. "He works things out in his own way,
Rus. He knew I needed time to grieve."
"I’m sorry Callie," Rus apologized. "I didn’t mean anything by that. I have been praying for
such a long time for Ricky’s salvation. I thought God would never answer my prayers."
"I know," she whispered. "When I first found out that Johnathan had Leukemia, I prayed day and night for
his recovery. When the doctor’s finally told me that Johnathan wouldn’t live more than another few months, I thought
God had forsaken me." Her voice was beginning to rattle with the threat of tears. But she fought them off. "Now I see he had
a much better life planned for me here."
"A better life, here, in Florida? What do you mean?"
"Look at the blessing he’s given me. You, your son. Colby West."
Colby West. Why is it that Rus kept forgetting that the boy even existed. "How’s the petition coming
"There’s still no sign of Uncle Mat. In another week, if he still has not been found, the court will
grant the petition and I will become Colby’s legal guardian. After that I plan to hire a private investigator to find
his uncle, then I will start adoption proceedings."
"Adoption?" Rus had never anticipated that. After he took a minute to think about it, it seemed the right
thing to do. It would be the perfect opportunity for Callie to put her mothering skills to work. She needed someone like Colby
West in her life. Someone like Ricky Lane.
"If there’s anything I can do to help you out, just let me know. I’m sure Captain Lee would be
glad to give you a recommendation as well."
Callie smiled generously. "Thank you. I’ll keep that in mind."
The two of them talked for a few more hours. Callie made dinner for the two of them and they ate chicken
and potato salad under a late afternoon sky. They enjoyed each other’s company. They talked about so much that they
never ran out of things to say. There was never any more discussion about Johnathan or Callie’s ex-husband. But it was
always in the back of Rus’s mind. He had so many questions to ask, but he kept them to himself. He didn’t want
to destroy the peace that had settled over them.
Eventually the sun set in front of Rus and Callie, basking the sky in a golden hue. Callie had never seen
a sunset like that in Wyoming. Nor had she enjoyed someone’s company as much as she did Rus’s. They sat in a companionable
silence until it was time for him to leave.
He’d put it off far too long as it was. Ricky was probably wondering if he were coming home at all.
As he was getting into his car, Rus and Callie stared at each other for a long time. They weren’t touching,
but a special heat surrounded them, drawing them closer into each other’s arms. Rus could no longer stand it. He lowered
his head and he kissed Callie. It was the gentlest of kisses and so brief it barely counted as a kiss at all. But it took
his breath away.
Callie was shy when she pulled away from the kiss. Rus could see a faint blush across her cheeks even in
the darkness. "I’m sorry Callie. I shouldn’t have done that."
She smiled then and placed the palm of her hand against his face, brushing it tenderly. "There’s nothing
to be sorry about. I could have stopped you, had I wanted to."
"But you don’t understand . . ."
Now Callie’s fingers brushed against Rus’s lips to silence him. "I understand very well," she
said stubbornly. "Knowing you could get me killed." She took a heavy breath. "I’m willing to take that risk, Rus. And
there’s nothing you can do to stop me."
Rus was at a loss for words. He couldn’t stand there and argue with her all night. Nor did he really
want to. The truth was, he loved Callie. He needed her in every way. He wanted to spend as much time with her as was possible,
to get to know her. To discover everything there was to know about her.
He just hoped it wouldn’t all turn out to be one big mistake. He’d made enough of those in a
"I have to go now, Callie," Rus informed her. He pushed a stray lock of hair behind her ear. "You are so
beautiful to me. Promise me you won’t do anything foolish. Call me if you suspect any foul play, you understand?" His
voice was stern. His eyes were serious and dark. "I mean it, Callie. I don’t want you to be hurt. I don’t want
to loose you. Not now. Not ever." He sounded earnest and a bit desperate.
Callie’s heart went out to him. She kissed his cheek then wiped the lipstick off. "I promise, I will
call you at the first sign of danger."
After Rus was satisfied with Callie’s answer he climbed inside, unaware, that a few doors down, a black
sports car was sitting outside a vacant lot. Inside were two men watching his every move. His and Callie’s. Smoke filled
the inside of the car making it impossible to see their faces. But they were ready, willing and able to kill if they had to.
Rus pulled away from the curb, leaving Callie staring after him. She was sad to see him go. She waved to
him as he drove away. But it took a long time to step away from the curb of the street and head back inside. She was lost