It took another two weeks for Callie to come out of her comatose state. Rus refused to leave her side for
any reason. The captain had every available man on the force working on his case. They were following some pretty good leads.
As Captain Lee had suspected, Joe Hines had planted the gun on Paul Dannon. The reason why was yet to be determined. And proving
it in court was another thing. They couldn’t find anyone that would attest to the fact that Joe Hines had taken the
gun from inventory.
The kid had finally broken down and confessed a few other things about Joe Hines that didn’t look good
for the veteran cop. According to Paul Dannon, Joe Hines and a reported drug dealer were working together. Joe Hines would
not arrest the drug dealer as long as Joe Hines pocketed half the profits. The drug dealer was known only as Pep.
The case against Joe Hines was growing by the minute. Half the police force was out looking for Pep right
now. And Rus wanted to be out there too. Pep could be a major factor in breaking this case.
Rus had to believe that Joe Hines was beginning to run scared. He had to be aware that they were on to him.
A dirty cop didn’t last long out on the streets in Florida. Or any where for that matter. But Rus still could not understand
what any of that had to do with him. Or with Callie.
Callie began to stir the minute the light came through the window into her room. She stretched and buried
her head beneath the pillow until she knew it was useless to hide anymore. She smiled a greeting to Rus, knowing he would
be there at her beside just as he was every morning. And afternoon and evening. He never left her side. And though this gave
her peace of mind, she knew that Rus could not go on like this forever.
"Is it time for breakfast yet?" she asked with a huskiness to her voice.
It seemed all she did during her waking hours was eat. But Rus was thankful for that. She was getting her
natural color back in her face. She was gaining her weight back, and the dark circles under her eyes were beginning to fade.
"In twenty minutes breakfast will be here," Rus told her playfully.
"Then will you take me for a walk?"
Callie looked forward to her walks with Rus. It gave them time to be together. She enjoyed the closeness
she shared with him. But she knew their time was running short. She was healing fast and they were preparing to move her into
hiding. After that she would not get to see Rus again for a while. If ever.
This made her sad. She tried not to dwell on it too much. But she couldn’t help herself. She had gone
and fallen in love with Rus Lane. Now they were being pulled apart. She didn’t know where this left them in their relationship.
If they even had a relationship at all.
Callie still was not sure what Rus’s feelings or intentions were. They didn’t speak of love to
one another. It was as if it were a curse to them. One that neither of them relished. And that was fine with Callie. She needed
to keep her feelings to herself for a while until she knew what was going to happen with her life. Things were so uncertain
right now and she was scared. And she knew that Rus didn’t need any more complications in his life. So for now, she
kept her feelings to herself, hoping that one day she would be able to tell Rus the truth.
One thing Callie knew was that Rus Lane was a devoted friend. He’d been at her side for the last month
and she knew, without a doubt, that he could be trusted. That he would never leave her side for any reason.
After breakfast, Rus assisted Callie out of bed. Her leg wound had healed rather nicely, with only a minimal
scar. But Callie’s muscles were still weak from lack of daily use.
She was slowly getting her strength back, but Rus had to walk in close contact with her so that Callie would
not lose her balance and fall.
Just as any other day, Rus was standing at her side, his arm around her waist, guiding her and giving her
strength. They moved slowly down the hall and Rus was patient as ever. He never rushed her, or became irritable. Instead,
he coaxed her, and led her with easy strides.
Even when Callie stumbled, Rus was there to catch her fall.
Callie and Rus came to the end of the hall. There was a small room to the left furnished with book shelves,
a television set and plenty of chairs for guests. Callie was not eager to return to her room. She wanted to postpone the inevitable
as long as she could.
She knew that two police officers followed behind her and Rus. This did not bother her. She knew that they
would have a modicum of privacy if they so desired it. And today, Callie favored it.
The room was empty as she had hoped it would be. She took Rus by the hand and led him inside. They took the
couch and sat side by side, their thighs nearly touching. It took a lot of will power for Callie not to move closer to Rus.
But she was a lady and she had emense respect for the man.
Instead she caught herself looking up into his face. It was shadowed in a thick beard. It made him look a
little rugged and a lot older. She could see stress lines around his eyes and mouth. He seemed a little thinner in some areas,
and his clothes didn’t seem to fit him as she had remembered.
But to her, Rus was as handsome as ever. She felt her heart beating in her chest. It was the same feeling
she got any time he was near.
Suddenly Callie was drained and she relaxed against Rus. He slipped his arm around her shoulders. It was
a comfortable moment for them. They said nothing, but enjoyed the pleasure that was brought on by each other’s company.
After a while, Callie pulled away, her eyes searching out Rus’s. He could see a certain detachment
in the way she looked at him. He could not explain the feelings he was having at the moment, but he knew he didn’t like
them. It felt as thought Callie were slipping away from him.
More than ever he wanted to kiss her, to mark her as his forever.
At last Rus couldn’t stand it any longer, the look of sorrow that betrayed her. He had to put space
between them or he’d certainly do something he would regret.
Callie saw the will power it took for Rus to move across the room to the window. She wanted to go after him,
tell him everything was all right. But in truth, she didn’t believe it herself.
"I’ll be leaving here tomorrow," Callie said at last. There was a tinge of remorse in her voice. "I
don’t know where I’ll be going, or if I’ll be back."
Rus wasn’t sure what she was talking about, or what she was trying to say. He patiently waited it out,
hoping that she would give him some sign of encouragement. He loved her, he needed to know she loved him too.
"What happens if we never see each other again?" Callie asked, her eyes imploring.
Rus turned from the window. There was a dark look in his eyes. A look that Callie could not decipher. But
his eyes were steadily on her, absorbing every one of her features.
"I would hope that God would not do that to us," he answered in reply. "I need you Callie."
He was back at her side, sitting beside her now. His actions were eager and needy. He was touching her now.
Her hair, her lips, her cheeks and neck. She could see the longing in his eyes, feel the urgency of his touch. She succumbed
to him. She knew she shouldn’t, but the will to resist left her.
"I want to kiss you, Callie, but I know it is wrong. It would be a sin for me to do that. And I would never
betray you in such a way."
His breathing was heavy when he pushed himself away. "Do you know how much I love you, Callie? How many times
I’ve wanted to say that to you the last few weeks?"
Callie closed her eyes painfully as a tear swept down her face.
"No, Rus. Now isn’t the time to say this. I will be gone tomorrow and we may never see each other again."
Callie’s cry was desperate. There was longing in her voice. A multitude of feelings swam through Rus
all of them vying for his attention.
"But I’m coming with you, Callie," Rus explained to her. "Don’t you see, we will be together.
God wants us to be together."
Callie wept then. There was nothing else she could do. She had felt such relief when Rus had told her he
was coming with her. Rus took her in his arms and held her tenderly in his grasp.
"I love you Callie and I’ve waited a long time for God to send me someone. I don’t think he’s
going to take you from me now."
Rus kept waiting expectantly for her to declare her love for him, but she didn’t say a word. She just
clung to him as if to never let him go. And all the while she was sobbing against his shirt.
At last Callie found her voice to speak. Her tears were spent. "I’m glad you are coming with me, Rus.
We have so much to learn about each other."
But I know everything I need to know about you Callie. All I want to hear you say is that you love me
Rus tried to hide his disappointment once again when the words he wanted to hear did not come. He smiled
as he helped her off the couch. Together they started walking back to her room. It was a slow progression, but that was okay
with Rus. He knew that once the two of them got back to her room, Callie would be fast asleep.
That meant there would be no time for more talk. He was quickly growing to hate those times. The times when
she was silent in sleep. But he also knew she needed her rest. She needed to recover as much of her strength as she could.
Denver was a long way from Florida. The trip would take a lot of effort on her part to survive.
Rus helped Callie into bed. He fastened the sheets securely around her legs and upper body. He kissed her
lightly on the forehead, then shut out the lights for her. He drew the drapes together to block out the suns rays. The room
was cast in shadowy darkness. Rus whispered one last time that he loved Callie. He waited one last time to hear her response.
When she said nothing, he leaned back in his chair and listened while she drifted off to sleep. He hoped she was dreaming
A few days later, Callie’s cast was removed from her wrist. It felt strange to her not to have the
annoying thing on any more. She flexed her hand back and forth to exercise the muscles she had not used in quite a while.
Her strength had returned as much as could have been expected. Her appetite was in normal swing as well and
that meant she was growing healthy as an ox. She felt alive and vital. Today was the day she was checking out of the hospital
and going to a destination unknown.
This should have worried her, she supposed. But Callie was confident. She had Rus on her side. And God. They
were her protectors.
When Rus stepped back into her room after the doctor had left, Callie was aglow. A certain buoyancy surrounded
her. She wore a long pale blue dress that sashayed around her when she walked. He couldn’t help but notice her resiliency.
It was good for his soul. It was what he needed to get his feelings in check.
All morning he’d had a bad feeling about this trip. Rus knew they were driving and that always allowed
for a certain amount of danger. He knew that he and Callie would be well protected. But out on the streets there was no where
to take cover. This left them as open targets. Anything could happen at any time and there wasn’t much you could do
about it except hope for the best.
Rus had spent half his night praying about the trip, asking God to keep them safe and to protect them until
they got where they were going. The rest of the night was spent praying about Joe Hines.
There were no more leads to follow up on. And the ones they had already investigated had long since turned
cold. This only added to Rus’s apprehension about the drive to Denver.
Joe had been officially released from the Florida Police Department pending a full investigation. His badge
and gun had been turned over to the captain but Joe had made it very clear how unhappy he was to be under scrutiny. He swore
he was innocent of any wrongdoing.
Captain Lee as well as Rus didn’t believe him. Rus was further concerned by the fact that Joe Hines
was now upset. Would this lead him to further retaliation? Would this put Callie in further jeopardy? Rus could well take
care of himself. It was Callie that he worried about. Always Callie.
She was always on his mind first thing in the morning when he woke up and the last thing he thought about
when he went to bed at night.
He was thinking a lot about Ricky to. He’d been sent off to his grandmother’s house out in North
Carolina. It was amongst protests of displeasure, but in the end Ricky had conceded.
Rus picked up the one suitcase he had brought in for Callie, then ushered her out of the door. Suddenly Rus
was more optimistic than he had been earlier that morning. Seeing the brightness on Callie’s face brought on a feeling
of satisfaction for Rus.
Today was going to be a good day. Rus was certain of it. He had a special treat lined up for Callie. He already
had it approved by the captain. She was in for a few big surprises and Rus couldn’t help but feel good inside. If Callie
could tell that Rus was up to something, she didn’t let it show.
Instead, she slipped her arm through Rus’s and together they walked down the hall of the hospital,
hopefully for the last time. Callie had no desire to return there any time soon. She was through with hospitals. Through with
guns and danger. She was ready to put all this behind her and move on with her future. A future with Rus and Ricky. A future
with Colby West.
Colby West. At the sudden thought, Callie stopped in mid-stride. Rus could feel the tightening in her muscles.
He could see a bleakness settle in over her features. He knew she was thinking of Colby West then and he didn’t know
what to say or do to make her feel any better without giving his surprise away.
Rus grabbed her by the hand and began playfully pulling her to the front of the hospital. She shouted in
protest, but allowed herself to be maneuvered any way. Rus’s hand felt so big and strong against her own. She couldn’t
help but notice how good it felt.
Rus stopped just before they reached the automatic swinging doors to the lobby of the hospital. He withdrew
his gun from a holster belted at his waist. There were a few plain-clothed officers standing near and around the car they
would use to drive Callie away in. He noted everything about his surroundings, including the hundreds of men and women and
children that paraded the sidewalks.
Once given the nod, Rus wrapped his arm snug around Callie’s waist, drawing her as close as possible
against his body. He was her shield now. He would not let anything happen to her.
Once inside the car, the doors were quickly shut. The officers took their positions in the front seat and
the car rolled forward. As they pulled away, Rus counted the number of other cars that pulled away with them. There were a
total of five cars all together, including theirs. In his mind, Rus jotted down the makes, models and license plate number
of each car, how many passengers were in each car, and even their faces.
This information, he knew, would be vitally important out on the open road when a stray car could make its
way into the convoy.
Callie glanced around, as if oblivious to anything going on around her. It seemed to Rus, as though she were
taking one last glance around to remember her surroundings. Maybe she was remembering Colby West again.
"Are you all right, Callie?" Rus asked at last, patting his hand softly against her knee.
She glanced at him briefly, shrugged, then turned away silently.
"Are you thinking about Colby West?"
Callie looked back up at him, a single tear trailing down her cheek. "How did you know?" she asked in wonderment.
"Because I know you love the boy," Rus explained in a matter-of-fact tone. "It wouldn’t be like you
not to think of him at a time like this."
The tears came in earnest now. Rus thought she might flood the inside of the car. And he didn’t even
have a tissue to give her. All he could offer her was his shirt front and even that didn’t seem a very good prospect.
"What if I never see him again. I’m sure he wouldn’t understand why I just up and left him like
this, without even as much as a good bye."
Rus held her hand comfortingly in his, stroking it lightly with the ball of his thumb. "I believe he will
understand. I have a good feeling about Colby West."
Callie wiped her face free of her tears. Her make up was now smeared and she looked a ragged mess. "Colby
West, lost both his parents. He lived with an unstable uncle. I was the only thing he could count on, Rus. Now I have to leave
him. I’m sure he won’t understand."
Rus couldn’t think of anything to say. So he draped his arm casually around Callie’s shoulder,
drawing her near to the beating of his heart. They stayed that way for another twenty minutes until the car came to a stop.
They were in a residential area. Callie was quite familiar with this part of the neighborhood. She had been
there so many times to see Colby. For a moment her heart leapt in her chest. Her mind began to sing out, then she turned to
Rus with questions in her eyes.
"Why are we here?" Callie asked.
Rus leaned over and opened her door. "So you can say good bye to Colby. So you can explain to him why you
have to leave so that he will understand."
Callie began to cry all over again. "Did you arrange this Rus Lane?" she wanted to know. "Did you do all
of this for me?"
"Yes, I did this all for you."
Callie swept Rus up in her arms and crushed him to her chest. She held him so tightly Rus thought he might
have a few crushed ribs. "Thank you," Callie wept. "Thank you so much. You don’t know how much this means to me."
Yes, I think I do, Callie. I think I do.
Callie bolted to the front door very quickly. She rang the bell about three times before the lady of
the house opened the door. She asked to see Colby West and was immediately escorted to his room.
The first thing she noticed were the two packed bags sitting at the edge of his bed. At first Callie thought
he might be going with them on the trip, then she realized what a ridiculous thought that was.
In an instant, Rus stepped up behind her, putting a hand at her waist, breaking the tension in the room.
Colby seemed excited to see her. His eyes lit up and a smile beamed across his face. "I’m glad too
see you, Miss Callie. I’ve been waiting all morning for you to get here."
"You knew I was coming?" Callie exclaimed with a generous smile directed at Rus.
"Yes," Colby stated, "Didn’t Mr. Lane tell you the good news?"
Callie shot Rus an evil glare. Obviously he had kept her in the dark for some reason known only to himself.
"I think Mr. Lane may have forgotten to tell me a few things, this morning. Maybe you should fill me in on the details."
Colby grabbed Callie by the hand and led her to an empty space on the bed. They plopped down together facing
"Mr. Lane and the captain, they’ve been working on getting me out of this place." Colby’s expression
was animated. His eyes danced with merriment and this brought joy to Callie’s heart. "Mr. Lane knows you want to adopt
me and to become my legal guardian. But since you have to go away, the captain thought it would be a good idea if I stayed
with him until you got back from your trip."
Callie was stunned. She was breathless and frightened all of a sudden. Her heart went to her stomach and
suddenly she was no longer as happy as she had thought she was. The smile left her face. Her eyes turned dark and sullen.
She glanced up to Rus momentarily, then returned her attention back to Colby.
"Colby, honey," she started slowly. "There’s a possibility I may not get to come back here. You and
I, we may not be able to see each other again."
"I know someone is trying to hurt you," Colby admitted. "Mr. Lane explained all that to me. But . . ."
Callie’s heart was bleeding now. Bleeding for Colby. She tucked his hand firmly between the both of
hers and she looked at him with serious eyes. "Colby, honey, I don’t want you to get your hopes up too high. I know
what it is to loose someone you love. I lost my son, Johnathan. You lost both of your parents. You need to keep everything
in perspective. I might not . . ."
"No," Colby shouted, pulling his hand free and coming to stand above her. Anger lit his expression. "You
have to come back, Miss Callie. You just have to."
Rus watched the two of them and his heart seemed to stop beating right there in his chest. He felt an incredible
despondency settle over him. This had not gone the way he had imagined. He had hoped to bring a little peace to Callie’s
mind, to give her hope that when all this was done, she’d have Colby to come back to. He had never imagined this pain-filled
moment. Suddenly he had to leave, to get away from it, to breathe.
"I can’t make any promises, Colby. This is all up to God. If he wants me to come back here, then he’ll
bring me back. If he doesn’t . . ."
She left her sentence hanging.
"Well, I’ll pray to him, that he’ll bring you back. I love you, Miss Callie. I want you for my
She cradled Colby in her arms, rocking him gently back and forth. "I love you to Colby." And I love Rus
and Ricky. I love you all. But I can’t tell Rus that. He can’t know how I feel. Not until this is all over with.
"I want you for my son to. So I’ll pray every night."
"I will to," Colby admitted. "I will to."
It was hard for Callie to say her last farewell. Colby stood at the front door and watched her leave. She
stared out the side window of the car as they pulled away from the curb. She pressed the palm of her hand against the edge
of the glass as her tears began to fall again.
Rus sat beside her, silent, remorseful, and not knowing how to fix this current mess he found himself in.
He always made a mess of things. Why couldn’t he ever do anything right. He hated himself right at the moment. And Callie
wouldn’t even look at him. That made things so much worse. All he had were good intentions. He’d never meant to
bungle things like this. He hoped that Callie would realize that and forgive him. She just had to.