The sun was setting just over the ridge of the mountains. The sky was alive with an array of pinks and vivid
purples and a splattering of gold. Callie stood out on the balcony of the cabin alone, her thoughts pensive. She was lonely
already. She had grown used to Florida and its hot weather.
Denver was much different. The air was cooler, and the humidity was far less prominent in the mountains.
It was beautiful where they were, and completely isolated. There was no sign of civilization any where. Callie could not imagine
why they would send her to a place like this.
Callie was surrounded by tall aspens and pine trees. She could smell the pine all around her. It was inviting
As daylight disappeared to be replaced by darkness, Callie knew she should step back inside where she was
protected. But the call of nature beckoned her. She couldn’t pull herself away from it.
After a few minutes Rus joined her out on the balcony, propping himself on both elbows. He had given Callie
her quiet time. He had sensed her need for some time alone. She had been growing restless throughout the day and with the
restlessness came irritability.
He knew it would take her a few days to adjust to her knew surroundings. Hopefully they would not be there
"You need to come inside now, where it’s safe," Rus explained, his voice low and sympathetic. "We haven’t
seen any evidence that anyone has been snooping around. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t."
Callie turned to Rus in the dark. He was tall, and lean, a handsomely statuesque. A ray of moonlight slithered
over his face and shoulders basking him in a warm glow. Callie found it hard to take her eyes off the man.
"Do you think our lives will ever be normal again?" Callie asked, moving across the platform to stand closer
to Rus. She smelled the unique blend of musk and pine. It made her senses reel.
Rus slipped Callie’s hand in his and held it tenderly. "I think that when this is all over, we’ll
go back to our own lives as if nothing ever happened."
Callie was doubtful. It showed in the depths of her eyes. When she turned a certain way, the moon caught
in her eyes, illuminating them with a luminescence that took Rus’s breath right out of him.
"Do you ever wonder why we were put in this position to begin with?" It was Callie that spoke. Her voice
was soft and wistful. "I keep asking myself, why me? How did I get mixed up in all of this?"
Rus moved his hand away. He slipped it around Callie’s shoulder. "I’ve been asking myself those
same questions. And I don’t have any answers."
Rus’s touch was languorous, but to Callie it was a balm to her nerves. "But you don’t think your
shooting was any accident," Callie wanted to know. "It wasn’t a random act."
"I’m convinced of that," Rus explained. He took Callie by both hands and led her into a chair not far
from where they stood. He knelt down in front of her, brushing a strand of hair out of her eyes so that he could see her clearly.
"I want to tell you everything, Callie, so that you can understand why you are here."
She didn’t say anything, but her nerves became jumpy. She wasn’t sure she was ready to hear this
after she’d waited so long. She took a deep breath to clear her mind, to open herself to whatever might be said. She
had to prepare herself for the worst.
"I’ve been on the police force for a number of years, Callie. I’ve been honored by many state
officials for my acts of bravery and for my work in the community. But that’s not all I do."
Callie held her breath, waiting. It seemed hours before Rus spoke again. His face turned harsh in the moonlight.
"I was working under cover with a few other officers. We were trying to find out which one of our officers
were using illegal weapons to do dirty crimes."
"Illegal weapons?" Callie’s brow creased in confusion. "I don’t understand."
"What that means, Callie," Rus began to explain, "is that when an officer makes an arrest, and a weapon is
confiscated at the time of the arrest, the weapon must be booked into inventory and held until trial. Once the trial is over,
the weapon is destroyed."
Callie was following this so far. It seemed self-explanatory to her. Rus continued on. "Any way, one or more
of our officers were taking those weapons and using them in other crimes."
"What type of crimes?" Callie asked, appalled at the notion that cops would do such a thing. Weren’t
they suppose to uphold the law, not tear it down.
Rus’s expression turned grave. He stood up and began to pace the small length of the balcony. "Rape,
burglary, attempted murder? They knew no bounds to the crimes they could commit. They just never anticipated getting caught."
Callie thought about this for a minute. "Do you think they’ll ever get caught?"
Rus took a seat beside Callie. He crossed one leg over the other, jostling his foot back and forth in nervous
agitation. "We were moving in on them, Callie, when I was shot. I was sure that we were on to something, but after the shooting,
the captain took me off the case and it fell apart after that. The other men . . ."
"The other men working with you, do you think they had anything to do with you getting hurt?"
Rus was back to holding Callie’s hand again. He rubbed the ball of his thumb over her knuckles. She
luxuriated in his gentle touch.
"No," Rus admitted with a sorrow in his tone. "I just don’t think they were adept at undercover work.
Without me, they didn’t know what to do any more."
"Do you have any suspects?" Callie asked. She got from her chair and moved to stand in front of Rus. His
eyes caught hers just before she lowered herself into his lap.
"Joe Hines is our only suspect. And an officer named Dave Parker. But we have pretty much ruled him out."
"Why is that?"
"All the evidence points to Joe Hines. He’s been released from the police force until the investigation
Callie tried to think about Joe Hines. Who was he? What did he look like? "Rus," she said softly, drowsily,
"Who is Joe Hines? What does he look like?"
"He’s about my height, maybe an inch or two shorter. Blond hair, thin, and a little on the brusque
side. Why do you ask?"
"Was he the officer that brought in Paul Dannon?"
Rus’s heart had sped up a notch. His palms were sweating now. He’d suspected that she was on
to something, now talking to her only confirmed his worst fears.
"We shouldn’t be talking about this," Rus said rather abruptly. He tried to push Callie off his lap.
She stumbled and landed on her bottom. She gazed up at Rus, shocked by his actions. "I’ve already said too much."
"I’m right, aren’t I," Callie demanded, as Rus held out his hand and lifted her to her feet.
"Callie," Rus said irritably. "Let it go."
Callie planted her hands firmly on her hips, staring at Rus without batting an eyelash. "You started this
conversation, Rus Lane."
"And I’m ending it right here and now," he said sharply. "Get in the house right now, before I drag
Rus swung open one of the french doors. His glare directed at Callie was menacing.
"Okay, Okay," she acquiesced. "You don’t have to be so bossy."
When the door was closed behind them, Callie ventured a glance at Rus. In the now bright light of the room,
Callie’s room, she could see the shuttered look in his eyes. He was disturbed about something, haunted in a way that
wouldn’t just go away like that. Callie knew, in that instant, that Rus’s love for her was real, that his only
concern was for her, and that he truly regretted the things he had said to her.
"Rus," she whispered.
But before Callie could say anymore, Rus had stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind him. Callie
felt bereft. She was numb and mystified in a way she couldn’t explain or even comprehend.
Lord, what did I say wrong? What did I do to make him so angry? I didn’t mean any harm. You know
I didn’t. You know that I love Rus, Lord, that I care for him deeply. But you know I can’t tell him that until
this is all over. I don’t know what you have in store for me, but whatever it is, I except it. Just let me know what
I need to do here. Let me know how I can help Rus.
Callie shut off the light in her bedroom. She set up half the night in a chair in the corner of her room.
It was after two in the morning that she finally fell asleep.
Grandma Hannah had prepared a huge breakfast for Ricky. Old-fashioned grits, fried eggs, hashbrowns and the
works. He hadn’t stayed around long enough to eat. Instead he rushed out the door to join his friends at the beach.
He’d been spending most of his time with them lately. Though she was happy, Hannah was concerned. She
didn’t know those kids, or what things they might be up to. She knew that Rus had never talked to her much about Ricky
after his wife had left him, but Hannah was bright and intelligent. It hadn’t taken a mastermind to realize that there
had been trouble.
She could always sense the inflection in Rus’s tone whenever he mentioned anything about Ricky. Lately
that tone had changed. She reasoned it was because there was a new woman in her son’s life. He hadn’t come right
out and said that, but her son had taken a change for the better the last few weeks or so.
Hannah was happy for her son. She just hoped that the woman was worthy of his love and that he would not
find himself on the receiving end of another broken heart.
Rus deserved so much more than that. He was a good man, a devoted father, a loving and caring individual.
Rus had seen her through some terrible times in her life. He’d been her strength and her wisdom. Without
him, she wouldn’t have the home she lived in. Without him, and Ricky, her life would have no purpose.
Thinking of Ricky again, Hannah began to worry. Ricky was her responsibility now. It was up to her to keep
him out of trouble. It wouldn’t do to let the boy get into mischief when his father was counting on her to keep him
out of it.
But what did you do with a teenage boy? What did you do to entertain someone in a small town like this that
had nothing but a bowling alley, a movie theater and a beach?
Well, she didn’t know, but she was certainly about to find out.
Ricky met Allison and her friends out on the beach the next morning. They were rowdy as usual. Ricky didn’t
much care for her friends, but he liked Allison a lot. There was something about her that made him feel good about himself.
Allison was a year older than himself. From the way she talked, she liked school and made good grades. She
stayed out of trouble most of the time, except maybe staying out past her curfew on the weekends. But other than that, she
was a good kid.
Ricky was certain that his dad would approve of her company. She was a good influence for him.
She came from a large family. Her father worked at a local bank, her mother was a seamstress at a shop on
the edge of town. She had five brothers and no sisters. She was a member of the cheerleading squad, she loved rock and roll
music, and her favorite hobby was reading. Every Sunday her parents got them all up and they all went to church together.
Ricky had expected to hear her complain, but she didn’t. In fact, she had been rather proud of her
family. It wasn’t in a haughty way like one might think. With Allison, it was just a matter of honor.
Ricky couldn’t understand though, why Allison would be hanging around a bunch of thugs. Ricky knew
he shouldn’t think of her friends that way. But he’d been around enough to know these kids were up to no good.
Whether it came from boredom or whether it just came from a lack of proper upbringing, Ricky was afraid Allison might be headed
for trouble where her friends were concerned.
Today the two of them had wandered off by themselves. They’d gone to the boat docks and was sitting
on edge of one of the piers casting out their fishing rods. The sun was hot on their shoulders, but a gentle breeze now and
then seemed to cool them off.
They fish weren’t biting but to Ricky and Allison, it didn’t matter. They were just glad to be
Finally Ricky turned to Allison. She had long, golden hair and bright green eyes. Her smile was as bright
as the sun. It warmed him to the bones.
"Allison," he said at last, "how long have you lived here in North Carolina?"
"Almost all my life," she replied, casting out her line in hopes of snagging a big one. "My mom and dad moved
here when I was just one. My dad had lost his job in Connecticut and the jobs there were scarce, so they came here."
"Do you like it here?" There was a subdued tone to Ricky’s voice. It made Allison really look at him
hard and long.
"Why do you ask? I thought you were just here visiting your grandma."
"I am," Ricky replied. "But you never know what God has in store for you."
"What do you mean?" Allison asked.
It took Ricky a long time to form a suitable reply. When he didn’t speak, Allison gave him an elbow
to his ribs. "What’s up with you, Ricky? Talk to me."
By now Ricky had turned a bit shy. His face was red, not from the sun, but from a blush that had crept over
him. "Never mind," Ricky said, trying to steer the conversation in another direction. "I just wondered why you hung around
with friends like that."
Allison didn’t know what to think of Ricky’s comment. It took her totally by surprised. She wasn’t
offended, or even taken aback. Just curious as to why he would even care what type of friends she would have. After all, in
a few weeks he’d be gone and they’d probably never see each other again.
"They’re the only friends I have here. Our community is very small. We are limited in the number of
kids who live here. I suppose you can say, I don’t have choice in who my friends are."
Ricky reeled in his line and cast the pole beside him. He’d lost interest in fishing for the time being.
He just wanted to talk to Allison.
"I thought that way once," Ricky admitted. "I used to get into trouble, right after my mom left me. All I
wanted to do was to make my dad suffer as much as I was."
"What happened?" Allison prodded, now tossing her fishing rod aside as well.
Ricky’s feet dangled over the side of the peer, barely skimming the ripples of water. "I got expelled
from school one week for carrying a knife. My dad was so mad that he made me come to work with him every day."
"How did you feel about that?"
By now the two of them had gathered their fishing rods and bucket of bait and were now heading away from
the peer. They were both barefoot and the sand was hot against the pads of their feet, but neither seemed to notice.
"I was angry at first, but after a while, I started to like it."
Ricky stopped walking and made a place for himself in the sand. Allison sat next to him, digging her toes
into the sand.
"Because I met someone there that I liked, someone that I could count on if I needed them."
Allison was very interested in everything Ricky had to say. He was being so open and friendly, and she was
learning so much about him. She was really beginning to like him. A lot.
"Who was this person?" Allison asked, her eyes fixed on Ricky with curiosity.
"A lady. Someone I thought might could take the place of my mom. I tried to hook her up with my dad," he
acknowledged a little smugly.
Allison’s heart went out to Ricky. She couldn’t explain the depths of her feelings for him. They
had only known each other a few hours and already she was beginning to have feelings for him that she knew she shouldn’t.
Instinctively her arms went around his waist and she laid her head on his shoulder.
"Did your dad like this woman?"
"Not at first," Ricky conceded. "I think he was intent on disliking her. It was safer that way."
"But he likes her now?" Allison questioned.
"I think so. I’m not sure now. I don’t know what’s going to happen with them. Or with me."
The last statement made Allison’s heart turn over in her chest. She tried desperately to think of something
to say that would help him feel better. But in the end, she couldn’t think of a thing. She seemed helpless at the moment
and she had never been helpless a day in her life.
Before she had always had the answers. God had always provided them for her. But today, it was different.
Ricky was different. He was like no one she had ever met. She could see the sadness in his eyes, and feel the emptiness and
uncertainty that he lived with. It was as if his emotions radiated from him and she bore the brunt of them for him. It left
an aching in her soul.
"Where is your dad now?" Allison inquired.
"I’m not sure," Ricky answered slowly, carefully. "I wasn’t allowed to know that information."
Allison was appalled. "Why not? You’re his son, aren’t you?"
"You don’t understand," Ricky said, picking up his pole and bucket then traipsing across the hot sand
once again. "My dad’s a cop. He and this lady, her name’s Callie, they got into some trouble. Some people want
to hurt them. That’s why I’m here. They went into hiding so that they would be safe until the bad guys are caught."
Allison, stunned and numb, stopped her trek across the hot sand. "Are you kidding me?" she stammered. "You’re
just saying that, aren’t you?"
"I wish I were," Ricky said with mild irritation. "But I’m not."
Allison could only stand there staring at him. After a minute, Ricky turned away and headed toward the trees
to his Grandma Hannah’s house. His shoulders were slumped forward in dejection. Allison had to run to catch up with
"Hey, Ricky, wait up."
"I’ve gotta go," he told Allison. He clearly wasn’t interested in talking any more.
Allison’s face showed her disappointment. "When will I see you again?"
"I don’t know," is all Ricky could say. "See you around."
"Yea, sure," Allison replied back. "See you around."
Joe Hines was getting a bit impatient. Pep wasn’t getting him the information he needed. He had little
tolerance for disobedience. He was getting a bad feeling about Pep any way. Joe knew the man was scared. The last time the
two of them were together, Joe could tell how uneasy he was. Now, Joe wasn’t sure he liked that idea at all. If Pep
was scared, there was no telling what he might do. Running was the least of Joe’s worries. If Pep left town tonight,
Joe would know where to find him by mid afternoon the next day. That wasn’t the problem.
The problem was simply that Joe Hines didn’t like a squealer. And Pep was known to squeal when things
got tough. Joe had worked too long and too hard to get where he was today. He’d been working as a police officer for
nearly ten years. The money wasn’t great. It paid the bills though. That had been the only reason he’d joined
the force to begin with. That and the fact that it was a family inheritance. Five generations of cops ran in his family.
Hi great grandfather, his father, his uncles, his brothers, they were all good cops. They all had wives and
families of their own. They were respectable men, and highly regarded by their peers and their superiors. They all had a reputation
to uphold. A standard to live by.
It was something that Joe didn’t like, or want any part of. He was sick of living in his family’s
footsteps. He was tired of pretending to be something that he wasn’t. He knew he’d never measure up to his family’s
ideallyc principles, so he had finally given up on trying.
He no longer cared about having a spotless reputation, or a perfect arrest record, or any other of the values
that were placed on you as an officer of the law. To Joe, it was all a game any way.
He’d seen some of his friends walk away with awards and citations for their hard work and diligence.
They were all dedicated to their jobs, put in lots of hours so that the world might become a better place to live.
Joe Hines was too bitter to think the world would ever change. The job had taken his father’s life.
He was a New York City cop. He’d been chasing a group of thugs that had hijacked a mother and her infant son out of
a grocery store parking lot. He had taken pursuit of the vehicle. Though he had called for back up during the chase, they
had not arrived in time. Patrick Hines took a shot to the chest and died enroute to the hospital.
The mother and child were released, and the hijacker got away. That’s when Joe took to the wrong side
of the law. He’d given up believing that he could ever make a difference in anyone’s life.
He’d gone back home for the funeral, along with his brothers and uncles and even his mother and watched
as a group of fellow officers lowered him six foot into the ground. It was his mother he’d felt most sorry for. In one
day she’d become a widow, lost everything that was important to her. She’d gotten her husband’s pension
and a huge settlement from a life insurance policy. She was set for life and didn’t have a care in the world. Except
one. What would she do with the rest of her life?
Without her husband her life had changed dramatically. She had no longer viewed it the same way. She had
lost interest in the routine things in life, like eating and sleeping. She could no longer manage the simplest of things,
like washing clothes or doing dishes. She began to wither away, slowly, one breath at a time.
Had Joe been there with her, he may have seen the signs. If he had been there, maybe he could have helped
her, saved her. But instead, he’d been thousands of miles away living his own life. He hadn’t taken the time to
care about his mother, or to wonder how she was getting along. He’d been too selfish to care.
So now not only was his father gone so was his mother. Joe Hines couldn’t say that he felt any regret
over the loss of his parents. He didn’t think he was capable of feeling anything at all. If people considered him heartless,
then be it. He was heartless. But that’s the only way he knew how to survive. To pretend it never happened. Avoidance
was the cure to everything. He was convinced of that.
Joe Hines shoved a baseball cap over his head and down across his eyes. He began walking beneath the clear
blue sky. He liked anonymity. He didn’t like bringing attention to himself.
Instead he walked with a purposeful gait, heading toward a place where know one would know him, or care who
he was. A placed he called his own, a placed where he liked to think. He was heading to a place, to plot out his next adventure.