Officer Benjamin Knight had gotten there too late. Pep was gone, no where to be seen. But his car was still
there and a trail of blood led to the trunk of his blue tornado. When the officer pried open the trunk, Pep was inside.
Immediately the site was corunned off and made secure. A coroner was on his way and a forensic specialist
Benjamin Knight knew he’d done all he could. Even at that, he felt like a failure. This had been what
they’d been waiting for. Joe Hines, though, had been one step ahead of them. He’d taken out the one man that could
name him in all his dastardly crimes.
But one thing was certain, Captain Lee was at peace at last. They’d found the man responsible for his
nephew’s death. It had hit him hard, like a ton of bricks. He had actually wept. For a man of little emotions, the captain
had finally let it all out. He had even called his sister and gave her the news. They had talked for hours, had even patched
things up between them.
The story of young boy’s death had been in all the local newspapers, tabloids and magazines. It had
even made national headlines. The story had changed many young people’s lives. It had touched many hearts around the
city. It was as if Ft. Lauderdale had mourned the boy’s death right along with the captain.
Captain Lee would not be happy knowing that Pep was now dead. He would never stand trial for his nephew’s
murder. But in the end, he’d gotten just what he deserved. He’d paid the price for his sins, his crimes. It was
a long time in coming, but the death of the captain’s nephew was now put to rest.
Pep was now off the streets. Children were now safe. Now all that was left was tracking down Joe Hines and
bringing him in for questioning. The manhunt was on.
Ricky and Allison sat at the edge of the pier where they had been fishing days before. Allison had the Bible
in her lap. She’d read him a few scriptures out of the Gospel of John. Ricky hadn’t really understood what it
meant, but she had taken the time to explain it.
Ricky had to admit she was a good teacher. She was fair and patient. And pretty he realized. He couldn’t
help but think how pretty she really was.
"So God died on the cross for me," Ricky was saying.
"Not just for you," Allison corrected. " For all of us,"
Ricky was slowly beginning to understand. It was a bit overwhelming for him. But he now believed there was
a God. He still didn’t know how to pray to him. Or ask him to take care of his dad and Callie. How did you talk to someone
you couldn’t see?
Allison closed her Bible and set it to the side of her. Suddenly she heard a lot of noise and commotion going
on behind her. When she looked up, two of her friends were towering over her and Ricky. She didn’t like the look that
Eddie was giving her. It made her quiver. But not Ricky. He was brave. Allison could see it in that cool facade of his. Only
a slight twitching in his cheek indicated he was angry.
Eddie and Marcus began to taunt the two young kids. They called them all kinds of names, criticized them
for their beliefs, and laughed in their faces.
Ricky lunged to his feet, glaring at Eddie without flinching. Eddie could not be daunted. He glared back
at Ricky, his eyes gleaming with a fury all of his own.
"I know how to fight," Ricky warned. "So I’m asking you to leave right now."
Allison jumped to her feet, grabbing Ricky by the arm and attempting to tug him away from the two boys.
"Eddie, leave us alone," Allison pleaded. "Ricky hasn’t done anything to you."
Eddie was thin, and gangly. He wore a black torn T-shirt and faded blue denim jeans that had seen better
days. He had raven black hair, dark eyes, and a sneer that could almost be called deadly.
"We don’t like him," Eddie said, looking over to include his friend that stood near by. At least Marcus
was smart enough to keep his mouth closed, Ricky thought. Eddie was just a punk kid, Ricky decided. Maybe he was jealous of
Ricky’s friendship with Allison. He had never considered that before. Suddenly Ricky was curious to know if there had
ever been anything between Allison and Eddie.
It seemed that the boy was suddenly possessive of Allison. Maybe he had accidentally stepped over the boundaries
without knowing it.
"Look," Ricky attempted to say, "I’m willing to reason with you. Maybe I’ve done something to
you without really knowing it. If I have, I’d like to know about it. Then maybe we can work this out."
Allison was scared. Her knees were shaking and she felt light-headed. She wanted to bolt right then and there,
but she couldn’t leave Ricky to face Eddie alone.
Eddie spat at Ricky’s shoes. Ricky held his temper in check.
"You’re a wimp," Eddie laughed callously. "You are a weak coward."
"He isn’t a coward," Allison cried, clinging to Ricky’s arm. "He’s just more of a man than
you will ever be."
Eddie let out a wail of laughter then. "You used to think I was quite a man, Allison. Do I need to remind
you of it?" He penetrated her with a sneer.
"I detest you now, Edward Lincoln Montgomery," Allison declared. "You are a horrible person."
Ricky wanted to shut Allison up. She was only egging Eddie on, making him more furious by the minute. Ricky
could see the wrath in him rising by the minute. They were fixing to have a fight on their hands and Ricky never walked away
from a fight.
Ricky saw Eddie lift his fist first. He braced himself for the blow. It landed across his left eye. Ricky
barreled forward, head first, as he plunged into Eddie’s stomach. Allison let out a horrified scream. Eddie went flying
backwards, landing on his backside and skidding across the pier.
Ricky grabbed Allison by the hand and together they ran off leaving her Bible behind. He’d wanted to
go back after it, but he knew they’d be asking for more trouble. The two of them took of between the stand of trees,
running to a place unknown.
It seemed as though they had run for hours, when, at last, they stopped. Allison was out of breath and practically
doubled over in pain from having run such a distance. When she looked up at Ricky she was laughing in near hysterics, even
though he could not begin to understand what she found so hilariously funny.
"Do you want to tell me what you find so funny?" Ricky chided.
Allison leaned over a tall spruce. "Did you see the look on Eddie’s face when he hit the ground?"
"Yea." Ricky still couldn’t see the humor in all of that. He’d probably have a black eye tomorrow.
Grandma Hannah would be mad as heck at him for getting into trouble.
"I’m sorry, Ricky. I know you don’t think this if funny, but I think Eddie had that coming to
"What’s he to you anyway?" Ricky asked. "Was he your boyfriend?"
All amusement left Allison then. Her expression took on a far away look. "Yea, at one time, he was."
"Eddie has problems, just like you said. I thought it would be better if we were friends, that’s all."
"And what did Eddie think about that decision?"
Ricky sounded so grown up and, for a moment, Allison almost didn’t recognize him. She wasn’t
sure she even liked this side of him. Where was the fun? The laughter?
"What’s the matter, Ricky? You act as if I did something wrong."
Her words were almost condemning him. "I don’t know, Allison. Maybe Eddie still likes you. Maybe he
still considers you his girl, and I’m trespassing onto his property."
"Property," Allison muttered in protest. "I don’t consider myself anyone’s property."
"That’s not what I meant." Ricky was botching this up pretty badly. "What I meant to say, is that maybe
he still considers you his possession."
Allison snarled. She rolled her eyes exaggeratedly. "Well I don’t want to be his possession. He doesn’t
have what I’m looking for."
Allison turned away and started walking to an open field. Wildflowers of every kind rose out of the thick
grasses. They were tall and willowy. They were of every color and they seemed to dance in the wind. Ricky followed the path
she was taking.
"I want a guy who is willing to learn about the Lord. Someone who will take care of me, like you did today.
I want someone I can be proud of, not someone I am ashamed of."
Ricky could understand that. It made a lot of sense. He admired Allison for having such high standards. "Were
you ashamed of Eddie?"
"Yes," Allison admitted. "He was rude and insulting all the time. He had no respect for his elders. He was
mean to some of the old folks around her."
"Then why’d you hang around with him?"
Allison thought a moment about that question. "Because I was hoping I might be able to change him, make him
a better person."
"But only he can do that, Allison," Ricky lamented. "He has to want to change before change can take place."
Allison found a place in the flowers and she fell onto her back, gazing up at the clear blue sky. The fragrance
of the flowers tantalized her senses. She loved this placed. She always had since she’d been old enough to appreciate
the remarkable beauty here. No one had ever been here with her before. It had been like her special hiding place. Now Ricky
knew of its existence. It was no longer just her special place in the universe. It was now Ricky’s too.
He followed pursuit and chose a spot not far from where Allison was .
"I know what you’re saying, Ricky. But I was hoping I could influence him somehow, show him the way."
Allison’s voice sounded kind of wispy, a little dreamy.
Ricky nearly scoffed at her, but quickly stopped himself before he did. "But some people need a lot more
than influence. Sometimes they need a hammer to hit them over the head."
Allison chuckled. "I thought about that once," she said jokingly. "I won’t give up trying to win him
over to the Lord, Ricky," Allison admitted. "I’m afraid that one day he’s going to do something really stupid
that will land him in a lot of trouble."
"Maybe that’s what he needs," Ricky added on a sour note.
Ricky thought that Allison had a long road ahead of her. He felt it was a hopeless case, but he wasn’t
about to share his opinions about that. He was sure Allison wouldn’t want them any way. "Allison?"
"How do you pray?"
Allison rolled over onto her belly, looking sideways at Ricky, smiling generously in his directions. "Silly.
You just close your eyes and you start talking to God."
"About what?" Ricky asked.
"Anything you want," Allison informed him.
"Will he listen?"
"It may take awhile for him to answer, but he always listens."
"Do you think he’ll take care of my dad, if I ask him to?"
Allison sat up, raising her knees to her chest and wrapping her arms around them. She rested her chin in
the crevice between both knees. Her eyes took on a distant look. She thought about Ricky and what he must be going through.
"Of course he will Ricky. And I’ll pray for you."
Ricky was confused. He just laid there staring at the cloudless blue sky. It was peaceful here and he liked
it. He was glad that Allison had brought him here. It smelled nice to. He liked all the different flowers. They were sweet
and luscious. They reminded him a lot of Callie. "Why do you want to pray for me Allison?"
"Because your my friend and I care about you."
"Thanks for bringing me here, Allison."
"I didn’t exactly bring you here. We just happened upon this place. But its my favorite place in the
"I can understand why."
Allison rolled back over onto her stomach, content for the time being to lay there in peace. "I feel like
I’m closest to God when I’m here," she said at last, a heaviness in her voice. "I think he listens best to my
prayers when I come to visit this place."
"Can I come here sometimes when I need to pray?"
Allison closed her eyes lazily. "I think God would like that."
"Good." Ricky closed his eyes to, and slowly he began to drift of to sleep.
Callie stepped out of the shower to the smell of something delicious. The aroma of garlic filled the small
space of her room. Her mouth began to water. She didn’t know what Stan Owens was cooking, but she was sure to be pleased
whatever it was.
Callie rummaged through her closet to pick something out to wear to dinner. She didn’t know why she
was having such a difficult time deciding. It wasn’t as if she had much to chose from. She’d only been able to
bring two suitcases with her and that hadn’t allowed for to many selections of clothes.
At least she had her hair dryer and make up. She was thankful for that. Not that she was vain in any way.
But tonight, she wanted to look good for Rus. She had finally confessed her love for him, though, it really hadn’t been
in the manner she would have preferred. But at least, if anything were to happen to her, she would not carry that secret with
her to the grave.
Actually, Callie had been relieved to tell Rus how she felt. She had known for awhile how he felt about her,
but she’d been afraid to tell him how she felt. Now he knew and a load had been taken off her shoulders. She was ready
to proceed with their relationship. Even if there were a dozen or more men in the house watching over them. Well there was
nothing like being well chaperoned.
Callie donned her navy blue pant suit with a sleeveless top and shiny gold buttons. She dried her hair until
it shined with golden highlights. She applied her make up until her whole face shimmered with the effort.
Comfortable with her appearance at last, Callie stepped out into the hall and headed toward the stairs leading
to the kitchen area. She was caught off guard first by the darkness, then the silence. Usually at this time of night, there
were a dozen men hanging out downstairs waiting for dinner to be served so that they could quench their hungry appetites.
But where were they tonight? Why weren’t they laughing and horsing around?
As Callie took the last step, a calming darkness enfolded her. The room was still and from where she stood,
she could see the flicker of candlelight as it danced across the walls.
She approached quietly, hesitantly. Rus was not aware of her sudden appearance. He stood in the center of
the kitchen draped in a white chef’s apron and the traditional chef’s hat. The apron was quite messy with spots
of red tomato paste smeared across it. The hat sat crooked on his head but Rus looked adorable. Callie snickered causing Rus
to turn and look at her.
There was a flash of amusement in the depths of her eyes.
For the first time she noticed how elegant the room was. The table was set with fine china and only place
settings for two. They were dining alone. For some reason, that gave her a special thrill.
Rus was breathless at the site of Callie standing in the semi-darkness and the glow of the candlelight shining
in her eyes and her hair. The suit she had chosen looked incredible on her and he had the desire to sweep her in his arms
and whirl her around.
Instead, he said, "Welcome to my diner, madam" and he gave a bow from the waist down. He pulled out a chair
and politely ushered Callie into it. He poured her a fresh glass of ice cold tea, and then poured one for himself. "I forgot
to tell you we were dining alone," Rus mentioned briefly.
"It seems you keep forgetting to tell me a lot of things, lately," Callie remarked teasingly. "I hope this
isn’t going to become a habit of yours."
"I’ll try not to let it be," he said, winking playfully.
In the center of the table was a fresh cut of long-stemmed yellow roses. Their fragrance filled the room.
For a moment the flowers reminded Callie of her garden back home. She hoped that someone was keeping it up for her. In the
Florida heat, it wouldn’t take much to kill them. Then she asked Rus, "Where’d the flowers come from?"
"I sent one of the men out to get them this afternoon?" Rus explained, bringing a bowl of salad and placing
it near Callie.
"Isn’t that dangerous?" Callie was curious to know.
"It could have been. It was an impulsive and stupid idea," Rus admitted, "but I had to have flowers for tonight."
Rus now centered a heaping bowl of lasagna next to the salad, followed by a platter of seasoned garlic bread.
Everything looked delicious, smelled wonderful and impressed the heck out of Callie.
Rus helped serve her plate, piling a little bit of everything on her dish. Her eyes opened wide in astonishment.
"I will never be able to eat all of this, Rus Lane."
"Quit your complaining, woman, and eat."
He removed the apron and hat then took a seat beside Callie. He was freshly shaven, his hair styled neatly
around his face. He wore a nice dress shirt and slacks. He looked like the devil himself all made up. In the light of the
candles, the aura gave him the effect of rogue, handsome, mysterious, even cunning.
Callie obeyed Rus’s command and began to eat after saying grace. It was hard to eat knowing that Rus
was watching her every move. His eyes roved over her, taking in her appearance. It was clear in his gaze that he approved
of her appearance.
After an awkward silence Callie asked, "Did you teach Ricky how to make lasagna?"
After she’d said that, she wished she hadn’t. Now she missed Ricky more than ever. And Colby.
And she could tell that mentioning Ricky had brought on a look of despair in Rus’s face that even the candlelight could
"I’m sorry, Rus. I wasn’t thinking?"
Callie felt like a heel. Rus had gone through so much trouble and she was threatening to ruin it with her
Rus continued to eat as if she hadn’t said anything. "Do you miss him?" Callie wanted to know.
He stopped eating then, placing his fork gently on the table and then casting his face up to Callie’s.
"Yes, I miss him intensely. I wonder every minute of every day what he’s doing? How’s he getting along? Is he
staying out of trouble? What if he needs me and I’m not there?"
"Can you call him?"
"No," Rus said. "It’s too risky. The number could be traced then we’d have to pack up and go
some where else."
"Oh." That didn’t sound good to Callie. She didn’t want to have to pack up and move out again
in the middle of the night. She was growing to like this place. Just a little any way.
Rus scooted his chair back and moved around the table with an agility that was of particular interest to
Callie. Her eyes followed him around the room. He bent over a stereo set, setting the music to a slow, romantic tune.
When Rus stood beside Callie, he held out his hand. "Care to dance, My Love."
She smiled up at him, placed her hand in his, and allowed him to lift her into his arms. He held her gently
against him. The rhythm was slow and had a amiable affect on Callie’s senses. She smelled his musky cologne and the
hint of garlic. This was the most romantic evening she had ever shared with a man before.
Her husband had never done anything like this. Not in all the years they had been married. She now realized
how much she had truly missed. Her husband had never made her feel this way. Cherished. Treasured. Loved. It was an awesome
feeling. She wanted to savor the moment. She wanted it to go on for ever. To never end.
She wrapped her arms a little tighter around Rus’s neck. "I love you, Rus Lane."
"I love you, to," he whispered in her ear.
"Mmm," he said lazily.
"Don’t ever leave me."
He squeezed her midriff with the pressure of his palm. "Never."
The dance seemed to linger on for hours as the two of them drifted together even after the music had ended.