Callie awoke with a startled cry. She gasped for air. Her heart beat frantically in her chest. She sat there
for a moment listening. Nothing but silence tormented her. She must have been dreaming. She couldn’t remember what she
had been dreaming though. But something had caused her to awaken.
What was it?
Had Joe Hines caught up with her at last? She didn’t know what to do. Call out for help? Lay there
helplessly and wait for the attack? Go out into the hall and see if anyone was there? If Rus was there, she’d know what
to do. She’d feel safe with him around.
But he wasn’t there. She had to rely on these strangers for protection. They were all sleeping. Did
they hear anything? Were they searching the premises? Would they come in any minute and tell her everything was fine? She
didn’t think so.
Callie lay there in the dark, silence all around her, and tried to sleep. But sleep wouldn’t come.
She became restless, shaken and nervous. She took out her Bible and began to read in the book of Psalm. In the past she had
always found comfort in reading from the scriptures when she’d been afraid, or worried, or even doubtful about the direction
she had taken in her life. The book of Psalms had lent her strength during her son’s illness. She knew it would give
her courage at a time like this.
"But when I am afraid, I will put my confidence in you. Yes, I will trust the promises of God. And since
I am trusting him, what can mere man to do me?" Psalm 56:3,4
"I am trusting God-oh, praise his promises. I am not afraid of anything mere man can do to me! Yes, praise
his promises. Psalm 56: 10, 11
She felt the tension gradually leaving her body. She was giving the night over to the Lord. Her restless
spirit was calming. She was finding peace within herself. When she was through reading, she set her Bible aside and began
Dear Lord, I was afraid. But I read of your promises and I am no longer worried or anxious. I feel safe
in your presence. I know that you are watching over me, that you will send your angels to protect me. If tonight is the night
that I will be found, please give me the strength I need to endure whatever punishment will be wrought upon me.
When her prayer was finished, she closed her Bib;e and laid her head back on the pillow. She was no longer
afraid. Within minutes she was falling fast asleep.
Ricky couldn’t sleep. He sat in the middle of the kitchen peering out across the lawn toward Eddie’s
house. A light was on in one of the front rooms. Earlier when Ricky had gone over there to talk to Eddie, he’d heard
a loud argument going on between Eddie and his father.
It had seemed that Eddie’s father had been drinking. His speech had been slurred and he’d stumbled
around a bit, knocking over table and a lamp. Ricky didn’t know what the argument was about. But he’d seen Eddie’s
father raise his hand against the boy. He’d landed a punch to Eddie’s ribs. He had doubled over in pain and that’s
when Ricky had fled.
He’d been so scared he didn’t know what to do. So he ran. Now he felt bad for deserting his friend.
Had he been hurt? Did he need help? Did he need a doctor?
Ricky wondered if the fight was still going on. He wanted to tell his dad, but didn’t know exactly
what to say. He’d go over there first thing in the morning and make sure that Eddie was all right. If not, then he’d
tell his father. He’d know what to do.
Rus sensed something wasn’t right. He’d been sleeping and suddenly he been awakened by a premonition
of some kind. He’d been dreaming of Callie. It had been a pleasant dream. The two of them had gone to dinner at an elegant
restaurant. She had been wearing a long, flowing gown of gold chiffon. Her hair had been swept over her shoulders like a veil
of spun silk.
The two of them had danced together. Rus had held her tenderly to him and just as he had bent to kiss her,
Callie had been snatched from his arms. That’s when he’d awakened.
Rus was left feeling unsettled. He felt a tremor all the way to his feet. He wanted to call the captain.
But he’d be asleep right now. Rus didn’t think he would take too well to being awakened at two in the morning.
He’d have to wait until morning, then he would make the call at that time. Until then, he’d never
get back to sleep. He went down stairs to make a pot of coffee.
First, Callie felt the hand clamp over her mouth. Then a cold, wet cloth went to her nose. Almost instantly
she fell lifeless to the mattress. Joe Hines scooped her up easily enough and carried her from the room.
He hauled her across the desert to an abandoned shack a few miles from the house. He’d been staying
there for a while. He’d been sleeping on the floor in a sleeping bag he’d bought at a sporting good store, along
with a canteen, a lantern and a cooking stove. There hadn’t been any running water or any other luxuries and it had
been hotter than blazes in the small space.
For the past several nights, under the cover of darkness, he’d been staking out the place. It hadn’t
been hard to learn their routine or to discover what room belonged to Callie.
Joe had studied the layout of the house and knew all the entrances leading into it. He’d made estimates
of how many steps there were leading to her room from the front door, from the kitchen, and from the garage. He’d determined
that the easiest route to take was from the kitchen.
And Joe had been right. He’d taken Callie without anyone knowing. He’d snuck in without a sound.
And had left just as quietly. But Callie had made it easy for him. She hadn’t put up a fight. He had subdued her rather
For now Joe would let her sleep. Then he would tie her up and gag her. By morning they would be miles from
here. They would never see Callie Martin or Joe Hines again.
When Rus went to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee, Ricky was sitting there in the darkness. He scratched
his head, shuffled across to the sink and began filling the coffee pot with water and grounds. When the pot was brewing, Rus
took a seat beside his son.
"Something on your mind, Ricky?" Rus asked.
Ricky looked out the window at the light still blazing in the night. Rus couldn’t miss the tell-tale
sign of worry on his son’s face. Ricky bit his lip.
"How do you know when to say something, and when to remain quiet?"
Rus thought about that, then quickly decided he didn’t have enough information to answer adequately.
"What are we talking about here, Ricky. I need facts before I can give you any advice. Otherwise, my advice might do more
harm than good."
Ricky looked back out to the light in the window. Rus could really see the struggle his son was having. His
heart went out to the boy, but he wouldn’t push him. If he learned anything at all from Callie, it was patience. Why
couldn’t Callie be here now? She would know how to deal with Ricky.
But wasn’t he Ricky’s father? Wasn’t Ricky asking him for advice? Isn’t this what
he’d been waiting for almost a year? He wanted to be a real father to Ricky. To show him that he loved him and cared
for him, that he could be trusted in a time of need.
So for now he wouldn’t pressure him. He would put to practice all the things Callie had taught him.
Then when Ricky was ready to come to him, he’d do whatever he had to, to help him out. That’s what kind of a father
Ricky decided he didn’t want to say anything more and abruptly left the kitchen. He darted up the rickety
steps nearly running his grandma down on his way. When Rus’s mother entered the kitchen, Rus poured them both a cup
of coffee, then took a seat across from Hannah.
She looked pale and drained. She was much thinner than he had last remembered She seemed frail and fragile.
He didn’t like seeing her this way at all.
"Anything wrong, Mom?"
"I should be asking you that, Son," Hannah said sternly. "It isn’t like you to get up in the middle
of the night to make coffee."
This was typical of his mother. He tried to put a lid on any nasty comebacks and instead tried to say lightly,
"How would you know that? When’s the last time I was up here to see you?"
"Too long, dear," she scolded. "It takes me having a heart attach to get you to come for a visit."
Rus felt really bad now. What his mother said was the truth. She could see the flash of guilt cross his features.
"I’m sorry, mom. I’ve been busy at work and trying to keep Ricky out of trouble."
She cocked her head to peer over her shoulder. "I saw him heading to bed. What’s wrong with him tonight?"
"I wish I knew," Rus stated somberly. He drank his coffee down almost in one gulp. "He didn’t feel
much like talking."
Hannah looked her son over. She could see all the stress and the worry in his eyes. This created a concern
of her own. When she fretted over something she always wanted to cook. So tonight she got up from the table, went to the refrigerator
and pulled out a pound of bacon.
Rus watched with curiosity. She took a skillet from the lower cabinet and put it on the stove. She turned
on the gas burner and let it start to warm up.
"Mother, what are you doing?"
She scoffed at him. "What does it look like I’m doing? I’m making bacon sandwiches."
"No you are not," Rus scolded firmly. He got up from his chair immediately and moved to where his mother
stood at the kitchen stove. "If anyone is doing any cooking here, it will be me. Is that understood? Now go sit down."
Hannah began to fuss with her son. "I will not be ordered around by my son. I will darn well cook if I want
to. Is that understood? Now you go sit down."
Rus wondered what the harm would be if she did just as she pleased? She was suppose to be resting and getting
her strength back. That wasn’t going to happen if she were going to be doing all this cooking.
"Mother, you are sick. I’m here to help you. Why don’t you let me?"
Hannah was stubborn. She’d been taking care of herself now for many years. She wasn’t going to
give up her independence just because she’d had a heart attach. She wanted to continue to live life to the fullest.
To experience whatever life had to offer. She wasn’t going to let it pass her by.
"Rus, you’re mother is getting old. I’ve lived a whole lot longer than you have. I’ve never
been afraid of living, or of dying. If it is my time to go, then I am ready. But I’m not going to sit back and miss
out on the best years of my life."
Rus contemplated those words. They brought out a certain pessimism in him. Hadn’t he done just that
the past year. Hadn’t he lived a life of solitude and seclusion. Hadn’t he shut off his emotions from feeling,
his heart from loving. He had, until he met Callie Martin.
At the sudden thought of Callie, Rus was seized by remorse. Hannah could see the change in her son immediately.
His eyes were filled with a despondency she had never witnessed before.
When the sandwiches were prepared, Hannah and Rus sat back down at the table. There was a quiet moodiness
that fell between the two of them. They didn’t speak while they began to devour their meal. Hannah watched Rus silently
and mournfully. She could see that troubled glare of his.
Rus could feel his mother’s eyes on him while he ate. He was uncomfortable in her presence. When he
glanced up at her, she leveled her gaze at him. Rus scowled at his mother trying to ward off the attack he knew was coming.
But his mother would not be put off.
"Rus, you look like a drowned rat. Why don’t you tell me what’s going on here? And don’t
tell me it has anything to do with me, because I know that ain’t so."
Rus suddenly wasn’t in the mood to talk. He didn’t feel like baring his soul to his mother. He
picked up their plates and carried them to the sink. He turned on the tap to wash them. His mother was beside him instantly,
shutting off the water and forcing Rus to look at her.
"Something’s wrong, Rus. I know you. You’re avoiding me and you know I don’t like that."
Hannah was spry and witty and too perceptive. Rus never liked that about her. Even as a child, he could never
keep secrets from her.
"I met a woman, mom," Rus revealed. He paced the length of the kitchen, then went back to his seat at the
table. "She’s in a lot of trouble. Someone wants to kill her."
Rus’s mother gasped, just like he thought she would. "I’m in love with her," Rus said at last.
Hannah could detect a wealth of sorrow in that admission. "I asked her to marry me, but she turned me down."
"What was her reasoning behind that," Hannah asked sharply. "Didn’t she love you back?"
"She said she does and I want to believe that."
"But," Hannah prompted her son.
"But I’m so confused," Rus admitted. He raked his fingers through his hair. "I called her a coward
just before I left her. It was the last thing I said to her. I didn’t even tell her good-bye."
Hannah could see the regret etched into his features. His eyes hazed over with a bleakness that made him
look years older.
"Sometimes, son," Hannah said, "we say and do things we regret. But we can’t dwell on those things.
We have to leave them in the past and move forward with the rest of our lives."
Rus knew that to be true. He knew what the bible said about living with regrets. But sometimes it wasn’t
as easy as all that. "What if something happens to her and she doesn’t know how I really feel about her?"
"I’m sure she knows, Rus. You can’t beat yourself up over all of this."
Oh yes I can and I am.
Rus went back to bed feeling no less content with things the way they were than when he’d first gotten
up. So he prayed.
Lord, keep Callie safe. I need to see her one last time to tell her I’m sorry. I said things in
the heat of the moment, things I shouldn’t have said at all. Please forgive me for my actions and bring Callie back
Ricky left his grandmother’s before the sun came up and hid in the bushes outside Eddie’s
home. First his father left in a foul mood after another argument, this time with his wife. Eddie’s mom left about twenty
minutes after his father.
Another fifteen minutes passed and Ricky was just about to step out of from his hiding place when Eddie came
barreling down the steps. He missed the last step, stumbled over his feet, and slid across the dirt. That’s when Ricky
noticed the gun. It had slipped out of Eddie’s hand and landed a few feet away from him.
Ricky scurried from the bushes, trying desperately to reach the gun before his friend could get to it. But
Eddie was there first, snatching it up.
"What are you doing with a gun?" Ricky asked frantically, trying to block Eddie’s path so he couldn’t
leave. "You could hurt somebody."
Eddie was mad and he pushed Ricky out of his way. "I’m going to Old Man Smitty’s. I’m going
to take all his money and get away from this place. I’m sick of it."
Ricky knew Old Man Smitty. He was a little stooped-over man in his seventies. Old Man Smitty’s was
what everyone referred to as the only convenient store in the area. Ricky liked the old man. He couldn’t hear very well,
but he was nice and he treated Ricky like one of his friends.
Eddie disappeared in a blur between the trees. Ricky was frightened. Not only for Old Many Smitty, but for
Eddie to. Eddie didn’t really know what he was doing. He was simply acting on reckless impulse. He could get himself
killed, or somebody else. Like poor old Mr. Smitty.
Ricky had to stop him before it was too late.
Callie woke up and there was Joe Hines staring her in the face. They were in a huge empty warehouse. It was
a dark and hot. She could feel her own sweat running off her body. There were a few cracks in the glass which allowed for
only a small amount of light to pass through.
Her hands and feet were tied together. A rag had been stuffed into her mouth. Callie could see, even in the
eminent darkness, the gun in Joe’s hand. It’s polished silver handle gleamed at her as if in warning.
For the first time in her life, Callie was truly afraid. She hadn’t known what to expect, but looking
right at Joe Hines’s scared the life out of her.
Joe sauntered over to her, realizing she was awake, and removed the gag from her mouth. She could breathe
a lot easier then. She could see an opened bottle of water near her feet, but she couldn’t reach it.
Instead, Joe picked up the bottle and put it to her lips. Callie tilted her head back to drink from it. Water
spewed out all over her, running down her chin and neck and dampening her clothes.
Callie didn’t know how long they had been in that warehouse. She did, however, notice that she was
still in her nightgown. She felt exposed and vulnerable. Especially when Joe Hines leered at her.
"How long have we been here?" Callie asked.
"Not long," Joe replied. "A few hours at the most. We won’t be staying here though," he added. " We
have to keep moving or they’re liable to find us."
"Well you’ll have to shoot me," Callie informed him. "Because I’m not going anywhere with you."
Joe Hine’s laughed deep from his belly. It made Callie stomach coil. She heard the click of the gun
and felt its coldness as it touched her temple. She squinted her eyes closed and prayed.
Lord deliver me from this evil man. Please don’t allow him to hurt me. Lord, if there’s a
way out of this, please show me the way.
"Lady, I don’t think you’re in any condition to be making assumptions here. If I tell you
were leaving, then you will be leaving."
"Then I won’t make it easy for you."
Joe ran his finger over Callie’s check, along her neck, and then he grabbed a handful of hair with
brutal intensity. Callie winced, crying out in pain.
"I believe I can make you change your mind about that pretty quickly," Joe said with a pernicious gleam in
Callie wanted to squirm away from him. She could smell sweat and other body odors emanating from him. Even
his breath smelt bad. She recoiled as nausea claimed her.
She bent over and wretched on Joe’s shoes. She hadn’t meant to and this only made him more riled.
He swore harshly at her, pushing her down onto her back, holding her down with a hand at her throat.
She couldn’t breath. He was closing off her wind pipe. She felt a dizziness coming on. Her world began
to whir around her just before she collapsed, lifeless, to the ground.
Ricky was yelling, the phone was ringing and Rus thought he was about to lose his mind. It was too early
in the morning for all of this. He rolled over in his bed shutting out the noise.
"Dad," Ricky called out, bounding up the stairs with frantic footsteps. "Dad," he exclaimed again as he stepped
inside his father’s room.
Immediately Ricky was pulling off Rus’s covers and tugging him out of bed. He was throwing clothes
at him and he was having to dodge them.
"Come on dad, you have to hurry."
"Ricky," Rus said irritably. "Do you mind telling me what is going on?"
Ricky was rummaging in the chest of drawers trying to find a clean pair of socks. He threw a pair of tennis
shoes at his father’s feet.
"We have to get over to Old Man Smitty’s."
Rus was getting dressed as quickly as his body would allow him. He needed coffee. He could never function
to full capacity before he had at least three cups.
"What’s going on at Old Man Smitty’s?" Rus asked with interest.
Rus barely had time to pull on his shoes before he was being led down the stairs and out to his car. He hadn’t
had this much excitement in his life in a long time.
Rus put the key in the ignition, but before he started the engine, he turned to his son with a stern look
on his face.
"Do you mind telling me what we are doing here, Ricky?"
Ricky looked away for a moment, then turned back to his father. "It’s Eddie," he confessed at last.
"He’s gotta gun and he’s going to rob Old Man Smitty."
Stunned beyond belief, Rus let out a harsh array of words. "Why in Heaven’s name is he going to do
"Dad, we don’t have much time. Please start the car and let’s go. I’ll tell you on the
As they sped away from the house, Ricky began to fill Rus in about the night before. About the beating and
the yelling. He gave him all the details about what happened earlier in the morning and about everything Eddie had said.
Rus listened avidly. He was proud of his son. He was proving to be more of a man every day. Rus had once
considered him a lost soul. He couldn’t say that about him any more. He was turning out to be incredible human being.
The two of them drove as fast as they could, hoping to beat Eddie there. When the car rolled up to the front
door, it was apparent that Eddie hadn’t made it there yet. Maybe he was wandering around aimlessly, building up courage
to do what he had to do. Or maybe he was trying to talk himself out of it. Rus wasn’t sure, but he was glad he got here
Rus went inside the store and talked to Old Man Smitty. He worked his way into the conversation, not immediately
dropping the bombshell on him. After all he didn’t want to give the old man a heart attack.
Old Man Smitty was quite chipper for such an early hour of the morning. Rus presumed he was always like that.
It wouldn’t surprise him one bit.
After their conversation was done, Rus went back out to the car with Ricky and the two of them waited for
Eddie. Even though it was still early, it was hot. Rus was beginning to get restless and annoyed. That was one thing he always
hated about surveillance, sitting for long periods of time. He wasn’t cut out for that.
At last Ricky spotted Eddie coming up the edge of the road. He was kicking dirt up as he went. As soon as
Rus saw him, he was getting out of the car. Ricky followed behind.
Rus held out his hand toward Ricky and ordered, "No Ricky, get back in the car and stay there."
Ricky grumbled under his breath but got back in the car. Eddie looked at him over his father’s shoulders.
"Son," Rus started to speak. "Do you want to tell me what’s going on?"
Eddie snickered and gave Rus the brush off. "I’m hardly your son," he admitted, trying to step around
Rus. "And it ain’t any of your business what I’m doing here."
Rus took a sideways step and blocked Eddie’s path. He was much bigger than the kid and his size intimidated
him a bit. "Ricky tells me you have a gun. Is that true?"
Eddie didn’t say anything. He glanced down at his feet in shame.
"You don’t really want to use that thing, do you?" Rus asked.
When Eddie didn’t say anything, Rus started to speak again. "What will you gain by hurting someone
with that weapon?"
"I don’t plan to hurt anyone. I just need to get some money is all," Eddie explained.
Rus pulled out his wallet. "How much money do you need? I’ll give you whatever it is you want."
Eddie’s eyes lit up. Then he realized it was just a ploy. "You wouldn’t give me any money," he
"I would if it was for a good cause," Rus said, eyeing Eddie. "So why don’t you tell me what you need
the money for."
Rus had already seen the number of bruises on the boys body. Rus had done his best not to turn away even
though the impulse had been there. He couldn’t imagine ever laying a hand Ricky. And he couldn’t imagine someone
else doing it to their own kid. But it happened all the time. Even in a small community like this.
It was sad. Disheartening. Rus wanted to throttle the man responsible.
When it was apparent that Eddie wasn’t speaking, Rus put his arm around the boy’s shoulders.
At first he wanted to pull away, to avoid the mere contact. But Rus held him firmly.
"Why don’t you give the gun over to me. Then you and me and Ricky will drive over to Albertsville and
spend the day."
Eddie seemed as though he might rather enjoy the adventure. He wasn’t giving in though. There was still
that small amount of trepidation.
"Ricky could use a friend like you," Rus was saying. He needed to instill confidence in this boy. He could
size him up see what his problems were. The boy felt alone in the world. He felt worthless and abandoned., not only by his
parents, but by a whole community. He needed to feel as if he could contribute to society in some small way.
"You would let Ricky hang out with someone like me?" Eddie asked doubtfully. "Why would you do a thing like
that? That’s stupid man."
Rus lifted a shoulder casually. "Tell me what’s so stupid about it."
"I’m no good. Can’t you see that? Everyone else does."
Rus lowered his eyes and inspected Eddie from head to toe. "I can’t see anything wrong with you. You
don’t have horns growing out of your head, and your shoes are both on the right feet."
Eddie was waiting for a sign that Rus was going to start laughing at him, or mocking in some horrible way.
But he didn’t. His weariness started to slip. Rus caught onto it immediately.
"Have you ever been to Florida?" Rus inquired with a huge smile.
Eddie shrugged noncommittally. "No. My folks aint that rich, as you can see. We don’t get out much."
"Well how about I pay your way there and you can come stay with Ricky and me for a few weeks. Would you like
Again Eddie shrugged as it the answer didn’t really matter to him, but Rus could tell that, deep inside,
it really did.
"I don’t think my old man will let me."
Rus smiled slyly, tapping the kid across the chin. "Oh I think when I get through with your father, he’ll
be a changed man."
Eddie seemed alarmed now. "What are you going to say to him? Please don’t make him mad again. I don’t
want him to hit me anymore."
"Son," Rus said at last, "I don’t think that your father will be hitting you anymore, after today."
There was a long silence. It was broken when Rus added, "I want you to tell me anytime you have a problem with your dad, you
hear me? You don’t deserve to be hit and I will do what ever it takes to make sure that doesn’t happen."
Eddie finally caved in. He hugged Rus so hard he thought his lungs might collapse if he didn’t stop
soon. He hugged him back with an equal force. When Rus pulled away, Eddie took out the gun and handed it over to the older
"It didn’t have any bullets in it," Eddie revealed. "I took them out before I left the house."
Rus inspected the gun and, satisfied that it was empty, he shoved it in the waist band of his jeans, then
the two of them headed toward the truck.
"So what are you going to do with the gun?" Eddie asked.
"When I get back to Florida, I’m taking it to the office and I’m going to melt it down into scrap
Rus opened his door and was about to get inside when Eddie spoke.
Rus smiled. "You’re welcome, Kid."