What ever was taking place in the universe; Ben didn't show. If Tess and Clora were concerned, they made no mention and after supper and a session of polite talking, Breezy retired for the night.
Gary and Donny were out on guard duty when they smelled cigarette smoke and in hushed whispers finally pinpointed the source. Gary was grinning evilly in the dark; anxious to exercise a little meanness out of his system.
"Stay here," Gary whispered in Donny's ear, "I'm going around behind our visitors and do a little reconnoitering. I've got an itchy trigger finger that needs scratched."
As close as he was to the young man, Gary could feel Donny's head move up and down in agreement. A quiet pat on the shoulder and the older man was gone.
Donny hunkered down, listening in the black as coal tar night, for where Gary might be. The crickets slowed and then stopped chirping several times, but always re-started in their noisy advertising for a mate.
It wasn't hard to keep track of the men Gary was stalking, they were oblivious to the need to be silent. The one voice whined more than a little girl with a torn dress. The other voice continually tried to shush the bellyaching, until there was a loud popping noise and a muted gurgle.
"I said shut up, I've listened to you all I'm gonna, now die you lilly livered SOB."
There was a thrashing sound in the grass and bushes, and then the darkness went silent.
"That ought to show you where the cow et the cabbage," the disembodied voice said fiercely, as there was another quieter popping noise. There was no more talking, and Donny settled back to wait.
It was difficult to gauge time in the darkness, but Donny felt it must have been at least an hour, before there was a soft whistle sound that said Gary was near.
"Two men, they had been there a long spell, both dead; we'll check them out in the daylight." Gary whispered to his fellow guardsman.
Donny couldn't help the shiver that ran up and down his back. Actually. he felt awful inadequate to the job. Gary was many leagues above him, on par with Mark.
Donny was thinking that he actually enjoyed life more, when they were stuck in the 1800's. He didn't think like a killing machine, at least he didn't think like Gary. Mark and Gary simply eliminated problems, not asking any questions, just removing the source before they reached the family. It was done quietly and efficiently without talk or bragging.
Donny could feel the bile rising in his throat, and it caused him to cough a little. He leaned over and spit the acid from his mouth.
"Better to spit it out, it'll burn your esophagus if you try to re-swallow," Gary's voice was low and slightly amused.
Donny decided right then and there that he didn't like Gary at all.
The funny part of the situtation was that Gary knew what the younger man was feeling and he didn't care. Warrior's have to do deeds that make people gag, in order to keep the people detesting them safe.
The estimable Mz Breezy escaped the retreat as soon as decently possible the next morning and went back to hibernate and sulk in her law office in the corner of her living room.
Her law assistant seemed somewhat surprised to see her, but covered his shock nicely. Several times he tried to maneuver himself into observing what combination Breezy used to open the old safe squatting in all it's hulking glory in the corner.
He had already tried all his safecracking methods on the two ton monster, and nothing worked.
Her assistant more than mildly irritated Breezy with his furtive nosiness, and she abruptly sent him home for the day. Loathe to go. the man had to act pleased for the time off, eventually leaving his highly unsettled and perturbed boss to her own prickly attitude.
Breezy locked the door behind the retreating man and kicked the rug in a fit of anger, when she turned and it got twisted between her feet.
Stomping into the kitchen, Breezy yanked open the refrigerator door and stared into the pristine emptiness. Slamming the door, she stomped back to her desk and opened the drawer that contained several menus from local deli's and settled back into her chair and dialed the phone.
It was very unsatisfactory food when it was finally delivered, tasting nothing like the simple food she had eaten at that strange place. And that infernal man, the one that had to be the most irritating lout to ever walk the face of the earth, HE had to be the cause of her discomfort.
Breezy was a self made woman, she owned her own piece of the pie and had no intention of ever sharing her slice of the good life.
But still, the lout had the most gorgeous eyes that crinkled when he smiled. He didn't smile much and that made the smile he did smile, all that more the interesting.
Breezy felt like slapping herself for mooning around like a silly schoolgirl. So for the next two months, she was moody, short and irritable beyond belief to everyone around her.
The law assistant was the same, as he searched for his two stooges that bungled the carefully planned robbery. He intended to dispose of them as they couldn't even follow simple directions.
It was a good three months before Clora got the fleeting notion that Ben was coming. He was walking in from somewhere, old and slow but still afire with hatred for Mark and now, Clora could feel Ben had turned his anger against her.
"Ma," Tess questioned Clora, "Are you getting the same information I am?"
"Yes, unfortunately," Clora had a deep sigh, as she picked at the pocket in her skirt in an unusual nervous habit. "It's not good, won't end well, and there doesn't seem to be any way to stop the train wreck. If there was, I would do anything possible to derail it."
"You know he's going to try to kill both you and Dad." Tess had to look out the window as she fought to contain the dread she was feeling.
"Yes, Dad is aware and putting together a plan. Right now, he is occupied with getting Bruce to his new job, but he has our safety in mind, all the time."
"When is the old goat leaving? I volunteer to help him pack." Tess gave a dry chuckle, as she turned to fill her coffee cup.
"Get in line behind Milo. He and Honey are going to drive Bruce down into Georgia and 'dump him out' when they get close to the clinic that has hired him." Clora sighed again. " He procrastinated as long as possible, almost refusing to honor his acceptance; but I assured him that he would do well. It's time that Bruce stood on his own two feet."
"Yes, it certainly is," Tess strongly emphasized, "The boys don't care for him and his spooky way of skulking around. He scares them."
"Bruce left a couple of hours ago, and I feel relief like hasn't happened in a long time. Say, if you see Gary, would you tell him I need a moment of his time, I have an errand I need him to do." Clora smiled hard at the ceiling, hoping to get her amusement under control.
"Ma, that's scandalous," Tess laughed aloud as she walked down the hall toward the playroom. "Perfectly devious."
"Well, I do try," Clora laughed herself.
Tilly smiled and shook her head, there was never a dull time in this household. She and Big were so lucky to have fallen into this job, it was easy work and the people were non-demanding; especially now that the weird old doctor had left.
Tilly had taken it upon herself to be especially vigilant when Bruce was around the triplets, she and Big didn't trust the old duffer, doctor or not, she didn't care for him one bit. Now that he was gone, Tilly was busy crafting a huge carrot cake as a celebration dessert, not that she was going to call it that.
The only one out of step, was Donny. He was out of sorts, unsure of his future and to bolster his spirits, he and Gary were going to attend a rodeo Saturday night. Maybe that would improve his attitude. He hoped so.