Someone challenged me to write from Christy’s point of view and I have always wanted to know what happened at that honkey tonk. So…..

Christy, after getting off the phone with Mckenna….

Christy, shoved her phone back in the top right pocket of her cargo pants. Her phone always went in the top right pocket. Her sisters teased her about her love of pockets and boxes and cubby holes and closet organizers, but if they ever needed to know where something was she was the go to sister.

Everything in its place and a place for everything. She sang the rhyme in her head and patted all her pockets. Then, taking a final breath of clean mountain air, she whispered a quick prayer to whatever God or Goddess out there that could help them…. like … A God of Chaos maybe? That sounded familiar. She reached into her top left pocket and pulled out her pencil and tiny spiral notepad. Flipping it open, she jotted down “God of Chaos” to look up when she got home. And she was looking down and walking forward, something Lena was always telling her was dangerous.

Lena was right.

A lumpy brick came out of nowhere, slammed her in the face,  and blew her brain out of the back of her head. No, that only that couldn’t be right.  If her bain was laying in the parking lot, she wouldn’t feel like her head was exploding – over and over again. Like when you stub your pinky toe times a gazillion. It blinded her, pounding against her skull, but since you didn’t need to see to fall on your butt in the dirt, that didn’t matter so much.

Mckenna said pain was temporary. No matter how bad, it will pass. Christy sat in the gravely, dusty, red dirt, held her blinded, exploding head, and waited for the throbbing to stop. Her hearing was still working though, and she was picking up some cursing that would make even Lena sit up and take notice and scuffling and gravel crunching. Her open mouth tasted the heat of gravel dust. She closed it.

The cursing scuffling and gravel crunching stopped. She blinked the white away and saw shoes. Big black shoes right in front of her, then worn denim and a faded flannel shirt. And then a face was in front of her. A hard male face with serious eyes, but the mountain drawl was low and friendly, “Well, hey there, Tink.”

Tink? Who was Tink?

She must have asked the question out loud because the man answered, “You are.”

“I’m Christy.”

“Uh-huh,” Gentle fingers probed her jaw, clear gray eyes studied her face, “You look more like a Tinkerbell to me.”

“Tinkerbell?”

“The pixie from Peter Pan.”

“I’m not a pixie.”

“You sure about that?” The fingers moved along her jaw.

Christy was sure this was a strange conversation to have in a parking lot, “Yes, and there’s no such thing.”

“My grandma says different.”

Oh. She knew all about Grandmas and their funny ideas. Granny Rose had lots of them. She didn’t want to call his grandma a liar, “Well, I’m not one.”

“Hmmm, if you say so,” The hand left her jaw  “It’s not broken, but that jack-ass plowed you. We need to get ice on it.”

She blinked at him some more. She felt kind of stupid. Probably from getting plowed. Lena would sure call her stupid if she found out she’d been walking and writing in her notepad…. Oh no… she searched the dirt, “I dropped my notepad.”

“Yeah, here it is.” He picked it up.

“My pencil….”

“Shit.” The serious eyes landed on her right hand.

That was when she noticed the pain. She looked down to see the pencil jammed into her palm, “Uh-oh.”

“Yeah,” He pulled the point out where it had dug under the skin, “It’s not too bad, but let’s get that cleaned up. Hold on.”

“Huh?”  And she was out of the dirt and in the air.  The man plucked her up off the ground and walked towards the bar.

“Tink, where the hell are your shoes?”

Christy looked down to see her shoes on her feet and boy were they dirty, “Um, on my feet?”

“No. They’re flip-flops and it’s October.”

Oh. Sometimes she forgot other people didn’t wear flip-flops when it got cold, “Um…I don’t like shoes.”

“You don’t?”

“No.”

“Not a pixie. You sticking with that story?”

“Yes.”  She saw two men lying on the ground, “What happened?”

“Nothin’ you need to worry about.”

Christy hated answers that weren’t answers. Adults did that all the time. How did he know she shouldn’t worry about it.  She was going to ask, but then they were inside the bar and the noise and the smell just made her want to duck her head and put her hands over her ears. So she did.

So far the God of Chaos wasn’t helping them at all. “Stupid God. I’ll find us a Goddess.” She whispered it low, but her mouth was right at the man’s ear. He responded with a chipper, “A Goddess sounds better to me.”

She was plopped down on the bar beside the sink.

The bartender came up to them. He was a big man, not as big as Gavin, but still big with curly brown hair all over his head. Christy thought he had a nice face, kind of round and fluffy. She looked down and saw he was kind of fluffy all over, not fat, more like chunky.  He peered at her from under bushy eyebrows, “Sam, what the hell happened?”

“The girl got punched by some guy drunk off his ass.”

“Where is he?”  The man’s face wasn’t nice anymore.

“Outside. Unconscious.”

“Good. I’ll get her an icepack for that jaw.” He gave them a gruff nod and disappeared through a swinging door.

“Not too bad.” Sam lifted her hand, turning on the tap, “We’ll get it clean and bandaged. This may sting.”

He held her hand under the water. Christy bit her lip. It did sting so she focused on Sam.

She liked that name. It was simple and friendly. Sam didn’t look very friendly.  He looked kind of dangerous. Almost as tall as the bartender, he wasn’t at all fluffy. She’d felt muscles bulging under the flannel shirt when he’d picked her up, but he had a nice voice, rumbly and comfy like an old sweater. And he was gentle as cleaned the dirt from her palm, patted it dry, and applied dressing with a practiced hand.

“You’ve done this before.”

He shrugged and grinned at her.

Oh now he looked friendly.

“I’ve got four brothers. Around here it’s best to know some basic first aid. Only a couple of local doctors and the closest hospital is forty five minutes away.”

“Oh.”

“You know, you look a little young for this place.” He tilted his head at her. Mckenna did that when she was thinking.

Thinking wasn’t good, “Oh, um I’m with my sister.” She pointed to the dance floor with her good hand. You could just make out Allie’s blond hair and flashes of her silver camisole sparkling through the hazy, smoky, yucky air. She was surrounded by big hairy men and skinny hairy men and short, fat hairy men.

“You’re with her?” Sam peered into the smoky gloom.

“Yep.”

“She’s about to start a riot in here.”

Hopefully. “You think so?”

“Yeah, we can’t figure out if she’s doing it on purpose ….” Sam’s pale gray eyes narrowed.

Now, he was thinking hard.

Uh-oh. “I don’t think so. Allie wouldn’t do that.” She wracked her brain for a distraction and blurted out the first thing that popped in her head, “Why are they all so hairy?”

Sam jerked around, “What?”

Huh, it worked. “All the men in here” She waved her hand around, “They’re so hairy.”

Sam stared at for a second and burst out laughing. Oh, now he looked really nice. Christy bet he had a dog and not a full breed either. He probably rescued a dog from a shelter or maybe found one in a dumpster and took it home and named him Lucky.

“You know,” He rubbed his chin, “I’ve asked myself that a time or two.”

“You’re not hairy.”

“No, I had to cut my hair for Uncle Sam.”

Uncle Sam?” Double Uh-oh.

“Yeah, I work for him.” He winked at her, “Being we have the same name and all.”

“Oh.” Warning warning!! Extreme danger!!

No wonder he looked dangerous. Had Gavin ever talked about a Sam? She couldn’t remember. Christy was about to go grab Allie and high-tail it. But with a shout of, “SHIT!” Sam grabbed her.

The next thing she knew she was flat on her back on the dirty floor, Sam on top of her while over their heads something crashed into the mirror behind the bar, then tumbled down to the floor beside them, “What’s that?”

“The first strike.” Sam jumped to his feet, “Stay down.”

Twisting her head, she saw it was a chair, or it used to be. Now it was heap of messed up stuff. Stay down. That sounded like a good idea, “Okay.”

Sam jumped up, placed one hand on the bar and launched his entire body over it, legs and all. That was impressive. Lena could do that, but she said the bigger you were the harder it was to do and Sam was big.

On the other side of the bar it sounded like the whole entire palce was crashing to the ground. Deciding that if she stayed on her knees she was more or less down, she crawled over to the edge of the bar and peeked over. “Holy Baloney and Macaroni.” Bar fight didn’t come close. Men were slugging each other. Chairs were thrown around. Tables were thrown around. People were thrown around.  Even the women were in on it. Screaming and pulling hair and beating on men’s backs.

That was stupid. Lena always said if you have to hit somebody, hit them where it counts.  Oooh one of the women got smart and one of the big hairy men fell down clutching his stuff.

Up on the stage the band had stopped playing, the members pressing themselves to the wall and making for the exit. The guitar player had his guitar lifted over his head. Christy supposed he wanted to protect it. Oh, that didn’t work. A chair crashed into it. Then a whole big body flew into it and the guitar player.

She couldn’t find Allie or Sam and had to give up searching when a whole table came flying at her. “Crap!” She ducked down and the table flew over her head, hit the shattered glass behind her, and clattered to the floor alongside the chair.

Was there a word for ‘Free for all bar brawl’? She bet if she googled it…. She reached into her pocket, but remembered her pencil broke, “Darn.”

Crawling over to the cash register, she got on her knees again, but the cash register was higher than the bar and she couldn’t see. Raising her arm she felt around for a pencil or even a pen. She didn’t like pens because you couldn’t erase them and they didn’t feel as good in her hand, but she could make do. The blind hand searching wasn’t working. She was halfway to her feet when something big, heavy, lumpy, and stinky knocked her over and landed on top of her and darn it, she was on the dirty floor again.

“HEY!” Shouting, she tried to move the lumpy…. man. A big, hairy, unconcious man who stunk like… well she didn’t know. She’d never smelled anything like it, but it was rank and she couldn’t get her breath. “Hey, wake up!” She tried to yell but she didn’t have any air.

“Shit! Goddammit!”

The weight was gone. She saw gray eyes and she was lifted again. “We need to get you out of…shit…”  Sam ducked and spun as something else flew by them. It crashed into the shelf of liquor bottles and all of it fell into the sink. The guitar – or what was left of lay in the sink in two pieces held together by the strings. “Oh, that’s too bad.” It wasn’t the guitar’s fault the guy couldn’t play it worth a darn and now it had a broken neck.

Sam carried her through the swinging door to a small kitchen.  Allie was already there. She stood in her sparkly camisole and little silver sweater, staring down at her sparkly high heels while some big man with grizzly gray hair shouted at her.

“…. and I don’t know what you think you were doing Little Lady, but you’re going to end up costing me a hell of a lot of money.”

Christy was about to leap out of Sam’s arms and punch the man where it would count, but Allie raised her head, “I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking.” The words were thick with unshed tears. And Christy began to see that maybe their brilliant plan wasn’t so brilliant after all. Neither one of them had taken into account the destruction it would cause.

“Now, don’t go cryin’” The grizzly man muttered, “It won’t be too bad. I’ll take it out of Ben’s hide. He’s got the money to cover it. It’s his crazy people out there making the most trouble.”

He grabbed an old fashioned phone off the wall. It had a cord and everything. “Sherriff, it’s Ref. Get down here. Bring the truck. The place is blowing-up.” He slammed the phone down and turned his fuzzy head Allie’s way.

“You girls stay here. Sam will get you out once we’ve got things under control and I don’t want to see you back here. You’re too sweet and too pretty and the both of you are too damn young.”

“Yes sir.” Allie looked down, chastened.

The man grunted, grabbed a genuine double barreled shot gun, and headed back out to the bar.

That was when Allie got a good look at her and Christy thought she must look pretty bad, “Oh Dear Goddess! Christy!” Allie floated across the small space. She always seemed to float. Christy could never figure out how she did that.

“What happened?” Her sister’s dainty hands cupped her face.

Lots of stuff.

“She walked between two drunks swinging at each other.” Sam said, bringing an icepack that the bartender must have left behind when the bar blew up, “Guy was huge. She’s lucky it was a glancing blow.”

Didn’t feel lucky to her, “The God of Chaos is a poot-head.”

“Of course he is, sweetie.” Allie agreed, taking the ice-pack from Sam and applying it to her jaw.

Allie’s lips kept moving, but Christy couldn’t hear her because right then a shotgun blast blew her ear- drums out.

#

 “Damn, he’s carting away twenty men.”

“That’s got to be some kind of record.”

“What the hell happened?”

Christy sat on the barrel outside the bar, hid behind her ice pack, and tried to listen to the people around her without looking like she was listening, jealous of Allie’s long wool coat. Christy only brought her denim jacket and it was lined but she was still shivering.  Allie hated to be cold so her coat was long and thick with a hood she had pulled up. You could barely see her tucked deep inside it, pacing the parking lot while she updated Lena in the guise of a silly mall-rat telling her equally silly B.F.F. all about the bar fight and the men who got arrested, complete with girlie squeals and Oh my Gods.

Allie didn’t need to be so dramatic, but it got on Lena’s nerves. Christy thought Allie might be passive/aggressive.  She dropped her ice pack, reached in her top left pocket and pulled out her pad, but, darn it, she still didn’t have her pencil. She wondered if Allie had a pen. She really wanted to write down passive/aggressive and Big Bar Brawl.  She looked down at her spiral pad and flipped the page open. She would write it under God of Chaos. She focused on the empty lines and tried to imagine writing it down. No, that didn’t work.

She used her finger and scratched the words in. They were there. She couldn’t see them but they were there. She’d done this before. The impressions were almost as good as a pencil. Oh, she really wanted a pencil.

“Here you go.” Her pencil appeared under her nose. Sharpened to a perfect fine point. She grabbed it from Sam. The wood was smooth in her hand. Under God of Chaos she wrote the words Big Bar brawl and under that she wrote passive/aggressive. She looked up to see Sam watching her, “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

“I… um… like to write things down.” She slid the pencil in the wire ring and put it back in her top left pocket, keeping her eyes down. Sam would have that look on his face like she wasn’t quite right in the head. Great Aunt Talulah said she would to get used to it. McGoverns got that look a lot.

Christy wasn’t used to it yet.

“Nothin’ wrong with that.” The cheerful response had her looking up. Sam was smiling, not laughing at her, but a nice, normal smile, “My mama’s always jottin’ stuff down.” Sam winked at her, again. She liked it when he winked. “There were seven of us kids. She said she couldn’t remember her own name without writing it down.”

“Wow, seven?”

“Yeah, we drive her crazy, but she loves us anyway. She’s going to be pissed about the mess inside, though.”

“Huh?”

“The grumpy Gus over there with the shotgun is my Dad.”

“Oh….”

“It’s mighty late for you girls to be out. Maybe I should follow you home. Just to make sure…”

Oh, no that wouldn’t be good. “That’s okay our Aunt’s cabin is real close.”

“Your Aunt…that’s right, you said you were meeting a cousin.” Sam’s head tilted.

Uh oh, that was the thinking look again.

“Yeah, he got held up.”

“Right” Pale gray eyes studied her, “What was his name again?”

“Ian…” Gavin’s middle name was Ian so it wasn’t really a lie.

“I know just about everybody around here.” Sam scratched his chin, “Don’t recall an Ian.”

Crap! He was doing some serious thinking. “He’s visiting, too. We’re renting a cabin.”

“Not many folks rent the cabins this time of year.” Sam said in that casual way people used when they were thinking hard and didn’t want you to know. Double crap! Mckenna used that voice all the time. Usually when she was really close to the answer.

“They don’t?”

“Nope.” He shook his head, slowly, “Leaves have all fallen and it’s cold.”

Oh no, she was getting in deep, “Um well the off season rates are better.”

And now he did a slow nod, “Guess so.” The gray eyes narrowed.

Crap on a cracker. She knew that one. Suspicion. Gavin looked at them like that all the time.

Time to go.

Christy did a really big yawn behind her hand, “Man, it’s late. Thanks for bandaging my hand and getting the stinky guy off me.” She jumped off the barrel, “We’ve got to be getting home.”

“Glad I was there to help. You girls go straight home, now.”

“We will. I’m beat.” She promised over her shoulder, jogging over to Allie, “Come on sis. I’m tired and Auntie is going to be worried.”

“Oh…um… Okay…I’ve got to go Bambi. See you at cheerleading practice.”

“What the fuck ever.” Overhearing Lena’s disgusted response would have made her giggle but now wasn’t the time, “We need to skidaddle.”

“What’s wrong?” Allie slid her phone in her shiny pink handbag, her hand lingering to fish around for her keys.

“Not now.” She shoved her towards the Mustang and ran around, jumping in the passenger side as soon as Allie clicked lock and buckled into the bucket seat. “We need to get out of here. Now.

Allie didn’t ask questions. With a tiny nod, she started the car and made quick work of pulling out of the lot. Adjusting the rearview to keep Sam in her sights, Christy watched as he watched them pull out. Just before left her line of sight Christy thought she may have heard him shout something like, “Shit.” “Holy Shit!” “Cousins” and “Gavin McIntyre.”

Double-decker Uh-oh with pickles on top, , “We’ve been made.”

“What?”

“That was Sam.”

“Sam who?”

“I don’t know, but he said he works for his Uncle Sam.

“Oh…dear.” Allie nibbled her bottom lip, “And he was in the bar where the horrid woman’s men were drinking. And Gavin’s men are in the area. That can’t be a coincidence.”

“Nope.”

“Hold on.”

Christy grabbed the handle on the door and braced herself. The little mustang shot forward like a bullet. Lena knew some guys who overhauled the engine to match Allie’s skill. Her sister took an extreme driving course. After her second lesson she was out-driving the instructor. Allie could run off to Hollywood and make a career as a stunt driver in those fast and furious movies.

#

“I don’t know about this.” Christy didn’t know what had gotten into Allie, but she was awfully brave all of a sudden.

“It will be fine.” Allie waved her hand.

“Maybe we should just call the good guys.”

“We can’t risk Gavin.”

But they were going to try to delay the bad guys. Just A sixteen year old in a sparkly camisole and a fourteen year old in cargo pants. It was one thing to be around bad guys in a bar with lots of other people around, but this was a deserted road on the side of a mountain in the pitch black dark. It reminded her of all those slasher movies Lena would watch, yelling at the “Dumb-ass bimbos” for all that” stupid shit” they did to get themselves killed.

Like pulling off a dark isolated road and waving down a passing truck with big dirty hairy men in it.

Allie pulled off the side of the road and popped the hood, “Here put the flares behind and in front.

“Okay…” Christy hopped out and popped the top on the flares. They sparkled red fire. She set them in place and then joined her sister under the hood of the Mustang, “So what are we doing exactly?”

“Delaying.”  Allie pulled a single work glove on her right hand and used that hand to pluck a battery cable off the battery thingy. Allie always carried work gloves in her glove compartment. Lena said she was a prissy-pot, but Allie would just smile and say it was a glove compartment after all and she didn’t like to get her hands messy. Then she would go off and borrow something of Lena’s and forget to return it.

“According to what we heard on the scanner…”

Like the police scanner Lena kept in her truck that was now on the back seat of Allie’s mustang.

Passive- aggressive.

“Three of the men got away and were heading off in this direction.”  Allie pulled the glove off.

“How are we going to stop them?” She asked, and boy did this seem like something the dumb bimbos would try.

“We don’t need to stop them.” Allie tossed the glove back in the glove compartment, “We just need to buy Lena and Mac a few more minutes.”

“Okay, but Allie these guys are bad people.”

“We’ve got the Mace.” Allie shrugged her shoulder, pulled her hood off, and fluffed her hair.

“Yes,” Christy reached down to her lower left pocket where she kept the special can of mace.

“Oh crikey, here comes a car.” Allie took off her coat and threw it in the back seat, doing some adjusting to her sweater to better show off her….assets.

“How do we know it’s them?” Because one set of headlights looked just like any other.

“Who else would be on this road? It only goes to Gavin’s.” Allie shooed her off, saying the men would be more likely to stop if it was just her. That didn’t sound good to her at all, but Allie was….stubborn. Christy froze at the edge of the road. Huh, she’d never noticed. Allie was so polite and gracious, the stubborn snuck up on you.  She wondered if Mac had noticed. Probably. Mac noticed everything.

“Christy,” Allie hissed, “Get down.”

Down. Right. She ran off the road, ducked down behind a honeysuckle bush, and her feet sank.

Dag-nabbit she’d stepped in a mud puddle, a deep one with lots of slimy, icky, wet, cold, mud. It squished over her feet and got between her toes. Yuck! With sucking pop, she tried to waddle out. It half-way worked. She got out, but her flip flops stayed behind.  Allie usually carried back-up sneakers in the trunk. She’d have to find some way to clean her feet off. She looked around for a big leafy plant, but then the headlights in the road were right in front of them and Allie was running over to a big truck. Her feet would have to wait.

“Oh thank goodness” Allie’s husky voice was all breathy. Men went stupid when she used that voice, “We think we took a wrong turn and our car died….Oh, hi again.”

“Hi yerself, you havin trouble, darlin…”

Blech! Christy wondered how Sam’s mountain drawl sounded comfy and this man’s made her want to take a shower.

“Yes…”

“Derek we don’t have time for this.” Another man, this one didn’t have an accent. Christy thought that might be a bad thing.

“Shut up, Rick. This won’t take long.” A different mountain drawl, “Hey again, sweet thing, let’s have a look under the hood.”

She peeked from behind her tree to see two big hairy men getting out of the truck. They looked familiar, but all those guys looked alike to her. She should give them names. Mckenna was big on naming the enemy, saying it makes them less scary. And Christy wasn’t too proud to admit she was more than a little scared. She watched the Hairy men follow Allie to the car. She could call them Thing 1 and Thing 2. No, that was an insult to Dr. Suess. She’d go with Redneck 1 and Redneck 2.

“You know this girl?” No accent guy called from behind the driver’s seat. Christy would call him Trouble.

“She was at the bar.”

“Was she now?” Trouble said, and boy did that sound like suspicion.

“Yeah…”

“The bar where you all got into a fight and arrested when you needed to be somewhere else.” Trouble wasn’t stupid and he was definitely going to be trouble.

“Yeah, so…” Redneck 1 threw back over his shoulder, “It’s not her fault. Looks like your battery is bad sugar.”

Baloney. The cable was loose. Christy poked her head from behind her tree and saw the man’s hand slide over Allie’s butt. Oh no…

“Oh you think?” Allie straightened, “I think it’s still under warranty. I’ve got it in the glove box.” She slid out from under the man’s hand and walked around to get something out of the car.

“You fuckers are too stupid to live.” Trouble jumped out of the truck and stalked towards them, “That girl wouldn’t look at either one of you twice. She’s not from around here. She was at the bar and now she’s on the road with car trouble. Use your heads dumbasses. She’s a distraction.”

“That girl ain’t no fed.”

“What’s a fed?” Allie came up with a folded piece of paper and an envelope.

“Nothin honey.” Redneck 1 said.

Trouble pushed redneck 2 out of his way and stalked up to Allie, “Who the fuck are you little girl…”

Her sister looked up with big startled eyes. Wow, she was good. “I’m Allie.”

“Right…” Trouble reached behind him and came back with….rope. Crap! “Grab her. She comes with us.”

WHAT…” Allie backed up, “No I have to get home. My aunt will worry.”

Redneck 2 came up behind her and grabbed her around the waist, “Hey! What are doing? Put me down.”

“We’ll take you home, sugar. Just have a couple of stops to make.”

Christy didn’t think that man was going to let Allie go anywhere.

Trouble handed the rope to Redneck 1 and this was getting bad fast.

Christy grabbed the mace from her pocket, “HEY! Let my sister go!”

“Shit!” Trouble cursed, “Grab her.”

The man with the rope ran over to her. She raised her arm and depressed the mace. Then the man was screaming and rubbing his eyes.

Trouble cursed and started for her. She didn’t wait. She ran to meet him, raising the mace. He grabbed her arm. So she kneed him in the crotch.

Lena said to always mix it up in a fight.

“Goddammit, you little bitch!” He doubled over, releasing her arm and now she sprayed him in the face.

He fell down screaming. Huh. That worked. Lena knew her stuff. And boy, did Trouble know some dirty words.

“Drop that mace.”

Oh darn, the other redneck. She couldn’t remember if he was 1 or 2, but he had a gun and it was pointed at her. Wow, she’d never had a gun pointed at her before. It was a big gun. Another thing Lena always said, “It’s harder to hit a moving target.” So far Lena had been right, so Christy threw the mace at him and ran, ducking behind a tree, reached into her middle right pocket and pulled out another can of mace.

“Let me go, you oaf.”

Uh-oh. That was Allie.

“Girl, get back here or your sister is going to get hurt.”

Shoot, she thought he’d follow her.

Phooey.  Don’t listen to him Christy. I’m perfectly fine.”

Crap and double crap. What would Lena do now? Probably pull out her own gun and shoot him in the head. Lena was a crack shot.

“Shut up blondie…” Then the man cried out, something between a groan and a scream. Allie must have her own can of mace.

“One thousand one… one thousand two…”

And she was counting. That meant she’d sprayed the experimental stuff. It must have been in the glove box.

Christy heard a heavy squelching thud. That was fast. She risked a peek around the tree.

“Oh Dear…” Allie stood in the back of the truck, leaning over the side, staring down at Redneck 1 or 2. “I think somebody shot him.”

Was that good news? She looked around, but all she could see were shadows and darkness. The night was so quiet. The woods were never quiet. And then she remembered something Mckenna always said, Silence is the loudest noise of all, “I think it might be Gavin’s people.”

“Oh yes, that makes sense.” Allie stood up in the truck bed and waved, “Um hello? We’re Gavin’s cousins.”

“We know exactly who you are.” Christy spun around at the familiar voice. Sam emerged from the darkness. Still in his flannel shirt and jeans and holding a really big gun. A rifle. She wondered if it was the kind snipers used. Then she wondered if he was the one who shot the Redneck. Then they were surrounded. Silent men in black and that green gook on their faces seeped out of the trees. “And you girls are in a shit-load of trouble.”

One of the men went over to the two men who hadn’t been shot in the head where they lay motionless on the ground. “What the hell did you do to them?”

Uh-oh. They hadn’t planned on anyone finding the men before the effects wore off. She looked to Allie. Her sister shrugged. She didn’t know what to do either.

“Um…well…”

“Might as well fess up, Tink.” Sam moved to stand in front of her, “You can tell me now or wait and explain to McIntyre. Your choice.”

Christy answered immediately. The man in front of her was a much better choice. He couldn’t ground her, “It’s a mild neuro-toxin.”

Sam’s response was one slow blink and a, “Come again?”

“A neuro toxin. It targets voluntary muscles. It should wear off in a few minutes.” She pulled her notebook out, “Allie did you notice what time it was when we sprayed them?”

“Sorry sweetie, it all happened so fast and it’s so dark.” Allie said, looking over at the two men on the ground.

“It doesn’t matter. It wasn’t the experimental one, but like Auntie says you can never have too much data.”

“Yes, Auntie does love data” Allie walked to the back of the truck, “Speaking of Auntie her birthday is next week.”

A huge man in black hurried over, “Allow me ma’am.” He lowered the tailgate and wrapped his big hands around Allie’s waist, lifting her out of the truck and settling her on the ground.

“Why, thank-you,” Her sister’s head tilted back and Christy knew she was giving the man a genuine smile of gratitude. Allie loved good manners. “How gallant.”

The man ducked his head and muttered something about manners and his mama. Allie was amazing.

“I should put it in my phone now, “Allie said, walking to her car, “We don’t want to forget.”

All the black clad men stared after her looking kind of stupid.

“Hey!” Sam’s shout brought every head up and off Allie, “You two,” Sam pointed to the two men standing over the rednecks, “Get those men tied up. And the rest of you load the body in the back of the truck and get it off the road.” Then pointing to the guy out who’d helped Allie out the truck, “Max, You get on the phone to the Alpha squad and find out just what the fuck is going on. NOW!” Sam barked out. The men jumped to it.

“Alpha?” Christy knew about Alphas and Betas in wolf packs.

“The other half of the team. They’re lead. We’re support on this op.”

Oh, so you’re beta.

“Yeah,” Sam shook his head, “And I thought this was going to be the easy job.”

“I think we should send her flowers.” Allie grabbed her purse from the car and dug around in it, pulling out her phone, “Auntie loves flowers.”

“But they die.” Christy said, “We should send her something she can keep.”

“True… maybe some pretty earrings or a nice pin. She loves old pins.” Allie tapped away on her I-phone. “Do you know if she’s going to be in the country?”

“Excuse me, ladies…”

They both swung their attention to Sam who looked like he might be getting red in the face, “I hate to interrupt your party planning, but if we could focus on the mild neuro-toxin for a minute.”

“Oh, it won’t be a party…” Allie waved her hand.

“No party, right.” Sam rubbed his face with the hand not holding a gun, “Where exactly, did you come by this mild neuro-toxin?”

“Uh well, I’m not supposed to say.” Christy hedged. Auntie didn’t like family business discussed.

“You’re not supposed to….” Sam looked between the two of them and yep even in the dim moonlight she could tell he was getting red and kind of splotchy. Then he took a deep breath and closed his eyes.

She took a couple steps closer and peered up at him, “Are you counting to ten?”

One eye opened, “How’d you know?”

“Gavin looks just like that when he does it.”

Sam opened his other eye, “Does it work?”

Not hardly ever. “He usually has to go to twenty or thirty.”

“Right.” She thought she might have seen him smile, “Okay, how about telling me just what in the hell you’re doing out here?”

“We were delaying those men.” Allie slid her phone back into her purse and slipped out her compact and a tube of lip gloss.

Oh, Allie was going to do that thing she did. Christy felt kind of sorry for Sam.

“You were delaying?” Sam prompted

“Yes, you were right about that whole getting the bar worked up part.” Christy said.

“Yes,” Allie looked up from her compact, “I’m so sorry about the damage to the bar. We didn’t think about that. We’re new to all this.”

“New…right.” Sam was rubbing his face again.

Christy may have heard a couple of muttered curses. It was only the beginning. Allie did this with Lena all the time. She’d engage in some mundane task and leak little facts out one at a time. It made Lena crazy-mad. Christy couldn’t figure out why Allie was doing it to Sam. He hadn’t called her a priss-pot or used her silk scarf for a dust rag.

“Okay, and what about this little set up?” Sam threw his hand in the direction of the rednecks.

“Mckenna needed more time.” Allie waved her lip gloss all casual and shot Christy a significant look. Oh okay, she was stalling, but why?

“Mckenna? You mean your sister Mckenna?”

“Yes.”

Uh-oh, Sam didn’t like that. His head dropped and there was definitely cursing that time – lots of it, from all around them.

“And just where the hell is she?” Sam asked, but Christy got a feeling he already knew and really didn’t like it.

“She’s taking care of that… woman.” Allie pulled the wand from the tube of gloss and shot her another look.

Oh. Lena must have told her Mia wasn’t dead yet. That made sense. Christy hadn’t been sure about the formula’s strength to mass ratio.

Christy did a tiny nod as Sam asked, “What woman?”

Allie paused in the middle of slicking gloss on her bottom lip, “That vile Mia person.”

“Gavin’s partner Mia?”

“Yes, his partner. She’s dirty, you know.” Allie informed him like he should have already known. “And just how the hell do you know that?” Sam asked.

Allie shrugged her shoulder, “We broke into her house and hacked into her computer.”

Sam looked between the two of them and started sputtering, “Now wait just a damn…” He cut himself off. All around him the men who’d been so busy seconds before had stopped moving. They were still and staring at Allie. It was like they’d zapped them with one of Auntie’s formulas. Sam took a couple of deep breaths and started talking again, “You girls broke into Mia’s house?”

“Yes, that’s right.” Allie slid the wand back in the tube, “And I have to say, the woman has awful taste.”

“Awful taste?” That came from one of the men dumping the body in the back of the truck

“Yes, everything in her house is designer. She spent a fortune by the way. Unless the girl had some kind of inheritance that should have clued Gavin in.” Her sister slipped the gloss back into her purse.

“Clued him in?” Sam was looking confused.

“But it was so awful. I suppose he could have missed it.” Allie cleaned a smudge of gloss with her pinky, “It’s soooo true what they say – money is no guarentee of taste.”

“Uh-huh.” Was all Sam said. It was really dark, but Christy thought his eyes might be glazing over. Man, Allie was good.

“I think she was going for modern eclectic, but it’s a disaster.” Her sister pulled out one of those little oil blotter clothes and patted her nose, “Oh, and that code is a series of latitudes and longitudes.”

“The code?”

“Well yes,” Allie crumpled the little sheet and stuck it back in her purse, “I’m assuming you know about the code.”

“Yeah,” Sam nodded slowly, “We know about the code.”

“We think they’re locations. She’s hiding…stuff.

Sam went back to “Uh-huh.”

“Lena told me earlier Mckenna’s leaning towards weapons of some kind.”

“Weapons?”

“Yes.”

“And who broke the code?” Sam asked. He had that stunned, glazed over look. Oh, it wouldn’t be long now.

“I did.” Her sister flicked her hand on the way to her head.

You…did.”

“Mm-hm.” Allie finger combed her hair, “It wasn’t difficult.”

Sam stared at her, his face blank. Christy braced, because she knew this was the calm before the …

“Holy Shit!”

…storm.

Sam wasn’t silent any more. He was talking… fast, but she couldn’t understand him because he was muttering all herky-jerky and it was dark so she couldn’t read his lips and besides, she was lousy at that anyway and he was pacing and waving his arms around, but Christy thought he was probably cursing… a lot.

He stopped pacing to stare at them again, and finally said, something she understood because she’d heard Gavin say it so many times,“You girls…I mean…what the fuck….SHIT!

And Sam looked mad. Really mad. Like furious. Like he might even be having an apoplexy. What was an apoplexy, anyway? Christy pulled her notebook out, but a big hand reached over and grabbed it.

“What’s this?”

A man had her pencil and paper. Not Sam, she wouldn’t mind so much if Sam had them. Even if he was mad. He’d been careful with her pencil and sharpened it. She didn’t know this other man. She needed to write down apoplexy under passive-aggressive.

She opened her mouth to tell him to give it back, but then his big hands flipped it open and she was afraid he’d tare it and the words got stuck in her throat. Oh, she really needed her notebook, but she couldn’t tell the man to give it back and she couldn’t write her words down because he had her notebook. Like a paradox.

Paradox.

Paradox.

She needed to write down Paradox. Christy knew she didn’t have another notepad, but patted all her pockets anyway. She felt hot and cold and hot again. Air got stuck in her lungs. She screamed to let it out and jumped at the man, but he jumped away, holding her notebook up, so she jumped up. Gripping his shoulders with her arms and wrapped her legs around his waist shimmying up his torso like a tree trunk, but he wasn’t rooted to the ground like a tree. He stumbled and they started to fall. That was okay. She could reach her notebook. She crawled over him, her fingers brushed her spiral binding, but then somebody grabbed her.

No. no. no.She needed her paper. It had all her words.

Then all she heard was screaming.

#

“Christy, honey?” She heard the husky voice, felt something fuzzy under her cheek, and smelled flowers and sunshine. She blinked. Her head was resting on her sister’s shoulder. They were on the ground, leaning against a tree, “You have your steno-pad.” Her sister said, soft and easy, “It’s in your hand, see?”

She looked down. She was holding her pad and pencil.

“He didn’t tare it, sweetheart.” Allie kept talking, saying the words that Christy needed to hear, “It’s all just like new.”

Just like new. Her notepad had fifty sheets and she’d filled up thirty-two. Page thirty-three was only a third full. She took her pencil and wrote apoplexy down under passive-aggressive then wrote paradox under that. The words stopped pounding on the inside her head. The knots in her stomach went away. She wanted to count the pages to make sure they were all there, but peeking up she saw all the men in black staring down at her. This was what Auntie was talking about. She was supposed to get used to it, but she wasn’t so she didn’t count the pages, settling for slipping the pencil in the spiral binding. So perfect. A perfect space.

Sam

Samuel Jefferson Tyler had seen some bad, fucked up shit. Doing what he did, you saw every kind of bad there was.  But that tiny slip of a girl sitting on the ground holding her tiny notebook in her tiny shaking hands… that was about the saddest thing he’d seen in his damn life. Shit, his heart might just be breaking.

The girl had gone crazy when they took her notepad. Fought him like a wild thing, and Christ, the way she screamed. Thank God for Blondie. She grabbed the notebook back from Bruce, the man who’d be getting an ass-kicking later, and pressed it into her sister’s hands. Then pushed him away and wrapped her arms around her. It worked. The tazmanian she-devil transformed back into the pixie he’d found outside his Dad’s bar covered in  gravel dust the assholes had kicked up with their drunken grappling.  It was staining her sister’s sweater even now, not that the girl cared and damn, but he did not envy McIntyre. The man would have to quit the military to have time to beat off all the horny teenage boys coming for that girl.

They sat huddled together under a giant willow, looking like they’d popped out of some folk tale his Irish grandmother regaled them with when she got into the moonshine he wasn’t supposed to know about.

A pixie in cargo pants and a siren in designer jeans. Damn.

“Poor little thing.” Max came up next to him, “I’m gonna kick Bruce’s ass.”

“Get in line.”

“You need to do something about that arm.”

Sam looked down and saw he was bleeding from the deep scratches she’d given him, “I’ll take care of it on the way to the cabin. Where’s our ride?”

“They’re on the way. They were at the bottom of the mountain.”

He nodded. The original plan was to go on foot. The girls changed that plan. Hell, they changed everything.

“Did Gavin ever mention….”  Max trailed off, nodding at the two girls. He didn’t have a word for what they’d just witnessed.

Sam doubted there was one, “No, but he gave her that notebook. I was with him when he bought it. It’s got kittens on the front.”

“Oh yeah, she’s the one that wants to be a vet.”

“Sir, our transport’s here.” Hector called out from the road.

He nodded, holding his hand up to silence the man.

Allie glanced up and nodded. Then in that soft siren’s voice, “These are Gavin’s men, sweetheart. Remember? We need to go with them.”

He heard a rattling breath and the smallest of whispers, “They took my paper.”

Well that ripped his broken heart out of his chest and shredded it.

“Ah  fuck…where the fuck is Bruce?” Max muttered, stalking off.

Sam knelt down beside the youngest of McIntyre’s cousins. Her thin shoulders were hunched, her head down, hiding her face, but he saw the fat tears dropping on her hands that had a white knuckle grip on that small, innocuous-seeming spiral pad. Reaching out, he cupped her jaw, wiping the tears from her dusty cheeks, “Bruce is real sorry about that.”  Not as sorry as he was going to be, “And I promise it won’t happen again.”

That got him barely a nod and a sniffle. Yeah, he’d be kickin’ Bruce’s ass. Course he’d have to do it before McIntyre got a hold of him or there’d be nothing left. Bruce would be lucky to survive the night.

“Come on, sweetheart.” Allie stood and took the girl’s hands pulling her to her feet. And Sam noticed those feet were covered in mud and nothing else.

“Where are your shoes?”

“Oh…um they’re over there.” She pointed to a clump of bushes, “They got stuck in the mud.”

“Oh dear…” The Siren started over to the bushes.

“Don’t worry about it. I’ve got her.” Sam handed his weapon off to Hector and scooped her up, “Come on, Tink.”

Damn, the imp weighed nothing.  He had the crazy desire to take her to his mama’s for chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes.

“I can walk.” A whisper of protest, but she laid her head on his shoulder.

“Not barefoot you can’t, and this is faster.” And because he couldn’t stand to see her so cowed, “Your legs are so short you couldn’t keep up.”

“Shows what you know.” He felt her spine stiffen, “I’m fast.”

“Christy’s a fifty-yard dash district champion.” Her sister proudly told him what he already knew. Hell, every man on the team knew.

“Yeah, I think Gavin might have mentioned that once or twice.”

Somewhere behind him Max grunted, “More like a dozen.”

He got a mouth full of hair when her head came up and swung around to look over his shoulder, “A dozen?”
“At least. He brags on you girls all the time. You’ve got a 4.0 and you’re taking advanced chemistry. Allie over there is acing college level math classes.” Max rattled off the girl’s accomplishments, “Lena is a black belt in tae kwon do and Mckenna had to be home schooled because she’s some off the chart genius.”

“Wow.”

“Yeah, he’s like a proud papa bear.”  Max said.

“With a really loud roar.” The Siren giggled.

“And big teeth.” Max added.

“And huge claws.” Sam added, grinning down at the pixie in cargo pants with the dirt on her face, freckles across her nose and damn mud encrusted feet. He opened his mouth to ask just how the hell she came to be wearing mud up to her ankles, but Bruce cut him off.

“Shit, I’m sor….”

Then Bruce was cut off by the pop of a fist hitting flesh and his own grunt of pain.

Max was getting an early start.

#

It wasn’t until they were in the big SUV rumbling down the gravel road to the cabin that she worked up the nerve to ask, “I went koo-koo, didn’t I?”

“Well, now I wouldn’t call it koo-koo,” Sam said, “But you got a mite upset about Bruce taking your steno-pad away.”

She didn’t like to be separated from her notebook. Sometimes when she got upset or scared she couldn’t get her words out and other times words would get stuck in her head and wouldn’t go away. Gavin gave her the notebooks so she could write the words down. It worked She would write the words down and read them aloud and everything got…. Better. The family therapist they’d been seeing since they came to the United States said it was fine. That it was her way of restoring order to the chaos of  mama dying and moving across an ocean when she was five years old. But last year he retired and his replacement, Dr. Sylvia Kline suggested her pencil and paper were like Linus’s security blanket and that Christy was thirteen years old and long past the age of needing to carry a blanket around.

Mckenna had leapt to her feet, slipping the dagger from the hiding place under her wrist and told the lady to shut her mouth before she lost her tongue. Lena shoved Mac aside called the therapist a bitter, twisted hag and told her she needed to get laid. The woman had lifted the phone, saying she was going to call the police. But then Allie stood, smoothed her pencil skirt and calmly informed the woman, that her “Services would no longer be required.” The four of them had left and never gone back.

Maybe the Doctor had been right after all.

Allie’s purse started singing, “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, she whipped it out, “It’s Lena.”

“Speaker.” Was all Sam said.

Allie hit the button Lena was already talking, “…up and listen. That bitch tortured Gavin.”

“WHAT?”

“Tortured?”

“Is he alright?”

“Oh yeah, he’s fine. If all his yelling and growling is anything to go by, he’s just peachy. And Christy why’s that bitch still alive?”

“Um, I wasn’t sure about the mass ratio.”

“What mass ratio?” Sam asked all loosey-goosey like, but Christy knew that was just horse hockey. She’d seen Gavin do the same thing right before he blew the roof off the house.

“Who the hell is that?” Lena demanded

“That’s Sam.” Christy said. Hoping to get off the whole mass ratio conversation because killing people could get you in big, big trouble.

“Sam? Who the hell is Sam? First Andre and now Sam. What the fuck is up with all the men fucking around in our business.”

“Andre?” Sam stiffened, dropping his loosy-goosy act, “Who’s Andre?”

“Some sexy guy with Interpol who’s about to get his ass kicked.”

“Ah okay…” Sam must not have liked Lena’s answer. He shut his eyes and pressed the heel of his hand to his right temple. Christy thought he might be counting again, because it took him a while before he asked, “And just who is going to be kicking this sexy guy’s ass?”

“Gavin,” Lena answered like it was obvious, “And while we’re who’s whoin’, just who the hell are you, Slick?”

“Sam Tyler. I’m on Gavin’s team.”

“Well, lah-dee-fah-rickin-dah. Just where the hell are you and why the hell aren’t you in here saving the damn day?”

“We were delayed and the better question is just where the hell are you?”

“I’m on the roof.”

“The Roof?”

“That’s what I said. Keep up, slick.” Lena was silent for maybe a second then they heard a muffled, “Gotcha sis, step away from the window.” Then Christy heard some muttered oh shits’ and ‘fuck mes’

“Oh dear, that doesn’t sound good.” Allie nibbled her glossy lip.

“No, hell no, it’s not good.” Lena said, “You boys get the lead out of your asses get the hell out here. I gotta go. My foot has a date with that sorry slut’s ass.”

Allie slid the phone back in her purse, “Um, maybe the driver should um, step on it.”

“Yeah,” Sam nodded, then to the driver, “Pick up the pace Hector.”

“Got it.” The SUV shot forward. Sam settled back crossed his ankle over his leg again his lids lowered. He looked like he was settling in for a snooze, “So who wants to explain ‘Mass ratio’?”

Uh-oh, double crap, and fudge on a fish-stick. They were in trouble

Sam

“Poison??!!! Poison???!!!! POISON!!!???? Have you girls lost your fucking minds?”

“Well, no of course not. Poison is a woman’s weapon, you know.”  The beautiful Siren informed him with a haughty sniff.

“A woman’s weapon.” Sam repeated dumbly. Holy Shit, they were serious.

“Yes, it doesn’t require strength…”  She went on with her delicate chin in the air.

“Strength….” He heard himself repeat the word. Shit, he might just be in shock.”

“Right, just stealth.” The urchin pixie concluded.

“Stealth.” Again he parroted the words coming out of the two girl’s mouths as they revealed their plan to murder that “Horrible Woman…”As the Siren had called her with a delicate feminine shudder.

Holy Shit. Holy Good Goddam fucking shit! And McIntyre said these two were the easy ones. No wonder the man was always blowing a fuse. He must stay at critical mass.

Sam jumped out of the SUV. And joined his men who were clustering at the edge of the access road. They’d reached the end of the access road that led to McIntyre’s cabin. The place, like every man-made structure on the Blue Ridge, was surrounded by forest so they were on foot, meeting up with the Alpha team and going in silent.

Max came over, “We’re still a go. Alpha says everything’s under control.”

Somehow he doubted it. But hell, the sooner he got in there the sooner he could turn this headache back over to McIntyre.

“Why didn’t she use the mace on her?”

That was Max. “What?” The man shrugged his meaty shoulder, following him out of the SUV, “Just curious.”

“It’s a new formula and I hadn’t tested it yet. And this was the perfect opportunity. Making it trans-dermal is trickier. I’m not that good yet.”

“Huh, makes sense.”

Shit, the man was encouraging a fourteen year old girl in her lethal chemistry experiments. “Max, shut the fuck up.”

“What did I do?”

“Just stay here and don’t let those two out of your sight. You got me.”

Shit, the two little darlings might wander off and blow something up for fun. He grabbed his rifle back from Hector and headed off.

“We love Gavin.” The three words stopped him in his tracks. He turned around to see the pixie had jumped out of the SUV.  She stood there her arms crossed, hugging herself, looking just so damn small. Shit.

“He’s…he’s everything to us – everything. She hurt him. She was going to kill him. We had to stop her.”

“Did you now?”

The pixie sniffled and nodded. The clouds shifted, moonlight slanted through the trees, transforming the wispy copper hair all over her head to a halo, sparkling in the fat tears falling from her eyes, and turned her tear tracks to twin silver streams running down her dirt-smudged face

“You seein’ that?” Max whispered.

Yeah, he was seeing it.

A pixie wrapped in a moonbeam. If his Grandma saw this, she’d be gathering stones for the fairy ring.

“I gotta get a picture of that.” Max jogged back to the SUV to grab the camera he was never without.

“You do know we’re in the middle of an op, right.”

“This won’t take a second.” He called back over his shoulder, “Don’t move, sugar.”

“Huh?”  The little urchin rubbed her nose and deposited even more dirt. Where the hell she picked it up, he didn’t know.

Sam walked over and for the second time that night wiped away her tears, “We’re pretty good at stopping the bad guys sweetheart. It’s what we do.”

That was when the Siren spoke up, “Yes, but she’s not a guy. Beautiful women…”

“Make smart men…” The pixie sniffled.

“Do dumb things.” The siren finished.

“They’ve got a point there.” Max agreed heartily and shoved him out of the way to set up his tri-pod.

#

Christy sat next to Allie in one of the hospital waiting areas feeling tired and dirty and miserable. It was over. Everyone was safe. Gavin was fine. But Mac…

Mckenna had flashed. Gone back in time and relived that horrible night the rest of them couldn’t remember. It was terrifying to witness. She couldn’t imagine how horrible it would be to have to live through it. “I shouldn’t have said anything.”

 

“You did the right thing, sweetheart.” Allie looked up from her magazine, putting an arm around her, “He needed to be told. And Aunt Heather checked on her. Mac’s fine. She’s sleeping.”

Christy nodded and sniffled, “Why are we like this?”

At that, Allie abandoned her magazine and wrapped both arms around her, “I don’t know sweetheart.”

They all had weird brain… stuff. Auntie said it was genetic. Christy hated it. Especially for Mac. She’d saved them from a horrible death and she suffered for it all the time. Christy couldn’t stand not having her silly little notebooks. Allie remembered everything whether she wanted to or not.  And Lena, well Lena seemed fine… sort of. She just had a really bad temper.

“So what the hell happened to you two and how in the hell did you get so dirty? And where the hell are your shoes.” Lena stomped up to them guzzling a quart sized coffee.

Oh, this was going to be tricky. Christy lifted her head from Allie’s shoulder who released her and suddenly became engrossed in the magazine she was flipping through.  “Um, I fell in the parking lot at the bar and it was dusty and then I stepped in mud and my shoes got stuck.”

“Uh-huh…” Lena came closer her eyes narrowing on Christy’s face, “You’ve been crying.”

Double Uh-oh, “I was crying just now.”

“Uh-uh. Nope.” Lena shook her head, “Those are old tear tracks on your face. And shit, what happened to your jaw, “Shit! Somebody hit you.”

Double uh-oh and crap on a cracker.  Christy hadn’t washed her face, hoping the dirt would hide the bruising, because if Lena killed some redneck in cold blood, they’d never get home. She tried to think of something to say, but they’d given her pain medication when they examined her jaw and all she could think about was crawling into her nice soft bed after taking a nice hot shower.

“Lena it’s fine.” Allie answered, without looking up from the magazine, “She ran into something and hit her jaw.”

Lena didn’t buy it, “You are lying your ass off.”

“Sis,” Christy crossed her fingers and tried to look pathetic, “I just want to go home.”

“We’re taking you home right now.” Sam came strolling up, still in flannel and denim.”

Lena marched up to him, “Did you make my baby sister cry?”

Christy winced. She hated to be called that. She was only two years younger, after all. Mac said it didn’t matter.

He paused, then extended his hand, “You must be Lena. Gavin’s told me a lot about you. I’m Sam.”

“Pleased to meet you, Sam.” Lena shook it once, “Where’s the asshole who made Christy cry.”

“Well, now I could tell you….” Sam looked like he wanted to smile, but didn’t.

“Yeah, you damn well could.” Lena said.

“But understand, he’s already got a broken nose and three bruised ribs.”

“That’s a start.” Lena’s head was pivoting on her neck, her sharp eyes searching for a guy in bandages.

“And we can’t damage him too much. He’s our sniper.”

“Oh, so he took out Redneck 2.” She thought it might have been Sam.

“He sure did Tink.” Sam winked at her.

“Who the fuck is Redneck 2.” Lena demanded.

Christy thought this might be a safer topic since he was already dead, “He was the guy who held the gun on Allie.”

“Whoa…Wait a fucking goddamn… “ Lena threw her hand up in a stop and set her coffee cup down on a low table, “Who the fuck…what the hell? You guys were just supposed to distract them at the bar. You said they all got arrested.”

“Well, some of them got away and we had to intercept them.” Allie looked up from her magazine.

Lena blinked a couple of times, “What the fuck?”

“They were on the way to the cabin.” Allie explained tossing the magazine aside and reaching for another, “We couldn’t very well have them show up.”

Lena clamped her mouth shut, and opened it again, “Are you shitting me?”

“No, and honestly, must you be so crude? We pretended to have car trouble… we pulled off the access road.”

“Crude???!! CRUDE???!!! Dear Goddess Allie what the fuck were you thinking? That access road is pitch dark and isolated. Anything could have happened

“I was thinking that it wouldn’t have worked if some good Samaritan got to us before they did. We’re fine.” Allie flipped through her magazine.

“Shit, Allie have you looked a mirror?” Lena stormed up to her twin, “Did you stop to think that if those guys you’d been working into a frenzy all night got you alone what they would do?”

“Um…we had the mace.” Christy pulled the empty can out of her pocket and waved it.

Lena looked at the mace blinking again. Her face blank, then stalked up to her twin, “Have you gone completely ape shit??!! You could have been killed, taken.”

Allie finally glanced up from her magazine, “Honestly Lena, we’re fine.” Flicking her hand and returning her attention to the article, “Don’t be such a Drama Queen.”

Uh-oh. Lena wouldn’t like…

“Drama Queen?!? Drama Queen!!??? DRAMA THE FUCK QUEEN!!!????

…That.

Wow. Lena was mad. Christy watched her sister pace, throw her arms around, and shout curses at the top of her lungs. This is why Mac called her Mini-Gav.

“Allie you could have… They could have….Goddammit!  What the fuck? I mean WHAT. THE. FUCK. Does Gavin know about this? Holy Mother Goddess!!!!  He should ground you for the rest of your lives…. Shit!  Just….SHIT!”

Lena was yelling about dumb blondes and they’re idiot ideas when two security guards came running around the corner. The same ones from Gavin’s room. Man, they were having a busy night, “Ma’am…”

“Save it.” Lena held up her hand and gave the men a look that brought both of them to a skidding halt. “I’ve got this.” She picked up her coffee and guzzled, draining the entire cup, then crushed it and tossed it across the room and into the trash.

“Good shot. No rim.” One of the security guys said.

Then other guy punched him in the arm. Then they both kind of stood there, like they weren’t sure whether to stay or go.

Allie “humphed” flipped through her magazine and muttered another couple of Honestly Lenas. But Sam..Sam was  leaning against the wall his back to them. His shoulders shaking.  Really shaking.

The guards noticed, “Sir, are you alright?”

Sam turned around nodding and busted out laughing. First he stood there laughing. Then he doubled- over laughing. Then he sank to the floor laughing.

Huh. Christy looked at Lena again. Nobody had ever laughed at her sister when she was mad before. Run away. Sure. Called the cops. Yep, a couple of times. But falling down laughing? Christy didn’t think so.

“Uh, is he alright?” One of the security guards asked. They were as confused as she was… and that was a good question. Could you laugh so much you hurt yourself?  Was there a word for that? She pulled out her notepad.

“Yeah, he’s fine,” Max came around the corner chuckling, “Private joke.”

Christy took the pencil from the wire spiral opened her book and on page 33 she wrote “laughing injuries” under paradox.

“Must be a damn funny one.” One of the guards said as they both headed back down the corridor.

“Oh yeah, these girls are a laugh a minute.” Max said, walking over to Sam. “Mrs. McIntyre is already in the van. So whenever you’re ready, we’ll head out.”

It took Sam another couple of minutes to get himself under control, “Shit..oh shit…” He pushed himself to his feet, “That just made my night.”

Christy was sliding the pencil back in its space when Sam came over, “Come on, girls. We’re your escort home.”

She put her notepad back in her top left pocket. Then she was off her feet again. She wrapped her arms around Sam’s neck, “I can walk.”

Sam smiled his friendly smile, “I know.”

“Let him carry you sweetheart,” Allie patted her hand, “You’re exhausted and barefoot.”

“Right. Our ride. Sure.” Lena said from behind them where she skulked along beside Max and muttering under her breath, “It wasn’t that funny.”

“Oh yeah,” Sam grinned over his shoulder, “It damn well was.”