“So,” she asked, “you normally drink a lot or are you celebrating?”
“Celebrating,” he said. He had to be careful. The rules of hiding were simple and clear: Camouflage and keep quiet.
“Just another Friday night?” she asked.
They sat. He smiled, feeling warm from the tequila and full from the burger. He thought of his grandfather. Fishing from the back yard. Reeling one in all the way to the lawn.
“Oh, much bigger than that,” he said.
“Well, tell me the truth or tell me a lie, but make it interesting.”
He smiled, liking her immediately. “Buy you another beer?”
Her eyes sparkled. They were black, her eyebrows perfectly arched over them. She rested her chin on her hand, studying him. The panic fluttered back. He hadn’t checked the post office or the television lately. His picture wasn’t out there, was it? But again, he calmed himself. Of course not. She’s just a girl, man.
“Sure,” she said. “But don’t you be thinking it’ll buy you any favors.”
He grinned. She’d brought up and dismissed the elephant in the room: sex. That meant, he decided, she wanted it. It had been a long time since he’d been with a woman. Years. His trophy wife, younger by eighteen years, cut him off shortly after their wedding night. He never understood the woman. Or why he married her. Her father introduced them, and he knew she did it more for him than Baxter. He motioned for the waitress, who took his order for two more shots of tequila and a Coors Light.
“So what are you celebrating so big, Mr. Tequila?”
Whoa! He liked that. Mr. Tequila. Why didn’t he think of that? He could become something with a name like that. He chuckled.
“Oh, some things about my family fell into place today. Seems the bastards weren’t as poor as they made out.” Shut up! he told himself. But he grinned. Felt euphoric. Make it interesting. That’s what she said.
She smiled and he felt it in his chest. Damn, he hated that. Someone wiggling into his heart. Especially so quickly. Even his wife, his dead wife, never did that. She only wiggled out. Already this woman made him feel exposed, compromised. He thought he could play her like a suave man on the prowl, have some laughs, maybe even get lucky, but he realized he couldn’t. He’d never been that kind of man, even as Tom Oley. From afar, he might imagine it. But in the flesh, close up, her looking into his eyes, leaning toward him, she seemed both desirable and radioactive. He leaned back. What the hell was going on? He didn’t want anything like this. The tequila made him brave. But in reality, he was a fragile coward in his new-old identity.
“So are you going to hire a lawyer and legal them out of it? Or is your way a different way?” She put the fresh Coors Light to her lips and swallowed. Baxter watched her throat, unsure what to do, to think.
“Here, this stuff will wash that awful taste out of your mouth,” Baxter said, sliding a shot glass to her.
She took it and played with it but didn’t raise it to her lips. “I don’t think people who lawyer-up celebrate with tequila,” she said.
“What are you, a liquor psychologist?”
She laughed. The first time. He smiled and felt it again. Not the tequila. That other thing. That pang. Longing spiked with fear. It spooked him. Made his heart race and his breath shallow. If she knew about him…but she couldn’t. She can’t. She won’t. But that was only part of what jacked up his heart rate.
“Land?” she asked. “Cattle? Money?”
He grinned, masking his panic. He couldn’t possibly tell her anything. But she had asked him to make it interesting. He breathed deeply and swallowed. Calm yourself, he said. Just play with her. Don’t reel her in. Just practice the cast.
“Oh, just your usual lost treasure,” he said. “An old family secret.” His mind had started turning, logic coming back. This girl must be local. Yeah. A conduit to the community—he liked the sound of the alliteration in his tequila-addled head. He might need that. She could help him find a guide, someone who knew the backcountry. He sipped the tequila and leaned forward, smiling his best smile.
Short description for The G.O.D. Journal: After he accidentally kills his wife, Baxter runs. Hiding in his derelict boyhood home in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, he discovers a journal that leads to a treasure of gold. With the guiding hand of a deranged hunter and Wall Street financier, Baxter discovers true gold is concealed in the heart of a woman who helps him search for an Anasazi pictograph that is key to his family treasure. Read the full description….
Hot Water Press publications scheduled for 2013: Annie and the Second Anasazi (a trilogy set in the year 2054), and Soo Potter (an Anasazi historical novel). To find out when they’re available, sign up for notification by email here.