Samuel sat staring at his desktop. His cell phone was still clutched in his hand. Sweat was beginning to bead on his forehead. The pit in the bottom of his stomach seemed to be trying to inch its way closer to his mouth.
“Unbelievable,” he muttered to his empty office.
“Sam,” the gentle voice of his office manager called from the other room. “Hey Sam, lets get moving. We’ve got a gazillion talking points to review. Tomorrow you got that tour of the harbor islands and…, Sam? Hey Sam, reality is calling, you who…,”
“She’s pregnant,” he muttered when Heather walked into his office.
The tall, lean, and perfectly put together Heather blinked and shook her head in disbelief, “Who’s pregnant? Your sister, please say it’s your sister.”
Samuel tried to form words to respond but nothing came out. His mouth refused to cooperate.
“Oh no! Don’t tell me it’s that chick you picked up last night!”
“It’s been a couple of months and I didn’t just pick her up,” Samuel blurted out his defense. “We were introduced at the July Fourth party in Dover. We’ve seen each other ever week since. It’s not like a one night stand or something sleazy like that.”
Heather’s reply was clipped and pointedly direct, “And, it’s not like you’re happily married and settled down and ready to raise children. For Cripes sake Sam, you’re a conservative Republican in a Democrat state! You’re supposed to be different. You’re supposed to have some morals about you. Your supposed to stand for something!”
Sam hung his head. Heather was right. He based his career on the character failures of others. Sam climbed his way up the political ladder with charm and a flawless reputation. Set against a sea of hard edged and dubious politicians, Sam presented himself as a noble knight for a generation starved of a strong and manly image to look up to as a role model.
“Crap,” Samuel muttered without looking up at his associate and friend. “I wonder if Heather will still be my friend now, after this kind of a screw up,” he thought as he chanced a glance at the clearly angry woman.
“Okay, let’s just relax and look at our options,” Heather was saying aloud the calming thoughts inside her own head. “I know some folks. Folks with resources. Ample financial resources. We’ll give this girl money and she can go away and get an abortion.”
Samuel was truly horrified. “No, we won’t! We’re not actually going to do anything. I’m going to do…,”
“What Sam? What are you going to do?” Heather stood with her hands on her hips.
“I’m going to do the right thing.”
“What’s so funny?” Sam was indignant.
“You don’t think getting married is going to fix anything do you? She probably doesn’t even want to keep the kid. Get a grip, Sam. This ain’t the fifties.”
Sam stood and frowned at Heather. Maybe he was wrong about this woman he worked with for the last four years. Maybe she was not his friend at all. It seemed she was not thinking about him at all when he needed her to think only about him. He was in personal crisis and she was strictly worried about managing a professional liability. Apparently, she was only worried about her job.
“I need to go talk to her. I’ll see you tomorrow,” Sam said as he grabbed his keys.
“Tell her to do the really right thing, Sam,” Heather advised to his retreating back.
* * *
Sam grimaced as he pulled up the parking brake of his Ford truck. It was too loose. He needed a brake job and he needed it soon. He just needed fifteen hundred dollars in his checking account first. He was a long way from having that amount of cash in his personal account. Each step he was about to take up the stone walkway to white duplex with black shutters would put him another step further away from financial security. A cartoon image appeared in his head of his bare feet crashing through the floor boards of his truck to stop for a red light.
“I wanted to be Abe Lincoln and now I’d be lucky to be fuckin’ Fred Flintstone,” he grumbled and climbed out of the truck.
He forced himself to walk slowly. He wanted to run for the door and pound away like a lunatic until she answered but he could not allow himself to give into his panic. There was always somebody with a cell phone camera ready to snap a picture. John Q Public was always watching for an ‘event’ to digitally capture and send viral.
Sam could not afford that kind of publicity. He was at the beginning of a promising political career. It was shaping up to be a massive success. His run for the state senate was on a shoe string budget with only volunteers manning his campaign office in the garage of his home. Yet, he won in a landslide. His message of person responsibility and accountability at every level of government resonated with voters.
But here he was, not a year later, standing on the doorstep of his future. He did not know if his political future could withstand the weight of an out of wedlock pregnancy. He didn’t know if his head could stand the burden of an instant family. All he knew for sure was, he had to see her. He had to see her right now. Samuel Washington Lincoln Allerton knocked on the door to his future.
* * *
“Haven’t you done enough!”
Sam rolled his eyes before gritting his request through tightly clenched teeth. “I would like to speak with Rachael, please.”
The stout woman with spiked, bleached blonde hair stood blocking the entry way. “I think you have done more than enough. You should leave.”
“I would like to speak to Rachael, please,” Samuel repeated and clenched his fists.
“You always do what you like, don’t you? You like to tell people how to live, so you become a Nazi representative in the state house. You like to bully poor people so you block appropriations for social services, you like to…,”
Sam interrupted the stream of consciousness and stated a little louder than the first two times, “I’d like to speak to Rachael, please.”
The woman in the doorway hiked up her droopy sweat pants and continued her well thought out speech, “You are so used to getting your way. Having your needs met. Watching the world bow and scrape for your every beck and call. Well, not anymore. I’m taking a stand! You won’t get away with abusing my friend. Forcing her to do your bidding…,”
“Forcing? Lady, you’ve got some nerve!” Sam lost his grip and shouted. “I didn’t force her. I, we were dating. We’re in a relationship. We are consenting adults.”
“Consenting?” The woman shrieked and shoved her glasses back into place with her middle finger. “Women can’t consent on a man’s playing field. Woman have been programmed to obey. Women must conform or be punished. All forms of heterosexual activity at tantamount to rape.”
“You are a screwball, Karla!” Sam screamed.
The word stopped Sam cold. He tried to calm himself with a deep breath. He was shaken to the core. His hand trembled as he lifted it to loosen his tie.
The woman smirked at him. “Did I hit a nerve?”
“I would like to speak to Rachael, please.”
A voice called from the upstairs, “Karla, is that Sam?”
Karla’s shoulders sagged a little, “Yes.”
“Sam, come on up,” the last word was cut off by a gagging noise.
Sam didn’t wait for Karla to invite him in. He hurried passed the woman and bounded up the stairs. The bathroom door was slightly ajar. He could see Rachael on her knees in front of the toilet.
“Oh, babe,” Sam whispered as he pushed the door open.
Rachael glanced up at him. It was a brief look before heaves overtook her body again. She gasped and wretched and gasped some more. Sam hurried over and put his cool palm against her forehead. She almost melted into his hold. Sam squatted next to her and let her shift her weight against him. He could feel every gag and every shudder tear through her body. Never in his life had he felt more guilty.
“I’m so sorry,” he hushed against her sweaty hair.
“I’m okay,” Rachael choked but managed to snag some toilet paper and wipe her mouth.
The two of them stood slowly. Each leaning into the other. Sam was startled when Rachael pulled away to flush the toilet. He was not ready to let her go.
“Just let me brush my teeth,” her voice was thick.
Sam nodded but didn’t leave the room. He stood behind her and watched. She seemed so frail hanging over the sink. Her body trembled with her efforts. Sam wanted nothing more than to wrap his arms around her and take her home with him.
“Okay, I need to lay down. I feel kind of crummy,” Rachael said after she hung her toothbrush back up.
Sam nodded and followed her. Rachael walked down the long hall to her bedroom. She didn’t so much get into bed as she crawled under the covers. Sam climbed in behind her.
“Can’t you leave her alone for a minute?” Karla’s voice held an accusation of something worse.
Sam stiffened but Rachael answered first. “Karla, could you give us some time to talk. Thank you for helping me out this morning. You’re a good friend but Sam and I need to work some things out.”
Karla was reluctant to leave but agreed with a stipulation, “If you need anything, just scream. I have mace and 911 on speed dial.”
Rachael chuckled, “Thanks but I don’t think it will come to that. Good to know I have back up though.”
Sam waited for the stocky woman to leave closing the door behind her. “She’s a piece of work.”
“She’s been hurt. She doesn’t want people she cares about to be hurt. You two should make an effort to talk to each other instead of at each other,” Rachael advised.
“I’m not here to talk to her,” Sam clarified. “I’m here for you.”
“Thanks,” Rachael cuddled up to him.
“What are you going to do?” Sam blurted out the words.
“Well, about this,” he couldn’t bring himself to say the word baby. “What are you doing about it?”
“Me?” Rachael eased away from Sam and looked into his eyes.
Sam opened the top button of his shirt in an effort to relieve the smothering feeling cramping his lungs. “I just mean…you know…it’s your body. What are you gonna do about it?”
He knew it sounded bad. It didn’t come out like that when he practiced in his car on the ride over. Usually, he was an eloquent speaker. He was able to charm and sway his audience like no orator in the last decade. It was something that came naturally to him. But, not today. He realized by the look on Rachael’s face he’d blown the most important speech of his life.
“You’d better leave.”
“Wait, I mean, we, or you, or…,”
“Sam, go,” Rachael pointed to the bedroom door as thunder cracked.
“That was really dramatic,” Sam observed quietly.
Rachael frowned. “Don’t try your cute routine on me. I’m not in the mood. Just go. Go now!”
Rachael ended any further conversation by rolling over in the bed. She pulled the comforter up over her head with a humph. Sam was left staring at her back.
“Leave Sam. Don’t make me call Karla in here.”
Sam hopped off the bed and headed for the door without a backward glance.
The truck choked then sputtered to a stop. Sam was able to steer the powerless, gliding truck the last few feet to the curb. Shifting to park lurched the silent vehicle to a halt. The sound of rain pounding on the steel and glass seemed like thunder to Sam’s ears. Then thunder cracked with a flash of lightning across the night sky.
“Fuck,” Sam mumbled.
He took a deep breath. Looking out the windshield, Sam recognized the road he had stalled out on. It was years since he was last driven down this street. It was on the day of his mother’s funeral. The line of cars drove past the home she grew up in on the way to her final resting place; the cemetery on the hill over the ocean at the end of town.
Sam felt the clenching in his belly just like he had felt that day. His sister, sobbing, sat to his left. His father, silent, sat on his right. Directly across from them in the back of the undertaker’s limousine, sat his mother’s father. Old Thom’s eyes were red rimmed. He wiped at his nearly constantly dripping nose. Any conversation the old man began was abruptly ended with one word answers from Sam’s father. After the casket was lowered into the grave, Thom caught a ride with another family member and Sam never saw him again. Sam never saw any member of his mother’s family again.
Now all these years later, in the heat of nor’easter, under a pitch black sky, Sam could clearly see the porch light burning bright at his grandfather’s house.
“Hello, I’m Sam Allerton, your State Senator and your long lost grandson. May I come in because I don’t know where else to go tonight?” Sam practiced his introduction as he got out of his truck into the fierce storm.
His knock was answered by a muffled voice behind the door. Wind whistled and howled in an impromptu chorus. Sam could not stop his teeth from chattering. His clothes were soak through after a walk of less than three hundred feet. Once the door swung open, Sam was surrounded by radiating warmth from within. It reminded him of running home from school and into his mother’s kitchen.
“Sammy, what’cha doin’ out on a night like this? Get yourself in here before you get the chilblains,” the old man prattled and pulled Sam into the living room.
“You, you remember me?” Sam was startled by the familiar welcome.
Old Thom chuckled. “You’re in the paper most days. You’re some kind of politician or something important, ain’t you? ‘Course I recognize you. Besides, you look just like your mother.”
Sam swallowed hard in a dry throat. Nobody discussed his mother. It was the number one topic his father forbid. There were many topics his father would not allow but his first wife and mother of two of his children was the primary taboo.
“I’m sorry to bother you,” Sam tried to refocus his thoughts with the matter at hand. “My truck broke down. I don’t have triple A or anybody to call. I don’t, I don’t even have money for a cab on me. And, I don’t know what I’m gonna do about anything. I don’t know what I’m gonna do about everything.”
Sam’s head dipped in an effort to silence his rambling. His shoulders slumped; defeated. He sensed more than felt his grandfather’s arm encircle his shoulders. The old man guided him across the room to a rag tag couch. Sam either tripped or was pushed down to the cushions.
“Sit. I’ll put on the kettle. Ain’t got no booze. I’m a drunk from way back. Took the cure when you mother got sick. Couldn’t do it when she was healthy but managed to stick with it since. Ah,” Thom waved his hand as if wiping away the memories, “never mind that now. Do you want instant coffee or tea? I think I have a tea bag somewhere.”
“Nothing. No, I’m good. I’m sorry to barge in on you. I just,” Sam stuttered a little, “I just, got into some trouble. And, I was just driving around. My truck broke down. I don’t have anybody to call…,”
“Sammy, you don’t need no reason to drop by. You’re family. You’re always welcome wherever I’m welcome,” Thom reassured. “Let me set the kettle to boil. You look like you’re cold.”
Sam wiped some of the rain off his face with his bare hand. “Maybe a towel?”
The old man toddled off deeper into the darkened house. Sam looked around the living room. It was much as he remembered it to be; old furniture haphazardly strewn about the room, framed faces from his memories hanging on the walls.
“Here we go,” Thom happily announced as he shuffled back into the room. “I got some pajama bottoms and a undershirt you can borrow. And, this here towel ain’t never been used. Still smells like the cedar chest. Go ahead, sniff it.”
Sam accepted the bundle of items with a nod.
Thom shook his head a little grimly. “I ain’t got no extra beds. You don’t want to sleep with me. I leak a little at night. Damn prostrate, can’t get to the toilet fast enough.”
“Prostrate?” Wondered what the old man was jabbering about.
“You can sack out on the couch, my boy. I’ll get you an afghan. Then we’ll have a cup of joe and you can tell me your troubles.”
Sam watched the old man waddle off to the the kitchen. Against all reason, Sam felt comfortable in the dirty house watching his aged and most likely dementing grandfather puttering around the cluttered kitchen. Clanging pans and muttered curses aside, Sam felt a sense of peace claim him with the scent of cedar filling his nose. He stared at the towel in his hands and remembered a Saturday spent shopping instead of playing baseball with his friends.
“Mom bought Grampa this towel for her very last Christmas ever,” Sam muttered but Thom missed the revelation.
* * *
Sam smacked his lips and gave a satisfied snort as his dreams started to drift away. He was scrunched up on his Grandfather’s beat up sofa and barely covered by a ragged afghan but he was quite comfortable. His long talk with the old man helped him work out some of his anxiety. It made him feel a renewed sense of confidence. He knew he could salvage his future. Sam was certain everything would be okay.
“You son of a bitch!”
The angry shout was coupled with two strong hands grabbing Sam by the borrowed undershirt. He was dragged off the sofa and punched. His knees buckled but the grip on his undershirt would not let him collapse.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing here? You a fuckin’ pervert or something?”
Sam barely recovered enough to lift his face before the next blow to his bleeding mouth was delivered. He whimpered as his head snapped back and forth from the force of the strike. On instinct, he grasped the wrist holding him up. He was instantly tossed backward to the couch. Sam cringed but managed to blink up at his assailant.
The woman towering over him was furious. Her long black hair seemed to be caught in a self generated gale force wind. Her eyes were so deeply blue they could have been black. The taught muscles in her jaw radiated down her leather jacketed shoulders to tightly clenched fist. Her biker chaps and boots creaked when she leaned forward and took hold of Sam again. She pulled him to his feet and cocked her fist back to land another blow.
“Coyote, stop smackin’ up family. Ain’t no way to treat relations,” Thom muttered as he shuffled to the kitchen with a stifled yawn and a discrete ass scratch.
“Huh,” the woman’s hold lessened slightly as her elbow dipped a bit.
Thom nodded in Sam’s direction. “He’s your cousin. You don’t need to be kissin’ but I don’t want you killin’ him either.”
The woman released her grip but kept an eye on Sam. “What do you mean cousin, Gramp?”
The kettle clanged onto the stove’s burner. A click followed with the hiss of gas but no sound of the flame popping to life. The unnatural odor of natural gas began to waft from the kitchen into the living room. The impossing woman gave a heavy sigh and pointed directly at Sam.
“Stay!” She commanded before turning on her boot heel and heading to the kitchen. “Gramp, you have to have the matches in your hand before you turn on the burner. You’re gonna blow up the whole house doin’ it this way.”
“Ahh, you kids with the safety ssshhmafety talk. It always works okay for me like this,” Thom defended.
The woman chuckled as she shut the gas off, “Humor me, will you?”
The old man let out a belly laugh. He stretched up and gave her a quick peck on the cheek. Red flushed from the the point of impact to the rest of the woman’s face as her smile spread.
“Good morning, Gramp.”
“Mornin’ Coyote!” The old man chirped before he turned to make his way into the living room. He dropped heavily into the overstuffed chair across from the couch. “So, my boy, I see you were playing with your cousin already but I don’t think you’ve been formally introduced.”
Sam sat brooding and dabbing his bleeding lip with the back of his hand. “No, she didn’t get to say hello before she started pounding my face into a bloody pulp.”
“Fuck you too, you sissy,” Coyote called casually from the kitchen.
“She be your cousin, Coyote Nightmoon. She’s my boy’s girl…,” Gramp began to explain.
Coyote interrupted. “I’m one of your son’s many girls and boys.”
“Don’t be bitter. It’s unattractive,” the old man admonished. “But, you ain’t lying. Jackson is a dog. No two ways around that. He’s got half dozen kids I’ve met and at least four other’s Coyote’s found in her travels.”
“Black Jack gets around and then some,” Coyote stated evenly as she entered the living room with a coffee mug.
Sam watched the old man take the mug and sip.
“Blah, you used that micro-ray, didn’t you?” Thom grimmaced at the taste.
Coyote grinned before glaring at Sam. “So, who’s the wimp?”
“He’s my girl’s boy, Sam.”
Coyote extended her hand in greeting as their grandfather continued the introduction.
Coyote’s hand dropped to her side. Her lip drew back into a sneer. Sam swallowed hard when her saw the anger return to her blue black eyes.
“The fucking homophobe Senate Sam Allerton? Are you fucking kidding me? My cousin is GLAAD’s number one enemy? That’s just perfect!” Coyote fumed.
“I wouldn’t say number one but I’m in the top ten,” Sam grinned.
“I ought to…,” Coyote hissed and took a menacing step toward the couch.
“No fighting!” Thom shouted. “I don’t want the furniture to get all chipped up.”
Coyote frowned but stopped her advance. “I’m getting out of here. Give me a call, Gramp, when the breeder heads back to his ivory tower.”
“Don’t rush out on my account,” Sam taunted.
“Knock it off both of you before I feel the need to fake a heart attack for some undivided attention,” Thom warned.
Coyote shook her head, “Don’t try to get cute, Gramp.”
“Okay, then I be sure to take a tumble. God knows, what will happen to my hip.”
Sam raised his eyebrows with concern, “That’s not funny, Grandpa.”
Thom set his coffee mug down and glared at both of his adult grandchildren. “I ain’t tryin’ to be funny. I’m makin’ a solemn promise. If either of you bolt before I get my breakfast and some good brewed coffee into me, I’ll be sprawled on the floor scream I can’t get up. It’s a guarantee.”
“Grandpa, don’t be talking nonsense,” Sam’s reprimand was interrupted by Coyote.
“He ain’t screwin’ with us. He’s done it before.”
“Just the once,” Thom clarified.
“Once was enough. Fractured his pelvis trying to chase me when I peeled out of here that first day.”
“You was gonna run off and I wouldn’t know how to get in touch with you. I had to do something. Runnin’ after you was better than my other plan,” Thom explained.
“Which was?” Sam asked.
“He was gonna call the cops and say I stole the bike out of his driveway,” Coyote answered and stalked across the room to plop down on the couch next to Sam. “Okay Gramp, you win. I’ll brew the coffee and pussy boy here will make you something to eat. Then are we free to go?”
Thom smiled. “Depends on how close to lunch time it is. You might need to make me a sandwich before you head back on your way.”
“He drives a hard bargain,” Coyote grumbled as she turned to Sam. “Truce in Gramp’s house, okay?”
Sam nodded agreement.
“But,” Coyote hissed her promise, “if I catch you on the street outside or anyplace else, I’m gonna beat you so bad your cock’ll fall off.”
Sam grimaced pulling up his damp pants. They remained clammy from the soaking last evening. His shoes were likely to be soggier. Nothing fully air dried as close to the ocean as his grandfather’s house stood. Still, Sam felt better than he did yesterday. Having slept well and eaten a filling breakfast, restored some of his usual confidence. Even though his lip was swollen from Coyote’s well aimed punch, Sam was able to devour the French toast sticks with sticky maple syrup like it was his last meal.
The finality of the thought lodged in his brain. Sam’s career was likely over. His romance with the first really descent woman he’d met in years was swirling down in a death spiral. And, the idea of a child which he had not ever truly entertained but which had now taken root in his heart was probably not going to materialize into a living, breathing baby. It was that singular reality which hurt the most. He shook off the lingering bleak emotion and exited the bathroom intent on rebuilding whatever remained of his lifestyle as best as he could.
“Finally finish playing with yourself?” Coyote hissed as she pushed past him in the hallway.
“All you had to do was knock,” Sam defended. “Didn’t know you were in such a hurry.”
Coyote hooted before slamming the bathroom door behind her, “Right, only rich, republican, government drones need to use the shitter after breakfast. Fascist!”
Sam’s grandfather snorted a laugh drawing Sam’s attention to the living room. In the light of day, a gray rainy day at that, the room looked quite bleak. The furniture was old and ragged. The carpet was a filthy mess and reeked of aged grime. Windows rattled in their panes with each gust of rain laden wind. Still, the old man paid no heed to the obvious unkempt surrounds. Thom trudged to the front door in just his droopy boxer shorts and a tank top undershirt to retrieve his morning paper.
“Thanks for lending me the couch, Grandpa. I should be heading out,” Sam stated with an awkward shuffle of his feet.
Thom gave him a nod before to the living room. His shuffle showed his advancing years and perhaps the early signs of a neorological disease. Perhaps, a Parkinson’s Syndrome or such. The old man settled into an oversized upolsctered chair which seemed so swallow him whole.
“What’cha gonna do, boy?”
Sam shrugged, “I’ll fiddle around with the truck and see if I can get it moving. There’s a service station just back a mile or so. The walk will do me good, I suppose. No cell service this far out on the peninsula.”
“I mean, what’cha gonna do about your life. How are you gonna handle your girl and the baby?”
“She made it pretty clear she’s not interested in being ‘my girl,’ I think. And, the baby? I don’t think she wants it,” Sam blurted unable to hide the hurt behind the words. “I mean, it’s her choice, right?”
“Oh ho ho, now that you’re the one in the jam you start clinging to Roe v Wade, Hip-fuckin’-crit!” Coyote snorted as she shoved Sam out of her way. She dropped onto the coach before launching the remainder of her venom. “It’s all well fuckin’ fine to tell the rest of us scum what to do and how to friggin’ do it as long as you don’t get stuck playing by the same cranked out rules. Rich boy don’t got to play by no fuckin’ rules his daddy’s lawyer can break, right? So, what’ll you do, creep? You just gonna toss this poor girl fifty bucks for a quickie fuckin’ abortion? Is she even old enough to get one on her own or are you gonna pretend to be her daddy? Not that you haven’t already been playin’ her sugardaddy.”
“What?” Sam’s pitch hitched up an octave or two. “Old enough? Abortion? Fifty bucks? What are you talking about? I know you’re suppose to be speaking English but you talk like drunken sailor.”
“Fuck you, shit face!”
Sam frowned, “This is not any of your concern anyway. You have no right interrupting the conversation I was having with my Grandfather.”
Coyote pulled a face of feigned shock, “Is your personal, important man talk too mature for my delicate feminine ears? Oh, I’m so sorry Mister Sir, please forgive my rude menstruating existence in MY OWN HOME while you continue your discussion with OUR GRANDFATHER!” Coyote sat up and hurled a dusty sofa pillow at Sam nailing him in the gut. “Fuck you, dick wad! This is my house too and I get to say anything I want in it. I can even tell an elected official to drag his scrawny, pompous, self righteous ass out of here! What’cha gonna do? Call your storm trooper Staties?”
“Lighten up a little, girl,” old Thom tried to get a word in edgewise.
Sam dumped the pillow on the floor and made a grab for his shoes. He could hear the ensuing argument erupt between his grandfather and newly found cousin. He didn’t bother to try to process the words. None of what they said made any difference in what he needed to deal with. Nothing they said or did could change what was happening in his life. Only he could change his life. For better or worse, Sam Allerton was on his own. Of course, being on his own was nothing new.
Without a word of goodbye, Sam headed for the front door. He didn’t linger to put on his shoes. He carried them as he crossed the cold, rain soaked grass. His toes numbed before he reached the sandy and gravelly shoulder of the road. He followed the road into the small town instead of back out to the service station. There was somebody else he needed to see on this patch of land jutting out into the fierce currents of the frigid Atlantic waters.
Sam was almost to Cemetery Hill when he heard the choking coughs of a motor cycle slowing near him. He stepped closer to the grass at the soft shoulder of the road allowing the driver ample room to navigate around him on the narrow road. The bike did not pass him. Instead, it slowed to a crawl along side of him and kept pace. Sam glanced to his left and frowned. The biker was Coyote. Her visorless helmet was perched on her head unsecured by the dangling chin strap.
“Where the fuck do you think you’re going? There’s nothing out here to help you. The gas station is back over the line in RichBitch Town,” she called to him over the puttering gasps of the bike’s engine.
“Leave me alone,” Sam shook his head with the words. “It isn’t your road. It is a public street. Anybody gets to walk on it. That includes fascist, republican nazis like me.”
Coyote stopped chugging along next to Sam. He stayed his course and headed up the winding road of Cemetery Hill. He shifted his attention to focus on the cracked and broken tarred path. Little had changed in the two decades since he was last here. The rotting old oak tree next to the weathered sign still stood but seemed smaller to Sam.
He let his feet find the way. If he thought about where to go, he knew he’d get lost. Sam knew his heart would remember the way so he let his feet just move. He was breathless when he crested the top of the hill. The stone marker looked even larger than his memory of it. A boxy square of gray stone with letters etched deeply into the rough surface; Marlo Allerton. There was no maiden name, no dates, no loving tributes for the woman laid to rest beneath the granite slab. Just her name. It looked lonely and abandoned and forgotten. Sam felt his eyes moisten at the sight.
“Dude, what the Hell? It is fuckin’ freezin’ up here. Let’s go before your dick freezes to your balls and I have to thaw you out with a blow dryer,” Coyote shouted above the whistling wind.
Sam glared at her but held his tongue. He stepped closer to his mother’s headstone and rested the palm of his hand on the rough cut rock.
“Look, I’m sorry. Okay?” Coyote actually sounded contrite. “Let me drive you back to the house. I got your truck running. No charge or nothing. You’ve got a bad fly wheel, is all. Figure out a way to leave it with me for a couple of days this week and I can put a new one in for you. Okay? Other than that, it’s in pretty good shape under the hood. The body’s a mess but it’ll run you a few thousand more miles before the scrap heap.”
“I don’t care,” Sam muttered then knelt in the water soaked grass.
Coyote stepped up next to him. Her voice was soft as she leaned over his shoulder and spoke, “It’s just a grave, man. She ain’t there. She’s long gone. You can’t hide from your life up here. Come on, let me give you a ride back to the house.”
“Your mom alive?”
“Naw, she died a couple of years ago.”
“You were all grown by then, right?” Sam didn’t wait for her answer, “I was nine. Just turned nine three days before. She’d been real sick for the whole school year. I thought, I thought we’d be able to spend the summer together down here with grandpa. I worked so hard to hurry the year along so we could get one last summer down here. But…,”
“She was too sick,” Coyote finished for him. “She couldn’t suffer any longer. Her body needed to get away from all that pain. She wasn’t leaving you, Sammy. She didn’t have no choice in it. It happened to her. She lived as long as she could. She didn’t want to leave you behind.”
“But, she did anyway,” Sam took a deep breath to pull his emotions back into check. “We didn’t ever get to have a summer again. None of us. Dad shipped me off to a camp no more than a week after we buried her. Jess got sent to a different camp. Then there were boarding schools and summer vacation camps and au pairs to watch us at the house for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and spring break.”
“Dude, you’re a grown man now. Let it go. Your Dad did the best he could. At least, he stuck around and you knew who he was.” Coyote said with a hint of envy.
“Yep, I did know who he was,” Sam nodded in agreement as he stood up. “He was the man I could never please. And, he’s the man I’m going to let down once again.”
“Yes, I understand the inconvenience. I apologize for the disruption of the schedule,” Heather said.
She was trying to keep her cool while explaining the delayed launch to a clearly unhappy group of men and women at the dilapidated dock under a canopy of gray clouds. One lean man in a business suit sneered as he shift his rain booted feet. A woman with frizzled, braided hair standing near him openly mocked the statement as nothing more than excuses. The choppy, icy waters of the Atlantic behind them would have been more receptive to Heather’s apology.
“He’s avoiding a confrontation. Why not just call it what it is? He’s not late because of car trouble. Sam Allerton has no intention of showing up because he has no intention of cleaning up the harbor islands.” The woman’s voice grew stronger with the murmur of support around her. “He’s got to kowtow to deep pockets of the special interest groups like this guy here,” she was shouting now as she pointed to the man next to her. “Sam Allerton’s just like the rest of these ‘show me the money’ political hacks!”
“Miss, if you’re annoyed with the senator that’s fine,” the guy in the business suit grumbled loudly, “but don’t go linking my bank to a special interest. We’re the only local bank in this county. We’re the only bank to continue to lend qualified homebuyers mortgages during this unprecedented recession.”
“And, you’re the only guy here driving a Lexus,” a voice shouted from the back to be heard over the roar of an approaching motorcycle engine.
“Please, please, ladies and gentleman let’s all try to refrain from personal attacks,” Heather’s attempt to calm the crowd was distracted by the motorcyclist and passenger parking less than fifty feet away. “Sam?”
Sam was only vaguely aware the motorcycle had stopped moving. He was not completely satisfied of his safety even after the engine was shut off. Leather gloved fingers began to peel his own fingers loose from around the driver’s midsection.
“Hey, there Sammy, we’re here. Showtime,” Coyote tried to reassure as she worked to dislodge Sam’s death grip on her.
“Give me, give me,” Sam clenched tighter as he tried to get the words out. “Give me a second.”
Coyote gasped with the strength of his squeeze. She continued to smooth her hand over Sam’s.
“Dude,” she was finally able to croak out, “some chick is straight lining it for us. Man up, Sam.”
He was able to release his hold on Coyote at the words of warning. He peered over his tall cousin’s shoulder and saw Heather jogging toward them in high heels.
“Shit! I’m late.”
“Well, if you didn’t act like such a baby about taking the bike, we could have shaved five minutes off the trip,” Coyote defended as Sam scrambled to get off the motorcycle and pull his head out of his helmet.
“For Christ sake Sam, what do you think you’re doing? You’re dead late and you show up like out of a scene from Easy Rider. And, who is this suppose to be?” Heather’s lip curled as she turned a questioning glance to Coyote.
“Dude, I’m out of here,” Coyote grumbled.
Sam put his hand on his cousin’s shoulder before he spoke. “Please, don’t rush off. Let me introduce you properly. Please.”
Coyote was stunned to inaction by his sincerity.
“Heather,” Sam began and grinned, “this is my cousin, Coyote Nightmoon. She’s been a lifesaver today. I don’t know what I would have done without her unsolicited help. Coyote, this is Heather Trent. She’s my former Administrative Assistant.”
“What?” Healther’s jaw dropped.
“Hey Sam, don’t do anything rash,” Coyote interjected as she climbed off her bike.
“Not rash. I’ve had the whole night to think about what she said to me,” Sam said bitterly.
Heather looked over her shoulder to make sure the pack of constituents and reporters remained herded by the boat ramp. Once satisfied none of them were within listening distance, Heather turned to face Sam.
“I’m sorry. You’re right, I acted terribly yesterday. Your life is your business. I overstepped the boundaries of our work relationship. Worst part of it is, I didn’t think about you first. I’m sorry. Let me just finish this tour of the islands with you and then I’ll submit my resignation. You can’t lose their focus,” she indicated the group behind them with a gentle toss of her head, “with an in-house office tiff. What you’re going to say today is too important.”
Before Sam could reply, Coyote offered her encouragement. “Heather makes some really good points, Sammy. You pay her to give you well reasoned advice and that sure sounded reasonable to me.”
“Thank you, Ms. Coyote,” Heather demurred.
Coyote stood a bit straighter and gave a little nod of her head, “It is actually Ms. Nightmoon but you can call me Coyote.”
“Okay,” Sam gave in, “we’ll deal with personnel issues later. Let’s get the hard work out of the way first. Coyote, you up for a boat ride?”
“Why would I want to do that?”
“Free Continental breakfast provided by the GOP,” Sam replied.
Coyote grinned, “All aboard!”
Heather gave a firm nod. She turned and hurried back to the dock. Once she was well ahead of Sam and Coyote, Coyote elbowed Sam.
“For God’s Sake,” Sam muttered.
Coyote was undeterred by his rebuff. “Seriously, is she involved with anybody at the moment?”
Sam smoothed his hair back from his forehead and mumbled under his breath, “Look, we have work to do. Don’t be bothering Heather.” Sam’s curiosity was piqued though and he had to ask, “You don’t think she’s a lesbian, do you?”
“No,” Coyote replied very seriously in a low tone as they approached the crowd gathered for the harbor islands’ tour, “I know she’s a lesbian.”
All Sam could do was greet the crowd and begin to shake hands.
* * *
“And, as you can see, the islands are suffering irreparable damage by recreational boating and recreational and commercial fishing,” the frizzled haired woman finished her presentation to the group shivering at the port rail.
“Would you recommend limiting fishing licenses?” Sam asked and several members of the group gasped.
“Our study concludes that nothing short of complete elimination of all fishing and boating in these waters will save the islands.”
The banker’s face turned bright red as he tried to control his volume, “That is the dumbest thing you’ve said today, Ellen. And, you’ve said a lot of dumb things.”
“You’ll have your rebuttal time, Mr. Carpenter,” Heather tried to diffuse the situation with procedural points.
“He can’t rebut science! These are the facts right here,” Ellen held the document up. “You can not disprove the truth.”
“Depends on who’s buying the truth,” an older woman in the back of the group croaked resulting in hoots of laughter.
General anarchy was about to ensue when Sam raised his hand and spoke evenly but with his characteristic good nature, “Now folks, we’re not going to spiral into a brawl. That’s what town meetings are for.” The group chuckled at the remark. “Ellen Weiner’s report is thorough and well investigated. It represents a two years study. My office will link her document on our homepage so everybody can read it. The same with Jed Carpenter’s report. The links will be available at my office’s homepage. We are going to listen to our second presenter and then you can all get a bite while I yammer on for a bit. So, Jed, would you give us all your synopsis?” The group settled back into respectful attention at the Sam’s request.
“He really knows how to work a room,” Heather confided to Coyote.
Coyote grinned and gave a sexy wink, “Yep, and he ain’t half bad on a boat deck either.”
Heather stared for a moment before a smile graced her lips. “Apparently, it runs in the family.”
* * *
Sam stood at the picnic table next to the closed clam shack on the dock. The group had gathered around him to hear his closing remarks from the tour. All of them expected the usual political speech designed placate the masses, offend nobody, and take a firm stand based on party lines.
“Thank you all for your time and attendance this morning. In spite of choppy seas, we had a productive and informative tour of, what I consider to be, a national treasure here in our own backyard; the harbor islands. In preparation for this event, I read each of the reports presented today. No two documents could be more opposite. They agree on only one thing, a disaster will occur if we fail to act. Mr. Carpenter’s group believes the course should be expanding fishing and boating to ensure a healthy economy so we can afford to care for the islands. Ms. Weiner’s group has research to prove the islands will be destroyed if we do not completely restrict fishing and boating.” Sam sighed and shook his head. “Solomon had an easier choice to make.” The crowd chuckled but it was a nervous sound. “He knew one of the women before him was a liar because they both could not love the disputed child. My friends, both the groups trying to convince us their position is correct love the islands and need them as much as we do. How to choose?” The group grew silent. “I will not choose. I will not support either bill being presented by Mr. Carpenter or Ms. Weiner.”
There were gasps. Quickly angry shouts began. Sam waited a moment and fixed his gaze on some of the louder members before him. Their outcry diminished considerably under his intense scrutiny.
“We all have a stake in this. Each of us is right and each of us is wrong to some extent. I’m calling on all sides to meet with me in a series of open meetings to help me carve out a new bill. None of us will get all we want but each of us will get something we need. And, our precious harbor islands will be the winners of our united efforts. Join me, work with me, let’s stop the political nonsense and just get the job done!”
The group was silent until his last word. They exploded in rabid applause. Those who were critical only moments before were cheering. As he moved through the crowd, hands reached out and grabbed for his sleeve or his arm or to pat him on the back. They swarmed him and their support of his speech could be seen in their movements and heard in their shouts.
“Wow,” Coyote was nearly breathless with the scene she was witnessing.
Heather grinned. “You never heard one of his speeches before.”
“Nope. And, I’ve never heard a politician in this state invite average slobs to help write a bill.”
“That’s because,” Heather beamed with pride, “no politician in this state in the last fifty years has done anything like this. It is open meeting government at it’s best. He’s the real deal, Coyote. Sam’s a true believer and someday he’s going to be governor.”
Coyote shook her head. “He keeps turning crowds around like that and he’ll be president.”
Sam stopped his frantic typing to read the proposal he was piecing together. He’d been working on it for hours but the end result seemed worthy of his efforts. A few tweaks here and there and the document would be ready to submit to the chairman of the Ways and Means committee for review. Regardless of the final outcome, it was a bold enough piece of legislation to capture ranking members on both sides of the aisle.
“Hey, you ready to go or what? If you take too much longer I’ll miss the beginning of my favorite show,” Coyote grumbled as she barged into Sam’s office and flopped down in the chair facing his desk.
“Cagney and Lacey reruns?” Sam quipped without lifting his eyes from the computer monitor. “Oh wait, no, let me guess again. Xena?”
Coyote grinned and replied, “Not even close smart guy. I’m totally a Losted kind of girl.”
“I’ll say you’re Lost, alright.” Sam laughed a little before asking the question he dreaded the answer to, “Couldn’t fix it, could you?”
“Are you kidding me? Me not be able to fix an American built motor? The world will immediately grind to a halt the day I can’t fix an engine, buddy,” Coyote reprimanded him. “Your truck is purring like that chick who tucked into my lap last Saturday night.”
Sam drew back in horror. “Do you have to go there? Do you have to get all up in everybody’s face with you perver..., l, I mean, your business?”
“Oh, go on, you were gonna say perversion, weren’t you?” Her brow drew together in solemn contemplation.
“Look,” Sam raised his hands in mock surrender, “I don’t want to argue with you. I’m grateful for the help you’ve given me. Can’t we just agree we’re from different worlds?”
For the first time since Sam had met her, Coyote’s guard came down and he saw the hurt his words were causing her.
“Dude, there’s only one world. We all have to figure out how to get along in it,” Coyote’s voice was soft and wounded.
Sam was never so happy to hear a knock at his door interrupting a meeting. He had no words to say to Coyote which could leap over the wall he so carelessly and quickly erected between them. In less than a dozen words, Sam marginalized Coyote’s existence. It had not been his intention but he did so none the less.
“Yes, Heather, what are you doing here so late?” Sam asked his administrative assistant standing in the doorway with her coat on.
Heather swallowed hard. She nervously pushed her hair back behind her right ear. The maneuver succeeded only in forcing the hair on the left to cascade forward like billowing sheets of yellow silk. She crossed the room with purpose but skidded to an abrupt stop when she reached the chair holding Coyote. Heather offered a white envelope out toward Sam. He did not rise to retrieve it.
“What’s that?” He asked.
Heather tried twice to get her voice strong enough to answer. “My resignation. I cleared out my stuff. My desk is organized in piles from left to right and top to bottom to match your calendar events. Just cross check everything with your desk top organizer.”
Sam grimaced. “You know I don’t know how to get into my desk top organizer. You start it for me every morning. You’re just gonna leave without showing me how to figure out my schedule? That doesn’t seem right. I mean, you’ve been working for me for three years…”
“Four,” Heather softly corrected.
“…four years,” Sam picked up the correction and continued on with his hastily prepared remarks. “And, you’re just gonna walk away? Pack and run out the door without any notice? That’s not very fair.”
Heather frowned deeply. She shook her head and said with an emotional hitch to her voice, “You said this morning at the dock, I was your former administrative assistant. I’m trying to save you the trouble of firing me.”
“You know, Sammy, the girl’s got a point,” Coyote chirped up.
Both Sam and Heather turned to stare at Coyote.
“You did fire her in front of a witness. Me being that witness,” Coyote smirked and pointed to herself.
“I never used the ‘f’ word,” Sam defended.
“True but when Heather gallantly fell on her own sword and offered her resignation you remained silent.” Coyote’s eyes twinkled as she continued, “I believe in legal circles, silence is agreement.”
“He wouldn’t know legal circles talk. He’s not a lawyer,” Heather clarified. “Sam’s an MBA.”
Sam nodded agreement. “It’s true. I make laws but I don’t understand them.”
Coyote rolled her eyes before continuing. “Well folks, you two are at an impasse regardless of your area of specialty. And, the two of you are holding directly opposing views. You need a tie breaker. You should let me be the tie breaker. Let me decide if Heather is staying or going.”
“Why you?” Sam’s voice cracked.
“Because I fixed your truck, Dude. And, I drove it all the way up here to the State House so you could get home tonight,” Coyote explained. “And, I’m a constituent. I should get to have some say in how you run my district.”
Heather laughed. Coyote blushed but managed to flash back a cocky grin of her own. Sam just sighed in defeat.
“Okay, you pick. Does the single best administrative assistant in this building continue to work for me or am I shit out of luck because I have a nasty temper?”
“Whoa,” Heather stepped back and placed her hand over her heart. “That sounded like a compliment and an apology in the same breath.”
“It certainly did,” Coyote agreed. “So, Miss Heather, do you want to keep working for this homophobic, right wing, fascist, pro-gun, wing nut, tool?”
“Yes, I think I do.”
Coyote nodded thoughtfully before asking with a low purr, “What will I get out of the deal if I manage to get your job back for you?”
“Dinner? A movie? And,” Heather raised her eyebrows while Sam covered his ears.
“Deal! Sam, I managed to convince Heather to stay on with you.”
“Great,” Sam sighed. “But, please don’t let the gossip hounds at the Herald know you bartered sexual favors for the negotiations.”
“My good man,” Coyote feigned indignation. “It was dinner, a movie, and sexual favors for the negotiations. Please set my record straight!
“So to speak,” Heather deadpanned.
Coyote chuckled but continued, “Sammy, you can’t have people think I’m easy. It’ll ruin my reputation.”
“We can’t have that now, can we?” Sam mumbled somewhat wistfully as the woman chatted across from him. “Maybe I should get Coyote to negotiate a truce between Rachael and me.”
* * *
Sam stared at the bent and broken flower stems strewn across the hood of his truck. He was amazed so many still littered the vehicle after his high speed escape. Karla’s wild pummeling with the appropriated bouquet managed to embed a fair number of the stems and petals into the molding around the windshield in the time it took Sam to fire up the engine and pull out of the Rachael’s driveway.
“All in all, it could have gone better,” Sam muttered.
He drove aimlessly for most of the night. When the sun started to rise he could think of no place better to be than the sandy beach in his Mother’s hometown. Every other time he’d come to this beautiful sea side get away, his problems seemed to wash away with each crashing wave.
“Doesn’t look like that will happen today,” he muttered seconds before two solid thuds to his tailgate sent him scrambling for the ignition.
“Relax, Goofball! Open the door before my tits freeze,” Coyote’s muffled voice shouted from the passenger side of the truck.
Sam mutely obeyed and flipped the automatic lock. Coyote raised her eyebrows before deliberately glaring at the Styrofoam cups in each hand indicating her obvious inability to open the door on her own.
“Sorry,” Sam mumbled as he leaned over tugging the door handle.
Coyote shook her head in disgust but managed to climb into the cab without spilling a drop. She handed a steamy cup to Sam before slamming the door closed against the chill.
“Look, Asshole, if you come into town you need to let Gramp know that everything is okay. He’s too old to have to worry about a rich, selfish bastard, crybaby,” Coyote admonished.
Sam grinned for the first time in hours. “Sounds like you met my father.”
“Jesus, Sam, what the fuck is wrong with you?” Coyote wouldn’t be swayed by a joke. “The old guy hasn’t seen you in years and now you’re showing up on his front step and sleeping in your truck at the beach like some freakin’ teenager. I don’t give a crap about how screwed up your life is but I do care about that old man. He’s all I got…he’s,” Coyote’s breath caught in her throat and she turned her face away to hide her emotions.
“You’re right. I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking how me showing up would hurt him.”
“You are such a deuche bag!” Coyote shouted but she seemed almost happy to have something to be angry about. “He’s not hurt. He’s worried about you. He’s been worried about you since before you were born. He loves you, you idiot! You might not have been in his life but he’s been following yours. Your father may have stopped him from seeing you but that didn’t stop him from loving you.”
Sam swallowed hard. He didn’t know what to say. It was too much to hear that somebody actually loved him during those years he felt forgotten and alone. He sipped the hot drink for lack of any meaningful words.
“Arrhh, what the Hell is this?”
Coyote blinked in confusion. “Hot chocolate.”
“Blah, what adult drinks hot chocolate?”
“Me. And, now you,” Coyote could not hid her grin.
Sam grimaced but took another sip trying to formulate a reply. “Okay, I’m an ass, an idiot, a deuche, a Nazi, a homophobe, did I miss anything?”
“A couple. But, what’s your point?”
“That’s it exactly. I don’t have a point. I don’t have all the answers. I’m trying to figure out my life. Trying to do my job. Trying…,”
“Trying and succeeding in enshrining discrimination and keeping poor people poor,” Coyote interjected her own assessment of Sam’s career to date.
“The rules and funding you support or dismiss can ruin lives, Dude. Like, your support of the Defense of Marriage act,” Coyote began to list off his offences.
“My constituents were three to one in support of that bill.”
“Tyranny of the masses, Dude.” Coyote quipped before continuing, “You’re against the free needle program…,”
“Free needles for junkies when diabetics have to pay for their needles? No way,” Sam easily defended.
“You didn’t support the Anti-Bullying Bill.”
“It’s a Free speech issue besides if I did they’d lock you up for the way you talk to me.”
Coyote was undeterred. “You wouldn’t condemn Arizona for their Anti-Immigration Bill.”
“States Rights. We don’t want the people of Arizona telling us how to live, do we?”
“You didn’t support shutting down Dog Racing.”
“Free enterprise. Even a dog should get to earn a living in the Commonwealth.”
“You supported W big time!”
“He was the President! Our President. When the election is over, it’s over and we have to stop arguing or nothing gets done. Obama’s my President too! I support him too.”
“Right! You didn’t support Healthcare Reform.”
“It is unaffordable! How are we going to pay for it? Borrow more money from China? Look, somebody has to be the adult and be brave enough to say, ‘great idea but we can’t afford it yet.’ I’m willing to be that guy!”
Coyote was quiet for a moment as she watched Sam sip his drink. “You certainly are brave enough on state and national policy. So, how ‘bout you get brave enough with your own life?”
Sam stared at her wide eyed.
“Why are you sleeping in your truck at the beach, Sammy?”
Sam hung his head. “She won’t talk to me. She won’t even come to the door and tell me to leave her alone. She sics Karla on me.”
Coyote raised both eyebrows and grinned, “This is starting to have real potential. Tell me all about Karla.”
“Hey, don’t you have a date with Heather? Don’t you mess with her if you’re just gonna be a one night thing. Heather’s a good girl. You can’t be cattin’ around on her,” Sam warned.
“From the lips of the man who doesn’t want fags to marry,” Coyote said bitterly.
Sam shook his head. “I stated my opposition but the law is the law. The State Constitution has the final say in this one. So, I got no problem if you want to court and woo Heather.”
“Woo? What are you? A hundred and two?”
“Just don’t hurt her, okay? And besides, Karla’s a beast. She’s mean and nasty and angry at the world. You deserve better.”
“Thanks,” Coyote said quietly, surprised by his statement. “Okay, so what’s the problem? Karla keeping you two apart?”
Sam nodded but explained. “There’s that and I say all the wrong stuff. It pisses Rachael off and she snaps and I don’t even know what I’m saying that ruined the moment until she shuts me down.”
“Rachael’s a girly girl, eh? Well, you are in luck, little man. I’m an expert on girly girls.”
“Seriously, I know you’re a girl, technically. But, I want to get the girl who wants to get a boy not the girl knocked up by the boy who really want a girl who could be a boy.”
Coyote grinned. “I think there’s an insult in there someplace but let’s not squabble. Let’s fix your relationship issues. So, Sam, why not shoot a little higher than the girl who wants a boy? Let’s get you the woman willing to put up with you.”
“Man, who would have thought I needed a lesbian to fix my love life?” Sam moaned.
Coyote chuckled. “If you talked to the lesbian first, your love life would never have needed fixing, Dude. Face it, when it comes to women, you are a rank amateur.”
“Okay, I’m at the Facebook front page screen thing. What do I do next?” Sam shouted.
Coyote’s reply was slightly muffled by the half closed bathroom door, “Did you plug in your user name and password yet?”
Sam made a face and looked at his grandfather sitting on the edge of the double bed jammed in next to the ancient desk. The old man shrugged. The pair of them stared back at the computer screen standing tall amid the clutter on Coyote’s desk. They waited silently as if something would happen without them taking any action. Coyote stuck her soaking wet head out of the bathroom door to check on their lack of progress.
“Dude, what’s your friggin’ password?”
Sam looked back over his shoulder at her and began to stutter, “When you say password, what exactly are you referring to?”
“Oh man,” Coyote was exasperated. “Every program you use needs two things. The first of which is your user name which is usually the same as an email account.”
“That, okay, yep, I know what that is,” Sam seemed very proud of his sudden revelation.
“The password is something that only you should know,” Coyote grimaced and ducked back behind the bathroom door. “I don’t suppose there’s any chance you’d have told it to somebody reliable, would you have? Maybe somebody like Heather?”
“No, it’s okay. I know what I need now. Just get confused with that userword and passname nonsense. Can’t remember which is which,” Sam clarified and reached for his wallet.
Gramp chuckled. “You wrote it down? Even I know you’re not suppose to do that.”
“No, I didn’t, write it down. I’m not stupid,” Sam defended. “I wrote a hint down.”
He pulled his business card free and studied it for a moment. His brows drew together in deep thought. He finally turned back to the keyboard and typed. A beep indicated he was not correct.
“SAM!” Coyote screamed a warning from inside the bathroom. “If you fuck it up two more times then it will lock you out and my plan goes all to shit! You need to get me into Rachael’s Facebook page if I’m going to help you. So, don’t screw up again.”
“Not too much pressure huh, boy?” Gramp whispered.
Sam shook his head, “I wish this had a volume control so she wouldn’t hear.”
“Want a head start to your car when you flub up again, huh?”
Sam nodded. He resumed typing and achieved another negative beep. Swearing ensued from the bathroom. Sam typed furiously to race against Coyote’s growing aggravation.
“SAM!” Coyote shouted as she exited the bathroom.
“In! I’m in. Relax. Done. I did it right,” Sam’s babbling was abruptly halted when he saw Coyote. “Wow!”
“Easy, boy. You two are related,” Gramp noted casually.
Coyote grinned and promised, “And, I’d rip your dick off and shove it up your ass if you even thought of getting wood in my presence.”
Sam’s hands instinctively covered the threatened body part. The warning was well needed. Sam’s body was reacting to the sight before him. Coyote was standing in the dead center of the room wearing a white tank top and skimpy cut off jeans. The firmly shaped muscles in her arms and shoulders were delicately highlighted with oil providing a glistening effect which made them look softly delectable. Her long legs looked strong but maintained a sleek linear line.
“You’re gorgeous!” Sam burst out. “You’ve got breasts and hips and everything.”
Gramp shook his head sadly. “Now I know why you need Coyote’s help with girls. You’re kind of dopey around beautiful women, ain’t you?”
“Yes,” Sam was dejected.
Coyote could not hold back her laugh. “Maybe we should shoot for you to be tall, dark, and handsome and forget eloquent.”
“Good idea,” Sam was relieved she was not mad at him. “Now, why do I need to be in Facebook?”
Coyote explained as she retrieved her work boots and socks. “I need to know what your girl likes.”
“How can you tell on Facebook?” Sam asked and his grandfather laughed.
“Wow, you really are a babe in the techno world,” Coyote marveled before planting herself on the narrow bed next to Gramp. “Go to your friend list…,”
“All seven of them,” Gramp noted as he squinted at the screen.
“Click on Rachael,” Coyote said before a smile spread across her face. “She’s a cutie, Sam. Look Gramp, Sam’s girlfriend has breasts and hips and everything.”
Sam sighed at their laughter. “Fine. Make fun of me. It is only my future hanging in the balance. Only your great grandchild, Grandpa, and a potential cousin for you Coyote. That is if she hasn’t,” Sam could not finish the dark thought.
“Man up, Dude,” Coyote said flatly. “No chick in trouble wants a wuss lover. This is where you grab your balls not tuck ‘em up inside!”
“Vivid,” Gramp noted.
“Thanks,” Coyote spared the old man a wink. “Sam, click on Rachael’s profile. Go to info. That’s it. Scroll. There we go. A treasure trove of what she likes!”
“Seriously? You’re gonna fix my relationship based on this?” Sam was horrified. “Maybe this is outdated or maybe she was fooling around when she filled it out or maybe…,”
“Maybe it’ll work,” Gramp interrupted. “Wish I had this when I was chasing your Grandmother. I had to follow her around to find out what she liked and didn’t like.”
“Did you get arrested?” Coyote teased.
Gramp shook his head. “Her brother beat the snot out of me for being a peeping Tom. Thank God, he did. She felt so bad about my broken nose she agreed to go out with me.”
Coyote perked up. “There’s an idea. Sam, Rachael have any brothers?”
“Funny. Very funny. Again, my future’s in your hands and you decide to try stand up comedy,” Sam grumbled.
“Read to me, Sammy. What does it say Rachael likes?” Coyote resumed tying her boots.
“The Red Sox, MFA, sky diving,” Sam stopped cold and swallowed. “Hope she doesn’t like that too, too much.”
Coyote stood and went to look over his shoulder. “She also likes baking, wuss. Maybe you two can just have a bake off instead of tandem jumps out of a plane. Okay, this has just what I need. I’ll call my buddy, Favo, and he’ll make up a gift basket. I’ll deliver it then distract Pit Bull Karla so Rachael gets the goodies. She’ll be so overwhelmed with your thoughtfulness she’ll call you and you won’t say anything stupid and then you’ll live happily ever after. The end.”
“You really think so?” Sam asked with a slight crack in his voice.
“Sure. Now you head back to your place and wait for your blushing girlfriend to call.”
Sam nodded and muttered goodbyes as he exited the room. Gramp waited a few seconds before leaning closer to Coyote. He crooked his finger to get her to bend down to hear his whisper.
“He don’t stand a chance of pulling this off, does he?”
“Not a glimmer of hope,” Coyote confided sadly.
* * *
“What?” As she pulled the door open, Karla barked the greeting to Coyote standing on the doorstep holding a massive foil wrapped basket.
Coyote’s face changed from passive indifference to surprise to mild disappointment before she asked, “Rachael?”
“No,” Karla huffed.
“Thank goodness,” Coyote grinned as she sighed her relief.
Karla seemed alarmed by the response. “What do you mean by that?”
“Well, Rachael is the recipient of this pathetic delivery from some breeder named Samuel Allerton. If you were Rachael that’d mean you were straight and then I’d be totally out of luck,” Coyote’s voice was soft and husky.
“What makes you think I’m not straight?” Karla wanted to be indignant about something, anything.
Coyote looked disappointed. She refrained from commenting on the buzz hair cut, military black framed eye glasses, Lilith Fair tee shirt, and baggy sweatpants.
Instead, she ventured forward with a hearty apology. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to be out of line with you, miss. It’s just, you’re kind of my type but if you’re not…,”
Karla, unwilling to let the argument fizzle, interrupted, “There’s nothing wrong with being straight, you know.”
“Oh hey, of course not. Really some of my best friends are breeders, I mean hetero. Like, my parents were, you know, straight,” Coyote tried to sound appropriately remorseful but she knew she’d hook Karla’s attention if not her interest.
Karla gave a crooked smile with coffee stained teeth. “Look, it’s okay. I’m not straight but I hate when people make assumptions.”
“Oh, I totally understand. I just thought I got lucky. Usually, these kinds of deliveries are for some poor girl who got knocked up by some sanctimonious lout.”
“What? Did the sperm donor actually go into your boutique and order the basket himself? Are you kidding? I thought he’d leave that to his lipstick lesbian assistant,” Karla hissed.
“I didn’t see him but my boss said he came in with a long list of particulars. What did he trap her with? Twins?” Coyote quipped and Karla gagged out a barking laugh. “Wow, you’ve got the sweetest voice. Are you involved with anybody? I know it’s too forward to just ask but I don’t want to miss a chance to get to know somebody like you.”
Karla stepped back from the doorway and motioned Coyote inside. “Why don’t you put that crap over there on the buffet table? Maybe I could get you something cold to drink? Or do you have to hurry off for more loser deliveries?”
“This was my last stop of the day,” Coyote said as she deposited the basket as directed. “I must be livin’ right ‘cause I got no place to be. I’d love a cold drink. You got any Fresca?”
Karla’s mouth dropped open. “You drink Fresca? Oh my God, it’s my favorite drink.”
“I knew the minute you opened the door, we’d have a lot in common,” Coyote stepped a little closer to Karla to hush the words. She let her mind race with the memories of trolling through Karla’s Facebook account and a series of painfully dull blogs at a vegan message board. “Maybe we could grab a bite to eat. I know this wonderful vegetarian place. Oh, wait, you’re a vegetarian aren’t you? ‘Cause that’s really important to me.”
Karla’s eyes twinkled in delight. “It’s like you read my mind.”
“No, just your profile,” Coyote though silently before saying, “I think we are going to have a great afternoon.”
Karla giggled like a school girl as she hurried off to the kitchen. “If you keep playing your cards right, we might have a better night.”
Coyote grimaced and thought, “Sammy, you are lucky I’m a complete tramp.”
* * *
Sam had been praying for his cell phone to ring for hours. Now that it actually was ringing, his palms started to sweat. He grabbed the device and checked the screen knowing it would read, ‘Rach.’
“Hey there,” he managed not to stutter the greeting.
“Hi,” her voice was so soft Sam expect the next words to warn him off bothering her ever again. “It’s beautiful. Really Sam, it’s so lovely but too much. Too expense to do.”
Sam cringed a little. “You know, I’m not good at lying. I can’t really fib either. So, I’m just going to say this up front. I got a deal from the guy who’s a friend of my cousin and she helped me figure out what you might like.” He was sure he was babbling but could not seem to stop himself. “If I was smarter, I probably would have been able to figure something like it but I’m not that kind of clever. So, I got a little help. But, the feelings were all me. I’ve been desperate to talk to you. I need you to hear this, I love you.”
“Wow, Sam, you could use a little white lie or just not offer so much truth,” Rachael advised.
“I’m sorry,” Sam felt like he was blowing his only chance. “I’m probably the only guy in history who can ad lib politics but needs a speech writer for his private life.”
A moment of silence was followed by a deadpan response. “Clinton might have had the same issue.”
Sam was relieved when Rachael laughed. He pulled out his kitchen chair and sat with a little thud. His whole body was trembling.
“Are you okay?”
Rachael sobered to answer, “Yes. I didn’t have too bad a bout of morning sickness today. Badly named ailment, I might mention. It actually lasts all day. How about you? How are you doing with this?”
“I’m worried sick for you. You were suffering so much and there was nothing I could do to help you.” Sam was honest, “I’m really scared for you.”
“See, that’s what you should have lead off with,” Rachael sniffled. “That will get me every time.”
Sam smiled with a sense of relief. “Maybe you could be my speech writer. Make sure I don’t say anything stupid anymore.”
“Sounds like a full time job.”
“Overtime actually. Just ask my girlfriend how much work I am.” Sam closed his eyes and plunged into the question he feared. “Do I still have a girlfriend, Rachael?”
“No,” she said slowly, “you have a significant other and a baby on the way.”
“Thank God,” Sam felt the tears crest over his eye lids and down his cheek. “You have no idea how much you mean to me. I promise, I’m gonna try so hard not to be an asshole.”
Rachael laughed so hard she snorted. “Get in your truck and get over here. Karla’s out for dinner so I can sneak you into my bedroom without a screaming match.”
“See you in fifteen,” Sam said before hanging up. “And, thank you, Coyote! I owe you. Taking that beast out to dinner is above and beyond the call of duty. I guess blood is thicker than water.”
* * *
As soon as Rachael rolled over in her sleep, Sam eased himself out of the bed. He found his smiley face boxers in the chair near the closed door. His bladder was throbbing for relief. But, he ignored the discomfort because Rachael was sleeping so soundly on his chest. He would not consider moving her and disturb her rest.
“Glad she rolled over, though,” Sam thought to himself. “I doubt she’d want me to piss the bed”
He carefully opened the bedroom door and exited. Gently, he click the door shut behind him. Sam felt like a kid Christmas morning trying to sneaking down the hallway without waking up everybody. It seemed a little undignified for a grown man to creep around trying not to wake his girlfriend’s obnoxious roommate but he really wanted to avoid a confrontation. The evening had been too wonderful to wreck at this point.
After relieving himself, he considered not flushing but decided the hygiene quotient was worth the risk of waking Karla. Besides, he reasoned he’d be able to scamper back to bed before she could drag her ass out of her room to snoop around.
Sam’s easing open of the bathroom door was stopped halfway with the sight standing on the other side.
“Coyote?” He gasped.
She looked positively hung over. Her hair was a wild mess with snarls and strands in every direction. She was completely naked and appeared complete unbothered by her exposure. Hickies littered her neck, shoulders, and breast. She wiped her face with the back of her hand before squinting trying to recognize who whispered her name.
Sam covered her mouth with his hand when she attempted to speak. He pulled her head first into the bathroom before pushing the door closed with his shoulder. Spinning her around to face him, Sam saw her start to swoon. He backed her to the toilet and plopped her down.
“What are you still doing here? Why are you hung over? Where’s Karla?” Sam whispered frantically.
Coyote had to suppress a belch before she could answer. “I’m still here because you wanted me to distract Karla so you could make up with Rachael. And, it looks like mission accomplished, Mr. Happy Pants. I’m hung over because I needed to be really drunk to ‘distract’ Karla. Man, she’s a piece of work. Almost never shuts up. And, as for the ‘where’s Karla’ question, she’s in bed waiting for me to come back for round two. Or, it could be round four.”
“Eww,” Sam could not contain his moment of revulsion. “You slept with it?”
“You told me to distract her.”
“Yes, but I didn’t say you should touch her. I mean, gross me out or something. She’s ghastly.”
Coyote gave a little wink. “She’s actually a wild woman under the sheets. That is, once I popped in my ear buds to drown her whining voice out, it was circus time. I’m aching like I’ve been lifting an engine block over my head all night.”
Sam nodded sadly. “Figures. Screwing her is a greasy, labor intensive chore.”
“But,” Coyote grinned, “surprisingly satisfying.”
Sam looked very worried. “She didn’t give you a pill or hypnotize you or something, did she? Should we get you to the doctors to catch up on your shots?”
“Baby? Baby, are you in there? Who’re talkin’ to?” Karla’s scratchy voice called through the closed door.
“Shit!” Sam cringed.
“Man up,” Coyote scolded quietly. “Get in the shower. I’ll get her back to bed. Then you finish up with Rachael and clear out. I’m only gonna be good for another hour or so. This chick is kicking my ass.”
“Baby? Who’re talking to?”
Coyote stood and shoved Sam back into the stall shower as she answered, “Singing, sweetie, singing your praises. Now, just give me a sec, hon! I’m coming.”
“Not yet, Baby, but I’m gonna make sure you do come. Over and over again.”
Sam made a gagging motion with his index finger toward his open mouth. Coyote just smiled before heading back to the bathroom door.
“Man, I really owe her,” Sam shook his head.
Coyote strolled as casually as she could force herself across the cold marble floor of the State House’s lobby. Her leather chaps slapped reassuringly against her calves with each step. The weight of them and her biker boots made her feel grounded and confident even in territory as alien to her as the surface of Mars.
All around her were the trappings of power amassed by people who looked nothing like her. People whose history included the destruction of a way of life her mother’s tribe still mourned. If she had been merely running an errand to these echoing halls, she would have felt as brave as the face she presented to all looking her way. But, she was here for her date with a woman Coyote feared was way out of her league. Her chiseled features and confident stride were were displayed by sheer will power over the hammering of her heart and butterflies taking wing in her belly.
“Miss, excuse me, miss,” a deep, wet voice bellowed from somewhere behind her.
Coyote was certain the man was calling to her. She felt that familiar anger building in her gut. Getting targeted by police because of her appearance was nothing new and neither was her resentment of the process. She continued to walking but could hear the huffs and puffs of the man as he was gaining on her. The crackle of a walkie talkie confirmed in her mind who exactly was trailing her and what exactly he wanted.
“Miss,” his voice was forceful and right next to her.
“What?” Coyote snapped the question.
She whirled around to confront the man. He stood about a foot and a few inches shorter than her but made up the bulk in width. His hair was a graying red and wrapped from ear to ear around the back of his head leaving the entire top bare as a baby’s bum. What his head lacked in hair was made up for in sweat. He had beady brown eyes and stark white skin with blotches of brown which might have passed for freckles when he was in his teens. The name tag sagging from his breast pocket was engraved with ‘O’Malley’ but Coyote ignored the signage.
“Look Robocop, I got an appointment upstairs. Go harass somebody else. I’m sure there’s a nice flaming fag couple trying to get married that you can torment,” Coyote all but snarled the remarks.
O’Malley grinned revealing two broken front teeth before he answered. “Oh no, we ain’t allowed to bother them boys no more. We only got to watch out for terrorists and troublemakers. So, you come on nice and quiet with me now.”
Coyote was fuming. “What makes you leap to the conclusion I’m either of those things, Sherlock?”
“You match his description perfectly; Classic Troublemaker. So, you really need to follow me or you’ll be late for your very important date,” O’Malley said and gave a knowing wink before lumbering passed her.
“What? What are you talking about?” Coyote questioned as she scrambled to follow the security guard to a rear hall.
“Look girlie, if you don’t get your game on, you’ll be kickin’ yourself for a very long time. Ms. Heather don’t like bein’ disrespected by late appointments. You’ll blow your shot to blow your date if you don’t double time it,” O’Malley warned as he keyed a private elevator.
Coyote followed him into the elevator in spite of her complete confusion. As the doors slid shut, her fear of being alone with this armed stranger twisted in her belly. A hideous noise rumbled and she clutched at her middle. O’Malley chuckled which helped Coyote recapture her anger.
“Who sent you to find me?”
O’Malley stared back at her with a furrowed brow before answering, “Boy, he’s got you all wrong. Thought you were a cool cucumber but you’re as much of a nervous Nellie as he is.”
“Sam? Sam sent you to get me?”
“Yep,” O’Malley replied as the elevator reached it’s destination. “Now, if you just hush up, we can sneak you in the back door to get you ready.”
Coyote hurried after him down the hallway. “Ready? What do you mean ready?”
All O’Malley sighed before knocking on Sam’s door was, “Boy o boy, just like two peas in a pod.”
Sam pulled the door open and grinned. He waved the pair into the office and quietly shut the door. He almost skipped passed them as he hurried back over to the desk to grabbed a manila folder.
“Okay, what’s your plan?” Sam asked Coyote in an anxious whisper.
“Plan for what?” Coyote asked back dully.
“Oh boy,” O’Malley grunted.
Sam was not deterred by the evasive response. “Coyote, you only got about fifteen minutes to put the finishing touches on this date. Heather is no push over. If you think you like her and want to get to see her again, then you better have a plan.”
“Huh,” Coyote’s feigned stoicism was beginning to fail with the attention Sam was demonstrating. “We’re just going out for a few laughs. Nothing memorable.”
“Forget it,” O’Malley tossed his hands in the air and walked back to the rear door. “She’s got no chance, Sam. It’s best just to hand Heather bus fare ‘cause she ain’t never gonna give this one more than hour of her time.”
Sam’s brow drew together as he studied Coyote’s demeanor. He shook his head and bit his lip.
“What?” Coyote was feeling very defensive but was more willing to let her own guard down now that the security guard left. “What’s with the worried face?”
“Heather is a really nice girl. She has expectations…,”
“Sam, it’s just a date,” Coyote wasn’t entirely sure she was trying to convince only Sam of that notion.
“Grampa said you it took you three hours to pick out clothes and you shined up the bike twice.”
Coyote shrugged and walked over to Sam’s cluttered desk. “Well, we all like to make a good impression.”
“Grampa said he’s never seen you so nervous,” Sam said.
“Grampa said, Grampa said,” Coyote mocked him as she leaned her ass against the ancient wood. “This is crap. I’m just takin’ the girl for a spin and a bite to eat. If we hit the sack, great. If not, her loss.”
Sam shook his head as he disagreed, “We both know that’s not true. Come on, you were wonderful helping me a few days ago. Why not let me help you a little?”
“What for?” Coyote tried to sound like she didn’t care.
“Because,” Sam got very quiet as he simply stated. “It would actually be your loss if you didn’t get to spend time with Heather. Coyote, she’s really something else. Even the security guys here have been trying to hook her up with their sisters. Some of the girls aren’t even gay.”
“Funny, ha ha,” Coyote rolled her eyes. “So, what should we do in the next ten minutes to make me suitable for Princess Heather?”
Sam opened the manila folder and started to read aloud. “Okay, you’ll walk in the main office door on the third chime from the Grandfather clock in my outer office…,”
“Third chime?” Coyote asked with smirk.
“…three’s a magical number…,”
“Who are you? What have you done with my Nazi cousin?” Coyote snapped but Sam continued to detail the agenda.
“…you’ll present her with two dozen orange roses…,”
“Two? Orange? What?” Coyote was stuttering.
“Passion, orange is for passion,” Sam figured out part of her question.
Coyote glared at him and said with a sour twang, “But, I got no flowers, dude.”
Sam hurried behind his large desk while shoving his folder under his arm. He ducked down with cracking knees. When he bounced back up he was cradling a long white box with an elaborate red ribbon forming a t shape holding the lid on tight. He gently placed it on top of the papers piled on his desk. Pulling the folder free, he continued the explain.
“Okay, running out of time here. Where do you have dinner reservations?”
Coyote looked back at him blankly before babbling, “I was just gonna take her to Faneuil.”
“Okay, that could still work but you can’t just go to eat any old place there. Too touristy. Let me call my buddy at Top of the Hub and make reservations for eight. It’ll be under Nightmoon.”
“That’s completely out of my budget,” Coyote waved him off.
“I got you covered,” Sam began but stopped when Coyote pointed at him.
“I said, no.”
Sam thought for a moment, “Okay, let me think. I know, how ‘bout that little place on Hanover? Same side as Mike’s Pastry, just a block or two up from there. I can make reservations while you two walk down to Quincy Market and out through Columbus Park?”
Coyote raised her eyebrows and replied, “That’d work. Food any good there?”
“For God’s sake, Coyote, it’s the North End.” Sam dismissed the question. “Okay, so to review we’ve got flowers…,”
“Check,” Coyote rapped her knuckles on the box.
“…romantic walk through the city…,”
“…delicious dinner in the historic North End…,”
“…a stroll back through the common to pick up your bike and driver Heather home…,”
“…heartfelt thanks for a fantastic night, promise to call in the morning, a chaste peck on the cheek, wait till she gets safely inside, and slowly drive away; a perfect first date.”
“…or something like that,” Coyote mumbled and picked up the flower box. She nodded to her cousin but could not look him in the eye as she said, “Thanks, Sam. I owe you.”
Sam grinned. “No, you already paid me more than I could ever deserve. Rachael and I are together and it’s because of your help. I can never thank you enough.”
Coyote could not handle the emotions of the moment and cracked a joke as she headed for the back door, “Just name your little brat after me and we’re even Steven.”
* * *
Sam shifted the giant stuffed panda bear so he could press Rachael’s front door bell. He straightened up to his tallest after hearing the ring followed by Karla’s muffled shout from inside that she would see who was there. Sam took a deep breath as he reviewed his prepared remarks for the hundredth time.
“You!” Karla hissed when she flung the door open. “Back again? Can’t you give her a night or two off from you pawing?”
“Good evening, Karla,” Sam said as pleasantly as he could.
Karla ignored his greeting to continue berating him, “Night after night, you have your way with her keeping her from getting a descent rest. She’s pregnant because of your pressuring her into a relationship. The least you could do is give her some peace and quiet while she’s sick as a dog from your seed. But, no. You come sniffing around here looking to satisfy your lust. Plying her with gifts and stuffed animal, you’re pathetic.”
Sam held the bear out and said quietly, “This isn’t for Rachael. The panda’s for you, Karla. I want us to try to get along for Rachael’s piece of mind. She cares about both of us so the least we can do is not fight.”
“You think a dumb stuffed toy is gonna make me accept you and the way you’ve treated my best friend?” Karla’s face went bright red with her anger.
“No, my peace offering is in the card hanging from his bow tie,” Sam said as he pulled the card free and held it out to Karla.
She hesitated a moment before her curiosity got the better of her. Tearing the envelope open, she tugged the card out to read the message. Her sneer faded as she reread the neat handwriting. Her mouth finally dropped open.
“I’m guessing you’re Al Samuels,” she whispered.
Sam shrugged. “I’ve got to use that name to keep the media ghouls away. Don’t want to cause a ruckus when there’s real work to do.”
“What’s going on?” Rachael asked as she hurried down the stairs and over to the unusually quiet pair. “I didn’t know you were here, Sam. Is everything okay?”
“Look, look what he’s doing,” Karla’s said struggling hold back her tears.
“Al Samuels is donating 100 hours to Commonwealth Wildlife and Beach Conservation Cooperative,” Rachael read the words out loud and a huge smile spread across her face, “in honor of Karla Bergeron.”
“So, will you take the bear?” Sam asked Karla.
Karla grabbed the toy. She began to sob into the soft fur. The tears turned to blubbering. Rachael reached over and hugged her which only made the tears flow that much stronger.
“I brought some groceries,” Sam stuttered a little unsure of a good segue. “If you ladies want to sit in the living room, I’m going to prepare a pasta dinner for the three of us.”
Karla’s crying only increased which brought a small grin to Rachael face. “That will be great, Sam. Come on, Karla, lets go watch a some Animal Planet while Sam makes us dinner.”
Sam trudged off to his truck listening to Rachael trying to calm Karla. “Got that one right all by myself. I just might be starting to get the hang of my personal life.”
* * *
“This has been such a wonderful night,” Heather said as she slid her hand into Coyote’s hand. “A stroll through the city followed by a wonderful meal then a decadent dessert and a moonlight walk along the waterfront with one of the nicest women I’ve ever met.”
Coyote was glad it was dark. The dim lighting in the park helped to hide her blush. She gave a gentle squeeze to Heather’s hand and felt the woman snuggled closer to her side.
“I can’t say that I’ve ever had a better evening,” Coyote replied.
Heather chuckled, “That’s not what your reputation claims, Ms. Nightmoon. From the social circles we both travel in, I’ve heard you’ve had much more exciting dates than this quiet dinner date with a nerd.”
“Not true. While I’m fairly busy on the club scene, this has been by far the most romantic evening of my life.” Coyote stopped walking and turned Heather to face her. “I really like you, Heather. I’d like to see you again.”
Heather smiled and leaned in for a kiss. It was a brief exchange on just the lips but deeply sensual. It left both women moaning.
“My apartment isn’t far,” Heather said.
Coyote took both Heather’s hands in her own. “Maybe we should wait.”
“I don’t know,” Coyote whispered unsure why she was trying to postpone a night in Heather’s bed. “I feel like this is different. Do you feel it?”
“How do you mean?”
Coyote gave an embarrassed shrug. “Ah, never mind. I’m just being silly.”
“No, no,” Heather wouldn’t let Coyote walk away. “please, trust me. Tell me what you mean. I want to be sure I’m reading this right. Please, Coyote, tell me what you’re thinking.”
“I just meant that, well, I don’t think one night in bed with you will cut it for me. I think, I might want to spend more time with you than that. Maybe doing something more than just fooling around,” Coyote looked away letting her nerves get the better of her.
“I’d like that. I know I’d like to spend a lot more time with you,” Heather whispered and leaned up for another kiss.
This kiss was longer. Deeper. Probing. Much more sensual. And, noticed.
“Would you get a look at that freak show,” a squawking voice taunted from the shadows.
“Shit, sorry,” Heather pulled away realizing too late that they were in a rather lonely section of the harbor area.
“They let anything wander around now a day,” another gruff voice shouted from the dark edges of the park on the water side.
Coyote turned on her heal to face the voice behind her. She saw one hulking man walking toward her with a forty ounce clutched by the neck in his right hand. A scrawny guy, most likely the owner of the squawking voice, was lurching out of the bushes. And, not one but two men were creeping out from the shadows near the sea wall.
“Heather, there’s a hotel just a block up. Run for it and don’t stop until you’re inside. I’ll delay these clowns,” Coyote said softly.
“Coyote, I can’t…,” Heather’s voice was trembling.
“I’ll be fine just run,” Coyote urged.
She glanced over her should and saw why Heather could not follow her directions. Three teens was walking toward them at a clipped pace. At least two of them were carrying sticks or bats.
“Fuck!” Coyote hissed. “Just run for the hotel, NOW!” Coyote screamed.
She pushed away from Heather and headed for the bushes. The men behind her hurried to follow her but the three in front stayed focused on Heather. Coyote managed to grab a rock without missing a step. She dead aimed it on the run at the teen in the middle of the three. It caught him right on the nose. He doubled over cursing and cradling his face. The two other guys forgot about Heather and raced toward Coyote.
Heather ignored Coyote’s direction and her own safety. She pulled out her cell phone instead. She hit a preprogrammed number which was answered almost immediately. The voice at the other end of the line was a welcome sound.
“State House Security, this is Sergeant O’Malley.”
“Markie, we’re being attacked. Send the staties to Columbus Park. There’s a gang chasing Coyote.”
On the other end of the line she heard a true professional’s reaction, “Muther fuckers! Belva, call Melvin down at Columbus. Heather’s date is getting rolled. Heather, stay on the line with me…you there, Heather…”
Heather knew she only had time for one more message as she watched the wounded guy glare at her, “Seven white guys, shaved heads, one’s got a broken nose…,”
“Shut your mouth, Dyke!” The teen with a face full of blood charged Heather.
“Markie, help me!” Was the last thing Heather said before the line went dead.
Sam hurried into the emergency entrance of City Hospital clutching Rachael’s hand with his left hand and Karla’s hand on his right. He bypassed the reception desk when he spotted O’Malley across the waiting area. The big man was mopping his head with a damp fistful of brown paper toweling. His eyes were puffy red and stood in bold contrast against his paste white skin.
“Senator,” he nodded respectfully with his greeting.
Sam had to swallow to keep his voice steady when he asked the question he’d been dreading during the long ride up from the south shore. “Is she okay? Have you heard anything from the surgeon yet?”
“Triage nurse said she can only talk to you and you should just head over there when you arrive.”
“Me?” Sam’s initial panic was calmed by a gentle squeeze of his hand from Rachael.
“Ms. Heather had the presence of mind to get Coyote to make you her health care proxy in the ambulance. Coyote said she didn’t have one and didn’t know who it should be,” O’Malley explained.
Karla spoke up, “So, she was conscious. That must be a good sign, right?”
“She was awake for most of the ride over,” O’Malley perked up a little. “She’s a toughie. And, fast. She might have got away from them if she wasn’t watchin’ out for Heather. Heather said Coyote doubled back when she started screaming.”
Sam winced. “Why was Heather screaming?”
O’Malley’s face paled a little more. “You got to ask her that yourself, Senator.”
“Fuck,” Sam mumbled and felt tears fill his eyes.
His shirt front was grabbed by Karla and she hissed directly into his face, “Man up! You have to keep it together. You are the only one who can find out what is going on with Coyote and Heather. I know you want to run away because that’s what all of us want to do right now but you can’t.” Karla sighed, “Well, you can but you shouldn’t.”
“I won’t.” Sam said and patted Karla’s hand holding his shirt. “You and Rachael stay here with O’Malley. I’ll go find out what’s happening.”
The three of them nodded agreement. Rachael leaned over and gave Sam a kiss on the cheek. It made him want to pretend not to be afraid so he flashed her a cocky grin. Turning toward the triage area, he channeled his inner politician and strutted across the waiting area as if he alone approved the funding for the facility.
“Excuse me, I’m Samuel Allerton, Coyote Nightmoon’s,” Sam paused for the right word but came up blank.
“Oh, yes, Mr. Allerton, let me get Sandra,” the male nurse at the desk said. “Wait right there.”
It worried Sam that he didn’t need to wait more than sixty seconds before a short, stocky nurse in coolots and a print smock hurried out of the back room. Her hair might have been combed at the beginning of the shift but it was a flattened mess at the midway mark.
“Senator, I’m Sandra. I admitted Ms. Nightmoon and Ms. Trent. You are Ms. Nightmoon’s proxy?”
Sam hedged as he answered, “That’s right but I haven’t signed any paperwork. I will sign. No problem. I just want her taken care of. Both of them, that is. I want both of them taken good care of.”
“How are you holding up?” Sandra seemed sincere.
“Me? Fine. Well, I’d feel better once I know more. All I know is there was some kind of attack and Coyote’s in surgery and something happened to Heather. Can you tell me any details?” Sam raised his hand to stop the disclaimer he saw forming on Sandra’s lips. “I understand about HIPPA. I’m not looking for private stuff. I just need to know; are they okay, can I see them, and where the fuck are those fuckers, State fucking Troopers?” Sam lost his cool but did not shout. “I’m sorry, Sandra. I’m not mad at you. I’m just really scared.”
She smiled reassuringly and motioned for him to follow her. “I understand. If you can try not to scream, hit, spit, or draft legislation during your stay in my emergency room, I can forgive your ‘cussin’ out the cops.”
“Thanks,” Sam muttered as he followed her into her office and sat in the plastic chair offered.
“Okay, here’s what I know,” Sandra began. “Don’t be mad at the Staties. They saved the day. The responding officer made it across the park in forty five seconds of the call from O’Malley. Melvin was All State in high school.”
“Thank God for Melvin,” Sam agreed.
“Ms. Nightmoon got the worst of the attack. In addition to multiple facial lacerations, she has a broken eye orbit and three stab wounds. They were suppose to be sending her down to recovery about now. She’ll need four or five days inpatient then a month or two at home to get back to her premorbid status, I’d imagine.”
Sam pushed his horror at the injuries down and pressed on, “Heather, what about Heather?”
“Bumps and bruises. The guy scared the shit out of her by ripping her blouse and grabbing her breasts. He was intent on doing more but…,”
“Yep, good old reliable, fucker, State fucking Trooper to the rescue.”
“Sorry,” Sam was remorseful.
Sandra gave a gleaming white toothed smile. “Don’t worry about it, Senator. I just wanted to bust your balls because of the cuts in the Indigent Health Care Trust Fund.”
“I was,” Sam felt a tear run down his face. “I was trying to force the bigger hospitals with more endowments to do the right thing and contribute more to the pool because they divert those patients to your ER.”
Sandra smiled patiently. “That’s what would happen in a Utopia, Senator. Here in the really, real world, nurses and allied healthcare workers lose their jobs and sick people die waiting for care.” Sandra frowned at her own response, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be talking politics. It’s just you’ve never even seen the inside of our hospital before.”
“Sandra,” Sam wiped his eyes dry. “I’ve never seen a lot of things before. I thought I was smarter than I actually am. But, I have a lot to learn.”
“Before we broaden your educational horizons, do you want to see Ms. Trent?”
Sam nodded. Sandra stood and motioned for him to follow. They walked down a dingy hallway with browning ceiling tiles from leaky overhead pipes. The linoleum was chipped and lifted but what was in place gleamed with a fresh buffing.
Once Sandra hit the wall switch opening the double doors to the emergency room, screams and cries filled the air. Sam found himself stepping closer to Sandra as they walked into the bedlam. Tears and swears flowed with equal ease from behind curtains barely hiding the city’s injured. Sam saw more than two police officers and a security guard but it did nothing to make him feel safer.
“Here we go,” Sandra said as she pulled back a ragged curtain. “Ms. Trent, your friend is here.”
Sam didn’t have a chance to speak. Heather leapt from the gurney and hurtled into Sam’s waiting arms. He expected to hear crying so he was stunned when she began to speak in a low but rushed voice.
“You got to call a lawyer for me. I’m gonna be arrested. The cops are just waiting for the doc to discharge me then I’m getting booked. They’re gonna charge Coyote too.”
“What?” Sam was sure Heather was mistaken, “Sandra, did she get smacked on the head or did you guys give her something?”
“I’ll let Officer Weld explain,” Sandra said before walking away.
Sam pulled free from Heather to get a good look at her. Her face was scraped and bruised. Her lip was split. There were choke marks around her throat. Her shirt was being held together with a series of safety pins. But, the worse damage was the despair in her eyes.
“Heather, listen to me,” Sam spoke calmly and removed his suit jacket. He wrapped the coat around her shoulders and felt a deep shudder run the length of her body. “I need you to stay quiet. Don’t say anything at all. This is going to be hard but no matter what this cop says, keep you mouth shut!”
“But, Sam,” Heather began to argue.
Sam took both her hands in his and murmured, “Trust me, please trust me,” just as a uniformed police officer stepped up behind him.
“You wanted to talk to me,” the cop grunted.
Sam turned around and saw both the security guard and the other officer behind the cop. “Office Weld, my friend believes you’re about to arrest her.”
“She’s correct. She’s being charged as an accessory to assault. She helped that other one smash up a school boy in the park,” Weld stated it evenly but his sneer indicated just what he thought about the ‘other one’ he mentioned.
“Oh,” Sam rubbed his chin. “That is not what I heard about this incident. I heard it was a hate crime by a gang of thugs against two women foolish enough to think they’d be safe to walk in a public park. I wonder how I got that so wrong.”
The cop’s face puckered with his growing annoyance. “A complaint was filed by the boy’s father. The Honorable Charles Jeffers Preston the third doesn’t like it one bit when Charles Jeffers Preston the fourth gets his ass kicked by some biker chick.”
“Oh,” Sam started to feel more comfortable with the situation. He understood the game at hand well. “That’s interiorly different then. A serious crimes have been committed. Chuckie’s criminally indefensible ignorance and his son’s ongoing offense of being a pussy.”
The cop behind Weld hooted a laugh. Weld glared over his should at the man. Once silence was restored, Weld turned his attention back to Sam.
“A crime’s been committed. Doesn’t matter what you think about the victims. Somebody’s going to jail. The law is the law,” Weld stated with confidence.
“Agreed. A crime has been committed and somebody needs to go to jail. The law is the law for everybody,” Sam said. “We just need to straighten you out on who the victims are and who the perps are. You seem to have your facts confused.”
“I haven’t got time to waste talkin’ to you,” Weld fumed. “Come on, girl, you’re finished here. We need to get you to central processing.”
“Of course, officer, do your duty. I’m not going to stand in your way,” Sam said and stepped aside.
Heather’s jaw dropped but she didn’t speak. Even as Weld grabbed her by the arm, she stayed quiet. Her face, however, was lined with shock at her betrayal.
“No sir, I’m not going to obstruct the course of justice. As a State Senator, I know you can’t interfere with police going about their lawful duty,” Sam stated with a chirpy confidence.
Weld stopped pulling Heather out of the treatment area. “What did you say?”
“Oh, where are my manners? Having my Administrative Assistant and my cousin nearly murdered gets me all flustered. Let me introduce myself, I’m Senator Samuel Allerton. Sorry, I don’t have any numbers after my name. All I got is a degree in business and a seat chairing the public safety budget.” Sam extended his hand for a shake he knew he’s never receive.
“Fuck me!” Weld growled and let go of Heather’s arm. “You’re an ass! Why didn’t you speak up sooner? Make me go through all that shit. You know my balls are in a vice here. You’re screwing around playing head games with me and a detective is upstairs waiting to slap the cuffs on that other dyke as soon as she’s out of recovery. Chuckie is steaming over his kid getting floored by a lezzy.”
Sam’s eyes narrowed and his voice became dangerously deep. “You think he’s steamed? You ain’t seen nothing yet, buddy. You, Chuckles,” Sam pointed to the cop who laughed, “escort Heather to the waiting area. Anybody even thinks of detaining her will be out of a job and up on harassment charges so fast your badges will spin.”
Weld gave a sigh. “Senator, you want some good advise? Bullying us isn’t gonna fix your problem here. You need a big fucker to torpedo this.”
“Who?” Sam was willing to listen to all his options.
“Ed Rice,” the cop who laughed chimed in.
“Don’t be stupid,” the security guard interrupted. “You need Conway. He knows the Municipal Court House better than anybody.”
Weld disagreed. “True, but it could easily be moved to Superior Court and that is out of Conway’s league. Stick with Grover and Elles. They are the ones to get this finished before it hits the docket.”
Sam knew Weld was right. He also knew Grover and Elles were very expensive. He looked over to Heather. Her defeated expression showed she knew the lawyers being discussed could bankrupt her.
“Okay then, Heather,” Sam forced his voice to be cheery. “Chuckles is going to help you out to the lobby while Officer Weld and I go check on Coyote.”
“Sam,” Heather wanted to cry.
Sam smiled a little bigger and winked. “Please, go to the lobby. Rachael and Karla are waiting there. I know they’re suppe worried. They’ll feel better once they see you’re up and walking around.”
“Oh Sam, Rachael shouldn’t be in the middle of this! The baby,” Heather blurted out.
“It’s okay, the baby’s gonna be fine,” Sam reassured her. “Now, go ahead with this man so I can go see Coyote.”
* * *
Sam was slightly delayed getting to Coyote’s bedside. It couldn’t be helped. He had to make a phone call if he was going to be able to keep Coyote at the hospital as merely a patient instead of at the hospital as a patient in police custody.
He strolled into her room even though every instinct was screaming at him to run. The police detective was peppering Coyote with questions. For her part, even hooked to IV’s and with tubes sneaking out from under her covers, Coyote presented a formidable challenge glaring at the woman with her unbandaged eye.
Sam noted the handcuff locking Coyote’s right wrist the the bed rail. He tucked his anger away. It would not help him at the moment so he needed to move beyond it to deal with the situation. It was a strategy he got used to practicing after his mother died. An analyst once called it compartmentalization. Sam merely thought of it as avoidance.
“You can not be in here. This woman is being interrogated,” a dour female detective said pointedly.
Sam shook his head no. “You better not be interrogating her.”
“Really? What are you her lawyer?” The bleached blonde asked in a nasal tone.
“No, I’m her health care proxy. Her lawyer is parking his Lexus in the garage and will be up in a minute.”
“Sam?” Coyote’s voice was weak. “What’s going on?”
“Don’t say anything,” Sam cautioned her.
“Bad advice, bub!” The deceive interjected. “This woman is in a heap of bad trouble and her only chance to cut a deal is talking to me right now. I walk out,” the woman flipped her notebook closed as she flipped her hair with a toss of her head, “and any hope of a plea comes off the table. I’m talking no bail, real time in Framingham, and no mercy for her co-hort.”
“Sam, Heather can’t,” Coyote said as the threat became clear in her medicated brain.
“SAY NOTHING!” A barrel chestd man in a starched while shirt and pressed jeans barged into the room.
Sam rolled his eyes, “It’s about time.”
“FUCK!” The detective cursed. “You got fuckin’ Grover himself? Fuck this shit!”
Grover laughed. “Always a pleasant surprise to find you violating my clients’ right, Tricia. How’s the kids?”
She was grabbing her bag and headed for the door before answering. “She’s been arrested. The judge will be here in the morning to arraign her. You should have gotten here an hour ago to save me the paperwork. And, the kids are great. Oliver made the soccer team this year. Thank God, I don’t think my husband could have handled it if Oliver missed the cut again.”
“I hear you. My Richie didn’t get into honor physics and I thought Sheila was going to murder us all. So, want to make a bet my client isn’t arraigned tomorrow morning and all the paper on this attack disappears by noon?”
“You’re a fuckin’ asshole,” Tricia said. “Tell Sheila hi for me. We should have a barbeque or something but give me a couple of weeks to forgive you for screwing me over on this.”
“Great! Looking forward to it,” Grover said, slapping her on the back as she was exiting.
“What’s going on, Sam?” Coyote’s voice was quiet but urgent.
“Mr. Grover is your lawyer. He’s gonna take care of everything,” Sam reassured her and took her bound hand in his own. “Mr. Grover, can’t we get these off her?”
Grover stepped up to the bed and extended his hand to shake, first Sam’s and then Coyote’s. “Sorry, the jewelry is procedural. Once I get the charges cleared they’ll take them off. There won’t be an arraignment here and probably won’t be one at all. One of my associates is clearing up Ms. Trent’s involvement. She should be all set before noon.” He smiled as he pointed at Coyote. “Your issue will take me until dinner time to straighten out. You have a prior arrest and conviction. It makes my work a little harder. But, hey, that’s what you pay me for.”
“Sam?” Coyote sounded really worried now. “I haven’t got his kind of cash.”
Grover frowned deeply at the pair.
Sam stuttered a little before he was able to get his bearings. “It’s okay. Mr. Grover, I have the check for the initial consult in my pocket. I’ll have the rest of the retainer by tonight. I promise. Coyote, you just worry about getting well and helping Mr. Grover do his job, okay?”
Coyote squeezed Sam’s hand tight and whispered, “Where are you gonna get that kind of money, Sammy?”
Sam swallowed hard but managed to smile reassuringly. “I’ve got it covered. No problem.”
Sam sat in his truck staring at the clock on the dashboard. His belly was in knots as he waited for the exact minute he should exit the vehicle to walk up the stone path between two perfectly manicured patches of green grass and ring the doorbell to his father’s home. It was once a daily occurrence to feel this anxious. His chronic symptom ended when he graduated from college. It was at his somber graduation dinner, with his father, step mother, and sister in the fine dining area of his father’s exclusive Country Club, a long sought remedy for Sam’s anxiety was finally provided.
His father stated Sam’s success in obtaining a degree was expected. It was time to look to the future. The cornerstone of looking forward was self reliance. Sam would succeed in the world or he would fail but he would do so on his own. His father requested Sam’s key to the family home be returned immediately. All of Sam’s belongings were already packed and with a moving company. Once Sam found a place to live, he was to call the movers and schedule a date for delivery. Sam would also need to pay them for their service and for the storage fee.
Sam was actually relieved by his father’s actions that day. It saved him the awkward moment of asking permission to move out. Even without an apartment or credit, Sam was grateful to be sent packing. Sleeping on a park bench would be easier to endure than returning to his father’s home and the overpowering control of that came with the room and board. But, Sam didn’t sleep on a park bench that night or any night after that. Sam had friends and was resourceful enough to build his life without his father’s money or help or love.
There was only one thing that could get Sam to knock at his father’s door again; Coyote’s desperate circumstance. Sam cared enough about Coyote to beg for money to pay her lawyer. It caught Sam off guard to feel affection bordering on commitment to a woman he had just met.
It was not the mad, sexual love of a couple. It was a stronger than physical actions or attraction. It was rooted in the commonality of their blood. It flourished with Coyote’s willingness to help Sam fix his floundering love life. The woman cared about what happened to Sam and that was more concern than his father had ever shown him.
In the short amount of time since Sam’s reunion with his grandfather and introduction to another branch of his family tree, Sam felt part of something larger than himself. It was a feeling he’d only experienced when his mother was alive. Sam would do anything to protect this fledgling relationship. Even if it meant talking to his father again, Sam would do whatever it took to help Coyote.
The digital clock changed to 6:53 am. Sam popped the truck’s door open and climbed out. He gently shut the door, straightened his tie, and walked the path he knew and dreaded so well. He did not stop his momentum until confronted with the dark wood of the heavy double doors sealing the entrance off from the world. It was required to use the knocker. The bell would not be tolerated.
Sam straighten his black tie once more after the standard four bangs of the knocker were executed. He struggled to keep his hands by his sides; not in the pockets of his black, wool suit jacket or brushing back his freshly trimmed and neatly gelled, brown hair. Fidgeting was not allowed. When the latch of the door clicked, Sam took a deep calming breath.
As the door was pulled open, a familiar feeling swept over Sam. It was just like being twelve again. Black suit, starched stiff white shirt, perfectly knotted Windsor tie, high polished black wing tipped shoes; it was completely suffocating to be home.
“Mr. Allerton, your father is in the dining room,” Edward said with no change in facial expression.
“Thank you,” Sam answered.
It was all he needed to say. Fraternizing with the help was not appropriate. Even though, Sam had known Edward for twenty years but had not laid eyes on him in more than ten, convention could not be set aside for sentimentality.
Sam walked the cold marble floors to the main dining room. The sliding double doors were open but Sam knew better than to just walk into his father’s domain. Sam stopped his progress at the dead center of the door way and waited to be acknowledged.
His father was sitting alone at the head of the table finishing the last of his cold cereal. The orange juice glass was still half full. Sam felt a thin line of sweat trickle down his back as he realized his timing was off. He was exactly three minutes early. His father sighed in a manner that conveyed both annoyance and disappointment.
“Edward,” his father’s voice was as deep as Sam remembered it. “My appointment is early. Clear the table.”
Edward entered with his well used serving cart. He removed the only items on the table; a bowl, spoon, and glass. Then he wheeled the cart back to the kitchen. A few moments of silence passed before he returned. Stepping next to Sam’s father, he waited further directions.
“See him in,” Sam’s father said.
Edward walked the six feet across the room to say, “Please follow me, sir.”
Sam silently complied. He was lead to a chair on is father’s immediate right. It was pulled out by Edward and Sam sat.
“That will be all, Edward,” Sam’s father dismissed the man.
Both Sam and his father sat in silence while Edward left the room. Sam kept his hands folded in his lap while he waited permission to speak. He father turned to look at him directly for the first time in over five years.
“Your appointment was 7 o’clock. Not 6:57. I have long suspected your lack of respect for my home and privacy. However, have your manners slipped so much you are incapable of displaying any common courtesy at all?”
“I’m sorry, sir,” Sam knew he was starting off badly and it made his uphill battle even more difficult. “I meant no disrespect.”
His father gave a weary sigh. “As always, your actions speak louder than your words. I suppose I should just let you tell me the dire emergency you needed to see me about. Although, I may be able save some time with the seedy details. I read this morning’s newspaper. I know all about the bastard you’ve sired.”
Sam did not mean to but he gasped. He did not see the paper before he left his apartment. He did not know his private life was fodder for the gossip hounds. He was so busy getting ready to meet with his father to beg a favor, he missed seeing the beginning of the end of his political career in the bold type of morning’s headlines.
Everything he worked to build was erupting in the flames of a scandal. He missed the exact moment his life was ruined because he was preparing to see his father. The thought that some things never change crept into Sam’s mind. It made him smile just a bit.
“Why are you smirking?” His father was disgusted.
“I’m sorry, I was not smirking at you. It’s me.” Sam clarified has answer, “Apparently, the newspapers scooped even me with my own news.”
His father frowned. He was very unhappy with the explanation. “I do not have all day to waste on you. If this is what you have come to tell me then your work is done. Are we finished?”
“No,” Sam panicked and blurted. “I mean, no, sir. I still want to speak with you.”
“Get on with it then.”
“Obviously, I’m in trouble,” Sam said but did not elaborate the exact nature of the trouble was Coyote’s legal issue and not Rachael’s pregnancy. “He thinks he knows it all, why correct him,” Sam kept that thought to himself.
“You,” his father pointed his index finger at Sam, “are the king of understatement.”
Sam swallowed hard but it was not a cry of despair he forced down. Instead, he was holding back a chuckle at his pompous father.
“I’m sorry, sir. We both know I’m here because I have not conducted myself in a manner you approve of,” Sam was in his element spewing truthiness. “It is entirely wrong of me to ask you to provide financial assistance to help me out of a mess of my own making. Yet, it is exactly why I’m here. I’ve come to ask for a loan for eleven thousand, three hundred and ninety seven dollars.”
His father’s face was grim as he replied, “Abortions are much more expensive these days than when I was a randy lad.”
Sam was stunned by the statement. When no additional details followed, Sam continued, “No, Rachael is not having an abortion. We are going to have the baby.”
“Marriage? You?” His father guffawed.
“No,” Sam’s voice cracked with a bit of his grief at the truth to follow. “Rachael isn’t ready to marry me. We’re going to work on our relationship first. She doesn’t want to jump from one unplanned event to another.”
“Figures she wouldn’t have you underfoot.” His father seemed struck by a sudden thought, “Did you get a DNA test? Make certain this is your fault before you give her a dime!”
Sam held back his desire to argue. It was easier to do when he conjured up visions of Coyote in an orange jumpsuit before the a stern judge with some fresh out of law school public defender standing next to her.
“I’ll do what’s right, sir. No worries, so help me, I’ll do what is in my best interest,” Sam said but did not explain that Rachael and the baby were in his best interest.
“Well, then,” his father actually smiled. “You seem to finally show some sense. As long at the money is going toward protecting the family name and you sign a promissory note to repay the debt, I’ll be amenable to loan you ten thousand dollars. The interest rate will be eight percent.”
Sam figured negotiations would be forthcoming and prepared for them last night. “A generous amount. However, it will not cover the full cost of repairing my misadventure.” A small lie but worth it. “I’ve already depleted all my funds with the down payment. If you could see your way clear to eleven thousand, three hundred and ninety eight dollars, I’d be more than willing to agree to twelve percent interest.”
His father smiled in that broad full mouth grin signaling he won whatever he had set out to win. “Sounds fair. Stay here. I’ll go draw up a promissory note and get a check.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Sam was sincere in his reply. He thought his father would boost the rate to fifteen percent.
“I got a real deal,” Sam thought as he watched his father walk out of the room.
* * *
“How’s my best, big girl today?” Sam bellowed as he entered Coyote’s hospital room.
She looked remarkably better sitting up in a wheelchair in spite of the faded blue hospital gown. The oxygen was out of her nose. Instead of a big white bandage over her eye, she was sporting a black pirate like patch. The edges of the patch blended with the vivid purple of the bruise encircling the area around Coyote’s eye from mid forehead to mid cheek. She glared with her good eye at the intrusion.
“You are toying with suicide by teasing me, dude,” Coyote replied with a slight slush to her pronunciation.
Sam stayed in the doorway holding the door open with his back and cautioned her, “Little Missy Nightmoon better behave or she won’t get her very special treat.”
“That ain’t no kind of way to talk to family,” Old Thom admonished her as he rounded the corner and entered the room.
“Gramp?” Coyote started to cry when she saw the man hobbling over to her.
“Lookie at you, a fancy chair and everything. Damn Medicare says I’m not sick enough for wheels. Hey, maybe we could take that one when they spring you from it,” Gramp teased before leaning down to wrap her in a tentative hug.
Coyote gave a little sob as she held onto him.
“It’s okay, girlie girl. I got you now. Nobody gonna mess with you unless they want my cane up their ass,” Gramp’s voice was strong and free of worry.
“Good luck with that plan,” Coyote answered and slowly let go of the man. “I’m probably gonna catch some time for all this shit.”
Sam hurried over to her. “Didn’t Grover come by or send one of his minions over or at least call you?”
“Nope,” Coyote answered flatly. “He probably heard I don’t got no cash to pay him and walked away.”
“He got paid. He also cleared everything up. No charges, no court date, no jail, nothing. You only have to get better and then come home,” Sam explained.
“Seriously?” Coyote asked unable to hide her shock.
“He’s my daughter’s boy, he don’t lie unless he’s at work,” Gramp said seriously.
“No fuckin’ way,’’ Coyote exclaimed. Her joy faded to fear fast, “Wait, Sammy, where did you get that kind of money? How much do I owe you?”
“A benefactor was more than happy to help our common cause,” Sam lied.
Coyote was too overwhelmed to question the story. “Dude, as long as it takes, I’ll pay you back. I promise. Just tell me how much. I’ll give you money weekly. Hell, I give you half my take home pay everyday.”
Sam shook his head no and said, “Coyote, I need you to focus on healing up. We can work on the money and details after you get well.” Sam paused to check his emotions. “You’ve got some recovery time ahead of you still.”
“I know,” Coyote managed a half smile. “But, it’ll be a lot easier healing on the couch than in a cell. I don’t think I could take jail again.”
Sam was surprised to see some of his cousin’s usual confidence wilt. He didn’t like it one bit either. Forcing a smile, he tried to lighten her mood.
“Okay, you are getting out of here tomorrow. I’ll come by to pick you up and drive you to Gramp’s.”
Coyote quietly disagreed, “I don’t think I can climb up in the cab of your truck, Sam.”
Sam actually had not considered this obstacle but acted as if it was already planned for as he replied, “Of course, you can’t. You got stabbed, kid. I’m gonna borrow Rachael’s car. It’s a four door sedan. Do you think you can risk your reputation being seen in a Ford?”
“Reps in tatters, dude. You could pick me up in a minivan and it won’t make any difference to the chicks at the bar.” Coyote grimaced, “I don’t think I’ll be going out much at night anyway.”
Sam was not surprised by Coyote’s resignation. He had been worried about her state of mind all morning. Being attacked was a bad blow to Coyote’s ego. But, not being able to defend Heather had potential for long lasting emotional damage.
“One step at a time, okay?” Sam tried to draw her thoughts back to her immediate problems. “First you stabilize here, then we get you home with rehab, and after you are stronger we’ll work on your social life.”
His words had the desired effect. Coyote chuckled at the thought of him helping her love life. Gramp dabbed his eyes at the happy sound. And, Sam knew both of them were very proud of him.
“It has been way too long since I did something this right,” Sam thought to himself.
* * *
It had been a difficult couple of days with Coyote in the hospital. Gramp was doing his best to be stoic but Sam knew the old man was close to exhaustion. Sam’s preference was to pick Coyote up alone but Gramp was insistent on bringing the woman home with Sam. The morning was grueling waiting for the doctor’s final visit, discharge instructions from a frazzled nurse, and paperwork to be signed. Sam’s head was spinning. He could only imagine how his grandfather was feeling. But, the old man remained pleasant and helpful during each step of the process.
Coyote looked terrible. She was a deathly shade of gray beneath her bruises. Walking from her bed to the wheelchair and then getting into the car, wiped her out. She was dozing in the front seat next to Sam for the whole ride home.
As Sam pulled into the driveway, Gramp leaned forward from the back seat and placed his hand on Coyote’s shoulder. The woman snapped awake with a shout. If her seatbelt wasn’t fastened, Sam was certain she would have leapt through the windshield.
“Easy, girl. We’re here, is all. And, it looks like some elves have been hard as work while we was gone,” Gramp said but didn’t sound entirely happy with the decorations around his dilapidated home.
Balloons were tied to his rickety fence and mailbox. His front door was plastered with a festive welcome sign. As soon as Sam got out of the car, the smell of the food cooking in the little house made his mouth water. He hurried over to the passenger side of Rachael’s car to help Gramp out first and then Coyote.
“We got a shit load of bags, dude. Hand me one to carry,” Coyote said as she stood on shaky legs.
Gramp laughed at her. “It’ll be all you and me can do to get inside without falling down. Forget your butch act and start hobbling to the door. Last one in has to wait to use the can.”
Coyote was going to argue but Sam interrupted her with an important reminder, “He’s worried about you. He’s been worried about you since before you were born. He loves you. Please, just follow him in the house so he relax a bit.”
“What idiot told you that line of crap?” Coyote spoke with a grin.
“Some biker baby with big titties and a juicy ass,” Sam baited her and stepped just out of reach.
She growled playfully but there was something sounding like a promise in her words, “Oh man, when I’m better I’m gonna kick your Nazi ass up and down the beach front.”
“Ooooo, I love it when you talk all sexy like that,” Sam winked as he teased her.
The pair continued to taunt each other as they made slow progress toward the front door. Coyote’s cheeks flushed with the effort. Sam moved closer and offered an arm.
“You tell anybody about this,” Coyote took the help offered and made a solemn vow, “and I will strip the gears on your truck and cut the brake line.”
“Well, if you think helping out a lezzy biker is doing any good for my resume, we better go back to the hospital because you need your head examined.”
The silly exchange gave Coyote something to focus on during those last few steps. Her body was shaking so hard when they crossed the threshold, Sam had to hold her with both hands. He guided her to the couch and gently lowered her. She moaned as she settled back.
“Where’s my couch?” Coyote asked.
“You’re sitting on it,” Sam was surprised by the question and worried about an undiagnosed head injury. “It’s right under your ass.”
“No, it’s different,” Coyote said. “The springs ain’t poking me.”
Heather stepped into the room from the kitchen to confess. “I’m sorry. I should have asked before I messed around with your stuff. But, the sofa wasn’t going to be soft enough for you, Coyote. I got some foam pieces to pad the cushions. The slip cover will come right off so you can take them out if you don’t like it.”
Gramp, Sam, and Coyote stared at Heather without saying a word. It was the single most awkward moment of her life.
“Well, say something,” Heather finally spoke.
“Thank you.” Gramp said before asking, “Who are you?”
“My assistant,” Sam said.
“My date,” Coyote claimed.
Both Sam and Coyote answered at the same time. Gramp flashed a smile so big his dentures slipped. “Miss Heather, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” she took his extended hand and blushed when he brought it to his lips for a sweet kiss.
“You really are hot, young lady.”
“Gramp!” Both Sam and Coyote shouted.
Gramp laughed and gave a wink. “I do that just to piss them off.”
“Well, don’t stop on my account,” Heather said with a laugh.
“I thought you were going to stay at Rachael’s,” Sam interrupted.
“She is with Rachael,” the shout came from the kitchen but it wasn’t Rachael’s voice.
“Awe, shit!” Coyote cursed. “I’m so fucked right now I wish I that guy with the knife had better aim.”
“Don’t say that! Don’t even joke like that!” Heather was near tears instantly. “It’s not funny. You almost died.”
“Hey, easy,” Sam hurried over to Heather and hugged her. “It’s okay. Everybody is okay. And, we’re gonna stay okay. I promise, Heather. It’s gonna be fine.”
Heather was crying hard against Sam’s shoulder when Karla entered the room. She rolled her eyes at the scene.
“Republicans are always making strong women weep. What tools!”
Coyote cringed at the sight of Karla. If she had any strength at all she would have crawled under the couch. Karla enjoyed the injured woman’s squirming for a few minutes before letting her down gently.
“I’m so over you, it’s like I never met you. You and Heather can give it a shot with my blessings. But, I got to warn you, Heather, Coyote is so vanilla in bed you’d think she was straight.” Karla turned to Sam and gave a small smile. “Dinner’s gonna be ready in fifteen minutes. If Rachael doesn’t eat in sixteen minutes she’ll be heaving.”
“Check,” Sam said understanding Rachael’s morning sickness was rearing it’s ugly head. “Thanks for all the help today, Karla. You’re a lifesaver.”
“Maybe I did get hit in the head?” Coyote was complete stunned by the exchanges around her.
Gramp laughed lightly. “I’m gonna sit in my favorite chair. Did you do anything to that, Miss Heather?”
“No, sir,” Heather was sniffling her tears to a halt.
“Too bad. There’s a spring dead center the catches my balls.”
Sam made a hideous face which made Coyote laugh. The laughter turned quickly to a groan. Heather abandoned Sam’s hug to get to Coyote’s side.
“Do you need something for pain? Should you put your feet up? What hurts?” Heather fired off the questions as she took Coyote’s hand in her own and brought them both to rest over her heart.
“Nothing hurts now,” Coyote whispered. “I’m so sorry. I should have protected you better. I tried but I couldn’t hold that guy back.”
Heather caught the tear on Coyote’s cheek with her lips. She nestled close to the woman but didn’t lean into her. Coyote tugged their joined hands to her own heart bringing Heather as close as she could.
“You saved me,” Heather hushed. “I know what they were going to do to me. You stopped it. You almost died doing it but you stopped it. I can never thank you enough for that.”
Coyote sighed enjoying the contact. She looked over at Sam and saw a frown forming. Rachael walked in just as Coyote questioned what was bothering her cousin.
“Dude, what’s the matter with you?”
Sam felt Rachael’s hand on his back. He knew she was there to help him with this part of the homecoming. He told her he could do it on his own but she showed up anyway to help.
“It’s okay, Sam. Just tell them,” Rachael encouraged.
“What?” Gramp sat forward unable to hide his fear.
Sam took Rachael’s hand to support his resolve to tell the whole truth and not nearly the truth. “Politicians are whores.”
“Wow, that’s some news flash,” Karla deadpanned.
“In politics, if you want something then you give something. It has to be equal goods or it just won’t fly. It doesn’t matter about right or wrong or justice.” Sam looked at Heather and his cousin and felt ashamed. “It is never fair.”
“What isn’t fair, Sammy?” Coyote asked and her usual glare was focused even with only one eye working.
“Grover got your charges dismissed but there’s a price,” Sam swallowed back the bile trying to rise in his throat. “All the charges had to get dismissed. All the charges against everybody.”
“Fuck that!” Heather was on her feet shouting. “Those sons of bitches were going to rape me. They damn near killed Coyote! And, you’re just gonna let them walk away to do it again? Fuck you, Sam!”
Rachael squeezed Sam’s hand. She didn’t need to speak. He knew she had his back. It gave him courage to continue. But, support came for an unexpected corner of the room.
“Heather,” Karla's voice lacked it’s usual shrill quality. “you have to decide what it most important here.”
“I should think sending fucking rapist, skin head, bastards to jail would be important, lady!” Heather was seething.
“Hey, come on and sit with me,” Coyote said as she captured the sleeve of Heather’s blouse and tugged. “I want you next to me. I think for right now, that is the most important thing for me.”
Heather looked back at Coyote. The pain and exhaustion of the entire day was evident in every crease of Coyote’s face. She was shivering even though the room was warm. Heather retook her seat and settle back next to Coyote. But, she was obviously angry.
“It sucks,” Sam stated. “I wish there was another way to get Coyote clear of prosecution but Grover pushed as much as he dared. Those guys are connected. I just don’t have that kind of pull. I’m sorry.”
The room was quiet for a moment. Gramp cleared his throat to speak but Coyote got a jump on him.
“Why are you sorry, Sammy?” She waited for him to look at her but she didn’t give him a chance to answer. “You spent money you don’t have to pay a one of the best lawyers in the state to get me out of trouble.”
“But, you didn’t do anything wrong, Coyote,” Heather argued.
Coyote gave a lopsided smile. “Sammy didn’t do anything wrong either. He did his best to help us, Heather. Those cops were ready to slap cuffs on you that night too. The only reason both of us are free today is because of Sam. If he did what a savvy politician would do, we’d both be sitting in a cell at Framingham.”
Heather’s anger fizzled. Her tears broke free. Coyote hugged her as best as she could manage, ignoring her pain.
“Look, I don’t mean to be selfish here,” Rachael said. “But, if I don’t eat, I’m gonna puke. So, Karla and I are going to dish up the food. The rest of you just stay where you are.”
“Nope,” Sam rejected the idea. “You’ve been on your feet too long. Let me and Karla get the food served.”
Karla stood and huffed in her typical annoyed manner. “Nobody asked me about wanting to help out.”
“No need to, Karla. You’re a caring nurturer. We all know you want to help,” Sam said with the most sincere tone he’d ever feigned.
“You’re so full of crap,” Karla couldn’t hold back her laugh.
Rachael let Sam’s hand go and he headed off to the kitchen. She took the seat Karla vacated moments before.
Coyote nodded to her and asked, “So, are you gonna make my cousin an honest man or what?”
Rachael readily replied, “Oh, he’s already honest. I’m going to make him a happy man.”
“Thank you,” Gramp sighed and finally relaxed into his beat up chair.
* * *
Karla and Coyote kept passing each other as they paced the hospital waiting area. Heather and Gramp were doing their best to ignore them and focus on their card game.
“How can you two just sit there?” Coyote finally blurted out.
“We ain’t just sitting. We’re playing Hearts. Why not sit in for a hand or two?” Gramp invited the pair over with a wave.
“Honey,” Heather saw Coyote’s temper flair. “Please come sit down. Pacing is not going to help.”
“Can’t hurt,” Karla chimed in.
Gramp chuckled, “Can if I trip you.”
All conversation ended when the door to the waiting room pushed open. Sam entered with a ridiculous grin spread across his face and wearing scrubs, booties, and a surgical hairnet.
“Look at that shit eatin’ grin,” Coyote said. “What’s the word, Sammy?”
“A boy, twenty two inches, seven pounds even,” Sam could not stop smiling.
“How’s Rachael?” Karla’s worry overwhelmed her.
Sam walked over to Karla and hugged her. She made a squeaking noise as all the air raced out of her lungs. Sam wasn’t satisfied with just the hug. He planted a huge kiss on her cheek.
“Ugh, do you have to do that? You know how much I hate you,” Karla tried to make it sound sincere.
“Rachael is perfect. The baby is perfect. The doctor said he’s never had a delivery go so…,”
Everybody in the room filled in the last word, “Perfect.”
“Yep,” Sam let out a huge sigh of relief. “Okay, here’s the plan.”
Coyote spoke up, “Wait, we need a plan? What for?”
“Let him tell us his plan,” Gramp said. “It’ll make him feel all useful.”
“Don’t let them tease you, Sam,” Heather gave him a wink. “You could out debate both of them in your sleep.”
Sam was still smiling. “Thank you, Heather. Nice to know somebody in the room believes in me. Okay, back to the plan. They have Rachael in a room already. Can you believe it? Man, it’s like this is not big deal for these people.”
Gramp nodded seriously, “Yes, it has only taken a couple of million years to figure out delivering children safely and for the most amount of money an HMO will pay.”
Sam was unfazed by the comment. “Rachael wants to see everybody but they’ll only let us have two at a time in the room. Karla, Rachael’s anxious to see you. So, could you go in first?”
“Me? First?” Karla’s eyes filled with tears. She threw herself bodily into Sam’s arms and cried.
“It’s okay, Karla. She’s fine. She just needs her best friend,” Sam whispered in her ear.
Karla managed to regroup with his support. “I’ll hurry so everybody gets their chance.”
“It’s really okay, Karla,” Sam reassured her.
Once she left the room, Gramp chuckled. “Coyote, you really dodged a bullet with that one.”
Coyote blushed when Heather shot her nasty look. “Babe, it was all about getting Sammy and Rachael back together. You know I’m nuts about you. I barely even remember sleeping with Karla.”
“Sure you do,” Heather smirked. “Circus sex ring any bells?”
“Fuck me,” Coyote knew she was bagged.
“Apparently, Karla did,” Heather said.
“Stand back, Sammy. The honeymoon is over,” Gramp laughed so hard he coughed.
“Come on you two,” Sam couldn’t resist teasing them. “Don’t fight. Newlyweds are suppose to be all lovey dovey.”
“Very well said by the only one in the room whose never been married,” Coyote shot back as she played with her wedding band.
“Not for long,” Sam could not keep his secret any longer. “We’re getting married next month.”
“Karla’s gonna shit,” Coyote warned.
“Nope, she’s getting a JP’s license to officiate. She always wanted to marry Rachael and now she will,” Sam joked. “But, let’s get back to the plan for a minute.”
“Can’t keep a good plan down,” Gramp stated.
Sam was undeterred. “I was hoping for Coyote and me to go in together, if that’s okay with you two. I really want to introduce her to her namesake.”
“What you talkin’ ‘bout, Sammy?” Coyote sounded very nervous.
Sam slapped Coyote on the back and explained, “Rachael and I agreed our son should carry on my family’s name. I know it sounds all sexist but Rachael actually insisted we name him, Coyote Thomas Allerton.”
“I like it,” Gramp said as he handed a tissue to Heather who had burst into tears.
“Sammy, I don’t know what to say,” Coyote was shocked.
“Well, I do,” Sam said. “Thank you, Coyote. Thank you for fixing my life!”