Reeve Stockwell looked down at his feet. He knew he was about to get a lickin' from JJ Patricks.
"So, let me get this straight," JJ began. "There are about a hundred thousand people within reasonable distance of where we're standing right now, and you chose that knucklehead for a partner?"
"Jeez. When you say it like that," Stockwell mumbled.
"Well? I've got a point, right?"
"You do. He's a good guy, JJ," Stockwell said, defensively.
"He thinks he was at the Invasion of Normandy."
"No one is perfect," Stockwell remarked.
"Are you for real? That's your defense? No, no one is perfect, but most people don't think they were killed in WWII, and then floated around in the clouds for a while, before being born into the Gardner family," JJ blurted. She arched a brow and looked curiously at Reeve Stockwell.
"Gardner," JJ replied.
"Who's that?" Stockwell asked.
"Your Gutzenheimer's father. His name is Richard Gardner. He had one son, an odd boy, but bright. He was obsessed with WWII. They named him Jerry."
"Gutz is Jerry Gardner?" Stockwell asked.
"He is. Gutzenheimer doesn't exist."
"Wow," Stockwell said in amazement.
"He spent some time in a facility," JJ said.
"How do you know?" Stockwell asked.
JJ smiled. "I text faster than you walk."
"I didn't think anyone did anything faster than I walk," Stockwell said.
"Your CI partner was institutionalized," JJ said, and Stockwell frowned.
"He believed he was a German soldier in WWII," JJ said.
"Shit," Stockwell whispered.
"He was arrested once, too," JJ announced.
"Dear God. For what?"
"Trying to break into Area 51," JJ explained.
"Terrific," Stockwell replied, sounding forlorn.
"We have a problem, Stockwell," JJ barked.
"You're stuck with him. You brought him into this, but I am telling you, keep the reins in on him. If he starts talking about the FBI, you need to commit him."
"I couldn't do that," Stockwell whined.
"You'll have to. If you blow my cover, I'll kill you."
"Jeez. You're vicious," Stockwell said, as a chill ran through him.
Stockwell's phone vibrated in his pocket, and he was reminded of the mess that awaited him back at the store. He opened the phone and checked the text.
It was from Mitchell.
If you hurt Rachel, I'll kill you.
"What the hell?" Stockwell said.
"What?" JJ asked.
"Now two people want to kill me," Stockwell said.
He had no idea who Rachel was, but if he saw her, he'd steer clear.
"I'm sure that's not true," JJ remarked.
"I'm sure a hell of a lot of people want to kill you, Stockwell," JJ said with a smile.
Daisy Cates plopped down on the upside down bucket in the little barn she found heavenly. A small goat laid by her side.
She hadn't told Hannah she already had a growing goat family. She hadn't told Hannah much about her life now, but that was fine. She'd reveal things when and if they were needed, or she'd just show up at the RV rendezvous spot one day soon with a bunch of goats, a bulging knapsack, and a very ungrateful macaw.
The bird had followed her into the barn.
"Astro!" the bird screeched, announcing its presence by using its name. His name wasn't really Astro, but evidently, that's what he heard every time Daisy yelled at him when he insisted on singing in the wee hours of the morning.
"Shut up, Astro!" the bird hollered, and Daisy rolled her eyes.
"It's asshole," Daisy whispered, chuckling at herself.
Her phone rang and the bird began to dance excitedly.
"Hello, hello, hello," the bird screeched, and Daisy left the barn momentarily, slamming the door and trapping Astro inside.
"Damn bird," she mumbled, not realizing she'd already answered her cell.
This had better be good. I've only been home for thirty minutes, Daisy thought.
"What damn bird?" Hannah asked.
"Never mind. It's just a crow," Daisy said.
In the distance, she could hear the bird freaking out.
"Astro! Astro! Astro!"
He'd pretty much nailed it.
"What's up?" Daisy asked.
"Louise called. She's got more dirt. Wants to see us at Bitsy's about eleven. She said something's going down at the store about midnight. Some well-dressed-preppy-looking putz was in the bar, yacking up a storm with some Burger guy, yelling and stuff. That was all she'd say, but said she'll whip us up some sweet potato fries and homemade ranch dressing if we come on down and hear her out. She says we have to be there," Hannah rambled.
"I've got stuff going on," Daisy said, knowing she shouldn't leave the goat. He was new, and she wasn't sure what was going on with him. And then there was Astro, who'd begun singing Joan Jett songs inside the barn.
"I LOVE ROCKIN' BOATS," the bird hollered, and for a moment, Daisy wished she didn't love animals. She'd have liked to send the damn bird packing.
"What's that?" Hannah asked, and Daisy moved farther from the barn.
"Nothing," Daisy mumbled.
"I hear singing," Hannah said.
"PLUCK ANOTHER MIME FROM THE BOONDOCKS, BABY!"
The bird was on a roll.
She had to get off the phone.
"I'll meet you at Bitsy's at eleven. I gotta go," Daisy said, hanging up the phone.
"I LOVE ROCKIN' BOATS!"
"SHUT UP!" Daisy screamed.