For complete disclaimers see part 1.
If you’d like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com. If you have suggestions or corrections, please don’t bother, as that’s what my publisher’s editor is for.
Remmy rested her head against the cool glass, bringing her jacket up a little higher. She hated how cold Greyhound buses were. She watched the scenery whiz by, the snow melted in most areas, though some frosted grass or plains could be seen from time to time. She adjusted her headset to fit better, the music of John Lennon calming her as her heart raced. She thought back to a week ago:
“Hey, Monica?” Remmy called as she entered the kitchen, tossing her jacket across the back of a chair. She could hear her cousin working in her studio in the backyard. Together, they had renovated the small building, once a garage, into a paint studio for the older woman. Remmy walked to the back door, pulling it open so she could be heard calling for her cousin again.
“Be right there!” Monica called back. The music she’d been listening to, wiped her hands on a wet towel, and headed inside. She was glad spring was on its way, cause she’d had more than enough of the harsh Nebraska winter. She groaned at the warmth of the kitchen as she closed the door behind her.
Remmy was making coffee, her stomach in turmoil, not sure how her cousin was going to respond to her news. Monica went into the bathroom and washed up, returning to find a cup on the table filled with coffee, exactly as she liked it, and an expectant cousin waiting for her.
“How was your day?” Monica asked, picking up the mug and bringing it to her lips. “Ohh, thank you.”
“It was good. Spent some time with Brenden and Fayola after work.”
“Oh, yeah? How did that go?” Monica knew that the shop owners were helping Remmy learn how to tame her ability, and tap into areas Remmy hadn’t known were available to her. Monica supported it, though she didn’t understand it at all.
“Went well.” Remmy was quiet for a moment, sipping from her coffee. She tried to think of the best way to get into this. “Mon, you know I love you, and I’m so glad you found me.”
Monica studied her cousin, noting the fidgeting of her hands around the mug, the way she would not meet Monica’s eyes. “Remmy? Rem, look at me.” Slowly the younger woman looked up, blue eyes brimming. “Hey, honey, what’s wrong?”
Remmy felt her hands covered by Monica’s, and appreciated the touch. Finally she laid it on the line. “I need to leave. I have to go back.”
Monica felt her heart stop. She had looked so long for Remmy, desperate to get her best friend and only family back. Having Remmy under her roof had made her the happiest she’d been in a long while. Swallowing her own feelings, she asked, “Why? What is there for you there, honey?” The question was soft and filled with understanding.
Remmy shook her head. “I don’t know, Mon. I just feel drawn there. It’s like something is calling to me. Who knows,” she shrugged. “It may be now that I remember everything, I just need to make sure everything is okay. I don’t know.”
“When will you leave?”
“I’m thinking I’ll head out next weekend. I talked to Sid today, gave him notice.”
Monica nodded. Though she was incredibly sad, she knew that her cousin was a rolling stone, and figured she’d never rest. She pushed her chair back and stood, reaching for the younger woman. Remmy went willingly into the embrace, allowing herself to be held for a long time. “Don’t lose touch again, okay?” Monica said, voice husky from emotion. She felt her cousin nod.
Remmy brought her legs up, heels of her boots hanging off the front of her seat, arms wrapped around her shins. Her fingers began to tap against her denim-clad legs, John Lennon’s Dream playing in her ears. Before she had left Omaha, she had considered calling Joan to see if it were possible to get her job back, but changed her mind. She’d always been able to find a job at the drop of a hat, so if it fell through with the store, she’d always find something else.
Forehead nearly numb, Remmy lifted her head and looked around, noting several passengers near her. She was able to watch most unobserved, so decided to put some of Fayola’s lessons to use. Surrounded by so many people, it was inevitable that she would pick up on something from one or more of them. After all, they couldn’t hide their souls from her.
Sitting across the narrow aisle from her was a woman, probably no older than 30. Her shaggy, but short brown hair had lighter highlights, though they needed to be touched up, the dark color underneath coming through. Her gaze was fixed on a laptop computer, set up on her lap, fingers typing at ridiculous speeds. Tapping continuing, the woman looked over at Remmy, dark eyes smiling politely before returning to her task. Obviously feeling somewhat nervous from the scrutiny, the woman reached out her left hand, placing it atop the backpack that sat in the empty seat next to her.
Amused, Remmy turned her gaze elsewhere, not getting anything from the woman, anyway. Instead, she turned her attention to the man sitting in front of the typing woman. He sat in the seat on the aisle, the majority of his profile visible to seeking blue eyes. She remembered seeing him get onto the bus at the last stop- weather-beaten skin, tan from too many seasons outside. His baseball cap was worn and just as weathered as he was. A short-sleeved button shit was tucked into blue jeans, work boots completing the outfit. He reminded her of a farmer.
Movement caught her attention and her gaze dropped, noticing a large, thick hand that was tapping lightly on his left thigh. She watched it for a moment, before looking back up to his profile. He turned, glancing at her over his shoulder, smiling with a curt nod, then turned back around front.
Remmy gasped when he faced her-
The room is empty, a few pieces of trash littering the carpets, still multi-colored from imprints left by the furniture that had been there just last night. He sat alone on a small, wooden cabinet that had been left in the middle of the room, head in his hands. Hot tears streamed between his fingers…
Remmy sent a sympathetic glance the man’s way, feeling his loss and confusion. More images began to come-
Yelling… fighting… crying… broken shards of a glass tossed into the trashcan…
Remmy closed her eyes, breathing deeply, forcing the images down, strong, iron bars of her mind’s making pushed them down as they slid into place with an audible clang. Opening her eyes, she returned her gaze back to the man, trying to get something from him, anything. Nothing. The brunette grinned, resting her head back against the glass.
Julie adjusted her grip on the steering wheel, blowing out a loud breath. She sat parked across the street from the school, eyes glued to the parking lot, filled with cars as a school day was in session. Her gaze was drawn again and again to the two parking spots that were forever burned into her memory- one for her white Miata, the other for the blue van with the plumber logo painted on the side. Now a deep red Suburban and small, blue Toyota were parked in the two spaces, but in her mind’s eye, she was still there, trying to unlock her car and climb inside.
She took a deep breath, again feeling the large hand wrapping over her mouth and nose. Her chest heaved as she sucked in air as the old her tried desperately to breathe.
Running her hands through shaggy hair, Julie started the car and headed for the opening of the parking lot. As she got closer, just about to pull in, fear took over and she gunned the engine, nearly hitting the chain link fence surrounding the parking lot as she squealed out.
“Fuck!” she yelled, pounding the steering wheel with her hand. “Goddamn you, Sergio Venti!” she yelled, ignoring the strange looks from her fellow drivers as she headed back toward home. She stopped at a stop sign, watching as a Greyhound bus pushed through, the large bus groaning as it turned toward the bus depot, which was outside of Drew’s Drug.
With a long sigh, Julie took her turn on the 4-way, disheartened.
Remmy was wide awake, and more than thrilled that her long trip was finally over. The bus pulled into the small parking lot, Drew’s Drug lit up in orange neon. A young girl stood outside the store waiting- the bag at her feet was telling.
The air brakes whooshed into the late afternoon, the driver taking his time with paperwork before he rose from his chair and climbed down the three short stairs, stepping out into the day. Remmy stretched as good as she could in the confines of her seat, groaning at the stiffness in her legs and butt. She’d do anything for a hot shower and good meal.
Gathering her Army duffel bag, she scooted toward the aisle, pushing her way into the line of fellow passengers, lining up to either face their final destination or just to step off the bus and stretch their legs. Finally it was her turn to step off the bus. Remmy held her bag in front of her like a shield so she wouldn’t bang anyone in the back of the head with it, slinging it to her back in the wide open space of the parking lot.
Remmy looked around, trying to get her bearings in the small town of Woodland. It was a mild March day, the sky blue, fluffy white clouds floating around. She set her bag down, shrugging her jacket off and shoving it inside the duffel before slinging it up on her shoulder again, and heading out of the parking lot.
This time around, Remmy actually had money, so she found her way to the Days’ Inn on Fremont Avenue, rather than the rat trap she’d stayed in the first time. Securing herself a room, she showered, allowing the warmth to seep into her muscle and bone, a soft, low groan escaping at the wonderfulness of it all. Once she was freshly dressed, she grabbed her wallet out of the duffel before shoving the big green bag underneath the bed, sliding the black leather into the leg of her cargo pants, and headed out. She was anxious to explore some of the town that had been home for a short time, though longer than any other before going home with Monica. Monica.
Remmy stepped out onto the street, digging her cell phone out of her pocket, flipping it open and dialing her cousin’s number. A quick conversation let Monica know Remmy was safe and sound, and she would call her later. Remmy wanted to explore.
Grace had nearly chewed through the No. 2 she was using to write her report. Brian had taken crappy notes, leaving her with the task of playing Colombo just to translate what happened.
“Incompetent idiot,” she muttered, bringing the page up to get a closer look at the particular word in question. Thinking perhaps it said eloquent instead of elephant, she hit the deletion key on the computer keyboard and typed in the new word. “Damned incompetent idiot.”
“Hey, Cowan,” one of the other detectives called from the hallway. The dark woman glanced up, daring someone to interrupt her when she was almost finished. “You got someone here to see you.”
“Damned incompetent town,” she muttered, shoving her chair back and tossing her glasses to the desktop. She walked down the hall, rolling the sleeves of her button up dress shirt, the warm day making it warm in the building. Heading into the lobby, she looked around for someone who looked like they were waiting for someone. She stopped I her tracks, shocked to see a very relaxed-looking Remmy sitting in one of the plastic chairs.
“I’ll be damned,” she murmured, walking over to the beautiful young woman who glanced her way upon hearing the voice. Remmy stood, grinning from ear to ear as she met Grace halfway, their embrace tight and filled with deep respect. When they parted, Grace held the younger woman by the arms, looking her over like a mother hen. “You look fantastic,” she said, smiling warmly.
“Thanks. I feel fantastic.”
”What brings you back? I think everyone thought maybe you were just a figment of our collective imagination, or something. Come on.” Grace led Remmy back through the inner workings of the police department, finally giving her a seat next to her desk, and a cup of bad coffee in front of her.
“I think I needed some time away, some time to heal- physically. And mentally.” She met coffee-colored eyes. “How is Julie?”
Grace was surprised and very pleased to hear that name upon Remmy’s lips. “She’s doing well, from what I understand. I go see her from time to time. I know her brother and nephew keep her busy. Word has it she may be teaching this coming fall, but I don’t know.”
“I’m really glad to hear it.” Remmy knew she hadn’t answered Grace’s initial question of why she had returned, and honestly, she had no intentions of answering it. She wasn’t entirely sure, and when she tried to think about it, even during the long bus ride, she still came up empty. “How about Pam and Cameron? Everyone make it okay? No one hurt?”
“No, ma’am,” Grace said, shaking her head. “You and Venti were the only ones hurt. Physically, anyway. Pam went to Texas to stay with her son, and Cameron moved in with her folks, went back to college part-time, I hear.” She stopped, taking in the young woman before her. “I was really worried about you, Remmy. To be perfectly honest, I’m not entirely who suffered more last fall- the women, or you.”
“None of that matters anymore, Grace. It’s over.”
“Yes it is. My marriage thanks you for it, too.”
Remmy laughed outright, catching the attention of a few officers roaming around. “Well, listen, I’ve got a few stops to make today before the sun goes down, and I get to crash the for the night. Sleeping on a bus for two nights does not cut it.”
“Okay.” Grace stood, walking Remmy to the lobby and giving her another hug. “You stay in touch, okay?” Grace gave Remmy one of her cards, her cell number jotted on the back by a borrowed pen from the desk sergeant. With a promise and a third hug, Remmy left.
Julie was still upset at herself for her failure, thinking it ridiculous she couldn’t even pull into the damn parking lot! Distracted, she pulled the small white car up next to the gas tank then cut the engine. She sat in the driver’s set, reaching over to grab her purse from where it had fallen to the passenger floor. She didn’t see the young woman job across the parking lot, hurrying before a Jeep Cherokee ran her over. Her dark hair blew slightly in the breeze just before she entered the convenience store.
Finding her wallet with a victorious cry, Julie stepped out of the car, then cursed softly when she realized she’d pulled the wrong side of the car up to the tank, the gas cap on the other side.
“This has not been my day,” she muttered, starting the Miata up and pulling away, only to turn around.
Remmy slowed as she entered the store, a tightening in her chest as she felt something, a strange something. It felt like there was a tether connected to her chest, a pull, a tug. Closing her eyes, she envisioned the prison bars once again, severing it. She grinned, loving her new trick.
Looking down the few aisles of her old stomping grounds, she smiled with memories of all the crazy displays she’d built during her tenure at the store. She was pleased to see the Coke display, her last, was still being used. Grabbing a bottle of peach Propel from the cooler, she headed toward the bullpen, Mabel behind the counter.
“Well, hello there, stranger,” the girl said, ringing up the water. “How you been?”
“Alright. And yourself?” Remmy asked, handing over a couple dollars. Mabel finished the transaction, then leaned on the counter.
“Okay. Been busy around here lately. Josh quit, and the new guy Joan hired is a real idiot, so…”
Remmy grinned, nodding in understanding. “Is Joan here?”
“Yep. In her office. You know the way,” Mabel hitched a thumb toward the back of the store.
Twisting off the cap of her water, Remmy took a long, satisfying drink before replacing the blue top and heading down the hallway, past the men’s and women’s restroom, finally to the partially closed door of Joan’s office. Raising a hand, she used the backs of her fingers to tap a couple times.
“S’open,” the distracted voice said from inside.
Taking a deep breath, Remmy pushed the thin wood the rest of the way. Joan was typing away on her computer, the chicken-pecking taking forever to just type one email, Remmy remembered. “One of these days you’ll actually learn how to type,” she said, leaning against the open door. Joan looked up, mouth hanging slightly open in her surprise. Quickly she composed herself.
“The wayward daughter returns, I see.”
“Hi, Joan,” Remmy said softly, feeling shy and guilty. “May I?” she asked, indicating the chair sitting in front of the manager’s desk. At Joan’s nod, she took a seat, setting her water on the floor next to the chair leg. “I owe you an apology.”
“For?” Joan rested her elbows on the desk, resting her chin on her clasped hands.
“Running out on you the way I did- the job and the apartment. I’m really sorry. I just needed to get away. To cope. If you need me to pay-“
“You don’t owe me anything, Rem. Including an apology. If anything, I owe you one. I should’ve been more understanding and sympathetic to what you were going through. I’m sorry.”
Remmy was stunned, blinking several times. Finally she took a deep breath and cleared her throat. “I don’t agree, but aren’t going to fight with you. I guess we agree to disagree and move on, yeah?”
Joan smiled. “Sounds like a plan.” She leaned back in her chair, arms running along those of the desk chair, hands dangling off the ends. “How long are you back in town? A visit?”
Remmy shook her head. “No. I don’t think so. My cousin was kinda hurt with me, I think, but I felt the need to come back to Woodland.”
“Really?” Joan was surprised, and didn’t try to hide it.
“Yes, really. You don’t uh…” she cleared her throat again. “You don’t happen to know of any jobs in the area, do you?”
Joan studied her for a very long time, a slight smirk lifting the corner of her mouth. “Yeah, I do.” She pushed out of the chair and walked to the opening of the office and the coat hooks on the wall beyond, aprons hanging in wait for employees. Stepping back into the office, she tossed the apron at Remmy, who caught it. “Last chance. Next time I just nail you to the wall.”
Remmy grinned, feeling the rough material between her fingers. “Thanks, Joan.”
“You staying at that roach-infested place again?”
“No. Got a room at Day’s Inn.”
Joan’s brows raised. “Well, aren’t we just the shit?” She loved the sight of Remmy’s genuine smile. She hadn’t seen that for a long time, not since early on in the case. “If you truly plan to stay, the apartment is still open. If you want it. That is, in case her Majesty wouldn’t prefer the continental breakfast of the Day’s Inn.”
Remmy was stunned. “You haven’t rented it out?”
Joan studied her for another moment, tempted to lie and say it just recently became vacant. Instead, she shook her head. “No.”
Looking down at the apron in her hands, and feeling like she truly was home again, Remmy glanced up at her boss through her bangs, “You got a deal.”
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