Eidetic Sunshine

Eidetic Sunshine

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Chapter 16


“Keep your voice down,” Danny said calmly.   

“Well it’s a hell of a thing to say.” 

“Yeah, but I’m pretty sure I did.  At least indirectly.  Or many it’s coincidental. Who knows?” 

“Whoa, whoa, whoa.  Back up and explain to me why you think you got the undertaker killed,” Butch said. 

Danny reminded him of how Hunter had been goosing her for information.  Then she relayed her conversation with him concerning the bodies of the three men.  “You see where I’m going with this?” 

Butch may have wondered whether he’d work with a badge again but part of him would always be an investigator and he was putting information together with what he’d heard in the Tavern.  “The guy knew Buzzy, or maybe Buzzy knew the guy … that’s the word that is floating around.  He was some kind of out of town tough.  Word spreading is that he was here to do a job.” 

“Well that has special written all over it.  If he was here to do a job …” 

“Yeah.  Daniella we need an exit strategy.” 

“Disculpeme?  What do you mean an exit strategy?” 

“Don’t play stupid Daniella, it doesn’t look good on you.  You know what I mean.” 

“I can’t just pick up and run away in the night.  I’ve got responsibilities.” 

“Things can be replaced.” 

“I’m not talking about things,” Danny growled. 

Butch stopped and said, “The boys will be part of the plan and Nita is safe where she is at, more than safe.” 

“Tito and Joey yes but … look if these ladrones are as bad as they seem they won’t stop and will plow through people.  You’ve heard the stories.” 

“Dammit woman.” 

“I can’t run.  I’ve thought it out.  I run, they just go after someone to get to me.  I’m not proof against it.  Me?  I’ll fight like they’re drunks on a bad night … hand them their guts and not cry a drop.  They go after someone else to get to me?  I can’t turn my back on that.  You, the Maddoxes, Ronnie, Rhonda … even Cindy though she’s more likely to give me up than stick on my side.” 

Butch looked at Danny closely and realized she was dead serious.  “We still need to have a plan even if you don’t think you’ll ever use it.  Will you at least admit that much?  It’s no different than you doing your books for Tito even though you don’t need them.” 

“Oh for … fine.  What do you suggest?” 

“I’ve got some ideas.  Let me work on it.  I can’t ask too many questions.  People need to think of me as weak, at loose ends, inattentive.” 

“But you won’t be.” 

“No.  But we need to be careful.  That means me asking questions like I would normally be doing is out.  We’ll both need to keep our ears open.  Have you heard from Hunter?” 

“He pulled me aside while the quack was giving you a last check over.  But he was acting … “ 

“Acting?” 

“He … he’s not sleeping good.  If he don’t get some sleep soon he’s going to shoot his own foot off cleaning his gun.  Great dark circles under his eyes; keeps his hat pulled low to keep his face shaded so no one gets a good look.  But if you are talking to him face to face you can’t help but notice.  People are giving him strange looks too.  Getting out of his way fast.” 

“Does he notice what is happening or not?” 

“You mean does he notice how people are reacting to him?  Not really.  He’s definitely got heavy thoughts taking up most of his attention.” 

“What did he say to you?” 

“Wanted to know if the guy had come by to harass me any more after he attacked me.” 

“And you said?” 

“No.  That I would have run straight to him if he had.  I also gave him something to chew on besides worrying if I was putting two and two together.” 

“Daniella …” 

“All I did was tell him why I and the other girls didn’t like the undertaker.  Then I said that it must have been that the undertaker did a bad job on a friend.  Or that maybe the dead guy had heard that the undertaker kept a stash until he could take it to his brother to hock.  I’m not sure he bought it though … he wants to but …” 

“Why do you say he didn’t buy it?  And why do you think he wants to?” 

Danny looked at Butch and if he had been anyone else he wouldn’t gotten his boots spit on for his sharp interrogation.  Butch caught the look but didn’t ease back.  He could either be on the job or off the job, and if he was going to get he and Danny out of hot water he had to be completely on the job whether she liked it or not.  “Explain,” he prompted once again. 

Danny shook her head and snorted.  “Buscador,” she muttered under her breath.  “Because he asked why I had tried to spook the guy by asking about his bosses.  He was pretty agitated about it.” 

Butch was pretty agitated by it as well but tried not to let it get him off course.  “In what way?” 

“He wanted to know what I knew about the men the guy worked for.” 

“And you told him what?” 

“I said I had been fishing, look for a way to poke the bear and make him leery of coming at me again.  That it didn’t take a professor to see there were three of them, all dressed similar, all with the same make of gun.  Biggest thing was that all three tried to pay their tabs with federal scrip.  The dead guy got real angry when Ronnie, who’d brought him his bill, said he couldn’t take it, that all we took was state scrip and coins.  And that’s when I got involved because he’d thrown Ronnie against the wall pretty hard after giving him a shake that rattled the poor kid’s teeth.” 

“Tell me again what happened from that point and tell me if you left anything out to Hunter.” 

“Same thing I told you before.  Guy tried to manhandle me, I grabbed his family jewels and walked him out the front doors and off the porch.  He tried to come at me again even though his friends tried to stop him.  I let him know it was a very bad idea and cut him twice letting him know the next time it would be his tripes.  His friends are trying to pull him out of there, he’s shouting, I’m giving it to him in Spanish because he’s made me so made I can’t see straight, I threaten him with the decency committee and checking to see if his name is on a poster which gets his friends really bothered and they’re pulling him with all their strength but he’s not moving and in fact acts like he’s untouchable and that’s when I make a guess and poke the bear.” 

“You really were just guessing.  You’ve never seen or heard of the guy before.” 

“Butch, with the way things are I wouldn’t lie about something that important.  I’d never seen the two guys with him either.  They’ve never been in or around the Tavern while I’ve been present.  I did see one of the guy’s friends Sunday.  Idiot came in running his mouth.  I let him know that bar stool spins both directions.  He left and no one around acted like it was any great loss.” 

Butch nodded.  “A small crowd followed him across the ramp to suggest he needed to see Hunter to give a deposition and explain what he was doing in the area.  I heard he got on his horse and rode off before anyone could find Hunter and make their ‘suggestion’ stick.” 

“Couldn’t find Hunter because he wasn’t around or couldn’t find Hunter because he didn’t want to be found and get involved?” 

“That’s the question of the day … or one of them anyway.  Now what did you mean that Hunter looked like he wanted to believe you?” 

“Oh he believed what I was saying about what happened.  What he wanted to believe – or so it seemed – is that I thought the guy was just a bad dude, maybe that I believed the undertaker finally got what was coming to him.  He read me a lecture about brawling with customers and said if it happened again he would have to ticket me so it didn’t seem like he was showing favorites … that people were beginning to talk.” 

“About what?” 

“He made out like people were talking about me and him.  Nearly made me laugh.  If they’re talking it is … uh …” 

Butch sighed.  “We knew it was coming.  Decency Committee will be next.” 

“No, it won’t.” 

Danny’s tone had Butch looking at her sharply.  “Daniella …” 

“Let’s just say that certain people need to be very, very careful of living in glass houses and throwing stones.  And we’ll leave it at that.” 

“You blackmailing?” 

“No.  Not even if they push me, and they’ve tried on occasion.  But they make a wrong step and irritate me and there are things I know about most of them – and if not them their spouses or children – on that so-called committee that would make your hair stand on end.  I won’t bother blackmailing, I’ll just make sure certain things come out.” 

“What things?” 

“I’m neither a snitch nor a gossip.  What I know and how I know it is my business Butch.” 

“This a line you are drawing?” 

“It is a boundary I put in place a long time ago.  Having a brain like mine … where I remember everything … it can be a tool or a weapon.  Father Brannigan made me promise to never let my anger turn it into a weapon.  It is no one’s fault that I can’t forget stuff, but it is my responsibility how I use it.  I can’t forget the hurt but I can … can forgive it, let it go before it eats me up.  But if I have to … if I have to … I … I will …” 

Butch reached across the table and took Danny’s hand.  “You don’t like what you can do.”  Butch shook his head.  “As an investigator I’d love that talent.” 

Danny closed her eyes and said, “No.  Because you can’t turn it off.  Once you know something about someone or some thing you can never forget it.  Once you feel something you can never unfeel it or forget it … hear, see, taste … all of it.”  She opened her eyes and looked dead at him.  “I still remember how my mother’s cooked flesh smelled.  I still remember how it felt each time the whip came down on my back.  Every time a customer vomits.  All the blood I’ve seen over the years.  All … all the pain of losing people.  You don’t want this Butch.   No one should ever wish for this.  It all builds up and there are days …” 

Danny shuddered and Butch got a closer look at the woman she was than he’d ever gotten before.  The one that continued to deal with the people of this area not because of what she knew of them but in spite of it. 

“Butch … just make sure … make sure that …” 

“What?” 

“That you know what you’re saying when you say you want to know the real me.” 

Butch looked deep into her eyes and nodded.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Chapter 15


“Grenadine.  Grenadine.  Grenadine,” Danny muttered in irritation as she sat at her makeshift desk. 

“That stuff you put in drinks?” Butch asked into the silence that followed. 

Danny jumped and looked up from the papers spread across the table.  “You are supposed to be asleep.  The quack said …” 

“The quack can take a flying leap.  What are you grinding your teeth about?” 

Danny missed having Tito around to talk to.  He wasn’t always interested in his sister’s wheelings and dealings but he at least listened.  “Uh …” 

“C’mon.  Don’t keep me in suspense.  The Tavern run out?  Somebody get pickled in a barrel of the stuff?  What?” 

Danny shook her head.  “You’re in a strange mood Butch Pinder.” 

Butch was two seconds away from a smart aleck comment about a pot and a kettle when he changed directions and said, “I want to get to know you.” 

“What?” 

“I said I want to get to know you.  Not the you that you let everyone see, but the real you.” 

Danny shook her head.  “You won’t like her.” 

“Instead of assuming I won’t, why don’t you let me be the judge of it?” 

For whatever reason – probably mental deficiency – Danny decided to give him what he wanted instead of making a huge deal out of it.  “I’ve got an order I’m not sure I can fill without shorting the Tavern.” 

“Grenadine.” 

“Si … er … yes.  I make it.  My mother’s recipe.” 

“Another one of your businesses I take it.”  At Danny’s nod But shrugged and said, “Happens sometimes … shortages I mean.” 

“It wouldn’t have happened this time except Maddox sold two cases away to a traveling merchant without telling me.  Actually traded them is more correct.” 

“Did he get ripped off?” 

“No.  Not really.  It’s just … conyo … I can’t go around telling everyone I’ll do a trade for them, especially not Maddox.” 

Trying to braid the facts Danny was letting him see without tying a knot he said, “Yeah, ol’ Maddox can talk … and he ain’t above making a buck either.  He just assume that the stock could magically be replaced?  Or does he know you …?” 

Danny sighed and leaned back from the table a little.  “He knows I make the grenadine and I have a hand in making most of the liquors for the Tavern.” 

“Most?  For how long?” 

Danny snorted, “Longer than you’ll be comfortable knowing.  Leave it alone Butch.” 

With effort he surprised Danny by nodding and saying, “OK.  But what?  He assumed you’d be able to replace two cases of bottles just like that?” 

“Yeah, apparently he did,” Danny said on a sigh.  “Last nine months or so Maddox has … look, he’s no spring chicken and Mrs. Maddox, she covers for him a lot.  Serving at the bar?  No problems.  But lately he’s gotten sloppy about … back room stuff.” 

“Is that when and why you stepped in?” 

Danny almost played stupid but then shrugged.  In for a penny, in for a pound.  “Before that.  Mrs. Maddox and I … well, she’s sharper than people give her credit for being.  Mr. Maddox, well the bar has always been his but it was Mrs. Maddox that added the eats and has kept the place from turning into another Buzzy’s Place.   Don’t get me wrong, Mr. Maddox is still sharp but he’s … he’s getting older and winding down.  Sleeps in more, not because he has the help to do it but because he needs to, to handle the afternoon and evening crowds we get now.  If they didn’t still dream about their son and grandkids showing up …” 

“They never heard anything?” 

“Nothing.  Just the initial contact and then the official letter stating they’d been given permission to emigrate into Florida and that they were supposed to board the train and be here within the month.  Only it’s been three years and it’s like they’ve vanished off the face of the earth.  For seven years they held out hope … then …”  Danny shook her head.  “They think if they found them once they’ll find them again, they just need to keep praying and hoping.” 

“What do you think?” 

“I don’t.  None of my business.”  The almost shamefacedly Danny muttered, “ I … I paid a private investigator.” 

“Excuse me?” 

A little irritated at her confession she snapped, “I said I paid a private investigator.  You hard of hearing?  People claiming to be Bart Maddox and kids got on the train outside of Omaha.  They got their ticket punched as far as their connection in Mobile but what became of them after that I don’t know.  They could have gotten detained.  They could have gotten their tickets boosted.  They could have missed the connection and gotten lost in the system.  They could have been robbed and thrown from the train.  Mr. and Mrs. Maddox know all the possibilities and probably a few they’ve made up in their nightmares.  But nothing stops them from hoping.  That hope, it kills them a little at a time … the grandkids’ birthdays, things that remind them of their son … not too many people know and I’d appreciate it if you’d not mention it or get in their business.”   

Butch could see that Danny didn’t like anyone knowing she could, or even would, do something like that.  He told her, “I could always …” 

Danny’s head shot up and she said, “No.  That hope kills them a little at a time … I think absolutely knowing what happened would likely just kill them off in one fell swoop.” 

“So you don’t think that the son and grandkids are alive.” 

With resignation Danny said, “I’m not sure they were ever alive.” 

Butch nodded.  “You think someone stole their identity out in Omaha and used it as a way to get traveling money to get out of that hell hole.” 

“I think that is more likely than any of the other possibilities.” 

Butch was almost sorry he’d brought it up when he realized the Maddox’s situation probably brought up bad memories of Eddie for Danny.  He decided to drop it and said, “Ok, so ol’ Maddox has some reason to be slipping a bit besides age.  How does that play into you grinding your teeth over grenadine if you are the producer and the supplier?” 

Danny was grateful that Butch was willing to drop the other topic.  She’d never be able to say with truth that she’d forgotten Eddie but she was fairly certain that whatever Eddie had gotten himself into when he left, he’d chosen to forget about them.  Danny winced at the oncoming headache.  She didn’t get them often but when she did she felt hung over for days.  “Pomegranates don’t just whistle into existence.  I’ve nursed my bushes and they produce pretty well … Momma planted some of them before Flare Day.  But their supply isn’t bottomless and they are very difficult to get fresh at any local market.  Even with a decent crop this year I can still only make so much juice.  And I decided to try a batch of pomegranate wine this year.  It used up most of my cushion.  To fill the open order is going to use up all my cushion, and my private supply.” 

“Then tell the open order you can’t fill it.” 

“Not … not really an option.” 

Suspiciously Butch asked, “Why?” 

With a sigh.  “None of my orders are illegal Butch but the people I sometimes do business with may not always have the same scruples.  I normally stay out of their business but the people who placed this order do business with a family that is … let’s just say you would have heard of them.  And while normally I wouldn’t care, right now I’m trying not to … to draw unexpected attention from people that might complicate this other situation we got hanging over us.” 

In frustration at house complicated things were getting Butch snarled, “Dammit to hell Daniella.” 

“Teach you to ask questions next time won’t it.  Told you that you wouldn’t …” 

Butch got up out of the chair he’d been sitting in and moved a lot faster than Danny had been expecting.  “Don’t you dare say it woman.  No, I ain’t happy about you having anything to do with certain types of people … even if it is through a back door connection … but I’m not a complete idiot.  Just tell me you keep those contacts to a minimum.” 

Danny looked at Butch and asked, “Would you believe me if I told you I hadn’t intended to make such a connection to begin with?” 

“Yes.  You have the boys and Nita to think about.” 

How quickly he said it caused a knot at the back of her neck to loosen.  “Thank you … for seeing that.  And ‘cause … look, I was doing business with this party well before they took up with … big connections.  They did it to grow their business.  I don’t …”  Danny sighed.  “That’s … look, maybe I would like to get so big one day that I can pick and choose who I do business with but right now that’s not where I am at.  But I’m not careless either.  This party in particular knows that.  I just owe her a favor.” 

“Her?”  Butch asked in surprise. 

“Yeah.  Her.  And that’s all I’m saying because you probably wouldn’t believe the rest of it no matter how stripped down a version I give you.  Either way though I think I’m going to have to risk it and fill the order.  We might need to tap her for some info though we’ll have to be very, very careful.” 

Trying to ignore the rest of it and Danny’s wicked grin Butch said, “So you don’t really have plans to stay a bar maid.” 

“Who knows what the future holds,” Danny responded with a very Latin shrug.  “I can have plans but that doesn’t mean they are what God has planned.  Look at my parents.  Look at just about everyone around.  Fastest way to make God laugh is to say you have plans.” 

“So you believe in fate?” 

Danny snorted.  “Don’t get your hopes up.  I don’t believe in fated love or anything like that.  Useless, romantic crap is all that is.  I see too much of that make believe nonsense with the other girls.  Believing every man that gives them a line is ‘the one’ and that he’s going to help her escape from the mierda her choices have turned her life into.  And no, I don’t believe in karma either.  There is no such thing as fairness or real justice in this life.” 

“Then what do you believe in?” 

Danny snorted.  “Sometimes I wonder that myself.  I’d like to believe in what I learned from my parents and from Father Brannigan.  Most days I think I do.  Then there are the days that I’d like to be on the giving end of some revenge and smiting.” 

“Damn sure sounds better than being on the receiving end of it.” 

Danny relaxed at Butch’s easy acceptance of how she felt.  “What about you?  What do you believe in?” 

“Used to believe along the same lines as you.  Then I started to believe in that oath I made and the badge I wore.  These days I’m not …”  He stopped, looking troubled. 

“You’ll get your job back Butch.  You’re too good for them to let you get away.” 

Carefully Butch admitted, “Not sure I want it back.  At least not this job and this badge.” 

“Just because there are a few bad apples …” 

“Oh well, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the Militia Investigators are worthless, if I did I would be steering Tito into something different.  I just don’t know if I fit anymore.  Don’t know if they’ll let me fit anymore.” 

“One thing at a time Butch,” Danny said, worried that Butch would get depressed again. 

Butch nodded with a tired sigh and asked, “What else you doing?” 

“Wondering if I got the undertaker killed?” 

“What?!”

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Chapter 14




Danny tried to rush the door but Butch held her back.  “What kind of trouble?” he growled. 

Cindy Brewster said breathlessly, “Danny, that man you got into a tussle with last night … he got caught red-handed killing the undertaker.  And a vigilante mob stole him out of the prison and hauled him off and strung him up ‘til he’s dead!  You gotta get out here, you’re missing everything!” 

Butch had some choice words to say.  On the other hand Danny said nothing except to tell Cindy calmly, “We’ll be there shortly.  Does Mrs. Maddox have everything covered?” 

“Yeah but you know she won’t turn you away if you come.  They can’t serve hard liquor with it being Sunday without setting off them Decency Committee people but Ol’ Maddox has already had to crack the third keg of beer and it isn’t even noon yet.  C’mon will ya?!” 

Danny put on her business face though it was a hard thing to do and extract herself from the bed and Butch at the same time.  “I have to go,” she told him. 

“I’m coming with you.” 

Danny’s head came up.  “Butch …” 

“I told you already Daniella and I mean to show you.  Let ‘em talk if they have to suck wind.  I know what it means to need a job and I won’t interfere.  I ain’t happy with all the looking they’ll likely do but I’ll hold my tongue unless they try and do more than that.” 

Danny was already envisioning all sorts of trouble and warned Butch, “The customers flirt, especially after a drink or two.  Or they get a smart mouth and put it in overdrive just to get a reaction.  Madre de Dios, you’ve seen it yourself.  I do not need any trouble.” 

“Fine … but any guy grabs you and …” 

“Any guy grabs me and he is going to pull back a nub.  The regulars know that and the passing through types usually figure out who will tolerate what.  Most of them just want cold drinks, hot food, and a good time.  We have enough families coming through that the real jerks have started taking their business to Buzzy’s Place.” 

Butch shook his head.  Buzzy’s Place was a bar, but the bar was mostly for cover.  Rumor – and Danny had the proof but that was for a different reason – was that Buzzy was pimping a stable of girls out and paying off someone so they’d look the other way.  Problem was that Buzzy liked to run his mouth about who he knew and what.  Hunter and Butch had been after the office that covered that area to shut him down for almost three years but nothing ever came of it.  And now Danny wondered if that wasn’t part of what was going on too. 

Butch moved, but not with the same vigor he normally had.  Danny didn’t bother trying to talk him out of it, it would have just been a waste of time.  But she wasn’t going to just waltz in through the front doors dragging him along either.  She went in the back and told Butch to sit down before he fell down.  “I’ll see if someone won’t come out and tell us what is what.” 

Mrs. Maddox must have seen them coming because she stepped out and said, “What’s what is that we have a mess.  Danny I know it is your day off but …” 

“Of course,” Danny said with a nod.  “Let me grab an apron out of the laundry.  Kitchen or bar?” 

“Bar.  People are more interested in quenching their thirst along with their curiosity than they are with eating a full meal.  Some are ordering sandwiches and nibble plates but I can manage that with the help I have.  Rhonda can already run circles around the other girls.  I’m so glad you talked us into taking her on.” 

Danny glanced at Butch as he tried to stand up and then sighed as he almost fell.  “Oh for … Butch!” 

“I’m sitting in the bar,” Butch said stubbornly. 

With both Danny and Mrs. Maddox silently fussing and sharing unspoken words of irritation over pig headed men they got him installed in an out of the way table where he could sit with his back to the wall and observe without getting trampled by all the traffic.  It didn’t take long before people started trying to pump him for information. 

The crowd grew and grew and eventually spilled out into the tavern yard.  Danny muttered, “What do they think this is?  Fourth of July?  They want drinks then they can come in and order them at the bar … and pay for them at the same time.” 

Mr. Maddox grinned. “That’s my girl.  Give ‘em what for.” 

Danny snorted.  “And if one more of them tries to bribe me to slip him some of the hard stuff I’m gonna cut him off.  Do we look like we want trouble with the law?  That’s all the Decency Committee would need to push through making this a dry county on Sunday … or all week long like they are working on.”  Turning to the next customer she answered in response to his question if they had something besides beer, “Got ale.  Got different kinds of mead – dry or sweet.  Got enough melomels that you need to read up what is opened on that board behind me.  Got a lot of wines that you’ll find listed on the same board that are Sunday allowed.  When you get it figured out what you want I’ll …” 

“What’s a melomel?  That some kind of Mexi drink?” the man asked looking her up and down. 

His rowdy companion snickered and Danny shook her head.  “Are you sure you want service at this bar?  Questions like that might get you forgotten about.” 

Another man further down laughed and said, “You tell ‘em Danny.”  To the two newcomers he said, “Boys, this little lady will treat you right and never cheat you of your drink.  Never have to worry she waters anything down either.  As for that melomel stuff … it’s like a fruited mead kind of thing.  If you don’t like fruit wines though I’d stick with the house ale or plain mead if you don’t want a beer.  Up to you though.” 

The two men turned to her and gave her a considering look.  “I want something with a good head on it, not a glass full of foam.” 

“We’ve got a stout that the railroad men like when they come out this way.  I pull it straight from the keg by the mug.  Do the same for the ales we have.  If you prefer a glass I’d go with the house lager.” 

“Give us a mug of the railroad stout.” 

Danny pulled the stout and then went on to the next customer.  Thirty minutes later the man was back and said, “’S good.  Give us a glass of the lager this time.” 

Since his scrip was real she did just that.  The man kept coming back, trying different things on the board until she said, “Mister?  I’m surprised you’re still standing much less walking around but don’t you think you’ve had enough for a bit?  Why don’t you get a bite to eat, let you stomach catch up and then see how you feel?” 

The man belched and scratched his chin.  “Watcha got to eat.” 

“Nothing here at the bar but if you let me get you a table Mrs. Maddox, the proprietor’s wife, will see you have something in your belly that don’t slosh.” 

The man laughed like Danny had said the funniest thing he’d heard in a long time.  Danny got the man situated and then came back to the bar.  Mr. Maddox laughed and said, “I was just about to cut him off myself.  And he ain’t the only one either.  These boys ain’t locals.  Where are they coming from?  And what has your tail feathers lit?  Not like you to let a boozer get to you so easy.” 

“It wasn’t him.  Butch said to tell you that he’s gotten word that Buzzy’s got burnt down by a different set of vigilantes than the one that did the hanging.” 

Maddox whistled in concern.  “Reckon the Decency Committee people are getting ..?” 

“Not sure.  Butch says he’ll listen ‘round but there’s nothing he can do about it right now.  He ain’t fit for duty yet so isn’t on the roster.” 

An oily voice from the end of the bar said, “That ain’t why he’s on the roster.” 

What was said and the way it was said had people way too interested.  Danny looked at the man and saw he was one of the ones that had been with the guy that had wound up getting hung for the undertaker’s murder.  “If you know more then you should take the information to the militia office.  As it is they’ll probably want your deposition on where your friend is from and why he murdered the undertaker.  In fact, I’d get over there right now before some of those vigilantes decide you had something to do with that murder … or maybe you burned down Buzzy’s for revenge.” 

The man found he was suddenly on the receiving end of a lot of curiosity and slowly backed away from the bar and out into the yard.  Danny always wondered why people thought they were going to get away with yakking their heads off without some retribution along the way for their foolishness.  She also wondered about the man’s boldness.  Had someone she’d just been palling around with gotten caught red-handed doing a murder and then gotten hauled off and hung for it, she sure wouldn’t be walking around like she hadn’t a care in the world.  The man was either an idiot or he was so connected that he didn’t think he had anything to worry about … or both; it was too hard to tell and Danny needed to have her full attention to take care of the customers that seemed to have a never ending thirst. 

It wasn’t until the bugs came out and the lamps laced with citronella were lit that the people’s tongues started to slow down and their thirst finally started to slacken.  There were many that had to be put on the drunk wagon and taken to the other side of the ramp to sleep it off in the way station.  There were a few that opted for a room at the Tavern but Mr. Maddox made sure to get payment up front and a drunken signature on the guest and receipt books first.   

“Oh my Lord,” Mrs. Maddox said as she tried to stretch the fatigue from her body.  “Now I like my profit as well as the next woman but I hope to not have another Sunday like this for at least a month or two.” 

Danny shook her head.  Part of her agreed but at the same time her tip purse was the heaviest it had been in a long time and she tried to appreciate the unexpected blessings when they came as the unexpected ones were on the rare side.  Normally she had too much of a hand in things not to be able to expect some return.  The problem was she wondered if she didn’t have a hand in this as well. 

Mrs. Maddox patted Danny’s shoulder as she went by to put the last bar rag into the scalding pot.  “Let’s call this finished.  Monday morning is already on its way and I’d like to get a few hours sleep anyway.”  Then she pointed over to where Butch leaned against the wall trying to stay awake with little success then beckoned Danny over for a little private chat. 

Before she could start in on her Danny said, “I know.  There’s no future in it.  He’s just got some stray hair of gratitude and is being stubborn.” 

“Actually Dear I think the two of you would be a good match.  I’ve thought so for a while.  And don’t tell me you have no inclination because you’ve got better sense than that.  I was just going to suggest that you keep it quiet so you two don’t have to deal with so much grief from people trying to tell you what is in your future.” 

Danny, still shocked that Mrs. Maddox wasn’t telling her all the loss she saw in her future if she stayed with Butch said, “That will happen no matter what we do … and we haven’t done anything.” 

“Yet.  So just be careful Dear.  I know even if no one else does how wrong people have always gotten it when it comes to your … er … personal life.  Certainly Mr. Maddox and I would know if you had regular visitors with you living so close to the Tavern.  And the rest of what people think they see and what they think they know is just assumption … in other words they’re out to make an ass out of themselves.  Now run along … and take Butch with you before he becomes a permanent fixture to the wall.” 

Danny knew a dismissal when she heard one and this one she was eager to take.  “Butch?” 

“Huh?” he said jumping.  “You done?” 

“And then some.” 

Butch was leaning on Danny by the time they got back to the RV, and it was less than a treat for him to get up the steps, but finally they were back inside.  Danny poured Butch into bed and helped him off with his boots but when she turned to go to her normal sleeping space he grabbed her.  “Where you going?” 

“Butch,” she said sighing. 

“Daniella.” 

Danny just shook her head.  “Gotta count out the tips and enter it into my book.”  That caused an interested look to pop up in Butch’s tired eyes.  “Oh no you don’t.  Not even Tito got in my business about this.” 

“I’m not your little brother.  And I don’t want to be in your business, I ain’t after you for your money woman and be glad I am choosing to exercise restraint and not be offended.” 

Danny snorted.  “Stop trying to sound like a school room teacher.  Exercise restraint.   What will you think of next?” 

“Next?  I’m barely surviving what I’m thinking about right now.” 

Danny glanced at him and then nearly lost her breath at the look on his face.   “Butch …” 

“I know dammit.  And then there’s the fact I’m not in any shape to do it right … yet.  But I’ll be damned if I’ll be denied the pleasure of at least thinking about it … even if it does make me feel like I’m one of the damned.” 

Danny shook her head.  “You’ll be damned all right if you don’t stop cursing like that.  Now go to sleep.” 
 
“No.  Not until you do.” 

“Conyo.” 

“Now who’s cursing?” 

“You’d drive a saint to curse Butch Pinder,” she said but it was more out of exasperated humor than anger.  “I’ve got work to do.  And so do you, it’s just different kind of work.  Mine is paperwork and yours is working on healing up.” 

“What kind of paperwork?” 

Danny shook her head.  “You’d find it boring.” 

“But you don’t.” 

Danny shrugged.  “It’s a means to an end.” 

“But if you can remember everything why write anything down?” 

Danny opened her mouth on a smart aleck reply but realized he was serious so changed what she had been going to say.  “Habit I suppose but … look, this is going to sound …” 

“Just spit it out Daniella.” 

Danny shook her head in frustration.  “Not only would you drive a saint to curse, you’d drive one to drink as well.  Because what I do isn’t just about me.  If something happens to me Tito needs to know where to go to get what he and Joey need to keep going.” 

“Dammit.  That's a heal of a thing for you to be thinking about.” 

“Yeah, I know how it sounds.  But when … when my parents died they took all of the addresses and phone numbers of our relatives with them.  Not even Eddie knew what they were.  I knew the sound the phone made as the numbers were keyed in but do you know how many combinations of numbers that is?  We’d never needed to know the numbers because our parents knew or they were plugged into the speed dial buttons.  Then Flare Day … and they still didn’t write anything down because I guess they just never thought about it.  When they died … it was a mess and one of the reasons why Eddie had to play at being older than he was.  He started working and Delia started working and I started working … I knew what I made and what they said they made but I wasn’t always around when money got spent.  My memory is eidetic but I’m not a mind reader, all I knew is that it seemed that money went out a lot faster than it should have.  That wound up being Eddie taking money out to get in trouble with and then taking money out to run away with.  Delia and I started writing stuff down but even Delia did her share of taking stuff out without telling and then she left.  Tito and I kept better records.  I had to, not because of my memory, but so that I could show Tito and eventually Joey where it came in and where it went out.  Now if something happens to me Tito and Joey still need to know and who to do to to collect what I'm owed in a few places or who to contact if they want to try and keep the business up.” 

Butch sat quietly and didn’t say anything so Danny moved to start her paperwork.  Eventually Butch asked, “Does Tito know about all of your side business?” 

Carefully Danny answered, “He knows about some because he helped with some.  The wine and mead, the soda, some of the food stuffs … and he might suspect other things but he never said anything outright.  Tito knows now to keep his mouth shut.” 

“So it seems.” 

“Wait, you ain’t gonna hold this against Tito …” 

“No.  He might actually be better prepared for his chosen profession than I thought.” 

“Well just so you know, none of this is illegal … exactly.” 

“Exactly?” 

“The decency committee idiots would have had fun if they had caught me at it before I turned eighteen.  Even at eighteen they could have caused me problems by threatening to take away the kids … even Tito.  They certainly would have made it nearly impossible for me to make the money that Tito and Joey need to stay where they are at.  And even if they couldn’t outright stop me now, they could make it difficult for me to set up business arrangements. You might be surprised at who I have contracts with.” 

“Maybe not as surprised as you think.  And no, I’m not holding this against you or the boys.  Tito is going to have to be careful but he’s also going to be expected to develop his own connections that he is also going to be responsible for protecting if need be.  That’s how it works.” 

“Is that what you’re doing with me?  Protecting a connection?” 

“Hell no.  And watch that mouth before I come over there and kiss it shut and get you and your paperwork off track.” 

“Your threats don’t work with me Butch.” 

“Wasn’t a threat Daniella,” he said huskily.  “It is a promise.  Don’t push me.  In shape or not, I want you so bad … you and those incredible legs.” 

Danny just rolled her eyes and went back to her paperwork.  A girl needed priorities and right now she still had her brothers to take care of … and apparently now she had to worry about protecting Butch from whatever craziness he imagined himself in.   

Not long afterwards she heard Butch’s breathing settle down into the deep even breaths that said he was asleep and going to stay that way.  Danny quickly finished tallying the night’s receipts, hid the tips, put in order her morning chores and then was forced to settle for the night herself.  It wasn’t easy.  She had to fight climbing into bed with Butch but Heaven only knew where it might lead or the ideas it might give the crazy man.  Thank goodness it was unlikely that she was going to need to be up at the crack of dawn as all they had staying at the Tavern were a few of the drunks that had the money to sleep over and they’d more than likely sleep fairly late.  Danny said her nightly prayers and one of the things she asked for was a quiet Monday.  Everyone needed it and she needed time to think about the possible implications of what had happened … between her and Butch and the situation they found hanging over their heads.