I have been going through some heavy re-writes on a scene from Charlotte Book II (Working Title). Check it out and comment!
I’m enjoying a good night’s sleep when a harsh ringing wakes me at 3:35 am. The phone is on Beau’s side of the bed so the caller is greeted with his groggy baritone. “Who’s this?” after a few seconds, he says, “She’s right here.” He sits up in the bed and nudges me with the receiver. “It’s for you.”
I sit up myself and take the phone. “Hello?”
The voice on the other end is young, shaky and strained. “Is this Charlotte?”
“Carmen Paulson gave me your number. She said you could help me. I got my kids out but I don’t know what to do. He’ll wake up any minute and find out we’re gone–”
“Whoa, slow down. Take a deep breath and tell me where you are.”
She takes a breath and continues at a slower pace. “It’s a gas station down the road from the house.”
“Do you have a car?”
“Yeah, yeah I took the car but Ty has his pick-up.”
“Okay, you’re doing great. Just listen carefully and I’ll give you directions to the safe house.” It takes a few minutes for me to explain how to get to the shelter and have her repeat it back to me. Satisfied that she understands, I give her some final instruction.
“Okay, darlin’ head to the house right now. Don’t stop for anyone or anything. Got it?”
“I got it.”
“What’s your name, darlin’?”
“I’m gonna meet you there Crystal and everything’s gonna be alright.”
“Thank you Miss Charlotte.” She hung up on her end.
Beau was listening to every bit of my end of the conversation. He turned on the lamp on the bed-side table. I swung my feet over the side of the bed and walked toward the closet. “I should be back in a couple of hours.”
“The hell you say. We’ll be back in a couple of hours.”
“Beau, I’ve done this before.”
“Not in the middle of the night you haven’t.”
“It’s a women’s shelter Beau. No men allowed.”
“I won’t be going in the shelter, but I will be driving you and waiting in the car. That’s all.”
Beau’s “That’s all” means whatever conversation we’re having is over. He hardly ever says it, but when he does, he means it. We both scramble for clothes and in five minutes we’re on the road heading to the shelter. I study Beau’s face as he’s driving and I notice that clinch in his jaw that means he’s turning something over in his mind. He’s been working that jaw a lot lately and I’ve been meaning to start a conversation about it. Since we’ve got a twenty-minute car ride ahead of us, there’s no time like the present.
“What’s on your mind?”
“Yes, now. You’ve had this underlying pissyness about you for months and I think I know what it is.”
He spares me a glance and then looks back at the road. “Really? Okay then, why don’t you tell me and then we’ll both know.”
“It’s got something to do with my new career.”
“Wrong. It’s got everything to do with your new career.”
“Beau, I thought we were past this. When I decided to get my PI license you said you would support me.”
“And I’m still supporting you. That doesn’t mean I have to like it. In fact since I’ve had a chance to think about it, I realize exactly how much I don’t like it.”
“What’s not to like? Beth says Paul spends most of his time on surveillance, going through people’s trash and looking up public records. Ninety percent of the job is boring, but it’s a job worth doing and I think I’ll be good at it. Where’s the problem?”
Beau gives me a couple of pointed looks while driving. “Here’s the problem: sooner or later during that ten percent left over, you’re going to be forced to use the gun currently strapped to your shoulder. Sooner or later either you’ll shoot somebody or somebody’s going to shoot you. I don’t think you can handle the first scenario and I know I can’t handle the second one.”
His statement stops me cold. I didn’t know what to say right away. It took another mile of driving in silence for me to address this fear that touched us both. “You’re right, Beau. You’re right about everything you just said. I can’t make any promises about my safety. I don’t know the future, but just about anything worth doing is dangerous. Why is it that you insist on coming with me to the shelter?”
“Not really. You know I’ve got a gun strapped to my shoulder. We’re just one crazy abusive husband away from me having to take a shot at somebody.”
Beau furrows his brow. “I don’t know. It just seems different that’s all. At least at the shelter you’ve got Sam there all the time looking after the girls. Plus, with the shelter you’re not going out and looking for trouble like in the PI business.”
“With all due respect to Sam, I’ll put Beth Finelli up against any three New York gangsters and if we do our jobs right we don’t look for trouble, we look for answers.”
“I don’t have a PI license Charlotte, but I know that in your line of work looking for answers and looking for trouble are the same thing. Two years ago you got abducted, tied up, thrown in the back of a car, and almost killed; all to get answers about Carol Ann’s murder.”
That one stung. “She was my friend, Beau.”
“I’m not saying you didn’t have a good reason. Hell, I’m proud of you for what you did, but since you decided to make that kind of work a career, worry has become a major part of my life.”
It’s time to see just where this conversation is going. “What do you want? Do you want me to quit?”
He hesitates longer than I would like and then shrugs. “I don’t know. The things I want are in conflict. I want you to be happy and I want you to be safe. Lately it looks like you’re not happy unless you’re in danger.”
“That’s not fair.”
“Maybe, but I said it anyway.”
Uncomfortable silence ruled the rest of the trip.
It’s that dark time before the dawn when we arrive at the shelter. Beau drops me off a good distance from the front door and then drives around to the far side of the house. Before we left I alerted the house-mother, Samantha Hardcastle, of our impending arrival. She watches over the ladies in the shelter when needed. Sam is a six-foot red-headed former Marine. Everyone calls her either “Sam” or “Ma’am”. She meets me at the front door and not long after that an old Ford station wagon pulls into the dirt driveway.
Crystal gets out and opens the rear driver’s side door to get her two kids. The girl looks to be eight years old. The boy is eleven. They come closer to the light of the front porch. A shadow of fear is common to all three faces but more so on the children. All of them are in their pajamas and look like they had just woken up from a nightmare. I step off the front porch and walk slowly to Crystal. She’s so young! She can’t be much older than my oldest boy Justin. There’s an old bruise on her forehead and a new one under her left eye. Her face is wet with tears. I hold out my arms and she steps to me to receive my embrace. Crystal hangs on for an extra few seconds to stop her sobbing and gather all the strength she can. Then I hear Sam’s gruff voice behind me. “Who’s that?”
I look up from the hug and I see another pair of headlights coming down the road. It’s clear the driver is having trouble holding a straight line. Crystal speaks in a soft panic. “It’s him. That’s Ty’s truck. He must have followed me!”
I grab Crystal’s shoulders to make sure of eye contact. “Crystal, take your kids inside right now.” Without looking away, I yell, “Sam! Take care of them.”
As Crystal pushes past me, I look back to the headlights confident that Sam is corralling everyone inside. The rusty pick-up stops just short of colliding with the station wagon and the driver manages to open his door on the second try. Ty is six feet and six inches of drunken red-neck with dark hair and broad shoulders. It’s clear that he’s never missed a meal or a beer run. He’s screaming as he exits the car.
“Crystal! Crystal! You get your ass out here gal, RIGHT NOW!”
I take a couple of steps backwards toward the house keeping my eyes on Ty. “You can’t be here. This is private property.”
“Crystal!” Now Ty focuses on me. “Who the hell are you bitch?” He swings a meaty arm back at the station wagon. “That’s my car. You get Crystal out here!” Ty closes the distance between us and I back-pedal toward the house. My mind goes to the gun in my shoulder holster when I hear Beau’s voice to my right.
“Hey! Hold on. What’s the problem here?”
“Who the hell are you? Mind your own damn business.”
Beau puts his hands up in surrender. “Hey, hey I understand. Just take it easy cowboy. You want your wife, right?”
“You’re damn right!”
“Ok, but there’s something you have to know first.”
“What? Kiss my ass!”
“No, really you need to hear this.”
Beau is amazingly relaxed and calm. He was on the wrestling team in college and his body language now reminds me of how he would be just before a match. He steps between me and Ty. Ty stumbles forward and grabs Beau by the shoulders to push him aside. “Get outta my way!”
In one smooth motion Beau uses Ty’s momentum to swing him to the left and trip him so he crashes to the ground. Ty looks up at Beau with anger, I look at Beau with astonishment. At this point my husband has two words for the red-necked Hulk, “Try again”.
Ty scampers to his feet and bellows some curse word while charging at Beau. Different tactics same result. This happened one more time and Beau took the opportunity to pin one of Ty’s arms behind him and sit on his back. Beau speaks to Ty in a quiet tone. His words are soft but I can hear them clearly. “Here are your choices: You can go home or you can go to the hospital. To make his point Beau gives the arm a little twist. Ty’s a beaten man. He surrenders with one word.
He releases Ty, helps him to his feet and tells him the plan. “Get to your car, we’ll follow you home.
Ty heads to his car like a scalded puppy while Beau walks over to talk to me.
“Shut up and get in the car.”
He smiles that reassuring smile. “Yes, dear.”
It’s a forty minute drive to follow Ty home. When we get there, Beau and Ty go in. After about fifteen minutes Beau comes out and gets behind the wheel. We’re ten minutes into the drive back home when the sun starts to come up behind us.
“What else did you say to Ty?”
He knew it was coming. “Nothing special.”
“Okay, don’t tell me. Do we have to worry about Ty getting to Crystal?”
“I don’t think so. Not for a couple of days anyway. By then you can get her to Philadelphia, right?”
“I think so. We can make it a priority.”
Beau looked out the driver’s side window focused on nothing. “You were thinking about going for your gun weren’t you.”
His question surprised me. I responded with a lie. “Not really.”
He already knew the truth. “C’mon Charlotte.”
“How’d you figure that out?”
“You seem to forget that I know you. Darlin’, since you’re resolved to use that thing please promise me that you’ll get more training on when to use it and when not to. Deal?”
I did start to freak out back at the shelter when Ty was advancing on me. Maybe Beau’s right. His request is reasonable enough. “Deal.”
There were no more words for the rest of the ride. In the meantime, we share the silence and the sunrise. Beau continues to look out the window as he places his hand on my knee. I drive and smile. There are so many ways to say, “I love you” and most of them don’t involve words at all.