In a single motion I reached my hand into Dimity’s bag, pulled out her gun and marched toward Lorenzo, lifting the barrel toward his face. His rough treatment of Dimity that first day in the barn, his extorted seizure of the new brew Ringo and I had just prepared, and the likely murder of Tom Nightingale, Ringo’s native American friend, had not dimmed in my mind, and now with recent news of my own family’s violent rupture, I was in a violent mood.
My hastiness proved to be a mistake. Unaccustomed to guns, bullying, and tough talk, I underestimated the situation. I didn’t intend to shoot Lorenzo. I only wanted to show my disgust for him and get back at him by taking the upper hand and putting a little fear into him for what he had done to us.
But in the blink of an eye, his bodyguard Vito leaped forward to intercept me with a dexterity completely incongruous with his large frame. He lunged at the gun in my hand, and, partly letting loose my violent rage, partly startled by his alarming aspect, I accidentally pulled the trigger.
Instead of a great gunshot explosion, a tiny impotent click was heard by everyone in the room; the gun was emptied earlier that morning as Dimity had loosed the entire magazine at the forest specter. The incriminating click was swallowed instantly by a short-lived but rodeo-like clamor of grunting and scuffling. The empty gun fell to the floor. Vito subdued me too easily, clasping my arms behind my back and holding me horizontally by the arms and feet, presenting me to Lorenzo as if I was a large baguette.
Lorenzo gave a series of juicy tsks through puckered lips. “Hardly the time for such exhibitions of bluster and bravado, my boy.”
“Put me down, you big lump! Put me down! Lorenzo, tell your gorilla to get his hands off me.”
“Mm? Bah! He doesn’t seem to be harming you. I rather like this posture for conversation better than one where you wave a gun in my face.”
Dimity’s voice cut through the air, “Put him down now, you bloody bastard. Or I swear you will regret it.”
To my surprise, judging from the sudden deflation of Lorenzo’s mirth, he found her taunt not so much the pathetic empty threats of an angry young girl as something to be truly concerned about.
“Oh ho! Well, well. A little fireball!”
He turned his eyes to Linda Lou. She wore a blithe smirk, allowing Lorenzo to have his moment of fun. Then amid our shouting and Lorenzo’s giggling, Linda gave a heavy blink and an almost undetectable tilt of the head, and Lorenzo desisted. He tugged his lapels together and flipped his hand languidly at Vito, and I was returned upright to my feet.
I collected myself and straightened my clothes. I handed the gun back to Dimity with a chastened flight of my eyebrows. Then I returned to my outrage.
“You killed Tom Nightingale. Linda, he killed Tom Nightingale,” I spat pointing an accusatory finger from a safe distance and talking over my shoulder to her.
“Young man,” he patronized, “Mister Bo. Mister Bo Mercette. I did no such thing. Please calm yourself.”
“You said you did. You admitted it—”
“I lied. There, are you happy? I was trying to intimidate you. I wanted Ringo’s latest brew and I had to say something to indicate I meant business. I assure you, Mr. Nightingale is no worse for the wear. He is at this moment back in his home estate in northern Michigan performing what I think you would find a very important service.”
“And! You also kidnapped Mitts! That morning, you brought her to the barn and held her hostage until we handed over the bottles! I’ll see that you pay for that!”
“Ah, yes, well, that much is true. Although…there’s a bit more to the story, isn’t there my dear?” I slowly glanced at her. Her eyes were opening wider, and the constriction in her shoulders said that Lorenzo was telling the truth.
“She didn’t exactly fight. Did you, princess? No, in fact as I recall, she made herself most conspicuous, almost as if she wanted to be captured and brought to where you and Ringo were that morning. Wouldn’t you say, Vito?” Vito grunted.
“And she is quite conspicuous without even having to try, I think we all agree? Yes, indeed.”
She squirmed. “Well, when you zoomed off with Ringo I didn’t just want to be left behind. I was a little hurt to be honest, you guys riding off and leaving me there. So I…I…”
“She came out to the main avenue and practically waved us down!”
“I didn’t wave. I just stood there.”
“Dios Mio! Yes, she stood there alright, like a little lost lamb. With those homely eyes and bottom lip. When she saw my limousine, the only limousine for five hundred miles I’d wager, she figured it could be no common resident, no dairyman out driving milk on the streets of Akron on a Wednesday morning. And she put her thumb out to hitch a ride.”
“I did not put my thumb out! I just stood there. You pulled over and grabbed me and pulled me into the car.”
“Pshah! You made it easier than it should have been.”
“You’re a filthy pedophile!”
“Alright, alright,” said Linda.
“I’ll believe you when I see Nightingale for myself,” I said. “Honestly, Linda, what’s he doing here? He’s a…a villain. A bandit, a hoodlum. Why do you permit him under your roof?” Lorenzo gave an impatient sigh.
“I’m here to help save your uncle, impetuous child!”
I turned to Linda. “Can you make him shut up?” She had endured every detail of the preceding scene with complete equanimity, arms folded.
“It’s true, Bo.”
“Ringo has suffered an injury.”
“I’m sorry, Bo.”
“What are you saying!”
“It’s quite serious I’m afraid.”
“What injury? What kind of—”
“A gunshot wound in the chest.”
“For heaven sakes, has my whole family tree been shot up? My father—”
“Yes. We know about your family, your father, your mother. Ringo took a bullet in the same confrontation as they. He was there trying to get your family to safety. Unfortunately, he was not soon enough. The French gangsters—the ones you’ve been fleeing—they arrived at your house after they were not able to catch you following your flight out of Ohio. They went to your house and they started firing. There was a terrible shootout before the police could even be notified. Your father took the worst of it. The house is practically reduced to splinters.”
“This is crazy! I should be amazed that anyone survived!”
“Yes, well, you have your girlfriend’s father, Mister St. John to thank for that.”
Your girlfriend’s father. The words were utterly unexpected, and they echoed for a moment in my ears as their meaning slowly sunk in. I felt the room physically turn upside down. Several seconds passed in silence. Finally, I found the floor.
“Mister St. John?” I looked at Dimity. She was still squirming and smiling and tugging down at the pleats of her skirt. Linda continued.
“Bo, Ringo urgently needs our help. I doubt he will survive otherwise. He feels he cannot go into a regular hospital for fear of encountering either the civil magistrate or the French mobsters. Fortunately, he is in the care of Mister Nightingale on a reservation near the border of Canada.”
“How are we supposed to help him way up there?”
“I need you to take this to him.” She presented a small crystal phial ribbed with silver and stoppered with a silver cap. A lace of aniline leather was tied around the neck. It held a cloudy amber liquid that swirled with tiny particulates.
“What is this?”
“I don’t have time to explain. But he needs to drink it in the next 24 hours.”
“Okay. How are we going to get it to him?”
“That’s what you are all here for.”
“You all? You mean Mitts and me? And…George and Lennie here? No way. I’m not riding with them…in their limo. Nope. Uh-uh.”
Linda was never hasty about anything, and she stood silent for a moment. Her eyes were so full of love that I felt my throat seize up. “Your uncle’s life depends on it.”
“What about you? Aren’t you coming?”
“No, Bo. I cannot go to him. But there is a great need for haste. You four can go. Despite appearances, I believe Lorenzo means you no harm. I believe he would like to see Ringo restored, albeit not so much out of affection as for commercial interests.”
Dimity and I looked at each other. I took the phial from Linda’s hand.
“Look. If speed is of the essence, then I think I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’m in possession of the fastest car in the United States, possibly the world. Much faster than that yacht parked outside. There’s no way I’m getting in a car with Bo-zo and Gargantua. Listen fellas, follow us if you want. We’ll see you on the reservation.”
We turned to head out the door and Linda took us and held us in front of her for a moment. The stillness seemed like an island of otherworldly calm in the middle of a frothing temporal river. She was thinking something. She looked at us with love and hope with a subtle undertone of sadness. We felt her longing and faith fill us. The river torrent became quiet and we stood together, again as if peace reigned on earth. At last she gave a deep sigh and told us the details of our destination.
We had to get back to the car. Happily, we felt energized and fresh. Before we ran out the door, I stopped.
“Hey, you said you were going to tell us your real name.”
“Yes I did, didn’t I.”
I nodded. Again she was quiet for a moment as she mustered a new sense, like an emotion different from what we had experienced so far. It was as if she were deciding whether to entrust us with something. Her lips parted, she took a breath. Finally, she spoke.