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WARNING! Grossly coarse language.

PART EIGHTY

     “Come on,” Caleb declared, unlocking the van doors and walking around to the passenger side of the van. “Come show me where you live,” he said, offering his hand to his daughter.

     Climbing down from her seat, Skylar crossed her arms in front of her and asked, “What about Marti? You can’t leave her all tied up in a van because she cussed at you. It ain’t right.”

     Caleb snorted a small laugh. “Well listen to you,” He said, opening the van’s rear side door and nodding toward Marti in the nearly moonless night. “I’m coming right back to get her soon as we talk to good ole Mrs. McNutt.”

     “You promise?”

     Caleb’s face became stony, but his answer was a simple, “I swear to God.”

    “Hmm. Okay,” Skylar replied, “but you gotta check on her first. You can’t leave her lying there all tied up and can’t hardly breathe. Why, you wouldn’t do that to a dog, let alone a person.”

     Caleb coughed a little laugh, mumbled, “You’d be amazed what I’d do to some people,” under his breath, and said aloud, “You know, you’re right, Skylar. Let me check on her right quick.”

    Caleb crawled into the van and shoved most of his survival gear back into his daypack, leaving only his knife, its case, the roll of duct-tape and the zip-ties out. Picking up the knife and holding the blade an inch from Marti’s eye he leaned into her face and pulled the duct-tape from her mouth. “Hey, Marti!” he declared, “How you doing? Me an Skylar’s gonna be gone just a bit but we’re coming right back fer ya, okay?”

     “What the hell-” Marti began.

     “What?” Caleb demanded, pushing his knee into Marti’s back. “You ain’t happy back here? Don’t let that fret you none. We’ll be back in just a bit.

     “Hey,” Caleb added, “You hear Skylar talking all about Kwanzaa and Chanukah and such? I bet you and the rest of the Kohnen clan was all about Chanukah, ‘Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it outa clay,’” he sang. “You ain’t trying to pass as a Christian, are you? Cuz it’s as plain as the nose on yer face that you’re a Jew.”

     “What the hell is wrong with you?!” Marti hissed. “I don’t know what your problem is but you’re going to regret messing with me, ass-hole.”

     Caleb laughed. “I noticed you didn’t deny being no Jew. Kohnen.”

     “Jesus Christ! I’m not, not that it matters, you sick sack of shit. And my name’s Hofer; or at least it was before I married Mark Kohnen. They’re both German, not Jewish. Ass-hat.”

     “Hoe fer?” Caleb whispered in Marti’s ear,That’s perfect. You a hoe fer everybody, cuz I know you gonna be a hoe fer me, bitch. We’ll be back. Stay safe,” he added, applying fresh duct-tape to Marti’s mouth.

     “She’s fine,” Caleb said over his shoulder to Skylar as he gathered the knife, sheathed it, and slipped it between his back and the belt supported waistband of his pants before securing the duct-tape to the knife’s handle. Shoving zip-ties into his rear pocket he nodded, smiled, climbed from the van and said, “We’re gonna go see Mrs. McNutt and then I’m coming right back here to get you, Marti. You just hold tight. Come on, Skylar,” Caleb said, offering his daughter his hand.

     Skylar took Caleb’s offered hand. “If you promise. We’ll be right back, Marti,” she said toward the van’s cargo area as Caleb shut the door and gently pulled Skylar in the direction of her house.

     “How come you didn’t park in the driveway?” Skylar asked as their shoes scrunched on the loose gravel.

     “Didn’t want to bother no one, that’s all,” Caleb replied. Passing by a Beware Of Dog sign Caleb asked, “Who else lives here? Besides you, Karla and good ole Mrs. McNutt that is? You got any pets? Dog? Cat? Iguana?”

     “Iguana! No! We used to have a Beagle dog, but it ran away. Shiloh. Mrs. McNutt had a big ole Saint Bernard? But he was so old she had to put him down. That was right sad. He was so big he scared me at first but all that big ole dog wanted to do was be petted. I miss them dogs.”

     “Well,” Caleb said, giving Skylar’s hand a little squeeze of support, “that’s right sad about them dogs dying. Maybe we can get you a new dog, soon as your mother and I get this whole crazy me dying thing worked out. I wonder how that happened. She ever tell you how she thought I died?”

     “No, sir. Just that you died in prison. I didn’t ask much cuz she’d get all upset whenever I did. I bet she’ll be so surprised to see you! You got a phone, because I know her number! We can call her?”

     “That is a great idea,” Caleb replied, motioning Skylar to step in front of him as they got to the top of the wheelchair ramp and he rang the doorbell. “I cannot tell you how much I look forward to seeing your mama again. Just got to get a couple things taken care of first.”