Snowing out there like dogs and cats in a come-from-behind home run. In my unfortunately increasingly normal “wake up at 0500” moment, I recalled something about “New Russia” I tried to forget: mysticism. I do not play that game well. I’ll try to get past that scene and have Russians start shooting Canucks.
Musician Pedro (modeled on Rudy Sarzo, if you can believe that), from “The Fourth Law,” finally owns up what little he knows but what a lot he suspects about Kalí. From “Crosses & Doublecroasses,” the surname Barrett leaves most Texans speechless as they do not want to talk about it. She comes back from… hell, I’ve no idea, for some pillow talk with her husband. And yes, for you pedants, they get married before God tomorrow.
“She, she’s your wife!” he shouted, waving at the empty air before them.
“We’ve just met.” He fought to not laugh. “We’ve a lot to learn about each other.”
Muttering oaths and imprecations about kids, wildcatters, Mexicans, and Texans, he stomped back up the steps into the building.
Told by the sheriff that they would be staying the night, he had one of his secretaries give them a slip of paper with a motel’s name and address, explaining it was just up with street with a small restaurant next to it. Once there, seeing it something of a fleabag, David guessed Chisum was still mad.
“At least this steak is good,” Logan said around the meat in his mouth. “And the beer’s cold. Better than we’ve had it over the last month.”
“If it’s not donkey,” Tell said, watching his business partner nearly choke to death.
“Yeah,” David agreed with Logan, not Tell, “the rooms are small, blankets worn and my bed creaked pretty bad but I am looking forward to getting cleaned up for the first time since we set out.”
“Speaking of your bed,” Tell turned his mischievous attention to David, “where’s the Missus? Did the sheriff talk to her?”
“Yes, he did,” David began. “Fellahs? As odd as she seemed to y’all, it did not go over well with law enforcement. And then…”
He paused to lift his mug of beer.
“Then?” Pedro asked.
“He threatened to detain her,” he said carefully, taking a last drink. “Kalí walked to me, gave me a kiss, and vanished.”
Pedro laughed but David still heard his “I knew it!” under his breath. What does this kid know?
“Vanished?” Tell asked. “You mean she walked away?”
“She was there, as close to me as you are right now. And then she wasn’t,” he clarified, seeing disbelief in his and Logan’s eyes. Eyes that Logan used to look around the hole-in-the-wall pub they were in. All the pictures, paintings, trinkets, and tchotchkes had something to do with UFOs and space aliens. It seemed to be an obsession of this little town.
“Guess she’s a local,” he laughed, taking another bite of what might be donkey, “or descendant of whatever crawled out of that crashed spaceship!”
“Pedro?” David asked. The youngest of their group stopped smiling. “May I ask what you know?”
“Very little, Dave,” Pedro said, his irrepressible smile coming back. “But I knew your wife’s mom back before she was Mrs. Rigó. Then, she was the live-in Assistant Director at my orphanage. Her name was Lily Barrett.”
The other three looked at one another.
“Barrett,” Tell lowered his voice. “As in…”
The leader of ExComm. Which killed a quarter million.
“She was his daughter. Later, she became Friend of the Machines!” Pedro chuckled. “I met Miss Ai’s android when she first came to Texas, can you believe that? Me, of all people. She helped me with my singing.”
“So you think her daughter, Kalí,” David began but Pedro shook his head.
“I don’t know. All I know is Miss Lily had a way harder time growing up, even more than me with no parents.” He looked about at the silly decorations. “I think God has shown her great favor.”
David finished his stew and walked next door to the motel, letting himself into his ground-floor room. He turned the shower on, shucked his dirty clothes, do I have any remotely clean left? and stepped in, letting the hot water wash away a month’s dust, dirt, and sweat.
The granddaughter of Butcher Barrett calls me her husband, he thought, leaning on the cracked tile wall. No one will admit in public that ExComm’s racial and border policies saved Texas. A man like that… and now a girl like Kalí. Is this Lily person just as, I don’t know, separated from the rest of us?
Realizing the day’s stress and the hot water – not the two beers – had him close to falling asleep, David turned off the shower, toweled down, and let water run in the sink while brushing his teeth. A luxury. The bed gave another ominous creak but he was out in seconds.
He was on his left side when his eyes opened. It was dark in his room and outside through the curtains he didn’t bother to close completely. I thought I turned off the shower? The noise ended. A dream. I dreamt of a shower and not Kalí. What’s wrong with me?
Now on his back, David thought this is going to be one of those dreams before realizing the weight. Eyes open again, he saw the moonlit form of Kalí across and on him, rocking her hips slowly back and forth.
“Yes, David.” His breath caught as for the first time ever, she smiled at him. “I had to make a point to Chisum and I was called for work. But now I am with you, Husband.”
“You seem… lighter.” Oh my God! What did I just say to her!
“I had just as much dust and dirt on me as you. We are washed clean.” She put her hands on his broad chest and leaned to kiss him. “After sun up, we shall have a priest there when we gift each other the Sacrament of Marriage. I can see you have only been baptized so guess you are not of Holy Mother Church?”
“Presbyterian,” his voice caught a little as he began to respond to her. “At least at Christmas and Easter.”
Her hands slid slowly up to his neck but did not hold it.
“There are allowances for marriage. But you will be Catholic before our children are born.”
That came across as an ultimatum.
“No. It simply is. Mmm.” She moved more.
“H… how many kids, Kalí?” he asked, holding her tight. She whispered an answer but he was otherwise occupied.