The Posse Forms
March 23, 2015
Linh awoke with a start, her senses immediately on alert. The house was quiet and sullen; vast, deep and empty—much like a cave. Then the sound that woke her repeated. The doorbell. Arising from the bed, donning a robe and slippers, Linh made her way down the stairs as the bell chimed for the third time.
Swinging open the door a moment later, Linh was please to find a friendly face waiting on the other side. Their eyes met for a second as Linh quickly moved aside to allow Maggie Moran to enter.
“Sorry to barge in like this without warning,” Maggie began, “but I couldn’t sleep last night and needed to talk to someone. Colonel Bob used to be my sounding board. Sometimes I miss him so much my teeth ache.”
“No problem, Maggie. I’m glad you’re here. I’ve been thinking of giving you a call myself. You’re right. We do need to talk. We both have men we love. And they’re both in trouble.”
“I know it Linh. I’ve know it since Johnny had that late-night visitor.”
“Who was it, Maggie?”
“It was Matt, Linh. Oh, Johnny didn’t actually come right out and say it—but I knew.”
“What did he say?”
“I don’t know for sure, but I have a feeling he came to say goodbye.”
“How much has Johnny told you, Maggie?”
“Pretty much everything, Linh. I know about Matt, and I know about the watch.”
Linh let out a sigh. “I’m glad. I’ve hated keeping that secret. But I had to wait for Johnny to tell you. It just wasn’t my place.”
“That’s okay, Linh. I understand. And now I understand quite a lot about what you’ve been living with too.”
“Well, it was never easy, Maggie. And it’s extra hard now too, with little Albert on the way. You know about Roan and Aedan?”
“Yes. And Joshua too. I don’t think I’d trust him very much.”
“Well, that makes two of us. Matt certainly has some interesting choices to make in the not too distant future. Trouble is, I don’t know for sure if I’m going to be one of those choices or not.”
“And if you’re not, Linh?”
“Then I’m not—and that’s the end of that. I go on, by myself. Well, not exactly alone. Albert and I go on alone, together.”
“You’ll never be alone Linh. You have family and a wonderful group of friends. I’m one of them.”
“You sure are, Maggie. And I didn’t mean to exclude anyone. I love all you guys—one and all. But my future, Albert’s and my future, that will belong to me and no one else.”
“So what are we going to do sister?” Maggie asked with conviction.
“I don’t exactly know. But one thing I sure do know is this. We aren’t going to sit around here moping. I don’t have an idea in the world where Matt is right now. Do you know where Johnny is?”
“Yes. He’s in Detroit. At a downtown hotel. I tried calling this morning, but can’t seem to get through. You want to try him again on your phone?”
“Has he called you?”
“Yes. On the night he arrived. He was supposed to call again last night, but he never did.”
“That’s not much like Johnny.”
“I know. And that’s what worries me. It’s the main reason I was awake for most of the night, and the reason I’m here today. I’m scared.”
“You should be. It’s not at all like that man to not keep his word, or to forget anything. Tell you what Maggie—here’s my phone. Try his number right now, while I go in the office and fire-up the computer. I’m starting to get a feeling we might be needing it for some airline tickets.”
Linh turned to go, but the Maggie’s voice stopped her short.
“I’m in love with Johnny, Linh. I think I actually fell in love with him the day I met him. They say that love at first sight is a fool’s dream—a myth. But I don’t know. I would have married him if he’d called me the very next day. I know that.”
“Have you and Johnny . . . you know?” Linh asked lamely.
“No. We came close, but we didn’t do it. And I don’t regret it either. Sometimes Linh, even most usually, the ways of the world just aren’t the best way. We didn’t want to do things the way everybody else seems to want to do them these days. Johnny and I wanted to wait. We wanted to do things right. My first husband, Bobby Moran—well, we didn’t wait. I loved Bobby to distraction, but I’ve always kind of regretted that one thing.”
Linh closed the distance between them in three steps, throwing her arms around Maggie and pulling her in tight. Lightly, she kissed the top of the older woman’s head. “That’s just fine, Maggie. As a matter of fact, that is absolutely perfect. I loved you and Johnny before. But now I just love you two even more. You both are one in a million.”
Maggie looked up and smiled. “Thanks, Linh. These days a lot of folks wouldn’t understand.”
“This one would, Maggie. Just for the record, Matt and I waited too. Matt’s like Johnny—he’s been around. And I didn’t exactly come to the marriage bed a virgin either. But I want to tell you, there’s nothing like a wedding night, and a first time—with a man you love—and are married to.”
There was a knock at the door. Both women jumped a little with the unexpectedness of it. Whoever was there had not used the doorbell. Linh made her way to the door. Tucking her right hand into the pocket of her robe, she gripped the small .380 automatic hidden inside, as she swung the door open with her left.
“I might have guessed,” she said with a smile, again standing aside and allowing Howard Carter to enter. “You don’t like electronics very much.”
“God invented knuckles before new-fangled doorbells, I always say,” Carter said with a smile as he made his way into the living room. Seeing Maggie, he crossed the room to her and hugged her. Maggie grinned with the additional attention.
“I’m glad to find you here, Maggie. I need to talk to both of you, and I’m glad you two are together.”
“What’s going on Howard?” Linh asked.
“Lots. Have either one of you heard anything from either Johnny or Matt?” Both women shook their heads negatively.
“Johnny was going to call Maggie last night, but he didn’t. Do you know anything Howard?”
“Yeah, I’m afraid I do.”
“Detroit is on lock-down. There are very few calls going in or out. No flights into or out of Detroit Metro either. In other words, most communications are impossible.”
“Why? What’s going on?”
“Because they had a major terror-attack last night. Two downtown Hotels were bombed. And I mean bombed. As in blown-up. Totally destroyed. A one story Motel 6 on Woodward Avenue, and the Hilton Garden Inn on Gratiot, along with a private residence in the burbs. The Hilton is, or rather was, a nine-story hotel. About half an hour after the bomb went off on the second floor, the top seven floors on one entire side of the hotel pancaked down onto the others, just like in the World Trade Towers years ago. Between that and the Motel 6, there are twenty-eight known dead, and probably sixty or so injured. That count is going to go up, they say. They’re still digging out the dead this morning. It’s all over the news, and internationally as well.”
“Muslims?” Linh said.
“Likely—but not confirmed at this time. No one is claiming credit.”
Howard and Linh turned toward Maggie, and were surprised to see that she had sat down on the sofa and was staring at the floor.
“Maggie—are you alright?”
“Did you know where Johnny was staying, Howard?”
“The Hilton Garden Inn. On the second floor. He’s dead, Howard.”
Howard’s face turned ashen as he sat down beside her and grabbed her roughly by both shoulders. “Bullshit, Maggie. Don’t you dare think that. Now even for a second. I’ve seen that man come though some mighty tough scrapes in his life. The bastard has more Irish luck in him than a full brigade of marching buck-naked transgendered leprechauns at a Pat Roberts rally—and that’s a hellofa lot.”
Maggie smiled weakly and nodded her head. “All right. He’s alive then, Howard—until we find out different—okay?”
“Damned right Maggie. Listen girl, I know we haven’t really gotten off on the right foot, you and I. But I want you to know that I think Johnny is one lucky son-of-a-bitch to have found you. And there’s no way in Hell he isn’t coming back for you.”
“What was Johnny doing in Detroit anyhow, Howard?” Linh asked.
“I sent him there. Me, and the President of the United States.”
“The President? Why?”
“To kill three men.”
“Because they’re mad-dog terrorists and they needed to be killed. That’s why.”
“Why Johnny, Howard? What’s so special about a middle-aged private-detective with a bad back? What makes him so damned lethal over—oh, I don’t know, any number of other hit men you might have found listed in the phone book?”
“You bloody well know the answer to that one. Because he has the watch. And the watch likes him. It’ll work for him.”
“And that makes him a killing machine in your book—doesn’t it Howard?”
“Well Howard—was it worth it? Maybe your best friend is dead. Was it worth it? Apparently you and the prez sent him straight into a trap.”
“It looks that way. And I intend to find out why. And yeah Linh. It was worth it. You bet. I’d do it again in a second too. And I’ll even tell you why. Because Johnny wanted to do it. And because even if he has given his life to protect what, a hundred, a hundred and fifty or so children—then yeah—it was worth it. Because he’s a man Linh, a real damned straight-shooting man with a set of balls like nobody else I ever knew. Right out of frickin’ Zane Grey novel. And you’ve gotta know there aren’t that many of them around anymore. Once he knew what the stakes were—I couldn’t have stopped him.”
Linh dropped her eyes to the floor resignedly.
“What do we do?” Maggie quietly asked. “Forget about blame. What are we going to do?”
“We’re going to go find him—that’s what the hell we’re gonna do.” Howard answered. “Dead, alive, or anywhere in between. We form a posse, saddle up and go find him. We do for him what he’d do for us. We get him back. Then we get the sons-of-bitches that did this.”
“The three of us?” Linh asked.
“Yeah—the three of us. That’s what we’ve got, so that’s what we use. I sure could use Matt too, right about now—but he’s checked out. Any idea at all where he is, Linh?”
“Then we go it alone.”
“How are we going to get there?”
“Easy. The private jet that took Johnny to Detroit is back and sitting out at the airport right now. I’ll call the pilot and tell him to get his ass out of bed and get down there and fly us. There are plenty of airports just outside the city where we can land.”
“And if you can’t find him?”
“Then I’ll fly the damned thing myself. I didn’t spend eight years in the Air Force for nothing. I’ve had a pilot’s license for years.”
“Single engine Cessna—but close enough. They all work about the same.”
Linh smiled weakly. “Howard, you constantly amaze me.”
“Yeah, you and everybody else, little-sister. Go pack a bag.”
“Do they have stores in Detroit, Howard?”
“I expect they do.”
“Then I don’t need to pack. I’ll change into clothes and be ready in five minutes.”
“Sweet, Linh. One more thing.”
“What’s that Howard?”
“Pack your hardware. And bring a second set for Maggie. I’ve got a real strong feeling we’re going to be needing them. You know how to use a gun Maggie?”
“Sure. Couldn’t be married to Bobby Moran and not know that.”
“Then stand up, raise your right hand, and repeat after me.”
“The oath. You’ve just joined the Police Department
Thanks so much for reading. Back in a couple of days with another installment of DEATH AT THE SUPERMARKET – Killing Grandma, and the Rat-Boy. Until then, take care, and have a wonderful and safe Labor Day.
Dumb Joke of the Day: