The Refugees are family of a friend, and he’s brought them here because I’m as far outside their circle as anyone he could think of at the time. Coltrane isn’t his real name but he does like that sort of music so he’s been called that for quite some time now. His sister left her husband, who was a childhood friend of Coltrane’s and now she and a twelve year old daughter is holed up here at Hickory Head. Coltrane knows me well enough to know I’m not going to touch the woman, and it’s a shame she and I are meeting under these circumstances. She once was pretty, but her eyes are dead, and I don’t think her daughter looked at me the entire time they were here. The little girl is afraid of the dogs, except Sam, who within she found a kindred spirit. Sam slept with them last night, curled up on the bed, I imagine, and I slept of the sofa. Coltrane pitched a tent to one side of the house, and in the darkness, waited.
I put the shotgun beside my desk, checked to see if it was loaded twice, and closed myself into my office with Bert and Lucas. Bert understands, well, Bert accepts weirdness if I tell him it’s okay. He knows I handle a gun rarely, and to him it’s a sign things are not well. Bert is the consummate soldier, the perfect guard dog, and everyone I need in a time like this; he lies beside me, ears up, and listening. Lucas is still too much puppy and he whines to get out. Sam is getting all the pettings! I was amazed at how Sam attached himself to the little girl, and how she just reached out and grabbed him back. Sam will kill for the little girl now, and he will die for her too. Coltrane is not a nervous man nor is he timid, or a coward. If he brought his family here then is truly believes there is a risk.
For the first two or three hours he and his sister speak softly in the bedroom, with the lights out, and he comes out with his eyes wide when a car comes down the driveway. Watch the dogs, I tell him, because they know who is who and as long as they do not react you should not either. Even with me on the phone guiding them in, it took them a while to find this place in the dark. The last attempt at getting away was foiled by the GPS device in her cell phone, and that makes me nervous but the new cell phone is too simple and holds no apps for anything, much like mine.
Coltrane comes into the office and just sits, listening to the music I’m playing on the computer, and he very quietly thanks me for putting myself in harm’s way like this. Kevin was a good friend, a great husband and father, and for thirteen years everything was good. Coltrane suspected Kevin was cheating on Billie, but he couldn’t bring himself to ask, or poke at it. Billie was happy, life was good, but one day Kevin packed up some stuff and moved out. Why men are the way they are, I have no idea, but I have seen this before. A man finds another woman, leaves his wife, and suddenly, when she begins a new life, he wants her back, but cannot have her, and insanity begins. Restraining orders work only as well as the time it takes the cops to get there and that is sometimes a very long time. Kevin was locked up for assault and now he’s out pending trial. Billie and the little girl are on the run until the justice system decided to put this guy away for a while.
I’m still doing night shift hours but Coltrane slips out to the tent at midnight. He’s put the tent in the yard so we’re all not inside if something happens, and I can see his flashlight from the office window. I assume he’s armed, and I hope he’s used to the sounds the night brings here. They’ll leave tomorrow and where they are going they asked me not to ask. No evidence of their stay here will exist, ever, except these words, and I’m not really worried all that much about too many reading what I write.
“That Sam has all but pushed me away from my daughter.” Billie is standing in the door, and for the first time in twelve hours I see her smile.
“That’s Sam, the Happy Hound.” I smile back. I go back to writing, so if she wants to stay she can and if she wants to leave she can.
“Why are you doing this?” she asks. “You don’t know Eugene that well.” I didn’t know that was Coltrane’s real name. I thought it was Bob or something.
“I pick up strays.” I reply. “It’s a hobby.”
Billie is drinking out of a small flask and offers it to me. Bourbon, cheap bourbon, but it’s warm inside. She looks around the office but sits on the floor and doesn’t move. The puppy Lucas kisses her and she laughs. She makes him sit, and he thinks that means more kisses.
“The other dog doesn’t like me” she finally says.
“The other dog is on the clock.” I reply. “Bert knows something isn’t right and he isn’t playing until it is.”
“What are you going to do if he shows up here?” she asks.
“Even if he had a tracking device on you he would have to find out how to get here in the dark. New Moon, cloudy, no lights here, we’re as ghosts in this.”
“Thank you.” Billie is crying but she isn’t making a sound. Her eyes bleed tears but she sits there with her back to the wall staring straight ahead. She puts the flask on my desk as she leaves, and when I got up this morning, they were gone.