Chapter 21

Wanderer Chapter 21

 

Present – Jens – Chasing the bus

 

I'm anxious as… well anxious as a bride on her wedding day because we are damn close to finding my runaway fiancé. I can't fricken believe we were in the exact same fast food place together and I didn't recognize him. I know what's wrong with me: I am still recovering from my near death experiences when I was an annoying as hell teenager again. I still have to fight the urges to be teenager Jennifer. If I slip into teenager mode and I don't notice it, I slip right back into being a super brat. I remember those times I didn't resist and blush in shame for the way I acted. However, there is still one thing I've saved from those times which will be extremely useful when we finally find and capture my runaway fiancé – but it's a secret which I'm not telling anyone.

 

Linus, my darling Linus, is just like the big brother I never had. He came and visited me in prison as often as he could and I've treated him very badly lately. I make up my mind and start, "Linus, I need to apologize to you. I realize I've acted inappropriately. Please forgive me."

 

He glances at me and replies, "Thanks Jens for the apology. Yeah, you've been a little crazy lately. What's going on?"

 

I bite my lip and decide to try to tell him the truth since I need his help. "Linus, I don't know if you will believe me or not, but what I'm telling you is the truth. When I almost died, I had a bunch of out of body experiences which changed me. The Jens who came back from those incredible trips is a different Jens. I don't know a better way to explain it other than to explain I am a teenager trapped in an adult's body."

 

He doesn't reply immediately and his silence is unsettling. Finally he responds…

 

Present – Linus – Chasing the bus

 

Other than her squirming around in the passenger seat like she has ants in her pants, the old Jens is back for now and I'm thankful as hell for it. I really had no idea how to control the Jens which I had been with. While normally I don't like touchy-feely crap, Jens first apologizes to me and then tells me about some out of body experiences and how she came back as a teenager from them. I'm interested as hell about what she experienced 'on the other side' because she doesn't realize I had one of those once myself. But that's fodder for future discussions.

 

I reply, "Jens that explains a lot to me. Are you still having issues with it?"

 

I glance at her and notice she bites her lip like she does when she doesn't really want to say something. But she finally confesses, "Yeah Linus, it's a constant struggle for me. But it's not as bad as when I first came back."

 

I nod my head and ask, "I bet you told me this because…"

 

She interrupts, "Yeah, I told you because I'm asking for your help to keep me from acting like a teenager."

 

I laugh and tease, "Well, I could always spank your ass or ground you when you act up!"

 

She snaps right back, "Spoken like a real sailor since you guys always love your naval bases. You try to touch my naval base and you'll be jerking off with your left hand."

 

I chuckle as the old Jens is back. The analogy isn't quite right, but it is funny as hell so I add, "Then I guess that just leaves grounding. What shall it be? I know, no computer for a week."

 

I glance over as she puts the back of her hand to her forehead and pantomimes dying, "Linus that would be a fate worse than my near death experiences. Why don't we come up with a way for you to secretly let me know when I'm acting like a teenager?"

 

I nod my head and suggest a solution, "Yeah we need a code word."

 

She giggles and chips right in, "Yeah a code word. I know, why don't we use… Julia?"

 

I recognize the reason why she chose 'Julia', so I smile, chuckle and say, "Jens I don't believe for a moment that you're going to be the 'Runaway Bride' like Julia Roberts was in the movie."

 

She giggles and continues the dialog, "Yeah, I think my runaway fiancé is going to find out all about shotgun weddings."

 

She shocks me with her remark and I swerve a little and say, "Jens don't tell me you two finally did and you're preggers!"

 

She whines her reply, "Linus, that's a terrible thing to suggest! No unfortunately we didn't so I can't be preggers yet. Look, there's the bus!"

 

She's right. As we speed past the bus, Jens plasters herself against the car window trying to see if Ben's on the bus while I interject, "Jens you do know shotgun weddings are usually because the bride is pregnant?"

 

Jens coldly announces, "Linus not in this case. I'm tired of chasing his cute ass all over the world and when I finally catch him, he's either going to marry me or someone's going to die!"

 

Shit! She's appears serious so I try to distract her as I laugh and tease, "Yeah I've heard it said that marriage is like a death of a thousand cuts. I assume then the two of you will settle down and raise a bunch of kids?"

 

Jens ignores my marriage slam, sniffles and says, "Linus, you just made a big ass out of u and me. I wished like hell we could just settle down and raise kids, but unfortunately we can't."

 

I loudly react, "Jens, what the hell are you talking about! Why in the world can't you just settle down and raise kids? I thought that's what both of you wanted."

 

She hangs her head and says, "Well Linus, since my near death experiences the plans have changed. We sort of have a mission to do. I guess we're on a mission…"

 

I anticipate where she's going so I interrupt, "So, you're trying to tell me you're on a 'Mission from God'? Don't tell me, one of you is Jake and the other is Elwood."

 

She smacks the back of my head and answers, "Linus shut the fuck up and let me finish. And no weren't not the fricken Blues Brothers. Ben and I were made for each other. Now some higher power has a mission for us. The mission that we went on before Ben was captured was just a warm up for the real thing…"

 

I can't keep my mouth shut and say in a voice dripping with sarcasm, "Yeah Jens, I've heard that old cliché, we were made for each other a million times!"

 

That was a big fucking mistake because now she is pissed off and shouts, "Linus stop being a hard headed Seal, shut that runaway mouth of yours and listen! It's not a fricken cliché it's a fricken fact! Haven't you've always wondered why I've chased Ben so hard for all these years?"

 

I'm pissed and show it with my reply, "I sure as hell have. Shit! He sure as hell doesn't deserve a woman like you!"

 

She again rebukes me, "Linus shut the hell up and listen. By the way, the next time you imply my runaway fiancé isn't good enough for me, I will kick your ass. I don't expect you to believe what I'm going to tell you. It doesn't even matter to me if you believe or not because I know the fucking truth. We were made for each other because some higher power has this mission for us. The mission that we went on before Ben was captured was just a warm up for the real thing…"

 

Son-of-a-bitch, she's serious! I'm distracted as hell and look over at her. Her phone starts to ring as she yells, "Linus, watch where the hell you're driving!"

 

I look back and… Fuck NO!

 

Present – Liz – Dushanbe Tajikistan

 

I nervously glance at Bernie as Ira drives through the guarded gate. He sees the concern on my face, smiles at me and asks, "Ira, you hid the girls and the gold in the Dushanbe government building?"

 

She simply states, "Yes, we have the advantage that people here do not question the things we do."

 

Yes all Tajikistan fears my twins and leaves them alone. However I wonder how she and Mira are going to like the questioning waiting for them back in America. We drive around back and I ask, "Won't we need help to load the gold into the truck?"

 

Ira smiles at me and says, "Ms. Morgan, that problem has already been resolved."

 

I realize what she means when we stop…

 

Present – Yasmeen – Dushanbe Tajikistan

 

I loved seeing my husband Ben on the television, remembering how he now must be a famous movie star but I do not like the way I am being treated. Zarika is still not awake from our big fight and without her I cannot understand the note the man with no tongue who cannot speak gave me. I sigh and regret hurting her because now I have to huddle in this stinky dark place, hold Zarika's head in my lap and wait for the Liz lady. Oh how I wish Zarika was awake because I am a little scared…

 

Present – Ira – Dushanbe Tajikistan

 

I pull up beside the waiting truck and order, "If you need any of your gear, please transfer it to the waiting truck."

 

Ms. Morgan replies, "Ira, first I would like to see Ben's two girls."

 

Ms. Morgan has become increasingly difficult so I had anticipated her response and reply, "Of course Ms. Morgan. However I regret to inform you one of them has been slightly injured and is currently unconscious."

 

Ms. Morgan gives me a concerned look and answers, "Ira, I certainly hope she is not seriously injured."

 

I inwardly smile and think how fortuitous the 'injury' to Zarika is for Mira’s and my plans…

 

Present – Liz – Dushanbe Tajikistan

 

Bernie and I hump our gear bags to the back of the waiting truck. Mira and Ira certainly had this adventure all planned out. But I don't totally trust the twins right now and I want to see Ben's two 'sisters.' For all I know they could be some stray street urchins the twins picked up.

 

Ira greets a man with a familial hug, then he stands guard as she opens the back of the truck for us. It's very dark inside and it takes a moment for my eyes to adjust. Then I ask, "Ira, where are the girls." Just then I see a head peek over the top of some boxes so I pull out the picture and yes, it is one of the girls and she looks terrified!

 

Ira replies, "Ms. Morgan, that is Yasmeen, the younger one. She is taking care of Zarika the older one who is still unconscious." Ira says a few words in Russian and the girl rushes towards me, gives me a big hug and starts babbling in a mixture of languages. I realize how hard it is going to be to communicate with her so I ask Ira, "Ira, tell her I want to see the other one."

 

Ira says a few words to her so she grabs my hand and leads me towards the front of the truck. As we round the boxes, I see the older girl, fall to my knees beside her and begin to stroke her head. Yasmeen kneels on the other side of her and does likewise, I angrily demand, "Ira what happened to her?"

 

Ira quietly replies, "Ms. Morgan it was just a simple accident. She should wake up soon and then be fine. Now we must leave. Would you like to ride back here with the girls or in the front while I drive?"

 

I can tell from her answer there is much more to this story than she is sharing, but she is right - we do need to leave. I look at Zarika and then at the terrified Yasmeen and I know what I must do. I say, "I will ride back here with the girls. Bernie, you ride up front with Ira."

 

Present – Ira – Dushanbe Tajikistan

 

Good! Things are proceeding as we planned. When Zarika was 'injured' by Yasmeen, we made sure that for part of her treatment she was administered a sedative which will keep her unconscious for another ten hours. Plus, the 'injury' and seeing Zarika activated Ms. Morgan's maternal instincts. By the time Zarika awakens, the bonding with Ms. Morgan should be complete.

 

Bernie and I enter the cab of the truck and drive off to meet my sister and younger brother. Thinking about them does cause an emotional quiver in my heart which I quickly force from my thoughts.

 

Present – Liz, Zarika and Yasmeen – Dushanbe Tajikistan

 

Liz

As the truck starts to move, I look at the young girls in front of me and remember the things Ben shared about them - before the bastard ran away from Jens. I can only shake my head.

 

Yasmeen says in a mixture of languages, "Что случилось Liz Lady?"

 

What's wrong Liz Lady?

 

I recognize the Russian and reply, "Ничто." which unleashes a flurry of Russian from Yasmeen.

 

Nothing.

 

Yasmeen

I had worried how I would communicate with the Liz Lady, but she speaks Russian so I start to tell her all about everything while making sure she knows I am Ben's number one wife.

 

She holds up her hand and as I stop speaking and she says, "Я не понимал то, что Вы сказали, я говорю на русском языке только немного."

 

I did not understand what you said, I speak Russian only a little bit.

 

And I realize she has learned only a few phrases in Russian so I sadly sit back and wish Ben was here: He understood me so well. I am frustrated so I say one of the phrases I learned on American television and the Liz Lady laughs at me so I sulk!

 

Liz

Yasmeen, shocks the hell out of me when she says, "Well fuck me!" in perfect English. I'm sure she learned it from American TV and doesn't even realize what she said. I make the mistake of laughing at her and now she's pouting.

 

I slide over, give her a hug and say, "Yasmeen, I'm sorry I laughed at you but you can't repeat all the phrases you hear on American TV."

 

She snuggles up against me says a bunch more things in Russian (which I don't understand) and then drifts off to sleep. Poor thing, she's exhausted. I look at Zarika laying on the blankets, feel Yasmeen in my arms and I wonder how the hell Jens is going to deal with both of them. I sure hope Jens kept up on her Russian because she's going to need it. I decide to give her a call to give her the 'good' news.

 

Present – Jens – Chasing the bus

 

All hell breaks loose! Linus is distracted and starts heading off the road into the median and my damn phone starts to ring. So I do the only thing I can think of: I grab the steering wheel and yank it hard to the right. We fly across both lanes of the road and slide into the rest stop!

 

Present – Stacy (Anastasia) – On the road

 

I feel the bus start to slow, wake up and realize I've been sleeping in Erast's lap. I look up, see he's scanning the bus and realize how safe he's made me feel. I haven't felt this safe since – well since falling asleep in Grandmamma's lap.

 

I jump a little when Erast says, "How did you sleep Anastasia?"

 

I reply, "Erast, how did you know I was awake?"

 

He continues watching, laughs and says, "You stopped snoring."

 

I quickly sit up and answer, "Erast, I do not snore."

 

He replies, "As you wish Anastasia."

 

Then I look at his face, realize how tired he is and feel badly. I apologize, "Sorry Erast, you should have awakened me and I would have watched for you."

 

He shakes his head and states, "No Anastasia, that is my job. However you might do me a favor at the rest stop."

 

I put my hand on his and say, "Erast, of course. What may I do for you?"

 

He answers, "I am going to try to catch a few moments of sleep. Please bring me something to eat and drink from the rest stop."

 

I worry and ask, "Do you think I will be okay by myself?"

 

He smiles, "Yes Anastasia you will. One more favor, if they have a cheap skateboard please purchase it. Preferably the longest one you can find."

 

I had no idea Erast knows how to skateboard because he looks a little old for things like that. I smile, kiss him on the cheek and say, "Sleep well my brother and I will be back right before the bus leaves."

 

I make sure to watch the guy we are concerned about as I leave the bus and still wonder about the skateboard. But I'm distracted by a huge car accident so I wander over to see what's happened.

 

Present – Ben (Erast) – On the road

 

I am finally alone on the bus. I quickly take my M4 out of the pack, assemble it, slam a mag home, jack a round in the chamber, put it on safe and hide it under the seat in front of us. Then I make sure all my other weapons are ready, move to the window seat and slowly drift off to sleep. I sure hope they have a skateboard, because I think it will come in handy later.

 

Present – Maria – Truth Network – Washington DC

 

We come up with a hell of a plan and I can't wait until the boney bitches twisted sisters get back. It's about fucking time they get taken down a few notches especially since I get to be involved. For once I'm thankful the BSB is pretty much worthless in the combat arena as it leaves more of the fun for me.

 

Jack asks, "So you are all sure about your assignments and roles."

 

I snappily reply, "Sure as shootin' Gramps!"

 

He gives me a dirty look and Megan says, "Yes Jack, we all understand."

 

He smiles at us and explains, "From the intel we have, Liz has the girls and they are headed to rendezvous with the plane and then will come back to America. So we will spend tomorrow practicing and refining our plan."

 

He is just getting ready to say more, when the phone rings. He picks it up and gets a very serious look on his face…

 

Present – Jack – Truth Network – Washington DC

 

I pick up the phone and hear a voice I haven't heard for many years… Captain M asks, "Greetings Jack, how are you?"

 

I would have laughed remembering how Banzai's antics cost M a rank, but I can tell from his voice, this isn't a cordial call. I reply, "Captain cut the crap. I can tell this isn't a social call."

 

He laughs and says, "Yeah Jack you were always a hard one to fool and then you had to go and teach that skill to Ben. By the way, you know I'm no longer a Captain don’t you?"

 

I grin since I am baiting him, so I answer, "Yeah sorry about that, old habits die hard. And I only taught Banzai what I did for protection from you."

 

He sighs, "Listen Jack, I didn't call to argue with you. I called because I thought I should let you know that Ben's in danger."

 

I interrupt and laugh, "Yeah if Jens ever catches him, she's going to kill him."

 

He yells into the phone, "Jack that's not what the hell I'm talking about so get your head out of your ass and listen to me. It seems that some old enemies of Ben's have crawled out of their worthless rat holes long enough to put out a contract on Ben for five mil."

 

Shit! Not them and not again! That's serious money and will have not just bounty hunters, but mercenaries looking for Banzai. I reply, "M, thanks for the news even though it's bad news. By the way do you have any idea where the hell he is?"

 

He laughs, "I have no idea where he is - I guess you trained him too well."

 

Yeah, I guess I did. I have to ask, "Well M how about you sending some guys to help us?"

 

He laughs, "Jack, you know after the way he burnt me last time, I can't do that. However I will keep my ears open and let you know if I hear anything."

 

The phone goes dead, and I ponder all M just told me… I'd heard he went to work for some three letter branch of the government after his injuries in Iraq and his phone call now confirms it. I feel better knowing he's helping, but this changes things and I need to get in touch with Jens…

 

Present – Jens – Rest stop

 

Thanks to me we avoid hitting the guardrail, but the car is out of control… We spin through the parking lot of the rest area and God must be with us because we miss everything and slide to a stop. I look over at Linus and he's shaking like a leaf in a hurricane. Shoot, I've almost had an accident myself. I just get ready to say something when the bus pulls in and my priorities shift. I yell, "Let's go get Ben!" and jump out of the car…

 

Present – Linus – Rest stop

 

I think, I think, I think my whole life just flashed before my eyes! I thought we were goners, but Jens yanked the steering wheel, we spun through the parking lot of the rest area and somehow missed everything. I'm still trying to compose myself when Jens bails out of the car to go get Ben off the bus. Shit! She's going to need serious backup if she does find him. I bail out after her…

 

She runs up to the bus frantically looking at the passengers as they leave and being annoying as a teenager from hell. If they have on a cap she yanks the cap off their head, then says, "Sorry about that, you're not the man I'm looking for."

 

I watch as a couple smart assed cowboys saunter up to her. One is as skinny as a fence post and the other looks like he ate the whole hog. The fat one says, "Well excuse me little missy, I'm sure I can help you out in the missing man department." And then he grabs his crotch!

 

She blows him off by saying, "Get out of my face fat fricken goat roper!"

 

Skinny gets a big kick out of it and about busts a gut laughing which incites fatty. I watch him bristle as he gets ready to take a swing at Jens. I walk up, slide my arm around her and say, "Julia don't tell me these two cowboys are bothering you."

 

Jens picks up on what I'm doing and says…

 

Present – Jens – Rest stop

 

Dammit, Ben hasn't come of the bus yet and some smelly fat goat roper is trying to pick me up so I blow him off. Linus comes up, puts his arm around me and calls me Julia and I understand exactly what he means and realize the fat goat roper is just about ready to try to kick my ass.

 

I smile at Linus and reply, "Thanks Honey, yeah he did really bother me."

 

Linus asks, "Well, you want to teach these boys some manners or should I handle it for you."

 

I pretty pumped up from chasing my fricken runaway fiancé, almost dying in a car wreck and my teenage hormones are going C-R-A-Z-Y. I could stand to blow off some steam. I hand Linus my purse, grin and say, "Don't worry honey, I can rope and hogtie these two with one hand tied behind my back."

 

We square off and I just get ready to see if I can shove skinny up fatty's ass when a big fricken deputy walks up and says, "Is there a problem here?"

 

I control my teenage angst, bat my eyes at him and say, "Deputy, am I happy to see you. These men are harassing us. The fat one made obscene motions towards me."

 

He glares at the cowboys and says, "Clyde, you should know better than that. Now apologize to the lady."

 

As Fatty takes off his hat, I have to fight back laughing at his bald head while he says, "Sorry missy, we didn't know you was already spoken for."

 

I want to have more fun but Linus says, "That's okay she was being pretty annoying."

 

With the situation, resolved the Deputy leaves, the cowboys turn and leave but I just can't resist the urge. I bend over, pick up a rock and nail fatty right in the back of the head with it. He lets out a yell, charges towards me and whooo hoooo the fight is on!

 

Present – Linus – Rest stop

 

Shit! Jens just has to go and pick a fight with the two cowboys. As the deputy runs back, I motion for him to leave them alone so he comes and stands beside me and we watch Jens kick both their asses.

 

The deputy says, "Damn, I don't think Clyde and Moe will be bothering any women anytime soon. She's a real wildcat, where did she learn to fight?"

 

I chuckle, "She's ex-Marine."

 

He gives me a dirty look and says, "You mean she is a Marine."

 

I look at him, "You a Marine too?"

 

He smiles, "Yeah, how about you?"

 

I nod my head, "Navy Seal."

 

He's watching Jens and says, "I recognize her now. That's the Old Man's daughter, Jennifer Donaldson."

 

I nod my head, "Yep that's her."

 

The fight is pretty much over. Clyde and Moe are lying in a pile as Jens walks over and says, "Now that was fun…" She gets ready to say more when her phone rings. She answers the phone, gets a very concerned look on her face and says, "Linus, Ben's in danger! I hope to God he was on this bus." We run off, search the rest stop and the bus…

 

Present – Jens – Rest stop

 

Rats, double rats and triple rats!!! My sneaky runaway fiancé wasn't on this bus! Where the heck did he go? For a moment I worry he might have flown off to Vegas to marry that lying little bitch. Linus understands my worry, looks at me and says, "Jens, Ben didn't fly off to Vegas and get married. He just took a different bus and we're going to find him. Now tell me why the hell Ben is in so much danger."

 

I bite my lip and explain, "Linus, Jack called and said someone put out a contract on Ben for five million dollars."

 

He shakes his head and answers, "Damn that's always an issue when sniper's identities get public. I was worried Ben was too much in the open."

 

I look at him and say, "Linus you need to help me think clearly and tactically here."

 

He says, "Jens we need to fall back and regroup. Because now this isn't only a mission to find Ben, it's also a mission to keep them from finding Ben."

 

I realize what he said was right. As we head back to the car, my fricken phone rings again…

 

Present – Liz – In the back of the truck Dushanbe Tajikistan

 

Jens finally picks up her phone and I say, "It's about time you answer your phone. I have some great news!"

 

I can tell something's wrong when Jens softly answers, "Sorry Liz, I've been busy but I sure could use some good news right now."

 

Shit! Now what's wrong? I ask, "Jens, what the hell is going on?"

 

She tells me all about still not finding Ben and how there's a contract out on him for five million dollars and I know she needs to hear something good, I interrupt, "Jens, the good news is I have Ben's adopted sisters and the gold and we should be there early morning the day after tomorrow. I'm sure once we get the girls to do a commercial, Ben will come right back to you."

 

She asks, "You think so?"

 

I reply, "Jens, he promised them and you know how Ben is about his promises."

 

She sniffles, "But he promised me too Liz!"

 

Shit! She's right so I lie, "Jens, I don't think Ben will be able to resist the three of you combined."

 

She sounds a little more upbeat when she says, "Thanks Liz, I sure hope you're right."

 

The phone goes dead and I know I should have told her much more than I did, but she doesn't need to hear about those other things right now…

 

Present – Thom – Rogue mission - Washington DC

 

Rounds are flying around us like moths around a flame, but Hammer is running like a mad man until… I've heard it said you never hear the round that kills you… But I certainly hear the last round… it makes a sickening thump as it hits Hammer… He crumples and falls to the ground, right on top of me!

 

I roll him off me, grab his collar, scoot behind a dumpster while dragging him and start trying to stop the bleeding. I know I should pick up the rifle and defend our position, but I can't let Hammer bleed to death.

 

Shit! This isn't the way things were supposed to happen. This mission was supposed to be my 'Swan Song' where I go out with grace, now it's a big mess! I don't mind dying, but Hammer is much too young.

 

I look up right into the big assed barrel of a gun…

 

Present – Byron – Rescue mission - Washington DC

 

Thom and Hammer aren't here so that can only mean they've been captured. I look at Todd and Jim and order, "Okay guys Thom and Hammer must have been captured. I am changing the mission parameters, we are now authorized to shoot to kill and if we can't extract Thom and Hammer then they need to be eliminated. Todd and Jim if that happens your target is Hammer, I will take care of Thom myself. Now let's go and find them."

 

I blink my eyes and Todd is already gone. Jim and I head down the alley and I hope like hell I don't have to take out Thom, he's one of the few Friends I have…

 

Present – Todd – Rescue mission - Washington DC

 

It's about time! Byron finally gives us the shoot to kill order. I know he didn't do this at first out of deference to Thom. Thom never liked taking a life unnecessarily. But these bastards have our team members, and from the blood trail I've found have probably wounded them so they deserve to die.

 

I slip my M4 into the scabbard on my pack and pull out my bow. It's much more effective and less noisy. Now to go hunting the most dangerous animal in the world…

 

Present – Stacy (Anastasia) – On the road

 

The accident was nothing, some drunk driver ran into the back of a semi and wasn't even going that fast. I wander into the rest stop and while keeping an eye on the one guy, order myself a burger, some fries. I decide to watch this guy while Erast gets some sleep, so I have a big energy drink with my meal.

 

Normally I like to take my time eating, but Erast is hungry so I wolf down my food, order some take out food for him, buy a few more energy drinks for my pack, and feel very lucky to find this long skateboard. I still don't know what the heck Erast is going to do with a skateboard on a bus, but Grandmamma always told me men do strange things.

 

I have a hard time carrying everything back to the bus and the bus driver gives me a dirty look when he sees the skateboard. I smile at him and lie, "It's a gift for my nephew. I sure hope you don't mind me keeping it inside where it won't get all scratched up."

 

He surrenders, "I guess it's okay for now. Just make sure you put it somewhere so it doesn't roll down the aisle."

 

I smile when I see Erast as he's sleeping so peacefully. It's a shame to wake him up…

 

Present – Ben (Erast) – On the road

 

I have this troubling dream about Ms. Donaldson almost dying in a car wreck and then getting in a fight so I'm thankful when Stacy, I mean Anastasia wakes me up by shaking my shoulder. I open my eyes and she says, "Erast, here is your dinner, eat it before it gets too cold."

 

I look past her and see a perfect skate board. I reach for it and she scolds, "Erast, you can look at that after you eat your dinner. Now eat up!"

 

I take a bite of burger and say, "Thank you Anastasia!"

 

She scolds me again, "Erast, you know better than to talk with your mouth full of food."

 

She is right so I continue to eat as the bus pulls out and Anastasia tells me all about the car wreck and how she watched the man while she was in the rest stop. She took great delight in telling me everything he did, especially the part where he didn't have enough money to buy any food.

 

That gives me a great idea! I take out my knife, cut my burger in two and finish the half I've been eating. Then I divide up the fries and ask Anastasia, "My sister, it would be good if you took this food to that man."

 

I certainly wasn't ready for her response…

 

Present – Stacy (Anastasia) – On the road

 

I cannot believe Erast wants to not only give half his food to that man, but he wants me to take it to him. I rebel, "Erast I personally think you are quite crazy for asking me to do such an odious deed."

 

Erast gives me a very sad and hurt look, stands up and says, "Fine my spoiled sister! I will do it myself."

 

I watch as he walks up, talks to the man, hands him the food then sits beside him. The man turns and waves at me and I realize Erast was right; I did act like a spoiled brat. I get hopeful when Erast heads back towards me, but he just glares at me and says, "I need my flask and will be back soon."

 

He takes the flask out of his pack and heads back up to sit by the man! Grandmamma was certainly right: Men do strange things and my brother might be the strangest of all. I jealously watch them laugh and talk and after what seems like days, Erast finally makes his way back to our seat. I quickly apologize, "Erast I am very sorry…"

 

He shushes me by saying, "Anastasia, you must learn to keep your friends close and your enemies even closer. And with the little I did for him tonight, he will not watch us as closely as he did before."

 

I impatiently ask, "Did you find out anything?"

 

He smiles at me and answers, "Yes Anastasia just the fact that he did not have money enough to eat told me many things. He does have some sort of nefarious plans but was much too experienced to let me know any of the details."

 

I grump and state, "Perhaps you should just take care of him now."

 

He laughs, "What if I am wrong, then I will have hurt an innocent man. Besides we need to know what his plans are."

 

I don't like this at all so I say, "Erast, you need to go back to sleep now and get some rest." He starts to argue with me and I say, "Listen, I had an energy drink and will be up for five hours. When it starts to wear off I will wake you."

 

He smiles at me and says, "As you wish my bossy sister."

 

I punch his arm, tuck him in and say, "No wonder why mamma had such gray hair…"

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