Alyson turned to Jim. “What’s going on?”
“A man came in the door.”
Earl crept down the stairs. He could hear hushed conversation, and then a man’s voice bellowing, “You got guests?”
“Shh! You’ll wake ‘em up.”
More hushed conversation. Then another bang, and a heavy sigh from Lily. Earl was half-way down the stairs and Lily saw him. “Sorry ‘bout that,” she said.
“Everything all right?”
“My son-in-law, looking for money.”
Earl wanted to press it, to find an injustice, but he was just a guest in this house, and did not want to get involved in the family dynamics - at least not without getting paid for it. “As long as you’re all right.”
Lily beamed, “I’m all right. You go on to sleep.”
“Good night, Lily.”
Earl got back to the room, but Alyson was standing up instead of sitting in the comfortable chair. “I’m going to go to bed myself,” she said.
“Good night, both of you,” said Earl, heading to his room.
All of them slept like baby lambs for once, as their bodies betrayed them in finally relaxing. Alyson woke up first, and performed some simple calisthenics in her room. Earl followed, and went outside for a jog before coming back for a shower. Jim didn’t get up until he smelled food and wafted downstairs like a ghost on the scent of bacon.
Breakfast was eggs, bacon, pancakes, hash browns, grits, bacon, ham and sausage. Again, they ate with Lily and her son, who was headed off to work. Jim settled the bill as Earl and Alyson waited outside.
Said Earl, “Hopefully it’ll be fixed today.”
“We should head back to HQ.”
“That’s what I was thinking. We could get there in about 8 hours of continuous driving.”
“Ten for bathroom breaks.”
Said Jim coming out of the B&B, “Okay, I think we have enough money for the repairs.”
They walked to the garage and found that the truck was on the lift already. It would be ready by noon. They hung out in the garage waiting area watching the TV. The shooting in Washington DC had already fallen off the radar and now the talking heads on the news were debating gas prices.
True to his word, Kenny got the truck fixed in record time and didn’t charge them an arm and a leg for it. They were back on the road, heading straight to Boston, with the plan to get there or bust.
When he saw Hartford, Earl drove right through it. Alyson didn’t say anything, just looked at Earl when he did. She pursed her lips and looked out the window, while Earl put the pedal to the metal and tried to get through Hartford as quickly as possible.
He saw that the signs for 95 changed from Providence to Boston, and his heart leapt. He would be going home, to his own HQ, to his own bed. Let the bastards come. He had an arsenal in the bastion of his home base.
They got to Boston at nine at night, and headed to the warehouse that was in north Boston. They got off the highway in Chelsea and could see their warehouse from the ramp.
What was left of their warehouse.
“Oh, my God,” whispered Alyson, looking at a burnt out hulk of a building, with a couple of the rent-a-cop security cars surrounding it. Earl turned into the parking lot, riding up to the security car. He slid out of the truck, his eyes on the building.
“I pay your salary,” said Earl. “What the fuck happened?”
“You’re Mr. Packard?”
“Yes, yes, I am.” Earl finally tore his eyes away from a open window that had glass at the base of it. “What--”
“We’ve been trying to get a hold of you for two days.”
“I lost my phone.”
The cop motioned to the warehouse. “You’ve had a fire.”
“I can see that,” said Earl. “Anyone hurt?”
“No, it happened in the middle of the night.”
Jim got out of the truck following Alyson. She went to the door of their office, over which was the sign “Cerebus Inc” with a three-headed dog painted on the door. She tried the door - it swung open inside at her touch.
“It’s not safe in there,” said one of the cops.
Alyson glared at him and went in anyway. Jim hesitated, but Earl did not, following Alyson into the warehouse.
Most of the warehouse had been made of wood. The range was destroyed - ammo had been there. Guns and targets that hadn’t melted or exploded were among the wreckage of the range. The stairs going upstairs to the offices were gone, along with the wood floor above them. A desk had crashed into the locker area, tipping over the row of lockers they had. Earl’s desks and credenza had fallen through the floor and crashed open. Above their heads, rafters hung precariously. Windows were blown out, including the skylights.
“God,” said Alyson, looking all around her.
Filing cabinets had fallen through the floor. Some of the files were split open, their contents burnt to ashes. Six months worth of work, up in smoke.
The cop was in the doorway, along with Jim, who just poked his head in. The two stood in the middle of the range, on top of the pulleys and wires that had sent the targets back and forth along their lanes.
“You’d better talk to the fire marshal. We’ve been trying to get ahold of you--”
“I know, for two days.”
Alyson finally walked out of the warehouse, her head held high and her mouth in a firm line. Jim looked at her, studying her to see if she was going to cry. She would not give him - or anyone - the satisfaction.
“Get the fire marshal down here,” said Alyson angrily. “Pronto.”
The security guard went to his car and used his walkie-talkie to talk to his HQ. Meanwhile Earl kicked the ashes and spat, “Fuck. FUCK.”
The security guard came back to Alyson and said quietly, “They want you to go down to the station.”
“Earl!” Alyson called. “They want us down there.”
“Fuck,” Earl snarled and stormed out, slamming shut the door with a loud, echoing clang. Alyson did not look happy, and Jim gave her a wide berth as she stalked to the truck. She got in first. Jim waited outside, and then she scooted over to let him in.
The trip to Chelsea the fire station was quiet the air thick with unexpressed anger. Alyson had her arms folded and stared out the window. Jim hugged the door of the truck to get out of her space. Earl, his eyes on fire, ruthlessly plowed through traffic.
They arrived at the fire/police station and Earl parked the truck in the visitor’s lot across the street. Then he walked out into the middle of traffic, flipping off people who blared their horns at him. Alyson followed suit, doing the same thing. Jim was a little more cautious, so by the time he got across the street, they were already in the building.
He followed them and went inside. “FUCK you, I need an appointment!”
This came from Alyson. Jim stared, dumbstruck.
“I am the owner of that warehouse, and by GOD I want to talk to someone about that fire right. Fucking. Now.”
The woman behind the glass said, “You don’t need to use that language--”
“My livelihood is gone. What do you want me to use? ‘Oh, happy day, be a dear and find the fire marshal please?’”
“He’s not in his office.”
Alyson turned to Jim.
“Yes, he is, third door on the right.”
“Thanks,” and she went to open the door. It was locked.
Jim almost thought he could catch a sneer on the woman’s face when she saw that Alyson couldn’t get in. “Is there another way in?” Alyson asked Jim.
The dispatcher stood up and watched them go. Jim guided them around the building, into a fenced-in area where the fire men were lounging about outside. He pointed to the door that was open where the firemen were.
Alyson and Earl brazenly walked up to the door, walked past the firemen and inside. The firemen just looked at them, but didn’t stop them. Jim jogged to catch up.
Alyson threw open a door.
A fat man was eating with chopsticks out of a Chinese take-out container. “What the hell--”
Earl let Jim in and slammed shut the door.
Alyson began, “We own the warehouse on Kells Street. The one that is now a burnt-out shell.”
The fat man wiped his hands on a napkin and then wiped his face off of garlic sauce. “That just happened two days ago.”
“So we heard,” said Earl. “What happened?”
“Arson,” the man said. “Just got the report this morning.” He lifted the takeout container and pushed aside some papers. “Here.” He handed the report to Alyson, who stood seething at the edge of the desk.
Alyson forced herself to remain calm and not tip the desk over onto the fat man.
“And when you’re done reading that, I’m going to have you all arrested for trespassing and threatening a police officer. Oh, and threatening me, too.”
Alyson flipped him the bird while reading the report. They found that most of the ammo was piled into one place and doused with gasoline, along with propane tanks that were not indicative to the warehouse - unless they were grilling items inside, which they weren’t. It was set on fire with a wick of oil which led through a window and into the range where the ammo and guns were.
“...And for running a range in a non-secure area. And for having live ammunition somewhere that’s not zoned for it. And--”
“Will you shut up,” snapped Alyson, tossing the report back to him. She nodded to Earl and they both went to the door.
“I’ll have you arrested!”
He shook his head.
Earl held the door open for Alyson and Jim. “Thank you,” he said, and walked out, slamming the door shut again, hard enough this time to rattle the books in their book cases.
“So now what?” asked Jim.
“We find out where the rest of our boys are,” said Earl. “And start making a list of enemies.”
“They’re legion,” said Alyson. “Shit.” No. She was not going to cry in front of these men, especially not in front of her brother.
“Let’s go before they decide to arrest us.”
“I want to go home,” said Alyson.
“Should we split up? Do you think that’s wise?” asked Jim.
“I want my own bed, my own car.”
Earl said, “I happen to like this truck.”
“You would.” She let Jim get in first. “Why don’t you take Jim to your place, Earl?”
“Was planning on it.”
Her place was an apartment in Boylston Place, Peabody, north of Boston and Chelsea.