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Back to the World

by James Shaffer

Table of Contents
Table of Contents
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,
11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18,
19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25

17: John Piper Arrives in New Mexico

We hadn’t been on the road long when we pulled off in downtown Tucumcari, New Mexico, at the Blue Swallow Motel. The motel’s blue, billboard-sized neon sign lit up the parking lot in front of an L-shaped building. The word VACANCY flashed on and off in bright, orange letters.

Darlene pulled in by the office. Before the car had fully stopped, Jamie Sue jumped out and ran into the office. She ran as fast as she talked. She left her door open.

“Always got to be first,” Darlene said, shaking her head. She opened her door, swung both feet out onto the pavement. Darlene stood and left her door open. The T-Bird’s wings were fully spread.

I flipped up the lever of the driver’s seat and pushed the back of the seat forward. I lifted my backpack in front of me and stepped out of the car. Though it was evening, the sun-baked pavement burned through the thin soles of my boots. I slung the backpack over my shoulder and turned to Kelly Jo to offer my hand.

“Why thank you, Jake.” Kelly Jo took my hand and stepped delicately out of the car like a princess alighting from her carriage. I slammed closed the driver’s door behind her, then circled the car and closed the passenger door. The T-Bird had folded its wings for the night.

I filled out the hotel registration card and signed my new name, Jake Hawkins. I showed the girl behind the desk my driver’s license.

While she was writing down the license number, I asked, “By the way, where can you get a cold drink in this town?”

“There’s only one place for that, mister.” She smiled. “The Lizard Lounge. It’s further out on West Tucumcari Boulevard between 8th and 9th Streets. You can’t miss it. Big doin’s there tonight. This town used to be called ‘Six-Shooter Siding’ on account of the railroad, the saloons and the outlaws. There’ll be all kinds of shootin’ and fireworks tonight. Hope y’all can sleep later.”

“Much obliged, ma’am.” I touched the brim of my hat in a friendly salute as I backed out the office door.

The three girls were waiting for me by the corner of the office building. We walked off together to find our rooms. Turned out we had four adjacent rooms on ground level.

I scanned the parking lot. It wasn’t unusual to see cars with Texas plates this close to the state line, but nothing looked suspicious or out of place. I didn’t know how long it had taken for Ed to get out of his restraints or how far he would reach to find me, but somehow I knew his troops would be coming.

Old Ed had a score to settle, and I figured he’d reach as far as he had to. He’d gotten a lump on the head, which I was certain was nothing new for a guy who’d risen in the ranks of his profession the way Ed had. But he’d been bested and humiliated by two two-bit cowboys. That would be the way he saw it, and that wouldn’t sit well with a guy like Ed. It would gnaw away at his pride.

My mama told me, “Pride goes before destruction.” Her wise words were my only solace. At that moment, Ed was my worry. I figured he didn’t take much stock in Biblical homilies. I’d told my daddy to stay frosty. I followed my own advice.

Proceed to part 18...

Copyright © 2015 by James Shaffer

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