“Hey, I know its late but we can make it if we run…” he interjected, in the hopes of finally persuading the two women to get moving.
TT was trying, yet again, to smooth things over between Mary and Kitty, but his efforts were fruitless. He had been listening to this same exchange since the day of the thievery at the office in New York and held no hopes of solving the problem between the two. Mary insisted that she should have been told that Kitty was part of the alliance when they met at the apartment building, Kitty insisted that it was not her decision to make. Now that TT had shared his family history with the group, it only added more fuel to Marys fire.
They were all involved in a supposed alliance, but the one in control of the operation was many miles away and calling the shots via electronic communications. Mary had blindly followed Hollys directives, assuming that the information she was receiving was the same that other members were privy to. If she had been aware of who all of the players had been during that inning of the game, she thought, she could have more effectively helped to up the score. And was she being given all of the known facts now?
When it came down to it, she felt betrayed. Since Holly had stopped communicating with the group, gone completely dark, and Alyce had taken their phones, the entire alliance was being led only by Happy’s confessions and TTs word. Opting to save this battle for yet another day, she stuffed her belongings down into her suitcase and scrolled through her mental checklist, giving one last stroke to the back waistband of her jeans.
Alyce had demanded the surrender of all communication devices early that morning. Her unwanted guest had admitted that he was tracking all of their movements, so each persons electronics would need to be destroyed. Ignoring the large party’s heated protests, she gathered their phones, pads and laptops and added them to the pile in the driveway that held her private server, cellphones and computers.
Kitty was scrambling through the rooms with her heels ablaze. Most of the other guests had already left to catch the earlier train, but since she and Mary were again locked in argument, their group of three had opted to take the next one out of town. The only way to check the time was to run into the kitchen or to one of the televisions, far more of an effort than was usual. The hard truth was that none of them were functioning normally without their cellphones.
Finally agreeing to disagree, the ladies said goodbye to Alyce and headed out the door with their nonplussed referee. They were just in time to witness the first hard wallop of the sledgehammer being wielded by Jack, slamming into the electronics laying on the plastic sheeting in the driveway. He and CookSam were in old coveralls, wearing safety goggles that were almost as wide as TT Davis’s sunglasses. Bundles of small plastic bags and larger trash bags were in a heap on the plastic, bouncing with every wild strike. The group of three yelled their goodbyes and gave the driveway a large berth as they hustled away to the train station.
CookSam was thoroughly enjoying his task. Since he was not able to deliver the blows to the man who he thought deserved them, this was the next best thing. As long as he stayed out of the way of the flying debris that Jack was supplying, they could proceed on with their day as planned. The VW microbus had been mostly loaded with their gear, Alyce was in the kitchen wrapping up food for the road, and Jack was making quick work of busting the expensive components into a mash of splintered plastic and wire.
Removing their sweaty eyewear, the two men agreed that the job was complete and well done. Stuffing the pile of debris onto the trailer hitched to Alyces bus was a bit of a trick since there were already several bags of her garbage on board, but with Jack taking the lead and most of the weight, they settled the strapped in bundles in short order. A quick stop at the city dump and the trailer would be ready for future use.
The back of the vehicle was packed with the shovels, umbrellas, rakes and buckets needed, along with several taped up boxes and tins. When Jack questioned the necessity of bringing so many items, Alyce sharply told him that there was nothing unnecessary, nothing more useless in the van than the supplies that they would be picking up at Jacks warehouse.
Viewing this statement as a challenge, Jack dug in his heels.
There needed to be room for samples, which would take up much more space than the empty buckets. Alyces small, home made trailer would be adequate space for the other items they were getting, but with the addition of the cooler of food next to CookSam and the satchel on the floor of the passengers seat, they would have a hard time fitting their personals in. Couldnt they weed out some boxes that were in the way?
Alyce ignored all of his protests, threw her bags in behind CookSams seat, and mounted herself onto her co pilots throne. Pulling the satchel up onto her lap, she settled herself in for the journey. Now she would just have to wait for the two men to finish up the lock down of her property and they could be on their way.
Opening the satchel, she thumbed through its contents one more time. Hand written notes, maps and diagrams, property deeds and the pouch that contained greeting cards. Everything she needed. Feeling nostalgic, she took out a few of the cards to admire the artwork on each. They were faded and bent with scenes of rustic farms and elaborate script proclaiming each ones greeting. Some were better than thirty years old and acted as portals into her past. As was usual, she opened the cards one by one and got lost in her memories.
While Jack checked all of the doors, CookSam did the perimeter check of the building. He preferred to stay out of the fracas and had his own thoughts to distract him. If all of the timing was right, he would meet up with William and be able to go over business details before they got into the alliances dirty work. Since his son now had a reliable vehicle and important work was now at hand, he had no doubt that William had taken care of their shared business interests.
His son would eventually inherit the label printing operation that CookSam had taken over decades ago. Maybe not a glamorous endeavor, but the shop had provided for his family in good times and bad, which was something to be proud of. They operated out of Ohio, but had many dealings with farmers and small plants near Pittsburgh and the more rural areas of Pennsylvania. He anticipated that in a years time, he would hand it all over to his son and retire with more than a few feathers in his cap.
Satisfied that things were secure, CookSam hoisted himself into the back seat of the VW, followed by Jacks rapid entrance into the vehicle and subsequent slamming of the drivers door. Alyce jumped at their entry and appearing flustered, hastily stuffed the cards on her lap back into the satchel . Reaching the agreement that they were ready to go, Jack slowly rolled the bus and trailer out of Alyces driveway.
They were barely down the street when they heard the music coming from the large bag perched on Alyces legs. It was not an unusual sound, but for the fact that all of their devices had been destroyed and this was certainly the ringtone of a cellphone. It sounded like an acoustic guitar playing the unmistakable first notes of an Arlo Guthrie song and Alyce couldn’t dig down in the bag fast enough to make it stop.
As the music played on and Jack pulled over, sheets of paper and greeting cards flew around the front seat of the VW microbus. A Merry This and a Happy That, many wishes from long ago that were now littering the interior. As Alyce finally reached the hidden phone at the bottom of the satchel, Jack read the card that had landed on the top of the steering wheel.
The outside of the anniversary card was decorated with a painting of roses in a glass vase placed upon a lace cloth. The inside had a short poem, professing undying love for the receiver, who had spent so many years making the giver happy.
It was signed Forever Yours,