Johnny had a few minor scrapes with the law, usually concerning alcohol. Nathan had once run him in for driving under the influence and he had only just passed the tests at the precinct house by the skin of his teeth. He still got drunk occasionally, but never again put his license at risk. If he was driving, no pressure on earth would drag him away from his soda.
'What about you, Mike? How do you make a buck?' asked Jay. Mike was thrown, but Johnny stepped in and rescued him.
'I guess you're kinda restricted on account of your condition, huh?'
'Er - yeah. That's right. I get around. Take what's going. I'm not much good at anything in particular.' He felt transparent, like they all knew about his disgusting life. The game would be up and he'd be walking the streets again.
'Say, Bob's looking for someone reliable,' said Dan. '"Bob's Gas Station", a-ways down the road towards Minidoka. Vinnie skipped with the takings a month back, so now he's out of pocket and out of help.'
'Dan! You think Bob would take on someone recommended by you after Vinnie?' said Hettie. 'Anyway, I'm sure Mike can do better than Bob's.'
'No that's okay. I'll er - I'll give it a try if Bob'll take me,' said Mike, trying to sound eager. He couldn't remember his last regular job.
Dinner was finished and Hettie watched as the car with it's compliment of three caught the breeze and sailed into the haze. She felt Johnny would be good for Mike: he certainly had an affectionate concern for him, why whilst helping Hettie with the dishes he had been most particular in grilling her on all aspects of Mike's condition. How to recognize...? What to do...? How to treat him if he 'flipped out'?
It reminded her of Little Stevie when he had found an injured owl - he needed to know everything. 'Keep him warm, Stevie,' she told him. How was she to know he would run a kerosene stove in the barn? These days, Hettie was more specific with her advice - if she was compelled to give any in the first place.
Mid-afternoon found Hettie finishing a letter to the Rogue Valley Friends when Dan brought her a cup of coffee. The album was tucked under his arm as he sank onto the sofa and Hettie, leaving the letter unsealed snuggled up next to him. She let her head fall to his broad shoulder, her hair silver against his of white-flecked gray.'
'Guess we'll have to get a photo of young Mike,' said Dan. He's a gutsy kid. Seen a lot of sorrow, still manages to smile some.' He flipped open the album.
'Too early to put Mike's picture in. Remember, we always wait until after...'
'Yes, sure. Hey! Remember Suzie?'
Hettie nestled closer to Dan: 'Do you think I could forget Suzie? Do you think I could forget a single one of them?
'I guess not. But there's been so many over the years.' Dan let out a long tired breath at the thought of all those young people and all the years gone by. 'Maybe it's time to lay it all down, Hettie. We're not so young these days. I don't know that I could cope with many more rides to the Sheriff's office or burnt down barns and wrecked bedrooms, let alone rescuing kids from crazy cults.'
'Dan! You make it sound terrible. We only ever had one barn burnt down, and that was an accident. And only one tangle with a cult. Think of all the - rewards." Hettie reached out and turned a page of the album to reveal an eight-by-ten of a young Native American teenager. 'He had his share of tantrums, didn't he?' she said, running the back of her index finger along the image of the boy's chin.
Dan smiled. 'Reckon he had more than his share. What you saying? The worse the kid the better the man?'
'Not exactly. More like, let them vent their anger before it has time to fester. The greater the hurt and anger, the more important it is that we - put them to rest.'
'I guess. But haven't we done our share?'
'I'm not so sure. I have a feeling Mike needs us more than any of the others ever did. Let's just listen to the silence and see how we feel about it then.'