It was some speech that Scott laid out for Mike. Covered just about his whole life, but heavily loaded in all those areas that involved Mike. He spoke of his unhappiness after taking up his inheritance, of how every day his thoughts would turn to Mike, and how he'd force those thoughts down. He spoke of his shame for the times he'd cut Mike - outside that Portland restaurant, at Bob Pigeon's funeral - at the empty life he was leading. He was thorough, eloquent, and if a word or two of Shakespeare crept in it was because those words ran through Scott's blood and not from a deliberate sense of the dramatic. Mike paid the closest of attention to each word and he could see that Scott meant every one.
From his first word to his last, Joe Parsons covered forty-two miles, and Joe wasn't a man prone to speeding. Scott completed his monologue with another declaration of his love, another promise that he would never deal Mike so cruelly ever again. The two men held one another's gaze in the silent moments that followed. Mike could see in Scott a vulnerability never before apparent. Scott saw in Mike a strength he'd never suspected. Scott took in a full, quivering lung-load and let it out.
'That was one hell of a long speech, Mike. I guess it's your turn.'
The corners of Mike's mouth turned up into that embryo of a smile that Scott remembered and loved. 'God - damn a potato!' he said, and began to chuckle. Scott didn't know what the hell he meant, but he started to chuckle too.
Joe saw the two young men in his mirror and heard their laughter build. Usually a paragon of driving precision, he let one hand drop from the wheel and punched the air. 'All right!' he said, and then he too joined in with their laughter.
Like three ships at anchor in a friendly port, Nathan's cruiser, Johnny's sedan and Dan's pick-up formed up line abreast outside the Wilbur's porch.
Inside, Hettie, and the captains of all those vessels waiting outside sat around the kitchen table. Dan had the album opened in front of him, and Nathan leaned over to get a better look. It was opened at the photo of the Indian boy. 'Good looking kid, weren't I?'
Johnny nodded. 'Looking at you then, and now, makes me feel I should give up chocolate.'
Dan turned a few pages until he found the one with Vinnie and Stevie. Dan let out a big sigh. 'I wonder where that Bixby bastard would have stopped. Would he have gone for Mike next? Or you, maybe?'
'Reckon I'm too old and fat for his tastes,' said Nathan. 'Anyway, he'd planned all this real careful over the years. Get off on killing young guys and build up one hell of a case against you into the bargain.'
Hettie shivered. 'And all because we rescued a child from an evil cult, so many years ago.'
'That was just his excuse, Hettie. He'd have found another excuse and likely the same victims.'
They all returned their attention to the album. 'We never did get one of Mike,' said Dan. 'Do you think he'll be okay?'
'Sure I do,' reassured Nathan. 'I got Lee looking for him and the Troopers are helping. And Bob Forde is out searching with all his family. He says he feels kind of responsible, taking Bixby's word about the theft like he did.'