Seventeen Plus Four, A Short Story
“Seventeen years,” he thought.
When he looked up and into the mirror behind the bar, he saw the man he came to Georgia for. He didn't turn as the man walked up behind him. They locked eyes in the mirror.
"Raylan Givens," he said and spun on the stool.
"Boyd," Raylan nodded.
The bar on the outskirts of Glynco, Georgia got tons of business from the federal training facility and the waitress knew Raylan's drink of choice. She sat it on the bar in front of the stool next to Boyd and Raylan picked it up and headed for a booth in the back. He sat facing the door.
Boyd followed and then slid in opposite. He studied the man in front of him and neither spoke for quite some time. Finally, Boyd tapped a cigarette out of a pack and put it in the corner of his mouth.
"You can't smoke in here," Raylan said.
"That violate my parole?"
"Might take something a bit more serious," Raylan said.
"You lied to me."
"You're going to have to be more specific."
"Last time I saw you," Boyd said.
"Fifteen years ago." Raylan said.
"Seventeen," Boyd said. Raylan shrugged.
"You came to the prison," Boyd said. "You told me Ava was dead."
Now Raylan just stared, and sipped a bit of his bourbon, and nodded.
"She is dead." Raylan said.
"Two years ago, Raylan." Boyd said. "Two years ago."
Boyd did not elaborate, but Raylan figured it was probably the obit that Becky Garrison, a friend of Ava's from high school, had put in the paper over in Harlan, Kentucky that came up in some random Internet search engine.
"I got to contemplating the complexities of your subterfuge." Boyd said
"The complexity of my subterfuge," Raylan said, shaking his head. "You lay awake at night and dream this shit up or does it just come natural to you?"
Boyd watched as Raylan pulled the navy blue baseball cap off his head and placed it on the table between them. Under the U. S. Marshals Service Patch, the words "Firearms Instructor" were stitched in gold. The hat was frayed around the edges, showing its age, it's character. Raylan ran his hand through his hair then put the hat back on, pulling it low down on his forehead but said nothing.
"You make an honest woman out of the mother of my child, Raylan?" Boyd leaned in and asked the next question in a hushed tone. "You raise my son as if he were your own?"
"Ava was a lot of things, Boyd." Raylan said. "In her own way, she was probably the most honest person I ever knew."
Boyd followed Raylan's 2029 black Lincon Town Car out of town, off the interstate, and out onto a two lane blacktop that meandered through miles of rural abyss. Except for the lack of hills, the road reminded him of Kentucky.
The small white clapboard church sat on a tiny hill surrounded by a peach orchard on three sides. The trees were dormant, the leaves having fallen early in December, and the cold wind blew them into the graveyard among the stones, the statues, and the one mausoleum.
Raylan's boots crunched on the leaves, as he and Boyd walked down the hill to the gravesite. They stood side by side at the foot, heads bowed, lost in memories good, great and otherwise. It was Boyd who broke the silence.
"I think I'll say a few words, pay my respects."
"And if it's all the same to you," Raylan smiled without humor. "I'm just going to mosey up the hill. Give you some time, and you know, avoid your usual theatrics."
"Don't you run off there, Raylan. We have unfinished business."
"One more thing..." Raylan said and turned and walked up the hill.
Raylan was leaning against his car watching Boyd flail his arms about and saying things to and, he assumed, about a woman long past hearing him, when the other Marshall pulled up. That Marshall parked his own black Lincoln nose to nose with Raylan's, got out, and put on his hat before walking over and standing next to him.
"So that's Boyd Crowder?" the young Marshall asked.
"In the flesh." Raylan said.
"Not much to look at, is he?"
"Don't underestimate him," Raylan said. "Other men have died making that kind of mistake."
"Better men than me?"
"Not sure there are any better men than you."
"Present company excepted?" The young Marshall grinned all white teeth and confidence.
"Present company excepted," Raylan said.
Five minutes later, Boyd approached from the bottom of the hill with the sun shining full in his face and with his hand up shading his eyes from the glare.
"Hell, Raylan I can't believe you called for back up," Boyd said and stopped facing the two men. "This is our business, no need for intrusions from a baby Marshall. Why don't you just send him on back down the road and then we'll just get to it?"
The new Marshall and Raylan stepped away from the car in unison and Boyd took a couple of slow steps to his left getting the sun out of his eyes. He faced the two men.
No one spoke. Boyd looked first at Raylan, then at the new Marshal.
"How old are you, baby Marshal?" Boyd said.
The man simply shook his head. He swept his long coat aside with his hand right hand, exposing his Glock in it's brown holster.
"Twenty-one," Raylan said. "That's seventeen plus four, if you need me to do the math."
"I do not," Boyd said, his eyes flicked from the new Marshall with the buttoned up shirt and the Stetson with the hole in the crown to Raylan with the open collar and baseball cap.
"Boyd," Raylan said. "This is Deputy U. S. Marshall Zachariah R. Crowder."