Public Key (xci)

We sat in his living room, him dark with sleep and us saturated with the road. We explained it to him, Hannah and I together. It didn’t take long. Our hike. Her attacker. My actions. And then, my telling her everything.

He only had one response. He turned to me and said, softly: again?

Again. Again. Of course again. Someone in distress. I step in to help. A man ends up dead. Bleeding on the ground because of me. Just like in Montreal. Just like what got me into this whole fucking mess to begin with.

I felt like I’d been shot in the gut. I doubled over, barely able to breathe. Then Hannah was comforting me, then Oakley. And after a time I was able to pull myself together.

Oakley put a whiskey in my hand, then Hannah’s when she asked for one too. He kept the bottle for himself. When I told him to go easy, he knew I was going to be okay.

Sorry, he said at last. Better you hear it now then figure it out when you’re trying to sleep.

Sleep, I said skeptically. Then promptly felt exhausted, stiff and sore and dulled.

Police have been through here once already, Oakley said. Cops and bounty-hunters and two-bit thugs. They’re sweeping every hotel. They’re going door-to-door in the villages. They’re not fucking around.

They came through here?

Oakley scowled. Read my logs, asked me questions. Then went into every hut, door to fucking door.

Including mine?

He nodded.

A hand tightened over my heart. Then they saw-

Nothing, Oakley said. When I heard they were coming I put all your stuff in my jeep, drove it up here and put it… in the basement.

I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I was holding. Thank you, I said.

My neck’s in this too.

Do you think they’ll be back? Hannah asked.

Probably, he said. I would.

Then I can’t go back there, I said. I can’t go home. I can’t-

I wouldn’t, he said.

I groaned.

You should stay here, he said. In the basement. Keep you safe. While you figure out what to do.

I opened my mouth, then glanced at Hannah. What about…

Oakley’s eyes went very wide.

What about me? Hannah asked.

I swallowed, turned to her. You can’t. Stay here. You can’t.

Why?

I tried very hard not to look at Oakley. I could feel him staring at me.

Please trust me, I said. You can’t.

I trust you, she said. But I’m not leaving you.

My chest hurt. I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t.

For a while, Oakley said. Just for a while. Until we determine-

No.

Look, he said, this is the safest place for him. If you love him, then you’re going to have to-

That isn’t true, she said. Yours isn’t the only basement. It isn’t the only safe place. It isn’t the only place that’s safe.

It’s very secure, he said.

Why?

He looked like he was going to explode.

He swallowed, looked at me. She’s a real fucking peach, she is.

I couldn’t help myself. I burst out laughing. Then I looked up at Hannah. She was grinning.

I am, she said.

Oakley groaned, grabbed the bottle by its neck and took a pull.

Go easy, I said.

Fuck you, mate.

Then pass the bottle.

He obliged.

Alright, he said, how about this. Tonight he sleeps here, you sleep somewhere else. Tomorrow, after dark, we put our heads together and figure something else out.

I looked at Hannah. She nodded.

Boy, Oakley said, she’s got you whipped.

Don’t you have whiskey needs drinking?

Fuck you. And he put the bottle away.

I gave Hannah a kiss that lasted quite a bit too long. She went to my rondavel and then I went into Oakley’s shower like a starving man into an all-you-can-eat buffet. I scrubbed myself raw. I knew I’d start to miss Hannah, miss the feel of her, the smell of her, the moment I got out of the water. But for the moment the water was pretty good.

Oakley took me through the false closet back and down into his cavernous cellar. The smell of it, the musk and twang, almost knocked me off my feet. He showed me the bed he’d made for me, a pile of blankets and pillows on the tile floor. It was behind a dropcloth he’d hung from the ceiling to block out the glow of the grow-lights. This is wonderful, I said to him. This is everything I need.

Except your girl, he said.

Listen, I said, I’m sorry I-

I’m sorry I’m a drug dealer, he said. Grower. Whatever. But you know I can’t-

I know, I said.

I know she trusts you, he said. I mean, she lets you get her naked, she must-

A couple of times, yes.

-she must trust you. But how do I know she wouldn’t turn me in?

You don’t, I said. She wouldn’t, but you don’t.

He nodded. We’ll figure something out.

He pointed to the corner. There was a little shower, a toilet and a sink. Next to it there was food and drink. And my laptop, And my guitar.

I’m just going to to stop saying thank-you, Oakley.

Good, he said. About fucking time.

Thank you, Oakley.

He patted me on the back.

Tomorrow, he said, you start working to get home.

Then he got up, drew the curtain, and the last thing I remember was the sound of the vault door sealing me in.

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~ by davekov on 16 March 2011.

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