So, woke up at four a.m. to see Mate off at the Folsom airport, got up at 5:40 to take Chicken to the Sacramento airport to go fetch her friend (she’s in the middle of roommate swap–joy!), and then got back at 7:00 a.m. in time to get the kids to school and take the dogs for a walk.
You may believe me when I say I slept for two hours and it still wasn’t enough.
Anyway–I’m going to post a tiny transition segment of the Surprise Visit fit, and hope you forgive me for how short it is. I”m up at six in the morning again and oi, I do not sleep well when Mate is gone!
* * *
Surprise Visit–Part 2
After Burton left, Ernie wandered around disconsolately, fed the cats, cleaned up after baking, and then, as always happened when Burton left on business, his feet led him back to Ace and Sonny’s.
“How long’s he been gone?” Ace asked good naturedly, feeding Ernie the last of the tamale pie Ace had made on his night to cook. Ace had muscles like cannon shot and a handsome good-ol-boy face with a dent in his chin. He didn’t look like he’d even admit to having a boyfriend much less cook for the one he had, but Ace was surprising that way.
“Left this morning,” Ernie said, huffing out a sigh. “Ellery Cramer’s mother is in danger. He got her to go to Sacramento so he’s going to watch all three of them.”
“Jesus,” Sonny muttered. “Are we even supposed to know shit like this?”
“Course we are.” Ace sat down and sipped his after-dinner coffee slowly. “We’re invisible. Like, nobody even knows we’re here.”
“How do you even say that?” Sonny demanded. “We make more noise than a sonic fucking boom. We blew up an army base Ace. How does nobody know who we are?”
Ernie snickered. “Because me and Burton and Jackson and Ellery and even Ellery’s mother, I think, have worked very hard to make it that way,” he said, surprised that Sonny hadn’t realized this.
Judging by the blank look on Sonny’s face, Sonny hadn’t realized this. “Why would they do that?” he said in a small voice.
Jai–who was there because it was Tuesday night and apparently Jai appreciated Ace’s cooking too–smiled softly at Sonny, but Ernie wasn’t fooled. Jai’s tightly held torch for Sonny Daye had changed to an out and out fondness, a soft spot that would never heal, but that didn’t pain him anymore. He’d lied to Ernie about having a booty call that he met camping–oh yeah, he had the booty call, all right, but they guy wasn’t married, and Jai did like him, and even though Ernie knew the truth, he was highly curious as to what had caused the lie.
“Because they see the value you have free to work on cars and not locked in a cage,” Jai said, and Sonny looked at Ace with trouble still in his eyes.
“That sounds like charity,” he muttered stubbornly.
“It’s more like love,” Ace said bluntly. “And it keeps my criminal ass in the free and clear, so I’m really fucking grateful. Do you know how long he’s going to be gone?” Ace asked, obviously to change the subject, but also because he wanted to know if he should prep Burton’s old room so Ernie could stay there.
Ernie thought about it. “A couple of days,” he said, not sure what prompted him but trusting it just like he’d trusted his urge to make apple fritters. “And yes, thank you, I would very much appreciate a place to stay until he gets back.”
Ace nodded. “Sonny, stop pouting about people taking care of you and help take care of Ernie. Also, one of you may want to take Duke for a walk–you know how excited he gets when Ernie comes over.”
Back in the days before Burton had committed, Ernie had taken Duke wandering the desert at night. Duke had enjoyed their little forays–and probably missed their time together now–so Ernie made sure to come take him for a walk once or twice a week just for old times sake. When Burton was there they’d go together and talk desultorily about the way the desert smelled and what the stars could possibly mean, but without him, Ernie’s brain–and therefor his psychic ability–tended to reach out into th e vasty world and bring back things Ernie was never sure what to do with.
There was nothing he could do to stop a bus crash or bank robbery. He told Burton, and hoped for the best. Occasionally his brain came back with stories of the serial killers he’d been asked to assess when part of Karl Lacey’s illegal behavior modification project to create the perfect soldier. That he reported immediately, via text if Burton wasn’t home, and Burton always told him when his contact with the “bugs” as he called them, because their brains were crawly twisted places, panned out.
So far Ernie was eight in eight for being a reliable bug catcher, and he was glad he could help, but really hated stumbling into a bug’s brain when he was all alone and unprepared.
“I’d love some company,” he said a little desperately, and Ace tilted his head like he heard the things Ernie wasn’t saying.
“Jai, go with him,” he said, and while Ace was their friend as well as their boss, it was obvious this was an order.
“Da,” Jai said, not even bothering to complain.
They were about a mile out from Ace and Sonny’s place when Jai said his first words. “You haven’t said anything.”
Ernie knew what he was talking about. “About your friend in the mountains? No. You lied to me so I wouldn’t know, and I figured that meant you didn’t want everybody else to know. Why not?”
Jai shrugged. “George is… he’s a nurse. A good guy. I am not.”
Ernie snorted. “That’s hilarious,” he muttered.
“No, no–I have–“
“Killed people. I know. You don’t understand. I keep running into serial killers in my mind. It’s why I wanted your company you know. Their brains are awful. Like bug warrens. Like little shit beetles crawling through their head.”
“Lovely,” Jai said, shuddering with revulsion. Jai was well over six feet tall with a shaved head and a black goatee. Watching him shudder was a treat in itself.
“Yeah. Well, I’ve known you for a while now, and your brain isn’t like that. Your brain is all these neat little boxes. Well, one of your boxes has a guy named George in it, and he’s bursting the box’s seams. You’re going to have to share him with Ace and Sonny or he’s going to break your brain.”
Jai groaned. “Ugh. Could we go back now? I don’t want to think about this right now.”
“Sure.” Truth tell, Ernie didn’t want to either. He wanted to think about Burton, under the same sky he was under, looking out into the cloud mottled stars and thinking about Ernie like Ernie was thinking about–
“Burton’s going to have to pull that thing,” Ernie said, suddenly right back in the present. “And yell at Jackson to duck. And Jackson’s going to duck and roll and there’s going to be a crash and the music will explode and then Burton can come home.”
Jai was staring at him.
“What?” Ernie said, shaking himself all over.
“That was the fucking creepiest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Ernie groaned. “Well, keep into yourself, okay? I”ve got to text Burton so he knows what’s coming.”
“How on earth can he know what’s coming from that?” Jai asked in wonder.
“Same way I knew how to make apple fritters, Jai. Shit just comes to us.”
He typed as fast as he could and when he was done, he let out a breath.
Now some boyfriends would blow him off–but Burton had learned to trust him in the past six months.
And now they had to wait.
For his part, Ernie was very curious as to what it all meant.