KIDNAP

by Joseph Anderson

Xena, Janice Covington and Melinda Papas and all elements from the TV show Xena: Warrior Princess are the property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. All other characters belong to the author. No copyright infringement is intended with this fan fiction, which may not be sold, may be copied for personal use only, and must include all notices of copyright.

This story includes references to a romantic relationship between two women. This story has violence and rough language.


1.
Janice Covington looked at the two envelopes in her hands: one from Mel and one from Kimberly. They both felt like they had photographs in them. Baby pictures, she knew. Janice should just sever connections altogether with Mel but she couldn't seem to do that. She just pathetically kept reading her letters and hoping she would get her back. She knew she wouldn't. Mel had a family now; there was simply no way she was coming back to her--the linguist would never do something so disruptive for her child. Mel had been crying when she explained everything to Janice, but she was immovable in her determination. That shocked Janice as much as anything. As much as she loved her, Janice always thought of her as weak. That was part of the appeal for her--she liked to be needed. But she was the one who needed, as it turned out.

"Janice, I care so much for you and ALWAYS will. But I love Franklin, and I want children and to raise them like we have always been raised in my family. I'm so, so sorry, Janice." That deep fried accent of hers, Covington thought bitterly.

The little archaeologist had just dipped her head so her face was covered by her hat. Mechanically she had taken a cigar from her pocket and bitten the end off and spit it to one side. The problem with her tough mannerisms was that Mel saw right through them; Janice knew that. She couldn't seem to help herself though. Being butch was all she had at that moment.

The archaeologist set the letter from Melinda Fredericks nee Papas down and opened the letter from Kimberly Snopes nee Fredericks. She's just a mass murderer who changed history, Covington thought ironically; much easier to face. Inside Janice found the black and white baby picture she expected. Looked just like every other baby picture in the world except for the sinister looking helmet it looked like the baby had been slobbering on just before the snapshot was taken and which she was now propped up against. Priceless, the archaeologist in her thought. An absolutely priceless article from 3000 years ago, in perfect condition and of historical value for the events it had been present at, and they were letting a baby slobber on it.

Janice remembered something and dug out an old newspaper from the states from under a pile. "GANGLAND WARFARE RAGES." Wonder if that's how Cal and Kimberly paid for the crib and baby clothes? Janice thought. Cal was a stone cold killer and Kimberly was a world-class strategist and tactician. The gangster stuff she was involved in now was like playing in a sandbox to her. All the things Kimberly had been through had left her so cynical she didn't really seem human to the archaeologist. They made a scary little team.

Janice thought of Cal. There was something else going on there but Kimberly hadn't explained it to her. She thought he was the reincarnation of somebody from Kimberly's past but didn't know whom. Somebody dangerous, she bet.

2.
In his dream Cal was a woman again and was hunting down people who had betrayed her. When she caught them she usually fought them even though she could have taken them unawares. That's what Cal would've done--killing was business and he didn't fool around when it came to business. But in the dream she toyed with people, letting them gradually realize she could kill them anytime. She would laugh with a strange giggle and that scared people as much as anything else. In the dreams she almost never simply killed someone fast--she would take fingers, ears, eyes, with her sword, always making little jokes. Cal would never do stuff like that--it was unprofessional. Occasionally he was sent out as an enforcer rather than a finger man. Then he scared people and maybe even hurt them a lot, but he didn't enjoy it like in the dreams. It was just a job. Jimmy Falconi sent him out once for a guy who had hit several of their numbers parlors. The guy for no reason had tortured and killed some people--one of them Jimmy's cousin. Jimmy told him he wanted him to give him the works. When he talked it over with Kimberly she had looked closely at him and said she would come with him and handle that part of it. Cal was grateful.

"Another Callisto dream, Cal?" Kimberly said to him. He opened his eyes and looked at her and nodded.

"She was a nasty piece of business, I reckon," he said philosophically in his slow southern accent.

"Not all the time," Kimberly responded. It was just too complicated--different Callistos in different time lines. Extenuating circumstances. It wasn't worth getting into at the moment. They heard a cry from the other room and Cal got up.

"It's okay, I've got it."

He returned a moment later with Jilly. Kimberly liked watching them together. Cal worshiped his daughter. After a moment he said, "Kimberly." She could tell by his voice what he was thinking and she didn't respond. "Kimberly," he repeated.

She got up and went into the kitchen to start the coffee. When she came back she said, "You're not the one who has to throw up for four months and lug around a bowling ball inside you for nine. Give me some time off for a while, okay, Cal?"

"Okay."

She looked at them: the handsome, blonde contract killer and the baby girl whose toes he was playing with. Kimberly loved having a baby but she hated being pregnant. When she heard women say they liked it she thought either she must be hallucinating or they must be crazy. She would choose spending nine months sacking cities and fighting battles any day.

3.
Annie was in the kitchen finishing up the tray she was taking up to little Kenny. She checked the milk on her dark wrist to make sure it wasn't too hot, and also had some diapers and powder on the silver tray. Carrying it she backed out of the kitchen pushing the door open with her behind, and she started up the winding staircase to the nursery. Moments later she came running to the top of the stairs, holding onto the bannister.

"Miz Fredericks! Miz Fredericks! Kenny is gone! Yo li'l baby is gone!"

Melinda tried to stop crying. She was so worried about her son she was sick. Franklin was off somewhere in Europe on business and they hadn't been able to reach him yet. His mother was upstairs under sedation. His father had had a stroke years ago and Franklin had been running the entire holding company, buying and selling entire corporations. Mel hadn't even known that. She'd known he was well off but she hadn't realized he was that kind of rich. The kind of rich that made him a target. Their families had been friends for generations now; business wasn't really discussed in the home. She hadn't called the police; she was too scared from what the kidnappers had said. She'd panicked and called Janice though; it was hard to reach her but she had finally managed it.

She'd never forget the sound of Janice's voice and the disappointment in it when she realized why she'd called, followed a moment later by her usual competency taking over her manner. She said she had to think about this but in the meanwhile just do whatever the kidnappers said if she didn't want to call the police. Janice thought she should call the police but Mel was afraid to do that. She'd get to Atlanta as soon as she could. The linguist's hands were shaking as she hung up the phone. Mel was in her study and surrounded by her father's and her own books and cases containing rare manuscripts. It was a marked contrast to the rest of the elegant house. She took her glasses off and cleaned them again for the 30th time in something like two hours. She felt terribly guilty calling Janice but it was just who she thought of when she needed help. She wasn't thinking clearly, she knew.

Janice hung up the field telephone. She was glad Mel wasn't there to actually see her crying or the idiotic expression she must've had. She hoped she didn't give away too much with her voice. Janice was glad she'd called her. Kidnappers weren't exactly her field though. She'd really only had experience with artifact smugglers and the spies she'd met during the war. On her desk she noticed the picture of the baby propped up against the helmet. She picked the phone back up.

4.
The colored maid opened the door and just stared at the tall woman in a tailored dark dress. "Miz Fredericks, I jus' lef' you in the kitchen."

"I'm not Mrs. Fredericks. I just look a lot like her. We're cousins." The woman was stepping through the door brushing past the short chocolate-colored maid, as she spoke. She was followed by a tall blonde man in a beautiful suit who took his creamy felt hat off as he stepped inside. The maid looked at him. He didn't belong in a house like this. She knew white trash when she saw it no matter how nice he dressed. They caught each otherís eyes. They understood each other instantly. He reminded her of a nephew she had. He was on a chain gang in Mississippi for killing some folks.

"Who is it, Annie?" Mel said stepping out of the kitchen. "Oh!" She ran forward and hugged Kimberly, then hugged Cal. He caught Annie's eyes ironically as she watched disapprovingly, then turned around to close the door. She came and took his hat, finally.

"Tell us everything that's happened. Janice called me from Cairo. She should get here tomorrow some time, if she's lucky." Kimberly was trying to put some warmth in her voice, but she found herself slipping back into her command manner. They still hadn't reached Franklin. She was glad Cal was here. He was sitting next to Melinda and she was clinging tightly to his hand. Kimberly knew there was some kind of arcane caste system at work here. Cal loved her but he didn't admire her the way he did Melinda. And that maid and Cal kept exchanging glances that were so full of history Kimberly knew she couldn't hope to understand it.

"I'm sorry, where are my manners? Annie, bring me some tea, please, and what can we get for you?" Melinda was practically prostrate from worry but she was still a lady. Kimberly saw admiration in both Cal's and the maid's eyes.

"Coffee, black," Kimberly said.

"I'll have tea, too." Cal said. His wife looked at him. He'd probably never had tea in his life.

After she told them everything--there really wasn't much except her baby was gone and she'd gotten a phone call demanding $500,000, and for her not to call the police or they'd kill her son--Kimberly looked at Cal. He looked grim. "You should call the police," he said. Mel shook her head vehemently. "Kimberly, I'm going to call Jimmy. See if he has any friends in Atlanta. Where's your phone?" The maid led him to another room.

Kimberly sat looking at Mel. She let her hold her hand though she didn't really like splitting her attention that way when she was trying to think. Of course, the baby was her father just like Melinda was her grandmother. She didn't know if the fact that she was still here meant her father was still alive or whether she just had an independent existence now. She kind of suspected the latter. That whole Bitch of Tartarus episode was so important to the gods that they wouldn't let it just be wiped away by some accident. She was probably in her own special category or something, along with other favored stooges. Kimberly had a feeling Joan of Arc might not have been who she seemed--nothing definite, just a feeling--her strategy and tactics were awfully advanced for an illiterate young peasant girl. She thought of Jilly.

She and Cal would be able to find the kidnappers eventually, there was no question of that. Getting the baby back alive was the problem. Kimberly knew the Mafia was at the peak of its power. Cal just worked for the one family now or else was loaned out. He'd been rewarded with some numbers parlors and owned a restaurant and a bar. Even though Cal wasn't Italian and could never be "made," he was respected and the consigliere, Jimmy Falconi, was the godfather of his daughter. Kimberly had a hard time not laughing every time she thought of that, and she had to force herself not to quote the movie all the time. Jilly was with Jimmy's wife right now. Even the don himself had taken a special liking for Jilly. Her daughter was going to grow up biligual in Italian she suspected. If these guys hurt the baby they had no idea what they were in for even if they somehow made it to prison.

5.
"Annie, try not to worry. My wife and me will take care of this for Mrs. Fredericks," Cal said to the maid after he hung up the phone. He was comfortable with her. He always felt like he wasn't really himself in Chicago, much as he liked it. As soon as he saw the disapproval in the short dark woman's eyes he felt at home. He could hear his drawl getting heavier since he had gotten here. "Tell me everybody who could've just walked in and taken him, even if you know they didn't."

Annie regretted how she'd looked at him since he was trying to help Miz Fredericks and find little Kenny. She still didn't approve of someone like him being married to Miz Fredericks' cousin. His wife didn't act like no kind of lady herself, though. Annie thought of her nephew Robert on the chain gang. Once she had been robbed on the street. Her sister had mentioned it to her son and a few days later Robert brought her her bag back with more money than had been in it when it was stolen. She'd thanked him and made him some sweet potato pie.

"Would you like some sweet potato pie, sir."

Cal looked at her. "Annie, I'd love that, and you don't have to sir me when it's just us. Call me Cal."

6.
There was a knock on the door and Annie gasped when she opened it. Cal came over and spoke outside to the giant man with cauliflower ears and a nose flattened across his face. Cal stuck his head in the door, "Kimberly."

She looked up and left Mel, who seemed to have aged ten years, staring vacantly out the window. "You better hear this," he said so Mel couldn't hear. As she stepped outside the door she saw Cal peeling hundreds off of a roll and sticking them in the man's breast pocket.

The archaeologist paid the cabbie and turned to look at the stately Georgian style home. She sighed and readjusted her old hat and picked her duffle bag up. As she approached the front door it opened and she saw Mel, who seemed to be supported by a short, heavy, colored maid. Mel pulled herself loose from the protective woman and stumbled toward the little blonde in her weathered bomber jacket. She dropped her duffle bag and hugged the much taller woman. She looked around her and saw Kimberly and Cal step out of the house. Janice could only think of Rosalind Russell and Humphrey Bogart. The maid was holding onto Cal's arm though she let go when she realized Janice was looking at her.

Kimberly took Janice's elbow and led her to one side. "Me and Cal have a lead. We're waiting to hear more. We haven't told Mel anything yet in case it doesn't pan out. There's a good chance the baby is dead. If he is, my grandmother is going to need you. We only finally reached Franklin in Prague and he won't be here for a few days unless he hits every flight just right."

The archaeologist forced herself not to yank her arm out of the big woman's grip. She hated Kimberly's commanding manner but she knew she was far more competent in this area than she was, and Janice didn't want to break her concentration by arguing with her. "What's the lead?" she asked.

"Some men were recruited for a job recently. Sounds like it could be this one." She looked at Janice closely. "Me and Cal think this is an inside job. Franklin controls most of the family money but there are other relatives. They're all rich too but not like Franklin is. We're looking into gambling debts, right now." Kimberly noticed the way she was holding Janice's arm and released it. "Sorry. I know you don't like that."

Cal was on the phone to Chicago again: "Jimmy, Cal. Yeah, thanks, he came by. Jilly did, huh? I guess I owe you a suit. Yeah. Looks like they recruited locally and also brought some people in from New York. That's what I think, too. Fuckin' idiots. As long as I'm down here you want me to look around? talk to Vincenzo? That's what I was thinking. Talk to you later, Jimmy. Sorry about the suit."

7.
Joey Bones nervously waited, tapping the table. The bar was dark and almost empty. He needed this money and had come half an hour early and was nursing a beer. When the couple stepped in the door he knew it must be them, they looked so out of place in this dive. The Bones tentatively raised a hand and they came to his table. The bored waitress came over. "Another beer for him, and a couple of ginger ales," the man said in a southern accent. He scared Joey Bones. He kind of reminded him of Ben Siegel. It was the woman who did the talking, though.

"What do you have for us, Bones? It'll be worth it to you."

He took out a cigarette with skinny fingers as he said, "The word that's out is you wanna know bout that job they was looking for guys for." The woman nodded. "Well, one of the guys what they got, so I hear, sent his whole family off to California. See, so his house is empty. Seemed like that might be worth somethin'." The man pulled a roll of bills out and peeled off a hundred. "Go on," the woman said.

8.
Mel looked at her with red eyes. She took her glasses off again compulsively cleaning them once more. "Thank you for coming. I shouldn't have called you. It's selfish of me!"

Janice Covington was speechless looking at Mel. She loved her so much she didn't know she could feel like that. There was so much pain and worry in Mel's eyes that the archaeologist felt like someone was cutting her open. She reached her hands out and took both of Mel's. Janice didn't feel like she could allow herself to actually sit next to her, so she faced her. Mel had enough to worry about without fending her off.

She finally managed to say something, "I want to be here, Mel. You can always call me. Kimberly and Cal will find Kenny, I'm sure." She kicked herself. Janice wasn't "sure" at all. She felt Mel squeeze her hands and she saw her look gratefully at her.

"Really?"

"Yeah, really." The words just came out of her mouth; she couldn't stop them.

The maid came over and adjusted the pillows in back of Mel. Janice looked at her and saw open disapproval on her wide dark face. She wasn't even trying to hide it. Oh well, Janice thought.

Mel was sleeping on the sofa and Janice was asleep in a thick overstuffed chair when they heard the front door open.

"Mel."

"Oh God, Franklin!" Mel awkwardly stood and almost fell in her rush to her husband. Janice stood looking at the floor, not wanting to intrude and feeling like she would give anything if Mel said her name that way. She felt a hand on her shoulder and she looked up at Franklin's oh-so-handsome aristocratic face.

"Hello, Janice. I'm glad you could be here for Mel." Franklin knew all about them. She couldn't even dislike him. He was great. If he was a jerk that would have given her something to chew on, anyway.

Vincenzo Galetti was just closing up the office for the linen service when he heard steps behind him. He locked the door and turned to see Jimmy Falconi's enforcer right there. "Hey, Cal," he said. He kept his voice calm though he didn't feel that way. "What are you doin' in Atlanta?"

The enforcer grinned with that creepy smile of his. Sometimes he looked crazy though he never acted nuts. "Vinnie. Got some personal business to take care of, but I wanted to stop by. Give you Jimmy's regards. He's been meaning to talk to you. That project he gave you doesn't seem to be paying off quite as well as it should. We were just wondering what kinda problems you were having. You know, I have to compliment you. That is one nice suit! And that rock on your finger! That must've really set you back."

"Ah, you know how it is, Cal. I get everything wholesale." He was sweating now.

"Let's go back in your office and you tell me about it."

"Cal."

"Don't worry, Vinnie. Jimmy is just concerned is all. There's probably no problem at all. I just want to talk to you.

Cal was on the phone again: "Jimmy, it's Cal. Yeah, that looks good so far. Kimberly's cousin is about how you'd expect. I hate to see it; that's a nice lady. I just wanted to let you know I talked to Vincenzo. Nah, business is just slow is all. If he's skimming it's just what'd you expect. Maybe somebody smarter could make it work but he's trying. His arm, yeah. Kiss Jilly for me."

9.
Janice was out on the porch at 4 a.m. smoking a cigar when the black Cadillac pulled up and Cal and Kimberly emerged. They looked questioningly at her and she said, "Franklin's back." She expected them to go inside immediately but instead they indicated for her to come further away from the house with them.

"What did Franklin do during the war, do you know?" Kimberly asked.

Instantly alert, Janice answered, "I think he was running munitions factories in the states, organizing supplies. If he was in Europe it was behind the scenes stuff.

"So no combat?"

"Not that I know of. He might be a hunter, but I don't know. Have you found him?"

"Probably. I don't want Franklin there if he might get hurt. You want in?"

"You bet."

It was early morning. Cal was over by the door and Kimberly, in blue jeans, boots and a cowboy shirt now, was at the window. Janice nodded to them and counted to 20 as she ran around the back. At 15 she drew her old .45 caliber automatic and at 20 she was waiting pointing it at the back door. She heard some yelling and several shots. There was scuffling. The door suddenly opened and two people came bursting out. One was a tall greasy looking man with a shotgun. He saw her and raised the weapon and Janice shot him twice in the chest. The second figure was a short, expensively dressed, pretty woman carrying a bundle. As the man fell she threw what she was carrying at Janice and ran off to the left into some trees. The archaeologist dropped her gun and dove to catch the screaming bundle. She managed to but fell and had to roll to avoid landing on top of it. She grunted in pain from the rocks she had come down on. Cal and Kimberly came tearing through the door now, both carrying pistols. Janice opened the bundle and saw the crying baby. She nodded at Kimberly and jerked her head the direction the woman had gone. She ran in pursuit and Cal came over and helped Janice up.

"Is he okay?"

"Seems to be. What do I know about babies, though?"

"Let me have him." Janice handed the worried looking man the bundle and followed him back into the house. She gasped at what she saw but Cal simply swept everything off the kitchen table and set the baby down, unwrapping the blanket. He seemed oblivious to the faceless dead body sitting at the table or the other one lying in the doorway from the kitchen to the living room. As he was undressing the baby, Janice stepped over the body. She explored the rest of the house, just in case. It was clear. She returned to the living room. Counting the two in the kitchen there were seven bodies in the house. She thought back. She had only heard seven shots. There were several weapons though, just none had had a chance to be fired. A couple of people looked like they'd been sleeping. The guy in the kitchen was eating. Janice hadn't seen a weapon there at all now that she thought of it.

She heard Kimberly's voice from the kitchen. "How is he, Cal?"

"Fine. Hungry, though. I don't think they fed him or changed him."

Janice reentered the kitchen just as she saw Kimberly repeat the maneuver she had seen her perform once before. She was holding the small woman she had brought back in an iron grip with her hands behind her back. She pushed her hands up behind her till Janice heard that awful dislocating pop again. The short beautiful woman screamed and fell to the ground. This time Janice didn't object to Kimberly's infliction of gratuitous pain. Cal walked over and kicked her so hard her whole body lifted up.

Cal said, "I recognize her from a picture on Mel's mantle." Kimberly knelt down in front of the woman. She slapped her shoulders and the woman screamed in agony.

"Who are you? You look just like Mel! They were holding me prisoner too! I was just trying to rescue Kenny. I didn't know it was the police." The woman was speaking through gritted teeth with tears of pain. Kimberly looked over at Janice.

Janice said, "She threw the baby at me so she could get away." The woman shook her head vigorously.

Kimberly spoke again, "We're not the police. This is just a little domestic disturbance; no need to involve them. You must be my great-aunt Alice. Funny to meet you like this. We're going to get to know each other a lot better, though." She stood and reached down and grabbed the woman by the collar and lifted her up. The woman started screaming again and Kimberly brought a switchblade out of a pocket and cut the woman's blouse off and used it to gag her. "Let's go," she said to Cal and Janice. Cal was holding the baby.

Cal said to Janice, "Did you touch anything." She thought about it and went to wipe down some door knobs. "You're hurt," he said, when she returned.

"I'm okay, just bruised," Janice answered. They left the out-of-the-way little house. Hearing sirens, they quickly drove to another location where they switched cars. They repeated the procedure twice more, driving all over Atlanta and the surrounding areas, though they stopped twice: once to drop the guns which they carefully wiped down in a landfill and once to buy babyfood and diapers. While Cal drove with Janice next to him, Kimberly was in the back seat feeding the baby. Aunt Alice was in the trunk.

10.
They were watching Mel and Franklin with Kenny. Janice felt an arm go around her shoulders and looked up at Kimberly.

"Janice, I'm sorry I look so much like Mel. It's hard for you, but let's go for a drink anyway, okay." The little archaeologist nodded and let the tall woman lead her to her car.

They walked into the dim dive bar Joey Bones had been in. Janice looked around. "This is perfect, Kimberly. Thanks."

"What do you drink, Janice?"

"Whiskey, whatever's cheap," Janice said.

Kimberly motioned to the bartender, "Bring a bottle of Wild Turkey--real Wild Turkey--and a shot glass for her, and just keep a glass of soda filled for me." She handed the bartender a hundred dollar bill and waved away any change.

"Janice, all I can say is what you had for a while with Mel was more than I've ever had in my life. Most people never have that. I love Cal and I loved Weldon--the Celt in the frieze--even more, but it was a rational down to earth love. The kind of Romeo-and-Juliet, Abelard-and-Heloise thing you have is something I'll never experience. Most people don't. Those that do, often kill people when it goes south. You'd have tried to kill Franklin and Mel already if you were inclined that way, so I guess I'll take my private dicks off of you."

Janice Covington looked at her. She got off her stool and threw a punch at her which she effortessly avoided and caught her hand. A big bouncer came over and Kimberly released Janice and walked off with the bouncer, stuffing a bill in his pocket. She patted his shoulder and returned to Janice. She refilled Janice's shot glass.

"Listen, Janice. Since you're this dyed-in-the-wool bull dyke, I guess the only thing I can tell you is there's other fish in the sea. You've been really loved, you're one of the best at what you do in the world, and you have friends that love you. Those are all things that most people live and die without experiencing."

Janice didn't respond. She just drank a shot down. Kimberly refilled her glass.

"What about you?" Janice asked, looking at the composed, well-manicured woman next to her.

"What about me?"

"Why are you settling for Cal?"

"I'm not "settling for Cal." I love Cal. We just aren't madly passionate. It's a different thing. I brought up Cal to make you realize what you have."

"You've just given up on more?"

"I'm in my 30s and I want kids. You're a little younger than me. It probably hasn't hit you yet. Probably never will, now that I think of it."

"So I should be like you?"

"You don't have the brains or talent to be like me. It's just like Xena and Gabrielle. You don't operate at my level so you don't have the kind of demands placed on you that I do."

Kimberly stood up and motioned to the bartender. She wrote an address on a napkin and she pushed it and another hundred dollar bill across the bar to him. "Make sure she gets home safe and sound. Understand?" He nodded. She opened her coat so he could see the gun she carried. "Understand?" He nodded again. Kimberly walked out of the bar.

11.
Kimberly couldn't not relish seeing what Janice Covington looked like. The archaeologist was pale and shaking, and looked like she'd just finished throwing up. Janice had seen her in similar condition and told her she made her sick. Kimberly managed to refrain from saying that to Janice--since she was the one who got her drunk it wouldn't really be appropriate. As Kimberly was hugging Mel and Franklin, Cal stepped aside with Annie. He handed her a small folded piece of paper. "I did some calling, Annie. Robert gets out in a year."

"Robert don't get out for another five years, Mr. Cal."

"It's one year now. Have him call me."

"You mean, if'n he wants to be a church goin', respectable man?" she said, suspiciously, yet unable not to smile.

Cal just smiled at her.

"If'n he wants to be a good man, Mr. Cal, I won't give him yo numbah. If'n he don't, I will." Cal handed her an envelope and said, "This is from me and my wife for taking such good care of Mrs. Fredericks." Her eyes widened as she felt the money inside. He walked over to hug Mel.

Walking to their car, Kimberly said to Cal, "What was that all about?"

"Things can't stay like they are, Kimberly. We have to be ready."

"You're a dangerous man, Cal."

"Who me?"

As Cal was putting their bags in the back seat, Kimberly walked to the rear of the car and knocked on the trunk. "How ya' doin', Alice?" She laughed and rejoined Cal in the front seat as he started the car.

Five Years Later:

Kimberly stuck her head out of the kitchen. "Robert, have you seen Jilly?"

The short, powerful looking negro in a silk suit answered, "No, mam. She's still at Mr. Falconi's, I believe."

"Don't call me, "mam," and you should call him Jimmy like we do."

"I don't think that would be a very healthy habit for me to get into, Kimberly."

The tall woman stepped out from the kitchen wearing an apron, and holding a two-year-old boy on her hip. "I'm sorry, Robert. I just keep forgetting about all that stuff."

"It's okay, Kimberly." Robert answered.

"Oh, Robert, I got a letter from Cal--yes, a letter from daddy, a letter from daddy, Sam!--he says Cuba is wonderful."

Robert nodded. He walked over and let Sam grab onto his thick black finger. He managed to disengage himself from the toddler. "You need to go over the books, Kimberly. I'll get'em for you. " As he passed a closet Robert knocked on it and said, "How ya' doin', Missy Alice?"

The End