Always at the right place at the right time. Borrowed to the Bone. Chapter 13

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Chapter 13                                                                          

 The boys were gone when Buck got home. The burned truck was just one more reason to leave their mother and Buck behind and move back into Clark’s house. Ben Tom had already been planning a trip to recover his property from Clark’s storage building, anyway. And Clark’s truck sitting idle was more than Willy could bear.  And he needed to check on Clark’s stash of stolen artwork.

Meager belongings in duffels their mother had fashioned out of scrap denim strapped over their shoulders, they walked along the highway, miles from Pleasant Grove. Traffic was meager during the wee hours and the boys gave up hope of thumbing a ride. They had decided to camp in the woods when they saw a yellow car parked on the side of the road just ahead of them. The driver lightly tapped the horn.

Willy eyed the vehicle suspiciously. “Damn, that’s a cab. Looks like the same one that took us home the other night. He’s following us around. Told you he was a pervert.”

Ben Tom was filled with a sense of relief. “He ain’t no pervert. Just can’t figure what he’s doing way out here in the middle of the night. Maybe somebody held him up and he’s hurt.”

He trotted to the car and put his head through the open passenger window. “You hurt?”

Moonlight revealed a smile. “Doing just fine. Just had a feeling you boys might be needing a ride again.”

Willie shook his head. “And you just happened to come along way out here in the middle of the night.”

“One of my AA buddies fell off the wagon. Had to get him home. I was at the end of my shift and ready to head home when I saw that pickup go up in smoke and Buck running after you boys.”

Ben Tom looked back down the road they had traveled at the mention of Buck. He had not considered that Buck might give chase in his mother’s car. “You know Buck?”

“As it happens, I do. Everybody within a hundred miles knows it’s healthy to know who Buck Blanton is. Fella could get himself hurt not knowing who to stay away from.”

“You going back to Pleasant Grove?”

“I am. Hop in.”

Clark’s house was dark and there was a foreclosure sign in the front yard when they parked out front. The cabbie pointed at the sign. “I tried to rent this place when Clark went away on his little vacation, but the bank just wants to unload it. Buying it right now wouldn’t work for me.”

Ben Tom thought of his antique collection in the building out back. “We know where the spare key is. We can camp out here tonight and then figure something tomorrow.”

The cabbie shook his head. “Not a good idea. Bank will call the cops sure as the devil. Besides, I know the lights and water are off. I know a place where you can spend the night.”

But Willy was already out of the cab. Ben Tom stepped out and leaned back through the window. “I have some things to check on here. We’ll sleep a little and figure something tomorrow. We’re much obliged to you for helping us again. You seem to show up just when we need you.”

The cabbie nodded and smiled, waited until Ben Tom opened the door to the house, then cranked the cab and drove away. They tried the light switch and water faucets to no avail. The house had been ransacked, and most of Clark’s belongings taken. Ben Tom found Clark’s burglary flashlight in its usual hiding place taped underneath the commode tank, walked directly to the back yard, and opened the padlock on the little storage building. His spirits sank when the light revealed that the building was totally empty. Years of collecting gone.

The boys walked to their father’s rented duplex the next morning. Purcell seemed rather pleased that they had run away from Buck, but he still had no room. Hel tried to get the utilities turned  back on at Clark’s house, but only the bank could do that, and they were unwilling.

Willy remembered the trailer house near Terrell where Clark had stashed his art treasures. A little work might make it livable. No reason for Ben Tom to ever know about the cellar or what was in it. Ben Tom had to do a little carburetor work, but Clark’s old pickup finally hummed. They threw their meager belongings inside and drove out toward Terrell.

Ben Tom took a long look inside the gutted trailer, bouncing on the unsteady floor. “How come Clark showed you this place and not me?”

“I came out here with him sometimes when he used it to stash loot until he could fence it. He knew you might turn him in.”

“I might be able to fix this place up, but we both need jobs and we don’t know anybody to work for out here. Dad said he might get us on a construction crew if we can manage to get ourselves back and forth to work.

They headed back to Clark’s house to camp another night. A few blocks away from Clark’s, Ben Tom leaned out the window and told Willy to stop. The cab sat in the driveway in front of a lighted garage that had been converted to some type of shop. Next to the garage-shop, a car covered with a tarp occupied a single car carport.

Chapters of the serial are published on Friday.

You can learn more about Borrowed to the Bone and other titles by Jim H. Ainsworth on his Amazon Author Page.

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