Disclaimer-Sadly I own no rights to the show or the characters, but I do enjoy playing around with them. No money was made off this story…it is for enjoyment purposes only.
Comments-This story is written for Kathi and I hope she enjoys it. Thanks to Marti and Antoinette for the great beta job and to Pamela for the wonderful pic to go with this fic.
Chris Larabee had never been so damn tired in his life, yet the kid in the passenger seat was wide awake and yammering excitedly. The last week had been spent at a law enforcement convention for computer personnel and although they weren't officially part of the Billings Police Department, they did have close ties to several government agencies. Normally it would have been Ezra Standish accompanying JD Dunne, but the southerner was in the midst of a case that had taken several long months to get to the point where the kingpin of the operation trusted him and Vin Tanner.
Josiah, Nathan, and Buck were embroiled in a bitter court case and would remain incommunicado until such time as they testified and the case was over. That left him as the unwilling partner for JD at the convention, but if truth was told he had enjoyed himself more than he cared to admit. Watching the young easterner working with several programmers who had at least twenty years on him had been fun. The programmers had been dealing with a no win situation that had been unsolvable until Dunne had taken a page right out of James T. Kirk's manual and reprogrammed the simulation so that he could rescue the townspeople and save the world. The programmers had been angered by what they called cheating on Dunne's part, but the woman in charge of the simulation had told them to 'put a sock in it' and gave Dunne an award for artistic merit in rewriting the program.
JD held the award in his hands and had taken great pride in the fact that he'd managed to outmaneuver several other candidates. Chris smiled in spite of the bone weary tiredness that seeped through his bones and made it impossible to think beyond closing his eyes and sleeping for a week. He knew JD had slept through most of today's drive and sighed heavily before pulling the truck to a stop on the shoulder of the road.
"What's wrong, Chris?" Dunne asked worriedly.
"Nothing, Kid," Larabee said and opened his door. "It's time you took the wheel and I grabbed some shut eye."
"You're letting me drive your truck?" the Bostonian asked incredulously.
"You do have a license don't you?"
"Course I do…it's just you've never let me drive before," Dunne told him.
"Well, I figure anyone who can think like Captain Kirk should be able to handle a truck," Larabee told him and walked around the truck as Dunne slid into the driver's seat. Chris could see the surprise on the kid's face and smiled as he opened the passenger door and climbed inside. He put on his seatbelt and closed the door before crossing his arms and leaning his head against the window. "Just go easy, JD…I heard Buck say you were something of a lead foot."
"Buck's full of shit," Dunne said, relieved when Larabee's eyes closed. The fact that the blond trusted him enough to allow him to take the wheel made his head spin.
"Wake me in a couple of hours, Kid."
"Sure, Chris," the Bostonian said with a grin before pulling out onto the highway again. It felt good to know Larabee trusted him with the truck and he wasn't going to let him down. He kept within five miles of the speed limit and listened to the station Larabee had tuned in to. He began to hum along, glancing sideways at Larabee as he drove along the narrow stretch of highway that led to Billings. It would take at least another eight hours to reach home, but they'd already decided to drive straight through.
Chris dozed off and on, but didn't speak as JD drove steadily along the highway. He glanced at his watch and noted the younger man had been driving for over an hour and was whistling softly to an Eagles song called Hotel California. It was an old favorite of his and he reached out to turn the volume up slightly before stretching and glancing out the window. The sky had darkened and rain began to fall as JD reached for the bottle of water in the cup holder.
"We'll need to stop for gas soon," Dunne said.
"Keep an eye out for service stations," Larabee told him.
"The last sign said there should be one coming up on our right."
"Good…maybe we could get coffee and something to eat."
"I was hoping you'd say that," the Bostonian said with a grin.
"I don't know who's worse, Kid…you or Vin," the blond said. The two youngest members of his team could out eat the other five put together and Ezra had offered to open a betting pool and set up a test. The problem with that was no one wanted to be responsible for the bill once the contest ended. "Turn right here, JD."
Dunne had seen the sign that proclaimed the town's name to be Providence as well, and was already turning off the main highway. There were no houses on either side of the dirt road and JD began to wonder if Providence was someone's sick joke as they rounded a bend and hit a deep rut in the road.
"Go easy, JD, I think maybe someone forgot to maintain the road," Larabee said, noting the rather large, garish sign proclaiming Providence as the home of Father John. The road narrowed and was barely wide enough for two cars and Chris felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.
"Maybe we should turn around, Chris," Dunne suggested.
"Need to find a place first, Kid," Larabee said of the narrow road surrounded by thick strands of trees and brush. They passed several more signs, some showing pictures of young people gathered around a clean-shaven man with a bald head and holding a bible in his hands.
"I think there's a place up ahead," the Bostonian said. He drove over the low rise and was surprised by the picture perfect town nestled on the banks of a winding river. "Guess maybe it is Providence."
"Could be," Larabee said, shaking his head as he noted the signs became more abundant the closer they got to the town.
"Good thing Buck's not with us," Dunne said when he read the words proclaiming promiscuity and public displays of promiscuous behavior would not be tolerated.
"He'd never survive," Larabee said with a grin as he thought about the man he'd known most of his life. Buck was gregarious and had a nearly insatiable appetite when it came to sex. Wilmington could charm the 'sting off a bee' and that was no idle brag from the other man.
"There's a gas station," Dunne said, pointing to the lone building at the edge of town. He felt his body jerk as the front tires of the truck struck a deep hole and ground to a halt. "Sonofabitch!"
"Easy, JD, just try backing it up," Larabee ordered and listened as Dunne tried to get the truck to respond to his touch. "Hang on, let me see how bad it is."
"All right," Dunne said, silently berating himself for not paying closer attention to the treacherous road.
"Turn it off, JD," Larabee ordered with a heavy sigh. "I think we broke an axle."
"Damn, Chris, I'm sorry," the Bostonian told him.
"It's okay, Kid, it's not like you were trying to hit every pothole," the blond said with a grin.
"What are we going to do?"
"We check with the gas station and see if there's a mechanic around," Larabee said turning when he heard the sound of an approaching vehicle, surprised when he realized it was a police car. He waited for the car to pull alongside and the door opened as a tall man with silvering hair stepped outside.
"Problems, Gentlemen?" the officer asked.
"Busted axle," Larabee answered and looked around. "Any chance there's a mechanic at that garage station?"
"Old Burt should be there, but he's kind of slow so it could take a day or two," the cop said and reached out his hand. "Name's Tom Willow and I'm what they call the law around here. Let me get Old Burt and see if his tow truck's up and running."
"Just call me Tom, Mr…"
"Chris Larabee and that's JD Dunne behind the wheel," Larabee told him.
"Welcome to Providence, Gentlemen, and you picked a mighty fine day to break down. Father John's giving a sermon in the Town Square. You've never heard anyone speak of the Lord the way he does."
"It's been a long trip, Tom, and I'd rather just find a hotel and get some sleep," the blond told him.
"Are you sure…I mean he is a wonderful speaker."
"I'm sure…could you just point us to a hotel?"
"There's no hotels in town. Father John believes they are an attraction of evil and prefers that we only have Bed and Breakfast Inns for weary travelers such as yourselves," Tom told them. "The closest one is run by Sister Mary and is about half a mile down the main street. If you want I can give you a ride there once we take care of your truck."
"Thanks, Tom, I'd appreciate that," Larabee said.
"I'll be right back," the officer told them as JD joined Larabee.
"Friendly fella," Dunne observed.
"A bit too friendly," the blond thought tiredly as he leaned against the truck. He reached into the cab of the truck and took out his cell phone, not that surprised when he found there was no signal. "Check your phone, JD."
"No signal," Dunne answered and reached into the back of the truck to retrieve their overnight bags.
"Figures, I'm beginning to think Providence really is someone's idea of a sick joke," Larabee said as an old tow truck came toward them.
"You gents need a tow?"
"Sure do," Dunne answered as a grizzled old man stepped from the cab.
"You fellas really did a job on it. I'm Burt Landry…most folks just call me Old Burt," the elderly man said and examined the Ford Crew Cab. "Sure looks like you messed up the front axle…could take a few days to get it fixed."
"Figures," Larabee said and watched as the cop returned. It didn't take long to get the Ford hooked up to the tow truck and Old Burt drove it to the gas station. "Tom, where can I find a phone?"
"You won't find one in Providence. Father John thinks they're evil," Tom explained.
"Is there anything Father John doesn't think is evil?" Larabee asked.
"Plenty," Tom answered as he motioned for the two men to get into his car. "If you'd come to the Town Square you'd hear all about it."
"No thanks," Larabee said as they drove through the town before stopping in front of a well-kept white house surrounded by a white picket fence and a colorful array of sweet smelling flowers.
"Jane is a wonderful lady and she'll take good care of you," Tom told them.
"Thanks, Tom," Larabee said upon exiting the car and grabbing his overnight bag as Dunne grabbed his own.
"You're welcome, she'll also show you the way if you change your mind about attending the sermon."
"Not likely, thanks anyway," Larabee said and walked toward the open gate. He entered the front yard and walked along the cobblestone pathway toward the house.
"I feel like I stepped back in time," Dunne offered.
"Me too, Kid," the blond said as the door opened and an older woman stepped outside to greet them.
"Hello, Gentlemen, can I help you?" she asked, wiping her hands on an apron that was white except for a perfect pink rose at the center.
"Yes, Ma'am, Tom said you'd have a room for a couple of days," Larabee told her.
"Well, each room has a single bed so I'm afraid you'd need two rooms."
"We'll take them, Mrs…"
"Jane Constantine," the woman said and shook both their hands as Larabee introduced himself and JD.
"Please, call me Jane," the woman said and led them inside. "I have two lovely rooms at the back of the house and I just changed the sheets and blankets so everything is ready for you."
Chris introduced himself and JD as he stepped inside the first room and again felt as if he'd stepped back in time. A dusty-rose colored wallpaper covered the lower half of the room while the upper half was painted a light gray color. Soft, frilly gray curtains covered in dusty roses fluttered on the wind. The bed was covered in a gray comforter while a tiffany style lamp sat on the night table. A basin and pitcher of water was set on a table in one corner and several towels were next to the basin.
"There is only one bathroom at the end of the hallway, but Father John saw fit to give us an abundance of hot water."
"I take it Father John is a bit of a preacher?" Dunne said.
"He's more than a preacher, Son, he's our savior. You and your friend should come hear him at the Town Square," the woman told him.
"That's okay, Jane, I'm just going to grab some shut eye and hope the mechanic is able to fix my truck by morning," Larabee told her.
"I don't think that'll happen. Old Burt will be at the sermon with the rest of town," Jane told them.
"Maybe if we offered him a bonus, Chris?"
"Money is not an object," Jane told them. "No one misses Father John's sermon."
"I am," Larabee said, smiling as he closed the door and made his way to the bed. He lay down and placed his hands under his head and closed his eyes as he listened to the woman and JD talking just outside the door. The bed was remarkably comfortable and he wanted nothing more than to sleep, but first he wanted a hot shower and maybe a bite to eat. Reluctantly he stood up, walked to the small table and picked up the towels and face cloth. He grabbed his overnight bag and knew there was enough soap and shampoo to last a couple of days. He opened the door to find Jane Constantine closing the door of the room next to his.
"If you change your mind, Mr. Larabee, the Town Square will be well lit…"
"What do you do if it rains?" Larabee asked.
"Then we move inside the main hall, but it never rains on one of Father John's sermons."
"I bet he even walks on water," Larabee mumbled and made his way toward the open door of the bathroom.
"I'm sorry, I didn't hear you," the woman said.
"I just said I'm glad there's lots of hot water."
"Oh, yes, because cleanliness is next to Godliness…"
"Indeed it is," Larabee said and stepped inside.
A white claw-foot bathtub was set against one wall while a small shower stall stood next to it. A powder blue mat hung on a towel bar and Chris placed it on the floor before turning on the hot water. He removed his dust-covered clothing, grabbed the musk-scented soap and shampoo and stepped under the water, relaxing as the sharp needle like spray massaged the weariness from his body. He slowly washed his body, removing all traces of sweat and dirt before reluctantly turning off the water and toweling dry.
Chris reached into his bag and took out the last pair of clean blue jeans and a white T-shirt that hugged his body. He knew Buck would say he was tempting the ladies, but that was not what he was going for when he chose this outfit. These were comfort clothing and he pulled on a clean pair of socks before slipping his black Nike runners on and exiting the bathroom.
"Hey, Chris, Jane left some ham sandwiches and juice in the kitchen," Dunne offered as Larabee passed by his open door.
"Thanks, Kid, but right now I just feel like sleeping," the blond told him.
"All right, Chris," Dunne said and stepped out of his room. "Think I'm just going to have a look around town before I get a shower."
"Just be careful, JD, watch out for 'fire and brimstone'," Larabee teased.
"Real funny, Chris," Dunne said.
Chris stepped into his room and closed the door. He knew JD could look after himself and wasn't worried about the younger man. What kind of trouble could he find in a town that proclaimed no promiscuity? Chris pulled off his shoes and lay back on the bed as church bells echoed through the town.