Sunday Makes Seven (by Jana)


Summary:  Another Lundy and LaFiamma adventure

Rated:  PG
Word Count:   10,988



Sunday Makes Seven


Everything started out quite innocently. A casual comment about “quote, unquote”, seeing the real Texas, not just the high crime areas. A free weekend offered due to the last homicide case being wrapped up so quickly that Lieutenant Joanne Beaumont could still be found basking from the good press. A “Sure, I guess that sounds fun, directed to whom he now considered his sadistic partner, and that was how a very disgruntled Joseph Anthony LaFiamma found himself on a Friday night sitting on the banks of the Rio Grande, facing a real weekend, run by tour guide and Twilight Zone owner, Levon Lundy.

“What do you care,” LaFiamma grumbled, for the fourth time, as he watched his partner pull on thick wading boots.

“I care that we eat tonight. You wanted to have a weekend away, “to see the real Texas” as you put it. Were here, so time to fish for dinner.” Levon shouted back over the gurgling waters of the Rio Grande.

“I didn’t bring stuff to fish with, or in. Hell I hate fish, Levon. They’re slimy, wiggly, and sickening. I want lasagna, and I want fresh vegetables with it. Not fish.”

Wading in, Levon shot one last look of contempt at his partner and said, “if ya don’t try, ya don’t eat.”

Folding his arms, Joey responded, “I’m not that hungry, Lundy. I’ll just sit here and watch you.”

Seeing his partner nod his assent, Joey settled back to relax, hoping to see his partner fall in the water. Unfortunately his partner seemed to be having a good time. Reaching down to scratch his leg, Joey saw his slacks covered with big red fire ants. “Eeeeowwwww,” he screamed as he jumped up and hastily began brushing at his pants leg, trying to get the ants off of him.

Levon, looking up from his fishing line, smiled when he saw Joey jump, and started to laugh. “Guess nature likes ya as much as ya like it. The water will take care of the bugs.”

Grumbling, Joey dashed into the water, forgetting all about the waders Levon had provided and in seconds emerged, soaking wet, and even more disgusted than he had been earlier.

“Okay, funny man,” he called, “What do I do now?”

“That depends. Do ya like wet pants?”

Snarling, Joey responded, “No, but I’m not stripping out here. God only knows what may get at me then. Guess I’ll just go back to your uncles cabin and change. See ya.” he snapped as he quickly turned on his heel and left, leaving a howling Lundy in his wake.

Damn that Levon. How was I to know that the outdoors would be so dangerous. No outdoors in Chicago that aren’t manicured. Flinging open the door to the rustic cabin, Joey thought about all the camp movies he’d watched. Slipping into a pair of dry pants and some fresh socks, he hung his pants over the railing to dry, and decided if he made it through the weekend without sharing a bed with a furry animal of some sort, he might survive. It was, after all, only two more days. Making a concentrated effort to change his attitude, Joey took a few deep centering breaths, then picked up a book and started to read.

Good thing I brought this book, all the reading material in the cabin is about roughing it. With that he settled down to read. A good two chapters later, his mood was much better, and when he saw his partner walk in carrying three of the biggest fish he’d ever seen, he was able to be polite.

“Good fishin’ Levon?”

“It was at that. Shoulda stayed and caught some. Ya don’t know what ya missed,” Levon said as he picked up a sharp knife and headed back outside.

“Where ya goin?” Joey asked.

“Out ta clean my dinner. Why?” Levon said, hoping to lure Joey out with him. One good look at fish guts should put him off food for the entire night. This was going much better than he thought. Joey was way out of his league.

“Guess I should see how it’s done,” Joey said as he trailed along behind Levon.

Smiling to himself, Levon said, “I’ll clean them here. I remember my uncle cleaning fish here every summer. The wildlife gets a free meal from the innards,” he added watching in satisfaction as Joey looked like he was ready to throw up.

Taking the sharp knife he deftly cut through the belly of the first fish, then quickly removed the soft internal organs, throwing them on the far side of the rock. Next he cut the tail, head, and fins off. Lastly he filleted the fish, and laying the pieces aside, proceeded to do the same with the next two. Finally he had a nice pile of fish set aside and ready to cook. Picking them up, he glanced at his slightly green partner and said, “I know I said ya couldn’t eat, if ya didn’t try catchin’ any, but I have plenty. Dinner’ll be ready in fifteen minutes.”

“Uh..that’s okay, Lundy. I’m not hungry.” he said following his partner back to the house. Oh by the way, where are the bathrooms?”

At Lundy’s grin, Joey moaned. The answer was worse. “There’s an outhouse round back. Careful, it hasn’t been used in years. Better check the hole lest ya anger somethin’”

“I’ll do that,” Joey replied, in his happiest tone. “Thanks for the advice.”

“Think nothing of it. Better safe then sorry.” Levon called to his retreating back. His partner was not enjoying this, but tomorrow should be better. There was lots to do and see, and he had it all planned. Joey would enjoy Texas.

Over the frying fish, Levon heard a yell, and a few moments later the door was flung open, and his shaken partner was leaning heavily against it trying to catch his breath.

“Somethin’ wrong, LaFiamma?”

“Something wrong, LaFiamma?” Joey parroted back. “Yeah there’s something wrong. For God’s sake Levon, there’s a whole pile a snakes out there, just staring and making this weird noise like a babies rattle at me. I had to go behind a dead looking bush. If ya have kerosene I’ll go and burn the outhouse down.”

“That won’t be necessary. Sounds like the outhouse has been taken over by rattlesnakes. I’ll get rid of them in the morning. Want any dinner,” Levon added, holding out a big plate of fried fish.

“No. I think I better get to bed.” Then on a lighter note, Joey added, think I’ll find critters in the bed as well?”

“Laughing at the question, Levon said, “Ya won’t. I made up the bed when we got here. Remember, you were shining your shoes from the dust?”

Joining in with Levon’s laughter, Joey added, “I guess I haven’t been all that useful yet. I’ll do better tomorrow Lundy. Thanks for going to all this work to give me a vacation.”

“Night, LaFiamma. I’ll be on the cot in here. Remember, tomorrow we switch sleeping locations.”

“Right,” Joey said, as he closed the door behind him and undressed then slipped under the covers, hoping sleep would claim him quickly. Everything was fine while Levon was rattling around. He heard the washing up, the cot being prepared, the dishes being put away, and even Lundy’s boots as they hit the floor, then his room was dark, as the lantern was extinguished in the front room. That’s when everything went to pot.

The minute the light was extinguished and Levon was settled Joey was assailed by a myriad of strange noises. There were, hoots, howls, hisses, rattles, squeaks, bumps, and moans. Moving into the center of the bed, and pulling the covers up as far as possible so just his eyes showed, Joey waited for morning, glancing at the clock every ten minutes or so.

The next thing he knew he was being awakened at seven a.m. by a hungry Lundy. “You promised to do the breakfasts. Come on and get up, sleepy. I have a great day planned for us.”

“Comin’, hold your horses cowboy.” LaFiamma mumbled back. The last thing he remembered was looking at the clock and seeing 3:12 a.m. peering back at him. Doing the math, he figured he’d gotten about three and a half hours of sleep.

“Well at least I can eat breakfast,” he grumbled as his stomach reminded him that he had skipped dinner. Hastily throwing on his clothes, he joined Levon in the kitchen and quickly threw together a country breakfast of eggs, hash browns, biscuits, and bacon, as his partner watched.

Handing a plate to Levon, they both sat and ate, then trying to look awake and cheerful, Joey said, “What da ya have planned for today?”

“I thought we’d take a hike to a canyon a little ways from here. Eat lunch there, then do some exploring for arrowheads before heading home. Then of course more fishing, dinner, perhaps some cards, and the next thing ya know the day will be over.”

“Sounds fun, Levon,” Joey said, realizing he meant it. “I’ve always wanted ta hunt for arrowheads. I read lots of books on Indians when I was a kid. This should be great. I’ll be ready in a minute.”

“Settle down, Kit Carson,” Levon called. “We have to clean up first or one of them so called critters you’re so worried about will come in here. Food attracts everything.”

“Right,” Joey said, spinning on his heel and taking the plates to the sink. In no time they were washed, dried, and put away, and Joey was back and ready before Levon had time to get his boots on.

“Ready?” Joey asked, excitement shining out of his face.

“I am, but you sure as hell aren’t,” Levon responded.

“Whadda ya mean. I’m dressed.”

“Ya can’t wander through he desert in them Italian slippers, LaFiamma. Go change shoes.”

“It’s all I have. I’ll be fine,” Joey shot back.

“Suit yourself,” Levon replied with a shake of his head, “But don’t come crying ta me when your feet hurt.”

“Get off it Lundy,” Joey answered opening the door and walking outside into the stifling heat.

Letting him walk a few paces just for good measure, Levon called, “You taking any water, or do ya intend to just wait until we get home for a drink.

Refusing to let his partner goad him, Joey replied, “I guess that makes good sense,” and returned to the cabin to fill up a water bottle. “There, I’m all set. Can we go get some arrowheads now?”

“Right behind ya,” Levon said locking the cabin, then starting out in a brisk walk to the north. After about two miles, both men were hot and tired. By four miles, Joey was starting to sound like a child stuck in the back seat of his parents car on a long trip.

“How much farther, Lundy? Ya didn’t tell me it was miles.”

“Were almost there. Isn’t the area pretty. Some think it looks dead, but everything in it is alive in one way or another.” Levon said, trying to divert Joey from another question.

“What is this, the tour from hell?” Joey asked, smiling as he realized how irritating he must sound. “I’m just excited and hot Levon. Guess I’m just not patient.”

Not patient. Now there was an understatement if ever he’d heard one, Levon thought. Another two minutes and they should be at the edge of the gorge. He was exactly right.

“Hold up LaFiamma, and come look here,” Levon said motioning his partner forward. “Isn’t this amazing?”

Joey stood in awe of the magnificent site stretched out before him. He’d never seen the Grand Canyon, but this looked like a miniature version of what he thought it would look like. From twenty feet away it was invisible, but from up top it was magnificent. Levon was right. He could picture Indians riding down the canyon, waving tomahawks, and calling their war cries as they fought to preserve what was theirs. There even looked to be a stream at the bottom.

“Levon, this is fantastic. You were right, it makes the trip worth it, fish and all. Let’s go on down.”

“Joey wait. We can’t just go on down………” Levon said as Joey neared the edge to get a better look.

“Is that a stream down there?” he asked.

“Sure is Joey. It’s called copper divide, cause it looks copper in the sunset. Now about just going on down, we need to………”

“And is that a ledge with a cave off to the right?” Joey questioned moving even closer to the gorge’s edge.

“LaFiamma,” Levon yelled, as his partner took another step, “Hold up,” but he was to late.

LaFiamma slipped and went careening down the rough side of the gorge, trying frantically to grab on to anything to stop his fall. He tumbled over rocks, tumbleweeds, and scared animals back into their homes before coming to a rest at the bottom.

Laying there dazed, LaFiamma was surprised to see Levon reach his side so quickly.

“You okay, LaFiamma. That was a nasty tumble.” Levon asked, concern evident in his voice.

‘Don’t wanna sit up ta check,” Joey admitted. “Everything hurts.”

“Let me look, LaFiamma,” Levon said, laying down his backpack and checking his partners arms and legs over quickly for broken bones. “I think you’ll be fine. The shirts a goner though,” Levon admitted. Joey was going to hurt for days from all the cuts and bumps he’d received on the way down. The mecuricrom would be getting a good workout when they got home as well.

Helping Joey to his feet, Levon winced as Joey sucked air in quickly through his teeth. Things looked worse in the standing position. The back of his shirt was in tatters, and blood seeped from numerous small cuts. Walking behind him, Levon said, “This is gonna hurt, but these stickers gotta come out.” Joey’s back had imbedded thorns from the tumbleweeds sticking out of many of the cuts.

Helping his partner over to a nearby rock, and easing him down gently, Levon said, “Take a deep breath,” and started removing the thorns one by one.

With every pull, LaFiamma gritted his teeth. He could feel the warm trickle of blood as it oozed out of the wounds. Knowing that they had a good long walk ahead of them to return home, and deciding that these were minor injuries, Joey said, “Why don’t we just finish out our day as planned. Staying here or going back now won’t change much, and anyway I really want to find an arrowhead.”

“You sure, LaFiamma?” Levon questioned, removing the last thorn he could find. “Ya might feel better getting cleaned up.”

Hearing the hope in Levon’s voice, Joey replied, “No, I’m fine, really. Just wash them off and let’s keep moving. I’d like to get a look at the stream as well.”

“Sounds good,” Levon said, pulling a handkerchief out of his pocket and wetting it with some of his water. He dabbed it on his partners back, then stopped to wipe his gritty face off with some more fresh water. They could use LaFiamma’s water for the return trip.

Assisting Joey to his feet, Levon started toward the “stream”, closely followed by his limping partner.

As they neared the “stream” Joey stopped and stared in amazement. “This isn’t a stream Levon. It’s a river, and a good moving one at that.”

“Reckon you’d figure that out on your own when we got there. It’s called copper divide, cause farther up it divides. One is a meandering stream and cut a smaller gully to the east of us, and this forks a river. There’ll be rafting here this summer for the folks that know about it.”

“Do you know if the Indians used it any, Levon? Maybe there are arrowheads along the shore,” LaFiamma asked, as he bent to look.

Laughing at his partners enthusiasm over the Indians, Levon shook his head and replied, “Sorry, doubt you’ll find any arrowheads here. Let’s eat, then head over to some good hunting grounds.”

“Sounds good. I’m hungry. Guess even with the fall this isn’t all bad,” Joey said, as Levon unpacked his backpack and handed a sandwich to his partner.

Both found smooth rocks to sit on and started eating. Levon patiently answered all Joey’s questions about the area, then reached back, determined to have a drink. All this talking was makin’ him mighty thirsty. Grasping the water bottle in his left hand he started to remove it, when he yelped in pain.

“What the …….” he began as he looked at his hand.

“Somethin’ the matter, Lundy?” Joe asked, concerned.

“Probably just a fire ant,” Levon answered as he looked back and saw a small scorpion dart from his backpack. “Damn, LaFiamma, I’m gonna need your help after all. Scorpion stung me,” he said through clenched lips as the pain started to take hold.

“Scorpion! Whata I do Levon, cut ya and suck out the poison.”

“Lord no! Just get over here, my arm’s goin’ numb,” he said as he got a good hold on the veins just above his wrist, cutting off the flow of blood. As Joey approached, he said, “get in the backpack and get the FREEZE spray.”

Joey followed his orders almost perfectly. Levon watched as instead of putting his hand in the backpack, he instead gingerly picked up the bottom and dumped the contents to the ground, then picked up the spray. Levon continued, “Now spray my hand where ya see the red mark. Yeah, that’s right,” he said as the pain almost instantly left him. “Now take my pocket knife and make a small incision. I have some cream that will neutralize the poison.”

“Anything else, Lundy?” Joey questioned. He really didn’t want to touch anything that had been in the backpack.

“No that should do it. Short of some nausea for a few hours, I’ll be fine. It was a small scorpion and one of the less deadly varieties. No cause for alarm.”

“Guess we should get you back home,” Joey said, starting to put the spilled items back in the backpack.

Hearing the disappointment in Joey’s voice, Levon said, “That isn’t necessary at all. I’ll be fine. Let’s go on. I’m gonna find more arrowheads than you are.”

“Is that so,” Joey replied. “Wanna place a bet?”

“You’re on! If I win, you eat fish, and help me catch them.” Levon joked.

“Okay, if I win, you make breakfast the rest of the trip, which is only one more day, Right?” Joey said hopefully.

“Right.” Levon replied, laughing as hard as he ever did. Joey and wilderness adventures sure didn’t go together.

Gathering their backpack, Joey carried it looped across his arm, to save Levon having to wear it. His partner was not feeling all that well. He looked slightly green when he had stood up, but in a moment it had passed, and they were off.

Another mile walk westward, and Levon stopped saying, “Were here. Best Indian arrowhead hunting grounds in these parts.”

“So where do I look?” Joey questioned, dropping the backpack near a rock outcropping.

“If I tell ya and I lose then I don’t get ta see you eat fish. Good luck,” Levon said, heading off toward some another rock outcropping.

Watching as Levon bent and moved dirt from near the bases of the rocks, Joey decided to follow suit. He started at the nearest rock outcropping and stooped, wincing as the skin on his back pulled taut. Soon he forgot the pain and was engrossed in his endeavor.

An hour later, he yelled, “I got one Lundy! I really got one.”

“Great!” he heard his partner call back from somewhere across the way. All he could see of Lundy when he looked was a splash of blue shirt.

Bending again, he resumed his search. He couldn’t wait to find another one. Looking closely, he saw a small hole in the rocks just above eye level. Moving closer to the rocks on the bottom, he reached over his head and felt in the opening. He heard the rattling of small rocks as he dislodged them from the ledge, but still he pressed on, sure that they hid arrowheads in small niches just like this one.

Wedging his foot into a small opening to get a little more height, he again heard the rattling sound, but this time there were no falling rocks. Shrugging, he continued his exploration, and was rewarded when he felt a small round object. Closing his hand around it, he took a firm hold, only to scream out, “OOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUCH!” Both his ankle and his hand hurt. Quickly withdrawing his hand, he found a very small barrel cactus imbedded in the flesh of his hand.

Staring at it in shock, he screamed, “Levon! Levon, HELP!”

At these words Lundy, hustled over the football field like distance to see his partner gritting his teeth and staring at a handful of cactus. Trying hard not to laugh, Levon said, “Cacti don’t make good balls, LaFiamma.”

“Funny,” Joey croaked, as his breathing got heavy.

“Joey?” Levon asked concerned in the rapid change in his partners looks, anything else hurt sides your hand?”

“My ankle.” Joey gasped, starting to sink to the desert floor.

Knowing he had no time to lose, Levon grabbed the backpack, dumped the contents, and picked up the opened bottle of FREEZE. Next he moved to Joey’s side, and said, “Stay calm. Which ankle?”

“Right,” Joey panted, starting to shake and trying to get the stuck cactus off his hand.

Ripping off Joeys’ shoe and sock, Levon saw the telltale bite of a small Texas rattler. “Damn Yankee,” he muttered, quickly spraying the area with the FREEZE spray. Then taking out his pocket knife, he cut an x in LaFiamma’s leg, and raising it to his lips, started to suck, spitting every time he got a mouth full. Finally satisfied that he could do no more, Levon replaced the sock, and tried to get the now swollen foot back in the ballet slipper.

“LaFiamma, next time we go somewhere that involves walking on anything other than concrete, you’re wearin boots.”

“What’re ya talking about. Get this cactus off,” Joey yelled, flailing his hand in the air. “Don’t just sit there.”

“Sit here,” Lundy spat. ” I just saved your life, you greenhorn. For God’s sake LaFiamma you were bit by a rattler.”

Jerking into a sitting position, Joey gaped, then closed his mouth, just staring at his partner in wonder. “Like hell you say. I woulda noticed.”

“You were to busy playing with that cactus to notice. Remember how your ankle hurt, well take a good look at it now and I’ll handle the cactus.” Levon said, rolling his eyes.

“I got the cactus, Lundy,” Joey said flinging his hand really hard in a baseball throwers arc.

Both he and Levon screamed at the same time. Levon to say, for goodness sake whatever you do, don’t rip it off, and Joey in pain, as the barbed cactus pulled free.

“Holding out his dripping palm, Joey raised bright blue eyes to his partners face and said, “It hurts, Levon.”

“Reckon it does at that. Here’s some information for you. That was a baby barrel cactus. They’re really fun to look at, but they have barbed ends, so if you get caught on one you need to remove it in the direction of the spine, or the barb breaks off in your hand!” Levon said angrily.

No need to get sarcastic. How was I ta know. Not like I have barrel cacti in my apartment is it?” Joey said, an injured tone to his voice. “Are the ends still stuck in me?”

Sighing resignedly, Levon lifted his partners palm and again took out his pocket knife, this time undoing the tweezers. “Just a few, LaFiamma, just a few. I’ll get this done as quickly as possible.”

“Seems thanks are in order again.”

“Don’t give it a thought, LaFiamma. First were partners, second you took care of the scorpion sting for me, and third I beat ya in the arrowhead collecting contest.” Levon gloated.

“Couldn’t have. I found two,” LaFiamma said, displaying them proudly.

Reaching into his pocket, Levon pulled forth over fourteen arrowheads that he had collected, then smiled at LaFiamma and said, I’m still feeling a little queasy. Reckon watching ya fish will help me along lots.”

“Now justa minute, Levon, I……….okay…..I guess we better get back to the cabin before it gets dark,” Joey capitulated.

“Good idea,” Levon agreed, still smiling. He wasn’t about to tell Joey that he buried these arrowheads out here years ago when he was on a day trip with his uncle. Watching Joey fish would be worth years of stories.

The walk back was very slow going, and both men were grumbling but trying to hide their pain from each other. The sun was not yet ready to set, but there was a chill in the air. Starting to shiver, both men moved closer together for warmth and support. Conversation was slight and the only real sounds were the noises of the desert as it began to come awake for the night.

Levon chuckled slightly as he saw Joey glance furtively around with each new sound they heard. When he gave it a little thought, he realized that he would probably be as ill at ease in Joey’s world in Chicago as Joey was in the Texan desert. Still he was looking forward to watching Joe fish. Every time he thought about it, his smile grew. A fish out of water, that is what he’d be.

Finally a tangible sentence broke the silent contemplative mood.

“My foot really hurts Levon. Could we sit down for a few moments so I can pour some water over it, perhaps ease the swelling?” Joey asked.

Glancing down at the swollen foot, Levon agreed. “I could use a few minutes off my feet as well.”

Taking a seat on the nearest rock, Joey eased off his shoe and studied the purple, swollen ankle. “It doesn’t look good does it?”

“Not really, but I promise you it’ll be better in a few days. Put it up tonight when we get home,” Levon advised.

“Why aren’t you sitting, Levon? You’ve looked a little shaky for a long time now.”

“That’s from helping you limp slowly along,” Levon complained, as he eased his tired body down onto another rock, nearby.

Once again, the two men did little talking. Levon watched a cute lizard scamper over the burning sands, while Joey was totally absorbed in massaging his foot. After a few minutes, Levon was lulled into a light sleep as the sun, the scorpion poison, the long hike, and the weariness of supporting his partner took their toll.

An abrupt, “haihhehaaaaaaahhhhh” woke him, and instinctively Levon reached for his gun, before he realized that they were in the desert.

“What was that? You okay, LaFiamma?” Levon asked.

“Uh, fine….”came the sheepish reply.

“Did you make that awful noise, or was I dreamin’” Levon persisted, sensing a story in this.

“I saw a lizard. Actually it ran across my foot, then I saw it,” LaFiamma tried hard to explain. “It was rather large, and I wasn’t sure what type it was. I’m not sure if it was poisonous. Everything else has been today,” He continued, trying to make himself sound less frightened.

“Let me get this straight,” Levon quipped. “You screamed because ya saw a lizard?”

“Uh……yeah,” came the hesitant reply, sending Levon into gales of laughter.

“Hey, it’s not that funny. Just cut it out, okay?” LaFiamma snarled.

“Not funny,” Levon said, howling, as he held his sides and doubled over, sending himself sliding off the rock he was perched on.

Seconds later Joey was treated to an “EEEEOOOOWWWWWW!” of Levon’s. Hobbling over to his partners side, he took one look at the situation and fell on the ground laughing and holding his sides as wave after wave of laughter hit him. Finally calming enough to draw a breath, he said, “Here’s some information for you. That was a baby barrel cactus. They’re really fun to look at, but they have barbed ends, so if you get caught on one you need to remove it in the direction of the spine, or the barb breaks off in your butt” and again fell into waves of laughter as Levon stared daggers at his back.

Seeing the mans back, sobered him as much as the pain in his posterior. He wouldn’t want to be sitting for a week, then again Joey had a beautiful sunburn going on his raw bleeding back. What a fine pair they made.

“Uh…LaFiamma, could ya help me out here. If I lie on my side ya should be able to remove the stickers easily.”

“Got the tweezers?” Joey shot back, looking thrilled to death.

“Right pocket, wiseguy.” Levon muttered.

“Thanks, and the wiseguy is my uncle, it’s your uncle that owns this delightful piece of property.” Joey clarified as he took his turn at digging thorns out of his partner. His might have hurt more, but Levon’s would make a funnier story, or be better blackmail evidence to keep him from talking.

“I think that about does it. How do ya feel?” LaFiamma questioned, again concerned.

“Like a pin cushion, but it makes no never mind. We still gotta get home and catch supper,” Levon added. Hearing Joey moan at the mention of supper, brought a smile to his face. He still held the trump card.

Another thirty minutes of helping each other hobble back to the cabin was all it took. Trying to get their clothes changed was another story. Both men needed help, but refused to ask.

It took LaFiamma over an hour just to get his pants off over his swollen foot, using his bad hand. In the end he had to cut them anyway, and that made him see red again. These were expensive and to just ruin them was almost a criminal. Not as criminal as saying he’d go on this trip from hell, but close. When he finally got his shirt off, he was just as disgusted. First, pieces were stuck to his back and it hurt to remove the shirt. With each inch that pulled off, he felt his skin tearing and the wounds re-opening. His hand throbbed, and nothing seemed to help that either. All in all, short of finding a few arrowheads the day had stunk, and now he had to go fish for supper.

Angered, Joey called, “Levon, do you have any shorts I can wear?” as he slipped a black tank top over his shoulders, and winced as he drew it down over his back.

“Yeah, but give me a minute, I gotta get finished in here first.”

“Okay, but hurry,” LaFiamma called back, settling down to wait. How in the world was he going to sleep tonight. Hopefully exhaustion would mask the pain.

In the other room, Levon Lundy was having as hard a time as his partner. His butt positively burned as he pulled off the filthy, ripped jeans, and the scorpion sting made everything hard to do. Unbuttoning his shirt had taken half an hour in itself, and although he was hard pressed to admit it, the red welts from the cactus spines were sore and oozing, almost to the point of making it impossible to pull on fresh underwear. He did grit his teeth and get the job done, but now he was staring at another pair of his jeans, which under normal circumstances were perfect, but now, looked awfully tight. Taking a deep breath, he grabbed them with his good hand then leaned against the bed for support, rather than sitting down. He got his feet in, then did a slow back and forth one handed pull up job. When LaFiamma called, he was trying to get them buttoned, and failing. No way was he letting his partner know how sore he was. There, finally done. Breathing a sigh of relief, he picked up a pair of his sweat shorts and proceeded to take them to LaFiamma.

A quick knock on the bedroom door found Joey all dressed, sans shorts. “Thanks, Lundy. I owe ya one. Now about dinner, I could whip up a………..”

“No way partner. Your goin fishing. That was the deal, and I don’t care how we feel, were sticking to it.”

“Fine.” LaFiamma snapped, his patience at the breaking point. “I want to take the boat then. No way I’m going wading on this ankle.”

“Sounds like a right nice idea, Chicago,” Levon said. “Meet ya out front in a few minutes. We’ll get the boat together.”

“Fine,” Was the only reply Joey gave as he shut the bedroom door in Levon’s face. It would take him minutes to get the shorts on. Every muscle in his body ached.

Fifteen minutes later, he was dressed and standing outside, trying to pretend he felt a lot better than he did. He helped Levon pull the rowboat from the side of the cabin to the banks of the river. Both men got inside, then using the oars and their good hands, pushed off. Rowing was a little more difficult but through stubborn determination they reached a nice distance from shore.

“Okay, now how do you do this, Lundy?”

As if instructing an imbecile, Levon said, “Do what I do. Ya take this hook in your right hand, then you pick up one of these nightcrawlers.” He then glanced to make sure LaFiamma was following his lead. Seeing that he was, he continued, “Then you poke the worm on the hook about a quarter inch from the end, then take and poke him again in the middle, leaving the last part free to wiggle.”

“Like this,” LaFiamma asked, poking the middle through.

“Right, now cast, wait for a tug, and we have dinner,” Levon finished, shaking his head slowly.

“No problem,” Joey said. He picked up the pole and hurled it at the water just as Lundy screamed, “Not like that!”

“Whhhat!” Joey screamed, startled. He yanked back hard on the pole, causing the line to become imbedded in Levon’s back. Feeling the counterweight, and not knowing what had happened, he cried, “I got one, Lundy,” and yanked again with all his might, ripping the hook out of Levon’s back and sending it hurtling into space, where it found it’s next home in his shoulder. “Yeow, Lundy, I think I got bit. You got some nasty creatures in this swamp.”

“LaFiamma, LaFiamma, LaFiamma,” Levon muttered, at a complete loss for other words. Then he watched as Joey reached to swat the bug he thought was on his ear, and laughed outright, despite the pain in his lower back, caused by having a fish hook ripped through five layers of his skin.

“It’s a worm. God Levon, you even got killer worms,” Joey said, quite disgusted with the whole fishing thing, then feeling real foolish as he removed the worm and found it attached to his hook.

“Can I just go hungry again?” he asked hopefully. One fishing experience was enough for him.

“That’s a good idea, LaFiamma,” Levon replied as he put away the fishing supplies and handed an oar to Joey then picked up one for himself.

They paddled as best they could, but they were not making the headway Levon wanted, and both were tiring. “Let’s head upstream a few hundred feet where the water is calmer, then row across there. I think it’ll be easier.”

“Right,” came the monosyllabic reply.

Again rowing, the two men started to make headway, when Joey called out, “Levon, there’s a rock behind you.”

Turning around, Levon saw the rock looming and said, “I’ll just push off when we get close enough. That will send us on around.” He placed his oar in the bottom of the boat, and leaned near the edge getting ready to push. “Were almost there,” he said. “Get ready LaFiamma, and row as I push.”

“Right, skipper,” Joey said, preparing to do just what Levon said. He refused to look silly rowing a boat. All Italians could row.

“Now,” Levon called, and Joey rowed. Levon anchored his foot against the side of the boat, and gave a huge push, only to find that the boat was full of dry rot in that corner. His foot went through the bottom side and he slipped. Grabbing on to the rock to keep from falling, he caused the boat to tip and both he and Joey were thrown into the Rio Grande.

Sputtering as he surfaced, Levon checked for his partners head, then seeing he was okay, tried to grab the boat as it drifted past.

“Great Levon,” Joey hurled. “I’ll push. No problem. Guess were wading to shore?”

“I guess we are wading, and sarcasm is a low form of humor, LaFiamma,” Levon tossed back.

“I’ll just keep my mouth shut then. Who knows what is in here anyway.”

“You do that, LaFiamma. At least I can get some peace that way.” Levon replied to no one, his tone dripping as much sarcasm as Joey’s had earlier.

Wading to shore was tedious, but it felt good on the two mens battered bodies, so the complaints were kept to a minimum. Finally reaching the shore, Joey couldn’t resist one last cutting remark.

“Guess the boat beat us home, fancy that.” Joey said, smirking to see the boat resting along the river bank just like it belonged there. “It was a good thing ya left the light on, Levon, or I would never have found my way back here.” Joey added, attempting to take the sting out of his earlier words.

As the two men trudged to the cabins front door, LaFiamma in the lead, Levon looked down then frowned. It looked like Joey had a few streaks of mud on his legs. As the sickening thought struck him, Levon looked down at himself as well. His jeans were plastered to his legs, but his arms were clean and he looked fine. Recalling that there had been leeches dumped by Biophysis into many Texas rivers and ponds to see if they thrived, and could be harvested for medicinal purposes, Levon realized that Joey would not be pleased at all when he realized it looked like he had two stuck to him. Trying to recall all the information he could, Levon only really remembered that it was best to let them finish feeding then just drop off. It took about five hours.

Dreading what Joey would say, he allowed him to enter first, then followed, wondering if he should mention it or wait for Joey to notice. He didn’t get the chance.

“LEVON! Look at me. I’m covered in muck,” Joey said as he began trying to wipe the animals from his bare legs. Then in a tightly controlled voice he said, “Tell me these are not Leeches. Levon, talk to me. I don’t do worms.”

“Take it easy there, partner,” Levon said sliding in for a closer look. “Yep Joey, they’re leeches alright. Must be from the testing Biophysis is doing. I think you’re to let them finish feeding then they drop off.”

“Finish feeding. Lundy, get them off now. I’m tired, hungry, wet, and I want to sleep. I’m not, repeat not, waiting up for leeches to drop off, engorged on my blood.”

“Now Joey, I think,……..”

“I said GET THEM OFF!” LaFiamma roared. “NOW!”

“Alright, just hang on. I guess I’ll just pull,” Levon said taking a grip on the wiggly leech and giving it a mighty tug, that sent him and the leech over backward, while Joey sat, stunned at the blood dripping from his leg.

“You gonna do that again?” Joey asked, his voice calm and measured.

Deadly is how it sounded to Lundy as he answered, “Unless you can think of somethin’ better.”

“Go ahead then,” Joey said, steeling himself for the pain he now knew was coming.

“Okay,” Levon said, rising and rubbing his posterior. Falling backward had hurt more than he wanted to admit. “Ready, here goes,” he said as again he pulled a leech off his partner. Again they watched as the blood ran freely down his leg. “That should do it. Want supper?”

“Who can eat after watching that?” Joey questioned, as Levon scooped up the leeches and threw them outside.

“It is rather worse than the grizzly murders we see, though I can’t figure out why,” Levon admitted. “Guess I’ll skip dinner as well. Remember I get the room tonight, you get the cot.”

“Whatever,” LaFiamma shot back. The only thing he wanted was to get clean.

Dragging out the first aid kit he applied antibiotic cream to his recent wounds, and again used an alcohol pad to wipe down his hands. “You need anything from the first aid kit, Lundy?” he called. “I’m gonna take an aspirin.”

“I’ll take some too,” Levon said opening the door.

“Why are you dressed in a bathing suit?” Joey questioned.

“I’m going out to rinse off real good. You comin?”

“That sounds perfect. I was just drying off, but this way I’ll be somewhat clean.” Joey muttered as he followed Levon outside. The shorts would suffice, in lieu of a bathing suit.

Once outside the men gathered the water from the Jimmy and then took turns pouring water over each other, soaping up, then rinsing in more water. Soon both were in better spirits, but ready to put the entire day behind them and head for bed.

Levon quickly toweled off, crossed to his room and extinguished the light. He then eased himself gently, face down on the bed and was asleep in minutes.

Joey also toweled off, then assuring himself that Levon was asleep, made himself a quick omelet, cleaned up, then slowly crept into the cot himself. He didn’t bother making it, but rather just pulled the covers over him, making sure he was entirely covered before he tried to sleep.

Sleep didn’t come as easily to him. The noises were still there, but after the day they’d had they were not as nerve-racking. He was mostly kept awake by being unable to find a comfortable way to sleep that didn’t cause pain to flare up somewhere else in his body. Finally he drifted off and dreamed of lions and tigers and man eating bears. OH MY!

Morning once again came too early, yet even Levon didn’t rise until eight. When he finally managed to get his sore aching body out of the bed he called “Joey where’s breakfast? I’m starved.”

Grumbling again, Joey got up, groaning with every movement. His foot throbbing, he hobbled into the kitchen and prepared an omelet for both as well as a big bowl of oatmeal. They had brought both and he was starved.

Eating breakfast was a wonderful feeling for the hungry men, and again improved their outlooks slightly. In each mans head, they were keeping a tally of who caused the most damage. LaFiamma was only one disaster ahead. Not bad, he figured, since he wasn’t familiar with the area.

“So, what’s on the agenda for today, Levon, oh, and no more big hikes. I admit the scenery was stunning but I don’t think my foot could take it. Wanna look. It’s all red and puffy. Say, how’s your butt doing?” he questioned, realizing that Lundy was standing while he ate.

“Fine.” was his curt reply.

Smiling, Joey just kept looking expectantly at Levon. The way this trip was planned was that Levon would take care of everything, and Joey was just along for the ride. Soon the ride might be a trip to the local hospital, but for now he was just thankful they were alive.

“Okay LaFiamma, here’s the plan. We take a very short walk to Pearson’s arroyo. Another typically Texan landmark, and close enough that it shouldn’t hurt your foot to badly. Whatta ya say?”

“I guess I can manage that,” Joey said, reaching down and rubbing his ankle. No way he was going to complain if Levon could manage it, so could he. He could see that Levon’s hand looked swollen, and of course he wasn’t sitting, so walking wouldn’t be fun for him either. “When do we leave?”

“After you clean up breakfast. That’s your job, right?”

“Right,” Joey said, rising and gathering the plates and bowls. “This will only take a minute. Is there anything I should bring?”

“Not that I can think of cept water. What can happen?” Levon replied.

As Joey began to laugh at the statement, Levon realized what he had said, and joined in. Quieting, he said, “Really, LaFiamma, this is close and should be no trouble at all.”

“I’m taking your word for it cowboy, but remember the saying……famous last words….”

“Again the sarcasm. Enough just get ready.” Levon said heading into the bedroom to prepare.

“I’m ready, Levon,” Joey called. He’d dressed, filled up the water bottle and was prepared to spend another, and thankfully last day on this tour of hell.

“Me too,” Levon said , grabbing the backpack and first aid kit. Better safe than sorry was his new outdoor motto.

They headed out into the sweltering heat at a slow pace, each allowing the other to move as easily as possible. The short walk turned out to take about two hours given the condition of Joey’s foot, but was accomplished with little difficulty. Even the weather was cooperating.

“Nice breeze kicking up Levon. Really helps in this heat,” Joey called.

“Sure does,” Levon said pulling out his shirttail and wiping his forehead. The breeze felt heavenly.

As they neared the arroyo, Joey was again treated to a stunning view of sandstone rocks in all colors. “Is this some of the painted rocks I hear so much about, or is that painted desert?” he questioned.

“That’s painted desert, and I think it’s in Arizona, but this is nice, isn’t it?” Levon asked.

“Yeah. Any arrowheads here?” Joey asked a slight look of longing in his blue eyes.

“Not much chance here. They stayed more north. If we walk about a hundred yards southwest, there’s a wall with some Indian pictures on it though,” Levon added, happy over Joey’s enthusiasm.

“Let’s go,” Joey said, as he headed southwest as quickly as his feet could carry him.”

“Following behind, Levon cautioned, “Keep a close eye out for gopher holes. They are all over and ya don’t want to get an ankle caught in one.”

“Kay. We almost there yet?”

“Just about,” Levon answered a smile playing at his lips. “Just a few more feet. Now stop, Joey and look down and to your left.”

Leaning as Levon suggested, Joey saw wonderful depiction of Indian life painted on the cliff walls.

“What do they make the paints or dyes from?” he questioned.

“Do ya expect me to know everything, LaFiamma. Probably berries or something.”

“Can we go down?”

“Are ya kiddin’. Not with your foot, and our hands we can’t. We’d hurt ourselves for sure. I think it’s about noon, how about a snack before we head back?”

“Fine, but you get it,” LaFiamma said, warily eying the backpack.

Reaching in, Levon again extracted two sandwiches and the waters. Handing one to Joey he silently gave thanks that today was going well. Still slightly nauseous, he ate about three fourths of his sandwich, wrapped up the remainder and after taking a drink, re-packed the backpack. When Joey finished, he gathered his papers and added them as well. He’d always been taught to leave a place cleaner than when you came. Must have been from boy scouts, he thought.

His thoughts were interrupted when Joey said, “Maybe we should head back. It’s a long walk at this speed, and the wind is really picking up good.”

“Fine, let’s go,” Levon said taking the lead.

For the next twenty minutes the wind steadily increased and Levon began to worry that they were in for a sandstorm. “LaFiamma, you ever been in a sandstorm?” he asked.

“Can’t say that I have. We have wind like this in Chicago though. Nice, fresh wind. It blows off the Great Lakes making everything seem fresh,” he reminisced.

“Wonderful, but sandstorms can be dangerous.”

“What can be dangerous about a little sand? Come on Lundy, ya trying to scare me or something?”

Lundy’s reply was lost in the howl of fierce winds that came out of nowhere. The sky was still blue, but everything was obscured. Turning his back to the wind, he headed back to where Joey had been seconds before. He could feel the harsh bite of the sand against his neck and exposed skin. His shirt was little help as well, against the stinging particles. Luckily he bumped into LaFiamma right where he expected him to be, and quickly turned his back to the storm as well. They were caught out in the open with no cover.

Yelling, he said, “We might as well keep walking back. These usually don’t last real long, but we don’t have shelter.”

A slight nod was all he needed, and taking LaFiamma’s hand so they didn’t get separated, continued walking back toward the cabin.

Every ten minutes or so the storm would abate, and he could get his bearings, then as soon as he was set, another one would start up. His hat helped shield his eyes, but Joey had to rely on his hand to cover his. The stinging sand beat at them unmercifully, shredding their shirts and biting into all exposed skin. Wind burn was often worse than sunburn, but wind burn combined with the abrasiveness of the sand was excruciatingly painful.

Continuing in the right direction, and wondering if anything else could go wrong, Levon stepped into a gopher hole that he had warned Joey about. Cursing as he went down, he felt Joey stumble behind him as well.

Sitting down hard, he grabbed at his ankle and tried to get it out of the hole, but the angle was wrong. Pulling on Joey, he got the man close enough to convey what had happened. Thankfully his partner, eased him up, and kneeling by his feet, gently eased the twisted ankle out of the gopher hole.

“Better,” Joey yelled, over the howling fury of the storm.

“It’s twisted, but I don’t think it’s broken.” Levon yelled back.

“Lean on me then,” Joey offered, taking one of Levon’s arms and wrapping it around his shoulders. “You lead, but I’ll keep up.”

“Thanks,” Levon mumbled, then realizing he could not be heard, yelled, “Okay.”

Continuing back to the cabin, Levon increasingly put more and more weight on Joey. His ankle was not broken, but was swelling at an alarming rate, and he could barely stand. Gritting his teeth through the pain, he hobbled along with his partner for another hour, before the storm let up in intensity.

Finally able to see he glanced over to thank his partner and was appalled. Joey was a mess. He probably was too, but until they got back to the cabin they couldn’t assess the damages very well. One thing he did notice was that his partner somewhere along the line had lost his Italian loafers.

“How ya doin’ Lundy?” Joey questioned, concerned by the size of his partners ankle. “Ya sure it’s not broken?”

“Positive,” Levon snapped, feeling guilty that his partner was suffering just to help him back home.

“FINE!” Joey shot back, hurt evident in his expressive eyes. “No need to snap at me for asking about ya.”

Levon, his stomach knotting, as he realized his curt word was taken wrong, fell silent.

In silence the two men continued their slow trek back. Finally the cabin could be sighted, and for Levon it was the most wonderful sight in the world right then. LaFiamma was having a very different reaction, and Levon was just as well off, not knowing what it was.

“How can it look so close and still be so far away?” Joey complained, breaking the silence that had surrounded them for an hour.

“It’s cause it’s flat out here, LaFiamma,” Levon answered taking the question at face value. “Let’s see if we can speed it up, and get there more quickly.”

“Were goin’ at this pace cause of your ankle, Levon” Joey said tartly, but increasing the speed slightly, only to hear Levon wince in pain. “Uh, let’s slow down again, my foots really hurting,” he added, hoping that his partner would accept this excuse and not cause more damage to his ankle than he already had.

“If ya need to,” was Levon’s reply. In truth slowing down was almost mandatory for him, but if Joey could do it on the bad foot, and without shoes, so would he.

As the cabin drew closer, they both did pick up the pace, even if a casual observer wouldn’t have known the difference, and they reached the front door just as the day was beginning to cool. Night was about two hours away.

In two hours they’d be home, was all LaFiamma could think. A bath, a bed, a drink, and a vow never to allow Mr. Sadistic to talk him into another outing….ever. This was hell.

“So what do we do for an encore,” Joey snapped. It had all been too much. Every bit of it. “I think your ankle needs to be looked at, and I wanna go home.”

“I think we should look each other over, then pack and head out as well,” Levon agreed. The sooner gone the sooner this trip could be forgotten.

“Fine, I’m sitting at the table. Let me look at your leg first,” LaFiamma demanded, while blinking heavily.

“You alright, LaFiamma?”

“Fine, now do as I said.” Joey shot back.

“Fine,” Levon answered. Gingerly taking a seat, opposite Joey, Levon extended his ankle and winced as Joey ran his hand deftly up and down both sides.

“Got any ace bandages?”

“In the first aid kit,” Levon answered. “Should be in the backpack.”

“I’ll get it,” Joey said, standing and looking around the room. “Uh…Levon, did we lose the backpack in the storm?”

“Damn!” Levon swore. “I forgot to pick it back up after I fell in the hole. There’s another one in my Jimmy.”

“Fine,” Joey sighed, rubbing at his left eye. “Be right back. Don’t move and keep it elevated.”

As Joey left, Levon stared mesmerized by the foot shaped prints in blood all over the floor. Before he could say anything Joey returned carrying another kit, and, trailing blood, sat back down in front of his partner. Retrieving an ace bandage, he expertly wrapped Levon’s ankle, saying, “Ice would help too, but as we don’t have any, it’ll have to wait until we get back to civilization. Now let me see your hand. I’ll take your word that your butt is fine.”

Refusing to be drawn into an argument, Levon extended his hand, and allowed Joey to disinfect it one more time.

“Now get that shirt off. It’s mostly tatters anyway, and I want to look at your back.”

“I’m fine LaFiamma.” Levon protested.

“I said, do it,” LaFiamma snarled.

“Alright, but take it easy. No harm done,” Levon said, clumsily unbuttoning his shirt and removing it.

“Well, turn around,” LaFiamma snapped.

As Levon did as directed, he heard Joey’s indrawn breath and said, “What? Something wrong.”

“Not really, but this doesn’t look pretty. I’d stay away from the ladies for a bit until this heals. I’m gonna clean the abrasions. Looks as if the sand acted like sandpaper and took most of your skin off. It’s gonna sting.”

“Ready,” Levon said, gritting his teeth in anticipation. Wincing as Joey cleaned his back, Levon had a hard time staying still until he was done. Monday at work would not be fun. If he felt sore now, another day would only increase the aches and pains. “Done yet, LaFiamma?” he questioned, when the pain stopped slightly.

“Done. I’m giving you a few aspirin to help ease the swelling and pain. Here,” Joey said, holding out a bottle of water and the pills.

Slugging them back as requested, Levon said, “My turn.”

“I’m fine Levon. Let’s just get home.”

“Nothing doing, until I make sure you’ll be fine.”

“I said I was fine. Don’t ya think I’d know if I wasn’t?” Joey shot back irritated. The last thing he wanted was more pain, even pain inflicted for his own good. It was almost as bad as shots.

Knowing how stubborn his partner was, Levon played his trump card. “If’n ya don’t let me tend to ya, I’ll drive ya straight to the hospital on the way home.”

“You wouldn’t!”

“I would. Now get your shirt off and I want ta see those feet as well.” Levon directed.

Surrendering ungracefully, Joey threw himself back in his chair and said “Fine” while extending his feet.

Sucking in his breath at the sight of his partners feet as he peeled back the socks , Levon asked, trying to lighten the atmosphere, “Where’d ya lose those expensive Italian slippers?”.

“Lost em when you fell. I figure that will cost you about two hundred dollars to replace.” Joey responded a twinkle in his eye.

“Me replace them, no way. If you’d brought something sensible for the desert this wouldn’t have happened.” Levon fired back. Two could play this game, and they were good at it.

“Joey, I’m gonna have to remove a few more stones and thorns from your feet. Some are imbedded so deeply that they probably severed a nerve, which is why you don’t feel any pain.”

“Okay, just get it done,” He said, resting his head on the back of the chair and rubbing at his eye.

Getting out his trusty pocket knife, Levon deftly removed the thorns and small pieces of rock he could find and then mopped up the small trickles of blood. Next came the antiseptic spray. LaFiamma would be sore again, but was in no real danger. Still watching him rub at his eye, he said, “Now I’m gonna look at that eye for ya. Quit rubbing it, if ya got sand in it, you’ll just be tearing up the cornea.”

Joey moved his hand away, and Levon peered closely at his eye, pulling the eyelid up, then down and having Joey move his eye in all directions. Finally he reached a verdict. “I think the sand is gone. I’m gonna rinse it out with water then you quit rubbing it. Should feel much better by tomorrow.”

“Okay doc, can we go home now?” Joey complained, more loudly this time.

“Just let me check for infection around the rattlesnake bite.”

Resigning to staying in this cabin until Lundy was satisfied, Joey held out his leg and again allowed it to be mauled by Lundy. As he probed, Joey said, “anything else, Dr. Hyde?”

“Just your back. I’m only gonna spray it with the antiseptic again.”

“Just get done. I want to go home. You remember home? A nice bed, a warm bath, a meal that doesn’t wiggle……..”

Again Levon marveled at how sarcasm just seemed to drip from Joey when he was not getting his way. Deciding that Joey was doing as well as could be expected, Levon said, “I think that covers it. Let’s gather up our gear and get outta here.”

“Right behind ya,” Joey said, as a sinking feeling hit the pit of his stomach. “Hey, Levon, why does, let’s leave sound way to easy?”

“Oh, stop looking for trouble.” Levon griped, as he gathered up his belongings while Joey did the same. “Let’s go before it’s totally dark.”

“Hey, do ya realize that for the first time this trip were in agreement on something?” LaFiamma quipped.

“Just come on,” Levon sighed disgustedly.

They checked that the cabin was left clean then took their gear, locked up and Joey went around to the back to stow the gear, while Levon got in to warm the engine up. Closing the rear hatch, Joey said, “That’s it. Lets hit the road. I figure we can be eating in under an hour if we hurry.”

“You mean if we use our flashers and sirens, I expect.”

“Do you have a faster way home?” Joey asked, looking innocently at his partner.

“Reckon I don’t, but I’m not misusing police property for non emergency situations,” Levon hurled back, the bantering mode in full force. Turning the key in the ignition, he slammed his fist down hard on the steering wheel, when the engine made a guttural grinding sound, but refused to turn over.

“I knew going home was too easy,” Joey muttered. “Wanna know why, Levon?” Without waiting for and answer, he finished, “Because when I said yes, I entered the Twilight Zone, and I’ve been stuck there ever since. No one escapes the Twilight Zone.”

“Give it a rest,” the frustrated Texan raged at his fuming partner. Let’s just get out and see what’s wrong.”

“If we do that it will give all the vermin time to get in the back and ride home with us. I vote you get out and see what’s wrong. This is your Jimmy.”

“I don’t need to go home, LaFiamma. I’m comfortable in the cabin,” Levon roared back, refusing to budge. I’ll wait here until you join me out there.”

“But my feet hurt,” Joey said, trying the whining technique. Sometimes it worked with women. It didn’t work on Lundy.

“I know ya to well. Now on the count of three we both get out and check.”

Sighing resignedly for at least the hundredth time that day, Joey agreed by throwing open his door and vaulting outside before Levon could even begin counting. The minute his feet hit, he was sorry for his impulsive move, and sank to the ground, a gasp passing through his lips. Finally getting control, he stood and moved to the front of the Jimmy, where Levon already had the hood open.

“What is all this stuff, Levon?” Joey questioned.

“That is the cause of the Jimmy not starting. We’ve got to get the sand out of the engine before it will start. That sandstorm was a real wild one.”

“So hotshot, what do we use to clean this out?”

“Rags of some sort.”

“I don’t usually pack rags, Levon.”

“Then you better get out a few of our shirts so we can get this mess cleaned up. Should only take an hour or so with us both working.” Levon predicted.

Grumbling, “I knew we’d never get out of here alive” and then singing as sarcastically as possible, he added, “For my partners a jolly good fellow, my partners a jolly good fellow, my partners a jolly good fellow, which I’d like to blow sky high.”

Re-opening the back of the Jimmy, he pulled out Levon’s belongings first, and shaking his head in disgust removed the only shirt he could find. How could anyone go away for three days and pack so little. Yanking open his luggage, he pulled out his polo shirt with the horse, he loved so much, then added his Giorgio green to the pile. Levon would pay, and pay big for this. The weekend was going to cost him over five hundred dollars in ruined clothes alone.

Hurling a shirt to his partner, he watched as Lundy began cleaning the engine block. Finally feeling that he should help, he leaned in and started with the battery case. This process continued two hours longer than predicted, since both were limited by how well they could use their hands.

When Levon said, “I’m sure it’s clean enough. Let’s give it a try.” Joey was only to happy to comply.

“It had better work, Lundy. I’m starved. It’s eight o’clock now.”

“I got a watch. Here’s an option for ya. Why don’t ya go catch some fish,” Lundy said snarling, and slamming the door shut behind himself. As LaFiamma climbed in, casting disgusted looks his way, Levon turned the key, and gave thanks as the engine started right up.

“Guess you don’t have to eat fish tonight after all, LaFiamma,” Levon said dryly.

“You had better be thankful I chose to ignore the remark or you’d be seeing Italian humor with your head three feet under the river right now.” Joey shot back, all attempt at politeness gone.

“Yeah. Like you have the power. You were pathetic.” Levon retorted.

“Would you like me to give the force a blow by blow rundown on Monday, on how good you are as a tour guide?” Joey asked, again in his most sarcastic manner.

“Only if you want me to tell them how wonderful you are in the woods.” Levon hurled back.

“Truce,” Joey said. “Now drive. I’d like to get home before sunrise.”

“Shut up,” Levon said right back. “You’ll get your precious beauty sleep.”

“Hey, Lundy, next weekend would ya like to try and infiltrate the mob in Chicago just for an adventure.

“Think it could hurt any worse?” Levon quipped.

A couple miles farther down the road, Joey piped up, and Levon braced for the verbal impact.

“Sure is nice to have things back to normal between us isn’t it?”

Laughing Levon could only shake his head, then finally he spit out, “the weekend does make homicide look peaceful.”

“Damn straight,”they added in unison, as they drove toward civilization, once again in harmony with each other.


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