Page 76


No one ran outside when I backed down the drive and turned onto the road. Sorry, Mama, I thought, switching the stereo off so I could consider my course of action. If anyone could talk Mitchell down, it was me. If I had to lie and say I would take him back or go with him, I would.
My phone rang— Mama. I turned the sound off, but it continued to light up impotently during the last mile. I parked on the street outside Boyce’s place, behind the blue sedan with Tennessee plates. The doors to the garage were up and a car, hood raised, sat in one of the bays. I took a deep breath and listened for any sounds coming from inside the trailer—shouting, shots.
I was halfway across the yard when the front door of the small wood-framed house next door flew open. “Don’t go in there, young lady!” the old lady called, huddled in her doorway. Mrs. Echols, Boyce’s crabby neighbor. “C’mere now!” She waved a thin arm commandingly.
I wavered and she renewed her appeal, her arm circling like a windmill on speed. Her next words froze me in place.
“I heard a shot! The sheriff’s on his way—I called him. That boy of yours wouldn’t want you getting shot doing something stupid. Let the lawmen get shot at. That’s their job, and they’ve got their own firearms to answer with.”
Right on cue, the sheriff and a deputy arrived simultaneously from opposite directions and parked nose to nose. I expected them to cross the yard and burst through the door, but they crouched in the street behind one of the cars, discussing how to proceed.
Before I could process their lack of action, Randy pulled into his driveway, taking in the two law-enforcement personnel in the street, Mrs. Echols in her doorway, and me halfway between her door and Boyce’s. He crossed the street, forehead creased. “What’s going on, Pearl?”
I hadn’t realized I was crying. “My ex is in there with Boyce, and Mrs. Echols heard a shot, and Mitchell is armed and wanted in Nashville for attempted murder—”
Mrs. Echols gasped and Randy muttered a harsh, “Goddamn.” He shook his head at the two men on the other side of the squad cars, who didn’t look as if they planned to storm the trailer anytime soon. “All right then. Fuck it.” He pointed at me. “Stay. Here. I fucking mean it.”
We heard an ambulance’s siren in the distance. Randy took a deep breath, shook his arms as if he was shaking off excess nerves, and took off for the front door. The deputy noticed him just before he went inside. “Hey!” he called, poking his head up over the roof of the squad car.
Five seconds later, Randy threw the front door wide. “Officers! They’re both down!”
I ran for the front door with the sheriff and deputy, guns drawn, right behind me.
“Pearl, honey, you don’t want to—” Randy said.
I bolted around him.
Neither man appeared conscious. As my eyes adjusted to the dim interior, I saw that Mitchell—a gun on the floor beside him—looked as if he’d been run over by a truck. And then I saw the pool of blood around Boyce. Randy and I went to our knees beside him.
“Shirt,” I said, and he stripped off his tee. I wadded it and pressed it to the still-flowing wound in Boyce’s side. “Hold that—press hard.”
Randy complied and I searched for a pulse. It was weak, but there.
“Ohthankgod. Boyce? Can you hear me?”
“Ambulance on its way,” the deputy said, taking pics before bagging the gun and casing.
“I take it this one is your ex,” the sheriff said, gesturing to Mitchell. I nodded. “Call for a second ambulance for that fucker,” he told the deputy. “Let’s get the homeowner seen to first.”
The EMTs rushed inside seconds later, praised Randy for stemming the blood flow, and replaced the blood-soaked T-shirt with proper bandages while checking and recording vitals. Boyce didn’t come to, not even when they lifted him onto a stretcher, but he jolted awake outside during the minute or so it took them to get the ambulance ready to receive him.
“Pearl?” he said, his voice gruff, pained.
I leaned above him to shade his face from the sun overhead, holding his cold hand between both of mine. “I’m here. Mitchell’s in custody. I’m so sorry—”
He squeezed my hand weakly, his voice so soft I had to lean close to hear him. “S’okay, baby.” He squinted one eye open, beautiful and bright green. “Guardian angel. Remember?”
A soft sob escaped me and I swallowed it back. “Yes. My guardian angel. Man I adore. Please don’t leave me, Boyce.”
“Sweetheart, if and when I leave you, it won’t be by my choice. I’ll love you straight on through eternity.” He blinked groggily but, true to form, kept talking. “Would this be a good time to tell you I wanna marry you someday? I wanna give you babies and a home and lay you down and love you every night. If I live and that bullet didn’t pierce anything essential to doing those things, that is.”
I choked a laugh. “Boyce, you idiot. Your man parts are fine.”
He closed his eyes and sighed tiredly, his grip on my hand weakening. “Thank Christ.”
At the hospital, Randy identified me as Boyce’s fiancée, his mouth turning up on one side when my brows shot up. “Next of kin,” he mumbled. Ah.
I cleared my throat and smiled. “Yes, I’m Mr. Wynn’s fiancée.”
Hospital personnel gave me Boyce’s wallet and boots—his clothes were evidence in the impending criminal charges against Mitchell. I filled out paperwork while waiting for news from the ER doctor, who emerged just as Thomas and Mama tore into the waiting room and attached themselves to opposite sides of me.
“He was hemodynamically stable on arrival,” the admitting doctor told us, and I felt Thomas relax next to me. “The wounds were tangential—bullet went straight through—so we opted against laparotomy. We’ll keep him here on watch for at least twenty-four hours, but assuming he holds steady and surgery remains unnecessary, he could be discharged tomorrow. He’ll need assistance at home for a bit, of course, but his prognosis is excellent.” He squeezed my shoulder, smiling. “Never hurts when they’re young and healthy to start with.”
“When can I see him?” I asked.
“Few minutes. The nurse will take you back.”
“Thank you, doctor,” Thomas said. His smile faded when he turned to me. “You scared us to death, Pearl! What were you thinking, driving over there ahead of the sheriff—what if you’d been shot?” His voice broke and he pulled me into his arms. “Dammit, little girl…”