Tess and Cody in the parking lot of the Marriott.
“You need to watch the other side,” Cody said. “There’s like six doors.”
“We just need to watch that car there,” Tess said. “He’s going nowhere without that.”
“He can walk. We’ve seen him do that.”
“Yes, he can walk.” But, she didn’t move.
“So,” Cody said. “I guess I’ll watch the other side. Keep an eye on your phone.”
“Wait. I’ve been thinking. We can just talk to him…”
“Now’s not the time to go all soft. We have to get him before he goes home or wherever.”
They stood outside the pickup truck, at the edge of the parking lot, facing the JJ’s rental Camaro and the hotel beyond. There was the whoosh of cars on the highway and the approaching dusk. Cody and Tess just looked at each other.
“What if we just let him go?”
“You mean, he just goes home and owns our ranch? How’s that okay with you?”
“We can’t storm the hotel!”
“No one’s storming the hotel. He has to come out eventually. He has to return that car to wherever he got it,” Cody said.
“We just can’t stay here watching. You look like a mad dirty redneck. Someone will call the cops.”
“Well fuck you, then. Why don’t you go inside and see if you can roust him from the lobby or something.”
Tess was staring at the entrance. “No need,” she said. “Here he comes.”
A woman, followed by a sheepish JJ, was making right for them.
“Here THEY come,” Cody said.
“I don’t know the whole story,” Lila said before she even reached them. “But we’re going to figure this out right here, right now.”
“Your boy there bought our land with a promise to sell it back,” Cody said. “And then he changed his mind.”
“I was tricked by her,” JJ said, pointing at Tess.
“She didn’t do any magic on you,” Cody said. “You were into it.”
“I was drunk! She was all over me.”
“Enough,” Cody said. “This fuckin guy got himself into this.” He looked at Lila. “How are you gonna get him out?”
Lila looked at the rail thin, angular and angry Cody. She looked at this Tess with her country girl jeans and big boobs. She could feel the pull to judge and dismiss them as some conniving rednecks from the hills. But the main thing that came to her was they were just so young. Young and just going from thing to thing, impulse to impulse, trying to get to a place that was always receding even as they approached it. Family ranches and banks and foreclosures. What the hell? And then dumb ass JJ stumbles (literally) into some harebrained scheme they hatched. She could feel their desperation and admired the effort, even while seeing they were doomed. Cody and Tess weren’t soft, but they weren’t criminals, either. They were naïve, not yet beaten into resignation.
“Jason here is going to sell the ranch back to you,” she said.
“What!” JJ said. “No fucking way!”
“Shut up,” Lila said.
“How the fuck are we s’posed to pay for it,” Cody asked. “That was the whole point of all this!”
“You shut up, too,” Lila said. “Whatever your bullshit plan was, it’s done.”
Quiet. Then Tess said, “I heard of something called rent-to-own. You pay a little bit at a time and it’s like installments.”
“Jesus,” Cody said. “That won’t work. I won’t rent what’s really mine.”
“What’s really mine, you mean,” JJ said. “I wouldn’t trust them to pay.”
But Lila looked at Tess, whose eyes were turned down after making her suggestion. “Rent-to-own,” Lila said and Tess’s eyes rose to meet her’s. “That sounds about right.”