Morning. JJ and Tess, a woman he hardly knows, camped at an abandoned mountain ranch. His land. Her land. Whose land?
They leaned on an old fence, eating Pop Tarts. A vehicle approached down the long dirt road to where they were camped, a cloud of dust rising behind.
“Oh shit, that must be Cody,” Tess said.
“Just my angry twin brother.”
Oh great. Angry brother. Cody. Twin. Twin telepathy. What kind of gun toting maniac was coming down the road?
“How does he know we’re here?”
“He doesn’t. Or he does. He just comes here.”
“He comes here? For what?”
“To get away,” Tess said. “He doesn’t like people much.”
An old Chevy pick-up came to a skidding stop and just sat there with the engine running. Cody drove angry. JJ couldn’t see him clearly for the glare off the windshield. But he knew Cody was looking at him. The engine shut off and made little ticks as it cooled. Some birds chirped and tweeted from the brush but no one moved. It was midmorning and warm in the sun, not a cloud in the sky. Finally, the door opened.
Cody was Tess with a buzz-cut, only his eyes were harder, solid blue ice where Tess’s were liquid blue. “Who’s this guy,” Cody asked.
“This here’s Jason,” Tess said.
“Is this your boyfriend?”
“No, not really,” JJ said. “We only met a couple days ago. I mean, we’re just friends. New friends.” JJ walked toward Cody with his hand extended. “Nice to meet you.”
Cody looked at the hand like JJ held out a putrefying fish. He looked at JJ’s face. “What are you two doing here?”
Tess walked forward and got between JJ and Cody. “Cody, this here’s a miracle! Jason bought the ranch at the auction. He bought the ranch for us!”
JJ and Cody both looked at Tess. Cody stared with disbelief of the, “here’s some more of Tess’s bullshit” variety. JJ was just trying to keep up.
“I felt something,” Cody said. “Yesterday. I knew something was happening out here.”
The twin telepathy. Fuck.
“Um, yeah,” JJ said. “I bought the ranch.”
“I’m sure it was out of the goodness of your heart,” Cody said, looking at JJ over Tess’s shoulder. “What’re you up to?”
If JJ were honest, he’d say: “I left Massachusetts because my best friend was getting together with my erstwhile girlfriend, who was my other best friend. I tried to write a memoir but instead started drinking, which is really bad for me. I flew to Colorado on the advice of a guy named Shaboo and kept drinking. I’ve been here before, trying to find myself, so I thought I’d try again. Instead I found your twin sister in a blackout. She convinced me to visit the bank where we put in a bid two minutes before the auction ended. Phone calls were made and the remainder of my lottery winnings were transferred from my bank. I signed some papers and here we are.”
Instead, JJ said, “I dunno.”
“Well here’s the deal, man,” Cody said. “This ranch has been in our family since the 1800’s and no fuckin’ boytoy of my sister is going to own it. Where are the papers?”
“Still at the bank,” Tess said.
Cody looked around and seemed to notice the Camaro for the first time. “What the hell kind of car is that?”
“That’s a Hyper Blue Metallic Chevy Camaro,” JJ said with a renter’s pride. He would keep his dignity through all this no matter what, he vowed.
Cody snorted. “Jesus, she saw you coming a mile away. The plates should read, SUCKER.”
Tess said, “It wasn’t like that, Cody. He offered to help.”
Cody chuckled and walked to the Camaro, appraising. Tess whispered to JJ, “It wasn’t like that. We’ll figure something out.”
“I’m sure we will,” JJ said. “Things always work out for me.”