From last time ...
" ... I gotta get ready and out of here before Jake gets back."
"Out of here? Where are you goin'?"
"San Francisco. I need to get away where I can think. And besides, my Mom and my son are there, waiting for me."
"Okay. Whatever you say. What do you want me to do?"
"Tell me how I get to Vegas so I can catch a bus to LA."
"I'll have Maria drive you. No problem. What else?"
"Just tell Jake to take care of my Jeep and .... the other stuff until I can get back. Okay?"
"Okay. I can do that. C'mon, we'd better get you packed."
And now ...
It was a warm and bright Saturday morning. Sarah and her mother sat at the kitchen table discussing the shopping that needed to be done that day, while breakfast cooked on the stove. Jerry, her son, in his bed, was beginning to stir to the smell of cooking bacon. Sarah had a pad of paper and a pencil in her hand to write down the things decided on.
"Okay ... so we've got ground beef, potatoes, cereal, corn, a couple of cans of peas - I can't believe how much that little bugger likes to eat peas - pancake mix, milk, bread and butter. Oh yeah, better add peanut butter and jelly, too. Can you think of anything else?"
"I don't think so ... unless we need sugar."
"Yeah. We do. Okay ... sugar, oh, and I think the salt thing is empty or close to it, too. Better get some salt."
The phone rang.
"I'll get it. You look through the cupboards and make sure everything we need is on the list. And Mom, no more cookies. He's unbearable when he fills up on cookies."
"Okay, Sarah. Okay."
"Hello? ... Yes, this is Sarah Pierce ... Las Vegas? Yes, I'll hold ... Thank you, Operator ... Hello? Hello, Ma? Hiya, Ma. It's so good to hear you ... What's that? ... we seem to have a bad connection ... "
The connection suddenly cleared and Ma's voice came through loud and strong.
"Sarah. Jake is dead."
She wanted to say "What?" She wanted Ma to repeat it and she wanted to have heard that wrong and she wanted her to say something, anything, entirely different. Instead, she surprised herself. Instead, she got silent and calm and steady. And then she said,
"How? ... "
"No. Nevermind how. I'll be there day after tomorrow. Get hold of Billy Two Feathers and ask him to meet me at the airport - I'll be on the 7pm shuttle out of LA."
"Okay, Sarah. Sarah? They killed him, Sarah. Those dirty thieving crooked bastards from Vegas killed him. Why? Why would they do that, Sarah?"
"I don't know, Ma. Not for sure, anyway. Are you okay? Is there anyone with you?"
"I don't need no one with me, dammit. I'm pissed off. I'm so fucking mad I could march right down that fuckin' highway and take ALL them fuckers out if I knew where the hell they were."
"Take it easy, Ma. We'll figure all this out when I get there. Jake put all my stuff in your attic, right?"
"Yeah, about a month ago. Him and Billy put a whole BUNCH of boxes up there - he said that was the only place for miles around where they'd be safe, 'cause it's cool."
"That's good, Ma. Have Manuel check over my Jeep, too. Make sure it's ready to run."
"It should be okay. It's under a tarp out back. But I'll have him check it out."
"Okay, Ma. You lay low until I get there. Don't go gettin' yourself in trouble now, hear? And Ma. Don't tell anyone except Two Feathers I'm coming. Got that? No one knows, okay? I'll see you Monday. Love you, Ma."
"Love you too, baby. Monday. Bye."
The line went dead. Sarah hung up the phone and then picked it up and dialed another number.
"Hello? Sergeant Mackey? Jake Bertrett is dead."
Sergeant Mackey. Master Gunnery Sergeant Ernest P. Mackey, late of the United States Marine Corp and Platoon Sergeant of Jake's sniper platoon on Guadalcanal. And Jake's best friend in the world.
When Sarah came to San Francisco, Jake called and called and finally, after months of trying, got Sarah to talk to him. And, though he couldn't make much headway against her conscience, from that distance, he did finally convince her to work with Sergeant Mackey on conditioning.
Over the last six months, Sergeant Mackey had taught her a lot. Subtley, at first, and then more overtly, he taught her the skills necessary to understand concealment - to understand how to hide in plain sight. How to disappear.
And he made her strong. She ran. Up the hills. Down the hills. And when she got her wind, he added weight. She ran with a backpack. She ran with a lead pipe in her hands. And she got strong.
He taught her hand to hand combat. Marine Corps style. The kind of hand to hand that kills people. Because that's what Marines do. Sergeant Mackey made her a Marine.
And this Marine, this killing machine, was going to Vegas.