From last time ...
Mackey glanced back over his shoulder at the end of the tube sticking out from under the camouflage netting. Inside that tube was Jake's rifle. The one he shipped to Jake from Guadalcanal, all those years ago.
The trembling in his hand stopped. He glanced at the sleeping Sarah.
This is right, Jake. She's a good woman and this is right.
And now ...
"How long have I been sleeping?"
"'Bout half an hour. We just went past Jake's old store. Ma's is just up the road."
"Stop at Ma's, Mackey. I need a shower and a change of clothes."
"Sure, kid. I'll get us a thermos of coffee at the diner. You want anything to eat?"
"I don't think I can eat anything right now. My stomach is still pretty shaky."
"I'll bring an order of soup. Just in case."
"Yeah. Fine. Whatever you say."
"Whoa there, Sarah. Don't bite my head off. I said 'just in case'. I'm not giving you orders."
"I know, Mackey. I'm sorry. It's just nerves, I guess. I didn't mean anything by it."
"I understand, Sarah. I do. It's always like this after ... well, you know."
Mackey pulled to a stop outside Ma's motel office. Sarah got out of the Jeep and looked into the back, where the weapons were stored, under the netting.
"Mackey, will you do me a favor while I shower? Will you go up in the attic and get the cleaning kit? I think we'll keep the guns out at the line shack for a while. We'll tear 'em down and clean 'em out there. Okay?"
Sarah turned and walked into the lobby of the motel.
"Sarah!!! What happened to you?"
"It's nothin', Ma. I need to shower and change and then I'll tell ya all about it. But for now, Mackey needs to get in the attic, will you pull the ladder down for him?"
"Sure, honey. You go clean up. I'll take care of Mackey."
"Oh, you know what I mean. Just go."
Sarah walked down the hall toward her room, and as she went, she heard the lobby door open.
She heard Ma say, "Hello, big boy".
She laughed to herself went into her room. By the time she got out of her shower, Sarah felt hungry. By the time she'd put on some clean clothes, she felt refreshed. And by the time Ma walked into her room, she felt ready to talk.
The whole thing poured out of her in a rush. She knew she shouldn't be telling all of this to Ma. But if there was one person in the world Sarah knew she could trust, it was Thelma Gleason.
"I shouldn't be telling you all this, Ma. But you got a right to know. There's one less of those bastards in the world, right now, Ma. One less. And that's just the first."
Ma looked at Sarah a long time. Finally, she spoke.
"Sarah, you be careful. Ain't nobody but you and me gonna understand what yer doin'. I'd help ya, if I could. Jake was like my son. But I can't help. You gotta do this by yerself. Well, you do have those two men with ya, I guess. But if Mackey and Two Feathers don't live up to it, you just let me know. By God, I'll make sure they do their share."
Sarah grabbed Ma and held her close.
"I love you, Ma."
"I love you, too, little girl. Now git. He's out there waitin' and the coffee's gettin' cold."