I had so much fun visiting with Steve and Andrew from Spree last week that I decided to see if Lyle Villines, my Pipeline character, would be willing to visit with me as well. I tried to get him to come see me at home, but after his latest adventure with the Cornbread Mafia, he was feeling a little paranoid and didn’t want to leave his remote mountaintop home. Luckily, he has good cell service out there, so we were still able to talk.
I started out by asking him how things are these days.
He thought about it a few moments, then said, “Pretty good. I mean, it’s been quiet, and that’s always a good thing, ain’t it? ’Specially when you been through some of the crap I been through the last few years.”
That’s true. Will things calm down now?
“God, I hope so. I had enough trouble to last a couple lifetimes. If I had it to do over again, I never woulda started hauling and cooking meth to pay for Kendra’s treatments. I’da found some other way of payin’ for ’em, somethin’ that wouldn’t get me in trouble with so many folks.”
Well, it was touch and go there for a while, wasn’t it?
“You ain’t shittin’ it was. Between the law and the cartels, and then them Cornbread Mafia yayhoos, it just about run me ragged.”
And how are things between you and Patty?
Another pause. “Well, I guess you could say they’re better, but not as good as they oughta be. I think Kendy and Cody are bringin’ her around to it not all bein’ my fault. I ain’t helpin’ none, though, ’cause I agree with Patty for the most part. I coulda done things different.”
How? The leukemia treatments had to coast a mint, especially since Kendra wasn’t on your insurance.
“Well, yeah, there’s that. But lemme ask you this. How many other folks have kids get cancer and they don’t deal drugs to pay for treatments? There had to be some other way I coulda done it. I’m like you, though. I ain’t got no idea what it mighta been.”
Not to change the subject too much, but didn’t you find out that the Nuevo Federación was behind a lot of your problems with the Cornbread Mafia?
He sighed. “Yeah, that’s what it looked like. If them folks wasn’t just lyin’ to pass the buck. But considerin’ how them Federación folks did things last time, it wouldn’t surprise me. Same shit, different day, you know?”
So are you going to do anything about it?
“Me an’ Carl are talkin’ about that. We might just have to sneak back down May-he-co way and see if we can’t do somethin’ about that. Zeke even said he might tag along for this one, after all the shit went down last time.”
You must be back in good relations with the Higginses then.
“Pretty much. I mean, they was mad at me for tellin’ about them in that first story where I started workin’ with them and all that, but there wasn’t much they could say since I changed their names and where their farm is. I never gave ’em up to Slick or Ed, and I think they finally realized what I done for ’em by not talkin’. I brought in Julio Alverdé for the Task Force and that made them boys happy enough not to nag me about the Higginses.
“Thing is, Paco and Juan got away and we gotta do somethin’ about that. When they got all this shit started this last time, I think Carl and them saw they got bigger problems than me, and that let ’em see how I protected them from the Feds. So things are comin’ around between us.”
Looks like you might be headed for Mexico.
“I ain’t gonna say one or the other. Partly ’cause I don’t want Juan and Paco findin’ out, and partly ’cause I don’t know how Chapo might take it.”
You’re talking about Joaquín Guzmán, the head of the Sinaloa Cartel.
“Yep. He said he’d likely kill me next time he seen me. Last time me an’ Carl went down to Mexico, we had Chapo’s help.
Well, some of his men’s help, anyhow. He don’t get his hands too dirty anymore. Probably too dangerous for him. But he sent help, and I don’t think we’d get it this time. That’s why we’re still thinkin’ about it good and hard. It’d be three white guys wanderin’ around where white people don’t normally go down there. That might put a kink in our plans.”
All right. Sounds like another change of subject is in order. How are Kendra and Cody?
“Oh, I guess they’re doin’ good. I mean, it’s hard to know with Cody, since he’s over in Afghanistan and can’t talk about what he’s doin’. But far as I know, he’s doin’ all right.”
He’s a Ranger, right?
“Yep. I worry about him bein’ over there, but it’s what he wanted to do an’ I wasn’t gonna stop him.”
“That’s a different story. That girl’s got more spirit than I ever had. She’s lookin’ into what college she wants to go to.”
What’s she going to major in?
“I ain’t clear on that. I don’t think she’s quite made up her mind about it. One day it’s one thing, next day somethin’ else. All of it’s got somethin’ or other do with fightin’ drugs, though. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Well, at least she shouldn’t have to worry about paying for school.
“Boy that’s the truth. That’ll all be on me. I’m glad to do it, though. She deserves the best after all she’s been through, what with the leukemia and then gettin’ shot and crippled.” A deep sigh. “I’d give all I got and more to go back and keep that from happenin’. Seems to me the cancer was bad enough. Why’d she have to go and get shot too?”
It’s hard to know these things.
“Ain’t that the truth? Well, look, I gotta do a few chores around here b’fore it gets dark, so I guess I oughta let you go.”
All right. Well, if you decide something on Mexico, be sure and get in touch.
“Will do. You take care now, you hear?”
A day or two later, I started thinking about that last statement. A lot of times, here in the hills of Arkansas, that can mean something bad. Like maybe the person saying it isn’t a sure thing they’ll be talking to you again. I fretted about it for another two or three days, but then gave in and called Lyle, just to see if he’d tell me what he meant about that.
He didn’t answer the phone. I tried several times over the next day or two, with no luck. He may very well have decided to go to Mexico after all.
I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.