On this Easter morning, in the spirit of wishing everyone peace and joy no matter what spiritual path taken, I offer a scene between two of my characters. This scene has been around for a couple of years in my mind. I have told it to the goddess (that generous soul has heard me tell multiple versions of thousands of stories throughout our marriage, God bless her), and while it may wind up in the upcoming City of Love, I reserve the right to use it or not, and change it or not, to serve the needs of that novel.
But for this morning, here is the current version ….
It was about 5 a.m. and nothing had happened. Stakeouts were like this sometimes; hours and hours of paying keen attention to nothing happening at all. Except for Gunner. Something always happened to Gunner during stakeouts. He grew bored. When that occurred, anything could fall victim to his need to be entertained.
Sometimes he could “mosey over for some snacks.” At those times he would come back with way too much junk food.
No escape on this one; they were stuck in a van that looked beat up on the outside and was a surveillance wonder inside. Wandering off for Milky Ways would blow their cover. Moving around too much in the car would do the same. Santiago, who was in deep with their target, had driven them there, parked it and gone inside, improving their cover, but essentially trapping them inside for the duration.
And Gunner was bored. He’d spent the first six hours making note of any developments no matter how trivial, dissecting and theorizing on relevance until he and Mallory had to admit they were chasing their tails.Gunner spent hour seven musing on past sexual conquests, a monologue Mallory had endured during other stakeouts. Interestingly, the list always stopped before Lam Pi, the murdered love of Gunner’s life. He never acknowledged any involvement, no matter how fleeting the conquest, after her either.
Eight hours in, Gunner was looking for new territory to cover. Mallory knew what that meant, and braced for the scrutiny. But Gunner didn’t zero in on his paunch or graying hair or crow’s feet this time. Instead, he focused on the Christhead dangling on the chain around his neck.
“You got yer buddy wicha, huh? Old J.C. gonna keep us safe if this thing goes sideways?”
When Gunner got like this the key was to lean into the conversation rather than get defensive. “To the best of my knowledge, He doesn’t have a say in the outcome here.”
“‘Whatchu talkin’bout, Willis?'”
“You think He actively mainpulates events in our lives? I don’t.”
Gunner made a “tsk” sound, a clear indication that the ball breaking portion of The Gunner Show had begun. “Thought you religious types used him as some kind of ethereal body guard. ‘Lord, protect us and save us’ kind of thing.”
“Not for me.”
The gleam in his eye was a tell; Gunner was about to launch into pure ranking or dozens or scorching, depending on which neighborhood you were raised in. “Oh, you’re in it for the magic tricks? You want a piece of His big finish? ‘Tadaa! I’m back!’ That’s your connection?”
Mallory looked at his partner until Gunner blushed a bit, then he shrugged. “That’s not the attraction, not for me. Here’s a guy with clear beliefs that He is committed to. He has the conviction to serve those beliefs even when everything goes sideways for Him, when the whole world seems to turn on Him, and those beliefs are the only thing He has left. He lives what He believes even when it would be easier and safer to abandon them, or let someone else take the fall. When everything is on the line, He knows who He is, what He believes, how He wants to live, and He finds the strength from those beliefs to live his way. That is who I wear this for, who I aspire to follow, who I pray to for just a fraction of that strength. You have a problem with that?”
Gunner watched his partner in silent awe for a moment, then smirked. “Happy Easter, buddy.”
“Gunner, it’s December.”