Chapter 71

Jim thought of the young woman in the next room, who had fought so valiantly for her freedom. Her hair was coarse and shaggy, her skin sallow, her body, oh, so thin. He wondered who she was and how she got here. He heard the screaming and filthy language in the next room and suddenly all was quiet. He hung his head and wept silent tears.

Pete and Hank were equally silent with the slamming of the door. Nothing Cash had said warned them of the urgency of the situation, or everything that had transpired. Nothing had prepared them for the reality of it. They sat on each side of Jim, hands on his shoulders, together in their sorrow.

Hank was the first to speak. “Pete and I were supposed to go home tomorrow, but you may need……. us. I had no idea…….no idea. Jim …” He hugged him and was joined by Pete. They sat for a long moment of solidarity.

Jim shook himself free and looked at them. “No. You’ve both been my rock. I couldn’t have made it this far without you,” He paused and blew his nose “I think Simmons knows what he’s doing. I sure hope so. I have to believe… “ He sighed deeply. “Please don’t tell……anyone what has happened here today. It would kill Jenny if she ever found out what Trish was…capable of.  She blames herself as it is. I was going to call her later tonight. Now I’m not so sure. I guess all I will tell her is that we have Trish. I don’t know any more than that anyway…Maybe we’ll never know….”.

Pete caught Jim’s hand. “I haven’t told this to many people, Jim, Hank.  The reason I first met Simmons was because I worked for him in a way. Cass was once in the same predicament as Trish.” They stared at him, disbelief on their faces.

Pete nodded. “It may give you some comfort, Jim. Cass was every bit as hostile when we found her as Trish is now. He brought her around. I had hired on as his assistant, trying to get her back to her parents. I knew them through a friend. They had asked me to help. I didn’t know Cass then. It took a long time, but he brought her back. I fell in love with that tough woman who came out of it. She was funny and loving when the real Cass came through all the bewilderment. I’ve never been sorry. We have a bond that few people do.”

Hank was the first to speak. “Thanks for sharing that, Pete.  My lips are sealed.”

Pete and Jim stood at the same time and shared a manly embrace. Jim had new tears in his eyes, and he swallowed hard,

“How can I ever thank you, Pete?  You brought Cash to us. We got Trish back, and now the waiting for her real return will be less painful, knowing what you just told us. You have survived, so I guess I will, too and………it will be our secret. Thank you, friend.”

The noise had started again in the next room. The men sat and ate their sandwiches with a new appetite .