This Michael Tate story, like its predecessors and successors, takes place in locations that have either been visited by or researched by the author. Names of cities, streets, hotels, restaurants, etc. are real. Even the menus of restaurants where Tate dines are taken from Googled sources. In most instances, Google Earth is used to find locations and the pedestrian view of that app provides accurate descriptions of the places where some events occur.
My trip to Hawaii had been most interesting, to say the least.
I had fulfilled one assignment, nearly been killed in a freak aeronautical accident, almost killed an innocent man, and gotten to see a good deal of two beautiful tropical islands, all in the space of about two weeks.
But it was good to be home after a long flight and see the farm again, knowing that I would not have to abandon it and lead a life in hiding for having killed a government operative.
I had come dangerously close to dispatching Lionel Trane — an alias — thinking that he had attempted to assassinate me, only to find out at the last moment that what I believed was not true.
L.T. — as I had come to refer to him — accompanied me on the trip home from Hawaii and we had parted company in Los Angeles, me to fly on to Chicago and then to Lexington and he departing to I don’t know where.
L.T. is sort of like a bad penny. He just pops up on the most unexpected occasions. I fully expected to hear from him again in the future.
I had tried to disassociate myself from the assassination business but after a long conversation with L.T., I had become convinced that my services would still be useful. I had made the point, however, that I expected all future assignments to be thoroughly vetted. I was going to be highly selective about which ones I might accept. And I reserved the right to turn down any I chose.
And barring unforeseen events, L.T. would now be my sole contact for assignments unless, of course, I should decide to take on a private contract.
I thought the farm had never looked so good. I couldn’t help wondering if my feelings of contentment might be something like those experienced by soldiers coming home from war. I didn’t kneel down and kiss the earth as some have done, but the surrounding comfort and quietude of the place were momentarily overwhelming.
Nelson had, as usual, seen to the upkeep of the farm, and everything was in order as I parked the Lexus, retrieved my bag of newly acquired wardrobe (which I was forced to purchase because my bags had been on the plane that went down over the Pacific), and entered the house.
The familiar untidiness and smells of the rooms welcomed me to a place of relative security. I set the bag down in the first convenient place and plopped myself into the old comfortable lounge chair by the window. I must have sat there without moving for a half hour or longer, just staring out at the sky and fields beyond.
Some six weeks had passed since my return to the homestead and I had quickly settled back into my routine, meeting with Nelson to discuss the operation of the farm, occasionally being at the roadside mailbox when LeAnn made her delivery, and having idle chats with John Nash or just waving at him as he drove past. Everything seemed back to normal.
I discovered that LeAnn was being “kicked upstairs,” taking on another job in the post office which would keep her off the road. I’m sure she never liked some of the winter deliveries she had to make, considering that winters in central Kentucky vary widely from year to year — and some can be pretty brutal. I can only recall one instance when mail was not delivered because of the bad weather and that was following an ice storm that felled trees and made roads into ice rinks. I guess “..neither rain nor snow” doesn’t always apply.
I have not yet met our new mail carrier but I know that I’ll miss LeAnn as I missed Mary before her.
Oh well, change is the only thing that stays the same.
I guess all this information about my mail carriers has come about due to the fact that, about this time, the new carrier came on the scene.
It wasn’t because I just happened to be at the mailbox the day we met. He had stopped his mail truck in front of the house and walked up the driveway to deliver a package too large to fit into the mailbox.
I was reading and having coffee in the den when the doorbell rang. The front door was open and only the screen door separated the foyer from the outside. As I approached, I could see through the screen door a youngish — maybe thirty — fellow, dressed in everyday clothing that didn’t distinguish him as a postal service employee except for the small eagle emblem on the left breast of his shirt. These days, the USPS doesn’t require its employees to wear uniforms except in certain situations.
“Good afternoon, sir,” was the friendly greeting as I neared the door. “Mr. Tate, I presume,”
“Yes, and you are?”
“Jim Saxon, sir. I’m the new carrier on this route. Glad to finally meet you.”
“Thanks, Jim. Glad to meet you. But if we’re going to get along, you’re going to have to call me Michael. I’m not used to all this ‘sir’ stuff.”
“Sorry, si… Michael. I guess old habits are hard to break. I haven’t been out of the corps long enough to have shed the habit of referring to all my elders as ‘sir’.”
Ouch! That hurt. I had never been referred to as an elder before. That fellow who greeted me in the mirror this morning didn’t look so much older than the one there yesterday. Is forty-two really old?
“Anyway, Michael, I just wanted to deliver this package. It’s too large for the box and I can’t leave it on the side of the road. Oh, and here’s the rest of your mail.”
“Thanks, Jim. Can I offer you a cup of coffee or a soft drink?”
“Oh, no thanks. I’m running a bit late today and I have some duties once I get back to the post office. Maybe a rain check?”
“Sure. Anytime,” I said as I opened the screen door and accepted the package and loose mail from him.