Jake Green walked away from Robert Hawkins' backyard shed, his head spinning over what he had just heard. A bomb – just like the bombs that had wiped out Denver and so many other American cities, an event which though it happened months ago was still so vivid in Jake's mind – was just below the ground and mere feet away from him. What should he do? The fact that Hawkins had been in his town at all was no longer sitting so well with him. He had initially thought, upon meeting and working with the man, that having the former Saint Louis cop around was a good thing; Hawkins seemed capable and strong and Jake thought he would be an asset to Jericho as they worked through the devastating results of what had happened.

He didn't think that any more. First, Hawkins had made himself scarce of late. He hadn't seemed very interested in their town meetings, and he hadn't been available to help much in the last weeks, except for an occasional turn on patrol. Jake understood now the reasons why, based on the story that Hawkins had just told him. The problem was that Jake wasn't sure how much, if any, of the story he actually believed. The plain fact was that the man had in his possession a bomb that could potentially jeopardize Jake's hometown and several others within a nuclear blast's distance from Jericho. That fact alone was reason enough to run him out of town.

Jake walked out of Hawkins' backyard and then headed into town. He was having a hard time wrapping his head around what he'd learned. He needed to talk to somebody. He needed to talk to his dad.

As he continued down the sidewalk in deep thought he finally recognized the sound of a horn, and then he recognized Jimmy's voice. Yelling. He turned to the left to see Jimmy's truck riding along beside him on the road, the local law enforcement officer yelling his name.

Shit.

"Hey, Jimmy. Uh, sorry about that," he said, not sure how he would be able to explain why he'd forgotten and left the officer behind.

Jimmy pulled the car over and turned off the engine. Jake walked over to the passenger side window. "Everything okay?" Jimmy asked.

"Yeah."

"It doesn't seem like it, Jake."

Jake sighed and lowered his head. He shook his head a couple of times as he leaned his hands against the window's rim. When he'd come to Jericho he'd planned to stay for just one day. He would pick up the money that his grandfather had left him and then he would leave Jericho one final time. He had been pretty sure that there was nothing left for him in this town, at least that's what he thought then, the love he held for his family not enough to draw him back, knowing that they couldn't possibly return it. There couldn't be anyone here who really wanted him back, except for this mother, of course, at least not after the way he'd left; he was sure his actions had heralded pretty clearly what little importance the town and the people he had left years ago held for him, even though that impression that he was sure he had made was a false one, most especially in his heart.

It seemed, however, that he had assumed far too much about the good people of Jericho, Kansas. His town and her people had welcomed him back with open arms, and they had shown with their friendship and gratitude that they appreciated his presence. They even seemed to have forgiven him for leaving them without thought or comment on those now five plus years that had passed.

He doubted that silence would last forever. He knew of at least one person who would still want to have a conversation with him about where he'd been and what he'd been doing since he had been gone. Jake hoped that conversation could be postponed indefinitely, but he really had no way of knowing when things might be calm enough for Johnston Green to get what he wanted in that regard. Jake hoped it wouldn't be now.

His thoughts went back to Jimmy and about how much he hated to have to lie to him. He had hoped that after the fiasco of the fake Marines and hiding that knowledge from the townspeople – and seeing the fallout from that lie – that he would be through with lying to people he liked and people he cared for. Jimmy could be a pain in the ass sometimes, but he had the right instincts this time. Hawkins might be CIA and he might not be. The fact that he had stored a bomb in Jericho for this long proved that he knew what he was doing – with the bomb. Nothing about this situation proved yet that he could be trusted.

"Seriously, Jimmy. Everything's okay. He is who he says he is, at least from what I can tell. I think we have to take him at his word."

"You're sure? His wife and his kids seem like good people. They've been staying with us since the separation."

The separation. No surprise there, not if Hawkins had been lying to his family the way he'd been lying to the town.

"I think we have to just be happy that we have FBI presence here. I think, for now, that we have to assume it's a good thing." Jake looked away after he said it, not wanting to look Jimmy in the eye; not wanting to give him a chance to see the lie show on his face.

"Jake?" Jimmy asked. "Is everything okay with you?" Jake looked back, knowing that he risked a lot in taking that action, but also appreciating Jimmy's sensitive, intuitive nature. He might not be the most skilled officer of the law, but he made up for that in a lot of ways with his empathy, his earnestness, and his good nature.

"Things could be better," Jake answered, knowing that he need not go into any more detail.

"I can imagine," Jimmy responded sympathetically.

"Yeah, well…" Jake replied, not intending to say any more.

"Look, do you need a ride?"

"No, thanks. I think the walk will do me good."

"Okay. Thanks for looking into this with me. I feel better that we did, and that he is who he says he is."

The comment was just like a knife stabbing Jake in the gut.

"I'll see you later, Jimmy."

"So long."

Jake walked slowly back to his parents house. He wasn't sure, even as he stepped up onto the back porch and through the kitchen, whether it made any sense to tell his father about what he had learned. He figured he'd make that decision when he saw him.

Gail Green rushed into the kitchen and jumped with shock before realizing that it was just her oldest son standing before her. Having someone break into her house just days before had left her a little on edge in her own home.

"Sorry. I didn't mean to scare you," Jake apologized as he stepped over and pulled her into a hug.

Gail felt the tight hold and wrapped her arms around him with the same intensity. She raised her eyes up to try to get a look at Jake's face when she said, "Is something wrong?"

Jake released her from the embrace and asked, "What? Can't a son hug his mother?" The smile was properly displayed, but her son's eyes told a different story.

"Is that a trick question?" she asked, the lighthearted delivery hiding her worry only a little.

"No. Is Dad around?"

"No," Gail answered, a surprising crispness in her tone.

"Do you know where he is?"

"Yes, but I don't think your father wants to be bothered right now," his mother answered candidly. What she said and how she said it sent all kinds of alarms and warning signals shooting through Jake's mind, and sent a chill everywhere else.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong," Gail replied as she started for the living room.

"Something's wrong, Mom."

"Jake," she said with evident frustration as she stopped dead and turned toward her son. He nearly slammed into her. He could see in her face the torture she was trying to hide. Something wasn't right, and his mom was torn about whether she should say something about it, as though telling her son about the troubles of her husband was breaking some sort of sacred vow. He could tell that whatever it was, it was bad. At least his mom thought so, and Gail Green was not one to overreact.

"Mom?" he asked, urging her to come clean. She stood back on her heels and folded her arms over her chest, her eyes rolling up with her head to look up at the ceiling, or the sky. Or…

"Mom," he said again, grabbing her arm in order to grab her attention.

"He's out in the woods."

"Why?"

"He's hunting for deer."

"There are no deer."

"I know that, Jake. So does your father."

"I don't understand."

"I think, I hope it's just another of those times where he needs his space. They've asked him to come back and help out while Gray is recuperating. Harry claims that Johnston threatened him with his rifle."

Jake snorted derisively. "I've felt like doing the same thing once or twice recently." He saw that his mother wasn't smiling. "He wasn't going to shoot him."

"I know that." She patted Jake's chest as she walked towards the stairs. "He needs his time, honey. It's been my experience that we should give it to him." Gail Green headed up the staircase, a clear sign that this conversation was over.

Jake Green would have to keep his own counsel. For now. But he would also have to add to the growing list of things he felt responsible for the need to keep one eye on Hawkins whenever possible. Between his worry about Eric and Stanley and Heather in New Bern, Roger on the road, Emily, his mom, Bonnie and Mimi on Stanley's behalf, and now his dad's worrisome behavior, in addition to helping to solve both minor and major dilemmas from one side of town to the other, Jake hoped he had the fortitude to keep his wits about him, and to keep Jericho alive. He could not let his family, his friends or his town down. He needed to stay strong just as he'd told Eric to stay strong.

Eric. Jake looked out the window and down the road toward Robert Hawkins' house. In his mind he knew better than to trust the man, but his heart knew that sooner or later he would need to check on his brother and his friends and Jericho's interests in New Bern, and that would mean taking his eyes off someone who could be the biggest threat to Jericho. There was no denying that before he left town he'd have to come up with a plan to deal with Robert Hawkins.

The End.