Dottie Thorson had a million and one reasons to hate Tiny Bellows. Him being a murderer counted for at least 750,000 of them. And what was left was covered under the category of "he's the reason my husband is dead."
Sure, Tiny didn't kill Ralph. Dottie believed him there. After all, he had nothing to gain by lying to her once she'd already had him cuffed. But Tiny was the guy he'd gone out looking for that day – the reason he'd left the house, the reason he'd gotten into the car, the reason he'd put the key in the ignition and…
She couldn't think about it. Couldn't think about her husband being scorched and torn apart and in pieces. Tiny reminded her of that.
Sitting next to him on the stairs outside the motel, absently holding a gun in her left hand and a cigarette in her right, she thought about every little thing she knew about Tiny Bellows. The people he had killed, the way he had killed them. Allegedly, sure, but even Tiny didn't deny it. He was a murderer. But he had never been anything other than genuine, honest, helpful, and even flattering to her. Tiny Bellows was a gentleman. Even as she was unzipping his fly and…assisting him in the bathroom, he was a gentleman. He told her he liked the way she smelled, the way she looked, and was never crude about it. Never whacked her on the ass the way Ralph used to, treating her like a possession. In some ways, Tiny Bellows was more of a gentleman than Ralph Thorson.
It just figured she would find herself connecting with convicted murderer just months after the death of her bounty hunter husband. All the time spent around criminals must have desensitized her. Her sense of morals remained intact, but there was a part of her that always saw them as people, while Ralph would taunt and demean them. It must have been all that maternal energy. Brandi always resented the fact that said maternal energy was always poured on her and not divided fairly among many. The perils of being an only child. But looking back, Dottie was sure some of it had been devoted to those wayward men and women. And now, to Tiny. Oh, how she wishes she could toughen up just a little.
They were both silent for a good awhile, taking in the decidedly unappealing view of the mini-mall across the street. Then Tiny turned to her, his bizarrely kind eyes observing her for a moment before speaking. "You've held up damn good for a widow."
As usual, Dottie was rendered speechless. She wasn't sure if it was what he said, the way he said it, or that he seemed to have absolutely no conception of boundaries. "…Thank you."
"What I mean is," Tiny continued, his eyes never leaving her. "I've never caught you cryin' or anything. You're tough."
He considered her tough? She shakes her head, careful not to let her eyes meet his the way she wants them to. "I'm not tough."
He scoffed, turning his head to look out at the mini-mall. "The hell you're not. Look at you, you're a goddamn bounty hunter. If that isn't tough, lady, I don't know what is."
"We had no choice," she admitted grudgingly. "We're broke."
He turned back to look at her, studying her again before speaking. "You're holding a gun. You're tough."
She resisted the urge to thank him, instead looking down at her feet. "You oughtta know about that."
"I've held my share of guns," he conceded, and Dottie had to marvel at the way nothing seemed to perturb him in the slightest.
"And pointed it at your share of people."
"Hey, I don't pretend to be anything other than what I am," Tiny said, shrugging nonchalantly. "We both know what I am, what I've done, that's why we're here. But I'm still just a guy."
"It doesn't bother you?" Dottie asked softly, finally looking at him.
"It is what it is. Been living like this for a long, long time. You stop asking questions after awhile," he replied, with a faraway gaze. "Doesn't mean I'm proud of it."
"You could change," she ventured tentatively, certain she would be shot down.
Instead, he simply laughed, shaking his head. "Change is a pipe dream, Dottie. It's not real. People are who they are and if they try to stop, then somebody, somewhere, gets fucked over. Better just to stick to the way things are."
Disappointed, she turned away from him. "That's a very cynical view."
"Don't confuse realism with cynicism now. They're not the same, and they sure as hell don't play fair together," Tiny noted.
"Ralph used to say that change was a waste of time because it never lasts anyway," Dottie said quietly. "But then, Ralph was always far too stubborn for change anyway. Too stubborn and too damn impatient."
Tiny nodded, offering her a crooked smile. "You know, all this time I been in your…custody, I've been trying to…imagine the two of you together." Dottie's eyes widened, causing Tiny to laugh and shake his head. "Not like that. I just mean that…you strike me as the kind of woman who is…way out of Ralph Thorson's league."
Dottie was tempted to let herself but flattered, but wasn't keen on allowing her husband's perfectly imperfect memory to be insulted. "I'm not. I promise."
"Besides," Tiny added. "The man was about double your size, wasn't he?"
Dottie chuckled, nodding her head. "Thereabouts."
"Must have made things…difficult."
"Interesting," she corrected him, smiling nostalgically.
Tiny couldn't help but grin. "I bet."
Leaning to the side, she nudged him with her elbow. "You're terrible."
"Hey," he said with a shrug, still grinning at her. "Any excuse to have a beautiful woman running through my head and I'll take it."
"Well." Her attempts at concealing her blush were quite unsuccessful. "You'd better commit it to memory, you've got a long stretch ahead of you."
His face fell a little as he nodded, solemn but resigned. "Yeah. Just a little vacation, only without all the luxuries of an actual vacation."
Dottie turned to look in his direction, locking eyes with him briefly. "…I should get going."
Then she had to smile at the way his ears perked up like a dog's. "I could go with you."
"No." She shook her head. "You stay with Brandi. I don't need any more distractions."
At first dejected, he smiles. "I'll take that as a compliment."
She rolled her eyes, putting out her cigarette and standing up. "You would."
Gun still in hand, she reached down with her free hand to help him up and guide him back toward the room. Opening the door for him, she was surprised when he hesitated before entering. "Be careful, Dottie."
Genuinely touched by his concerned, she quietly replied, "I will."
A million and one reasons to hate Tiny Bellows, and not one of them did the trick.