When they pulled up in front of Amelia Riffe's house, they were greeted by a four year old sentry. The boy held, in one hand, a stuffed dragonfly. He wore black rimmed glasses and a blue Transformers t-shirt. There was an upside down stainless steel colander on his head. He stood straight as a chalkline at the edge of the yard, watching as Raylan and Tim got out of the car. Raylan smiled at him and stepped up in the yard.
"Hey little man, where's your mama?"
The boy was silent for a moment, his head tilted back all the way, staring straight into Raylan's eyes. The colander was in grave danger of falling from his head.
"Don' stand on my grass," he said.
Raylan's eyes went wide. Tim snickered.
"Don' stand on my grass," the little boy insisted, and Raylan took a giant step backward onto the street.
"Okay, I'm not standing on your grass." He raised his hands and spread his arms. I come in peace! As he did so, his jacket fell open and the little boy caught sight of the badge on his belt. He stared at it, and the silence was so much like a standoff that Tim had to bite his cheeks to keep from howling.
"Yes. Would you like to see?" Raylan unhooked the badge and held it out to the suspicious little fiend.
"Don' stand on my grass." He came down the bank, snatched it from Raylan's hand, and examined it thoroughly. Raylan coughed with dismay when he bit the edge of the star. Satisfied, he handed it back to Raylan and tucked his dragonfly under his arm.
"You can come in," he said. He turned his sturdy little self back around and headed toward the house. Raylan pointedly walked around the bank to the sidewalk, climbed the concrete steps, and followed the little boy. Tim started to follow when the sentry turned around and pointed a stubby finger at him.
"You stay here. Don't stand on my grass."
"Well he has a star too," Raylan pointed out, reasonable.
"Nuh-uh," said the little boy.
"Nuh-HUH!" Tim called from the street.
The little boy marched to the edge of the bank and stuck out his hand. Tim proffered the shiny, the boy snatched it, and Tim's badge went through the same examination. The little boy glared at Tim, as if he were disappointed that he had not caught him in a lie.
"I won't walk on your grass." Tim raised his hands, palms open.
"On my honor as a United States Marshall."
"You can come in."
Tim walked around and trotted up the concrete walk to join Raylan, who, for his part, had not moved from where The Sentry had left him. His eyes were laughing, and Tim shook his head slightly. This was serious business! Couldn't the older marshall TELL?
The little boy walked up the steps and put an ear to the door. He looked up at Raylan. "You stay here."
"Can I set down on the swing?"
The Sentry gave it thought. "Yes."
"What about me?" Tim asked.
The Sentry shot him a dirty look. "You stand over there." He pointed at the porch railing, and Tim leaned up against.
The little boy cracked the door just a tiny bit, and then dashed inside. Raylan's brows were up clear underneath the brim of his hat and neither grown man could keep the smile from crawling across their faces.
"You ever seen anything quite like that?
Tim shook his head and laughed. "Nope." There was a pause. "Wonder why he's so fussy about his yard?"
The door smacked open and The Sentry and his colander came around the corner. "You stand on my grass?"
"No, we haven't moved." Raylan stood up then, because Miss Amelia Riffe came around the corner and joined her son, white cane preceding her. Tim stiffened suddenly.
"Ma'am," from Raylan.
She acknowledged Raylan, then turned her dark, unseeing eyes toward Tim. "Can I help you gentlemen?"
"Yes ma'am. We're looking for Evan Rhodes, and I was given to understand you…"
"That's MY name," spoke up The Sentry.
"Evinrude baby', why don't you go play?"
He paused at the edge of the steps and looked back at his mama. Tim had not moved from the porch railing. Evan Rhodes Junior reached up, tugged Tim's big hand loose from the railing and dragged him out onto the sidewalk.
"Wait here." The four year old trotted around the corner and returned with the necessary equipment.
Tim and 'Evinrude' played for a full half an hour, pushing dirt with a faded yellow Tonka truck and a crane. Evan got the truck, Tim got the crane.
"Why's your mama call you Evinrude?"
The colander had slipped over his eyes, and Evan pushed it up with one grubby hand. "S' from The Rescuers."
Tim couldn't remember why that was supposed to have made sense; he hadn't seen the movie since he was twelve.
"What in the world are you watching?"
Tim looked up from his computer in the bullpen. There stood Rachel, armed with Round Three of coffee-and-a-Danish.
He half smiled and turned his monitor around. Evinrude, as it turned out, was a dragonfly with a hella-strong motor. Made a heck of a swamp-boat captain.
Rachel was currently being treated to the scene where Evinrude, having taken shelter in a glass bottle, makes a run for the shack with a bajillion bats in pursuit.
"I'm sure," she said, around a sip of coffee, "that this has bearing on your current caseload in some way."
"Did you know," Tim leaned conspiratorially over the desk, "that I was six when this movie came out?"
"What is that, anyway? Is that the Rescuers?"
Art's office door was propped open and he looked up. "Hey is that good ol' Bernard and Bianca? Allie wore that tape out and we had to replace it!"
"How old is she now, Art?" That was from Raylan, who barely remembered Allie from Glynco. She was just finishing her PhD back then.
"Thirty-eight. With three hellions of her own."
"Got busy, did she?"
"Says the man who's expecting a child for the first time in his life at FORTY." Art clapped a hand over his mouth and mock gasped. "Oh my. Was I supposed to say that?"
Congratulations got passed around. Raylan's eyes took on a light Gutterson had never seen in them before, and he sat back and watched the older man as the conversation took its twists and turns.
Damn drama queen. But this….Raylan actually seemed serious in his joy. In his…was that apprehension? Gutterson decided that he'd be apprehensive too, if he were having a kid with Winona Hawkins. Geezum there was a lot of woman packed into that size four.
Tim got off at five and drove to the house, slapped on some aftershave, and walked back out the door to face the night. And here, he thought, was the million dollar question. Would he, or would he not, be coming home alone?