All the Way to the Bone – Chapter Fourteen (Epilogue)
Art visits Tim at the hospital early the next day. Tim has come around and they have a conversation of sorts. It puts Art's mind at rest before he and Raylan have to catch their flight back to Lexington. Rachel's good, but even so Art doesn't feel she should have to run the office short by three for too long. He worries briefly about leaving Miljana alone in Louisiana, but Toby proves so solicitous that it's clear Art's concerns are unfounded. She has already moved into Toby's house by the second night and he is happily chauffeuring her around Lafayette, keeping her company in the hospital and at meals.
She recognizes that it's a mutual need; she appreciates the support and he's anxious to help. The two are emotionally invested in the man in the hospital and it makes them instant friends.
At the end of a week, Toby takes her out on his boat at Tim's insistence, and gives her a tour of the bayou, pointing out items of interest, the Liles property, his and Tim's hide, an alligator. She is an excellent audience and draws out stories of his Louisiana childhood, his marriage, his time in Vietnam. The friendship is sealed when he takes her to his favorite Cajun restaurant and she tries everything on his plate, too.
A few days later, Toby drives them to the airport. He had offered to let them stay longer, let Tim rest a few more days before traveling, but Miljana has to get back to work and Tim's been away from Lexington for so long he's afraid he might not recognize his house. It's an emotional parting, but Miljana promises they'll be back for the Creole Festival in the fall and Toby lets them go.
Tim's surprised to see Art waiting for them at the airport in Kentucky.
"Well, I'm already over budget for medical leave in my bureau," he says, explaining his presence. "And with your luck, Tim, you'd end up in a car bombing or a drive-by shooting or an alien abduction or something, somewhere between the airport and your house. In fact, I was thinking you should consider dumping the psychologist and finding a nurse to date."
"I kind of like the psychologist," Tim replies. "Maybe you could hire me a bodyguard instead."
"Raylan's available," Art offers.
"I'll look for a nurse." Tim turns to Miljana and shrugs. "Sorry, sweetheart."
Raylan pulls into the yard at the diner, sits in the car and looks out the window at the midsummer's dream. It's as beautiful as always here. Limehouse has his drum barbeque going this afternoon and is sweating over it happily, chatting with neighbors. He notices the Marshal sitting in his car and gives him a piercing look, carrying with it something Raylan can't quite get the measure of, sympathy or maybe empathy. Limehouse passes his scepter, his long-handled flipper, to a younger man beside him, passes with it some instructions and strolls unhurriedly over to the car. Raylan opens the door and steps out to meet him.
As he stands up a cool breeze smoothes itself over his face and he's pulled back to the time he was in this same spot with Tim. It wasn't that long ago, just over a month, but it seems a whole lot longer.
Raylan had no intention when he set out for Harlan this morning of ending up in Noble's Holler, but his hands had steered him here after a conversation with Boyd on another matter and now he realizes that he needs to talk to Limehouse. He's someone who would understand what happened in Louisiana, maybe shed some light on his feelings, offer up some closure with some barbeque. It seems an odd choice for Raylan, coming to Limehouse for consolation, yet here he is.
"Marshal," Limehouse greets him, stopping beside his car.
"Mr. Limehouse," Raylan returns and offers a hand to shake.
Limehouse looks surprised but takes the gesture at face value and returns it. It's the first time Raylan has ever shaken his hand that he can remember.
"How's that young sniper doing?" he asks.
Raylan snaps his eyes to Limehouse's face, ready to be angry at the insolence, but sees only sincere concern and lowers his hackles.
"Recovering," he answers, wondering how Limehouse knows about Tim. "He's at home now."
"I'm pleased to hear it. I like that young man. Cool head. Could use his talents around here," Limehouse adds smiling mischievously.
Raylan raises an eyebrow at the idea. "Definitely a cool head," is all the response he offers.
Raylan can't keep his eyes focused on any one spot. They dart to Limehouse and over to the late afternoon gathering, to the ground at his feet, up to the tree canopy. Limehouse just stands and watches the struggle, amazed that a man so light with words when talking about business is sinking under the weight of discussing his thoughts.
"The lessons keep coming, Marshal," Limehouse finally offers, "even at my age. I don't doubt I'll still be learning when I take my last breath."
With that statement, Raylan realizes that Limehouse knows all about Louisiana. He's not really surprised. He's pretty sure he has contacts there. "Thanks for not saying I told you so."
"Why waste the words," Limehouse replies. "From what I understand, you don't need telling."
"I recall a lawyer saying, 'If you want to catch the devil, you got to go to hell' or something like that."
"Or something like that," Raylan agrees.
"But you know now, don't you? You ain't never gonna catch the devil," Limehouse states. "'Cause he ain't just one man."
Raylan's gaze follows the smoke curling up from the barbeque, catching the breeze and fanning out, disappearing.
"You want a bite?"
"Sure thing," says Raylan.
"Maybe a drink first? We can toast the demise of a rumor."
"You really believe we'll never hear the name Jeremy Liles again?" asks Raylan.
"Heh," Limehouse chuckles and leads Raylan toward the diner. "Can't promise you that, Marshal."
Miljana pushes the gate open with her foot, swinging two bags of groceries and her work satchel. She notices Tim asleep on the porch, tiptoes up the steps and sets the bags down to open the door just enough to squeeze through, avoiding the squeak in the hinge at the halfway point. She closes it as quietly, kicks off her shoes and barefoots it to the kitchen.
She changes out her work clothes into shorts and a tank top, tosses the groceries in the fridge and pours two glasses of lemonade with ice. It's hot out.
"Tim," she calls gently from the doorway.
He opens his eyes slowly and blinks at her. Drugs, she thinks and grins. She'd never have made it this far without waking him otherwise.
"Hey, sweetheart," he says drowsily.
She passes him a glass. He takes it and looks at it.
"This isn't beer."
"Oh my God, really?" she mocks him. "Silly me. What was the point of all that education if I can't even tell the difference between beer and lemonade?"
"Thank you," he drawls. "Especially appreciate the sarcasm on the side."
"You started it." She leans over and kisses him. "Aren't you hot?" she asks, settling into her chair, looking sideways at him hunkered down in a hoodie.
"I am perfectly comfortable."
"Toby called at lunch to see how you're doing. He's awesome. We should adopt him."
"We'd have to get married first," Tim replies, then his face contorts and he tries to will the words back out of the air.
Miljana continues, oblivious to his turmoil. "I don't think he needs parents. I was thinking more… Oh, my God," she laughs when she turns to look at him. "The expression on your face. It's an emotional smorgasbord, a veritable buffet."
"Stop it," he scolds. "Stop laughing."
She laughs harder.
He rolls his eyes. "For fuck's sake."
"Tim," she grins, "you weren't seriously proposing?"
"What if I was? You'd feel bad right now," he replies.
"You're on drugs. Really, if I said yes, I'd be constantly worried that you weren't in your right mind and didn't mean it."
"Well I wasn't, serious I mean. Besides I'd be too worried that you were feeling sorry for me right now and would say yes out of pity."
"Pity? You're hardly pitiable. Pathetic maybe."
"There's a difference?" he questions.
"Oh, for fuck's sake."
"Fuck off. You're not allowed to play my game."
"Three. You only say 'fuck' when I've hit a sensitive spot," she grins at him, then pauses and considers. "You've been thinking about it, haven't you? Getting married."
"Oh, for fuck's sake."
"Four. Those drugs must really be affecting you. You're usually quicker than this."
"Does that count?" she wonders aloud.
He glares at her, his lips tightly shut. She giggles.
"Tell you what," she says, reaching over inside his hood and gently tracing his jawline, the mirth gone. "When you're running your ten miles again, and I can hear the phone ring without having an anxiety attack, we should talk about it."
He thinks maybe that's not a bad idea.
"I learned something," Tim says out of the blue, "second or third tour in, I don't remember exactly. It wasn't like a eureka moment or anything. It kind of snuck up on me."
Raylan looks over at him. He's come to the house to watch some baseball and see how Tim's doing now that he's back at home. He's pale and thin and he moves slowly and he's wearing way too many layers for a hot Kentucky day and now he's getting philosophical. It's the last bit that worries Raylan most.
Tim is on a hefty dose of painkillers and he's starting to drift while he's waiting for his next sentence to form. Raylan throws out a tether and pulls him back in.
"What did you learn, buddy? Not to get sand in your underwear?"
Tim grins. It starts in his eyes and moves sloth-like down his face, curling up lop-sided. Raylan can't get used to lethargic Tim.
"We didn't bother much with underwear."
"Too much information."
The grin gets more enthusiastic.
"No, it was about the big picture," Tim continues. "I figured it out, that I wasn't there to play the endgame, to close out the deal. All I could do was get through the next ten minutes and get my buddy through it with me. There is no endgame, no grand finale where someone wins and someone loses." He nods towards the TV. "No ninth inning. That's just bullshit. The generals and the politicians, they can all plan and talk about it, but it doesn't exist. It'll never be there. You just move vaguely in a direction, you know?"
Raylan stares at him. He wonders how much of this conversation is Tim down the rabbit hole. On the other hand, if he lets himself follow, move vaguely in the direction, he can see a shadow of something.
"Once I realized that I couldn't ever control the outcome, it was a bit easier. I was satisfied with just getting through the day," Tim concludes, "and more, getting my buddies through the day. It'd get bad when I'd forget."
"Tim, are you trying to make me feel better?"
"Lucy van Pelt," Tim says and closes his eyes for a moment. "It'll cost you a nickel."
Raylan creases his forehead, not getting the reference.
"Nevermind," Tim mumbles.
"I've got a Yogi Berra quote for you, Tim," offers Raylan. "You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you are going because you might not get there."
"That's exactly my point," Tim grins, opening his eyes again. "That man was a Zen master."
Raylan finishes his beer and goes for another one. When he sits back down on the couch he looks over at Tim and frowns.
"Is that why you covered Toby?" Raylan asks. "Getting your buddy through the day? He was pretty upset about that. He told me it should have been the other way around but his reflexes aren't what they used to be."
Tim pulls a Tim, tilts his head and cracks a grin to the wry side of sad.
"Jesus, I couldn't have lived with myself if something happened to Toby. Ducatel getting off free wouldn't have bothered me half as much."
Raylan is on his fourth beer and they're in the eighth inning. Rangers and White Sox, it's a close game and the Sox need a win to break a bad losing streak. The players are all tense, you can see it. A pitcher once said, Raylan can't remember who, that baseball is not real life, baseball is a game. No money in your pocket and kids to feed, that's real life, he'd said.
Author's note: That pitcher was Jack Morris; used to play for the Toronto Blue Jays. I'm paraphrasing from memory a comment he made in a post game interview once. My apologies to him if I got it all wrong, but I think the feeling is right.
Thanks to everyone for reading, reviewing. It's all appreciated.