Reno suddenly sat upright in the bed. His hair was tangled in sweat - it ran down his chest and soaked the sheets. He felt like he was sitting in a swamp. His heart was pumping like a locomotive. His pulse was racing. His head felt like someone was using a jack hammer on it. The surroundings were strange. They were luxurious. He turned on the lamp to see better. Above his head the crystal chandelier tinkled in the slight breeze that was already attempting to dry his body. He shivered - held his head. Where was he? The room seemed to echo with a cry that didn't sound human. But there was no sound! The echo came from his head. The sound was his own screams.
The dream came back to him in sinking waves. It was dark. The sound of gunfire and police sirens was deafening. Bobby was running for the door. A shadow appeared behind him. It was Dutch! He had double backed. Reno shot but his gun was empty. It just clicked back at him. Everything went into slow motion. Dutch fired. Bobby fell. Reno screamed "Nooooooooo!!!!
The door had inched open while he was remembering. Bobby called out "Reno, Man are you alright?" Of course that's where he was - Bobby's house. Everything had ended six months ago. He was finally free and Dutch was on trial! After so long everything had happened so quickly. He couldn't adjust to it. He wiped the sweat from his brow, forced a smile into place and answered
"Sure Man, Sorry I woke you."
"No problem, Buddy. It was time to start moving around anyway"
Reno looked up as Bobby's wheel chair came through the door.
"Man, you look like you've seen a ghost", Bobby said.
"The Spirit of Christmas Past", Reno joked.
"Speaking of Christmas I thought we could put up the tree today",Bobby said.
"What Tree? " Reno snarled.
"The one we are going to buy as soon as you get dressed."
"What about breakfast?"
"It'll taste much better after we work up an appetite picking out a tree",Bobby answered.
"I've already worked up an appetite. Are you listening to me? RIGHT! No reason to start now" Reno said under his breath as Bobby's chair went through the door.
"Meet you downstairs in five" , was the only answer Reno heard through the closed door.
He threw off the sheets and walked naked into the private bath - turned on the shower and leaned against the wall as the water tried to wash the sweat from his body and the pain from his mind.He had no excuse. He had known all along someone could get hurt. He had just never pictured it would be Bobby. Sure he had half suspected Bobby might get caught helping him but he had always figured some fast talking and a good lawyer could work it out. Bobby in a wheel chair had never been a part of his wildest dreams. Thank God,Chey was safe- away and married with a baby due next month. She had come down but Bobby sent her back when he got out of the hospital.
Now he would take care of Bobby. He would spend his life being his friends legs. Bobby had spent the last seven years being his life line. It was time to payback.
Reno walked down the long staircase. His hair was till wet and tied behind his back. The front windows let in the blaring sun. He winced as it caught him in the eye. He pulled on the leather jacket over his cut off sweat shirt. His blue jeans hung loose around his waist. Bobby kept harping on him because he was loosing weight.-Said he should be getting fat from staying in one place so long. But Reno couldn't seem to eat. He had almost scared himself catching a glimpse in the mirror when he got out of the shower. He only looked in the mirror to shave. He was always careful not to look himself in the eye. Even he couldn't deny the haunted look there.'Post Traumatic Stress" the doctor Bobby made him see diagnosed. That was just a fancy word for 'nothing to live for'. No that wasn't true! He OWED Bobby. The guilt wouldn't let him take a deep breath. The front door was open. He could see the sun shinning on Bobby's chair. Time to put the smile back in place.
"Ah, KimoSabe, you're late! I distinctly said five minutes. It's been twenty" Bobby greeted him.
"Yeah,well I get dirtier then you. Live with it! I still think breakfast first is a good idea",Reno answered.
"Your idea of breakfast is dry toast and black coffee. I've got reservations for brunch at 'The Derby" Plenty of time to pick up the tree first"
"I don't remember you ever having a tree before", Reno observed.
"We've never spent Christmas together,"Bobby answeredWe always had a tree,Christmas lights,carols and egg nog punch,How did you celebrate?"
"These last six years? Midnight mass and a cheap hotel room. Mylast real Christmas was with Val and her family. I was so proud of that diamond I put on her finger. It was never meant to be her death warrent"
Reno lowered the lift on the van. Bobby made his way up the ramp. His head was down. He couldn't look Reno in the eye. He didn't want him to see he was crying.His friend was hurting. Everything he said to him brought up bad memories. The thing Bobby had always admired most about Reno was his attitude. Nothing had ever kept him down. But something happened when Dutch shot him. The bullet had killed whatever spirit Reno had left. Bobby had just watched the life drain out of him.
Reno got in the drivers seat. As he pulled the van out of the driveway he could see his Harley by the garage door. He hadn't been on it since Bobby got home from the hospital. He should run it just to keep the fuel line from clogging up. His old karate master had told Reno long ago that revenge was a two edged sword. Well he didn't know about revenge but the last seven years had been a two edged sword. His dad had died before he could clear himself. Chey had gotten married and Lisa had got tired of waiting. Only Bobby had stayed and he got a wheel chair for his loyalty.Reno had lost everything but so had Dixon!
Dixon was on trial for a capital crime. He almost certainly would be executed. He had killed his own wife when she couldn't stand by and watch anymore and his son was in prison for trying to kill him. All his money could buy now was a good defense attorney who didn't believe he could do more then postpone his death. And five million dollars of his precious money he hed had to turn over to Reno as compensation. Compensation? What did five million buy? Not a family-not friends-not memories.
For the last seven years he had worn blue jeans and slept in fourth-rate motel rooms and campsites. Every friend he made he left behind. He was 41 years old.- a little late to start over.
"Hey,man, you went right by the place. I don't think you've got your Christmas Spirit in place",Bobby called
"Christmas Spirit? Bobby it's 85 in the shade. I grew up in Chicago. Christmas is suppose to be ice skating,snow sledding,frost bite!"
"Reno, Christmas is suppose to be in your heart. Good willto men and all that junk"
"That's a bad translation. It's 'Peace to men of good will',BobbyI've spent enough Christmas' in motel rooms with nothing but an old bible to get the quote right."
"I liked you better when you were on the run", Bobby said He had meant it as a joke but once it was said out loud it rang too much of the truth. The two friends locked eyes and then looked quickly away.
" Me too Bobby. I liked me better then too"
His voice was so low it was hard for Bobby to recognize it. They had picked out the biggest tree they could find and gave the guy an extra twenty to deliver it. Neither one of them made a dent in brunch and finally Bobby wanted to go back to lie down. The housekeeper would be there til 6:00pm. It was the perfect time for Reno to take off on his bike. Maybe a few miles with the wind in his hair would rid him of this mornings headache.
He turned out of the driveway and headed for the highway. It felt good to be riding. To have the bike between his legs again. Maybe it would do him more good then it did the bike to get out on the road. It was dark when the Harley moved back into the driveway. Way past 6:00pm. The front light was on and Reno could see the tree through the bay windows. Bobby must have got the delivery guy to put it in the stand.
Reno opened the front door and walked into the front parlor. Bobby was decorating the lower branches.
"Hey, you need a hand there?", Reno called out.
"Hey Buddy, Where you been? I was afraid when you finally got on your bike you decided to keep on rolling.
"Well it's true. It was wonderful to get on the bike again. I felt free - really free . I haven't felt free since we caught Dutch" Reno ended
"No!, Bobby said, "you haven't felt free since Dutch put a bullet in my back"
Reno went over to the window and looked out at the finely manicured lawn.
"Reno! Your hair ! You cut your hair! " Bobby screached "Turn around and let me look at you"
Reno turned around smiling for the first time in far too long.
"When I got on the bike I couldn't get what you said to me this morning out of my mind..about liking me better when I was on the run. It's true. I've been a ghost. Man, I can't let Dixon do this to me. He took the last seven years. He can't have the rest of my life"
"So you got a haircut???.." Bobby sounded skeptical
"NO- Well, yes, but more of a new look to go with a new life. I can't get the old one back but I can make a new one. I've always been haunted by that poet...what was his name? FROST! "'Two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less traveled.' But I didn't . I took the traveled one. My father's road, my brother's road -police officier! My mother took my side. I graduated from college before I joined the Rangers. I studied pre-law. I had two partners who beacme lawyers - one a judge! I swallowed hard and I told myself I was a good cop. It was in my blood. My father's dead and my brother's half way around the world. It's time for me to be who I AM!"
"I got it. After what you've been through I can understand it. You want to be a defense attorney. You want to make sure the innocent, regardless of their financial circumstances have more then adequate counsel. And believe me they couldn't have a better champon then you" Bobby finished.
"No Bobby. You don't get it! The best way of protecting the innocent is prosecuting the guilty. I want to be a DA. But I'll be damn sure the people I prosecute are guilty. And I'll present ALL the evidence and I'll do it right. No one I prosecute is going to get off on a technicality"
"So what's the plan?", Bobby asked, "Well review my old text books. Try for a place in next Fall's class. We'll still have plenty of time together. I won't abandon you Bobby."
"Never crossed my mind", Bobby said. "And while you're cracking the books -some therapy , another operation...who knows? If it doesn't work I can still be your good right arm- Remember Raymond Burr ? I'm not letting you break up the act."
Reno grinned , then chuckled . It felt so good he laughed right out loud. "One thing at a time, Bobby " Reno said. "Right we are going to decorate the tree and then we are going to have one blow out Christmas Party to make up for all the ones I missed."
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