The Undisputed Champions of Texas, Part 38

Tex wished he had brought his guitar.  It was something of a security blanket because he always felt confident and in control when he played it.

Plus, having it would have given him something to do.  It was midnight and he was sitting on a bench that looked out onto the river.  Aspen was the only other person around at this hour, but she was in full Art Girl mode in the middle of the path that ran along the water.

In the ten minutes they’d been there, she had already created a colorful piece of art that would brighten up the dingy walkway.  Tex knew not to interrupt her when she was drawing, so he just watched her and tried not to think about how uncomfortable he was.

The people with badges had been adamant that they bring back up to this second meeting with Raptor, but Aspen had put her foot down.  When he made up her mind even people with guns could not get her to change it.

Because of Aspen’s stubbornness, they were now all alone on the river walk.  Raptor had not yet made an appearance, and Tex was getting antsy.

If he’d had his guitar, he could have calmed his nerves by playing a few songs.  Instead, he sat in silence and thought about the one he was trying to write for Aspen.

So far, all he had was two lines of a chorus bouncing around in this head…

I dream outside the box

When I’m with you…

It wasn’t much, but it was the beginning of something and the fact that he couldn’t get it out of his head meant he had to surround those two lines with many more.

short story, mystery, Modern Philosopher“What are you thinking about, Handsome?”

Aspen’s voice startled him out of his lyrical daydream.

“Just wondering how you always manage to stay so cool and in control in the crazy situations we often find ourselves in lately,” he replied with a smile.

Aspen put down her chalk and walked over to join him on the bench.  Tex got a kiss before she answered his question.

“I hardly think I’m always cool and in control,” she remarked as she rested her head on his shoulder.  “If you recall my behavior in the car during that chase, I was anything but calm.  I think I freaked out enough to cover the next dozen stressful situations.”

Tex chuckled at her simple analysis of the most stressful situation he’d ever experienced.

“I think you’re allowed a free pass for that night,” he assured her.  “But ever since then, you’ve been in like this Zen state.  I’m quite impressed.”

Despite her mask and the hood pulled over her head, it was still obvious that Aspen blushed at those comments.

“I had plenty of time to rein in my emotions while I was in the waiting room with Wally, praying that you and Champ were okay.  The hospital reminds me of my Nana, and she liked to implore the tiny version of me to grow up to embrace terrifying situations and make myself feel at home with the unknown.”

“But she probably didn’t mean that you should help law enforcement track down a gun running gang and a domestic terrorist group with help from your frightening friend in the city’s most feared gang,” Tex pointed out with a smile.  “I think she meant visit Europe, make the first move when you meet a handsome guy, and maybe try exotic entrees at new restaurants.”

Aspen laughed.  “I don’t remember much about my Nana, but something tells me she wanted a life more like this one for me.  Besides, I did make the first move when I saw you playing guitar on that corner.  So I’m living the best of both worlds.”

The answer put a smile on Tex’s face and relaxed him.  He kissed the top of her head.

I feel safe inside these walls

When I’m with you…   

flash fiction, mystery, Modern Philosopher“Is it okay if I interrupt this tender moment?”

Raptor’s voice came out of the darkness somewhere behind them.  Aspen immediately sat up straight and Tex adjusted on the bench as the stress and tension ran through his body again.

Raptor emerged from the shadows to stand on the path in front of the bench.  There was no one with him, but that didn’t mean there weren’t others waiting in the dark if needed.

Aspen smiled and sprang to her feet.  “You weren’t interrupting anything that we can’t pick up again at another time.

Raptor smiled and admired her flowing green cloak.  “A new look for Art Girl?  I like it.”

Aspen did a quick spin, so he could see the cloak in all its glory.

“I decided she needed to evolve,” she explained.  “Were you able to find anything for me?”

“Straight to business…”

She shook her head and pointed to the chalk drawing on the path behind him.

“Not at all,” she corrected him.  “We’ve been here for a while and I wanted to finish my latest work.  Figured we’d get this out of the way and then get to the small talk.”

At this point, Tex has gotten to his feet and stood at her side.  He wore the cowboy hat tonight, so he’s got a bit of an edge to him, intended or not.

“I checked with my underworld contacts as Tex suggested,” Raptor paused for a laugh, but got only a nod from Tex.  “The three men who followed you are from a gang in Southern California.  I’ve written down their info for you.”

He pulled a folded piece of paper from the pocket of his leather jacket and handed it to her.  She didn’t bother to look at it, and simply slipped it into the pocket of her cloak.

“Thank you.”

“From what I was able to piece together, they jetted the second after they cleared out that warehouse,” Raptor continued.  “Word is they were afraid of the imminent repercussions from the gun deal that never went down because of your joyride.  Apparently, there are some bad ass individuals waiting for those guns.”

Aspen nodded like this all made sense and because she wanted Raptor to know that his revelation about the disappointed customers did not come as a surprise.

“Any idea where they went?” she asked.

Raptor shook his head.  “Maybe back to Cali, but that might not be an option because the bosses back there won’t be happy with their failure.  They just ain’t here anymore.”

“Good thing we know some Feds then,” Aspen replied.  “That whole crossing state lines thing only gets them more motivated to do their job.”

“Any word on why guys from California were doing business here?” Tex swallowed his nerves enough to get out an excellent question.

Raptor shrugged.  “Maybe this bad ass client did business with the gang out there and needed something done here?  That fourth guy, the one you thought was a Heathen, I’m still working on a name and location, but the thinking is he was the local connection.  Maybe a relative of one of those three, and the reason they thought they could come into our territory and fill this order.”

Aspen nodded like this made sense.  “The buyer likes the work the gang does in California, mentions that they have something planned for here, and asks if the gang can recommend local talent to help with incidentals…”

“That would make sense,” Raptor agreed.  “Especially if that Voo Doo guy lied about being a Heathen.  Anyone could do a little digging and find out we controlled the alternative business channels in the area.”

Tex let out a low chuckle.  “Alternate business channels.  I like that.”

“And I like your hat,” Raptor told him with a slight nod.

Aspen couldn’t tell if the guys were bonding or about to go at it, so she decided it was time to shine the spotlight back on her.

“But what would the client be planning here?” she asked.

That earned her another shrug from Raptor.  “You didn’t ask me to look into the client, so I don’t know what they’re into.  All I heard if they are not the type you want to cross.”

Aspen nodded as she pondered his words.

“You’ll keep looking for this fourth guy?” she pressed.  “Something tells me he’s the key to finding the other three.”

“I’m on it, Art Girl,” Raptor promised.  “Unless you hear otherwise, meet me here again, same time, in two days.  I’ll keep pushing my underworld contact for info.”

“It gets funnier every time you say it,” Tex quipped.

Raptor flashed him a big grin.  “Alright, Cowboy.  Art Girl, it’s been a pleasure.  I look forward to checking out the finished product.”

He nodded at the drawing on the path behind him.  “Got some alternate business channels to check right now, but we’ll talk again soon.”

“Thanks, Raptor,” she answered with a big smile.

A moment later, Aspen and Tex were alone again.

“Do you really think he liked my hat?” Tex asked.

Aspen laughed and then walked over look at her latest artwork.  She was still laughing when she sat down on the path to complete the piece.


About Austin

Native New Yorker who's fled to the quiet life in Maine. I write movies, root for the Yankees, and shovel lots of snow.
This entry was posted in Humor and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to The Undisputed Champions of Texas, Part 38

  1. kristianw84 says:

    I had the same question as Tex about why gang members from California would be there. This just keeps getting more interesting!! I really like the lines Tex has for his song for Aspen so far!! I know it’s not much, but it has always amazed me how inspiring a single line or two can be!!

  2. WebbBlogs says:

    Ok so my brain is in thinking mode. Who is the guy that they originally thought was a heathen but really isn’t and why are they coming from California to there? 🤔🤔 hummm. I like how Rapture has a decent side and how he treats Aspen. I am now off to search your blog for some older posts of best friends Holly and Aaron 😁

  3. beth says:

    aspen, full tilt

  4. markbialczak says:

    I’m looking forward to finding out how Tex is going to react when Raptor makes his first more obvious pass at Art Girl, Austin.

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