This week, we're going to continue with my WIP Just Shut Up and Drive.
We'll pick up from where we left off last week after Dakota was talking about where she came from and a bit about what she's going through. Ready?
“Okay, Dakota. I know we’re asking you a whole bunch of questions but we sorta need to know what’s happening so we know what to do. You said your dad isn’t always nice. Is that why he’s in jail?”
Dakota nodded, wringing her Kleenex.
“Do you know what he did?”
She didn’t answer but hugged herself.
Gramps waved at Wil as a hint to stop. “Look, we want to help you out here, kid but me and Wil just aren’t sure what to do. See, we could get into a ton of trouble taking you with us, you know? We aren’t allowed to just take you without your family’s permission. Heck! We’d love to take you up to see your mom. We’re goin’ that way anyway. But your aunt and uncle dad back there, well, they’re sort of the bosses, you know? The only way we can get in the middle of all of this is if something bad is going on or if someone is hurting you. Know what I mean? Otherwise, we’re just gonna have to take you back to the restaurant. Your family might be worried as heck.”
Dakota sat up and grabbed Gramps’ arm. “Oh please don’t take me back. Please? I’ll tell you whatever you want to know. They don’t care about me. All they care about is the money they get to take care of me. And you know what? That isn’t even for them! It’s to help me and I don’t get anything! They get all this new stuff like clothes and jewelry and I don’t get a thing. And my stupid dad only sent me to them because he was worried I’m gonna talk to someone about…” Dakota stopped, her eyes widening. She put her hands over her mouth.
“About what, kid?” Gramps asked, putting his hand over hers.
Dakota shook her head, crying even harder. “I can’t tell you. I can’t. They’ll hurt my mom if I say anything. And they said they’d come find me if I tried getting away. Oh no! What did I do? Now they’ll hurt you too.”
She cried inconsolably. Wil put his arm around her, pulling her into his chest. He looked at Gramps who was rubbing his chin. Oh no, he thought. I know that look. “Gramps? No. We can’t…”
Gramps waved at Wil again. “What did you say your last name was, kid?”
“R-R-Rossi,” she sputtered out between sobs.
“Did your mom always live in Regina? Did she ever say she lived anywhere else?”
Wil wasn’t sure what any of that had to do with what was going on, but he kept his mouth shut and rubbed Dakota’s arm. She seemed to settle a bit enough to answer Gramps.
“Well, I remember her telling me stories about her and Auntie Kara in Winnipeg. Is that what you mean?”
Gramps nodded and patted the girl’s leg. “Yes! That’s what I meant, good girl. Okay, you lay down here for a minute. Me and Wil here just gotta talk for a minute.”
Wil gingerly took his arm out from under Dakota then laid her down on the back seat. Then he and Gramps shut the back doors and walked around to the front of the car.
“I know exactly what’s brewing in your head, old man,” Wil said, crossing his arms across his chest. “There is no way I’m getting involved in…whatever is going on here.”
Gramps put a finger to his lips. “Keep your voice down, boy. Haven’t I raised you to always do what’s right even if the odds stacked up are higher than you can see over?”
“Uh, yeah. But that has to do with standing up for myself or choosing what I want to do in life. I didn’t think it included taking on Uncle Frank and what I’m assuming to be some sort of Mafia thing. We have to take this girl back, Gramps. My gut is telling me this goes way deeper than them not letting her have a stupid grilled cheese sandwich.”
Gramps reached up and gripped Wil’s arm. “Listen, I need ya to trust me on this, okay? I gotta hunch about this. Let’s just take her up to the next stop where I can use a phone then we’ll sort out what to do next.”
Wil grabbed his cell from his belt. The battery was dead. He made a mental note to hook it up to the car charger. He put his hands on top of his head and breathed out sharply. “You heard her say that they’re going to come look for her, right?”
“Well, what happens if they do?”
Wil moved his hands to his hips. “’So what?’ Are you kidding me? Uncle Frank looks like one of those dudes from the Godfather movies. He’s probably packing some heat somewhere. And the way she described her dad, he’s probably even worse. What do we have? Your biting wit? That’s only going to get us killed!”
Gramps sputtered out a raspberry. “You sporting panties under those jeans, boy? I’ve never known you to be scared of anything before. Even if you knew you had to come home to me, you did what you thought needed to be done. This little girl needs us and we’re gonna do what we can. Period.”
With that, Gramps shuffled back to the car and got back in, slamming his car door.
Wil stood there, his hands still on his hips, staring out at the bright yellow mustard seed field. Panties or not, I’d like to stay alive a little longer.
After several minutes, he sighed deeply then got back into the driver’s seat. He looked at Dakota in the rearview mirror. Her shoulder rose and fell as she slept soundly.
He started up the car and pulled his seatbelt across his chest. They sat there, the car vibrating as the engine grumbled.
“Well?” Gramps asked.
“Well, you’d better know Kung Fu or something old man cuz we’re going to need some sort of secret weapon.”
Gramps punched Wil in the shoulder. “Good boy.”
“And stop hitting me. Save it for Uncle Frank.”
They drove on to Brandon in silence. It would only be another couple of hours.
This is way more excitement than I really wanted on this trip, he thought. What the hell else could possibly happen?
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