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July 2022

In The Route 66 Steal

Chapter 33: The Interlude

“It’s beautiful out there,” said Tish, coming in from the backyard of the rental house. They yard was private, quiet, with carefully maintained shrubs and trees and a patio set that Tish planned to put to good use. “This might actually be like the vacation you promised. Except we still have to cook.”

“Glad you like it,” said Kat distractedly. She was already in the formal dining room that she’d her office. The plastic ID printer had been delivered by express mail the day after they moved into the house.

“Can I borrow your phone a minute?” she asked Tish.

“Who are you calling?”

“I’m going to the library again, to use their WiFi. But I don’t want to run the risk that the Armentrouts will spot the car again. I’m going to call a cab.”

“The house has free WiFi,” said Tish. “Why not use that?”

“Traceability,” said Kat. Tish stopped asking questions and handed Kat the phone. She didn’t want to know anymore. She knew that she couldn’t exactly claim ignorance if they were caught with phony IDs while trying to sell the diamonds and other gemstones, but it gave her some peace of mind to ignore what was going on in the dining room.

After Kat left, Tish made iced tea, put on lightweight slacks and blouse, and went out to sit on the patio. The day was perfect. Not a cloud in the sky. The breeze was just cool enough to be pleasant and the humidity was low. She might stay here all day.

She was enjoying the quiet, when her younger son, Luke, called. After Maggie’s tirade, Tish was leery of answering the phone. But she and Luke had always been close.

“Congratulations, Mom!” was the first thing he said.


“You finally left him. Hooray, hooray for you! I’m so glad.”

“You’re glad?”

“Of course, I’m glad, Mom. Dad has treated you like a servant for as long as I can remember. When Mags told me, I cheered. I think it upset her,” he added. She could hear him grinning.

“Maggie told you about Hilary…?”

“Yep. Glad to hear it. She’ll pick him clean and throw him out. He’ll be lucky if she leaves him a pair of shorts. I’ll be there to applaud.”

“Oh, Luke…” Tish choked, relieved. She’d lost Matthew and Margaret years ago somehow. She’d become reconciled to that loss. But it would have broken her heart to lose Luke, youngest of her three children. She blinked hard.

“So what are you going to do now?” he asked.

Tish came within a breath of telling him. For a moment, she wanted someone—other than Kat—to tell her that what she’d done was okay, rational, reasonable. That there was a way out of this mess.

Or until this moment, she’d thought she did.

But in this instant, she had the strangest feeling… Like she was standing on the edge of a deep canyon. She could step back into the desert her life had been, or she could step forward and fly.

Deep inside, she knew she wanted to fly, to swoop into the canyon and see where it went. To reach out with her wings and touch the sky. To see what was on the other side.

“I’m still working that out,” she finally told her son.

“Are you okay? Are you safe?” asked Luke, hearing something in her voice.

“I am, Luke. I truly am.”

“Well, you know that anything you do is okay with me. Can you tell me where you are?”

Again, she hesitated. But it would be wrong to involve him in this.

“No, honey. I don’t think I will. Not right now.”

“Are you at least with a friend?”

Now that’s a tricky question, thought Tish. “Yes, I am,” she finally said.

“Good,” he told her. “Anyone I know?” She heard him smiling.

She laughed.

“No, I’m not with a man friend, if that’s what you want to know. And I know that’s what you’re asking.”

Luke laughed, too. “As long as you’re safe and with someone you trust, that’s all that matters to me. Are you okay for money?”

And here was the difference in her children, she thought. Maggie and Matthew had buckets of money, yet they didn’t offer her help. Luke, struggling from gallery show to teaching gig, would have sent her all he had.

“I’m fine, sweetheart. Don’t you worry about me.”

“Okay. Stay in touch. Call me if you need anything. Love you, Mom.”

“Love you, too, Luke.”

Tish sat in the beautiful backyard that was not her own, in a house and town that were not her own, in a life that was not her own—at least not yet. And still. She felt that all the world was hers.

She listened to the birds for a long time, while her life and her sense of self re-formed around her, basking in her son’s love.

Her reverie broke when her phone rang.


Tish didn’t hesitate. She declined the call, then went into her contacts and blocked her daughter’s phone, Matthew’s phone, and Fitz’s.

Then, smiling, she got up to make some lunch.