Simplistic beauty at its best!!
By late afternoon they were at the Army encampment. Lily was a little confused about why the Marines and the Army were here. Who was in Salt Lake City seeing to all the destruction that had taken place there? She decided to ask the Sergeant Major. He hadn’t spoken to her again and she had to admit that she missed the attention.“Why are the Army and the Marines both out here? Pembroke Acres was such a little town. I hardly think it warrants two of our finest military services.”
“As I said earlier, it’s more than probable that the culprits are out here somewhere. There would be no other logical reason for them to blow-up a never-heard-of hole in the wall in the middle of Utah.”
“Oh yeah, I forgot about that. I guess I’m just a little stressed-out. It isn’t easy knowing they’re out to kill me.”
“You forget that they don’t even know you survived. As long as we keep that on the down-low you should be relatively safe. I plan on personally making sure that remains to be the case.”
Lily raised one perfectly shaped eyebrow. “Really, how do you figure?”
“Because you aren’t going to be out of my sight until this is all over.”
“But this could last for years, Wyatt!” Her tone was dis-believing.
“I guess we’ll get to know each other pretty well then.” He volleyed back. He smiled then and her heart flip-flopped.
“What if we find out we don’t like each other?” She persisted.
“I can’t imagine that happening.” He smiled again and her heart flipped some more. He reminded her of Pa Ingalls on The Little House on the Prairie series.
“Has anyone ever told you that you resemble Michael Landon?”
“Has anyone ever told you that you look like a Lily in the valley?”
She laughed at his goofy description. Yet again he’d shown her that he had a multi-faceted personality. “You are so charming, sir.”
“I try.” He beamed at her and she beamed back.
She felt the pull of attraction, but fought it. Now was not the time to start a flirtation. “Where will I be staying?” She desperately needed the subject change.
He must’ve agreed because he said, “I’ll have Percy ready a tent. Will it be okay if you share with Nanny?”
“Yes! I want to be with her!”
“Consider it done.” He smiled and left her there.
He went to his son’s tent and ordered him to ready quarters for the women. He felt two-faced for being irritated when Percy didn’t even grumble. He was eager to do whatever it took to make the women, or more specifically, one woman, happy. His thoughts made his words gruff; “Just do it, private. Wipe that grin off your face!”
To his consternation his son continued to grin. “Yes, sir, Sergeant Major, sir, right away!” He saluted his father smartly, snapped his heels and turned to do as ordered.
“You’re an insufferable brat, private!” Wyatt threw at him as he left.
Percy’s laughter was all the reply he got as he watched his son go. He wished he could form some kind of relationship with his him, but he didn’t know how. He returned to his quarters, full of discontent.
“Nanny, are you awake?”
“Yes sugar, it’s too early for me to sleep.”
“Aren’t you tired?” She turned to look at the older woman but all that was visible was a darkening shadow.
“I’m exhausted. I can’t stop thinking about what’s going on in the country tonight. Why haven’t we seen any news footage?”
“I doubt there’s any service out here right now.”
“Maybe not, but I think the army probably has a way to communicate and find out what’s going on in the rest of the world.”
“There’s no doubt, but I’m pretty sure we aren’t allowed to know. I think they’re purposely keeping us in the dark.”
“Why would they do that?”
“I’m not sure yet. Let’s sneak over to the Sergeant Major’s tent and see if we can over-hear something.” Lily suggested.
“That’s a grand idea, sugar.” Lily heard the grunting and groaning of the army cot as
Nanny rolled to a sitting position. “How likely do you think it is that we’ll be able to sneak up on him, child?”
She shrugged her shoulders in the dark, knowing Nanny couldn’t see. “I don’t know, but I think we should try.”
They slipped almost noiselessly out of their tent and made their way to Wyatt’s. It wasn’t easy to spot, even in the dark. It was twice the size of anyone else’s. “Psst! Look over there!” Lily gestured toward an army jeep with one pale hand.
“Yeppers! It looks like an Army general’s come a-visiting to me!” Nanny said quietly.
“I think he should just tell us what we want to know and we wouldn’t have to be out here in the dark taking a chance on getting snake-bit, or worse!”
“Did you ask him, sugar?” Nanny asked.
“I think I asked if it was chaos in Salt Lake.”
“Did he answer the question?”
“He did.” Lily reluctantly admitted.
“Then why do you think he wouldn’t answer any other questions you had, child?”
“He told me that other than the news of Johnson Williams’ death he wasn’t at liberty to divulge any other news.”
“Oh. That kind of makes sense. They’re still investigating any other persons-of-interest.”
“How do we know if there are any?”
“Common sense will tell you that, sugar. Old man Williams is dead. He’s been dead for at least a day; he was stiff as a board. The cities didn’t get blown-up until this morning.”
“Wow Nanny, you have a good head on your shoulders.”
“So do you child, you just have yours tuned to another channel.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Her tone was half-hurt, half-suspicion.
“It’s directed at some young, handsome Sergeant Major.” They were right up against the back wall of Wyatt’s tent now and the gleam of super-white teeth was plain as day in the darkness of the moonless night.
“Nanny, what are you saying?” She screeched.
“Shhhhhhh!” The older lady warned. “He’ll hear you!”
“This conversation isn’t finished!” Lily returned, quieter now.
“…We’ve got some men in custody, Sergeant Major Adams. They say they didn’t do it but they’ve all got burns on their hands consistent with the compound used to blow the bombs.”
“Who are they affiliated with?” Lily heard him say.
“They say they’re from Women who eavesdrop USA.” As he talked he moved closer to where the women stood at his back wall. He took one fist and pounded the side of the tent. It hit Lily square in the jaw.
“Ouch! You did that on purpose, you beast!”
They could hear at least two men laughing inside. “I’m a Marine, Ms. Tompkins.” He infuriated her even more by chuckling some more.
“Percy, is that you?” She demanded.
“It is, Ms. Tompkins. I was giving report when we heard you two sneaking-up. You sounded like two elephants in the brush!” He resumed his laughter and both women stomped around to the front of the tent and entered without knocking.
“And here I thought you were such a nice young man.” Nanny let her voice trail off for effect and it worked.
Percy looked up at her with huge blue eyes full of guilt. “I’m sorry Mrs. Masters. I didn’t mean any disrespect.”
It was the older woman’s turn to laugh and she did, loudly. “Gotcha, didn’t I?”
The three of them laughed while Lily stood back a way. She was mesmerized by the way the light glinted off Wyatt’s curly hair. She was trying to pull her eyes away but they were glued to the sight like a moth to flame.
“What, no scathing replies from the comeback master?” Wyatt asked with his usual one-sided smile.
Lily shook her head, in a stupor. What was wrong with her? Maybe she was still in shock! “No, I have nothing to say right now.” She belied that statement with, “Have you heard anything from the city?”
“I actually do have something I can report to you.” He gave her a smile when she looked at him in surprise. He’d been listening to their conversation! “According to my sources only sporadic spots in Salt Lake were hit. Apparently whoever was in charge of those bombs didn’t know what they were doing. The death toll is only in the hundreds.”
“But that’s so many!” She cried.
“As opposed to the thousands killed in all the other cities, I would say it was a good thing.” He returned.
“What areas were hit?”
“The bomb still deployed in all areas, it just wasn’t as effective as it should’ve been.”
“What about West Jordan? Was it hit badly?” There was hope in her voice and Wyatt’s heart softened.
“It was one of the worst-hit areas. The police station is still standing, though.”
“My apartment is in West Jordan!”
“If you’ll give me the address I’ll have someone go check on it.”
Lily wrote it down on a piece of paper she found on his field-desk and stepped back. “How soon will you know?”
“Give me about fifteen minutes. I have to send someone first.”
“Thank you, Mr. Adams.” She hated the formal tone in her voice but she was unsure of how to act around him. One minute he seemed receptive, the next, a closed book.
“Just call me Wyatt and I’ll call you Lily. I feel like I’ve known you forever, anyway.” He seemed surprised by his own admission.
“Nanny, is there anyone we can call for you?” He asked.
“Nope, I don’t have anybody. My poor Lester died almost twenty years ago and we didn’t have the privilege of having children.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“We were too. We were too.” She shook her head sadly.
They sat in folding chairs around Wyatt’s desk while they waited for news on Lily’s condo. It was about fifteen minutes later that Wyatt’s phone buzzed.
How did he have service, anyway? Lily’s phone hadn’t worked since early that morning.
He had a long conversation with whoever was on the other end of the line. When he ended the call he didn’t delay in approaching them. “I’m sorry to inform you that your condo is gone. I’m sorry.” His tone was formal again and that, more than anything, opened the dam holding her tears. She wept bitterly for what she’d lost. She was on an emotional roller coaster and there was no one there controlling the ride!
Percy hurried over and held the distraught woman. For once, he was just as ill at ease as his father. He looked at him over the top of Lily’s white-blonde hair. He seemed to be saying, ‘what do I do now?’ But Wyatt wasn’t sure. Emotions weren’t his department.
He shrugged and returned to his desk. He sat down and picked up a stack of papers to busy himself while she wept. He knew he should get up and comfort her but he just couldn’t bring himself to do it. He hated this aspect of his personality. It was the reason he was still single at thirty-four but he was powerless to change it.
Nanny finally went into action. She’d apparently been waiting to see what he was going to do but when he didn’t move, she took over. She went over and pulled Lily from Percy’s arms and brought her into the circle of hers. “There, there, sugar. Everything will be okay. I lost everything I had too, child. We’ll get through this together.”
With each word Lily sobbed harder. The prayer she’d prayed earlier went right out the window as she faced yet more heartache. Nanny rubbed her back in comfort but it was useless at the moment. She just needed to cry it out.
As Wyatt watched from behind his desk Nanny looked up and gave him a dirty look. “Percy, could you get me a wet wash cloth, please?”
“Yes ma’am, I sure can!” He rushed out the door to do her bidding.
“Aren’t there any washcloths in your tent?” Nanny asked.
“No, we have a bath house where we keep all that stuff.” He dropped his gaze back down to the papers on his desk, unable to hold her gaze. The censure he saw in her eyes was almost more than he could bear.
“You always need to have towels and washcloths in your tent, Sergeant Major.” She ordered.
“Yes ma’am, I’ll see to it.” He didn’t even look up. He knew she was still looking at him in condemnation and disappointment.
Percy rushed into the tent and yelled, “The reporters are here!”
Wyatt finally came out of his stupor and said, “Show them to their tent and give them their rules.” He handed his son a file folder that must contain all the dos and don’ts for the media personnel.
Lily raised her head off Nanny’s shoulder slightly, sniffling pitifully. “I want to go talk to them! Maybe they know more about what’s going on!”
“You will do no such thing Lily Tompkins! They would put your life in danger without a thought if it would give them a story!”
“You can’t order me around, sir.” As a civilian I have the right to talk to the media if that is my wish.”
“You may be a civilian, Ms. Tompkins, but you are my mission and you will do as I say!” Wyatt bellowed.
Nanny and Percy both shrank back from his anger but Lily stepped-up. “Who do you think you are you bumbling mammoth?! I want to talk to a reporter right now!” She screeched slowly. She enunciated each word carefully for added effect.
“Percy, take this insubordinate woman to the holding cell!” Wyatt ordered in anger.
“You wouldn’t dare!” She screamed at him.
“Watch me!” He yelled back. He gestured with his eyes for Percy to come and escort her out. He had no choice but to follow orders.
“Don’t worry, sugar, I’ll get you out as soon as I can talk him out of it.” Nanny whispered as Percy guided her out the door.
“Don’t count on it!” Wyatt yelled.
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