Upon Cody’s removal from the Texas Rangers, Mrs. Lorance, with long hours of badgering, was able to wear down her husband’s defenses enough to get him to talk…and she was reveling in it after 10 long years of “it’s above your pay grade.” Beth could see the consternation-wheels of Cody’s brain violently churning.
With his signature hesitation, Beth continues, “Need I remind you that without the protection of the Rangers, that my personal ‘knowledge is power’? We’ve already crossed this bridge, Cody; I have to know to have a better chance at keeping the kids safe… AND me.”
While Beth was aware of Ranger Lorance’s promotion into the Ranger’s Special Force, she didn’t fully know of the implications nor the nature of her husband’s dealings therein. That is until he was let go. Beth could sense the immense gravity of a heavy conscious from Cody ever since this new assignment, but it wasn’t until she opened him up that she knew why.
Ever since, Beth’s been on the offensive: demanding intel, investigating the arcane, beefing up the home’s defenses and supplies, you name it. As ever she proved to be the epitome of Texas-bred strength, in this regard and with solidifying the marriage despite the rigors of Texas Ranger life.
With reluctant admittance, Cody unstoppers the dam. “We just had a visitor—-well, I suppose he’d have been more of a herald—-inviting us to a coming-of-age birthday party.”
“Who do we know who has a daughter turning 18?”
“That’s what’s got me worried. It’s the daughter of one of the fairy kings or some such.” Cody couldn’t help but notice the thrill that subtly exploded in his wife’s expression: the upturn of the lips, the sparkle of the eyes, the quickened breath once she started breathing again. This realization worried Cody almost as much as the unexpected invitation…his wife appeared fascinated with the thought of the Fae, fascinated enough to have the temptation of getting involved.
“You mean we get to go to a fairy party?!” she blurts.
“Absolutely not! Believe me when I tell you that innocence is LOST once you’re exposed to this, and neutrality, anonymity, all that can be kissed goodbye! Why would I willingly subject my most cherished treasures to beings that intentionally corrupt for no better reason than they are plum bored?”
Beth’s features deflated at first, but as Cody’s rationale continued to resonate, Beth could not deny the sense in his judgment. “So, you’re not going, then?”
“I don’t think I have much choice but to go.” Cody admitted with an exasperated sigh.
“Are you worried about your safety?” inquired Beth, reading the return of the troubled look in her husband’s eyes. “Is that what’s eating you up?”
“Naw, t’aint that; they mostly honor rules that’ll keep me protected as long as I keep my wits about me and watch my words. Besides, it looks like the rest of the Squad will be attending too, and I know they’ve got my back. What’s got me nervous as a long-tailed cat is that I’ve never met this king, not his daughter, or basically any other Shee aside from Connor…and yet one of ‘em just bamfed onto and off our front porch! We’re on those Fae’s radar; we’ve been FAE-DAR’ED! They knew where we live. Heck, according to what I just heard, they’ve known where we live ever since I met Connor back during that werewolf problem almost two years ago.
“It’s been lurking in the back of my mind,” Cody confessed “since all those kin of the Squad got kidnapped, and I’ve been thinking on how y’all avoided the same fate. Up until now, I figured it was because I tried not to get too involved, and made sure not to let loose any intel that would suck y’all into this mess. But now that I know that our cover is blown with the fairies, I’m all but sick to death over who or what else knows about our home.”
“Do you think it’s time to move? Start fresh?” asked Beth. “From what you’ve told me, it seems to work for Elena.”
“Yeah, but Elena doesn’t have two boys in school, nor is she married, that I’m aware of.” Catching the sounds of innocent laughter and play in the back yard, Cody lets loose another sigh of consternation. I WON’T risk the safety of my family, not if there’s ANYTHING I can do to help! With that internal vow in place, Cody makes up his mind.
“The juice ain’t worth the squeeze. As much as I hate the hassle, we better find another home. It’s gonna have to be you, though. I don’t think your name is out there like mine is. It’ll have to be a ‘for sale by owner’ home, no realtors, and you’ll need to use your maiden name on the deed and with the insurance company. “
With a regretful shake of his head, Cody shoots off an extremely rare expletive, (“Damn!”) thinking about all the work he’s already put into defending his home: digging a basement bunker to serve as a safe-room, the electrically-rigged wrought metal perimeter fence, the reinforced deadbolts, the heavy-duty doors all through the house with metal reinforcements on either side, the windows replaced with triple-pane glass and likewise reinforced borders.
And taking the obnoxious cake was having to rebuild the house one wall at a time so that each was fully insulated on 16-inch centers with exterior walls 8-inches and interior walls 6. His worried thoughts corrode into a meddling headache and Cody begins to feel the muscles of his back wanting to knot in anticipation of redoing the work again.
“Guess we best tell the boys,” sighed Beth.
“Naw. Let ‘em enjoy their play. We’ll test those waters over their favorite dinner and dessert,” Cody supplied.
“You know that means Chuck E. Cheese’s at prime time, don’t you?” Beth teased.
“Yeah, I figured as much. We got to go to town anyway to buy a birthday gift.”
“I want EVERY detail!” Beth exclaims as Cody dazedly eases into the sofa.
Despite his deterrence to the heat and restriction of sports jackets, Cody’s is still on as if forgotten…just like his Stetson. Decorum for any good ol’ boy dictates removal once indoors, so Beth is certain something has Cody significantly distracted. And given that his typical skeptic look is absent it’s not hard for Beth to surmise that Cody encountered something unexpectedly good.
“C’mon,” she continues, “I want the goods!”
“Well, it was about as I reckoned it would be to begin with,” Cody relays as he skims through the minutia of the gardens, the party and its accompaniments of all varieties. “And I wasn’t even all that surprised when we went through to the Nevernever as guests to the real party. I figured that if the Fae don’t want to tip off their existence they’d keep most of the festivities hidden from view. But I wasn’t counting on just how festive they got!”
Cody shares with his wife the Chuck Norris of Renaissance Festivals that was going on, and his entering the archery tournament (even though he expected to lose).
The whole time Cody is recounting, Beth can’t help but notice the box he’s holding and absentmindedly fingering with reverence. When she sensed a pause, Beth asked, “So what’cha got there? Leftovers? PLEASE tell me you brought home some cake!”
“Actually, I didn’t eat a morsel or drink a drop…I was too afraid to risk it. What if it was addictive, or had some chemical trace or something. Sure smelled and looked good, though. Had to reign in my hands a couple of times; it’s almost as if they were working of their own accord. I swear those Shee read us like a book and get giddy with the prospect of catching us off our guard.”
Redirecting him Beth asks, “So what IS in the box?”
Rather than trust himself to speak, Cody simply hands his wife the package, needlessly protecting it overtly in the handoff. Respecting her husband’s care, Beth gingerly rests it in her lap as she slips the lid off. As she gasps loudly at the contents, Cody finds his voice: “I’m told fairies have to give once they receive; another of those rules of theirs. But there’s no way our little purity ring and matching diary that we gave are worth that much.”
“You think they’re authentic? Then why did you accept it?”
“How could I not? The king was right there when the princess gave those to me.”
“Are they enchanted or anything? Booby trapped?”
“Oh crap. That never crossed my mind.”
“Oh sure,” Beth teased, “when it comes to food you’re as valiant as King Arthur’s knights, but when a pretty gun and shiny star tickles your fancy your resolve shrivels like a raisin.”
“THOSE, my lady, are a genuine first-generation Ranger’s badge made from a silver Mexican peso, and an 1873 Colt .45 Peacemaker!"
" Besides,” Cody added sheepishly, “I really want them.”
“Hey!” After Cody’s indignation melts some he adds, “Anyways, Conner tells me I should be safe with the gift, even if I use it. I imagine it’ll come in handy, especially when I’m neck deep in Scoobies and Badies.”
Thoughtfully, Beth says, “You know, maybe you don’t have to worry about the gifts being valued differently; maybe this is like the widow’s mite parable. While relics like these would go for tens of thousands, especially in Texas, they’re probably just baubles to the likes of Fae royalty who’ve been amassing their fortunes for millennia.”
“Humph. Once again with the rapier insight. Maybe I should keep you around more often,” Cody smirks.
“I think our gift made an impression on the king to boot. That inscription, ‘I will wait for my beloved’ would suit any father. There’s something else, too; I know the Shee are experts at manipulation and deception and all, but I can’t help but believe Kenna legitimately meant it when she promised that her gifts to all of us were free and clear. She and I spoke for no more than a minute, but during those few words she was able to see ME as the forever ‘peacemaker’ I am, despite all the crap that came with me losing my badge. And believe it or not, her belief in me somehow meant more than this Colt.”