Nancy paced the sidewalk outside a little house in Willow Creek. She had purchased the house a year or so ago for situations like the one she was dealing with today.
After they rescued the unknown man from the Strangerville Lab, they had brought him here. He was so weak that Nancy had to help bathe him like a child. Truthfully, they had bathed him three times. Whoever this man was, she was amazed he was still alive, given the number of old and new wounds she saw all over his body.
She had asked him questions, trying to find out who he was, but he just stared at her vacantly. At one point, she thought they might have cut his tongue out. But when she had fed him some broth, he said, “Thank you” very softly.
Her doctor came over and gave him a thorough check-up. Malnourished, a touch of bronchitis…the doctor rattled off a list of ailments. She made him write them down so she could pass the information along to Andy. After writing a prescription for antibiotics, the doctor left. Nancy had sent Malcolm to get the medicine.
The man crawled into bed, sighed, and fell asleep. When Malcolm came back, he brought some clothes he thought would fit the poor guy. “Somebody seriously hates that man,” Malcolm said to his mother. “After everything he’s been through, how is he still alive?”
After Malcolm left, Nancy sat in a chair and watched the man sleep. She wondered the same thing herself. Well, that wasn’t up to her to figure out. Andy was coming to get the man, and she’d be done with it.
Now, as she paced the sidewalk, she wondered why Andy was late. He was the type of person who didn’t tolerate tardiness from his employees. Finally, she saw an SUV headed toward her. It stopped at the curb, and she was surprised to see Antonio Corelionesi get out. “Where’s Andy?”
“At a family event,” Antonio said.
“I thought he was coming to handle this personally.”
“Well, he’s not. I am. Is that a problem?”
“No, not at all,” Nancy replied. She really didn’t like Antonio. When she took over, he’d be the first one out the door. In a pine box.
“Where is he?” Antonio asked.
“In the house,” she said. “You’re going to have to help him, though. He’s very weak.”
Antonio brushed past her and went into the house. He came out a couple of minutes later, cradling the man in his arms like a baby. “Open the back door,” Antonio said to her.
She walked ahead of them and opened the door. Antonio gently placed the man in the seat and whispered something to him that Nancy couldn’t hear. But she did see the small smile on the man’s face and his lips move as he said something in response.
Antonio placed a blanket over the man, who leaned back in the seat and closed his eyes. Closing the door, Antonio reached into his jacket and handed her an envelope. “The boss said to tell you he appreciates what you did for him. This is a small token of his gratitude. He also said to tell you that he owes you one favor, which he does not give out lightly. So make sure you use it well.” He looked her up and down. “Frankly, I don’t think he should have done that, but that’s not my call.”
Nancy got right in his face. “Antonio, I don’t like you. I’ve never liked you. If you get in my way, I will crush you like a bug on the ground and wipe your remains in the grass. You may think because I’m a woman, I’m not a threat. You just keep underestimating me all the way to your grave. Now get out of my sight, and don’t let me see you again anytime soon. Am I clear?”
He stared at her, no fear on his face. He walked around her, got in the SUV, and drove off.
He was a problem that she might have to deal with…soon.