I'll spare you a long description of what happened at the courthouse the next day. Suffice to say that Christian Johnson was gleeful. He smirked, and openly mocked his step-mother. It took every bit of strength I had to hold Steve back.
“We'll get him later,” I promised, pulling Steve out of the courthouse.
“But that no good, crooked, son-of-a -” Steve shouted.
“Later,” I snapped. I led Steve over to his truck. “Are you driving, or am I?”
He pounded his fist on the hood a couple of times. Then he took a deep breath and got control of himself. “I'll drive. Get in.”
We headed for the Johnson house, or more precisely, the house next door. Alfredo's family was letting us use their driveway to park the car, and their living room as a base of operations should we require it. I had promised them I would get rid of the ghost. Glad as they were, I think they were just as pleased that Steve and I were determined to help their neighbor.
Steve pulled his truck into the driveway and shut off the engine.
“Are we getting out?” I asked, wondering at his hesitance.
“In a minute. There's something I want to say to you.” Steve drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. “I'm sorry,” he said abruptly.
Now, things were getting interesting. “Sorry for what?”
“The whole not believing in the undead thing.”
“You can believe whatever you want, Steve. What upset me was your insults about my family.”
“Yeah. I'm sorry about that too.”
We sat there, enjoying a rare spell of companionable silence.
“Thanks,” I said.
“Sure. Hey, uh...maybe we can be friends again.”
I looked at him and asked, “What will your parents say about that?”
“Aw, heck. They don't have to know.”
I laughed and said, “They'll never learn it from me.”
We climbed out of the truck cab and walked around to the bed. “You want to go inside or wait out here?” I asked.
“Here's fine. It's not too cold out. Besides, I don't think we'll have long to wait.”
I clambered into the bed of the truck. Steve followed. We spread out a blanket and sat down.
“Hungry?” I asked.
“I could eat.”
My backpack was tucked behind the wheel-well. I unzipped it and pulled out a box of cheese-crackers. “I've started associating Pampa with little orange cheese-flavored squares,” I said.
Steve held out his hands and I poured a generous serving of crackers. “Thanks for pulling me away at the courthouse,” Steve said. He tossed the crackers into his mouth and munched loudly.
“No problem. Hey, why don't you let me do phase two of the plan, too? You can wait out here.”
He considered it. “Okay. But if Christian Johnson makes a nuisance of himself, you yell for me out the front door.”
We didn't have long to wait. Christian and his lawyer pulled up in front of the Johnson house in a black BMW. They got out carrying bags of fastfood.
I laughed out loud. “They're asking for trouble,” I said.
Steve grinned. “Dang it, now I want to be in on phase two. It could be fun.”
“You get phase three,” I promised. I slipped out of the truck bed. Opening the truck door, I reached in and grabbed my milkshake out of the cup-holder. “I won't be long.”
“Is the milkshake really necessasary?”
“Yes, it is. Because it's annoying.”
“You don't know that a milkshake will work.”
“It will.” I walked confidently towards the Johnson house.
Steve called after me, “How do you know?”
“Hank can't tell you to take smaller bites when you're taking no bites at all.”