(Catch up on the story, here)
I thump the steering wheel with my thumbs in nervous anticipation. I catch Barrett twitching glances in my direction.
I had to cancel my date with Tim. Again. This is why dating never works out for me. Somehow, my family always worms its way in and ruins everything. Almost as if they don't want me to be happy, like some cheesy drama movie too cheap to afford a plot.
"Agitated?" Barrett asks.
"You could say that."
"He's 76. How much trouble could he get in?"
I punch my foot on the brake pedal, sending my passenger flying forward, only to be jerked back by the locked seatbelt.
"Lemme guess, I don't want to go there either?" Barrett asks.
"Grampy was wrong," I say as I grind my Toyota back into gear. "You do have something besides cotton in that head of yours."
Barrett frowns. "You can drop me off, you know. In fact, this corner looks just fine. I won't tell the admin you left me behind."
I bark out a laugh. "Oh no, you don't. This is the only legal way I can punish you so I'm sticking to you like white on rice."
"Great." I catch him slumping down in the seat. "That cliché is way overused, by the way."
"Look, buddy; I'm as excited as you are about this whole thing. I had to cancel a date because of this."
"Dang. Missing out on some G-rated fun." He snaps his finger like he's disappointed for me.
My cheeks flush. "G-rated? More like—" I stop. "Why are you even playing along?" I mutter to myself.
I can hear Barrett's smile through his words. "You're wound so tight you're going to snap. Why not just let the police find him?"
I shake my head. "It has to be me."
"Why? The cops would do a better job."
I think about the last time this happened. "If it's someone else, it'll get dangerous."
Now it's Barrett's turn to laugh. "How dangerous could he be? He's an old—"
"Old man, yah, you said that already." I take a heavy breath.
Whether either of us likes it or not, Barrett's a part of this, and it's only fair he knows what he's going up against.
"He used to tell my brother and I stories," I finally say.
"Whoa." Barrett holds his hands up in self-defense. "This is like fifth or sixth date material, here. I just met you and this isn't a date. It's more like a hostage situation."
"I marvel at your powers of deduction. Trust me, I want to tell you this about as much as you want to hear it. But you have to know. It might save your life." I think the gravity of my voice catches his attention because he straightens up in his seat, adjusting his seatbelt strap across his chest.
"You're serious, aren't you?" I can hear a bit of fear but also fascination.
"Look, Grampy has a colorful past; but it's also shaded. I don't know a lot, just what he told us as kids. My brother and I didn't believe him. Not at first. But then Jack found some papers in Grampy's stuff when we were moving him to Emerald Isle."
"What? What'd your brother find?" His words are breathless, like he's completely invested already.
"Let's just say I'm glad to be in America, where what he left back in Ireland's has a bit weaker hold."
I gun the engine and race through a yellow light.