BH: 6) Southseid

Chapter 02

The only way the cottage in the woods could seem more like a fairy tale would be if it were made out of candy.

Shawn couldn't give a rational explanation for his discomfort except to say that it was 'too perfect'.

"Would you like to do the honors, Agent Roberts?" Nancy asked as she offered him the keys.

"Um, yeah. Sure." Shawn reluctantly agreed as he accepted the keys from her.

With Nancy and Agent Fastbeck flanking him on either side, Agent Roberts forced himself to open the front door of the cottage, even though a part of him very much didn't want to.

As the door swung open, Agent Roberts caught his first glimpse of the living room.

"Well? How is it?" Agent Fastbeck asked from over his shoulder.

Shawn had to give an internal push to make him take his first step inside.

"This place is incredible! Some of these furnishings belong in a museum. That sofa has to be at least two hundred years old." Agent Fastbeck said in a voice of quiet awe.

"It's beautiful." Shawn reluctantly admitted.

"We'll be asking three hundred dollars a month, but we'll understand if you need a few days to get your things together to pay us for the first month." Nancy finished sympathetically.

"Three hundred... dollars? A month?" Shawn stammered.

"I probably should have prepared you for that." Agent Fastbeck said with a grin at Agent Roberts' dumbfounded state.

"Is that too much?" Nancy asked with concern.

"No. That's fine." Agent Fastbeck quickly assured her, then explained, "The economics are a bit different back in DC. It can just be a bit of a shock if you're not prepared for it."

"Three hundred... a month." Shawn said disbelievingly.

"Just give him a minute. He's nearly got it." Agent Fastbeck said warmly.

"Would you like to take a look at the rest of the place? I'm sure you'll want to see the master suite before you make a decision." Nancy said cautiously.

"Yes. Of course." Agent Roberts was finally able to say.

"Welcome back." Agent Fastbeck said with a grin.

Agent Roberts glanced at him and realized just how dramatic his reaction had been.

* * * * *

Nancy led them down a hallway off the living room and turned right.

When Agent Roberts followed, he was astounded to see the enormous room that they entered.

"This was originally a parlor for entertaining, but sometime around 1940, it was made into a master suite, so that Mrs. Helson, my husband's great-grandmother, wouldn't have to deal with the stairs."

"It's amazing." Shawn whispered.

"The water closet is right over there. I'm afraid that we haven't gotten around to updating it, so there still isn't a shower, but you have a rather nice claw foot tub in there... big enough for two, if you're so inclined." Nancy said with a slight blush rising up her cheeks.

"Good to know." Agent Roberts said as he walked over to the biggest bed that he had ever seen and sat down on the edge of it to get a sense of the firmness of the mattress.

"The linens are in the hall closet. They were laundered not too long ago, they should still be fresh enough." Nancy added as she watched his inspection.

"What about laundry facilities? Do you have anything like that here?" Agent Fastbeck asked seriously.

"Yes. They're in the utility room, just off the kitchen. Although they're twenty or thirty years old, they seem to work well enough. If the washer starts giving you trouble, just call Gil. He has a long history with these appliances and knows how to set them back to right."

"That's good, because I wouldn't have a clue of where to begin." Agent Roberts said honestly.

"If you've seen all that you need to in here, I'll show you the guest room." Nancy said pleasantly.

"This room is bigger than my whole apartment in DC, and you're saying that there's even more?" Agent Roberts asked in astonishment.

"Just the guest room, the dining room and the breakfast room off the kitchen." Nancy said as she led the way into the hall.

"Three hundred a month..." Shawn said as he shook his head in wonder.

"That is, unless you count the bedrooms upstairs. But that's been closed off since Mrs. Helson moved to the ground floor." Nancy said as she guided them down the hall and into another room.

This one wasn't nearly as big as the master suite, but it was of a decent size and was tastefully decorated.

"With a room like this, I could invite my sister down to visit for a few weeks." Agent Roberts said thoughtfully.

"So have you decided?" Agent Fastbeck asked with a smile, then added, "We still have plenty of time to go look at the pig farm, if you want to."

"I don't think that will be necessary. Unless there's something else that I need to know about, I'd be crazy not to take this place." Agent Roberts said honestly.

"I can't think of anything..." Nancy said slowly, then quickly amended, "Gil has a deal with the Beckle boys to provide us firewood, so you won't need to worry about that. If you ever run short, just call Gil and he'll see that it's taken care of. Besides that, the only other thing I can think of is the orchards to the east of here. When everything starts coming ripe, we get a group of people together to help us with picking. I wouldn't want you to be surprised if you unexpectedly find an unknown group of people on the property."

"Thanks for the warning." Agent Roberts said sincerely.

"Of course, you're welcome to help yourself to as much of the fruit as you want from the orchards. We sell off what's left so it won't go to waste."

"I'll do that." Shawn said quietly, obviously overwhelmed by it all.

"Do you want to stay here and get settled in or go back to town with me for pie and ice cream?" Agent Fastbeck asked with a smile.

"I don't have that much... but I'm going to need someone to show me where the driveway is. I assume that I'm not going to be walking cross-country to get here every day."

"I'll show you that on our way out." Agent Fastbeck assured him.

"So, do we have a deal?" Nancy asked with a smile of anticipation.

"Yes. I think we do." Agent Roberts said gently, then thought to ask, "Should I pay you now?"

"You can if you like. But I'll understand if you need a few days to get your affairs in order."

"No. That's no problem." Agent Roberts said as he took out his wallet and extracted three one hundred dollar bills.

When he handed them to her, he noticed the puzzled expression that she wore.

"Those are the new hundreds. The government redesigned them a few years ago." Agent Fastbeck assured her.

"Since you're from the FBI, I'll take you at your word. But they look for all the world like play money to me." Nancy said as she examined the bills.

"They do to me too." Conrad admitted.

"If there's nothing else that you'd like to see, I'll take you back to the house." Nancy said as she folded the bills and tucked them into a discretely hidden pocket in her dress.

* * * * *

"Did I just make a horrible mistake?" Agent Roberts asked as they walked through the woods at an unhurried pace.

"Good question. I guess there's only one way to find out." Agent Fastbeck said with a smile.

"I've taken one more step toward being 'consumed' by this place, haven't I?"

"It looks that way."

"Did the same thing happen to you?"

"No. I stayed at Mrs. Shumlin's boarding house until I made the commitment to stay. Once I had decided, I bought a house." Agent Fastbeck said seriously.

"Is it as nice as this place?"

"My house is northwest of town and sits on about seventy acres of unspoiled woodland. It's the place I would have dreamed of owning one day if I had the first clue that such a place actually could exist."

"I'm still a little up in the air on that one myself. All of this seems a little too... fairy tale, to be real."

They walked for a moment in silence, then Agent Fastbeck finally responded, "In fairy tales, beauty is often offset by horror. Peace is purchased with blood. In our line of work, we're bound to run across the dark underbelly of things eventually."

"Would you stop talking to me in riddles and just say what you mean to say?"

"Enjoy what you have while you have it."

"But what do you know about the 'dark underbelly'?"

"I know about good people leading very sheltered and protected lives. They're people that I've come to care about and I want to continue sheltering and protecting them. The dark underbelly may actually be the outside world intruding on this place... I don't know. But I'm convinced that I'm here... we're here, to use our skills and knowledge to help these people."

* * * * *

When they arrived back at Nancy's house, they said their goodbyes to Nancy, then got in their cars. Agent Fastbeck led the way down the long drive, then about a quarter mile down the road to a secluded driveway, which led to Agent Roberts' cottage.

"Do you need any help carrying things in?"

"I don't have much, but if you want to help, we can get it all out of the way right now. It should only take a couple minutes."

When Conrad walked to the trunk and saw the contents, he quietly said, "You're going to need to use the computers at the office until you've had a chance to get a few things ironed out."

"Do they not have high speed internet here?" Shawn asked as he grabbed a few suitcases from the back seat.

Conrad picked up the large iMac and followed as he said, "They actually don't have any internet here."

"None at all?"

"Well, if you have a phone line and an old fashioned modem, you can use dial-up. Beyond that, the only other option that I've been able to find is a specially configured satellite ISP. That's what we have at the office. I've been considering getting it at home, so if you decide to do it, we can schedule it together. The guys have to drive in from Louisville to do the installation."

"What about television? Is there cable?"

"Nope. Broadcast only. And the two local broadcasters don't have satellite feeds from the major networks, so they mostly play old movies and some of the older syndicated television shows. From what I've overheard at the diner, The Mary Tyler Moore Show is becoming very popular in Waxell right now."

"Just set that down by the couch and I'll find a place for it later, after I've had a chance to explore." Shawn said as he set down his suitcases, then said, "Be straight with me. Do you have any idea of what's going on around here? Because it seems hard to believe that you could be here, working for the FBI, and not at least have some sense of what's causing this."

"I don't know. And the few things that I've been able to put together don't form enough of a picture for me to get a sense of it. Waxell seems to exist in a bubble, not completely separate from the outer world, but not fully a part of it either. What's causing it or why... I really have no idea. But the honest truth is, I don't exactly want it to change, either." Conrad said as they started walking back toward the car.

"Is this the X-File thing that you were talking about?"

"That or The Twilight Zone, but I can't detect any malicious intent behind it all. No one's getting hurt and everyone seems to be happy. Where's the harm in it?"

"It's a lie. This isn't reality. These people deserve a chance to..."

" what? To be exploited by a system that they didn't create? To be beaten down and have everything left to them by the generations before taken away in the name of modernity? What possible benefit would there be for them or for the outside world? Who would it serve?"

"What about that 'dark underbelly' you were talking about?"

"I still haven't found it. But if and when I do... I may have to reevaluate my stance on things."

"Yeah. Okay. I can respect that."

"Let's finish hauling this stuff in. We have homemade pie and ice cream waiting for us back in town."

"Is it really that good?"

"No. It's better."

* * * * *

As Shawn drove back to town in his own car, he had a few private moments to collect his thoughts.

Agent Fastbeck had been nothing but nice to him since the moment they had first met, and yet Shawn couldn't help but feel that he was hiding something.

Truth be told, Shawn himself was hiding something too. Every time they discussed 'X-Files' and he didn't reveal the surprising truths that he had uncovered, he was in essence lying.

Setting all that aside, there was something seriously wrong with the town where he had been stationed.

But he couldn't help but wonder if Agent Fastbeck were right. Whatever weird incomprehensible thing was happening in Waxell might be something precious that should be preserved and defended.

He might also be right about there being a dark underbelly. The strong and the weak. The rich and the poor. The Darksiders and the Shadesiders. The residents of Waxell and... that was the big question, wasn't it? And he wasn't alone in asking.

Given what little he knew about Agent Fastbeck's circumstances, he supposed that he might be behaving just as strangely if their positions were reversed.

As he followed Agent Fastbeck down the alley to park behind the FBI office, he came to the conclusion that he would do his best to follow Agent Fastbeck's lead and try to understand what they were facing.

* * * * *

"I didn't think to ask before, you don't mind walking from the office do you?"

"No. That's fine. I'll probably need to burn off some calories if the pie is as good as you say it is."

"You won't regret it."

"Conrad, can I ask you something?"

"Yeah. Ask whatever you want."

"Why us?"

"I once met a man who had the responsibility to protect and defend an entire village. ALL the decisions were his, as was ALL the responsibility. One wrong decision on his part could lead to their annihilation."

"Are you saying that we're going to be something like that?"

"No. What I'm suggesting is that it's possible that someone in a position such as that has arranged for us to be right here, right now."

"For what?"

"I don't know. I'm not at all certain that they know. We may just be contingency plans or safety valves if others of their plans don't end up working out as expected."

"So you think that someone in the chain of command is staffing this office with people who have a particular mindset, in hopes that we'll be motivated to react in a favorable way should a certain situation take place."

"I'm saying that it's possible. Why would they create a bizarrely misshapen district which intentionally leaves out metropolitan areas if not in an attempt to contain some specific information that we might run across?"

"But you have no idea what that is." Agent Roberts said in a leading tone.

"I don't know for sure that there is anything. It's all just a theory." Agent Fastbeck said as he started to cross the street.

"So you don't get the sense that we're being drawn toward a particular action?"

"No. If anything, I get the sense that we're being held in reserve."

"But you have no idea what for."


"What about your X-File cases? Could one of them have some bearing on this?"

"While that's always possible, so far I haven't come across anything that would connect any of that to what's going on in Waxell or beyond it. Until and unless I can find some sort of connection, I'd rather just leave that be."

Shawn thought about the people that he had recently encountered and came to the conclusion that as long as no harm was being done, that they should be left to live in peace.

* * * * *

"Agent Fastbeck! Agent Roberts! I'm so glad that you could make it." Arn said happily as they walked into the diner.

"Thank you." Agent Roberts muttered in surprise.

Agent Fastbeck guided Shawn into the diner and up to a particular woman.

"Agent Shawn Roberts, may I present Tracy Manson. She works as a waitress here. I know that these young men with her are her sons, but I have to admit that I can't remember their names." Agent Fastbeck finished with a timid smile.

"It's nice to meet you, Agent Roberts. Harry has been telling me about you." Tracy said pleasantly, then continued, "These are my boys, Otis and Harlow."

Agent Roberts thought that it would be inappropriate to mention that Tracy appeared to be far too young to have adult children. Besides that, he would prefer not to do anything that might prompt her to explain how that could be.

Nothing good would come of it.

"It's nice to meet you Agent Roberts, welcome to Waxell." Otis said pleasantly.

"Thank you." Agent Roberts said with surprise at the sincere and friendly welcome.

"Are you ready for some of the best pie and ice cream that you've ever tasted?" Agent Fastbeck asked with a smile.

"Have a seat and we'll start serving. We've just been waiting on you." Arn interjected.

"Why?" Agent Roberts asked confusedly.

"We decided to make this a welcome party for you. It's not every day we have someone new moving into Waxell." Arn explained.

"Well, thank you for that. I honestly never imagined that anyone would care one way or another."

"We're not going to put on a big to-do. But Ben Pickley, the mayor, and Sheriff Daniels should be stopping in before very long to welcome you to town."

"It's how they do things here." Agent Fastbeck quietly explained.

Agent Roberts wasn't having a problem with the concept, but it still seemed like a disproportionate reaction to his arrival.

Otis surreptitiously moved to Agent Roberts' side and quietly said, "I know that this place can seem a little weird. If you have any problems, I'll help you out if I can."

"So you can see it too?" Agent Roberts asked with surprise.

"I'm from here, so I probably don't see as much as you do. But when I was away at college I realized just how different it is here."

"But you came back. Weren't you tempted to make a life for yourself in the outside world?"

"Not really." Otis said simply, then explained, "To me, this is normal. The 'outside world' is crowded, noisy and moves too frantically. I'm not sorry that I visited, but I'd never want to live there. Everyone seems so mean and selfish... and sad."

"Yeah. I guess I can see that."

"Like I said, if you're having any problems understanding how things work around here, let me know."

"Thanks Otis. I'll do that."

* * * * *

Arn and Harry hurried to serve pie and ice cream for all those in attendance.

As the 'guest of honor' Agent Roberts was the first to receive his plate.

"You were right. I've never tasted anything that was even close to as good as this." Shawn reluctantly admitted.

"I didn't choose to stay just because of the food, but I'm not at all disappointed to know that I'll be able to enjoy desserts like this on a regular basis."

"Agent Fastbeck! Don't hog the guest of honor all to yourself. If he's going to be staying, he's going to need to circulate and get to know people." A woman said sternly as she approached.

Both Agents Fastbeck and Roberts stood to greet her.

"Agent Shawn Roberts, allow me to present Dorra Linda Rhodes. She's the principal at the local elementary school and she also teaches third through fifth grade classes along with her other duties." Agent Fastbeck said formally, then turned to Dorra Linda and asked, "Did I get that right?"

"Yes. I'm flattered that you remembered." Dorra Linda said honestly.

"It's a pleasure to meet you Ma'am." Agent Roberts said respectfully.

"It's a pleasure for me as well. I never would have thought that the FBI would be staffed with such gallant gentlemen."

"The bureau does its best to see that we are prepared to function in a variety of situations." Agent Fastbeck said pleasantly.

"Perhaps one or both of you could stop by the school sometime to talk to the students about career opportunities in federal law enforcement. I think it would benefit the children to have actual examples, in the flesh, of what they might one day aspire to be." Dorra Linda said warmly.

"Of course. If you'll just let me know when you have time in your schedule, we'll arrange something." Agent Fastbeck said professionally.

"Agent Roberts." A voice said from nearby.

He turned at the sound of his name and saw Otis leading an older man.

"This is Ben Pickley. He was wanting to meet you." Otis said with a smile.

"Mayor Pickley?" Agent Roberts ventured.

"Oh? Has someone been talking about me?" Mayor Pickley asked with delight.

"Only to tell me that I might be meeting you." Agent Roberts explained, then continued, "I'm Agent Shawn Roberts from the FBI."

"I was surprised, to say the least, when Agent Fastbeck was stationed in our little town. I'm actually dumbfounded as to why there would be two federal agents located in Waxell." Mayor Pickley said honestly.

Agent Roberts didn't know how to respond, but fortunately, Agent Fastbeck stepped up and said, "As far as I know, we've been stationed here to oversee an entire geographic region. I'm not aware of it having anything to do with Waxell specifically. This just seemed to be a good place for a base of operations."

"Is the government finally going to do something about those little green bastards who've been pestering us?"

"Yes, Mayor. Along with our other duties, Agent Roberts and I are tasked with investigating every report of alien sightings and abductions within our jurisdiction." Agent Fastbeck assured him.

"Good. It's obviously been too much of a job for the sheriff's office." Mayor Pickley said sourly.

"We have enough of a job keeping the peace among our human residents." A man's deep voice said from nearby.

Agent Roberts turned to see that the person who had spoken was, indeed, wearing a sheriff's uniform.

"Sheriff Daniels, I'd like for you to meet Agent Roberts. He'll be working with me at the FBI office starting tomorrow." Agent Fastbeck said respectfully.

"I've been impressed with how Agent Fastbeck handles an investigation. It's good to see that he's going to have some help. I think we've got enough crackpots and lunatics to keep two people busy." Sheriff Daniels said with a look askance at Mayor Pickley.

"Just wait till those green bastards take you up in their ship and start probing you. Then you'll be singing a different tune." Mayor Pickley challenged.

"That wasn't aliens, Ben. That was too much whiskey and your brother Leroy." Sheriff Daniels said frankly.

"Agent Roberts?" A timid voice intruded.

Shawn turned and saw Harry holding out a dessert plate with pie and ice cream toward him.

"I thought you might like to try some of Dad's rhubarb pie." Harry said cautiously.

"Thank you Harry. I'd love to try it." Agent Roberts said as he traded his empty dessert plate for the one with pie and ice cream.

"Would you like some Sanka to go with that?"

"I don't think so. I'm trying a lot of new things today. I think it's probably best if I ease into it. Maybe next time."

"Did you end up getting the 'mother-in-law house'?" Harry asked curiously.

"Yes. I'd like to thank you and your dad for suggesting it." Agent Roberts said with a sincere smile.

"I'm glad you like it." Harry said happily, then quickly said, "I'll be right back. Mayor Pickley needs some more pie."

Agent Roberts watched with a smile as Harry hurried away.

* * * * *

The pie was simply amazing. Shawn didn't know what he was expecting, but it wasn't something so incredibly good.

"Before it gets too late, remember that you're going to need to stop by the store and get some food. Otherwise you won't have anything to eat at your house." Agent Fastbeck said quietly from his side.

"I didn't even think about that. Thank you." Agent Roberts said sincerely.

"If you're ready, I'll walk over to the market with you, in case you need help carrying your groceries back to the car."

"I can just drive over there... once I know where it is."

"You can if you want, but it'll probably end up being a lot more trouble than just walking there from here. It's right around the corner."

"Okay. I'll take your word for it." Agent Roberts finally relented, then walked to the lunch counter and asked, "Harry, how much do I owe you?"

"Nothing. This was a party to welcome you to town." Harry said with a smile.

"I never imagined being welcomed anywhere so warmly. Thank you, and be sure to thank your dad for me." Agent Roberts said sincerely, then thought to add, "The rhubarb pie was wonderful. Thank you for getting me to try it."

"I'm glad you liked it." Harry said with a beaming smile.

* * * * *

"So, you didn't have anything to do with that, did you?" Shawn asked cautiously as they left the diner.

"With what?"

"Organizing a 'welcome' party."

"Oh, no. They came up with that all on their own."

"I could see what you meant about them believing in aliens. Although the sheriff seems to have debunked the mayor's story fairly well."

"I wasn't here when that incident occurred, so I can't really comment specifically on the investigation. Although, from what little I know of it, I would be interested to see the results of a toxicology test on the mayor that night. Overindulging with alcohol doesn't typically produce such... vivid results unless you're in the advanced stages of chronic alcoholism."

Agent Roberts slowly nodded as he considered Agent Fastbeck's words.

"But as far as Leroy's involvement, it wouldn't surprise me a bit. I get the feeling that Leroy would bugger just about anything, given the chance."

"Good to know." Agent Roberts said uneasily.

"This is the M&K market. It's the only thing remotely resembling a grocery store in Waxell."

"It's a convenience store."

"Basically, yeah. If you need something more than what you can find here, you'll have to drive into Gooseneck."

"I'll keep that in mind."

"For dry goods, you might be able to find what you're looking for at the drugstore or over at the feed store, which doubles as a hardware."

"I think it may take me some time to get used to all of this."

"Once you get past the expectation of 'one stop shopping', it's not too hard." Agent Fastbeck said easily, then quickly added, "You'll also need to remember that they don't have a gas station here in town. Don't let yourself run too short."

"Why don't they have a gas station?"

"I suppose it's because they wouldn't have enough local business to support it. The gas station out on the interstate services several small communities like this one, so it has enough traffic to make it viable."

Conversation stopped as they walked into the little 'mom and pop' market.

* * * * *

Agent Roberts wasn't much of one for cooking.

He could manage a microwave dinner or cup-o-noodles in a pinch, but given the choice, he was much happier ordering delivery or driving through for take out.

Even so, he supposed that he could manage a simple meat and potatoes dinner for himself if he really needed to.

After he had gathered a few items into his handbasket, Agent Fastbeck put a cautious hand on his shoulder and quietly asked, "You don't have a clue of what you're doing, do you?"

"Does it show?"

"Yeah. I'm not saying that you couldn't do something with a slab of fatback and five pounds of rutabagas but... would you mind if I helped you?"

"I hate to ask after all the trouble you've already gone to, but I've never really had to cook for myself before. I'm completely lost."

"Put this stuff back and I'll help you pick out a few things that are a bit more flexible to work with."


* * * * *

After picking up a few staple pantry items, along with the steak and potatoes that Agent Roberts thought he had been buying before, Agent Fastbeck thought to ask, "Did you happen to notice if there were any pots and pans in the kitchen?"

"No. I don't think we even went into the kitchen. I just saw that it was there as we passed by."

"I think we're going to need to stop by the feed store before it closes. I'd loan you something of mine, but I've only got the absolute basics at my house."

"If you can show me what the basics are, I'd really appreciate it."

"I think we've got what you'll need for a few meals. Let's check out. We don't have a lot of time."

* * * * *

After a trip to the feed store, Agent Fastbeck wished Shawn well and sent him on his way, back to his new house.

Although the temptation was great to invite him along, he knew within himself that he needed to take this step into the unknown on his own.

Arriving at his house, he stopped for a moment to appreciate the beauty of the place in the diminishing daylight.

Back in DC, he couldn't have dreamed of ever living in such an incredibly beautiful place.

When he was finally able to force himself to stop gawking and get to work, Shawn loaded the groceries and other purchases into the house.

It turned out that there were a few pots and pans left in the kitchen, but he didn't regret the purchases that he had made. Agent Fastbeck had assured him that the assortment that he bought would be suitable for the majority of his frying, stewing and baking needs.

After getting the food put away and the pots and pans squirreled away where he could find them when he needed them, Shawn went about the business of unpacking.

Since he hadn't brought much in the way of material possessions with him, the task wasn't too terribly daunting.

He found that there was a little nook off the dining room with a desk that seemed to be ideal for his computer. Although he immediately recognized the need for more outlets, and of course an internet connection, he was able to get his computer set up and operational in a reasonable amount of time.

As he was going through his suitcases, putting away his clothes, he heard a knock on the door.

Intrigued, he put down what he was doing and went to answer it.

* * * * *


"Agent Roberts?"


"My name is Gil Spencer. Nancy said that you rented the house from us today."

"Yes. That's right."

"Nancy said that you told her that you'd be starting work tomorrow and she was worried that you might have your hands full with unpacking and such, so she sent me over with a casserole for you."

"Thank you. Please come in." Shawn said as he stood aside.

"I won't be able to stay. I just wanted to drop this off and let you know that you're to call us if you have any problems at all."

"Everything seems fine so far. But if there's a problem, I'll let you know."

"Just be sure to call us before it becomes a big problem. I'd rather be told about a dripping faucet than a flooded basement." Gil said as he walked at a casual pace toward the kitchen.

"Is there a basement?" Shawn asked curiously.

"Yes. Go out the back door and the door's to the left, about ten yards or so. It's mostly just for storage. My wife's mother used to do a lot of canning, so if you come across any of her canned goods down there, you're welcome to them." Gil said as he set the casserole on the stove.

"Will they still be good after all this time?"

"That's the point of canning them." Gil said simply, then added, "If the seal hasn't been broken, they should be fine."

Shawn nodded that he understood.

"It's nice to meet you, Agent Roberts. If you run into any trouble, even if it isn't something to do with the house, you call us or come on up to our place. You hear?"

"Yes sir."

"I don't answer to sir. Name's Gil."

"If you say so, Gil. But if that's the case, then I expect you to call me Shawn."

"You got a deal, Shawn." Gil said with a grin, then added, "Welcome to Waxell."

To Be Continued…

Editor's Notes:

Those three words certainly make my day; to be continued...

Well, Things seem to be settling in for Shawn. Of course, I'm ready for more.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher