After the introductions, Jarrell, Rex and Gilbert sat down at the small table inside Montelongo’s. Rex had a half-full mug of coffee and Gilbert had a double order of Machacado. He wolfed down heaping spoonfuls of scrambled eggs and shredded beef as Rex began to quietly speak.
“So, Gilbert and I go way back,” Rex began. “I helped him out of a bit of a bind that involved a stolen tractor and a couple of bodies outside of Shallowater several years ago. We’ve had a working agreement ever since.” Gilbert stared silently at Jarrell while Rex spoke. Occasionally the large man would tear off a piece of tortilla, dip it in a bowl of salsa, and devour it. He said nothing for several minutes.
“Gilbert is my guy in situations like this,” Rex said. “Situations like what?” Jarrell asked.
Situations when someone needs to disappear,” Rex said. “Disappear?” Jarrell asked again. Rex and Gilbert both nodded softly. It was then that Jarrell noticed Gilbert’s eyes. They didn’t seem to quite fit the rest of his body. He was a grizzly bear of a man, but his eyes looked tired and…worried? It was almost as if Gilbert was carrying some sort of burden, some sense of anxiety and worry that most couldn’t cope with. His eyes were a bright blue, in stark contrast to his jet black hair and menacing goatee. In that moment it was almost as if Jarrell could see a glimmer of good in the man’s eyes, even though everything else about him screamed the opposite.
Jarrell Robertson was a good man, born without a hateful bone in his body. Through all the years of challenges and hardship, he never held a grudge or lamented his family’s lot. Yes, he had seen hard times, but he always remained optimistic. There would be another crop, another football season, another reason to wake up in the morning and start it all over again. So it was damn near impossible for him to comprehend exactly what Rex and Gilbert might be proposing.
“I still don’t understand what you mean,” Jarrell said. “Like disappear, disappear?”
“Yes,” Rex replied.
A cold chill washed over Jarrell as he sat with the two men. He knew Roy was bad news, but could never fathom taking another man’s life—or at least being responsible for doing so.
“What else…what other options are there?” Jarrell asked.
“What do you mean?” asked Roy, confused.
“I mean, what else can we do? What is something less drastic?” Jarrell was getting upset. He slapped his hand violently on the table, rattling the silverware and causing heads to turn. He leaned in and whispered. “I’m not going to kill my grandson’s father,” he sneered, angrily. “What else can we do?”
“We can try framing him?” Rex replied with a shrug. He looked nervously toward Gilbert and tried to communicate solely with his eyes. Gilbert was unfazed.
“I can set it up where he’ll never see another day of freedom,” Gilbert said quietly. “Leave it all to me,” he said. “Once I receive my payment, I’ll take care of it.”
Jarrell looked at Rex. “Payment?” he asked. Rex was getting frustrated with Jarrell’s seeming inability to grasp the situation. “Look, Jarrell,” he said. “You came to me, remember? You asked me for my help. Now here we are, ready to help.”
Jarrell thought about Emily and Reid, and the suffering both had been through and the suffering left to come. “How much?” Jarrell asked.
“Ten thousand dollars. Five thousand up front, five thousand when it’s done.” Gilbert replied. Jarrell shuddered.
“Whatcha thinking about, Mr. Jarrell?” Nacho asked while both sat on the porch later that Sunday afternoon. “Oh nothing,” Jarrell said, but he continued to stare out into the flat farmland covered in white cotton now in full-bloom. “Do you think Tech can handle Oklahoma next week?” Nacho asked. “Not sure,” Jarrell said. “They sure better be able to stop Mayfield, and I just don’t think they can.”
“Yeah,” said Nacho. “You’re probably right.”
“You better go on home, Nacho,” Jarrell said. “I’ve got a few errands to run.”
“OK, see you tomorrow,” Nacho said. “See you tomorrow, son,” Jarrell said as Nacho pedaled hard on his bike, kicking caliche dust into the air behind him.
Alone now on the porch, Jarrell dialed a number on his phone. “Rex,” he said. “I will make the first payment tomorrow.” Jarrell hung up the phone and walked inside to check on Evelyn.
The following Saturday night, Jarrell and Nacho watched one of the more amazing and frustrating football games either had ever seen. For it to be new to Nacho didn’t mean all that much, but even Jarrell had never seen anything like it in all his years watching. Patrick Mahomes had over 800 yards of offense, and Texas Tech still lost the game. It was baffling, comical, and maddening to watch. Yet neither could take their eyes off the screen.
When the game was over, Nacho went home and Jarrell lay down on the couch which was still serving as his bed for at least a few more weeks. Before falling asleep he wondered what Gilbert was up to and if he’d made any progress with his plans. Jarrell had delivered $5,000–almost all the money he had in the world–in the form of a cashier’s check made out to Rex’s firm for legal services rendered on Monday morning. Then Rex was able to funnel the money to Gilbert via transfer to a bail bond company he had part ownership in. Each step helped to further ensure that the trail of money would be difficult to follow, if anyone ever tried to do so. Jarrell trusted that no one would ever be suspicious but you can never be too careful. He also had no idea how he’d make the final payment but couldn’t worry about that right now. After a few minutes, Jarrell fell asleep.
He heard nothing from Gilbert or Rex during the next week, and had to fight off the urge to call them for an update. Both had advised for him not to do so, and Jarrell was a compliant man. So he waited.
On Saturday Jarrell watched the TCU game and was thrilled with Tech’s come from behind, overtime win. It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win, and it was the first bit of good news Jarrell had been able to enjoy in quite some time. He celebrated the afternoon with three beers and some grilled back strap that he’d been saving for such an occasion. It was one of the hottest Octobers on record on the South Plains, so Jarrell enjoyed the unseasonably warm afternoon with a Tech win, a beer buzz and a full belly.
Just as the sun was setting, Jarrell dozed off in his chair on the porch. He dreamt of good things, happy things. It had been a good day.
Then his phone rang and Jarrell was jolted from his nap. It was the sheriff. There had been a terrible accident.