After Betty walked away to service other customers, Tony decided he had nothing to lose.
“Excuse me, ma’am. Are you driving one of those rigs out there? Do you know if those guys in the back might take a passenger along? I can pay. I am trying to get to Virginia. My car was toasted coming up the hill, and the billowing smoke told me nothing short of a new engine would do.”
Rose looked him over and sized him up rather quickly. “Do you have a pass to be off base, son?”
Tony looked a bit chagrinned; he hoped she was just guessing. With some indignation he retorted, “I’m a base contractor and don’t need permission to go anywhere. I just had a car that had 200 thousand miles on it, and it gave up the ghost. Never you mind. I’ll go ask them myself.”
Rose chuckled and replied, “The men I walked in with are two trainers along with their two rookies doing driving tests to gain certification. They can’t take you as a ride-a-long. There aren’t any dealerships around here for you to buy a car. Plus, you obviously overheard me tell Betty I have a run to Philly.
“If you aren’t a deserter, are you a felon?”
He looked her square in the eye really hoping he had not underestimated her, and said, “No, ma’am.”
“Then order a second burger to go and another milkshake, strawberry for me, and I’ll take you at least as far as the next gas stop and re-evaluate if you continue with me or find another ride there. Don’t try anything funny, because I’m ex-military, and I shoot first then ask questions. Of course, being a Texan first might have something to do with that as well.”
He grinned as he placed the order with Betty. Then he turned to his benefactor and smiled as he introduced himself. “Ma’am, my name is Tony Bough, friends call me Tony. I promise I wouldn’t hurt you unless you hurt me. Thank you for your kindness.”
Rose laughed, “Kind, hell. I just wanted to supplement the cost of my trip, and it might be nice to have someone to talk to on this long haul.”
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