“We can’t repaint if they do it again and again, Dino,” Kacy interjected. “How many times can you pay the crew to paint the same bloody place?”
Dino looked at the old building with something akin to sorrow in his eyes. “I’ll paint it as often as necessary, Kacy. It’s silly of me to be such a sentimental fool, but it is something I really want to do, for Uncle Charlie and Aunt Sophie—and me.” He turned away, calling to the painting crew, giving directions in the same respectful, confident, assured tones he always used.
“Don’t you worry, Mr. Sawyer,” the head of the paint crew said sincerely. “We’ll take care of the old girl for you. She’ll look good as new when we’re done. If anyone messes her up again, me and my crew will take it personal like. We’ll find the culprit and paint him!”
It amazed Deacon how Dino was able to elicit such goodhearted loyalty from his people. Not many men would have gotten the same kind of consideration. Deacon was sure he couldn’t have pulled it off, but Dino had. He didn’t put on airs, didn’t act rich and snooty, and he spent lavishly on everyone, not only himself.
The police detective in charge walked over to Dino and spoke softly. Turning to Deacon and Kacy, Dino beckoned them over to his side.
“Anything you need to say, you can say freely in front of Deacon and Kacy. They’re friends of mine and are working with me on this project.”
The policeman introduced himself as Detective Sergeant Reyes. He, like everyone else, treated Dino with deferential respect, but his was paired with a friendly familiarity. Deacon wouldn’t have been surprised if they had been on the football team in high school, or fraternity brothers in college. As it turned out, they had been both.
“Dino, it’s clean as can be inside. We went over it with the K-9 team and everything. We checked the shed, it was locked up tight. Your foreman says everything is accounted for. He’s well organized. He had an inventory sheet and went over it with us.”
“Thanks, Terry. Tell Phyllis to call me. I still haven’t seen that new baby. I hope she looks like her mother.”
“Exactly like her, just as beautiful!”
A little more chitchat and he and his men departed. Dino watched them go, worry etched on his handsome face.
“I don’t like this, Deacon. This time it was just paint, what will it be next time?” He shook his head, digging his toe into the dirt.
“No one was hurt. So far, it’s been the building alone.”
“What if it doesn’t stop at that? What if someone dies, like last time? I don’t want to be responsible. I should shut this down right now.”
“Dino, if you shut this place down and give up, I’ll kick you just like I did Deacon.” Kacy stood facing him, hands on hips, eyes flashing green fire. “You want this badly, I know you do. Whatever your reasons, you need to follow through. You’ve never been a quitter, and I won’t let you start now!”
Instead of bridling or recoiling from her, he hung his head, leaning back against his car. His gaze met Deacon’s, and a flicker of his familiar smile crossed the handsome, strained face.
“I hate when she’s right.”
“Believe me, I do too.”
They laughed quietly, ending abruptly.
“Why do you want it so, Dino?” Kacy’s tone was soft now, comforting. “Not for the reasons you’ve said. Those are excuses to justify it. Why?”
“It’s going to sound so darn stupid and selfish. I’ve built an extensive financial empire, and I’m damn proud of it. But when someone asks me what I’ve done, what I’ve given to the community, I can’t whip out some receipts and show them how much I gave here or there. This is something tangible, visible. I can point to it and say, I did that and be proud. If I ever have a son, I want him to look at that building and think, My dad built that.“
Kacy put her hand on his shoulder, then hugged him closely. “Dino, you have done so much for all of us. I understand why you want this, now. Anything I can do to make it happen, I will do.” Kissing his cheek, she walked over to where the paint crew were setting up their scaffolds again.
The construction workers were standing in a group around Mac, leaning on their trucks, most of them smoking. They watched placidly as Kacy advanced.
“Listen here, mates,” she addressed them briskly, her Australian accent stronger than Deacon had ever heard it. “Mr. Sawyer needs our help to get this place whipped in shape. Do you think we can do it?”
The crew looked at one another, then at Kacy’s confident stance, her hands in her back pockets. She was relaxed and at ease, not the least worried. Cracking a smile, Dexter took a few steps toward her.
“Hell, Ms. Du Champs, I need the money. But I’d do this damn job for free, if I had to. Kind of got my Irish up.”
She shook his hand firmly, smiling. Dexter stood next to her, staring the rest of them down.
Mac walked forward next, “Can’t let Sparky have all the glory, count me in.”
Every one of the construction workers came forward and promised to keep working. Everyone got a firm handshake and a personal thank you from Kacy. Deacon watched, amazed. She had come far from the woman everyone was terrified of, to the woman they could admire. He realized that this was the real Kacy, not the angry, hostile, inflammatory woman she had been a few days ago.
©2021 Dellani Oakes