He could think of no way out that wouldn’t cost one or both of them their lives. Why on earth did his promise to his mother have to hit him between the eyes now? When he was this close to putting an end to being a road rat, his conscience had to kick into high gear?
If he let her go Jonathon, Sr would just send someone else after her and if that someone was Bruno, he wouldn’t think twice about hurting her. As the plan was formulating in his mind he felt the need to reassure her that she was safe from him.
“I know you have very little reason to trust me, but I’m not going to hurt you,” Lance told her. She looked far from convinced, and really, how could he expect otherwise? “Tell me, what’s his method of choice?”
Judging by the look on her face he’d done nothing to calm her, in fact, she looked like she was staring back at a madman. “Excuse me? What are you talking about?”
“Your husband. I’ve seen that look before and I know what put it there. I won’t take you, or little Jonathon, back to that.”
She knew better than to trust Lance of all people, but there was a part of her she was ashamed to say that did want to believe he was telling the truth. And then there was the other part, the one who knew how to survive, that was planning her escape using the frying pan on the stove if he so much as walked too near her little boy.
“You have to change your name again. Hand over all and anything that could link you to Linda James,” he said as he told her of his plan. “You have to leave Jonathon James, Jr behind. It’s the only way you’ll be safe.”
“No! That’ll never happen,” she said as she inched her way toward the stove.
“That’s how I found you this time. You have to change his name too, and move far from here. We’ll burn your and Jonathon’s identification in the wood stove before you go.”
“No.” Through her profound relief that he hadn’t meant to literally leave little Jonnie behind she still found a way to find the fly in the ointment, so to speak. “I can’t do that. It’s one thing for me to choose to give up my identity, another to take his away without him ever knowing who he really is.”
“Take it from someone who lived on the run. I never used my real name until I was sixteen, and no, I didn’t like it. But I understood the why of it.”
“How old were you?”
“See? You were old enough to know why and who you were. Jonathon isn’t.”
He could see her point but he knew they were running out of time. Just as that thought crossed his mind his phone rang and with dread he answered.
She didn’t know what was being said or who was on the other end of the call but she could tell it was good news. Well that’s good. At least someone was getting some good news tonight. Too bad it wasn’t her.
“That was Bruno,” he said when he hung up.
The fact that it was Bruno and Lance was smiling ear to ear didn’t bode well for her.
“I’m not sure how to tell you this but neither of us needs to run anymore.”
“Care to explain?”
“I'm sorry, well, or maybe not, to tell you that Jonathon died tonight. And from what Bruno just told me, Jonathon never got around to changing his will, and you now own everything...lock, stock and henchmen. You’re now the boss. Lance Becker, at your service,” he said with a bow.
She stared dumbfounded at the man who’d made her life a living hell for the last few months who was now giving her the news that would free her...if she could only believe.
Linda felt a little guilty that all she felt right now was that this had to be a joke. No more hotels? No more running, changing her name? She could go back to being who she truly was? If true, this had turned out to be the happiest, merriest Christmas she’d ever spent.
Could it be possible that her wish had come true this season? Oh, not that Jonathon would die, but to be free of his controlling, abusive behaviour without having to give up her son?
Her first order of business was to believe it. Second? To head for home and see to the arrangements for Jonathon’s burial. Then, she had some firing to do. Bruno gave her the creeps, and Lance, well Lance deserved to be set free of the life he’d led under Jonathon’s thumb.
She now realized that if Lance had truly wanted to find her and harm her, he would've long before she'd made it this far. Maybe, as payback for all he had done for her, she’d ask Lance to stay on at the James’ house? After all, she’d need to have someone overseeing the place until little Jonnie was old enough to take over his father’s heritage. And what was her plan for herself?
Well, her plan was to come back to Headingley, to happily and contentedly be Linda James, widow, and mother of Jonathon James, Jr.
In keeping with the spirit of the season I chose to end ‘The Christmas Stranger’ on a good note.