But there was something else about Twilley as well. He seemed to like Lincoln, and even acted protective toward him - like a big brother. It was as if he cared about him, and didn’t want anything to happen to him. In his present circumstance, Lincoln knew this counted for a lot. He was alone with a big responsibility, and it was hard for him to keep it to himself. He needed to tell someone about what Jabing wanted him to do. He needed help. And in the end, there was no one but Jeff Twilley he could talk to about it.
Lincoln swallowed, then said, “Well - see, at the last stop - there in Chattanooga before we got on the bus, Mr. Jabing said there was a man after him, the white man who come into the waiting room - you remember - the one who knocked Mr. Jabing down and stole his case.”
“The German dude,” said Twilley.
“That’s him. Mr. Jabing said he was after things that belonged to a lady who lives in Atlanta,” he explained. “He said he was taking these things to her, but they weren’t safe with him. So he - he wanted me to keep them for him on the bus. I think he knew that man would come after him, that he’d steal them away.”
Lincoln could see Twilley thinking about what he said.
“So, tha’s why the German snatched the old man’s case,” Twilley offered.
“Yeah - but it didn’t have the lady’s stuff in it.” He saw Twilley’s interest. “I have it. Mr. Jabing gave it to me before we got back on the bus. And now the German man was just here. That‘s who the cops are looking for now.”
Twilley had been leaning in close to Lincoln, taking in everything he said. Now he straightened up, more alert.
“The dude from the bus station - he‘s here?”
Lincoln nodded nervously, watching as Twilley considered this development.
“He still lookin’ for the old man’s stuff,” Twilley speculated. His eyes narrowed at Lincoln. “What was it Jabing give you?” he asked in a quiet voice.
Lincoln looked around, saw they were far enough away from everybody, and removed the jewelry box and key from his knapsack. Twilley took the box from him and opened it, giving an audible gasp at its contents. The pearl necklace lay across a bed of blue satin, lustrous even under the dim light. Lincoln reached over and placed the locker key in the box alongside the pearls.
Twilley wet his lips, staring in wonderment at the necklace.
“Mr. Jabing says a woman will be waiting at the bus station in Atlanta, and that I’m to give these things to her,” Lincoln explained.
Twilley took a deep breath and looked up at him.
“You tell the po-leese ’bout these pearls?” he asked, his eyes hard.
Lincoln shook his head.
“Good,” he said, exhaling in relief. “Never see ’em again if the cops get hold of ’em.”
Twilley took the necklace into his hands, felt the pearls and the weight. He shook his head slowly and smiled.
“This is some hard cash right here, Linc,” he concluded. “You hear what I say? These things could buy maybe three or four Cadillacs. Maybe more besides!”
Lincoln watched him fondle the pearls, bring them close to his eye for closer inspection. Twilley was so preoccupied he forgot for a moment that Lincoln was there. Suddenly, he came back to himself, and looked quickly around.
“Better put ’em away, boy,” he advised. “Bad people would slice you open like a melon for ‘em.”
- From The Little Rock Messenger by Robert Ryland
Available at Kindle Books http://www.amazon.com/dp/B003YOSYHK