A daughter. He had a daughter.
The road back to Callum’s lay ahead, but Wyatt was only vaguely aware of it. That little bitch hid this from him. Ran away with his father and his child. In an instant, everything changed. Hank’s usual scorched earth tactic was no longer on the table, as far as he was concerned. There would be reckoning, yes. But, he would take his daughter back, unharmed.
The car rolled to a stop, dust kicked up from the dirt road in front of Cal’s. Emmett and Lyle were already there, passing a handle of Jack back and forth in between tokes from a blunt the size of a premature baby’s arm. Great, Wyatt thought. The two ****-ups were going to be ripped out of their skulls when **** went down. Lyle lifted his chin in greeting as Wyatt stepped out of the vehicle.
“Where’s Cal?” Wyatt asked, receiving a pair of blank stares in return. “Hello? Cal? Where is he?”
“Oh yeah...he’s uh…” Lyle managed to mutter.
The sound of Callum’s boots clomping against the floorboards announced his approach, ending the futile line of questioning. The stubby, smoldering remains of a cigar between his teeth, a look of slight confusion on his scarred face.
“Cal.” Wyatt approached, nerves getting him a bit jittery. “I found ‘em.”
“So I heard.” He responded as Hank’s car pulled up. “Question I got is, why you’re over here havin’ a ****in’ pow wow instead of staring at the smokin’ ashes of your daddy’s place?”
“Things have changed, Cal.” He said. “Cal...I got a daughter.”
Cal stared at him nonplussed. “Well, ****in’ good for you. ‘Don’t answer my question, though. Why ain’t you over there right now, bringing hell and vengeance on them sons a’ bitches?”
The confusion set in. He’d just TOLD him why. “I...I mean...I can’t-”
“You *CAN’T*?” Callum interrupted.
“Cal...it’s my daughter.”
Callum glanced over to Hank a moment, silent as can be. He reached up and took the cigar from his lips, let it drop and stepped towards Wyatt, looking the younger man in the eye. “And?”
Wyatt could feel the blood coursing through his veins, his heart thudding against his chest. He went to speak, but nothing came out. Callum just stared at him, disgust and something new in his eyes. Distrust. The old man took a step toward him, and Wyatt, without thinking, took a step back. For a moment he cursed himself for looking like a beaten dog.
“You think I care that you went bareback 8 years ago? You got unfinished business, Marston.” He said. “You gonna turn into a pussy on me over a kid you don’t even know?”
“It ain’t like that.” Wyatt said, a dangerous edge to his voice.
“I think it is. You don’t even know that little brat’s name and you’re over here, flappin’ your gums and cowerin’ like a little bitch, when you SHOULD be over there puttin’ an end to it. Maybe you ain’t man enough to do it anymore.”
Something inside of Wyatt burned. A white-hot rage that filled his stomach and spread out all over. But Cal either didn’t notice or didn’t care. He glowered at Wyatt and kept backing him up and away. “You used to be worth a damn, boy. Used to have a good head on your shoulders. You used to have balls!”
“Shut up.” Wyatt managed quietly. Callum relished this. He stoked those flames to perfection.
“Maybe I was wrong about you. Maybe you’re just a gutless ****in’ coward.” Cal pushed on.
Wyatt could feel that bile burning, his heart pounding away. His teeth clenched so hard, he thought they might crack. His fists in tight, shaking balls. It was as if a great pressure was rising, filling his whole body and it was about to reach the limit.
Callum’s voice rose as Wyatt backed into a post. “Maybe Panky and me...we go over there and end it ourselves!”
And the dam burst. In one swift motion, Wyatt shoved him back, drew his Glock and leveled it at Cal’s head. The old man stumbled back, laughing as his boys drew their weapons, pointing them at Wyatt. Hank, however, just stood there. He didn’t so much as twitch a finger toward the trigger of the rifle slung around his neck.
The old man was terribly amused by the whole thing, just grinning away. “THAT’S what I’m talkin’ about, boy! Hell yes! I need you MEAN! I need you tough! I need you ready to do goddamn ANYTHING to get the ****in’ job DONE!”
Wyatt panted, slowly trying to get control back. He was suddenly aware of the shotguns currently pointed his way, but he didn’t lower the gun. He was like a cornered animal, eyes wide.
Cal never took his eyes off him, never dropped that jagged grin. “Boys. You lower them shotguns now. Everything’s good. Ain’t that so, Wyatt?”
There wasn’t a hint of fear in the old man’s eyes as his boys lowered their weapons. He knew he’d won. He got what wanted. Callum Marks always did. “We’re gonna take Wyatt out there. Get him his baby girl...and we all gonna finish what he started. We big happy family, ain’t we?” That toothy sneer sent a chill down Wyatt’s back. “Ain’t we, Wyatt?”
Hesitantly, he lowered the pistol. Cal stepped up and put a hand on him. “See, boys?” He said. “Big happy family.”
The pair of rednecks laughed their dimwitted laugh as Cal leaned in, his voice dropping so only Watt could hear. “You ever point a gun at me again and I’ll rip your Goddamn throat out. Got it?”
Wyatt turned his head to the man, eyeing him. For years Callum Marks had been the father figure he’d always wanted. Encouraged every little whim he had, given him money, power, women, drugs...whatever he asked. Lately, though...he’d begun to change. That mellow, friendly exterior cracking. More and more, he’d begun to feel manipulated. Used. This...was just confirmation. He stared at the man he’d so long considered a friend, seeing only a monster whom he could not escape. Finally, he just nodded.