Raul sees Lana reading the newspaper when he walks into the Mexican restaurant. She’s laughing to herself, and then glances up.  Do you like Calvin & Hobbes, Raul? Is that a musical?  She grins and folds the paper so he can see that she was reading the comics, and points out the comic strip in question.  The first frame of the strip shows Calvin in bed with his stuffed tiger, asking if there are any monsters under his bed.  The second frame shows multiple negatives coming out from under the bed: “no, nope, uh-oh” and the WIDE eyes of the tiger.  The third frame shows Calvin standing on his bed yelling, threatening them with his flamethrower.  In the final frame, Raul sees the tiger ask incredulously “you have a flamethrower?”  The child tells the tiger.  “They lie. I lie.”  Lana watches Raul’s expression remain unchanged as he reads the comic, and she bursts out laughing.  Keep it, Raul, she tells him, as he goes to hand the paper back to her.  I got my money’s worth.

The host seats them in a booth, and pours them each a glass of water from a pitcher.  Your waiter will be right with you.  The waiter brings out a fresh basket of corn chips, and a bowl of salsa.  Can I get you something to drink?  He asks Lana.  I’ll let you know after I try the salsa, she replies in Spanish.  She scoops up a bunch and chews it slowly as Raul and the waiter watch.  Dos Equis amber, she tells the waiter, who grins at her.  Same, Raul says.

What do you recommend?  The special.  She hands him her menu without looking at it.    So how was your morning, Raul?  Spent trying to think of what I was going to say.  She nods.  The waiter comes back with their beers.  Are you ready to order?  Two specials.  Raul says in Spanish.  No cheese on mine, and another bowl of salsa please.  Lana adds, also in Spanish.  The waiter disappears.

When I was in jail, Bettina sent me a note.  Telling me that she loved me and how much she envied my sleep clinic.  Raul grins. How do you sleep at night, Raul?  Lana asks, studying him.  Head hits the pillow and I’m out.  Raul sits in silence as he looks at her.  I hear you’re back working for the drummer.  What’s the story with you and him?  I provide daytime home security for him, and he’s a limited partner in my private investigation firm.  Your – partner - has he ever made any romantic overtures to you?  No, Lana says between bites, as she scoops up more salsa.

What are you going to do now, Lana, since they took away your license?  I’m going into business as a security consultant, doing the same thing that I did before.  And I’ll keep working at my law degree.

Do you still want your badge back?  Raul asks.  Lana nods.

Why did you nearly kill him?  Raul says.  Lana takes a sip from her beer, and looks at him steadily.  I didn’t know until afterwards, he admits.  It wasn’t what I expected you to do; it was an atypical reaction, to say the least.  He finally adds.

Raul, I was hoping that he was going to propose to me before the band went on tour.  Have you seen him since?  Lana nods.  What did he say?  None of your business.  Lana takes another sip from her beer, and looks around the restaurant, and then back to Raul.

Raul, what are we doing here?  Getting to know each other.  I know enough, Lana says and looks at him seriously.  You’re a grave digger, she tells him.  And my brother is in one of them.  Their food comes, and Lana cuts her portion in two, and sets half of it aside.  They eat their meal in silence.  That was delicious; thank you, Lana tells him, after she’s put down her fork and wiped her mouth with her napkin.  I’m saving this for later, she tells him.  Bettina and I will reverse engineer it.  Ramon chuckles.

Bettina told me that you read through the Bible when you were in prison.  Lana nods.  Give me a parallel to help understand you, Raul says.

There are two Zimri’s in the Old Testament.  The first was a prince of the tribe of Simeon.  He was slain as he fornicated with a Midianite princess.  One spear thrust got them both.  The second was a general who lived centuries later.  He killed his ruler and usurped the throne.  He was king over Israel for seven days.  His rule didn’t take, and when the capital city was surrounded, he set his own palace on fire and died therein.  His “burn it all down” mentality resonates with me, Lana admits.  Neither story is fresh in my mind, Raul admits.  And they shouldn’t be.  Both men had promise at the outset, but ended up as footnotes.

So you decided to make Jax a warning.  No, Raul.  He decided.  I just reacted.  My point is that I’ve become a byword among my people.

Time for my speech, he says.  Lana, there always has been and always will be human depravity and the inclination toward vice.  Drugs will eventually be legalized; it’s only a matter of time.  Look at abortion.  Look at gay marriage.  Our leaders are calling evil good, and celebrating vile persons: there was an actual transvestite on the cover of Time magazine not too long ago.  We live in a Romans 1 world that’s devolving as we approach the end of days.

What if I told you that like the ancient Hebrews, we ought plunder Egypt before we enter the Promised Land.  That what my family does is no different than the merchant houses of the salt and spice trade back in the days of Solomon.  Each caravan was armed, and operated independent of the nation states, and paid tribute to the ruler of the day for the privilege of being able to buy and sell.  Drugs will be legalized in our lifetime, Lana.  And when they are, the house that I serve will be completely legitimate, and we can work on rebuilding Mexico from the narco-state that it has become.

Lana closes her eyes and takes a deep breath.  Can two walk together except they be agreed?  Your family is profiting off human misery, Raul.  Please study the Book of Amos if you have any doubts as to how that is going to work out.  Raul glares at her.  You’re wrong.  We are feeding our people, not feeding off of them like MS-13 or Barrio 18.  Do you want Mexico to go the way of El Salvador?  You told Kostamo to do the hard thing.  Do you think what I do is easy?  Someone has to take responsibility; that’s the burden of leadership.  Tia doesn’t want to be a decider; she just wants to be a counselor.  Ramon is brilliant, but even he wants to be told what to do.  He hates being Don and wants me to step into his role.  Lana, I’m asking you to help me make the right ones, the right decisions.

Lana looks down at the table and puts her hands in her lap.  Do I have a choice in the matter?  She asks quietly.  Of course, Raul says.  Are you familiar with the Milian Dialogue?  Lana asks him.  I am.  Your brother will kill any man who comes into my life, won’t he?  Raul doesn’t answer.  So I’m reduced to negotiating, Lana says, now looking up at Raul.  Give me three days to think over my terms and conditions.  Right here, right now.  Raul replies.  Your money perish with you.  Lana tells him.  Raul draws his head back, and she stares him down.  He looks away.  Right here, three days from now then.  He replies after a long pause.  She nods, not taking her eyes off of him.  He motions over the waiter and asks for the bill and a container for Lana’s portion.  Thank you for lunch, Raul.

***

So what are you going to do, Lana?  Kostamo asks her.  He’s moving a lot faster than I thought he would, Lana admits.  Mortimer, do you see any obvious flaws in his character?  No, I don’t, Lana.  I like Raul; he’s a man that I can do business with.  He’s always known what he’s wanted, and has been willing to wait patiently to get you.  And he stood up to Don Luis to save your life and later on, mine.  He pauses.  Your Milian Dialogue analogy is flawed; he’s more of a Spartan than an Argive.  Where does he come from?  Lana asks.  I’ve hit a wall.  I cannot find out anything before seminary.  Kostamo admits. What are you going to tell him?

I’ll use a subject two close.  What’s that?  Subject to him getting my parent’s blessing.  Kostamo gives her his Cheshire cat grin.  Changing subjects, how’s Jax?  How’s Toni?  Lana replies. I’ll catch her if she falls, Kostamo tells Lana.  Lana reaches over and squeezes his hand.  Jax is owning it.  What does Rolf say about him and you?  “Don’t involve me; I’m not Oprah”.  Kostamo and Lana break down laughing.

Raul doesn’t like you working out of Rolf’s home.  He’s going to counter with that.  Lana nods.  I’m always going to be grateful to Rolf for helping me stand on my own two feet again.  But he actually is my partner now, and we’ve helped a lot of people together.  I know that’ll end when I get engaged, but until then, I want to keep working with him.  Maybe that’ll fly.  Kostamo tells Lana.  I’d be jealous if I were in Raul’s shoes though.  When a guy and a girl are friends, one of them always wants more.  That’s just the way it is.  The exception proves the rule, Lana says.  Rolf brought Jax and I together, and I’ve done my best to bring Bettina and Rolf together, which will happen now that he’s sticking around.

========================================================

She met Kostamo for coffee afterwards, Tia tells Ramon. Ramon steeples his hands.  I read up on this Milian Dialogue: she correctly sees her choice as remain single or marry Raul.  Ramon nods in agreement.  The time for games is over.  I will get Raul what he wants, and what my father wished for him.  And then he frees me to enjoy life once more.  Tia sighs, and shakes her head no.  Do you think that you can just step back from being Don?  Pope Benedict did.  He knew he wasn’t up to the job, and stepped aside.  Last I checked, the papacy is still there.  Tia frowns.  As long as I’m around, it will work.  But I’m not going to live forever, Ramon.  You step aside, and you won’t be able to pick up the reins ever again.  I’m fine with that.  Lana won’t be.  She’s ruthless and unsentimental; she’ll use the sword of war to be rid of you.  You’re wrong about her, Tia.  And Raul is his own man.

***

The next day, Raul flies down to the hacienda.  The three gather together for dinner.  What do you think her terms will be?  I believe that she’s going to ask me for Kostamo’s life.  Raul replies.  He dies, Tia states flatly.  Raul nods his agreement and looks at Ramon.  Who steeples his hands and stares at Tia.  We won’t let his grey head go down to the grave in peace, Tia.  King David had his son Solomon settle his scores for him.  If she marries Raul to save the life of her friend, then for as long as she is alive, he’s inviolate.  My sons will finish him, he says with finality.  Is this acceptable, Tia?  Or do you need to see his head on a platter?  The Don has spoken.  She says.  Thank you, Don Ramon, Raul says.  I did not wish to be Don, brother.  When you have your woman, then the office shall be yours.

I’ll pass along to you Lana’s advice to Kostamo.  “Do the hard thing and it’ll get easier with time”.  Tia looks at Raul.  What is the context?  Bettina called me up late one evening and asked me to come over.  She told me that she needed my advice, that it was urgent and important.  I dropped everything and went over there.  And I hear Lana singing and playing her guitar as I walk up to the door.  I knock on the door, and Bettina steps out in the hall with me, and shuts the door behind her.  And explains to me that Kostamo is inside, and that she and Lana are trying to help him, but the situation is beyond their life experience.  Would I be willing to hear what he has to say?  So we all sit down at the kitchen table, and he tells me that the redhead is pregnant, and hasn’t informed him.  Don Ramon rubs his chin, and looks at Tia.  Lana thanked me for coming, and told me that she believed that Toni and Samantha were playing mind games on Kostamo.  That she was using a pregnancy scare to get him back.  I ask her why?  And she said that she doesn’t believe that Toni would drink if she suspected she was pregnant, and that Samantha had gone out of her way to help her before.  Ramon steeples his hands and nods.  I ask Bettina to place odds, having heard Lana’s explanation.  She puts it at 70% that Toni is pregnant, and declares that if Kostamo sits on his hands and waits for her to show, that one of the guys in the band will step up and marry Toni and raise the child as his own.  I ask her which man?  And she says Mike.

Let him, Tia pronounces, would have been my counsel.  Raul nods.  That’s what I said, Tia.  Two wrongs don’t make a right.  Let the children be raised in a home where love is.  Bettina agreed with me, and thanked me.  Ramon shakes his head in disapproval.  Kostamo looked at Lana, and she told him that it was a mess.  That if she was right, Toni and Sam now knew that he knew, and that he was not only obligated to step up, but now had to make the first move.  I ask her how he should step up?  And she asks me if I know what a common law marriage is?  It turns out that I didn’t.  When you shack up with a woman for ten years, Ramon says impatiently.  Raul shakes his head no, that’s what I thought too, but it is holding yourself out to the public as man and wife without a marriage license from the state.  Length of time as nothing to do with it.  She could still take his last name, and they could exchange rings.  Ramon gives Tia a puzzled look.  She told me that the material point is that the state of Louisiana doesn’t recognize them, and that the redhead will get nothing if she leaves him.  But after she has proved herself to be a devoted wife and mother, then Kostamo can make it official.  I like it, Ramon says grinning.  Remember our conversation earlier?  Tia asks Ramon.  Ramon shrugs.  I won’t see it coming.  Raul looks between them.

What did Kostamo say?  He didn’t say anything.  Bettina took his hand, and told him that she’d be praying for him.  And Lana took his other hand, and told him to do the hard thing, that it would get easier with time.  And I got up and left.

That is a good story, Raul, Tia acknowledges, and they both look at Ramon.

Samantha called me.  Talk about a Milian Dialogue, he says in an aside.  She told me that if there is not a merger, then there is going to be a hostile takeover.  So it is my intention to call a meeting of the Syndicate, and introduce her as my fiance, and inform the Executive Committee that I will be stepping down as Don to devote myself to the  domestic happiness of my beloved for the first year of our marriage.  And that my brother will become the new Don of the family at that time.

The Syndicate won’t let that happen.  Oh, I intend to be Groomzilla, Ramon says with a big grin.

========================================================

Grilled chicken fajita burrito, no cheese, with your red sauce.  Lana orders.  The same, Raul tells the waiter.

Is this restaurant one of yours?  Raul shakes his head no.  So, let me guess, Lana tells him with a grin.  You changed your mind.  Snared by the words of your mouth?  He grins back at her.  My offer stands.  What conclusions have you come to?  He asks, the smile disappearing from his face.

I only have one condition, Raul.  Let me guess: Kostamo walks.  I know that you talked to him afterwards.  Lana looks at him.  Kostamo sees no obvious flaws in your character.  And he said my Milian Dialogue analogy was flawed, that you were a Spartan, not an Argive.  Your condition, Lana?  We must get my parent’s blessing.  He studies her.  I can live without getting my badge back, Raul.  But I do wish to be married in the church where I was baptized as an infant.  Alright, he replies.  She grins at him.  Now you are snared by the words of your mouth.  Ramon and Tia cannot help you with my father  -  or with Father Cory.  He surpresses a grin and steeples his fingers against his mouth.  You continue to surprise me, Lana Radley.  LG.  Hmmmm.  Life’s good.  She says.  You already know what’s going to happen if I find out that you are not who you seem to be: a decent and god-fearing man.  Why do I suddenly feel that the tables have been turned on me?  Raul says with a grin.  Raul, I’m setting the table. You’re invited.  What are you doing this weekend?  He asks her.  Bettina and I are hiking the Columbia River gorge with Simon.  Do you want to come?  We can use a fourth.

I approve of Bettina.  Your other friends…he shakes his head no.  He’s met my parents and her father, and they all love him.  Their approval is what matters- not yours.  After we’re married, different story.  He looks at her.

I’ve got a question for you, Raul.  Why the rush?  The rule of thumb I heard was to spend four seasons together before getting married.

I do not like you working out of the drummer’s house, and you being “partners” with him.  I understand, she tells him.  I like working with him, and we’ve helped a lot of people together.  I know that’ll end when I get engaged, but until then, I’m going to keep on working with him.

You’re testing me, he says.  Yes, I am.  She admits.  Slow down, Raul.  I am my father’s daughter.  You need to know what that means before you put a ring on that.  I need to know who I’m marrying.  I’d rather be single and unhappy than be unhappily married.  Have you ever heard of the aphorism “marry in haste; repent at leisure”?  What is an aphorism?  A secular proverb.  So what does it mean, that you are your father’s daughter?  I have two father’s, Ramon.  One you’ll meet.  The other is in heaven.  He was my mentor, and taught me how to be a good cop.  Tell me about him.  Lana looks at him.  When he was in Vietnam, he had to do awful things to stay alive.  He got a Dear John letter when he was over there – do you know what that is- Raul nods.  He still had nine months to go on his tour.  He told me that his girlfriend ceased to be a real person and became an icon while he was over there.  That he just couldn’t let go of a vision like that.  And his mission in life was to get back to the States so he could win her back.  He made it home, Raul.  Did he get her back?  That’s another story for another time.  They finish their meal in silence.

Would you really be willing to let Kostamo walk?  I have it from Don Ramon, Lana – for as long as you are alive.  She looks down at the table and doesn’t say anything, then she looks up at him.  My next weekend will be free.  Please do plan something for us.  What would you like to do?  Lana looks at him steadily.  If you cannot think of anything that YOU want to do, except work, then at least take me to church on Sunday, and we’ll have lunch with Bettina and her father.  He nods.  Kostamo said that you stepped up to protect me from Don Luis.  Thank you for that, Raul.  It’s a good foundation to build off of.

Columbia is very dangerous, Raul says.  I will ask Ramon to go with you, as your fourth.   Lana bites her lips and starts shaking with repressed laughter.  She puts her hand on his.  It’s in Oregon, Raul, not Central America.  And they both burst out laughing.