Simon and Bettina pull up to the apartment. Let me come up and use your bathroom real quick, he tells her. She unlocks the apartment door and sees Lana sitting on the couch with her knees up, writing on her legal pad. Simon needs to use the bathroom, she tells Lana, who nods, and goes back to writing. Simon comes back out a minute later. Goodnight, Lana. Nite, lock the door, she replies, not looking up.
You left me, Bettina tells her, when she comes back out in her pajamas and takes up a seat on the other end of the couch, facing Lana. I had to get out of there, Lana admits, putting down her legal pad. What happened? Bettina asks. She hands her legal pad to Bettina.
Dona Tia stopped by my apartment this afternoon and delivered the verdict that you are off limits to me. That you must forswear any claims on me in order for Saul to consent to Samantha marrying your brother. I grieve.
At Xavier, one of my Jesuit professors liked to quote the rule of the founder of his order, St. Ignatius Loyola, not to make a decision from desolation, but to stay the course.
Bettina looks up at her. The Vaca Frita? Lana nods. I’m not good at writing my emotions, Lana admits. You say more with two words than I could in a two page letter, Bettina responds. Lana, what does stay the course mean? Get my badge back, Lana replies. Jax told us about your Samson analogy. We all read the story together. Lana, you cannot seriously think that Jax would do that to you. Lana shrugs. Consider him inoculated now, Bettina. When are you going to talk to your father? I’ll let my parents know that I’m not a happy camper tomorrow at dinner.
So have you set a date? Lana’s mother asks eagerly, when everyone has sat down.
We’re just going to go down to the courthouse. Oh really, her father comments drolly. Bettina will make me pretty. She and Simon will be there as witnesses.
LANA, her mother entones - exasperated. A blind bride doesn’t need a fancy church wedding, Lana tells her mother. Lana’s mother gives her husband a “you handle this” look. Don’t sass your mother, Lana’s father says sternly. Now answer her question.
We haven’t set a date, mother. Lana says with her head down. A short engagement makes for a long marriage, Lana, her mother insists. Jaxton, where are you going to live? Lana’s father asks. I was going to buy Rolf’s house. We should go talk to him after, Jax tells Lana. Lana doesn’t say anything or look up.
I did what you said, Simon tells Jax, changing the subject abruptly. What’s that? Muni bond ladder with staggered maturities. But I was reading in Barron’s on the plane back that gold is going to breakout. What do you think about me investing in gold? Everyone looks at Jax. The only way to invest in gold…he pauses to grin at Lana, is to hang some around the neck of someone you love. Everyone laughs.
Bettina, you sure are quiet this evening. Lana’s mother tells her. I went for a run yesterday afternoon in the heat after we got back in. It took more out of me than I realized. Sorry, she says wincing. Just know that there is no place that I’d rather be tonight - with my boyfriend eating dinner at my best friend’s parent’s house. Simon, why haven’t you proposed to her yet? Lana’s mother asks. MOTHER! Lana exclaims.
Well??? She insists. I’m going to get baptized first, Simon answers.
Lana’s father nods his approval. “Let all things be done decently and in order”, he expounds. And you are going to have a traditional wedding, daughter. Your mother and I will give you away at the altar to Jaxton. I want to talk to you about that, father, Lana says. Talk, he replies. Alone, Lana replies. Say what you have to say, Lana. Jax tells her. Lana pulls off her engagement ring and puts it on the table and sits with her head down and her hands in her lap. Please take your ring back, Jax.
I’ll take it back on one condition, Lana. You tell your parents about Raul. Lana’s head stays down and she closes her eyes.
Who is this Raul? Lana’s mother asks Bettina after a long silence. Remember the handsome club owner that I interviewed? Bettina asks. He and Lana started seeing each other after she broke up with Jax.
He’s the number two man in the Ortega drug cartel. Simon says suddenly, who set Jax up to fall by doping his Redline at the gym and then taking compromising pictures and sending them to Lana. But he saved Jax’s life by taking him to the hospital, Bettina says, and he was weeping uncontrollably when he brought him in. He used to be a Catholic priest, and is still a very devout Christian man. She adds. He used to be a priest? Lana’s mother asks incredulously. He was defrocked for killing in the house of God, Simon says. Don Ortega fled wounded into his church years ago, chased by assassins, and dropped his gun at the altar and knelt in prayer. Raul picked up the fallen gun and executed his would be assassins in front of the whole congregation, and then absolved the don of his sins. The Ortegas took him in as an adopted son. Lana’s parents give each other a look, and then stare at Lana in shock. I trust him, Bettina says. He was always a complete gentleman with me.
Lana’s mother puts her head in her hands and shakes her head. Has your father met him? Lana’s father asks Bettina. She nods. We all had lunch after church, Simon says. Tom doesn’t know his real identity. This Raul is a sphinx; he passes himself off as a restaurant manager. So when do we get to meet him, Lana? Her mother asks sarcastically. He moved back to Mexico when Lana started working for Senator Johns, Bettina says. Please don’t be angry with Lana, she pleads. We look out for each other, and keep each other’s secrets.
This drug lord, does he have some sort of hold over you? Lana’s father asks. Lana shakes her head no. But his brother will come after any man who shows an interest in Lana, Simon says. Case in point, my buddy Riley came back with me from Portland, and he started to fall for Lana, and the cartel torched his condo and his Yukon to get him back home. He has a brother? Lana’s mother asks. His brother is the head of the cartel.
Your friend Toni is in with the FBI, Lana’s mother tells Bettina. Neither of them are wanted felons with criminal records. Bettina responds. There’s nothing Toni can do until a line is crossed. Is Jaxton in danger? Lana shakes her head no.
Her father looks at her. We’ll go for a ride after dinner, Lana. I’ll bring you back to your apartment. Yes, father. Now put your ring back on. Lana complies.
So when are you getting baptized? Lana’s mother asks Simon. I’m taking Pastor Larry to the Holy Land with me so I can get baptized in the Jordan River. Simon, I’ve seen it online, Lana’s father comments. When John was baptizing during the days of Jesus, it was fast flowing fresh water. Now it’s barely moving, and full of raw sewage, pesticides, and runoff. It looks like a mud puddle. Try the Sea of Galilee instead, that’s where Christ walked on water and was the scene of most of his ministry. I’ll do that, Simon says. Thanks.
Do you want me to come? Bettina asks. You’re needed on the campaign trail. But what do you want me to bring you back? Simon asks. Just you, Bettina replies, smiling at him. Lana? Please bring me back a drink of water from the well at Bethlehem. Did you talk to Rolf about this? Simon asks incredulously. Lana shakes her head no. That’s what he asked for too. I don’t get it, Jax says after a while. Lana’s father gets up from the table and fetches the family Bible and his reading glasses, and turns to II Samuel 23 and reads the story of the three mighty men who broke through the Philistine garrison to bring back a drink for their captain.
I’m going with you, Jax announces. My fiance wants a drink from a certain well.
When are you going to bring your partner over for dinner? Lana’s mother asks her. Lana shakes her head no. He’s feeling really rundown; he hasn’t been getting enough rest. Lana looks at Bettina. I was going to talk with you about this later, but I suppose now is as good a time as any. Would you be alright with Sam covering for me doing security for PJ? Rolf asked me if I’d help him. Bettina frowns. How long? At least a week. But whatever it takes until he’s feeling better. Have you talked to PJ about this? Bettina asks. Just Sam so far. She’s up for it. Everyone at the table looks between them. Lana, if you’re over there, the traffic will only increase. I’ll handle it, Lana says. Bettina glances at Jax. Radleys are loyal, Lana’s mother states. I know it has the appearance of evil, Jaxton, but you know better, she continues. After all, he’s the one who introduced you to my daughter. I’m fine with it, Jax says, giving Lana’s mother a quick grin. I’d rather have her in town anyway.
Lana and her father drive the surface streets in his work truck. So when were you planning to introduce him to us? Lana’s father asks. At my friend Samantha’s wedding. Lana replies softly. Why didn’t he show up at the hospital? His brother came instead, and told me that I had to leave father and mother if I wanted Raul for a husband. Then Jax stepped up.
How can you even consider marrying someone from a drug cartel? Lana puts her head in her hands. I can only imagine what is going through mom’s mind right now. The short version is that I got in over my head on a case and he stepped up to protect me. I was dating Jax at the time, but we kept running into each other around town. His brother wanted to kill Jax so Raul could have me, but Raul talked him out of it. He had his aunt try Jax instead - with the three tests of the simpleton of Proverbs: the whore, the strange woman, and the adulteress – and if he passed, he could keep me. Jax failed and didn’t own up so I gave him a beatdown. When I got out of lockup, his aunt came to see me at Sardis and asked what was wrong with me? How could I almost beat a man to death? Then she told me that she had saved me from marrying the fool and that I could repay her by going to dinner with Raul. I said lunch, and to have him set it up with Bettina. At our lunch, I told him that he was a grave digger and my brother was in one of them. And we ate in silence. Then he asked me for a Biblical parallel – to help him understand me. I told him about the two Zimris of the Old Testament and how I had become a byword and a proverb among my people.
Then he started talking, and dad, I’ve never heard a man talk like that. What if I told you that like the ancient Hebrews, we ought to plunder Egypt before entering the Promised Land. He said that there always has been and always will be human depravity. That we live in a Romans 1 world that’s devolving as the end of days approaches. And that what his family does is no different than the merchant caravans of the salt and spice trade that operated in the days of Solomon. And that drugs will be made legal in our lifetime, and that the house he serves will become legitimate, and then would work on rebuilding Mexico from the narco-state it has become.
I told him that he was profiting off of human misery and to read the book of Amos if he had any doubts as to how that would work out. And he got really upset, and said that his family was feeding their people, not feeding off them, like MS-13 or Barrio 18. Do you want Mexico to go the way of El Salvador?
He talked about the burden of leadership, and asked me to help him to make the right decisions. I asked him if I had a choice, and he said of course. Then I told him that his brother would kill any man who came into my life, and he didn’t deny it. So I told him that since I was reduced to negotiating, I wanted three days to think over my terms and conditions.
We met again at the same restaurant three days later, and I told him that I only had one condition. And he agreed, and we started seeing each other. I really like him, dad. He’s one in a thousand. What was your condition? Her father asks. He has to get my parent’s blessing, Lana says, grinning at her dad.
The utility truck pulls up to the curb. Jax sees Lana sitting next to her father, his arm around her shoulder, as he sits on the steps waiting for her. Lana gives her father a kiss on the cheek and then hops out, and walks up to him, and sits down next to him and puts her arm around his shoulder. Behind the laid back surfer dude facade, you are one smart and aggressive guy, Jax. Where do we stand? I want you to put those brains and aggression to use doing something productive. Go win some capital. Where do we stand? Jax repeats. Portfolio manager and investor. Our engagement? Off. She runs her fingers through his hair briefly, and then rubs his back. I’m just someone that you used to date.
I screwed up, Lana. Why can’t you get past it? She windmills her shoulder so as to put her hand back in her lap.
Why can’t you move on? She asks him. Plan A is no longer an option. Time for Plan B.
This is Plan B, Jax says. Marry you and start investing other people’s money. Then it’s time for Plan C, Lana says. I don’t wish to marry you. Why?
Imagine we were still on Plan A, Jax. And we had gotten engaged before you guys went on tour. Father Cory marries us, and we host a blowout reception at a mansion we’ve rented. We’re going to drink and dance and celebrate with family, friends, and fools till midnight. Then we’ll go upstairs to our wedding chamber and get it on. But you imbibe too much and start to puke as the time approaches, and Simon takes you off to worship the porcelain god. Meanwhile, I’m sloppy drunk, and grab one of the groomsmen and take him with me into the wedding chamber as a prank, only I blackout, and he, caught up in the moment, ends up performing your husbandly duty. And you come in all excited only to see him on top of me, and you throw him off me and threaten to kill him while he flees from the room with his pants around his ankles, screaming in terror. You come back to the bed and see me with my wedding dress around my hips, a bloody stain on the bedspread between my thighs, and droll is coming out of my mouth as I snore loudly. Plan A has just been annulled. Would my pleading do me any good? I was drunk and passed out; I don’t remember anything. You shouldn’t have left me alone. We can get past this. Will you give me another chance? But you’re outta there.
A couple months later, a guitar string breaks and blinds you. And I’m there for you. You don’t want anything to do with me, but I’ve gotten in good with your parents, and your mother gives me your grandmother’s ring to wear, and I see that notices are put in all the papers about our engagement. And I declare that I’m going to be your live-in nurse, who will take care of you, as I run my PI business out of our home. But your friend Rolf is dying from cancer, and decides to give you his eyes…
Lana stops talking as Jax starts sobbing into his hands. Lana rests a hand on his shoulder for a moment, and then gets up and turns to head inside the apartment complex. She sees Bettina close the curtain suddenly. Simon comes out and Lana hands him her engagement ring. He accepts it and leaves without saying a word. Lana opens the door and sees Bettina sitting on the couch with a pillow in her lap, looking at her accusingly. Lana closes her eyes and puts her head down. It’s done, Bettina. He won’t be back. What did you do, Lana? Lana doesn’t answer and walks to her room and closes the door.