“Well, Billy, I can just ‘up and disappear.’ I’ve done it before and I intend to do it again. But before I get into that and make my proposal to you, let me describe what I have been doing during the last five hours in addition to making Jud’s burial arrangements.” Isaac called an old country lawyer in Somerset whom he knew to be reliable. If he was annoyed by the early hour of the call he didn’t allow it to show; quite the opposite in fact when he learned of the fees he stood to collect. The old country lawyer was in good stead with an auctioning agency equipped to handle farm and estate sales and he agreed to contact the agency as soon as they were available that morning. The items available for immediate auction were Isaac’s house, barn, assorted buildings and equipment, including the Ford coupe and the entire one hundred sixty acres it all rested on. Proceeds of the sale were to be forwarded to another, not so country, lawyer in Louisville who had the ability to transfer the funds to an out of state account designated by Isaac. A man in Georgetown was called next. This man had shown a strong interest in Isaac’s horses over the past year, particularly the two Thoroughbreds in his stable. Isaac made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. The rancher promised to be there at four o’clock with cash for both Thoroughbreds and the three Arabians. He next contacted all of his truck drivers with the exception of Billy and a driver currently unloading in Indiana who was due to return early afternoon. He informed each of them that he regretted having to terminate their employment. He told them they could come by and collect whatever was owed to them in full. He also told them they were free to keep their assigned tractor and trailer and become independent truckers if they chose to do so. He would sign the titles over free and clear and give them recommendations to his current customers. He knew one of them would be going full blown outlaw but that would be his choice. Isaac’s final telephone call was to yet another attorney, this one in Roanoke, Virginia. He informed him he would be taking residence soon in his home remotely tucked away in the Shenandoah mountains. Isaac gave Billy recap of his morning, omitting the location of his hideaway for the time being. “How many took the truck?” Billy asked. “Everyone except Simmons. He said he was going to work for his father-in-law where his wife has been wanting him to work all along. It pays less but he will be home every night and keep peace in the family. Something to be said for that. “What I have to offer you is confidential. It doesn’t go beyond this porch. I trusted you with my life yesterday but I still have to make sure we are clear on this,” Isaac told him. “Yes, sir, of course.” Isaac picked up an unmarked business sized manila envelope, bound with a thick cord, from the smooth plank floor at his feet. He held it loosely in his hands as he offered Billy his proposal. “To put it simply, I want you to come with me. I need a good man and you’ve admitted you have nothing to hold you back, no one to miss you. I have Samson, of course, but he’s not as versatile as I would like. Besides, he doesn’t exactly blend in to a crowd, which is sometimes necessary in certain types of work. “I’ll pay you well. You’ve proven to have the skills I need and I will teach you more as we go along. You will be paid well, along with meals and a roof over your head.” Isaac paused to let that sink in before handing Billy the envelope. “If you would rather not go with me, the Diamond Reo and the trailer are yours. The envelope is yours regardless of what you decide. You’ve earned it.” Billy untied the cord securing the flap of the envelope. He couldn’t hide his astonishment as he peered inside. He had seen hundred dollar bills before, but never that many at once, not even delivering a COD load of hot whiskey. The stack of bills was tightly wound with a rubber band and he didn’t need to count it to know it was more than he would have expected to earn at one time in this lifetime. “I don’t know what to say, boss.” “Just say yes.” And thus a partnership was born.