“What do you want here? Talk.”
“We wanted to give you a couple jars of honey.”
Mr. Mosley was behind me and to the right, the Cherokee between us. I don’t know what he did, but Crosetti didn’t like it. Again he swung the shotgun in Mr. Mosley’s direction.
“Somethin’ funny, nigger?”
I said, “Mr. Crosetti, please—”
“You know my name. How you know my name?”
Explaining to him that I looked it up on the Internet somehow didn’t seem like the wisest course of action at that moment, so instead I started backing slowly toward the Cherokee. I hoped Mr. Mosley would do the same.
“Mr. Crosetti,” I said carefully, “I promise we mean you no harm. We’re going to leave now. And we’re not coming back.”
I stopped moving. I stopped breathing. I stopped blinking my eyes. If I could have stopped my heart beating, I probably would have done that, too.
“First the girl yesterday, now you. What’s going on? Tell me.”
It was a cloudless day in mid-May, warm but not hot, yet Crosetti was sweating. Beads of perspiration formed on his forehead and ran in rivulets down his temples and cheeks. His shirt under his arms and across his chest was wet. Suddenly it occurred to me that even though he had the shotgun, Crosetti was more frightened than I was.
“The girl you mentioned is a student at the University of Minnesota.”
I started to lower my hands, but he flicked the business end of the shotgun at me and I raised them again.
“She was taking soil samples to test for traces of an insecticide called Sevin XLR Plus. The insecticide has been killing off the area honeybee population—”
“You’re here because of some goddamn bees?”
I heard the car before I saw it, heard the engine racing as it accelerated up the hill. I didn’t turn my head to look until Crosetti did. A yellow Mustang convertible, its top up, coming fast, tires pitching gravel and dirt behind it. It swung off the driveway, arced across the enormous lawn, and cut between Crosetti and the Cherokee. The driver was out of the Mustang before it came to a complete stop.
“For God’s sake, Frank,” the driver shouted. Crosetti lowered the barrel, but he wasn’t happy about it.
“What’s going on here?” Now he was shouting at Mr. Mosley and me. “Answer me.”
I gestured at Crosetti
“Get in the house,” the driver yelled. Crosetti didn’t move. “I mean it. Get in the house, now.”
Crosetti gestured toward me. “Fix this.”
“I’m going to fix it.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“I’m not worried. You’re the one better be fuckin’ worried.”
“Get in the house.”
Crosetti looked about to say something, thought better of it, and retreated back around the garage. I didn’t know whether he had left or was just lying in wait.
“What do you want?” the driver asked. He was wearing a dark blue suit, a white shirt, and a dark blue tie flecked with red and tied in a Windsor. I nearly asked what he was doing driving such a beautiful car in such an ugly color. Instead, I said, “Who are you?”
“Never mind who I am. Who are you?”
I introduced Mr. Mosley and myself. I explained about the insecticide and the bees.
“Honeybees?” The driver made the word sound like a felony.
I explained some more, told him about Ivy Flynn.
“I’m sorry about the girl. But she was trespassing. So are you. Leave now. Do not return.” He spoke like a man who was used to having his own way.
I glanced at Mr. Mosley.
He didn’t say a word—hadn’t said a word during the entire incident. He opened the door and slid inside the Jeep Cherokee. I did the same. I backed all the way down the driveway, watching the driver as much as the road behind me. He didn’t move until we were on the county blacktop heading east.
We drove for what seemed like a long time without speaking. Finally Mr. Mosley said, “Once before a white man pointed a gun at me, called me nigger, and laughed. That was back in 1950. Know what I did?”
“Nothing. And I’ve been angry ’bout it ever since.”
“You know, Mr. Mosley, it’s not 1950 anymore.”
“Tell me about those lawyer friends you mentioned.”