Rachel drives and he tries to catch some shut-eye on the trip back to Lexington. As if pulling his hat down low over his eyes will keep her from casting worried glances in his direction. As if convincing himself that he’s relaxed enough to sleep will make everything go away, will make it stop mattering.
His eyes are closed, but it does - it still matters.
Of all the things Arlo had done, he never thought the old man could’ve fallen into something like this. He has the instinct, no matter how twisted it is, to try and conjure up some excuse, some explanation as to why Arlo would’ve shot Bergen.
But nothing that makes any sense comes to mind and he knows a Trooper like Tom wouldn’t’ve pulled unless he’d had a reason to.
Arlo’d given him that reason, whatever it was. Arlo is and always has been a criminal. That’s the only justification the man ever needed.
He sees the lights ahead - convenience stores in Corbin, open for truckers and other creatures of the night - and takes a deep breath and pushes down the twist inside his guts. It’s nearing five AM and he could use the coffee, but he doesn’t want to speak - he likes this quiet, this unvoiced sort of vindication that’s brought him a strange peace.
“Don’t suppose we could...turn on the radio. Listen to some music, livin’ up this ride.”
And just like that, the peace is gone. Rachel casts another worried look as Raylan turns halfway in his seat, giving Arlo the most confounded stare, he’s sure.
The old man has the gall to look affronted and opens his mouth to respond.
But before he can, Raylan holds up his right hand, index finger extended as he squints, mean and hard - a perfect mirror of Aunt Helen whenever she needed to make a point with him. “You feel the need to speak, don’t. I’ve got a mighty urge to leave your ass on the roadside chock full o’ holes.”
Arlo leans back in his seat, adjusts himself so that he’s not leaning too hard on his hands cuffed behind him. The corner of his mouth turns up in a menacing smile and he chuffs out a laugh, looking right back at Raylan. “You ain’t got the balls to pull a trigger on me, son,” he drawls, hanging onto that last word, letting it drag over a sentiment he’s probably never felt.
Raylan scoffs. “What? You mean again?”
“You know what I mean,” his father sneers.
Raylan turns back in his seat, unwilling to let this conversation continue, though, if he knows Arlo well enough - and he does, he’d studied him for nineteen years - he’s sure the old man can carry on a conversation with himself the length of I-75.
“Don’t know what the hell’s wrong with you,” Arlo mumbles, mostly to himself. “Always actin’ put upon, like your cross was heavier’n the rest of us.”
“Oh, so you want me to shoot you, s’at it?” he asks over his shoulder, barely turning to face the man.
“I apologized, didn’t I?” the old man snarls suddenly, pushing himself up in his seat so his face has entered the space between the driver and passenger seats. “Told you I’s sorry - Helen yappin’ in my ear t’such. Don’t even care what that means, what that does t’me. Prob’ly all you can do ta keep from crowin’ up there, ain’t it? Ain’t this what you wanted?”
Raylan settles back into his seat and forces himself to look straight ahead. The sun is just peeking through the purple haze of the night to his left and he suddenly feels as tired as he’s ever felt in all his forty years.
“Walkin’ around all put upon. Christ a’mighty,” Arlo mutters, “My daddy used to take a bullwhip ta me an’ my brothers. I ever give you that? Huh?” he asks, leaning forward again. “I ever take after you with a bullwhip?”
Raylan doesn’t spare him a glance, but he can see Rachel, can feel her eyes on him before she turns back to the road. It’s not quite uncomfortable, but as cool as he usually plays it, he doesn’t like their family laundry aired in public - and Arlo’s taking it out, beating it over a rock and letting it dry in the front lawn.
They’ve left the holler and those tales aren’t supposed to go with them.
“Can’t even raise a hand t’children nowadays,” Arlo sputters on. “You’ll see - you’ll see how you are when you got your own ta raise. Ain’t gonna be no diff’rent neither.”
Rachel clears her throat, shifts her grip on the steering wheel a little and he knows exactly where this is going. “Raylan, you -”
“He’s in love with the sound of his own voice,” he mumbles, effectively cutting her off. He stares out the passenger side window and watches as they speed by the tree trunks, loses count after five or six. “Always has been, imagine he always will be.”