1995 Janice finished stuffing her extra clothes into a plastic grocery bag from Safeway. She found it amusing that their bold red 'S' logo stuck out on the side of the bag, reminding her of a similar one on Superman's chest. She laughed to herself. It would take the whole Superman family to take on Lex Luther, alias Triple E, this time. Only there wasn't any Superman. Just an old man, his Pointdexter son, and Superlush, his daughter with secret powers and the overwhelming desire to stir up a half gallon of strawberry margaritas. Her dog nudged her in the leg.
"Oh yeah," she said out loud. "Can't forget Granite the Wonder Dog."
She wondered for a moment what Eddie's weakness would turn out to be. After her 'conversation' with him, she knew he had to have one, everybody did. She didn't even know if there was such a thing as kryptonite, but if there was, Eddie probably had a bowl of it for breakfast every morning. That way he could brag that not only did his shit not stink, it also glowed in the dark. She would find out soon enough, she told herself. Because when she finally did get hold of Eddie, she was going to squeeze the livin' shit right out of him.
She grabbed the bag and headed for the backdoor, Granite following right behind her. She opened the door, walked out on the back porch, and kicked over the newly opened twenty-pound bag of dry dog food that was lying up against the wall. It spilled across the deck, some of it going over the side and into her flowerbed. Granite just looked up at her, his head cocked to one side.
"Now don't go lookin' at me like you think I'm crazy too, Granite," she said as she looked into the rainy gray overcast. "You got some dry, and some wet. It’s your choice, stud muffin. Ought to hold you over to until I get back anyway," she said.
'If I get back', she thought to herself. She quickly stepped back inside and shut the door before the dog could follow her in. He instantly jumped up on the door and started barking, but Janice had already turned away and was heading back through the kitchen. She grabbed her car keys and purse as she went by the counter and headed out the front door, not bothering to lock up.
She jumped into the front seat of her Nissan Sentra, turned the key over, and was backing out of the driveway before the engine even had a chance to start firing consistently on all four cylinders. It died in the middle of the road. She cursed, pushed the stick shift into 'Park', and started the engine again. This time she waited a moment, revving the engine a few times as she did, as she watched plumes of dark smoke rise up in her rear view mirror. As soon as the smoke from her flooding the engine was gone, she dropped the transmission back into 'Drive' and took off down the street.
Two minutes later she was at the BP station next to the highway, getting the tank filled and buying a six-pack of Bud Lite. By the time she paid the cashier and got back to her car, Granite was waiting by the driver's door.
"This your dog, lady?" asked the young attendant, looking down at the German Shepherd with his chest heaving in and out and his tongue wet with saliva from running so hard.
"Afraid so," she said, "Jerry, meet Granite the Wonder Dog. Granite, this is Jerry, hardest working man in the gas business. Cleans a mean windshield too."
Granite barked once.
"Smart dog. Already to go, Janice," the attendant replied.
"Thanks Jer'. In you go, Rin-Tin-Tin," she said as Granite jumped inside, basting the inside of the car with his wet tail as he did. Janice got in after him.
"Granite, what am I ever going to do with you?" she asked, as she shut her car door.
The dog reached over and gave her a big wet lick of the tongue across the side of her face, and then sat back in the passenger seat and looked forward, barking one more time.
"Right," she said. "Let's get this show on the road."
Janice pulled out of the BP station, waving to the attendant as she did, and headed for the on ramp to Highway 26 west.
"Don't suppose you could hand me one of those Bud Lites?" she said to Granite as she merged onto the highway.
He just looked out the window, as if he knew exactly where they were going.
"Didn't think so," she said. "Must be a guy thing."
She reached into the bag with one hand and pulled out a beer, cracking the pull-tab as she switched lanes and passed the car doing only fifty in front of her.
"Strictly medicinal you understand," she said to Granite as she swallowed a third of the can in one shot. "Gotta have my carbs."
She pushed the little brown Nissan up to sixty-five. Now that it was warmed up, it purred like a kitten. With any luck, she would be at Fort Canby State Park in about an hour and a half; a long, long, hour and a half.
Joe passed over the airstrip at about fifty-feet above the ground, checking for crosswinds and looking at the condition of the field. The grass was a little longer than he had expected, and he hoped it wasn't too water logged, but he had landed in worse. He wished that he was flying something with a wheel on the tail instead of the tri-gear set up he had on the Cessna, but those were hard to find in these civilized days of paved runways. A good old Huey would have been even better.
"You're going to land there?" asked an astonished Sara, as Joe brought the plane up a little to clear the trees at the end of the runway.
"May have to mow a little grass as we go, but a piece of cake. Trust me," he shouted back to her.
"Today, Mangione," shouted Eddie, even louder from the behind Sara.
"You got it, Mr. E," returned Joe as he banked the Cessna on its ear and turned back towards the airfield.
Sara suddenly felt sick as she was forced up against the door of the plane looking straight down at the ground. It reminded her of being on one of those rides at the fair and she prayed the door would not come flying open due to some kind of malfunction. She heaved a sigh of relief as Joe leveled the plane again and began his final approach, although the tops of the trees seemed awfully close. She wasn't sure if she was just imagining it, or if she was really seeing an occasional bird nest as they dropped even closer to the tops of the trees. She heard a strange mechanical noise below her feet and let out a short yelp.
"It's just the landing gear," said Joe reassuringly.
"I knew that," she said quickly, looking out the window again.
The trees were even closer now, and she decided that if she started seeing eggs in those bird nests she was going to let out a blood-curdling scream to top all screams. Just as she thought she could take it no more, the Cessna broke out into the clear over the grassy airfield and Joe cut back the throttle, gently dropping the plane onto the quasi runway.
He pulled the nose up a bit, and they bounced once gently on both back wheels. The second time they came down they stayed there and Joe brought the nose and the front gear down to level out the plane. Bits of grass began to fly onto the windshield and smear their view as the wipers did their best to clean off the mess.
Sara fought off a scream, but sucked in what she just knew would be her last breath on this earth. They soon rolled to a near stop, and Joe maneuvered the Cessna towards an old gray weather-beaten hanger and the road. The plane rocked from side to side as he did, but she knew they were safe at last.
"Now was that fun or what?" asked Joe, with a smile across his face. It hid his true feelings, which were more along the lines that he was glad to safe and sound himself. The runway had been terribly soggy, and that was why he didn't dare come to a stop until they were near the road. He reminded himself of that old motto that any landing you can walk away from was a good one. It had definitely been one of his better attempts.
He pulled the plane up just short of the gravel driveway that was still intact, feeling that he was on firm ground, and shut off the engine. He had parked the plane in the same place as he had on his first trip, in such a way that it wasn't visible from the main road. He hoped that would keep any curious patrol officers out of their hair for a while.
"Very impressive, Joe. Well done," said Eddie over the back of Sara's seat, almost sounding sincere.
"Thank you, Mr. E, I aim to please," returned Joe, still pumped up with adrenaline from the landing himself. He took off his headset, unbuckled his seat belt and looked across the cockpit at Sara, who was still holding on tightly to hers. He wasn't sure if she had started breathing again, but at least the color was starting to return to her cheeks.
"Well I don't know about you two, but I would like to get out and stretch for a bit," said Eddie, "It's gets kinda cramped here in the back of the bus."
Joe grabbed an umbrella from behind his seat, and climbed out first. It was still raining outside, more of a drizzle at the moment, but the wind seemed to be picking up a little he noticed. He walked around the front of the plane, glancing at the landing gear as he did. There was quite a bit of grass and mud splashed up on them, but otherwise they looked in good shape. Hopefully, if he left the gear down for a bit when he took off again, most of the crap would wash off in the air. Otherwise he was bound to get a ration of shit from the rental people when he got back to Olympia.
He opened the umbrella and then had Sara open her door. He helped her out of the plane, and then suggested that they walk over to the open faced old hanger where they could get out of the elements. They both watched as Eddie got out of the plane, but instead of joining them, he just paced back and forth under the shelter of one of the wings.
"What do you think is up with him?" asked Joe quietly, turning to look at Sara.
"I don't know, but it scares the hell out of me. Eddie's always been a little bit, I don't know exactly how to describe it, kind of…" she searched for the right words.
"Kind of a pushy, arrogant asshole?" said Joe.
"That would some it up pretty well, on most days," she agreed.
"But today he seems a little different, even uglier than usual?" he asked.
"Exactly. You feel it too?"
"Feel it? God. I can see it!"
"Yeah, especially in his eyes. You'd think he already had one foot in the grave. I've never seen anyone change the way they look that fast before," she said.
"In the war?" asked Sara.
"Yeah. Happened when we were dropping off a platoon in a supposedly safe LZ. No hostile fire, just an open field of grass. A young kid, couldn't have been a day over twenty, was the first one to jump out of my side of the Huey. He couldn't have run more than ten feet when he stepped on a mine. Blew his legs right out from under him. A couple of his buddies dragged what was left of him back into the chopper.
"The poor kid was in shock, just looking down at the blackened stumps where his knees were supposed to be. I'll never forget the look of hate and death in his eyes when he stared up at me and started yelling, 'I gotta kill me some gooks, sir! I gotta kill me some gooks!' He kept yelling it over and over and over, and I could still hear him over the roar of the engines as our flight lifted off. A few minutes later the shouting stopped; he was dead."
"I'm sorry, Joe. What a horrible thing to have to see."
"No, I'm sorry," he said. "I shouldn't have even brought it up. But I'm afraid our Eddie here has got that same look about him. There's a lot more on his mind today than politics, I'd bet my life on it. The sooner we get out of here and back to Olympia the better."
"I'm with you," she said with a shudder.
"Sara, this will be my last job for Mr. E. It's none of my business, but you might want to consider finding other employment yourself."
"Why, Mr. Magione, are you a mind reader too?" she asked, glad to know that someone beside her was having serious reservations about Eddie.
"No," he said, "I just have very strong survival instincts. I wish I could pick that little rat's brain right now. I'd feel a lot better if I knew what he was up to."
"You're braver than I am, I'm afraid. Sometimes it's just better to let sleeping dogs lie."
"This is where we'll just have to agree to disagree, Sara," said Joe.
"Why do you say that?" she asked.
Joe lowered his voice down a notch, and leaned closer to her. "When you've spent as much time on the wrong side of the tracks as I have, you realize that sometimes it's just better to put lying dogs to sleep."
Eddie wanted to get hold of Jonathan again to check on his progress, but decided to save his strength instead. Sara and that chump Mangione were already standing out of the rain over by the old hangar, and that fit his plans perfectly for the moment. He concentrated on one of the rivets that appeared to be holding the right wing strut attached to the wing. The tapered rivet head popped out with a snap, and bounced once at his feet.
'Piece of cake,' he thought to himself.
He knew it wouldn't be a good idea to remove anything that Joe might see while walking around by the plane, but he seriously doubted that Mangione would do a complete check considering the weather. He decided to forget about the struts for now, and concentrated on the tail. It sat low enough to the ground that Joe would be unlikely to see a few rows of missing rivets, if he snapped them off of the bottom side like he had done on the wing strut.
Seconds later he heard the 'tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink' of the rivets popping out into the grass. Splendid. This may turn out to be even easier than he had thought. He decided to wait on doing any more damage to the plane until later. After all, he did want a successful take-off. The sooner the better, he reminded himself. It wouldn't do for some nosy cop to drive up and get everybody's name before Mangione had a chance to fly off and have his little date with fate.
He started to head towards Sara and Joe, but just for fun, decided to pop a few more rivets out of the right aileron as he went. 'Tink, tink, tink'.
"Take that, you little prick!" he muttered, as he bent his head down against the wind that was picking up even more. He walked up to where the two were standing close together under the one umbrella that sheltered them from the leaky roof of the hangar.
"Ready to head on over to the tavern?" asked Joe.
"I was just thinking about that," lied Eddie, "as I was trying to work the cramps out of my legs. There are more important things than politics in this world, and Jonathan could probably use a break about now. I've been pushing him pretty hard."
'You've been pushing us all pretty hard,' thought Sara, surprised at Eddie's show of human understanding.
"Maybe some time with the ol' man would be just what the doctor ordered. Hell, I haven't seen him myself for over twenty years. That way we wouldn't have to worry about getting Jonathan's car back to Olympia. We could just drive back tomorrow, and Joe could fly out of here now and be back before the sun goes down. I would still pay you for the package deal, as we previously agreed upon, of course," said Eddie, turning towards Joe.
"Fine with me, I didn't want to have to stay overnight in this place anyway," said Mangione.
"Stay overnight? Who said anything about staying overnight?" asked Sara incredulously.
Eddie shot Joe that 'way to go asshole' look again, and turned to face Sara.
"When I called Joe, I wasn't sure what we would be looking at. I told him to be prepared to stay overnight, that's all."
"Well you sure as hell didn't tell me to be prepared to stay overnight!" exclaimed Sara. Jonathan or no Jonathan, she wasn't ready to be spending a night anywhere with Eddie the Zombie.
"Fine, suit yourself," replied Eddie, "If you want to go back with Joe, go ahead. Personally, that landing was enough thrills for me for one year. I can't imagine trying to take off in that sorry excuse for a wheat field."
Sara instantly knew that Eddie was trying to play on her emotions, and she had to admit he had a point. She looked at Joe.
"Your call Sara. But I can assure you, taking off out of this place will be twice as easy as landing," Joe said, not even bothering to look and see if Eddie was giving him the evil eye. He was sure he was.
"Look Eddie, I'm sure you three are going to have a lot to catch up on. I'd just be in the way," she explained half-heartedly. "Besides, I can hold down the fort back at the office until you two get back. You can call me if there's anything I can get started on before you do."
"What ever," said Eddie, obviously miffed.
"Okay then, it's settled," added Joe quickly, before Sara might have second thoughts or feelings of loyalty towards Jonathan. He had a very strong gut feeling that hanging around with Eddie wouldn't be good for anyone this weekend, himself included.
"I suggest we get going before we have any unwanted company or the winds pick up any more than they already have. You know where the Slippery Deck is, right Mr. E?" asked Joe.
"I'm sure I can find it," replied Eddie sarcastically.
"Then we're off," said Joe, handing the umbrella to Eddie and leading Sara off by the arm.
"Good luck," said Sara over her shoulder, as she was herded off towards the Cessna.
Eddie reached up with his hand and blew her a kiss, and she quickly turned her head around.
'Now why would he do that?' she thought to herself, as Joe nearly dragged her off her feet towards the plane.
"Jesus Joe, where's the fire?" she asked smartly.
"Let's just get out of here," he said, as they reached the side of the red and white Skylane, which was beginning to rock back and forth a little in the wind. "Up you go."
"Okay, I'm going already. You don't need to push!"
"I'm sorry, it's just that…"
"Never mind," she said as she started to buckle herself in, "My turn to be sorry. You're right. Let's get the hell out of here."
"That's a girl," said Joe.
"Joe?" said Sara, after they were both in the plane.
"Do you think Jonathan's going to be all right? With Eddie I mean."
"I've never met the man, but he's obviously Eddie's meal ticket in this world. So I wouldn't worry too much about him," Joe lied. "If worse comes to worse, he can always give him cab fare back to Olympia and fire his ass."
"He should have done that years ago."
Joe flipped a few switches on the dash of the Cessna, and turned towards Sara.
"Look Sara. I know you're probably feeling a little like a rat deserting a sinking ship. To be honest with you, so do I. But we can't do anything about this. It's up to Jonathan. It's his call, his brother, and his father. Blood's thicker than water, as my grandma always used to say, and she was right. They're all grown men and they'll just have to work it out amongst themselves. There's nothing we can do but wait it out."
He could tell that she wasn't really buying his line of reasoning. He wasn't sure if he was doing such a good job of convincing himself either.
"Look, if it will make you feel any better, we can land in Ilwaco first. I'll make a call to a buddy of mine who owes me a few. Maybe I can get him to drive down here and keep an eye on things until they leave tomorrow. I'd do it myself, but I'm afraid Eddie would recognize me."
"Would you Joe?" she asked, obviously glad for the offer.
"No problem," he said, "I'd probably sleep better if I did."
"I doubt I'll get any sleep tonight, to be honest with you."
"Me either. I think I’ll pass."
Sara looked over at Joe, and saw a pained look of sadness replace the mask of confident pilot.
"You're afraid the dreams will come again, of the boy in the helicopter, aren't you?" she asked, never meaning to question his manhood.
Joe reached out and started the engine turning over. It caught after just a few rotations of the propeller since the engine was still warm. Then he turned on the windshield wipers.
"Something like that, same dream maybe, different face. Let's get to that phone call, shall we?"
"Ready when you are, captain," Sara replied with a reserved but genuine smile.
Joe opened the throttle up, released the brakes, and brought the plane around in a tight 180-degree turn. He quickly headed out across the grassy field towards the north end of what used to be the runway. The Cessna bounced back and forth as he did, but he kept up his speed to insure they wouldn't bog down in a soft spot. The noise of the engine and the thumping of the windshield wipers were far too loud for either of them to hear the popping of the rivets, as Eddie slowly started his handiwork again.
Thomas walked over to the front door and unlocked the dead bolt. He opened it and motioned for his son to come inside.
They both stood and stared at each other for a moment; then Thomas reached out his arms and gave his son a big hug, instantly it was returned in full.
"Are you two gonna stand there all day and play grab ass, or is one of you going to have enough sense to shut the door?" shouted Luke from behind the bar.
"Don't mind him," said Thomas nervously as he stepped around Jonathan and shut the door. "I can't say he don't bite, but he's not rabid as far as I know. Jonathan, I'd like you to meet Luke Perry, owner and proprietor of the Slippery Deck Tavern. He's also the best friend I, or any other man in this world, could ask for. Luke, this is my oldest, Jonathan."
Jonathan walked up to the bar and the two men exchanged hearty handshakes.
"Glad to meet you, Mr. Perry," said Jonathan.
"Glad to meet you, Jonathan. Call me Luke, please. Have a seat; can I get you something to drink? Hell, after the drive you're probably hungry, how about something to eat?"
"No thanks, Luke," said Jonathan, turning towards his dad. "I'm afraid I don't have much time."
"What do you mean, Jonathan?" asked Thomas. "You just got here."
Jonathan looked back at Luke then turned his eyes to his father.
"Luke's had a crash course on the family history, Jonathan. I hope that doesn't upset you, but that's just the way it is. Anything you've got to say to me, you can say in front of him," said Thomas, cutting to the heart of the matter.
"Hey you two, I got things I need to do in back. So if you want to be alone I'll . . ."
"That won't be necessary, Luke," said Jonathan, before his father had a chance to say the same thing. "If my father trusts you, that's good enough for me."
"Thank-you, Jonathan," said Thomas.
"Look dad, I owe you about a million apologies, but there's just not enough time for that now. I need you to just listen to me, and we can shoot the bull later."
"All right son."
"Luke? Maybe I will take you up on your offer," said Jonathan.
"Draft, whatever's coldest," he said, as he sat up on the stool next to his father, glancing quickly at his wristwatch.
"Jonathan," his father started, "I know this is about Eddie, so get down to it son. You wouldn't be looking me up after all of these years if things haven't gotten out of control again. What's he up to now?"
"I don't have time to get into all of the details now, dad," said Jonathan, as Luke set down a sixteen-ounce schooner of Michelob in front of him. "Thanks Luke."
"Don't get me wrong Jonathan, I'm glad to see you. But if you don't have time to talk now, wouldn't it have been better to do this over the phone?"
"Things have changed since I talked to you three and a half hours ago, dad. Have you seen the news today?"
"Well, as of this morning, the two people who were running against me in the upcoming primary are dead. I'm not up to speed on all of the facts, but I'd bet anything that Eddie was responsible."
Jonathan stopped for a moment and took a drink of his beer, waiting for what he had just said to sink into his father's head. He hoped it didn't take too long.
"So why didn't you just go to the police?" asked Thomas.
"I don't have any real proof, dad. Just like you never had any real proof, and Lt. Taylor never had any real proof. Eddie's slicker than a greased pig; you should know that better than anyone."
"Never mind what I should know, son. What do you think you know?"
"Dad!" pleaded Jonathan. "We don't have time for this now. I know that you were right and I was wrong, okay? That's going to have to do for now, because Eddie's on his way here in a plane as we speak. He may have already landed."
"I hate to butt in, but the nearest airport is in Ilwaco," said Luke.
"He's probably in a small job and planning on landing just down the street!" Jonathan countered.
"Ocean Park Airfield? That place ain't even open anymore," said Luke, adding after some thought, "although I guess you could land there if you had too."
"How do you know that, son?" asked Thomas.
"He told me, dad. He also knows I was coming to see you, and he told me to meet him at the airfield a few blocks from here. He doesn't even want me to talk to you. We've only got a few minutes, tops. Janice wants us to meet her at Fort Canby, and we can…"
Thomas cut him off.
"Janice! How'd she get into this?"
"Damn it, dad! You just don't get it, do you? We've got to get the hell out of here. Eddie's the person who had you tracked down, at my request. He knows where you are, and Janice thinks that he might want to do God only knows what if he finds us together!"
"You're losing me, Jonathan. But I can tell you right now, that I'm not going anywhere until I get some answers."
"It could be too late by then, dad!" yelled Jonathan.
"Then you had better get started. You might want to start with Janice," suggested Thomas, as he looked at his friend across the bar. "Luke, I think this definitely calls for one more."