1995 Mark and Cathy Potter were enjoying their time off together, their first real vacation since their honeymoon. Mark was a sales representative for a sporting goods manufacturer in Seattle. His wife was an LPN at the V.A. Hospital. Their schedules rarely allowed them any time off together, so both had put in for their vacation time in January. To their mutual surprise, both requests had been approved. They had spent their honeymoon at the ocean, and returning again after two years of being no more than ships passing in the night, was doing wonders for their relationship.
They had decided to give their marathon love making session a break, and venture out for a walk along the beach before the weather got too much worse. They were walking hand in hand, husband trying to shelter his wife from the wind, when Mark stopped abruptly. Cathy almost fell into a clump of dune grass; her husband's strong grasp the only thing stopping her.
"Did you hear that?" he shouted.
She stood up and leaned close to his ear so she didn't have to yell over the sound of the wind and the crashing surf. "Hear what?" she asked, looking slightly perturbed with him.
"Sounded like a plane engine…"
Suddenly a red and white Cessna Skylane, engine now shut off, came over the tops of the dunes just in front of them. Both of them crouched in a useless but uncontrollable reaction to almost having their heads lopped off.
By the time they raised their heads again, the plane was half way into its wing-destroying cartwheel. They simultaneously gasped when was left of the fuselage slammed to a stop on its back a mere hundred and fifty yards in front of them. Ocean spray shot high into the air as the separated wing tips bounced unpredictably to a stop in the wet sand. Neither of the two moved at first, both expecting some kind of grand explosion, a la Universal Studios. Soon the spray returned to the sea, and there were no signs of fire. Mark was the first to regain his composure.
"Are you okay?" he asked his wife quickly.
"Yeah, give or take a massive heart attack," she added.
"I'm going to run and see if there's anyone left alive, you stay here," Mark said as he took off down the side of the dune, his feet throwing sand into the wind and his wife's face as he ran.
"Wait for me!" she yelled, ignoring his male chauvinist instructions, taking off right behind him.
Who in the hell has the medical training here anyway? she thought, struggling to catch up to her husband in the loose dry sand.
"Too damn late to sell them one of those fancy-smancy multi-colored hang gliders with the big commission you're always ranting about," she added to herself as she spat out the sand that was collecting in her mouth.
Mark reached what was left of the plane first, not bothering to remove his shoes, and was amazed that the water could be so cold and still not freeze. Although he could smell a little fuel, there were no signs of fire, everything was thoroughly soaked. He pushed the thought of sudden explosions to the back of his mind and started to look for signs of life.
Not only was the plane on its back, nose pointing back toward the land, it was tilted to one side. The pilot's window was almost beneath the waterline, so he waded through the shin deep water to the other side. He maneuvered around the remaining stub of a wing and looked inside the cabin, realizing that there were two people in the plane, neither one of them moving. There was blood everywhere. Both were hanging upside down, still strapped into the plane by their seat belts. He tried to open the door but found that the fuselage had buckled to the point the door was jammed.
He slammed his fist into the plane in frustration, and the door opened part way, much like a car door that hadn't completely been closed. He tried again to open the door, but it still refused to open. Knowing he didn't have anything to use as a pry bar, he decided to jump on the plane. He began stomping with his foot as hard as he could along the framework, just outside the door. His wife had joined him at the side of the plane by then.
"What are you trying to do?" she shouted.
"The door's stuck," he yelled back, "I think the frame's bent. I thought I told you to stay where you were? This thing could go up at any time!"
"I'm sorry, honey," she yelled back, "I though you said to help you open this door before these people drown! My mistake."
Mark cringed at her sarcasm, realizing that this conversation would continue later, and he would end up on the losing end. He also realized she was right.
"Till death do us part?" he shouted, as he stomped on the side of the plane a few more times.
"You ain't getting out of this that easy, buster" she shouted back with what he thought was a grin. "What do you want me to do?"
"See if you can get your hands under the door along the bottom, I'll pull from the top!"
A rogue wave washed over the plane as the two fought for a hand hold on the door, almost knocking Mark off his feet. Cathy could see that the inside was continuing to fill with water.
"We've got to hurry, Mark!"
"Okay," he yelled as he regained his footing on the side of the plane. "On three. One, two, three!"
They pulled with all of their might, and Mark ended up falling off the plane as the door ripped open. Cathy quickly reached inside and checked for a pulse on the woman in the passenger seat. Her hands were numb from the cold, but she thought that she detected a pulse. Mark returned to her side, totally drenched.
"I think she's alive," shouted Cathy, "but she's still buckled in."
Mark nudged his wife aside, and reached down to unbuckle the unconscious woman. As soon as he did, she fell onto the ceiling and up against the pilot, his head now underwater. He quickly grabbed her around the neck and hips, and lifted her out of the plane, surprised at how easy the effort had been. He thanked God for adrenaline, and Jenny Craig or who ever had kept this woman under a hundred and twenty pounds, and rushed towards the shore. Once he was well away from the surf, he laid her down on the hard wet sand, not really knowing what to do next. He turned to see his wife struggling with the other person in the plane and rushed back to help her. By the time he got to the plane, his wife had pulled her head back out of the doorway.
"I got him unbuckled but he's too heavy!" she shouted, tears running down her face. "He's cut up something fierce, I'm afraid he's dead."
"Maybe not," he yelled back, more for her benefit than any hope he might have for the pilot. He had been underwater a long time.
He nodded towards the beach where the woman passenger laid sprawled on the sand.
"She needs your help right now, I didn't know what to do. I’ll get this guy."
"Just go, Cathy! I'll be right behind you."
"Okay, just hurry baby," she said, smelling the gasoline fumes herself as she turned away from the plane and ran towards the woman on the beach.
As soon as she reached her, Cathy dropped down on both knees and began checking for signs of breathing. She quickly realized that the wind was too loud to hear anything, so she placed her hand gently on Sara's sternum. There was a slight rise and fall of the chest and she was immediately filled with hope, tears now overflowing her eyes. There was little she could do to treat the woman for shock, since all their clothes were now soaked. She took her jacket off anyway, hoping that it would still have some of her own body heat trapped inside, and placed it over Sara's upper body.
She pushed herself to her feet, and started to turn around back towards the fallen plane and her husband, when there was a loud explosion. She raised her arms to shield her face as pieces of airplane began falling around her and instinctively dropped down over her newly adopted patient to protect her. She could still hear pieces of aluminum dropping around her, and felt a few small ones bounce off her back, as a second smaller explosion rang out over the noise of the surf.
She stood up again, and turned towards the ocean. There were large pieces of twisted metal everywhere along the beach, but the fuselage of the plane was basically gone, along with any signs of her husband.
Jonathan was alone at the bar when a raging Eddie crashed into his forethoughts. There was no warning this time and Jonathan rightly assumed that Eddie must be close. He felt the urge to join his father at the urinal and cursed out loud, grabbing the sides of his head as he did.
Luke came from behind the bar and quickly realized what must be going on.
"Edward?" he asked quietly, as if he might be overheard.
Jonathan just nodded, waving him off as he answered his brother via their newly established Internet.
“Jesus Eddie, I can hear you, okay? You don't have to yell!”
“Don't get smart, asswipe! Where are you?”
Jonathan tried to stall for time to think, but Eddie was right on top of him.
“Don't bother trying to lie to me, shithead. You're with the old man, aren't you?”
Jonathan answered as best he could under the circumstances.
“I didn't see you at the field, so I came to the tavern. Dad's not here, it's just me, and the owner. He's closed for the day, so I'll be right over to meet you and…”
“Save it, bro'. I'll be right over to meet you. Don't move an inch until I get there, do you hear me? I mean it Jonathan, not an inch!”
“What ever you say, Eddie,” answered Jonathan as quickly as he could to prevent anything else coming into his mind.
“Triple E to you, Jonathan, Triple E. You keep forgetting, like everything else I've been telling you lately. Now get your shit together, and keep it together until I get there. Absolutely no more fuck-ups, do you hear me?”
“Yeah, Triple E, I hear you.”
Jonathan waited for another smart-ass remark, but none came. The line was broken.
When he raised his head, both his father and Luke were waiting apprehensively.
"Dammit! I told you we had to hurry. He's on his way from the airfield as I speak. He knows I'm here, but I think I managed to lie to him and say that I haven't seen you yet. We have to go, now!"
Thomas looked at Luke, who nodded in agreement.
"After you, son," said Thomas.
Jonathan turned and headed for the door, reaching for his car keys as he went. Then he stopped in his tracks, with his father nearly walking up his backside.
"Shit!" exclaimed Jonathan, as he grabbed the sides of his head again.
"What's wrong son?" asked Thomas.
"Janice…" was his reply, saying no more.
His sister was now trying to get hold of him. He wished that he could just put the call on hold, like he would back in his office, but there were no buttons to push. What he really needed was another secretary to screen his internal calls. Better yet, call blocking would be nice. Hell, screw that! No phone at all would be even better. He needed to get the hell out of Dodge; all of these 1-800-SCREWME calls were getting to be a pain in the ass.
“Jonathan, can you hear me?” she queried.
“Yeah, but I don't have time to talk right now.”
“Did you find Dad?” she answered.
“Yes, and I just got another call from Eddie, he's just down the street, and pissed as hell. He doesn't know that I've found dad, and I want to keep it that way. I've gotta run Janice…”
“Run like the wind, Jonathan. Eddie's done something horrible in the last hour, trust me. I don't know what it is yet, I'm just glad it has nothing to do with you or dad.”
“I don't have time for this now, dammit!”
“Ft. Canby, Jonathan,” she added quickly.
“I may not be there as soon as you, but wait for me anyway, no matter what.”
“Whatever. If we don't get out of here right this fucking minute, everything else will be a moot point. See ya.”
Jonathan returned to reality, or what was left of it anyway.
"Sorry, let's go," said Jonathan nervously.
"What did she say?" asked Thomas.
"I'll tell you in the car, dad," Jonathan said as he turned towards the door.
"Right," said Thomas, following behind him, wishing that he had never gotten up that morning.
"After you, Thomas," said Luke, who was limping along just behind them, feeling more alive than he had in years.
Eddie took off for the tavern, tired yet with a new head of steam, one he planned to vent on Jonathan. He had tried to calm himself, but the day's events had left him irritable and too drained to focus properly. The wind had picked up considerably, forcing the rain into patterns that the umbrella could no longer fully shelter him from. He was practically soaked, and was beginning to wish he had dressed more appropriately for the occasion. His dress shoes made squishy noises as he walked, which just aggravated him more. He figured he must look like hell by now, because that was exactly how he felt.
A quick peek in any mirror would have confirmed his suspicions, and then some. His eyes were so blood shot that any hint of color had been removed. There were still bits of dried blood caked in the corners, and a little trailing down the left side of his nose. Around his eyes the skin was a dark purple that they almost looked like little caves with dim red lanterns suspended in them.
The fleshy parts of his cheeks and nose were nearly colorless they were so pale, which just added to the sunken effect of his eyes. His lips were drawn tight with tension, leaving his clenched teeth partially exposed at all times. His hair had grouped into dark strips that were plastered to his ashen forehead by the rain and his own sweat. He was far beyond being something only a mother could love. Only Lon Chaney, famous for his make-up artistry in such roles as The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera, would have found his face anything but hideous.
Eddie chuckled morosely to himself as he picked up his pace. So he looked a little scary? All the better, maybe he needed to put the fear into some people, starting with Jonathan, and hopefully finishing with Janice.
"Move over Freddie, Eddie's back in town, and the nightmare's just getting' started here on Elm Street," he joked aloud.
He was tired to the point of being delirious. He was especially tired of being the one to keep all of these nitwits in line on his brother's march to the White House. Tired of the long hours of scheming, arranging, and fulfilling the necessities of political grandeur that no one else seemed to understand. He was tired of having to do the dirty work while everyone else sucked champagne, kissed ass, and bragged of another victory.
He was tired of being responsible. Tired of dragging all the dead weight of his brother's political machine into the twenty-first century. Tired of thanks-but-no-thanks. Tired of having blue balls. Tired of being an adult. Hell, he was tired of being Eddie, Jonathan's brother. It was time to be Triple E, master of his own destiny, as it should be.
The thought gave him renewed strength, as he looked up the road and spotted Jonathan's forest green Taurus parked in front of the small building he knew had to be the Slippery Deck Tavern. He quickly crossed the highway and began jogging up the road toward the parking lot, doing his best to keep the umbrella from folding up in the wind.
He slowed to a walk again when he reached the corner of the building, just in time to hear the door open and hear his brother's voice. He quickly ducked around the corner of the tavern, holding the umbrella to his side as he leaned closer to eavesdrop on the conversation. He was impervious to the wind and rain, finishing off the job of totally soaking the rest of his body, as he inched even closer to the edge of the painted cinder block wall. The next voice he heard was unfamiliar to him.
"Just let me lock up, and I'll be right with you," shouted Luke.
Eddie could make out the jingling of keys and the turning of a dead bolt, and yet he heard two doors being opened at the same time on the Taurus. He realized there must be three people out front, which prompted him to peek around the corner.
He could plainly see Jonathan holding onto the driver's door, but he didn’t recognize the other person getting in on the passenger side. Deductive reasoning told him that he didn't have to. He stepped around the corner and quietly walked up towards the car, dripping umbrella now perched on his shoulder again. Luke was just making his way to the car.
"Going somewhere, Jonathan?" shouted Eddie, causing Luke to nearly lose his balance in startled surprise.
Eddie walked closer to the car and peered through the rain soaked front windshield that was beginning to fog over from the insider's breathing.
"Father, is that you? What a pleasant surprise," he said, loudly enough to be sure that he could be heard inside the car. He turned toward Luke.
"You must be the owner of this fine establishment," said Eddie as politely as could. "Don't suppose I could talk you into opening back up for a little bit so I could warm up a little and get something to drink?"
"Afraid not, mister. I'm closed for the day," said Luke firmly, glancing at Jonathan for a sign of what to do next.
"Oh my, if you're hoping for my brother Jonathan to help you make a decision, we'll be standing here forever," said Eddie with a hint of aristocratic sarcasm. "He'll do what ever I tell him to, and I think he wants us all to go inside and have a nice little chat. Isn't that right Jonathan? Besides, I think he has a flat tire that needs to be tended."
"Look chum, I don't see any flat…" started Luke as a loud shot rang out, followed by the unmistakable sound of hissing air. He turned from Eddie and watched as the right front side of the Taurus began to sink.
"You were saying?" asked Eddie calmly.
"Why you little punk, I ought to…”
"Wait, Luke!" yelled Jonathan, shutting his door and walking between the two men. He took one look at Eddie and winced, and then turned back to his new friend. "Maybe it would be better this way," he said giving Luke a quick wink.
"I agree," came Thomas' tired voice, now was outside the Ford again.
"That's more like it," gloated Eddie. "Nothing like a little family reunion to make a person feel all warm inside, wouldn't you say, Luke?"
Luke pulled out his keys and began unlocking the door.
"Yeah, nothing like it," returned Luke with hate in his voice.
"Come now, Luke. Don't be so bitter. I haven't seen my father in years. Besides, it might be good for business. The first round's on me, bartender," Eddie said lightly, with a demeaning accent on the word 'bartender'.
Luke caught the inflection of his words as he opened the door and flicked on the lights.
"You're in my house now, Edward," said Luke, with a demeaning tone of his own. "These people are my friends, and it would do you well to remember that at all times."
Edward smiled gruesomely.
"A man who speaks his mind with conviction," said Eddie. "I can appreciate that. I see too little of it in my daily travels through the bowels of the political poop chute."
He turned back to his father and brother, who had just finished closing the door. "You have my word that all I want to do is talk for a bit. Why, who knows? Given a chance to warm up a little, I might even help you change your flat, Jonathan."
"You're much too kind, Eddie," replied Jonathan tiredly.
"Triple E, bro," Eddie gently reminded him.
"God, not that shit again," said Thomas, obviously beginning to lose his composure.
Luke realized that this was going to be tough enough without Thomas getting things off on the wrong foot and he quickly interrupted the conversation.
"Gentleman, why don't we get started on that round that Edward suggested, then you can figure out what you want to call each other."
"Good idea," added Jonathan, "I'll have another schooner, Luke."
"Brandy, Thomas?" asked Luke, looking directly into his eyes with a look of reassurance.
"No sense changin' horses in the middle of the stream," replied Thomas, shakily fishing out another Camel cigarette.
Luke reached out quickly and lit it for him, mainly to save him the embarrassment of having to do it himself. He could see that Thomas was on the verge of totally losing it and his hands would be shaking badly.
"How about you, Edward?"
"Did I hear you say brandy? I thought this was a beer and wine joint?"
"Private reserve," replied Luke flatly.
"That would be just the ticket to help warm me up, I believe, if you would be so kind," Eddie cordially said.
No matter what Luke thought of Edward at the moment, he decided the young man definitely needed a drink and he poured four fingers worth in a glass for him and set it on the counter.
"I could heat it up for you," said Luke.
"Won't be necessary," replied Eddie, as he drank half of it down in one swallow, choking a little as he did.
Luke poured himself a similar one and lit a cigarette. There was a dead silence for a moment, with everyone's eyes focusing on Eddie. Eddie looked up and saw his own reflection in the mirror behind the bar. He looked worse than he could ever have imagined. Hepaused for a moment, to revel in the thought of what the others must be thinking.
Damn, he thought, I even scare myself. Could be too much of a good thing though. I'd better come up with some kind of excuse before they decide to call the police. Better do something about the phone while I’m at it too, he added. He made an obvious gesture of leaning to one side and looking at himself in the mirror while he secretly smoked a portion of the wire that ran from the phone to the plug on the wall.
"I'll have to admit, I've looked better the day after a New Year's Eve Party," he said to no one in particular. No one answered at first, and Luke wondered how much of this conversation he was going to have to carry.
"You get the plates of the truck that ran you over?" Luke finally asked.
“Let's just say I got his number. It seems the pilot didn't appreciate landing me in that rice paddy of an airfield you folks have down the street. We had words, and one thing led to another. As you can see, I'm afraid I'm better at politics than at boxing."
Luke had seen enough fights in his day to know that what ever had happened to Eddie was more than a simple case of fisticuffs in the parking lot. One glance at Jonathan told him that he wasn't buying it either. Anyone who could blow out a radial tire without moving wasn't likely to get trounced in a sparring match, but maybe he didn't want to know the truth right now.
"I've got a first aid kit in back," said Luke, starting to head that way.
"No, I'll be all right," said Eddie. "But I think I will go to the head and clean up a bit."
"Around the corner to your right," Luke said.
Eddie polished off his drink and set the glass on the bar.
"Another one of these and I'll be as good as new," he said, "Be right back."
The three men watched while Eddie got up and headed for the men's room. As soon as they heard the water running, they all tried to talk at once.
"You first, Jonathan," directed Luke quietly.
"Don't believe that shit for a minute," said Jonathan quickly. "Eddie's as strong as he wants to be. I'll bet the pilot's lucky to be alive right now if he pissed off Eddie. Let's just play along with him and I'll try and get to Janice when I can get clear."
"Why her?" asked Thomas. "Why don't we just call the police?"
"What would we tell them, dad? He gave us a flat tire? He's having a bad hair day and we're all afraid he'll turn the tavern into a tornado?" asked Jonathan incredulously.
"Easy boy, you're ol' man don't deserve that," said Luke sternly.
"I know that Luke, now more than ever, believe me. I think dad knows exactly what I mean. The police are out of the question right now. We can't prove shit. All they'll do is piss Eddie off and I don't recommend that right now, do you?"
"Jonathan's right, Luke. But why Janice?" asked Thomas again.
"She's knows what he's up to, or at least how he's doing it, I think. I'm not sure really, but she did tell me that we didn't have what it takes to deal with him by ourselves."
"Okay, you do whatever it is that you do to contact her, but I'm telling you, I don't know how much of his bullshit I can handle right now."
"Me either," said Luke.
"Just try and stay calm, both of you. Even Janice said that it's me that he's after. I don't want anything happening to either of you. If worst comes to worst, just let me leave with him."
"I don't know that I can do that," said Luke.
"You will if you know what's good for you and my father," added Jonathan.
"And what about you?" asked Thomas.
"You said it yourself, dad. I got myself into this mess, and I should get myself out of it."
"That was before…”
"Just promise me, both of you." All three men heard the water turn off, and the slamming of Eddie reeling out some paper towels. "Promise me," whispered Jonathan.
Neither of the two older men said anything as they heard Eddie's footsteps coming around the corner. They all turned to face him, amazed at the transformation. His hair and clothes were still wet, but the hair was combed and his shirt neatly tucked in. He looked like a new man, except for one thing. While the whites had begun to return to his eyes, his iris and pupils were still burning red, brighter than before.
"How do I look?" asked a smiling Eddie, with his arms held out wide to each side.
"Much better, lad," Luke lied, thinking Edward looked more dangerous now than when he had first seen him.
"Thanks Luke," said Eddie lightly. "It seems the rest of my family is tongue-tied."
"What do you want me to say, Edward?" asked Thomas coldly.
"Oh, I don't know," said Eddie, pausing for a moment. "How about, ‘How have you been for the last twenty years?’ Something along those lines would be nice."
Jonathan saw his chance, and took it.
"While you two are catching up, I'm going to try and straighten myself out a little too. Another schooner please, Luke," said Jonathan as he headed for the men's room.
"Remember what I said about shaking it more than twice, Jonathan," added Eddie as he watched him leave.
"Thanks Eddie," he returned over his shoulder, "What would I do without you?"
"We'll talk about that when you get back."
"Right," said Jonathan as he turned the corner and walked to the urinal. Okay, Janice, now it’s my turn.