Janice hadn't been back on the freeway for more than ten minutes when she could sense that someone was trying to reach her. She laughed to herself as the signal came and went, barely audible at times, even weaker at others. Sure signs of an amateur operator, she told herself. It had to be Jonathan. She realized that this was probably his first attempt at using the power that he too must have, and felt a small swell of pride as he entered their exclusive new world. She quickly helped him out, by combining her strength with his, and they were instantly locked together.
“Jonathan?” she asked.
“Thank God,” he returned.
“Where are you?” she asked.
“Still at the tavern, Eddie's here too.”
She shuddered at the thought. Jonathan must be scared shitless. At least she hoped he was.
“Only listen for now, Jonathan. I'll tell you when to talk, and then make it a simple yes or no. You did well getting hold of me, brother. But you're still unfocused and we don't want Eddie to know we're in touch with each other unless we can't help it.
“Two questions. First, is everyone safe; second, can you get away? Go ahead and answer.”
“Yes; no,” came the reply.
Damn, she thought to herself. The extra mileage to the tavern would add another half hour driving time, at least.
“Did Eddie seem different too you, run down a little maybe?”
“Good. I'm going to try and keep him that way.”
“Be careful,” came an immediate answer, without her prompting.
“Are you afraid he'll go off?” she sent back.
“You're doing good, Jonathan. Just hang in there. I'm going to get hold of Eddie and shake his tree just enough to let him know that I don't want anything to happen to you or dad. Okay?”
“Luke?” asked Janice.
“Bartender, friend,” came his reply.
“You got it Jonathan. I'll call you next time.”
“Yes,” and he was gone.
Poor soul, she thought to herself. Caught in the middle again, between her and the Triple E. Too bad he was so much like his father, weak and ignorant to the truth. Then again, that was why she probably still loved him so much. She was a good hour and a half away from the tavern. No matter what she said to Eddie, he would be on his own for a while.
She decided to wait a bit and collect her thoughts before giving Eddie a call. Janice needed time to think, knowing that her next conversation with him could be the most important of the day. She gave Granite a pat on the head then reached for another beer. Although all the facts and data compiled over the last century proved different, she still believed she did her best thinking with a cold brew in her hand. She decided now was not the time for her to try and experiment with any major life style changes. She drank half the beer in the first gulp. Two more gulps and the can was empty.
She rolled down her window and tossed out the can, feeling guilty as she did. Nothing brilliant had come to mind yet, so she reached for another Bud Lite, and pushed on to the Pacific Ocean. Every minute was another mile closer, she told herself, and except for contacting Eddie again, there was nothing she could do until she got there. The next hour would be the longest of her life.
Cathy Potter screamed with horror while the last few pieces of what had been the plane's upholstery landed softly on the beach.
"No-o-o-o-o-o! God, no-o-o! Not Mark," she cried as she ran to where the plane had been.
Hoping for a miracle, she ran into the water, looking to the left and right, calling out his name. She thought she saw something floating out farther in the surf, and rushed toward it. She was up to her thighs in the freezing saltwater and her hopes were dashed when she realized it was only a seat cushion.
Her eyes were full of tears and the cold, stinging wind made it all but impossible for her to see, but she continued searching as she waded back toward the sand. She felt something tug at her pants leg and she screamed again, afraid to look down for fear of finding the arm of her late husband wrapped around her ankle. When she finally gathered the courage to glance down at her feet, she was relieved to find that it was only a large jagged piece of aluminum that had snagged on the material.
She reached down and pulled it free, noticing that it had also sliced her leg open. She was still bent over when she thought she heard a voice. It sounded far off in the distance, but it sounded like her husband's. Could it be…? She quickly stood facing the ocean, squinting her eyes to try and focus them. There was nothing there but the pounding surf. God, I've lost my husband, now I must be losing my mind, she thought. She heard the voice again, a little louder this time. She cupped her hands together and yelled as loud as her swollen throat would allow.
"Mark? Is that you?" she called.
She continued to scan the water, but saw nothing that looked human or alive. She decided to close her eyes and just focus on her sense of hearing. It seemed like years before she heard the voice again. It was definitely louder this time, definitely her husband, but definitely not coming from the ocean. It was coming from behind her. She quickly spun around, not seeing the rogue wave that had been approaching her. Before she could refocus her eyes, the wave caught her behind the legs and sent her flying, face first into the swirling foamy water.
Cathy flowed with the current, toward the shore, and soon felt her knees bounce along the shifting sand of the bottom. She lifted her head and gasped for air as she felt the sand being sucked away beneath her knees. She fought to her feet, and stumbled into shallower water. As her eyes began to function again, she could make out the shape of a man limping towards her.
"Cathy? Are you all right?" came the voice again.
"Mark?" she replied, breaking into uncontrollable sobs as he finally reached her.
"You were expecting someone else?" he asked as he wrapped his arms around her and gave her a bone-crushing hug.
"I… I… thought you were dead, I tried to…"
"Shhhhhh. It's going to be all right. Everything's going to be all right," he said gently as he guided her to the beach.
"Mark," she said when they were clear of the water, "you're limping. God, I was so glad to see you alive that I didn't even think to ask, are you okay?"
"I've felt better. I think the blast must have knocked me out for a few seconds, and my knee hurts like hell. Other than that, I'm freezing to death."
"Me too. Shit!"
"What?" Mark asked.
"The woman! I forgot all about her. We've got to do something before she dies of shock."
"Him too," said Mark, nodding over to one of the sheared off wing tips where he had regained consciousness.
"The pilot?" asked Cathy.
"Yeah. He's alive, or at least he was a minute ago. He definitely won't last long. I think he's lost a lot of blood."
"We better go look at him."
"No, we don't have time for that. I want you to run back to the cabin, call 911, then get into something warm."
"I can't do that and leave you here to freeze!" she protested.
"You can and you will. Their lives are at stake. It would take me forever to get to the cabin with this bum knee. Now go!" he shouted. He patted her on the butt and shuffled her off toward the trail. "As soon as you make that call, round up all the blankets you can and hurry back."
"I love you," she shouted over her shoulder as she took off running.
"I love you too!" he yelled after her.
He watched her go until she disappeared over the dunes, then he turned back to the woman, lying unconscious beneath Cathy's jacket. No sense in trying to do anything for the pilot. Nothing short of a miracle and an emergency room would do him any good, and Mark wouldn't have gave him one chance in a thousand even if he had God on his side.
When Jonathan returned from the men's room, Luke was busy behind the bar, Eddie was eating something out of a little white bowl, and his father was lighting another cigarette.
"Yo, Jonathan," said Eddie, as he ripped open a small package of crackers. "You gotta try some of this chowder. Blows the socks off of anything that Skipper's ever poured in a cup. Seems that Luke here is even a better cook than he is a bartender!"
"No thanks," said Jonathan, adding, "No offense Luke, but me and clams never seem to hit it off."
"How about some chili, then? Your dad said you used to put that away pretty good," asked Luke.
Jonathan's stomach was in knots from stress, but he also knew he needed to eat. Besides, he thought, it might help to kill time until Janice could get there.
"Now I could go for that, if it's not too much trouble."
"Only go to waste if you don't," Luke lied. Luke Perry had never thrown out a whole pot of anything in his life.
"I don't know, Jonathan. Might give you gas. Wouldn't want that. You got the worst smellin' farts of anyone I know. Bad for public relations," chided Eddie.
"Get off my back, Eddie," Jonathan said as he sat down at the bar again.
"Get off my back, Eddie," he mimicked. "God, you sound like Beaver Cleaver, Jonathan. You should relax and drink your beer; we haven't seen dad in ages, this could be fun. Kind of like a mini family reunion. Too bad Janice couldn't be here."
As Eddie spoke those words, Thomas choked on his brandy, spilling half of it on the bar. He began coughing harshly and reached for Luke's bar towel to wipe up the mess.
"You all right, father?" asked Eddie. "Didn't mean to make you choke."
"Sor… sorry about that Luke," Thomas managed to get out.
"Don't give it another thought," said Luke. "I put six coats of lacquer on this bar top. You could drop it in Willipa Bay for a hundred years, dredge it back up, and the wood in this baby would be as dry as a popcorn fart."
"Now that's the kind of farts you need to have, Jonathan. Popcorn farts! Maybe we could get a machine put in at the office," Eddie said with a smile as he looked at Jonathan.
"Speaking of the office, Eddie," started Jonathan.
"Relax, dude. I'm sure that everything's being taken care of. That’s why you hired the Triple E. Remember? It's all good, bro', chill out. Enjoy our little vacation for now. Just be ready to hit it bright and early Monday morning. We've got a lot of work to do."
"We need to talk about that…" resumed Jonathan, but he was interrupted in mid sentence.
"Here's your chili, Jonathan," Luke said, giving him a look he hoped would make him change the subject with Eddie. "Four alarm stuff, so you better keep that beer handy."
Jonathan caught the look in Luke's eyes and tried to focus on the problem at hand. He nodded once to Luke in a show of understanding.
"Thanks Luke. Got any more of those crackers?"
"You bet," said Luke, "How 'bout you Thomas? Care for something to eat?"
"Yeah," replied Thomas numbly, "why not?"
"The regular?" asked Luke.
"Bowl of chowder, extra onions, extra butter, coming up. Think I'll have some myself. How about you Edward? Care for another bowl?"
"I’d be most thankful, Luke,” said Eddie. “I seem to have worked up quite an appetite today. Late nights at the office and cafeteria food seem to have taken their toll on me, I’m afraid. But it will all be worth it when we get Jonathan into national politics where he belongs.”
“We could sure use a sound thinking man in Washington, from Washington,” added Luke, as he busied himself behind the bar. “I’ve had enough trickle down economics and bleeding heart liberal wishy-washy to last me the rest of my life.”
“We hope to change all that, don’t we Jonathan?” asked Eddie.
“I’d like to think so, but one person is only one person. I’ve come to realize it takes a lot of people thinking along the same lines to get anything accomplished in politics, and that doesn’t happen too often. Everyone seems to have his or her own personal agenda. I’m no different in a lot of ways. That wouldn’t be so bad if our agendas were those of the people who elected us to represent them, but that’s rarely the case. In the end you’re usually just a puppet to special interest groups and party line politics.”
“Jesus, Jonathan!” exclaimed Eddie. “You keep talking like that, and nobody will leave their house long enough to vote.”
“That’s about where the little people are already, Eddie, in case you haven’t noticed. You’re good at what you do, but you spend too much time with the movers and the shakers, as you call them. Most elections are more of an attempt at keeping someone out of office than of electing someone they feel will really make a positive difference.”
“My brother, the reborn cynic. Just in time for the big push to the top,” said Eddie.
“Top of what?” asked Jonathan. “This pile of bureaucratic bullshit we call democracy?”
“Take it easy Jonathan. Man, you must be more worn out than I thought, bro’.”
“I’m not worn out Eddie, I’m just finding it hard to accept being worn in, like a pair of shoes that finally fits the foot of who ever it is that keeps kicking the ass of this country to make a few quick bucks!”
“We’ll talk about this later, Jonathan. Just try and relax for a while,” said Eddie in a controlling tone.
“I’ve heard enough for you to get my vote, Jonathan,” said Luke. “But Eddie’s probably right, take a break from the action for a while. It will all be waiting for you when you get back.”
“You’re both probably right,” said Jonathan. “How about another beer to help me relax?”
“That’s more like it, Jonathan,” said Eddie.
“One refill, comin’ up,” added Luke. “Here’s your chowder Thomas.”
“Thanks buddy,” said a solemn Thomas.
“So, father, how’s life been treating you lately?” asked Eddie. “Must be nice to just while away the hours here so close to the beach and all. Nothing like Nebraska.”
Thomas opened a pack of crackers and crushed them over his chowder. He seemed to be in no hurry to answer his son. Finally he spoke, as he pushed the crackers down into the chowder with the wide soupspoon. “Life has been treating me just fine, thanks.”
“You living close by?” Eddie inquired with an innocent tone.
“I’m sure a wise guy like you must already know the answer to that question, Edward,” Thomas said evenly, holding back the urge to tell his son where he could put his phony small talk.
“Father, I’m glad to see you still have that same warm and fuzzy personality that I’ve missed so much since we last saw each other. It’s good to see some things just never change.”
“Sometimes it’s sad to see that some things never change, Edward. Seeing you again is one of those times.”
“Why, if I didn’t know better, I’d say that you’re not exactly glad to see us, father,” said Eddie lightly.
"Not exactly," replied Thomas, pausing to regroup his thoughts, "but you're here, so I say we try to make the most of it."
"I agree," said Eddie, "We wouldn't want Luke to think we were totally a dysfunctional family."
"Let's leave Luke out of this, shall we?" returned Thomas sharply.
"Kind of hard to do with him standing three feet away, don't you think father?"
Luke saw the opening he had been waiting for, and quickly took it.
"Hey look you two, there's obviously some things you need to work out amongst family, and I got plenty to do in the back room. I'll just leave you three to work it out amongst yourselves while I get some things done in back. Just holler if you need anything. Thomas, you know how all this stuff works as well as me. Pour 'em what they want, my treat."
Luke turned to walk away when Eddie spoke up.
"Won't need but a few minutes I'm sure, Luke, no need in running too far," said Eddie with a touch of firmness. Luke ignored his tone of voice.
"Not a problem, be right in back, take your time," said Luke, as he limped slowly through the small doorway into the back room.
Eddie waited a few moments then turned slowly toward Thomas.
"Seems like a nice enough guy, hope he doesn't try to go off and do anything stupid, don't you father?"