1996 Janice pulled to the side of the highway, set her hand brake, and rolled down her side window an inch. The weather was getting nastier by the minute, and the wind driven raindrops were making their way through the small gap and onto her face. She didn't mind, though, finding them so refreshing that she rolled the window down another couple of inches. She took in a deep cleansing breath through her nostrils, as one of her yoga instructors had taught her so long ago. The salt air seemed to invigorate her, along with the sounds of the ocean, even though she couldn't see it. She knew it was out there though, out to her left beyond the sheets of rain, because she had been on Highway 101 for almost ten minutes now. She vaguely remembered passing the turn-off for Sunset Beach, and knew that she would be across the Columbia River and into Washington State in another fifteen.
She reached behind her seat for another Bud Lite, popping the top and draining about a third of it in a single motion. She put the beer between her legs and pulled back the highway again. She took another drink and then turned quickly towards Granite, who still sat motionless looking out the front windscreen.
"What do you think, Granite? About time to give Eddie another call?"
“Time to quit drinking beer,” came his solemn reply.
"You're probably right, Granite. But it's a little too late for that now."
“Need to eat, need to pee.”
"I'm sorry Granite. I should have known that you'd still be hungry."
“No. You need to eat. I need to pee.”
"You got it, Granite. You like big trees, small trees, ornate shrubs, or do you guys really go for fire hydrants?" asked Janice, testing her dog's sense of humor.
“Pee soon. Back seat will work if not soon,” answered Granite, without much inflection. He reminded Janice of the Lone Ranger's sidekick Tonto when he sent her messages.
"Okay, okay. I get the picture."
Janice pulled over at the next wide spot, and reached over her German Shepherd and opened the passenger door.
"Take your time, Granite. I've got a call to make," said Janice, but he was already out of the door and into the bushes.
"A bush dog, I should have guessed," she mumbled to herself as she polished off the Bud Lite, stuffed it the bag, and closed her eyes to get in touch with her brother, Eddie.
Luke stood in the storage room behind the bar, feeling like an escapee from a high security prison, not knowing exactly what to do next with his new found freedom. Like the escapee, he too knew what his ultimate goal was. In Luke's case, it was to rid himself of that cocky little bastard Eddie, once and for all. Getting him locked up behind bars would be nice, but if it meant having to take care of matters permanently himself, that could be done too. What ever he did, he had to remember more than his own life was at stake.
He had closed the door on his way from behind the bar, hoping to give himself some privacy as much as them, but now found himself wanting to be privy to their conversation. He tried leaning his ear up against the wall, but the voices were too muffled to understand. Just as well, he thought to himself, he had other things to do.
He quickly crossed what the small ten by ten room and opened the top drawer of the beat up desk he used to do his bookkeeping on. Tucked in between the framework and the top of the desk was a key that opened up the bottom file cabinet. He pulled it out, unlocked the drawer, and slid it out as far as it would go. Reaching to the very back of the files that held all his tax forms and receipts, he found what he was looking for.
Not one to be very fond of handguns, Luke found it strange to find such comfort in the feel of the Smith and Wesson .38 Chief Special in his hand. There was no need to check and see if it was loaded, he knew it was, so he quickly stuffed it in his pants behind his apron. A quick inspection showed him that if secrecy was his goal, he had failed miserably. He either needed a bigger apron, or a year's enrollment at Weight Watchers. Since neither would work in the near future, he opted for moving the pistol to his backside. It would be even more visible there, but he didn't plan on turning his back on Eddie again unless he had the gun in his hands anyway.
"Now what?" he whispered to himself. Call for the police? Can't do that, the phone is behind the bar. Sneak out the back? There’s no outside door from the office. Eddie must have figured that already, or else he probably wouldn't have allowed him back here in the first place. Shit! He could break out a window, but that would only bring the wrath of Eddie to a new high, and Luke somehow felt that he didn't want to see that performance live and in person. Shit! Shit! Shit!
He heard the voices in the other room rising in volume, although he still couldn't quite make out the words. He decided there was really nothing else he could accomplish at the moment, so he slowly crept back to the wall by the door and tried to listen again. This time, if he held his ear really tight up against a wide crack in the wallboards, he could make out most of the conversation.
"Dad, calm down. Eddie's just trying to be nice."
It was Jonathan talking.
"Nice?" shouted Thomas. "Nice would be if I never had to lay eyes on the sorry sack of shit he has become. Nice would be if I had died with your mother, so I wouldn't have to hear you making up excuses for his ridiculous behavior. Nice would be if you two just crawled back in that car of yours, and drove your asses back to Olympia where people like you belong!"
It was obvious to Luke that Thomas was at the end of his mental rope. He thought about going back into the bar and breaking up the conversation, but he had known Thomas long enough to realize that once the floodgates had been opened they weren't going to close again until he was through.
"Give 'em hell, Tommy," he whispered in support.
Luke could hear the feet scrape on the floor as one of the people in the bar slid their bar stool back to get up. He feared it was Eddie, and he was right.
"Father, I think I've had enough of your shit to last me the rest of my lifetime, thank you. You're old, and weak, and drunk, and obviously don't realize whom you are talking to. I could crush you like a bug, or wipe my ass with your face if I wanted to, but I don't. And why is that, you ask? Or should I say, why is that, I ask myself?"
"Look Eddie, in his own way, dad's right," Jonathan interrupted.
"How's that, Boy Wonder?"
"If we just head out of here now, we can work out all of this shit back at the office."
Eddie took a couple of steps toward his brother who was still sitting on his bar stool.
"Look here, ass-wipe. I wouldn't even be here right now if it wasn't for you running off in search of yesterday, or whatever you thought you would find here. Looking for the father you never had? There he is buck-o. Are you impressed? Me either."
Jonathan hated the thought of putting his father down, but his main focus was now on getting Eddie out of the tavern. He had tried to enlist his father's help, but one thing had led to another, and now there were too many innocent people involved in his own bullshit. He realized that he needed to get things down a level where only Eddie, maybe Janice, and himself, were part of the final solution.
"Alright Eddie. I was wrong. Way wrong. But there's been no harm done. Let's just leave right now, and I'll do what ever you want."
"If you were willing to do what ever I wanted, we wouldn't be where we are right now bro'. No, I'm afraid you've opened Pandora's box and there just isn't any turning back now."
"What and the hell is that supposed to mean?" asked a red faced Thomas Engelhart.
"Let's just say that you know too much, father."
"Too much about what, Eddie?" asked Jonathan.
"You tell me, bro'," returned Eddie.
"Fuck both of you!" shouted Thomas standing up from his bar stool. "You sound like a couple of eight year-olds! 'You know too much!' 'Too much about what?' 'Too much about what I'm not going to say!' 'Too much about what I'm not going to say shit about what?' I ought to slap both of you for being grown men and acting like a couple of blondes trying to decide what day it is without having a clue what year it is for Christ's sake!"
Luke was beginning to wonder if leaving the bar was such a good idea, but as he reached behind his back and felt the cold steel of his .38, he felt he had made the right choice. Only now he had to decide when was the appropriate time to come back out. He decided to wait as long as he could since he was supposed to be giving them time to work things out. He pulled his ear away form the wall, glad to give his aching neck a break, knowing that it would be all too easy to hear the conversation from now on.
"Father's right," said Eddie matter-of-factly.
"Right about what?" a confused Jonathan asked.
"Let's quit beating around the bush. None of us are here for our health. It ain't our father's birthday, and we already missed Christmas, again. Since you started this whole thing Jonathan, why don't you just come out and say what's on your mind. Then father and me will know what's up, and we can get this dog and pony show over with!"
"Can't we just do this in the car, Eddie?"
"Not now, Jonathan. You started…" Eddie began to say, as he suddenly felt Janice try to reach him. "You started this, and now you're going to finish it. But not before I get a chance to drain my lizard. So you two can just sit back down and enjoy the atmosphere. I'll be right back."
Eddie made a beeline for the bathroom, and sat down in the single commode stall, as if it were his private office.
“It's about time you called!” he transmitted.
Janice was about to round up Granite and head back out on the highway when Eddie's voice came into her head. She could tell he was on edge, and she instantly feared the worst.
“First things first, Eddie. Are dad and Jonathan alright?”
“Your father's drunk, and your brother's still a little pissant, but other than that, they're fine. When in the hell are you going to get here?”
Janice looked at the clock on her dashboard. It read 3:35 PM. She figured she was about forty-five minutes out, if the traffic stayed as light as it was. She decided to pad the numbers a little, just in case.
“'I'll be there in an hour.”
Eddie's voice came back with an overtone that sent a chill down her spine. “Another hour with these whinny pukes and I'm gonna end up killing somebody. There's a limit to my patience, Janice, and we're approaching it at warp speed. You hear what I'm saying?”
“I hear you Eddie, just calm down, alright?”
“Don't tell me to calm down, you sassy little bitch! Nobody tells the Triple E to calm down! If you want these two little assholes in one piece, you'll just pick up the pace, do you understand me? Just where the hell are you, anyway?”
Janice had no doubt that Eddie was at the end of his rope. Something in him had snapped, but he wasn't giving her any clue to what it was. She wished she had called Jonathan first.
“Where I'm at doesn't matter, Triple E. But I have an idea that might make things a little easier for you, and a little quicker.”
“Do you know where Ilwaco is?”
“I'm not in the mood for a geography test, Janice!”
“Do you know where it is?” she repeated, trying to stay calm.
“Yeah, south of here. Why?”
“If all of you can get in a car and drive down there, it will cut our rendezvous time in half.”
Janice waited as Eddie thought about the offer.
“That'll work. Anything to get out of this dusty shit hole.”
“Good. There's several restaurants where we could meet.”
“Nice try, sister of mine.”
“What do you mean?” asked Janice, already knowing what his objection would be.
“You'll have to do better than that. No public places, no police. Just you, me, and the Whiner Sisters. Any kind of set up, they're toast!”
“I understand, Triple E.”
“You damn well better. I'm not playing around here. And make it snappy. I've got people to do and things to see.”
She wanted to correct him and say that he meant 'things to do and people to see', but she knew it wasn't a matter of dyslexia. He had people he wanted to do, and she was pretty sure that her name was on the top of the list.
“All right, how about the jetty at Fort Canby State Park? There'll hardy be a soul around there this time of day, in this kind of weather. It's flat, open, and off the beaten path, so to speak. You can scope it out for yourself on the way in. No place for a squad car to hide, no phones, no distractions.”
She waited again.
“That will work, but no tricks Janice. I meant what I said.”
“I know Triple E. One thing about you I know better than anyone else, you always make good on your threats.”
“It's nice to know someone’s been paying attention. I always knew you were smarter than you're brother. It's too bad we had to go our separate ways, sis. We could have made quite a team.”
“Dream on, Triple E. This bitch is a solo act. See you in a half an hour. And Eddie?”
“If you hurt one hair on either of their heads, you'll be the jam on their toast.”
“Ooh, you're scarin' me sister.”
“Fort Canby, half an hour.”
Mark and Cathy Potter watched as the Coast Guard helicopter lifted off of the beach and headed back towards Ilwaco with Sara and Joe onboard. They huddled together under the blankets Cathy had brought from the cabin, gratefully drinking coffee the Coast Guard crew had provided. Two uniformed men walked up to them as they turned towards the sand dunes and the trail back to their cabin. Neither of them had seen the police car and ambulance approach from the north end of the beach.
"Mr. and Mrs. Potter?" asked the one in the police uniform.
"Yes," answered Mark.
"I'm Officer Nelson, Pacific County Sheriff's Department. I understand that you two actually scene the whole incident?"
"Yes," replied Cathy, shivering so hard her coffee was spilling over her frozen hands.
"I'll need to get some information from you, for my report, but first we need to get both of you looked after. Mr. Chapman here will make sure you get to the hospital in one piece and I'll follow in my squad car."
"Is an ambulance really necessary?" asked Mark, as he saw another paramedic struggling with a stretcher.
"Let's hope not," said Officer Nelson, "but no sense in taking any chances. Besides, by tomorrow, you'll be local celebrities. We don't want word getting out over the wires that Pacific County treats it's visiting heroes like unwanted intruders. Bad for the tourist industry you know."
"I'd hardly say we're heroes," started Mark, before Cathy interrupted him.
"He's right Mark, we need to get your leg looked at, mine too. Besides, I'm freezing. You'd realize you were too if you weren't so thick headed. Come on, blue lips, one little trip to the hospital won't hurt you. I promise to hold your hand the whole time."