1995 Luke Perry set his cup full of coffee and brandy down and lit the first cigarette of the day. He was standing right next to the wall phone when it rang, and picked it up after the first ring.
"Slippery Deck Tavern, Luke speaking," he monotoned into the receiver. "Yeah, hold on. Tom, it's for you." Luke was surprised at whom the phone call was for, but not nearly as much as Thomas, which clearly showed on his face.
"Must be for somebody else, the only two people that know I'm here are God and the IRS. God don't give a shit, and I paid my taxes in full." Thomas went back to reading his paper.
"He says he's your son," Luke replied, keeping his hand cupped over the receiver. "Says his name is Jonathan."
Thomas dropped his coffee cup onto the table so hard that it tipped over, spilling half of it's contents onto his lap. He scooted back his chair and began to soak up the coffee with a napkin.
"If this is someone's idea of a joke, I'm not finding it very goddamned funny." He got up and none too politely grabbed the phone from Luke's outstretched hand. He was about to tear into someone's ass when the other end of the line spoke first.
"Dad, it's me, Jonathan. . . "
Thomas hadn't heard that voice in years, except for once on an evenings news clip, but he recognized it right away. He also instantly picked up on the troubled tone of his voice, almost as if he was afraid of something. Once a parent, always a parent, Thomas thought to himself, but he still wished that the phone call had never been for him.
"Hello son," he said slowly, almost sadly.
"Dad, we need to talk."
"How did you find me, Jonathan?" he replied, ignoring his son's request.
"I work for the government Dad, you'd be surprised at what information we have access to. Besides, that isn't really important right now. What is important," he paused, gathering up his courage, "what is important is that I get to talk to you as soon as possible."
"You're talking to me now, aren't you?"
"I mean in person, Dad, not over the phone."
"Look son, God knows I love you, and I'm real proud of you and what you've become, but I don't know if there's much to talk about. I kinda like being where I'm at, with things just the way they are. You have your life, and I have what's left of mine, let's just leave it at that."
Tom looked up to see Luke silently watching him and obviously listening. Both men's faces began to redden, and Luke turned away to tend to his chowder.
"Dad, how can you possibly be happy in that little run down trailer, all alone in a dumpy trailer park, in a strange place in the middle of nowhere?"
"So, you know where I'm staying at too, huh? Well, I am surprised. But not impressed." Thomas was beginning to overcome the shock and rush of emotions and settle down into his, me father, you son mode.
"Look Jonathan, thanks for calling, but you just let me worry about my happiness, and I'll let you worry about yours. Good luck in the upcoming election though, and-." Jonathan broke in before his dad had a chance to sign off.
"It's Eddie, Dad."
There was a long pause, and Jonathan half expected the next thing he would hear would be the dial tone. Tom's heart froze as he heard those words. It's Eddie. That's all it took. It's Eddie. Well no shit, it’s always been Eddie. He wished with all his heart and soul that Edward had died and his mother had lived, but all the bourbon in Kentucky couldn't change that.
"I haven't seen Edward in a long time Jonathan, and I'd like to keep it that way for the rest of my life."
"I know Dad, believe me, I know. It's just that things are getting way out of control. Did you know that Eddie works for me?"
"Well, he scares me Dad. I think Eddie may have done some really bad things, perhaps illegal things." He paused, his voice quivering. Tom could tell his son was on the verge of a break down; he had been there himself. "And I'm afraid he's going to do even worse things, if something's not done about it. Dad, I realize now that a lot of things that happened in the past weren't really as they seemed. You got put through hell over it, and for that I'm sorry. I really am sorry Dad. You've got to believe me."
"We all make mistakes son, God knows I made my share. It takes a man to admit that he's been wrong, and a bigger one to apologize for it. But it's all water under the bridge now, there’s nothing we can do to change the past. Thanks for telling me though, Jonathan. I appreciate it more than you will ever know."
"Eddie's a monster, Dad, and we've got to stop him."
"Whoa boy, whoa," Thomas dropped his consoling fatherly voice for a louder, harder tone that left no room for doubt. "What's this we shit? If you hired Edward, that's your mistake, and a mistake I'm sure it was. But I will have nothing to do with this, or anything else that has to do with that little bastard."
Thomas' heartbeat was accelerating towards a top speed it hadn't seen in years. All he wanted to do now was hang up the phone, and move to Alaska. This time he would be sure to change his name and dye his hair a different color, what was left anyway.
"Dad, things are crazy here. You're the only person who could possibly understand, let alone believe me. I have to talk to you Dad. Just once. Please, I'm begging you. Just once. And if you don't want to ever see me again after that, you’ve got it. I promise."
It was just too much for Thomas to take, hearing his son's voice over the phone, almost pleading for his life. “You're the only person who could possibly understand, let alone believe me...“ God, could he relate to that. What he wouldn't have given for someone, anyone, to believe him seventeen years ago. Perhaps just knowing that he wouldn't be the only one who understood now, or maybe blood really was thicker than water, that made him change his mind.
"You know where to find me, I suppose…" his stern voice was now replaced with one of submission, with a side order of foreboding and sadness.
"Thanks Dad, I owe you," the relief in his voice was obvious. "I'll be there in three hours."
"I'll be at the Deck, not in my trailer."
"Okay. And Dad, I love you."
"Yeah, me too." Thomas hung up the phone before there could be any more conversation. He was already overloaded. He needed a drink. A real, stiff, no bullshit drink. As he turned towards Luke to ask for one, he noticed there were three fingers worth already poured, just inches from his hand. Luke looked him in the eye, nodded once, and went back to his chowder without saying a word.
"Thanks friend," was all Thomas could manage to say.
Jonathan locked his desk, grabbed his coat, and headed out of his office. He slowed as he went by his secretary's desk, but not by much. "Save all my calls, Sarah. Tell anyone who needs to know that I won't be back in until Monday."
"But you have two appointments, and what about the banquet tonight?" she pleaded, standing up as he made for the outer door.
"What should I say at this late notice for God's sake?"
"Tell them it's an emergency. Say my father's ill and I have to be out of town for a few days." Jonathan said as he opened the door.
"I've never even heard you talk about your father, is he still alive?" Sara said, half stunned.
"It's been a well kept secret. Just handle this for me, okay Sara? I'll make it up to you when I get back. I promise."
"But . . ."
He had already shut the door and was gone.
Jonathan took the elevator down to the underground parking and ran to his car. He deactivated the auto alarm as he ran, hearing the short, two-note signal from the siren underneath the hood as he reached down to unlock the driver's door. He jumped in and turned the key of the ignition to his dark green Ford Taurus in a single move, and squealed out of the parking lot into the traffic, forcing a public bus to slam on his air brakes to avoid an accident. He did a rolling stop at the first light, turned right and headed towards his apartment, which was normally a fifteen-minute drive away. He made it in ten, as he screeched to a stop in the middle of the driveway to his two-story townhouse, drawing attention and a dirty look from his neighbor who was on his way out.
"Running late for a plane flight," he apologized as ran to his door, quickly punching in his security code and entering before the conversation could go on any further.
"Fucking politicians," his neighbor said to himself. "Always in a goddamned hurry until you need one to do something." He got in his car and left, thinking to himself that he would probably vote for him anyway just because he lived next door. It was as good a reason as any these days.
Jonathan hurried up the stairs to his bedroom, where he pulled out a large black athletic bag, with Spalding written in gold letters across the side, from his walk-in closet. It had been given to him as Christmas present, but he'd been so busy lately that he never had a chance to go the club anymore, and he hadn't bothered to transfer all of his gear from his old bag. He quickly pulled out all of the white tissue paper stuffing that helped the bag keep it's shape in the department store, throwing it on the floor behind him.
He reached up to the shelf above his suits, and pulled down a Reebok shoe-box. Inside, wrapped up in a yellow cleaning cloth, was a black Colt Mustang II .380 caliber handgun inside a little Uncle Mike's Sidekick holster. Next to it lay a spare clip, loaded with standard, full metal jacket rounds for target practice. He pulled the gun out, pressed the little button on the side of the pistol, and the clip ejected into his left hand. Upon quick inspection he saw it was still loaded with the stainless steel Hydroshock hollow points he had bought when he first got the gun. The dealer had recommended the hollow points for their mushrooming effect. 'In like a pencil, out like a fist', the dealer had said. He pulled back the slide, checking to make sure the chamber was empty, released it, and slapped the clip back in. He eased the hammer down with his thumb, clicked the safety on, and replaced it in the holster. At first he started to put the gun in his bag, but threw it on the bed, deciding he should probably wear it instead.
Like a snake shedding his skin, he slid out of his slacks and shirt, leaving them on the floor as he returned to the bedroom closet. He first put on a plaid L.L.Bean work shirt, then a well-worn pair of Levi 501’s. A quick thought of what must be going on at his office flickered through his head, but he quickly refocused. He had other things on his mind right now. He put on a leather belt, reached down to gather his wallet from the pants on the floor and grabbed his tennis shoes. He went to his dresser and collected some extra clothes, stuffing them into his gym bag, then sat down on the bed to put on his socks and shoes. He looked down at the holstered gun, wondered what the hell he had got himself into, and what he really thought he could do about it.
'No time for that now', he reminded himself, as he got up and clipped the holster and pistol to the inside of his pants at the small of his back. He threw the spare clip into the bag, zipped it shut, and ran down the stairs and out the door, shutting it but not pausing to activate the alarm system. Ten minutes later he was on Highway 8, headed west towards the coast.
Since he had left just after eleven in the morning, the traffic was light, and he made good time as he headed past the deactivated nuclear power plants at Satsop. Seeing the two giant gray hourglass shaped towers always reminded him off his favorite television show, The Simpsons. His mind flashed to his favorite episode, where Marge had served the mutated three eyed fish from the local waters downstream from the plant for dinner.
Perhaps that was what Eddie was, he thought to himself. Some kind of mutant nuclear freak, with an evil taste for the bazaar, and a fancy for self induced tornadoes. He would definitely have to talk to his Dad about that one. Only there weren't any nuclear power plants in Nebraska that he knew of. A little inbreeding over the years, maybe, but no one with a third eye in the middle of his forehead.
He scanned the road ahead, it was empty of traffic, and his mind slipped in to a daydream, replaying the phone call earlier that day that had set all of this craziness in motion. It had been Eddie, ringing him on his private line that didn't first go through Sarah. Jonathan could tell he was obviously calling from a phone booth somewhere, by the sound of the static on the line and the cars going by in the background.
"Jonathan, my man," came the voice over the receiver.
"Yeah Eddie, what's up, I'm really busy."
"That's my bro', always with the nose to the grindstone, if he ain't suckin' up to someone somewhere, that is," he ended with a chuckle.
Eddie enjoyed needling his brother, or 'bro', as he had taken to calling him in the last few years. Eddie knew that in most families, it was the older brother that pestered the younger one, which made it all the sweeter.
"Cut to the chase, Eddie," said Jonathan, not bothering to hide the fact that he really didn't want to talk at the moment.
"No time for the real mover and shaker in this program Jonathan?" His voice was filled with self-righteousness and a touch of blatant conceit that Jonathan couldn't recall ever hearing before. Usually Eddie was a little more discreet, preferring to sneak in the back door, leaving you with the feeling he wanted without having to slap you in the face with his intentions.
"Sorry, Eddie," Jonathan replied, not really meaning it but trying to sound somewhat sincere. No sense in being antagonizing, since you never knew where that might lead with Eddie.
"That's better bro'. Listen up. I know you're worried about the upcoming elections, but chill out dude. Your man behind the scene has got it all figured out. Trust me."
Jonathan always hated it when he said that.
"You sound as if something has changed, Eddie. The last poll put me seven to ten percentage points behind Perryman, and about even with Connors. What's worse, I seem to be losing ground as they pin us down on the issues, and I'm not sure that I want to keep on reforming my agenda just to get to Washington."
He knew that would piss Eddie off, and probably launch him on another one of his facts of political life slash pep talks.
"Although things always change, you never do bro'. While you’re studying those hypothetical numbers, I'm attacking the real problems. We're as good as on the way to D.C. as I speak dude, you just don't know it yet."
Jonathan really hated it when Eddie used the word we, to describe his own political aspirations. He knew that Eddie played an important part in making the machine run, but so did Sarah and the rest of the staff, including the volunteers that went door to door and manned the phones. Not to mention the voters and all of the constituents that he supposedly represented. You'd think we were Siamese twins miraculously split at birth, to hear Eddie talk about it, thought Jonathan.
"And just what real problems are you attacking today, Eddie?" Or do I dare ask, he reminded himself?
"You needn't worry your pretty little head over the details, bro'. Just remember, when they swear you in as Commander in Chief of the good ol' United States of America, you'll have little Triple E to thank."
Triple E, he hadn't heard Eddie use that term since they were both back on the farm. Triple E referred to Eddie's initials, Edward Eugene Engelhart. One of his schoolmates had first thought of it, and for a while, he had demanded that everyone including his father call him that. Dad had put a quick end to that, Jonathan remembered, at least in his presence. Nobody demanded anything of Dad back then. But when the ol' man wasn't around, and at school, Eddie had insisted on 'Triple E' for his moniker. The two siblings had gone along with it, keeping a secret joke between them that it really stood for 'Enlarged Elephant Ears'. Actually, it was quite appropriate, since Eddie had been a homely kid, looking a lot like a young version of Ross Perot when his hair was cropped short for the summer.
"Eddie, what and in the hell are you talking about?" asked Jonathan.
"Let's just say that I'm privy to a few details that haven't been released to the press quite yet, but you're going to want to catch the local news before the day’s over."
"Can we just dispense with the mystery Eddie…?" he was cut off in mid sentence.
"Triple E, bro'. Triple E." Eddie admonished.
"Goddammit Eddie!" Jonathan yelled, probably loud enough for Sarah to hear. "I haven't got time for this shit."
"Triple E, man. Wanna hear it! Triple E!" Eddie replied, sounding almost giddy now, his voice up half a notch.
"I got your Triple E for you Eddie, it's on my foot and I'm gonna kick you in the ass with it if you don't get serious with me in the next five seconds." Jonathan retorted.
There was a short pause, filling Jonathan's ears with the hum of the bad connection, the sound of cars going by, and what sounded like people occasionally talking over a bullhorn in the distance. He couldn't make out the words, and pressed the receiver tighter to his ear in hopes of making out what was being said, when Eddie came back on the line. The giddiness was definitely gone out of his voice, replaced with an eerie wickedness that chilled Jonathan to the core of his very soul.
"Look here shithead. Don't ever threaten the Triple E! I'll rip your balls off, paint 'em white, and give them to Jack fucking Nicklaus to use during the next fucking 'Skins' game, do you understand me bro'?"
Jonathan had always known that Eddie was a few sandwiches short of a whole picnic, though he repeatedly had chosen to ignore that fact, for reasons even he didn't understand at the moment. What he did realize now was that Eddie had finally stepped over the line, and he wanted to kick himself in the ass for not doing something about it sooner. First, he had to find out what Eddie was up to without pissing him off any further. That would be tough. Second, Eddie had to be fired. That, he knew, would be even tougher.
"Okay, Triple E, I understand you." Jonathan said as humbly as possible without being condescending.
"Good boy," said Eddie very smugly, but sounding a little less volatile.
"I guess I'm just stressed out. I really do have a full plate right now Eddie, I mean Triple E, so if you could just let me in on what's happening, it would save me a lot of time."
"If you play your cards right bro', you've got all the time in the world you need to pack your bags and get ready for your first trip to the District of Columbia," Eddie said, almost back to his original self.
"Sure thing, Triple E," replied Jonathan, "whatever you say."
"Now you're getting it, dude. Just leave it up to me, the Triple E. And, Jonathan…"
"Don't forget to catch the news. Later…" With a click, the hum was gone, so was Eddie, and so was his daydream.
Jonathan returned to reality just in time to slam on his brakes and maneuver the Taurus across the emergency lane and onto the exit ramp to catch the Montesano exit. He forced himself to calm down as he approached the stop sign. He looked right, into town, then left, and turned onto Highway 107. For a few miles he forced himself to obey the lower speed limits, and at the first 55 MPH sign, he punched the Ford up to sixty and turned on the cruise control. He was busy enough, negotiating the curves through the logging area towards the town of Raymond, but he still found time to contemplate seeing his father for the first time in twenty-five years. His mind flashed through many scenarios of the past, and it was if he had watched a movie a dozens times while drunk, and had only seen it for the first time sober today. Dad had been right all these years. He knew that now.
Dad knew… but we had basically just followed Eddie's lead and made our father the laughing stock of the county. God, I can't believe he even agreed to talk to me, thought Jonathan. I sure wouldn't if I were he. Never in a million years. That's exactly how far away it seemed those days back on the farm were. But, as the fog of the past started to blow away from the winds of present reality, it began to seem like only yesterday.
Thomas finished off the brandy offering in a single swallow. He fished a Camel from the new pack in his pocket, shaking like a person with the late stages of Parkinson's disease.
"Those child-proof packages are a bitch, aren't they?" asked Luke, who was refilling Tom's glass from the hideaway dispenser. "You want to talk about it?"
"You'd only think I was crazy, Luke." Thomas had to use two hands to light his cigarette, and when he picked up his glass of brandy again, he spilled part of it on the back of his hand. He drank about half of the glass that time, and took a long pull off of his Camel, blowing the smoke down onto the bar, where it fanned out like a sheet of dissipating fog.
"I already think you're crazy, so what have you got to lose?" replied Luke, reaching for a cigarette of his own.
"You're the only friend I have left in this whole fucked up world Luke. That's what I got to lose." He finished his brandy, and looked right into Luke's eyes. Looking right back at him was a man who was genuinely concerned, a man that didn't have a reason in the world to betray him. A man he trusted.
"Oh, what the hell," said Thomas. "I've got to tell someone, or I am going to go crazy. Better pour us both a strong one, ol' buddy, and batten down your hatches or do whatever it is that you sailor types do. We're headed into uncharted waters."
An hour and a dozen cigarettes later, Thomas was finished with the first part of his tale. A very astonished, and very quiet Luke Perry limped from behind the bar and over to the front door. It was raining harder now, and there hadn't been a single customer yet. There were usually a few old timers who stopped in for a bowl of chili at lunchtime, but they were mostly fair weather folks who didn't like to be out on the roads when the highway was covered with water. He closed the door, locked the dead bolt, and flipped the OPEN sign over. Then he walked back to the bar and shut off the two switches that lit the neon signs in the windows.
"Now here this, now here this," Luke trumpeted. "The tavern is now officially closed, but the bar is now open. What'll be, buddy? Brandy, or a brandy?"
"Better make it a brandy," returned Thomas, whose shakes were now beginning to subside. He felt as if someone had taken a ton of weight off of his shoulders and actually sat up straighter on his bar stool. Even though Jonathan's call had plunged him back into a hell he had tried to run from and wanted no part of, he no longer felt alone.
"Thanks for hearing me out Luke, but I can't ask you to close down just to take care of some old drunk who's been reading to much Edgar Allan Poe."
"I'll admit it's quite a sacrifice, with all of the customers I had to turn away, but hell, I haven't had a day off in years except for Christmas and Easter," Luke said.
That wasn't quite true, thought Thomas. He and several other of the regular crew of retired nomads had spent the last three Christmas' here at the Deck, albeit the place was closed to the general public.
"Your boy like chowder?" asked Luke.
"Hell, I don't know Luke. I don't know what he likes anymore. It's been so long. But I do remember he used to be able to put away half his weight in chili though."
"Great. I’ll keep ‘em both hot. You hungry?"
"May never eat again," Thomas replied.
"Me either," said Luke, topping off both drinks, no longer mixing his with coffee. "So, tell me a little more about this Edward fellow."
Sara Brooks had been Jonathan's secretary as long as he had been able to afford one. She probably knew him better than anyone else, and would like to get to know him even better, if he would just loosen up a little bit. His personal life seemed to be non-existent, except for a game of racquetball or a dinner out now and then, and most of those had secondary agendas centered on politics. They had been out together a few times, but it had been more like an extended workday than a time for relaxation. The topic of conversation seemed to always come back to politics, although rarely his own accomplishments. He was not one to brag, being overly modest most of the time. It was one of the things that endeared him to her.
She went out on her own sometimes, of course. A girl had her own physical needs and desires she would be the first to admit. Being the attractive, slim figured brunette that she was, fulfilling those requirements had been easy. That little weasel Eddie had even hit up on her several times, failing immediately and miserably, she thought to herself. But it was Jonathan she secretly pined for. She just wasn't quite sure how to pursue him. She had a feeling the direct approach would only get her fired, or worse, pushed completely out of his life.
During those years, she had never seen him break an engagement, or fail to keep an appointment for that matter. She was at a loss as to how she would handle the present situation, since she had never had to cancel anything for Jonathan before. She opened up the scheduling calendar to Friday, and quickly scanned the page. His two appointments weren't with anyone terribly important, although one of them was a fairly attractive woman working for the Department of Transportation. The woman had quite a reputation as a divorcee suffering from sexual overload amongst the girls Sara lunched with in the cafeteria, and she found herself actually smiling at the thought of canceling that one.
Tonight's banquet was a different matter. People had been planning this for weeks. There was a large room reserved, catering involved, and quite a long guest list to be notified. People were probably putting up decorations and campaign banners up at this very moment. This could get a little tricky. Well, Jonathan had said it best himself, and in his own way. She thought he had meant it as a compliment at the time. 'Never send a man in to do a job that could only be done right by a woman.' Now she realized that what he probably meant was, 'If you have to walk through your own shit, wear someone else's shoes.'
She opened her Rolodex file to begin looking up phone numbers when her own line rang. What now, she thought, reluctantly picking up the receiver?
"Hi Sara, how's my favorite secretary? Hey look, I've been trying to get a hold of Jonathan on his other line, but no one's answering. Can't get a return from him on his pager either."
It was Eddie. For the first time in her life she was actually glad to hear his voice. Like most of the others who knew him, she found Eddie to be a pain, though a necessary one at times. He did seem to have an uncanny ability to get things accomplished when no one else could.
"Eddie, I'm so glad you called." God, I can't believe I just said that, she thought to herself. She knew Eddie still had the hots for her, and she sure didn't want to give him any incentive.
"Jonathan just blew out of here like the wind, and can you believe this? He told me to cancel all of his appointments until Monday, including the banquet tonight."
"Well now, we'll just see about that, won't we," said Eddie. "Did he say where he was going to in such a hurry?"
Sara was already beginning to wish she hadn't brought it up, not wanting to get Jonathan into a pissing match with Eddie on her account.
"Not exactly, he only talked to me for a second before he left. He just said to make up some emergency about his father being sick. Look Eddie, he was really vague, and in a hell of a hurry. What about the banquet? It's due to start at seven. I don't know…" but Eddie cut her off in mid-sentence.
"Don't you worry your pretty little head darlin'. Eddie's gonna take care of everything, just like always. Cancel his day appointments, he can catch up on his brown nosing later. Then go ahead and lock up the shop, and take the rest of the day off with pay. Have a good extended weekend darlin’.”
“I can’t leave with all this going on, Eddie.”
Eddie, with his mind in three places, was working overtime. He leaned against the glass of the phone both, and closed his eyes. His mind was running like a runaway IBM, formulating a plan of action, even before he knew all of the variables. Like, where in the hell had his brother ran off to in such a huff? The news hadn't broken yet, he was sure of that. He could see the first of the camera crews arriving through the window in the phone booth. Jonathan had sounded a little spooked when he talked to him last, but he seemed back under full control before he got off the line to him. Maybe he had actually underestimated the little ass-kissing puppet?
So, Little Red Riding Jonathan's on the way to Daddy's house, is he? Where else could he be going, to the police? Jonathan laughed to himself. I suppose the pissant drove too, knowing how he hates to fly. Well, this little bad brother wolf knows a short cut to Daddy's place, and we're just going to cut him off somewhere in the forest before he gets there.
"Perhaps you're right. I tell you what. You go ahead and make those calls, and then hold tight until I can get to the office. Don't worry about the banquet quite yet. I've got a few things to do on my end first, and then I'll be right over. If anyone else calls, just say that Jonathan's not in, and won't be available until Monday. Hold off on the father emergency thing for now, we may not need it."
"Thanks Eddie. I'll see you when you get here."
"Anything for you, shaweet-hawrt," he replied in a lame attempt at Humphrey Bogart.
"Bye Eddie." She hung up the phone. Best to cut him off at the pass, but she felt like she had just shut the gate to the corral after the horse had already gotten out. It didn't take much to get Eddie going again, as she had seen before. Just a few kind words, and he seemed to forget that she had basically told him to drop dead the last time he had made a pass at her.
What was really amazing was the fact that he seemed in such a good mood. Usually, Eddie would nearly explode when something upset the apple cart. But he had seemed light and jovial, almost high. Cocky as always, but definitely not his normal, acidic self. It seemed that both of the Engelhart brothers were doing a one-eighty degree turn today. Go figure.
She returned to her Rolodex, and started looking up phone numbers.
Eddie hung up the phone, long enough for the dial tone to reset, then picked it up again. He put in another quarter, and dialed a number he had used often enough in the past to commit to memory. The man on the other end of the line answered after three rings.
"Joe Mangione, Private Investigative Services, no mess too messy. How may I help you?"
"You can start by changing that corny opening line of yours," Eddie replied sarcastically.
"Mr. Engelhart. My favorite customer," Joe returned evenly in deep a gravely voice, with a hint of sarcasm of his own.
"Most over charged, you mean."
"Discretion in politics is a quality that rarely comes cheap, wouldn't you agree? I can refer you to someone else if you find my services lacking in some way, Mr. E," remembering his client's insistence on the 'E' thing. He knew he would ask for no such reference. While Joe was no scholarly genius, he was very street smart, and two tours in Viet Nam had only heightened his awareness. Something wasn't quite on the up and up with Mr. E, and while his own independent research hadn't come up with anything concrete, he was sure he was dealing with a snake in the grass. Mr. E was also his bread and butter, so as long as he kept paying him the handsome retainer that virtually made his house and car payment every month, Joe could hardly turn away his business. Besides, it wasn't that he had been actually asked to do anything illegal, just to dance around in the gray areas a few times.
"That won't be necessary, Joe. You're my main man, you know that."
Eddie had changed his tact. No sense in pissing on the shoes of someone who knew enough to kick you in the ass someday. Perhaps he knew too much, he thought to himself. Not good, and he seemed to be getting a little cocky as of late. He made a little mental note to address that problem in the near future, but for right now, he would need his services again.
"Listen, Joe, are you still current on your pilot's license?" asked Eddie.
"Both fixed wing and rotary, instrument rated in both, and a commercial rating too. Want to do some sight-seeing, Mr. E?"
"Something like that. Remember when I had you discreetly check up on the whereabouts of my old man?" Eddie was back to all business.
"Yeah, some little dump over on the Long Beach Peninsula, if I remember correctly."
"How long to get there by air?"
"Depends on what we take, but I could get you there in less that an hour I'd say. There's a little abandoned airstrip just down the road, the grass was a little long, but I used it the last time I was there. Not exactly legal, but if anyone asks, you're having an emergency. Better than landing in the middle of the road, right? Otherwise we'd have to put down in Ilwaco, and then you're looking at another thirty minutes plus if we have to take a cab, more if we rent a car. Your call, Mr. E."
"Your original plan sounds fine to me. Perfect, as a matter of fact. Are you available for a trip down there this afternoon?" asked Eddie.
"I'd have to cancel another appointment," Joe lied, "but that could be arranged. Fly time is outside of our standard agreement, and you'd have to cover the rental fees and fuel of course."
"But of course," Eddie replied curtly, "I'd like it to be something low profile, single engine airplane with room for another passenger or two, and I'll want to be able to leave within the hour."
"No problem, meet me at Olympia Municipal. I'll be waiting in the parking lot, blue '94 Impala. Just a short ride from there to the plane, it will be fueled and I'll already have a flight plan filed. When shall I say to expect us back?"
"Just your name on the flight plan, Joe. Plan on staying overnight."
"Mr. E…" Eddie interrupted.
"I know, that will be extra. Just be ready to go when I get there." He hung up the phone. God, what a pain in the ass! I pay him like a top-notch escort service and he acts like a street hooker. 'Mr. E, that'll cost you extra,' he mimicked to himself.
Plan on being paid in full, asshole.
Eddie walked a few blocks to avoid any unwanted attention from the host of assorted police at the crime scene, and then called a cab from another phone booth. When he arrived back at the office, he found an obviously shaken Sarah Brooks finishing up with a phone call. Aside from the fact that most of the color had drained out of her normally rosy cheeks, she looked positively stunning to Eddie. She was wearing a dark blue pantsuit, with a wide collar white silk blouse beneath. From Eddie's perspective, it was open enough to show her ample cleavage rising and falling with each breath she took, which began sending 'full alert' messages to his groin.
He reminded himself again that he had no time for that kind of thinking right now, but later, yes, definitely later. She was going to be his, along with all of the other things he had planned for. It was just a matter of waiting, planning, playing fool against fool, and then when the time came, acting in a quick and decisive manner. He just wasn't so sure how much longer he could wait for a piece of Sara Brooks.
She hung up the phone and turned in her swivel chair to face Eddie. Her eyes were moist, on the verge of tears, and her lower lip was quivering. Eddie knew that he had never wanted her so badly as he did now.
"You're not going to believe this Eddie. That was Jason on the phone, and God… I just can't believe it." Jason Munroe was an old friend of Sara's, who now worked for Representative Christopher Connors. Connors and Robert Perryman were running against Jonathan in the emergency primaries.
"Believe what?" asked Eddie, trying to sound surprised, though he already knew exactly what the phone call was about.
"It's Chris, and Bob Perryman. They're both… they're both dead."
"Jesus. You've got to be kidding." Eddie was really hamming it up. "Both of them? How?"
"Jason didn't have much for details, he sounds devastated. I guess the Thurston County Sheriffs found them, both shot, with the same gun. Rumors are going around that Perryman shot Chris, who knows why, and then shot himself." She grabbed a Kleenex, gently dabbing at the corners of her eyes, trying not to smear her mascara. It was an effort in futility.
"Murder-suicide? Jesus. The press will have a hey day with that. Poor Connors. He's got a wife and two kids." Eddie paused for a moment, giving his mind a chance to finish formulating his plan. He looked at his watch. 12:05 PM. Jonathan had about an hour and a half jump on him. Allowing for time to get to the airport and fly to Long Beach, he knew it would be close. He wasn't sure what his older brother was up to, but if he was heading to see the ol' man after all these years of silence, it couldn't be good.
Besides, he needed Jonathan back here right away. There were just too many press opportunities and free airtime to take advantage of. With all of the party opposition gone, it was time to close the rank and file, get everyone and their funds behind Jonathan, and go on the offensive. It wasn't that he had any fears of the remaining opposition winning. Theirs was a battered, disorganized camp of shell-shocked victims from the last election.
"Sara, I know this must be hard on you. Hell, all of us. I liked Chris too, even though he was running against Jonathan. But we've got to take care of business, and there's a lot to be done." He paused, looking at her in a fatherly way.
"Are you with me?" Eddie asked.
"Yeah, I suppose you're right. I just wish Jonathan wouldn't have taken off just now," she managed to get out.
"Good girl; now, first things first. We need to get Jonathan back on line ASAP. I agree with you, he picked a lousy time for a vacation. Second, as for the banquet tonight, I'm sure they'll cancel it on their own as soon as the word gets out, but let's beat them to the punch. Call them up, and say that under the circumstances, Jonathan won't be able to make it, and we'll have to make it another time. Then call up Perryman's office and offer condolences, that shouldn't take too long. I'm sure it's pandemonium over there right now too."
"Okay," replied Sara. She was almost glad to have something to do to help her refocus, and though she felt guilty about it, she was relieved not to have to deal with coming up with an excuse for Jonathan missing the banquet.
"I wouldn't ask this unless it was important Sarah, but can you work late today, and maybe tomorrow for that matter? Jonathan is going to need to get some speeches together fast. I'm hoping that we can work on some of them on the way back."
"Yeah, sure. I'd planned on being around for the banquet anyway," she said. Then she stopped, realizing she didn't really want to be going anywhere alone with Eddie.
"On our way back from where?" she asked.
"The beach, Long Beach to be exact. That's where the ol' man's been hiding out lately."
"That's a long drive Eddie, I'd probably get more accomplished by staying here, besides, the phone will be ringing off the hook."
Eddie realized what she was doing, but he took it all in stride.
"We'll be going by plane, it's all been arranged. We should have Jonathan back here in less than three hours, and we'll be back before dark." That should settle her down some, he thought. "Besides, we'll be getting back about time for the nightly news, and I want Jonathan with at least one speech in hand when that happens."
Sarah relaxed some, knowing that her time alone with Eddie would probably be minimal. Eddie was so efficient, to the point of being nauseating sometimes, that it didn't even occur to her to question the plane already being on standby.
"Okay. Let me make these calls, and get a few things together, and I'll be ready to go."
"Thanks Sarah, you're the greatest. I'll call a cab and meet you downstairs. We got to hurry though."
She watched him close the door, feeling uneasy as she began dialing the phone. She had no reason to be alarmed, other than the fact that everyone she worked for seemed to be acting abnormally, and the competition was suddenly dead. Deep down inside, the warning bells were already beginning to ring. She forced them to the back of her mind, reminding herself that there would always be someone else with her, whether it be a cabby, or a pilot, or Jonathan. Most of all she wanted to be with Jonathan now, more than ever before in her life. What ever was going on, it was important enough to make him drop his ever-present politics, and act on emotion. If there were emotions, there were feelings. And if there were feelings, she had a chance at breaking through to him after all.