Wes Boyd's
Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online

Busted Axle Road
a novel by
Wes Boyd
Copyright ©1993, ©2001, ©2007, ©2013

Chapter 28

Though Blake was gay, watching Jenny while she was shooting the climactic sex scene with Richard Riley got to him a little. As usual, they had to shoot the scene over and over and over, and watching Jenny and Riley caress each other and roll around in the bed perked up an interest he wasnít sure how to handle.

He wondered a little how Jenny would have made out in the scene if she hadnít been brought up as a nudist. Though the American version of the film would be carefully cut to avoid showing Jennyís bare breasts, they were also shooting the European version that afternoon. Though the American viewer in the theater wouldnít see much more than Jennyís bare back and the top of her bare butt, the crew in the studio was seeing a whole lot more.

Jenny was really composed, and really into her character, he thought. Even he found it hard to tell that Jenny had little serious interest in the scene, although he knew it was the case. The same couldnít be said for Riley; Jenny was getting to him before the afternoon was over with, and the scenes kept getting more passionate. If Jenny were anyone else, I might not be taking her home tonight, Blake thought to himself.

"OK, cut," the director called finally. "Thatís a wrap for today."

If Riley thought he didnít quite want to quit yet, he wasnít given any choice. He soon found himself being supported by thin air as Jenny swung out of bed. "You think you shot this damn scene enough?" she said to the director.

"Well, itís one of the pivotal scenes," the director said, fading for the back of the studio. Blake could pick up on Jennyís disgust with him as she headed for her own dressing room, wearing only panties, leaving Riley without a chance to get a word in edgewise.

In a few minutes, she was back, wearing jeans and a blouse. "Come on, Blake," she said. "Letís get out of here. Iíve had enough of this place for today."

It was the first time that Blake had seen Jenny really upset in months, but he thought he knew why: they had shot the scene over and over and over, each time trying to get it a little dirtier. "Pivotal scene, my ass," Jenny said as soon as they were in the car. "Simple gratuitous sex, just to punch the damn turkey up to make it deserve an ĎRí rating. That goddamn Riley smells like a goat, and heís about as horny."

"I did think they overdid it a little," Blake commented neutrally.

"I donít know why these sons of bitches think theyíve got to have an ĎRí rating to make money," Jenny continued her tirade. "Itís a proven fact that good ĎGí rated movies make out like bandits. People still like to take their kids to movies. Thereís nothing in this story line that needs a scene like that. A chaste kiss under an apple tree, the way they did it back in the thirties and forties, conveys every bit as much message as having Riley paw me all afternoon. Why the hell donít they make movies like that anymore?"

"Disney does," Blake commented.

"And Disney makes out like a bandit," Jenny said. "That proves my point. And even theyíre starting to miss the point a little. Why take a perfectly good story, add blood and guts and sex and dirty it up unnecessarily? Hell, I could make a better movie than that, and make more money."

"Maybe you ought to," Blake said. "Thereís no reason you couldnít produce your own movie. Maybe even direct it, like Streisand."

"I know for sure I could do a better job of directing than that idiot," Jenny went on. "Iím not a sicko like that bastard. Thatís the last time Iím doing a movie with him, no matter what Knox comes up with, and thatís the last time I do a movie like that, no matter how much money is involved. I donít need the money, and I donít need the aggravation. Why the hell canít someone come up with a good action-adventure script that isnít blood, guts, and sex? You donít need them to get an audience on the edge of their seats. Maybe Iíll just stick to doing rock videos, although some of them are getting pretty bad, too."

"You donít have to lecture me," Blake said. "I agree with you a hundred percent. But, they donít write scripts like that. Somebody tries to write a clean film, and it doesnít get out of square one. I know; I tried to be a script writer, but start with a decent script, and they keep punching it up, and soon youíre looking at an "R" rating.

"The beauty of the whole thing," Jenny smiled, "is that I donít have to do another one like that. I mean, with this one, my sentence is over, and I donít have to do another one if I donít want to."

That was a better mood, Blake thought. This was a healthy mad for her, and she seemed to be getting over it. And you couldnít blame her for being mad, after all.

"Thatís true," Blake said. "Knox will have other ideas, though."

"Fuck Knox. Heís the one who talked me into this turkey, anyway."

"Thanks, Iíd rather not, either," Blake said. "I mean, I may be gay, but Iím not that desperate."

Jenny laughed at that one. "Letís not be in any big hurry," she said, "but with all the reading youíre doing, why donít you keep your eyes open for a story that might be something like what weíre talking about? Maybe try a quick treatment? If it looks like it could be something, maybe I could take an option on it."

"Probably about done reading for a while," Blake said. "Youíve only got about a week to go on this movie, and then thereís the tour, and then Spearfish Lake."

"Thereís no hurry on it," Jenny said. "I donít even really want to start thinking about it for a while. But, there is something that we do have to think about. We both need costumes for the Halloween Party in Spearfish Lake, and thatís something I want you to pull together before we take off on the tour."

"I donít have to go with you to the party," Blake said.

"I want you to," Jenny said. "Itís a good way to get to know Spearfish Lake, and some of the people. I havenít been to one in three years now, and Iíve always been sorry Iíve had to miss them. Itíll be good to make this one. Itíll make me feel like Iím coming home."

"Well, I suppose."

"Look, youíre not going as my bodyguard, youíre going as my friend," Jenny said. "I donít want you to feel like a stranger when we move back there."

"Iíll do what you want," Blake said. Besides, her mood was so much better now that he didnít want to argue. "What do you want to do for a costume? Something Halloweeny?"

"Letís not get too far out," Jenny said. "Thereíll be plenty of far out costumes there. I mean, with all the costuming talent in this town, we could come up with something that would blow people away, but I donít want to overshadow people by doing that. Just something thatís recognizably a costume, but one where I still look like me. Nothing too sexy, either."

"That might not be too hard," Blake said. "Look, while youíre shooting tomorrow, Iíll talk to a guy I know in wardrobe. Heíll probably have better ideas than I would."

*   *   *

Jackie was already in bed, sitting up and reading a book when she heard the pickup drive in. It was late, and even though it would take a few minutes to get the dogs staked out, she expected that Mark would be in before long.

After a while, she heard Mikeís Rabbit start up, and a few seconds later, she heard Mark come in, and come right up the stairs. "How did it go?" she asked.

"Pretty good," he told her as he stopped off at the bedroom door. "Mikeís really one happy camper tonight. Iím going to get a shower, then Iím going to be right in."

In a moment, she could hear Mark singing in the shower; in a few minutes, he joined her in bed. "What kept you guys so late?" she asked as she put down her book and turned off the light.

"We figured that as long as we were out at the course, we might as well try running the dogs at night in strange country," Mark said. "It went pretty well."

"Whatís Mike so happy about?" she said as she slid down in bed and snuggled up next to her husband, resting her head on his shoulder, with his arm around her.

"We ran Ringo in single lead all evening, and George in wheel. About the only thing that went wrong is that Cumulus isnít too crazy about running in swing, so finally, we took out all the older dogs and put them back in the truck, and spent the evening working with just the five Beatle Hounds."

"It went well?"

"It went great," Mark said, "considering that Ringo doesnít have Cumulusí experience. You donít want to give him a come gee or come haw, because heíll turn on a dime, and you get the damndest knot of dogs and lines you ever saw, but I think we can train him out of it. He does take commands well, maybe even better than Cumulus, and heís fine on trails, but get him out in the open, and you have to steer him. Heís still a little unsure of himself, but thatíll come out in time. That was a good idea on Mikeís part."

"What was that?"

"Taking Ringo out every evening and giving him obedience-school-type training. That dog needs more people contact than other dogs, and the sit and heel and stay and commands like that have given Ringo the confidence to follow instructions, anyway. Heís going to make a good leader."

"Is that why Mike is so happy?" Jackie said, rolling a little to put an arm over her husbandís chest. She had an activity in mind that didnít involve dogs, but knew that Mark would have to talk his way out of the evening before they could start in on it.

"Because now that weíve got two leaders, we can run with two teams," he said. "Before much longer, we want to move the other Beatle Hounds down to Mikeís place for the winter. He doesnít want to mess around with buying a snow machine and is going to try to make do with just the dogs."

"I can just see him driving the dog team to work, and having the dogs staked out in back of the Record-Herald all day," Jackie laughed.

"Well, weíre kind of hoping that he wonít have to do that much," Mark said. "Those columns he wrote about the Road Commission seem to have gotten their attention."

"Yeah," Jackie said. "Itís really nice to have the road graded this time of year. I just hope it lasts."

"Mike said that if it doesnít, heíll run a picture of the dog team tied to parking meters on Main Street, and say itís because the Road Commission canít get off their dead asses," Mark laughed. "That may rattle their chains a bit."

"If we even get plowed out a couple days after a storm, itíll be a big improvement," Jackie said. "Theyíve been real good neighbors. Iíve enjoyed getting to know Kirsten again. She left Susan with me for a while when she went to town today, and sheís a real sweet baby. Sheís got me to thinking about whether we might want to have one of our own, after all."

Mark squeezed Jackie tighter. "Itís like I told you long ago," he said. "Itís your decision, and the question we have to ask is whether your concerns are still valid."

"Iím not as worried about them as I once was," Jackie admitted. "The thing is, Iím not getting any younger, and if weíre going to do it, weíre going to have to do it pretty soon, like maybe the next couple of years."

"If you want to, thatís fine with me," Mark reiterated. "But, I agree, Iím not getting any younger, either."

"Itís a month before we can even get started," Jackie said. "Thatíll give us some time to think. We donít even have to do it then. We could take all winter to think about it."

"Well, letís think about it, then," Mark said. They had been wrangling about babies for over fifteen years, and were no closer to a conclusion than when they started. He changed the subject. "You have any thoughts about going to this Halloween Party? Mike jumped me about it again."

"If weíre going to this party, have you got any idea of what weíre going to do for costumes?" she said. They had never been to one of the Halloween parties at the West Turtle Lake Club, although there had been offers a couple times over the years. However, once theyíd thought it over, this invitation had been almost impossible to turn down, so even though they werenít really party people theyíd finally decided to go.

"Nothing," Mark said. "Iím at a loss. I guess I just donít think that way."

Costumes were a problem they had discussed before. "You could go as a dog musher," Jackie suggested.

"Thereís no way in hell Iím going to wear mukluks and a parky all evening," Mark protested. "Iíd roast. How about you?"

"I havenít got the foggiest notion," she admitted.

"Well, weíre going just to please Mike and Kirsten, after all," Mark said. "Thereís no need to get too elaborate. Like, maybe you could go as a basketball player. Youíre tall enough, thatís not out of line. Maybe we could even borrow a uniform from the school."

"I never played basketball when I was in school," Jackie protested. "I was still too clumsy then."

"Yeah, but how many times did they bug you about playing basketball?"

"It might work," Jackie said. "Letís think of something for you."

"Thatís a stumper," Mark admitted.

"I talked to Kirsten about it yesterday," Jackie said. "She says itís always tough for her, too. She says that the only advice she has that always has worked for her is to be what you always wanted to be."

They laid back and kissed for a while, and the kissing led elsewhere. Some time afterward, exhausted from their exertions, and cuddling to relax, an idea came to Jackie: "You wanted to be a fighter pilot once, didnít you? Do that."

"Yeah," Mark said as the thought immediately took hold. "Maybe a World War I fighter pilot. You know, long white scarf, leather jacket, flying cap. That might work."

"Even better," Jackie smirked, "a German World War I fighter pilot. Gray puttees, peaked hat, monocle. You could be the Red Baron."

"Yeah," Mark said, "but I always wanted to fly jets."

"Perfect," Jackie said. The vision struck both of them hard, and their ideas piled one on top of another:

"Motorcycle helmet . . .

"Bet we could get Johnnyís old one . . .

"Do we still have that face mask from the oxygen system we tore out of the 1-26 . . . "

"Those custom aviator sunglasses . . . "

"You can buy flight jackets Air Force surplus, but theyíre awful expensive . . . "

"What can we do for a G-suit? Weíd have to fake one somehow . . . "

"I think I saw your old combat boots up in the attic . . . "

"I always knew there was a use for the parachute in the 1-26, other than to just sit on . . . "

"Itís getting due for repacking, anyway . . . "

Finally the flow of ideas wound down. They lay there, visualizing the costume. It would work. "One thingís for sure," Mark commented, "if we get invited again, thereís a theme that we can draw on for years."

"The hell with basketball," Jackie said. "I think Iíll go as the Red Baron."

*   *   *

The phone rang on Jack Musgraveís desk. He put his feet down and leaned forward to pick it up. "Waste Water Treatment Plant," he answered.

"Howís it going, Jack?" the voice in the phone said. Jack realized it was Don Kutzley he was talking to.

"Pretty good," he said. "Plantís running smooth, right now."

"You got a few minutes so we can go someplace and talk?"

"Sure, Garyís here, he can keep an eye on things," Jack said. "Iíll be right up."

"Not here," Don said. "Letís go someplace. Iíll come down and pick you up."

"Whatever you say, Chief," Jack said, wondering what was up. "Iíll be here."

A few minutes later, Musgrave was standing outside when Kutzley drove up in his recycled police car. Jack got in the right side, and Don started out of town. "Who have you been talking to about the retention pond?" Kutzley asked.

"I havenít talked to anybody, except the engineers," Musgrave said.

"Well, I just got off the phone with Mike McMahon," Don said. "He said someone he knows saw you with that crew taking soil borings out off of 427, and he wondered what the hell was going on."

"I didnít tell anybody outside of the engineers," Jack reiterated.

"Mike smells something, I can tell you that," Don said.

"Heís going to smell quite a bit," Jack said. "That area down the hill from his house, towards the state road, is the best site theyíve found for the retention pond."

"I donít want to have him on my case," Don said. "Jesus, he got the manager of the road commission fired after that series of columns he wrote on how theyíre wasting money, and I know for a fact the real reason he was pissed off with the road commission is that they didnít grade the road past his house."

"Hey," Jack said, "Youíve got to figure that heís going to find out sooner or later."

"The later, the better," Don said. "The closer this thing is to a done deal, the less time heíll have to react. I donít want to have to go through with it at all, but if we donít get some sort of a ruling or waiver or something from the EPA, say by the end of the year, weíre going to have to do something. Either go through with the separation project, or the retention pond, so weíve got to have both the projects pretty well pulled together, pretty soon."

Jack realized that was the direction Kutzley was driving Ė the possible site of the retention pond. "Have you got a report back from the engineers yet?" he asked.

"Yeah, it came in the mail this morning. Something like five and a half to six million."

"Thatís a million more than the separation," Jack observed.

"Yeah, every penny of it. Just from a cost viewpoint, Iíd rather we went through with the separation, but I donít know if weíre going to be allowed to, not while the EPA and the Fish and Wildlife Service are trading memos and not making any decisions. The thing is, we can probably go ahead with the retention pond, but not without a lot of flak from McMahon."

"Itíll be more than flak," Jack replied. "You must not have looked at the plat out there very closely."

"What do you mean?"

"Of the site, about two thirds of it is owned by Binky Augsberg," Jack said. "Mike owns the other third."

"Jesus, youíre just full of good news, today, arenít you? We could get it through eminent domain, I suppose."

"Not without a fight," Musgrave said. "I donít think Mike has a lot of money, but heís good friends with Colonel Matson, and heís not exactly your greatest fan. He could keep this tied up with lawyers for years, if heís of a mind to."

"Why the hell is it," Kutzley asked, "thereís only the one site within miles where weíve got enough clay to be able to come up with a good seal for the retention pond, and itís the one site that will get both the local newspaper and the local moneybags pissed off at us?"

"It wouldnít be a heck of a lot more expensive to build it out back of the plywood plant," Jack said. "True, itís more work, but I think Clark would go along. Heís kind of between a rock and a hard spot, as the mayor."

"Itís only about a million and a half more expensive," Don said. "Somehow, this lousy snake has turned a three million-dollar project into a seven and a half million-dollar project."

"Itíd be cheaper to operate in the long run," Jack said. "It costs money to be able to pump that far, with the kind of volume weíre talking about. There isnít exactly a lot of fall, and youíd have to pump it back from the 427 site, too."

"Itíd take a long time to go through a million and a half dollars worth of electricity," Don said. "You got to figure that end of it, too."

"I guess itís going to be up to council," Jack said. "Have you talked to any of them, yet?"

"No," Don admitted as he drove by the corner to County Road 427; he didnít want anybody to notice them driving by to take a look at the site. "I told them that weíre exploring some alternatives, but I havenít been any more specific than that. I know damn well that if I tell them anything too specific yet, itíll be to McMahon before I could say Ďshit.í"

"Youíre not planning on bringing it up tomorrow night?"

"Not hardly. McMahon will be there, and Heather Sanford will be there, too, and that would really let the cat out of the bag. I thought of pulling an executive session, under the real estate transfers clause, but that wonít keep the secret. The heck of it is, thereís a good chance the Fish and Wildlife Service will cave in to the EPA, at least thatís what Blackbarn thinks. If that happens, weíre going to have Heather Sanford and the Defenders of Gaea on us so quick it wonít be funny."

"You know, maybe weíre rushing into this," Jack said. "Maybe we ought to just sit back and let the situation develop a little. After all, weíve had a fairly dry year. Weíve only overflowed six days. If we have a dry year next year, we might get out of it with only having to pay maybe sixty or eighty thousand dollars in fines. We can absorb that into operating costs for a year, if we had to."

"Yeah, and if we get a wet one, then we could be eating a quarter of a million bucks, too. I think the EPA will cut us some slack if they see that weíre working on the problem, but theyíre not likely to if weíre just sitting and waiting to see whatís happening. They can still say that we have to protect the snake, and still not allow overflows, and then weíre into the real problems." There was a corner coming up; Don used it to turn around to head back toward town.

"Itís a mess, all right," Musgrave said.

"Yeah, a tough one," Kutzley said. "Donít get me wrong. The retention pond is a good idea, and it may save our asses yet. Iím just not real anxious to pay the price to go that route if we donít have to. Who knows? With a million and a half bucks worth of taxpayersí money riding on the deal, maybe McMahon wonít feel like he has too much room to bitch. I mean, let him see what itís like to have the shoe on the other foot."

"Youíd better plan on having a solid gold backup ready to roll if he decides he wants to fight," Jack suggested. "If he does decide to fight, then youíre in trouble."

"The hell of it is, when you get right down to it," Kutzley said, "this whole deal rides on that one snake, which may or may not be a Gibsonís water snake, and if it is, there might not even be any more of them left."

"Yeah, one lousy snake," Jack agreed. "Think how much simpler things would have been if Mikeís wife had just flushed the goddamn thing back down the toilet."

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