Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Book 1 of the Dawnwalker Cycle
Randy wasn't sure what to expect the next evening when he headed down to Spearfish Lake Appliance to see Mr. Evachevski and his friends, but he was curious, and he'd said he'd come. But, his first sight at the top of the stairs just about sent him right back down and out the door to the street. Two men, both wearing the formal gi, were having the fight of the century, but after watching for only a couple seconds, he realized that they both knew the attacks and the counters. Those moves came so automatically, that the two might have been engaging in some elaborate, choreographed dance, if they didn't look so deadly serious.
Randy recognized the larger man: Blake Walworth, who lived up the street. He had the reach and the size on the smaller one. As they moved, Randy was surprised to see that the smaller man was Rod Turpin. Turpin was pushing the pace, dodging and feinting with amazing speed. Randy understood what he was trying to do, and he was certain Blake did, too. Turpin was taking punishment -- Blake had gotten in several solid shots, but Rod seemed to accept that as the price of doing business, and kept on attacking with a ferocity that Randy found chilling. Eventually, one of Blake's jabs went a little bit too far. Turpin seemed to sway sideways, eluding the head strike, but this time, he was moving in, not away. Now, he was inside his opponent's reach, and a padded workout shoe flashed up in a nearly impossible-looking kick to the jaw. He staggered, and Turpin's hands darted down, caught the bigger man's ankle, and yanked straight up. Blake tried to envelop Turpin in a bear hug as he fell, but he was just a fraction of a second too slow. Turpin drove an elbow into the solar plexus, twisted like a cat, and ended up kneeling across Blake's chest while his right hand flashed down in a lethal blow that stopped dead just before it crashed into the exposed larynx.
And, there it stopped. Both men got to their feet, stood and bowed at each other, "Nice move on the takedown," the bigger man grinned. "But, Jesus, Ben, did I have to leave you that big an opening?"
My God, Randy thought, what opening? These guys were good. Blake was the instructor, for Pete's sakes!
"Hi Randy," Mr. Evachevski said from the wall where he'd been leaning watching the match. Randy looked around the room -- there was no furniture, just mats. "If that didn't scare you back out the door, then I guess there's no hope for you."
"That was pretty impressive," Randy said, understating things by a vast margin. Crystal was good; shit, she was a black belt, but there was no way she was that good.
"You know everybody here?" Mr. Evachevski asked. Randy looked around. Only now did he notice the police chief, Harold Novato, was there, too.
Randy nodded, his amazement showing. "I've seen you all, but I never knew you did stuff like this."
"Maybe it'd help if I explained what's going on here," Mr. Evachevski said. "Blake is my sorta-son-in-law. You know my daughter, Jennifer?"
"Of course," Randy said. Although he'd been real little, he even remembered Jennifer Evachevski from when she had been his babysitter, before she'd gone to Nashville, and later on to Hollywood. She'd made it pretty big in recordings before she'd moved back to Spearfish Lake.
"Well, to cut things to the minimum, Jennifer had some threats back when she was in LA. There was no way of telling how serious they were, but she hired Blake on as a bodyguard. In those days, Blake was big in martial arts, black belts in karate, judo, tae kwon do, and aikido, right?"
"Not in aikido," Blake said; he was a really handsome guy, in his thirties, very muscled. "I was pretty close to ready when we moved here, but I never did actually get it."
"Well, after he got here, Blake sorta missed the action, and felt he was getting out of shape," Gil continued the story. "Well, I didn't know any of the fancy martial arts, but shit, I taught unarmed combat in the Army for close to fifteen years, and I'd been around the block a few times. I told him he was welcome to work out with me, maybe I could learn something, and he could, too."
"We both learned a lot," Blake agreed. "I sure learned more than I expected."
"Yeah," Gil went on. "Now, I gotta admit that Blake knew all the fancy artistic martial arts moves -- and never forget that it's an art -- but from my viewpoint, he didn't know how to fight, which is a hell of a thing to find in your daughter's bodyguard."
"From his viewpoint, he was right," Blake laughed. "You have to remember we were coming at it from totally different directions. I was approaching it as an art, a science, if you will. Gil, on the other hand, came to it strictly from a combat viewpoint. Neutralize your enemy with the least risk to yourself and get on with the mission. From my viewpoint, that was nothing but fighting dirty."
"That's just the point," Mr. Evachevski agreed. "There ain't no such thing as a fair fight in combat. You're not looking to dazzle your opposition when you're a bodyguard. You're looking to neutralize him, disable him, kill him if you have to, so he won't be a threat to your mission, which in that case, was to protect Jennifer."
"Not that I've ever had to," Blake grinned. "Which is just as well. Gil's approach is, well, too far the other way. For what he was doing in the Berets, of course, it was perfect. But, what if I mistook the intentions of some poor excited nut of an innocent autograph hunter, and maimed the poor bastard, or worse? Jesus, cops, lawyers, and worse, publicity that Jennifer doesn't need. So, we got Harold involved."
"Harold has a cop's viewpoint, as you might understand," Gil explained. "His viewpoint, at least as far as we're talking here, is to subdue and capture an opponent, not take him out so he can't interfere with the mission. Sort of a middle ground. Now, he's got more field experience with that than the rest of us combined."
Randy looked at the police chief. Harold was about as big as Mr. Evachevski, and about the same age. "It's calmed down a lot in the last few years," he said. "But there was a time or two that we had a bar fight or three just about every Saturday night. I mean, it was a rare weekend when we didn't have to go out to the Pike Bar at least once, and sometimes four or five times. Most of the time, just a cop showing up in uniform is enough to break up a fight like that, but every once in a while some logger has got enough whiskey in him that he thinks he can take on a uniform. What you've got to do is set him down real quick, so he'll remember it was a mistake if he ever tries it again, and so the word gets around in case someone else ever tries it. You can't piss around, but you can't hurt your opponent real bad, either, or else sitting in courtrooms gets real dull, real fast."
Mr. Evachevski smiled. "Sometimes we sit around and talk about it as much as we work out. There's no simple rules, and we all come into it from different ways."
"Rod's a damn good boxer," Chief Novato continued. "Back when he was a logger, he started a lot of bar fights, not because he was pissed with someone, but because he liked to fight. Right, Rod?" he grinned.
"Well, there was some pilerun whiskey involved," Turpin smiled.
"Yeah, but you plain liked to fight," the chief replied. "You preferred to win, but what you really wanted to do was hit someone, right? Well, anyway, I had to kick his ass four or five times back in the seventies, I guess it was, and one morning after he'd spent the night drying out in the drunk tank, we got to talking. I told him if he wanted to fight so damn much, why not come down to the gym we had in the back of the station then, put on some gloves and go a few rounds with me? I was a little surprised when he took me up on it. Now, back in those days, I was better at busting up a fight, but he was a better boxer. Frankly, I learned a whale of a lot, and we did it every now and then for years, even though Rod gave up the booze, got a decent job, and got married, and we've had to break up a few bar fights together since then. So, when Gil started working out with Blake, and invited me up to show off a few moves, I brought Rod along, and hell, we both learned more than we taught."
"That's how we got the core of this happy little group," Gil took up the story. "These are the regulars. There's half a dozen others that show up now and then. This isn't a club, and it isn't a school. It's actually exercise that we enjoy, more than anything, and it's mostly an each-one-teach-one arrangement. We all have stuff to learn from each other. Now, I told these guys earlier that you had an interesting incident up at college without going into the details, but the interesting part is that you're bringing a different skill and a different viewpoint into the group. We haven't had a good wrestler with us for a while, and, like I said downstairs, you were pretty good and had the potential to become better, since you were thinking process, instead of holds. What I want to do is to take that incident you had apart, pick at it, and see what we all can learn."
"I don't quite follow."
"Let's demonstrate," he said. "I'll be that hockey player. You were facing him. The girl, Myleigh, right? She was a little behind you and to one side, right? He was what -- maybe six feet away?"
"Closer than that," Randy said. "Out of reach, but only a step out of reach."
"If I remember the story, he comes up out of nowhere, starts trying to pick a fight, and you're not buying, right?"
"Right, Mr. Evachevski. I wasn't looking for a fight."
The former master sergeant dropped his hands to his sides. "Come on Randy," he said. "We're grown-ups here. Call me Gil, for Christ's sake. OK, he was badmouthing both you and this Myleigh, right?"
"Right. He said something like, 'Get out of here before you make me puke,' and I knew he was looking to hurt someone, so I said something like, 'Well, if you do, try to find a garbage can.'"
"Hold it," Blake said. "Why'd you say that? I mean, it's not badmouthing, but it is kind of a smartass thing to say in that situation."
"I didn't know why I said it," Randy replied. "I just did. I realized later I was trying to draw his attention away from Myleigh. The way he was badmouthing her, well, I didn't know if he might try to hurt her. It might have given her a chance to get away."
"OK, that makes sense," Blake agreed. "Good move. Continue."
"OK, so then he took a swing at you, right?" Gil asked, cocking his arm back, and bringing it forward in slow motion.
"Not like that," Randy said, getting into the spirit of the thing "He's a hockey player. All the pads they got, they don't punch in tight. Big-ass roundhouse swing, from way the hell out in right field somewhere. I saw it coming long before he threw it. He had to step forward to throw it."
"More like this?" Gil said, trying to mimic what Randy described, in slow motion.
"Yeah," Randy said. "So then, I reached up and deflected it with my left forearm," -- he demonstrated slowly, -- "As I ducked and went for a leg lift on his support leg. When he was falling, I took a kick at his nuts."
"OK," Gil said. "Let's start over, and do it at normal speed. Don't worry about dropping me, but I'd appreciate it if you only simulated the nut kick, OK?" He stood up and stepped back. "Take it from the bit about the garbage can."
"Are you sure?" Randy asked.
"All right," Randy said, shaking his head. God, deja vu all over again, he thought. He took a deep breath and said, "If you have to, try and find a garbage can."
Gil reared back, took a big swing from right field, and Randy deflected it as he went in for the leg lift. Gil's leg came out from under him just like Baughman's had done; the only difference was that Randy only kicked about halfway and stopped -- and that Gil rolled when he dropped, and bounced right back to his feet again like nothing was the matter. "About like that?" he asked.
"Pretty close, I guess," Randy agreed.
"Jesus, he left you enough time you could have called out for a pizza and slapped him in the face with it," Rod grinned.
"He was a hockey player," Randy said. "You ever watch a hockey fight, I mean, hockey game?
"Randy, there's a dozen things you could have used on him," Blake said. "Not criticizing the move, but why that one?"
"It's just about the simplest wrestling takedown in the book," Randy replied. "I've done it lots of times and didn't have to think about it; I just did it. He was wide open for it." He cocked his head for an instant, and went on. "In fact, it's so simple that I can't remember ever getting the chance to use it like that in a match. Variations, yes, and the other guy was usually trying to do it to me, but just a simple straight-in like that, well, shit, I'd have been caught if the guy had known how to wrestle."
"How did you know he didn't know how to wrestle?"
Randy shook his head. "Christ, I don't know. I didn't think about it like that at the time. Hell, if he was a wrestler, he wouldn't have taken a roundhouse like that at me in the first place."
"What if he had been a wrestler?"
"I'd have had some idea of what moves to use on him. I mean, if it was going to be a fight, I'm better off in a wrestling match than I am in a slugfest."
"So, he gave you an opening; you used the move that you saw he was wide open for, and you did what you were comfortable with because that's how you'd been trained, right?"
"Right," Randy said. "It's obvious, why belabor the point?"
"Because it's important," Blake replied. "You reacted to training without thinking about it. Look, step back and watch, and I'll be you."
Randy stood back and watched as Gil made Baughman's clueless attack on Blake half a dozen times. Each time, Blake made a couple quick moves, none of which involved a leg lift, and each time Gil went flying, but picked himself up again each time without mussing a hair. Randy was left shaking his head, and hoping he was in half as good a shape when he was in his sixties, for Pete's sake!
"I think we've made the point," Blake said after the last fall. "Any of those would have worked, but you used what you knew would work for you and you were comfortable with. And, it worked."
"I still can't see what you're getting at," Randy said.
"Fairly simple, kid," Turpin said. "You used a move on him that none of us probably would have thought to use. It wouldn't have been any of our first choices, because we're all more comfortable with different styles. If it had been me, I'd probably have busted his jaw with a right hook, because at the bottom, I'm a boxer, and nobody I ever fought would have left themselves that wide open for me. Blake probably would have kicked his jaw, or maybe grab his fist arm and used a judo move. Harold probably would have grabbed his arm, ducked, and got him in a hammerlock. Now, all of us can do every one of those things, but when it gets down to cutting nuts, we all do what we're most comfortable with, not something tricky. You're a wrestler, and we haven't had a chance to work with a wrestler in a while, and then never very much. You've got stuff to teach us. Granted, we got stuff to teach you, too, but we can all learn."
"Now, what you got to realize is that this isn't about fighting, at all," Gil said. "I think that all of us, when we were young and full of shit, got into some fights for the hell of it now and then, except maybe for Blake."
"I never did it for fun," Blake said. "There were a couple times I had to. Someone would try to put me down, and get physical, and I had to knock him on his ass, especially toward the end in high school. But, people didn't mess with me much after they learned it wasn't worth the effort."
"That's sort of what I mean," Gil said. "You grew up better than us. Most of us had to learn it the hard way. Ben, it took longer than the rest of us. I haven't been in a fight for the sake of fighting since I was in high school, back in 1951. Harold there got smart-mouthed about my girlfriend, and I wound up breaking his kneecap."
"It was the last time for me, too," Harold said. "I've limped a little on damp days ever since."
"I learned a hell of a lot from that," Gil said. "Mostly that you can really hurt someone, so you better damn well keep it under control. Well, I had to break up a few barracks fights back before I went in the Berets, but that was more of a cop thing, young troops that had to learn the hard way that it doesn't pay to fuck with their sergeants. But, an honest to God fight, outside of combat, not since then."
"I learned the same thing, the same time," Harold said. "Now, let's face it, when you get to the skill level all of us have, martial arts carry the potential for causing considerable harm, and, even Gil's combat skills are an art, but it's one that has to be controlled, and only used if you absolutely have to. It's not carrying a concealed weapon. We are concealed weapons. People get all wrapped up about weapons, guns, knives, gun control, like that. They don't realize that weapons are tools, and not evil of themselves. There are no dangerous weapons. There are only dangerous people. In fact, probably what we try to teach each other more than anything else is how to deal with them, by being a little dangerous ourselves if we have to be."
"Randy, I wouldn't have invited you here if I thought you were going to use the skills you learn here to go out and be the tough guy and beat the fuck out of someone," Gil added. "I know you weren't too damn happy about this fight you had with that hockey player, and it bothers you. I've told you, and I think maybe the rest will agree, that you did exactly the right thing. You didn't look for a fight, but when it came on whether you wanted it or not, you protected your girlfriend and dealt with the guy with a minimum of effort, and then were sorry you had to uncork on the son of a bitch in the first place. I like that. Now, are you in with us?"
"Of course," Randy said. "You think I'd turn down a chance like this?"
"Good deal, kid," Blake said. "There's one other benefit no one has mentioned, and we really need some younger people who will fit inconspicuously into some circumstances. Gil and Harold sort of stick out because of their age. Once in a while, not often, Jennifer and I have to go some places where there are big crowds. Since I've been playing with her as well as covering her, there's times that it's hard for me to be both her bodyguard and her backman. When those times come up and we need extra security, this is the pool I dip into. I'd a hell of a lot rather have people I know and trust around us than some hired security dude I don't know trying to look cool. Now, I'll have to spend some time going over some things that aren't really a part of what we do here, how to look for trouble in a crowd, how to keep off trouble without being conspicuous."
"It's not really out of place," Turpin said. "It's part of the whole. It applies to a lot of things."
"Well, yeah," Blake agreed. "But the benefit is that once in a while you get to go to some damn good concerts and meet some damn interesting people, all expenses paid."
"Yeah," Randy grinned. "That could be interesting."
"Enough bullshitting," Blake said. "Kick off those shoes and come out on the mat, and let's find out how much karate that girlfriend of yours taught you."
It was late when Randy started home. He was hurting. It was to be expected; you couldn't practice like he'd been practicing, with people like he'd been practicing with, without getting the odd bump or bruise, and he'd gotten a few. It was part of the territory, but still, there were some places that needed some deep-heating rub, and he desperately needed some aspirin.
But, holy crap! The stuff those guys knew! He didn't see how he could ever be as good as any of them, even if he practiced for years, but he could see it was going to be fun to try. He was obviously the student there, but, all of them were students, too, so it made it feel a little different.
The thing that Randy felt hard to understand was that they treated him as a grownup. Well, McGuinness, too. Not a kid, but accepted him as an adult, an equal. That was hard to get used to. Even at college, you were pretty much treated as a kid, most of the time. Maybe a kid who had been awarded some responsibilities, but still, a kid. Not these people. How the hell had that happened? He wasn't complaining; he liked the feeling, but it was hard to get used to.
In any case, between the working out and the whitewater, it promised to be an interesting summer, much better than he expected. And, what's more, it made the prospect of returning to Spearfish Lake after college not seem as bleak and uninteresting as he had thought. There was going to be room to do things that interested him, rather than just work, some of which -- hell, most of which -- he'd never expected existed even a couple days ago.
He parked the Dodge in the driveway and headed on in the house to find his dad watching a ball game on TV. Despite the desperate need for aspirin, Randy went in to check it out. "Who's playing?" he asked.
"Cubs and Cardinals," his dad replied. "Extra innings. Now that you're home, they'd better wrap it up in another inning or so or they're going to do it without me. The only reason I'm watching it is that I wanted to talk with you when you got home, and I was about to give up and leave you a note. I didn't know when to expect you."
"I was getting in a workout with some friends, and didn't expect to be this late," Randy admitted. He wasn't real sure that he wanted to mention who his friends were, although he was sure he couldn't cover it up in the long run.
"Anybody I know?" his dad asked conversationally.
Oh, hell. Might as well get it over with, he thought. "Uh, yeah," he said. "Mr. Evachevski, Blake Walworth, and a couple other people."
"Down there above the appliance store?" his dad said, eyebrows raised.
"Yeah," Randy said. "I picked up a little karate last winter, and Mr. Evachevski said if I wanted to work on it, he'd be glad to let me join them. It was pretty good. Those guys are sharp."
"Yeah, they are," his dad grinned. "I go down there and mess around with them some in the winter, but I'll never be in their league. You hurting much?"
"Nothing some aspirin won't cure," Randy smiled. Add to that, maybe sleeping till noon. He was surprised at how tired he was.
"Try ibuprofen," his dad grinned. "It's better for muscle aches. Believe me, I know. Anyway, I talked to Joe over breakfast this morning," his dad said. "He says you're pretty good with that boat for being fairly new at it. I don't know beans about kayaking, but I do know that if you listen to him you're bound to learn something. I'm glad you hooked up with him. I was a little worried about it, afraid you'd go out by yourself and get into trouble."
"I wasn't planning on doing any rivers by myself," Randy said. "I just asked him to help me clean out some of the kinks in my roll."
"Well, you made a good move, then," Ryan told him. "A lot of people around here think he's a little crazy, and maybe he is, but he's good people from the word go. You stay in good with him and you'll have some good times. You got any plans for tomorrow?"
"Only in the evening. Mr. McGuinness was talking about running Quaker Falls."
"You might want to think about it. I managed to get you an apprentice card in the Laborer's Union, so I need to take you out to the company first thing and get you started."
"Good," Randy said. "The days have been pretty dull, nothing much to do."
"This ought to take care of that," Ryan said. "For the moment, anyway, you're going to be on the concrete crew. You might be a little tired by the time you knock off for the day. You'll use muscles you never knew you had."
It was still chilly the following morning when Randy followed his dad out to Clark Construction, and around to the back. The main offices were in front, but the work crews shared an office in the back, with some tables sitting around. Ryan led Randy inside and to the office, and stopped in the door. "Got you a new laborer," he said to someone out of sight inside.
"Let me talk to him," the voice replied. Ryan stepped out of the way, and let Randy go in ahead of him.
"What are you kid, some sort of bad penny or something?" Rod Turpin grinned.
"Looks like it," Randy grinned back.
"I see you two know each other, not that it should surprise me," Ryan snickered.
"Yeah, after the reverse he put on me last night, I'm not sure he wants to be here," Rod teased back. "That was sneaky. Look, Randy. I knew someone was coming over, but I didn't know it was you. I gotta ask. You know anything about concrete?"
"It's heavy, it's wet when you pour it, and it gets hard when it dries. That's about it."
"You can learn, just like you can learn about this other stuff. But, look, I can't go easy on you just because you're the boss's grandkid. In fact, you're going to have to work your ass off, just to prove you can work as hard as anyone else. If you can do that, fine. If not, maybe we'd be better off not starting."
"I think I can cut it," Randy said. "If I can't, tell me. Don't cover up for me."
Turpin nodded. "Figured you'd say something like that. Wouldn't have expected any different. Come on, kid, we've got work to do."