Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
It felt good to Roger to have Catalina in bed with him again. Although it had only been a couple nights they'd been apart, it seemed like weeks. Once again, they'd slept nude, cuddled up to each other, and although it wasn't quite light yet, they were both awake and ready to enjoy that fact with some sex.
This morning they went on for an hour or more before a vague thought crossed Roger's mind. "Hey, how about your mother?" he asked Catalina.
"She's probably still asleep." She smiled and added, "Now that we're thoroughly awake, I suppose I'd better go get her moving," she shrugged.
"Yeah, I guess," Roger said, sitting up to watch Catalina walk out the door still nude. That was a sight he thought he could never quite get tired of, as he watched her tattoo leave the room.
He sat on the edge of the bed for a moment yawning and farting, until he decided maybe he'd better bite the bullet and get dressed. Being a nudist is one thing, he thought, but this is Michigan and that's December out there. Once he was dressed he headed downstairs to wait for the women. He gave some thought to starting breakfast, but decided to wait for them to come down, since he'd learned a long time before that it was simpler to just head down to Becky's.
The women were up for breakfast at Becky's, especially since Roger was buying, so in a few minutes they were down at his regular morning hangout. However, instead of sitting around the big breakfast table, they got a table by themselves off in the corner. Becky was out in back doing whatever she was doing when they came in, but the regulars around the table were so surprised to see Roger come in with two good-looking women that there were some big eyes to be noticed. "Roger," Jason piped up, "What else did you do down on the Gulf coast that you didn't tell us about?"
"Oh, this and that," he laughed. "Guys, this is my girlfriend Catalina and her mother Bonnie."
"Wow, you must have been one busy little beaver down there," one of the other guys replied.
"Pretty busy," Roger agreed, feeling the tease being pointed at him, but brushing it off as if he hadn't noticed it. "There's a lot of work to be done down there."
"Jeez, I don't know why you want to come back to Michigan and all of this cold weather." Jason shook his head. "The weather guys were saying we're supposed to get dumped on in the next few days. I sure hate that digging-out stuff."
"I always thought the old folks who headed to Florida in the winter were sort of chickening out," another one of the guys around the table said. "But I'll tell you what, the older I get the better the idea seems."
"Well, it's not like Catalina and I are going down there to sit on our butts," Roger pointed out. "We're going to head back after the holidays."
"Did you get everything figured out on that land deal you called me about yesterday?" Jason asked.
"Not yet," Roger told him. "We're going to be meeting with Ralph Gerjevic in a little while. This shows signs of turning into one of those deals that's going to be a real mess before everything gets settled."
"Well, if there's anything I can do to help, let me know. Land has gotten to be so expensive around here that all sorts of funny stuff goes on."
"Yeah, I think we're beginning to figure that out."
• • •
They dragged breakfast out for a bit, and after a while the place emptied out as people went to work, and eventually they headed to Ralph Gerjevic's office. They only had to wait for a couple minutes before the legal secretary ushered them into Gerjevic's inner sanctum. It still looked like Roger remembered it -- the office of a well-established lawyer -- lots of dark wood, lots of leather, lots of law books, everything smelling expensive. "Well," Ralph began, "What can I do for you today?"
"You can fix this screw job that Catalina's uncle is trying to pull on her," Roger told him.
Among the three of them they told of the meeting in deBoer's office in Amherst the day before, the offer on the land from Delmer, and why they thought it was a screw job. Roger told him they'd taken a quick look at the land and didn't see anything too bad with it. "I talked to Jason," he added. "Without seeing it he figures the farm land is worth five grand an acre and the woods maybe three, depending. I thought about grabbing up John Castle and having him take a look at it to get an idea what it might be worth for logging, but from my eye it looks like there's some usable trees there."
"Well, I have to say you did the right thing in not signing the agreement," Ralph told them. "Not knowing the land or what it could be worth, a settlement of $90,000 sounds awfully low. The fact that your uncle was putting so much pressure on you pretty well tells me that there's something wrong with the offer, and I suspect Roger put his finger on most of it."
"Yeah," Catalina giggled, "Roger had them pretty well buffaloed. He was wearing a suit and tie, but didn't identify himself other than as our friend. Both this deBoer guy and Delmer took him as our own lawyer."
"Strictly out of school, I've had dealings with deBoer before, and he has been known to run fast and loose with a few things," Ralph told them. "To make a long story short, you're going to have to make a counteroffer that's a little more in touch with reality. I'd like to take a few days and investigate a few things so we have a better idea of what we're dealing with before we figure out what we want to make for a counteroffer. That's going to have to involve an independent appraisal of the land. I can get the ball rolling today, but that's not going to get done today, either."
"I told you there was no way this was going to get done quickly," Roger told the women.
"Roger, you really should have been a lawyer," Ralph laughed. "You've got things pretty well pegged."
"I sort of figured that," Bonnie frowned. "But now I'm stuck with Delmer bugging the hell out of Catalina and me. He was throwing a major tantrum at deBoer's office yesterday, and it was even worse on the phone messages. We're hiding out at Roger's for a while."
"If it gets to be a problem we can probably get a personal protection order, for what it's worth," Ralph replied. "But unless it gets to be something violent, we probably can't get it until the holidays are over. You're probably just as well off staying out of sight for a few days. It'll give him a while to cool off, or for whatever is pushing him to develop."
"Darn," Catalina said. "I hoped we could fix this thing so things could get back to normal."
"Well, I'll push it," Ralph replied, but warned, "The holidays are likely to louse things up, though. Do you have any idea why he's in such a big hurry about making this settlement?"
"He's got some kind of a trick up his sleeve, I know that for sure," Bonnie replied pointedly. "I have no idea what it could be, other than the fact that he obviously wants to screw Catalina over."
"That's pretty clear," he nodded. "Like I said in the beginning, don't sign anything until we have some idea of what's going on."
• • •
With Delmer and the land situation up in the air, they pretty well had to stay in Wychbold if they wanted to avoid the chance of running into him. On Saturday, Roger double-checked with Arlene about the invitation Max had made to have Catalina and Bonnie come out to the farm for the holiday dinner, and Arlene told him that it was fine with her, the more the merrier. He was glad he could treat the women to a nice Christmas dinner and all the socializing; he also knew it was going to be a mob scene, since his parents, two sisters, three brothers, and a bunch of their kids would be there. There were starting to be grandkids showing up now, and he was sure he didn't know all of them, or even how many there were. To top it off, there would be various and sundry in-laws, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and who knew what.
Christmas dawned a bright and clear winter day. As expected, and as usual, the extended family celebration was a madhouse, with Roger finding more people he had trouble remembering than ever before. He and Catalina got a little interest in the crowd for their work cleaning up after the hurricane, but there was actually a little more notice taken of the fact that he'd shown up with a girlfriend. With five years passing after Colleen's death, some of the relatives had begun throwing "confirmed bachelor" around when talking about him.
Max was a farmer, of course, as were several of the other relatives. One thing that farmers will talk about to no end is the weather. As Max himself had commented on more than one occasion, "A farmer is never more than ten days from bitching about not enough rain," and the little amount of snow they'd had so far that winter had the bitching going pretty solidly most of the afternoon. However, there was more than one comment about the storm about three days to the west that had been blasting everything in its path with a pretty good snowfall.
The food was good, and there was plenty of it. In addition to Arlene and her sister cooking enough food to feed a small army, most of the women brought two or three favorite dishes full of good stuff, and nobody wanted to take any leftovers home with them. That meant that everyone was urging everyone else to eat until they burst.
After dinner, many but not all of the men gathered around the TV set to nap and watch a football game, but there were several who went out to the machinery barn to have a cigarette or three and talk about farming, that idiot Bush, and other such topics. A number of the women gathered in the kitchen to do dishes, discuss kids, and grand kids and recipes, but there were several subsidiary conversations. Kids of all ages ran wild, raising hell like kids do. Late in the afternoon, there was a kind of general gift giving, mostly for the kids.
All in all, it was a great afternoon -- a chance to catch up with the family for Roger, and to meet new people for Catalina and Bonnie. After getting home, Roger was still so full that it was an effort to do much more than just lie in his living room recliner and hope to survive the night, but when Bonnie and Catalina got to hinting about the hot tub he wasn't about to turn them down.
• • •
The next morning Good Morning America was playing on the TV at Becky's as it often was. The national weather showed the big storm to the west of them, and the local weather had it hitting late the next day. They were talking a couple feet of snow, and the local TV weatherman was being very alarmist -- it sounded like he thought the glaciers were returning with this one. Roger discounted a lot of that since the local weathermen had to make a big deal about everything since they didn't have any real news to work with.
Catalina took it a little more seriously. "Tell me again why we're in Michigan in December," she snorted. "Hell, we could be down on the Gulf Coast where it's nice and where Delmer would never find us."
"I have to admit, that's a thought," Roger said. "Even if that half-ass is half right we could be seeing more white stuff than I want to shovel. I guess spending all that time down there thinned my blood, and I haven't had a chance to get used to winter."
"We could probably do it," Catalina replied, lost in thought. "If we got out of here this morning we could be back down there by the time the storm hits."
"Yeah," Roger agreed. "The only thing is that the RV would be pretty tight for all three of us, and you really need to be here to settle this thing with Delmer."
"Yeah, true," she nodded. "Oh well, it was a thought."
When they got back to the house, Roger went into the living room and switched on his desktop computer so he could check the National Weather Service website for the real deal and not have to be influenced by the sensationalistic weatherman. The official forecast was calling for heavy snow in a couple days, but when Roger jumped down into 'Forecast Discussion' and read between all the jargon it seemed clear that a major dumper was likely and maybe the guy on TV hadn't been overreacting as much as he usually did. "Well, shit," he told Catalina and Bonnie. "Heading south seems like a better idea all the time. I really don't want to have to dig out from this one."
"Me either," Catalina agreed. "Snow is all right in its place, if that place is Michigan and I'm in Mississippi."
"Well, I guess we're . . ." Roger started and cut off when the phone rang.
It proved to be Ralph Gerjevic. "There's no way we're going to get this done before a week from Wednesday," he reported. "That deBoer guy took off for the holidays in Florida. I have a tentative appointment then, and I'm pretty sure I'll have my ducks in a row for the meeting. We need to get together ahead of time to work out a couple of proposed settlements, though."
"A couple?" Catalina asked into the speakerphone.
"One best choice, one fall back position," Ralph explained. "I'll work something up and explain my ideas to you before the meeting. It's not complicated, but I need a few numbers to put things together."
"Let's not let this drag out too long," Roger told the lawyer. "Bonnie would like to be able to go back home."
"Right," Bonnie said. "Roger is a fine host, but home is home."
"I'll do my best," Gerjevic told them.
There really wasn't much to say after that. They sat around a little glumly. Roger had half expected nothing could be settled until after the holidays, and that was proving to be the case. For a moment, he flipped the possibilities over in his mind. If they left right now, in the next couple hours, they would be long gone by the time the storm hit. If the three of them could drive straight through they could save a motel bill. Gas wasn't cheap, although better than it had been the previous fall, and either the Taurus or the Mustang was pretty good on it. They'd have to drive back in a little more than a week, so it could be done. He explained his thoughts to Catalina and Bonnie.
"Sounds good, but I've been thinking about it, too. We go down there and there's not going to be much to do but sit around and do nothing. If we do that, I'd like to be at a nice beach somewhere. Yeah, but it's still likely to be too cool to sit on the beach, unless we get way the hell down in the Keys, and then we'll have a hell of a time trying to find a place to park," she replied wisely.
"Well, maybe we could find one," Roger told her. "RVs do move, after all. As far as that goes, our Habitat crew knocked off for the holidays, but I'll bet there are others down there that are still working. I'm not too sure on how crazy I am about sitting around and doing nothing. I did enough of that last summer."
"Understandable," Catalina said. "I felt a little cheesy about taking off the way we did, anyway."
"Bonnie, you up for it?"
"Hell, yes," the older woman snorted. "What makes you think I want to hang around here in a snowstorm with Delmer calling every five minutes?"
"Good enough," Roger agreed. "There's no time like the present to get absent. Give me a few minutes to throw stuff in my suitcase, dial the heat down, and make sure the lights are all off."
It actually took them about twenty minutes to get ready and get on the road. Roger mentally debated draining the hot tub, but decided to just turn the thermostat down as far as it would go; after all they'd be back in a few days, and it would probably feel pretty good after a long drive. He also called next door -- Amber was the only one home, but he told her they'd be gone for a few days and asked her to have her father arrange to have the driveway plowed out and the sidewalks shoveled once the storm was past. Catalina moved her suitcase and a few things from the Mustang to the Taurus, which was a little bigger, especially in the back seat. Very quickly they ran out of things to do, and headed down the road to Amherst.
"Got a question," Roger said about forty minutes later, as they were getting close to Amherst. "If Delmer is looking for us, how are we going to get in and out of town without him catching us? We were in this car the other day; he might recognize it."
"Oh, that's easy," Bonnie said. "Just drop Catalina and me off in front of the house, go get lost for half an hour, and then come back by, beep the horn, and we'll run out, throw our stuff in the car and we can blow smoke. We'll only be exposed for a couple minutes, and with any kind of luck he won't be staking the place out all the time."
"It might work," Roger agreed. "But if he does catch you while you're there, it could be a problem."
"Then I guess that's going to be a risk we're going to have to take," Catalina said.
"Maybe I'd better drive by the house every few minutes, just in case."
"Can't hurt," Catalina agreed.
"I've got Doyle's shotgun in the closet," Bonnie added. "I mean, in case things get too far out of hand. Of course, it might simplify things if he were to show up and I were to take the shotgun to him."
"You better not, Mom. If you did we might be stuck here for the snowstorm, and the more I think about it the more I like the idea of being somewhere else."
It probably wasn't the best of plans, Roger thought, but the white Taurus was pretty nondescript, and he couldn't come up with a better idea, anyway. A few minutes later he dropped the two women in front of Bonnie's house, and quickly drove away hoping Delmer hadn't seen them. He drove around the block, which was located at the edge of the downtown area in Amherst, and found a place to park where he could keep the house in sight. It may not quite have been driving around, but at least he would be able to monitor what was going on.
It was cold out there, colder than he liked with his blood still Mississippi-thin, so he left the engine running for the sake of the heater. It was probably a good deed, he thought, to get the women out of town ahead of the snowstorm and out of reach of Delmer's harassment, but as he thought about it he realized there were downsides, too.
The biggest downside involved sex. After all, he'd gone five years without it, and it hadn't been all that frequent for a while before then. A few months ago he would have been willing to believe that his libido had taken off to that place where things go that don't matter anymore. Then, he'd met Catalina, and that old sex drive had come back -- maybe a little yawning and aching, but ready to go. They hadn't missed many nights in a couple months, but the three of them were going to be spending a week in the tiny space of the motor home. The only place for Bonnie to sleep was going to be in the eyebrow over the cab, and while that wasn't exactly right above them it wasn't far away. Probably that meant that all he and Catalina were going to be doing was sleep.
Besides, Bonnie was a pistol -- a delightful one in her way, of course, but even Catalina seemed to think her mother was a nut case, and at that Catalina wasn't exactly the most normal person around. Lord only knew what else Bonnie had squirreled away under that probably-dyed black hair of hers, but Roger couldn't help but think that a week and a half of her was going to be about all of her he could take for a while.
A week would be tolerable, but what if this thing with Delmer were to drag out for months? Whatever kind of settlement Ralph came up with, if Delmer had as hard a head as it seemed everyone else in the family appeared to have, he could dig in his heels at any kind of a reasonable settlement. It could drag out for months, even years. Bonnie was nice and she was fun, but there were limits, after all.
But then, where was this thing he had going with Catalina heading, anyway? He liked her, he enjoyed being with her -- but right from the beginning it had seemed to him that it was going to end, sooner if not later. He liked to think he was steady, reliable, and reasonable, but Catalina was more of a will-o'-the-wisp. What was it she'd said right back when they'd met, that first evening down in Gulfport? That she had a limited attention span and couldn't take more than two years at a job before moving on? He'd spent twenty-six and a half years at the same job, mostly at the same machine, doing the same thing, and he'd been lost for months without having the job to go to. In one sense of the word he'd made a good life for himself and Colleen and Erin by doing it, but in another sense it had been damn dull, too. Maybe Catalina had the right idea -- keep moving on, keep gathering experiences and adventures.
As the thoughts rambled through his brain, he kept looking up at the house a block away. Everything seemed quiet as far as he could tell; there were no cars parked nearby and he hadn't seen anyone going in. Finally, he decided to just drive past to see if things still seemed to be all right. If he'd learned anything from Catalina in the past few months, he'd learned that doing something was better than doing nothing.
He checked the rear view mirror and pulled out of the parking spot, then drove slowly up the street. He was just pulling even with the house when the front door opened, and Catalina hurried out, carrying a small suitcase. He slammed on the brakes, pulled to a stop right in front of the house and hit the button to open the trunk. As he heard the thump of the bags going into the trunk, he glanced up to see Bonnie checking that the front door was locked, then hurry towards the car carrying a suitcase and some sort of a soft bag. In seconds, those bags were in the trunk as well, and the trunk lid slammed shut.
Catalina opened the right-hand door and got in, just as her mother was getting into the back seat. "Everything all right?" he asked.
"More or less, so long as we get out of here," Catalina said. "What took you so long?"
"You said half an hour, it hasn't been fifteen minutes," Roger snorted as he stepped on the gas. "I allow women a little time. Colleen used to take an hour to get ready to drive into Bolivar for groceries."
"Delmer's even crazier than he was the other day," Bonnie announced. "The memory on the answering machine is full of his messages, and there must have been a dozen notes stuck to the front door. Christ knows how many more he's going to leave in the next ten days."
"Sounds like he's anxious," Roger smiled. "I sure would like to know what he thinks is breathing down his neck."