Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
"Ralph was right on one thing," Bonnie said as the attorney headed for his sport-ute. "It's colder than the north end of a southbound husky out here."
"Michigan in winter, what do you expect?" Catalina snorted. "Hell, it wasn't this bad in Korea. Let's at least get in Roger's car and get out of the wind."
It was warmer in the Taurus, and the car hadn't been sitting long enough to thoroughly cool off; Roger got the engine running and the heater going, and that helped a little, too. "What next?" he asked.
"We might as well head over to my house," Bonnie suggested. "I'm curious just how many notes we're going to find stuck to the door. Anybody want to take a bet?"
It was only a few blocks to Bonnie's house on the edge of downtown. Roger parked the car out in front, and the three of them trooped up onto the porch. As Bonnie had expected there were a bunch of notes stuck to the inside door and the frame around it. They gathered them up, suspecting they were missing a few, and went inside to count them, even before they ran the heat up.
"Seventy-one," Bonnie announced the final tally. "He sure doesn't know how to take no for an answer, does he?"
"It doesn't appear that he does," Roger shook his head. "So, what's the plan? Catalina, are you coming back to Wychbold with me?"
"I think so," she said instantly. "If I don't, Delmer is probably going to be here bugging me again. Are you planning on heading back down south?"
"Might as well," he shrugged. "We pretty well can't leave until we find out the court date, but if it's four or five weeks there's no reason we can't stay that long."
"So, you're saying Friday?"
"Most likely. You heard Ralph just as well as I did, and there are a few odds and ends I need to do while we're here. But once we have that court date, we might as well head south again."
"That's about what I figured," Catalina agreed. "Friday afternoon, maybe Saturday morning at the latest."
"Might go into the first of the week," he pointed out. "It depends on when we get the call from Ralph."
"I know I've been a bit of a drag on the two of you the last few days," Bonnie said. "But Roger, would you mind if I went back to Wychbold with the two of you until you head south again? I don't get to see enough of Catalina as it is, and there's no telling how much Delmer is going to be trying to bother the two of us. I doubt like hell Delmer will know we're in Wychbold, and I don't think he knows Roger's last name, anyway. We're still going to be hard for him to find over there."
"You're saying you're going to go south with us again, Mom?"
"I'm tempted," she sighed. "But I think I'll stay here when you go, since you've put up with a lot from me the last few days. There's another ComicCon coming up in Cleveland the weekend after this, and I might just head over to that. They're usually pretty good, although not quite as wild as the ones in Chicago. Besides, that way I'll get to use Roger's hot tub for another couple evenings. I mean, if it's all right with you, Roger."
As much as Roger liked Bonnie -- and he liked her energy and wildness a lot -- she was starting to get a bit wearing on him. But at the worst, this would only be for another couple days. "Sure, if you want to, so long as it's all right with Catalina," he replied. "We can drop you off here on our way back south."
"That'll be fine," she replied. "I might as well grab a few things before I go. Catalina, is there anything you're going to want from here?"
"Not that I can think of. Most of the stuff I need is already in Roger's motor home."
"Well, I'll only be a few minutes," she replied, heading for the stairs. "Stay loose, you two."
"Well, I guess," Catalina said. "She's right, she has been getting in our way, but it's worked out pretty well. Still, I'll be glad when it's just you and me again."
"That was what I was thinking," he replied. "It's only a couple more days."
"Don't get me wrong, Roger. I like my mother, but sometimes I like her at a distance. She gets a little wearing to be around all the time."
"I understand," Roger grinned. "I wonder what outrageous outfit she's going to wear at that ComicCon in Cleveland."
"Who knows? It strikes me as a little cold for Lum, but I wouldn't put it past her. I'll bet she digs the Japanese schoolgirl outfit out again, though. Roger, if I decide to do something that stupid, just shoot me, OK?"
"I don't know. I think green hair with a tiger-stripe bikini and go-go boots would look pretty cute on you. Once, that is, and preferably just between the two of us."
"Well, yeah, I might be willing to go that far. Once."
A few minutes later they were back in the Taurus, heading for Wychbold. While the women chattered about this and that, Roger mentally tried to catalogue the things he needed to get done while he was at home. He really couldn't come up with a long list, but what he had included settling up on his winter taxes -- he hadn't managed that on the last trip home -- and settling up with Larry for the snowplowing and other maintenance things. The biggest thing he could come up with was to get with Jason about the house, and, as he'd told the insurance agent, it was not a big deal. But, it wasn't something he really wanted to talk to Catalina about today after the experience with Delmer, and not with Bonnie around, either, since Catalina and what happened to them in the future was going to affect his decision about selling or not.
There were a few other things, too. He needed to run out and say hello to Arlene and Max, just on general principles and ask them to keep an eye on the house once in a while. He also needed to be finding a few warmer clothes than he had in the camper, to cut down on laundry runs until the weather warmed up a bit, and things of that nature. All of them didn't amount to a hill of beans; if he put his mind to it he could wrap them up this afternoon, but maybe tomorrow would be better for Jason. It wasn't much to keep him busy until Ralph Gerjevic called, hopefully Friday, and then at least they could be headed back south to where things were remotely warm.
About all he managed to get done that afternoon was stopping by the city hall to pay the tax bill. It really wasn't all that bad but seemed unreasonable when he considered how much more house he had over what he needed, especially since it seemed unlikely that he was going to be using it much in the future. Again, it was a question of what he and Catalina were likely to be doing in the future, which was a question he hoped to settle before they had to head back for the hearing, whenever that was. But, if it waited till spring, it was no big deal. Although no decision had been made, he and Catalina had often talked about how they didn't want to have to put up with the summer heat, humidity, and bugs on the Gulf Coast. What they were going to do when that time rolled around was still up in the air, and that was something else they needed to talk about.
That night, in bed with Catalina, he explained that he was going to have Jason come over and give him an off-the-cuff estimate on what the house might be worth, only explaining that more and more it seemed too big for him. A smaller house and a bigger motor home might be a reasonable exchange, but he needed some numbers to think about, but at this time it was only an idea.
Thursday went slowly. As always, they went down to Becky's for breakfast, and once again they ran into Jason, who agreed to head over and check out the house as soon as he and Sally got the office opened up. When Jason got there, he didn't do a major inspection, just a quick walkthrough. "Assuming the market stays about where it is I can probably get around one-thirty or one-forty out of it, if you're willing to wait out a buyer," was his verdict.
"The city doesn't have it assessed for anything like that but I guess Headlee gets involved," Roger replied. "Something to think about, anyway."
"Well, if you decide to do something, let me know," Jason told him. They shot the bull for a couple minutes, and then Jason announced that he'd better get back to work since Sally had piled his desk pretty high.
That was one of the big two items for the day taken care of, and a call out to the farm revealed that Max and Arlene weren't doing anything in particular, and invited the three of them out for lunch. It turned into a long lunch with a fair amount of family gossip, although Roger and Catalina getting together seemed to be about the biggest item on that list. However, the hassle over the Homer Smith estate also got involved in the discussion. "I'm not looking for land that far away, at least at that price," Max told them. "But I know people who are if it should happen to come on the market."
Roger and Catalina promised that they'd keep that thought in mind, but it somehow seemed a little unreal. The three of them headed back into town in the middle of the afternoon, and Roger could only think of a few other piddly things to finish out the day. The waiting around for Gerjevic's phone call seemed endless; he knew he'd rather be back in the south, where it was warm and where there were things to do and worth doing. He couldn't imagine how he could have gone months in the summer with that little to interest him, but was glad those days were behind him.
Friday morning they were in Becky's again, mostly for the lack of anything better to do, but they got back to his house in case the attorney called. About ten-thirty in the morning, the phone rang; Roger grabbed it in an instant, while Catalina grabbed the phone in the kitchen. "You guys sound anxious," Ralph said.
"Hell, you think we sound anxious, you should see us," Catalina told him. "I hope you called to tell us we have a court date."
"Thursday, February ninth, at ten AM. That time isn't quite solid. We're about the fourth item on the docket, and I don't know how long it's going to take to work through the other three. It might take hours, or they might be things that could be rubberstamped in five minutes. I'd say we'd better be there at nine, just in case."
"We can do that," Catalina said. "We'll be there."
"You're planning on heading back south, then?"
"Probably within the hour. Roger is going stir crazy and I'm not far behind him."
"Don't just totally disappear on me," the attorney warned. "There's still a chance your cousin could come up with a halfway reasonable offer, or that the judge could slip on the ice and break a leg, or something like that."
"Well, we don't know where we're going to be, except probably back on the Gulf Coast in Mississippi," Roger told him. "But maybe not, there are a lot of places down there needing work. You've got Catalina's and my e-mail addresses. We don't get a chance to check e-mail except every few days, and most of what we get is spam anyway, but that's probably the best way to get hold of us."
"I can do that. But maybe if you could check in with me or Linda once a week or so it might be a good back-up."
"We can do that," Catalina agreed. "The only thing is that we sometimes lose track of the days. We'll try to not let it go too long."
"I don't want to promise anything," Ralph told them, "But there's a chance your cousin is moving a little bit. It seems deBoer called me up yesterday and we had a little discussion. He was trying to get your cousin to bend a little bit, but reading between the lines it didn't sound like he got much of anywhere. But like I told you Wednesday, the closer we get to the court date the more chance there'll be that he'll start to wake up and realize he's not going to get a settlement much under three hundred thousand."
"I might be willing to bend a little," Catalina admitted. "But not much under that figure. If he thinks he's getting jerked around on this he ought to think about how jerked around I'm starting to feel."
"Unfortunately I doubt he's bright enough to realize it, but there you go. My own advice is that if you're willing to wait it out you're probably going to get a better settlement from the court than you'll get from him. However, getting the money may well mean having to sell the land to someone else, and that involves finding a buyer. The ball is in his court on that one, his and deBoer's, although you'd have to agree to any sale price."
"My brother-in-law was saying yesterday that there were people looking for land in that area and were willing to pay pretty good prices, although he didn't throw around any numbers," Roger put in.
"Right, that's the gamble you're taking. You might have to wait out a buyer to get the amount of settlement we're proposing, and you might have to accept a lower offer just to get things done. We'll just have to see how things play out."
"Well then," Roger said. "I guess about all we can do is wait and see. See you February ninth. You want us to meet at your office, or at the courthouse?"
"The courthouse will be fine, although call Linda the day before to let us know you're going to be back for sure, just in case something last minute comes up."
"Good enough. Anything else, Ralph?"
"Not really, except drive safely, and don't be banging your thumbs with hammers."
"We'll try not to. Take care and don't throw your back out shoveling snow. We're out of here."
• • •
Gerjevic's phone call was the dropping of the green flag for them. They were already pretty well packed up, and it only took a little bit of finishing before they were ready to go. In only a few minutes, the heat in the house and the hot tub had been turned down, and they were getting their bags into the trunk of Catalina's Mustang -- they'd decided to take it this trip instead of the Taurus.
"I'll tell you what, I'm not sorry to be heading south," Roger said as soon as they got out of Wychbold. "I know we've only been back a couple days but it already seems like it was too long."
"I don't want to call it a wasted trip, since we managed to accomplish a few things," Catalina said from behind the wheel. "But it seems like a lot of driving for what we did accomplish."
"I think we managed to tell Delmer you're not going to roll over and play dead for him," Bonnie pointed out from the cramped back seat of the Mustang. "It's pretty clear to me he wasn't about to make any kind of a settlement without being dragged into court. I still think he's got something else driving him, not just trying to pull the wool over your eyes."
"You could be right," Catalina agreed. "I don't know what it could be, though."
"Tell you what," Bonnie grinned. "I'm looking forward to seeing how many notes are stuck on the front door."
Catalina let out a big sigh. "Mom, I have to say that I don't know how bad I want to leave you here to face him."
"It'll be OK," she replied. "I guess I'll just have to go to the door with Doyle's shotgun in my hand. Maybe that'll give him the message. If it doesn't, I'll call your attorney and have him arrange for a protective order. That'd put him in jail if things get too far out of hand. I sort of hope he does since jail would be a good place for him."
A little to their surprise, when they got to Amherst there were no notes stuck to Bonnie's front door, and no new messages on the answering machine. "Good," Bonnie said. "Maybe he finally got the message."
"Mom, I'm still worried about him."
"Oh, don't be. I can take care of myself. You kids have fun working your butts off down south. I plan to have a little fun over in Cleveland. I'll be looking forward to seeing you in a month or so."
• • •
A few minutes later Catalina and Roger were back in the Mustang and heading south. "Roger, do you think I'm overdoing the worrying about Mom and Delmer?" she asked.
"Not really," he shrugged. "After all, she has a point. Delmer ought to realize she has no real way to get in touch with us, anyway. She can't make a decision for you, so maybe that'll give her something to work with if it comes up."
"Well, yeah, but I'm still worried. The thing of it is, Roger, it's a hell of a lot of money. I can see why Delmer would be upset at the thought of that much slipping through his fingers. I mean, if Ralph is right and I accepted the original offer, he'd be making a half a million dollars on the deal."
"Half a million bucks will make people do some crazy things. I mean, if you need any proof, all you need to do is look at him."
"Well, he's crazy to begin with, and he's always been a greedy bastard. Look, I hope you don't mind that I have a goofy family, and that includes Mom. I like to think of myself as being the relatively sane one of the bunch, but I'm not exactly Miss Career Girl, you know."
"I know that," he grinned. "It's one of the things I like about you. Hey, I was Mister Career Guy at Ford for all those years, and I'm still trying to break myself of it. Cattail, you're doing a pretty good job of helping me out with that, even if there's still a ways to go. So far, you're giving me a much better retirement than I had before I met you."
"Yeah, that's something to think about," she nodded. "You know, Roger, that's a hell of a lot of money if it comes through, even if it works out that I don't get all of it. It's probably enough that I won't have to look for another position teaching English overseas."
"You need to do a little planning about that in case it comes through," he said. "Maybe have a talk with Ralph about it when we see him next time. He gave me a lot of help in planning what to do with the settlement money from Colleen. The big thing I got out of it was that it's not a good idea to spend it, but invest it and live off the interest. I've been pretty conservative in my investments, mostly CDs and low-risk mutual funds. It's not enough to live on, but when you add my Ford pension checks to it and the fact that I'm living pretty cheaply, I'm actually coming out a little ahead."
"What kind of rates are you getting?"
"Not bad, around five percent in the current market, everything combined. I could probably do better in investments in high flyers, but that takes skills I don't have and learning and keeping up with it would mean I'd have to give it more attention than I want to. But the economy is good right now. I expect it's going to go to hell sooner or later and that figure could be cut in half. History has proven that Republicans aren't good for the economy no matter which hat they're talking through, so I expect the bubble will burst sooner or later."
"Let's see," she said. "Just for the sake of talking, say I get a quarter million out of this when everything is said and done. Ten percent would be $25,000 annually, so five percent would be half that, or twelve-five. I could probably live on that if I had to, maybe with the odd job thrown in here and there to help out."
"Cut it in half again, and you're looking at only a little over six thousand a year," he added. "It could sweeten the pot a little, but there's no way you could live on it if you were by yourself without holding down a real job at least part time."
"Yeah, that was about what I thought without actually working out the numbers. Let's face it, Roger, I don't want to have a real job where I have to stay in one place and go to work every day. That's the big reason I've led the life I wanted to, anyway."
"I'll tell you something else you need to be thinking about," he added. "You're still around fifteen years from when you could draw Social Security, but all the work out of the country that you've done means you haven't paid much into the fund. That means you're not going to be drawing much out when the time comes, so don't expect to live on it."
"I hadn't even thought about that," she admitted. "It still seems so far off."
"Well, it's a ways off for me, too," he said. "Thirteen years as of last fall. But if the system survives that long, I paid a lot in while I was at Ford, so I'll be getting some pretty good checks out of it. That was something else that Ralph set me straight on after Colleen died."
"It's too damn bad I didn't swallow my pride and just go into regular high school teaching way back when," she sighed. "I'd still be a few years from retiring, but I'd have had a good pension and the prospect of good Social Security when the time comes. But hell, I'd have missed a lot of fun along the way. The teaching overseas was a lot of fun, it was really only this last contract in Korea where it started to get old. Like I said, I think I've had enough of it, and I don't want to have to do it again, especially with what you say about Social Security."
Roger sat back and thought about what she was saying. There was an obvious answer to her problem, and his problem as well. Financially, he was pretty well fixed, and even if the economy went to hell he would pretty much stay that way; he might have to be a little more careful with his money, but probably not a lot more careful. If they were to combine resources permanently, it would probably fill the gap and then some. If they were to get married, when Social Security time came along, the situation would actually improve -- even if he were to die, she could draw his Social Security, his pension, and the return on his investments. And she would contribute in other ways -- not only the companionship, but her desire to stay active and see what was over the next hill ought to be able to keep life interesting for him.
It wasn't as if he hadn't wondered what it would be like to be married to Catalina before, because he had, clear back to their early days. However, her will-o'-the-wisp being and her statements that she grew bored if she had to do the same thing too long, had given him plenty of reasons for second thoughts, so he'd always refrained from raising the issue with her. Who knew if she might not get bored with him in three months, six months, or a couple years? If that happened, he could find himself a lot worse off than he was now.
No, he decided. The time wasn't right, not yet, anyway. They needed more time to find out if they could stay together. Maybe the best thing to do was just wait and see.