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

Pulling Even
Book Seven of the Dawnwalker Cycle
Wes Boyd
2004, 2009, 2011

Chapter 8

Thinking about some of the things he could do with a camera and a nearly naked Nicole was sufficient to keep Randy's mind off of construction all the way over to the casino at Three Pines. He had several ideas, some that made the dull and all too familiar miles pass quickly. He gathered up the roll of prints and the briefcase full of stuff that he needed to drop off, and headed into Norm Eaglebeak's office, which was upstairs in the Casino.

He was walking down the hall toward the office when his cell phone went off. From habit he clicked it on and answered, "Randy Clark."

"Hey, Randy," he heard a familiar voice say on the phone. "Norm Eaglebeak. Is there any chance that you could get over this way sooner or later?"

Randy opened Norm's office door, stuck his head in, and said, "No can do!" then pulled his head back out into the hall and closed the door. Laughing, he reopened the door and went in.

"How about sooner?" Randy laughed. "God, that's what I like about you Clark Construction guys," Norm shook his head. "Ask for something and it gets done right now."

"We aim to please," Randy snickered. "Although I have to be the first to admit that we usually can't do things that quickly. I came over to drop off these prints and stuff. This is the first chance I had to get over and return them. So, what have you got on your mind?"

"Mostly those plans," Norm replied. "We've been kicking around ideas on the expansion plans. We haven't totally made up our minds yet, but we're thinking that instead of adding on, we might want to build a whole new separate lodge that could be more family oriented. You know, a place where the kids can have some fun while mom and dad play golf or something."

"I wondered about that," Randy said with a sinking feeling. There had been a lot of work put into the expansion plan and not just by him – billable work, to be sure – but it looked like it was going to go down the tube. "I mean, it sort of struck me that the lack of something like that might be a hole in your business plan."

"Yeah, what we keep thinking about is that if we build a new lodge, it could be a little more kid and play oriented, while the old one could be a little more, uh, adult oriented, so to speak."

"You're saying maybe skimpier bikinis in the pool, and maybe looking the other way at who shares a room with who and for how long, that sort of thing?"

"Well, yeah, but we don't want to be that blatant about it. Just sort of let it happen. Anyway, if we did it, we'd want the new lodge to be at least as large as the old one, if not larger, but we'd hope to see the same kind of time frame we saw with the proposed addition."

"Could be done," Randy nodded. "Something like that, we probably can't break ground till spring, and we might be most of a year finishing it off, just off the top of my head. The problem is we'd have to start from scratch again on the plans, and we might have to be more flexible as we go along. That's a hell of a lot bigger project than the addition, obviously, and I'm talking literally millions more, depending on what you want to do. We'll cut you as fair a deal as we can, but on quick build projects like that it's going to be one change order after another, and we have to charge additional time and materials on those. They can't be included in the original bid estimates. Too much of that could sink both of us, you on dollar budget and us on scheduling and completion dates."

"Randy, you guys have done a lot of building for us over the years, especially the last few years, and you've always managed to bring the projects in ahead of schedule and under budget, and treat us fair along the way. What's more, you don't buck too much when we change horses in midstream on you. Now, this isn't a done deal yet, there are some hoops to jump through, but let's just put work on the addition on hold for a while until we can get it ironed out."

"Fine, so long as we don't wait too long," Randy said. "It's November first, and we had planned on breaking ground around April first. If we're dealing with a bigger project, we're going to have to hit the ground running so we can make good use of construction weather."

"It's going to take a while," Norm told him. "Like I said, there are some hoops to jump through, especially with the BIA. We can get to work on the plans, but we can't make a final decision until like about the first of February."

"That's still a damn quick build, and we may not be able to start on April 1 with a decision that late," Randy said. "If we have to start later, we'll just have to do the best we can. You got any idea of what you want done?"

"Only in general, we've got our architects working on it. They didn't take news of this potential change as well as you did, but they're going to get plenty of billable time out of it."

"I didn't say I was taking it well, I'm just rolling with the punches," Randy shrugged. "Look, we just got the job on the new gym down in Blair. One big mother of a project at a time is about all we like to handle. The addition didn't quite qualify as a big mother, but a new lodge will, especially to have to do it on short notice. Besides, you're dealing with the Feds, after all. You may get a go-ahead by February first, but what year?"

"Yeah, I'm afraid you're right," Norm agreed. "I wish we didn't have to go to the BIA on this, they can be real obstructionists. They're a bunch of bureaucrats at best and bastards most of the time. Just for the sake of talking, what happens if we can't get clearance until, say, June?

"Hard to say," Randy said. "Obviously, effort that we'd have been putting in here would be going to the gym. But we might be able to get enough ahead of schedule there that we could get a lot done here in the late summer and fall. Maybe have the building closed in, I don't know without seeing some of the plans, and I don't want to guess. However it works out we'd try to do our best for you, but a lot depends on things like weather, too."

"I understand," Norm told him. "We'll try to do right by you. If we can't build this thing this summer, maybe we can find something else for you to build this year. But, like I said, we're going to put the addition on hold for a while, and probably permanently."

"I suppose that kills the construction conference we had to screw around with the date on," Randy commented. With this news, that meeting was a pimple on the backside of bigger issues.

"Deader than hell," Norm agreed. "In fact, I'm going to have to go to Washington to fight with the BIA in that time slot. We've already got appointments scheduled."

"All I can say is keep me in touch," Randy told him. "We'll just have to play it where it lays."

*   *   *

As Nicole opened the garage door, she was pleased to see that Randy's truck wasn't there. That meant she could tell him about the practical joke Karin had planned for Crystal's wedding – she could say Karin had called right after she got home. She was sure Randy would get a kick out of it, just like she was sure he would look forward to getting a kick out of the little practical joke they planned. Paybacks were hell, and the time had come.

As usual, there was no telling what time Randy would get home, although she hoped it would be before Danny and Debbie showed up with the hot tub. She wasn't sure exactly when that would be, but she doubted it would be before five when Spearfish Lake Appliance normally closed. It probably wouldn't be much after that, though. That still left her a couple hours to work with.

She was really looking forward to having the hot tub. The way things had worked out last night had only proved it had some potential, in fact, lots of potential, and she would get her share of enjoyment out of it, too. She was just a little surprised at how enthusiastically Randy had taken to the idea of her getting some slutty swimsuits for the hot tub and for places well out of town. They wouldn't be the sort she'd wear out on the lakeshore in front of the house under any circumstances short of total darkness – although it might be a thrill to do it sometime.

There had been some times during the day that it had been difficult to keep her mind on her class, since she was mentally exploring some of the possibilities. Back when she'd been in high school and college she'd worn bikinis that verged on being a little too daring, but it wasn't the kind of thing she could do as a teacher. That was a little disappointing, since she had long known that Randy liked to look at her wearing them. But to do something really slutty had lots of potential. Getting on the Internet and searching for slutty swimsuits or micro-bikinis wasn't the sort of thing that she dared do at school, but now, with some time on her hands, she could spend some time getting some ideas.

In fact, she already had some ideas. A poster she'd seen on Buddha's office wall, Randy said it had hung there as long as he could remember, of a girl in the skimpiest one-piece swimsuit she'd ever seen. There wasn't much in front and virtually nothing in back. She had no idea where she could get one like it, but given what she planned to do with it she figured she could drag out the sewing machine and throw together something close enough. It was half string, and maybe a handkerchief or two worth of material. Or less. In fact, she had a pretty good mental picture of that particular suit, and she figured she could throw together a twin to it easily. That would blow Randy's mind!

She would never wear something like that on the beach here at home, but somewhere else – that was a possibility. The skimpy suit had to be the reason the picture had hung on Buddha's wall so long, and her showing up in the flesh in one like it would blow his mind. And, Buddha's was far enough away from Spearfish Lake that she might even be able to get away with it. If the trip after Myleigh's wedding actually came off, maybe she could spring it on Randy and the crew without warning. That would be fun – she knew Preach pretty well, and he was on the straight side; on the Canyon run last summer, Crystal had seemed straighter than she'd been when Nicole had spent weeks hiking with her. Maybe it would be a quiet way to underline to Randy that he'd made the right choice after all . . .

It didn't take her very much searching of some of the seamier spots around the Internet to come up with enough ideas to hold her for a while. It was clear that there wasn't much she could do to a bikini other than make it even smaller and more transparent, but there were a number of ways that one-piece suits could be made to look really wild and still not cover much more than the tiniest micro-bikini. It was all she could do to keep from heading for the sewing machine, but with Danny and Debbie on the way and Randy due home any time, now wasn't good timing. She could do an awful lot on the Tuesday evenings when Randy was at martial arts, and it would give her the chance to surprise him from time to time.

It was approaching five when she decided she'd put all the time she dared into woolgathering about that issue, and then some. She headed upstairs to get out of her school clothes and into jeans and a sweatshirt and then headed back to the kitchen. Although the plan was that Danny and Debbie were going to be staying for dinner, he would also be setting up the hot tub, so the time might get a little iffy. She made what preparations she could, like getting the baked potatoes wrapped in foil so she could start things on a moment's notice whenever that moment happened to be.

As it turned out, Randy barely made it in before Danny and Debbie showed up in the Spearfish Lake Appliance van, towing a flatbed trailer with the hot tub on it. "Might as well get it inside while we've still got some light," Danny observed, and all of them pitched in. There really wasn't much pitching in needed; Danny rolled the hot tub off the trailer onto its side on a mechanic's creeper, and with the sliding porch doors wide open he rolled it inside with inches to spare. It wasn't real heavy but was bulky, and it took the four of them to lay it down and put it in place. Danny and Debbie did most of the work at that; he was a pretty big guy, larger than his father. Debbie wasn't much smaller and rather solid.

"Well, good place for it," Danny said, looking around at the area cleared on the porch. "It's going to take a few minutes to get set up, but then we can relax and shoot the bull while it's filling and warming. Randy, let's take the creeper and go bring in the support unit."

There really wasn't much Danny had to do – a little minor plumbing and plug it in, but he had all the parts needed. "You look like you know what you're doing," Randy observed.

"Just a little," Danny said. "I think I set up my first one of these without help when I was still in junior high. I'll tell you what, as soon as Debbie and I move out of her trailer and into a place that has the space and a place that will support the weight, we're going to put one in. As it is, we're over using the one at my folks two or three times a week. I just can't make up my mind whether I want to have an outside unit or not. There's nothing like laying in one of these things all warm and toasty while the snow is blowing in your face."

"The thought has potential," Randy agreed. "I'd just be concerned that in this climate it would cost a ton to keep it hot."

"Not really," Danny told him. "This thing has a pot load of insulation. So long as you keep the cover on it when it's not in use, it really doesn't cost very much. Doesn't matter, when you get right down to it. A good soak at the end of a tough day is worth the price."

In a few minutes, Danny had the water flowing into the tub and the support unit heating it up. "And that," he said, "Is pretty much that. We'll wait till it gets full and then I'll give you a lesson or two on the care and feeding of these things."

Nicole looked at the filling tub, and considering her thoughts of the afternoon, could see the potential for a lot of good times. "How long is it going to take?" She asked.

"Just depends on the water pressure," Danny told her. "An hour or so to fill it, maybe, and a little longer to bring it up to temperature. There's not much we can do now but wait it out."

"Let me get you something to drink, and I can get started on dinner," Nicole offered.

"Works for me," Danny said. "A diet pop of some kind if you have it."

"I could get you a beer," she said.

"No, I don't drink anymore," Danny told her.

"Me either," Debbie added.

"Well, all right. Diet Coke all right?"

"Works for me," Danny said.

"Let's head inside and sit around the living room where it's going to be a little more comfortable," Randy said. "I can see there's going to have to be more rearranging done out here."

Both Nicole and Randy liked to show off the living room – actually, a soaring great room with huge windows facing out at the lake. The kitchen was just a corner of the great room, so that whoever was cooking could stay a part of the conversation. It was an avant-garde and striking house that they both had reason to be proud of. Danny had been there before, but not Debbie, so while Nicole got started with the steaks and spuds Randy gave Debbie the nickel tour.

Before long, the four of them were settled in the living room. "Randy," Nicole said. "I never got a chance to ask how your day went."

"It was a real jackaroo," Randy shook his head. "One day we get the Blair gym job, the next we probably lose the addition on the casino lodge." He made a point of not using the Three Cherries term he so often did – Debbie was a member of the tribe, after all, and there was no point in pissing her off unnecessarily.

"Oh, Lord," Nicole shook her head. "How did that happen?"

"I'm not sure of all the ins and outs, but it looks like they want to build a whole new lodge building, now, rather than just an addition. Nothing's set in concrete yet, and they're going to have to get moving if they want us working on it this summer."

"Not surprising," Debbie said. "They've been kicking that one back and forth for a couple years, and it looks like the new lodge group got the upper hand. How long is it going to delay things?"

"About as long as it takes them to make up their minds, plus whatever happens due to weather," Randy shrugged. "To tell you the truth, I think I'm just about as glad. It was going to be a reach to do the addition and the gym job at the same time. If the tribe can manage to not make up their minds for, oh, six months or so, I'd be just as happy. I really don't want to have to deal with two projects that big at the same time, especially that far apart. I'd be spending most of my time on the road going from one to the other with no time for the details when I got to either one. But for now, everything is on hold, so I can concentrate on the gym. The good news is that, with the addition on hold, we should be able to go to Buddha and Giselle's after all, assuming nothing else comes up."

"That's good news," Nicole smiled. "At least we'll be able to get away for a little while."

"Don't hold your breath until we're on the plane," Randy said. "Things come up all the time. I think, if we do manage to get in the air, I'm going to leave my cell phone on the kitchen table just so I don't get called back here for some damn silly reason. So how was your day?"

"A little interesting," Nicole fibbed. "Karin called while I was waiting for you to get home. It seems that she's got a little special something planned for Crystal's wedding."

"Duane mentioned something about that," Randy said. "He didn't explain what it was."

"Just a little payback for all the times Crystal pulled her signature stunt on everyone else," Nicole smiled, and explained what she meant, and what Karin planned.

Both Danny and Debbie giggled at the explanation, and Randy just shook his head. "Yeah, that'll be a good one," he laughed. "She deserves it. Some time we've got to talk about whether we're going to pull something on Myleigh and Trey. Since they're going to be living right up the street, we'll want to be real careful about what we do and how we do it."

"Myleigh and Trey?" Debbie asked. "Aren't they the couple we had dinner with over at Jennifer's that day last summer?"

"I guess so," Danny told his partner. "She is something else, isn't she?" Danny had explained to Randy one time that he and Debbie weren't exactly married, but were in the middle of a planned one-year trial period. Randy figured it was something tribal and wasn't too concerned about the details. Debbie was a Shakahatche, and about as pure a Native American as you could get. Although she lived in Spearfish Lake, she was from Three Pines, and was what the tribe called a "katara." The word didn't translate directly to anything in English, but some of the things it meant were something like medicine woman, historian, counselor and mystic. She was an unusual woman in her own right, and she and Danny had a strong if rather unusual bond.

"Does Myleigh really talk like that all the time?" Debbie asked.

"Most of the time," Randy explained. "When she quits talking like that, it's usually a good time to head for cover, because she has a temper and knows how to use it. Anyway, I don't know if you've heard the news, but she and Trey are getting married December 29, and they're buying a house right up the street, the old deLine place. That makes me have to ask, Debbie, do you do exorcisms?"

"We kataras don't call it that, but yes," Debbie grinned. "That place, I'd have to charge extra. That woman was a real screaming nutcase, and I'm glad to see her gone."

"I'm sure there are people who would call Myleigh a real screaming nutcase," Randy laughed. "When you get right down to it, I'm not sure that I'm not one of them. But she's a sweet screaming nutcase, and a very talented one."

"There's no doubt of her talent," Debbie smiled. "She's a magician with that harp of hers. She played it some for us the night we met her at Jennifer's, and they ran a couple cuts of the Canyon Tours album. I swear you could hear the Spirits speaking in that music. She told us that feeling the Spirits in her fingers was a quite unique experience."

Although Randy and Nicole had known Debbie for years, they didn't really know her that well. But, they understood that she took her tribal religion seriously, and didn't fault her for it. "Well, the Spirits certainly managed to choose a unique woman to speak through," Nicole said seriously. "Don't get me wrong, Myleigh is one of my closest friends, but in many ways she's possibly the strangest person I know at all well."

That set the Myleigh stories going. Randy had a lot of them, of course, and Nicole had a few. It was more than enough to get them up to dinner, and through it. Finally, Debbie summed it up, "I think I was correct in thinking her to be a really exceptional woman," she said. "I just hope I'll get the chance to know her better."

"Once they move up here, we'll try to get all of us together," Nicole promised. "The hot tub ought to have room enough for six, shouldn't it?"

"Oh, easily," Danny smiled. "That's one of the things they're nice for, socializing. I learned that a long time ago. They're good for getting you really laid back. As soon as we're done eating, I'll run out and see how the water is coming along."

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