Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
One of the advantages of the time differential, Randy thought, was that running on Spearfish Lake time he was fully awake and alert. He was used to getting up early and getting to it, although sometimes it took some coffee to bring himself together. Not this Tuesday morning, he thought as he sat parked up the street from Rachel and Joelís house.
There were plenty of things they werenít sure about, and one of them was the time Joel left for work Ė from Braytonís investigation they knew it could be a little erratic Ė or even the direction he went. So, Randy was sitting in an anonymous vehicle, watching in the rear view mirror for whatever happened; one of Braytonís men was the opposite way up the street, and Ruth and his parents were parked on a paralleling street a couple of blocks away.
The flight out of Camden the day before, with a change at Minneapolis Ė St. Paul had gone smoothly, as had the meeting in Braytonís office. That had been a bit emotional; Brayton had indeed had a lot more photos of Joel and the anonymous hooker, and they were pretty graphic. Randy had glanced at them, as had the rest, but he had no interest in carefully studying them, except to make sure that it was indeed Joel in the photos. Theyíd discussed their plans on how to handle this meeting, and made a reconnaissance of the neighborhood and Joelís office, in much more detail than Randy had done on his trip in March. Then, there had been an awkward evening of sitting around a restaurant and the motel room, waiting for morning to come.
Randy was hoping Ė hell, they were all hoping Ė that this would go off the way theyíd planned it. If it did, they were prepared for it. But if Rachel balked, then all they really could do was fold their tents and get out of town. Whatever happened then would be what happened, theyíd agreed; it would have been their best shot at dealing with the problem.
It was already later than the normal time that the investigator had reported that Joel went to work; they were almost sure that he would in fact be working. If for some reason he didnít leave the house today there was always tomorrow, although that would screw up their plans to some degree. So, Randy kept his eye on the mirror. It would be easy to see if Joel left, since the BMW was parked in a carport attached to the house.
There! Randy could see the side door of the house open, and see Joel get in the white car. He didnít have a clear view of him but there was no question what was happening. He could see the car back out onto the street; then Randy switched to the mirror on the other side and watched as the BMW approached. Randyís head was in the shadow and it seemed unlikely that Joel would recognize him as he passed, but he ducked down in the seat anyway to make it appear that the vehicle was empty. When he sat up again, the BMW was well down the street.
Randy pulled out his cell phone and hit an auto-dial number. "All right," he said without preamble. "He just left."
"Letís do it," Ryan said. "Time on target, 9:05."
"Works for me," Randy said, then punched off the cell phone and stuck it in his shirt pocket.
Randy waited for a couple minutes, just to make sure Joel hadnít forgotten anything and was coming back for it, then drove around the block to park across the street from Rachelís house just as his parents and Ruth appeared coming from the other direction, with another car behind them. They all got out of the vehicles, although the three men in the second car stayed with the vehicle, as planned. "Well," Ryan sighed, "Here goes nothing."
There wasnít much else to be said as the four of them walked up the sidewalk to the front door and rang the bell. The seconds seemed long until the door opened. In the first glance Randy had of Rachel, it looked as if sheíd been crying, and was still trying to pull herself together, but the sight she saw before her wiped a lot of that away. "Dad! Mom! Randy! Ruth!" she cried in sheer surprise. "What are you doing here?"
"We need to talk to you," Ryan replied. "Can we come inside?"
"I guess," Rachel sighed as she opened the door wide. "I sure hope Joel doesnít find out youíve been here, though."
"Has there been trouble?" Ryan asked as he led everyone inside. It had been agreed that heíd do most of the talking, at least at the beginning.
"Y-yes," Rachel replied uncertainly. "Joel was, well, he wasnít being very nice this morning. He, well, he wasnít happy with how I made breakfast for him this morning, and, well, he threatened me more than usual."
"Than usual?" Ryan said. "Has he hit you?"
"Not recently, but I was afraid he was going to this morning," Rachel admitted. "He seemed especially nervous about something at work Ė I donít know what it is. He never tells me anything about that, just how much he needs the money from Grandpa Brentís land. Is that why youíre here?"
"Not exactly," Ryan said. "Look, Iíll be blunt about this. We know that more has been going on than youíve told us about, and that Joel has been abusive to both you and Jared. On top of that, thereís been more going on than you probably know about. Whereís Jared?"
"At school," she said. "At least he got off to school before Joel got up and started making an ass of himself again. Like I said, I just hope Joel doesnít come back and find you here."
Randy decided to speak up. "In a way I hope he does," he said. "If he gets past the off duty cops that are waiting outside, then Iíd like to have a word with him. Unfortunately, those cops seem to know what theyíre doing."
"I donít understand," Rachel said in obvious confusion. "Why are you here, and why are there cops outside?"
"Mostly so we can have a few words with you without him interfering," Ryan said, picking the ball back up again. "He hasnít been very happy about you talking with us, has he?"
"No," Randyís taller, thin older sister replied. "He doesnít want me talking to you at all. The last time he hit me was after mom called about Randy and Nicoleís baby being born. I think heís afraid youíll want me to leave him."
"Well, he got that one right," Ryan said. "And the time has come, especially with what the investigators found out last week. Are you aware that heís been cheating on you, along with everything else?"
"Cheating on me?" Rachel frowned. "No, I didnít know that. Are you sure?"
"Not only are we sure, we have photos to prove it," Ryan said. "And itís more than a one-time thing. The investigators saw four different occasions, and Randy saw another one when he was out here in March. Thatís why we got investigators on him in the first place, and the lead investigator is outside if you want more details. Heís got the photos, if you want proof."
"Youíre really sure itís him?"
"No question about it. Like I said, you can see the photos if you want."
"But . . . but . . . Iíd like to leave him, Iíve dreamed of leaving him, but he says that if I try to leave him heíll take Jared and Iíll never see him again."
"Thatís what heís beaten into your head, but thatís not whatís going to happen. If you left and went nowhere in particular, heíd have a chance at it, but if you come back to Spearfish Lake with us, he wonít have any hope of doing anything about it, though he might not know that. He may have some contacts here, but if he tries anything in Spearfish Lake, heís in our territory, and we have all the money we need to hire lawyers if it comes to that."
"Youíre not kidding, are you?"
"Not in the slightest. We have plane tickets for you and Jared this afternoon, and thereís a rental truck parked outside. If we donít have to deal with furniture, we can have the two of you out of here in a couple of hours and out of the state by the time Joel gets off work. Thatíll make things more complicated right there."
"But heíll come for me in Spearfish Lake," she said in a frightened tone. "I know he will, and then heíll really be mad."
"Let him try," Ryan smiled. "Weíre mad already, and like I said, heíll be in our territory then. Among other things, we have a court appointment for you for tomorrow morning to get a personal protective order, so if he even tries to approach you in Spearfish Lake heís going to be looking at time in the county jail. Until he realizes we can make it stick, youíll have someone close by at all times who can handle themselves and deal with him. Rachel, ever since Randy was out here in March weíve talked about this and tried to examine all the angles. We donít have time to get into all those angles right now, but weíve had a couple months to work on this and youíve only had a few minutes."
"But how can I leave him? How can I divorce him? Heíll take Jared, I know he will."
"Thatís part of the reason we need to get you back to Spearfish Lake. I donít want to say the judge weíll be dealing with is in our pocket, but Iím sure heíll take the history of abuse into consideration along with a few other things that may not come up in court. We thought about taking you to Nevada for a quick divorce, but we canít protect you as well there, so the safer but surer way is for you to go home with us, even if itís the slower way. Rachel, weíre wasting time. We came to get you out of here and away from him. All you have to do is say yes and we can get started."
"My God, this is hard, but yes. Iím just afraid of what heíll do when he finds out."
"Sis," Randy smiled. "Heís the one who needs to be afraid, but heís too damn dumb to realize it. If he tries to get physical with you in Spearfish Lake, maybe heíll find out just how afraid he needs to be. We love you, Sis, and weíve seen what heís done to you. We want it to end, so the sooner we get started the sooner we have you out of here."
"But what about Jared?"
"As soon as we have the truck loaded weíll take you over to the school to pick him up," Ryan explained, trying to sound firm, but supportive in general. "And then weíll go right to the airport. In a few hours, weíll have you and Jared safe at home. Now, what do you want to take with you?"
"Iíd thought that if I ever managed to leave him it would just be with the clothes on my back, and maybe a suitcase," Rachel said, still almost thinking that her rescue was a dream. "I think my clothes, all of Jaredís clothes and toys, and not much else. There really isnít a lot. Joel didnít like to spend money on us; heíd rather spend it on himself."
"All right, we have boxes in the truck, letís get going," Ryan said.
One of the things that theyíd talked over was that once Rachel had made the decision to leave they had to keep her too busy to have second thoughts until the deed was done. Theyíd been prepared to have to spend a couple hours on talking her into it, so things had already gone much better than planned. Randy backed rental truck into the driveway until it was almost up to the carport, then went back inside with an armload of folded boxes and a tape dispenser. By then, his parents and sisters were already at work in Rachel and Jaredís rooms.
The work went quickly; Rachel had been right Ė she and Jared didnít have a lot of belongings worth taking, and little that needed much care when packing them. Drawers were just physically dumped into boxes, labeled and sealed, then hauled out to the truck. They finished Rachelís room quickly, but Jaredís took a little more work as there were toys and the like involved. There were a handful of heirlooms that Rachel wanted to keep that were other places in the house, but they didnít take long to pack, either. In not much more than an hour they were ready to go.
"Is that about everything?" Ryan asked finally.
"Itís more than I ever dreamed Iíd be able to get out of here with," Rachel sighed. "In fact, I was pretty sure Iíd never be able to get out of here at all. I canít believe that this isnít all just a dream."
"It isnít," Ryan told her. "And the sooner we have you out of here, the sooner youíll realize it. Letís go get Jared and get you home."
* * *
The rest of the pickup went about as well as could be expected. After Rachel and her parents had picked Jared up from school, they all met again at a pre-selected restaurant, mostly to let everyone know that everything was going well.
The plan had been for Randy and Ruth to drive the rental truck back to Spearfish Lake Ė it seemed simpler than shipping the stuff Ė and that Rachel and Jared would have airline seats on the way back. It seemed best to get them to Spearfish Lake as soon as possible, once again to stave off second thoughts on her part. Since they had no idea of how much space was going to be needed, theyíd rented a big one, and that brought the only hitch in the whole program. "I donít mind driving a big truck," Randy said as they ate, "but Iím not real crazy about herding that thing clear across the country, especially when itís nearly empty."
"Me either," Ruth agreed. "I can drive a truck that big, but that far seems a little silly, especially since itís going to burn an ocean of gas in the process."
"Well, go rent a minivan," Ryan suggested. "Move the stuff over and turn in the truck. The money is no object, but I think getting Randy back in good time is important."
"It sounds like a good idea," Linda pointed out. "In fact, if you want to get a minivan, Iíll go with Ruth, and Randy can fly back with you. That way heíll be around if Joel shows up unexpectedly."
"We can keep an eye on him if you like," Brayton suggested. "If he heads for the airport, we could give you the heads up."
"Not a bad idea," Ryan agreed. "I wouldnít put it past him to be on a plane heading that way this evening."
"Grandpa," the nine-year-old Jared said, "Are Mom and I going to be staying with you, or what?"
"Maybe," Ryan told him. "The plan was that you and your mother were going to stay with your grandmother and me for a few days. After that, you might move in with Randy and Nicole, since they have a house where you and your mother can be a ways away from us." And, Ryan carefully did not say, Randy would be around to provide protection at night. Until they had some idea what Joel was going to do, someone else would be around the house during the day, usually one of Randyís martial arts friends. Plus, Randy had a better alarm system on his newer house, another security concern.
"If itís all right with Nicole," Rachel suggested, "Maybe we could move in with Randy and Nicole right away. Iím sure she could use a little help with Brent, and that way it wouldnít seem quite as much like Iím running home to Mom and Dad."
"Sounds like a plan to me," Randy said. "I know Nicole is willing. Iíd sort of looked forward to the drive across the country, but I agree, it probably would be better if I was back home sooner. Besides, there are things happening at work that I ought to be there for."
"OK, letís do it that way," Ruth suggested. "Itíll give me some time to have a good long one-on-one talk with Mom. It seems like itís been years since Iíve been able to do that. I donít see any reason why Mom and I canít move Rachelís stuff from the truck to a minivan by ourselves. Thereís not much there."
"Good enough," Ryan agreed. "Probably the best place to rent a minivan is at the airport. Ruth, why donít you drive the truck back to the rental place and wait for your mother to bring you the minivan there? Itíll be simpler to do the switch there than at the airport."
Randy was actually a little disappointed at the change of plans; there was a lot of countryside out there that heíd never seen, and it would have been nice to at least drive through it, but right now Rachelís safety seemed more important, and heíd have to be at home to do that. He kept his thoughts on the matter to himself, though; maybe he could consider that mini-adventure some other time. He was used to having that kind of thing happen, after all.
In less than an hour they were at the airport. There was a little problem in changing the names on the tickets around, but nothing that a credit card couldnít cure. Randy wound up in an aisle seat, with Rachel at the window, Jared at the window seat next to his grandfather, across the aisle. "This still seems like a dream," Rachel told him as the airliner taxied out. "Joel will be getting home before long, and heís going to be livid."
"Tough shit," Randy told her. "Thatís in the past for you, now, and weíre going to do our best to keep it there."
"I canít believe you went to all this trouble, just for me," she shook her head.
"Look, Sis," Randy said, "I know we didnít get along all that well when we were growing up. I know I was really a pest to you when I was a young teenager. But what it comes down to is that weíre all family, and none of us could stand to see this happening to you. I wish weíd understood it was happening sooner, but we didnít, and we thought you were fairly happy. Now, I see that we were wrong and we need to make it up to you."
"I was happy with him at first," she said. "It seemed like we were really going to go someplace, and living in California out of the Spearfish Lake winters seemed like a huge luxury. It started to go bad after Jared was born. I hadnít realized that Joel was going to be such a poor father. Especially when Jared was a little baby, Joel mostly thought he was a pain in the ass. And well, it slowly got worse from there."
"Well, mostly Joel just wanted me to keep Jared from bothering him, but as time went on he got more intolerant and demanding. When I wanted to go back to work, he insisted that I stay home and take care of Jared. When Jared got into school, that was still the case, except that he was demanding more and more, and I just went along with it. I didnít really realize how bad it was getting because it got worse so slowly that I didnít notice it. He was really making an asshole out of himself after we came back to Spearfish Lake for Grandfather Brentís funeral. I think Joel wanted that money and I probably would have given it to him, but thank God it was tied up in that land that apparently canít be sold yet."
"It could be sold," Randy said, "But not for the figure you were quoted, at least not yet. In ten years, maybe. But unless someone came along and was willing to pay that much money for hunting land, and itís really pretty poor hunting land, there are only a handful of possible purchasers, and Clark Plywood is the biggest one. Dad and Grandpa Brent were pretty sure Joel was up to something, so thatís why it was done that way."
"I thought there was a little more to that than met the eye," Rachel smiled. "And thank God Dad was as on the ball as he usually is. But anyway, Joel has really been a terror ever since he realized that he couldnít get that million and a half out of it right away. Iíve been thinking about leaving him ever since then, and especially since you came to see me a couple months ago, but after Joel hit me after Mom called me to tell me about your Brent being born it was too much. I just couldnít see a way out until you all came to the door this morning."
"You didnít know about him running around on you?"
"Well, I suspected something but never quite like that," she sighed. "But that really put me over the top. Like I said, I have reason to wonder if this is all a dream or not."
"Itís not a dream," Randy said. "There will probably be a few awkward times to come, and youíre going to have to be pretty careful about him for a while, but now we can get started on building you a new life."
"Iíd like that," she smiled. "But Randy, I donít want to put you and Nicole out, especially since you have a new baby."
"So far itís been pretty good," Randy told her. "Itís taking some getting used to, but itís been fun, too. Nicole says theyíre not quite as much fun when theyíre not quite so little, but as far as Iím concerned that remains to be seen. As far as putting us out, weíve got a bigger house than we really need, and I donít think we understood it when it was built. However, that means thereís room for you for now, and after the Joel threat dies down we can think about getting you a little more independent."
"But Randy, how? I have no money, I have no bank account Ė Joel always insisted on taking care of that. Iíd really like to have a job, but I havenít worked in years."
"Donít worry about it," Randy said. "Mom and Dad and Nicole and I will do what we can to help you out. Dave and Ruth, too, although theyíre so far away they canít be as much help. Iím sure either Dad or I can find some kind of an office job for you. In fact, I could use some help since my bookkeeper gets spread pretty thin in the summer, and there are some other chores that you could do. And if all else fails, youíve still got the timber land to fall back on."
"But, the timber land canít be sold," she protested.
"Sure it can," he smiled. "Remember who the most likely purchaser is?"
"Oh, yes," she grinned, the light dawning on her.
"Itíd probably be best to leave it alone for now, since if you sit on it, it will be worth more, and you shouldnít have to worry about where youíre going to find the money for Jared to go to college. Donít worry, Rachel. Weíll carry you if we have to. Thatís what family is for."