Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Joel Lancaster wasn’t in any better mood driving home that afternoon than he’d been when he left the house in the morning. In fact, it was a lot worse. Damn it, he had obligations coming due, and soon; Big Ed was getting very antsy about his money, and there had been a nasty phone call at midday that hadn’t helped any. If only the money from Rachel’s land would come through – then he’d be out of the woods with a little left over for breathing room. But no, nothing was happening up there in that godforsaken wasteland; the real estate agent said that there hadn’t been any activity in timberland transfers recently, on their piece or anything else. The little slant-eye was probably lying; she hadn’t figured it would be worth the trouble to get out and advertise the property, but there wasn’t a hell of a lot he could do about it at this distance.
Just why the hell hadn’t Rachel’s grandfather left her cash, instead of a pile of useless land that probably wouldn’t be able to be sold for years? It was like money in the bank that couldn’t be gotten to, and God knew he had a use for the money. It had been months now, and there hadn’t seemed to be anything that could be done.
In the last few weeks he’d been able to come up with a good idea about it – mortgage the land, and that would give him enough cash to get Big Ed off his back for a while. But that wasn’t as simple as it seemed. He hadn’t been able to come up with a mortgage company that would give him enough loan value on the land, mostly because it was so far away and of an unknown worth. Now, if it had been in California he could have had it arranged in a minute. Rachel would have to sign the mortgage, of course, but that wasn’t a problem – he could make her do it, and the mortgage would be in her name. Of course, she couldn’t make payments on it so it would wind up being picked up by the mortgage company, so no great loss. It was the roundabout way of doing it but it came out at the same place – he’d get the money out of it, maybe not as much as it was worth or as much as he needed, but enough to patch things up for a while.
Now, if the deal in the Northrise loan package worked out and a few more people defaulted on their mortgages, he could pick up a few homes cheap, resell them at a profit, and come out sitting pretty, but that would take time, too. At least he’d have Big Ed taken care of for a while. He’d gone to him for short-term financing on a couple deals – hated having to it as was an under-the-table deal, and Big Ed was on the shady side – but you have to take a risk once in a while, he thought.
Christ, he hoped Rachel would have something decent for dinner, especially after that abortion of a breakfast she’d served in the morning. She should have known better than to pull something like that, pancakes instead of waffles. That really had pissed him off, and she had to be kept in her place. Sometimes he wondered why he’d married her. Damn it, he knew her old man had some money, and there were better places it could be used than in some damn wood plant up in the middle of nowhere. But could he get any of that money? Shit no, just a bunch of damn useless trees! They were just a bunch of useless turds, especially that goddamn Randy! Where the hell did Rachel’s grandfather think he was getting off, leaving a perfectly good company to that self-important little shit? By all rights, Rachel should have gotten it, or at least a good part of it, not the useless shit that had been left over. Jesus, he’d like to kick that little shit’s ass! There was no goddamn reason at all that the little shit had to come out smelling like a rose on that deal.
Joel let out a sigh. Just about the first thing he’d done when they got back to civilization back in January was to go talk to a lawyer about the whole legacy, to see if Rachel couldn’t get at least her fair share out of it, and more if possible. But the goddamn shyster had told him that it wasn’t worth bothering about – the trust had been airtight under Michigan law, and the distribution had already been made. That meant that Ryan Clark and that backwoods fool he had for an attorney had given him the bum’s rush out of town with nothing but shit in his hands. Yeah, so technically it was Rachel’s but that didn’t mean anything; it was the same as if it was his. Where the fuck did Clark think he was getting off playing him for a fool like that? Fuck, Rachel was probably behind it, she talked back and forth with her family all the damn time, going behind his back. That was a sack of shit and couldn’t be tolerated. She couldn’t be allowed to think anything other than she had to do what he told her to do, at least until he got a reasonable amount of usable cash out of that fucking timberland.
After that, who knew? It was probably worth keeping her around; when her old man kicked off, probably not soon, he ought to be leaving her a wad of money, but that was about the only good reason he could think of. Well, to take care of the kid and keep him out of his hair, not that she was very good at that, either. Shit, he had to be on her goddamn case all the damn time just to keep some semblance of order and give him some of the respect he deserved.
He pulled into the driveway, even more steamed than he’d been when he left work. Shit, she’d probably want to go out to the fucking grocery store tonight, and there was no doubt that he’d have to go with her no matter how much he felt otherwise. She couldn’t be depended on to get food that he liked unless he was standing over her. He didn’t want to let her out with the car by herself, because she couldn’t be trusted with it, and there was no way in hell he could allow her to have a car of her own, since there was no telling where she might go with it. Not having wheels kept her pretty well at home where she belonged since it was harder for her to get him into trouble that way.
He unlocked the door, went inside, and yelled, "Rachel! I’m home! When’s dinner?" He got no reply. That was strange, she knew better than to ignore him. He glanced around the kitchen and noticed that there was nothing cooking on the stove or in the microwave. That was also strange; even though he didn’t always get home at the same time she knew enough to have something pretty well ready to eat when he got there. It had taken a hell of a long time to teach her that much.
"Rachel!" he yelled again, louder this time. "Where the fuck are you?"
Again there was silence. At least the TV was off. She spent all too much time glued to the damn thing, but at least she knew he didn’t like the continual babble of the shit she watched, and she usually turned it off when she heard him drive in. Damn it, she should have paid attention to him by now!
He walked into the living room, but there was still no sign of her, or of the kid, for that matter. The house was very quiet – it was possible that both of them were taking a nap, but she knew better than to be pulling that shit when he got home. Something didn’t seem right, so he glanced into the kid’s bedroom. It seemed neat and clean for once; there was nothing left out like there usually was. Good, maybe she’d done something useful for once today. He moved on into their bedroom, but there was no sign of her there, either.
At least he could get out of the goddamn suit and tie and into some reasonable clothes. He yanked open the closet door after he peeled out of the suit coat – it was miserable to have to wear the damn thing in the good California weather, but it was pretty much expected so there was no avoiding it – and then he got a shock. His clothes were there, of course, but hers were gone. Missing. All of them just not there. What the fuck?
He went back into the kid’s bedroom and looked a little closer. He yanked open the closet door, expecting to see it piled high with all the toys and crap the kid collected, but it was empty – well, there were a few loose papers and stuff, nothing that amounted to anything. A look in his dresser showed there was nothing there, either. It had been cleaned out.
Only then did the reality hit him. She and the kid were gone, and not just gone a little; they’d cleaned out everything in the process. Christ almighty, where did she get off thinking she could pull that shit on him?
God damn it to hell! If she was gone, it was going to raise hell with getting that million and something he needed to get Big Ed off his ass! Christ on a crutch! He went back out to the living room – he needed to sit down and think about this. As he walked over to his chair, he saw a pile of papers scattered around in it. "What the fuck is this shit?" he said out loud, and swept them onto the floor so he’d have a place to sit – but when he looked down, he saw that they weren’t just papers, but photos.
Photos of Kelly and him in bed last Thursday, to be precise – printed on a laser printer, so they weren’t originals; he could tell that much. Where the fuck did she get that? He wondered about it as he gathered the papers up and sat down in the chair. Damn, that Kelly was a fine figure of a woman, he’d had a good time with her, and there were a lot of photos showing it. He’d suspected that Rachel had some idea that he was getting a little on the side, but how the fuck could she have known about Kelly, and where did she get the photos?
There was no way Rachel could have taken them, he realized. But the photos pretty well said that she knew about what he’d been up to, and that she was gone. She must have hired a professional to get them, but where the hell would she find the money to do that?
Her goddamn family, of course, he realized as he stared at the photos of him getting it on with Kelly. That fucking proved that he hadn’t come down hard enough on Rachel for jabbering back and forth to them all the damn time. By God, when he got her back, she wasn’t going to talk to them, ever. There was no doubt he had to get her back – he needed that money, and soon, or he was going to have Big Ed all over his ass, and maybe worse.
Where the hell could she have gone? Probably back to that godforsaken hole in the woods, he thought. Well, we’re going to deal with that shit right away, before she gets any more goddamn big ideas in her head. There’s going to have to be some order restored with her. He’d goddamn teach her to pull this kind of shit on him!
* * *
Heading east the time differential worked against them, so it was well after dark by the time they got into Minneapolis – St. Paul. and well after midnight local time by the time they changed planes and got to Camden and into Ryan and Linda’s big Chrysler. It was over another hour getting back to Spearfish Lake, and Randy had plans for spending several hours in bed. While he had things to do at the office, he figured that they could keep long enough for him to sleep late in the morning.
Because he felt a little fresher than his father, or at least thought he did, Randy was driving the Chrysler when they pulled into Spearfish Lake, figuring that Nicole and Brent would be dead asleep. With any kind of luck, he thought he could get Rachel and Jared settled in their new rooms without waking Nicole up. Nicole at least knew what was coming; they’d called ahead, and she’d agreed to have the rooms ready. What a day, he thought as he turned off the state road onto Lakeshore, the quick way home. At least it worked, he yawned.
As the lights of the Chrysler fell on the house, he saw something big and white sitting in the driveway. What the hell, he thought, and then saw what it was. "Holy shit," he said out loud. "She went and did it!"
Randy’s father was dead asleep, but from the back seat Rachel asked, "What’s that, Randy?"
"The sailboat!" he said. He’d not mentioned it to his sister earlier. "Nicole must have bought it."
"She bought a sailboat?" Rachel said. "As big as that?"
"Yeah, we’ve been talking about it, but the guy who owned it has been hard to get hold of," he replied as he pulled to a stop next to it. He noticed even before he shut off the car that it was still hooked to his pickup.
"Damn it," Rachel said, and Randy could hear tears in her voice. "Doesn’t that just say it all?"
"What’s that, Sis?" he said.
"You let Nicole go out and spend what had to have been thousands of dollars on a sailboat by herself, and I couldn’t buy so much as a can of soup without Joel’s approval and usually with him picking at me over it. Doesn’t that just about say it all?"
"Rachel, those days are over with," he told her. "You just have to put them behind you. It’s going to take time, but we have the time, now."
"It’s not going to be easy," she replied, still obviously teary. "But somehow that just burns my butt. Thank you, Randy. I don’t know how I can thank my pesky little brother enough."
"Just having you back with us is thanks enough," he said. "Let’s wake up Dad and Jared, and see if we can get in and get you to bed without waking Nicole and Brent up."
There was no hope of that; even as he said it, lights went on in the house, including the big floodlights in the driveway. In a moment, Nicole came outside wearing a robe. "I didn’t want to wake you up," Randy said.
"No big deal, Brent had me up anyway," she said. "The change in plans ruined my little surprise."
"You mean the boat?" he said. "It was a big enough surprise to pull into the driveway and see it sitting there."
"If you’d driven back like you originally planned, it would have been in the water," she explained. "The guys from Lake Service are supposed to be here tomorrow to put in a new dock so we’d have a place to tie it up. Nellie and I had plans to go out sailing the next couple days so we could take you out in it the first thing."
"So, did you get a good deal on it?" Randy asked, checking the boat out a little more thoroughly in the floodlit driveway.
"Very good," she said. "He called back Monday morning. It turns out he’s been in the hospital, some kind of ongoing problem, but he said he felt up to giving me a quick tour. So, I called up Nellie and we headed on down there. It turns out that there’s more to the deal than we thought, it includes a seven-and-a-half horse outboard and some furnishings that he didn’t want to leave on the boat out on the street. He said that the boat was in pretty good shape and that he’d put a lot of work into it the last couple years, but his health just won’t let him continue. He even gave us a list of things that need to be done and pointed some of them out. Nellie and I agreed that it’s all pretty minor stuff. So, when he said forty-seven hundred, I didn’t hesitate. I wrote him a check right on the spot, and we came right back up here and got the pickup."
"Just you and Nellie?"
"That’s all we needed. Well, we took Brent along, not that he was any help," she grinned. "We swung by the guy’s house, picked up the outboard and the sail bags and like that, then went over and got the boat. It pulls pretty easy behind the pickup, you can tell it’s there but it’s not bad. Nellie helped me back it in here. We hadn’t figured on you being home before the dock was in and we could take it to the boat launch."
"Well, I guess that means we have to learn how to sail it," Randy sighed.
"If the dock is in we can get started tomorrow night, but there’s no reason we can’t leave it on the trailer in the driveway until the weekend if we’re busy with other things," Nicole replied, nodding slightly at Rachel.
"No way of telling," Randy shrugged out a reply, getting Nicole’s drift. "Anyway, we’re all pretty tired and looking forward to hitting the sack. I’m just hoping we can wake Dad up enough for him to drive home."
"Maybe you’d better drive him home, and help him get into bed," Nicole suggested. "We can get the car back to him in the morning, or something. I’ll get Rachel and Jared settled in while you’re gone."
Driving his father home was easy, but waking him enough to steer into the house and into bed was not as simple. Randy had always known his father was hard to wake up when he was sound asleep, and it apparently hadn’t gotten any better with his advancing years. It was close to twenty minutes before he drove the Chrysler back home and parked it in the driveway. By then, the house was quiet, although there were some lights still on for him. Randy turned them off as he headed to the bedroom; the thought of the bed sounded awfully good to him right then.
Although he found Nicole in bed, she was still awake. "So," she said in a low voice as he stripped his clothes off. "Was it as bad as you thought it was going to be?"
"About all I can say is yes and no," Randy told her. "Rachel caved in with less trouble than we expected, but mostly because things were even worse for her than we dreamed. He really had her beaten down, I mean emotionally, and apparently he’d been hitting her some, too. Her self-esteem is really low, but I think she realizes what she’s been missing. I think it’s going to take some time to rebuild her."
"You think Joel is going to come after her, then?"
"I’d be damned surprised if he doesn’t. He really seems to want the money from that timberland Dad arranged to have grandpa Brent’s trust leave to her, and I suspect that it had been turned to cash he’d have it by now. Brayton said he’s going to keep a guy on Joel to see if he heads for the airport or something, but I don’t know how well it’s going to work. So, we go on alert status now. Lock up the house and keep it locked, even if you’re just going out for the mail, and keep the alarm system on. I’ve already talked to Blake, he’ll be here in the morning before I leave for work. If he can’t stay around, there’ll be someone else here, and I may be that someone."
"You think he’s going to be violent?"
"I’d be awful surprised if he isn’t. Nicole, with Jared in the house I’m a little reluctant to do this, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Joel shows up packing iron, so for a while the .357 will be in the front closet on the top shelf. I know you know how to use it, and be ready to use it if you have to. Anybody who’s staying with you will be armed, too, and that includes me. It’s a case of preparing for the worst and figuring that whatever happens it won’t be as bad."
"You really think it’s that serious? I mean, with Brent in the house, and all?"
"Like I said, we need to be prepared for the worst. I know having Brent here is going to be a problem, but Rachel is better off here than she’d be at Mom and Dad’s, especially with Mom still on the road. I thought real hard about taking Rachel and Jared out to Dave and Ruth’s cabin, since there’s no way Joel could ever find her there. But I think that he’s coming and there’s going to be a confrontation. All I can say is that it’s better if it happens here than if it happened in San Jose."
"I don’t like it," she said. "Not one bit, and I’d like to get Brent out of here for a few days. But I think I should be here for Rachel and Jared."
"I don’t like it either," he sighed. "But we can’t figure out anything better. Joel has to learn that he’s not going to get away with this shit he pulled on her any longer."