Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Things drifted back toward normal over the next few weeks.
By now it was the height of the construction season. As always, Randy had several jobs going. He didnít like to say that any one of them was more important than any one of the others, but some drew more of his attention.
The lodge extension at Three Pines was important, but almost routine; once the excavating work was done and the concrete was in, the job became about like the rest of the Three Pines jobs that Clark Construction had done over the last few years. Randy had put together a crew that did Three Pines work almost exclusively, and several men on the crew were from the reservation. It was still necessary for Randy or Carlos to run over there for various reasons two or three times a week, but that was less than it had been in the past. There was another new lodge building potentially in the cards for another year, and finalizing that took some time, too; at least there would be work on the books for the next year.
The pellet plant at Clark Plywood was only a few blocks away, so running over there to check it out was much easier. A fairly simple steel building, it went up quickly and was closed in before the end of June. However, there were a number of internal details that needed to be done and some secondary construction. Machinery for the plant was soon arriving a piece or two at a time, and the Clark Construction crew was pressed into service, along with some heavy equipment, to put it into place. Arrival and placement of equipment was now the pacing item on getting the plant done. It was something Randy had no control over, and from a Clark Construction viewpoint had no real interest in, but from a Clark Plywood viewpoint he had to be concerned about it. Fortunately, his father did most of the bugging of the fabricating company downstate that was building the equipment.
The job that drew most of Randyís attention, not surprisingly since it was so unusual, was the Newton house on Windmill Island. A week after Rachel and Jared arrived in Spearfish Lake, Don was ready to set up the stringers for the tower Ė they were made of laminated wood and were long and heavy. In spite of his determination to not bother the very senior construction superintendent, Randy decided that he really wanted to be there for that. One morning he paddled his kayak out to the island, and with the Newtons sat back and tried to stay out of the way.
The toughest part of the job was getting the first two stringers up, one of which had the ring already attached at the top that the rest of the stringers would fit into. It turned out to be anticlimactic; Jim Wooten had worked up a gin pole arrangement to make the first stringer and the ring easier to lift. It only took him a couple of minutes with the backhoe to get the pieces up and hanging with the stringer more or less in position and held with cable stays. It took a while to reset equipment to the opposite side and lift the second one, and then quite a bit of subsequent jiggling around to tie it into the ring and get it bolted into place, but once there it wasnít likely to go anywhere. The third and fourth stringers went up that afternoon, too, much the same way, and that stabilized the structure to the point where, the next day, pulleys and a direct lift could be used for the rest of the stringers, rather than having to fiddle with the the gin pole.
Randy wasnít there the next day for all of that, but paddled his kayak out late in the afternoon just to see how they were coming. By then the last stringer was going into place, and with the tower support in place Randy could see that it was going to be an impressive building indeed when it was finished. He tried to imagine how it would look with the building complete and the windmill blades attached, but the reality of the tower in front of him as he sat offshore in his sea kayak didnít quite match up to the appearance of the renderings. It was going to be so much more impressive!
With the tower up, the Newtons got into their Lake Amphibian and took off for home, promising to drop back by in a couple weeks to see how things were going. After they left, Randy pretty well made up his mind that heíd leave Don alone for a while; erecting the actual building was not only something Don knew how to do, but he could do it much better than Randy.
He got back to the office just as Rachel and Regina were picking up for the day. Rachel hadnít wanted to put off getting to work; it just put her old life that much further behind her, just as Randy had hoped. It turned out to be good timing; the summer intern they had hired hadnít worked out at all well, and on the Friday of the week Rachel and Jared had come to town, Randy and Carlos agreed that there was no point in putting up with him any longer. Although she knew almost nothing about construction, Rachel moved into the internís office and took over at least some of his duties; Randy and Carlos had to take over the rest of them. Regina started Rachel out on keeping time sheets and reports, which could get a little confusing with people moving between jobs, but she soon got the hang of it.
One problem arose in the first few days. Randy had been out at the 484 job, and a couple things werenít going well, so a conference with Mike was needed, and that went past quitting time. He got back to the office to discover that Rachel wasnít there; sheíd called Nicole to come pick her up from work.
"This is going to happen again," Randy said over dinner. "Rachel, I think we need to get you some wheels."
"But Randy!" she protested, "I havenít had a driverís license in years. Joel would never let me drive."
"So?" Randy said. "Do I have to give you the lecture again? I know you know how to drive. Tomorrow, Iíll find the time to run you over to the Secretary of Stateís office, and weíll get you a new Michigan license."
"Youíre right, of course," she sighed. "But how am I going to pay for a car?"
"Thatís part of what you have a job for," Randy grinned. "Donít worry, Dad and I will help you out."
Under the circumstances Rachel didnít feel like she needed a really snazzy car, so the next evening there was a five-year-old Chevy Cavalier parked in the driveway. "Itíll do for now," she said. "But Randy, you donít know how good it is to have my own car and be able to drive where I need to, when I want to."
"I went through something like that when I turned sixteen," Randy said. "I remember it, and you ought to, too."
After that they left for work about the same time unless Randy had to go in early for some reason or another, but Randy soon noticed that it always took Rachel longer to get to work than it did him. It was some time before he discovered that Rachel was taking the time to drive by the jail, park her car on the street, get out before flipping a middle finger at the building, getting back in and heading off to work. He said nothing about it, but couldnít help but wonder if Joel was seeing it, or what he might think.
If having Rachel and Carlos helped Randy out during the day to make his work schedule a little more slack than heíd been accustomed to in years past, the evenings made up for it. Randy made a point of trying to make it to at least a part of all of Jaredís Little League games, and as it turned out he only missed a few innings. On the evenings that he didnít have practice or a game, if there was a nice breeze Randy and some of the others were out in the sailboat with Nellie, learning how to sail. It wasnít as complicated as Randy had feared, and it turned out that his experience with Scooter on the Felicity Ann a few years before gave him a running start. By the middle of June, Nellie told him that there was no reason that he couldnít take it out by himself so long as a hard blow wasnít in the forecast, but that sheíd love to come along for the ride when there was room.
Randy found the evening sailing in the light breezes to be relaxing, and also gave him time to think. On occasion his mother came over to watch the kids, leaving the boat to Randy, Nicole, and Rachel. Those were almost always interesting evenings, and occasionally Rachel would talk about the hell sheíd been through with Joel, just getting it out of her system. It was obviously going to be a while before she managed it totally, but she seemed continually happier as time went on. On occasion theyíd drop anchor in some isolated spot at the far end of the lake and take the opportunity to go swimming Ė often in the nude if no one else was around, but wearing swimsuits if there were. Rachel was loosening up a lot, and getting to be more and more like the big sister Randy remembered.
A couple of different times during that period Dave and Ruth came up for the weekend, at least to be supportive and see how Rachel was coming along. However, they hadnít yet made it out to Grandfather Brentís hunting cabin, until one Saturday Randy took them out there in the pickup.
Ryan had been right Ė the place was sound, but needed work. Not so much repairs, but it looked like Brent hadnít cleaned it for years, and as far as he knew Brent hadnít been out there at all in the five years or so before his death. "Well," Dave sighed, "It looks like weíve got a lot of work ahead of us if Iím coming up here for hunting season."
"Yeah, it looks like it," Ruth agreed. "I still like the idea of coming out here in the winter sometime. Randy, do those friends of yours still have their dog teams?"
"More of them than you can shake a stick at," he told them. "Frankly, a winter weekend out here with you guys sounds like a lot of fun to me. But rather than you guys going to a lot of trouble, why donít we just get the whole gang out here for a workbee weekend sometime? I mean, Dad, Mom, Nicole, and Rachel along with the four of us. That might make things go a little more quickly, and Iíll bet Jared could be a big help."
It wound up taking a couple weekends, but the place was cleaned up adequately; Randy had a couple of his carpenters take on a little on-the-side extra work on the place, just to make sure everything was right.
Early in July Joelís trial date rolled around. Randy, Nicole, Rachel, and several of the others who had been in Randyís living room that day all had to go to the trial since they expected to be called as witnesses, but as it turned out it was a waste of time. Somewhere in the nearly two months that had passed, Pat Roberts had apparently made it pretty clear to Joel just exactly where his bread was buttered in Spearfish Lake. It would be best for him to agree to plead guilty and work a deal with the prosecutor to ask the judge for some degree of clemency. So they only saw Joel in the courtroom for about five minutes, and then only the back of his head as he made the plea.
"It could be worse," Randy said once they were outside the courtroom. "He still has that two-year sentence for packing heat, thereís no way he can get out of that since that was one of the charges he pled guilty to. No telling what the judge will stack on top of that, but Rachel, you can have your divorce final in less than half that time. After that heíll have less hold on you since that takes the money issue out of the equation. Besides, you should be more ready to deal with him if he comes after you again."
"Youíre probably right," she sighed. "But I still think Iím going to take those martial arts classes this winter, and it probably wouldnít be a bad idea to learn to use a handgun, too."
Needless to say, they showed up for the sentencing hearing a few days later. The judge did show some clemency; he gave Joel five to seven, rather than the seven to ten he could have gotten. That meant heíd be the guest of the state prison system for a while. Harry Novato explained later that Joel could conceivably be out in four years, given good behavior, but that would be up to a parole board. Harry also explained that the bus from the state prison system would be through the next day to haul Joel downstate for processing, and that would be the end of that.
Waiting around on the sentencing hearing had wasted most of the morning, so Rachel, Randy, and Nicole headed home for lunch. Rachel was in a much better mood now that she knew Joel wasnít going to be a problem for a while.
Over lunch, Nicole announced, "Randy, do you know what we were doing a year ago today?"
"Jeez, is it here that soon?" he said Ė it was the anniversary of their taking off for a couple days to make Brent. "We sure had ourselves a couple good days out on Little Woodlark, didnít we?"
"The best," Nicole grinned. "And it worked out pretty well, too. We had quite a year, didnít we?"
"Yeah, especially the last six months," Randy shook his head. "I have to say that Iím glad to have it over with. There were some bad things that happened, but there were some good things, too."
"We ought to celebrate," Nicole said. "You know, ever since we started talking about getting the boat weíve talked about sailing out there and spending the night, but weíve never done it. You cleared your workload to get away all day. Why donít you and I take advantage of it?" She gave a broad wink at Rachel as if to signify that this was something just between the two of them.
Rachel got the message Ė Randy figured that she and Nicole had probably already talked about what Nicole had in mind. "Fine with me," she said. "Iíll watch the kids. Itís celebration enough for me to know that Iíve got at least four years free of Joel."
"All we really need to do is change our clothes, grab a few cans of food, and throw the sleeping bags on board," Nicole said. "We could be out of here in ten minutes."
"I really need to be at work tomorrow," Randy said. "And you do too, Rachel. But Nicole and I can come back on the outboard if thereís no wind first thing in the morning. It wonít be any problem if we get in a little late."
It took a little longer than ten minutes, but not much. There was a nice west wind blowing, just a summer breeze, so they didnít need much more than shoving the boat away from the dock and raising the sails to get under way. In the few minutes theyíd spent getting organized Nicole had gotten out of her court clothes and pulled on a string bikini, and Randy spent no little time contemplating her wearing it. Really, it was nothing new; heíd watched Nicole wearing tiny bikinis since theyíd both been kids, but somehow this was different Ė like when they paddled the sea kayaks out to Little Woodlark the previous summer, Randy knew she had business on her mind.
Even at the height of summer thereís often little traffic on the lake, at least when away from the town and the cottage country at the west end of the lake. That was the case today; the nice breeze was only being enjoyed by themselves. Before they were very far from shore, Nicole had the top of her bikini off, and Randy was looking forward to what was to come.
Just to tease her, Randy sailed the boat fairly close to the point and her parentsí house, but not too close. It was a fine day for a sail, and with the wind behind them it still took a couple hours to get out to the vicinity of Little Woodlark Island. Since the day was yet young, they sailed around in the mouth of the Albany River and its associated bay before Randy turned the boat into the wind and headed for their destination.
The breeze died out when they got into the wind shadow of the island. In the dying breeze Randy worked the boat up into the leeward side of the island and the relatively shallow water, while Nicole stood ready, topless on the front deck, to throw the anchor overboard. "It doesnít look like thereís anyone here," she called to him from the bow.
"Wouldnít expect there to be, not today," he said. "Go ahead and lower the anchor, then letís get the sails down."
Getting the sails down was easy; the boat had a roller furling system that made taking them in a matter of a couple minutes at most. By then it was clear that the anchor was holding. "Well," Randy said, "Weíre here."
"I donít know about you, but Iím ready for a swim," she replied. With that, she peeled out of her bikini bottom and tossed it in the cockpit. Randy figured what she was up to, and his shorts were there at almost the same time. They jumped overboard Ė it was too shallow to dive Ė and swam and walked until they were on shore. In a couple minutes they were up on a grassy spot in the edge of the trees, doing what theyíd had so much fun doing the year before. It was one of the wilder sessions of love making that theyíd had in a while.
Afterward, they just cuddled up on the shore, kissing a little and talking. "I think we got a good deal out of the last time we did this out here," she smirked.
"Are you sorry weíre not out here with exactly the same goal?" he teased.
"Well, a little," she said. "I want to keep our kids close in ages, but this is just a little too soon, so I guess Iím just as glad weíre not trying to do it again this time. Timing the kids to be born in the late winter or the early spring works too well. But Iíll tell you what, we can come out here about this time next year and you can put another baby into me."
"Iím looking forward to it," he grinned. "Like they always say, practice makes perfect. Iím not quite ready for some more practice but I should be in a few minutes."
"Iíll be ready when you are," she said.
"You know, thatís the one downside of having Rachel and Jared around all the time. We canít be quite as free and easy as we used to be."
"Well, thatís not going to last forever," she replied. "Now that Joel is as good as gone and staying away for a few years, I think sheíll get the itch to be a little more independent of us."
"Yeah, Iím starting to get that feeling. And really, thatís good. Joel kept her under his thumb for so long sheís having some trouble digging out from it, but I think sheís doing pretty well so far. Maybe having him out of town will speed the process up."
"I think so," she agreed. "I mean, in one sense, I donít mind having her with us. Sheís been a big help with Brent, and youíre going a long way toward being a replacement father for Jared. He needs someone who can show him what a father is supposed to be, not the one he had. I think youíre doing well at it."
"Practice makes perfect," he grinned. "I mean, itís less than nine years till we have a nine year old."
"Itís a tough age. At nine theyíre still children, but starting to look past that. Can you imagine what an asshole Jared would have been as a father if he only had his fatherís example to work with?"
"Itís not very pretty," he conceded. "But maybe we got to both Rachel and Jared just in time."
"I think we did. At least I hope so. I donít want to push Rachel out the door, but itís time for her to start thinking about taking the next step. I just hope that before Joel gets out of prison that sheíll have found another man, a decent man who will respect her. Thatíll be more protection from him than anything we could provide, at least in the long run."
"Iíve thought about that, too," Randy agreed. "But thatís something I donít want to push her on, either. One step at a time, and it may take her a while to get ready to take that step. In spite of everything, I donít think sheís anywhere near ready for it yet. But, sheís got three or four years, and that ought to be enough time."
"I think youíre right on that, too. I guess about all we can do is wait for it to happen without looking like weíre pushing it, while you continue to be a substitute father for Joel. Itíll happen in time. But Iíll tell you what, Randy. While I donít want to push her out of the house, weíve still got a few years where we can have our old free and easy sex around the house before Brent starts getting old enough to notice and weíll have to tone it down."
"Yeah, I miss that," he said. "But maybe now that we have the boat we can come out here once in a while."
"Iíd like that," she grinned. "In fact, Iíd like it a lot. Are you ready to get in some more practice?"