Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Tricia didn’t like to use sleeping pills if she could avoid it; unless carefully planned they could screw up the next day for her too much, and as a physician she figured she needed to be as sharp as she could be. Still, back in the days of her internship, sometimes she needed the sleep and was just too frazzled and wrought up to get some shut-eye without their help.
One thing was clear, even before she went to bed: tomorrow morning she had to talk to Danny. Absolutely had to, and as early as possible. He could blow up her future in Spearfish Lake with only a few words, and maybe a lot of her future as a physician too. She did not need Dr. Tricia York being associated with Peppermint Patty even the slightest bit, no matter how much good her time as Patty had done for her.
But Danny had once been something of a friend. How much could she depend on that? From what little she’d been able to tell from the few words they’d exchanged last night, he was not in any way the nice but rather-defeated guy she’d known years before in Nevada. He still seemed to be a nice guy, but his life had changed drastically – in fact, almost as much as hers had.
Did anyone in this town know that he’d spent several weeks as a bartender in a Nevada cathouse? It seemed very unlikely! Maybe, just maybe, she might have a little bit of a hold on him like he apparently had on her . . . no way of telling at this point, but it seemed like it might be possible. On the other hand, did she want to have to make a life in a place where there was that kind of risk of being discovered? No way . . . but she still owed either five years to this place, or a hell of a lot of money on short notice with no way to get it.
It was probably just as well that she took the sleeping pill – pure paranoia could have kept her awake all night. As it was, it took a call from the front desk to wake her up, something she would not have believed the night before. She didn’t feel much less nervous in the morning, but at least she was less tired. A shower helped improve her attitude a little, but not as much as she’d hoped.
She didn’t think it would make a good impression to wear the same clothes she’d had on last night – they were kind of formal, after all, and if by some damn miracle she made it through her talk with Danny she might need them again pretty soon. Her second-best outfit wasn’t anywhere as nice, not exactly scrubs, but not a fashion plate either, just slacks, a blouse, and a lightweight sweater. It would do for meeting Danny, and it would do for the office if she actually survived the meeting and went there afterward.
It was still a little early to head to Spearfish Lake Furniture and Appliance, and she realized it might not be a bad idea to eat something, if for no more reason than to settle her stomach. Toast, scrambled eggs, and coffee were about all she wanted, and at that she picked at her food. The next hour, she was sure, was going to determine much of the course of the rest of her life.
Fortunately, it was easy to find Danny’s furniture store; it was right on Central, at the corner of Second. Though there were meters downtown, there was some free parking at the store, and she took one of the spots. There was only one van in the small lot, and with luck, she hoped it would be Danny’s and that he would be alone, as he had suggested.
Even though she was there, it was still hard to get out of the car. Jesus, she thought, is it going to come down to this?
There was no putting it off any longer, no matter how hard she wanted to avoid this. For better or worse, it was time.
The door rang with a little fakey-sounding electronic beep when she opened it. The place had been cleaned up from last night; there was no sign that the reception had been held there. She glanced around and saw Danny sitting at a desk near the front of the room, looking up from a computer screen to see her walk in.
“York Peppermint Patty,” he grinned, obviously trying to put her at ease. That was a relief in itself. “I never thought of that. I always figured Charles Schulz.”
“Danny, I swear,” she shook her head, and decided with that opening she had no choice but to get right down to business. “I never even made the connection between you and Spearfish Lake, it’s been that long. I about shit when I saw you last night. Is this going to louse things up?”
“No need for it to,” he told her. “And we need a doctor that badly. Pat . . . er, Tricia, I’ve kept the secret about Amelia all these years. I see her folks now and then and my folks know them real well. Debbie doesn’t even know. There’s no reason I can’t keep this a secret too.”
“Thanks,” she said, amazed that things were going this well. “It’s just goddamn embarrassing to get caught like that.”
“Hey, look,” he said. “I’ve seen your résumé. It looks to me like you kicked ass all the way through college and med school. I’m just pleased as hell and proud as hell for you. I doubt you’re very happy that you did what you had to do, but the results were worth it. Congratulations, and like I said, welcome to Spearfish Lake.”
“You won’t tell, then?” she said dubiously.
“No reason to,” he grinned. “I mean, I will admit to telling the odd story about those days over the years, but not much of it, and not any in years now. There’s no reason to associate you with the place, and those days are long in the past. Dr. York, your secret is safe with me, and if you ever need to talk about it, I’m available, but you’d better not talk about it to anyone else in town.”
“All right,” she said. Now that the truth was out, she figured she might as well tell all the truth; it could still blow things up. “But Danny, since you know about it, I do need to talk about it. I’ve become sort of like Jennlynn.” She was sure Danny would remember Jennlynn Swift. She hadn’t been all that close with Jennlynn, but her fellow worker at the Redlite had had a big reputation at the time – and an even bigger one after what had happened a couple years after Patty had left the Redlite Ranch.
Jennlynn had never been more than a part-timer who worked at the Redlite more for the fun of it than anything else. She was a well-respected engineer on her day job and made a lot more money at engineering than part-time at the Redlite. However, she also operated an aviation charter service on the side. One of the planes she’d owned back in those days had been a Learjet, and it gave her the legendary but well-earned title of “Learjet Jenn, the fastest woman in the state of Nevada.” Her reputation grew nationwide after she and some other passengers had retaken a hijacked airliner several years before, and jet pilot Jennlynn had to land it since the flight crew was in no shape to do it. Although Jennlynn wasn’t active at the Redlite any more – at least as far as Tricia knew – she was still the best-known prostitute in the country.
“You’re still active?” he frowned.
“Not in years,” she shook her head. “Danny, I said I’ve become a little like Jennlynn. I think I understand her a bit better, now. I spent six years just pounding the books, really focused on what I was doing, and it wasn’t easy. The only way I could get through was by maintaining that focus. I, uh, I didn’t have much time for relationships, and I got to the point where I hated being interrupted from my studies. I mean, really snappy, just like Jennlynn was supposed to be on her day job. I hope now I can finally develop a real relationship with someone, but I’m going to have to shake off a lot of that stuff to be able to do it.”
“Well, no skin off my fanny,” he said. “That’s one thing I learned out there, and a lot of it from you. You have to do what you have to do.”
“Thanks, Danny,” she sighed. “I was hoping you’d take it that well.”
“Of course I do,” he smiled. “You remember what I told you the last time I saw you, that I wanted to call you Doctor whatever the hell it was? Congratulations, Dr. York. You did it, and like I said, I’m proud of you.”
“Thanks.” There was no way in hell this conversation could be going this well! It was just about as far as possible from what she’d been worried about as she could imagine. Danny still knew enough to blow her future sky high, but apparently he was still a friend and on her side, after all. It was almost unbelievable! Now, if I can just keep him as a friend, maybe this will work out after all. She remembered her ruminations about him from the night before, about how much his life had to have changed. “I didn’t get much time to talk to your wife last night, but she seems pretty neat.”
“She is pretty cool,” Danny smiled. “Pat . . . damn, I don’t ever dare call you that! Tricia, it’s been as good between Debbie and me as it was bad between Marsha and me. That surprises me just a little, but I am not complaining. We’ve got two kids now, one in kindergarten, one in first grade. It’s just as neat as I ever hoped it could be.”
“Good,” she smiled. “I was hoping things would work out for you.”
“Hey, there’s going to be a little digging in, but let’s have you over for dinner some time. We don’t have to mention anything about Nevada, and as chamber president I should invite you, anyway.”
“Well, thanks,” she said. “Give me a few days to get used to the idea, though. It’s going to involve a little changing in mental gears about you.”
“You need to do it anyway, if you’re going to practice in Spearfish Lake,” he said. “Maybe we’d better get the gossip out of the way now, then bury it. But I am curious about what happened with some of those people. You’ve always headed that list. George is still out there, I take it?”
“Oh, yeah,” she laughed, comfortable now. “He’ll be there till they carry him out. You’re going to have to name names, I don’t remember who you knew.”
They spent the next several minutes talking about some of the people he’d known at the Redlite Ranch back in the day. There were a few things that surprised him, and of course they had to talk about Jennlynn and the hijacking a bit. Tricia – well Patty, in this case – hadn’t actually seen her since the hijacking years before, but there was more news about her floating around the Redlite than had made the national media. Still, for the most part Learjet Jenn had faded from the public spotlight.
Danny had, in fact, heard more recent news about Jennlynn than Tricia had – as Jennlynn had testified before a congressional committee in favor of licensed, legalized prostitution, and it had set off a mild controversy for a few days. But it had happened while Tricia had been an intern and hadn’t had the time to pay any attention to the news whatsoever, so it came as a surprise, especially knowing about how publicly reticent Jennlynn had been about her hobby.
“I have to ask about Amelia,” he said as they wound down talking about Jennlynn. “I don’t hear much from her folks about her anymore, but the last I heard she was supposed to have some kind of a summer job in a park out there, or something. I figured it was a cover story.”
“It was,” she smiled. “The last I heard she was an assistant manager at an RV park, and she’s there four days a week in the summer. Of course, it was mostly a cover story for her weekends at the Ranch.”
“Figures,” he snorted. “I don’t need to go into the details, but after I left there, I spent some time and agony thinking that I ought to do something about that. I decided not to, and Debbie was the main reason. Just as well, I guess. I figured the odds were a hell of a long shot, at best.”
“I could see you thinking about it all the time she was there that first time,” Tricia admitted, remembering some of the agonizing discussions Danny had with her about his soon-to-be-ex sister-in-law. “I wanted to tell you to do the right thing but I didn’t know what the right thing was. I guess I do now, and you did it.”
“I like to think so,” he said. “I felt a little guilty about it for a while, but I decided it was the right thing in the end.”
“Well,” she sighed, “I guess I feel the same way. It never was anything I wanted to do, but it’s what I had to do to be a doctor in the first place. And you know what? While I want you to be the only person around here who knows, I’m proud to have been lucky enough to have done both.”
“One last time, and I won’t call you this ever again,” he said. “But you’re a hell of a woman with a lot to be proud of, Peppermint Patty. Now, welcome to Spearfish Lake, Dr. York. I hope you have a long and rewarding career here, and if you ever need household appliances or furniture, you know where to come.”
By god yes! He was on her side! And, unless she really screwed things up, it seemed likely that he would stay on her side. As the relief washed over her, she remembered another snippet of memories of those days when she’d known him before. It had never been said in so many words, but she remembered thinking that he’d shown tremendous loyalty over a number of years to a wife he admitted to never having liked all that much. Danny was loyal to his friends, perhaps too loyal in some ways, as staying with his ex-wife for so long had proved. As long as he remained a friend, and likely an ongoing confidant, he most likely would stay loyal so long as she didn’t mess things up too badly.
Although Danny keeping his silence was nothing she could control, she was getting a gut feeling that he really wouldn’t out her. Maybe she had a future in Spearfish Lake after all – at least one long enough to work off her obligations to the Donna Clark Foundation and their backers.
“That’s something I need to think about,” she replied, glad of the change of subject – and the fact that things like appliances and furniture were going to be an issue after all. “I’m staying out at the Spearfish Lake Inn, and I need to look for a place to live.”
“Rental or buying?” he replied, obviously aware of the shift of the direction of their discussion.
“I don’t think buying, at least not yet,” she said, more conversationally now. “I’ve got my head above water financially, but I’m sort of having to stand on a submerged rock to do it. What’s more, I don’t know this town yet, so I don’t think it would be wise to commit myself to something this soon.” After all, she thought, things could still go to worms and she’d have to run and hide. “So I guess I’m looking for a rental.”
“I can’t really help you much with that directly,” he told her. “But did you meet Binky Augsberg at the reception last night?”
“I’m not sure. I met a lot of people, and I’m not sure I’d remember her.”
“Little oriental woman, a little older than me?”
“Oh, yes,” she replied, the face coming to her, although she wouldn’t have been able to put a name with it. Well, yes she could. “Binky seemed like an odd name.”
“It’s her name,” Danny smiled, writing a phone number on a pad. “Nguyen Binh Ky. There are a couple of real interesting stories about her, you’ll probably hear them sooner or later, although she doesn’t talk about them much. She’s the biggest and busiest real estate agent in town, and she was a major contributor to bringing you here. As far as I know she doesn’t deal in rentals a lot, but she probably knows of something and she’ll be pleased you asked. If she can’t find something you like, there’s probably an ad in the Record-Herald.”
“Great, I’ll give her a call as soon as I can. I guess I’m going to have to come to you for furniture once I find a place.”
“You don’t have any?”
“Nothing to speak of,” she admitted as he handed her the slip of paper. “I just have a cheap furnished studio apartment down in Milwaukee, and all I ever used it for was to sleep sometimes and leave my dirty clothes until I had time to go to a laundromat. I’ve been in that place for over two years, but all of it has been as an intern or a resident, so you can’t actually say I lived there.”
“Well, when you get figured out what you need and when you need it, I can help,” he said. “I can even deliver it for you, and set up what needs to be set up. If you’re tight for cash, there are several corners I can cut, and I could arrange for financing. Look, Tricia, call me anytime you have questions about getting set up, at least in a non-medical sense. I can probably steer you in the right direction.”
“Thanks, Danny,” she smiled. “I appreciate it.”
“It’s the least I can do for a new doctor in town,” he smiled. “Like I said, we need one badly and you probably know at least something about why by now. While I’m glad it’s you, I find your being here just a little ironic.”
“You mean that we already knew each other?”
“Well, yeah, that too,” he grinned. “But there’s no way you could know that you were at least partly responsible for our setting up the program in the first place.”
“I was? How?”
“Tricia, I told you that I’ve told a couple stories around town about the old days at the Redlite. It was no real big secret that I spent a few weeks working as a bartender there, and that the experience did a hell of a lot to screw my head back on straight after I had to leave Marsha. When I told those stories I never used a name, except for Jennlynn’s. In fact, she was here once. You remember Randy and Nicole Clark from last night, don’t you? Jennlynn flew a charter of guests in for their wedding. I’m afraid I outed her a little on that after the fact.”
“Wow,” she shook her head. “This is a smaller world than I thought. But how was I responsible for setting up the program in the first place?”
“Well, like I said, I told a few stories about the Redlite back years ago. The story I told the most often was about an unnamed girl who was working at the Redlite to save money for med school. Well, one day several of us were kicking around the question of how we were going to get a new doctor, and Randy brought up that story. He said it would be great to find someone that dedicated to becoming a doctor. Well, one thing led to another, but I never dreamed it would come out the way it did.”
“You never used my name?”
“No, never did. I never even used your work name, which I promised you I wouldn’t mention ever again. Hell, I didn’t know your real name until last night anyway. If I’d been on the interview committee, I might have recognized you, and I might not have. But even if I’d been on the committee and I’d recognized you, it wouldn’t have changed anything. We were looking for a young doctor who was very dedicated to what they were doing, and you’ve more than proved it, even without knowing how you paid for med school in the firsst place. Now, it’s up to you to return the faith we’ve put in you.”