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Hiding Patty
A Tale From Spearfish Lake
Wes Boyd
©2012, ©2014

Chapter 7

Danny had barely gotten the front door opened when Tricia was there, and in a hell of a lot better mood than she’d been in this time the day before. He noticed it, too. “You look pretty chipper this morning,” he grinned when he saw her. “Something tells me you’re interested in furniture today.”

“You sure got that right,” she laughed. “You definitely did good in sending me to Binky.”

“Binky doesn’t miss much,” he said. “Never has. I take it she showed you a place you fell head over heels in love with.”

“Right square on the nose,” she beamed. “A little duplex over on Oak Street.”

“Brick, half-timbered upper story, a couple blocks up from the lake?”

“How did you know?” she asked in wonder. Maybe the word went around this town even faster than she thought.

“There are only a couple duplexes on Oak Street,” he smiled. “The other one is down near the plant and isn’t anywhere as nice. I didn’t think Binky would show anything like that to you. Did you get a good deal out of her?”

“I think so,” she said. “It’s actually a little less than I’m paying for my place in Milwaukee.”

“You got a deal,” he said flatly. “Some people think Binky is a little slick selling real estate, but she got her good reputation from being as honest as the day is long. If there’s something wrong with a place, she’ll tell you if she knows about it, but a lot of people think every real estate agent is trying to bullshit them. Debbie and I got our place through her, and it’s worked out really well.”

“She and her husband are pretty good people. I had dinner with them last night, and we sat around and talked for hours. I really enjoyed it and learned a lot about this town.”

“Yeah, Steve is pretty cool, too,” Danny nodded. “I don’t know him that well, but my dad does. So what is it you’re going to need?”

“Just about everything,” she said. “I’m in a furnished apartment in Milwaukee and it’s a dump. I need to get down and get my stuff out of there, and at least some of it isn’t going to go any farther than the dumpster. This weekend, I guess.”

“Are you going to need any help moving?”

“I don’t think so,” she shrugged. “Danny, ever since before I met you the first time I’ve had to move around a lot. I learned a long time ago that it’s not a good idea to own any more than I can load in my car, and I don’t have a big car.” She let out a sigh and continued. “I guess that ends now. Honestly, Danny, I don’t have any idea what I’m going to do about furniture or decorating or things like that. I mean, it’s something I’ve never had to concern myself with.”

“Well, I can get you going,” he told her. “It probably would help if I got a look at this place. It’ll give me a better idea of what you’ll need.”

“Oh, Danny, would you? I’d really appreciate it!” She looked around and saw the store was empty. “Maybe you couldn’t leave right now, though.”

“Not a big deal, at least not this time of year,” he smiled and picked up the phone. He dialed a few numbers, then said, “No shit, he’ll probably be out at the café, bullshitting with somebody.” He hung the phone up briefly, then dialed again; in a few seconds he said, “Hey Dad. Sorry to break up a bull session but I’ve got a customer here who wants me to look at her place . . . OK, great.”

Danny hung up the phone and turned back to Tricia. “Got lucky on that one. Summers he’s out at the club and it’s hell to get him into town, and as soon as what a friend of mine calls the “termination dust” starts turning the ground white he’s off to Arizona. He’s still pretty good about watching the place for a while when he’s around. He ought to be here in five minutes or so.”

“Your father, right?”

“Yeah, he bought the old Spearfish Lake Appliance back when I was a little kid. Long enough ago that I don’t remember him doing it. Then, after I came back from Nevada we worked out a deal for me to take over from him. My sister, my brothers-in-law, and I could see that the old store was too small to continue, so we worked out a deal to build this place. We do all right.”

“Your sister? Jennifer?”

“I suppose you must have heard about her, and probably met her at the reception the other night.”

“Nice lady,” she smiled. “I had no idea she was your sister, or that she used to be Jenny Easton.”

“She’ll occasionally admit that she once was Jenny Easton, but she isn’t anymore and doesn’t like anyone calling her that. As far as she’s concerned, Jenny Easton is dead, buried, and the better for it. The record label she used to be with wanted to portray Jenny Easton as a tramp who hung around honky-tonk country-western bars, so I don’t blame her. Jennifer Walworth is a much more refined person and a much more advanced artist. Sooner or later, probably sooner, you’ll be invited to a party at her place. Unless someone is dying in your hands, go. You won’t regret it. You’ll hear some of the greatest music you’ve ever heard in your life, and you’ll usually meet some very interesting people too. She has some of the damnedest people drop in. Last year Debbie and I went to one of her parties and who should be there but Nola Johnson herself. That turned into a really fun evening. I mean, my sister can sing, but that young lady can really belt it out.”

“You know, I haven’t been here long, but every time I turn around I meet remarkable people or hear remarkable stories about this place.”

“Well, yeah, there are a few, but when you get right down to it we’re no different than anywhere else. There are going to be remarkable people or remarkable stories in almost any town you go to. You just have to meet the people and hear the tales. Sometimes the stories shouldn’t come out, and you can take that to mean just what it sounds like.”

“Uh, yeah,” she said, realizing he’d pointed that statement directly at her, and she agreed wholeheartedly.

“Let’s not get any deeper into that,” he said. “Let’s talk about furniture. What kinds of things do you like?”

“I like to be able to sit on it,” she smiled. “Like I said, I have no more expertise in it than that.”

“We ought to be able to handle that without much difficulty,” he laughed. “I take it you’d want stuff appropriate for a young professional, without having to spend a ton of money on it.”

“Pretty much, mostly because I don’t have a ton of money to spend on it.”

“We don’t have to. Like I told you yesterday, I can probably cut a corner or two and arrange financing if needed.”

The front door opened, and an older gentleman came in – Danny’s father, most likely, especially since there was some family resemblance. “This going to take long?” he asked without preamble.

“Probably not too long, maybe a half hour,” Danny said. “It’s not that big a place. Dad, this is Dr. York, she’s the gal who’s taking over Dr. Luce’s practice. Tricia, this is my dad, Gil Evachevski, who taught me what I know about furniture and appliances.”

“Good to meet you,” Gil grinned. “We’ve needed you here for a long time.”

“I keep hearing that,” she said. “Good to meet you.”

Gil turned to Danny. “Anything special you need this morning?”

“No, other than to make sure no one backs a truck up to the store and starts cleaning the place out.”

“Be fun if someone tried that,” Gil laughed. “Take what time you need. I’ve heard the story Bud was telling about seventeen times, at least.”

In only a couple minutes Tricia and Danny were heading over to Oak Street in the furniture store delivery van. It wasn’t a long drive, but on the way Tricia asked, “What was that your dad meant about it would be fun if someone started hauling off the store?”

“Dad is a martial arts expert,” Danny grinned. “He has a few friends who come over to a back room in the store to work out once or twice a week, just something to keep them in shape.”

“Martial arts? In his sixties?”

“Dad is seventy-six,” Danny grinned. “He’s caved in and doesn’t do the dangerous stuff anymore, but he likes to stay in shape. Coaches shooting too – one of his students won the state heavy pistol championship for the second time a couple months ago.”

“My god,” she shook her head. “Dr. Luce isn’t much older than that and he looks like a funeral home ought to have a hearse following him around.”

“True,” Danny smiled. “Dad says it has to do with his staying in shape. He taught me some of that martial arts stuff, but I never really got into it.”

A Peppermint Patty memory came over her. “My god,” she sighed, helpless to resist. “I remember when you threw that drunk out of the Redlite. You made it look so easy!”

“Well, he was drunk,” Danny shrugged. “That helped. And of course, when Dad talked to me about that stuff, I listened.”

“God, another unusual person in Spearfish Lake. You sure seem to get a lot of them around here.”

“Oh, hell, you don’t know the half of it, at least about Dad. Let’s save it for a bit. We’re almost to your new home and we need to talk about furniture.”

A couple minutes later Danny walked into the front room of the duplex, took one look around and said, “Well, we’ve got a lot of work here.”

“I was afraid you were going to say that.”

“Oh, it looks worse than it is,” he said. “It’s a small place, it won’t take much to fill it up and you wouldn’t want to overfill it. The hardwood floor is nice but it’ll get a little cold in the winter, and a nice area rug would warm it up a lot. A little art on the walls would help, and the usual living room furniture. If it were me, I’d try to go a little nice on the living room since that’ll be where you’re greeting guests. You can cut corners on the bedroom, get cheap stuff that you can replace when you can afford it. I redid a bedroom a couple weeks ago, the stuff they had was OK but nothing special. I decided to stash it in the warehouse in case someone came along needing it. You could replace it when you can afford it. You probably ought to get a new mattress though.”

“Sounds like it ought to work,” she said. “I don’t expect to be having guests in the bedroom anytime soon.”

“Probably not a bad idea,” he replied, understanding what she was saying without further comment. She had a reputation to maintain now, or at least to build, one that couldn’t hint at anything like Peppermint Patty. “What do you want to do with that little bedroom off the living room?”

“I don’t know. Binky suggested a home office. I don’t know what I’d use it for, but it would be nice to have a desktop computer instead of having to depend on my laptop all the time, and I don’t think I’d want to have it right in the living room.”

“Can’t help you on the computer, but they can set you right up at the computer shop around the corner from the store. They’re good and they don’t bullshit you. As far as a desk goes, I can get you a cheap kit, but for not much more I can get you something that doesn’t look like a cheap kit. You’ll need a good office chair to go with it, doesn’t have to be anything spectacular. After you’ve made some doctor money you can order a $2500 Steelcase executive chair if you like.”

“Danny, look,” she said. “I’m in your hands on this. All I want is something conservative that looks like something a young professional would have. I’m used to living with what furniture comes with a place, and I know you know more about this stuff than I do. Just do what you think is best and try not to kill me with the money.”

“I can do that. Let’s head back to the store, and you can look at styles and colors, although I think I know what I’d pick for you. You ought to at least try on the furniture to make sure it’s comfortable for you, especially your main lounge chair. While we’re here, though, any thoughts about drapes?”

“There should be some, I think.”

“God, you’re easy,” he grinned. “And I don’t mean that how it might sound, either. You want me to just do something I think you’d like?”

“Yeah, something neutral. Do you remember Lianna? She must have been at the Redlite about the time you were there.”

“Don’t think so,” he shook his head. “I didn’t know everybody and I was only there five weeks, after all.”

“God, she decorated her room with these hot pink drapes and hot purple hangings. It about made me barf to walk in there. I could barely stand to open my eyes in her room. All I want is something neutral, conservative, and tasteful.”

“Oh, I can do that. Let’s go back to the store.”

It didn’t take long at the store, either. Danny suggested a mid-range living room set of a color that seemed to Tricia would fit in the living room, and the recliner fit her like a glove. “I’ll take it,” she said after only a couple minutes.

“Good enough. I’ll work up a price for you, but it probably will turn out around a couple grand. The drapes will take a couple days, I don’t do them here and they’re going to be one of the big ticket items but still not too bad. You want to finance it, or put it on a card?”

“Financing, please. Getting my credit card paid down is one of the things at the top of my list.”

“OK, that’ll take a little time. Why don’t you figure on dropping back in tomorrow morning and I should have all the paperwork pulled together. I can get the furniture over there then, all but the drapes. I’ll have them up over the weekend, most likely.”

“That should work just fine. I want to go down to Milwaukee over the weekend and clean out my old place, so maybe I can move in when I get back.”

“Shouldn’t be a problem,” he smiled. “See you over at Randy’s tonight.”

*   *   *

Tricia was a little undecided on what to wear to the foundation reception that evening. She considered wearing the same outfit she’d worn to the chamber get-together two evenings before but thought perhaps she’d better not. She hadn’t brought all her clothes with her, and there was an outfit she wished she had that was still down in Milwaukee. In the end, she compromised, deciding on the skirt from the business suit, a blouse and the sweater she’d worn to work the day before. It wasn’t quite as severe and businesslike as the suit, and at least offered a touch of casual.

As she got dressed in her motel room, she realized that she’d have to do some shopping for new clothes pretty soon. Over the course of the past couple years she’d worn little but scrubs – once in a while jeans and a T-shirt, but almost never anything more formal than that. Back in her serious days as Peppermint Patty she’d had any number of nice outfits, but all of them were much too sexy for Spearfish Lake and she only had a couple of them left anyway. Well, maybe the more conservative one might work for a Halloween party, but perhaps not, either. Probably it would be best if they got no closer to Spearfish Lake than the dumpster outside her Milwaukee apartment.

This was not going to be the last of the “meet and greets” she was going to be facing over the next few weeks. While in a way they were interesting, they were also very important in her getting to know the community, and that was going to be critical if she was going to build the practice back up again. Since this one was for the group of foundations that had sponsored her, it was going to be more important than most.

She pulled on her skirt, zipped it up, and checked in a mirror to see that it was properly aligned, then followed with the sweater. She’d already put on a little light makeup, just enough to show she’d taken the effort, and nothing like Peppermint Patty had worn as a matter of course. There were a few final moments of little details. First impressions counted, although after the chamber affair the other night she suspected there were going to be few first impressions to be made tonight, but probably some deeper discussions. Still, she knew this was going to be important.

Preparations complete, she went out to the Neon. It looked a little ratty and tattered; it had given her good service with few problems, and she was grateful for that. A big car repair bill would have been almost impossible to deal with as tight for both time and money as she had been, but looking at it now, it didn’t seem like the kind of thing she should be driving. A little nicer car would help make a good impression so long as she didn’t overdo it. It was going to have to do for a while, though.

It proved to be no great trick to get down to Randy’s house in Hannegan’s Cove, and the house stuck out like a sore thumb as she got close. It didn’t look quite as ostentatious from the road side, but from across the cove it seemed almost overdone, but spectacular. There were already several cars parked there, so presumably at least some of the foundation people had shown up already; hopefully she wasn’t the last to arrive.

Randy greeted her at the door, saying, “Good evening, Dr. York. Welcome to our home.” She was right, she did remember him from the chamber meet and greet the other night, but she hadn’t taken exceptional notice of him then, probably because there were so many other people there. But, after what she’d heard about him from Steve and Binky the night before, she realized he was a little bigger deal in the community than she had thought.

“And quite a beautiful home,” she said, getting a glimpse over his shoulder of several people standing and sitting around.

“Thank you,” he said graciously, showing her in. “I often think we overdid it more than a little, but it was also intended to be a model and demonstration of the kind of work Clark Construction can do. I will tell you this isn’t the biggest, most elaborate, or oddest place we’ve ever done.”

Now that she looked around inside, she was even more impressed. The house featured a huge great room with soaring beams that reached high overhead. The room was large and impressive, with a cluster of furniture in front of a big fireplace; there was a little fire burning in it, not for heat on this warm September evening, but for the conviviality. “Wow,” she said with a little awe in her voice. “This is really something!”

“Like I said, it’s a little overdone, and sometimes a pain in the neck, but we’ve gotten used to it. You want spectacular, you have to see the house we built on an island out in Chandler Lake a few years ago. It makes this look like a shack.”

“That must really be some house,” she smiled.

“Not only is it the most unique house Clark Construction has ever built, it has to be the most unique I’ve ever seen,” he told her. “I guess since I’m the host, I ought to introduce you around. I might as well tell you that one of the mistakes we made in building a house like this is that it’s big enough we get tagged to host events like this one. I’ll have to admit, that never even crossed my mind when we were planning it.”

“I can see how you could overlook something like that.”

It turned out that Tricia knew several of the people there, if most only slightly. She’d met Ryan Clark, but it had been several years before, when he’d been on the interview committee, along with Gene Metarie, who was there, and an older woman, Carrie Evachevski, who not surprisingly turned out to be Danny’s mother. Over the course of the introductions, Tricia learned that Ryan, Randy, and Carrie were the board of the Donna Clark Foundation.

Danny was there; she’d known he would, since he was the president of the Jennifer Walworth Foundation, and president of the Chamber of Commerce, as well, but Tricia was a little surprised to discover that Debbie wasn’t there. Well, presumably she had something else to do, she thought; after all she’d met Debbie the other night. Gene Metarie was also on the board of the Walworth Foundation, so Danny wasn’t the only one wearing multiple hats.

Randy soon introduced the other member of the Walworth Foundation board, a very nicely dressed woman about her size and age who hadn’t been at the chamber meet and greet. “This is Dr. Myleigh Hartwell-Harris,” Randy told her. “In her case, it’s doctor of literature. She’s a very near and dear friend, and she teaches down at Weatherford College near Camden.”

“I’m exceedingly pleased to make your acquaintance, Dr. York,” Dr. Hartwell-Harris smiled. “Please feel assured that you are extremely welcome in the community, and I shall be very pleased if you can consider yourself one of us. We are most grateful you could make it here tonight.”

Wow, formal, Tricia thought. I guess you’d have to expect that of a lit professor though. “I’ve only been here a short time,” she said, “but I’m starting to get to know the town and I think I’ll like making it a home.”

“I was most dreadfully concerned about taking up abode here myself,” Dr. Hartwell-Harris replied. “But I have found it a warm and comfortable place to make my residence. I feel myself among friends here at last.”

“Myleigh, dial it down,” Randy laughed and turned to Tricia. “Back when Myleigh and I were running around together, that was before Nicole, whenever we met someone sooner or later they’d get me off to the side and ask, ‘Does she talk like that all the time?’”

“You always responded in the affirmative,” Dr. Hartwell-Harris grinned back. “I must confess it got a bit embarrassing from time to time.”

“What her prissy language covers up,” Randy continued, “is that Myleigh is also one of the world’s greatest jazz harpists. Well, harpists, period. Although she plays in the Boreal String Band, she gives a lot more concerts than even Jennifer does, along with being a lit professor and a mother.”

“I should admit to enjoying my avocation,” Dr. Hartwell-Harris smiled. “And I have played the odd concert here and there from time to time, as well as having been involved with a few albums. However, Randy, I did not bring Blue Beauty tonight so you need not excessively tantalize this dear young lass. There are other things we must accomplish tonight. But, Dr. York, should you wish to hear some of my little diversion, there will be other opportunities.”

“I’m sure you’d love for us to stand around so you can continue to dazzle Dr. York,” Randy replied. “But there are other people she needs to meet, too.”

“We shall have other opportunities, I’m sure,” she smiled. “Again, Dr. York, it’s a great privilege and pleasure to meet you.”

“And a pleasure meeting you, Dr. Hartwell-Harris.”

As soon as Randy got Tricia a little ways away, she whispered, “I’m glad you dropped that line about talking like that all the time or I’m sure I would have asked it.”

“Actually, she doesn’t anymore,” Randy replied in a normal voice. “She always used to when we were fooling around together in college. Now she only does it among friends or to overawe her students. She realizes it doesn’t go over well with the general public. Long story on that, you’ll probably hear something about it sooner or later.”

“You know, I keep hearing that from everybody,” Tricia said. “Everything is a long story I’ll hear about sooner or later, and it’s making me a little curious.”

“Well, it takes time to go over all that stuff, but we hope you’ll be here long enough to hear it all,” Randy replied seriously.

Randy made only the briefest introduction to Binky, after Tricia explained she’d had dinner at the Augsburg house the evening before. Surprisingly Steve wasn’t there; however, Jennifer and Blake Walworth were, and Tricia had met them the other evening. Still, they once again had a nice little chat, and Tricia was looking forward to getting to know them too,

By now, Tricia had started to realize this was more than a simple meet and greet. With the exception of Nicole, who was again serving wine and canapés, and a young woman from the local newspaper, who had a Nikon dangling from her neck, she’d met all the people who were present. There were some people, like Steve, who she thought would be there, but weren’t. She knew many of the people present had been movers and shakers of the doctor project, and she suspected the ones she didn’t know about were, too.

Something unexpected was going on, she was sure of that, maybe something strange. What could it be?

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To be continued . . .

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