Sunday, December 23, 2012
Chapter Twenty Eight
“Today marks twenty years since the opening of The Merryweather. I don't feel twenty years older, do you Tracy?”
“I don't feel old, but I think this day has been more traumatic than the day I turned forty.”
“Yes, I agree,” Holly said. “Maybe we should think of the good times and the people we have met along the way. That reminds me, Margie and Ken Grayson have a reservation. They are celebrating their twentieth anniversary.”
“I'll never forget the day I walked in on them in Margie's suite. It was obvious the political opponents agreed on something. Margie tells me her father is still going strong. Senator Holmes mellowed as soon as he became a grandfather. I wonder if the children and Margie's folks will be with them this year?”
“Yes, the reservation is for nine. I spoke with Margie on the phone. Their oldest will be going off to college this fall. She is afraid this may be their last vacation together.”
“There are quite a number of twentieth anniversaries being celebrated, including both of ours. It's nice to think The Merryweather had a part in so many of them.”
“Oh, here is Samantha. She said she was stopping by with my costume for the play tonight,” said Holly. “Can you believe I will be performing on stage? I'm a nervous wreck.”
“Hi Samantha, dear. Thank you for dropping this off. I could have picked it up later. How's your mother? Is she nervous about the show tonight. I hope I don't let her down.”
“Holly, you will be terrific. Mom told me just this morning that you are a natural. Tracy, you'll be there tonight, won't you?”
“I wouldn't miss it for the world. The whole family will be attending. Joe said you folks had a serious trauma case at the hospital yesterday. Are you doing all right, Sam?”
“It was a horrible accident. A family headed for vacation. A child was killed. It isn't easy to forget those cases. I'm headed up to the cabin with my journal this morning. It is always so peaceful up there. I can get lost in my writing.”
Tracy and Holly both hugged their young friend. Samantha captured their hearts when she was only six years old and came with her mother to the opening of The Merryweather. Melanie Fairchild was a popular movie star of the day. She met Dr. Joe Mackenzie during her stay. She retired from show business and married the good doctor. Melanie reopened the old opera house and has organized and run the community playhouse ever since. Holly Burke talked about taking acting lessons for years. With the children growing and not needing her constant attention, she finally found the time. She would be performing for the first time this evening.
Samantha drove her Jeep up the steep hill to the cabin that she had discovered when she was still in high school. She and her friends often hiked in the area. The cabin had been built over one hundred years ago by a mountain man named Jed Finnegan. He was a hermit and was feared by the children of the village. Cody Hill, who had been born to the mountain life befriended the old gentleman. Eventually, the children and their parents came to embrace Jed and his wife Clovis as special friends and good neighbors. After Jed and Clovis passed on, the cabin sat vacant.
Samantha loved the old place and the peace and quiet of the secluded land. Although there was no electricity, she would gather her schoolwork and drive up the hill. The sunlight streaming in through the window gave enough light for reading. She would sit at the old wooden table and study until dusk.
After graduation, she found the cabin still held a comfort for her. The journals left by the ladies of Camden Corners nearly one hundred years ago had intrigued her and she began jotting down her own thoughts and feelings.
She noticed the grass around the door had been trampled and the window was open. It wouldn't surprise her if some of the local teenagers had discovered the place. She opened the door and was surprised to see dishes in the sink. She called out “Is anyone here?” There was no answer.
Suddenly, the back door opened and there stood a man wrapped in a towel. He looked like he hadn't shaved in a month. He was dripping wet after bathing in the stream, the towel was so wet it wasn't doing much except covering the lower half of his body, much to Samantha's relief.
Samantha looked into his eyes and saw kindness in them. She knew immediately that she wasn't in danger.
“I've come at a bad time. I see you aren't prepared to receive visitors,” she said with a giggle.
“You are right about that, if you will excuse me, I will step into the other room and make myself presentable. Oh, there isn't another room, is there?” said the stranger.
“I guess I'd better step out. I'll take a walk down by the stream while you are dressing.”
Shortly after, he came up behind her fully clothed. She turned around.
“How long have you been up here? You look like a mountain man with that beard.
“I'm not sure, I came up sometime in April. What is the date now?”
“You have been up here without electricity for two months?”
“It's not so bad. Without electricity, there is nothing to disturb you unless a beautiful girl appears out of nowhere. I'm Brad Clifford. I'm a writer who had a serious case of writer's block and decided I needed a change of scenery.”
“I'm Samantha Mackenzie. How did you ever find this old cabin? Most people don't know it even exists.”
“My great grandmother lived in Camden Corners. She married my great grandfather who knew the man who built this cabin. When the old guy passed away, he left the cabin to my great grandfather. Seems the cabin was his but the land it's on is public property. I came up here last summer to see what I could find out about it. When I was having a difficult time with my writing this spring, I remembered this place and brought my old manual typewriter up here and was able to write again.”
“What do you eat? I see you have dishes in the sink so you must have found something besides berries. Maybe raccoon fricassee or possum stew?”
“I know I come from a long line of mountain men, but my diet is strictly store bought. It's been cool enough up here that I have only had to go into town once a week. Dry ice and a cooler help but now that the weather is warming, I may need to cut my visit short. Why are you up here all by yourself?” he asked. “Hiding from anyone in particular?”
“No, not hiding. I find the quiet here refreshes me. I didn't realize how long it had been since I'd come up, I usually spend quite a bit of time here in the spring and now it's summer. What type of writing do you do, Brad? I wonder if I have read any of your work?”
“I write under the name of Cooper Dillon. Some historical novels but mostly mysteries.”
“You are Cooper Dillon? I can't believe it. I have read every one of your books. Your historical novels are fascinating and your mysteries are the best. I have never once guessed who the villain is in any of your stories, you fool me every time and I'm usually pretty good at guessing the culprit before the end of the book. I can't believe you are Cooper Dillon, you are usually so..”
“Yes, clean shaven.” Samantha was going to say good looking but was glad she stopped before the words spilled out of her mouth.
“Where did you get the name Cooper Dillon?”
“That was the name my agent stuck me with. He didn't think Bradley Clifford was fitting for his client. His name is Harvey Cooper and he liked the western TV show with the lawman named Dillon. I always thought it should be reversed but Harvey liked it that way and I didn't fight it.”
“I didn't realize I was interrupting a best selling author. I'll leave you to your work.”
“No, don't leave. I didn't realize how much I missed another human voice. The clerk in the country store isn't much of a conversationalist. Come into the cabin and have a cup of coffee. I'll even make a fresh pot.”
Sam followed him into the cabin. She was admiring the width of his shoulders when he turned around and she felt him reading her mind. “Tell me Samantha Mackenzie, what do you do in Camden Corners? I see you brought a journal with you. Are you also a writer?”
“No, only for my own pleasure. I'm a nurse. I work on the trauma team at Memorial Hospital.”
“I'll bet you have some stories to tell.”
“Many stories, most with happy endings, unfortunately, they don't all end that way.”
“Do you become hardened to tragedy after awhile?”
“I hope I never do. You have to keep your emotions in check while aiding the victim, but we are all human and watching the suffering of patients and their families is never an easy thing to do. Enough about that, tell me what you are working on. How soon will I be able to buy it?”
“It's been so peaceful up here I have two manuscripts ready to send off to my editor. It could be months before they are published. He likes to earn his keep so he always makes me do rewrites. I think I'm ready to get back to civilization. I remember vacations in Camden Corners when I was a kid. We always stayed in a resort on the water. I think it was called The Merryweather. Is that still in existence?”
“It's still there and better than ever. In fact, I just came from there. It was my first home in Camden Corners twenty years ago. My mother and I came for the weekend and we never left.”
“Just you and your mother? I'm sorry, Samantha, that is none of my business. The story teller in me is always too curious for polite company.”
“That's alright. My dad died in an accident when I was very young. Mom married a local doctor, Joe Mackenzie, who adopted me. I think his being a doctor and my first dad dying of a head trauma influenced my decision to go into nursing.”
“Where is your home? You said your mother came for the weekend.”
“I'm originally from Los Angeles. Mom was an actress, Melanie Fairchild. She still acts sometimes but mostly she directs at the community theater.”
“Your mother is Melanie Fairchild?”
“She used to be. She goes by Melanie Mackenzie now.”
“My mother is crazy about her movies. She has every one of them on video. I can't wait to tell her I met Melanie Fairchild's daughter.”
“I can't wait to tell my mother I met Cooper Dillon. I know your photo is on the back of your books but I guess I always thought you were an older man. You have certainly accomplished a lot for someone so young.”
“I don't know about that, I just write books. I don't save lives like you do. I'll clean up a little and head to Camden Corners. I hope I'll see you again, Samantha. I have enjoyed our talk today.”
“I enjoyed it too. I think I'll go out back and pick some wild strawberries before I leave. I noticed they were ripening nicely. Drive safely.”
Samantha filled two canvas bags with strawberries. I'm sure Aggie will be happy to have these for Sunday dinner tomorrow. She has been talking about making a strawberry pie. Aggie was still pampering Sam and her mother. Sam knew it was time for her to be on her own. She had been looking at apartments but she loved living with her family. Her brother, Robbie was nineteen and a college student. The twins, Staci and Luke were almost fourteen. It seemed the younger children had grown up before her eyes.
Samantha was just getting into her Jeep when she heard Brad start up his car. She waved as he drove down the dirt path to the road. She could see his car in the distance and also saw a motorcycle ahead of Brad careening out of control. The accident happened so fast. Brad swerved to avoid the motorcycle and slid off the road and down an embankment. The motorcyclist stopped and was standing looking helplessly at the car lying on its side down below. Samantha grabbed the cell phone she always carried with her in case she was needed during an emergency at the hospital. She pulled the Jeep over to the edge of the road and ran to the spot where Brad had gone off the side. She climbed down the rocks to where he was. She could tell immediately he was unconscious and bleeding. She called the emergency number she had programed into her phone. Because of her experience locating trauma victims, she had memorized the area and was able to tell dispatch exactly where the car had landed. She took the sweater she had tied around her waist and applied pressure on the gash in his head. Visions of what her father must have gone through entered her head. “I can't lose you,” she said out loud. Not knowing whether she was speaking to her father or Brad Clifford. She felt for a pulse. It was weak, but still there. It seemed an eternity until she heard sirens. The paramedics took over, strapped Brad to a stretcher and transported him to the hospital.
The young motorcyclist was horrified that he caused someone to be hurt. “I didn't know he was behind me. I hope he isn't going to die.”
Samantha tried to console him. She knew he felt guilty because he was driving carelessly and didn't realize the danger he was putting himself and others in. “I have to get to the hospital but first I have to get to the car. There are some very important papers in there. Samantha carefully opened the back door of the car. It was hanging precariously over the ledge. She knew she was in danger but had to rescue Brad's manuscripts. The car swayed as she reached for the box on the seat. Brad's old typewriter was sitting on top. The box was awkward and Samantha was having a difficult time moving it without moving the car too.
“Wait!” cried the young boy. “I found a rope in the Jeep. Tie this around your waist and I'll hold on to the end. I'm afraid you and the car will slide off the cliff together.”
Samantha caught the rope and tied it around her waist. The car was shifting each time she made a move. She carefully caught the side of the box and tugged. The car went over the side and landed upside down on the rocks below. The rope and the boy holding it with all his might was the only thing that saved Samantha from going over the edge along with it.
She gingerly walked back up to the road holding the box in her arms and hoping the manuscripts were inside.
“Thank you. That was good thinking, I never would have made it if you hadn't found that rope.”
“May I go to the hospital with you? I would like to make sure that man is alright,” he said.
“Of course. What's your name?”
“Don't you remember me, Samantha? You taught me to swim when I was just a kid. I'm Josh Grayson.”
“Josh, I should have recognized you. When did you grow so tall? You must be here with your folks. Are your grandparents with you too?”
“Yeah. Everybody's here. I'm gonna be in big trouble. That bike is Jake's, he doesn't know I took it. I just get tired of Jake getting everything. I want a bike of my own, but Dad says I have to wait until I'm old enough for a license. Gosh Samantha, that's a whole year away. After I caused that accident, I'll never get a bike.”
“Josh, it probably seems like you have it rough with an older brother but sometimes it isn't that easy being the oldest either. Let's go to the hospital. We can call your folks from there. I'll tell them how you helped me save Cooper Dillon's two new novels.”
“That was Cooper Dillon, the author? Dad is really gonna kill me, he's Dad's favorite.”