MENDING WOUNDED HEARTS
In the month that followed the boys started at their new school. Kelly settled right in with Ronny and Wade to show him around. His apprehensions of inadequacy seemed to be behind him since he had done exceedingly well on his placement tests. Carter made friends instantly and was always full of chatter upon arriving home. Brandon was making new friends left and right and loving the new school.
Ally and I took a run up to get Ed's car and I introduced them.
"She's too good for you Rob, you better be on your best behavior, mister." It was safe to say he approved and was actually quite smitten by Ally and her forthright personality.
The crew had already been through and we piled boxes in both cars. They contained personal items that Ed didn't trust to the moving crew. My 58' Biscayne wagon was rapidly becoming Ally's favorite. It held a lot of boxes but the car had all the modern comforts. Modern drive train and suspension, a custom interior and nice cold A/C plus an up-to-date sound system with Bluetooth, satellite radio and GPS nav on a large pop up screen. It was a stunning pearl blue and most importantly, Ally loved it.
We punched in the new address for Ally to follow if we got separated and Ed rode with me. The old workhorse ran like a thoroughbred and once we were on the back roads of Montecito, I pulled down the red spot and hit the old growler siren. It must have been something to race to a call in the old days with that thing blaring away.
"I always hated driving Code 3, I was certain that some idiot would pull out and kill us both," Ed put in. "But it's good to hear the thing still works."
I killed the spot and drove on to Ed's new digs. It was a standalone cottage in a generously spaced little community of cottages arranged around a central building that held the community center, gym and other amenities.
The moving crew were just finishing unloading boxes from the truck, so we enlisted them to lug some of the boxes into Ed's new den.
Ed pulled me aside for a minute, "Rob, I really appreciate the help you've given me. I wanted you to know that if anything happens, you'll be the first person that gets a call from the management. I hope that's okay with you," Ed confided.
"I'm honored, I know you don't have much family left, I'll make any notifications you need, just give me a list."
"Nah, that's not why. I have a lawyer for that crap, I just want you to make sure this place gets sealed until my archives and stuff in my den are in a safe place. I know I can trust you to handle it and make sure they get to where they need to be."
"You know I will. By the way, what do you want me to do with your guns? You asked me to take them but you didn't give me any instructions on what you want done," I asked.
"Keep them, I mean for you to have them. You're the only guy I know that appreciates what a Winchester built Garand means. The .45's and the Lugers are all unique in some way and it takes someone like me or you to appreciate that. I'll feel better knowing that they're in the care of someone who respects what they represent," Ed explained. "If you check the folder with the capture papers you'll find that I put it in writing and had it notarized.
I had to fight to maintain my composure but I managed.
Once everything was unloaded, Ed said he needed a nap but he hoped we would be back to see him soon.
"Well I hope you'll be at the reception, we will send a car for you and you can stay in town if you want,” I offered.
"That sounds pretty good Rob, when's it going to be?"
"March third, it's the earliest date we could get to match our schedules with everyone else's," I supplied.
"Count me in, I'm honored to be invited. Is Ty coming too?"
"He said he would, I can have him give you a call if you guys want to catch up before or after," I offered.
"No, I've got his number, I can give him a call and see if we can work something out," Ed decided.
"Hey Ed, have you checked out treatments for macular degeneration? I know a guy that's having pretty good results slowing it down with what he called anti VEGF treatment; did your doc mention any of that?"
"No, I never heard of that. Maybe it's time to see another Ophthalmologist, those lame asses at the VA aren't much help with anything that might cost more than an aspirin."
"Let me give you his number and you can get another exam and treatment in the same place. I know it can't be reversed but it can be slowed down," I encouraged.
"I'll call Monday and get an appointment. But even so, I think I'll stay here. The steps were starting to take their toll on my knees. This is all one level here except for the curbs. I slipped on a damn slug once and thought I'd broken a hip. I just ended up with a big purple bruise on my ass."
I always get a kick out of Ed, I let him relax and took his advice. Ally and I ate dinner at a little place in town and drove on home.
It had been a pretty nice day. Ally and I had enjoyed the drive up; we had breakfast at the Cliff House Inn and walked on the beach. It was a nice bit of solitude.
On the way home, almost in the exact spot I had stopped to take Paul's call, there was a CHP officer toe to toe with a large man who appeared to me to be acting aggressively. I flipped on the rear amber and pulled in behind. I hung my badge on my shirt pocket and waved Ally past. I approached on the right of the cruiser and spotted two other large flabby men standing at the rear fender of the Escalade the officer had pulled over.
"Are you code 4?” I asked the officer.
"Negative, this one's 415 (combative) and the others are making me nervous,"
"Got it," I said and drew my weapon, holding it at my side. "All three of you grab hold of that car!” The two closest to me did as told but number one only took a step back.
"Are you hard of hearing and stupid, get your hands on that car or get shot,"I commanded. The man finally complied and the officer grabbed her radio mic and called for backup. Within ten minutes, two sheriff's cars and one Ventura PD car were on scene.
CHP dispatch was frantically trying to raise the officer but she couldn't respond without making herself vulnerable.
The Escalade was stolen and had been used in a robbery in Carpinteria three hours earlier. Once the knuckleheads were cuffed, I called Ally. I had a feeling she got off the highway at Emma Wood State Beach and I was right.
"It's all cool here Hon, you can head on home. The car is running great. I'll probably be here awhile."
"Is this going to happen every time we go somewhere together?" She giggled.
"Jeez, I hope not, but it does happen every once in awhile," I admitted.
"Okay, well let me know when you get going again, I love you."
"I will do that and I love you too. See you soon Hon," I replied.
The CHP supervisor asked about the old Ford, "I've seen this car before, up around Goleta, what are you doing with it?" he asked.
"I'm going to take care of it for him, he can't drive anymore and asked me to see if I could find it a new home."
"We're talking about Ed Pratt here aren't we?" the Sergeant asked.
"That's the guy, he's an old friend from my early days," I informed him.
"Yeah I remember him, tough old bird. He schooled me a couple of times when I was a punk kid. I learned a few things from him. Jeez he's gotta be in his nineties by now right?" He asked.
"Ninety-seven if my memory is correct. He's still tough, I hope I age that well," I replied.
I showed the guys the state of the art 1964 technology. Most of which consisted of the two channel county radio and the now inoperative CHP radio. I explained it had been the Sheriff's car but when the incoming Sheriff showed up he preferred Dodges, so this unit went to the head of the Homicide unit, which was Ed Pratt. Ed bought the car when he retired in 1970. But then he worked another ten years as a consultant doing basically the same job but with less hours. I cleared out and drove home after receiving a thank you and a handshake from the officer who I stopped to help.
I half expected a scolding from Ally but she seemed just as happy as when we started out.
The boys were home from school by the time I arrived and they were all feeling pretty good. We went outside with our gloves and tossed a ball around for awhile. Kelly had a great throwing arm and Wade said that the coach had already asked Kelly to try out. Kelly blushed and we kept at it until it was time to start dinner.
I sat down with Kelly after dinner, and we chatted; I had something to run by him before I pulled the trigger.
"I was going to tell you what the coach said Dad, I just didn't want you to think I was bragging," Kelly opened up.
"Bragging isn't your style Bud, I know that. It's okay if you're excited about something. It doesn't mean you're bragging if you say something about it."
"Thanks Dad, I am kind of excited. I love this school, Langham is so different from my old school. Thank you for getting me in there."
Whoa Kelly, I didn't get you in there, you did. You performed extremely well with the placement tests, that's why you're in so many classes with Ronny. Didn't they tell you that you were in the advanced learning group?"
"Well yeah, but I just thought they were trying to be nice. You know, like I was just there because of you?"
"Kelly sweetheart, you are at that school on your own merit. They don't take just any student, no matter how much money their parents have. You're a smart kid and you ask great questions. That's what Langham's all about," I assured him.
"Let's talk about the Thanksgiving break, how would you like to fly back and see your Gramma and Ed?
I was thinking we could have Thanksgiving at a nice hotel and they could be our guests."
"Are you going to fly us or are we going on a really big plane?" he asked.
"Well, we've replaced the jet that was stolen so I thought we'd use that. Your Gramma has a heart problem and can't fly," I explained.
"Are you going to fly it?" Kelly asked.
"No, I will hire a professional crew to do the flying. It's a long trip and there's so much to know. I can only do short hops. Seattle or Reno that sort of thing. I just don't have the hours to try doing that on my own. I would never risk you or your brothers and Ally."
"Okay Dad, it sounds cool, how big is the airplane?
"It's a Hawker 850XP; you can look it up on the internet, the whole thing is configured like first class," I explained.
"Cool, and you can just use it whenever you need it?"
"Within reason. Whoever makes the request first takes precedence and I've already reserved it for that timeframe. The charter company that schedules everything might send the plane on another flight while we're in Grand Rapids. But it will be back in time to get us home," I added.
"Okay Dad, it sounds like fun, it might be awhile before I can fly commercial again.
"Great, I'll make the reservations and let your Gramma know we'll be there. Now let's talk about next weekend. The machine we've been building for the vineyards is ready for field testing. We've all been asked to come up and see it run for the first time. I will be flying us all up for the weekend and we'll be back Sunday afternoon. Will you be okay with that?"
"Is it the jet again?" Kelly asked.
"No, we'll use my Twin Commander, that's the one you sat in our first day together, do you remember?" I asked.
"Oh that one, yeah cool, I think I'm ready for that now."
"Good deal, oh and Wade will be coming with us, he knows Petes and his family and they asked me to bring him," I supplied.
"That's nice, I wish Ronny could come but he's going to be in San Diego with family."
"Yes I heard, I'm loaning his Dad my Mooney for the trip."
"How many airplanes do you own?" Kelly asked.
"Well six, and parts of others. I own part of the jet, and there's a B-25 in Visalia that I'm part of. I hope to get a chance to fly it once the restoration is done. I almost bought a Spitfire but I missed the auction. In retrospect, I would have spent way too much buying it. I also own part of an airworthy P-38. Do you know what that or any of those are?
"Yeah, the B-25 is a bomber and the Spitfire is a British fighter. The P-38 is that one with the two long parts with the rudders and the cockpit is between the wings. You have a picture of it in your office."
"I hope to fly that P-38 soon. I'm told it's tricky so you can't be cocky or you'll get yourself in trouble."
"That sounds scary, I don't want you to die!"
"Don't worry Kelly, I'm a very careful pilot and I don't take extra risks. I have nothing to prove. I plan on being around to see your kids grow up."
"But I'm gay, I'd have to do it with a girl and that's not happening," he stated emphatically.
"Not necessarily son, There's in vitro fertilization and surrogates, or adoption. All those things are possible now, by the time you're ready for kids who knows what will be possible," I pointed out.
"Oh, I never really thought about it. Thanks Dad. I love you."
"I love you too Son, let's have you go take care of any prep for school tomorrow and I'll be up after awhile."
"What did Kelly say about next weekend and Thanksgiving?" Ally asked.
"He's up for it, hopefully the flight to Santa Maria will be nice and smooth," I replied.
Friday afternoon arrived and the flight up was smooth as silk and Kelly didn't seem at all upset. The problem came when we were nearly run off the road in the borrowed Tahoe that Dan had supplied. The car came at us head on in our lane passing on our right. I saw it leave the road behind us so I turned around and drove back to take a look. The car was in a deep ravine and there was no sign of movement and no way for me to get to it. Ally had already called 911 and given the location. After fifteen minutes, a Sheriff's unit showed up with a forestry fire truck right behind him. I identified myself, got a card from the deputy and told him there was a dashcam in the vehicle but I was at a loss as to how to retrieve the video. I told him I would have it emailed to him as soon as I reached our destination. The firefighters were rigging ropes to rappel down and inspect the wreck. I took my leave of the scene and hoped that there was only the driver in the car.
I checked on the boys and found them somber.
"Is he dead Daddy," Kelly asked.
"I don't know, it could take an hour just to get to him, the firefighters are doing all they can. The important thing to me is that all of you are safe. I have to ask, did any of you see if there was anyone besides the driver in the car when it went past?"
"It was three men and they were all laughing and one was holding a big bottle," Brandon told me. “They went right past my window and I saw them really clearly."
"Thanks son, I can relay that to the deputy."
We passed more rescue equipment and the CHP on the short drive to Dan and Jeannie's place.
We arrived an hour later than planned. I had called to tell them we were delayed but not why.
After we exchanged greetings and hugs, I got Rob and Jeannie off to the side.
"I need the video from the dashcam in your Tahoe downloaded. There was an accident and it appears three men went over the side in one of those hairpin turns in that last canyon. I need to send the video to the deputy that arrived on the scene," I explained.
"Did they hit you?" Dan asked.
"No, there was no contact but I had to do some fancy driving to avoid them, they came at us head on."
"I'll go get the chip and we can put it in the reader," Dan volunteered.
Once the file was opened, I reviewed it with Dan and Jeannie. At full speed they went by too fast to see much, but at half speed the front passenger appeared to be passing a bottle of what might have been tequila to the rear passenger. I saved the file and forwarded it to the deputy so that he could send it on to the CHP.
"Damn Rob, you have good reflexes. You weren't kidding about fancy driving," Dan exclaimed.
"The Sheriff's pursuit school paid off bigtime today. I could have lost them all, Ally the boys, I just came that close to losing them all," I repeated. I began to shake as the adrenalin began to crash, "Could one of you bring Ally to me"
"Sure Rob, I'll send her in," Jeannie soothed.
"Rob?" I heard Ally say, I got to my feet, wrapped her in my arms and stood there shaking.
"I'll be fine in a little while, after I got the video sent off the adrenalin spike started wearing off. All I could think of is how close I came to losing you all."
"It's okay Rob, we're all safe. It will pass soon. I've seen this before."
"I know, but the other thing was, when I was standing there looking down in that ravine I was thinking Fuck you, you idiot, you deserve to die. I've never felt that way before. I didn't think it was in me. Everything I love in this world was threatened by a drunk ass idiot and I really felt it was only fitting that he should die in that hole."
"It's okay Rob, we've all had thoughts we aren't proud of, it doesn't mean anything about you has fundamentally changed. Your family was endangered and the threat was dealt with by forces you couldn't control. I know if it had been just you in the truck, you would have tried to get to the car and see if there was anything you could do," Ally countered.
"Whoo, I think I'm over the worst of it. I hate those shakes. Sorry Hon, it was just a really tough thing to deal with.
"Daddy, are you okay?" Carter asked in a shaky voice.
Carter had been asleep in the back row leaning against Kelly. Wade had been sitting next to Brandon but was also asleep until it was all over. I was glad for that, it was a nightmare they didn't need.
"I'm fine little man, but I could use a hug.” The rest of the boys walked in and joined the hug and I began to feel much better.
I learned from the deputy I had talked to on the scene that through one of those weird little twists of fate, only the driver survived. He was the only one wearing his seatbelt.