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Seabee’s Homecoming — Ch. 01
(With input by Irish Lass and edited by LarryInSeattle)
“Finally,” I sighed as I dropped my duffel bag in the front hallway. It had been almost four years since I’d been home. Four years filled with ups and downs but now it was over … I was home.
As a kid, I’d never dreamed that I’d end up in the military. In fact, I’d always planned on working for my dad’s construction company. “But that’s not how things turned out,” I thought as I slid back in time to ‘that night’.
The storm was later called one of the worst in over 50 years. My dad had stopped work at the construction site as soon as the lightning started. Shortly afterwards, my sister and I got sent home when the power in our school went out. Mom wasn’t so lucky. She was the PM supervisor at the local hospital so she had to stay. But, knowing her, she would’ve stayed anyway just to make sure everything was okay. It wasn’t until almost midnight that we began to worry because she wasn’t home. Dad called the hospital a little while later and was told that she’d left just after 11 o’clock. From that moment on, his fingers became a blur as he called anyone and everyone he could think of.
“She’s probably staying at one of her friend’s houses instead of driving in this shit,” he’d reassured my sister and I. But we kept asking ourselves, “Where is she? Why hasn’t she called?”
We got our answers about two hours later when the Sheriff’s car pulled into the driveway. We all knew Sheriff Keller. He was exactly the opposite of what most people think of when they imagine a cop. He was only 5-foot 8-inches tall, skinny, and always had a smile on his face. Except tonight, the look on his face said everything we didn’t want to hear.
“Sheriff,” my dad said in a voice I barely recognized.
“Where?” he asked matter-of-factly.
“The bridge over Little Eagle Creek.”
“I mean how bad?”
The Sheriff hesitated before replying, “She didn’t feel a thing.”
In the split second that followed, my world collapsed as I watched my dad crumble to the ground and heard my sister scream unlike anything I’d ever heard before. I have no idea what happened after that, everything just went black.
I woke up the next morning in my bed, wearing my favorite pajamas, and vaguely heard people talking in the living room. Hoping beyond hope, that the night before had been a terrible nightmare, I ran from my bedroom. The sight of my grandmother sitting on the couch, her head cupped in her hands, as she cried told me it hadn’t been.
“Oh, baby,” she wept when she saw me. “I’m so sorry,” she continued as the tears streamed down her face. Just then my dad walked in. I could tell he hadn’t slept from the heavy bags under his eyes.
He didn’t say a thing as he put his cup of coffee on the counter and stretched out his arms. I felt like a zombie as I collapsed into them. I’d never seen my father cry so hard. The top of my head soon felt like I was back outside in the rain. At some point, my sister and grandmother joined us and we cried until we couldn’t anymore.
Afterwards, the four of us sat down and talked. We talked about mom, about what might have happened, and about what to do next. Sheriff Keller showed up just about that time and was able to fill in some of the blanks for us.
“Normally, I wouldn’t be able to tell you this,” he began, “but the other driver has already confessed so we’re just finishing up the paperwork before he goes before the judge on Friday.”
“Yeah. What’s the son-of-a-bitch got to say about how he killed my wife!” my dad snarled.
“He … ahhh. Why don’t I just tell you what we’ve found out and then you can ask me any questions you have? Okay?”
My sister and I nodded our heads while my dad sat there stone-faced.
“Katherine … excuse me … your mom left work just after 11 o’clock. Several of her friends offered to let her stay with them because of the storm but she insisted she had to get home. She got as far as the bridge over Little Eagle Creek. The driver of the other car admits he was drunk and wasn’t sure if he had his headlights on or not when he hit your mom from behind. We’re pretty sure he didn’t so your mom didn’t even know he was there until it was too late. Any chance she might have had of avoiding what came next was wiped out because of how slippery the bridge was.” He paused before continuing. “She went into a spin and hit one of the support beams, then went through the guardrail, and into the creek. Because of the storm, the water was about 6 feet above normal so her car sank completely. The other driver was knocked-out. When he came to he saw the damage to his car and thought he’d hit the bridge. He called 911 for help and it wasn’t until the rescue crew got there that anyone noticed the damage to the guardrail and realized what had actually happened.”
“So he walked away with barely a scratch and my wife is dead,” my dad snarled again. “Well, I’ll tell you what Maltepe Escort …” He faltered as tears once again ran down his face, “If he gets away with this I’ll make sure he never sees the next sunrise.”
The look on Sheriff Keller’s face left little doubt that he was serious about what he was going to say next. “I can’t say I fully understand what you’re feeling but I can tell you that for yours and the kid’s sake I’m gonna pretend I didn’t hear that … unless something does happen to the other driver. Then I’m not gonna have a choice. You understand?”
“Yeah,” my dad grumbled as he walked out of the room.
“As for you kids, if there’s anything you need just let me know.”
“Yes, sir,” my sister and I replied.
“Can I ask one question before you go?” my grandmother asked, softly.
“When did …?”
The Sheriff stared at us before answering and I could see an inner battle going on before he finally replied. “From what we know right now, she probably died when her car hit the support beam. It’s doubtful she felt a thing because it happened so fast.”
“Thank you,” my grandmother whispered as she looked down at the cold cup of coffee sitting on the table in front of her. The tears began running down her face again.
“I’m really …,” he faltered, “I have to go. Duty calls and all that but remember what I said, if your family needs anything, anything at all give me a call,” he finished.
As strange as it may seem, it wasn’t until I heard the ‘click’ of the door closing behind him that it hit me … my mom was gone. I’d never see her smile, hear her laugh, or feel her touch again. It was like a dark cloud wrapped itself around me and squeezed until I couldn’t breathe.
We had mom’s funeral two days later. I was still in shock so I didn’t remember much except for a lot people that showed up to say they were sorry for our loss.
The trial was a different thing entirely. I can still remember every second from the time the other driver walked into the courtroom until he was sentenced to 6 years in prison … only 6 fucking years!!! The defense lawyer had pleaded that there were ‘extenuating circumstances’. He insisted that if not for the rain my mom would have been able to get control of her car and avoid what happened. He made it sound like it was my mom’s fault!! I thought my dad was going to climb over the rail and kill the bastard and his lawyer right then and there. Instead, we went home and tried to have some kind of life without mom but it didn’t work.
Almost instantly, we realized the sunshine and rock of our family was gone. After that, we drifted around doing things but the happiness that had once been there was gone. My sister stayed around just long enough to graduate and then went to live with my grandmother a couple of hundred miles away while dad escaped in his own way, sinking into a cycle of deep depression and binge drinking until he could barely walk. I soon followed his lead and drank whatever I could get my hands on. It’s ironic when you think about it. My mom gets killed by a drunk driver and I end up just as bad.
It had been almost a year after mom’s death that everything finally caught up with me. I’d been drinking most of the day when I got pulled over by, of all people, Sheriff Keller. He charged me with drunk driving, disorderly conduct, and a couple of other lesser violations.
For the next 3 days, I sat in jail awaiting my trial. I’d hoped my dad would show up but no such luck. Instead, Sheriff Keller stood up for me when the judge asked if anyone would like to speak on my behalf. After hearing about my mom and what had happened to my family the judge gave me a choice; jail or the military.
Once again Sheriff Keller stepped forward, this time explaining how he’d been in the Navy and how it had helped him. So, I joined the Navy and soon after boot camp, found myself attached to a Construction Battalion, also known as the Seabee’s.
I had done pretty good since then. After four years, a lot of studying, and more than a little luck, I was a Petty Officer First Class and was thinking about making the military my career. That was when I got the message. My dad was dead and my step-mom needed me home as soon as possible. And to make matters worse he’d been dead for almost a month. “A MONTH? What the fuck? And what the hell is this shit about a step-mom?!” I’d asked myself since I didn’t know a thing about her.
Two weeks and a lot of paperwork later, here I was standing in the foyer of my old house.
“Hello? Is anyone home?” I called out.
“Who the fuck are you? And what the fuck you doin’ in this house?” a gruff voice snarled from behind me.
When I turned, I found myself looking at a middle-aged, overweight man wearing a wrinkled shirt, tie, and black pants that had definitely seen better days.
“This is … was my dad’s house. Who’re you?”
“I’m … ahhhh … I was your old man’s business partner,” the guy replied as he pulled in his stomach and puffed out his chest.
For Ümraniye Escort a second he reminded me of the puffer fish I’d seen while diving and I had to work hard not to smile. “Glad to meet you,” I said as I stretched out my hand.
“Glad to meet you too,” he replied as he moved down the hallway and shook my hand.
His handshake was weak and felt slimy almost like an eel. “So what are you doing here?” I inquired.
“I was … ahhhh … here talking to your step-mom about the business.”
“Ohhhh. So she’s here?”
“Yeah. She’s …” he started to answer but hesitated as he looked down the hallway toward my parent’s old room just as she stepped into view.
My gaze followed his. She was absolutely beautiful … or would have been if not for the messed up hair, wrinkled dress, and trickle of blood running from the corner of her mouth.
“WHAT THE FUCK?!” I roared.
“It’s not what …” he started to say.
“I’ve heard that bullshit before,” I said as I grabbed the front of his shirt and slammed him against the wall. The only thing that stopped me from doing more was the sound of the woman’s voice.
“Don’t,” she said weakly. “He’s not worth it.”
I released the man slowly, saying, “I think you better leave … NOW!”
He instantly ran out the front door.
It was only when he was halfway to his car that he hesitated and looked down at his feet. In his haste he’d left his shoes in the house. I couldn’t help but chuckle as I watched him jump when he stepped on a stone. It was then that I heard the sound of a soft, laugh beside me. When I turned, I found myself looking into the most brilliant set of blue eyes I’d ever seen.
“Not exactly the way I’d hoped we’d meet for the first time,” she said as she licked the blood from the corner of her mouth with the tip of her tongue.
Instantly, I felt my body respond in a very un-step-son type of way. After all, it had been 4 months since I’d been off the island where I’d been working and the way her tongue slid across her lips looked so damn sensuous.
“Hi. I’m Dan,” I stuttered.
“I know,” she smiled as she replied. “Your dad talked about you and your sister all the time. I’m Reagan, though my friends call me Ree or Ray. I’m your …” she hesitated. “I’m not quite sure what I am anymore. I was your father’s wife which would have made me your step-mother but now that he’s gone …”
“How about we start by saying you’re a lady in distress?” I asked as I glanced over my shoulder, watching as the man climbed into his car and sped off. “So what’s going on with the asshole?”
“Him? That’s Ed Nichols. He became your dad’s business partner about 6 months ago,” she said as she closed the door and led the way into the living room where we sat on the couch.
“Why’d he need a partner? Last time I talked to him everything seemed okay.”
“I’m not sure. You’re dad and I met about a year ago and everything seemed fine. Then about … mmmm … 8 months ago stuff started disappearing from different construction sites, there were a couple of minor injuries and then ‘Poof’, Nichols arrives. The next thing I know, you’re dad’s asking me to marry him and move in here. He kinda slipped one night after we …,” she blushed. “He said something about keeping me safe and trying to save what he could for you and your sister.”
I nodded. “So what happened with dad? He was always in pretty good shape even when he was dr …” I paused, not sure if she knew about what had happened after my mom’s death.
“When he was drinking?” she finished.
“That’s actually where we met.”
“No,” she paused before continuing, “At an AA meeting. I have my own history and even though they say you shouldn’t get involved with another alcoholic we just seemed to hit it off. We’d meet at the sessions and then go out for coffee afterwards with other members of the group. Then it was just the two of us and pretty soon it became dinner before the meetings. In the end, it became dates. And as the saying goes, one thing led to another. So here I am.”
“Okay, but what about dad? I mean, was he sick or something?”
“Absolutely not,” she said, “That’s the strange part. He was feeling great the morning he … he died. We’d planned on going out for dinner that night, but I got a call from him about noon saying something had come up and he was gonna be late. Your dad working late wasn’t unusual so I didn’t think anything about it until the Sheriff showed up that night.”
“No, the Sheriff from Colbourn County.”
“Colbourn County? What was dad doing over there? That’s almost a hundred miles away.”
“I know. I thought it was strange too.”
“Did dad have any business there?”
“No. All his jobs were local, you remember. He didn’t like being that far away from home especially after what had been happening.”
“So what did the Sheriff say?”
“According to him, your dad and Nichols checked into a motel earlier İstanbul Escort that day. Nichols insists they were there for a business meeting with a new developer. The rest is kinda of hazy. Apparently, your dad and Nichols were in his room when your dad suddenly grabbed his chest and fell over. Nichols called for the Paramedics but it was too late.”
“Okay. I guess anything is possible. A bit strange but …” I shrugged my shoulders.
“I know but this is where things get weird. As his wife, I thought I was the one responsible for your dad’s funeral arrangements and so on. Instead, Nichols shows up with some legal papers that says he’s in charge of everything and he has your dad cremated. He didn’t even have a funeral or a memorial service for him,” she said as tears began to slide down her cheeks.
“Dad didn’t believe in cremation,” I said in a low whisper as questions began to form in my head. “But what about just now?” I asked, changing the subject. “What was this all about?”
“Oh that. Apparently, your dad signed some paperwork on the day he died that gave me control of his share of the company until I could make other arrangements with you and your sister.”
“So? Nothing unusual about that … except maybe the timing.”
“I know but it gets even weirder. Your dad sent the paperwork by certified messenger. He didn’t keep it to give it to me that night or even send in the regular mail. I actually had to provide proof of who I was before the delivery guy would give me the envelope. And according to your dad’s secretary, Nichols went ballistic when he found out. Now, he shows up every couple of days demanding I sign over the company to him. When I said “NO” today he gave me this,” she gently touched the corner of her mouth.
“So you and him …?”
“Oh, hell no!! I’m not saying he hasn’t tried. It seems your dad …” she blushed a much deeper shade of red then before and I already had an idea what she was going to say. ” Ummmm … used to brag about our love life to the guys at work. Now HE,” as she pointed out the window, “thinks he should take your dad’s place.”
“Not in this lifetime,” I growled, the determination in my voice leaving little doubt that I meant what I said.
“I’m glad to hear that,” she replied as she stood up. “Now, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll get cleaned up. Even having him touch me makes me feel dirty.”
“Did he …?” I asked, suddenly upset that I might have let him go too soon.
“No, nothing like that.”
“Okay, but before you go, can I ask one more question?”
“Why’d you take so long to get a hold of me?”
A shocked look appeared on her face. “I didn’t. Well, not intentionally. You and your dad always talked on the phone or on Skype so I didn’t have an address for you and have you ever tried to work through all the red tape the government throws at you when you’re trying to track someone down?”
“Nope, can’t say I have but what about the Red Cross?”
“That’s how I eventually got the letter to you. The problem was that I didn’t mark it as a bereavement letter so it wasn’t a high priority I guess. Now, I’m gonna take a shower,” she said as she spun on her heels and headed down the hall.
“No problem. I’m just gonna put my stuff in my old room and then I have some phone calls to make,” I shouted down the hall.
The first call was to Sheriff Keller.
“Welcome home, Dan. Sorry about your dad.”
“Thanks, that’s kinda what I’m calling about.”
“Do you remember way back when you said if I ever needed something I should ask?”
“Well, I need something.” And for the next 20 minutes I explained what I needed and why.
“I think I can do that. It may take awhile. I’ll need to wait for the official Coroner’s report to be filed but I’ll do my best.”
“That’s all I can ask for,” I said as I hung up.
The next two calls were to friends of mine who had left the Navy. One worked in the Organized Crime Division of the state police and the other was a computer whiz who worked as a forensic accountant. Both of them instantly said ‘yes’ when I told them what was going on and asked for their help.
Just after I hung up, I heard a soft, almost timid voice calling for me.
“Dan. If you’re not busy can you give me a hand?”
“Sure, on my way.”
The moment I stepped into my parent’s old room I felt my anger begin to rise. Ree stood in front of the mirror with her back to me. She was wearing a pair of form-fitting pants and a black lace bra which normally would have caused my ‘little sailor’ to stand at attention. Instead, all I saw were the black and blue marks scattered across her back.
“WHAT THE FUCK!!! Are those from today?”
That’s when she noticed me in the mirror and flipped her long brunette hair over her shoulders to try and hide what I’d already seen. “No. Today isn’t the first time that Nichols paid me a visit.”
“I should have killed that little son-of-a-bitch,” I growled.
“Like I said, he’s not worth it. All that would happen is that you’d end up in jail. But right now, I have another problem. I’m stuck. It seems the hooks on my bra got bent when … when I hit my back on the bed frame earlier,” she said trying to avoid talking about what I’d walked in on.
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