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Authors: John Hansen

Tags: #thriller, #crime, #suspense, #mystery, #native american, #montana, #mountains, #crime adventure, #suspense action, #crime book

Two Medicine (9 page)

BOOK: Two Medicine
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I found my way into the
back of the store and walked into the grocery and snack shop area
as Katie popped her head through a steel swinging door in the back.
“Come on Mr. Boone, Larry’s back here.” Still that blank, careful
voice, immobile face – hiding something inside.

Her hair swung back as she
retreated, the door swinging back into place. Who “Larry” was I had
no idea, but I moved with the determined gait of the first-time
parachutist approaching the plane’s open door, and I set my face
with a steady gaze, gripping my suitcase and guitar tighter, as if
wielding these as two weapons as a defense against any further
dismay I may find behind that swinging metal door.

I pushed through
the door and found myself in a two-story kitchen.
It was a room full of big steel appliances, two large stoves, two
double-door refrigerators, big metal sinks and countertops – a
regular restaurant kitchen, everything metallic and wood, the
surfaces here and there looked a little scratched and used but
otherwise spotless. Katie leaned against a counter to my right,
slowly sipping from a mug. To my left an older, short, round man
with a mostly bald, blotchy head was vigorously scrubbing one of
the sinks in the kitchen with a steel wool pad. He wore a
burgundy-colored polo shirt and khaki pants; the shirt was too
tight for him, a huge belly protruded out over his
khakis.

He turned to me as I set my
suitcase and guitar down beside my feet – he wore enormous glasses.
He wiped his hands on a dish rag. He stared at me for a second with
a kind of earnest but distrustful gaze. “You must be Will,” he said
after a moment. “I’m Larry Martin.” He said his name industriously,
like a car salesmen introducing the make and model of a prized show
car,
“This here’s the ‘Larry Martin,’ and
she runs like a dream…


Glad to meet you,” I said
as he gripped my hand. He had a hard grasp, and shook it only once;
it was a practiced, intentional handshake that told me he put stock
in how a man shakes his hand. I unconsciously squeezed back harder.
He came up to about my chin, and I could see the wispy strands of
hair brushed over his head clearly.

Larry’s mouth then split
into a crooked grin and he gestured over to my guitar. “Looks like
we got us a regular John Denver here…” he said loudly, over to
another lady I had not noticed, and who was standing on a small
stool, hanging a curtain over one of the windows in the back wall.
She just looked over and smiled absently.

Larry’s grin faded a
little and he regarded the guitar case a second time a bit more
suspiciously. “You aren’t gonna play that thing after ten o’clock
at night I hope...”


Oh, don’t worry about
that, there’s not guitar in there – it’s just full of drugs and
booze I was hiding on the plane.”

Larry’s face suddenly
sagged with dismay, and he glanced nervously from my case to me,
but then realized the joke and gave a halfhearted smile and
grunted, “Ha, well just keep her down up there.”

I assumed “up there” meant
my room, my new room. The older lady had come down from her stool
and introduced herself as “Phyllis.” She offered me some tea and
went over to a counter and retrieved a “Glacier Park” logo mug,
just like the one Katie was sipping from. Phyllis was Larry’s wife
and worked the store with him, and she seemed nice but quiet and
shy, meek like a nervous mouse. She was slim, had curly brown hair
mixed with gray and was probably around fifty. She had kind eyes
and an honest smile.


How’s the place coming
along?” I asked, to anyone in the room in general. “It looks pretty
good.”

Larry blew air out of his
cheeks as he looked around the room, “Oh, it’s getting there; gotta
knock off the winter off everything… Gotta open up tomorrow and
still got loads to do.”

He had a thick Midwest
accent and the kind of Spartan, no-nonsense, “elbow-grease”
attitude that came with it. I didn’t know if I was supposed to
start helping him immediately or if there was some kind of down
time or orientation before I actually started. I didn’t know
anything about this place at all, and the store opening tomorrow
made me uneasy.

Katie didn’t seem to be
doing anything all this time but shifting between watching me with
curiosity and watching Larry with a kind of critical boredom, as
she continued to sip her tea with a catlike smoothness. She caught
me staring back at her and then turned and walked over to a
screened door in the back, which I saw led to a grassy yard with a
shed centered in some small trees.


I’m gonna step out for a
second,” she said as stepped through the door to the bright
sunshine outside.

I look back over at Larry
and he was looking at the screen door. “She’s a bit on the quirky
side,” he said after a moment. “Hell of a worker though, isn’t she
Phyllis?” Larry looked over at Phyllis who was brushing off wet
hands on her apron.


Oh, she’s great,” Phyllis
said, in a sweet, kindergarten -teacher voice, “just takes time for
her to open up a bit with new faces.”

Larry and his wife Phyllis
were from Kansas I would come to find out. He was now retired but
had owned a mom-and-pop hardware store for a long time; and Phyllis
had been stay-home mother to their one, now adult, son, who still
lived in Kansas and was a lawyer.

I would also come to find
out, with an annoying regularity, that Larry also used to be a
“lumberjack,” as he called it, before he got married. I had never
then, and have never yet, heard anyone actually refer to themselves
as a “lumberjack,” not even those who actually worked in that trade
– who called themselves “loggers” – and I met a few who did that
summer. But Larry would often tell us proudly of his first job in
his late teens in Alaska and then Canada any chance he got –
traveling around with a railroad lumber mill operation where he was
hired to hack away at huge tree trunks for twelve hours a day, for
months at a time. This was before the common use of chain-saws,
which he said were too expensive and didn’t work well back then –
an apparent golden era when axes and two-man saws were primarily
the tools of the trade.

Whenever he mentioned this
story I kept trying to picture him against a backdrop of some
majestic, timber-covered mountain, wearing a red-plaid, flannel
shirt tucked into blue jeans with suspenders, leaning on the handle
of an enormous ax. I tried to imagine this fat, old pudgy man as
healthy and whole and strong in the wild outdoors, braving the
elements as he chopped down the towering giants with nothing but
his broad axe.

But no, I could never
really picture it, Larry huffing and puffing as he swung his ax
over and over into some enormous cedar, wood chips flying wildly
all around him, the trunk beginning to creak as it began fall… no
way. But Larry routinely told us of those days with a stern pride.
It got to be so common for him to mention it and so unlikely for it
to be true that I thought maybe he was losing his mind and had just
imagined it all. Phyllis never mentioned it. In any event, he
seemed to want us to know that he was more than a broken down store
manager, that at one time in his life he was a man to be reckoned
with.

But, true or not, as the
story went, it was those wilderness years as a lumberjack that had
apparently caused Larry to have taken a fancy to visiting Glacier
Park decades ago, and he and Phyllis had traveled every inch of it
in an old RV (of which he still had a picture mounted in the store
– it was a boxy model of RV called “The Executive,”) driving around
with his family, until eventually getting a seasonal job “to keep
the moss from growing under my feet after I retired,” as he
said.

He was now a man of
limited vision, however; his world was inside this store, my new
home, and his vision was one of accomplishing chores and tasks, and
in turn deriding those who avoided accomplishing chores and tasks
with the same drone-like determination, and finally avoiding those
who couldn’t accomplish chores and tasks, and he liked
bowling.

Also, he was the only
person I had ever met who actually said he didn’t “care for music.”
Phyllis for her part would continue to remain very quiet almost the
entire summer, and she took a subservient back step to Larry
whenever he was around. She was the silent partner in the
management of the store, literally and figuratively, and seemed
happiest in the kitchen where she was endlessly busy.

Larry was, I would come to
find out, a very early riser and an early-to-bed goer. Also,
despite his past trips to every corner of the vast expanse of
Glacier Park, it was evident that he didn’t care for going out into
the actual wilderness, and never ventured beyond the gravel foot
paths that wandered through the nearby campsite. His “off to work
we go” whistling attitude and his commonplace suburban lifestyle
offended me once I got a sense of it, in the same way the cheap
trinkets and stuffed animal grizzly bears in the front of the store
offended me. They were grossly out of place in this wild Eden to
which I had escaped, and for which I had risked it all.


Need some help?” I
offered to Larry, hesitantly. The placed looked already spotless to
me, and I didn’t feel like scrubbing anything as my first job duty
at Two Medicine.


Sure thing,” Larry said
quickly, “you can mop the floor here when I’m done.” He jerked his
head at the screen door. “Katie’ll show you upstairs to your room
and get you situated, when she gets back.”

I wondered how long she
would be gone; was she taking a walk or something? I looked out the
screen door into the sunshine. How long was I going to mop floors
for? I was pretty hungry at this point as well, not having eaten at
all yet that day, and I didn’t know the plan as far as meals were
concerned. Were there regular meal times or was it every man for
himself? Where did we get the food from?

I felt more and more
irritated about how this job was shaping up with each passing
minute. Larry seemed to be treating Katie carefully, like some
mildly-disturbed house guest that you didn’t want to upset, and
Phyllis seemed more like one of the old appliances than a fellow
employee. I looked back at Larry and he tossed me some steel wool
and told me to help him on the machine he was cleaning, which was
an aluminum meat slicer.

As I walked over to him
Katie came back in through the screen door. Larry said over his
shoulder, “Katie, get Will settled and head back down and we’ll
give him the official tour of the place.” His round shoulders went
back to lurching over the sink and his whole body twitching as he
scrubbed the main parts of the slicer.

Katie looked at me and
pursed her lips. “Ready to see your new digs?”

I followed her with my odd
suitcase and beat up guitar over to the right side of the kitchen,
where there was a wooden staircase that led up to the
2
nd
floor room. As I
mentioned the main store, where all the stuff was for sale, was one
huge room reaching up to the A-frame ceiling. But on either side of
the building, the front and the back where the kitchen was, there
were rooms built like lofts above the main floor. Larry and his
wife lived in the big upper room at the front of the building, and
they had a second-floor porch they could walk out on and see people
coming in the store. The rest of the staff, me, Katie and another
person I had yet to meet, lived in the three smaller rooms in the
back, above the kitchen, and shared the bathroom on our opposite
end.

Katie jogged up the stairs
before me as we made our way to my room. I ignored her cute little
butt that fit well in her tight, tan cotton pants – the store
uniform that I’d soon be wearing, I surmised.


This place is ancient –
and a little creepy at night,” she said as I topped the stairs.
“That staircase over there,” she pointed across the kitchen to the
other wall, where a wooden staircase started, identical to the one
we were walking up, which led up to another entrance to the second
floor, “I’ve never gone up that staircase – and never will – it
just seems… eerie.”

I glanced over at it. “How
long did you say you’d been here?”


About two weeks. I got
here early – just me and Larry and Phyllis.”


Was the park even open
then?”


Yea, I
had some other job to do,” she said vaguely, “some administrative
stuff…” She was going to be really hard to read, I could see, a
Mona-Lisa mix of coyness, hiddenness, seriousness,
a typical woman in other words
, all wrapped up in a young, dirty-blonde, pretty
face.

I couldn’t image what
“administrative work” might be but she apparently didn’t want to
talk about it, so I changed the subject. “So, what’s working for
Larry like?”

She smirked back at me,
“What do you think of him?” At least she was kind of smiling
now.


I don’t know enough about
him to say yet,” I said carefully.


Well… Phyllis’s
nice.”

She led me down the hall
but then stopped and looked back at me. “Larry’s fine, I suppose,”
she continued walking after a moment, as if changing visibly trying
to think of the right words.

BOOK: Two Medicine
4.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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