Thursday, January 19, 2012

Chapter Fifty-three

Funter Bay, Alaska
7:37 AM

“Sugar?  Cream?” Bob asked as he poured steaming black coffee into a large mug.
“No, thank you.”
Bob sat down, handed Deb the mug, then stirred a lot of sugar into his own.  He stared at her over his mug as he blew the steam off it.
“Long night?” he asked.
“Long night.”
They sat in silence.  Then he spoke.
“Look kid.  You don’t know me from Adam.  I’m just a guy who offered you a way out of the Yukon.  I don’t know what keeps you up at 3 a.m. …”  He took another sip.  “Well, check that, I can guess, based on what you’ve told me, is eating at you.”
She started to interrupt him but he held his hand up. “And no, I wasn’t listening at your door last night.” 
She gave him a questioning look.“You look like shit and have been looking over your shoulder since I met you all a few days ago.  Frankly, kid, you could make coffee nervous.”  He laughed then she laughed with him.
“I’m sorry, its just …”
He interrupted.  “Lord no, kid.  Don’t apologize!  If I were in your shoes I wouldn’t sleep, either.”
She sipped from her mug and then spoke softly.  “You believe me?” She had given him the basics about her escape on the way to Funter Bay in his float-plane.
“I won’t lie to you, kid, your story is incredible.  Holy Mother of God!  Government agents chasing you, your boyfriend chasing them, all of your escapades … its like a freaking dime novel!  But yeah, I believe you.”  He looked directly into her eyes.
She held the warm mug to her face.  Tears streamed.  “Thank you, Bob.”
They sat in silence again, lost in their own thoughts.
Finally, he spoke again.  “I haven’t told another soul this.  But I want to tell you.”
She looked up and wiped her face with her sleeve.  He then handed her a folded flannel handkerchief.
“Deborah, about 15 months ago I got a call at 4:30 a.m. no one should ever get.  The Washington, DC, police called me to tell me that my daughter had died the day before.  She was a teacher and out on a field trip with her class.” 
Bob looked out the window.  A tear coursed down his face.  Deb reached out and took his hand.  The kitchen clock ticked.
“One of her students fell through the ice on a pond.  She …” He sniffed again, looked out the window and resumed.  “She got the little boy out, but she fell back through and …” He paused again to steady himself. 
“She was all I had in the world, Deborah.”  She handed the handkerchief back to him.
“So if you want to know if I’m some pervert or something … “ he trailed off. 
She reached over and squeezed his hand. ”Thank you for telling me that.” 
He turned back to her and smiled.  Then he got up and poured himself another cup.
“It made me realize how important family is, Deborah.  And when I saw you dragging into that airport in Whitehorse, well …” He sat back down and poured a huge amount of sugar into his cup.
“Well, let’s just say I wanted to help a family in need.”  He stirred the sugar in. Then he looked up and asked, “Would you do me a favor?”
“Sure Bob.  Anything …”
“No, no, don’t worry about feeling obligated.  But, well, since my daughter died I’ve thought a lot about family and I’d like to see if I can patch things up with my brother in Florida.  We haven’t spoken for 37 years and I’ll be damned if I remember why.  And even though you and I can’t really say we know each other, I do believe in you. And I trust you. So, would you watch this place for me while I fly down to the lower 48 and go see him? You’ll be safe here and I’ll have a reliable house-sitter.”
Tonka padded into the kitchen followed by Moira, who crawled into Deborah’s lap still wearing her footy pajamas.  Tonka dropped onto the floor beside Bob with a whump.
“We’d be happy to help, Bob.  I still think you’re the one doing us the favor, though.”
He smiled and took another sip of his coffee. 

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