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Last Resort
  • Текст добавлен: 20 сентября 2016, 18:17

Текст книги "Last Resort"


Автор книги: Jeff Shelby






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Текущая страница: 2 (всего у книги 14 страниц)

FOUR

Jake was on his back in the bed, eyes closed, snoring softly beneath the ceiling fan.

I plopped down next to him and opened the binder Delilah had pointed out. “Sleepyhead. Wake up.”

He forced his eyes open. “Hey,” he said, his voice low and thick with sleep. It still gave me butterflies.

“Hey, yourself.”

“I passed out.”

“Of course you did.” I leaned down and kissed his forehead. “I wore you out with my sexual prowess.”

He smiled. “Not the first time that's happened.”

“Nor the last, if you play your cards right,” I said. I scooted closer and tapped the binder. “I thought we could look at the activities.”

“I thought we could stay naked and nap.”

“We're on vacation,” I reminded him. “Which means we can do activities.”

“We're going to participate in the activities?”

“Of course we are,” I said. “They sound fun.”

He sighed. “Can't we just lounge around and relax?”

“Relax is code for have sex,” I said, flipping through the pages in the binder. “And there will be some of that. If we participate in the activities.”

“You're totally using sex as a weapon.”

I gave him a pointed look and he laughed. “Anyway, I'm going to call the kids and then we can go do activities,” I said.

“Why are you calling the kids? We just left.”

“I know,” I said. “I just thought I'd call and say hi. See how their morning went.”

“Daisy.” Jake's voice was firm. “We've been gone less than six hours. Their morning has been fine. Their afternoon will be fine.”

“I know, but—”

“But nothing,” he said. “If the kids need us, they'll call. This is our vacation. Our honeymoon. We're not supposed to think about them while we...do activities.”

“I think about them all the time,” I told him.

“Fine,” he said. “You can think about them. Just don't call them.” I glared at him and he sighed. “Fine,” he said again. “Just don't call them today.”

“Tonight,” I said. “I'll call them tonight.” He opened his mouth to object but I cut him off, pointing at one of the pages in the binder. “This medallion hunt sounds way fun.”

He glanced at the description, probably relieved that I'd changed the subject. “What's that?”

It was like a scavenger hunt. The resort provided clues every couple of days and guests attempted  to locate the hidden medallion. Whoever found it won a gift certificate to a local hunting store. I didn't hunt anything except Easter eggs with the kids so the gift certificate would definitely go to waste if we won, but I didn't care.

“The contest lasts all summer,” Jake said when he finished reading. “Sounds like it's something people work on the whole summer.”

“Well, it might take most people that long to figure out the clues but I bet we can find it while we're here.” I smiled at him. “Plus, I want to drive the golf cart.”

“The truth comes out.” He chuckled. “Guess what? I'll let you drive the golf cart, no reason required.”

“But you know I like having a purpose. A mission,” I told him, hopping out of bed. “So get dressed. Let's go explore and be all activity-ish.”

He mumbled something about not liking the truth very much, but he hauled himself out of bed. I waited while he pulled on shorts and a t-shirt, then followed him out on to the deck.

It was a little after noon and the summer sun was directly above us. A soft breeze rustled the tree leaves and the scent of pine and woodsmoke filled the air. I leaned against the deck railing and inhaled deeply, my senses alive. Everything seemed cleaner, crisper. Birds chirped in the boughs of the birch and maple trees that surrounded the camper and it was like I could hear every single one of them, hear their individual trills and whistles. I glanced around, a deep sense of contentment settling inside of me. It may not have been the resort we were expecting, but this version of Windy Vista was a very pretty place.

“Are we going out for that drive?” Jake asked, holding up a keychain. A lone silver key dangled from a keychain shaped like a fish.

“I thought you'd never ask.”

The golf cart had a red roof, red hood and red leather seats. It looked brand new, like someone had just driven it off of the golf car lot. If there were golf cart lots. Jake shoved the key in the slot and unplugged the battery cord from the outlet. I turned the key, released the brake and managed to back it off the gravel and onto the road without running over anything.

I did my best to obey the speed limit as we tooled around the resort. Each campsite was a bit different than the next. Some looked like they were occupied and cared for, with manicured lawns and  landscaped fire pits, with wood-carved lawn ornaments and melodic wind chimes. Others looked almost abandoned, with shuttered windows and overgrown, dandelion and clover-filled lawns. I wondered if they were truly deserted or if the owners hadn't made it up to Windy Vista yet. After all, it was still early in the summer. But true Minnesotans knew summer didn't last long and it was foolish to not take advantage of every snowless day we had.

“You could go a little faster,” Jake suggested, his hand latched onto the roof.

I pointed to a small wooden sign. “The speed limit says five miles per hour.”

“We're in a golf cart.”

I pulled to a complete stop at the four-way stop. “We're a moving vehicle.”

He sighed deeply.

“What?” I turned to look at him, an innocent expression on my face. “Are you anxious to start looking for the medallion?”

He snorted. “Ha. I'm anxious to get back to relaxing...which means you need to drive faster.”

“We don't need to go fast,” I said. I slowed for a speed bump and eased the cart over it. Jake swayed as each set of wheels lifted up and over the raised asphalt. “Soak up your surroundings.”

He shook his head but I saw a smile tug at the corner of his mouth. Maybe he was liking the campground as much as I was and he was just too stubborn to admit it. Or maybe I was driving him slightly insane.

We completed our tour of the outer loop of the campground and I was circling back toward our cabin when a purple soccer ball rolled into the road, followed by a tall, gangly kid in a green T-shirt and camouflage shorts. I slammed on the brakes and Jake braced himself against the dash of the cart.

“Can't believe these things aren't equipped with air bags,” Jake muttered.

I shot him a look.

The kid picked up his ball and frowned at us He was about twelve, with a shaggy bowl cut and a smorgasbord of freckles on his face. “You almost ran over my ball,” he said accusingly.

“Sorry,” I said. “Your ball sort of bounced out in front of us.”

“You could have broken it.” He looked at me with pure contempt and I bristled.

“I'm sorry,” I repeated. “I'm glad I saw it and was able to stop in time.”

The kid's scowl deepened. “Maybe you should slow down.”

“Maybe you should hang on to your ball,” Jake said, trying to keep his tone light. But I heard the thread of annoyance at the kid's attitude.

“Caleb!” a girl's voice yelled. “What are you doing? It's my turn!”

Caleb scowled in her direction, then scowled again at us. He was very good at scowling.

“I'm just saying you noobs need to slow down,” Caleb said. He looked down his nose at us. “If you'd hit my ball, you'd be in trouble. Big trouble. Dorks.”

Jake was out of the golf cart before I could stop him. I knew his trigger-hair temper wasn't an actual threat to anyone but I also knew that he was about to give this kid a good-talking to about politeness and respect.

“Listen, kid,” Jake said, walking toward him. “How about—”

“Caleb!” another voice yelled, a man's this time. “Get your butt over here before your sister melts down completely.”

I turned toward the voice. It was the shirtless guy we'd seen when we'd followed Delilah up to the cabin earlier. He had on the same shorts and the same mirrored sunglasses, but a shirt covered his beer belly this team. It was black with white writing that said “I'm The Boss!” He had a can of beer in his hand, but I assumed that it was a new can and not the one he'd been holding earlier.

Caleb threw one more dirty look in our direction before jogging toward the glittering black motor home.

“Sorry about that,” the man said, striding out into the road. He adjusted his sunglasses. “My girl can kick that ball a mile and Caleb is probably the worst goalie on the planet. Kid has butter fingers.” He offered his own hand to Jake. “Wayne Hackerman.”

Jake shook. “Jake Gardner.” He motioned to me. “This is my wife, Daisy.”

Hackerman doffed an imaginary cap in my direction. “A pleasure.” He took a long pull from the beer. “You will have to watch out for balls and bikes on the roads here, though. The boy is right about that. Gotta obey the speed limit at all times.” He winked at me. “I know how you little ladies like to put the pedal to the metal.”

The irritation flooded back into Jake's expression. “We were,” he said. “I'm just glad we didn't hit your kid.”

“Well, that woulda been a problem, yessir,” Hackerman said, fiddling with his sunglasses again. He glanced up the road, toward the cabin we were staying in. “So, you two are the ones in Delilah's little hideaway?”

Jake's jaw was set and he didn't seem capable of answering.

I spoke up from the driver's seat. “Yes. We are.”

He wrinkled his nose. “How are you liking it?”

I thought about the beautiful landscaping and the charming interior of the camper cabin. “It's lovely.”

He shrugged. “Sure, if that's your thing, I guess. But for me?” He pointed a thumb over his shoulder. “The black beauty is the only way to travel and camp. There's nothing like it. Cost me a small fortune.” He chuckled to himself. “Good thing I make a lot of money. And good thing my kids already know not to plan on an inheritance.”

“Yes, good thing,” I said, slightly appalled at the type of information he was sharing with virtual strangers.

He lifted his sunglasses and stared at me, as if he was waiting for me to comment on his motor home. I glanced at the black monstrosity. It looked like a tour bus for a rock band, not a mobile home you'd park at a resort for the summer.

“It looks...very nice,” I managed.

“Very nice?” Hackerman repeated. He repositioned his sunglasses. “Ma'am, it's more than very nice. It's about the most stupendous thing on wheels. Here, lemme get my little woman to tell you all about it.”

“Oh, that's—“ I began.

But he didn't let me finish. He turned back toward the big black bus and let loose an ear-splitting whistle. “Rhonda! Get your rear end out here right now!”

Rhonda magically appeared on the steps of the big bus, wearing denim shorts that were two sizes too small for her extra wide hips and a bright yellow tube top that barely contained her boobs. Her dyed black hair was spun up in some elaborate design on top of her head and she, too, was holding a beer can.

She frowned at her husband as she made her way toward us, her wedge flip flops kicking up a spray of gravel as she walked. “What is it? I'm playing Candy Carnival.”

“What?” her husband asked.

“Candy Carnival,” she repeated, as if this was something he should be familiar with. Her face lit up with a satisfied smile. “I finally got to the thirty seventh level on the iPad.”

“Good for you,” he said dismissively. He waved a hand at me and Jake. “These are the folks staying in Delilah's place.”

She gave me the once over, as if she was inspecting a dress on a clearance rack, looking for flaws and imperfections. She turned to Jake and suddenly stood straighter, thrusting her boobs in his direction.

She patted her hair and smiled. “Well, aren't we lucky?”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Wayne said. “Tell 'em how awesome the black beauty is. I was trying to explain how it's one of a kind and there's not another one like it anywhere in the world and that it's the best damn thing around.”

“Oh yeah,” Rhonda said, nodding. “It's a beauty.” Then she smiled at Jake. “The beds are...amazing.”

Wayne seemed oblivious to his wife's flirting.

I, however, was not.

“Yeah, our bed is amazing, too,” I told her.

Rhonda looked me up and down, her eyes probably mentally undressing me now to see just what I had to offer my husband in said bed, and my irritation morphed into full-blown annoyance. I didn't want to hear another word about the merits of their house on wheels.

“Glad you both like your big black bus,” I said. I stepped on the brake to release it and it clicked loudly. “We need to get going, though. We're going to find out about the medallion hunt.”

“Oh?” Hackerman's radar went up. He took another long drink from the can of beer and adjusted his sunglasses again. “I'm not sure there's much reason to do that, little miss thing.”

“Yeah, you really shouldn't even bother,” Rhonda added, folding her arms across her chest. Her boobs lifted another inch and I resisted the urge to yank her tube top up to her chin.

“Why's that?” Jake asked. I knew he didn't care about the medallion hunt but he didn't take too kindly to being told what to do. Or, in this case, what not to do.

Hackerman raised his chin and thrust out his chest. “I've won the medallion hunt six years running now. And there's no second place.”

“We,” Rhonda corrected. She patted at her hair. “We've won it six years in a row.”

“Right, sure, whatever,” Hackerman said. I couldn't see his eyes behind his sunglasses but I'm sure he was rolling them. “We.”

“Six years in a row?” I asked.

Hackerman nodded. “Most people have just given up on trying because I'm so good at it.” He tapped his temple. “I can figure out those clues pretty fast and the kids know this place like the back of their hands. Rhonda, here—she maps it all out for us.”

“Sounds like it really is a group effort,” I commented. “And not just you...”

His face darkened. “Ain't nowhere we can't find that thing.”

“Well, maybe your run will come to an end this year,” Jake said.

“Yeah,” I added. “Streaks are made to be broken.” I gave him a sweet smile.

Hackerman froze, then slowly pushed his glasses up so they sat on top of his head. His eyes were a pale, almost colorless blue. “You think you can take us down?”

“Take you down?” I chuckled. “It's a medallion hunt, not WWE.”

Jake shrugged. “I think it's certainly possible.”

“I'll take you down,” Rhonda murmured, her beer can poised below her lips as she stared at Jake.

I felt like I was in some sort of alternate universe. A man we'd just met was challenging us to a throw down over a campground medallion hunt and his wife was staring at my husband like she wanted to lick every inch of him. I was not going to get involved.

Hackerman stared at Jake, his mouth set in a thin line. “You and the little woman?” He gave me a pitying look, then turned back to Jake. “Really? Good luck with that.” He lowered his glasses again.

Screw not getting involved. “I think it's a certainty,” I said. I inched the golf cart forward, closer to where Jake and the Hackermans were standing. “Jake, let's go.”

Hackerman turned to me and gave me a long, hard stare. Maybe he thought I could see his eyes through his sunglasses or maybe he thought the mirrored lenses would paralyze me with fear. I managed to somehow withstand his optical assault.

Rhonda continued to undress Jake with her eyes. He ignored her and climbed back into the golf cart. I considered accidentally letting my foot slip off the brake and onto the accelerator and slamming the cart into her. Maybe the golf cart could inflict some damage, even if it was just deflating the balloon-like breasts stuffed inside of her tube top.

Wayne finally turned back to Jake. He finished his beer and crushed the can in his fist.

He dropped it to the ground and it clattered against the pavement. His voice was a growl. “Then let's get it on.”

FIVE

“We will stay here all summer if that's what it takes to beat that fat pig,” I said as we drove away from Hackerman and his black beauty. “And if that woman looks at you like that one more time, I'll shove the medallion down her throat.”

“Looks at me like what?” Jake asked.

“Oh, give me a break,” I said, my hands clutching at the steering wheel. “'The beds are amazing.' She practically asked you to have sex with her right there on the road.”

“You're exaggerating,” he said. “You have jealous tendencies.”

I did have jealous tendencies. I'd never denied that. With Thornton, my ex-husband, I could've cared less if anyone had showed interest in him. But Jake was mine and I didn't want anyone ogling him the way Rhonda had.

“I'm not exaggerating,” I said. “Her boobs were two inches from your face!”

“Well, you are speeding,” Jake said, ignoring my comment and staring pointedly at the golf cart's speedometer. “Slow down before we get a ticket from the campground police or something.”

“Fifteen minutes ago, you told me I wasn't driving fast enough! I think you just like to complain.”

“And I think you're rattled.” He tried stretching out his lanky frame.

“I'm going to get the clue list,” I said, ignoring him. “We're going to beat those people.”

“How about if we just stay away from them?”

“Or how about if we find the medallion and rub it in their faces?” I countered.

Jake sighed and shook his head.

We zoomed down the hill and I ignored the waves of the friendly campground dwellers, focusing purely on sticking it to Hackerman. We reached the bottom of the hill and made a sort of U-turn toward the clubhouse and the swimming pool.

We lurched to a stop and Jake slid forward on the seat. “I'm having flashbacks to the airport shuttle,” he said. “Wonder if it's PTSD or something.”

I ignored his jibe and slid off my seat. “The clues are in the clubhouse.”

“I gathered,” Jake said as he climbed out of the cart.

I pulled open the screen door to the clubhouse. It groaned in protest and slammed immediately behind us, the spring on the door either broken or nonexistent. The room looked like it had been lifted from a 70's movie shoot. The wood-paneled walls were chipped and peeling and the low-pile carpet was a cross between rust and orange. A wobbly ping pong table was parked in the middle of the room, the net stretched across the table sporting several holes. A pool table with a balding surface sat next to it. There were mismatched shelving units, all wood laminate, filled with games and well-read paperback books. A few card tables were set up near the windows that looked down the hill toward the entrance to the campground.

Jake's face lit up when he saw the ping pong table. “Ping pong!” He immediately began searching for paddles and a ball.

But I didn't care about any of that. I scanned the walls, looking for a bulletin board. And found it. I read all of the announcements tacked to the cork board—there were sheets offering campers and boats for sale, a note about the American Legion pancake breakfast and a reminder of campground rules. There was a bright pink flyer that listed upcoming activities, including Water Aerobics with Wendy (on Wednesdays) and Thirsty Thursdays, a sort of BYOB happy hour the resort hosted. And right next to that, there was a single sheet of paper labeled Medallion Hunt with a list of clues.

I peered at it. Actually, it was't a list, because only one clue was typed on the sheet of paper.

I snatched the sheet off the board and scanned the sheet. One clue. We had to solve this one in order to find the next clue.

“Don't scoff, this is where you'd go to cool off,” I read aloud.

“What are you talking about?” Jake asked, He'd found a ping pong ball and was bouncing it on the table top.

“That's the clue,” I said, shaking the sheet at him. “Don't scoff, this is where you'd go to cool off.”

“A bar?”

I made a face at him. “No. Here on the campground.”

“Oh,” he said, still bouncing the ball. “Right. Hey, you wanna play ping pong?”

“No, I want to find the medallion,” I said, already running short on patience. “So we need to go check out the pool.”

“I didn't put my trunks on. And it's not Wednesday.” He nodded his head at the Water Aerobics announcement.

“Not to swim,” I said. I tacked the sheet back on to the bulletin board. “And not to do aerobics. To find the next clue. Because that's where you'd go to cool off.”

He caught the ball and reluctantly placed it on the table. “Of course, Sherlock. Brilliant deduction.”

“I know,” I said. I pushed open the screen door. “And that makes you Watson.”

“I think I'd rather be Sherlock.”

He followed me over to the pool, a clean rectangle of blue water. Even though it was closed to swimmers—a faded sheet of paper announced it would absolutely be open in the morning—the gate was still unlocked. I unlatched it and walked on to the pool deck. There were a few tables with umbrellas and several reclining chairs stacked in the corner. A Lost and Found bin sat next to the gate, overflowing with towels and goggles and a couple of lone flip flops. The aroma of chlorine hung heavy in the air and dragonflies buzzed the surface of the water, pleased to have the aquatic oasis to themselves. It took two minutes for us to find the next clue, pinned to the fence, near the deep end.

Jake pulled it from the fence. “Your clothes or your body, it doesn't matter. Here's where you'll go to get off all the splatter.” He paused. “Okay, I'm guessing Hackerman has won this thing only because no one else participated. Because these clues are ridiculously easy.”

“Laundry!” I yelled, already jogging back to the cart. “The laundry building with the bathroom attached!”

Jake mumbled something behind me, but I didn't catch it.

We found the clue at the laundry building and then the one at the fire pits and the one at the sand volleyball court. They'd started to get a little bit more difficult and locating the one at the volleyball court took us nearly twenty minutes to figure out. We went back to the cabin for a quick snack—Delilah had stocked both the fridge and the pantry for us and we'd realized we hadn't eaten all day—and debated the location of the next clue. I saw the Hackermans zip by in their blinged-out black golf cart, Wayne driving, Rhonda seated next to him with her boobs still hanging out, and their two brats on the back seat. I bolted out of my chair and grabbed the golf cart key, yelling at Jake to bring the other half of his turkey sandwich with him so we didn't fall behind.

We solved the next two clues and found ourselves in a massive storage lot. There were old campers parked there, almost like a graveyard for decrepit RVs but there were boats there, too—pontoons and speed boats and shiny new canoes side-by-side up against the fence. The clue in the lot was tacked up to the door of an old trailer and the Hackermans were already there when we pulled up.

I ignored them and didn't look their way as I slid out from behind the wheel of the cart. I marched over to the trailer, my sandals kicking up clouds of dust. I read it quickly, then returned to the cart.

“You won't find it in Oregon or Appalachia,” I recited. “This one might not make you happy.”

Jake thought for a moment, then shrugged. “I don't know. Let's go take a nap.”

I elbowed him and peered around him so I could see the Hackermans. Wayne and Rhonda were  leaning in close to one another, whispering as they discussed the clue. The two kids bickered in the back seat, their scowling faces almost exact replicas of their respective parents.

“No napping,” I whispered. “We need to figure this out.”

“Let's go on vacation, she said,” Jake mumbled. “It'll be fun. It'll be relaxing, she said.”

I elbowed him again. “Be quiet. And think.”

He sighed.

“Having a little trouble over there, are you?” Wayne Hackerman called out from his cart. “Not so easy is it now?”

“It's been easy so far,” I replied. “No problem at all. We're here, aren't we?”

His mouth twitched and he went back to conferring with his wife.

“What do you think?” I said to Jake. “Something about a map maybe?”

“I think I'd like to take a nap or go for a swim,” he said.

I punched him in the thigh. “Map, not nap. And we don't have time for those things! Now think!”

A cry of delight went up from the Hackerman's golf cart and the cart peeled out, gravel and rock spitting out from the back tires as they took off. I watched them leave the storage area and turn left, heading back up the hill toward the camp sites.

“Hurry!” I said, pounding on the steering wheel. “I don't want to lose to that creep!”

Jake pinched the bridge of his nose. “Trail.”

“I know we are trailing!”

“No,” he said, shaking his head. “Oregon. Appalachia. Happy. It's talking about a trail.”

I recited it again. “Yes! You're right!”

“I know I am,” he said. “So I'm Sherlock. Not Watson.”

I thought for a moment. “But the Hackermans went back toward the camp sites. The wilderness trail is the opposite direction. It's down below the club house and goes the other way.”

“Are you sure?”

“I've pored over the map of this place,” I said. “Trust me. I know it like the back of my hand.”

“Okay,” Jake asked. “So he's wrong.”

“He's won it five years in a row,” I reminded him.

“Six,” Jake corrected. “And are you saying you think he's smarter than me?”

“I'm saying he's won it six years in a row. Maybe he knows something we don't.”

Jake folded his arms across his chest. “Okay. Fine. Why don't you follow Mr. Six Time Winner and see where it gets us?”

I thought hard. I needed to make a decision.

“You really think it's the trail?” I asked.

“Oregon. Appalachia. Happy,” he repeated. “It's trail.”

“Positive?”

“Yeah,” he said, nodding, then shrugged. “But why don't we follow Hackerman in his golf cart and see where he leads us? Maybe we can ask him if he's related to Ken. You know, since it looks like he inherited his driving skills from him.”

I frowned at him. “Who's Ken?”

“The shuttle driver,” he said. When I continued to stare at him blankly, he sighed. “It was a joke.”

“This is no time for jokes.”

He opened his mouth, then closed it. Slowly, he expelled the breath he was holding. “Okay. We can follow him if that's what you want to do.” He paused. “That way, when he finally figures it out and beats us to the medallion, I can say I told you so.”

I stared at my husband for a long moment, processing his words. What he'd just proposed sounded a heck of a lot worse than actually losing.

So I headed for the trail.


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