It (Doesn’t) Go Without Saying
By Elizabeth Cutright
(Excerpted from East Junction, a novel in progress)
Richard Pale squinted out from under his Bruins baseball hat at the solitary figure of his only son, Danny Pale, intermittently pitching golf balls into the wasteland of the desert. Wasteful and rebellious as always, this strange son who belonged much more to his mother than to the father he resembled in so physical a manner. Tall and lanky with thick dark hair and an easy smile, Richard still glowed with the vitality of a forty year old man in the prime of his life; no stranger would have believed this virile example of masculinity was nearly sixty-five years old. They certainly would never fathom how a man of his stature could voluntarily live out the rest of his years void of any female companionship. But those disbelievers would simply be ignorant of the real and lasting love Richard felt for his deceased wife. She had made him human. She had made the world livable. And she had served as a conduit between this man, and the son who now stood teetering on the edge.
And teetering he was. The unbalanced state his son currently resided in was a location Richard knew well. He could almost smell the desperation and the loss of hope, and he knew that in his life the only person that had dragged him out of that pit had been his wife. She’d held all the escape equipment, knew all the rescue tactics. Had she been here right now, standing next to him on the spongy green of the golf course, she could have reached out to that lonely man – maybe she could have saved him.
But it was not Richard’s place to be savior. He could only observe and record the pathway of his son’s life. Bear witness to the slow disintegration of spirit. He knew that a fire was slowly going out, but he was at a loss as to how the flame had lost its energy. He couldn’t fathom the kindling needed to rebuild the dying embers.
“You’re up, Rich.” Stuart Gredkin, Richard’s golfing partner of ten years, stepped aside from the tee and wiped the sweat planted by the early morning sun off his brow. He wisely avoided any mention of the eccentric young man standing less than 30 feet away.
“Thanks Stu,” Richard approached the tee warily, always suspicious that some variable had been missed. The smack of the iron filled him with satisfaction and sent the ball out like a rifle shot.
“Jesus Rich, I just don’t know how you do it. All this time, and you still hit that ball straight as an arrow.” Stu laughed as he ambled off towards the next hole.
Richard bent down to pick up the tee and winced at the sharp twinge racing up his hamstrings. Despite all appearances, his body never forgot the chronology of its time on earth. Richard had fooled many a judge and jury, but his body had inside information and could not be so easily convinced.
He caught up with Stu on the next hole, just as he was setting up his shot.
“So, are we going to talk about what happened last night?” Stu asked as he placed the ball delicately on the tee.
“What are you’re contacts yapping about this time?” Richard couldn’t help but grin at his friend. Five years into retirement from his position as editor of the town paper, and he still took calls from informants and tipsters – living vicariously through the imagined thrill of breaking the “story of the year.”
“You really haven’t heard?” Stu stopped mid-swing and stared at Rich, doubt and concern racing across his face.
“Why? What happened?”
“They found Anne Marie Beckett’s body down at East Junction.”
“Shit.” Richard dragged the word out with a slow shake of his head.
Both mean squinted into the distance, watching the heat rise in waves off the green. For a moment, they could only hear the buzz of the cicadas and Danny’s muffled grunts as he hit one ball after the next, regular and emotionless as an automoton.
It was Richard broke who finally broke the silence, “East Junction puts the case outside the city limits.. Small blessings I guess. Town isn’t up to a murder trial. Whole thing’ll probably be transferred over to Barstow by the end of the week ”
“Don’t count on it. Lance was bitching this morning about how the body was just a few feet west of the tracks.”
“So Lance thinks it’s his case huh?”
“Looks like it.” Stu leaned on his club, but the casual stance was surface only, Richard could tell he was tensed up for the events to come. “It’s gonna be a big show.”
“Murder cases usually are.”
“Think they’ll bring in an outside attorney?” Stu asked with a sideways glance.
“Who, the defendant? Unless we’ve got some robber barons hiding in the hills, any local will have to be happy with Garrison and the PD’s office.”
“Don’t know if I think the boy’s up to something of this magnitude.”
“He’ll manage.” Richard replied curtly.
“He’ll need help.”
“What are you getting at Stu?”
Stu leaned deeper onto his club and nodded slightly towards Danny.
“Garrison and your boy go way back, and Danny’s got big city experience.”
“My son’s not that stupid Stu. There’s no way hell he’d let Greg drag him into this.”
“You think?” Stu asked skeptically.
“Believe me, the last thing my son wants is a murder trial on hands.”
“You seem to know a lot about what’s going on in Danny’s head for not having spoken to him since he got back.”
“Stu, you’ve just crossed the line.”
“I’m just saying…..”
“Well, you’ve said too much.”