Twin Beeches -- an Illinois Love Story
Author: paul schoaff

Chapter 43
Taking a Necessary Chance



Sawing off the Limb you are Standing on


The sound of a power tool working roused Eddie from his slumber, but Buddy didn't stir.  Eddie slipped away and crawled, very slowly, watching for any movement by anyone watching for him to approach the cabin.


It took almost an hour to work his way to the bottom of the ‘hill’, the now sod covered network hiding the excavation where the still, the generator and the insulation furnace with its scrubber were hidden.    Eddie knew every inch of the false cover and he inched over to where he could peek into the room without announcing himself.


He saw his father, with a torch, shears and a reciprocating saw, destroying the furnace.  The still was nowhere to be seen – Eddie realized all the copper in it had been cut up and melted down before the furnace was shut down.    Everything was going into old 55 gallon barrels normally used to ship and return the copper wire.  All the wire had been processed and melted down to lumps just piled in one corner.  The water scrubber lay on its side and had been disconnected from its piping.  Eddie realized, as soon as his eyes had adjusted to the light, his father was removing or destroying the physical evidence revealing an illegal operation had thrived here for so many years. 


“Dad”, said Eddie, a bit of a lump in his throat.


“Eddie!  You can't be here!”  Hawkins jumped up fast and felt dizzy…  He began to reach to his oldest son, then, seeing the odd look in Eddie’s eyes, stepped back.  “The cops are all over the place!  They keep threatening to search, but they haven't got a warrant yet.”


“That's why you are ripping everything up?”


“No, we were quitting anyway, I'm just not finished hiding everything.”


“Dad, I came back for my money.”


“Eddie, I told you the Judge has the money!”


“And, Dad, the Judge says you're lying.”  He seized his father firmly by the shirt, and, the truth be known, if Hawkins had wanted to, he could have kicked Eddie between the legs and laid him down flat.   But, he didn't think Eddie wanted to hurt him, just to scare him.  He was right. After a staring match, Eddie eased off and said, carefully, “Dad, I want the password to the account.  I'll take what I think I have coming, and leave you the rest.”  It was the fairest deal he could think of.    In fact, he felt if he took another $20M, he would have enough to start a new life in another state.  


“Eddie, if I take money out, do you know where I would have to pick it up?”  Eddie thought about it, then shook his head in the negative.  “It goes to the Judge's P.O. Box in Rushville.  I didn't want to have to pay for one when we opened our 'accounts', so I just used his Box”.  Eddie deflated and then brightened, “Then it’s a good thing I didn't get any further on his bad side.  But I bet he didn't just forget to tell me about one detail.”  What to do, now?  “What would have happened if the Judge died?”


“We were young, Eddie, just like you, now, and we were going to live forever.  Nothing would ever touch us.  What could go wrong?”


Again, things were getting too complicated.  He needed time to think, time to plan, time to let his pursuers think he and Buddy had made a clean getaway.   “Dad, I'm taking your trolling motor – go up and get it for me, will you?”


When his father returned, Eddie asked if any troopers were around. “Not where I can see any,” replied Hawkins, Sr., “but they could be in the woods.”   Eddie didn't think Hawkin's neighbors would let someone prowl the woods in any direction from the Hawkins' place. 


“I'm leaving for a time, but I'll be back.  Give me the code.”



Hawkins grudgingly opened his wallet and pulled out a sealed piece of plastic.  He pulled a pencil from his bib overall pocket and wrote the term, “EVERLASTINGLIFE” 



“Compare 'em.  The same, right?  Do you know where to send that?”  Eddie nodded, as he had gotten it from the Judge.  “Good, I never asked, I didn't want the Judge to have any more reason to knock me off than he already had.”


Then Hawkins admitted, “Knowles and I are both sons of bitches.   Either one of us, alone, would probably have killed somebody by now, gettin' what we wanted.  We both wanted money.  I wanted to be left alone to live in the woods and hunt and fish all the time, and he wanted to be 'respected' , but we both wanted to be rich.  God knows why.  Anyway, by having this 'thing' as a racket between us, and knowing all the time the other could put you away any time they wanted, I guess it kept us from doing anything we'd really regret.  Least ways, I've always looked at it such....”


“I don't understand, Dad, I really don't.  I've seen you and the Judge together.  Personally, I think you each wanted what the other already had.”  


“Eddie, look at it this way.  I'm a man of God.  Every Sunday, I stand up in church, and though there ain't many folks there, I believe God is there, and I believe every word I say.  And, there came the Judge, sorta like my own personal Satan.  I sold a little leftover from my Daddy, and got caught, and I thought – what's wrong with me?  I've ruined my life for a few dollars!  And old Knowles, he took me off the hook and I could have walked in the straight and narrow from then on, but, here he came, young Lucifer Knowles, tempting me, tempting me; and, I guess, I fell in love with the idea of having a friend so smart and so connected -- a real man, always able to see what to do.  I admired him so much, it was almost like being in l….  Not like that, -- you know what I mean -- or maybe you don't.”


“I'm glad it’s over.  If I could, I would take all the money and give it anonymously to some church, or some organization for kids.  I don't want it, I don't need hardly any of  it.  You find a way to take some of it to get safe away and get a fresh start, go ahead and do it.”


Eddie composed himself after beginning to feel empathy for his father. He was beginning to think maybe his father needed a push in the right direction.  Maybe if he didn’t have the money, at all…


“Let me help you with the cleanup.  I'll tell the guy with me to keep lookout while I take the skiff down the creek and dump things in the pools.”  He slipped out, woke Buddy, and told him where to take a position, on the other side of the creek at a height where he could watch the approaches to the shack and barn, both the road and the creek.  Then he and his father worked furiously to move everything, every clue, out of the mine.  The generator stayed.  It, by itself, was evidence of nothing, nor was the elaborate hoist concealed by the barn.  All the remaining transport cans were washed out to remove any trace of 'shine', filled with water, ready to be claimed as the Judge's drinking water, if it came to needing an explanation.


Suspicion is one thing, proof is quite another.


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