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

Chapter 47
Eddie's Polite Warning

The Polite and Earnest Warning


Buddy and Eddie took turns sleeping that night and I asked if I could just take the baby into the basement out of the way.  After looking around the basement and seeing the outside steps into the basement, Eddie slipped outside and put a piece of scrap lumber through the handles on the pull up doors.  He came back to tell me I could stay down there with the baby  -- they wouldn't bother me.  I could pee in a bucket.  He took my purse, removed the keys for the car, and checked I didn't have a radio phone.  Mama had tried to get me to take one, but I didn't think one would work so far out of town.


In the morning, at first light, Eddie called out and came down the stairs. He saw I was nursing the baby, averted his eyes, and said, “Come up as soon as you can, I need some things.”


He and Buddy were making a big pot of soup from the canned tomatoes stockpiled in the pantry.  They had added some pasta elbows and two or three cans of beans and a fried up pound of unfrozen ground chuck.  The whole mess was beginning to simmer on the stove.  I was hungry, so I got a spoon, tasted the liquid and added a little salt and pepper.  Buddy's eyes never left me as I sat at the table and wolfed down some toast and apple butter, and washed it down with tap water.


“Does the propane truck come on a schedule, or just when you call?” Eddie queried.


“Tell the truth,” I said, “I don't know.  I never ran out, yet.”   Eddie and Buddy fretted someone might show up unexpectedly.  Eddie went out to tap the side of the propane tank and decided there was plenty in it.


“When will that carpenter come around?”  They must have been working on what to do about David.  I thought the best thing would be to just have me meet him outside if he wandered my way, telling him the baby was sleeping so I didn't want to disturb her, but it wasn't my call.  No one asked me how to do it, so I just kept quiet, hoping they didn't make a big mistake.  I saw Buddy had a pistol in his belt, one he nervously rearranged every few minutes.


“What about your mother?”


“What about her?” I replied, innocently.  I knew there was a small possibility of her coming, since she never seemed to come at the beginning of the week, but no need to let them feel certain.


“Is she likely to come out here, or not?”  Eddie asked, gently enough.  “How would you keep her out of the house?”


“I don't know.  There's no telling.  She can't call me to tell me she's on the way.  You know I don't have a phone.”


“What about the carpenter?  Does he have a phone?”


I thought and thought until Eddie repeated the question.


“I'm trying to remember!  I don't think so, but he might.  Do you need to use a phone???”  


I actually remembered David had a cell phone, but it was only good for calling 911.  I think. 


Eddie's black eyes looked straight into mine, “Don't get cute, MJ.  I've decided we might be here for a week.  You are going to have to do a lot of lying for us during that time, and take at least two trips into town.   Your baby will stay with us.  We've been all nice and polite, and I don't want that to change, but you have to do as we say, or else…”  Buddy reached over, then, and ran the back of his hand, holding the gun, down my arm.  I could see in his eyes no pity, no compassion, certainly no respect for my person.  He sat down beside me and put his hand back on mine.  I tried not to shudder as I wondered, "How in God's creation could I have let this man be Becca's father?"


My heart was pounding.  I had thought they would leave pretty soon, maybe tie me up and take the car when it got dark that night, but now, what were they planning?  I excused myself and went to the bathroom with Becca and stayed there nursing until Buddy yelled at me to come out.  Steeling myself for what might come next,  I held Becca tightly and went back to the men.



And so, I sat there, plotting and planning, trying to find the best idea for saving our lives.    Becca clung to me, seeming to know somehow in her baby consciousness that we were coming closer and closer to a perilous confrontation with Buddy, with or without Eddie’s approval.  


I  watched the dynamics between the two young men – Buddy, the blue-eyed rich boy with everything to live for, holding his gun and waving it around, never taking his eyes off Eddie, but why?  Was he afraid of Eddie, or was he just constantly looking to Eddie for guidance and approval? 


Eddie, the backwoods kid who made me tingle when he looked me over at his Dad’s place in Coffin Corner, looking so dangerous with his scar and his deep-set black eyes, yet, so much in control and so much more anxious for Becca and I to be comfortable and not feel threatened.   Maneuvering from time to time to place his body between Buddy and me, I began to sense his help would be there if I needed it.   When I needed it, not if.


But we did feel threatened.  Every time Buddy moved a hand or arm or leg, my adrenaline would start pumping.  Any fool could see that Buddy was losing control.  I doubted he slept, even, making sure Eddie couldn’t leave, or take the gun, or whatever else would constitute losing the upper hand.


I wanted to ask Eddie, straight out, what their intentions were.   Would they tie me up when they left?  Kill us?   Take me with them?   Why hadn’t they just taken my car and headed for Chicago or Canada or wherever?  But I couldn't, not without chancing lighting even more of a fire under Buddy. 


Eddie remained calm and focused.  You could almost see the wheels turning behind his eyes.  Behind Buddy’s eyes the wheels were getting all jammed up, and, like continental plates pressed up against one another, pressure was building for an earthquake or eruption.  I suspected neither man had been near a woman for over a year.  For Buddy, from what I knew about him, I could only imagine what he spent at least some of his time thinking about.    Somehow, Eddie was acting more like a monk or a hermit, seemingly not letting the presence of a woman after all that time affect him.


If it came to it, of course I would submit to them to give Becca and me a better chance to survive.   Believe me, though, I wasn't going to do or say anything letting them think I wouldn't go down fighting.


I tried to remember every detail old Charley Poole told me about Eddie’s father and any tidbit that might have been about Eddie.   I remembered the church that didn’t let non-members through the doors and how Eddie’s father was the minister there.   I thought I recalled Charley saying that the oldest son, Eddie, would probably be the minister there someday.


“Eddie, how about telling me something about your church.”


“What!, that church is just about the farthest thing from my mind that I can imagine right now, MJ.  What the heck do you want to know about the church?”


“Eddie, please don’t be upset with me – it’s just, well, it’s just that somebody told me you might be the minister there someday and I thought….”


Eddie stared at me for a good minute, trying to figure out why in the world I brought up church now.  “MJ, I’m not turning myself in”, was his eventual quiet reply.  


“No, no, Eddie, I didn’t think you would.  It’s just, I’m embarrassed to say it, Becca and I have never been baptized.”


The confusion in his mind was still obvious. 


“I’m just saying.  If there was something going to happen to us, I'd really like it if we could get baptized first!”


Then, I could tell from the look on his face and the way he startled, Eddie was not about to let Becca and me get hurt.   For Buddy’s sake, he didn’t come right out and say it, in fact he reached out with his hand on my shoulder and said “MJ, you do everything we tell you to and don’t start up with such foolishness.”  But while saying it, he winked at me and smiled where Buddy couldn’t see.  


Eddie turned back to Buddy, still keeping his body between me and Buggsie's father.  "Buddy, we just have to keep watch.  If anyone comes by, we take the baby and slip upstairs.  MJ will keep people out of the house.  If her mother comes around, she'll tell her mother the baby was fussy last night and was now sleeping, so don't go upstairs and wake her up!"  Buddy nodded, but his hand never left the pistol.  I wondered to myself if anything I said would keep Mama away from the baby.  Eddie may have been wondering how they could keep me from whispering a warning and call for help to whoever made it to the house.  Buddy may have been thinking, "they'd better not come here, I've got something for them!"


So, I thought, under the circumstances, there was little to worry about that I could help.  Not yet.   Today, I don't think either of us realized how close to the edge Buddy had gotten.  All the signs were plain in front of us, but we just couldn't, or didn't, or didn't want to, read them.




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