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

Chapter 57
I Love, He Leaves

No Harm, no Foul?


Before leaving Havana, heading for Rantoul and then, Champaign, I called Mama. For once, I asked her to shut up and listen.  I’m okay, the baby was fine, too, and I'd be home in a few days, or I would never be home, either way would just have to be okay.  She gasped and sputtered as I told her Eddie wasn't guilty of anything and he would do the right thing.  Then I hung up.  I imagine the Troopers spent a little time discussing Stockholm syndrome, but all the loose ends were starting to be tied up except for catching Eddie.


David came out of intensive care to ‘stable’ and told everything he knew, including the fact there were skeletons in the tunnel between the houses.  He didn’t know why, exactly, but he believed Eddie had helped him.  He surely didn’t know how he got to the side of the road at the bottom of the bluff. When they told him that Becca and I were the apparent hostages of the "Wildman of Coffin Corner", Eddie Hawkins, he thrashed around and tried to pull his IV's until sedatives were administered.


The newsmen and TV crime shows were converging on Woodland once more.   I didn't know it yet, and neither did Eddie, but the Ray Farley skeleton took Eddie and me off the front page enough to let us enjoy two days mixing with the Fighting Illini students, getting a new hair style and color in the motel room, cutting all of Eddie's long hair off and giving him a mustache from a novelty store.  A Greek Fisherman's Cap covered most of his hairline scar.  Who would think to look for a well-groomed pair of fugitives on a college campus?  The news told about the tragedy of Buddy Brinley, but his image as just being a "little" wild was knocked for a loop by David's story of his being shot by Buddy, not Eddie.  "Are you sure?", he was asked time after time until he simply said, "I know both of them.  Buddy Brinley shot me.  Eddie Hawkins saved my life."


The tabloids began examining Eddie's record and went over the depositions in the Beardstown assault conviction word by word, quickly pointing out that none of the witnesses agreed at all about what had gone on in back of Rusty's station.  Rusty had given up the station by then and was working as a mechanic for a truck leasing outfit over at Chillocothe.  The tabloids tracked him down, plied him with coffee and gooseberry pie, and he gave another completely different statement from the one he had sworn to over a year earlier.  In the new one, he said he had been a mite hasty, especially since the junkyard man who came to get Eddie's car stopped by and told him that Eddie had a decent tire in his trunk when he last left Woodland.  The injured trooper was on disability and had moved out of state with only a P.O. Box number as a forwarding address.  Turned out he was double dipping  by working as a town policeman in Babbitt, Minnesota, hunting and fishing all day long and sleeping in his patrol car all night, I suspect. 


All through those hiding out days and nights Eddie and I seemed to be doing some sort of dance of connection – we would follow one another from one surface of our room to another, bed to chair to footstool to floor to leaning on the wall, as though we were connected by a short bungie cord, and all the while constantly telling each other everything we could think of about everything we could think of.  Eddie told me every detail about the Judge, his father, the ‘business’, the longing to ‘get away’, jail and his cellmates,  the Kaiser, and even what he was thinking when he met me in his driveway when I was with Mr. Poole.  When he mentioned the double cheeseburgers, we had to immediately go and buy a half-dozen and consume them (4 for him, 2 for me) before we even got back to the room. 


Though my life was far less exciting than his, I told him everything about myself that he might possibly want to hear.   I didn’t want to tell him about me and Larry and Buddy, but, in the end, I knew it would be best to always be honest and open with Eddie.  He didn’t know how to be deceptive, and hated it in others.  He was ready to go back to Woodland to confront Buddy about his irresponsibility until I reminded him we had heard Buddy was already beyond punishment.  "At least, I got to pop him a good one", was his last word on it.


Finally, we stole a motorcycle from beside a biker bar, the scariest thing I have ever done before or since.   It is surprising how some bikers don't think anyone has the courage to steal a hog with the keys in the ignition outside a biker bar.  They were wrong – Eddie did.  We eased out, sped all the way back to Havana, and all three of us slept in a shelter in a park by the river until the Post Office opened.  If he had even looked at me sideways, I think I would have started ripping my clothes off, I had become that excited.  But I didn’t.  His eyes burned holes in me, and I finally told him, “If you are going to keep looking at me like that, you’d better be ready to do something about it!”.


He just smiled, almost shyly, and murmured, “Not yet.  I got a lot to prove, a lot to do before I get tied down. Daddy always told me, and I think it’s right, that if I lay with a woman, I have to marry her….”  I didn’t have an answer for that, so I just shut up and tried to calm down.


He trusted me.   He trusted me to walk into the Post Office and see the contents of the Box.  I trusted him to hold Bu...Rebecca while I did it.   All through those days, Rebecca slept and nursed and we sometimes lay with her gurgling and burbling between us on a bed.  I knew Becca was as safe with Eddie as with Mama, even when she was tied into her pouch on my front, under my bulky sweatshirt and we were on a Harley, speeding down US136.   


When I came out, carrying a tightly wrapped package, the same size and weight and specific gravity as a package the same size filled with $100 dollar bills, we knew the end of the road was near.


  Back to the park we headed and split the money down the middle, $220,000 apiece.  He stuffed all of his into the old briefcase that went into the Harley saddle bag, and I simply used a double K-Mart shopping bag.   He mounted the cycle, and I walked over with Rebecca and gave him a long 'Goodbye' kiss with some tongue.  He kissed me back, his coal black eyes opening widely in delighted surprise, and, I think, understanding that he could return for me whenever he wanted.  One last piercing look from those bottomless black….


 “Everlasting Life”, he suddenly said to me, and then he roared away.  The air shimmered around him as his image became smaller and smaller until he disappeared straight out US 136  into the eastern morning.  He hadn't given me any clue at all about where he was headed.  Perhaps he didn't know.


I thought about everything and made plans for two hours before calling for Mama to come pick me up.  I could tell she was torn between slapping me silly and hugging me to death when she arrived in Havana 25 minutes later.  She settled for crying, pinching my cheek, stomping her feet and hugging the baby as she collapsed onto her bottom right there on the sidewalk while waiting for me to try to explain myself.  Finally, I told her the someday I would tell her the whole story and she settled, for then, for that.


As we drove back to Woodland, she told me Buddy’s funeral would be the next day, and how the Night Watchman, not wanting to get mud and blood all over the inside of his car,  had arrived back in Woodland with Buddy strapped to the fender, like a deer.  He showed off his polycarbonate helmet with a bullet scar, and the bullet-proof vest with two small slugs embedded.  The tabloids and the TV station had a heyday.  The next day, ‘That awful man with his evil sunglasses’ was gone, 'gone for good', she said.



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