Two Loves Challenged

This soon to be released book will complete the Two Loves trilogy. I hope three is a good round number and not a crowd.

We jump ahead eight years from when Two Loves Sought left off. Cynthia has passed through university and is on the verge of graduating with a medical degree. But all is not sunshine and roses as you will see in Chapter 1 below.

Two Loves Challenged

CHAPTER ONE

The young couple, happy and carefree, held hands as they strolled the three blocks from the Queen E Theatre to their parking lot. Pam softly sang her favorite song from the concert. Tom hummed along. Two men meandered from side to side on the sidewalk as they approached. They obviously spent time in the beer parlour behind them. Plotting the men’s course as best they could, Tom and Pam moved to one side to let them pass. The shorter of the two men veered directly into Pam.

Hey Babe. I’d like to screw you.”

Tom spoke up, “Leave us alone.”

“Or what?”

With no warning, his fist slammed into Tom’s face, broke his nose and sent him sprawling backwards. His head banged hard on the sidewalk. If he wasn’t unconscious on the way down, the sidewalk ended any doubt. Pam screamed. Tried to come between them. The man hit her with a sweeping backhand that flung her up against a building.

“I’ll deal with you later, bitch.”

He stepped forward and delivered a kick to the side of Tom’s head that slammed it into his left shoulder. It stayed pressed against the shoulder at an impossible angle. The blood flowing from his nose was joined by a trickle from the ear. Pam screamed again. His partner grabbed his arm.

“Jobo, he isn't movin’. Maybe you killed him.”

“Bastard won’t cross me again.”

“C’mon Jobo, we've got to get the hell out of here.”

Jobo gave Tom another kick before letting his big partner drag him away to their car. As they left, Pam bent down over Tom. He didn’t move.

“Tom! No! Tom!”

She screamed for help. No one in sight. She screamed again and again.

Another couple rounded the corner, saw the girl bent over the boy and ran to help. The woman sized up the situation immediately.

“Run to the pub and have them call the police and an ambulance.”

She knelt beside Pam.

“Lower his head gently to the pavement and hold it steady.”

She felt for a pulse in his carotid arteries. None detected. She put her ear close to his mouth. No sign of breathing. With one hand helping Pam hold his head steady, she stuck a finger in his mouth to pull the tongue forward, then put her mouth on his and blew. His chest expanded. Moving over his chest, she placed the heel of both hands on his ribs and pressed down hard six times to pump blood. Back to his mouth for another breath. Six more presses. She kept on though it became obvious he was gone. Tears streamed down Pam’s face. She kept repeating, “No. No. No…”

Agonized minutes passed before they heard a siren. The patrol car screeched to a stop beside them. Two Mounties jumped out.

“Are you getting any response?”

“No.”

She straightened up and wiped the blood from around her mouth, felt for a pulse one last time knowing full well there wouldn’t be one.

“We should continue until a medic arrives.”

“I just graduated from medical school. It’s no use. He’s gone.”

Pam became hysterical and the girl held her, tried to calm her down. They cried together. A Mountie put his arm gently on her shoulder.

“Please give me your name.”

“Cynthia Adams.”

Onlookers seemed to materialize in both directions. The second officer told them to stay back.

“This is a crime scene. Move back. If any of you saw anyone suspicious leaving the area, stay so we can get your information. The rest of you go on about your business.”

A few reluctantly left. Many remained to gawk as an ambulance pulled up. A medic leaped out. The Mountie signalled him to stop, they were too late. His partner went back to the patrol car and radioed for a crime investigation team. Pam was in shock.

Cynthia said, “She should be taken to Emergency.”

“We’ll take her,” the medic responded.

“I want to stay with Tom!”

“I’m very sorry, Ma’am, it’s too late to help Tom now. But you can help us find his killer.”

She turned her tear stained face to him, stared for a moment to regain awareness of the situation, then nodded slightly.

“First, what’s your name?”

“Pam Emerson.”

“And your friend’s?”

“Tom Newell.”

“Can you tell me what happened?”

Between sobs, “…Two drunks came toward us. We moved to let them by…One came at me, threatened me…Tom told him to leave us alone. He suddenly punched Tom so hard he fell backwards and hit his head on the sidewalk…”

She broke down again. Cynthia held and comforted her.

“…Then he kicked Tom on the side of his head hard…he had heavy boots on. Tom never moved. His partner pulled him off. Said they had to get away. He kicked Tom again before they left.”

“Can you describe them?”

“The bad one was shorter than Tom. He wore a wool plaid shirt and jeans held up by suspenders instead of a belt. I didn’t look at the other one except he was very big.”

“Anything else you can tell us? Did you see the car they left in?”

“No. I heard them peel rubber on the street.”

“Anything else?”

“No…oh, his partner called him Jobo.”


CHAPTER TWO

Delbert Pillage rolled his wheelchair to the front door as his wife Sylvia carried the suitcase and overnight bag to the car. She slid them in behind the front seat. Delbert locked the door and rolled to her. After he heaved himself into the passenger seat, she folded his wheelchair and stowed it in the trunk.

When she settled behind the wheel Delbert asked, “Why do you insist on driving when we’re together?”

“Perhaps for the same reason you insist on piloting the airplane. It gives me something to do.”

“There’s so few times when I get the car on my own, it was hardly worth converting it to hand controls.”

“It was one more project for you to tackle. For a while, I was afraid I would have to roll into the driving position in a wheel chair too.”

He laughed, “Very funny.”

Sylvia was resigned to the fact he always needed the challenge of a project. When he first brought up the idea, the thought had crossed her mind that a reduction in time spent ferrying him around might be welcome. As it turned out, he drove himself around much more than he now let on.

Delbert mused aloud, “Hard to believe it’s almost eight years since we found Thia sitting in the gutter.”

“Who’d have thought she would become a doctor back then?”

“Hard to guess, even though she was obviously bright and showed great strength of character once the methadone took effect.”

“It’s wonderful that she’s weaned herself off it without regression.”

“For sure.”

Sylvia drove them to Langford Lake where their flying boat was moored. Flying boat was an apt description for Delbert’s creation. Built on top of a Boston Whaler hull, the plane was propelled by two large industrial fans driven from a completely muffled Volkswagen engine. All one could hear inflight was the woosh of air from the fans.

Fondly called “Delboat” by air traffic controllers and friends, it was designed to silently spy on drug smugglers operating in Northwest waters. In fact, it proved instrumental in breaking up a smuggling ring. In the years since, Delbert’s periodic surveillance had discouraged other attempts to set up a new operation.

With no wind, the lake was a sheet of glass. Delbert rolled down onto the float and unlocked the dockside door, which was in two pieces, hinged top and bottom. The top half with windows swung up to provide a sheltered entry when it rained. The bottom half dropped down to form a platform if stopped at the horizontal position or became a ramp if allowed to drop further.

There were two seats on the far side of the cabin, none on the near side. Sylvia carried the suitcases on board and stowed them behind the rear seat. Delbert rolled up the ramp, turned and rolled forward to the controls, then locked the wheelchair in position. He powered up the airplane as Sylvia closed the doors and cast off the mooring lines.

He used the steerable water jet to pull away from the dock, turn the plane around and take it back in. Sylvia opened the passenger side door, climbed into the front seat and closed the door again.

As he taxied out, Delbert started the engine. Sylvia read off checklist items while it warmed up. Then Delbert advanced the throttle, the fans spun up and they began the takeoff run. Liftoff occurred at sixty knots and they climbed silently into the sky. Delbert swung north toward Vancouver and contacted air traffic control to file a flight plan.

“I never tire of flying this beautiful old girl.”

“I’m jealous. You never call me a beautiful old girl.”

“That’s because you’re a beautiful young woman.”

“Do you sometimes wish you were back in a jet fighter?”

“No…oh, occasionally, I suppose. No, not really. I don’t like to dwell on things like that.”

She chuckled, “You’ve managed to live a pretty full life since the accident all things considered.”

“For the most part. I’m glad you became a public health nurse. It’s fun flying you into the reservation villages up island.”

“Fun for me too. And satisfying to help people out.”

They flew over the gulf islands and headed across the Strait of Georgia. His plan was to skirt the airport controlled airspace and land in Vancouver Harbour. Cynthia had agreed to meet them at the Seaplane Flight Centre and drive them to their hotel.

Over English Bay Delbert broke the silence again, “Hope Thia’s there when we arrive.”

“You know she’s always punctual.”

“And meticulous. She’ll make a great doctor. Course punctuality will shock most patients.”

“Watching her get her degree will bring a thrilling climax to her journey from teen drug addict to doctor.”

“We can be proud both of her and our contribution to help make it happen. Hope I have a chance to spend a little time with Dean Calder while we’re here.”

Delbert turned the airplane into what wind there was and descended smoothly to the water. He left the engine running to taxi in. Within coasting distance of the dock, he deployed the water jet and cut the engine. The water jet allowed him to maneuver the plane as easily as a boat. After letting Sylvia off on the dock, he turned the plane around and docked on his side. Sylvia tied the mooring lines.

With everything shut off and the airplane buttoned up, they started up the dock, Sylvia with the bags, Delbert rolling behind. Cynthia waved to them from the top of the ramp. When they reached her, the two women hugged. Cynthia bent over the chair to hug Delbert.

“Let me take the suitcases, Mum.”

“I can handle them, Thia.”

Cynthia had already wrestled one out of her hand. Sylvia studied her informally adopted daughter on the way to the hotel.

“You seem a little subdued, Thia. Are you nervous about the ceremony tomorrow?”

“No…I wasn’t going to tell you but it’s impossible to keep a secret from you two. Two nights ago I stumbled onto a gruesome scene. For no reason at all, a man murdered a teenager by punching and kicking him. It was ghastly.”

“Couldn’t anyone stop him?”

“There was just the victim’s girlfriend and the murderer’s partner. It all happened just before we saw them. Don’t think the police have found the murderer, probably never will. All they know is what he wore and his name is Jobo.”

“That’s horrible!”

Delbert interjected, “What was he wearing?”

“A plaid wool shirt and jeans held up by suspenders instead of a belt.”

“And boots. Sounds like a farmer or logger.”

“The girl said he was short and his partner was a big man.”

“A sociopath with short man syndrome—and the big man didn’t want to stop him…or couldn’t.”

“Perhaps it happened too fast.”

CHAPTER THREE

An atmosphere of excitement permeated the auditorium. Chatter and laughter everywhere as proud students and prouder parents waited for the festivity to begin. And when it did, even the Dean of Medicine’s rather dry commencement address, with all the usual platitudes, did nothing to dampen enthusiasm and anticipation.

As each gowned graduate filed up and across the stage, a portion of the crowd applauded when the student’s name was announced and the rolled degree presented. Delbert and Sylvia joined in when Cynthia’s turn arrived. Unlike others who filed back down off the stage, Cynthia moved to a row of chairs at the rear of the stage.

Sylvia whispered, “Why did she do that?”

“She must have some other duty to perform later.”

Since Adams was near the front of the alphabetical list, they were a long time waiting for an explanation. Finally, James Zimmerman’s name came up and the procession ended. The dean stepped back to the microphone.

“We will now have the valediction, presented by Doctor Cynthia Adams.”

Both Delbert and Sylvia felt a lump in their throats as Cynthia walked to the podium.

“Thank you, Dean Ferguson and all faculty members. How many times over the past four years did you wonder if you could possibly get us to this point? Well, you succeeded and here we are, fellow classmates. HERE WE ARE!”

When the cheer died down, she continued, “Most of us experienced moments of doubt along the way. The road was bumpy, the hills steep, the way often foggy. Yet somehow, with help from a caring staff and each other, we made it to this day.

“When Tommy watched the first slice into a cadaver and woke up on the floor, we all laughed but we helped him up. I have no doubt that he is in the process of becoming one of the finest surgeons around. And when Sally first appeared in her lab coat with a name tag over her left breast and George asked her what she called the other one, even Sally laughed. As our professors instilled in us, a doctor must have a thick skin, a quick wit and a slick tongue. We’ve enjoyed four years of experiences and escapades which will be remembered for a lifetime.

“And along the way we have learned so much—about medicine, about suffering, about treatment, about ourselves. We are such different people today from those who entered four years ago as to be unrecognizable without a face to home in on.

“I can’t resist relating a little of my personal journey in this respect. For those unaware, seven years ago I was a teenage drug addict literally rescued from the gutter by my adoptive parents, Delbert and Sylvia Pillage. As much as I fought them those first months, they persisted to get me on methadone and remained a pillar of love to bring me back to life. I feel that love every day and marvel at how far it has brought me to stand now amongst my fellow classmates as the doctors of tomorrow.

“For that’s what we are, doctors who will fan out into widespread communities to help the afflicted, treat the sick, heal the wounded, always with the compassion so often stressed here. We are the product of your dedication, our beloved staff—sometimes held in trepidation but always in respect. How often did we wonder if we would dare step into a hospital? Now we look forward to it with a confidence you have instilled in us. We thank you. We thank you so much!”

The applause that accompanied her as she joined her classmates was loud and heartfelt. Neither Delbert nor Sylvia could speak. Their hearts were in their throats. Tears leaked from their eyes. The pride they felt in Cynthia overpowered them.

The Dean thanked Cynthia, added a few closing remarks and wished the class bon voyage. Graduates began searching for parents and friends. Delbert and Sylvia managed to stem their emotions by the time Cynthia found them. They hugged.

“We didn’t know you were to be valedictorian. What an honour! You did a magnificent job.”

Sylvia added, “We’re so proud of you, Thia!”

Cynthia responded, “I can never stress enough how much you two have meant to me. I owe my life to you.”

Delbert decided to defuse the returning emotion, “We’ll drown in mutual admiration if we’re not careful.”

“Good old Dad, always trying to keep an even keel,” Cynthia laughed.

“Is your class having a party this evening?”

“Yes, but there’ll be a lot of drinking. I think it prudent to skip it.”

A sobering thought passed through each parent’s mind. Cynthia remained concerned that she might have an addictive personality, perhaps with valid grounds. They decided on a celebratory dinner alone instead.

Dean Calder intercepted them on the way out.

“Delbert, Sylvia, did you think you could sneak into town and out again without saying hello?”

“Of course not, Dean. I planned to camp on your doorstep tomorrow.”

“Cynthia, I snuck in the back to hear your address. You did a wonderful job, dear.”

“Thank you, Dean. It was an unexpected honour.”

“We are planning a quiet dinner together, Dean. Would you care to join us?”

“Don’t want to horn in.”

“We would love you to join us. In a very real sense you are responsible for starting our lives down the path we have enjoyed. You and the Martins.”

“I was talking to Dan yesterday. We reminisced about our times with you.”

“I should have called him. We didn’t know what Thia would want to do this evening so it was hard to make plans.”

“Why not call him now. Maybe he and Samantha could join us—unless we’re crashing your dinner party.”

Delbert went off in search of a phone while the other three continued to chat. He returned in less than ten minutes.

“Dan recommended a fine restaurant. We agreed to meet there at seven.”


CHAPTER FOUR

Two men sat in the green Monarch convertible waiting for the ferry at Horseshoe Bay.

“Nothing on the news. Maybe he’s still alive.”

“Who cares?”

“You should, Jobo. If he’s dead they’ll be lookin’ for a murderer.”

“Listen, asshole. I’m not going to tell you again. Stop calling me Jobo. My name’s Joe. Understand?”

“I like Jobo.”

“Knock it off unless you want to wind up like that punk last night.”

Ned laughed, “You and what army, squirt?”

“You may be a big fucker. That just means you’ll fall harder. Don’t test me, man.”

Ned looked down at the cold, snake-like eyes that bored into him. The involuntary shudder they provoked made him think twice.

“Okay, Joe, have it your way. Probably smarter to put Jobo to rest. I might’ve called you that last night on the sidewalk.”

“How much longer before that boat shows up?”

Ned glanced at his watch, “About twenty minutes.”

“Sooner we get back on the Island and out of sight the better. If he died they’ll be looking for a big oaf and me. Probably checking all the ferry traffic.”

“Funny you should say that. There’s a Mountie way down at the front of the line.”

“Shit! Get out and go to the crapper. Then board as a foot passenger. I’ll drive the car on.”

“You sure we need to do that?”

“Go!”

Joe slid behind the wheel and watched the Mountie stroll up the line. He didn’t ask questions. Just a casual glance at each car. The punk must have kicked the bucket. He tried to look calm but his stomach was a tangled mass of butterflies. Not much scared him but going back to the pen did. It took all his willpower to lean back and close his eyes in a fake nap. He expected a tap on the window at any moment but it didn’t come.

Has he passed? Can’t tell. As the minutes ticked by, he gained confidence. When there was no doubt, he would pretend to wake up and look around to see if the ferry had arrived. Maybe fake a yawn. After that ritual, he couldn’t resist a glance in the mirror. The cop had finished his two lanes and headed back down the next pair. He was going to make it onto the boat which just now came into sight.

Fifteen minutes later the Mountie stood on the driver’s side of the ramp as cars boarded. Joe automatically glanced at him. Their eyes met briefly. Joe forced a slight smile which the cop acknowledged. He made it onboard.

It took another twenty-five minutes for Ned to find his car. He opened the driver’s door and told Joe to slide across.

“You owe me fifteen bucks for the extra ticket.”

“It’s worth it. That cop was definitely searching for a pair like us.”

“There could be someone on this tub too.”

“Doubt it…but if it makes you feel better I’ll lie down in the back under that blanket you carry around.”

Joe scanned the cars around them to make sure no one watched while he climbed into the back. It was hard to get comfortable with the driveshaft hump in the middle but he made the best of it and pulled the blanket over him. Ned reached back and straightened it out.

“Hey asshole, crack a window. It’s hot down here.”

Ned complied. “If you want me to call you Joe, start usin’ my name too.”

“Okay, ass—Ned.”

Stuck in the car, it took forever to reach Departure Bay. Eventually they did and Ned drove off without incident. As soon as they were well on their way north on the Island Highway, Joe climbed back into the front seat. Refreshed by the cool air, he laughed.

“Wonder if they were after us? Could be anything. There’s been nothing on the news.”

“Just the same, I’ll be glad to be back in camp until it blows over.”

“You know, more I think about it, seems like we should assume two things.”

“What?”

“He’s dead and they’re looking for us.”

“Lookin’ for you, you mean.”

“No, us. The best clue they got is there was a big oaf and a regular guy with him.”

“Yeah, that’s the long and the short of it,” Ned said with a laugh.

Joe bristled, “You call me short again and I’ll look tall next to what’s left of you.”

“Take it easy, Joe. Just makin’ a little joke. Geez, you’re touchy.”

“Screw you. Thing is, we got to go separate ways for a while. Drop me off at Mabel’s and get a plane back to camp on Saturday. I’ll fly up on Sunday.”

An hour later they neared Campbell River. Ned asked Joe to remind him where Mabel lived.

“On Dogwood. Turn left on Second.”

Ned watched Mabel open the door. She’s a little shorter than Joe but she’s got a body that won’t quit. Lucky bastard. Don’t know what she sees in him. Joe turned and waved Ned away. Mabel waved too. Then they disappeared inside. Ned drove down to the Quinsam Hotel to drown his loneliness in beer.

Unlike Joe, Ned’s big frame enabled him to chug beer for hours without significant effect. If anything, he turned into a big likeable bear, the soft kind, not the mean ones that showed up in the logging area at times.