Chapter 5: Celebration

(Author's note: if you're coming straight in here to this story for the first time, please read the 'Essential Foreword' at the beginning of Chapter 1 before you start. You may even want to turn up the volume sufficiently to annoy the neighbours in this chapter.)

As happens so often at Wakes, the groups of families and friends that had stuck together almost exclusively for the first hour or so, began at last to mingle with the other guests. As soon as Pete let slip to the first family group that his fiancé was her godmother, Sam found herself the centre of attention, somewhat embarrassed by her lack of detailed knowledge about Cassie's musical abilities. She could only answer questions in vague terms about what she liked, how long she had been singing in public and which other songs she and Jack might perform together.

The relief when Cassie herself approached and joined her group was palpable, but the feeling was short-lived as Pete exclaimed, before anyone could say anything, "Hey, Cassie! Great voice! You and Jack could perform at our wedding! What do you say?"

Sam briefly closed her eyes, a deep red blush rapidly appearing over her head and neck, while Cassie's sudden stare resembled that of a startled cat faced with an intruder in its home. All she could utter was, "Well, um, er…"

"I don't think so, Pete." said Sam immediately. "You know your mother's timetable won't allow for any more variations. I'm sorry, Cass." 'And I can't face another of her goddamn wedding spreadsheet updates with minute by minute choreography.' she added mentally, then wondering whether she had spoken that out loud.

"That's all right!" Cassie replied hastily, trying not to seem relieved at avoiding the prospect. "I'm sure there'll be other times." Pete looked rather taken aback but said nothing further after catching Sam's expression. His wounded look conveyed his hurt feelings though.

Barb, standing in another group nearby, looked away and drew Jack to one side, pulling him down slightly so that she could talk quietly to him. "Jack, why am I watching a train wreck in progress over there? Don't look at me like that, you know what I'm talking about."

"None of my business." he replied curtly. "Except where it affects Cassie, of course, and I've made sure that she understands that she has me to call on at all times, for any reason."

"I know that, Jack." said Barb. "But I kind of get the impression that you ain't telling me the half. I've watched Cassie grow up mighty quickly since you first brought her here, but she's still got something eating her up inside. I think I see what it is now. Thank God she's got you and her godmother looking out for her." She hugged him briefly and turned back to the others.

A while later, Cassie approached Barb, who was standing with Ferretti, Siler and several of the regular Cookhouse musicians. Trailing behind Cassie were Eugene Devereux and two young men whom Barb knew to be some of the crew of his Coast Guard helicopter. They had become regulars at the Cookhouse ever since Cassie first appeared.

"Barb," said Cassie, linking her arm through the older woman's, "Is it OK if we show a video on the screen in the big room? The guys have got a film of my 'rescue' from Lake Superior last time I was here, and I haven't seen it yet."

"Sure!" said Barb enthusiastically, so glad that the young woman wasn't treading on eggshells around her, unlike so many others present were still tending to. "Give the disc to Ellie and ask her to put it in the machine." She watched Cassie and her niece Ellie embrace warmly as they met and heard Ellie's laughing comment of 'So this is the great slam, dunk, then?'

Barb turned to the people sitting around the dining room tables and called their attention.

"Hey, everyone!" The talk around the room diminished, and she continued, "We're going to watch Cassie's day out with the Coast Guard." The room began to fill as more people entered from the bar and stood at the back.

The screen sprang to life a few moments later and the slightly wordy, official-looking title 'Coast Guard Air-Sea Rescue Training Exercise' appeared. A hand-held camera showed the view from the wheel house of a fast patrol launch in a slightly choppy, grey-green sea, with regular plumes of spray washing up over the bow as it lunged through the waves, gradually disappearing as it came to a stop. Someone wearing a bright orange survival suit and life vest went to sit on the edge of the starboard deck where the handrail had been removed, feet dangling over the side. Only when a crew member had assisted with fitting goggles and pulled the hood over the head of the suited figure, did a close-up shot reveal Cassie's identity as she turned to the camera, smiling and raising her hand in a cheery wave.

"Hey, Cass, aren't people supposed to look nervous before going overboard?" Lou Ferretti called out.

"I could swim before I was two years old." replied Cassie. "No big deal."

The audience watched in fascination as a crew member in a black wet-suit and flippers, closely followed by Cassie, plunged into water and the boat slowly backed off. The swimmer stayed a few yards away from Cassie as they both trod water. The camera then panned around to reveal the rescue helicopter cautiously approaching and circling around the two figures in the water, before it slowed to hover above them. Gradually a man was lowered on a line down to Cassie, and the two of them bobbed up and down in the swell as he attached a harness to her. Fine spray whipped up by the helicopter's downdraught flew in all directions.

Shortly they started their ascent on the wire and as they got higher, the view switched to another camera on board the helicopter. Finally, Cassie was helped into the cabin, followed by her rescuer. She smiled at the camera again and gave the man an exaggerated hug, yelling "My hero!" above the noise of the engine and rotor, much to his amusement.

The final views were of the helicopter landing back on shore, followed by a group shot of Cassie with Eugene and his crew in front of the machine, laughing at some unheard joke.

Applause rose from the guests as the screen faded, and Cassie grinned shyly. Sam approached her wearing a wide smile, and said "I'm so proud of you, Cass."

"Thanks, Sam." she cheerfully replied. "It was a lot of fun."


To see Siler's comforting arm around Barb's shoulders and hers in turn around his waist as they quietly conversed gave Sam a warm feeling of appreciation for her colleague and friend. Barb's grief from the morning ceremonies was beginning to recede, although she was still visibly red-eyed. She seemed so close with Lou, Sly and Jack, whose connections and long history with Kurt had only been revealed to her yesterday on board the plane.

Cassie too, was being treated like a near-relative of the Hamer family. In fact, it struck Sam fully for the first time just how much Cassie and Jack had coalesced into a real father-daughter relationship in the last year. Cassie had of course told her about meeting Jack's musician friends but had not given any details of her own singing accomplishments. The duet between the two of them earlier at the service had been electrifying, as had Cassie's solo singing in the church. Then too, Siler's mention of the four of them playing together in, what did he call it, 'The AF Blues Band' had been yet another surprise. Apart from Jack's liking of opera and certain musicals, she had known nothing of their musical abilities and interests and was pretty sure that few others in The Mountain did either. She would quiz Walter about it when they got back to work – he knew everything.

Barb saw Sam and Pete sitting alone at a table and came over. "Hi! I'm so glad you could come today. Cassie's talked about you several times on her visits with Jack. I really wanted to meet you." Without hesitation, she turned to Pete and asked, "Could I ask you to get me a drink from the bar over there – Pete, isn't it? They know what I'm having. Oh, and by the way, that tall guy at the bar is Hubert. He's a policeman like you. Why not indulge in a little cop talk while Samantha and I indulge in some girl-time together?" Her smile and polite but no-nonsense manner, born of years in charge of the family business, had the desired effect.

She then turned to Sam and continued. "We've all really taken to Cassie since Jack started bringing her here. Poor kid, losing her family twice like that. But she's living her life to the full now, thanks to you and Jack. She and my niece get on so well, despite Ellie being a few years older."

"Yes, Cassie told me that she looks up to her." replied Sam. "Ellie's really attractive, isn't she? I'm sure that Cassie's made more efforts to look smart because of that."

"The two of them share great musical talents and, what should I call it? A kind of need to get into high-activity stuff. Cassie loves Ellie's ability to play different instruments and Ellie loves how Cassie can launch into any song after only hearing it once or twice. She's also envious of Cassie's flying skills but knows that she couldn't do that herself. Cassie's little adventure on film today is her putting down a marker to Ellie and Jack that she wants to join them on the 'big trip' that Jack and Kurt talked about these last twenty years."

On seeing Sam's look of puzzlement, she continued, "He hasn't mentioned it, obviously. Kurt and Jack were always going on about deep sea sailing. Ellie used to baby-sit Charlie sometimes when Jack and Sara came up this way. Jack and Kurt took Charlie and Ellie on a couple of trips on Lake Superior on a friend's yacht, but Sara and Ellie's folks weren't happy and that put a stop to it. The kids loved it, though. Jack went quiet on the plan for a long time after Charlie died, but Ellie was kinda determined, and took up sailing again as soon as she turned eighteen. She's told us that she's going on the trip come what may, with or without any potential partner's blessing."

"When Kurt knew that he didn't have long, he got Jack to swear to do what they'd planned all this time, as soon as he retires. Jack's been trying to get the Air Force to let him go for some time, but they've just pushed him up the ladder instead. But when he does leave, he and Rob Furland and his friends, not to mention our girls, will be sailing across the Pacific to the Polynesian Islands. They say it'll probably take three to four months, maybe longer as they plan to go on to different islands. Rob's going to fund it all."

Sam looked stunned. "Wow!" was the only expression she could come up with to accompany her instant feeling of envy. "Rob's the guy who lets Jack and Cassie fly his planes, right? She's talked about him a little." It was also a shock to learn that Jack had been looking to retire, and she suddenly realised what he might have meant with his enigmatic 'I wouldn't be here' reply during their disastrous conversation a few months ago.

Her musings came to an end as Pete returned with drinks, and she heard Barb saying to her friends, "Jack, guys, I've cried a lot these last few weeks, but I'm done with that for now. Go make some noise, please! For me and Kurt."

One of the other musicians standing with them said, "Barb, the base amp lead ain't fixed yet, and I can't find Ernie to get it working."

"No problem!" Siler said quickly. "I can do that – it shouldn't take more than a few."

Sam found herself speaking before she even realised it. "Mrs Hamer, we don't call him 'Sparky' for nothing at work. I can do that right now." She reached into her handbag and with a broad grin, brandished a well-worn Multi-Tool. Pete's look of surprise was perhaps to be expected.

Barb's face broke into an answering grin for the first time. "Sparky, eh? You sure you don't mind, Samantha?"

"Carter can fix anything!" said Jack. "Can't she, Sparky? We can do something acoustic in the meantime."

Siler suspected that no-one was going to address him as 'Sly' ever again. He sighed as they and some of the Cookhouse regulars made their way to the collection of instruments on the small stage, while Sam hunkered down at the rear, not seeming to mind that her smart black business suit was already picking up dust marks off the floor. She soon determined that the cable leading into a connector plug was coming loose and set to work on it. She ignored the movements on the stage in front of her as she worked, but looked up in surprise as the music started.

Django Reinhardt: I'll See You in My Dreams [v=0TmiDC_a6ss]

Jack was playing lead guitar, Lou on rhythm and Sparky was manipulating a double bass, and boy, were they good! Sam found herself nodding to the tune, one of her father's favourites. As the music finished and some of the crowd applauded, she re-attached the repaired connector to the amplifier and switched it on. A click and a momentary hum from the speaker later, she acknowledged Siler's enquiring expression with a 'thumbs up' gesture and stood to make her way back to her companion.

The rest of the regular band joined her three colleagues on stage. Sam couldn't quite make out what the group was saying to each other, as seemingly random notes and squeaks emanated from the instruments as they tuned up.

Lou, standing front and centre by a microphone, started his introduction. "Folks, you already heard in the service how much Kurt meant to us all, and how long most of us up here have been playing music with him. We've all talked in the last two weeks how best to honour him, and we've agreed with Barb that whatever he liked will be on the menu tonight, including some requests from folks who have been regulars here. You might think that some of it is too lively or too fast for a Wake, but that's the way it is."

He waited as gentle applause rippled round the room before adding, "There's room for dancing too if you're in the mood." He looked around until he spied Ellie talking to Barb and Cassie. "Ellie! Get your… sweet self up here - it's workout time! And Cassie, don't go away now!" Turning back to the audience, he continued "We're going to start with something that the original AF Blues Band – that's Kurt, Sly, Jack and me – performed the first time we ever came to Minnesota together, and we reckon it's the one that made Barb notice something special in Kurt. I'm warning you though, that we may struggle to hit the high notes – or even the right notes - like we used to!"

He stepped back and nodded to his fellow musicians. Silence reigned momentarily until Jack and Lou began the opening chords. Siler then burst into activity on the bass guitar, with Ellie's lively drum accompaniment.

Status Quo: Rave On [v=QYVJ8ttbtIY]

Pete knew that it would be a waste of time to talk to Sam at the moment, as she sat staring in amazement at her three friends' animated performance as they belted out some really good – and loud – rock'n'roll. That was all right though, as his own attention was on Ellie in dynamic action on drums, wearing professional-looking earphones and microphone. Having shed her black suit jacket, her white blouse was highlighted by a spotlight and her blond ponytail flicked around as she played and sang.

A crowd gathered on the dance floor, a couple with small children lofted onto their shoulders as they moved to the music. As it ended, applause broke out but few moved away.

Within a few moments and after a brief exchange between the musicians, some raucous introductory notes from Sly's bass guitar signalled that something even louder was taking shape.

Status Quo: Movin' On [v=cHb1IS3amIw]

The crowd, apart from those few who retreated to another room to get away from the noise, wasn't disappointed. Jack, Lou and Sly threw themselves into their act, seemingly shedding years and probably pounds in the process. Once again, the standing audience showed their appreciation.

Lou looked into the crowd and nodded at Cassie, calling her onto the stage. As most of the regular Cookhouse musicians took up their instruments, his introduction was short and pithy. "For those of you who think that Cassie's numbers are all sweet and folksy, prepare to be educated!" Cassie picked up the microphone and waited while the whole band launched into the number.

Laura Brannigan: Gloria [v=ZXx0pWpszKg]

Her voice cut into the crescendo of sound loud and clear, and as she had demonstrated regularly to Cookhouse audiences, she made the song her own and not just a half-competent tribute to a great singer.

The audience applauded and Cassie waved as she left the stage, where she was approached by a handful of teenagers, and spent time talking to them for a while until the next number started up.

"Cassie's got a fan club!" Pete said to Sam, but her response was muted as she was still having difficulty taking in all the new things her friends were doing. As far as she could remember, no-one at work had ever mentioned this side of their activities nor their obvious abilities.

Lou's voice interrupted her musings. "We're slowing things down now, people, for another of Kurt's favourites. Jack, it's your turn! Try not to nuke the sound system this time, OK?" Jack's reply was probably unprintable, but was quiet enough to avoid offense.

Several of the regulars around the room started cheering, whistling and applauding as Jack's lead intro began and the spotlight settled on him.

Gary Moore: Parisienne Walkways [v=98eIW6CN62k]

His subdued style of singing was just right for the number, but his guitar solos dominated everything, the exaggerated long notes drawing more cheers from the audience each time they flooded the hall. Sam glanced over at Cassie during his performance and noted her starstruck expression and excitement. When the final applause had died away, Cassie turned to her and exclaimed "You'll never know how much I've been waiting to hear these guys playing together! Just…. Awesome!" Sam could appreciate exactly how she felt.

After a good deal of movement on stage, electric instruments were exchanged for acoustic, and Ellie reappeared with a cello, sitting at the front beside Jack. When all the shuffling had subsided, he simply announced "This is how we all feel about you, Kurt."

David Gilmour: Wish You Were Here Live Unplugged [v=3j8mr-gcgoI]

His first few notes prompted an enthusiastic response from the crowd, but they soon settled and a wave of raw emotion seemed to permeate the room, with not a few tears shed by those close to Kurt and Barb.

The end of the song signalled a break as the musicians drifted away from the stage. Conversations resumed as staff brought out plates of sandwiches and delicacies to the tables, and offered guests glasses of champagne or fruit juices. Cassie reappeared at Sam's table, pulling a slightly reluctant Eugene Devereux along behind her.

"Sam, this is Eugene! You saw him and his helicopter in the film earlier." Eugene obligingly but nervously shook hands with Sam and Pete.

Cassie continued without hesitation, "The guys want to know if I'd like to do a parachute jump with them next month. Jack says it's OK with him as long as you agree! Can I, huh? Please?"

Momentarily taken aback, Sam then smiled and replied, "Sure, but on one condition." Cassie's eyebrows rose in anticipation and she added, "I get to come too!"

Simultaneously, Cassie whooped and hugged Sam, while Pete's surprised, angry exclamation of "Sam, you can't! The wedding!" went practically unheeded.

Sam looked at him as though his objections didn't matter. And she recognised that for the first time, truly, they didn't.