A/N: Chapter 12 has been COMPLETELY, 100%, REWRITTEN. For those of you who would like to go back reread it, I hope you'll enjoy it. This was the original plan I had in mind, and it bothered me until I went back and rewrote it the way I wanted it. Reading it doesn't have a bearing on the rest of the story.
Chapter 19 - Somewhere, Beyond the Sea
.~ We all begin as strangers ~.
September 16, 1988
The dried pods of soybeans rattled as a gust of wind blew across the fields, like a thousand tiny maracas. Their tune was a song of death, but one that brought a hope for new life and new beginnings. Daisy stood on the old porch with its ragged, gray planks and listened. Every memory was precious to her, even the tragic ones. The next time she stood here, the wind would be bitter and sharp and the smell of wood smoke would cling to the air. But today...
Today was the first day of the rest of her life.
The door creaked behind her and she sighed, knowing it was time to go. Bo draped his arm around her shoulders as she leaned into him.
"There anything else you need?"
"No, I think I've got everything."
"And you're sure you just want Luke's backpack and not a suitcase?"
"They'll let me carry that on the plane," she reminded him. "I'd rather keep it with me than take a chance of it getting lost. And before you ask a third time, yes, I've got my ticket." She patted the back pocket of her jeans. "And my money."
He turned her towards him, a concern in his blue eyes older than his years. "You're sure about this, Daisy? It ain't too late to change your mind."
Truthfully, she didn't know how she felt. The excitement of the previous month had been displaced this morning with the realization that she was actually doing this. She put self-doubt aside; there would be time enough to worry on the plane, and she would rather corner it when it was too late to change her mind. If things didn't work out, she could always come right back home.
"It's almost seven," Bo told her. "We'd best be going if we're gonna meet Luke at the airport at 9:30. Traffic's bound to be bad in Atlanta."
She took a deep breath and scanned the yard one last time, her eyes resting for a moment on the scar where the old barn had stood. "I'm ready."
The air outside the cabin was cold, and a thin skim of frost glittered like diamonds on the windshield of the truck. A stillness permeated the chill, so deep that it added a certain thickness to the air. The world held its breath - except for the lake which did not sleep. The rolling waves echoed in faint static off the trees behind his house.
With a turn of the key, the engine roared to life and the headlights scattered the lingering night. The clock read just after four-thirty, two hours earlier than Enos needed to leave for work, but the cabin was too quiet and there was no point in trying to go back to sleep.
Pete Schuster was the deputy on night shift this week, and he looked up from his game of Solitaire as Enos walked into the station. "Uh...morning, Sheriff. Ya' know, you don't gotta come in this early. Ain't nothing going on, 'cept Mrs. Waskinkowski shot a coyote that got into her chicken coop. I left a message for Sergeant Yergen at the DNR. Didn't think you'd want me to wake you up for that."
"Thanks, Pete. Couldn't sleep anyway, though."
The deputy nodded, knowingly. "Got that ship coming in today, eh, Sheriff?"
He nodded in agreement and headed back towards the closet they used for a break room. For the first time since finding Gino Spione, he would be able to talk to the captain of the Elcid Barrett and hopefully get answers to the questions he had been collecting since spring. By the time he'd made fresh coffee and checked the logs, Pete Schuster had gathered his deck of cards and signed out, Joy was doing the morning paperwork, and the new deputy, Rick Madsen, was punching in and looking around like he'd forgotten where he was supposed to be.
"Morning, Sheriff!" He dropped his punch card and scrambled to pick it up, whacking his head on the time clock while Enos fought to keep a straight face.
"Morning, Rick. I'd like you to check up on Mrs. Waskinkowski this morning. Pete said she killed a coyote last night, so just make sure everything's alright. She'll appreciate someone stopping out."
"Yes sir!" He turned and, distracted, walked into the wall.
Enos clapped him on the back. "Calm down, son, you're doing fine. Just take one thing at a time."
"You're early, Sheriff," quipped Joy, "I hope that means you didn't sleep here again."
"Couldn't sleep," he explained. "Do we know when the Elcid Barrett's gonna dock, yet?"
"A storm up in Thunder Bay set them back a couple hours so they won't be in Sault Ste Marie until this afternoon," she told him. "I called Chippewa County and let them know you'd be in their jurisdiction."
"I'm sure they were happy about that." Chippewa County still harbored a ridiculous resentment over losing part of their county, no matter the fact that they had the second largest city in the UP with Sault Ste Marie as well as the Soo Locks and over 2400 square miles.
"Sheriff Eglan was just happy you didn't need his help."
"And I aim to keep him out of it." He gathered his keys from the desk and a clipboard. "I'm gonna take a drive around. Let me know if you hear more. It'll take two hours to get over there, and I'd like to catch the crew before they scatter or get too drunk to answer my questions."
Outside the oval window of the MD-80, tractors with baggage trains zipped across the tarmac, like toy carts full of alphabet blocks. A low-pitched whine began as the engines spun faster and Daisy's heart thumped hard in her chest. The seat belt sign lit up with a 'ding' as the stewardess welcomed them to Delta flight 117 with service to Chicago and a flying time of 1 hour and 27 minutes.
And then they were taxiing back from the building and it was too late to change her mind. Whatever happened, for good or bad, was now part of her future.
They raced forward down the gray concrete and then the vibration beneath her feet was gone and they were aloft, turning north over the city. Atlanta slipped behind them as they climbed higher, above clouds as thick and fluffy as meringue. Forty minutes later, in less time than it would have taken Bo to drive back to Hazzard, they dropped beneath the blue sky and clouds and into a world of sunless gray fog and a drab, dirty sea of city blocks and a cache of skyscrapers on the edge of the water.
From Chicago, she took an Air Canada prop-plane to Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, which bumped and thumped over the air currents until she feared the plane might drop out of the sky. This flight was so short, it seemed they barely leveled off at altitude before they were descending again, this time above a forest streaked with the colors of autumn and the bluest water she had ever seen. The plane banked to the left and she caught a glimpse beneath them of a long bridge. Further out on Lake Superior, three enormous boats were following each other out into the horizon. Then, they were landing and the lake disappeared as the trees came up to meet her.
The plane taxied off the runway, and she followed the other passengers down the narrow steps onto the tarmac to wait for the bus which would take her across the International Bridge and back into the United States to the sister city of Sault Ste Marie, Michigan.
The bus was crowded with commuters, men in starched white shirts and women in smart business outfits carrying briefcases and looking too much in a hurry, while others were the opposite - a group of older men in flannel shirts and fishing vests took up several seats towards the back and were busy spinning tales of camping in Manitoba.
They disembarked in front of the courthouse in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan, and everyone drifted off their separate ways...everyone except for her. For all her preparation, she had neglected to plan out how exactly to get to Tamarack. She had assumed there would be a taxi service at the bus drop-off. A green information sign pointed towards a library down the road and, figuring it was as good a place as any to get information, she adjusted the straps of her backpack and headed that way. Though it was September, the sun was warm and the thermometer outside of the bank she passed read 71 degrees. The sky was deeper and bluer than any she had ever seen, and somewhere ahead of her the gulls were crying.
The library greeted her with the nostalgic scent of old paperbacks; dog-eared and dusty, shelved around three round tables with plastic chairs. At the circulation desk, she scanned the posters taped to the walls while she waited for an older man to finish his conversation with the librarian and tried not to eavesdrop (which became increasingly difficult after hearing he had seen the ghost of some lady walking along the beach below the lighthouse).
"You know I've always wondered if - " He turned, and spotted her, and Daisy saw that his hat bore the emblem for the United States Postal Service. "Ope, I'm sorry, ma'am," he said, moving back from the counter. "I'm just wasting time, you go on ahead if you need something."
His smile, just as his story, was infectious and she grinned back at him. "That's okay, I'm sorry, I was listening to your story."
"Well, that makes one, then," he laughed. "Betty's already heard me tell this tale, oh, round about a dozen times or more."
The librarian waved him aside. "Don't mind Jim. Did you need help with something?"
"Well, I'm trying to get to a city called Tamarack," she told her. "Is there a taxi around or...something? I'm not from around here."
The librarian and the man shared a confused look. "It might be better if you called someone from there to pick you up," she advised. "A taxi from here to there's going to cost a pretty penny. It's over seventy miles from here to Tamarack."
"Seventy miles!" Daisy made a note to herself to learn to read maps better. "I guess I thought...being in the same county that it'd be close."
Betty nodded in understanding. "You must be looking at the old maps. Four years ago, Chippewa County split and-"
"Well, not really split," the man interrupted.
"There's different interpretations," she continued. "I guess you might say that Whitefish County seceded from Chippewa County."
"It was for the best," the man explained. "Being as how Tamarack was so far from the county seat, plus having the lighthouse to maintain. Funny thing is, if you were a goose, it's a straight shot up through the bay." He adjusted his cap. "Say, the Point's my next stop. I don't mind taking you, if you don't mind riding with the US Mail and aren't scared of boats." He stuck out his hand. "Jim Westmore, at your service. My family's been running mail and deliveries on Lake Superior since 1874."
She shook his hand. "Daisy Duke of Hazzard, Georgia," she said. "And, if you really mean it, I'd be much obliged for a ride."
"Don't mind at all!" he assured. He turned back to the librarian. "I'll have my wife send me up with some of her cherry salsa for you next week."
Mr. Westmore's boat was easy enough to spot - the large tug boat docked in the bay just beyond the library had the symbol of the postal service stenciled in blue on the side of the cabin and an enormous American flag flew from its crows nest. The sides were protected by old tires and upon its bow was the name "Rosie Daye".
"She's not very big compared to those monster freighters, but the Rosie Daye is the only boat in the world with her own zip code," he claimed, proudly.
The Rosie Daye might have been small to Mr. Westmore, but to Daisy, whose experience with boats was limited to jon boats on Hazzard Pond, it was formidable. The cabin sat like a white box in the middle of the boat, and she followed him through its door. Inside, two wooden benches ran the length, stacked with packages and boxes of mail.
He cleared off a spot and handed her a life jacket. "Not that it's coming a storm today, but Lake Superior has a mind of its own, and it's always better to be safe than sorry."
"Do you deliver to all the cities around the lake?"
"No, not always. Most of the work is on the lake itself. Since Rosie Daye is a tug, I can pull her right up beside the freighters. They lower a bucket with any mail that needs to go out, and I put their mail in the bucket and send her back up. Most companies have their boats running for three or four months at a time before coming into port, so we stay busy. We even deliver people, if there's a medical emergency or a boat needs to sub out a crewman. And, of course, pretty women from Georgia, if the need arises," he laughed. "So tell me, Daisy from Hazzard, what brings you to God's Country?"
He maneuvered the boat away from the dock, and Daisy gripped the seat as they rocked gently with the waves until he put it in gear. Outside the door, Sault Ste Marie gradually disappeared in the distance.
"Well, I'm afraid that's just as strange a story as you seeing a ghost," she admitted. "I'm on my way to see a friend I grew up with - at least I'm pretty sure he's a friend. Folks say were were close when we were kids. The thing is, I don't remember him. I was in an accident and lost my memory." She grimaced, thinking how terribly cliched she sounded. "I know it sounds crazy, but it's true."
He laughed. "Ma'am, you don't live up here in the north all your life and not come to believe some crazy things. What's your friend's name?"
He took his eyes off the water to stare at her in amazement. "The Sheriff?"
"You know him?" She wasn't sure if that was good or bad.
"Sure do! He's just about the nicest guy you'd ever want to meet. It took him a while to get used to the North, but he's fitting in real good now." He shook his head. "A girl coming all the way from Georgia to see him," he marveled. "Tamarack don't get many visitors other than summer tourists. You were already the most interesting thing that's happened around here in a while, but this is a humdinger."
She rang her hands nervously, wondering if she shouldn't have been so open with why she was there. "He doesn't know I'm coming, so it's probably best if you don't..."
"Gossip?" He chuckled. "Oh, don't you worry, miss. Somebody else'll do that."
Disconcerted, she turned and watched the water speed by outside the window. Time passed and their talk turned to idle chit-chat of changing seasons and the coming of winter when the ships would be docked. Mr. Westmore was taking a vacation to Green Bay for the winter where he had season tickets to Packer games. She was surprised the lake, being so large, wasn't calmer. The swells crashed over the front of the tug and threw their spray against it's windows.
"Oh, sometimes she sleeps," he said. "In the dog days of summer, when the sun is shining hot, she lays out as smooth and soft as silk. But in the fall, when the storms blow down from Canada, she turns fickle. This is nothing compared to what it'll be like in a month." He pointed out the front window. "Look there now, Daisy. That's the Whitefish Bay Point Light. It's the oldest active lighthouse on Lake Superior. That's where we're headed."
On a green hill beyond them stood a tall, white tower with a red roof, encased in steel scaffolding. A light blinked faintly from the top, barely visible on the clear, sunny day. "It sure don't look like any of the lighthouses in Georgia. Most of them are made of concrete or brick."
"Most of the ones up here are the same," he said. "But the Point Light is so important that they built her out of steel. Without that light, the ships would run aground on the reefs turning towards the Soo Locks on their way to Lake Erie. Even with the light, it's still dangerous. Ships go down every year, and I expect you've heard of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Here in Whitefish Bay, there's over 240 shipwrecks just off the beach. And that's only the ones we know about."
"This area we're in here is called the Graveyard of the Great Lakes."
From the hill, the land sloped gently down to a wide, sandy beach surrounded by glistening greenish-blue water. It was hard to believe the idyllic setting held such a macabre history. The closer they got to land, the more nervous Daisy became, her hands sweating despite the chill of the cabin. Would Enos know who she was? Rosco seemed to think so. As for what she would say to him, she hadn't the foggiest.
They docked at the pier on the bay side of the lighthouse, and while Mr. Westmore tied up the Rosie Daye, Daisy meandered up the beach. Above the sandy shoreline was a rock strewn eddy where centuries of rushing tides had polished each one as smooth as eggs. They glittered in the spray; brown and pink and red and even blue.
She bent down and plucked one off the ground, feeling the cool hardness of granite against her palm, then closed her eyes and brought it to her nose. There was the briny scent of fish she expected, but there were other smells, as well. Things so foreign to her that she couldn't place them - a freshness that reminded her of the air after a rain, and she decided it must be the smell of the lake itself.
"You'd fit right in up here, miss," he laughed, startling her. "You're already picking up rocks."
Mr. Westmore led the way to a tall, narrow flight of wooden steps that ended at a black-topped parking lot. The top of the hill was crowded with neat little buildings, all gleaming white with red roofs and in the midst of them rose the lighthouse. She craned her head up to see the seagulls crying and fluttering around its top.
"It's your lucky day," he told her. "I wouldn't normally stop at The Point except that one of the freighters had a letter addressed to the museum. I figured I'd just cut out the middle man and deliver it myself. Anyhow, I'm sure we can find you a ride to Tamarack from here."
"Oh! I thought this was Tamarack."
"Tamarack's three miles down the road," he said, pointing a paved road which curved south from the parking lot. "You ought to have the Sheriff tell you the story of the town sometime."
Daisy, who had been looking down the road, turned back to him. "Mr. Westmore, three miles ain't nearly anything," she said. "It's a nice day. If it's not hard to find, I think I'd rather walk than bother anyone for a ride."
"It's just down the highway," he told her. "In fact, once you get past the first turn, you'll see a hill with some houses on it. That's just above the town. You sure you'd rather walk?" She nodded, and he continued. "The Sheriff's Station is right behind the new courthouse, but the whole town's so small, you can't miss it."
"Thank you so much for everything, Mr. Westmore," she said, holding out her hand.
He shook it and beamed. "Call me Jim," he said. "I'm glad I was able to help. You'll tell the Sheriff I said 'hi'?"
"I sure will, Jim. Now, you'd best stop letting me take you from your job, I'll manage just fine from here."
From there, they parted ways; Jim towards the museum and Daisy towards Tamarack. Her watch read 1:30pm, but it was still set on Eastern time so she set hour hand back to 12 since the Upper Peninsula of Michigan ran on Central time.
Ahead, the road wound through trees streaked with bright shades of red, orange, and yellow, curving like an old, lazy river. She took Uncle Jesse's quilted, denim jacket from her backpack and shrugged it on before beginning her journey, munching an apple from home and enjoying the feeling of being somewhere new.
She stopped in sudden realization. Since the accident, everything had been new to her because of her lost memories. But, this road, this town - these were new because she had never been here before. Today, she had made a friend - not someone she had known in the past and forgotten, but a true stranger whom Providence had set in her path.
She slipped her hands into the pocket of her jacket and found the rock she had picked up on the beach. "I'll keep it", she said aloud to no one, "to remind myself of today." After a moment she added, "I sure hope it's a good memory." The reason she had come was still ahead, and she had yet to decide on a plan of action other than play it by ear.
Another mile and a last corner and then Tamarack was before her. From her higher vantage point, she could see the lake to her right, while to the left rose a steep hill where the roofs peeked through the trees. What a magnificent view those people must have, she thought, to be able to look out their windows and see the lake. In the valley, sandwiched between Superior and the hill was the town, and in the center of it all sat an old courthouse of red brick reminding her of a medieval castle.
The road sloped down to become Main Street and she followed it past two bars, a church, an H&R Block, and a filling station before she got to the courthouse. Behind it, she could see the Sheriff's Station where a maroon sedan and a police cruiser were parked.
Taking a deep breath, she pushed open the door into the station, surprised by how small it was. A blond woman stood up from behind a desk.
"H there," she said, smiling. "You must be Daisy. Come on in."
"I...I am. How did you...?"
The woman laughed and rolled her eyes. "Jim told the girls at the museum about bringing you over, and they called me and gave me a heads up. If you'd been another ten minutes, I was going to send a deputy out to find you. I'm Joy, by the way."
"Oh..." So much for someone else doing the gossiping. "Did they tell you why I was here?"
Her smile grew and something behind her eyes told Daisy she knew. "No, they just said a woman named Daisy might be stopping by to talk to the Sheriff." She motioned towards a chair beside the desk. "He's not doing anything important, I'll call him back in for you. Have a seat, if you want, or there's some coffee in the back and a restroom. It won't take long for him to get here."
"Thanks, I'll be right back."
The Sheriff must not have been very far at all, thought Daisy, as she left the bathroom. She could hear the rumble of a male voice, but couldn't make out the words. As she was passing the cell doors, she heard Joy tell him that someone was waiting to see him.
Daisy rounded the corner and stopped. Her eyes met his and everything she planned to say fell away.
In the doorway stood a man she didn't know, but she had seen him before...in a hospital room so very, very far away. Hazel eyes, but more green than brown. What had she said to him that day? She thought he was there to fill out a report on her accident, but he had seemed more interested in her. And he left because...
"Do you remember me?"
His voice, just above a whisper, was loud in the silence that stretched between them. She wanted to answer - wanted to explain that she hadn't known! That he should have said something! He should have told her who he was, but the words were stuck and when she opened her mouth, all she could say was -
A wall, as solid and impenetrable as brick dropped between them, closing him off as he turned away from her towards Joy.
"The Elcid Barrett's gonna be here soon. I don't have time for this."
And then he was gone.