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Lucas Weismann

Another Winter Gone – 14

Janet picked up the phone and dialed.  After a few rings, a voiced picked up the phone.

“Yes, hello?”

“Hello Marcus, this is Janet from the Echo, we spoke earlier.”

“Ahh, yes.  The fluff piece on me.  Wanting to know about why I’m out in the woods and all that.”

“Yes, well.”  he needn’t have put it like that she thought (not realizing Marcus was feeling the same way). “Anyway, I’m writing the piece and I had some questions about some of the newspapers written about you in the past.  Jessica, the girl you saved from the cold and Sheriff Bleeker and a few others.  Except that it seems like in nearly every case you keep your name out of the papers and disappear before anyone can take a statement.”

“I don’t really care to have a fuss made about me.  Anything I may or may not have done is no more heroic than chopping firewood or doing the work in front of me that anyone with half an ounce of sense would do if they were in my position.”

“All the same, I’d like a chance to talk with you and to find out more about what makes a man like you.”

“I’m not sure I know what makes someone like me, or if there should be more like me in the world, but I suppose I was unnecessarily brusque last time you were over.  Do you want to come out to my place?”

“That would be fine.  When should I come out?”

“Any time before Sunday would be fine.  I’ll be home.”

“Thank you.  I’ll come out Wednesday afternoon.”

“See you then.”

She hung up the phone.  Alright then.  Wednesday.

Another Winter Gone – 10

Janet made her way up the driveway to the rambler on the edge of town.  A wooden sign had been cut with a jigsaw to form the name “The Bleekers” at an upward angle, and featured a wood-burned Loon on a lake edged with pine trees.  The left side of the walk was considerably cleaner than the right, meaning either someone who was in a hurry to shovel and didn’t do the edging, or possibly someone who favored one side over the other, when it came to physical activity.

She knew which it was.  Sheriff Bleeker retired some fifteen years prior after getting shot by some meth head who had held up a convenience store the Sheriff happened to be at.  He’d been a popular figure in town, generous and more Andy Griffith than Wyatt Earp.

Getting shot had come as a surprise to the law man, who’d come out of the bathroom at just the wrong moment completely unaware.  The papers didn’t report what happened next, but there were rumors of a black truck and a man in a Fur-Lined coat leaving the scene of the crime after the paramedics arrived.  The paramedics found the assailant cuffed in the back seat of the car, asking to please be taken to jail now.

Janet had been surprised reading the story.  It was obvious that Marcus had been there, but why had he been able to leave the scene without making a report.  That just didn’t add up.

She knocked on the door.

“Sheriff Bleeker?”  The sounds of an uneven gait assisted by a cane on a wood floor were audible as Janet waited outside.  The door opened to reveal a bearded man of about 50 who was still well-built, despite his infirmity.

“Come in Ms. Rogers.  I haven’t been a Sheriff in awhile now, so Frank will do me just fine.”  He lead her into a house whose walls were covered in pictures of kids of various ages, mostly fishing or doing other cabin-related activities.  A picture of a pyramid of water skiers from the 1970s caught her attention as she followed him through the living room to the kitchen.  They sat at a table by a window.

“Alright Frank.  In that case, please call me Janet.”  He nodded in reply.

“What can I do for you Janet?”

“I’m looking for information about Marcus.”

“Now why would I give you information about Marcus Ms. Rogers?”  She noted the change in demeanor.

“Look, he’s not in trouble or anything.  I just want to find out more about him for an article I’m writing for the Echo.”  The retired lawman’s shoulders relaxed fractionally, “There have been rumors and stories floating around The Range for years and I’d like to find out which of them are true and which are not.  I’d also like to get people together for a dinner to thank him for the effect he’s had on the community.”

“Marcus knows about this does he?”

“I’ve spoken to him,” she said stating an unrelated truth, hoping it would work.

“Well, in that case, what would you like to know?  Though I must say, the man is frosty.  I have a hard time believing he’d take part in any sort of honors or awards or anything.  Doesn’t seem the type.”

“Well, you know what they say about appearances.”  She said, hastily. “I’d like to know what happened at the Voyageur 66.”

The Sheriff grunted and shifted uncomfortably.  She continued.  “It’s just that I’ve read the story in the Echo about the incident and there are some things that don’t add up.  I was just hoping I could hear the story from you and see if there’s something interesting to follow up on.”

“Well you’ll have to understand, I’m not the best witness” he said with a rueful chuckle.  “On account of I didn’t see anything after having been shot in the hip by some hop-head.”

“Hop-head?  The papers said he was a meth user.”

“Hop-head, crackhead, glue sniffer.  Whatever.  The man was high as a kite apparently and decided to hold up the station.  I came out of the bathroom after he made everyone get on the floor, he turned and shot me.  I think I heard someone say “Excuse me”  then, heard a few thumps.  The rest I’m telling you I found out afterward in the official reports.  Apparently Marcus came over with the first aid kit from behind the counter, staunched the bleeding and made the clerk hold pressure on the wound while he called paramedics.”  He paused and shook his head.  “He must’ve grabbed my cuffs off me or something because when the paramedics got there, they said that the criminal was in the back seat wrapped up like a christmas present, polite as you please.”

“Sorry, that’s all I know.”

“Did they ever release the name of the criminal, or is the clerk around?”

“Nah, the clerk was just some kid who moved to the cities shortly afterward.  The criminal is probably still serving time at Arrowhead, drugs plus assault with a deadly weapon on a cop isn’t likely to get him a light sentence.”

“I see.  Is there anything else you can tell me?”

“No.  I’d just recommend you make sure this is alright with Marcus before you go making a fuss.  He generally doesn’t like that.”

“I’ll keep that in mind, Frank.”  She stood up and extended a hand.  “Thank you for your help.”

“No problem.”  He smiled and shook her hand.  “Marcus is a good man.  I’d like people to know about that too.”

“I’ll see my self out.  Bye now.”

“Good bye ma’am.”

Another Winter Gone – 8

“Hello Ms. Rogers,” Said the old man.  “What brings you out here today?”

“Hello Mr. Johnson,” she replied, “I’d like to ask you some questions for a piece I’m writing.”

“Oh?” He asked.  He seemed happy at the prospect. “Do come in and have a seat.”

She did and accepted a cup of coffee, black with two sugars, she looked around the cottage.  It looked like your typical hunting cabin, trophies that were all clearly antiques, except for the fish.  Those were recent.  None of the animals were less than 60 years old.  Everything was scrupulously clean and there were little to no sharp edges anywhere.  Even the rifle over the fireplace had the trigger mechanism removed.  This was a man who was very precise about fitting in and doing the right thing, but he didn’t like guns or hunting or risk of any kind.  Why even have the animals then? she wondered.  Amos reentered carrying the two coffee cups on coasters on the tray and set it down on a placemat on the coffee table.

Once they’d exchanged a few pleasantries, Janet decided to get to the point.

“I’d like to ask you about a mutual friend of ours, Mr. Marcus.”

“Not Mr.” he said smiling, “and no you’re not.”

“What?” She asked.

“Marcus is his first name.  The only one he gives out himself as a matter of course, and anyone who’d be a friend of his would know that.  Not that he has friends really, not what’d you call friends.”

Shoot.  She’d miscalculated.

“Oh?”

“Anyone who knows Marcus knows the man is more antisocial than a skunk with distemper.”  The words were said like he was angry, but Amos was known to be one of the worst (and most enthusiastic) poker players in the whole of the Iron Range and the increased twinkling in his eyes was giving him away.

“Really?” She said.  “He seemed nice enough when I was there.”

“I’ll daresay he was tolerating you Ms. Rogers, and if he did, it was because he likes your writing.”  he sniffed. “can’t say I care for it much myself.  I prefer to read the paper for the funnies.”  He was clearly winding her up, though she couldn’t see just why.  It was probably best to just let him know what she wanted.

“I am writing a piece on Marcus to show the effect he’s had on the people around him.”

“Does he know you’re doing this?”

“No.  I had the idea that it might be nice to have a party for him after the article comes out.  A sort of ‘thank you’ from the people around here who’ve been touched in some way by the things he’s done.”

“Is this about Jessica?”

“Not just her Mr. Johnson.”

“Amos, please.”

“Not just her Amos.  Did you know that she saved thirty people in her time as an EMT and a first responder?  There are other people he’s helped over the years.  I’d like to see what the effect has been beyond just the immediate circle of people he’s helped.”

“I don’t know…  I don’t think he’d approve of the attention.”

“Yeah, but he should know what effect he’s had on the people around him.”

“Listen ma’am, I don’t know if I like the idea of you using Marcus to get a story.  Especially if he doesn’t know about it.”

“Please Amos, do you think it’s fair that he should be alone, 95 years old, stuck away in the cabin with no one.  No man is an island.”

“I used to believe that, until I met Marcus.” he said, “What exactly do you want to know?”

“I want to know anything I can find about him.  Who he was before he came here, why he came, who are the others who he’s helped over the years.  There are rumors of a man in an oilskin or fur-lined coat coming out of nowhere to help stranded people, injured people, even people who’ve gotten injured doing illegal things.  Then, as soon as he’s done the work and gotten them to the hospital, he disappears.  Why does he do it?  Somewhere there is a story in here if I can just find it.  Please Amos, help me.”

“I suppose I’ve resisted enough to say I’ve put up a fight.  I’ll tell you what:  I’ll give you the stories as I think of them and you follow them wherever they lead, but I can’t promise he’ll like the article, or even come to an event thrown in his honor.  Marcus just isn’t the type.”

“Thank you Amos.  Where do I begin?”

“If I were wanting to know more about Marcus, I’d go talk to Frankie Bleeker.  He’s probably had as much contact with Marcus over the years as anyone I can think of.”

“Frankie Bleeker?  You mean Sheriff Bleeker?”

“Yep.  The one and the same.  Think about it.  You’re looking for someone who would be everywhere that Marcus has helped someone, that is somewhere where there’s been trouble.  Sheriff Bleeker has been there too, often after the fact, of course.  He’s the one you want though.”

“Thank you Amos, I’ll do that.  And please, let me know if you think of any other information I can use.”

Another Winter Gone – 7

Marcus approached the truck and found Amos and Jessica chatting away inside.  He smiled.  Amos wasn’t a bad sort, and his talkative nature would help make the ride go more quickly (for Jessica at least).  Seeing them getting along made Marcus decide to invite Amos to keep the girl company.  He took off his snow shoes, slid them behind the bench seat and got into the driver’s side of the truck.

Then he passed Jessica a small wet lump.

“Your clothes,” he said by way of explanation.

“Oh yeah, thanks!  That’ll probably make things easier after I’m done at the hospital.”

“Amos, you want to drop your Snowmobile over at my place?”

“Yeah, sure Marcus.”  He got out of the truck and went over to it.  “See you later!”  Amos was practically wagging like a golden retriever.  Then he paused.  “Say, why don’t I just take my truck and meet you in town?”

Marcus sighed, but it was no surprise really.  When had he ever invited Amos (or anyone really) to help him or join in anything?  Well, not in the last 50 years, and it doesn’t really count when it’s your own son.  He’d worked with people sure, told them what to do, commanded them and told them what they were going to do, and it had worked.  But when had he last asked, requested, or invited someone to join him.

Hell, even at the Ely steam, he just nodded and moved aside to let someone in.  He’d have to think about that.  After all, there’s no reason to be unkind, when kindness will serve just as well.

“Let’s just meet at your place Amos.  It’s on the way to town and I’m sure we could use your company.”

Amos swelled.  “you got it!  you won’t have to  worry.  I’ll be right behind you.  Okay! Well….” Marcus rolled up the window as the man outside nearing retirement dithered in excitement.

Oh right, that was why.  I mean, there’s not being unkind and then there’s inviting this sort of foolishness.  He grunted slightly in what might have been a laugh.  A few yards down the road, Jessica spoke.

“You don’t really like him, do you?”

“Him?   He’s alright.  He just,”

“Talks a lot.” she finished.

Marcus nodded.  He knew she could see him.

“My dad’s like you.”

“I doubt that.”  he said with a half-smile.

“Never has a word kind or unkind for anyone, but when there’s trouble people bless their lucky stars that he’s around.”

“hmph.”

“He tries to be all stern and stone, like he’s trying to be The Man With No Name.  But underneath it all, he’s a good guy.”

“hmph.”

“Thank you, by the way,” she said.  “It really was stupid of me.”

“Yes.  It was.” he said and did not ask about the wolves.  The truck pulled up to the driveway and just afterward, Amos pulled up.  Apparently being deprived of an audience hadn’t affected him, and he seemed to have been monologuing on the snowmobile.  Jesus the man would talk when no one listened.

“I don’t want to be rude,” Jessica said, “but is there any way we could have him not come with?”

Marcus was surprised for a second.

“what?”

“I just need some time to think and some quiet to do it in.  Oh, is that rude of me?”

“You think I’m gonna argue?”

“Great can you… …oh, you mean I have to tell him.”

“Hey, you’re old enough to get chased by wolves into a ravine, you’re old enough to tell the nice man who helped rescue you that you want him to go away.”

“err…”

“You’ll get no argument from me mind, but he did make it possible for you to get back to the road and I wasn’t exactly sure how I’d get you back to the truck before hypothermia set in.  Again.”

she inhaled through her teeth.  “Okay.”

“Besides, the man works for the city in the permit office, making sure people fill out paperwork properly.  This is probably the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to him.  He is a hero after all.”

“What?  But you…”

“Did what needed to be done.  Same as him.”  Damn my overinflated sense of fairness.  Outside the truck, Amos’s face was starting to go from smiles to concern.”

She opened the door.  “Hi Amos!” she smiled brightly, “Thanks for rescuing me.  I don’t know what I would have done if you two hadn’t come by.”

Amos’s big round face reminded him of the Parsee man in the Just-So story about the Rhinoceros and the currant cake.  “…and he smiled one smile that ran all round his face two times.” In the book of course, it had be an ominous portent, but Amos was smiling a smile as bright as the sun who shone in “more-than-Oriental-splendour.”  Hmm… I should re-read Kipling, Marcus thought as they drove on to the Hospital to find treatment for the girl.


 

Meeting Jessica had been thirty years ago and Marcus still remembered her whenever he read Call of the Wild.  She had grown up and gone off to have kids of her own.  She even visited during the summers for several years, the gap between each a visit longer than the last.  Eventually he’d learned that the wolves chasing her on her snowmobile- that’s right.  She’d been on a  snowmobile not snowshoes- the wolves chasing her on the snowmobile had been a group of local teens who’d fancied themselves tough.

Later Marcus found out that one of the boys had been the one to alert Amos that the girl had fallen off the ridge.  He’d had a crush on her, but didn’t have the status to openly stand against his friends.  When Jessica fell, they’d all scattered and marcus even managed to track them down because of the paint from their rides one or two had left on the trees in their haste to leave.

Jessica and the boy (Thomas, was it?) had been seen together in town for awhile, but eventually it was clear that his bravery had been temporary and she had no desire to be saddled with a man who couldn’t hold his own and stand up for what is right except in extreme circumstances.

It was good, Marcus thought.  That girl had been pretty brave, and had gone on to do good things.  Even working as a Wilderness First Responder for awhile during college.  She saved several people during that time and whenever the writers at the local paper got wind of it they printed an article.

Marcus kept every one in a binder, though he never showed any outward sign he was aware of her work when she visited.

Eventually Jessica went and moved to the city, where she did something laudable with bringing city kids out to the wilderness to show them the stars or something.

Of course, he never thought about it in these terms, but there were a good number of people who wouldn’t be alive today if he hadn’t been there to save the girl.


 

These were the types of stories and rumors that circulated around the Iron Range about Marcus, the last of the old-time trappers.  A guardian of the woods who appeared in town for supplies every few weeks in the guise of a grumpy loner.

These stories were the real reason that the Journalist had sought him out.  It was a good story.  A man who did what needed to be done and didn’t much think about the consequences; a man didn’t ask for a reward, or attention and had mostly gotten what he’d asked for.

Such a shame, thought Janet.  Everyone should get to know the effect they have on people.  She paused outside the door of the house and was about to knock, when she saw the curtains twitch and the door opened to reveal a man of about 75 or 85 who was all smiles and joviality, and whom retirement seemed to have agreed with.

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