Dante's Peak 2
Part 13

They were enjoying coffee after the meal when Rachel saw Harry tense. He reached across to take her hand and held it tightly. "Well, well. If it isn't the Dalton family," Brian said, his words slurred by the amount of beer he had consumed. "Such a pretty little picture."
"Get out of here, Brian," Harry warned.
Brian leaned down, resting his palms on the end of the table. "Why, Doc? What'ya gonna do if I don't? It's a free country. I got a right to eat wherever I want." He looked past Harry and Rachel to where the kids sat, Lauren's dark eyes were wide with fear as she hung onto Harry's arm, and Grahams fists were tightly
clenched. "Hello, kids. You look just like your mama, Lauren," he said. "Just as pretty-"
She edged closer to Harry. "I just want to talk to you, honey. I know you don't remember me, but I'm your daddy -"
She shook her head, her hold tightening on Harry's left arm. "HE's my daddy. Not you," she said in a shaky voice.
Harry put his arm around her, only to remove it as Brian stood up, his right hand in a fist. He brought it down onto the table, rattling the dishes, causing the people who before hadn't noticed to turn their attention to the little drama taking place in their midst. "He's not! You're MY daughter. And I'm not just going to give you and Graham to this man - "
Harry caught the eye of the waitress. "Would you please call Sheriff Miller, Denise?"
She nodded, and turned toward the cash register, picking up the telephone as Harve came from the kitchen door. The owner of the restaurant smiled at Rachel and
Harry before turning to face Brian. "I think you'd better go, mister," he said.
Brian turned dark eyes on the man, gauging his chances in a fight. But Harve was over six feet tall, had been the star full back on the high school football team. He hadn't gone to fat, and Brian knew Harve could beat him to a pulp. "Okay. I'm going. I'm going." He glanced again at the kids. "I'll see you both of you later."
Harry felt Lauren shiver, and put his arm around her again as Brian threw some money beside the register and stalked out of the building. Harve took a deep breath.
"I'm sorry. Didn't realize who he was when he came in. I would have called the sheriff myself if I had."
Jane and Hank approached as the sound level of background conversation began to rise again. "Are you guys all right?" Jane asked. "I started to warn you he was here when I saw you come in, but I hated to spoil your evening."
Harry and Hank shook hands as Rachel said, "You didn't mention anything about having a date when we spoke earlier, Jane."
Jane looked at Hank, then back at Rachel. "This isn't a date, is it, Hank? We were just discussing the meeting tomorrow night."
Hank grinned, scratching behind his ear. "I kinda thought it was a date, Jane."
"Tomorrow night?" Rachel repeated. "I don't know if I can-"
Harry covered her hand with his. "Of course you can. I'll be home with the children, so nothing will happen. But I WILL drive you in and pick you up -"
"I can drive her home," Jane offered.
"There. It's settled."
Rachel gave him a look that said she wasn't so certain that it was settled, but she didn't argue. "We really should be going, Harry."
"You're right." He picked up the check, only to have Harve take it from him. Harry looked surprised.
"It's on the house, Dr. Dalton," Harve said, and when Harry would have spoken, he continued, "My treat."
"Thank you." He gathered his family together and they went out to the truck. There was no sign of Brian, but as they passed the local bar, he couldn't help but notice that Brian's motorcyle was parked outside.
Lauren required a longer story than usual before going to sleep that evening, and when Harry joined Rachel on the porch, he sat down heavily beside her on the swing. "She's upset."
"I don't blame her. Why doesn't he just leave us alone, Harry? Why can't he understand that the kids don't want anything to do with him?"
He pulled her against him. "He will, sweetheart. He will."
"Harry, I really don't want to go to that meeting tomorrow night -"
Pulling back a little, he looked at her. "Rachel, nothing's going to happen. I'll be here. And I won't let either of them out of my sight. Brian's not going to get anywhere near these kids." He brought her head back to his shoulder. "You go to your meeting and don't worry."
"Are you going for your run this evening?"
"Not tonight. Let's go to bed. It's been a long, tiring day for both of us."
Harry's sleep was disturbed by the noise of a motorcycle engine being revved. Groaning softly, he looked at the clock. Two a.m. Trying not to disturb Rachel, he slid out of bed and went to the front window. Brian was out there, turning circles in the road in front of the house. "Harry? What is it?" Rachel asked sleepily.
"Brian," Harry said, picking up the telephone and dialing the emergency number. "This is Harry Dalton-" He smiled grimly. "Yes, he is. Thank you." He hung up.
"They're sending a car out right away."
Rachel put on her robe. "I'm going to check on the kids," she told him.
Harry stood at the window, watching, listening for the arrival of the police car. But Brian must have seen the headlights approaching, because he turned his bike toward the mountain, and gunned the engine once more before disappearing down the road. The police car turned on its lights and followed the motorcycle.
"Daddy?" Lauren said, rubbing her eyes as she came into the room. "Can I sleep in here with you and Mom?"
Harry turned to sweep her into his arms. "Of course you can, sweetie." He carried her to the bed as Rachel came into the room. Glancing at her, he said, "He took off up the mountain."
It was just after sunrise when Harry woke again, this time to the sound of someone knocking on the front door of the house. Rachel stirred as well, and watched as Harry went to the window. "It's Sherriff Miller," he told her, picking up his robe and starting downstairs.
Miller was standing on the porch, hat in hand. "Dr. Dalton." He nodded at Rachel, who had come downstairs behind her husband. "Mrs. Dalton. I thought you should know that we found Brian Wando's motorcycle on the edge of Devil's Leap."
Harry frowned. Devil's Leap was a cliff high above the river, about ten miles up the mountain.. The drop was at least a hundred feet, into the deepest part of the river. "What about Brian?" he asked.
"No sign of him. Looks like he lost control of the bike and it went over with him at that point. He- might've gone over the cliff."
"Are you saying that Brian's dead, Sheriff?" Rachel asked, unwilling to believe it.
"We haven't found a body, Mrs. Dalton. But the deputy who answered your call last night said he lost Brian about six miles from here - in the darkness, he might
have missed the broken fence that's supposed to keep people from getting too close to the edge. When I went back up this morning, I found the bike. His things are still at the motel- he's even got a few outstanding bills around town. We'll keep a lookout for him - but as of right now, I'd say the chances are pretty much even that he went into the river and drowned."
"Brian's a strong swimmer, Sheriff," Rachel told him.
Miller shook his head. "The last time someone who considered themselves a 'strong swimmer' tried jumping from Devil's Leap, Mrs. Dalton, they wound up with a broken neck. It's too long a drop. And his wouldn't be the first body we've never found after a fall like that."
Rachel looked up at Harry, asking his opinion with her eyes. "Thank you for letting us know, Sheriff. You'll keep us informed on your search?"
"Sure will. And I'll keep the patrols going for a few more days anyway. Just in case he doubled back and is hiding out somewhere. Was Mr. Wando able to live off the land, Mrs. Dalton?"
"Yes. He used to go out to the mountain and stay gone for days when he was a boy -"
"I don't think we have anything to worry about, but - don't let your guard down just yet."
"We won't," Harry assured him, putting his arm around Rachel as they watched him get back into his car and drive away.
Rachel turned into his arms. "Could it really be over, Harry?" she asked.
"I hope so, sweetheart. I hope so."
Graham came down the stairs. "I saw the Sheriff's car leaving, Mom. Has something happened?"
Rachel and Harry looked at each other. "It's - possible that your father had an- accident this morning, Graham," Rachel told him slowly. "His motorcycle was found at Devil's Leap -"
"Is he dead?" Graham asked matter of factly, his eyes not showing any sign of remorse or concern.
"We don't know for certain, Graham," Harry told him. "They're searching, but as of now, he's missing."
"I'll make certain Lauren and I stay close to the house again today then," he said solemnly, starting back upstairs.
Harry's eyes followed him with concern. "Why don't you go put on some coffee, Rachel? I think Graham and I should have a little talk."
She nodded and turned toward the kitchen as Harry climbed the stairs and went to Graham's room.

The door was open and Harry paused when he saw Graham sitting on his bed, his face in his hands. "Graham?" he said softly, only to have the boy lift his face in surprise. "Are you all right?"
"I'm- fine, Dad." He moved over so that Harry could sit beside him.
"It's only natural that you would be upset about your father -"
"I'm not," Graham denied. "He's been gone for six years," he said. "Might as well have been dead all that time."
"But he wasn't, Graham." Harry put his arm around the boy. "No matter what else he did, what else he was, Graham, Brian WAS your father. And, I think, in his own way, he did care about you and Lauren. And we don't even know for certain that he's dead," Harry reminded him. "He could just be hiding, waiting."
"Probably. That would be more like him. Are you going to the university today?" he asked.
"For a few hours, anyway. I have some meetings that I can't cancel."
"I'll take care of things here, then."
Harry nodded. "You get some more sleep. It's pretty early for you to be up and about yet."
Graham nodded and got back into his bed, letting Harry pulled the covers over him. "I'll see you later, okay?"
"Okay." Harry got as far as the door before Graham spoke again. "Dad?" He turned around. "I love you."
"I love you, too. Get some sleep."

"How is he?" Rachel asked as Harry entered the kitchen. She held out a cup of coffee.
"Going back to sleep. I think he'll be all right. Just keep an eye on him today."
"I will. How long are you going to be in town?"
"Until lunch, at least. I scheduled a faculty meeting for this morning last week. When I get home, we'll see if there is any more news about Brian-" He looked over his cup at her. "How are you feeling about all of this?"
"I don't know yet," she told him, sitting down across from him. "I sometimes wonder if I ever really KNEW Brian, Harry. If what I thought I knew was only a schoolgirl fantasy that I made up. I hate to think that he's dead like that - but - after what he's put us through the last few days-"
"I know," Harry said, reaching across to take his hand in his. "Keep the cell phone with you. I'll call as often as I can." He took another drink of coffee. "Your coffee's getting better, by the way." His blue eyes sparkled as his words brought the desired response.
She smiled at him, recalling that evening before the mountain went up. "You're a very good teacher, Harry."
"I hope so," he said, bringing her hand to his lips. "It's still early. Why don't we go back upstairs?"
Rachel rose from her chair, pulling Harry with her as he retained hold of her hand. "I do like your ideas, Harry."
Rachel held two dresses before her in the mirror, trying to decide which to wear. Both were dark, suitable for creating a professional appearance - Her eyes fell on her hair, and she grimaced. She should have taken Jane up on the suggestion of an appointment with the hairdresser, she decided. Oh, well, it was too late now.
They were due in Portland at five this evening for the network interview. The telephone rang, and Graham called out, "I'll get it, Mom!"
It had been nearly a month since Brian had disappeared, and things were slowly beginning to return to normal for the Dalton family. Gail March had agreed to publish a book that incorporated both Harry and Rachel's stories. Graham and Lauren had started school in Cuttersville, and seemed to be putting the horror of those days after Dantes Peak exploded and the visit from their father behind them. The final hearing that would officially make them Harry's children was scheduled for tomorrow. Now, she just had to get through this meeting with Mary Kelly and the others.
"Mom?" Graham's voice.
"Yes, honey?"
"Dad's on the phone."
"Okay. Thank you." Rachel went to the telephone beside the bed. "Harry," she said, glancing at the clock. "Why aren't you on your way home?" she asked.
"Something's come up," he said. "It looks as if I'm going to be late -"
"Harry, you HAVE to be here. Jane and I have to leave in a little over an hour-"
"I've already called Jane. I wanted her to bring Lacey out with her when she came out to pick you up. But Lacey's here in Portland for a night class -"
Rachel sat down on the bed, glancing up to see Graham and his sister come into the room. "I guess I can take them into Portland with me. They can watch the interview -"
"That might not be a good idea," Harry told her. "If they start asking questions about what happened that night-"
"I can't leave them here," Rachel said as Graham tried to get her attention. "Just a minute," she told Harry. "What is it, Graham?"
"I can watch Lauren," he told her, and Lauren nodded her head in silent agreement.
"No, Graham," Rachel said.
"What's going on?" Harry asked.
"Graham wants me to leave him and Lauren here, alone."
"I can do it, Mom," Graham insisted. "I'm eleven years old. I'll keep a close watch on her, I promise. We won't leave the house, won't answer the phone-"
"Let me talk to him, Rachel," Harry said.
Rachel held out the receiver. "Your father wants to talk to you."
"Dad, there's no reason to pay Lacey to babysit. I'm too old to have a sitter. None of the other kids in my class have them."
"And none of the other kids," Harry pointed out, "have been through what you have in the last few months."
"He's been gone for a month," Graham reminded him. "He's not coming back."
"Let me talk to your mother again," Harry said after a long pause. "I think he has a point, Rachel."
"You can't be serious, Harry. Both of us will be in Portland. It's not as if we're in town -"
"We'll let Sheriff Miller know that they're out there - he'll send a car out to check the place while we're gone. It's only for a couple of hours," he said. "And I'll get back there as soon as I can cut loose -"
"What's going on that's creating this problem?" she asked at last.
"The Dean called a faculty meeting and attendance is apparently mandatory. I'm going to see if I can't catch him before the meeting and explain things, but-"
"I don't feel right about this, Harry. The last time I left them alone -"
"I know. But I don't think Graham's going to be taking your truck anywhere this time. Give him your cell phone number and tell him to call if there's any problem." He looked up as Leo came into the office. "I have to go, love. I'll talk to you later. Good luck."
"As if I'm not nervous enough already," she said. "Now I have to worry about the kids being here alone."
"They're good kids. Later."
"Good bye," Rachel said, hanging up.
"Well?" Graham asked, eying her warily.
"You and Lauren will stay here- " She found a piece of paper and wrote down a number. "This is to my cell phone. If ANYTHING happens, you call me immediately, do you understand?"
"Sure. Don't worry, Mom. We'll be fine."
Rachel made a mental note to make sure she had the keys to her truck with her before she left. The memory of her son and daughter driving up Dantes Peak to try and convince their grandmother to come down was still too vivid to easily dismiss. Standing up, she said, "Now, I'd better finish getting ready. It wouldn't look very good for the former Mayor of Dantes' Peak to turn up late, would it?"
Graham grinned, then gave her a hug before sheparding his sister from the room.
"As former Mayor of Dante's Peak, Mrs. Dalton," the interviewer, a well known national news reporter, began, "do you believe that the residents of that city - who depended upon their elected officials to protect them- were given enough warning that the volcano was about to erupt?"
"I believe we were given as much warning as could be given. Until the night before the volcano erupted, most of the experts agreed that an eruption was NOT likely to occur."
"MOST of the experts," the man said. "But Dr. Harry Dalton disagreed, am I correct?"
"Yes, but-"
"In fact, it was Dr. Dalton who asked you to call a meeting of the town council the first day he was in Dante's Peak, wasn't it?"
"He SUGGESTED that I call a meeting," Rachel corrected him. "It was my decision."
"Why DID you call it?"
"Because I'd spent the afternoon with Dr. Dalton, showing him around the mountain, watching him take readings, answering questions. I could tell that he was concerned about what he was seeing up there. But it was the incident at the hot springs that made me realize that we might have a problem on our hands. Enough of a problem that I thought the council should hear what Harry- Dr. Dalton had to say."
The interviewer smiled a the camera. "You and Dr. Dalton were married right after your 'miraculous' rescue, weren't you, Mayor?"
"Yes, we were. But that has nothing to do with why I called that meeting. I was concerned about the citizens of Dante's Peak."
"Yet you didn't call for an alert," the interviewer commented. "If you were as concerned as you say you were - "
"I didn't have a lot of support from other members of the council," Rachel pointed out, ignoring the consternation of Mary Kelly, Jack Collins, Norman Gates and Sheriff Tanner. "Most of them seemed to agree that an alert would only jeopardize a possible economic boom to the city- and since Dr. Dalton couldn't guarantee that there was going to BE an eruption -"
The interviewer turned to Jane Fox. "Dr. Fox, did you agree with the Mayor in the matter of an alert?"
"Yes, I did. But I think Rachel and I were the only two who WERE in agreement about an alert."
"We never even had the chance to vote, Jane," Mary Kelly reminded her. "We were going to when Dr. Dreyfuss arrived and talked us out of it."
"Dr. Paul Dreyfuss was Dr. Dalton's supervisor, wasn't he?" the interviewer asked.
"Dr. Dalton called him after we found those two bodies at the hot springs," Rachel explained, "and suggested that he and the rest of the crew come up there to check things out."
"How long had Dr. Dreyfuss been in town when he attended the meeting?"
"He arrived while the meeting was taking place," Rachel admitted.
"So, he hadn't had a chance to look at Dr. Dalton's findings, then. He simply came in and suggested that you not call the alert?"
"Dr. Dalton had TOLD him what he'd found," Rachel insisted. "It was a professional difference of opinion. Dr. Dalton saw signs that the mountain was unstable - Dr. Dreyfuss and the others didn't. But I want to go back to that vote that Mary mentioned. Even if we HAD voted before Paul Dreyfuss arrived, the numbers would have been split two to four against. It wasn't USGS that let the citizens of Dante's Peak down, Mary, but those on the council who saw financial and economic gain as more important than safety. That's the bottom line. Can you really say that talking to Dr. Dalton changed your mind about the alert, Mary? How about you, Norman? Or Jack?"
"Well, if we'd had a little longer - if Dr. Dreyfuss hadn't -" Norman hedged.
"I wasn't sure HOW I would vote," Jack Collins admitted. "Dr. Dalton told a convincing story - he seemed so SURE that the mountain was going to erupt. And then Dr. Dreyfuss came in, and I wasn't sure anymore. The things he said - they sounded like something Les might have said - and I got worried -"
Rachel sighed. Jack had always been easily led. It was one reason why Les had worked so hard to get the young man elected. "Be that as it may, as soon as Dr. Dreyfuss realized that Dr. Dalton was right, he asked for an alert - "
"Something that you didn't even ask the council about," Mary sniffed as Norman and Jack nodded in agreement.
"Because there wasn't time. I had to get the word out as soon as I could. Would you have preferred I wait another hour, or longer, while everyone got to City Hall?"
"Rachel's right," Jane told the others. "That mountain wasn't going to wait for us or anyone else. It was on a timetable all its own - as it proved by blowing up in all of our faces- especially Rachel's."
Harry was heading back toward his office when he heard a familiar voice call his name. "Hey, Harry!"
Turning, he saw Terry Furlong coming toward him. "Terry. What brings you down here?"
"Just thought you'd want to know that we might need to postpone that tour of Dante's Peak for a while."
Harry frowned, opening the door to his office. "Why?"
Terry held out a readout that Harry easily recognized. "Because of this." He watched as Harry put on his glasses and peered at the paper.
Looking over his glasses, Harry asked, "Dante's Peak?"
"Latest readings. The instability makes it dangerous to take anyone up there right now. Maybe Leo could go ahead and do the St. Helens tour first."
Harry looked again at the line. "Instability? It wasn't this bad before the eruption," he commented. "What are the gas readings like?"
"Mid range. It's not likely to be a major blow if it comes, but it'll be bad enough that if anyone's up there -"
He handed the paper back to Terry. "Okay. I'll talk to Leo tomorrow morning. Keep me informed, okay? I'll need to reschedule that tour as soon as it's safe."
"I didn't really expect to find you here," Terry told him. "I just took a chance, and when I saw your truck - I thought Rachel was doing that interview?"
"She is. I'm thinking about going to see how she's doing after I call in and check on Graham and Lauren."
"Tell them I said hello," Terry said, turning to go.
"I will." Once the door closed behind his old friend, Harry sat back, trying to put the fear seeing that readout had placed in his mind. Perhaps talking to the kids
would help, he decided, picking up the telephone and dialing the house.
At the house outside of Cuttersville, Graham spoke into the telephone. "Things are fine here, Dad," he assured Harry. "Lauren and I are doing our homework."
"Good. Have you heard from your mother?"
"She called before the interview started."
"I'm almost finished here- I think I'll drop by and see how much longer she's going to be before coming home."
"Okay," Graham said. "Like I said, everything's fine."
"I'll talk to you later, then. Good bye."
"G'bye." Graham hung up the telephone, looked to where Ruffie was standing by the back door.
"I think she wants out," Lauren said as she sat at the table as well. Ruffie barked, sniffing at the door and whining.
"Either that or that raccoon is back again," Graham said. Ruffie had been trying to catch a raccoon that had been turning over garbage cans for a week, with no luck.
"What's wrong, girl?" he called out.
The dog barked again, scratching at the door. "Let her out, Lauren," he said, looking back to his English homework as his sister got out of her chair and crossed to
unfasten the lock before opening the door.
"Too bad we don't have one of those little doggie doors," she said. "That way Ruffie could get in or out by herself."
"And raccoons and stuff could get in, too," Graham pointed out. He frowned as Ruffie hesitated in the doorway, then took off barking. Lauren took a step outside onto the back porch, peering into the darkness of the wooded mountainside.
"Come back inside, Lauren," he said. "Close the door."
"Ruffie!" Lauren called out, worried about the dog.
Graham put down his pencil and rose to walk to the door. "Come back in, Lauren. Now. We're not supposed to go outside, remember?"
"And why is that, Graham?" a man's voice asked.
Graham grabbed Lauren's arm. "Come on, Lauren," he said, trying to get back into the house before the man could close the small gap between himself and the top of the steps.
But Brian Wando moved quickly enough to reach them, grabbing Lauren from her brother's hold. "Graham!" she called out, struggling to free herself from the
bearded, frightening man who held her. "Let me go!" she cried out.
"Sorry, Lauren, honey. I can't do that. Now stop fighting me. I don't want to hurt you."
"Let her go!" Graham yelled. "Now!" He turned and ran back into the house, grabbing the telephone and pulling out the paper on which his mother had written the number for her cellular telephone and started to dial. The telephone on the other end had only started to ring when Brian pulled the reciever from Graham's hand and waited for someone to answer.
Rachel frowned as her telephone beeped, signalling a call. "Excuse me," she said to the others, glancing up to see Harry standing on the fringes of the taping area. Since it wasn't Harry on the phone, it HAD to be Graham. Something had happened. Moving toward Harry, she pressed the button to answer the call. "Hello?"
"Hello, Rachel. I just wanted you to know that the kids are with me."
Harry saw Rachel go pale. "What is it, honey?" he asked.
"Brian- leave them alone. Please."
BRIAN? Harry's eyes asked silently. Brian was dead. He'd been gone for a month - no sign. "Dear God." And if he was calling Rachel's cell phone, then that meant he was at the house. He held out his hand to take the telephone from Rachel's cold fingers. "Brian, the police are on their way -"
"By the time they get here, Dalton, we'll be gone. If you and Rachel want to see these kids again, you'll do exactly as I say. And no police. I'd hate for Lauren or Graham to get hurt in a shoot out, wouldn't you?"
"What do you want, Brian?" Harry asked, his arm around Rachel.
To Be Continued - - -

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