- 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
- 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
- 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
- "Harry, I really don't want to go to that meeting tomorrow
- 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
- "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
- 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?"
- "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
- "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
- 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.
- "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
Rachel turned into his arms. "Could it really be over, Harry?"
- "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
- "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
- "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
- "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
- "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
- "Let me talk to him, Rachel,"
- 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,
- "I don't feel right about this,
Harry. The last time I left them alone -"