Busted Axle Road
CopyrightÂ© 1993, 2001, 2010
Once Heather got back to her room, she took off her bikini and started to dry off for real, but as she did, there were quiet second thoughts that started to creep in. Maybe she'd brushed this Pacobel guy off a bit too quickly; he seemed like a nice guy, and she could have pumped him for a lot more information about the town.
Besides, so what if things got a little hot and heavy? It had been a long time. And, maybe she'd been a little suspicious, anyway; Pacobel hadn't exactly made a pass at her.
Still, there was no point in inviting trouble; she decided to dress casual, maybe a little gungy, and stay out of the lounge. She really was tired, and she was getting a little hungry, too.
She dried her hair, then pulled on a pair of bermudas and a "Save the Whales" T-shirt a couple of sizes too large, and set off for the restaurant. She wondered a little if that would be a little underdressed for the restaurant, but realized that at a traveler's motel in this part of the country, it wouldn't really matter a whole lot.
The restaurant was nearly empty; a sign at the entrance said, "Please seat yourself." She did, over near the window, not for any good reason, since there wasn't a lot to see over there except the parking lot and the other side of the street. The waitress brought her a menu, and a glass of water. She scanned the menu; a lot of meat and potatoes. Well, this was the midwest, after all. But, one whole panel of the menu had a list of "Vegetarian Specialties". There were usually two or three, in the restaurants she'd seen coming east, but this was quite a selection. Though Heather wasn't a vegetarian, per se, she usually preferred to eat that way. Even though she knew that those animals were raised for food, it still bothered her a bit. Besides, the Brocolli Fetuchinni with lentil sauce sounded pretty good.
It took a long time for the waitress to come back; it was just the one girl, and she was trying to work the lounge, too. Presently, Heather began to get a little bored.
Over by the cash register, she could see a newspaper rack. "Spearfish Lake Record-Herald," it said on the outside, with a decidedly unmidwestern Marlin logo jumping at the side of the lettering. From the distance, she could read a big streamer of a headline: "LANDOWNERS TO PAY BIG". Well, checking out the local paper would be a good way to start to get the lay of the land, she thought, and got up and paid a quarter to the machine for a copy.
She went back to the table, unfolded the paper, and began to read, wondering what the locals were upset about. The kicker headline sent a shock right straight up her spine: "CITY FORCED TO BUILD DRAIN". The first paragraph confirmed her suspicions. It was the sewer separation project that Harper and McMullen had told her about, except that it had a lot bigger head of steam than she'd been led to understand. She devoured the story, attention focused so much that the waitress almost had to yell to get her away from it to get her order. She went back, started at the beginning, and read the story again, more carefully this time. There wasn't a mention of the snake, or the critical interest district she'd been told about in Minneapolis. "I'll bet they don't even know about it," she said to herself. Well, there was still time to nip it in the bud, even though she'd be coming from a lot farther behind than she had at Old Brook.
She read the story a third time. Wasn't that just like the so-called EPA, going off half-cocked, without a full comprehension of what was involved?
Still wrapped up in the newspaper story, she was only half aware of someone standing across the table from her. She looked up. "Come on," Pacobel said. "The local paper isn't that interesting."
"What do you you know about this?" she asked, all business, now.
"I know that there are a lot of very upset people running around this town," he said. "I'm one of them. It's going to cost me about seventeen hundred bucks. I sure wouldn't want to be some one from the EPA that walks into town right now. They'd get tarred, feathered, and run out of town on a rail."
"It can't be that bad."
"You want to bet? If you're from the EPA, just try it on."