Phantom Creek
Chapter 8

Copyright© 2019 by Wendell Jackson

Sunday afternoon Harold was pumping gas when two state police cars and the county sheriff pulled into the station. A chill produced a cold sweat on the back of Harold’s neck, when the officers all piled out of the cars and pickups. The vehicles parked in front of the restaurant were the focal point where the officers gathered and spread a map over the hood of one. Harold could tell that they were assigning search area’s, looking for the stolen truck and the missing driver. The search would start in the west and work the surrounding area’s as they moved East. A large military tent was set up just to the east of the restaurant, that was to be the head quarters for the search operation. One large man was introduced to the others, as being the brother to the missing truck driver. Harold was impressed by the man’s size and the determined look in his eyes. As the police officers discuss the search operation, the dead mans brother looked around at the few people watching the gathered lawmen. The mans look at each person, was a challenge that one of them might be responsible for his missing brother. There was an anger seething under the surface, ready to explode on the person or persons responsible for what ever happened to his family member.

As curious as he was, Harold stayed back from the officers. The large man’s intense look at the local people, was frightening. Harold feared he would give himself away some how, if he was scrutinized too closely. Relief came moments later, when John and Alice drove up in the family car. Alice greeted him with a mischievous smile, and jumped out of the car to take and hold his arm close to her body. John on the other hand was sulking. After finding out the ex-ticket taker at the movie house, was back in town, he learned to his chagrin that Gloria Pratt was dating some one.

Alice tired of hearing her brother rant on about his bad luck, told him he never had a chance with the ticket taker anyway. The statement sent him into the restaurant ahead of her, mouthing several obscenities for her words. Alice paid him no attention, as she pulled Harold to a secluded spot by the out side coke machine. She told him she was still feeling wonderful from their date and needed to spend some more time together. Harold, glad for the timely distraction, held her close and exchanged kisses.

“John is just getting a malt. He’ll be driving over to a friends house. I don’t have to go with him. I was thinking, maybe you and I can do something?” she rose on her tip toes and tonged his ear.

It was just what Harold needed, an excuse to get away from the station and all the lawmen around it. He told Walker he was leaving for a while, and left with Alice in the Stations Car. Down the road in the apposite direction of the search, he steered the car onto an old road. The dirt path led to an abandon stock loading ramp, that offered thin cover when parked behind. Soon as the vehicle was stopped Alice was all over him, and pulling his shirt up out of his pants. Together they managed to get each other out of their clothing with out ripping cloth. The after noon was spent in the large back seat, as Harold coupled with Alice several times. Finally she had enough, and wanted to find a place to wash up.

Satisfaction glowed in his face, as he relaxed with a bottle he’d secreted in the seat cushions. The whiskey burned his throat, but he liked the feeling it gave him. It was almost as good as the sex he was having. Alice shook her head when offered the bottle, she was looking through the car for her discarded clothing. Harold watched with admiration as Alice dipped and moved in her search for panties and bra. She had a well developed body, that jiggled in all the right places.

“Come on, I need to wash up.” she stated calmly. “There’s a stock pond through those hills.” She pointed to the north. “We can both wash up.”

“Why get dressed?” Harold reached out and gently cupped her tit. “You’ll just have to take everything off again.”

“Some one might see us before we get there.” She giggled at his touch. “You saw how fast everything can come off again.”

“Well, I not ready to have you all covered up.” Harold pulled her to him and with a deep kiss lowered her to the seat again.

“Oh, you have whiskey breath.” Alice complained, as she readied her self to receive him again.

Finally when Harold was done, and he rolled off the girl, he felt he was finally in command of his life. Having the girl under him, was a powerful feeling that went beyond the sex. Alice hurriedly pulled her clothing back on, lost in thought about the immediate future. Having got her way with Harold, at a price she was glad to pay, she was concerned that he might not want to continue to see her. She’d heard stories from her mother on how some boys and men, once they had a woman, wanted nothing more to do with her.

“Do you like working at Walker’s?” Alice asked.

“It brings in a few dollars.” Harold picked up his bottle and took another swallow. “Sure you don’t want some. It puts a glow on the day.”

Again Alice shook her head. If there was more time, she would have taken several pulls on the bottle, as she was wanting to experience that feeling too. However it was late in the day and she wasn’t going home with whiskey on her breath, or taking a chance on staggering in the house in front of mother and dad.

“You ever think about moving away?”

“Yep,” Harold was feeling the whiskey now. “I plan on just that, if things don’t work out at home.”

“Like what?” Alice asked. “If what things don’t work out?”

“Oh, if the ranch is divided up.” Harold said after taking a larger pull on the bottle. “Hell, I don’t like the damn place anyway.” He finally admitted to himself.

“I thought you might go on to collage.”

“No, I don’t have time for that.” Harold shook his head. “I’m not the student type. Not a Rancher either.”

“It takes money to go anywhere.” Alice was just about dressed, except having left off putting her panties back on. “I’m suppose to go to collage. I have my own money in my own back account.”

“I got money too.” Harold laughed, thinking it was Alice’s fathers cattle that supplied the cash he carried in his pocket and had stashed in the back room of the station.

“Enough to get a long way from here?” Alice took the bottle from him, and dipped her finger in the neck, wetting it with whiskey. With her finger dripping with the amber colored alcohol, she pushed it in Harold’s lips. “Pick me up tomorrow night at the gate and we can plan our escape from this boring place?”

“Now why would I take you along?” He was still laughing inside, thinking how his Saddle tramp friends had rustle the Kinkade cattle. Harold began getting dressed himself, pulling on his shirt and then finding his pants.

“Because I’m pretty, and you won’t find anyone as pretty as me. Your friends will envy you, for having a good looking girl like me.” She cooed. “Besides, I can get a hold of some of my money. I can pay my way in more ways than one.”

“I have plenty of money, and even more sooner than you think.” Harold pulled her finger out of the bottle where she was dipping it to again wipe the whiskey on his lips. He figured she thought it was sexy or had seen it done in the movies, either way, he did like it, but he needed another good sized swig. After swallowing another pull on the bottle, he grinned. “I’ve been selling some cattle. Got a good sized bank roll.”

“Where did you get any cattle to sell?” Alice didn’t believe him, but assumed he was joking.

“Found them. Open range stock.” He was smug.

“You’re a rustler!” She squealed with gleeful delight. “My boy friend is a Rustler.”

“Well, don’t let it get out. That’s kind a the thing a person keeps mum about.” Harold didn’t deny it, and was enjoying Alice’s excitement on hearing it.

“Oh, now you have to take me, with you. I know how to brand, and throw rope.” She was continuing to coo her words. “Maybe we can start our own business.”

“Maybe, but just don’t say anything, Okay?” He was still feeling the whiskey growing on him, but was a little concerned over opening his mouth, and now Alice had jumped on the rustling aspect of it.

“Here.” She said, stuffing her panties into his shirt pocket. “These will seal our bond.” she grinned. “Now don’t you say anything about my panties and we’ll keep both secrets.” Harold laughed at the deal and nodded his agreement.

Late that afternoon, Harold dropped Alice off at the Kinkade ranch gate. She didn’t want her folks to know she was involved with him, and preferred to walk the short half mile to the house. Harold waited until she was up the road and out of sight before heading back to the Service Station. He was chuckling to himself with smug satisfaction. His brother Tom had dated Alice for months if not years, and yet it was he that took her virginity. They had sex on that first date. Shortly after the movie was over, and it was all her idea. They had barely got out of burns before Alice was all over him, and begging to hurry and find a parking place. It took will power to keep driving, but Harold didn’t want to get caught screwing in the city limits when there was miles and miles of desert to park or hide in. Now he had ammunition to hit his brother with the next time they argued over anything. It bothered Harold that he might be leaving soon and might not get the chance to flaunt his conquest over his brother. Even so, it was a victory of sorts to him, as he had always carried an anger deep in side for Tom.

Arriving back at Walkers service station all the activity was subdued. Only two vehicles were parked in front of the command tent, the police had set up. A light shown through the entrance flap, but Harold couldn’t see inside. John Walker was sitting on one of the bar stools when Harold entered. John wasn’t very happy with Harold taking off when so much activity was going on. Business boosted with all the police milling about, and he’d had to handle the bar and gas pumps alone. Harold told him he was sorry, but a girl needed some special attention. John grumbled and turned back to his glass of whiskey.

In questioning John about the days events, Harold learned that the search had concentrated West of town. A couple of drifters had been roughed up, at the nearby Ice caves, where everyone got the ice for their Coolers. They’d been working there several days, and the brother took it upon himself to extract what information he could from the two. Of course the sheriff stepped in when it was clear, the brother was only taking out his frustrations and not trying to get information. John had heard that one of the men, was not doing so well. The big man who’s stare had bothered Harold, kicked the drifter several times after he was knocked down. Nothing was done to the missing mans brother, as every one was oozing sympathy for the brute. John was pretty sure, the man would be there the next day to continue the search for his brother.

Things were getting too close for Harold. It would only be a matter of a day or so, before the search focused toward the East. The stolen cattle were not that far off the highway, and it wouldn’t take anyone but a minute to find the body once they got a whiff of the rotting corpse. He needed to meet with Chic and make their run out of the state. Heading out the door, John interrupted him, demanding to know what he was about. Harold just told him, he had to collect some money owed him. That satisfied John, but the next words out of his mouth, stopped Harold in his tracks.

“Leave the car here. I will be needing it first thing in the morning.” Walker said as he reached over the bar and retrieved the bottle of scotch he’d been pouring from.

“I’ll only be a half hour or so.” Harold was surprised that Walker was refusing him the use of the car.

“Yeah, I know.” Walker carefully measured the whiskey he poured in his glass. “That girl is the one your brother is sweet on. What your doing is wrong, and you know it.”

“That why you won’t let me have the car. Because of her?” Harold thought it was humorous, John worried about his screwing his brother’s ex girl friend.

“He’s your younger brother. Can’t you find something else to screw.” Walker shook his head with bewilderment. “There’s all kinds of women in Burns. Hell, you can get plenty in Bend. Why are you screwing your brothers gal.”

“If it wasn’t me, it would be some body else.” was Harold’ reply.

“For Christ’s sake, let it be some body else.” Walker snapped back at him.

“Well, I’m not using the car to see the girl. I have other business to attend too.” Harold started out the door. “I’ll be back in a little while. This is about some money owed me.”

“You know, I’m not blind. I see more than what you think.” Walker lifted the glass to his lips and sipped a portion into his mouth. “Your getting your self into a lot of trouble.”

Walkers words paused Harold at the door. He wasn’t sure of what Walker thought he knew or if he was on to him. The man had been drinking for some time, and was deep into his cups. “What ever it is that your thinking, keep it to your self. I have enough problems with out some one blowing smoke up my ass.” Harold turned and abruptly headed out the door, stating at the time, he would be back later.

At the Bailor Ranch, Harold drove past Barbara’s home and pulled up in front of the bunk house. It was nearing dusk, and he hoped the Bailors had turned in early. Never the less, he had to meet with Chic and the other two saddle tramps.

All three were sitting around a table, with cards scattered across and a bottle sitting in the middle with half the contents missing. All three men were pie eyed from drink and looked at him with slight surprise that he was here. Chic motioned for the other two men to stay silent, while he found out why Harold was paying them a visit.

“We have to leave.” Harold told them, after making sure no one from the house was any where near. “There’s a search party going on. They have some kind of a head quarters set up at the station. They’ll be searching this area by the day after tomorrow, if that long.”

“What search party?” Chic said, sliding his glass over to Wily, for him to pour more whiskey into it.

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