THE WAVE

 




A Collection of Articles from the Archives of

Harry G. Pellegrin

Novelist and Musician






 

Read on, my man!


Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx



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The Wave on a Cool Fall Afternoon

Tommy Hopkins sat quietly in the passenger seat of the County Sheriff’s Department Caprice Classic RMP.  He looked past the tiny red lights and green display on the radar setup and the computer screen mounted centrally on the dashboard and out through the windshield into the gathering twilight.  Across the two-lane blacktop, he could see the trunks of pine trees marching off into the darkness.  Red and yellow flashing lights from the RMP and tow truck chased themselves through the columns of the forest.  The car’s engine was running and the heat coming out of the floor vents felt good.  God, it felt so good to finally have all these people around!

He shivered, but not due to cold.  He was wearing a hooded red sweatshirt under a shearling lined denim jacket, his feet shod with sturdy steel-toed thinsulate lined boots.  His quick afternoon outing made him shiver -- well, the memories at least.

The driver’s side door swung open abruptly, jolting Tommy from his inner musings.  “Whoa son, relax.”   He looked up at the New York State Trooper bending over to gaze into the car.  He was mid-forties in vintage,  strongly built, like a well-preserved ex-military man.  His eyes looked kind.  Tommy never thought he’d think that any Trooper’s eyes could look kind.  They never had in the past.

 

“My name’s Trooper Brinton, but you can call me Fred, if you’d like.”   That was another first for Tommy, the “call me Fred” from the Law.  Before he could even really get that thought together, Brinton once again was talking.  “That your bike over there?”

 

“Yeah, uh, uh... Fred.”  It felt strange calling this guy Fred.  “Come on, Tommy, let’s take a ride in my car down to the diner and get some coffee.  I want you to tell me everything that happened.   I think I can tell you some things about what happened to you that you don’t even know.”

 

Tommy reluctantly opened the door and stepped into the brisk fall air.  He followed Brinton to an unmarked vehicle and got in the passenger side.  Brinton maneuvered the car through the knot of vehicles at the scene made up of tow trucks, an ambulance, an EMT wagon from the Fire Department, and a small group of onlookers.  His bike sat in some kind folk’s front yard about twenty-five yards back down the road.

 

As soon as they’d cleared the obstacles, Brinton began to talk.  “That bike of yours back there, that did give me a bad turn.”  Tommy looked blankly at him.  He saw the bewildered look on his face, smiled, gazed back through the windshield and continued.  “I’ve seen a bike just like that

“Now what the hell is that supposed to mean?” Tommy thought.  Brinton fell silent as they skimmed the pavement down out of the hills and into Indian Lake.

 

After what he’d been through, Tommy was amazed that the diner’s windows were steamed up, there were lights on, and people were leading normal lives inside.  He figured with the events of the afternoon that he’d witnessed and gone through, nobody could still just cheerfully exist.  Everyone must know what he’d been through.

 

They went inside and sat down at a corner table.  Before Tommy could make a sound, the Trooper ordered them two cups of coffee.  He normally didn’t drink coffee, but he would have drunk turpentine at this moment, just from the joy of being among real people, happy people, normal people.

 

“Yeah, I’ve seen a bike just like yours before.  And that helmet hanging off the mirror!  That was just the icing on the cake.”  Brinton spoke, then stared down Into his cup.

Tommy bristled. “What do you mean by all this ‘bike just like that’ and ‘that helmet’ stuff.  I’ve never seen you, or been stopped by you, or been in any kind of real trouble with that bike.”  Tommy was feeling just a bit better now -- enough to start feeling a bit belligerent again.  He’d had a bad day too!  Bad day, HA!  He had had the mother of all bad days!

 

“Slow down, son I didn’t mean to imply that it was your bike, or your helmet.  I’ve just seen ones like ‘em before.  It wasn’t in the best of circumstances and it was a good number of years ago -- probably before you were even riding.   But like I said, I think that I can explain quite a bit to you.”

 

“You see, back in nineteen eighty-four, there was a fellow, just a boy really, from over yonder in Old Forge.   His people owned a big farm out there.  They didn’t have terrific luck with the land, but they managed to hang on to the place and keep going.  Anyway, the boy, Luke was his name, had always been a troubled kid -- and a lack of proper education didn’t help much either.  His parents didn’t send him to school as often as they should have because they needed him to help on the land.”

 

“Back in town, Bobby Spencer worked in the Stewart’s Shop by nights and went to college by day.  He used to cruise around (and fly around, I wrote him a few citations) on a 500 Interceptor just like yours.  He even had an Arai helmet, painted bright yellow with a black stripe just like yours.  He said he had painted it after some guy he saw racing in a video in some place in England.  [Joey Dunlop’s Isle of Man video perhaps? -- Ed.]   Anyhow, that’s what made me get goose bumps when I saw your ride, and that helmet.”

“Bobby met a girl at college, I forget her name -- it isn’t really important --  she would drive over from Glens Falls to visit him while he was at work.  She was a cute kid.  She really liked Bobby, I think.  Well, one night, Luke drove his mother down to town for something or another in their old, beat up Ford truck, this big green nasty looking F-350, all rust and baling wire.”

“The girlfriend was sitting in a booth reading one of those tabloid muck-sheets, waiting for Bobby to get off.  Luke cast more than an appreciating eye at the young lady.  She looked up at him, then looked back down.  Luke’s mother had seen the little tableau played out.  She is a sharp-tongued old buzzard at best.  But she didn’t want Luke falling for no girlies; you know and take him away from the farm.  She said something like ‘Luke boy, you ain’t got no right lookin’ at a smart young lady like that.  She got her eye on pretty little Bobby over yonder.  She don’t want no ignorant farm boy like you.  You leave her to the educated gentleman.’  She said all this as much as an insult to Bobby as to Luke.  She didn’t like anybody she thought was better than her and her kinfolk.”

“Luke didn’t like to be made to look foolish in front of a girl.  It bothered him even more to be made to look foolish in front of Bobby.  He didn’t see the comments as an insult to himself; he’d been shamed in front of his mama.  Luke was in a fine rage.  He stormed out of the shop and into the truck, his mother in tow, and blasted back out to the farm.”

 

“Well our Luke cooked and steamed to himself and got all worked up about how Bobby had insulted him.  It churned in his gut until that November.”

 

“I’ll never forget that afternoon.  I don’t know what I could have done different.  It could have been an accident pure and simple.  Maybe.  There might have been no vehicular contact. Maybe. There may have been no malice involved.   Maybe.   But I didn’t think so.  It just seemed way too coincidental.  Maybe I should have spoken my mind, but you have to understand, there was no proof.  NO proof of ANYTHING!    Brinton was almost shouting.  The little cluster of people at the counter stopped talking, turned around and stared.

 

Tommy almost jumped back in his seat, seeing the pain and vehemence on Brinton’s face.  He didn’t know where this story was going, or what it had to do with him, but he figured “this guys got a gun, but at least he’s buying the coffee  -- I guess I don’t have anywhere better to go right at the moment.”

 

Brinton took a pull at his cup and  pushed his fingers back through his hair.  His face relaxed a bit.  He exhaled loudly then continued.  “The call came in around four o’clock, just like today.  Vehicular accident, personal injuries, Route 28 five miles west of Indian Lake.  When I got to the scene, Bobby’s Interceptor was in about five pieces, a few on the road, a few in the woods.  Bobby, God help him, was lying across a tree branch about eight feet up.  He was quite dead.  Luke’s truck was parked just past a cross road about a hundred feet back from the crash scene.  He told us all that he had stopped at the stop sign, seen that the road was clear and had then begun to swing out onto the pavement.  He said the bike just came flying around the corner.  He said the bike swerved to avoid him and lost control.”

“I knew there’d been bad blood on Luke’s part against Bobby.  Nevertheless, there was no paint or blood on his truck.  There were no witnesses.  There was just no real, hard evidence of foul play.  This has been bothering me for years.”

Brinton slouched back in his seat.  “You know who that was in that truck today?”  Tommy’s eyes said no.  “Well, you almost had the distinct displeasure of meeting Luke Gorey.”  He leaned forward on his elbows and said “ Why don’t you fill me in on what happened out there.”

It was Tommy’s turn to arrange his thoughts now.  He listened to the clink of pots and dishes from the kitchen and looked through the windows into the pitch darkness.

“I was heading over from Boonville on Route 28.  It was a nice fall afternoon and I thought I’d get one last ride in before I put the bike away for the season.  (By the way, I bought the bike used from a dealership over east of Amsterdam two years ago.)  I passed a truck sitting at an intersection.   I wouldn’t have even noticed it except that it was so beat up.   He swung out behind me just as I passed.  I was moving along at a good clip, so I didn’t see him for a while. Anyhow, as I was riding, I became aware of this truck getting closer and closer to me.  I guess he was about a hundred fifty yards behind me when I started to notice.  I sped up, so did the truck.  There were bits of patchy frost and dampness on the road.  I almost lost the front end on a couple of corners.  I couldn’t get away from this guy.  He just got closer and closer.”

“I was starting to get that sick, scared feeling in my belly.  I was shaking on the handlebars.  Just when I thought he must be about to run me over, I heard this huge roar of another bike coming up FAST from behind the truck.  I saw its headlight in the mirror coming around the side of the truck.  I also saw the driver of the truck turn his head towards the bike.  The bike fell in behind me and ahead of the truck.  I looked forward.  The next thing I know, the truck is rolling end over end behind me.”

“Again, I hear the roar of that bike’s exhaust flying up from behind.  As it passed, I saw it was another Interceptor.   He waved and just jetted.  I don’t know how he did it, those roads were really slick.  It’s like he didn’t even touch the ground.  I stopped.  I turned around and went back to the wreck.  You saw that guy.  I never want to see anything like that again!  The look on his face -- what was left of it...”

Brinton sighed and leaned back.  “That’s just what I thought.  Old Luke must have seen that bike of yours, and that helmet of yours and gone off the deep end.  He probably thought he was taking care of Bobby again.”

“Well, I’m lucky I’m still alive.  I’ve got that other biker to thank for that.   I wonder who he was.” They both fell silent for a moment.

Finally Brinton spoke.   “Beats me, kid.  But whoever he was, he must have startled Luke.  Luke lost control, and the result, we all saw.  That saved your bacon.   Well, finish up your coffee and I’ll run you back to your bike.  You must have had enough for one afternoon.”

They left the diner and drove back out Route 28 in silence.  When they got to Tommy’s bike,  Brinton pulled up onto the grass and shut the car off.  They both got out and stood looking at Tommy’s bike.  Brinton could smell the soft but pungent smell of burning leaves somewhere in the darkness.  A slight fog was materializing on the roadway.

Brinton broke the silence  “Where did you get that helmet?”  “Oh, my cousin found it at a garage sale.”  He replied.   “I’d just love to know who that other biker was on the road this afternoon.”

At that moment, far off in the hills, carried by that thick, foggy air, they heard that mournful wail of a revving sportbike echoing through the landscape.  You couldn’t rightly tell from which direction it came or where it was going.  Brinton felt that numb, cold feeling all along the base of his skull and the hairs all stood straight up on the back of his neck.  “I know”, he said.

Harry G. Pellegrin

READ THE PRESS RELEASE!

LOW END is Published by Bedside Books, an imprint of American Book Publishing.

ISBN 1-58982-074-6

LOW ENDCopyright 2003 Harry G. Pellegrin

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