The next morning I was standing on the deck with a cup of coffee looking out over the lake when Linda came up beside me and linked her arm in mine. We stood there is silence for a moment, sipping our coffee and dwelling on our own thoughts.
“Linda”, I said, “These last couple of days you’ve shown me that it really is possible to find the happiness that I’ve been seeking. I’d like to spend more time with you, but I need to get back to my place and wrap up a few things. I’ll spend the night, pack up some clothes, and come back here tomorrow, if you want me to. Of course I can’t stay here permanently, but I’ll find a place to rent somewhere near, and then we’ll see where this relationship can go. Maybe I’m assuming too much about your feelings for me, and if so please tell me now.”
Linda was silent for a brief moment, then said “I want you to stay here permanently.
“I’ll be back, I promise. I’m going to write down my cell phone number and you can call me any time you like, day or night.
I wanted to get this done and get back here, so I decided to get on the road right away. I packed up the few things I had in the house and put them in the truck, then came back and gave Linda a kiss and a good long hug. She had tears in her eyes as I turned away, but didn’t say anything. She was still standing there as I rounded the bend in the road.
I had hardly driven a mile when my phone rang. It was Linda, and she said she just wanted to test the phone number to be certain she had it right. We chatted for a minute and as we talked the road began to slope downhill. I was distracted with my conversation and didn’t realize that I was picking up speed until I noticed a turn coming up and I began to tap my breaks. The pedal went all the way to the floor. I realized I had no breaks. I said as much to Linda, and then realized I should not have. She immediately went into panic mode but as much as I wanted to calm her fears, I needed two hands on the wheel and had to toss the phone on the seat.
By this time I was going too fast to shift to a lower gear. My tires were squealing as I rounded the next bend. I looked ahead and the road turned to the right with an almost vertical embankment on the left side. There could be a car coming from the other direction, but I had to take a chance and steered into the left bank, scraping the side of my truck against it to try to slow my speed. That helped but only a little. The next turn was to the left and there was a drop off on the right. I had to stay on the road and again my tires were squealing as I barely made the turn. Ahead was another right turn with another cut out of the side of the hill.
Again I turned into the bank and tried to use it to slow me down. Again it slowed me a little, but not enough and I found myself back on the road and picking up speed on a straight stretch that ran for a short distance before turning to the right again. This time there was no embankment but what looked like a creek bed. As I got closer it appeared that the creek bed sloped upward at a low angle and I wondered if I should take a chance and turn into it.
There must have been a pipe going under the road because there was a drop off of about 10 feet from the road to the creek bed. I decided this might be my only chance, so when I got to the curve I turned toward the creek. The truck became airborne and hit the ground about 20 feet up the creek bed, almost even with the level of the road, then bounced roughly forward for about another 30 feet before colliding with a tree. The airbag exploded and then there was silence.
Linda was screaming into the phone but not getting any response. She could hear tires screeching but that was all.
“Oh God, oh God, oh God, what am I going to do?” She said. “I can’t just stand here”, and as soon as that thought hit her she grabbed her purse and ran for the door. A minute later she was spinning her tires as the Porsche shot down the road.
I sat there stunned as the airbag slowly deflated. I felt pain in my knees but that was all. I moved my feet and found that I was not hurt too badly, but could not be sure of the extent of the injuries. I looked around and found my iphone and stuck it in my pocket. I opened the driver’s door and slowly inched myself to a standing position. I felt pain in my knees and lower legs and could see blood on my pants, but I felt my legs could hold me. I slowly worked my way down the creek bed and crawled up the embankment on my hands and knees. When I got to the road I was trying to decide whether to call AAA or the police when I heard the sound of a car coming. The Porsche came to a screeching halt and Linda got out, came running up to me and jumped into my arms.
“I’m so relieved” she said, "I was afraid you had gone off the mountain.”
“I think I’m ok, but I’m not sure what kind of shape my legs are in exactly. Why don’t you drive me back to your place and I’ll assess the damage before we decide what to do next”.
Back at the house I found that my lower legs were cut and bruised by the impact against the tree, but were otherwise ok.
“I’m going to have the truck towed up here”, I said, “I have a suspicion that my brakes didn’t fail all of a sudden for no reason”. I called AAA, and after that I called the police. An hour later the police were there and the tow truck was pulling away. I explained that I had a suspicion that my brakes had been tampered with. They took my story and called their experts to do the investigation.
At this point I decided to discuss with Linda some thoughts that had been going through my head. Her neighbor down the road, Earl was his name, was getting pretty old and would probably not be able to continue living there alone for much longer. I suggested that Linda offer to buy his property, including the vineyards, which would give him a sizeable retirement fund. She asked where the money would come from and I said that part still needed to be worked out, but I had an idea she would be able to pull it off.
We continued to discuss my ideas until we heard a knock at the door. An officer was there and said that he had taken some finger prints from under the car, on and around the master cylinder. I suggested they go up to Jack’s room and get some finger prints from there to see if they match. Linda’s mouth dropped as she looked at me in shock. I told her it was only a hunch.
An hour later the cops were gone and the finger prints on the way to the lab. I was told not to move the truck until I heard from the detective.
Linda and I had a quick lunch, and then walked down the road to visit Earl. Once again he pulled out his home made wine and poured glasses all around.
We discussed his property, how long he planned on living there, how much he wanted for it, and ended by telling him that Linda was interested but we had to work out some details before we could come back to the negotiating table. One thing we did gain was a place for me to stay. Earl had a guest cottage behind his house that had been empty for quite a while. It was a two bedroom, one bath and needed a lot of work, but the kitchen was in good shape and it had a deck on the back with a few of the lake. We agreed that I would stay with Linda until we got the place in living order. Linda preferred that I stay with her, but was happy that I would be nearby.
The next morning we got a call from the detective telling us that the prints were a match and he was about to issue an arrest warrant. Linda gave him some ideas on where he might find her brother, and I asked him to let me know when they had him in custody.
When I got off the phone Linda was crying. She knew her brother was bad, but she didn’t think anything like this could ever happen. I decided she needed to get away from here for a while, so we packed a lunch and drove down to hwy 49, headed in the direction of Yosemite. We spent the day touring the valley and drove up to Glacier Point. Yosemite is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and it definitely worked as a salve for Linda’s emotions.
As we were driving back late that afternoon I got a call from the detective. The police in Santa Monica had Jack in custody and would be transferring him up here tomorrow. So far so good.
The following morning Linda and I went into town to see a lawyer and have some contracts made up. We returned to the house to await word that Jack was sequestered in the local jail. That afternoon we got the call and drove to the police station. We asked to speak to Jack alone and were ushered into a visiting room.
“So, Jack, how much prison time do you think you will get for attempted murder?” I asked.
Jack said nothing and just stared at his cuffed hands.
“I’ll tell you what Jack. I won’t press charges under one condition. You sign a contract giving Linda all of the vineyard property, all of the stocks, and all of the cash. You get the house in Miami. The mansion in Beverly Hills will be put up for sale and you will get half of the proceeds, Linda the other half. You will leave California and make Florida your permanent home. That’s a damn good offer considering your only other option is prison. Do you need time to think about it?”
Jack looked from me to Linda. Linda nodded, a grim look on her face.
“You have a deal, how soon can I get out of here”? he asked.
First we need these contracts signed and notarized. Then we’ll just have to see how fast things work around here.”
Jack signed the contracts without reading them. By the end of the day the contracts were confirmed and I had made contact with a real estate agent in Beverly Hills. The Next morning Jack was released from jail.
After breakfast, Linda and I made another visit to Earl. He also owned 50 acres. It turned out that the two properties had once been one property and he and his sister had inherited it from their parents who planted the vineyards. They had split the property and his sister sold her half because she didn’t want to live up on this hill. She had sold to Linda’s parents. Earls sister had died a few years ago and neither of them had any kids.
We offered him 50,000 per acre, or 2.5 million. He agreed, and the final negotiations included him moving into the guest cottage and living there free for as long as he was able to be alone. After that he had to hire someone to live with him 24 hrs a day or move into a retirement home. I was to move into and rent the main house from Linda. We figured about 90 days to sell the property in Beverly Hills and clear escrow. Until then I would live in the cottage.
Back at Linda’s house we celebrated by opening a bottle of Scarecrow. “I’ve always wondered what all of the hype was about this wine” I said.
“Linda, you will soon own 40 acres of old vine vineyards which will net you about $8,000 an acre after expenses. That’s $320,000 a year, not bad for a day’s work.”
Linda’s eyes opened wide. “I had no idea those grapes were worth that much” she said. “I’ll never have to work again”.
“Don’t be so sure” I said, “you are the boss, you will need a vineyard manager, but he will report to you. You have a lot to learn if you are going to run this property yourself. But I’ll be around to help out when I can.”
“Oh Brad” purred Linda in a soft, seductive voice, “In a matter of days I have gone from the depths of despair to the pinnacle of happiness. You’ve worked a miracle in my life. I can’t begin to describe how I feel about you.”
“Linda, there isn’t another place on this planet that I would rather be than here with you.”
Brad made a fire and they sat before the blaze sharing wine and kisses, then made love into the wee hours of the morning.
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