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Part TWENTYTWO – continued from last week’s episode –

Almost immediately after leaving a message, before he could return the phone to his pocket, the ringer jumped to life. It was Buzz Fishbeard returning his call. “Thank god for old friends, always.” Rusty thought.

Within the next half-hour the roar of a snowmobile could be heard, quickly followed by a knock on the fish house door. The two men briefly embraced, and then in silence Buzz offered Rusty a Rothman cigarette.

“No thanks… But man… I owe you big time” were Rusty’s first words. “You have no idea what I’ve got myself into.”

With one long drag on his cig… Buzz exhaled and stated without pause, “You were for sure the last person I thought I’d be hearing from tonight.”

“I’ll explain everything when we get back to my place,” Rusty replied.

The two-up Polaris passenger sled hummed as the men boarded simultaneously and strapped up for the ride to shore. Even in the dark of night it didn’t take long before Rusty realized they were NOT heading in the direction of his lakefront cottage.

Buzz had his hand wrapped around the throttle as they flew across the snow-covered terrain taking the tops off the powder. At a wide-open speed (more than 100mph) Rusty did not dare remove a single gripped finger from the stationary bars that keep him in sync with the motion of the sled.

The best he could do (or think of doing) was to knock the front of his helmet against the back of Buzz’s… But not knowing the end result he grimaced and decided to ride this one out. There was no safe way to bail from the snowmobile at this high rate of speed.

It was a historically hot Fourth of July, the summer after their senior year of high school, when Rusty and Buzz left main street after the mid-morning parade. They planned to meet up with some classmates at Butterfield’s rock quarry for an afternoon of swimming and sunbathing.

Buzz’s interests were much more peaked as he was secretly crushing on Ellie Waylayer. She was the most “fit” of the senior class girls and the hair on his arms tingled with the vision of her in a two-piece bikini soaking sun on a lime shelf. Rusty would have preferred they skip the crowd, to instead go walleye fishing, but he appeased his friend and reluctantly trailed along.

The quarry water was quite refreshing as Rusty found himself swinging from the treetop high rope and launching himself outward toward the sparkling depths below. Cruising around he politely paddled about, resting on his back, and shooting mouthfuls of water upward toward the piercing sun.

Suddenly, there was an alarming tug at his swim shorts. What… A snapping turtle?! He momentarily panicked remembering the incident with Scoops finger wrapped as bait on a barbed hook.

No… It was Ellie Waylayer who surfaced, grinning and wiping back long flowing blonde hair from her forehead. Staring into her incredibly blue eyes, for a moment Rusty thought he would sink.

Treading water, the two exchanged niceties and Rusty couldn’t help but notice she seemed a slight bit tipsy. This thought was encouraged when she proceeded to wrap her arms around Rusty’s neck, pull herself uncomfortably near (her embrace made his teeth chatter), and then dunk him half heartedly as they both went underwater together.

Rusty was freaking out! Never once had he been promiscuously approached by a female classmate, other than to be made fun of. And now here he was, with lingering legs wrapped around him, frolicking with Ellie Waylayer!

Meanwhile… Buzz glared down from a nearby rock shelf and then retreated down the path to his car spitting railroad spikes along the way. It would be a week before he spoke to his friend Rusty.

When Sally heard the faint jingling of keys turning the lock, she quickly moved to the door and placed her shoulder against the outward swinging entrance. As soon as the lock was removed, she schemed to turn the knob and go full force to fight her way out of this prison.

The next noise from outside the door was the ring of a cell phone. It rang repeatedly without an answer. Then there was a brisk snap, as what she envisioned was a lock that had again been closed. The following silence retracted the lump in her throat. Her pulse rate of a thousand beats per second descended from the mountain top.

Seconds later, still at the door, she heard the familiar sound of a snowmobile revving to life and then accelerating toward a faraway distance.

-To be continued –