13 - A Not So Chance Encounter

"When are you meeting with the cop who came to the house?" Lizzy queried her mother. She really didn't need to ask that question. Her mom had spent way more time getting ready this morning than usual. Eileen glanced at her daughter with a somewhat disapproving eye as she swung her car into a parking space in front of Amy's Diner. "Lizzy, you really need to stop eavesdropping on my phone calls, young lady," Eileen said mockingly. She knew very well her daughter did not need to eavesdrop on her phone calls. Lizzy always seemed to know what was going on in the Jankins household. That was plain enough today, as Lizzy gave her a smug eye-roll after she caught Eileen doing a quick check of her makeup in the car's rear-view mirror. 

"I'm glad you are, Mom. It sounds like he's trying to dig up some dirt on that lame sheriff. Besides, he's really cute, and I think he likes you." Eileen, blushing ever so slightly, replied, "You know, Lizzy, he is a very handsome man, more importantly, it doesn't seem right how your father died. If I can be helpful to his investig-" Lizzy cut her off. "I gotta go, Mom. Danny's been waiting for over an hour, and he keeps texting me every five minutes asking me where I am." "Ok, sweetie. Here's twenty bucks. Don't make Danny pay every time you guys eat out, and please, call me when you're on your way home," Eileen said as Lizzy opened the passenger door. "I'll call you when I’m on my way home Mom," Lizzy replied as she closed the car door and headed for the entrance to the café. 

Eileen drove away and turned onto State Route 95 towards John Jankins' clubhouse on Lake Havasu. She felt her heart pounding, and her mind began to race with anticipation. She had called the state trooper on the premise of providing more information, and Damian agreed to meet with her on his next day off. Eileen suggested they meet at the clubhouse because the last thing she wanted more scrutiny from her nosy neighbors. There had been a seemingly endless procession of news reporters knocking on the Jankins’ door since the USA Today was published, mentioning Barry’s name. The elder Jankins infrequently used the retreat to entertain out-of-town visitors to his Bagdad Mining Company. When Eileen and Barry were married, Barry couldn't stand the place, so Eileen used the retreat for years as a getaway for her and Lizzy. The secluded Spanish-style mini-villa was the perfect place to remain unseen. She was hopeful that was true today. 

Lizzy strode into the diner. The place was right out of a sixty's teen movie. The black and white checkerboard flooring always gave Lizzy a slight feeling of vertigo. The place smelled like pot roast or cinnamon rolls, both Amy's signature culinary delights - depending on the time of day. She noticed Danny sitting in the back booth in the "gunfighter position." At least that's what Danny called it. Wherever the two of them would go, Danny would always have to sit facing the entrance or doorway. Lizzy would tease him, "No bad guys are coming, Danny," but today, she wasn't in the mood to tease. No, today, she had more urgent matters to address. 

"Ok, so I get that we have important stuff to talk about, but did you need to text me every five minutes?" Lizzy barked, her eyes narrowing. "Sorry! I had another dream last night. My Nani was in the dream, and- "Lizzy cut Danny off as she placed her index finger across his lips. Then, she gave him a long, passionate kiss, which sent Danny back into the red leather padding of the cushion they now shared in the booth. "Wow! What's that for?" Danny exclaimed. "Just cause, I guess," Lizzy replied coyly. "You need to keep that kind of talk to a whisper Danny. Remember what we talked about?" 

"Ok, so tell me what your dream was all about, but first move over to the other side of the booth. I know you don't like having your back to the door, but sound travels in this place." Danny reluctantly agreed, but as he was moving, something caught Lizzy's eye. Two men were sitting at the end of the long counter that stretched nearly the entire length of the diner. The two men were having a somewhat animated conversation. They continually glanced back at Lizzy and Danny as they talked. 

"Well, in my dream, my Nani said that for many years, there'd been a great disturbance in the spirit world all along the "Great River." "Great River?" Lizzy asked. "I assume she was talking about the Colorado River," Danny replied. "There was once a great valley that my ancestors called their home. There were several spots they considered sacred lands, and all of it was covered over when they built dams on the river." 

Lizzy's eyebrows began to rise ever so slightly when she asked, "Danny, what does this have to do with what we saw in the desert the other night?" "Patience, my love, patience..." Danny replied as he gently grasped Lizzy's hands in his own. "My Nani said that an evil spirit was born out of the upheaval in the spirit world created by the destruction of so much of our sacred land. She said we should seek out this guy named Jack Willis. That's his white-man name. His Native American name is Yawaka, and he's the grandson of a great Northern Paiute shaman who was well-known to the people in my tribe." 

"Where do we find this guy?" Lizzy asked when she noticed one of the men at the counter motioning to his friend to come over and talk to us. "Hang on for a minute Danny. Something's happening here, and I'm not sure what." 

No sooner did Lizzy say that than one of the men, a person she thought she recognized, stood up and ambled over to them. "Hi! My name is Jess Gutierrez. I'm a reporter for the Parker Pioneer." "I remember you, Mr. Gutierrez. You wrote that article in the Pioneer about all of the accidents happening since my dad died. "Yep, that's me, and that's kind of why I came over to introduce myself," Gutierrez replied. "You're Lizzy Jankins? Barry Jankins daughter, right? he asked. 

Lizzy started to panic a little. She knew she would have to respond in the affirmative, but what was she going to say, or more importantly - not say, made for a long pause. "Ah, yes, I am. What's this all about Mr. Gutierrez?" she asked. "Please, call me Jess. Well. It's kind of a strange story, and since it's not my story, I think it should be told by the person it happened to," as he pointed over to his friend who was finishing up his third cup of coffee at the counter. "Do you mind if we join you?" Jess asked. Lizzy glanced at Danny, and he just shrugged. "Ok, sure, but none of this is going to be written up in a news article, or something, is it?" she asked. "No. No, absolutely not!" Jess exclaimed. "It's nothing like that," he added. The second man came over to the booth and introduced himself. "Hi, I'm Bud Granato." 

The four had just finished exchanging pleasantries when Lizzy looked sternly at Bud. "Ok. What is this story you need to tell me?" she asked. Bud's eyes quickly scanned the diner, then he replied, "Well... one night awhile back, I had this bizarre dream." Lizzy and Danny glanced briefly at each other after hearing "bizarre dream." "I mean, it was quite extraordinary. You know, one of those dreams where you know it's a dream, but it seems so real." Bud then began to relay the details of his dream. How this young man in the desert was trying to get his attention - crying out for help when this ugly-looking creature intervened and scared Bud so much he woke up in a cold sweat. As Bud was telling the story, Lizzy began to grasp Danny's arm under the table harder and harder until he finally Danny erupted, "Lizzy, stop! You're cutting off the circulation." That startled Bud. He asked if he should continue, and everyone enthusiastically nodded... Yes! 

"I think it might have been that day, or maybe the day after. I'm reading this article in USA Today. I noticed my old high school buddy Jess Gutierrez was the journalist on the story. He's talking about this weird stuff happening in the desert, and it's reminding me of the nightmare I just had." "For Christ's sake, Bud, get to the good part already!" Jess bellowed. "Alright, Alright. At any rate, I called Jess up not too long after that. One thing leads to another, and we get on the topic of the article in the newspaper. Then, get this! He tells me about when he drove up on an accident out on the I-10 near the Dome Rock Road exit not long after your dad's accident. One of the people involved in the accident kept talking about how some "invisible man" name Barry had forced his dad to drive off the road. Jess thinks it's a strange coincidence that a guy named Barry had been killed a few miles down the highway just a few days before." 

Jess chimed in, "Yes, I confess. I've always been a fan of the TV show The Twilight Zone. Anyway, that's what led me to write the article the way I did." Bud continued, "I don't know, but my intuition kicked in. I remembered my nightmare, and I asked Jess if he had a picture of this guy named Barry." Now, looking intently at Lizzy, Bud said, "He pointed me to the memorial site you created, and when I first saw the picture of your dad, I knew instantly it was the same guy I saw in my dream." Clearly, in an excited state now, Bud's voice was in a tone and a volume that made Lizzy uncomfortable. Danny, sensing Lizzy's extreme discomfort, leaned over the table and spoke very softly, "We believe you, Mr. Granato! I don't know why you're involved in this, but what you described in your dream is almost exactly what we experienced in real life a few nights ago out in the desert along the I-10 near the Dome Rock Road exit." 

Jess and Bud sat there for what seemed like an eternity. Unable to conjure up the appropriate next right thing to stay, Bud looked at Lizzy as if to say, "please say something!" Lizzy, picking up on this, spoke out softly so she wouldn't be overheard in the crowded diner. "Listen, guys! I don't know what all this means, but I know that my dad, in whatever "state of being" he is in right now, is in pain and needs my help. The terror he had in his eyes as that thing was chasing him. It was awful! Just awful!" Lizzy's eyes began to well up with tears when she suddenly steeled herself. "Look! I've never watched The Twilight Zone, and I never believed in ghosts, but I know what I saw the other night in the desert." She grasped Danny's hand, "Tell them about your dream Danny." 

Danny told Jess and Bud about his dream, what his Nani said about the evil spirit, and the suggestion to find Yawaka. "I think we should try to find Mr. Willis. The problem is, my Nani didn't tell me where to look," Danny said. "We're reporters," Jess said. "Finding people is part of what we do. Bud and I are going to do some research on this guy, and we'll get back with you." They exchanged phone numbers, then Bud and Jess walked out of the diner. As Bud got into Jess's car, he was hit with an overwhelming urge. "Damn! I need a drink, and like right now! Please, if there is a God, help me get through this for just one more day," he thought to himself. Just then, a peaceful calm came over him. One he had not had in quite some time. "You ok, buddy?" Jess asked. "Yeah, I'll be just fine," Bud replied as the two sped off to Jess's house to plan their next steps. 

Back in the diner, Lizzy turned to Danny, "It makes me really nervous, getting these total strangers involved in our business." "I hear what you're saying, Lizzy, but there has to be some explanation for why that Bud guy saw your dad in his dream. I mean - I think he's already been invited to this adventure." "Where do you think we'll find this Jack Willis person?" Lizzy asked. "I don't know, but I would bet he's somewhere up on the Res near Lake Havasu," Danny replied. 

To be continued...

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