Victor & Hugo, Part Seven

It only looks like I’m a writing maniac today. I posted this before. This is just another chapter reorganization of Victor & Hugo.


Larry left the office and headed home as soon as he picked up his cousin’s message. He wanted to return the call in privacy.

“Jesus Mike, you guys really think it’s old Vic?”

Deputy Garrett laughed, “Wouldn’t it be a helluva thing if it was? Shit.” He continued, “Of course we won’t know for sure until forensics does the voodoo they do so well, but damn. Ya know?”

First cousins through their mothers, Larry and Mike were as close as two people could be. They were born ten days apart and raised within a couple of blocks of each other. People always said they were more like twins than cousins. It was clear their bond ran deep.

As kids, Larry was the “pip-squeak,” as he was sometimes called, and Mike was the strong and sure athlete. At school, Mike hung with the jocks and popular bunch of kids, and Larry with the more bookish crowd, but after school and on weekends, the boys were practically inseparable. Mike would never let anybody get away with teasing Larry, and Larry made sure Mike always had better grades than the rest of his friends, even if it meant letting him cheat from his tests, or copy his homework. Mike stayed put in Rocksberg after high school, living in Boise only for as long as it took to get his law enforcement training, while Larry went away to college in Pullman, and then graduate school at University of Washington.

When Larry came back to Rocksberg with his wife and new baby, and this crazy idea to start an environmental preservation nonprofit agency, Mike was the first in both their families to contribute money and help organize fundraisers. The agency grew and did well, but Larry’s marriage did not. Mike was the only one who came around to bolster Larry up when his wife won full custody of their children and moved back to Seattle. Larry returned in-kind when Mike’s middle child was hospitalized with a mysterious malady, looking like the little guy wouldn’t pull through. The child recovered, and Larry stayed by his cousin’s side through the whole ordeal, helping to wrangle doctors, nurses, and untangle the tangled web of HMO policies, and hospital administration. There was nothing these two men faced in their lives that the other was not there to help see through. In between, there was a lot of laughs and many weekends away fishing.

“How do they check DNA on a century-old skeleton?” Larry asked Mike.

“Oh, well,” Mike sighed, “all they need is DNA samples from living relatives. Then they check against any DNA they can scrape from the bones, and bingo! It matches, or it don’t.”

“From 100-plus year-old bones.”

“Apparently.”

“Jesus Mike,” Larry repeated, “what kind of shit storm will that turn out to be?”

“You’re tellin’ me. Well, at least you and yours will get what you went lookin’ to find.”

“Yeah. I suppose. I don’t know. ”

The last thing Larry wanted was his agency, for which he’d sacrificed everything he ever had to keep afloat, including his wife and kids, getting embroiled in a legal fight over the oldest and most contentious conflict his hometown had ever known. He had many eager and hardworking volunteers, as well as the support of most local politicians, all aligned behind the agency’s mission. Being a part of the old land dispute would be considered by most to be a conflict of interest. Larry avoided detection by the simple fact his family tie was through his mother back to Eliza Thomas. It had been generations since the name Samuels had shown up on any of his family’s birth certificates. Truth was Larry was actually more closely related to the Basque community than anything else, which went a long way in his credibility as an environmental advocate. Only a couple of people with the historical society knew Larry was a descendant of Victor Samuels, and he preferred to keep it that way. Once it was broadly known he was a Samuels, his organization’s hard-won position as a leader in environmental advocacy for the inland Northwest would be shot.

Nevertheless, Larry couldn’t help but wonder what any of the families would do with the land, now that it looked like the ownership matter was finally going to be settled. Depending who ultimately ended up with Ol’ Vic’s claim, what would happen to it was anybody’s guess. He could only hope it ended up a gift from the heavens; leaving it wild and unoccupied. Or it could be a complete disaster, not just for Rocksberg, but for the entire Sawtooth region.

If the Samuels ended up with the ownership, then Larry knew he’d have a hard fight in front of him to maintain it as it had always been. His family had never been all that supportive of his environmental endeavors. They already thought of him as a traitor for even considering turning the land into a preserve, or turning it over to the National Parks program. From Catherine and on down to the current generation, all the Samuels ever wanted was to be able to move back onto the land and use its resources to provide the family with an income.

If the Garretts end up with it…Well, that prospect had always been hard to imagine. Their claim was always a bit dicey. But, if Mike was right, and the forensic people can do this DNA test, then it could be proved once and for all whether the Garretts are related to Old Vic or not. With the exception of Mike, Larry wasn’t sure any of the Garretts ever thought much of doing anything with the land, other than to have a stake in a claim they believed to be rightfully theirs.

And then there were the Davenports. Most of them had moved out of the area long ago, but they still had their hooks in the fight. God, Larry thought. They’ll probably want to turn the place into a goddamned Disneyland north; some sort of sprawling resort to rival Sun Valley.

But, first things first, he thought. When Charlene and Hugo get in the next morning, he’d have to let them in on his little secret. From there on out, he’d just have to take it one step at a time.


 

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