Why had Uncle Brewin wanted to see her calendar? At the risk of seeming unkind, it wasn’t like his social calendar was packed. And when he had her get the water, asked about the toothbrush… in retrospect those felt like stalling tactics, to allow Brewin more time with her phone.
Heavy rain had pounded Sam’s cruiser, thunder barreling overhead as she had sat in a church parking lot, considering…
And so she had checked her phone. Nothing seemed amiss until she went into her search history and found that Brewin had looked up a calendar other than the email one she had pulled up for him.
A lunar calendar.
Had he been looking to see if there was an eclipse due any time soon? Sam had thought of that herself and researched it. There was nothing for several months. And if that was what Brewin was looking up, why would he do it secretly?
Did the lunar calendar hold some other significance?
After a fairly uneventful shift—one of the biggest thunderstorms of the year had blown through and lasted most of the night—Sam had lain awake at home, her mind a ceaseless hive of activity. The questions crowding her brain were like a series of doors; for every one she opened, two more lay behind. It was dizzying. Hours later she became too tired to focus. Finally she had given in and taken sleeping pills, which had mercifully plunged her into a dreamless sleep.
She had barely awoken to the alarm. After rushing through her post wake-up routine she was now pulling into what used to be Henry’s Garage.
When she had gone to work yesterday, she had parked nose-in to the spot. As far as she knew, no one there had noticed the damaged windshield. She figured if anyone asked she’d say a rock hit it. She was thankful so far that she hadn’t had to lie.
Henry’s Garage was situated across the street from a large lumber yard. It was a small, standalone shop with living quarters over the garage. Sam came to a stop just outside the open service bay and exited her car. Thick smells of grease and oil engulfed her as she entered the shop floor.
There was an old Chevy pickup off to one side, its hood up; clanging sounds rang out from behind it.
“Hello?” Sam called.
The noises stopped and a tall, lean man wearing dirty coveralls stepped out from the front of the truck, wiping his hands on a rag. He approached, and the closer he came, the more Sam liked what she was seeing. A wide smile eased across his face as he said “Hi.”
“—Samantha,” she finished, but the mechanic wasn’t looking at her anymore. His gaze had wandered over to the Mustang. Sam didn’t mind, as it gave her a moment to take in more of his features: light green eyes, high, smooth cheekbones, five o’clock shadow on an angular jaw, perfectly messy hair and a nose that looked as if it had been broken once or twice… a feature that only added to his appeal. The name above his left breast pocket read “Elias.”
“That’s a beautiful machine,” he said, his eyes returning to hers, staying locked on her this time. “Beautiful,” he repeated.
Was that a line? Is this guy flirting? Sam flushed slightly. “It was my Dad’s,” she said, feeling slightly self-conscious about her appearance: no makeup, hair pulled back in a sloppy tail, jeans, sweater and jacket…
“What happened to the windshield?” Elias asked as he walked over to a nearby wall-mounted wash station. He put his rag to the side, rolled up his sleeves, squirted some strong-smelling soap and began scrubbing his hands thoroughly under the water.
“Rock,” Sam said.
“Huh,” the man replied. He shut off the water and turned back, using the rag to dry off. There were tattoos covering both his arms—a cross, crown of thorns and angel on the left side, doves on the other, flocking around Jesus on the cross.
Sam was surprised to realize that she was just a bit disappointed. This guy was obviously very religious. And she… well, she wasn’t. Still, she found herself wondering what other tattoos he might have, and where. She heard Kathy’s voice barge into her head, a variation on what she had said before:
Couldn’t hurt to peek under the hood.
Sam shook her head. Thanks for that, mom. The mechanic tossed the rag onto a rolling toolbox, and then extended his right hand. Sam took it. His grip was firm and she returned it in kind. “Nice to meet you Samantha,” he said.
“You as well, Elias.”
Glancing down at his name patch, Elias smiled.
“So, what would I be looking at for a new windshield?” Sam asked.
“Let me get you an estimate. What year is it, 76?” Elias asked as he walked through a doorway into the shop’s adjoining office. “Yeah,” Sam called back.
She took a moment to look around. There was a simple wooden cross on the back wall, and next to it, a clock—a fancy kind, with a missing face so you could see the gears and gaskets that comprised its insides. It felt wholly out of place amongst the fan belts and hoses and oil cans. Maybe it held some emotional significance… or maybe this guy just really likes clocks. To the right of the clock was a calendar, the top half of which was a photo of snow-capped Mount Rainier. The calendar reminded her of Uncle Brewin and the lunar calendar he had pulled up on her phone.
Before taking sleeping pills the night before, a fair amount of her time had been dedicated to considering the best way to tell Brewin of her suspicions… that he knew something about “eclipse.” Considering the old man’s health, it was a delicate matter to say the least.
Even as she considered this, her cell phone rang. She pulled it out and answered.
“This is Cain.”
At first the only response was a drawn-out, hacking cough. Then Brewin’s raspy voice said: “Hey Sunbeam…. Just wanted to let you know, well… I guess the good news is I’m gettin’ discharged today.”
“That’s great,” Sam said. “But there’s bad news?”
“Ah, gonna have a nurse around for a while, just to keep an eye on me.”
If he was getting in-home nursing care, that meant Brewin’s situation was deteriorating. Sam’s heart ached for him. “Hey,” he continued, “you said you might stop by. Could you do that, tomorrow?”
“You bet. How about mid-afternoon? Three o’clock?”
After another fit of coughing, Brewin said “Perfect, kiddo. I’ll see you then.”
They said their goodbyes and ended the call. Brewin seemed eager to talk to Sam, making her wonder if he might be intending to confide whatever it was he knew about eclipse. Maybe she wouldn’t have to worry about bringing it up after all.
Just then Elias returned and handed her a sheet of paper. She took a look at the estimate. It wasn’t a small amount, but it wouldn’t break the bank, either.
“Insurance might cover it,” Elias said. “Worth double checking.”
“I’ll do that,” Sam said, letting her eyes remain on his. Finally she said “Well, thanks,” and began walking back to her car. “I’ll be in touch.”
“You do that,” Elias said, smiling. He leaned against the entryway. “Drive safe. Try to avoid any more rocks.” That smile turned to a knowing grin that both piqued Sam’s interest… and slightly unsettled her.