Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 18
The leather bucket seat hugged Lin’s body perfectly. She had a slightly smaller build than Tiger Lily, but the seat molded to her body with warm comfort. The leather-bound steering wheel, being that Tiger Lily was taller, had to be adjusted down and the seat forward. Other than that, Lin was in heaven.
“Here’s the key.”
Tiger Lily handed the key to Lin, which she placed in the ignition and took a small breath. She’d ridden in a car before, but she’d not left her house in over a year. She didn’t really have any reason to. Her stomach danced as she turned the key. A ding went off and repeated.
“Buckle up. It won’t stop until you do.”
Lin giggled and put the seat belt on. She gripped the wheel and looked out the windshield, overtaken by excitement. She felt like a ten-year-old about to go on her first roller coaster, except she was the one in control, not gravity.
“Grab this in the middle, press the button on top, and move it to R. That’s for reverse. Then look out the back window and take your foot off the brake.”
Lin gulped and moved the shifter to reverse and let her foot off the brake. The car started to slowly roll backward. She gasped and swung her arm around to look out the back window. She smacked Tiger Lily in the arm.
“Oh! I’m sorry.” She reached over with both hands to make sure she was alright.
“I’m fine, just grab the wheel before we hit something!”
Lin smashed her foot down on the brake and the car lurched to a stop, pushing them both back into the seats, then forward.
Tiger Lily laughed. “I’m glad we were only going a couple miles per hour.”
Lin giggle nervously. “What do I do next?”
“Well, you still need to back out so we can head up to the road.”
Tiger Lily kept on giving Lin basic instructions on driving and after a trip around the trailer park, they finally made it up toward the road. Lin was fascinated by the orange on black of the control panel and how everything seemed to have its own inner light to brighten up the dashboard. Tiger Lily put on some Ministry, a CD she had in the deck, and turned the volume down so they could still talk.
Once Lin had a good grasp of turning, brakes, and acceleration, they headed toward the road.
“I’m glad this is an automatic. I don’t think I could drive a stick shift.”
“Oh, it’s really not that tough. I prefer automatic, but manual transmission isn’t any big deal to learn. Just one extra pedal to worry about. Go ahead and nudge your way up to the road here and let’s make sure no one is coming.”
There was a little trouble with getting up the small hill to the road, as Lin kept taking her foot off the gas and the car would stop itself on the hill. She’d step on the gas, but that’d spray rocks and she’d get nervous and hit the brakes again.
“It’s okay, it’s okay. Just ease down on the gas so the tires don’t slip. If you stomp on the gas too hard you’ll spin the tires and go nowhere. There you go, easy now. See? You’re getting the hang of this. It’s easy as can be.”
Tiger Lily patted Lin on the thigh. This touching didn’t bother Lin as it might have before she’d told Tiger Lily how she felt. It was so strange being so near her. They’d had so many conversations and shared so many thoughts, but actually being in a car with her in such close proximity felt comfortable. This must be what it’s like to have a sister who’s there to help you along and teach you things. Lin smiled as she gently pushed down on the gas pedal and approached the top of the hill. Once again she had to stomp on the brake as she looked up and saw Sam in the middle of the road. He’d obviously seen them and was walking up alongside the car. He cocked his head to the side with a look of curiosity, and motioned for her to roll the window down.
“Can we trust him?” Tiger Lily’s tone had gone flat and dead.
“Oh, this is just Sam. He’s a good guy. He helped me with my trailer and stuff. We can trust him.”
Lin fumbled around the console trying to figure out how to put the window down. Tiger Lily reached across and put the window down, then turned down the stereo.
“Hi Lin. Nice car. I didn’t know you could drive.”
“Hi Sam. I can’t. This is Tiger Lily. She’s teaching me.”
Sam looked inside at Tiger Lily. “I don’t know you.”
“Lin and I work together.”
“Work? Lin, I thought you said you were retired or something like that.”
Lin flushed, caught in her little lie she’d told Sam. She was officially retired, but still worked for the government. “Well, you see, I’ve got a contract and I don’t really work as much as just monitor from time to time. That’s all.”
Sam looked dubious. He was such a nice guy; she hated to lie to him.
“Well, if you say so. Maybe later I can talk to you.”
“Well, I’d rather not say,” Sam said and motioned with his head to Tiger Lily.
Lin looked at her and back at Sam. “Oh! Anything you want to ask me you can ask in front of her. I trust her completely.”
Again Sam didn’t look as if he fully believed her. Still, he said, “Well, I know you’ve got cameras. I mean, I’ve seen them, and I don’t know anyone else here in the park that would have the knowledge or desire to use them. I’m guessing whatever you put in your basement is worth protecting. So I was curious if you keep records.”
Tiger Lily put her hand on Lin’s arm, as if to restrain her from talking. It worked.
“Why, Sam?” Tiger Lily asked.
“Something strange happened last night, when I went for a walk. I saw the light on at Lin’s place and I’m guessing you two were up and might have thought to check the cameras to see what had happened.”
“You were outside?” Lin asked incredulously. She couldn’t imagine someone being out of their trailer when that change happened. “What was it like?”
“I can tell you later, I just need to know if you got it on tape. That detective and museum lady don’t believe me. I feel like I need some kind of proof to show them. So?”
Lin looked at the steering wheel. Sam was far more perceptive than she’d ever given him credit for. That changed a lot. How much did he know that he wasn’t letting on?
She looked across the road. A tall, thin, balding man stood with a mousy looking woman with a coat and a microphone. It looked like a bad news report in the middle of nowhere.
“What? Oh, the video files. Well, we’re about to go out for a little while. I guess I can show them to you when we get back.”
“Sam, I’ll tell you now, I’ve got a video of it.”
He looked hopeful.
“Everything, that is, regarding the change, and it’s not just last night it happened. I’ve got that, but I don’t have what happened to Casper.”
Tiger Lily squeezed Lin’s arm. She turned and looked hard at her. She eased her grip, but shook her head slightly.
“I’ve got to show him.”
“Lin, you can’t. You can’t allow him into your house.”
“It’s not a place for,” Tiger Lily leaned in. “civilians.”
“This is Sam. This is different.”
“No!” Tiger Lily snapped at Sam who looked as if he’d been slapped.
“Tiger Lily! You can’t say that.”
“This isn’t a place he should be allowed to go.”
“And why not?”
Again Tiger Lily leaned in. “It’s a government installation.”
“It’s my home and Sam helped me setting it up.”
Tiger Lily sighed.
“He might be able to help us.” Lin turned back to Sam. “Should I call you when we get back?”
“Thanks Lin. You’re a good person.” Sam smiled weakly and then frowned at Tiger Lily. He straightened up and walked off.
Lin put the car window back up. “That wasn’t very nice. Sam is one of the few people in this park who’ve been nice to me.”
“Well, I didn’t know that and I still don’t care if he’s nice or not, he doesn’t belong in your house.”
Tiger Lily looked out the window for a moment, then back at Lin. “He just doesn’t.”
“Well, we’re going to help him and hopefully he’ll be able to help us. He found the body and everything. Maybe there’s something else we’re missing that he can help us fill in the details with. Obviously we don’t have the full picture and need help.”
“But after tonight we’ll have a lot more information and we may not need him.”
“That doesn’t mean I need to be rude to him. I can easily burn him a DVD of the woods changing and that’ll be that.”
“And what happens when he shows that DVD to the police and they come to you with a subpoena for everything else? They’re not going to be content with a DVD you burned. They’re going to want everything. They’re going to want to search all the files and will even want to know what we know, and who knows how deep they’ll try to dig. Lin, didn’t you even think this through?”
“I did,” Lin lied.
“Then how do you plan to get out of this one? Aw, crap. We’re going to have to pull rank on these yokel cops and keep them out of our hair, or you’re going to have to deny Sam that DVD. Maybe you can get some information from him, but we can’t give him anything, do you understand? We can’t have the police involved.”
Lin felt so stupid that she almost started to cry. Everything in the past few days had started falling apart. This wasn’t the way things were supposed to go. Tiger Lily went from being a big sister to being a big pain in the ass. Lin wanted to yell, to scream, to tell Tiger Lily she was wrong.
But she wasn’t wrong. Lin hadn’t thought things through as much as she should have. She lowered her head, feeling quite dejected. “I’m sorry.” She wanted to cry.
“Lin,” Tiger Lily put the car in park and leaned over and hugged Lin. This time Lin returned the hug and it felt good. “I’m sorry too. I didn’t mean to scold you. I’m just trying to protect you. I know you’ve been on your own for a long time and you can take care of yourself, but this is a situation.” Tiger Lily let go of the hug and settled into her seat. “It’s a situation we’ll deal with once you know how to drive this car.” She squeezed Lin’s leg. Lin smiled and patted Tiger Lily’s hand.
Lin looked both ways on the highway and, since there were no cars in sight, slowly pulled out. The two people across the street watched as they left. The man wrote something down on the notepad.