Seamus Sullivan was a very large man with a crooked smile, gentle brown eyes and a short, tangled beard. He lived in a small house constructed of pre-fab logs that stood on a wooded plot just outside of town. For the area, it was a common enough looking house, with a brick chimney, double-paned windows and a wooden porch containing a wooden swing, two chairs and a bench.
From the outside, the house appeared to be no more than eight-hundred square feet but it contained a very large, very well appointed basement, originally built by moonshiners to hide their product. The basement was the feature that had most appealed to Seamus Sullivan when he purchased it, fifteen years before. He had a lot of fun in that basement.
For the past seven years, Seamus Sullivan had taken great pleasure in dressing up as Santa Claus and sitting on a makeshift throne at the local mall, surrounded by cotton snow and reindeers made from cardboard, while Christmas carols played softly from the overhead speakers. The local kids (the small ones, at least) would line up to sit on his lap, declare that they had been very good indeed and solemnly present him with their list of hoped for presents. Their parents would look on fondly, no doubt remembering their own long-ago days sitting on Santa’s lap, though a few of these would always frown, no doubt remembering that very few of the requested presents had made their way down the chimney.
Oh, well, let’s let the little rats cherish the illusion while they can.
Most of all, Seamus Sullivan liked the little girls in their party dresses. These, he would give a special smile and bounce a little on his knee, wonderfully aware of their soft cotton panties rubbing against his groin.
One or two of these would give him a doubtful little frown, at which he would let out a particularly large and merry, “Oh, ho, ho.”
None of them ever complained, which was good for them, because Seamus Sullivan was also keeping a list…
Richard Kurtz looked at the pile of luggage sitting on their apartment floor and gave his wife a doubtful frown. “You sure you have enough clothes? We’ll be there for six weeks. You might need more.”
“Hush, you.” Lenore tapped her lips with a pen, looked down at her list and then gave a small shrug. She grinned at Kurtz. “If I need more, I’ll buy them. They do have stores in West Virginia, don’t they?”
“One or two.”
“Then I think we’re ready to conquer the wilderness.”
Lenore was a city girl, through and through, but Kurtz, though he had grown comfortable over the years living in New York, and had even learned to enjoy it, still retained a lot of the country he had grown up in. He preferred jeans to a suit and he would rather spend time with a hunting rifle or a fishing rod than wandering through a museum.
He did like the food, though. You couldn’t find Jean-Georges or Daniel or Per Se in West Virginia, and God knew there was nothing like Chinatown.
The barbecue was better, though. He was looking forward to the barbecue.
Six hours later, after a limousine ride to LaGuardia and a stop-over at Dulles, their plane landed at Morgantown Municipal Airport. Kurtz sighed in relief as the plane touched down.
Lenore glanced up at him from her copy of Vogue. “Something bothering you?”
Morgantown’s runway was too small for the bigger passenger jets. The plane they had taken from Dulles was a Saab 340 turbo-prop, with a maximum passenger capacity of thirty-three.
Flying never bothered Lenore. Flying was the safest way to travel. Fewer than one death in seven-million. Nothing to worry about. Kurtz knew this, but to Kurtz, flying didn’t feel safe, not when the plane was barely larger than a coffin and swayed back and forth with every breeze.
Also, Kurtz was a surgeon and surgeons were pretty much all control freaks. Something about entrusting his life to another person did not sit well with Richard Kurtz…he repressed a shudder. How well trained was the pilot, anyway? Did he get a good night’s sleep? Is anything in his personal life distracting him from the job? Any history of alcoholism or drug abuse?
“No,” Kurtz said. “Not at all.”
Anyway, here they were, so forget it. Flight over, ground firm beneath his feet, just the way he liked it. He wriggled his toes. Firm.
Excerpt from If A Tree Falls by Robert I. Katz
No Longer Available
Do No Harm