Never Judge a Book – Part Two
I dropped my briefcase on the floor of the large lobby. Dave placed my overnight bag beside it. “I think it used to be a lodge of some kind,” he said as I stared at the huge fireplace. If it had been a lodge that was years ago. Even though the fire was inviting, I could tell that the rug was worn and the walls hadn’t been painted for many years. But it was warm and there was a roof and hopefully there was food.
An older woman behind a mahogany desk smiled up at us. “Honeymoon cabin?” she said.
I could feel my face get hot with embarrassment. “Uh, no,” I stammered.
“No, two rooms or cabins,” Dave said.
“We have two rooms in the lodge itself,” she said. “That might be more comfortable for you.”
Dave looked at me and I nodded. I was ready to lie down in front of the fireplace like a cat.
I realized that he had carried my overnight bag while also carrying what looked like saddlebags. “Thanks for carrying my bag,” I said. I nodded to the saddlebags. “Those look heavy.”
“Just some books I’m readin’,” he said while filling out the paper for checking in.
Ohhhh-kay. The trucker was a reader.
“And a change of jockeys,” he added as he turned around smiling. I felt myself blush again.
What the hell, I thought. Get it together, Amanda. He’s a truck driver. He may be a cute truck driver. But he’s still a truck driver. Girl, you need someone like, well, like Damon Franklin.
I went up to the counter and filled out the registration, handing the woman my credit card. She swiped it and gave it back to me. My stomach grumbled and I hoped I was the only one that heard it.
Obviously not because the desk clerk nodded to the small coffee shop next to the fireplace. “My husband’s over there. He can rustle you up something to eat while you unpack in your rooms.”
Wife at the desk and husband cooking. Nice change, I thought as I walked over to another mahogany counter. This must have been a bar and someone had turned it into a short-order kitchen.
The older man had a round, pleasant face and bright blue eyes. “I’ve got a big pot of stew simmering right now,” he said as we walked over. “When Em and I bought this place–what is it, Em–forty years ago now? When we bought this place, this was a down in the luck nightclub or what they call around here, a honky-tonk. We built the cabins in the back. That was the thing then. I decided food was more important than booze. And well…then the big restaurants moved in when the exit was built. Now we don’t get much call for eats.”
“Charlie, they don’t want to hear our life story. They’re cold and hungry.”
“Yeah, Emmie. I know. I know,” he said to his wife with a grin. Then he turned to us. “Just was listening to the weather. They’re finally predicting this here blizzard.” Then he laughed. “They say it could go on for at least one more day since it’s stalled over Lake Erie. Maybe getting close to three feet of it.”
“Great,” I moaned.
“Ah, don’t worry,” Charlie said still smiling. “We’ve survived lots of storms. We got wood for heat and cooking food. Heck, we can even put the refrigerator stuff out in the snow if the electric goes out. But we also have a gas generator. So we’ll survive.”
I tried to look on the bright side. I could be stuck in a cold car, running the engine to keep warm and possibly dying of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Suddenly my cell phone sounded. Noticing the name of my managing editor on the screen, I turned away from Dave and Charlie to answer it.
“Thank God!” His voice boomed over the phone when he heard my voice. “You’re okay.”
“Yes, I’m okay. The snow was getting too deep so I pulled off on an exit…”
He didn’t let me finish. He was already on to the reason for his call, a news story. “Forget the damn groundhog. There’s a major car pileup on Route 80. And the traffic back-up is at least twenty miles. Is there any way you can get there? No one knows how many cars are involved in the crash or crashes.”
That must have been the pileup that had made Dave get off on my exit. “My car’s in a snow bank. It’s not moving anywhere until I get a tow truck…”
My editor swore. “And all the tows will be at the pileup when the plows clear the road.”
“The weather report’s not good. This may continue through tomorrow. It’s getting dark. There’s nothing I can do now. I’ll try to think of something in the morning and give you a call.”
He said that would be fine, to email a story if I could and to stay safe. I sighed, knowing the story came first.
I put my phone away and Em walked over. She gave a key to Dave and one to me.
“Thanks,” I said. “I think I’ll go upstairs and soak in a hot tub.”
“Me, too,” Dave said. “A different tub, ‘though,” he quickly added.
I could hear the old man’s stifled chuckle as I hoisted my computer bag strap over one shoulder and picked up my overnight bag. I headed to the wide stairway. I definitely needed a long, hot soak. And to do some research. I needed to know how far I was from Punxsutawney and Damon Franklin.
I hadn’t forgotten my real reason for the trek through the snow.