Looking for a community reaction quote regarding a high school basketball star, young reporter Bev Wikowski enters a local tavern. In a corner, the bulk of the patrons surround a bearded man who says he knows where the infamous hijacker DB Cooper buried his loot. Bev decides to keep her occupation secret and to listen, because–well, if it’s true, this is a story that would launch her career into the big-time.
If you missed part one, click here.
Only eight feet from the entry, an almost-empty bar stretched left and right in front of Bev. The place smelled like an ocean of beer fogged over with cigarette smoke and a slight breeze of whiskey. Two men parked on stools made no motion to assess who’d walked in. On the other side of the bar, a thirty-something cocktail waitress with slightly Asian features and shaggy brown hair glanced at her before lifting a tray of beers. She walked the length of the bar out the right side, where six people leaned forward around two pushed-together tables.
On the left side of the tavern was a pair of pool tables, one unplayed and the other scattered with a half-dozen balls, as through the game had been abandoned. Waylon Jennings was finishing a song on the jukebox—“How I love that Mississippi woman, but her heart does not belong to me”—but there was no one next to it poised with quarters.
Something had everyone’s attention over there against the wall where the waitress was distributing beers. As Waylon’s hollered lamentations ended in a fade-out, a man’s voice became audible where the group leaned forward, all men except for one young woman at the far end. The waitress set her empty serving tray on a table and joined them, squeezing next to a middle-aged man wearing a black velvet cowboy hat with a gold band. Another man, wearing a denim jacket, turned and teetered away from the group, shaking his head and exhaling smoke. Through the gap where he’d been standing, a man holding a cigarette sat with his back against the wall, facing the group. Dark hair hung to his shoulders. A black beard thick with corkscrew curls obscured most of his face and drooped to his chest.
None of the other men had hair like that. No one had a beard that long or shaggy.
At a place like this, men would pound the shit out of a man like that, and then they’d return to the pool table, twelve ball in the corner pocket, and what the fuck was that pansy-ass doing in here? They wouldn’t be listening as though one word away from hallelujah conversions.
Noticing her, long-hair nodded, as though she, too, belonged with the group.
Bev had learned not to fly into every crowd carrying a camera around her neck and waving a press pass. Muteness could strike like a sudden epidemic. Her journalist’s instinct recommended a low profile. She could get her basketball quote later.
She walked to the group and stood on the periphery, just behind the waitress’s left shoulder.
Long-hair turned his look to a short thin man with thick eyelashes and a cleft chin. “No,” said long-hair, exhaling smoke onto the table, where a large Forest Service map lay partially open, with a smaller topographic map next to it. “It’s not even close to where the FBI’s been looking.”
Cleft-chin placed his index finger in the middle of a large circle drawn on the Forest Service map.
“I’m not jumping out the door tomorrow morning to go bushwhacking with the likes of you after a bunch of money no one else could find.” He put a half-smoked cigarette in his mouth and turned away. “Buncha shit,” he muttered.
“Suit yourself,” said long-hair. “I can’t take all of you with me anyway. A group size of six to eight ought to get the job done.”
Bev took the spot left by the vacating man. “What job?” she asked.
Now everyone diverted attention her way, annoyance in their eyes.
Long-hair stood, set his cigarette on an ashtray, and leaned forward. Bev accepted his offer of a handshake.
“Name’s Andy O’Brien,” he said. “I’m here on behalf of the man people call DB Cooper. I know him, and I know approximately where he hid the money, because he told me.”
Bev’s heart quickened. That would be a hell of a story. Front page. Not just The Beacon, but The New York Times. In the next instant, reason stepped into her brain. This guy was probably a nut job.
Next week: Should she stay or should she go?