Read London Harmony: The Pike Online
Authors: Erik Schubach
By Erik Schubach
P.O. Box 523
Nine Mile Falls, WA 99026
Cover Photo © 2016 Yurka Immortal / NRT / ShutterStock.com license
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author / publisher, except by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection with a review written for inclusion in a magazine, newspaper, blog, or broadcast.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Manufactured in the United States of America
I poked Nessie in the arm as she sat on the corner of my desk on top of the contract she was sitting on that I needed, and said, “Poke.”
She grinned as she fiddled with her iPhone, queuing up more music from the server to evaluate for potential prospects for London Harmony to sign.
I loved my record label almost as much as the playfully wicked woman who was purposefully distracting me as I went through the paperwork our office manager and partner, Zilrita, had dropped off for me earlier that day.
I poked Vannie in the ribs, this time, causing her to squirm; I knew her weaknesses. “Poke.”
She rolled her eyes and grinned as she slowly turned to me and said, “Saying poke after you have already poked someone is sort of unnecessary, June.”
I grinned back. “But I like to narrate my life. Case in point.” I leaned in to where our lips were a fraction of an inch apart and whispered, “Then June kissed the object of her affection.” Her scent was driving me crazy and making it hard to concentrate on work.
She grinned back and then looked deep into my eyes to where she said the music played. A lot of the uncertainty and manic fear of losing her grasp on reality was gone from her amazing crystalline blue eyes which always looked like colored contacts to me.
The new drugs that her doctors had switched her to, to control her psychotic schizophrenia are doing much better than the other meds they had her on. It took a while for her system to adjust to them but once they did, she says she feels much more like herself and doesn't feel as afraid that she isn't imagining things like before.
She smiled at the direction my new narration was heading and she closed the gap to where our lips barely brushed as she breathed out heavily, “Is that so?”
The little smirk on her lips and her hot breath on my face were about to do me in with her teasing.
I was about to cave and instigate the kiss when my desk phone started ringing and we jumped in startled surprise, my full attention had been so intent on my wife that the outside interruption set my heart beating fast. I hissed, “Damn.”
Her blue eyes sparkled and she leaned in really quick. “Mwah!” she said as she gave me a peck on the lips. Then she hopped off my desk and headed toward the door, swaying her hips exaggeratedly for me. Grr.
I grinned and grabbed my phone. “Hello, this is June.”
Vanessa paused at the door when I repeated, “McKenzie Meyers?” McKenzie was the definition of a hero in my book and just about everyone elses.
The woman had served in the US military and given all, including one of her arms and legs to helping to stop injustice in the world. She received the Congressional Medal of Honor for her sacrifice, my mom had been the congresswoman who awarded it to her.
McKenzie was also the granddaughter of a friend of the family, Mrs. Zatta, who owned a phenomenal bakery slash cafe at Pike Place Market in Seattle called the Pike.
We would frequent the Pike for the amazing cuisine whenever our family was in Seattle. I was a regular when I had moved up from Vancouver to Seattle for a time before coming to London.
I had never had the pleasure of meeting her granddaughter. I smiled as I said, “To what do I owe the honor?”
My face fell and my good mood rapidly drifted away from me, like it was stripped away in a stiff breeze, pulled by an inexorable force. I nodded to myself and said in a hoarse voice, “Oh... I see.”
I straightened and glanced at Vannie, who had a concerned look on her face. I said, “Yes of course. We'll be there.”
I nodded into space again. “Thank you, you too. Goodbye.”
I held onto the receiver for a moment looking at it then up at my girl and said, “Have Frannie pack her things, we're going to Seattle.”
We packed light, even though I knew we'd most likely stay a week or two so that we'd have time to visit with family while we were back in the States. To Fran, packing lightly meant trying to figure out how to stuff her girlfriend, Tasha into a suitcase, until I told her we had four tickets.
We put Zilrita and Jen in charge of the fort at work. Zil had rubbed her hands together and said in a silly voice, “Excellent.”
But there is nobody who can run London Harmony in my absence like her. Our resident smiling Goth worked harder than any other three workers and basically ran the place even when I was there.
Zil collected her Squid Hug toll from each of us after she and Jennifer drove us to London Heathrow to catch our flight. She squished me and swung me side to side saying, “Love you. See you, ladies, when you get back.”
I smiled back and said, “Love you too.”
Though the reason for our trip was grim, there was also an anticipation I always felt when going back... home. I didn't visit as much as I would like, just a week or two each year, and my family visited London as frequently as mom's congressional schedule would allow.
I had to grin at Natasha, the way she was excitedly holding Fran's hand. She had never traveled across the pond to the America's so this was a new experience for her.
After our business in Seattle had been concluded, I knew that Fran would most likely use the opportunity to visit with her partners in the SmartCanvas 3 project, Tim Phearson and Brandye Franklin.
We settled in on the plane, I'd have to scold Zilrita later, for booking us on a nonstop flight in the First Class section, we didn't need to waste money like that. I grinned knowing she'd just get all cute and shrug at me then ignore me.
As we took to the sky, I looked out the window past Vanessa and contemplated the call from McKenzie.
When we touched down and made it through customs, and congratulated Tasha for surviving the auspicious event of walking across the line painted on the floor of the SeaTac Airport that announced she had entered the United States of America.
I cringed when one girl we passed recognized my face and went into all out fan mode squealing and asking for J8's autograph. In some ways I wish I was still anonymous, then I could move around without anyone knowing who I was.
She was almost hyperventilating. “I have all of your records!”
I smiled at her and the feeding frenzy began. Her outburst had drawn people in and I gave out signatures as my evil wife just grinned like a loon, Fran was covering her mouth to hide her smile too. I'll get them back later.
After things had broken up, I grinned as we retrieved our luggage from baggage claim and saw a welcome sight. Two women standing nearby with smug grins on their faces and holding up signs that read, “Crazy woman and friends.”
I couldn't help the smile that threatened to split my face as I stepped up quickly and gave my two old friends hugs. I said, “As I live and breathe, if it isn't Hank and A.J.”
I met Samantha Roth and Abbey Jacobs back in college and they became part of the tight-knit group of friends that I got into mischief with. The other students called us and our friends, June's Eight. Some of the shenanigans we got into at the New York Art Academy are still being talked about in hushed tones.
They gave Nessie and Fran hugs as well, then Fran pulled Tasha up to them by a hand and made the introductions, “Natasha, this is Samantha Roth.” She paused allowing her girl to pick up on visual cues she could use to identify Sammie later. Being face blind, Natasha needs to find other unique things about each person to recognize who they are.
Then she turned to A.J. And said, “And this is Abbey Jacobs. They are friends of the family.”
She shook each of their hands. “It's a pleasure to meet both of you. Frannie has told me some... interesting things about you.”
They chuckled at that and I asked, “What are you two doing here?”
Abbey sobered and said in an almost monotone voice, showing her sadness at the news, “McKenzie told us you were coming. It would be asinine for you to stay at a hotel until you get a chance to head down to Vancouver, we have plenty of room at the cabin.”
I almost snorted. Their 'cabin' was a huge river property on the southern end of Issaquah, with enough room for a small army. I grinned at the women. “We accept.”
Abbey narrowed her eyes, which were so amber they almost looked orange to me, then said to Sammie. “Notice the tone, the wench is not surprised.”
Samantha cutely narrowed her eyes too and examined me then grinned as she asked, “Zil didn't book a hotel did she?”
I blushed, gave an apologetic smile while I shook my head, as I admitted, “I was kinda, sorta, going to ask you, ladies, when we got into town.”
This set them off into fits of laughter. Then Abbey looked down at me and said seriously, “Of course, like we'd turn you away. We love you lady.”
I felt a familiar pang at that. The one you get when you desperately miss friends so close that you knew every little secret about each other and could pick up a conversation even after being separated by thousands of miles and months or years like you had just spoken before lunch.
Samantha added as we started dragging our suitcases behind as we followed them, “We need to make a quick pit stop before home. McKenzie wanted to see you when you got here.”
I paused then nodded.
Nessie said, “Of course.”
We loaded up onto a large black SUV that would make the Secret Service proud. Then we caught up with current goings on from either side of the world as Abbey deftly navigated us through Seattle then North across the floating bridge. We were getting close to Issaquah where the girls lived and I was going to ask when they turned off and pulled us into a rare rural subdivision just past Bellevue and Eastgate.
I spent a good portion of my life in the Vancouver and Seattle area and I hadn't known this area had existed. It was rare to find such rural pockets hiding between cities on the west coast of Washington. I really liked the feel of it.
We pulled into a long drive and came upon a cute little rancher house with a huge arena looming behind it with a sign that read “Meyers Trick Riding Stable.”
Abbey looked at the clock on the dashboard and then pulled past the house to the arena and parked. I asked, “So, what is she like? I've never had the pleasure.”
Samantha said with iron clad surety, “Everything you would expect, and more.”
I smiled and nodded. I doubted the woman could live up to what I have built her up in my mind, I had this thing about heroes, though not as severely as Kimi Solomon did.
I learned quickly just how wrong I was.
The girls led our little group into the arena. We went past an office, and some other rooms down a hall, and emerged under a small set of bleachers by sand and sawdust-floored indoor arena like you would see at a rodeo.
In the center of the arena were some young men and women watching a lady who was on a well-groomed mare jumping off her saddle, her feet hitting the ground and bounding back up over the saddle to bound off the ground on the other side. Then doing a twist on the rebound to land backward in her saddle.
Her flannel shirt was rolled up in the heat of the summer day, and I blinked at the prosthetic arm that didn't seem to slow the woman down in the least. My eyes went to the woman's legs. I couldn't tell with her heavy denim jeans and cowboy boots on, but I was sure that this woman had to be McKenzie Meyers and one of her legs was prosthetic as well. The military tattoo on her one muscular bicep sealed it for me.
She prompted one of the other riders and instructed them when they failed in the remount. I got lost in the spectacle. McKenzie sat tall in the saddle with strength and confidence not many had. She seemed to move instinctively on the horse like they were one and the same, and that made her trick riding look that much more effortless.
A voice with a decidedly southern lilt to it said from beside me. “Mah sugar certainly is something isn't she?”
I blinked as I looked over to the tiny redheaded woman standing next to me. I hadn't even noticed her walk up to lean on the rail we were standing in front of.
She was dressed in a white tee with a larger flannel shirt tied at her belly and the sleeves rolled up so it didn't hang on her like a dress. She was in denim jeans and cowboy boots that were scuffed with the signs of hard work. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail, revealing a freckled face that just made you want to smile.
She slid a heavy work glove off of one hand. “Katie, Katie Meyers. My wife and I own this little ol' stable. What can I do for you ladies? Lookin' to sign up for some classes? Judging by those fancy clothes I'd say y'all are city folk.” She looked over at Samantha and Abbey and winked at them, they grinned back with knowing smiles.
They obviously knew each other.
I shook her hand and said, “Pleased to meet you. I'm June Harris-West and this is my wife, Vanessa, our sister Francine, and her crush Natasha. These other two trouble makers you apparently know.”
She nodded, then shook everyone's hands and said with a sad excitement, “Of course, Kenz is expecting you. She'll be done with the class in a couple minutes. Please come into the office to wait, unless you want to watch.” She wiggled her eyebrows. “We have coffee.”
The girls groaned in appreciation at that last comment and followed her like drones back into the office area. I grinned at Van then nudged my chin toward the woman. My girl just gave me a sly smile. She had noticed too. The Southern Belle accent was much less pronounced once she learned who we were. She must let it out to play when they are trying to get new students for their classes. Though you could still pick it up in her voice, so it wasn't anything faked.
She played the perfect hostess, pouring coffee and passing the little cardboard cups to each of us. Then she sat in the comfortable chairs arranged in front of the two big desks that were covered in paperwork.
She was asking about our trip and making sure we had lodging for the duration of our stay. She fluttered a hand over her heart when Tash spoke for the first time. “Oh dear lord, ah have a weakness for British accents.”
Tasha blushed and laid her head on Fran's shoulder bashfully. Katie certainly had a way with putting people at ease.
Before long, we heard the arena door open and close and then the woman from the arena walked into the room, removing the old beat up red baseball cap she had on as she was saying, “I put Starfire's Daughter in her stall and...” She trailed off when she saw she had visitors.
And there she was. McKenzie Meyers. The woman who was on so many newscasts for so many years. The woman on so many recruiting and inspirational posters you found almost everywhere.
She had this odd juxtaposition of a larger than life hero and a down home girl that made her so popular with the media and the public at large. Her eyes were laser focused as she took us all in with a single glance. I could see the shadow in those eyes that I saw in so many service members, a shadow that would never leave her. We all found ourselves standing as she fidgeted with the cap as she transferred it to her prosthetic hand, the fingers stiffly closing on the rim of the cap.
The long brown hair that flowed down her back was the only part of the toned and muscular woman that betrayed the look of a soldier. Her eyes stopped on me and I saw recognition in them. She held a hand out to me and said, “June. Nana Z has pictures of you on her wall. I'm glad you could make it, she would have appreciated it.”
I shook and her hand was strong, she didn't apply hardly any pressure but her grip was strong as iron.
My heart sank at the pain I could now see in her expressive eyes. A death in the family is always such a heartbreak and all I could see before me at that moment was a girl who had just lost her grandmother. It had shaken her to her core but she was putting on a brave front for us, or maybe for herself.
Mrs. Zatta was one of the most big-hearted women I had known. She cared for the people she took into her private circle and we all became more than just customers. Whenever we visited the Pike, it was like having a meal with family. She was always at all of the important celebrations in our lives and we all felt like she was our own surrogate grandmother.
I made the introduction of the others, then we sat and talked with McKenzie. She wound up being a lot more personable and down to earth than I had imagined her to be. We spoke of her grandmother, Emily. She had died peacefully in her sleep at eighty-three. I knew she had been having some health problems and hired on my cousin Zoey a couple years back and was talking about making her a full partner at the Pike. She had even shared all of her award winning recipes with her.
As she spoke of the woman who helped raise her, I noticed the pictures on the walls behind the desks and walked up to them as she spoke. I saw a young girl dressed up as Annie Oakley at a Wild West show beside a tall, handsome man. Something about the girl's eyes and the slightly crooked smile looked so familiar. The brass plaque on the picture read, “Dad and me.”
I glanced back to see McKenzie with that same crooked smile on her face, looking at me as she spoke. This was her. I couldn't stop from smiling. She was Annie Oakley in a Wild West show? That must be where she got the shooting skills to be called Dead Shot in the military.
She finished with, “The funeral is tomorrow afternoon at the Lake View Cemetery. I'll forward the information to you. The wake will be at the Pike afterward. I have Zoey closing it down for the day. Nana wanted you at the reading of the will along with all of 'her girls' as she calls all the strays she took in over the years. That will be Monday.”
Katie said, “I'll send that info with the rest.”
They gave us a tour of their grounds and it was a pretty impressive setup. They ran the entire thing with just two hired hands, they weren't afraid of doing the hard labor themselves. They had one wing of the four wing stables set aside for boarding the overflow horses from the stables from our friends over at Valentine's Cascade Experience. We still call it Silent Bob's.
After our goodbyes, we hopped back into the oversize SUV and headed toward Issaquah.