First Half of Chapter
black Cadillac cruised slowly east on Main Street. The driver observed from
side to side, scrutinizing buildings and sizing up pedestrians. Maurice
Nicklow in his big car was a common sight in Lick Hollow. As he rolled by,
there was an occasional nod of recognition from a business associate but
no spontaneous smile or friendly gesture. Maurice was an attorney who had
served Lick Hollow and the surrounding area for forty years.
owned many buildings on Main Street, and as he passed these, his eyes narrowed
and the car slowed. All his buildings were in need of repair and because of
the high rent he charged, only half of them were occupied. This didn’t bother
Maurice. That was a healthy percentage as far as he was concerned. In truth,
he really didn’t need to make money on these buildings. To the attorney they
were simply a long-term investment and a short-term tax write-off
As the car
passed the Lick Hollow Tavern, he slowed to see if his son’s truck was in
the parking lot. He was relieved to see that it wasn’t. Further up the road,
Maurice did see Donald’s black Dodge parked outside Martin’s Restaurant and
he pulled in beside it. He walked past the truck wearing a sour expression.
It was speckled with mud and the right taillight cover was cracked. “Why
the hell does he always have to buy the biggest pick-up on the market?” he
grumbled to himself.
his son sitting at the counter, leaning on his elbows, holding a cup of coffee
with both hands. There was a cigarette smoldering in an ashtray nearby.
Maurice Nicklow was a big man, six feet tall and weighing just over two hundred
pounds. He dressed well, professionally, always in a suit. He had a big head
with large ears and thick, wavy gray hair that was brushed straight back.
Maurice’s face was long and he held his mouth in such a manner that he seemed
to be always gritting his teeth. At sixty-five years of age, he looked good,
confident and successful.
was of a similar build, but he was larger than his father. His face resembled
Maurice’s, but unless they were side by side, few would guess that they were
father and son. Donald’s hair was brown, laced with gray. He wore it long
such that when he turned his head, curls brushed his broad shoulders. He was
dressed in a gray sweatshirt, blue jeans, and high leather boots. On the
back of his stool was a canvas work coat with gloves protruding from a pocket.
said as he positioned himself on the stool next to him.
“Hey Dad, what’s
“How are things
going over at the Batey farm?”
Right on schedule. Machine broke this morning but nothing serious. I had other
business here in town, so I ran for parts. But, yeah, things are looking good.
Any takers on those last two lots?”
answered. "The other will go quick.”
waitress asked mechanically. She was already pouring when Maurice looked
up and nodded. Donald winked at her; she smiled at him and turned away.
“Say Don, what
do you know about the man who lives on Hemlock Knob in the old Reilly place,
you mean? That’s what they call him. You know he was a college teacher, don’t
“Yes, I’m aware
of that. But what kind of person is he? Have you ever spoken to him?” “Nah.
See him outside Campbell’s store with J.C. and George Haynes. Drives an
old beat-up jeep. Looks pretty wild. Don’t know much more. J.C. or George
Haynes, I’d talk to them. What’s up with him, anyway?”
“It’s his property.
He owns the top of Hemlock Knob, a hundred acres. Nice piece of real estate.
I’ve inquired about purchasing it before, back when he lived in Wisconsin,
with the standard letter that I’ve sent to all the property owners for years.
He responded only once, if I remember right, said no. Recently, I’ve been
approached by a man from Pittsburgh, a Mr. Tom Arnold, who wants that piece
of property in a big way. Apparently he went hunting there with his father
when he was a boy and has never gotten over the place.”
some of the other places we have? Some of them are up high with good views.”
“I told him
about what we have. He wants that place, and he’s the type of person who
gets what he wants. Got lots of money.”
“Lots of people
got lots of money,” Donald replied with slight irritation in his voice.
this guy. From what I know, he could buy and sell most of the people we have
dealt with so far.”
a long drag on his cigarette and exhaled the smoke slowly in the direction
of the ceiling, trying to imagine how much money that would take. “How do
you figure that after all these years, this Whaley shows up right when this
Pittsburgh guy is ready to make a move for the property?”
his head. “Who knows? Happens in business.”
Donald said, grinning. “If he hadn’t moved in, I could have had somebody
burn that old house down. That often helps people let go of the old home
the waitress, who was refreshing his coffee and did not acknowledge his son’s
sure The Professor has his price,” Donald stated confidently, lifting his
coffee mug. “Hell, there ain’t even power or running water up there and he
must be using that old log outhouse. The right amount of money should tempt
him off the mountain, or maybe just a new house with a flush toilet.”
but he still wished to gather as much information about Daniel Whaley as possible
before he made a move. He took a deliberate drink of his coffee and stood
“Say Dad, does
this Arnold want me to do the building?”
“Yes. He wants
the complete package with us, from the legal work to the trim on the windows.
It will be worth a bundle now and if we do it right, there will be spin-off
business from people like him.”
his coffee and followed his father out into the parking lot.
“I think I’ll
head up to The Mercantile now to talk to those friends of his.”
muscle?” Donald asked, grinning.
answered, frowning. The attorney pointed to the broken truck taillight as
he passed. “Get this fixed. It’ll get you in trouble.”
his head as his father got into the Cadillac. “See ya, Dad,” he said after
the door snapped shut.
continued up Main Street, he was thinking that his son looked clear-eyed
and steady today, which was a relief to the attorney. Donald’s notorious
drinking binges and consequent reckless behavior had been definite stumbling
blocks on an otherwise remarkable road to financial success for Nicklow Developers,
There was no
question that when he was sober, Donald was good at what he did. He worked
hard and handled the crew well, such that jobs were completed quickly and
with quality work down to the details. Donald was forty-two now, and his father
had hoped for many years that he would turn some corner in life and get his
drinking under control. That was much of the reason why the project on Hemlock
Knob was important to Maurice. It would keep Donald on a job site. Tom Arnold
planned to build a small complex of buildings, which included a main house,
a guest house, and a stable. This job would keep his son busy and focused
he needs now, Maurice thought as he pulled into the graveled lot at The
Mercantile. The man needs to focus.