It froze on the morning of July the forth. There was a light dusting of snow across the area and holiday traffic, with people still headed out to the beach snarled on the causeway. Pipes burst in the neighborhood and plumbers were called. The diggers even called their work off, heading to wherever they went when they needed shelter.
Markoff stood looking out his front room window at the holes that they left behind. There was almost nothing left of the street anymore. The circle of the cul-de-sac had been turned into a gaping mouth of clay and dirt surrounded by the jagged teeth of the asphalt that once covered it.
The residents had been forced to start parking their cars on the street about three weeks ago. The builder had come home after his run in with Mr. Wells to find everyone’s vehicles lined up in a row on the corner next to Kinkaid’s house. Tara’s minivan, Thom’s truck and his wife’s Saab parked right next to Clara’s. The older man waved him to a spot near the end, smiling the whole time.
“Late night at work?” He asked amicably as Markoff unfolded himself from the driver’s seat.
“Something like that.” The builder replied.
Kinkaid shook his head. “It’s simply terrible the way that people have to work so hard in this country.” He sighed. “I myself am lucky in that I can be retired.”
The builder nodded.
“They came door to door this morning, after you left and asked everyone to park here.” The older man said turning his attention towards the cop cars. “There wasn’t any argument. People just did it. Everything was so polite and organized.”
Markoff looked at him. “Don’t you ever get mad about this?” He asked. “Somewhere deep down inside?”
Kinkaid raised his eyebrows. “What’s the use?” He said with a grin. “These people have responsibilities. They’re working to preserve our heritage. It’s important stuff that they’re doing.”
The builder watched as a bulldozer pushed a huge mound of broken concrete off into his yard. “They don’t seem to be preserving anything.” He said feeling angry about whole the situation. “They’ve got a goal. I’ve seen this on construction sites before. They’re rushing to finish the job.”
The older man hesitated. “Why would they need to rush?” He asked. “It’s not like whatever’s down there is going anywhere.”
“What is down there?” The builder said as he turned to face the man.
Kinkaid shrugged. “Relics, I suppose.”
“Perhaps.” The older man agreed. “Honestly, I haven’t asked and I haven’t been told. It seems to forward to me. I just assume that they’re looking for the origins of something important and that we’ll all be told when it’s time.”
Markoff sniffed, puffing out his chest. “Well, I think it’s time now.” He said defiantly.
The builder left Kinkaid standing there on street. Using some planking that had been stretched across holes in the older man’s lawn he headed off in the direction of one of the tents. He was almost to it when one of the cops came out of his car.
“Can I help you sir?” The man said using a deep voice that belied some kind of sinister authority that indicated he wasn’t afraid to use deadly force.
“I’m just checking things out.” Markoff answered.
“You’re not supposed to be on the lawn.” The officer warned.
Markoff stopped at the edge of the tent. “I’m not on the lawn.” He answered.
“You’re across the line where you’re not supposed to go.” The cop said pointing to the curb. “You need to get away from there and get your ass back on the street.”
The officer in the other car turned on his lights and gave his sirens a quick chip. “Step away from the tent.” He said through the vehicles PA system.
The sound was extremely loud and shrill even amongst the growls of the heavy machinery and the yelling of the diggers. People turned to take notice of what was going on. The man from the state peeked around the corner from Gary Biggs’ house and shook his head as if to say ‘Why do these people keep coming around here causing trouble?’
“Or what?” The builder shouted back. “I have a right to know what’s going on here. This is my neighborhood and my street. My wife knows people on the HOA for God’s sake! What do you have in here that’s so secretive?”
The police man who was standing by his car drew his gun. “Don’t make me shoot you.” He said cocking it.
Defiantly, Markoff reached out to grab the seam of the tarp that was tied across the tents entrance.
Everyone had come out to see what was going on. Wallace stood on the doorstep of Dan Wells house smiling. Tara peeked out her door with Gage balanced on her hip. Myrah and the kids lined up at the front room window.
Looking around Markoff could see them all. He stood there with his hand poised against the puffy hem that was sewn into the rough fabric. The cop kept his gun drawn. Kinkaid stood on the corner with his hands pressed against his face in dismay. The flashing lights of the sirens on the car behind him pulsated and lit up the evening.
In the end he did nothing. He dropped his arms to his sides and walked back down the planking towards the street. The cops, the diggers, the man from the state and his family and neighbors all watched him as he walked sheepishly up to his house and went inside.
Now, there was no one around but the two cops. The builder could see them from where he stood. Their cars were idling and puffing white smoke into the cold morning air as their windshield wipers lazily cleared the drifts of snow from off the surface of the glass.
They watched him as he stood there watching them. He knew that they still didn’t trust him. They were a part of this as much as Mr. Wells was and even though Markoff knew that they weren’t allowed to kill him the thought of Kinkaid’s arrest and his amnesia were enough to keep him in line.
As he wondered what was beneath the snow covered tarps Wallace came up holding a glass of wine and drying his hair with a towel. “Thanks.” He said looking out the window.
“Don’t mention it.” The builder muttered.
The astronaut had been one of the unfortunate victims of having his pipes burst during the freeze. He’d lost all water at his house and had come over that morning looking for a place to shower. Now he was making himself at home. “It seems a shame to have snow on the forth of July.” He said taking a sip. “We should be out grilling hot dogs and drinking beer.”
“Well, you’ve got the drinking thing going on.” Markoff said nodding down at his wine.
Wallace smiled. “Your wife is warming up to me I think.” He said happily. “She invited me to stay over and have lunch with you guys.”
“She thinks I need a friend.” The builder acknowledged. “I haven’t been going out much.”
“Yeah.” The astronaut said sounding as if the thought had just occurred to him. “What’s up with that?”
The builder just looked out the window.
“Word on the street has it that Myrah’s thinking of becoming a doctor.” Wallace said changing the subject. “What do you think of that? She’ll be the one financing you one of these days.”
“Somebody’s going to have to.” Markoff grunted. He hadn’t told anyone yet but he’d been denied on his latest draw from the bank. There was no explanation for it either, just a simple refusal of cash.
He’d had to cover payroll out of his own pocket that week. The act had all but cleared out his savings. The builder would soon be forced to send people home if he didn’t get approval to borrow against his open properties again real soon. He wondered if Mr. Wells was behind it all.
“What do you know about the thing that Dan Wells is building?” Markoff said turning to face the astronaut.
Wallace frowned. “Why you got to ask me that for?”
“A man called me to his office.” Markoff explained. “He thinks that I’m connected to all of this.”
“High level stuff?” The astronaut asked, raising his eyebrows.
“Who knows?” Markoff shrugged. “The thing is that it seemed high level.”
“Yeah.” The builder nodded. “Grey hair at the temples.”
Wallace sighed. “He’s talked to me to.”
The astronaut threw his head to the side as if to say that he didn’t care. “The brother came at me one day when I was sitting at the harbor drinking my wine.” He began sipping at his glass. “Told me that he’d ruin my home and business if I didn’t steal what Dan Wells was working on for him.”
“When was this?” Markoff asked.
“Last week.” Wallace answered. “On my day off.”
“Do you believe him?”
The astronaut laughed. “What difference does it make?” He said casually. “The thing is that I ain’t planning on taking any weapon from Dan Wells.”
“So he’s got one?” The builder asked.
“What’s it do?”
Wallace gave him a sly look. “It saves the earth.”