Tuesday, May 9, 2017
TLR CHAPTER 115
Ten years later... 2000…
James drove to the small airport in Masonville to welcome his friend and business partner. Jeff hadn't had a chance to actually experience what James had created so far. Over the past ten years they had their Military engineer friends, also men like themselves, most retired and some on furlough, work together to create the lodge and work at converting the old barn into a place where small specialty shops could be opened. There weren't many right now, just the bakery and limited food services at the lodge for their few guests.
Bungalows had been built, but right now, only what was needed for the small number of visitors and staff they housed. A security office and outlying cabins were in the planning stages as well as a boat house, dock and a cabin and storage shed for recreational equipment on the cove for employees to enjoy. Trails had been cleared throughout the property both for practical purposes, such as getting to perspective building sites, as well as for guest to enjoy hiking and viewing the beauty of the place.
He waited for his good friend Jeff, who had a two-week furlough from his military service to climb down the steps of the small plane as it had taxied and stopped at the gate. He was anxious to see the other man and show him all that been accomplished since the opening of the resort upon his own retirement several months ago.
Jeff eagerly got into the vehicle with James and patted the door twice to let his friend know he was ready and willing to make the trip to the resort. "You really did it, James!" he said admiringly. "I'm proud of you, Marine!" he joked.
James' smoky blue eyes danced with excitement. "Wait until you see it all in person! The pictures I sent don't do it justice Jeff!" He engaged the standard shift of the old blue battered pickup truck that had belonged to his Uncle Chet and drove away from Masonville toward his dream.
Jeff admired the scenery that led to the resort itself. He rolled his window down further to feel the sun on his face, and listen to the birds and the wind in the leaves. Once they'd arrived, Jeff's eyes went wide with pleasure. The lodge was a thing of beauty. Rustic and yet somehow modern at the same time. "James!" he exclaimed, "this is... beautiful! You're right! Pictures just don't show you the reality of this place. Can we go inside? I'm dying to see it all!"
James chuckled and stopped the old beat up pickup truck then nodded. "Sure." He got out and waited for his friend to follow.
Jeff jumped out of the truck and gathered his bag from the back. "Lead the way, my friend!" he said with a wide grin.
The retired Marine shook his head at the other man’s eagerness and said, "Leave your bag, you're staying in the ranch house with me." He waited for Jeff to do as he'd been told.
"Sir, yes, sir!" Jeff replied, tossing the bag back where he'd gotten it. He gestured James ahead of him and followed eagerly as the older man led him into the lodge.
James pulled out a set of keys, unlocked the door then stood aside to allow his business partner and friend to enter first. There weren't any guests there at the moment, but he was expecting two couples within the next three weeks, after which Jeff would have already left to return to his Military duties. They now would spend the time together without any distractions and able to expand their dream.
The active Marine looked around in amazement. The honey colored walls of the lodge picked up the sunshine that came through the large windows. The fireplace in the main reception area was large enough to warm the entire dining room. The furniture was plush and comfortable looking. Straight ahead was the dining area and bar. There were stairs to the right which Jeff figured led to the guest rooms that James had told him about, as well as a hallway to the left which he assumed led back to the kitchen area.
"James, this is... beautiful..." Jeff breathed.
The older man smiled. "I'll give you the grand tour. I do have a few staff around the place to help keep things going. There are also some who keep things clean and to run the restaurant when there are guests. There are offices here so we can do our administrative work and greet our guests," he told him leading him down the hall which the other man discovered held a suite of offices for the first part of the tour.
Jeff followed eagerly, taking in every detail as James led him along, showing him the offices allowing him to look around. Every office was already comfortably furnished with a desk and swivel chair, comfortable office chairs, a couch and coffee table were situated on one side of the room. "James…" Jeff said again, speechless.
The older man grinned and showed him his personal office last which was furnished like the others, but also had all the latest computer equipment.
Jeff's eyes widened as he took in his surroundings. He looked at the computer with a grin before turning his smile on James. "Nice... boss," he said.
The older man chuckled. "We'll equip each office as needed. We also have a guest lounge here." He showed Jeff the comfortable looking room. "This is for privacy, if we need to take a guest aside while their partner may stay in the office or if a guest and their partner need a private place to have a discussion," he told Jeff.
"You've thought of everything." Jeff smiled. "Can you believe it JW? All your dreams... here and now. Hey, can you show me one of the bungalows you had built? I'm dying to see it in person."
James smiled, "Sure, but let me show you a couple of more things first." He went to a door in the back of the lounge. "A bathroom...for whatever activities it might be needed." He winked, knowing Jeff would know about mouth soapings and such.
Jeff couldn't hold in a laugh. "Yep, you sure did think of everything," he grinned.
The older man's smoky blue eyes twinkled. "Let's go upstairs. I want to show you the rooms up there, then we'll go to the truck and stop at one of the bungalows on the way to the ranch house."
"Ooorah!" Jeff exclaimed with a wide grin. That was all James needed to hear.
They went upstairs and Jeff was shown the four guest rooms. The bedrooms were more like little suites, comfortably furnished and cozy. "Most of the guests stay here for right now," he told his friend as they came back downstairs after looking throughout the rooms and amenities upstairs.
"The way the restaurant and bar are designed we can use both spaces for large gatherings and the fireplace adds a homey touch," he explained. "We can also separate the bar and the restaurant as well by closing the doors between."
James told Jeff, “At some point I’d like to add an enclosed swimming pool. I’m not sure where we’ll want to put that yet, it’s still in the planning stages, just like a number of other things we can consider as we grow.”
Jeff nodded. “That would be a great idea too, this way guests could swim in the winter or when it’s too cold or the weather too inclement for swimming in that lake you promised to show me,” he hinted with a wink.
The resort owner stood looking around with pride and smiling broadly at his friend. "I'm sure glad Dad was willing to assist with all this while we were occupied with our military duties. He made good investments and I hadn't realized until I opened the resort that Uncle Chet had also left me a tidy trust fund so there won't be any money issues. Dad said he wanted me to work for what I wanted, not just have everything handed to me."
"You're not the 'entitled' type, James. I know that much. And this will be a full-time job once your dream is completely fulfilled."
The older man smiled. "No, I'm not, but that's due to both my father and uncle, neither of them would have stood for that and yes, it will be a dream fulfilled. Once we’re fully developed and up and running it will be a full-time job for both of us as well as a number of others we’ll need in the future, ground maintenance, building maintenance, stable hands and a number of other things." He grinned. "Let's lock up now and go see one of those bungalows you're so eager to view."
"Lead on, MacDuff!" Jeff joked.
James laughed and led Jeff out of the lodge, locking it up behind him and climbing into the truck, he waited for Jeff to join him.
Jeff hopped up into the cab and grabbed his friend up into a brief but hearty hug. "James, you did it!" he repeated happily, "It's amazing so far! Are we going to see the lake too? I'm dying to see the whole place," he said excitedly.
The older man laughed and returned the hug. "It's your dream too you know, partner, without your support and financial assistance it couldn't have happened. You do realize you're a full partner in this venture, don't you?" James asked seriously.
Jeff's eyes widened in surprise. The fact had completely slipped his mind. He grinned at James and held out his hand to shake, "Thanks... partner!"
James laughed. "You're welcome, partner, but I'm still the boss." He winked at Jeff.
Jeff grinned and with a slightly insane look he pointed to James and said, "And don't you forget it, young man!"
At first James gave his friend a confused look.
Jeff laughed at James's befuddled expression.
The resort owner couldn't help but laugh at his friend as he heard him laugh, his confusion clearing. "And if I do forget I’m the boss what do you intend to do about it?" he quipped, mischief in his smoky blue eyes.
"Well, I'll just have to get your father to take you over his knee, won't I? He may have a little snow on the roof there but I'm pretty sure he still knows how to handle an ornery kid."
James flushed and said, "Meanie...you know he does."
Jeff laughed and clapped his friend on the shoulder. "Come on, my friend, there's more to see and I'm looking forward to every second of it. Where to next?"
The older man smiled. “You’ll see,” he said cryptically as he put the truck in gear and began the drive toward his home. As he came to a curve he told his passenger, "If you look to the left you can see the lake a bit."
Jeff looked and saw the lake shimmering through the trees. He was pretty sure that once they were at the ranch house he'd get a good look at the whole thing. What he saw, he immediately fell in love with.
James said, "There's a really good view from the back of my house as well." He turned onto a bumpy path and pulled up at a nice looking little cottage. "This is one of the bungalows."
Jeff stepped out of the truck and breathed in the scent of the wildflowers that seemed to grow everywhere at once. Trees grew around the place, providing shade. He could see how a nice backyard and how some privacy could be created as well. "This could be my dream house," he breathed. "I've always wanted a place like this. Will they all look like this when they're done?" he asked his friend hopefully.
James said, “The resident ones will be a bit larger, probably with two bedrooms if they have family who would come to visit and the guest ones will be like this one, at least it’s the plan. I like the look and it fits well into the trees. You could design your own as you’re my partner and I have no problem with you having whatever you like."
“You’re serious?” He asked James, having half expected him to tell him that resident housing was yet to be built somewhere at the back of the property.
The retired Marine Captain smiled. "Of course. You can have your choice of site and design. Staff will all have their choice of one or two bedrooms one story bungalows and guests will have the single room ones like this one." He led the way up to the little house and locating the correct key unlocked the door and stood back. "Go on inside and take a look." His face gave nothing away, but he already knew Jeff would love the place.
Glossy finished wood floors and walls greeted him as he walked through the door. The smell of fresh cut pine still lingered in the air. The living area was large and graced with a fireplace.
The kitchen was large as well. He went around, inspecting each room, impressed with the detail in the bathroom, especially the extra-large tub, as well as a shower stall with dual shower heads that could accommodate what looked like as many as three people at the same time. He finally came to rest in the bedroom. Large windows let the daylight in, brightening the entire room to a cheerful glow. "James, your guests are going to love this," he breathed in awe.
James smiled. "I knew you'd approve."
Jeff shook his head in amazement. "You did great, boss," he said, looking with great affection on his former superior officer. "House now?"
"Yes, and relaxation," James told his new partner.
Jeff smiled gratefully, while he'd been enjoying the tour he'd found that he'd been becoming a bit sleepy after the trip. He hoped he could stay awake long enough for James to show him more. He especially wanted to see the refurbished barn and the stables. He could already imagine the beautiful horses it would house.
James said, "We've done enough for today partner, tomorrow is another day to explore." He led him to the battered pickup truck and getting in, he waited once again for the other man to be ready so they could drive up to the ranch house.
Jeff got in gratefully and laid his head back on the headrest as they drove the short distance to his friend’s home, which James had preserved from his days with his uncle Chet. The active Marine hadn't realized that he'd dozed off until James's amused voice quietly woke him to let him know they'd arrived. Jeff smiled sheepishly and got out of the truck, once again gathering his bag. He couldn't wait to take a shower and get into civvies for the next two weeks.
The older man helped his friend to the house, unlocked the door and ushered him inside. He showed him upstairs to his room and said, "The bathroom is between our two rooms. Help yourself to anything you need in there. Go ahead and take a nap I'll wake you when supper is ready."
With another grateful look at his best friend, Jeff put his bag in his room and instead of picking out fresh clothes he went straight into the bathroom and took a long, hot shower. Wrapped in a towel nearly as big as a blanket he went back into his room, put on clean clothes, laid down on the bed and was asleep before he realized it.
James woke up early the next morning. He was accustomed to waking early, both from his Marine days as well as having worked on his uncle's ranch. He showered and dressed and then went to the guest room and tapped at Jeff's door.
The slight sound had Jeff up and on his feet, wide awake. It took several seconds for him to orient himself to where he was before he grinned, and called to James to come in.
The other man entered. "I'll have breakfast ready for us in about twenty minutes. I just wanted you to know and I know you're excited about seeing the rest of what I've had done."
"Thanks, JW," Jeff replied with a wide smile. "I'm really looking forward to this. I can't wait to see what you've done with the place. You said that you have a few horses in the stables already?"
"A few, but we don't need a whole stable full right now. Dan Morgan, Uncle Chet's foreman, and Shorty, our vet, see to the needs of the ranch and the horses." He gestured to the building to the left of the stables. "They live right there in the bunkhouse. Shorty’s lived on the ranch since he was 15 and just finished school a couple of years ago. Once we increase our clientele Dan will take applications so that we can hire more hands. And Shorty will get more help caring for the animals. Right now, we don't need much more than them.”
"Of course not, but soon," Jeff replied with a grin, "this place is going to take off like a rocket once word gets out."
James grinned. "Yes, I'm very sure it will take off and yes, we'll need more of everything."
"Let me get showered and changed and I'll meet you in the kitchen, ok?"
Jeff showed up minutes later with the scruff of beard and mustache he hadn't bothered to shave. At James's look he explained, "I don't shave when I'm on leave. Think of it as sort of a rebellion." he laughed.
James shook his head and laughed as well. "Be glad I'm still not your commanding officer," he teased.
"Sir, Yes Sir!" Jeff said, standing at attention and saluting, unable to keep the smile off his face. "Don't worry, it doesn't last long. I can't stand the way it itches after a couple of days. But I'm going to warn you, once I'm retired I'm going to grow my hair out into a ponytail," he said with a straight face. "Your vet can groom me when he takes care of the horses."
James couldn't help but quirk an eyebrow at the grooming remark and laughed and said, "At ease soldier."
Jeff relaxed and asked, "Is there anything I can help with? Looks like you have everything under control, as usual, but I don't want to just sit here and be waited on."
James smiled at the other man. "You can pour us some juice," he indicated where the juice glasses were kept. "Then we can just sit down and dig in." He placed a plate of pancakes and bacon on the table and poured them each some coffee and then placed the butter and syrup on the table between them.
After pouring the juice and placing the glasses at each place setting, Jeff, out of courtesy, waited until James had seated himself and then slid into his chair, cutting up and wolfing down the first few mouthfuls. Once he'd finished chewing and swallowing he said, "JW, I wish you'd come back and be the cook until I retire. If I could eat pancakes this good every day til then I'd be happy. Old Zeke is as unimaginative as usual where food is concerned."
The older man shook his head. “Well, it won’t be for much longer and then you can eat this way every day,” he reassured the younger man.
"Where do we start, JW?" Jeff asked as he helped clean up the dishes. "This place is huge and I want to see every corner of it before I have to return to camp."
James chuckled. "Well, we'll go visit the stables first. If I know Shorty and Dan, they'll have been out there since sun up."
"Then we can go over to the barn and I'll show you the shops and conference room, although the only one occupied at the moment is the part time bakery, they make stuff for the restaurant and have a limited amount of baked goods when we have guests in residence," he told Jeff. "When we grow, it will become a full-time bakery for both the resort and guests," he explained.
"An onsite bakery. That's one of the first things we'd planned on," Jeff replied with a grin. "I can't wait to see what they have. Do, ah, do they make Portuguese rolls by any chance? I can't get enough of those."
James shook his head. "Nothing so fancy yet, the usual doughnuts, cookies, pies, tarts, cupcakes and small cakes."
"Cookies are good!" Jeff replied animatedly, then in a very good imitation of the Cookie Monster he began to sing, "C is for cookie, that's good enough for meeeee! Ok, stables first. Can't wait to see the horses. Lead on my friend!"
James laughed at his friend's imitation of the cookie monster. "Once in a while there are turnovers of some kind and if requested, they'll provide fresh loaves of bread. We always have fresh bread, biscuits and rolls when the restaurant is open," he shared and then grinned as he led them toward the stables. Once inside the cool building the resort owner noticed a tall young man hard at work. "Good morning Shorty!" James called with a grin.
"Heya boss! Dan is out making the rounds," he informed the ranch owner. "How are you this morning?" the tall man replied. "I'd shake your hand but they're a little messy at the moment," he laughed. "Hello," he said, turning toward Jeff with a smile, "you must be the much talked about and greatly anticipated Mr. Markham."
James smiled. "That's quite all right and yes, this is Jeff Markham."
Jeff grinned back, "Nice to meet you, Shorty. JW speaks very highly of you." He looked around the stables and made a beeline toward a beautiful black horse, rubbing its nose and neck in clear admiration. "And please, call me Jeff."
"Jeff, it is," Shorty replied. "That's Belle."
"You sure are a beauty!" Jeff murmured to the horse.
JW grinned. "One of my favorite mounts."
"The others are Thunder and Lightning. Once you see them in action you'll understand why," the young vet said with pride.
"JW, can we... ah... take them out for a ride sometime before I leave?" Jeff asked hopefully. It had been a long time since he'd sat a horse but he was pretty sure he could remember the basics.
James laughed at his friend. "Of course, some of the places I'll want to show you we can only get to on horseback right now. Sometime in the future I'm planning to have some golf carts to get around with and ATV's for the more rugged areas. I've ridden them all and each of them are well mannered, but high spirited and need a little bit of a firm hand at times," he shared as he winked at Shorty.
"I can't wait," Jeff said with a pleased expression as he continued to admire the horses.
Shorty grinned, wondering if his boss were going to be able to make his friend stop admiring the horses long enough to see the rest of the place.
The older man chuckled. "Well, we have a whole two weeks. We don't have to do it all in one day. Let's go over now and see the barn."
Jeff reluctantly tore himself away from the horses and turned back toward the young veterinarian. "Shorty, it was a pleasure to meet you. I'm sure we'll be seeing each other again soon."
"See you soon, Jeff," Shorty replied. "Boss, you know where I am if you need anything else."
"Yes, I do and thank you Shorty." James smiled and said to Jeff, "Let's go." He led the way to the barn.