One Month Later
Nick DeCamp was accustomed to Mr. Cunningham overreacting concerning his cousin’s actions, but when a man says “attacked a car with an axe,” it is difficult to see where the exaggeration may be.
“I thought you were in Prague,” Thatch said when Nick let himself into the house. Thatch was laid out across one of the couches, a book perched on his belly, and a nearly-empty tumbler of Scotch in his hand.
Nick went into the kitchen and stuffed a grocery bag into his cousin’s fridge. “I got in last night.” He peered over the back of his couch to read Dostoyevski on the cover of the book, and didn’t feel bad interrupting Thatch’s reading. “And guess who called me the second we touched down?”
“Do I want to know?” Thatch let the book flop forward onto his chest. He was expecting Nick to say his parents, Thatch’s aunt and uncle, but the lawyer had mercifully neglected to mention it to the elder DeCamps.
“Good ol’ Cunningham.” Nick helped himself to Thatch’s Laphroaig.
“He told me that he found a 1945 Cadillac for you… had it shipped up from BFE Louisiana… and you assaulted it with an axe?”
Thatch pursed his lips and tilted his book back up.
“Is this true?”
“You tell me,” Thatch said, pointing to the door leading to his garage.
Sighing, Nick went into the garage and turned on the light. On the far side of the garage, beyond the Ducati, the Tesla, and the TrailHawk, was a beautiful, newly-refurbished powder-blue and cream 1945 Cadillac. A pile of oily rags, junk parts, paint cans, and tools indicated Thatch had done the majority of the labor on his own – just the way he liked it.
Nick returned to the living room. He topped off his own glass, then took Thatch’s without asking and filled it a bit too liberally. Thatch watched him out of the corner of his eye. There was no way he did not know what was coming. Nick confiscated his Dostoyevski, handed him his tumbler, and sat on the ottoman in front of the couch. Thatch groaned as he leaned up.
“You want to explain what’s going on?”
“What could you possibly mean?”
“You attacked a car with an axe, then personally returned it to mint condition.”
“What can I say? I’m a sucker for Cadillacs.” He didn’t meet his cousin’s eyes as he sipped his Scotch.
“No, you’re not. You hate Cadillacs. The Adamses drove Cadillacs.”
Thatch studied his tumbler, swirling the remaining Scotch, then threw his head back and drained it. Nick raised his eyebrows. This could only mean two things: That Georgia woman, or his parents.
“I told you Dad was arrested when I was seventeen?”
“Yeah.” He had only mentioned it once, when they just met, after his mother’s funeral. He had been drunk as hell, and coming down from some unidentifiable substance he had snorted.
“That was the car we were working on when they came for him.”
“A 1945 Cadillac?”
“No, that 1945 Cadillac. It was overheating.”
“That one. The patch is still on the radiator.” He ran his tongue over the rim of his tumbler, then muttered, “Idiots…”
“What are you going to do with it now?”
Thatch shrugged again. He had gotten lost in the process, which was exactly what he had wanted. He hadn’t thought of that to do after. He certainly wasn’t going to sell it.
“You wanna go for a drive?” Nick asked excitedly. “Can you drive?”
Thatch snorted. Glancing down at his empty tumbler, he shook his head.
“Well, I got something just as good.” Nick slapped his cousin’s leg, then went back into the kitchen. He pulled the bag out of the fridge, exposing something wrapped in butcher paper. “Kobe steaks.”
Thatch raised his eyebrows with surprise, then refilled his Scotch.
Nick had known the moment he got off the phone with Mr. Cunningham that Thatch would need a distraction after (and if) he opened up about what was bothering him. He had guessed–correctly–that three hundred dollars’ worth of meat would do the trick.
Thatch showed food the same devotion he showed his trauma patients. Nick had had the pleasure of watching him cook often, but operate only twice: His first time, then again when the surgical team had come down with food poisoning. (Playing second-fiddle to his cousin has been as uncomfortable as it was unusual.)
Between his confession, the steaks, and the Scotch, Thatch’s grim constitution faded into an expression of perfect calm.