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The fog was just beginning to lift, as they drove down the coast. Megan Pace stared contemplatively out to sea. She figured they’d be at the hospital, where her Dad had checked himself in, in about half an hour.
Megan thought about her Dad and about Charlie Hume, whom she hadn’t seen since that adventure they had in New Mexico almost a year ago.* Charlie, who sat next to her, navigated the winding curves of the Pacific Coast highway.
She also thought about Char. ‘How long ago was it?’ Megan wondered, when she had first met her cousin. A cousin she never even knew existed, until Char wandered into the bar that one rainy evening.
Megan and her band had a gig that night. Megan had arrived early but her band’s van, along with their equipment, was stuck in Encino with a flat tire. The bar manager had asked Megan if she could go up on stage solo.
Megan didn’t know when, or even if, her band was going to be able to make it at all that night, so she figured she had no choice. She grabbed her acoustic guitar and headed up on stage. It went well. The audience was very generous with their applause and their tips. For that, Megan was very grateful and relieved.
As she took a break in a booth a young girl, about her age, walked up.
“You were awesome!” she excitedly told Megan, “your singing and playing were so tight!”
“Thank you,” Megan replied, “I appreciate that.”
The girl kept hanging around, like she wanted to say something else but didn’t know how.
“Wanna hang for awhile?” Megan finally asked.
“Yeah, sure,” the girl replied, taking a seat opposite Megan in the booth.
“Haven’t seen you around the bar before,” Megan began, “you new here?”
“Yeah,” the girl nervously replied, “I..uh..actually..uh…just got into town.”
“Got relatives here?” Megan asked.
“Yeah,” the girl replied. Megan knew this girl had something she desperately needed to say. She just wished she’d get to it.
“I really came into town to look someone up,” the girl began, “someone I needed to see. An Uncle, who never knew I existed.”
“Oh, that sounds….intriguing,” Megan replied.
“I’m glad you think so,” the girl replied, “by the way, I’m Charlene Collins.”
“Megan Pace,” Megan replied.
“Well, Megan Pace,” Charlene began, “that Uncle is your father and I’m your cousin!”
Back in the car, Megan watched a flock of seagulls glide over the beach.
She remembered how Megan explained what her mom had told her and how Charlene discovered that her father’s brother and band mate, Liam, was still alive and now living in L.A.. So Charlene had decided to look him up.
“How did he react?” Megan remembered asking Charlene, because her father had never told her about any of this.
“He smiled,” Charlene replied, “said that it was no surprise to him, considering all the “Birds“ that hung around back in the day.”
Megan had just shook her head.
She didn’t trust Charlene at first. What did she want? Was she a pulling a scam? Trying to find out if she could get any money out of all of this? But as Charlene continued to talk that night, Megan began to take a liking to her.
She could see the resemblance between Charlene and the old pictures she remembered of her Uncle Charlie. And Charlene had told her Liam had agreed to provide blood samples, so they could do a DNA test. He did, the test was performed, and the result was a match.
So Charlene was, indeed, Megan’s long lost cousin. Megan figured if Charlene was there for any money she thought was owed to her, then she was going to be in for a surprise, because her Dad had wasted most of his money on drugs and later on rehabilitation.
He had always told Megan he had some money coming in from the few and far between royalties he would occasionally receive from what few downloads Drive Shaft retrospectives would occur, but that was about it.
When Charlene learned that, it didn’t seem to faze her. She still hung around and when Megan discovered she had an interest and a talent for all things musical, it was a natural that Megan would ask her to join the band.
After meeting with the other members of Crank Case, they all agreed that Charlene would fit right in.
‘So that was how it all happened,’ Megan thought, ‘and now Char has been kidnapped by some lunatics, who want something from her Dad. But what? What did they think he could provide that was worth Char’s life?’
Charlie turned off the highway at exit 42 and headed onto the off ramp, which led them down to a hospital parking lot. As Megan looked at the mysterious envelope she had placed on her lap, she hoped that her Dad could provide some of the answers they all now desperately sought.
'He’d better provide some answers,’ Megan thought, ‘because Char’s life, all of our lives, may depend upon what those answers turn out to be!’ She then glanced up at the large facility where her dad now resided, The Santa Rosa Mental Health Institute.
Next: Chap. Nine “Lysergic Oldham’s Excellent Experiment”