Metal Peace

by Rick Beck

Chapter 10

Crossing All the T's

Each time Kodak came out of Taz's room, his furry friend was waiting. Tazerski didn't wait for an invitation, unable to wait to leap into Kodak's arms. The general had tried to keep him in the barn with the horses to distract him, but by this time Tazerski was out the door anytime someone came in or went out.

At first he waited on the back porch until the door opened before he darted inside. It didn't take him long to figure out how to open the door himself. Closing the door carefully, he headed for the hallway, where he sat by the closed door to Taz's room.

He seemed to understand the seriousness of Taz's condition. He didn't attempt to go in the room, preferring to wait for Kodak to appear at the door. Then he didn't let Kodak out of his sight, until he went back inside Taz's room. Tazerski was waiting to be allowed inside.

Taz's temperature returned to normal and he slept peacefully. There was adequate pain medication to keep him comfortable, which allowed him to sleep. After the crisis, sleep was the best thing for him.

His color had improved, his heartbeat was strong, and his respiration was good, which meant everyone could relax. Two days after his fever broke, Taz opened his eyes and said, "That Indian's been in here."

"Medicine Band? You better be careful what you say about him," Kodak said. "He's got your number cowboy."

"He was at the hospital too," Taz seemed certain of it.

"He was," Kodak said. "How'd you know that?"

"He held my heart in his hand," Taz said with certainty.

"No, he might not win any dance prizes, but he never got near your heart," Kodak remembered.

"In the operating room. He was in the operating room. He held my heart in his hand," Taz explained.

"If you say so. I doubt the surgeons let him near you while they operated on you. Maybe you dreamed it," Kodak said.

"Maybe! I want some coffee and some eggs," Taz said. "Strong coffee like you make for me up at our place."

Madge stood up and stared at Taz as Taz and Kodak talked to one another.

"Regular cup of coffee. Eggs scrambled in a little bit of butter. No oil. No strong coffee."

"Damn, I got to negotiate breakfast? I promise not to get fat," Taz said. "You still packing, Madge? Let me see your quick draw."

"Yea, only because it was in my purse when they brought me out here. You don't want to see my quick draw. Then I'd have to shoot you."

"I have a headache. My mouth feels like the 3rd Army marched through it last night. Maybe some ice?"

"I'll get your breakfast ordered and bring back some ice," Kodak said.

"Hey, buddy," Taz said, brushing up the hair on Tazerski's head.

"Come on, boy. I'll get you a coconut," Kodak said.

Tazerski looked at Kodak and lay down close to Taz, holding onto his arm.

"Okay, I'll bring it back for you. You've been good. You can stay until Dr. Westphalia shows up. He'll raise hell when he sees you."

"A monkey in the house," Madge said displeased. "What's this world coming to."

Kodak went out and told Kathleen that Taz was awake and he wanted breakfast. He gave her what Madge ordered for him and sat with his own cup of coffee, chatting with Kathleen.

"He looks better. He's got an appetite. That's a good sign," Kodak said.

"Very good sign. Dr. Westphalia said he'd probably be awake today. Wants him out of bed today if at all possible. He thinks lying on his back for so long hasn't done him any good," Kathleen said. "His back is healing very slow."

"I'll walk him in the hall later, once he eats," Kodak said.

"Hey, Kodak," Crosby yelled from the radio room. "Life magazine is on the horn for Mr. Paul Anderson. You available for comment or should I tell him you're otherwise occupied?"

"Someone's pulling your leg. Tell him I'm waiting for a call from Nixon and he'll have to call back. It's probably one of those reporters looking for an update."

"I don't think so, Mr. Anderson," Crosby said. "He sounds like the real deal to me. I'm trained to know these things."

"Okay, I'll take it. I've got a few minutes."

Kodak tried to think of any contract obligations he'd had with other magazines. Nothing came to mind.


"I'm Kenneth Brown. This is Paul Anderson?"

"Yes," Kodak said. "I'm he."

"You took the pictures of Sgt. Tazerski that appeared in Time magazine several years ago?"

"I'm the culprit," Kodak said, not having any sense of where the conversation might go.

"There's some discussion of you releasing pictures of Sgt. Tazerski to keep your local press at bay."

"Seemed like a good arrangement. I haven't cleared anything with him yet, but it was how I got rid of them. They got one picture and a promise of more. I didn't specify what more meant. They didn't ask."

"I'll make it simple for you. We get the pick of the photographs before any release. We're interested in using them in a feature article in our magazine. I've seen your work, Mr. Andersen, and it is consistent with Life magazine's standards."

"I'll discuss it with Taz," Kodak said. "He has to approve everything."

"I enjoyed the spread in Nature magazine. You live a charmed life, Mr. Anderson. War, plane crashes, assassin's bullets, and you reappear each time."

"I just take pictures," Kodak said.

"You must be part cat. I can't wait to see what you do for an encore. It's too long between your photographs' being made available, but it does make them more valuable."

"I spend most of my time photographing Montana landscapes these days, Mr. Brown. I did manage to stumble into some local Montana intrigue I photographed. I've been considering approaching Time magazine with these pictures, but it has become a little hectic around here. Those pictures feature Sgt. Tazerski in action.

"They rival the original photographs my paper in Sacramento gave to Time, which means I have no allegiance to them. I'll be more than happy to discuss whatever arrangements we might be able to make. No one has seen this collection. Only a few people know they exist. They will be an exclusive release, when I get the right offer."

"We don't want to get into a bidding war, Mr. Anderson. I'm interested in doing a story. We'll pay you more than market value, because they're pictures of Sgt. Tazerski, but we won't get involved in high dollar finance. We're a magazine, not an investment bank."

"Money isn't of great concern to me, but there are doctor's bills, hospital bills to pay. The only reason why we're still talking is because the bills need to be paid. I have no interest in shopping my work around. You called me. These are my terms. If it isn't enough to take a big chunk out of the bills, well, no point in spending a lot of time on it."

"How is the sergeant?"

"He seems like he's stronger today. We almost lost him a few days ago. He's doing better."

"I'm happy to hear it. I enjoyed the stories about the sergeant. He made the war almost tolerable. The way he dropped out of sight created quite a stir about where he might have gone. He'll be a hot item for a little while."

"So it seems. This place has been a zoo since they found him. I've never seen anything like it," Kodak said.

"He is a celebrity of some note. I don't suppose you want to discuss with me how he happened to be shot?"

"No!" Kodak answered with no give in his voice.

"Our specialty is telling a story in pictures," Mr. Brown continued. "Your being a photographer means you're likely telling a story with your pictures. A perfect match for us. Everyone here loved the idea of approaching you. We are accustomed to paying a fair price for the work we want, Mr. Anderson. From time to time we find ourselves wanting the work of an outside photographer.

"If I can take a look at what you have to offer, I think you'll find our offer more than fair. I'm authorized to make a generous offer for the right photos of the sergeant. We'd like a description of each photograph from you."

"I'm listening, Mr. Brown. As I said, my obligation to all other magazines has been fulfilled. I'm free to make whatever arrangement we decide is prudent."

"Can we meet at your location or would you rather fly to New York City to discuss terms?"

"No, I can't travel at the moment. I don't feel comfortable leaving Taz. Planes aren't my favorite thing at the moment."

"I thought you might say that. You have negatives and copies of the pictures there?"

"Yes, I do," Kodak said.

"I'll be in touch and let you know when I can make the trip out there. I fly to the coast a couple of times a year and I can set down near you and complete our business in one afternoon if that's satisfactory?"

"You have the number here. They can get a message to me if I'm not here. We can have a car meet your plane to bring you out here."

"That's quite nice of you. Thank you, Mr. Anderson. I'm looking forward to doing business with you," Mr. Brown said, hanging up the phone.

Kodak handed the phone back to Crosby.

"It's easy to forget you guys are famous," Crosby said. "I'd read somewhere your name was Paul Anderson. I've only known you as Kodak. I almost told him he had the wrong number."

"I'm Kodak, Crosby. It's my name now, unless you want me to write you a check. Thanks for taking the call. He might be calling me back some time in the future. Ken Brown. You might need to get me a message if he is flying here to see me."

"I'll make a note to put the call through to your place, once you're back on the mesa."

"Except we don't have a phone. You're slipping, Crosby. You'll have to send a smoke signal or a rider. It is important."

"Yea, I forgot," Crosby said sheepishly.

Kodak shared the content of the phone call with Kathleen.

"This will help pay some of the bills Taz has run up. He isn't going to be able to work for a while."

"The general has taken care of the bills. You boys aren't to worry about it," Kathleen said.

"You are generous people, Kathleen, but Taz wouldn't allow it. He'd be wanting to work until he is fifty to pay you back. The one thing I know about Taz is, he's got to be free. He can't be free letting you and the general carry him. He's a proud man, Kathleen."

"Yes, he is, but you boys aren't in a position to pay the hospital. We are. The general thinks of you boys as his sons. Let us help a little. We're glad to be able to help."

"Yes, and whatever is going on up on the mesa is more help. I've heard the trucks going up every day. I've seen them carrying building supplies. The plans for our bedroom was never that big. I don't think Taz even had a plan."

"Taz can't be up there in that shack now, Kodak. We're putting a place up there that we've talked about building for years. It's what Taz needs and so we're building it now."

"You're too good to us. I know he can't live a Spartan life and heal up at the same time. It's another reason why selling some pictures can pay some of the bills. It's not always going to be good times and paying you back seems like a good idea."

"As you wish, Kodak. I wouldn't get into a deep discussion with the general about it. He'll resist your desire to pay him back. You talk to me. I keep the books. I'll give you an honest accounting. We expect nothing and don't need it, but I appreciate your desire to pay your way."

"I want to be able to tell Taz that we don't owe anything. I can show him the deal for the pictures and tell him I've paid the bills and he'll leave it alone. He isn't a big detail man. He lets me take care of the details," Kodak said.

"Yes, I recognize the syndrome. The general takes my word for what's going on with the money. I'll show him what you've paid me at tax time. It'll get us a few months to let things settle down."

Kodak sat talking to Tazerski while he ate his morning banana. Gen. Walker sat holding Kathleen's hand, as she explained expenditures regarding the new house on the mesa. There was one major credit for the sale of 200 head of cattle.

"We can offset the construction. I'll get Rowdy to give me hours of labor involved. We'll cut our tax bill a little."

"What Construction?" Taz said from the door. "You ain't messing up my cabin, are you?"

"Oh, well, we're ah…," Gen. Walker stumbled. "You suppose to be up, son?"

"Looking for him. I got lonely," Taz said. "Don't even got a monkey to talk to. For the first couple of days I can't get any privacy and now I'm all alone."

"Taz, you shouldn't be walking alone," Kodak said.

"Construction?" Taz repeated. "You building something without me? I got a knack for building."

"Sit down, Taz. We've finished that bedroom you were building. I'm making some improvements so living up there is a little easier. You're in no condition to be roughing it for the time being. The bed hasn't come yet. We're waiting for the bed. Touching up the place in the mean time," the general said. "I asked Rowdy to take a couple of cowboys up there, once we shipped the cattle."

"You lines aren't exactly on the level, Taz. Even the roof had an odd slant to it," Kodak said.

"Hey, you put me up in the air and you want straight lines too? Give me a break. Lucky I didn't fall off and break something. Besides, the rain runs off better that way. I'm sure glad you love me. I'd hate to hear what you had to say if you didn't."

"Love doesn't mean I need to lie to you," Kodak said. .

"Yes, well, I'm told they had to redo some of those lines. We didn't want the bed tilting so much you roll out of it," Gen. Walker said.

"You know how to hurt a guy? I could have done it if I had enough time. I was getting there. I've been a little under the weather."

"You worked on it all summer, Taz," Kodak reminded him. "You spent a lot of time up there cussing."

"Don't you want to sit down, hon?" Kathleen asked, concerned about Taz being up on his own for the first time.

"I can't stay in there any longer. I'm going nuts. Even Kodak deserted me. He told me he wouldn't leave me again when he came back from being lost in the ocean."

"I'm twenty feet away from your bed. That's hardly leaving you, Taz. I could hear you if you whispered. You were sleeping," Kodak objected. "I just came out for some coffee and we got to talking."

"Dr. Westphalia will tell you when you can make the move up to your place, but not for a few days," Gen. Walker said. "We nearly lost you. We can't get to you so fast once you're up there. You need to stay here a few more days. I want to be sure you'll be okay up there."

"I'm getting restless. I'm also getting tired. Time for a nap after all this exercise. Good to see people. None in my room. Woke up all alone. Not even a monkey to talk to."

"You are poorly treated," Kathleen said. "Fresh churned ice cream in the kitchen."

"What flavor?" Taz asked.

"Strawberry. Made it with fresh strawberries."

"You talked me into it. Maybe I'll have some before I take my nap."

Everyone laughed.

"I think that's the most I've ever heard him say at one time," Kathleen said after Taz moved back toward his bed. "He must be feeling better."

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