The Ghost of Heron Maast

Season 1
Episode 5

The Ghost of Heron Maast

Cyrus Maast was the father of nine children but acknowledged only five. Four sons and a daughter with his first wife. Heron died unexpectedly at thirty-six during a hiking trip in the Appalachians. She and Cyrus left arm-in-arm on a gray summer morning, but only Cyrus returned. He told his bewildered, frightened children that their mother suffered a massive heart attack during a steep climb and was pronounced dead at a small, nearby hospital. The story had its flaws. Heron was exceptionally fit, and no death certificate ever appeared. "I left her on that metal table, dead as dead, said goodbye, and didn't turn back.”  

Grief seizes each heart in its own way. T-Bone, the oldest, was eight years old when his mother never came home again. He’d lie in bed at night, flipping through photographs of her. The second son, RibEye, took to disappearing for days at a time. The younger two boys, Mace and Razer, were too young to remember her. But the infant girl cried inconsolably.

That was fifteen years ago, and Cyrus had since bedded dozens of women and wedded two. Neither lasted outside of a year. He moved the family to Alaska, leaving the children in Whittier with the housekeeper's family, and headed south to Washington. He’d reappear months later with a new girlfriend and loads of money. No one asked any questions. Folks in the small town greeted him with tense smiles and stayed out of his way.

Whittier's winter afternoons found Cyrus at a corner booth at the Canteen Grill. His sons circled around him, drinking beer and eating hamburgers. A trough of fried potatoes and onion rings passed from one to the other.

“Mace,” Cyrus muttered, pouring beer into his mug, “let me know as soon as you get the call.”

“Yep,” said Mace lazily.

"And be sure to write down the instructions. You're too stupid to remember anything."

“Yeah, I got it. I carry this piece of paper with me everywhere.” Mace pulled out a slip of wrinkled paper from his pocket and set it in front of him. “See, right here,” he said, “always ready for the call.”

Cyrus grunted. “Get a bigger piece of paper, you idiot.” His face pinched into its usual sneer. "And don’t leave anything out like you did last time.” He glared at Mace. “Almost got us killed.”

“Take it easy, Cyrus. He'll get it done," T-Bone piped in from across the table. Since his mother’s death, T-Bone always called his father by his first name. He enjoyed how much it irritated Cyrus.

“Shut your mouth,” Cyrus snapped. “I’m running this operation, and don't forget it. I take no orders from nobody, especially you.”  T-Bone smiled grimly and walked to the bar. Cyrus turned to his youngest son. “Razer, you’re going with Mace when the stuff comes in. You know where to store it. Remember, two days. Then me and T-Bone will take it from there.”

"T-Bone and I," quipped T-Bone, returning to the table with a beer and pulling out a chair next to Cyrus.

“I told you to shut up,” shouted Cyrus. He threw his mug at T-Bone’s head. T-Bone ducked, and it shattered against the wall behind him. A barmaid rushed over and started sweeping up the glass. “You,” he yelled to her,” get me another beer.” She nodded anxiously and dropped the broom, leaving the beer and broken glass on the floor.

“No need to take it out on her, Cyrus. Not her fault you can’t talk right.” T-Bone flicked a half-chewed potato at him.

Cyrus jumped to his feet, reached across the table, grabbed T-Bone by the neck, and lifted him out of his chair. T-Bone clenched Cyrus’ forearms to pull his hands off his neck. Cyrus tightened his grip. "One…two … three…, four …" he said in a quiet voice, then let go. T-Bone dropped back into his chair, gasping for breath. His brothers didn’t move. Cyrus spat on the floor next to T-Bone's boot.

 "Don't you ever touch me again, old man or I'll kill you."  T-Bone barked through gasps of air.

“You got a lot to learn, punk.” Cyrus lit a cigarette and smiled at a woman passing by the table.

T-Bone stood, pushed his dishes toward Cyrus, and walked out of the bar.

“Pa, mind if we go too?” Mace looked anxiously at the door, then back at Cyrus.

“Get outta here. You both make me sick.” Cyrus mumbled.

Mace popped out of his chair and signaled Razer to leave. They rushed to the door. Cyrus sipped his beer and looked around the room for the woman. She was nowhere in sight. Suddenly, something wasn’t right. A sense of spinning and things moving in fast motion. He started to shiver, then a terrible chill engulfed him, ice water coursing through his bloodstream. Muscles in his arms and legs gave out, and his chest convulsed in violent thrashing. He couldn't breathe and felt himself losing consciousness slipping into the ice inside him. He fell to the floor with a heavy thud as his face hit the edge of the table. Then nothing.

When he opened his eyes, T-Bone was kneeling next to him. “What happened?” Cyrus mumbled, motionless. The ice in his veins was gone, and he smelled grilled meat.

"You passed out,” whispered  T-Bone, leaning closer. “Cracked your head bad.”  He propped up Cyrus’ head and put a towel under it. “Ambulance is on the way.”

“Pa, you gonna be alright," said Mace, panicked. “Just gotta check you out, make sure it’s nothin’ serious.”

"Yeah, Pa," Razer said, looking at his brothers for reassurance.

Cyrus tried to lift his head, but his body felt bolted to the floor. He was drooling. "Wipe my mouth off."  He looked up at T-Bone. "Get me home," he snapped. "Don't need nothing but my own bed. It’s your mother, that’s what this is. It’s her.”

T-Bone frowned. “What are you talking about?” He studied the wound on Cyrus' head. "Still bleeding bad. No way you're going home. Have to slow the bleeding. Medics will be here any minute.” T-Bone glanced at his brothers. “Go out and see if they’re coming.” Mace turned and rushed out the door with Razer close behind him.

Cyrus felt a cold cloth pressed against the side of his head. His consciousness drifted away, and he was walking with Heron, holding her hand. The most beautiful woman he'd ever seen. She was smiling at him, drawing him closer to her. He felt the warmth of her arms encircling him and felt her head rest against his chest. He jolted awake to the blare of a siren and flashing red lights, heard his own voice from far away, outside of him, “It’s Heron, she’s here.” He felt himself being lifted into the ambulance. “She’s here.” He shut his eyes.

He was home in three days. A seizure of unknown cause. Cyrus was resting on the couch in the small living room, and Mace and Razer were slumped on the floor near the TV shouting at a boxing match. Piles of pizza crusts and beer cans clustered on a cracked glass table. Cigarette butts peppered the floor around them.

“Mace,” bellowed Cyrus over their shouting, "get that map out. We're going over the plan one more time."

Mace sighed and stood up. “Pa must be feeling better,” he whispered to Razer. Feet shuffled on the linoleum floor, drawers banged open and shut, and a large map unfolded on a table. Cyrus, Mace, and Razer were staring at it when T-Bone walked to the table.

“Cyrus,” said T-Bone, “we’ve been over this a thousand times. We all know what to do. Just need to wait for the call.”

Cyrus limped over to T-Bone and pointed his finger within an inch of T-Bone’s face. “We’re going over this plan till you morons know it in your sleep. Got no room for mistakes. So listen up.”

“You better hope that bum leg of yours gets better soon," T-Bone smirked. “Or you won’t be going anywhere.”

Cyrus kept his eyes on the map. “Leg’s fine,” he growled, “just bumped it when I fell. So shut up about it.”

T-Bone grinned, looking casually at the map. Mace looked at Razer, surprised. “Booze must be settling him down,” he whispered, “otherwise he’d be strangling T-Bone again.”

“Get over here,” Cyrus ordered. They gathered around the table. Cyrus traced a line on the map with his finger from one black dot to another. “Now, me and T-Bone will collect six packages in Palmer on Thursday at 10:30 AM. Here’s the exact location.” He pointed to a small dot on the map. “Palmer’s 43 miles northeast of Anchorage, and we'll meet the truck about a mile west of town. Then we'll drive to Anchorage and meet Huske sometime early afternoon. Huske will transport the packages to his cabin, and we'll fly in and pick him and the packages up from there."

T-Bone interrupted. “He’s going to cross up part of Chugach Mountains, then head west to his place. He’s dragging the packages all that way on a toboggan.” He raised his eyes in feigned disbelief.

“Why can’t you just fly from Anchorage, forget going through the mountain range?” asked Mace.

Cyrus slapped Mace's face with the full force of his backhand. Mace yelped, lurched back from the table from the sudden strike, his cheek reddening. Cyrus growled, shaking his fist in Mace’s face. “I told you a hundred times we can’t take a plane over that ridge. We’ll be lucky to land the helicopter there.” Cyrus shoved Mace a few steps away from the table. “Now get outta here. I don't want to look at your ugly face."

T-Bone’s calm voice broke the tension. “Settle down, Cyrus. Get back over here, Mace.” T-Bone traced a parallel line on the map close to the one already marked in ink. “There’s no way we can get a helicopter, let alone a plane, between these mountain ridges. They’re too high and too close together. Our best bet is to pick up the packages in Anchorage and let Huske take them up to his hut. It's about a third of the way up, and there's a flat spot wide enough to land. We’ll collect the packages, and we'll fly to Fairbanks. That’s where the transfer is.” T-Bone lit a cigarette. “Cyrus and I will take it from there.”

“Yeah, well, when do we get our money?” Mace glanced at Razer, not at Cyrus or T-Bone.

Cyrus’ arm twitched, but T-Bone blocked it from slapping Mace again. “I told you," he said quietly, “you’ll both get your cut after the delivery.”

“Better not rip us off. Me and Razer each get 10%.”

“Relax, Mace,” countered T-Bone casually. “No one’s cheating you out of your share. Just do your job.”

“Make that jobs, not job," Mace said. "We got about ten jobs. You and Pa got one.”

Cyrus, red with fury, slowly pushed his chair back from the table and stood up. Mace braced himself and backed away. T-Bone stood between them. Cyrus moved slowly away from the table, folded the map, and slipped it into his shirt pocket. “I’m going to bed,” he mumbled. He climbed the stairs with noisy, blunted steps and slammed the door behind him.

T-Bone looked at his brothers. “Cyrus and I have the dangerous part. And it’ll take the most time. We got the pick-up, the flight to Huske’s cabin and back, and the drop-off. One mistake, and we're dead. Then they'll come after you and Razer, maybe even Beane. All of us will be dead, just like RibEye.”

"We don't know fer sure he's dead," Razer muttered, more to himself than his brothers.

“Yeah, we do," Mace said, his voice sad and low. "He's dead, or he'd be back by now.”

“No use talking about the dead,” added T-Bone, “what’s done’s done.”

The three brothers stood quietly for several minutes. A sip of beer, a drag of cigarette, deep sighs, a shuffling of feet. No one spoke. In reverie, they stood around the worn wooden table in the dim light of the cramped room, attending RibEye’s funeral.

Get notified when new episodes release