It was almost like Chuck and I had an unspoken pact that day to not talk about Charlie and his addiction. One of us would start and before the sentence was out of our mouths, we both changed the subject. We focused on the matter at hand instead. The wildlife officer was supposed to meet us there at noon. We all arrived early.
I have to admit I felt much better standing next to a man with a handgun holstered at his side and a rifle in his hands. We entered the place and found Charlie’s lunch debris on the floor. The pizza box was shredded, the remaining pieces of pizza had been eaten, except for the cheese. The lion had picked off the sausage and pepperoni, had eaten the dough underneath, but, left the cheese laying where it fell.
We inspected the place – all 3 floors from top to bottom. The ranger was giving us instructions for how to proceed. We were standing at the plywood that had been used to cover the garage man door opening. I remarked, well, we are safe if we can get all the doors on, right? He said, well, not really. Lions have been known to scale rough frame walls and they love to hang out in the rafters. Always, always inspect the rafters before entry or doing work. I was incredulous. He then went on to say, it won’t be safe here until there are real doors, insulation, drywall and siding.
Before any of that could be done, we had to pass all rough inspections.
So, before he left, he gave us final instructions on what to do should we encounter a lion. He looked at me and said, what ever you do YOU MUST NOT RUN. He said that I would be prey to the lion and would probably be taken down immediately. He said to talk big, act big and don’t block the door way or other access. The whole time he is talking I am thinking what I would really do if I were to meet this creature. Would I remember all these instructions? Would I remember to not run, when everything in me would probably be saying to run? What about my husband who walks around assisted by a cane? Would he be able to do these things? Would I be able to protect him?
So, the man with the weapons left us alone in the cold, cursed house on the mountain. Our task of the day was to cap and pressure test the mechanical and plumbing pipes in preparation for inspections on Monday. Because we were still not in mountain lion free zone, we came up with this plan. We would do everything back to back. That way we would both have visual confirmation of what was happening around us.
The plumbing pipes had to be capped on the side of the building from the 3rd floor. The ladder leaning up against the open gable end on the inside, I shimmied up between the ladder and the rafters and leaned out to place the cap and secure it. Done, whew.
Capping the mechanical pipe required climbing the ladder at ground level, hoisting myself over a 4 foot embankment of snow and walking across the frozen roof to the pipe. Done!
We capped all of the others from the basement and then went down together to the basement.
The whole day was pins and needles. I was jumpy all day. Every sound, every movement, every shadow. I couldn’t stand to be away from Chucks body. I wanted to cry and to scream all day. Why are we doing this?
We pressured up the lines and started the test. First thing we hear a loud pop, followed by another loud pop. The first 2 caps had blown, the test failed. We ran outside and found the first cap 20 feet down the driveway! We never did find the roof cap.
Long story short, wash, rinse, repeat. My jumpiness continued, I was worried that dusk would bring the mountain lion back. Standing still, I could feel it’s presence behind me. A couple of times on the ladder upstairs, I felt like I was being touched on the shoulder. It was getting dark when I climbed up and literally ran across the roof for the last time to clamp on the last pipe. The tests succeeded. We closed up and drove down the mountain.
I was overjoyed to get away from that place. I was totally and completely creeped out.
A few miles out of town, Charlie’s helper from the day before called. He had heard from a friend of a friend of a friend that Charlie had overdosed on heroin and was at some ER, he did not know where. He did not know if Charlie was ok.