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This Side of Death Ch. 6 Home Before Dark
Something in the middle of the night rousted me from a deep unconsciousness. It was the sound of an idling boat. Like a bolt of lightening, I remembered the ‘night light’ which I had left hanging on that dead tree hanging off the point. What had guided me home may now have just invited an unwanted guest. After the initial shock of waking with my hand over her mouth, I left Ms. Kendel Dawn to scramble out the front of the tent, crawling carefully out toward the clift’s edge. Extremely thankful for small favors, I found my ‘night light’ batteries had long since died.
“What is it,” Dawn whispered as I pulled her down to lay next to me. Silently we watched together as a hundred-thousand candle power lamp searched the shoreline. Whoever it was, they were definitely searching for something and my guess was, it was Max searching for his mistake. Eventually, the small craft ventured north toward Witch Candle Cove.
“What do you think?” I asked my uninvited guest who had rolled over and was looking wide-eyed at the featureless sky above. Her answer was long in coming but it was one that neither of us wanted to admit.
“It was him. That was my boat. He must have figured out where the keys where and how to crank it down into the water. We may have spent our honeymoon on a boat but he never seemed interested to go out in mine. But that was my boat. I knew it was my boat even before I saw it. Its got that big old Chrysler outboard which takes a miracle and a prayer to find parts for. Daddy bought it when we were kids.”
There was a long pause in the conversation before Dawn eventually broke the quietness of the wood and waves.
“You called it right on the money. He’s out here looking for me. How could I have been so blind. I thought this sort of thing only happened in movies.”
Neither of us remembered much of what followed. We just each took turns staring at the tent ceiling for the remainder of the night, not remembering whether we fell back asleep again or not.
Early the following morning I got us a quick breakfast and then to sooth my guest, I let her use what water was left in my camp shower as I began packing everything up. Dawn showered as I carried the boat back down to cove below. Returning to begin transporting kitchen and tent and everything else back down, I stopped at the ridge. I knew time was of the essence but a man has to do what a man has to do. For there, sitting down in the grassy ridge, I watched my damsel lather herself from top to bottom and everywhere in-between without her giving second thought to my return to the top of the ridge to sit and stare at her. Maybe later than night she would take one with me.
I had seen it all before; the night I carried her up ridge after rescuing her from the frigid waters of Witch Candle Cove. That was the night I undressed the wet noodle of a woman, toweling her dry before slipping her into some of my dry clothes. I had guessed her to be in her forties but not far into it. I’m sure most took her for being in her mid to late thirties. However, wearing only her shivering birthday suit, I had noticed baby evidences and willow wisp wrinkles, all the tells of maturity. I had also noted that she was no city slicker. She had not participated in the now all too prevalent shaven pubs. Her bush was not even swimsuit shaven. It was natural and full. She was also no gym rat. Though her midsection was flat, it wasn’t athletic taut. Its shapeliness had more to do with right eating and good genetics. As she rinsed I gazed and gawked at her two mounds of mother’s flesh. They weren’t photogenic Playboy, one gallon jugs. They were three bears perfect. Not too big. Not too small. Not so big so as to sag and not to small as to have nothing to handle. I reasoned that perhaps somewhere in her lineage there was a little Spanish or even native Indian for her nipples had an umber hue about them. Observed while shivering, I knew they had the ability to poke an eye out.
As I watched Dawn towel herself off before bounding back to the tent, the buoyancy of breasts singing a sirens call, I got backup and continued my task of breaking camp before the long paddle back. I had left her my dry suit. It would be big on her but is was quite elastic and would protect her from the cold water.
The previous evenings event had changed my mind as to heading back to my truck alone before returning in a more appropriate means of travel for Kendel.
Once again my damsel of the deep reclined across the rear deck of my fiberglass stiletto while wrapping her slender arms around me as we launched eryaman escort bayan out into warm, sunny two foot swells. The best laid plans of mice and men had planned for a long week-end in ocean and woods by myself. Who could have known? Who could have predicted? We never know what lies around the next corner. The morning sun eventually gave way to a late morning mist. The fiberglass pencil made slow progress southward. We both thought, if I was able, to bypass the cove that led back up to where her father’s boat supposedly now resided. Rather, I would do my best to paddle all the way back down to where I had originally set out. Though it was a good four hours beyond Kendel’s cove, I was thankful that I no longer had to paddle as if the woman life, who’s arms were wrapped about my waist, depended upon it.
We made good time thanks to the rise of a late afternoon wind in our favor, arriving us back near Duchess Harbor an hour after sunset. My vintage five hundred dollar pick-up, purchased locally six months before in the dead of winter, was found as I had left her –faded red and rusty with half a bed full of assorted driftwood gathered for firewood, landscaping and carving. Kendel took her place on its well-worn leather bench seat while I unpacked the boat and stowing it up onto a pair home made cradles atop the truck bed. With little fuss or fanfare I headed us back to my cabin-in-the-woods.
With only bare bones food back home in the fridge and no grocery stores in-between, without protest I pulled off into the local greasy spoon and ordered double my usual, informing Nancy, an always smiling round faced server, that, though cut short, it had been a long weekend and that I was sure that I could eat a horse. Ten minutes later I was pulling back down into my drive again and in under the make-shift car port before escorting my passenger inside my be-it-ever-so-humble, comfy homestead as both arms of the kitchen clock pointed at the ceiling.
Up at first light, I had Dawn call her accountant. Tracy, a late sleeper, accepted all apologies, pretending she was glad to help. Two hours later Dawn answered the phone. Neither the business account nor her personal savings account had any withdrawals over the weekend. “I own you one, Tracy. I’ve been a silly girl. Probably nothing. Passbook’s are probably in Max’s SUV. Yes. Gone again. Mexico. Two weeks. No, there wasn’t anything else. Oh wait! Would you be a dear and pretend I never called you? I’m such a ditz lately. And would you be a dear and do what has to be done to put the house in Audrey’s name. I’ll contact the insurance company to make her the primary beneficiary. Thanks for the heads up. Not sure why I didn’t do all that to begin with. Hu? Laugh out loud, sweetie. NO! I’m sure there are no more little one’s on the way. Very funny, Trace. Remember. I never made this phone call.”
Dawn then called her house. “Got the answering machine,” she mouthed as I closed the connection. Ten minutes later, same thing. Forty-five minutes later, I left the message, “Max, where are you! Hey, buddy, give me a call when you get back. We need to talk. By the way, where’s the Mrs.?”
Dawn’s house was a good hours drive north of town. Armed with twenty-five of my dwindling dollars, Dawn purchased one pair of jeans, a sleeveless blue plaid cotton blouse, one pair of size five white tennis shoe’s (complete with pink shoe laces) and one child’s yellow raincoat and hat. The bill totaled twenty-one fifty three at Martha one truck title, a fifty-four year old birth certificate, a few commemorative coins, two war medals, one picture and what money I had left to me. The unlatched door behind me squeaked on its hinges as three manila envelopes fell in on the floor. Closing and locking the door, I retrieved the envelopes, laying them on the shelf next to my open lock box.
Two of the envelopes, legal size, appeared empty. They were not. Inside the first was the deed to the ‘been-in-the-family-two-hundred-years’ house. In the second hid a fresh, crisp Coastland State Bank cashier’s check. It read one million, three hundred thirteen thousand, eight hundred thirty two dollars. I wrinkled my brow before stuffing it back into the envelope and sliding it in on top my five hundred dollar truck title.
The third envelope was bulky, nearly equal in size of my little deposit box. I dumped the second envelope’s contents onto the table and stood back and pondered the possibilities. There were three velvet jewelry cases. One was a black velvet ring box. The two others were sapphire blue in color, half again as big as the case I kept my bifocals in. There ankara escort was also a purple velvet bag with a gold tasseled draw string. I recognized its origin immediately -only this one wasn’t wrapped around a liqueur bottle. Sitting beneath all these were two plastic sheets.
The first sheet of plastic had stamps inserted, front and back. Some where pretty, others were not. Some were foreign. Some were not. My own father’s stamp collection fetched me, my brother and two younger sisters a walloping six hundred dollars. Something told me none of these stamps would go for less than grand each.
The second plastic sheet held three silver and nine gold American coins. The silver coins were all dated before Lincoln’s death. Eight of the nine gold coins were uncirculated twenty dollar gold pieces dated just after Lincoln’s death. The fifth was a fifty dollar uncirculated gold piece. Who knew their worth?
I carefully folded each sheet in half and slide them inside the box. Pushed all the way to the back. I knew there was not enough room left to stow away the two rectangular sapphire blue jewelry cases. I opened the first.
Nearly drawing a whistle, I knew it had to be the afore mention appraised seventy-five thousand dollar bracelet. Three strings of clear white diamonds, maybe a dollar bill in length, were tethered together by a rectangular sliver of silver at each end. Neatly inlaid within each clasp were three blue starfire sapphires. A tiny silver chain hung from one end. I slid the delicate treasure gently in on top of the stamps.
The second sapphire case held no gems of any kind. Rather, longer and wider than the first bracelet was a mail of golden rings. Lifting one end was like holding onto a golden waterfall. The interwoven links flowed from one end to the other. Though the rings were small, the bracelet felt surprisingly heavy. I poured the amazing trinket in on top of my fathers war medal’s. Prince and Pauper revisited.
Next came the black ring box. Inside I found a man’s silver ring. Large enough to fit my thumb, its face was embossed with a worn down, half lion, half dragon prancing on its hind feet. A dull red, chipped ruby was inlaid on one side while its sister was missing her stone. I could not tell if it was the ring of an old Nordic king or something picked up at the local antique shop. I closed the box and wedged it into in the front corner of the my deposit box.
Left last to open and inspect was the purple velvet bag. I cupped my hand so as to allow its contents to fall into it. A mixture of pearls and rough, uncut green emeralds were strung on an old waxy string. The string looked as if it would break and spill its wealth all over the floor if I dared to lift it by its knotted end. Their worth was not in craftsmanship. None of the pearls had any resemblance of perfection ready-wear cultured pearls had. The colors were as varied as were their sizes. The emeralds, seven in all, were all larger than my thumbnail. With great care I poured the old string back into the bag, drew the draw string closed before hiding it away in the last corner of my now full to over flowing deposit box. I wondered how much the value of that ten dollars bank security box had increased over the last fifteen minutes.
As the rain continued to fall, I ran for the truck. A yellow tent sighted within the cab of frosted glass leaned over and opened the door as I arrived. Sliding in behind that big black steering wheel of Detroit plastic and chrome, I sat frozen in time as the rain thundered loudly on top of the old sheet metal roof of my poor man’s truck.
“Well, what do you think? You did look at them didn’t you?”
I did not answer her questions right away. The awesome splendor of wealth and craftsmanship was slow to fade from consciousness.
“I kept this for myself,” Amy confessed at I turned to look at the forty-eight year old woman-child dressed in her newly acquired fisherman yellow rain suit. She held before me a dirty green wad of rubber banded bills. My questioning eyes looked up at hers.
“Twenty five thousand. This is mine. Fred and I tucked this away to help Audrey get through college. I’ll give you five of it now, ten of it when you get back. I’ll give you the other ten after you testify. Does meet with your approval?”
Still bewitched by what seemed like an eternity, I was awakened by a playful swat at the end of my nose with Kendel’s twenty-five thousand American dollars.
“I don’t know. What I mean is, I might have to grease some palms. It might take more than five to get this ball rolling. Did you open the second sincan escort bayan account like we had planned.”
“Yes, but not without having to stare down an inquisition. ‘You already have a savings account, Mrs. St. Claire. Yes, I know,’ I told her. ‘But I want one that my daughter can be the sole beneficiary of. It’s her college fund. And I want it so that it takes both signatures to make a withdrawal.’ That seemed to break the ice. I transferred a hundred and twenty-five thousand and some change over from my joint account with Max. I figure he owes her that much for throwing her mom over the bridge.”
“Did you close your joint account?”
“No! I left six hundred and sixty six dollars in there for the demon. I hope he gets the point. I would love to be a fly on the wall when he walks in there and is informed that his loving wife made a withdrawal only days before. And I know that is not what we had agreed to. But the more I thought about it, the more I liked the thought of him finding only six hundred and sixty six dollars in there. Do you think I did wrong?”
I just smiled at her and shook my head no. Poetic. A woman’s touch. It would have Max guessing all the more.
From there we headed north. Our route took us past her more-than-two-hundred-years-in-the-family house. Pulling off a quarter of a mile beyond the house, we tucked the red rust wagon down a short, unused drive. Half over grown with small junipers and ferns, it dead ended a hundred feet in beneath towering pines. It was not viewable from the road or the house. From there Dawn lead me due west before picking up a small trail that he’d us south back toward our destination. She assured me that it would lead us to the rear of the house.
It took less than an hour to check all the out-buildings and then the main house itself for signs of life. The Chrysler powered boat had been returned to it proper housing while Maximilian’s custom truck was nowhere to be found nor was he. The answering machine on Dawn’s phone had five unanswered messages. I asked her to wait. I asked her to think whether or not we wanted Max to know that someone had been in the house. Unfortunately, there was nothing that could have been done like that at the bank. I was sure that she/we had been video taped and when the time came, that tape would be reviewed. I only hoped that Kendel Dawn’s yellow vinyl hat had sufficiently covered her face so that positive identification would be difficult. The decision had yet to be reached as to whether or not Dawn would confront Max directly or whether we would trust it to the judicial system.
The house was large. The rear of the house had been the original structure. It had low ceilings, small rooms and a dankness about it which was a natural by-product of its age, its original intent, and the areas high annual rainfall. As I mulled it over, I was sure that it had originally only had dirt floors. I was sure that it had either been intended as no more than a hunting lodge or it had been the temporary living quarters of the men who had erected the remainder of the house. But I liked it. There was something warm and real in its aura as I began to sense the many lives that had passed through it before me. Discarded work shoes and several rain coats sat off to one side while a large white chest freezer and a double wash tub sat on the other. Further in, what had once been a small kitchen was now the laundry room. It was clean and empty. Beneath the old room, as it was explained to me during a quick guided tour, was a large pantry. “It has its own stairway. Max remodeled it into a wine cellar which he had only begun to stock.” There was a hollowness in her voice as she spoke.
Following a short hallway, Dawn led me into he main section of the house where the kitchen greeted us. Suddenly understood why Max had taken exception to Dawn making Audrey as the sole inheritor of the house. The kitchen was stone and beam. House & Garden eat your heart out. I whistled out loud. On the north wall was a bank of windows as was the west wall above the cupboards. The western roof line of the main house towered over the rear entry. The kitchen was warm and cozy with a large stone hearth at the east end of the room while opposite of it sat a large center island with copper pots and pans hung on an old wrought iron square suspended above it from the ceiling on four heavy iron cables. The kitchen was clean but having all the evidences of much use. A large booth sitting on a dais, was off to the right side of the hearth. Facing the rear of the house, it had full view of the kitchen including the panorama of tree tops outside the windows. The hearth’s stone was blonde river stone, not the expected local black granite. Huge old beams were obviously rescued from some other structure. The whole room was nearly as large as the entirety of the sad, poverty shack I called home.
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