It had been a mostly relaxing day for Debbie. After her morning run, she had returned to her apartment and done nothing but loafed. She read most of the morning, then walked down to the town center for lunch. It was packed with families checking in to the rental cottages and others preparing to leave for the drive back from their vacation.
At a table next to hers in the restaurant sat a family she was quite glad to see go. The woman was a petite blonde, in fantastic shape physically but mentally distressed, harried and detached from her children’s behavior. The man, tanned and athletic had a very bad hair transplant recently as visible from the farmed row of plugs across an otherwise bald head. He sat, watching a baseball game on one of the overhead TVs oblivious to the world around him. The well dressed children were exceptionally satanic.
The boy, around nine, was turned around hand hooked over the back of his chair. He apparently was trying to tip it over in an effort to get Debbie’s attention. She finally looked at him and smiled.
“My family’s rich,” he affirmed to her. “I’m rich. Born rich, been rich, staying rich. Rich! Rich! Rich! Rich! Rich!”
“Dalton, you turn back around right now and eat your lunch,” the mother said grabbing him by the arm.
“Owwwwww! You hurt me. Dad! She hurt me!” he howled.
“Never mind about her Dalton, the Rangers are winning. Pay attention, son, if you want to make All Stars next year,” was all the parenting he offered.
Meanwhile, the daughter, a couple of years younger than her brother, just sat in her seat swinging her head side to side and screaming one loud and very long, “WAAAAH!”
The mother would occasionally tell her to eat, to which the little girl would only scream, “I want the pony toy! I want the pony toy!”
They carried on like that for about twenty minutes until the man finished his beer and asked for the check. The waitress produced it with such great speed that she could have won a quick draw competition. After they left, it took the waitress a solid ten minutes to clean up the thrown food, spilled drinks, and globs of ketchup from a five foot radius around the table. She looked up at Debbie as she worked and said, “I’m sorry. I’ll be right with you.”
“Please, don’t worry about me. I promise not to throw a fit.”
“It’s a fact of life that most people have different ideas of what vacation should be like and it’s a sad fact that some have no idea,” the waitress replied.
After lunch, she browsed the shops for something to wear to the party she was to attend that night. Although most people would never be invited like that, and many who would would decline, to Debbie, it was a treat. She had always enjoyed a room full of strangers. They offered the double pleasure of getting to know new people and being lost in a crowd. In clothing, like food, she was an efficient shopper. She was able to choose a cocktail dress directly confusing the ladies working in the store. They were used to customers agonizing over several options. She had wanted to get out quickly so that she would have time for the afternoon sun in the community pool. It was one of three in Broadwalk, near her apartment and seldom visited by the large number of families staying there. It seems they were at the mercy of the children who favored the grand pool in the center of the development. The grand pool had a twisting waterslide and built in pool water cannons. The pool on Debbie’s street had only lap lanes. But something must have been wrong with the grand pool. The lap pool looked like free admission day at Disneyland. She continued on to the apartment.
She entered to the sound of her ringing phone. “Hello?”
“Ms. Baylor? Walter White,” he said. His phone voice was different, older.
“Hi. How are you?”
“Doing fine, although it’s a side show over here right now. Caterers, florists, waitstaff, you’d think someone was getting married.”
“You don’t need a wedding to have a party, every day is a good enough reason.”
“That’s true. So you’re still coming, right?”
“Yes, if you’ll still have me, you can count on it. Andrew tells me you don’t like to drive.”
“I don’t mind it to travel, but I avoid it whenever I can.”
“Good for you.”
“I gave it up years ago when I read that the average person spends more time sitting in traffic and looking for a parking place than moving. Life’s too short, I say. So, I’ve taken the liberty of scheduling a car for you. The driver should be around at seven, will you be ready?”
“Oh, Mr. White. There’s no need for that.”
“It’s no bother. As I said, I don’t drive my self, so when I’m at home, I’ve a driver with nothing to do.”
“If you’re sure, then I’ll accept.”
“Good, it’s settled then. Oh, ah, one more thing”
“Don’t be fooled by all the goings on I mentioned to you. It’ll be an informal party so casual cocktail attire is fine.”
“Mr. White, be careful telling a woman what to wear, she’s liable to be contrary to spite you.”
“It’s never been my intention to control people, they don’t listen anyway so it’s just a waste of breath. When you get to be my age you want to make sure each one counts. I just wanted to make sure my escort didn’t look too much better than I did.”
“I’ll be tame, I promise.”
“Don’t want you tame. Just try not to outshine me too much.”
“See you at seven thirty Mr. White.”
“It’s Walter,” he said grumbling. “I’m not that old.”
“Right, see you at seven-thirty, Walter.”
She had been to enough cocktail parties in coastal Virginia to know that formality was not a high priority. At the beach in the south the formality of the dress was as often as not inversely proportionate to the status of the wearer. As far as men went, this law took itself to extremes. A man of high standing at an evening seaside party would more than likely be dressed as if he had just gotten off a fishing charter boat. Usually it was up to the women to not only set the standard but also keep their escorts in line.
Debbie began to get ready. After showering, coifing, dressing and primping she found she had some time to take a glass of wine out to the balcony of her apartment. She sat out in the fading sunlight taking it all in. The detour that had led her down here was working out to be one of those unforeseen jewels that life can give. All that had appeared so overwhelming that it had driven her out of her home in Richmond and on this odyssey had become less important to her than she thought it could.
She heard a car door slam and looked over the railing. A black sedan sat under her balcony, its driver staring up at her.
“Ms. Baylor?” he asked.
“Yes. I’ll be right down.”
“Take your time, ma’am. No rush.”
She walked inside, put the bottle of wine in the refrigerator and went down to the waiting car. The driver opened the rear passenger door for her and said, “Watch your dress ma’am,” and closed the door.
“Sorry I wasn’t waiting for you down here, I thought you would call for directions,” she said to him.
“No, ma’am, I know the way.”
“Excuse me?” he said looking at her through the rear view mirror.
“How did you know where I was?”
“Mr. White told me.”
“How did he know, do you think?”
“I imagine he just called the Broadwalk rental office.”
Evidently he had the type of pull that he could do that. Unlimited access to information is the real luxury of privilege.
“So do you drive for him full time?”
“Yes, ma’am, for eight years now.”
“Are you from here?”
“No ma’am. I’m from New Jersey.”
“How do you like it?”
“Miss the snow.”
“You like working for Mr. White then?” she asked.
“Yes ma’am, he’s fair.”
He drove west on the county road in silence, except to answer her questions. It was strange, almost uncomfortably so, for Debbie. She had ridden in chauffeured cars around the world and had never before been with a driver so reticent to speak. She enjoyed conversations, especially with people who would open up like an atlas with only a few questions.
“So, what’s your name?” she asked.
“Mine’s Debbie. Got a family, Darryl?”
“Ever robbed a bank, Darryl?”
“Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party, Darryl?”
“No, ma’am,” he said again looking at her through the mirror.
This was going nowhere. They turned on to Highway 98 and rode the rest of the way in silence. Debbie looked to the right and saw Trojan Artifacts. Darryl turned to the left under a long pine board that read Four Mile Village in hand carved letters. He pressed the button on a garage door style clicker that signaled two heavy steel gates to open. The car continued through about 300 yards of tall pines with several campground clearings spread around.
“Is this the Sierra Club land?” she asked.
“Is it used much?”
The trees cleared and they reached a neighborhood of several winding roads through dunes anchored by impressive beach houses on large lots.
“Can you show me the launching ramps?” she asked.
“How do you know about those?” he asked for the first time showing interest in having a conversation with her.
“I just called the Four Mile Village rental office,” she replied.
“I’d be happy to,” he said smiling.
He turned to the right just before reaching the beachfront road and pulled to a stop on the beach side of a large dune. He got out and walked around to get her door, but she beat him to it.
“This way, ma’am, but you might want to leave your shoes here.”
She hesitated, looking around.
“Don’t worry. They’ll be safe.”
She took off her shoes and followed him up a long path in soft sand through scrub. They reached the top of the dune. On one side was a view of the Gulf. On the other was a long concrete ramp with narrow railroad tracks imbedded in it. He stepped up onto the top of the ramp and offered her his hand. She took it, climbing up to see, while he explained, “They launched the V1’s off of this ramp and two others there and there. Over on that dune, you can see the concrete observation bunker they used. And if you look straight down you’ll see a dud.”
She looked down the beach side of the dune and visible was a rusted tube about the size of a torpedo with jagged stumps where the stubby wings and tail assemblies once were.
“I didn’t even notice it walking up,” she said.
“No ma’am, you can only see that one from above. But there are a couple others over on the far side that you can see easier.”
“That’s okay. You’ve seen one piece of history, you’ve seen them all,” she replied.
He smiled again.
“Is that Mr. White’s house?” she said pointing to a sprawling stucco and tile mansion front and center to the beach.
“Yes ma’am. We’d better get there. He’s got no patience for tardiness.”
He took a gaping step back down onto the trail and then again held out his hand for her. They returned back to the car. He picked her shoes up for her, wiping the sand away, and put them on the very edge of the pavement so she could slide her feet back into them.
“Thank you, Darryl.”
He opened the back door for her.
“You mind if I ride in the front?” she asked.
“I’d prefer you didn’t. Wouldn’t look right.”
“Ok,” she said sliding into the open door.
He backed the car down the side street and pulled forward to Walter White’s drive.
“May I ask you a personal question, ma’am?” he asked troubled.
“Yes and its Debbie.”
“Do you have business with Mr. White?”
“No, he invited me to a party.”
“Of course, but parties are business for him.”
“Well, I don’t have any business with him that I know of. Why would it matter?”
“You’re friendly. The people I drive for Mr. White are only friendly when they are very drunk.”
“Does he host good parties?” she asked.
“The best, ma’am.”
“Well, stick around. If you’re driving me home tonight, you might see the real definition of friendly.”
“I look forward to the opportunity,” he said with a smile that disappeared as soon as he pulled into the driveway. He got out and walked to the back door. This time Debbie let him open it.
“One word of advice ma’am.”
“Don’t sign anything while you’re in there.”
“Thank you, Darryl. I won’t.”She walked up the marble steps to the front door. Darryl disappeared around the side of the
house. She reached out for the doorbell, then paused for a moment. Taking a deep breath, she
pushed the button.
RETURN TO TABLE OF CONTENTS CONTINUE TO CHAPTER 18