Debbie’s phone started ringing at seven thirty. She had a restful sleep after being dropped off by Darryl. She awoke feeling every bit of the ten hours of uninterrupted sleep, the first time in years.
“Hello?” she answered still waking.
“Debbie, its Bobby. I need your help.”
“Sure, I’ll be right over.”
“Uh, actually, I’m just down the road. Can I pick you up in five minutes?”
“Well, I’m not really dressed yet.”
“Don’t worry about that. It’s Sunday morning. You can get away with looking like you just rolled out of bed around here. I’ve been doing it for fifteen years.”
“What’s the urgency I hear about?” she asked.
“I got a call a little while ago. Hoss got arrested last night.”
“Lemme guess, drunken bar fight?”
“Yeah,” he drawled embarrassed for Hoss, “I gotta go bail him out.”
“So, what do you need? To borrow some money?” she asked figuring a gas station attendant might not have much cash.
“No, I can only bail him out. I need you to bail out someone else.”
“Let me get this straight. Jake Burns got into a bar fight last night with Hoss?”
“No, Jake got arrested for breaking and entering. And destruction of property.”
“What did he destroy?”
“Some tablecloths. Evidently, he urinated on them and part of a wall, too, although, I’m not sure if he’ll be charged separately for that.”
“I’ll be waiting downstairs.”
She climbed into her sweat pants and a t-shirt and made it downstairs as Bobby was pulling up in an antique Ford pickup. They drove to the jail without talking much. It would have all been speculation and hearsay anyway at that point. As they got out at the Sheriff’s Annex, Debbie stopped, looking at the building.
“They have a jail in a double wide? That has to be really secure.”
“Well, it’s really just for minor stuff – drunk driving, disorderly conduct, not for serious stuff.”
“He’s not in for robbery. He didn’t take anything. It’s probably blown out of proportion anyway. The charges were brought by the owner of the restaurant across Seagrove Road from Jake’s market. Jake’s not on the best of terms with him.”
They walked inside and were greeted by Deputy Allen.
“Hey, Tommy, you got some riff-raff in here you want to get rid of?” Bobby asked. The joke bombed. The deputy had gotten very little sleep because of the previous night’s events and was not in a good mood.
“Who do you want to process first?” he asked.
“I’ll take Hoss and she’ll take Jake,” Bobby replied.
They filled out the paperwork for Hoss, posted bail and Deputy Allen went back to get him. He came out looking generally disheveled. His shirt had been ripped at the shoulder and his knuckles were scabbed with dried blood. However, that look was not uncommon for him at eight o’clock in the morning. He usually showed up for jobs looking worse if it could be imagined.
“Hey, look, I got a real reception this time,” he bellowed to them.
“Norman, you better quit acting like it’s a party every time you get arrested,” the deputy warned.
“Why? It’s what I’m good at. A celebration of my spirit.”
“Your spirit?” Bobby said. “Your spirit is anarchy.”
“You got that one right. I am anarchy.”
“You’re a savage,” Debbie said when she caught his aroma.
The deputy asked Debbie for ID to process Jake. Looking at it he then asked for a local address. She gave it to him along with five hundred dollars cash for bail and he turned to go release him.
“Deputy, I’d like to talk to him before he’s released.”
“Technically he is already released. Besides, he’s not in a real talkative mood. I suggest you get him out of here and then have your heart to heart.”
“Okay,” she replied timidly.
He went back to the cell and returned with Jake.
“Debbie, thanks for bailing me out,” he said as he walked quickly towards the front door.
“Stop,” she said holding one arm out to block his exit, “you’re riding with me.”
“OK, let’s go.”
They walked out together and he stopped at the edge of the parking lot.
“Which one’s yours?” he asked.
“What is your problem?” she answered.
“I don’t have any problem. Now, which one is yours?”
“You robbed a restaurant? In the middle of the night? You don’t have a problem?”
“It wasn’t robbery. I didn’t take anything. It was just a little misunderstanding. Now, which one is yours?” he asked scanning the parking lot for out of state plates.
There were only three cars in the oyster shell parking lot. They were all easily recognizable by Jake since all the deputies stopped by his market on the way home. Usually they were stopping for beer, but some, like Tommy Allen, would just stop in to check in on things. Jake offered them free coffee, but none of them like the gourmet brands he brewed.
“What are you doing robbing a restaurant?” she said visibly angry.
“Debbie, there was someone else that caused Eden to wreck. I saw it on my security camera. But I couldn’t tell who it was. Terrance’s camera has a better angle, but he wouldn’t let me see his. I just wanted to see his tape. Now I gotta go talk to him, straighten all this out, so let’s go. Where is your car?”
She stood and held her hand to her head like she was trying to comprehend a babbling child. It was really a shame. The day had had such promise.
“I don’t have a car,” she suddenly realized out loud.
“Great,” he said and started walking towards Seagrove Road.
She quickly caught up to him. They walked towards the market and she fired off questions to him. He started answering but they were too out of sequence so he just began from Mrs. Jones’s visit the morning before and explained everything that had happened since then. When he was finished, she had just one more question.
“Do you have any idea who the other car could have been?”
“I don’t. Eden was always pretty private about her life. She came to me when she needed help, but outside of that I didn’t know what she was up to.”
“I think she was having an affair with Andrew Troy.”
“Impossible. She would never.”
“It’s possible alright. I’ve been around enough antique dealers to know a real smooth talker when I see one, and he has got the gift. He can talk a man out of his checkbook and a woman out of her clothes.”
“He told you that they were having an affair.” It was more of a question than a statement.
“When I was in his shop, I saw a book with an inscription from her to him, a personal inscription.”
“So she gave him a copy of Moby Dick. The guy has always been into books. He gets it from his father-in-law.
“It wasn’t Moby Dick. It was a book called I Am Thinking of My Darling.”
Jake stopped and turned towards her, “What did the inscription say?”
“It said ‘To My Fond Compatriot Andrew, Yours, E.B.’”
The look on his face said he understood.
“I told her about that book when she was planning a trip to New York. She had asked me what I knew about the city. I recommended it. She read it and then got totally lost while she was there. She couldn’t ever get over the romance throughout the story. Plus the landmarks were probably pretty dated in the book. A kid that age would never be interested in those spots. Andrew Troy, huh?”
He began walking again, but faster.
“Jake, I hope you’re not considering going and talking to him about this. I don’t think that would help anyone. You need to sit down and think about this for a day or two.”
He continued his pace and she made it a point to keep up with him. He was in no mood to confront anyone. She was hoping to talk him out of it.
“Let’s play a little game, ok?” she asked trying to slow him down. “I’ll pretend I’m Andrew and we just kind of talk through it.”
“Sure it will work. It works all the time in therapy.”
“If you pretend you’re him I might need to punch you at some point during the conversation and that just won’t work.”
“No, no, that’s the whole point. There is no physical contact, you just talk.”
He kept on not so much ignoring her as trying to avoid her words. He probably felt that special guilt reserved for those so involved in details, they never notice the obvious. She had come to him before, but only after a bad end to a relationship. He would listen and then point out all the reasons that she was better off without the guy than with him. As his mind raced faster, his feet picked up on the pace. Soon he was running, the market and his car in sight.
“Jake!” she yelled trying to stop him, then trailing off her voice whispered, “Isn’t one visit to jail enough?”
He reached his car freely sweating despite the early hour. He groped his pockets for keys, finding none, he ran to his house. When he got back out to the car she was there waiting for him, leaning against the driver door.
“Don’t do it,” she said.
“I’m not doing anything,” he replied shrugging his shoulders.
“Then come inside and talk to me.”
“I will, just give me one hour.”
“No, you leave and I won’t he here in an hour.”
“Then I’ll meet you at your place at Broadwalk. What’s the address again?”
“I won’t be there either.”
“Fine, do what you want.”
She moved away from the door looking hurt. He got in the car and took Seagrove Road up to Highway 98.
Trojan Artifacts was opened when he arrived. He swung open the front door and scanned the room for Andrew. He saw him in the glassed in conference room at the back and marched towards him. Andrew heard the buzzer ring and looked up from the papers spread out in front of him to see Jake trying to cut a path through the furniture. He got up to go make sure nothing was broken.
“I must say. You are the last person I expected to see here on a Sunday morning. No, second to last, but I’m not sure your sidekick Norman could find his way this far down the beach.”
“What’d you do to her?” Jake said.
“Who?” Andrew asked honestly bewildered.
“Eden. You were there on the tape in front of the market. You made her wreck.”
Andrew’s face turned red, “I did no such thing. She was drunk and she was speeding. She made herself wreck.”
“What did you do? You blocked the road, right? Ya’ll were in a fight or something? You couldn’t own her like all this musty junk you deal in all day long.”
Jake finally navigated his way face to face with Andrew and upon reaching him, punched him in the face. It wasn’t a heavyweight punch by any means, but the combination of it and Andrew’s surprise sent him reeling backwards and against a vase that wobbled. Andrew grabbed it quickly and steadied it.
“Are you insane? You hit me! And you almost caused damage to a very fragile vase.”
Jake picked up the vase with both hands and smashed it against Andrew’s left arm. It broke and he fell down.
“You are. You are insane. I knew it. All those years of too much alcohol and too much sun has finally pickled your brain. You better get out of my business right now before you get in real trouble,” he said still sitting on the ground.
“Get up. You will see real trouble,” Jake said waiting for the opportunity to hit him again.
“I will not. Now you better leave this place immediately.”
“Or what? You’re gonna tell your father-in-law someone broke some of your old overpriced crap?”
He picked up a brass candlestick and smashed a tabletop vanity mirror with it. “While you’re crying in his coattails, why don’t you tell him your thing for teenage girls?”
Andrew glared at him in pure spite. “I was only giving her what you wouldn’t. She wanted a man and as utterly incomprehensible as it was, she wanted you. ‘Jake says’, ‘Jake told me. . .’ That’s all that ever came from her mouth. Yeah, Jake Burns, you talk, you talk constantly but you never do and you never did. You just sat down at your little market and talked. You filled her up with all those big ideas that were too big for her too. People like you are just given everything and then do nothing with it.”
“You want to see me do something?” Jake asked feeding off of Andrew’s anger. “How about I distress a few pieces for you?” He pulled a chair out of a dining room set and threw it over Andrew’s head. It lodged crashing into the glass doors of a china cabinet.
“Stop it, you moron. That Chippendale chair was worth more than you earn in a week.
“Then get up because I’ve got some doing that I am going to do to you.”
Andrew stayed put holding his hand on the shoulder that the vase hit. Then the expression on his face went from anger to amusement. He started chuckling then outright laughed lowering his head and shaking it side to side.
“Oh, Jacob,” he said when he finally could catch his breath, “you are so lost. You think that Eden’s death was some kind of premature tragedy. Do you even have any idea what she was really like? She was no innocent child if that’s what you thought. She was manipulative like her mother is. Yes, Shelia Brockwell taught her daughter how to get just what she wanted. I’m surprised you never saw that.”
“No, you took advantage of her,” Jake said waiting for the opportunity to strike him again.
“You are a silly fool,” Andrew replied still smirking. “If there is one thing that I know, it is that no one is ever taken advantage of. Everywhere I have ever been, it is the same. People barter. They will use possessions or wealth or even themselves, but they barter for what they want. When they get hurt, it’s not because they were taken advantage of, it’s because they bartered with something they couldn’t afford to lose. I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that you are so naive. You never tried for anything.”
“Where do people like you come from? More, more, more. That’s all you ever think of. You come here, get a rich wife and decide that you’re some kind of higher being. You think you go beyond and above the rules of decency, but it’s just the opposite. The more that greed eats at you, the less you become. You stoop so low that you see everyone else as base as you see yourself. You’re a cannibal.”
“Then, you’re a maggot. You sit in the dark and feed off of what is already dead. When I first moved here and met you, you were exactly the same as you are today. You’re a vulture, still getting every meal off of that long dead man you inherited the store from.”
The anger that Jake had started with had now become rage. He was going into unknown and dangerous waters. His chest filled with deep breaths that he exhaled slowly through tight lips. He walked towards the man in front of him picking up an iron poker from an antique fireplace set along the way. He stopped an arm’s length away from Andrew, whose scorn quickly turned to caution at the intensifying situation.
“What are you doing?” Andrew asked slowly, at the realization of present danger.
“I am going to get the truth from you. We can do this painlessly if you want or if you prefer. . . “
“You’re out of your league, Jake.”
“No, at last I’m doing something.”
“Wait,” Andrew said letting go of his injured arm and holding his hands up to shield himself.
Jake pulled the poker back in a batting stance.
“She was going to tell Barbara about us. I was only trying to stop her. She had been drinking.”
“She wanted to end it and you wouldn’t let her?” Jake asked ready to swing.
“No, she didn’t care, neither did I. We were just fooling around. It was my plan for Endymion Springs.”
“A retirement village we’re going to develop where Eden State Gardens is now.”
Jake’s arms lowered slightly. He looked confused.
“Eden State Gardens is on government land.”
“The state doesn’t care. It’s got little to offer and they have better land. Topsail Cliffs, Point Washington, Henderson, those are the ones worth preserving in their eyes. They bring tourists.”
“You did that to her to protect development plans? You have no worth, letting someone die over a little money.”
“It’s not about the development. It’s the springs. The treasure of Baltaca is the springs that feed the plantation. It was the fountain of youth that Ponce De Leon was searching across Florida for. We all know the stories. The curative powers of those waters were documented by the Spaniards then and the New Age people today. Think about it Jake, so much healing power wasted, pumped back into Chocktawhatchee Bay because lazy state workers don’t want to deal with it.”
Dumbfound again, Jake lowered the poker.
“Did your dog tell you to do this?” he asked Andrew.
“You take a collection of myths and some vague coincidences and this is what you get? Really, it’d be better if you told me a dog told you to take over those springs, or maybe that you saw it in a dream. You could tell me that you got a phone call from Bigfoot with this plan and it’d make more sense than that you just came up with it on your own.”
Andrew looked up and muttered “Stupid pig” with a sneer.
Jake’s eyes went wide. He lifted the poker back up and swung full tilt. The hooked end connected squarely with the face of an armoire. He pulled back and swung again, this time ripping its door off. He walked through the shop battering random pieces with his weapon. As he went, ruining at will, he lectured Andrew.
“People are not to be walked over!” and a short dresser was smashed.
“Relationships are not for material gain!” as the poker went through a peer mirror.
“History is not for sale!” crashing another chair.
He reached the back of the store and stood facing the large window around the conference room. Raising the poker one final time he looked back and yelled at Andrew “You are to blame for Eden’s death!” and smashed the glass.
His demon released, he walked back towards the front door dragging the poker along the ground as he went. Walking out the door he said quietly, “Have a nice day.”
RETURN TO TABLE OF CONTENTS CONTINUE TO CHAPTER 21