Jake returned to his house. Getting out of his car he found Eden’s high school yearbook and some flowers placed in front of the hole her car had made. He dropped the poker out of his hand and picked up the book.
He walked inside, poured himself a drink and climbed up to his roof top perch. Sitting down, he slowly sipped his drink as he flipped through the pages. Eden was everywhere in it. She was standing in groups of kids all smiles and joy. Other pictures showed her personal achievements, clubs, sports. As he flipped through the pages, they quickly became blurs, sometimes he caught her face and sometimes it was others. His hand went limp before he finished and he left the annual open in his lap as he reached for his drink.
It was difficult for him to process the last few days. People’s lives are so often blurs of routine that they have poor ability to see significant events. But this was his. He relived all the starlit nights of crashing waves, the sunshine days, furious hurricanes threatening the fragile sand cliffs. The significance of all those times was clear to him as a life. So often he had belittled the brief coastal experiences of vacationers. But now he appreciated what he had dismissed as their weak attempts for happiness. He saw himself finally as no more than a permanent tourist on that county road and it gave meaning to his time there.
Self-realization comes at a price. For Jake Burns, that price was the sound of the approaching police sirens. As soon as he distinguished their arrival from the familiar sounds of bicyclists and cars fighting to travel that small road on the beach, he closed the book in his lap and tried to finish his drink. He didn’t get it done in time to answer the knock on his door downstairs. The sound of heavy steps and voices throughout his house signaled to him his hour had come.
“Jake Burns!” he heard a voice shout from below him.
“On the roof, Tommy,” he called down in reply.
The deputy’s steps were quick to him.
“Jake Burns, you are under arrest for assault with a deadly weapon, destruction of private property, trespassing . . .”
“The store was opened,” Jake plainly stated.
“Before you say anything else, I’ve got to read you your rights.”
As Jake was read his rights he was spun around roughly by the deputy, his face pressed firmly against the table that still held his drink and Eden’s yearbook. He was handcuffed with reasonable civility and then pulled upright and guided down and out of his house.
“You just couldn’t hear my advice, could you?” Tommy Allen asked Jake through the partition in the police cruiser.
“Go slow, will ya? It’s a nice day outside,” Jake said.
The deputy sped the cruiser back up to the Sheriff’s Annex.
“C’mon Tommy, I’m in no hurry.”
“You think back to back arrests make you notorious enough for a parade?”
“I’m disappointed in you Jake.”
“I feel like I was performing a public service somebody should have done a while back. That pompous ass needed adjusting.”
“Man lives by laws.”
“What good are laws when they only protect the guilty?”
“Laws protect everyone. You didn’t notice but they were protecting you for a long time.”
They pulled up to the side entrance of the Annex and Deputy Allen took Jake to the booking room. He shook his head while fingerprinting Jake when he noticed there was still residue from the last night’s fingerprinting. After more mug shots Jake was placed back in the same cell that he had spent the night in.
“Déjà vu,” he said to himself.
He laid down on the cot and was soon asleep.
What felt like only a few seconds later, Jake awoke to voices in the outer hall. He could hear the deputy explaining procedures to someone. When the door opened, he saw it was Walter White.
“Well, well, the patron saint of lost causes,” White said to him smiling.
“Jake, Mr. White wants to speak to you. I suggest you keep your cool,” Deputy Allen warned.
“Thank you, Deputy,” White said to him.
The three stood silent, Jake staring at White who just smiled at the deputy.
“Well, I guess I’ll go do some paperwork,” he finally said and went out of the door.
“You’ve been a busy man, Jake,” White said after he left.
“Not as busy as you and your little apprentice.”
“Hmmph. It’s all I know. Andrew, he is eager, wants to make something of himself. Problem is he lacks restraint in some ways, if you catch my drift. But that doesn’t explain nor excuse your behavior this morning. I must say, I was somewhat impressed by your tirade. I didn’t think you had that much fire in you.”
“Dead tree might take a long time to decide to fall, but once it does you better watch out.”
“Nice analogy, dead tree. I spoke to the County Prosecutor right after Andrew called me about your escapade. Doesn’t look good at all: trespassing, assault with a deadly weapon, about fifty thousand dollars in damage. Add that up to what you did last night and you’re becoming quite a criminal.”
“So what’s your point?”
“I have a proposition for you.”
“No,” Jake said.
“Let me try to help you unmake your mind. Burt Moore told me he’d rather not let you plea bargain. It’s fairly rare that he gets to prosecute something like this.”
Burt Moore and Walter White had been long time associates. Moore’s side interests included a fishing charter service in Destin and a company that contracted to clean vacation rentals throughout the beaches of the Florida panhandle. While no link between the two could be proved, the eyes of justice were probably peeping on this one.
“What are you offering?” Jake grumbled.
“Sell the store to me. I’ll pay you one million five hundred thousand for it. Andrew will drop all charges and you can move along like nothing happened.”
“Place like mine, prime location, minimal debt is worth two million easy.”
“I know how much debt you have. It may be worth two million on the open market, but that’s not the case here. I’d say five years in jail was worth half a million.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“I know you will. There’s not much else to do while you’re here.”
White got up from his chair and pressed the buzzer by the exit door.
“Hey White, even if I agree to this, my business with your son-in-law is still open. He won’t get away with what he did to Eden.”
“Yes, he told me about your wild claims. An imagination that vivid shouldn’t go to waste. Maybe you should take that money and get into the movie business, California’s got some beautiful beaches too.”
“Nah, it’s not my kind of place, water’s too cold and full of sharks. Then again, it’s not so different from here, is it?”
A buzzer sounded and White pushed open the exit door. After he was alone again, Jake laid back down on his cot and stared at the ceiling above him. Just as he settled back deep in thought, he heard the electronic lock buzz again. Deputy Allen came in, dressed in an ironed shirt and jeans that looked so blue that they must have just come off the store shelf.
“What are you thinking letting him threaten you like that?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Tommy,” Jake said still staring at the ceiling.
“Aw, come on Jake. I heard that whole conversation.”
“That was just an out of court settlement offer. Besides, it’s really not your business. Obviously, I am the bad guy here seeing as how I’m the only one in your jail.”
“Is that supposed to be some kind of sarcastic plea for help?”
“No. I’ve asked for your help already on this. You declined. This is up to me to work out.”
“You asked for the help of the Walton County Sheriff’s office.”
“I asked for your help.”
“No, you did not. When you talk to me and I’m in uniform, you’re talking to the job.”
“That’s what I call a split personality. So you must be undercover now.”
“No, I’m off duty.”
“Would your off duty self be interested in helping out?”
“Are you considering White’s offer or are you planning on fighting on?”
“When Carl left me that store, I knew it came with a certain responsibility. In a way, I was supposed to carry on as him. For a young guy as I was, it was great. It gave me a sense of purpose. If I thought Carl would disapprove of something that was happening, I would be his voice. Then there’s the old truth – for everything there’s a season. The community that he stood for and the exploitation that he opposed, their time has passed. Everyone wants to see the shift to large scale tourism. I should have known that where things stand now was inevitable. I mean the national motto is ‘I told you so’. What does that leave to fight for? People want vacations. Vacation companies want to give unique experiences. The days of the cinder block ranch house on Thirty-A are gone. All that’s left is the market, and it looks like it’s time for it to go too. So what do you want me to fight for?”
“What the hell do you think I’m doing in this dog pen right now? But everything’s against me on it.”
“You’re wrong about the law. The law will protect anyone who wants to be protected. It’s a funny thing I’ve noticed from being a deputy. The people that get taken advantage of usually want to be taken advantage of. Eden Brockwell is gone, but from what I knew of her I figure she would want to be protected.”
“I’d agree. She was feisty,” Jake said.
“What about you? Don’t you want to be protected?”
“How do you mean?”
“You haven’t even asked for your phone call yet.”
“Don’t have any idea who I’d call. Besides I’m guilty of what you arrested me for. I belong here.”
“You hungry?” Deputy Allen asked.
“No, not really. Maybe later.”
The deputy walked out of the cell room. He checked in at the front desk on his way out.
“Burns hasn’t made his call yet, so if he asks let ’m”
“Alright, Tommy,” Deputy Ash replied.
“Also, he hasn’t had anything to eat all day. You might want to call up to Cooter’s and have them deliver him a plate.”
“Well, I guess I’m going home.”
Tommy Allen went out to his truck to head back up to the farm. Working the early shift at the Annex kept him from doing the usual chores, but there was always a list of broken vehicles and projects for his wife that were calling. He had decided that today was the day to work on the tractor. He turned north on Seagrove Road headed up towards Freeport. He made it almost to Highway 98 before his conscience made him turn around and head back towards the beach. He stopped in front of the Redwood Grill, took a deep breath, and went to the door.
“No deliveries on Sunday,” Terrence yelled through the intercom in reply to the buzzer. Tommy pushed the talk button, “It’s Tommy Allen. I need to speak to you.”
The door opened to a much more polite man than had shouted through the speaker.
“Hi, Deputy Allen. Sorry about that. I thought you were the stupid produce man.”
“No sweat, Terrance. Say, I need to see your security video.”
Terrance looked at his clothing and asked, “Is this official business?”
“No, I don’t have a warrant.”
“I see. That’s kind of unusual, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is.”
Terrance stood there staring at him.
“How’s Olig and Artie?” Tommy asked.
There was a real shortage of staff help at the restaurants in the area. Most of the servers were lured down by good tips during tourist season, but bus boys and clean-up crews were nonexistent. To compensate there had been an unexpected influx of Russian and Eastern Europeans on tourist visas to take those menial jobs. They were welcomed but not really legal, a situation that was overlooked by officials despite the times.
“Very good, thank you,” Terrance replied quickly, “Would you like a cappuccino?”
He opened the door and stepped back to give the deputy room to enter.
Hoss peeked over his truck hood in the market parking lot and watched the deputy enter the restaurant across the street. When he saw the door close behind him, he made a beeline for the market door.
“Morning, Norman,” Rebecca said from behind the register.
“Hey, Missy. Where’s Jake?”
“I thought that woman from Virginia bailed him out.”
“She did. He got arrested again earlier today.”
“Mrs. Jones came in about half an hour ago. She said Jake had gone on some kind of rampage down at Trojan Artifacts. Deputy Allen came here about ten and took Jake out of his house in handcuffs.”
“Can I borrow your phone?”
Hoss dialed Bobby’s number and was not surprised to hear a woman’s voice answer.
“Where’s Bobby?” he asked her.
“This is Bobby.”
“Bobby, it’s me. Jake’s back in jail.”
“What’d he do?”
“Tore up Andy Troy’s place from what I hear. Did he not call you?”
“Not today,” Bobby replied.
“Listen, Hoss Man, someone’s got to bail him out.”
“Well, I’m kind of allergic to jails right now. Can you do it?”
“What makes you think he wants to be out? He obviously hasn’t called anyone or he would already be out,” Bobby said.
“Hoss Man, no one in their right mind would want to stay in jail.”
“Then he must be crazy, call a therapist.”
In the background Hoss heard the lady’s voice calling Bobby’s name playfully.
“Listen, if he calls me I’ll go get him, but until he does I think we should sit tight. Gotta go,” he said and hung up.
Hoss put down the phone and stared at the counter thinking for a minute.
“How much do you have in the register?” he asked Rebecca.
“Couple of hundred dollars.”
“Lemme borrow it.”
“You gotta ask Jake first.”
“Honey, it’s for him.”
She pointed to a large sign in Jake’s handwriting beside the register. It read in all capital letters ‘NO ADVANCES FOR HOSS! NO MATTER WHAT!’
“He’s your boss.”
“Rules are rules.”
“Ok, fine,” Hoss said as he walked out the market. He shuffled around the parking lot, kicking up dust until finally he decided that if Jake didn’t want to be out and no one else wanted to spring him, there was nothing that needed to be done. It was unquestionably a beautiful day to be at the beach, so on he went.
Rebecca was glad to see his truck pull out of the parking lot. She was worried about the prospect of dealing with an anxious Hoss pacing the market while she was there alone. She was more worried about Jake’s erratic behavior of the last few days, but she figured he was going to let off some angst one way or another over Eden’s death. She tried to enjoy the slow Sunday morning. Not five minutes later Shelia Brockwell entered the store.
“Rebecca, where is Jake?”
“He’s not here,” Rebecca said nervously.
“I can see that. Where is he?”
“Do you know why?”
“I heard he got into a fight.”
“Yes, I heard that too, with Andrew Troy and most of his shop. Do you know why?”
“I suppose it was a personal matter.”
“There is nothing personal between those two,” Shelia said stating the obvious.
Rebecca had enough of Shelia’s attitude. “If you want to know more you should go talk to him.”
Shelia stood still for a minute looking around and thinking. She had first been told about the morning’s events by Mrs. Jones who always made it a point to keep her current on Jake’s misadventures. On the way to the market Bobby Thomas had called. He wasn’t interested in telling her what had happened, only to see if maybe Jake had called her to come bail him out.
“You know, I think I will do just that,” she said deciding not to waste anymore time. She got to the annex and asked to see Jake. The deputy mumbled something about official visiting hours as he walked her back to the holding cells. They entered the room and she saw Jake mouth something upon seeing her.
“What?” she asked
“You can curse me all you want, but it’s you who has screwed up royally.”
“So it seems.”
“So it is. You know perfectly well you can’t just go out and pick fights with people because they rub you the wrong way. That goes doubly so for people like Andrew. You know Walter White will have your hide for doing that to his daughter.”
“I didn’t do jack to his daughter.”
“Who do you think owns that store?”
“It was the only way to get him to talk,” Jake said in a matter-of-fact way.
“You didn’t want to talk to him. You wanted to punish him, for what I have no idea.”
“Shelia, shut up and listen to me.”
Strangely she did just that. Jake was momentarily stunned that she had obeyed him. It made him hesitant to start. Up until now she had handled her loss so calmly that he knew it best not to involve her in what he had discovered. But alone and in jail he was without options. No one else either could or wanted to help him. Shelia’s prominence in the area could give weight to his claims.
He told her everything in detail. As he talked she began to cry without sound. By the time he got to the fight at Trojan Artifacts that morning her tears flowed without pause. When he finished, she turned away from him and brought her hands up to her face.
“I was wrong Shelia. I mean, I’ve been wrong pretty much since you left me. The whole idea of living in Carl’s shoes seemed like a great thing. But I never did any of it right. Maybe what Andrew told me was right. Maybe it was Eden’s fault. Or maybe if I’d been home that night she would have come to me instead of trying to go all the way back to Destin. I’m gonna sell the store anyway. I can’t be what the job calls for. I think if I take White’s offer I can just bow out and let the future down here happen.”
She moved the visitor’s chair across the floor up against the cage that held Jake. She sat down and leaned her head on the fence. He felt awkward seeing that she needed comforting while doubting that was his place. He would have if she had asked but it was that same doubt that kept him away when her husband left her and again when he died shortly thereafter.
“I’m sorry,” Jake said seeing that his confession had done no good. “I should have let her lie in peace.”
“No, don’t be sorry. I always knew you had something great in you. She knew it too. For the last two weeks I’ve been so lost. And you, Jake Burns, you have been trying to do what I should have. Now it is time for me to make it right.”
Just then the door opened and the deputy on duty walked in. Even though it was his jail he had a sheepish look that said he felt like he was trespassing.
“Excuse me folks, I have to get the other cell ready.”
“Busy weekend,” Jake observed.
“Yeah, strangest thing is that usually it’s as quiet as a bookstore around here. But Tommy just called in, said he’s bringing someone in.”
“Anyone we know?” Jake asked.
“Oh yeah, your old pal Andrew Troy.”
They both looked at him in amazement.
“What’s the charge?”
“Tommy says he’s starting with leaving the scene of an accident and is going to see where it goes from there.”
He opened the cell and unrolled the mattress on the cot.
“Deputy, could I speak to Mr. Troy before you bring him back here?” Shelia asked.
The deputy paused for a moment thinking then said, “I would tell you no, but I doubt you would take that answer.”
“You got that right,” Jake said smiling.
“He’ll be here in a couple of minutes. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll go get your interrogation room ready for you,” he said leaving.
“What’re you going to do?” Jake asked her.
“I’m going to start a little hurricane.”
“Come again?” he asked but at the same time had a pretty clear image of the possibilities.
“Its time that the past was swept clean to make room for a new start,” she said and left the room with the same sense of purpose she had displayed in better days.
Within thirty minutes they came to release Jake. Andrew Troy had decided to drop all charges against him. As Jake was escorted out of the annex, he caught sight of Andrew in a small room off the main corridor. He made eye contact briefly with Jake before lowering his head like a guilty man. Shelia was waiting for Jake in the front office.
RETURN TO TABLE OF CONTENTS CONTINUE TO CHAPTER 22