Read Castle Cay Online

Authors: Lee Hanson

Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery, #Suspense, #Crime, #Mystery & Detective, #Murder, #Detective, #General, #Thrillers, #Romance, #Women Sleuths, #Thriller

Castle Cay (3 page)

The staccato
click-tap
of Mrs.
Bennett’s pumps echoed through the showroom, and they both turned
at the sound.

“Ah, there you are. I see you’ve found the
coffee, Marc.”

“Yes…thank you, Mrs. Bennett.”

“Please, call me ‘Laura’, Marc. None of the
salesmen call me ‘Mrs. Bennett’. Would you like to get some coffee,
Julie, before we start? It’s right over there, by the Parts
department.”

Julie hurried to go grab a cup, pondering the
word “salesmen”.

I don’t think I’ll call her Laura yet…

* * * * *

Chapter 6

I
t was closing time, the end of her
second week, and Julie walked to her car as frustrated as a benched
ballplayer. Twice that day she had greeted a walk-in, only to find
out it was a returning customer who had already met with another
salesman. It had been happening to her all week. How could she make
a touchdown if she never got the ball?

The very next day, Julie arrived determined
to write some business. She was the first one out of the morning
meeting…and just in time for the first customer of the day, who was
entering the showroom.

“Good morning!” she said, smiling and shaking
his hand. “I’m Julie Danes. How can I help you?”

Suddenly, from the back of the room one of
the salesman called out, “Hi, John! I’ll be right with you!”

Damn...not again!

Julie sighed. “He’ll be right out, John. Can
I get you some coffee?”

“Sure…but my name’s Ted.”

Dawn broke over Marblehead.

“I guess he’s mistaken you for someone else,”
she said, taking his arm. “Let’s go get that coffee, Ted.”


Week three was a bonanza. Julie had three
“full-sticker” sales to three happy customers, all walk-ins. She
was about to receive the biggest paycheck she’d ever earned, and
even though the women in the office still wouldn’t give her the
time of day, Julie sensed a grudging respect…if not friendship…from
the salesmen.

Her mother had called once, sobbing and
drunk, carrying on about George. In the past, Julie would have
dropped everything and run to her rescue. But she didn’t…and life
went on. All in all, things were going very well.

That is, until the beginning of week four
when Dan O’Hara, the chauvinistic and charismatic New Car Manager,
came roaring back from an award trip to Hawaii and crash-landed
into Julie’s life.

* * * * *

Chapter 7

September 17, 2007
Boston, Massachusetts

 

J
ulie awoke with a start as the plane
bounced on the landing strip, amazed that she had slept through the
entire three-hour flight. Around her, passengers unclipped their
seat belts and opened the overhead bins, but Julie remained seated,
concentrating on details long past, reluctant to let go. Despite
her effort, most of her dream slipped away.

Eager now to see Pete and Joan, Julie waited
impatiently with the crowd exiting the plane, and then made her way
quickly through the airport, boarding the bus to Hertz. As she
drove along Route 1 North toward their house in Salem, she thought
back to the last time she saw Marc and David. She had gone down to
Key West to visit them.

It was a celebration, Julie recalled. They
had gone with Susan Dwyer, Marc’s agent, to Mallory Square for the
Sunset Party. Later, they had closed up the Hog’s Breath Saloon.
Julie focused on their conversation. Marc was getting bombed, she
remembered, smiling. He was talkative, exultant…

 


I finally did it, didn’t I? I’m so
excited! Rave reviews in the Globe and the Herald. Did I tell you I
sold several big pieces?”


Yes! I’m so happy for you, Marc.”


You know the best part of it? The show
was in Boston, right under their
noses.”


Whose noses?” she asked,
laughing.

Marc’s demeanor suddenly darkened.


Dear old Dad and Evil Av.”

Julie was confused.


Avram? Your brother?”

Susan interrupted.


C’mon, Marc. He’s not that bad. He makes
sure you get your check every month.”

Julie was taken aback by Marc’s reaction; he
flared at Susan.


It’s not from him!”

Susan just sat there, stunned into silence.
It was an embarrassing moment.

Marc, drunk as he was, realized he was out of
line. He immediately quelled his anger. He waved his hand
dismissively.


Oh, the hell with Av,” he said, putting
his arm around her. “If we can agree on some stuff, Susan is going
to get me a show in New York!”

 

Julie couldn’t remember talking about Avram
again that weekend. Surprisingly, Marc and David had been planning
a trip to Castle Cay in the Bahamas. They’d talked about it a lot,
but Julie didn’t remember one word of that.

Castle Cay.

Did I deliberately tune that part out?

The mere thought of the place literally
stopped her cold. She pulled off the road near a quiet intersection
and sat there, nauseous.

A cold, familiar sweat crept across the nape
of her neck and she shivered.
Why would Marc go to that cursed
island?
Julie had trained herself to quickly cut off thoughts
of Castle Cay when they surfaced. She struggled to bring herself
back to the present.

Pete and Joan. They’re waiting for me. Where
the hell am I?

She pulled out her cell phone and called the
Soldanos. Their house was “ten minutes away”; they told her to
“continue on the exit road, north to the river”.

Julie kept the river on her left as directed,
driving slowly, squinting at each street sign on the right. The
area was heavily wooded, and it was growing dark and difficult to
see. She didn’t want to have to turn around on the narrow, two-lane
street, which was edged on the left with nothing more than a tiny
rock wall and some birch trees above the riverbank.

At last she saw it, an oval sign on her
right, rimmed in gold:

 

Drake Hill

 

She turned right up a steep grade and
immediately saw their house, ablaze with lights. Like the other
five houses on the short street, it was nicely landscaped and set
among the large, granite boulders of the hill. They were waiting
for her outside. She got out of the car and they all hugged each
other warmly.

“Look at you two, you’ve hardly changed.”
They’re
a matched set
, Julie thought - not for the
first time - about her friends who looked more like a brother and
sister. Dark haired and a few inches shorter than she, Pete and
Joan were fitness fanatics who walked and biked daily. They were
beach-lovers, too, and deeply tanned. Julie could see some craggy
lines on Pete’s face and his hair had thinned some, but not a
strand was gray. Julie thought he looked great. And as for Joan…she
was as pretty as ever.

“Your house is beautiful. I love the way the
homes are built around the boulders. We don’t have anything like
this in Orlando.”

“Yeah, it’s nice here. We built the place,”
said Pete with pride.

“Julie, I made a dinner reservation for eight
o’clock,” said Joan. “We’re going to have to leave
right
away
if we want to make it, you know? Pete, why don’t you take
her bags inside the house.”

“No problem,” said Julie quickly. “Don’t
worry about my bag; we can take it in later. Hop in…I’ll drive.
Where’re we going?”

“Pickering Wharf,” said Joan.


Pulling into the familiar waterfront area was
bittersweet for Julie, who remembered going there with Dan. The
three ate in a favorite seafood restaurant, and brought each other
up to date on their lives.

Julie talked briefly about Orlando and her
business and they laughed when she told them about her cat, Sol,
and his independent ways. Pete and Joan beamed with pride as they
talked about their boys, Pete, Jr. and Paul.

Julie learned that Soloman Chrysler had grown
to three locations, and that Pete was now the GM of the Lynn store.
They reminisced about the folks they knew who still worked for the
company.

But the tragedy in Key West couldn’t be
pushed into the background for long. Joan was the one who finally
went where no one wanted to go.

“Was Marc terminal, Julie?”

Julie sighed.

“Yes, he was, in the sense that AIDS isn’t
curable. But was death imminent? No it wasn’t, Joan. He looked good
when I saw him. He was happy.”

“We went to his show on Newbury Street,” said
Joan. “I loved Marc’s paintings… especially the Castle Cay ones,
you know?”

Pete interrupted his wife.

“The ol’ man, Milton? He didn’ go, y’know,”
he said, fuming. “Can you believe that? He’s one stubborn
son-of-a-bitch!”

“Pete,” shushed Joan, her hand on his arm.
“Keep your voice down.”

“Sorry. It just gets me mad. Marc never
deserved to be treated the way the ol’ man treated him. When Miriam
died, Milt and Avram both acted like Marc didn’ exist.”

“Avram did go to the art show, Pete.”

“Did you talk to him?” asked Julie.

“No,” said Pete, “He was with some dame.”

“Maybe Avram’s finally ready to settle down,”
said Joan.

“Yeah,
right
,” said Pete.

On that note, he peeled off a tip for the
waitress, and they left for home.


The day’s measure of grief and travel had
taken their toll. Julie sank into the sofa-bed in the guestroom,
pulling the blankets up to her neck against the chilly air. She
missed Marc terribly and fell asleep remembering another time….

* * * * *

Chapter 8

December, 1989
Boston, Massachusetts

 

T
hey were seated at their favorite
table in the alcove by the bow window inside Blum’s Bakery &
Deli, two blocks from the dealership. The windowsill was
egalitarian, sporting Hanukah candles and a miniature Christmas
tree. Julie looked through the lightly steamed panes at the snow
blowing around outside. The little restaurant was renowned for its
soups and sandwiches and was filled to capacity with lunchtime
regulars, who were as dependable as kids around an ice-cream truck.
Julie watched as each of them stamped their wet boots and
unconsciously smiled as they entered.

The cacophony of voices actually made for
privacy and the two of them found it a cozy spot for conversation.
But, for some reason, Marc wasn’t his usual chatty self. He had
finished his pastrami sandwich in near silence, and now he was
studying her with a very serious expression.

“I’m leaving, Julie. I can’t sell cars. I
haven’t had a sale in a month.”

“Marc, don’t say that…you have to be more
positive.”

“All right, how’s this? I’m
positive
I’m not cut out for this. Seriously, I just can’t take it anymore.
I can’t. I’ve had it.”

“Oh, stop. It’s all in the numbers. If you
see enough people, someone will buy. Besides, it’s not
you
they’re rejecting; it’s the car, or the deal.”

“Why can’t they be nice, though?” he
whined.

Oh, God, not that again.

“Look…people are defensive in a sales
situation, Marc. You have to stop taking it personally.”

“I can’t help it! Besides, I want to go back
to art school. My Dad’s going to be pissed, but my mother
understands. I’m going to tell Dan today, Julie. Hell, he’s
expecting it.”

Julie slumped in resignation.
It was
always just a matter of time.
She could tell that Marc’s
decision wasn’t going to change, no matter what she said.

“Oh, damn. I suppose you’re right. But I’m
going to miss you so much!”

They were getting up to leave; Julie smiled
and poked him in his shoulder.

“Do you realize I’ll be eating lunch all by
myself, you selfish brat?”

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” he said,
helping her with her coat. “You could invite The Divine Dan to
lunch.”

Solomon Chrysler’s New Car Manager, Dan
O’Hara, was six-foot-five with wavy black hair and green eyes.
Marc, who had a crush on him, generally referred to him as
“Superman” or “The Divine Dan”. Julie couldn’t stand him.


Not
funny. He hates me and the
feeling is mutual. I’m going to miss you terribly, Marc,” she said
as they headed for the door. “Promise that you’ll keep in touch
with me?”

“Of course I will.”

“Solemn promise?”

“Solemn promise.”

* * * * *

Chapter 9

I
t was eight months since she had come
to Solomon Chrysler and although Red and Pete were the only ones in
her fan club, Julie was happy. Except for one thing…and it was
happening again.

“I have to say, that car’s got a real nice
ride, Julie,” said Mr. Gilbert.

“I just love it, Julie,” said Mrs.
Gilbert.

Time to turn it over…

Julie deeply resented having to turn over her
customer to a “closer”. She didn’t like subjecting them to that
transition. And besides, she was perfectly capable of closing her
own sales!

“Excuse me, Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert; I’m glad
you’ve settled on a car you’d like to buy,” she said, “but I’m new
here…”

How long must I keep saying that?

“So, I’ll need to get a manager to help you,”
she continued. “I’ll be right back. Can I freshen up your coffee
before I go?”

After topping off their coffee, Julie went
looking for Pete or Red - or whoever was available - but everyone
was busy. Dan O’Hara looked up as she walked by.

Oh, please, God…not Dan.

“Julie? You need some help? “

Actually, I don’t,
she thought.

“Uh, yes,” she said. “My people are waiting
to close. They’re interested in a used Imperial, but Pete is with
another customer.” Brightening, she said, “Why don’t I go see how
long he’ll be?”

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