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Authors: Bec Johnson

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BOOK: Murfey's Law
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Lori swallowed then laughed carefully. ‘Well, when you put it like that, I see no harm in trying. After all, showing some thoughtful consideration into the business may help me gain points.’

‘Yay!’ Kristy leant over the counter and hugged Lori.

Simon would drop off a dozen mixed loaves early the next morning Kristy suggested, and Lori headed off with a chocolate croissant for the journey home, certain she’d made a new friend.

 

Back in Murfey’s Beach, and after the regular little school crowd had dispersed Lori took Bob for a long walk on the beach. He trotted happily up and down between the waves and the last of the holiday-homers packing up their kids before heading back to their beach shacks for the evening. ‘I wonder what they do when the sun goes down,’ Lori spoke to Bob as he passed her with a clump of seaweed in his mouth.

Probably all jump into their four-wheel drive BMWs and head down to the restaurants in Fisherman’s Bay for dinner and a glass of overpriced wine, she answered herself.

As they made their way up the rocks and into the garden Lori could hear what sounded like a party coming from the back of the shop. If she wanted to win over the residents then leaving the doors open for squatters to come and go as they please was probably not a great idea. She’d have to get tough and start locking up when she wasn’t around to serve. Until she sat down and took a good look at the books Lori had no way of knowing if people were just helping themselves to supplies whenever the place was left un-manned.

Inside the back room, and encircled by a large group of raucous tweens, Senior and Junior Turner were conducting what looked like some sort of insane children’s party. Zeb saw Lori first but chose to ignore her. The younger Turner, spotting Lori standing mouth agape in the doorway, picked his way through the chaos. ‘Hey you, want to join in?’

‘Uh, no. Thank you anyway. You could tell me what you’re doing here though.’ Lori tried her best to remain polite.

‘It’s Youth Club night Lorikeet.’ Zeb pointed at a piece of paper sticky taped to the wall without once looking up from where he sat helping a little girl doing something with clothes pegs.

‘Umm, yes, what he said.’ Younger Turner ran his fingers through his hair.

At least he had the decency to look uncomfortable Lori thought. She stepped over a couple of boys wrestling on the floor and looked at the paper. A timetable detailed a bizarre variety of events, from ‘Seniors Tai Chi’ to ‘Baby Massage with Sunny’. According to the monthly schedule, tomorrow was ‘Ladies Bridge Night’.

‘O… k, I really need to get to dinner with Jenny. We clearly have a lot to talk about.’

 

Half an hour later Lori had finished her second shower of the day and changed into something a little cleaner. She stepped into her favourite black maxi dress. The stretchy fabric was forgiving, perfect for dinner, and tied loosely around her sunburnt neck. Not bothering to dry her hair fully, she picked up the envelope from earlier and went downstairs.

Peace had been restored. All the children had been collected and the boys were now tidying up. Lori watched them working in silence for a moment before interrupting them.

‘I’m off next door then, if you’d be so kind as to lock up when you leave, I’d appreciate it.’

‘Wow! You look incredible…’ Younger Turner spoke as the pair, dressed in their blue Police overalls, looked up from their sweeping.

‘Shut up Jonah,’ Zeb barked at his brother. ‘Of course we’ll lock up.’

Feeling brazen, Lori stuck her tongue out at him, making Jonah laugh. Un-amused, Zeb just stared at her, his eyes boring through her already stinging skin, making her shiver.

Time to go.

‘Right, well goodnight officers,’ she chuckled as she turned and left them to it.

 

Lori’s stomach let out a growl of anticipation as she walked up Jenny’s front path, the smell coming from inside was mouth-watering, and having only eating a few slices of bread she was ravenous.

Just as Lori went to knock on the door, Jenny pulled it open with a flourish. Dressed in head to toe paisley, great swathes of silk and chiffon billowed around her.

‘Va va voom! You look absolutely stunning darling. Now come straight in and help me with Skippy. I’m having a little trouble getting him into the oven.’

Chapter Six

 

 

 

Full to bursting point and just a bit tipsy from Jenny's homemade Raspberry wine Lori had made it home and into bed not long after midnight. She'd had a lovely evening, the unease she initially felt about eating one half of the coat of arms hadn't lasted long. Her host was an incredible cook, and made it all look so effortless too. They'd eaten three courses, Jenny's own recipes, and each one more delicious than the previous.

Jenny also did most of the talking. She told Lori everything she knew about the shop and about the role Jack had created for it to play in the community. In the mid-nineties, soon after he and Robin had separated, Jack came into a modest amount of money as a result of a tragic accident that claimed both his parents. Using his inheritance to buy the shop in Murfey's Beach he threw himself into community life and quite literally opened his doors to the residents so that there was a place for local clubs and groups to establish. According to Jenny, his standing in the town had been regarded as that of legendary. Lori found this hard to hear, so had chosen to offer no contribution to the conversation.

To her, her father was the epitome of uselessness.

After dessert, Lori had opened the list of shareholders and Jenny, sworn to secrecy, provided her with as much information as she could about the six other names on the list. She'd need all the ammunition possible if there was to be any chance of gaining a majority vote, but from how Jenny had described in great detail the nuances and eccentricities of the majority of the investors, Lori came away from her evening feeling as though she'd need more than a fully stocked armoury to penetrate the over-protective hold they have on the future of the shop.

The alarm clock woke Lori at six, just as Simon pulled up on the drive at the front of the shop. She planned to go for a swim straight afterwards and so greeted him dressed in her bikini and shorts. It was far too hot and humid to care about the quantity of flesh she had on display. The day was already showing signs of being a scorcher.

‘You must be Lori.’ Simon smiled as he climbed out of his car.

‘And you're Simon.’ Lori hopped down off of the verandah and ran her hand over the back of the shiny black Porsche pushing up the land value of the shop considerably. ‘I need to learn how to bake!’

‘Hah!’ Simon laughed, patting it on the fold-down roof like it was a horse. ‘This, I can assure you, is thanks to ten years of fourteen-plus hour days. Kristy's taken the delivery van out to the eco camp.’

‘Well, let's get the goods inside shall we? I could smell the bread before I'd even opened the front door.’

Inside, Simon set down two large flat boxes containing the dozen loaves, and handed Lori a few leaflets covering the names and ingredients of each loaf. She'd be able to use these later when she chalked up an advert on the old ice cream blackboard.

While he was there Simon asked Lori for a tour of the place. He'd been given strict instructions by Kristy to take a look around and offer Lori any advice he had on the shop's potential.

‘You know, this place would make a really spectacular café. The views from the back room and that deck... wow!’ Simon stood holding open the driver's side door of the Porsche half an hour later.

‘Perhaps whoever buys the place will see that too.’ Lori dismissed the intimation in Simon's tone.

‘Kristy was right, you really are headstrong,’ he laughed and gave her arm a friendly rub. ‘Give us a call when you want more bread Ok?’

‘Ok.’ Lori smiled and stood back as he closed the door and started the engine. He and Kristy were such an affable couple it was easy to see how business for them was booming. Their customers, the residents of Green Bay, probably loved them.

As Simon left the drive and turned right on to the road towards Green Bay Lori noticed Bob trotting along the verge on the other side of the street. She had fed him last night after their walk on the beach but hadn't seen him when she came home from Jenny's. She'd just presumed he was curled up in his favourite spot under the deck.

Behind him, carrying his surfboard was Zeb. Without missing a step he walked right past the shop, not once taking his eyes off Lori. He looked both angry and tired. The nights he was putting Jonah through must be taking their toll on him too. How he found the energy to go to the beach at the end of his shift was beyond Lori.

Refusing to be intimidated she stood defiant, hands on hips and watched him pass by until he was out of sight.

 

She'd only just begun her colourful chalky handiwork when her first customer arrived and bought two of Simon's A Bit of All White loaves. Introducing herself kindly to the octogenarian Lori mentally checked their name against her investor list. Despite not being one of them, she still afforded the old lady her very best customer service, and even persuaded her to take a litre of almost out of date milk with her bread. The village thrived on gossip Jenny had reminded Lori last night, so she needed to be on her very best behaviour at all times from now on, and boy did it pay instant dividends.

By ten past seven all the loaves had been sold.

Shocked by the whirlwind of customers, Lori called Kristy immediately to share the news and to place an order, doubled in size, for tomorrow.

‘See, what did I tell you,’ Kristy bubbled at the other end of the line.

‘I know, I know, you were right. What I hadn't counted on though was how excited I'd be myself, all at the hands of selling a few baked goods,’ Lori laughed into the phone.

‘Imagine how you'd feel if you branched out into other areas,’ Kristy pushed.

‘Mmm hmm.’ Lori tried not to encourage her.

‘I know a hobby farmer not half an hour away from Murfey's Beach making some incredible cheeses.’

‘Let's see what happens with this next batch of bread first eh? After all, it may just have been a coincidence and tomorrow I could very well be eating my own way through twenty-four loaves.’

‘Alright, alright,’ Kristy backed down with a chuckle. ‘Listen, Lori? I need to go, the Chef is here to check his delivery order. I'll try and swing by tomorrow, see how you're doing.’

And with that she hung up.

 

On a high, Lori gave Jenny a big floury hug when she popped in to buy some effervescents. She'd drunk more than her fair share of homebrew last night and despite her generous figure, clearly couldn't hold her drink as well as one might expect.

She offered to hang around while Lori went for her swim and, with fizzy orange water in one hand, she dragged the wooden armchair from the deck out onto the front verandah and settled down with a copy of last weekend's newspaper.

 

Dead calm. I think that's what they call it, Lori thought when she reached the rock platform below the garden. Not a breath of air blew in any direction, amplifying the heat by several degrees, and creating an almost glassy sea. Several families had already begun setting up their spots in the sand for the day, unravelling rugs and pitching shade tents for protection. Lori could see Bob playing his favourite game of rolling in seaweed just out of reach of the tiny waves lapping at the shore.

Zeb was nowhere to be seen. Most likely put off by the serenity, Lori supposed.

Judging the drop more carefully this time, Lori leaped cleanly into the water from the same spot on the platform as she had done yesterday. The relief from the heat was immediate, and she stayed under as long as she was able to, enjoying the cool weightlessness. When Lori resurfaced she brushed back her hair and wiped salt water from her eyes.

‘Enjoy living dangerously don't you Lorikeet?’

Sat on his board in a hollowed out cave, completely invisible to above and the position where she'd jumped from, was Zeb. Looking even angrier up close he scowled at her from his perch whilst she trod water.

‘What is it with you?’ Lori questioned. She honestly didn't believe that she'd actually done anything to warrant this level of antipathy towards her.

He didn't reply, instead letting a smirk play on his lips, just like the one she'd seen the day they first met in the shop.

‘Argh!’ Frustrated with his flip-flopping from playful to pissed off and silent to downright intimidating Lori slapped the water in front of him, catching her hand on the edge of the rock. ‘Ow Shit!’

She raised her right arm and could see something long and purple sticking out of her little finger.

‘Oh for god's sake, hold still,’ Zeb broke his silence. Rolling his eyes he knelt up on his board. ‘Give me your arms.’

‘No, I'm fi... owwww! What the fuck is it?’ Lori growled as she tried putting it back in the water.

‘Just give me your arms,’ he snapped again.

Unsure she could swim in to shore with one arm extended Lori reluctantly obliged.

Zeb wrapped his hands around her wrists, and with relative ease hauled her up next to him. Sitting in such close proximity should have had more effect on her than it did, but the spike protruding from her digit, and the excruciating pain it was causing her, kept her mind on other, more pressing matters

That was, until he took her hand and rested it, facing up, on his thigh.

‘Who was the guy I saw leaving your place this morning?’ Zeb snarled, pulling Lori out of her physiological nosedive.

‘What bloody business of yours is it?’ Lori knew he wanted her out of the village probably more so than anyone else, and so she wasn't surprised he was bristling at the idea she may be making changes to the shop. He was probably worried she had plans to stay.

Back to silence again, he didn't answer.

Lori's finger throbbed as though she'd slammed it in a car door. She wasn't up to playing his ridiculous games of cat and mouse. ‘The guy was Simon, he's from Green Bay....’

Zeb squeezed Lori's finger so tightly she could feel the blood draining away from it.

‘...Ow! You're hurting me Zeb.’

Ignoring Lori's pleas, he squeezed even harder. Just as she was about to scream at him to let go he pulled the spike out with one hand and released his grip on her with the other.

‘There, it's out.’ He held it in front of her face for her to see. ‘It was a Purple Sea Urchin spine. Nasty little thing.’

‘Nasty? It was fucking evil!’ Lori smacked his hand, sending the offending object back into the sea.

‘Yes, well, Murfey's Beach is full of all sorts of poisonous creatures.’

‘And that's supposed to mean what exactly?’ Lori didn't miss the double meaning in his words.

‘Nothing. Nothing at all.’ Zeb let out an audible sigh, and in a possible gesture of apology placed his hand on her knee. ‘You should go put your finger in very hot water for as long as it takes for the pain to subside.’

The feel of his hand on her leg shot through her skin like an electric shock. Her body quaked at the sensation of his touch. There was no way he wouldn't have felt it.

‘I should go.’ Zeb stood up abruptly. He lifted his board out from underneath her bottom, toppling Lori onto the rough surface of the platform, and dove with it into the water.

 

Bob was waiting for her on the deck when she scrambled her way back up to the shop. She had tried to have a quick swim after Zeb left her so abruptly in the little cave, but the pulsating in her finger, not to mention her leg, was far too off-putting.

 

Just as he'd told her to, Lori followed Zeb's instructions with the hot water. After sharing the bare minimum of details on the incident with Jenny, Lori dispensed of her assistance, sending her home with an icy cool soft drink pressed against her forehead. The raspberry wine hangover was only very slowly abating.

Every hour that passed caused the temperature to rise dramatically.

An extension cord running through the shop powered an upright fan and Lori's laptop where she had set herself up on the verandah for a day of research. Bob lay flat out beside her. The only movement he made for hours was to flick his ears every time a pesky fly bothered him.

Customers came and went, and Lori took the opportunity to glean as much information from them as possible. She listened to their suggestions for the store, some more far-out than others, and politely fielded their intrusive questions about everything from her childhood with Jack, to her threadbare love life. Summoning all her willpower to remain courteous took a lot of energy in such heat, and at about five o'clock she fell asleep.

BOOK: Murfey's Law
3.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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