“I think you're overreacting. All fathers are like that when their daughters get married. He'll get used to the idea, eventually.”
“That's what I'm hoping, but in the meantime, I'm not letting him out of my sight. How am I going to explain to Sidra that her father won't be able to give her away because he's in jail for assaulting the groom?”
“You're being ridiculous. Besides, you can't watch him every minute.”
“I know. That's why I hid the gun. Not that I think he'd actually use it on Ron, but I'm not taking any chances. I found it in his bottom drawer but I put it in his winter boots. He'll never find it there.” Sue seemed quite proud of the neat way she'd handled this problem.
Lucy furrowed her brow. “I didn't know you had a gun in the house.”
“We didn't. It's newâstill in the box. I found it when I was cleaning out his dresser this morning.”
Lucy was horrified. “He bought a gun and he didn't tell you?”
Sue shrugged. “Of course not, Lucy. He knows I don't like guns. He's hiding it from me, just like he hides his dirty magazines.”
Lucy wasn't convinced. “Maybe you should talk with somebody about this. A psychiatrist or something. This doesn't sound like Sid.” Lucy paused. “Why would he even buy a gun?”
“Oh, you know men and their toys. He's like a little kid. Always bringing stuff home and hiding it because he thinks I won't approve. Remember that motorcycle he had a few years ago? Trust me. I've got it under control.”
“Yeah . . . and denial is a river in Egypt,” muttered Lucy, as the waitress approached them.
“Can I take your plates?” she asked.
“Are you ladies interested in dessert today?”
Lucy and Sue both shook their heads.
“Then I'll be back in a minute with the check.”
“I think one of the women who left covered it,” said Sue.
“Oh, no,” said the waitress, hoisting the tray to her shoulder and taking it away.
Lucy and Sue burst into giggles.
“Mrs. Gotrocks. . . .”
“Skipped out on the check!”
Sue reached for her purse. “This one's on me.”
“We'll split it,” protested Lucy.
“No,” said Sue, digging deep into her bag. “I've got it.”
Lucy watched while Sue pawed through her purse, finally coming up empty.
“I changed purses this morning. I must have forgotten my wallet.”
“Never mind,” said Lucy, pulling out her charge card and trying hard not to think of the balance owed. “This one's on meâbut it's the last time I go out to lunch with a millionaire's mother!”
ednesday afternoon, when the deadline was past and it was too early to start on next week's issue, was the day Lucy liked to do her big grocery shopping and catch up on her errands. So, after leaving the Greengage Inn, she headed for the IGA. First, however, she had to cash a check at the drive-through.
As she sat in line in her car waiting for a woman in a huge SUV with New Jersey plates to finish her transaction, her mind went back to the lunch. A glance at her checkbook's shrinking balance, and an uneasy awareness of her Visa account's ever-growing balance, made her regret taking the check. Over a hundred dollars for lunch! How was she going to explain this to Bill when he saw the statement?
She had acted on impulse, hoping to lighten some of Sue's burden. Poor Sue certainly had her hands full, she thought. As if coping with Thelma weren't enough, now Sid had to start behaving strangely. What was he doing with a gun? And why hadn't Sue confronted him and asked him about it? It certainly wasn't good for couples to keep secrets from one another, she thought, vowing to tell Bill that the wedding would be in the gazebo. She amended the thought:
be in the gazebo.
The large SUV finally moved on and Lucy pulled up to the window.
Back at the house, Lucy spent the next half hour or so unloading the car and putting the groceries away. When she'd finished, she grabbed a peach and the copy of
magazine she'd picked up at the checkout counter and headed for the gazebo. Kudo trotted along beside her; in his mind any change of location required an escort. When she stretched out on the chaise longue, he took up his usual sentry position on the top step.
Lucy took a bite of peach, caught the juice with the back of her hand before it dripped down her chin, and opened the magazine. She hoped to learn about this new economy everybody was talking about. She flipped past the ads, which were mostly for computers and companies she had never heard of, and started reading a story about the “Hundred Hottest Start-Ups.”
Previously she'd thought of Internet companies in terms of retail sales. Nowadays, instead of filling out an order form and sending a check when you ordered from a catalog, you could place your order with the computer. It had made shopping a lot easierâespecially if you needed something in a hurry, like Mother's Day flowers for your mother-in-law.
To Lucy's surprise, however, most of the companies in the article didn't sell productsâthey sold know-how to other companies. They maximized and utilized; they generated and organized; they managed and prioritized; and they all guaranteed results. And right up there in the top fifty was Ron Davitz's company,
. Lucy read the description, but the only part of it she understood was the thumbnail-sized photo of a smiling Ron. He looked better in miniature, she thought.
He was also, she learned, soon going to become a lot richer than he already was. Analysts agreed the stock would soar to stratospheric heights when the promised software hit the market. As founder of the company, Ron would reap enormous rewards.
Lucy let the magazine drop to her lap and looked up at the roof of the gazebo, where Bill had cut the boards so they all radiated out from a center point. It had been a labor of love that had taken him hours, and it hadn't netted him a cent. As she studied Bill's handiwork, she wondered if Ron had felt the same sense of purpose when he created
, the same sense of satisfaction when all the pieces came together just right.
It was four-thirty when Lucy awoke with a start. Leaping over the startled dog, she ran to the house and splashed water on her face, combed her hair, and grabbed her purse. It was time to pick up the kids.
First stop was the day camp, where the girls were part of a group of kids waiting for their rides. Sara and Zoe were cheerful and relaxed as they scampered into the car; Lucy noticed they had each gotten a little sun on their faces.
“You better wear sunscreen tomorrow,” she told them at the same time she was thinking how healthy that little touch of sunburn made them look.
At the Queen Vic Inn, Elizabeth was waiting for her on the porch. From her sullen expression, Lucy didn't think the day had gone well.
“Tough day?” she asked as Elizabeth took the front seat beside her.
“Want to talk about it?” Lucy asked dutifully.
Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “Mrs. McNaughton was all over me today. Said I wasn't working fast enough. I'm only supposed to take twenty-five minutes per room, but I don't see how I can do it that fast. I have to change the sheets, dust and vacuum, clean the bathroom, give them fresh towelsâand some of these people are pigs. One couple left a slice of pizza on the rugâcheese side down! And there's this guy who's got all sorts of papers and a computer and a fax and doesn't want me to touch anything, and then there's the people who put âDo Not Disturb' signs on their doors all the time. When am I supposed to clean their rooms?”
Lucy was tempted to mention the present state of Elizabeth's room, where so many dirty clothes were strewn on the floor that it was impossible to vacuum, but she bit her tongue. Instead she said, “It's always hard to get used to a new job.”
“Now I know how it feels to be a slave,” said Elizabeth.
Again Lucy bit her tongue.
“Give it a chance,” she said. “You really need the money for college.”
“It's just so unfair. Toby gets to mess around on a boat all day and I have to clean disgusting toilets.” She shuddered.
As soon as Lucy turned into the parking lot at the harbor, she realized something was up. A group of fishermen had gathered by the harbormaster's shack, and from their attitudes Lucy understood that they weren't there for a friendly chat. She automatically reached for her notebook and camera.
“Can we go on the swings?” asked Zoe.
Hearing the men's raised voices, Lucy came to a quick decision. “No, you better stay in the car.” Seeing Elizabeth reaching for the door handle, she added, “You, too, Elizabeth.”
“What is this? Now I'm a prisoner? Why can't I come, too?”
Lucy didn't have time to argue. “Later,” she said, hurrying across the parking lot.
When she reached the harbormaster's shack, she saw Wiggins leaning in the doorway, smoking a cigarette. Considering the group's collective anger, his casual attitude seemed out of place.
“You can't do this to me,” Geoff was complaining. “A mooring won't work. I've got too much equipment to load and unload.”
“That's right,” agreed one of the others. “Whose harbor is this, anyway? Does it belong to us, who live and work here, or some rich guy?”
This last was met with enthusiastic agreement from the others.
It was then Lucy noticed Ron Davitz, who was standing next to Geoff but a few feet away, as if keeping a safe distance from the fishermen. He looked out of place at the harbor, thought Lucy, noticing how white his skin wasâespecially his legs, which were well covered with dark hair. His shorts were too short, and he was again wearing black socks with his sandals.
Wiggins cocked an eyebrow at him and flicked his ashes on the ground.
“Try to look at it from my point of view,” said Davitz. “People are constantly coming and going at all hours; there's engines and yelling and banging; and if that isn't bad enough, I tell you the stench from . . . something . . was absolutely unbearable this morning.”
“Lobster bait,” said one of the men, prompting chuckles all around.
Davitz didn't see the humor. His voice rose. “In case you've forgotten, I'm paying top dollar, and my mother is not comfortable.”
Again the men laughed, and Lucy definitely heard someone say “Mama's boy.”
“Well, maybe you shouldn't have brought your fancy yacht to a working port,” said Chuck Swift, grasping the brim of his long-billed cap and pulling it down.
Ron squinted in the bright sunlight and turned to face Wiggins. “I'm going to say this one more time: My mother was up all night because of the noise. Now what are you going to do about it?”
“There's nothing he can do,” said Geoff. “It's the nature of the business. Fishing is noisy, smelly, messy work!”
“I'll handle this,” said Wiggins, addressing Geoff. “I'm the harbormaster here and I don't need you to do my business.”
“Well, do your job then,” said a fisherman Lucy didn't recognize, “and tell this guy that he picked the wrong port. Tinker's Cove is a working harbor. We were here first, and if he doesn't like it he can leave.”
leave?” countered Davitz. “It's a big ocean. Can't you fish somewhere else?”
The men glared at him, and Lucy thought it was just a matter of time before someone punched him. She was relieved when Geoff broke the tension.
“This is a fishing port,” he said. “It was built by and for fishermen. They've fished out of here their whole lives, and their fathers and their grandfathers before them. That's the way it is and that's the way it's going to stay.”
Unfortunately, Geoff's little speech had the effect of a rallying cry. The men became more agitated, voicing agreement and moving restlessly.
“Calm down, fellas,” said Wiggins, tossing his cigarette butt in the water. “Nobody's saying you have to leave; you just have to use a mooring for the duration.” He nodded toward Davitz's yacht.
“I think I speak for a lot of us when I say I don't mind using a mooring, but you've got to let me load and unload off the dockâit's that simple,” said Geoff, offering a compromise. “There's too much risk of dropping something overboard from the pram.”
Lucy was relieved to see the fishermen nodding agreement. It seemed as if the tension was defusing. Then Ron spoke up.
“What's the problem? It's fishing equipment. It's supposed to get wet, isn't it?”
Geoff turned to face him. “It's not fishing equipment I'm talking about; it's specimen vials and microscopes and tanks. . . .” He clenched his fists and Lucy held her breath, certain his anger was going to get the best of him. His right arm drew back, but he suddenly checked himself and threw his hands up in frustration. “Anything happens to my equipment, Wiggins, and I'm presenting a bill to the town.”
He stalked off, and Chuck quickly spoke up. “There's a waterways commission meeting next week . . .”
The men laughed hearing this, and Wiggins gave a little smirk.
“Well, if the commission won't help us out, we'll take it to the selectmen!”
“That's not a bad idea,” admitted one of the men.
“We gotta get organized, present a united front,” suggested another.
“Say we meet at the Bilge in half an hour?”
At this, the group began to disperse.
Lucy approached Wiggins, hoping to get his reaction to the situation, but he retreated inside the shack and pulled down the window shades. Real professional, she thought, and she hurried after Geoff, catching up to him just as he was preparing to push off in his dinghy.
“Where's Toby?” she asked. It was low tide and she was looking down at him from the dock.
Geoff pointed out to the center of the harbor, where the Lady L was anchored. “He's still on the boat, and he's going to be there awhile longer, since now I have to use the dinghy to unload the boat. I guess Davitz has to have the whole damn dock, all the time.”
“Is that what this is all about? Nobody can use the dock?”
“Only Davitz. He's rented the whole thing. So his mother won't be disturbed.” He paused, watching as Davitz stumbled awkwardly on the yacht's gangplank. “I'll be damned if I can figure out what she sees in him.”
“Me either,” agreed Lucy. “But if we knew what makes people fall in love, well, we could sell it and we'd be a lot richer than Ron there.”
Geoff managed to produce a grim little smile. “Don't wait; I'll give Toby a ride home,” he said, dipping the oars into the water and starting to row.
Lucy stood for a moment watching, lost in thought. She wondered if Davitz realized how foolish he was being. The fishermen might be laughing at him now, but it wouldn't take much to provoke violence. It had happened before over matters that seemed trivial to outsiders. Cutting another lobsterman's lines or poaching his traps could get a person killed.
“Pretty dishy,” said Elizabeth, joining her mother and giving Geoff a little wave.
He grinned and raised an oar to her.
“What?” Lucy asked.
“Admit it, Mom. You were looking at Geoff and I don't blame you. He's really good-looking.”