Monday, October 8, 2012

WIP: Chapter 2 of "Dead Man's Cove"



     Quincy had been mixing drinks; a pitcher of vodka martinis and one of margaritas; and, from the spots of red on his cheeks, it was evident that he’d been sampling each.

     “Getting a head start on the head start to the weekend?” I asked as we entered the galley, which was located at the bottom of the stairs leading from the stern deck.

     “Have to make sure they’re made exactly right,” he said.  “Gaylord and his friends are fussy about their cocktails; at least, the first few.  After three or four, they’re usually so drunk; they don’t notice how you mix them.”

     “You’ve done this before?” Sandra asked.

     “Once or twice; my liver can’t take these trips more than two times a year.  Gaylord’s a nice guy, and his friends aren’t too bad, but they do love to drink.”

     “Love to drink as in ‘let’s have a good time,’ or as in ‘sloshing drunks’?” I asked.

     “Oh, come on, Al sweetheart,” Sandra said.  “Loosen up a little and just enjoy the weekend.”

     I like the occasional tipple just as well as the next man; Quince and Buster, my friend who’s a detective with Washington metro PD, and I have on more than one occasion over-imbibed; but, I don’t like being around drunks.

     “Which is it, Quince?” I persisted.

     “Well, I’m afraid for one or two of them it’s more the latter than the former.  These are people with a lot of pressure; just trying to hang on to the fortunes they’ve made, for one thing; so, they let off a little steam a couple of times a month out here.  No harm, no foul, I say.”

     “What can you tell me about the people we’re gonna meet?” I asked.

     “Oh, Al,” Sandra said. “Can’t you stop being a detective for one weekend?”

     “Sorry, babe, but I just like to know who I’ll be getting sloshed with.”

     “Fair enough,” Quince said.  “I know how you like to do a bit of recon before going into a war zone.”  He laughed. “Let’s see if I can remember who Gaylord said would be here this weekend.  There’ll be the Coleridges, Algernon and Penelope; Algy’s a banker; then, there’s William and Darcy Holbrook, Bill works for a venture capital firm.  Oh yeah, and the odd man out; Madison Albright.  Mad’s a lawyer like me; well, not exactly like me; he does divorce cases mostly.  He’s divorced; not exactly a good advertisement for his line of work; but, he and his wife were part of the group for a long time, so he’s usually here.”

     “That makes an odd number,” I said.  “Two couples; well, three, counting me and Sandra; and three single guys.  Does it every get hinky when people get too much booze in them?”

     He looked at me strangely for a moment, and then laughed.

     “Oh, you mean like swapping and the like?  No, that kind of stuff went out in the seventies.  We just sit around and drink, eat a little, and drink some more.  No funny stuff.”

     “I’m glad to hear that,” Sandra said.  “It wouldn’t be good if word got back to my school that I was involved in something like that.”

     Sandra is a teacher in one of Washington’s rougher inner city schools, and it’s doubtful she could do anything that would shock that crowd, but, she’s a stickler for appropriate behavior.

     “So,” I said. “Just a bunch of bored rich people on their private island getting blown away for the weekend; then come Monday, they’re back in their three-piece suits like nothing happened?”

     “You make it sound a bit sordid,” Quince said.  “But, yeah, that’s about it.”

     “Do they all have houses there?”

     “Sure,” he said. “We’ll be staying with Gaylord.  The others stay at their own places; Madison got his place in the divorce settlement; that’s about all he got, too.  His old lady nearly cleaned him out.”

     “So, he comes up here now and then to try and drink her out of his mind?”

     “I suppose.  I don’t hang around with him all that much.”

     Drinking, divorce, and debauchery; funny how that triumvirate seems to figure so highly in the lives of the so-called rich and famous; people with enough money to be able to do something really worthwhile, but instead, they blow their time and money on useless activity. 

     “Have you heard enough?” Sandra said; a note of sarcasm in her voice.  “Can we just have a good time for a change, without looking for trouble under every rock?”

     That last was said with a little biting humor.  I do have a habit of finding trouble everywhere I go; or, maybe it’s trouble that’s always finding me.  She had a point, though; I did need to learn to just sit back and relax.  I can’t fix every problem, or every problem person, and these people were nice enough to let Quincy bring us along to their little retreat for the rich.

    “Okay,” I said.  “Private detective mode turned off.  I don’t promise to get as drunk as I imagine these people get, but I’ll be nice all weekend long.  Pinky swear.”

     I held up my little finger.  She clasped it with hers, laughing.

     “That’s better.  If you’re a real nice boy, mama just might have a little treat or two for you.”

     “Oh, get a hotel, you two,” Quincy said, laughing.  “Have you no sympathy for an unaccompanied bachelor?”

     That started us all laughing.  Quince is a bachelor, but by choice.  Tall and slender, with high cheekbones and jet black hair that he keeps combed back to accentuate his broad forehead, he has his pick of the single women of Washington who are always on the prowl for eligible men who might have connections.  I think he came on these weekends solo to get some rest.

     Our merriment was interrupted by the blaring sound of the boat’s air horn.