ADVENTURE THE 21: THE WHITE ACRES
For those unfamiliar with the posting structure of a blog: postings appear in the order they are made by their author, not necessarily in the order that would most benefit an ongoing series such as the one you are about to read. Since the purpose of this blog is to be an ongoing thriller, simply removing the previous chapter to alleviate confusion is not an option – since no one coming to the series after the first chapter had been removed would be able to follow the story line.
Therefore, if you scroll down or visit the archives in future months, you will be able to read this continuing drama in the manner and order it was intended to be read. For this reason and purpose each subsequent adventure in the ‘Eddie Mars’ serial will be marked by a number. If you follow these numbers marked at the top of each chapter in their numeric order - eg ‘Adventure the 1st’ - you will be able to follow this continuing saga.
For those savvy to the blog world – this disclaimer may seem redundant, and for that no apology is made. This disclaimer is meant to better acquaint new readers in how the entries in this blog will be posted and how best to follow the series from this point on. And now…
ADVENTURE THE 21st:
THE WHITE ACRES
I’d like to say I remember it well…or at least – some of it, but actually there’s not much to the journey that makes sense now. I kept playing the image of Mico standing over me in my head, trying to justify how quickly the tables had turned. Wasn’t it only yesterday that I was looking after her in somebody’s barn?
Instead, I bumped around in the dark inside that spacious trunk of hers until the lull of tires on snow and low engine hum sent me off to dreamland. That’s the last thing I remember.
. . .
I awoke after what I believed to be was only a few hours on a mass of silken cushions, wrapped quite snugly near a raging hearth ripped from the pages of ‘Country Living.’ If God was Garth Brooks he’d stay here. I guess I let out a soft groan because a moment later Mico appeared in the recess of a doorway leading to the kitchen. She had a tray with her.
“Hey, flyboy,” she cooed, “How about a bite?”
I liked the way she said that – like she meant it.
Frankly, at this point I didn’t much care if the bowl had arsenic or Campbell’s Chicken Noodle. It was as though I was a grizzly waking from a long hibernation.
I stirred, cautiously at first. Then, realizing that I had some control over my own limbs I began to try and sit up. It was at that moment, as the covers began to slip off my bare shoulders that I suddenly realized I was naked underneath the quilted wrap.
“Clothes are in the closet in the hall,” Mico explained.
“Oh, lovely,” I teased with a grin, suddenly aware that no growth or even stubble lay about my cheeks and chin, “So, was it good for me too?”
“You were a mess,” she explained, “I sponged you off, tidied your hair a bit and gave you a shave.”
“Ah,” she cooed, “Now, wouldn’t you at least like to be awake for that?”
“I’m awake now.”
“…and hungry, no doubt.”
“Yeah,” I reasoned, “But how’s that old saying go?”
“What old saying?”
“About man…not living by bread alone.”
Tossing a pillow from a nearby couch, Mico placed her tray on the coffee table directly in front of me. Then she knelt by my side.
“Eat up,” she said, “You’ll need your energy. Besides, you’re system’s had a shock. You need time to rebound.”
And so I did. I soon discovered that although my mind was fairly sharp, but body really hadn’t come around yet.
“Where are we?” I asked in between bites.
“My place,” Mico explained, “At least, one of them.”
“Isn’t that kind’a dangerous?” I asked.
“He doesn’t know about this one,” Mico reasoned.
“Bought when he wasn’t looking?”
“Something like that.”
I didn’t bother to go on. It didn’t seem useful. Besides, my head had begun to throb from that ache and dark feeling every anorexic must get when fostering visions of Krispy Kreme in their emaciated little heads.
I lived in the moment of moist edges of tuna sandwich pressed against my teeth and gums, licking every last drop from that steaming bowl and savoring the hot elixir of tea racing down my parched throat as though it were the first and only sustenance I’d ever known.
Post dinner attempts to slip into a pair of Calvin’s found me as clumsy and weak as a new fawn.
“Don’t bother,” Mico replied, “I’ll get them.”
She came back with the essentials; boxers, socks and a heavy green terrycloth robe. I wrangled my way into what seemed like the confinements of fabric pressed against my skin, suddenly realizing that the tag was still affixed to the left sleeve. It read, “Shrublane’s; Niagara on the Lake.”
“Canada?” I asked.
The question catches Mico off guard. She’s slightly unsure about my powers of deduction until I flash the tag for her to see.
“You were unavailable for consultation,” she confesses, “Besides, Hemmingway won’t think to look for us here.”
‘Us.’ I liked that. As I didn’t feel I could take on a trip to the shed much less the world at that moment ‘us’ had that vague sense of belonging that I needed at just that moment.
“You’ll get well,” Mico explained, “…and then we’ll plan our next move.”
Another question that rattles her cage but not as much as I thought it might.
“Because…when you’re back on your feet you won’t want to be here.”
She knows me too well. And it’s true. I’m already planning the next move in my head and it doesn’t include her.
. . .
For the next couple days I sauntered about the place with a distinct limp, then, discovering a few choice bruises on my lower right thigh and knee I figure out why I generally feel like a rotten banana in the week old pile.
It was a tidy spread I had to myself: an expansive country estate curving around the picturesque backdrop of snowy farmland framed by rustic wood fences on all sides. In the distance was the outcropping of bare forests; at frosty dusk and all through the night, a faint flickering of porch lights from a house on the adjacent property way off in the distance.
Mico’s place had a clear view of the main road leading into town and a little red mailbox with its flap loosely rocking in the cold winter breeze. Overhead, the veranda was a rigid landscape of icicles.
It snowed – quite a lot; first to the third row of bricks, then the window sill, then just a little past the first pane of divided glass. Once in a long while the flat gray of sky overhead cracked a few quick shafts of sunlight, casting silvery sparkle on the white drifts surrounding the house.
I hated that creeping bit of frustration and anxiety that plagued me each time Mico left to go into town.
“I’ll be back in a bit,” she’d say.
Then she’d vanish for what seemed like half the day. There were no clocks on the main floor and I was too weak to venture up those steep stairs to number two. I lived my days in an eternity of minutes that were hours and hours that became days.
While Mico was out I did everything I could to gain back my strength. I made some crude weights from a couple jugs of bleach in the laundry room, a broomstick and some twine, and, I began lifting them.
One day in the middle of a set the doorbell rang. Who could it be? I reasoned that Hemmingway or anyone connected with his organization wouldn’t wait for an answer.
On the other side of the door was a short fat man with a hunter’s rifle and a look of utter bewilderment about his unshaven visage. Then again, I don’t suppose I was all that impressive in my stocking feet and bathrobe.
“Oh, ‘scuse,’” the guy explained in his thick Italian accent, “Me. Antonio Bellini. You farm and mine…like dis.”
He used his two hands to show how our properties butted up against each other.
“Oh sure,” I told him, “What can I do for you?”
“Isobella…” he began, “Uh…my cow…she gone. I think she come to you.”
Tony beams a string of pearls that could light all of Milan.
“Who knows,” he says with a chuckle, “Cow is a funny thing. No think. Just walk-a-walk-a around, find’a someplace new to eat…and…uh…”
Tony gets a bit shy on me.
“Oh,” I say.
“Please,” he implores, “You let me look for Isobella in back?”
“Help yourself, Paisan,” I say.
Another thought suddenly pops into Tony’s head and he decides to pop it back out without first giving it some thought.
“You, husband?” Tony asks, clever and nosy, eyeing me from head to toe.
I shake my head.
“Guess again,” I tell him.
“None of my business,” Tony admits.
“Good guess,” I agree and close the door before the charade can go any further.
. . .
When Mico gets back at dusk with a few bags of groceries she’s not amused by my handling of the situation.
“Why did you get the door?” she asks in an insolent tone.
“Why not?” I suggest, “Didn’t you say it didn’t matter? That nobody would find us up here?”
“Be smart,” Mico explains, “The old guy is harmless but he likes to talk and he’s got friends. It’s a small town. People know one another.”
“He doesn’t know me,” I explain, “He just knows you’re probably not the kind to kiss n’ tell.”
“So much for my reputation,” Mico adds.
“With all your dough you don’t need one,” I remind her, “Besides I’m getting tired of being the man of the house. Why don’t I come into town with you the next time?”
“In that?” Mico suggests, pointing to the open flap of robe that’s suddenly revealing more than it should, “You’d make a big hit with Mrs. Ogenbutton, the lady who runs the general store.”
“Why not? Give the old lady a thrill.”
“The old lady is forty-six and thanks – she’s seen bathrobes before.” Then, with a bit of softening into a tease, “You don’t exactly own exclusive rights to what’s underneath it either. She’s married, you know.”
“Good for Mrs. Ogenbutton,” I tell Mico.
“Maybe not. She’s been married for twelve years and has no children.” Mico suggests.
“Smart Mrs. Ogenbutton,” I say.
I’m all set to forgive and forget our little clash of observances when the reflection of a strobe red light passes through the parted curtains in the front foyer. Peeking from behind the Venetians in the front room I catch a fleeting glimpse of a couple of Niagara’s finest stepping from their cruiser. The driver reaches for his radio. His partner draws a gun. Maybe this isn’t the last place anyone would look.
Eddie Mars will return in his next adventure –
We Three Fakes on January 2, 2007.
@Nick Zegarac 2006 (all rights reserved).