One Month Later
It was warm for late October. Fanny stood on the deck watching Peter and Harold cavort with Arlo on the pier. A couple of times Arlo got too close to the edge but each time he stopped just in time. Arlo had so much energy. Maybe it was time to get a second dog so he would have a playmate. She waved and Harold waved back. “Hey, Fanny. Pete and I are going to take the Whaler out. Call Arlo.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to take him with you?” She knew there was no way Arlo would get in the boat. He was afraid of the water. It was only his adoration of Harold and Peter that enticed him to venture onto the pier. She clapped her hands three time. “Arlo! Come here.” Arlo turned and ran toward her. He didn’t stop until she had reached the top of the wooden stairs that led to the second floor deck. She opened the gate and he rushed in. “Good Doggy. What do good dogs get?” Arlo immediately sat and extended his paw and Fanny took a sausage stick from her pocket. “I don’t know how Harold can say that you’re undisciplined. You’re perfect Arlo.”
She turned in time to see her husband and son set off up the creek. She smiled and went inside to continue dinner preparations.
It had been a month since the ordeal. That’s what they had begun calling it. A month – and it was time to celebrate. They had invited Detective Jacoby down for the weekend and he had asked if he could bring a friend. She had guessed that the friend was Bonnie Jaffe. Jack hadn’t gone into specifics he did say that they had been seeing quite a bit of each other. Fanny was happy for them. She certainly deserved a good man after putting up with Stuart Jaffe all those years. When she’d said as much to Harold he had reminded her gently what happened the last time she gave marital advice.
It was Harold who suggested they call Mosby Ellis and have him come down too. “That way we can make it a real celebration.”
The weather was certainly cooperating. It looked like it would be warm enough to have dinner out on the deck later. Just to be sure, Fanny pushed the heater closer to the table and made sure there was plenty of propane. When she was satisfied everything was ready she stretched out on the chaise to relax before her guests arrived. A pair of swans glided past serenely. Arlo sat down next to her, putting his head against her knee to the scratched. She closed her eyes and said a silent prayer of gratitude.
The tranquility was abruptly shattered when Arlo jumped up and ran around to the side deck signaling the arrival of their guests. She hurried after him to open the gate. “Hope nobody is afraid of dogs. I neglected to mention we had a watch-wolf.”
She held Arlo by his collar so her friends could come inside without being licked and pawed.
“Come on in. Harold and Peter just took the boat out. Drop your things anywhere – preferably out of the reach of Arlo - and come on out on the back deck. We’ll sort out the room assignments later. It’s a perfect afternoon.”
It was a perfect afternoon. Arlo settled down quickly so the four of them were able to enjoy the calm of the quiet afternoon. “What would y’all like to drink. I’m afraid I don’t have any liquor here, but I have iced tea, juice, mineral water….”
“I’d love an iced tea. Let me help you.” Bonnie got up and followed Fanny into the kitchen. “Jack mentioned that you were in AA. I hope that was okay.”
“Sure. I wasn’t a very anonymous drunk. I’ve never seen any reason to keep my sobriety a big secret.” Fanny could sense that Bonnie had more to say. “There are glasses in the cabinet next to the fridge. I’ll get the ice.”
“I’ve decided to try to give it up myself. I miss it every minute. It has been like I’ve lost my best friend. But it’s time. I haven’t had a drink since that night. I’ve thought a few times that if I knew that glass of whiskey was going to be my last drink I might have drunk it instead of slinging it in Stone’s face.”
Fanny laughed and put her arm around Bonnie’s shoulder.
They carried a try of iced tea and snacks outside and the four of them spent the next hour letting Jack catch them up on the latest news. Carl Stone had confessed to the murders of Lillian Petulengro and Dennis Doggett. “Of course, he did that in the back of my car on his way to jail. The really good news is that when Reno confronted Jaffe with the evidence against him he confessed to the murder of Victoria Sherwood.” He looked apologetically at Bonnie who just smiled at him.
“It’s okay, honey. I’m a big girl. I knew the bastard was cheating on me.” She grew more serious. “The best part is the girls won’t have to go through the anguish of seeing their father tried for murder.”
“No. The best part is Jaffe agreed to an uncontested divorce.” An unmistakable message passed between Jack and Bonnie.” Fanny decided she should get the little guest house ready for them.
Jack took a sip of his iced tea. “Hey, Mosby. What was in that strange looking container you were holding in your lap all the way down?”
“That’s Lilly. She didn’t have any family so she’s be kind of staying with me. I had this idea that maybe she might like it down here. You made it sound so beautiful here, Fanny, and you didn’t exaggerate.”
Fanny gave Mosby a kiss on the cheek. “Why don’t you bring her out here, Mosby? She should be with us.”
He went inside and came back with the container Jack had mentioned and paced it solemnly on the railing. Fanny thought she saw Jack brush away a team. Bonnie was crying openly. It occurred to Fanny that she knew the perfect place to spread Lilly’s ashes and she decided she would talk to Mosby later.
The somberness was dispelled when a Whaler came roaring up the creek. Fanny smiled when she saw Peter standing in the front of the boat holding a large rockfish. “I’d planned to feed you folks some of my world famous pasta, but it looks like there might be a change in the menu. How does grilled rockfish sound to you guys?”
That night they sat on the deck enjoying the fish that Harold and Pete had caught. They took turns feeding small bites to Arlo. Dinner lasted for hours. No one seemed to want the evening to end. It was such a welcomed respite after the horrors they had all been through. In those hours around the dinner table bonds of friendship were formed and strengthened.
“Fanny, do you remember the night of the Leonide meteor shower.”
Pete groaned. “Oh no, here we go. Pop is going to bring out his repertoire of dinner time stories.”
“Peter! Show a little respect for your father. Just for that, you can go make the coffee.” She turned to Harold. “Continue, my dear.”
“It was so cold that night. We watched it here on the deck. That tree wasn’t so tall then.” He pointed to the crepe myrtle tree that was hanging over the edge of the deck. “That was before we had finished the renovations on this house. We’ll have to show you the before pictures sometime.”
Fanny continued the story. “The basement was flooded. The front wall was caving in. But that night none of that mattered. The sky just lit up. It looked like something out of a Steven Spielberg movie.”
Pete came out with the coffee pot. “They let me sleep through it. I’ve never forgiven them.”
Then it was Jack’s turn to tell a story. He told about the time he played the lead in his high school’s production of Oliver.
“You must have been so cute as the little orphan boy” Bonnie laughed.
“No, honey. I was the romantic lead – Bill Sikes.”
She pretended to examine his fact. “Wow. You do look a little bit like Oliver Reed.”
Fanny and Harold exchanged glances and smiled. The hard boiled policeman and the soon to be divorced Mrs. Jaffe were in the cute stage of their relationship.
Bonnie and Jack excused themselves and retreated shyly to the little guest house where the lights went out fairly quickly. Fanny and Harold turned in soon after but Pete and Mosby stayed up to talk and clear the dishes.
Arlo stayed on the deck – just watching.
Very early the next morning while everyone else was still sleeping, Mosby met Fanny at the bulkhead just as she was lowering the second kayak into the water. He was holding the container holding Lilly’s ashes. Neither of them spoke. He placed the container on the pier and expertly lowered himself into the kayak. Fanny handed him the container, which he placed between his knees. Then she got into her own kayak and paddled silently down the creek, past the little marina with Mosby following her.
Just beyond the marina the creek widened into a large basin and then appeared to end but Fanny kept paddling. Mosby saw that there was a narrow opening with rocks visible just below the surface and just past the opening the creek widened again into a still pond.
When their kayaks had cleared the rocks, Fanny spoke for the first time. “It is only possible to get back here on a high tide and then only by kayak. This is my special place. I always come here when I have important thinking to do or when I am troubled. This is where I came after 9/11. You can’t imagine how comforting it was. And then the weekend after they released me from the hospital. I came here and sat for hours until Harold came to get me. He knew exactly where I would be.”
They sat there silently for a long time. The sun rose over the pine trees that bordered the pond. A pair of swans glided past them. “This is where they make their nests. There are osprey, red-winged blackbirds, egret, green heron – even bald eagles.”
“You’re right, Fanny. It is amazing. This is the perfect place.”
“Just a little further. Follow me.”
She paddled for a while and then she stopped and pointed to an area that was encircled by cattails where the surface was covered with lily pads. “How’s this?”
Mosby was too overwhelmed with emotion to respond. He steered the nose of the kayak though the cattails and opened the container. As he lovingly poured his friend’s ashes over the surface of the water he sang the song she had taught him.
Gelem Gelem lungone dromenca,
Maladilem chorore romenca.
Maladilem baxtale romenca.
Ala voliv lake kale
Kaj si gugle sar duj kale drakha.
Ala voliv lake kale jakha,
Kaj si gugle sar duj kale drakha.
Labels: Lilly's Tattoo