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"Sometimes a decision comes back to bite you in the ass," Angie Deacon's grandfather used to say. He was full of isms. She never understood what most of them meant; she always thought they were things old people said to make kids think they were intelligent. She would listen politely then plant a kiss on his craggy cheek and run off to play with her brother.
Today, the 7th of July, Angie was finally able to put meaning with Granddad's sentiment. A month ago, she'd bought a day on a fishing tour boat for her husband Will's fiftieth birthday. A month ago, it seemed like a great idea. Now, with choppy waves lolling the boat like a pendulum, the idea seemed very bad. Her stomach kept time to the insane rhythm of the water.
Seasickness wasn't the only way her decision had bitten her in the ass--or stomach, if she were to be literal. Lately, Will had grown distant. He claimed it was just their brutal work schedules: her nights as an ER nurse, his days selling real estate. She'd tried everything she knew to get things back on track. The end of the month would be their twenty-sixth anniversary; any relationship could feel stagnant in that length of time. That was another reason for the trip. Maybe a relaxing day on the lake, doing something Will enjoyed, would return the proverbial pep to his step.
Angie leaned back in the plastic bucket chair watching the big bouncer-type Jamaican, Montez Clarke, trying to carry on a conversation with her husband. "Check out this one. Two weeks ago I caught a twenty-pounder on it." He held up a silver fish-shaped lure with a half-dozen barbed hooks dangling from it. Will nodded and reeled in his line. "And this," Montez dangledsomething red in the air near Will's nose, "won me the fishing derby here last year." Again Will nodded, then checked his bait. What the hell was wrong with him?
Montez gave a one-shoulder shrug and lumbered back to his spot at the stern. He had wide, thick shoulders and nappy hair cut so short scalp showed through.
To cover the awkward moment, Angie asked, "Which lure are you using now?"
He cast the line like a pro; the lure settled in the water--an Olympic diver scoring a perfect 10. He set the bale then dropped the rod in the plastic holder attached to the gunwale of the thirty-seven foot pontoon fishing boat before turning to her. "No lure. Crawlers."
Over coffee on the way to this spot, Montez had introduced himself as a computer repairman from Nashua, which contradicted Angie's introductory image of the man. His delightful Jamaican accent conjured visions of palm trees and tiki bars. Montez smiled a lot, showing big square Chiclet teeth. That wide smile died just once on this trip, when his friend Sonnie asked a simple question: "The boss say what time?" Montez had shot him a vicious scowl and gestured to the pair of black duffel bags they'd carried aboard. One of them had been on the deck near Montez's feet. Big, wide feet. But after Will had shown interest in them, Montez lugged it to the bow and placed it beside Sonnie's.
The bags were about the size of rolled up quilts, and stuffed full, if the bulges were any indication. Angie wondered if she'd brought enough clothes; perhaps it got very cold out on the water. Right now, it was a beautiful day; the sun playing diamonds on the water's surface, and not too much humidity. At least, it would be a nice day if she could get her mind off Will's mood. Better still, if she could get Will's mind off his mood. He poked the hook through a worm and cast the line out, careful to stay away from the overhanging branches on Rattlesnake Island. The boat's owner Nolan Little said this was one of the best places to catch lakers--she assumed that meant lake trout--in the whole of Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire.
The roar of a motor brought her attention to the stern. About twenty yards back, a motorboat looking all weighed down by the huge motor on the stern zigged from behind another boat and zoomed toward them at an ungodly speed. Both Montez and Will shouted for the single occupant to pay attention. Angie clutched the chair arms, bracing for the collision. She scrunched her eyes shut when the big horsepower motor revved even louder, closer.
She opened her eyes to see the boat disappearing around the far side of the island.
A moment later its wake hit the stern. The boat lurched. Angie's insides swayed and rolled. What had possessed her to come on a boat? What would've been wrong with tickets to a Red Sox game?
Buck up, it's only eight hours.
Yeah, and Gilligan's was only a three-hour tour.
"What happened?" Valerie Little stepped from the cabin, wiping her hands on a towel.
"Some idiot in a motorboat," Montez said.
"Did you get the registration number? I'll call Marine Patrol."
"He was going too fast. Couldn't read it."
"What did he look like? I'll report him anyway."
"Fourteen, maybe sixteen-foot aluminum boat with a big Evinrude. One person wearing a white tee-shirt and a blue baseball cap."
Valerie disappeared into the galley: a room set dead center of the boat, the front, back and left sides were all glass. Valerie faced the right-side wall, running one index finger down what was probably a list of emergency phone numbers. The other hand pulled a cell phone from a back pocket. She dialed, spoke a moment, nodding and gesturing to the end of the island where the boat had vanished.
Angie listened but couldn't hear the growl of the motorboat any more. Perhaps he'd capsized the thing. It would serve him right. Valerie put away the phone and went back to what she'd been doing. A small woman, she stood barely over five feet. Her clothes, jeans and a pink tank top underneath a pink checked blouse with four buttons undone, were inexpensive but clean. Valerie had probably been pretty back in school. Hair the color of café au lait, with eyes the exact same color, as if purposely color coordinated. But she looked tired. As if she'd been--to use another of Angie's grandfather's isms--"rode hard and put away wet."
Montez's friend Sonnie Phelps was also big and dark-skinned. But that's where the resemblance stopped. Sonnie had shoulder length dreadlocks and an expression that could send puppies squealing for cover. He stood at the right--which Angie thought was the starboard--side of the bow, bracing a thick leg against the gunwale. "Got one," he announced. He held the rod a second, gauging the motion of the fish.
Valerie came from the galley, again wiping her hands. This time she tucked the towel through a belt loop of her jeans and walked along the narrow aisleway connecting bow to stern. After a minute, the fish was brought over the railing, squirming and wiggling. Like a pro, Valerie removed the hook and carried it to the stern. Sonnie re-baited the hook and cast the line out.
Valerie measured and weighed the trout, calling out the vital statistics so Sonnie could hear: 16", 3.7 pounds. Then she dropped it in the fish well in the deck. With the action of the water, the boat had turned on its anchor line. The sun crested the tops of the trees and shone under the metal canopy directly in Angie's eyes. She lowered her sunglasses from atop her head and set them on her nose.
"Do you need sunscreen?" Valerie asked, wiping her hands on the towel.
"I'm all set, thanks. Do you need help in the kitch--the galley?"
"No thanks. I'm about finished getting lunch ready."
Angie's stomach did a flip-flop. "Gosh, it's not time to eat is it?"
Valerie smiled in a non-patronizing manner. Angie looked away. It wasn't her fault she got seasick.
"In about an hour."
Will turned a bucket chair to face his rod, giving Angie a silhouette view. He had a classic face. Dark hair, always precisely trimmed. Perfect nose. Great lips. Kissable lips. She remembered the times she'd feathered her fingertips around them. He'd purse his lips and suck her finger inside his mouth. Then he'd kiss each finger in turn. The familiar tingle of passion--okay so, it wasn't so familiar the last few months--grew with the frenzied power of a thunderstorm. Angie clenched her eyes shut, willing the sensations to leave her lower body. She opened her eyes, and saw Montez's big brown eyes watching; his wide lips wore an oh-so-knowing smile. He nodded and went back to his fishing. God, she was so humiliated.
She rotated her chair away from both men. She couldn't get in trouble facing the bow of the big boat. A big boat was something Angie double checked before making the reservations. It was most important for Will to have a good time today, but size and the fact that it had pontoons, lent the image of safety and reliability, two things that made seasickness a lot easier to cope with. Along with a container of Dramamine.
Valerie stood in the doorway of the glassed cockpit attached to the front side of the galley. This was her husband Nolan's domain, from where he piloted the boat. Angie could see a bit of the control panel and the back of a vinyl high-backed chair. Nolan sat in the chair, his shoulder leaning against the left-side wall. Valerie had her hands on her hips and was bent slightly toward him.
Angie had seen Nolan just once so far today. As they left the dock, a lean blonde man had come sprinting down the pier shouting for them to wait up. The newcomer had boy-next-door looks, defined but not hard muscles, expensive clothes and a pristine haircut. Angie's grandfather would call him a pansy. The only thing marring the stranger's appearance--the whisper of stubble around his chin. This person hadn't gone home last night.
When he said, "I wonder if you've got room for another customer," it reminded Angie of Thurston Howell the Third, from Gilligan's Island. Two images in one day about the old TV show brought a grin.
At the appearance of the classy intruder, Nolan had marched around the corner of the galley, sandy blond curls bouncing. Lake mist clung to the locks like frost on a margarita glass. Wide muscular shoulders and thick neck--he might have been a football star in another life--but this life had taken his bright blue eyes and nicely shaped lips and mashed them into perpetual scowls, two things not at all sexy or charming. Angie wondered what sort of life events made a person so unhappy to be alive.
Nolan had planted white boatshoes on the stern deck, gave the intruder the once-over and said simply, "No."
"Nolan," Valerie said. "We're licensed to carry six."
"We only take customers with reservations."
"Bet he has a dozen reservations," Sonnie had muttered. "I always do."
Everyone laughed except Nolan who fired a glare at Sonnie that could melt the Arctic. The newcomer reached for his back pocket. On television, that move often produced a gun or a switchblade. "I'll pay cash." He waved three one-hundred dollar bills, twice the usual fare for one person.
Nolan stopped him with, "Money's not the issue."
"I don't mind if he comes along," Montez said.
"Neither do I," Angie had added. Will was the only one who hadn't spoken up.
So, Tyson Goodwell, from Manhattan, climbed aboard, and was fitted with a rod on the port side of the bow rail. Right now, he sat in one of the white chairs, rod balanced on the rail. Every now and then, if the wind blew just right, Angie heard him whistling. It sounded like the theme from Gilligan's Island. She grinned.
The smile was killed by a shrill scream from Valerie.