Starfish continues the story of Bud and Violet Rose with the baby girl they call Starfish. As Deputy Sheriff of Suffolk County, Bud pursues a drug cartel that plagues the community. Much of the action takes place in Montauk on the southeastern tip of Long Island where the boats come in with their supply not only of fish but also the illegal substance called White Sugar. Throughout the story, the turbulent ocean mirrors the tumult in the lives of the characters.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.28(d)|
Read an Excerpt
That terrible night, the 1st of May in 1985, the storm ROSE (so named by the weather service) hit the East End of Long Island. As Violet held in her arms, the illegitimate baby of her husband, Bud Rose, in a house in East Moriches, at that very moment, a gray Ford car driving fast on Dune Road, Westhampton Beach, flipped over, with the child's true mother and Violet's brother inside. Huge waves pulled the vehicle out to sea.
Violet looked at the sleeping child in her arms. There was a new, unrecognizable tug in her heart. Youngest in her family, Violet had never been around small children – much less babies. Even though this was not her own child but her husband Bud's, from an affair with Jillian Burns before Violet and he married, she determined to love the little child. And how could she not looking down into that face of innocence?
It was not until the next afternoon that Violet, Bud, and Stella Burns, the baby's grandmother, in whose house they were gathered, learned that Jillian Burns, mother of the child she called 'Rose Bud', and Sasha Annas were lost.
The three realized that the two had died in a terrible oceanic accident. With Violet's own brother, Sasha, driving the car, the automobile had been swept away by horrifying waves. The two were on the run from the police, having been identified as members of a car theft conspiracy that had plagued the East End of Long Island.
Ironically, Bud Rose, Sasha's brother-in-law and Violet's husband, had been chief detective on the case, so it was he who had received the report of the accident from his office at the Riverhead Police Department.
Bud and Violet had decided to stay the night at Stella Burn's house until the storm abated. They had come looking for Jillian who, had cut her ankle bracelet monitor, having been under house arrest. She was now long gone with Sasha in tow, and Bud, although conflicted about Rose Bud, had been genuinely concerned about the safety of his baby in the storm.
"Those two are on the lam," Bud had told Stella Burns when they had first arrived, dripping wet and beaten by wind. "It's a wonder we could get here through the storm."
Jillian's mother had seemed quite calm, but her words belied her demeanor. "I'm glad you made it. Frankly, I'm scared."
"How long have they been gone?" Bud had asked.
"Only an hour or two."
"You know your daughter is under suspicion," Bud had said, not unkindly. "Her ankle bracelet ... Was it Sasha who cut it?" "I guess so. He got some tools out of the garage." Stella Burns had then sat down bleakly on the couch in the living room.
"I'm afraid Jillian was up to her neck in trouble, Mrs. Burns. Maybe bad companions?"
"I'm not surprised," the older woman had responded. "Nothing about Jillian surprises me ... except perhaps the good sense to have a man like you as father to her baby." Then, glancing at Violet. "Sorry my dear. Don't mean to offend, but you know, a good man is hard to find!"
Violet had shot her a wary glance.
Now, this late afternoon of mourning, they sat about the living room in the house in East Moriches. Stella Burns was in shock, her face pale and somber. Her daughter was gone.
As for Violet, she did not know what or how to feel. Sasha was mean, still Sasha was her brother, a deep part of her life. To die so young, as had Jillian! Tears filled her eyes as she reflected on hearing her mother, Anastasia's yelp of anguish over the phone, when she and Bud had called her earlier and told her the awful truth. And her father. His only son!
Now, Violet held the baby Rose Bud in her arms, as she sat next to Stella on the couch. Bud was sitting on a chair opposite the three females, watching them. In his sudden new life, this child, such a curious, unexpected little creature, had turned his world upside down. The little baby was from this moment on, his to raise, and his to love.
He got to his feet and announced, "Violet and I have got to return to Remsenburg soon, ladies, with Rose Bud ..."
Violet remarked, "I cannot call her Rose Bud. I just can't!"
"Rosalina?" Stella suggested softly.
"No. Rosemary Rose? No. Rosewood Rose? No." Violet sighed. "I want to call her Starfish."
"You can't call her Starfish! Fish?" Stella's eyebrows shot up. "Fish?"
"No, of course not, but she is all golden in my arms, fresh from the sea." Violet thought of the golden starfish pin Bud had given her at their beginning, his first protestation of love. Starfish. Star. Then looking up, she said, "in Russian – you know, my mother was born in Russia – the word for morning star is 'aurora'. Perhaps Aurora Rose."
"Aurora. What a pretty name. My grandbaby girl, Aurora," exclaimed Stella, and for the first time, she bent her head and cried.
After further consoling Stella Burns on that grim afternoon, upon learning of the Jillian/Sasha drowning, Bud and Violet set out to return to their home in Remsenburg by Moriches Bay.
Before leaving, Bud assured Stella she would always be welcome "at our house. We're not far away and we will bring baby ... Aurora, to you as often as you like. You will be a big part of her life. A little one always needs a grandma," he said with a grin.
"I'll miss her." Stella was sniffling into a linen handkerchief. "But it's only right she be with her father.and you, Violet."
"I'm certainly new at the game", Violet responded "You'll be just fine," the older woman said. "Look how baby has already taken to you. There hasn't been a peep out of her since you took her up."
In his cruiser car, the young policeman/detective had packed the few tiny garments belonging to his baby, Rose Bud, – newly named, Aurora – plus, a canvas bag with a quantity of diapers, talcum powder, Vaseline, Q-tips-several bottles of baby milk formula – necessities for the little one – as well as his and Violet's overnight case. They also took the basket/bassinet, provided by Stella, which Violet cradled in her arms, baby inside in her blankets, all the way home.
Of course, Aurora, being only five months old was quite oblivious to these machinations and managed to sleep her way to her new home. "Aurora," Violet whispered. "My little morning star ... fish." Violet thought, 'to me she will always be Starfish – tossed up from the ocean waves – saved because she was not in that cursed car that went into the deep – a child's cry now quiet because she is safe in my arms.'
On the drive, which was hazardous, although the storm was long past, the sun was shining eerily from a foggy sky. As they passed close to the ocean, the surface of the sea frothed a mossy-green. Calmer now, the waves looked dream-like, in a glowing haze, as if sated, satisfied after their destructive outburst.
"Christ, Sasha! Are you really trying to kill us?" These had been the last words Jillian shrieked, that fateful night, that 1st of May, 1985, as the violent storm, ROSE, hit the eastern end of Long Island. The gray Ford Sasha was driving flipped over into the huge wave as it roared in, covering Dune Road, just as the car had turned towards Hampton Bays.
Sasha had already opened the front door on the driver's side, as he saw the water towering. He had grabbed Jillian, and with a strength enhanced by adrenaline, he managed to drag her from the front seat, her long legs kicking against the water.
With his right hand, Sasha, with the luck of a God he did not even respect, grasped ahold of the base of the guardrail that circled the curve on Dune Road. PullingJillian next to him, she too was able to clutch the low metal railing with both hands. The two clung together there, inching forward, each time the waves receded until they were literally wrapped around the metal piece that saved their unruly lives.
What an incredible night! Half drowned, the two held on for dear life. They did not speak. The only sound – other than the roar of wind and crash of water – was that of a gurgling throat (Jillian), and water spat onto the road (Sasha).
But they survived. They were alive. As morning light began to filter dimly through the cloudy atmosphere, as the rain abated and the wind cooled down, the two trusted enough to untangle themselves from the railing and attempt to set foot on the muddy, sodden road.
They were able to walk with a stagger, clutching one another, in the direction of Hampton Bays, the town to the north of Dune Road. More than once, Jillian slipped to the ground, much to the disgust of her companion.
"Get up, Jillian. For Christ's sake, are you such a pussy? I thought you were tough." Sasha's bullyboy personality was on show under the stress of the situation. "For Christ's sake. Do I have to leave you here in the mud?" "Please, Sasha," she could only breathe, but his words spurred her to extra effort and she managed to continue the torturous journey.
It continued this way for many minutes. Finally, as a sliver of sunshine broke through the heavens, Sasha exclaimed, "Hey look. There's what seems to be a broken-down garage over there on that patch of ground, on the left!" And indeed, there was a door-less, small building, half atilt. It looked like it had been hit by a truck – but no, Jillian thought, 'Hit by a wall of water!'
"At least it's got a roof," Sasha muttered. "Nobody will see us. Come on!"
And they made their way through the mushy, sloshy grass, over bits of lumber and broken boards to the tilted building with its filthy floor and shattered garage door on the ground at the entrance.
"At least it's dryer inside!" Sasha said, giving Jillian a forceful shove into the small building.
Jillian had had the foresight to keep the shoulder strap of her purse (with cash amounting to a little over $300, plus makeup and credit cards) tight across her body, as the waves hit. Of course, everything inside her purse, – a flowered kerchief, a pair of sunglasses – as well as every bit of clothing on her, was soaked with seawater, briny with salt.
"When the sun really comes out, I can at least dry the bills," she said, brushing back her wet hair.
"Bills? What bills?"
"My money, Sasha, what there is of it. The credit cards too. They're plastic so, wiping them dry should be easy ..."
"Are you crazy! Credit Cards! Jillian, we're dead! No way can we use credit cards."
"Dead! That's right, Jillian," he shouted. "We no longer exist. There is no Sasha Annas! There is no Jillian Burns!"
Tears coursed down the face of the leggy brunette, in her sopping clothes, sitting on the concrete floor of a blown-out garage on the edge of Hampton Bays.
Dead! Jillian's thoughts overwhelmed her. Dead! She saw only a vacuum ahead. The world she knew was over. There was no past. Jillian Burns did not exist. Perhaps she never had. The tears flowed. It was May 1, 1985. A new world and a whole new life had to be created ... and a lying life to be lived
THE SUN CAME OUT – AND THE MONEY
"I'm hungry." Jillian remarked as she recovered herself, wiped the tears with the back of her hand, and tried to get her bearings in the garage. "I'm famished."
"Aw, quit your grousing. We're breathing! Nothing's broken! We're okay, aren't we? The sun's in the sky. The wind has gone. For God's sake, count your blessings."
Sasha was busily removing his sodden jacket, then the wet shirt beneath. Jillian watched in fascination as he started to peel off the plastic wrap about his upper torso, revealing numbers of $100 bills, one after the other. He carefully placed each one on the floor at his feet, crouching there, concentrated.
"God, Sasha! How much do you have?"
"A lot," he grunted.
And there were a lot, for he had stacked them carefully, overlapping, all the way down to his crotch. Of course, the bills were wet, but not as soaked as his clothes, and the main thing was, they were intact and quite perfect.
Jillian gazed open-mouthed at this performance. It prompted her to reach for her purse and lay out her own bills – mostly $20s – amounting to $280 in all – except for a number of $5s and $1s. She laid them in the sun, flat on the concrete at the entrance of the building and waited patiently until she could collect them in a neat little dry pile next to her. This task was executed with absolutely no conversation. The only sound was the slight swish of paper as bills were assigned to a sunny spot.
Their efforts completed, as the sun grew high in the sky, Jillian asked "What time is it? Is your watch working?"
"Yep," he said. "It's close to 2:00 o'clock."
"We need some food. I feel faint."
"There you go again ... Miss Tough Girl. But you're right. We need sustenance."
Sasha remembered that there was a 7-Eleven store not far, up on West Montauk Highway, a road that ran through the center of the town of Hampton Bays. He figured that he could walk up there, grab some food and return to Jillian, because he too was really hungry.
"Give me those small bills and maybe a $20," he said to his companion who was sitting disconsolately at the garage entrance, fluffing her dark hair in the sun.
"Here! Take what you want. And get some water. I'm dying of thirst. Be sure you come back!" she added.
"You're kidding" Sasha replied, eying his pile of cash left in her care. He pulled his still damp jacket about him and grabbed her small bills. "I'll be quick. When I return, we have to do some major planning. – new names – where to land – how to stay dead!" And with those unsettling final words, he placed dark glasses on his nose and took off, heading toward Hampton Bays.
'Dead,' she thought. 'Dead! I don't exist.'
She was not sure how long it was before Sasha returned. She had been sitting there at the front of the garage in a kind of trance, watching the road and the bridge that crossed the Shinnecock Inlet, looking for movement, but the life outside was still. No person emerged. The sun was growing hot. There was no wind. It was if the world had stopped.
For her it had. For Sasha it had, Jillian thought, when she finally heard his footsteps first, then Sasha appeared with a large paper bag of things to eat. Suddenly, her hunger for food and for life itself arose in such force, she blurted, "At last. What did you get? And water? You have water?"
"Yes, yes. Hold your horses. Let me set this down. Stop clawing at me." He handed her a bottled water.
Jillian quickly drank the whole down. "Whew! I needed that. What'd you get to eat?"
"Well, 7-Eleven was pretty empty – not only of customers but of food. They've had no deliveries of fresh stuff for the last two days – but I got a box of Entenmann's Donuts – shouldn't be too stale ..."
"Donuts? That's all?"
"No. Don't be so impatient. There were no salads or hot dishes, but there were a couple of leftover sandwiches." Sasha presented Jillian with a ham and cheese on rye wrapped in plastic. "Oh, and I got a banana."
Jillian was busy unwrapping the sandwich from its casing. All she could think of was Sasha releasing the $100 bills from their plastic imprisonment on his chest earlier that morning. She devoured the food in seconds, and mouth full, asked Sasha, "Banana?" "Jeez!" he exclaimed and handed her the fruit with its darkening yellow skin.
"Some meal," Jillian growled unhappily.
Sasha crouched down beside her, his figure menacing. "Listen, you. What in hell do you expect! There's been a storm that's probably killed a few people – that almost killed us, for God's sake. The power is still out! Lots of buildings are badly damaged. Trees are in the roads, knocked down with dangerous power lines wrapped around them – and you come off, griping like a spoiled brat."
Jillian blanched. She said nothing.
"From now on, shape up or I swear you'll be on your own. I'll be off and running because I intend to survive and not go to prison. If that's your future, Jillian Burns, good luck, but I'm not hanging around to find out."
He got to his feet and went to the edge of the garage. His back was to her. She rose and coming from behind, put her arms around him and pressed into his back.
"I've been stupid and I'm sorry and I'm scared."
"Well, get over it – the scared part," he said turning to her. "We have to create two new identities – new names – and we'll play the married couple for the world." He patted her shoulder. "Do you have anything with you that has your initials?" She shook her head.
"Who do you want to be?"
"Jillian Burns." Her voice was low.
"Now you ARE being stupid."
"I was trying to make a joke."
"Seriously, Jillian. What's a name you've always wanted?"
She thought a moment. "I've always loved the name Scarlet. Mom took me to see 'Gone With The Wind' when I was about 10 at the Westhampton Beach Theater – it was winter and they had an old-movie club. Yeah. Scarlet. Hey, I could dye my hair red!"
"Now you're thinking! And I? I've always wanted to be an Englishman. How about Alistair? Just call me Al." Sasha laughed. "I could grow a moustache. Not a beard – but a pencil-thin moustache! I like it. Alistair and Scarlet Williams – from Teaneck New Jersey."
Excerpted from "Starfish"
Copyright © 2017 Elizabeth Cooke.
Excerpted by permission of Abbott Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.