Good-bye, Maggie!

Good-bye, Maggie!

K. L Melvany

Price: $4.99

 
ADD TO BASKET
 

All Margeret (“Maggie”) Faribault's resources have gone into Pontoon, a women’s beach & boat boutique. Its going broke. To escape the coming collapse of her enterprise Maggie accepts an invitation from her ex to spend a weekend on his yacht with his new girlfriend and another. On the boat, she meets Trevor Nelson, an Australian working part-time for the harbormaster’s office. They’re attracted to each other. But, on the trip back, Maggie sees bodies floating in the sea. No accidents, they’ve been shot. The deaths are attributed to a gang smuggling illegal immigrants. It makes the news, and Maggie’s interviewed. Soon after, her life becomes that of a hunted animal, as those responsible for the killings make her their next target. Maggie longs to turn to Trevor for shelter, but before she can, evidence makes her wonder if he is one of the gang. With no one she can trust, Maggie is forced to try to uncover the murderers to save herself. When she does, she finds herself staring into the barrel, while a killer says, "Good-by, Maggie!"

 
PUBLISHED BY: Renaissance E Books
ISBN:
PUBLICATION DATE: 2008
WORD COUNT: 50000
SEXUAL CONTENT RATING: 1
EBOOK READER RATING:
CATEGORIES: Romantic Fiction, Action/Adventure, Chick Lit/Hen Lit, Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
KEYWORDS: suspense, mystery
 

EBOOKS BY Renaissance E Books

EBOOKS BY K. L Melvany

 
EXCERPT
COPYRIGHT K. L Melvany/2008

She knew he was dead even from the doorway where she supported herself for a moment, the knuckles of her hand between her teeth. She ran to him, sat on the floor, and cradling the remnant of a relinquished romance, now an inert little fur piece, in her lap, broke down. She wept for the loss of Percy, of Trevor, of marriage, of those she'd found at sea, and for the human condition in general. She wept from self-pity and simple fatigue. Unaware of reasons, she wept.

Like a sleepwalker she cleaned the kitchen floor. She took off Percy's collar, and put his limp body in a plastic bag. She tried to understand what had happened. The window through which he usually came was open. She had a deliberate look around her apartment to see if someone had been there, but there was no sign and nothing was missing. He died outside and someone threw him in? She collapsed on her sofa and kicked off her shoes. Dazed, she stared for what seemed to be a very long time at the blinking light on her answering machine before realizing it meant there were messages.

Still in shock, she rose, and listened to them. She half expected the first, and braced herself.

(beep) "Hello, Maggie. Trevor here." He was chuckling and sounded terribly jovial. At first she was relieved. "You told me not to take you too seriously, and I suppose I should've taken the advice. Unfortunately, I don't really see myself as comic relief for the exalted and overpopulated life you obviously lead, and the role couldn't possibly pay enough to take me away from the rest of my life, but thanks anyway. Even my cameo was a learning experience. I hope the film makes both of you rich and happy. Break a leg! Isn't that what they say? Goodbye, Maggie."

It had the true ring of finality, but before she could react came the second message, a voice she'd never heard, flat like someone reciting a shopping list, and she did not want to hear it ever again.

(beep) "Don't get nosey and go blabbing. Accidents can happen, and not just to your cat. Mind your own business, lady, and don't fuck with mine or you'll be in over your head."

CHAPTER I

It surprised her how miserable one can be, sitting, shining with lotion, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, enjoying the breeze with one's cat curled alongside on the foredeck of a movie producer's yacht in the San Pedro Channel. Maggie had steeled herself for a weekend only marginally better than watching the demise of her business. She'd been to Santa Catalina Island often, and knew that in a boat with two couples, a thirty-something divorcée was a fifth wheel–or its nautical equivalent. Walter Sonnenstein, the owner, had asked her along because neither his new girlfriend nor the other couple knew how to sail.

She also wanted to be unavailable to Steve Franklin, an actor to whom Walter had introduced her. A few years her junior, which was flattering, he seemed infatuated with her. She was trying to end the relationship softly. Her ex-husband, Rafe, was single-handing somewhere in the south Atlantic in what had been their boat, little Ondine, an old, gaff-rigged cutter. Maggie had decided men never really grow up.

She had been prepared to play nursemaid to some seasick starlet. She loved Walter. The producer had been a patient of Rafe's, one with whom she'd become real friends. A wise teddy-bear of a man, he was her business mentor, and had lent her a considerable sum of money, which she had not begun to pay back, but his taste in women Maggie deplored.

Thus she'd been amazed to find him with someone nearly ten years her senior, an attractive black woman named Arlene Duveen. She had an intelligent face, and her glasses fostered an impression of seriousness. Maggie almost congratulated him during the introduction.

"I'm glad you're here." Arlene had said. "I don't know a thing about boats and this sure looks like more than one person can handle."

Single-handing a seventy-two foot ketch would be a feat, but Maggie was diplomatic. "Well, Walter maybe. Are you allergic to cats?"

"No, I have one."

"Good! Now tell me you're not in showbiz."

"Teaching biz."

"That's not biz. That's noble masochism! High school?"

"Sort of. Bilingual special ed. It is high school." Her hands made quotation marks in the air. "In terms of chronological age, but some of our kids only have the capacity of a six year old or less. Some you can't really reach at all. Autism, Down's Syndrome, Asperger's, whatever. It's a big school system. You see it all."

"And you speak Spanish?"

"Sí, por supuesto, but that only helps with about half the kids. The L.A. County system uses maybe eighty, eighty-five languages, English and Spanish most common, of course. There are about four thousand bilingual teachers in the system. I'm not one of the rare ones." But she was rare for Walter, and Maggie wondered if perhaps men can grow up.

The other couple, Blake and Melissa Balanger, Maggie took to be a tennis pro and a lingerie model. It turned out he was a space salesman for an in-flight magazine but did actually play tennis with some seriousness. Sissy was a painter who'd had several shows, one of which Maggie had seen and thought quite good. She was shy and quiet.

What saved the weekend was Trevor Nelson. He had arrived Saturday morning after they'd anchored in Isthmus Cove, drunk cocoa, and gone to bed in their staterooms. Maggie woke too early from a dreadful dream: Ondine sailing off, Rafe leaving her in a dinghy in the middle of the ocean. As its topsail vanished below the horizon, a silent barge appeared. It was crowded with people gesturing pitiably, wordlessly begging for help with outstretched hands. They were dark, single men and whole families, many times more than would fit aboard. Some were in the water, clinging to frayed ropes and rags that hung overside. They reached out to her. With only the sound of lapping of water, the barge drifted alongside, and a writhing river of humanity flowed into the dinghy. It had to swamp. The horde was suffocating her in the bottom of the boat. It smelled of fish.

Awakened by the clock radio that had come on from being jostled in her sea bag, she found herself flat on her back in her bunk, her cat, Percy, sitting on her chest with his nose at her own. Rafe, rarely able to resist a pun, had named him Percy P. Cassady. He resumed purring and regarded her, blinking slowly from between her breasts. It showed five forty-eight in the morning, and spoke of waves of illegal immigrants entering Southern California while budget cutbacks left the Immigration and Naturalization Service unable to deal with the influx.

She crooned at the cat while scratching it under the chin.

Its name tag hung from its collar:"My name is Percy." It bore her address and phone number. "Wuzhel, wuzhel, little fur-person," she cooed, thrusting out her lower jaw, her cat-scratching face. The cat closed its eyes in bliss. Shortly she said, "O.K., Perce. Time to get up." She threw back the top of her sleeping bag, grabbed her makeup, and padded naked into the head.

One of three on board, it was luxurious compared to other boats she'd sailed in. One could sit and close the door, without crushing both kneecaps. And the big-boat joys of an electric water pump that let one get both hands under the faucet at once. Had the engine been running, there would even have been hot water! She made faces in the mirror. It grimaced back at her, still with some kittenish qualities of adolescence. She was careful with her skin. The amorphous lump she took from her makeup bag had been three different but very expensive bars of soap, and she'd found a moisturizer that worked against time spent on the water in sun and wind.

She brushed her teeth, abandoned the makeup, and rummaged in her sea bag for what to wear. As there was little likelihood of meeting unattached males, and because it was still cool she put on a set of gray sweats and went to the galley to start coffee.

Between the culinarily complete galley to port and the electronically lavish navigation station to starboard the companionway ladder led on deck through the open main hatch. She got the coffee started and stood on the second step, looking aft past the mizzen mast and the cockpit with its binnacle and spoked wooden wheel, toward the mainland, invisible in the morning gray. Ship Rock, standing just outside the cove was clear. With its white topping of guano, it looked like the Disneyland Matterhorn. It was a great time of day to have all to herself.

She heard a motorboat approaching, but the ensuing interruption of her reveries was not unwelcome.

"Ahoy, Meretrix."

She sprang up the ladder, her head clearing the hatch with her finger to her lips for silence. "Hello, the boat," she called softly. It was one of the harbormaster's launches, official in unadorned gray, its topsides festooned with white rubber fenders like a string of veal sausages. The boat came alongside with only the low burble of its idling engine and a squeak from a fender.

"Driving" was the faintly contemptuous term that always occurred to her when it came to powerboats, but the "driver" was not contemptible. She told him no one was awake yet.

He nodded and said quietly, "That's the traditional reply, you know: 'Hello, the boat.' I don't get that very often." It seemed he was studying her. He was attractive in a sinewy sort of way. Standing tall, at the boat's steering console, he appeared knobby. He had a bristlely blond or sun-bleached moustache, and sandy hair in need of cutting protruded from beneath a visored, naval officers' type cap. She could see his Adams apple when he said "Good day" softly. Maggie guessed him to be about her age. He was dressed in a short-sleeved khaki shirt open at the throat revealing more sandy hair. He wore walking shorts, and knee socks all in khaki that, along with his erect posture, gave him a military air. She knew he'd come to collect the moorage fee.

"Can you tie up for a sec and come aboard? I've some coffee about ready if you'd like some."

"Yes, please," he said. "I'd like that very much indeed." He switched off the engine.

He sounded English to her ear. He climbed aboard, revealing an athletic grace. He came below, and she poured him some orange juice and them both some coffee. "Would you like a bagel?"

He had removed his cap, and his blue eyes questioned from beneath a lock of fair hair. "Yes, please."

"You're English, aren't you?" she asked as she sliced the roll, and got out the lox and cream cheese. These were Walter's weekend breakfast staples. She sliced an onion, too, but decided not to eat any.

He looked about the cabin, searching theatrically for eavesdroppers, and leaning close to her said, "Australian, actually, but trying to pass."

Maggie laughed.

He put out his hand. "Name's Trevor Nelson."

Maggie shook it. "Maggie Faribault."

"Bagels, eh? This is a piece of luck!" He had large, even, white teeth that he sank into the open face sandwich she'd made him. "Are you Jewish?"

"No, but Walter is. He's the owner. He says there's no such thing as Jewish food; claims Spanish or Lithuanian Jews have never heard of bagels. Anyway, he's easy. You know: 'Christmas at the Isthmus, Hanukkah at Santa Monica'."

Trevor laughed. "You're not a Californian, are you? I'll wager you're from the interior."

"Wow! Professor Higgins! You hear the Hoosier twang I try not to have?" Maggie knew she didn't sound like Indiana."

"No, not at all, you sound like a Californian to me, but you seem–I don't know–realer than most of the sheilas I see come over from the mainland, all makeup and style. Look born in a boutique, if you know what I mean."

Maggie, nodding, digested this opinion in silence while they munched. She wondered if he'd reveal himself to be a belching, macho Rambo type. She was saved from having to make a reply by Walter's somewhat bleary entrance from the after cabin.

"Ah," he said, running his fingers through what was left of his hair. "I thought I heard voices." He turned toward Trevor. Guess you want to collect for the mooring."

Maggie made introductions.

"By the by, skipper, did you run into any traffic coming over last night, or hear anything unusual?"

"Ask Maggie. She had the conn most of the way. I was helping to keep some Dramamine in a guest."

Trevor turned to Maggie. "You really sail!"

"Oh, yes, but not last night. Not a breath of wind. Powered the whole way. I saw a big tanker south bound. That was it. Why? What should I have heard?"

"Gunfire?"

Walter said "Jesus!" and Maggie, "Get back!"

"Scuttlebutt about smugglers. Probably nonsense. Some fools with firecrackers."

"They used to off-load Chinese here and then smuggle them into the mainland in the eighteen hundreds", said Walter. "What is it now, grass?"

"Latins at the moment," said Trevor. "The INS chaps seem to think they may be coming from Ensenada, up the backside of the island, then round West End on the weekends so they can hit King Harbor or Marina del Rey or wherever with all the other Sunday boats. There's so much traffic this time of year no one could check it all."

Walter paid the moorage and disappeared into the after cabin. Almost immediately Arlene Duveen came out, looking fresh and wonderful. If Trevor was surprised at a black on a yacht, Maggie couldn't detect it.

Arlene, who had been listening to Trevor's questions about smugglers, poured herself a plastic cup of orange juice, and said, "Sea-wolves I've heard of, but sea-coyotes, never."

"Coyotes?" asked Trevor, turning to face Arlene.

"Coyotes." Arlene now gave the word its Spanish pronunciation. "Smugglers of humans. They take the savings of the poor for a promise to get them to el otro lado, the other side, the United States. Most get them across. Some rob them, or sometimes kill them."

The Balangers appeared, and Maggie accepted Trevor's invitation to keep him company as he made his rounds. It was a glorious morning, and Walter had the generous good sense to invite him to dinner. Trevor did Isthmus Cove, Cherry, Fourth of July, and Emerald, during which Maggie discovered that his ex-girlfriend in Sydney, whose superficial values he appeared to despise, ran a fashionable shop. Just my luck, she thought, and when he had asked her what she did, guessing "dental hygeinist," she told him "bookkeeper." She found out his harbormastering was a weekend thing; he worked on and sold boats for a yacht broker in Newport.

* * * *

That evening they'd sat at the table in the in the yacht's walnut panelled main salon, and Trevor, who'd lived some time in the Trobriand Islands, had regaled them with tales of the "Trobes."

"There hadn't been an eating reported for a couple of years when I got there. When there is, the government boat has to come out from Kiriwina where there's an airstrip and a mission school. Sim-Sim, where I was, is a tiny place. The government chaps hate investigating that sort of thing. A couple of blokes with their white faces hanging out amongst all the locals who can't understand them at all. Unpleasant situation. If the guilty party's found, he gets six months prison in Melbourne and comes back a hero. Not for having eaten someone–that's always a private, tribal feud of some sort and doesn't concern outsiders–but because he's been to the big city and seen trams and such. A funny lot."

"Primitive!" said Sissy.

"Not really," said Trevor. "They're celestial navigators. Go hundreds of miles in outrigger canoes to fetch up on some wee atoll you'd have trouble finding with charts and a sextant. So they know how big the world is."

"What about the sex?" asked Walter.

"I didn't find out until I stopped being an outsider. I got sick. Some kind of fever. I got so crook I couldn't move. I fell into a sort of coma."

"My God!" said Maggie. "What happened?"

"I woke up in the house of the conjure-woman, an ancient crone with a wrinkled face and sagging breasts to match." He turned, smiling mischievously, to Maggie and put his arm around her–"I'd guess about your age, Maggie. They're not much after they're teenagers. She was smearing a mash of leaves on my chest."

"It must have worked," said Maggie. She moved closer to him, liking his arm.

"Rather! I think they had her put a spell on me so I'd come 'round to their way of thinking."

"0h, good!" said Sissy. "Tell us about the sex."

Trevor coughed politely. "Well, it's the women start it."

"Always," said Walter.

"I suppose it goes back to Eve and the apple," Trevor continued. "Males never initiate sex. Just not done, but it's extremely casual and frequent by our standards."

"Is it really all that different?" asked Arlene.

"Oh, quite! By the time I was squatting 'round the fire with the rest of the chaps, wearing nothing but a penis sheath, and eating yams, I had a faint glimmering."

"The sex?" pursued Arlene.

"Yes. Everybody. All the time. Amazing really!"

"Jesus!" Blake was impressed.

"Who takes care of the little bastards?" Walter wanted to know.

"No bastards. Only permanently paired couples have children."

"They practice birth control?" Sissy was surprised.

"Indeed. The conjure-woman gives the girls a packet of herbs they wear internally. When one of them wants to have sex, she pulls it out by its little string, and dangles it in front of her chosen man. He becomes erect at once and they go into the bushes. It's casual, quite simple and quite often. A mere sign of affection."

Maggie found the explanation aroused sexual longings, and wondered what Franny, her assistant, would say. Probably something like, "Wow! Margaret Meadesville!"

"Does anyone ever sleep?" asked Arlene.

"Surely, but that's not casual. To actually sleep together–or eat–is serious. Those are extremely intimate acts implying serious commitment. A kind of engagement, I suppose."

"It sounds," said Walter, "as if you understand them pretty well."

"Everything but the yams, and they're the whole bit. It's a yam cult, you see. If I understood about the yams, I'd grasp the mysteries of the universe–at least the way they grasp them, which is probably as good as any."

"Strange!" said the Balangers in unison.

"That's what they think of us, I'm sure," said Maggie. Trevor beamed at her. She knew she'd made points and felt better about having told him she was a bookkeeper. She did keep books.

 
  ADD TO BASKET


© All Rights Reserved 2009: 1ROMANCEEBOOKS.COM
About Us / Contact Us / Privacy Policy / Valentine Scavenger Hunt 2010