Authors: Suzanne Francis
But Ellie Rayne looked as though she had lost her appetite. She picked at her food and excused herself shortly afterwards. "I'll take a plate with me, Joe, if you don't mind. Looks like you'll have a bit to spare." He told her to help herself and she did, piling the plate high with fish and vegetables.
Ellie saw Tessa's expression and shrugged. "I might get hungry later. You should come visit me sometime soon. Things are mighty quiet around here."
Tessa agreed that she would, and Ellie went out the door.
"See?" Joe smiled, but his eyes were sad. "I told you she missed your tenant."
Tessa nodded vaguely, thinking that Ellie had been fine until the moment she saw the image in the mirror. The image she said hadn't been Jakob at all.
Tessa decided to try and find some answers. "What can you tell me about my parent's deaths?"
His fork paused on the way to his mouth. "That's an odd question to hear, after all this time."
"I'm sorry. It's just that I found out the other day that they might have died as a result of foul play, rather than a fishing accident. I just wondered..."
Joe frowned and laid his fork carefully across his plate. "Police came around, asking questions, but they couldn't prove anything. Official story said engine trouble, and the ship breaking up on the rocks around Twilough. But Ben Kivelson was a grand seaman, one of the best -- I don't think it happened like that."
She took a big gulp of wine. "What do you think happened?"
"Ben came to me, about a week before he disappeared. Said he had some trouble with the local syndicate -- he had put up his boat to guarantee a loan and now they were leaning on him for the money. He looked mighty desperate."
"Do you think they murdered him because he couldn't pay?"
Joe shook his head. "Maybe I have no business telling you this, but... I think he faked the whole thing for the insurance money on the boat. Suvi and Jim used it to pay off the debt. Afterwards, they started buying bits of land here and there, until they had the whole of little
. I'd like to know where they got the cash to do that."
"Are you saying you think my parents might still be alive somewhere?"
He shrugged. "It's possible, I guess. But I never saw them again -- not round here. Maybe you should ask Ellie. She and Suvi used to be good friends, until..." He looked at his plate, and gingerly picked some bones out of the perch with his fork.
"You'd be best to ask her that. Now, how about some more wine? You've hardly touched this jug."
* * * *
Tessa drove across town towards Ted's house, wishing she hadn't agreed to meet right after dinner.
One thing at a time
, she told herself sternly.
First you break up with him, then you can go see Ellie and find out more about the mirror.
The radio blared the heavy beat of some thrash metal band, but she paid little attention to the music. She glanced at her fingers, unconsciously drumming on the steering wheel. Ted's ring wasn't on her right hand any more.
She groaned and spoke out loud. "You can't give it back if you can't find it, stupid."
Her purse lay on the passenger seat. She felt around inside, trying to avoid Tom's knife. The ring lay in the bottom, amongst gum wrappers and crumbs of stale tobacco. She slipped it back on her right hand, just as she pulled up to the wide metal gate that blocked the main entrance to Ted's subdivision.
Tessa entered the code and the gate slid smoothly across. The houses inside sat close together -- lines of two story brick structures proudly marching along cul-de-sacs. Television screens gave each living room window an identical dead-blue glow. To Tessa, used to the vibrant disarray of little
, the neighborhood seemed as barren as an empty field.
. Ted's house, number 44, was surrounded by a high privacy fence. Several dinky trees drooped in the front garden. The developers had bulldozed the mature forest that had once flourished on this hill.
She walked along the flagstones and rang the bell. He greeted her with a hug and a kiss, then held her at arm's length. "You do look a sight for sore eyes. Come on in. I want to hear about everything."
"So do I," muttered Tessa.
He had opened a bottle of wine, of course, and Tessa had to accept a glass, even though she had already drunk far more sangria than was prudent. "Well?" he urged, with a raised brow.
Tessa gazed at him, thinking that if eyes were a window to the soul, then his were filthy. Jakob's, on the other hand, were just like stained glass. She came to a sudden decision. "You first."
He studied the dregs of his wine. "Me first? What does that mean?"
"It means I want to know why you paid those two boys to mug me."
Ted tried and failed to sound innocently surprised. "Who told you I did?"
"That doesn't matter. Are you going to tell me, or am I going to walk, right now?" They had been standing by the breakfast bar, but at her threat he sighed and headed for the living room.
"You had better sit down first, Tessie." He arranged himself carefully on the black leather sofa and patted the seat beside him. "But before I tell you, I just want you to know that everything I did was with our future in mind." As Tessa joined him on the sofa he must have seen her skeptical expression. Ted pulled a pack of Camels from his shirt pocket and lit up with the fancy marble globe lighter on the coffee table. "That's the truth, I swear it." He offered her the pack but she gestured impatiently for him to begin.
Ted told her a carefully edited version of what had happened, beginning with the mysterious visitor to his office six months before. "This man, Daniel Redden, threatened you, babe. Said he had to have some mirror that your grandmother left at Seadrift. I argued with him, of course, but he had these friends, big guys, and I couldn't hold out forever. So I tried to get it for him, so he would leave us alone." He flicked his cigarette into an already overflowing ashtray, filled with tan-tipped butts.
Tessa wondered when Ted had become such a heavy smoker.
His eyes filled with very realistic tears. "I couldn't find the mirror, and he is coming back at midnight tonight to get it from me. He is a real thug, Tessie, and I don't know what he will do when he..."
Tessa dug in her purse and retrieved the mirror. "Is this what he wants?"
Ted's head bobbed forlornly.
"Why didn't you just tell me? Why did you try to steal it?"
"I... was just trying to keep you out of it. That is all I ever wanted. For you to be safe." He seized her hand and held on to it. "I mean it, babe. I'm sorry. Truly, truly sorry." Tessa heard this apology as a stinging rebuke.
What had she wanted, the night she let Jakob make love to her?
She stared at the ring on her right hand. "It's all right, Ted. I understand."
"You do? Really?" He followed her eyes, and then gently took her hand. "Let's put this where it belongs." Slipping the ring from her finger, he placed it on the third finger of her opposite hand. "I don't care who knows now, Tessie. You'll soon be my wife, and I am damned proud to say so."
Tessa opened her mouth, then shut it again, wondering how her plan to break up with him had gotten so far off course. Ted stopped talking, obviously waiting for some sort of response from her. Tessa could only stutter, "What... What did you just say?"
"I said do you want to fly to Vegas this weekend and get married?"
The memory of what she had seen in the cave waylaid her doubts. "Oh Ted, we have far more important things to worry about. Getting married can wait." She looked at him with shining eyes. "I found it! I found your flying man. At Anenoa."
He stood, and quickly turned away from her. "What on earth? But... I thought you got lost."
Tessa spoke breathlessly. "I did, sort of. But I ended up in a cave, behind a waterfall. That is where he is, along with some of the most amazing petroglyphs you have ever seen. We have to get a team together, go there." She spoke to his back. "Aren't you happy? It is the vindication of everything you believed. The sacred tomb of the winged man of the Irrakish."
He faced her, his expression as lukewarm as his voice. "Of course you and I should take a look sometime, but we will have to tread very carefully. We can't go stirring up the local population of natives, Tessie. If the site is a real burial ground, it must be given proper reverence. An excavation would probably be out of the question." He sat next to her again, and exhaled a thin stream of smoke. "It is doubtful the bones you found are genuine anyway. Something like that would have been desecrated long ago by grave robbers."
She tried to hide her disappointment. "You are right. I didn't think... Of course we can't run in there with our picks and shovels blazing. I do think the bones are genuine though."
He patted her hand patronizingly. "Of course, babe. We'll check it out real soon. Now, I want you to leave before that creep Redden gets here. Give me the mirror and I'll get rid of him for good. Tomorrow night we can go to dinner and celebrate with the most expensive bottle of champagne we can find. All right?"
Tessa slowly removed the mirror from her purse and stared at it. Her wavy reflection stared back at her accusingly.
Let me keep the mirror, and keep you safe. Please...
She shut it all from her mind, and handed Ted the mirror. He took it with a relieved sigh. "Thank you. I'll buy you a new one, babe, I promise. Dunno why anyone would want this old piece of crap anyway."
, thought Tessa despairingly.
Ted stood and grabbed Tessa's purse and coat, then crossed the room to the front door. She had to hurry to catch him as he crossed the threshold and went back outside. "You will be careful on your way home, won't you? And keep your mobile phone with you. That way I can call you when I..." He paused after Tessa abruptly stopped walking and turned back towards the house. She stared at the line of crisp footprints his dew-soaked loafers had left on the flagstones.
"Oh my god." The moonlight picked out the distinctively wavy pattern on the soles. Tessa's voice was a choked whisper. "It was you. You bastard. You've been lying to me all the long."
He took a long drag off his cigarette and threw the butt on the grass. "What the hell?" Ted stepped forward and grabbed her arm, then spun her back around to face him. "What are you talking about?"
Tessa pushed him away violently. "Those were
footprints in there. You've already seen the cave and the bones. Haven't you? That is why you pretended not to care just now. I can't believe I..."
He tried to bluff again. "You saw some footprints in the cave? So what? They could be anyone's, including yours! What makes you think...?"
She gave him a withering glance. "How many people do I know that wear five hundred dollar Giuseppe Cavalo loafers? No one but you. And anyway, there was a cigarette butt too. A Camel -- just like that one!" She pointed at the ground between them, then spoke coldly. "You wanted to cheat me."
Now his lips trembled, just a little. "I am the one who has been cheated, not you! That find belonged to me. He told me no one else knew the cave's whereabouts." Ted's voice sounded almost pleading. "Don't you realize how big something like this will be? It would be far too much for an inexperienced girl like you to handle. I can give this find the treatment it deserves. And afterwards, when I finish the book, I will give you credit for helping me. I promise, babe."
"Give me credit for
? God, you are absolutely sickening!"
"That bitch put you up to this, didn't she? She has always hated me. Jane the Frigidaire queen can't find a man of her own, and she wants to make sure you don't have one either. She has been trying to break us up for years."
Tessa stared at him with loathing. "Give me back my mirror. You can't have it, slime ball. Not now."
He started to back away, shaking his head. "No can do, babe."
She followed, right in his face. "Give me the fucking mirror."
Ted turned and sprinted back into the house, slammed the door and locked it. His voice came from just behind the panels. "I am sorry, Tessie, but I need that mirror. Why don't you go home and relax for a while? Have a bath and a glass of wine. You'll soon see I was right to keep the bones a secret. Both our careers depend on it. Now that I am HOD, I can make it happen for you. Whatever you want, I promise. We'll work something out."
Tessa pulled the ring from her finger and shoved it through the letter slot in the door. "Work this out, asshole. We are through. And if you give my mirror to anyone else, I'll be back here with the police. See how a larceny charge will help your precious career!"
She didn't cry until she had left the gate and his lifeless community far behind. Tessa pulled over on
, just as the storm that had been threatening burst into a shower of hail. It drummed down on to the Volvo as Tessa pounded her fists against the steering wheel again and again. "Stupid, stupid, stupid! Why didn't I see this coming?" The answer was as clear as the blinking hazard lights on the dashboard. Tessa had been flattered beyond belief when Ted had taken a personal interest in her. Jane had seen his faults, but Tessa had been blind.
After a few moments, she wiped her eyes and nose on her sleeve and reached for her mobile phone. She tried Jakob first. "We're sorry. This number has not yet set up a mail box for messages. Please try your call again later."
Tessa slammed the phone shut in frustration. "Damn. I guess your little friend Annie didn't teach you everything."
She tried Jane's number next.
"Dr. Piper speaking."
"Jane? Oh, Jane. Thank god."
Jane heard the tears in her voice. "Tessa? What is it? What's happened?"
"I wentto see Ted. It was so awful. You were right about him. He knew about the bones, and the cave... He wanted to keep it all to himself. That dirtbag knew..."
Her voice cut it, sounding very confused. "What bones? What cave? Tessa, you aren't making any sense." The phone dropped away from Tessa's ear as she remembered suddenly that she had never told Jane the truth about what happened at Anenoa.