Mar 12, 2024, 06:24AM

The Summer Sun, Part 4


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Irma Roberts dialed Andy. In a moment he picked up. "Hello?"

"Hiya, Andy! It's me!" Andy recognized the voice of Cousin Irma.

Irma's keister was sore after being dropped on the A&W tarmac. But that tender bruise was nothing compared to her battered sense of well-being. The manhandling by that maniac! Fortunately, she'd scribbled down his license number. Andy worked in motor vehicles, had access to records. She pled her case. It took no effort to convince Andy. They'd grown up together. Family. Blood.

Andy said, "Have no fear, cousin dear. We'll mash this pest's potato, from here to Kashmir." After he hung up, Andy leaned back in his chair, stroked his neatly trimmed Van Dyke for a moment, made a call to friend in filing.

When Timmy Marcade woke, all was black, and he heard the sea rushing in to shore. He hurt all over, but especially his brain. It felt as if he, but especially his brain, had been French-fried to blisters then left to soak in vinegar, copious quantities of salt sprinkled on top. His eyes were crusty, but he opened them, very slowly.

He was on the beach, face down in sand. And he was naked. And suffering from the worst hangover he'd ever experienced, possibly the worst hangover since the dawn of time. Regardless, he had to get back in his apartment without being seen; he was cognizant enough to realize that much. Moving as quickly as he was able without being sick, clad only in moonlight, he made it to the building's plate glass front door. And, of course, no key. He considered using a big rock to smash the glass. But then he'd have to tread across shards barefoot. He considered waiting for someone to exit or enter. Nope! That won't work either, unless he wanted to risk all sorts of hullaballoo, including arrest and public humiliation.

The sun was rising. Soon he wouldn't even have the cloak of dark.

Desperate, he went the route of rock versus glass. Then he used a potted palm near the door to sweep the splinters and slivers of glass to one side, and dumped the planter's soil over what tiny bits remained, stepped gingerly to the elevator and made it up the eight stories to his apartment door without running into an early bird or a night owl. Fortunately, he kept a key taped behind a framed print in the hallway. He opened his door and rasped, "Susan? Are you here?"


On the dining table he saw two plates, empty but for scraps. And five bottles: two red wine, one white wine, one gin, and a bourbon. Four of the bottles stood straight, West Point cadets at inspection. The bourbon lay on its side, a good Kentucky son catching a little shut eye after a spree.

"Oooooh," he groaned at the sight. It must've been some night, but he couldn't recall any of it.

In the kitchen, he turned on the tap and soaked his head under the faucet, then cupped his hands to drink a cool gallon. Feeling a little better, but shaky, he stumbled to the bedroom, saw the bed was a mess and wished he could remember what had happened. He fell onto the bed and clawed the covers over his head as the sun was just beginning to invade, its sadistic glare growing. He lay there for an interminable while before gathering the energy to pad to the bathroom and take a Seconal. And for good measure, a second. Back in bed he was just about to drift away when the door buzzer snapped him back to attention. Slipping into a bathrobe he opened the door to witness a young cop, a rookie.

"Sorry to disturb you, sir, but there's been a break-in, the front door is smashed to smithereens, and there's been vandalism."

Timmy was pleasant with the officer; the pills soothing his nerves. His formerly raw-nerved brain felt as if a lady was petting the back of her prize Persian. The feline enjoyed the petting so much he rolled on his back, paws limp, as she scratched under his chin and gave him belly rubs. She was such a nice gentle lady with such nice gentle hands, such nice gentle hands that'd never done a day's labor. Mrs. Seconal petted Timmy's brain until he felt he were on a cloud. In fact, he was a cloud; he would swear to that under oath.

He wished the officer Godspeed in his search for the culprit, forgetting that he, Timmy, was the culprit. Timmy was so full of love he was tempted to kiss the cop. Not a romantic kiss, just a big slobbery smacker on the fellow's forehead, simply a token of Timmy's, he couldn't say what, exactly. Regardless, the emotion was profoundly felt.

Cloud Timmy floated back to its cozy little bunk. The next time he opened his eyes it was dark again. He felt refreshed. And ravenous!

In the kitchen he spooned an entire pint of coffee ice cream into the Waring blender with a splash of milk, flipped the switch. In no time he had a coffee shake. It went down smooth, surf rolling out to sea, soothing his edgy tummy. He was perking up and, rubbing a forearm, realized he was still coated with brine. Whatever happened that night, they’d gone for an ocean dip.

In the shower, he tried to imagine what'd gone on, attempting to assemble the puzzle pieces. They'd eaten dinner. And they drank. Too much. Much too much. And one of them decided it'd be peachy keen to skedaddle down to the beach and march into the endless sea, naked as freshly hatched jaybirds.

But where is Susan?

Timmy froze. Did she drown? 

Andy's co-worker traced the license number to one Timmy Marcade living on Highway 1. "Well, all reet, Pete! We'll slice your cake, Drake. No one messes with my Irma. Nosiree, Dupree! That's a promise, Thomas." Then he sat up, lit a smoke, rested his elbows on his desk and let his imagination saunter down Revenge Alley. The thumbnails of his folded hands tapped a silent beat against pursed lips. He’d planned to spend the evening at Rumsey's Lighthouse, taking in some good modern jazz. That could wait. On this night we have payback time for the mad masher of the root beer stand. He snapped his fingers to a bop beat only he could hear.

After the shower, Timmy grilled a steak on his deck, made a salad, popped open a Coors', and sat down to a small feast and wondered about Susan. He didn't even have a number he could call. Stymied.

He thought about running out to get a paper, but was too drained. And what if Susan called while he was out? Or showed up? Better to stay in, get to bed early, see everything with a fresh outlook in the morning, and hope she makes contact in the meantime.

The following morning, he brewed a pot of coffee, sat down with a hot cup and turned on his TV, a portable in baby blue. He liked it; it was so modern. To Timmy's ultimate surprise Randall Weston was on the local news! "My daughter's been missing for three nights! No word! I suspect foul play! The other day, a lunatic burst into my office and I had to have him physically removed by security. I suspect that maniac has kidnapped my Susan. Or worse! I demand the police find this fiend!" Then a police sketch, based on descriptions by Weston and his two goons, flashed on the screen. Timmy blinked at a rather crude version of him staring at him.

"Oh no..." Without thinking, he quickly dressed, packed a suitcase with a few changes of clothing and his shaving kit, took the elevator down. The glass door looked as good as new! "Well, yuh, it is new, after all." Out the door and to his Ferrari. Then his jaw dropped. Someone had slashed his tires, all four. And the finish had been scraped, he guessed, correctly, with a rock. The windows, too!

He didn't have time to figure out the who and the why. He had to get to his hideaway. "The police are after me! For a capital crime or two! And they'll never believe a word I have to say, not against a big wig like Weston!"

It was still early, no one was out and about, yet. Timmy tried the door to Mrs. Post's Lark. It opened. Under the mat, he found the key. Soon he was on the lam, quietly gliding down Highway 1, checking his rearview mirror a lot, knowing that it was only a matter of time before that rookie put two and two together, licking his chops at the thought of being the key cop to pinch the crazed demon.

The Lark was a steep step down from a Ferrari, but any port in a storm. That said, what a granny car! Six weak cylinders, one two-barrel carb, three-speed on the column. Better than prison, but not by much!

"Now add car theft to my list! And stealing said vehicle from a widowed retiree! Man, oh man. I am cooked..."

Timmy took a left onto a dirt road, a road you'd never even notice driving by it. One lane, rutted and rocky; it pointed to hill country. He'd discovered it a year ago, when he owned a small Honda motorcycle and took it for off road adventures. A few miles, on the left, was a one-room shack abandoned to the elements. Its once-upon-a-time whitewash exterior had weathered to a beat gray. And the interior had been the victim of a leaky roof and decades of neglect. He'd taken it on as a project: new tarpaper shingles on the roof, cleared out cobwebs and debris, replaced broken window panes, added screens. Nothing fancy, but when he was through, it was a neat little getaway, even possessed a rustic charm. A windmill aiding a hand-pump at the kitchen sink provided water, after some minor repairs.

Timmy had stocked the cupboard with canned, tinned and jarred goods: baked beans, beef stew, McCann's oatmeal, sliced peaches, peanut butter, jam, crackers. A small bookcase was filled with paperbacks he'd found at a thrift store: mysteries, sci-fi, Westerns.

A nearby creek provided a bath.

Flashlights, a transistor radio, batteries, candles, a Sterno stove, two boxes of wood matches, an army cot with a sleeping bag completed the interior. Outside, he'd cleared broken branches and brush, put up no trespassing signs, and installed a heavy padlock on the door. If nothing else, a retreat until he devised a plan.

Pulling up to the shanty, he parked under a broad arroyo willow to hide it from copter coppers. He stepped out, suitcase in hand, and stopped in his tracks. The door was not padlocked; the door was ajar.

Timmy set the suitcase down, approached his little hideaway with great trepidation. He took a deep breath, pushed the door open. It creaked as he peeked in. On the Sterno, a pot of oatmeal was bubbling. On the cot sat Susan Weston. "Hey, mister. What took you so long? Y'know, this batch of porridge is gonna be just right. Not too hot, not too cold. Like this cot: just right. Come to me, Baby Bear." Her locks were more golden than the summer sun pouring through the windows.


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