The sound of the bell announced to the owner of Otter Rock Resort that another visitor had arrived. He looked up from his desk and regarded the latest tourist. Somewhat under six feet tall, a man had stepped inside the office and glanced cautiously, but curiously, around. He had a large army duffel bag hooked around one shoulder and a bemused smile on his face.
"Can I help you?" The resort owner asked. The man nodded, stepped up to the desk and swung his duffel to his feet.
"Yeah," he said, reaching into his back pocket for his wallet. "I have a reservation."
The owner raised an eyebrow, figuring the guy to just be one of the many ‘weekenders’ to pass through. The man slipped a credit card out of his wallet, followed by a New York Driver’s license.
"The name, sir?" The resort owner asked as he flipped his ledger open.
"Kostmayer." The other replied. "Michael Kostmayer. I have a reservation for three weeks."
The owner felt a little startled and saw, neatly penciled in, the name Kostmayer for a rental cabin. He was suddenly all pleasantness and business.
"Cabin #3, the one closest to the beach. It’s a nice cabin." He pulled out a couple of papers and looked up at the young man. "I need you to fill out a few forms, here. You’re going to be with us for a while." He said, smiling.
"Yup." Mickey replied, looking the forms over and picking up a nearby pen. "I hear the fishing is real good."
"Some of the best! Can’t beat Wiscasett for both saltwater and freshwater fishing. There are hundreds of lakes back up the hills, full of trout, bass, you name it and the salmon runs look promising this year. Then there’s sea bass, ling cod, rock cod. Lobster and crabbing too if that’s your thing. There are some good clamming beaches around too. A little bit of everything for everybody." The owner busied himself with charging the expense to Mickey’s card.
"Just so long as they’re biting, I don’t care…" Mickey replied, smiling lopsidedly. "I’m driving the rental out there." He added and nodded his head out the large window towards a newer model car. "Also, I may get messages here, it’s important that they get to me." He shrugged slightly looking steadily at the owner with hazel eyes. "Duty, you know."
"Military?" The owner asked, knowing the area was full of personnel from Bangor. Mickey nodded as the owner slipped the cabin keys onto the counter. Mickey signed the forms, turned them around for him, gathered the keys and smirked.
"You could say that," he replied dryly as the owner tore off Mickey’s receipt and handed it to him.
"Thank you, Mister Kostmayer!" He said cheerfully. "If you need a rental boat, try Vernal’s Rentals over by the local market. He and I are old friends. You can buy bait over there too."
Mickey let the Resort owner ramble on as he neatly folded his receipts and tucked them into his wallet. The credit card and license quickly followed. Mickey nodded at the appropriate places as he put his wallet away, then picked up his duffel bag.
He really wasn’t paying that much attention, any more. Only one thing mattered. He was on vacation. Three weeks of nothing but fishing. That’s all that mattered. Three weeks all to himself, the Company be damned. Mickey had well earned this vacation. An unusual early summer one at that. Though Control insisted he not stray too far, to Mickey’s annoyance; he let it slide, as he had found himself a nice secluded, lazy little resort town to hide in. As he ambled out of the office, he blinked at the bright sunshine filtering through the tall conifers and felt the tension in his shoulders ease.
Three weeks, all to himself.
Wiscasett was set back in amongst the hundreds of thousands of crags and coves that made up the intricate Maine Coastline. There were an unlimited number of isolated spots where Mickey could indulge in his passion for fishing. The area was full of trails and paths wending in and out of the thick cover of trees, leading off to who knows where and inviting the traveler to come and explore. Mickey sighed at last, glanced at the cabin keys and ambled his way down one of the trails towards a cabin that sat near the beach. He smiled at the sound of the surf as he walked around to the door facing the water. Letting himself inside, he began looking around, dumping his duffel at the foot of the bed inside his rental cabin.
It was small, clean, and functional. That’s all that mattered, he thought as he nodded in satisfaction. For him it would be home for three weeks. He looked at the bed. The first thing he planned on doing… He smirked, setting a hand in the center of the bed and testing its bounce. Turning away from it, he jumped and dropped, sprawled, on his back, comfortably on the bed. He wriggled his head into the pillow and sighed, draping his forearm over his eyes.
He had earned this nap.
Wiscasett had its fair share of summer tourists and supplied Mickey with a boat, bait, local gossip and some surprisingly good eats. He enjoyed himself, roaming around, doing whatever he pleased, getting up whenever he wanted, and doing whatever he cared to. It was his vacation.
When he needed to restock on food, he drove the rental car into town, to the local store perched at the edge of the cove. A few older folks, obviously residents of the area, milled around trading shop talk. Mickey wandered about, ignoring the sound of the bell clanging as another customer entered the store behind him. Barely keeping an ear tuned to the sounds of the talking, he made his selections before heading for the register.
A girl stood ahead of him, paying cash for two big sacks of groceries and a bag of cat food. She had to be a nearly a foot shorter than him. She gathered up her bags awkwardly and turned for the door. Mickey couldn't help but notice the long blonde hair caught back at the nape of her neck with a burgundy pony band. His rather keen sense of observation took in the jeans, soft brown shoes, denim shirt and trim, almost skinny, slenderness. Something, however, jarred the picture. Mickey focused on the attendant and dug out his wallet to pay for his purchases. It was early summer, the day promising to be a pleasant 80 odd degrees. Why would anyone be wearing a turtleneck?
He snatched up his purchase as he heard the sound of bags being juggled and caught up with the girl at the door.
"Here, let me get that for you!" he offered as he caught the door and held it open. He smiled his pixyish, lopsided grin at her. The girl, half stooped to catch the cat food bag as it slid, glanced up at him. She had light grey eyes, set in a slender face. Looking up at him in surprise she blushed, a tiny smile touching her lips. Mickey, not entirely unhandsome himself, turned on the charm.
"Can I help you carry any of that?" he offered as he flipped a stray lock of his own brown hair out of his eyes. The girl smiled at him, straightened up and shook her head no. As she stepped out onto the sidewalk, she nodded her head in thanks and turned to go.
Mickey blinked. She hadn't said a word. He felt a little deflated as he let the door shut behind him and watched the girl walk across the lot to an old brown Pick-up. She loaded her things and climbed into the driver’s seat. He still stood there as she drove by and felt a little better when she waggled her fingers at him by way of saying good-bye. He sighed, chalking the girl up to local character. He wandered off to his own car… the fish were calling.
Two days later, the fuel line on the rental boat broke and, as Mickey happened to be close in to town, he rowed his way to the dock where he rented the boat from. The morning being glorious, people milled about doing the tourist thing. A cacophony of gulls laughed and cried ahead as folks tossed up whatever was available to feed them, while others prepared for fishing trips of their own, or bustled about on private business. Mickey paid no attention to them at all, being fully occupied with the broken line. It turned out to need long term repair, so the old man who ran the place gladly rented him another boat, which was moored at their furthest dock. Several spare boats bobbed at their moorings, and hardly any people stood around near them. He ambled over and spied someone sitting on the steps that led down to the plank walkway. As he neared, to his delight, he recognized the girl from the store.
Lying on the ground above her head was a sketchpad and a pen. Another pad lay opened to a blank page across her lap. She idly twirled a pencil in her fingers. She stared intently at a nearby boat, where Mickey could see that a catch of fish lay unattended. Next to the boat was an unidentified mound, covered with a tarp. His spirits lifted as he approached her.
"Hey!" he greeted.
The hand with the pencil flew up sharply to stop him. Bewildered, Mickey's eyes scanned instantly around taking in everything at a glance. He froze in his tracks. Nothing seemed out of place, except maybe this girl still sporting a turtleneck, (albeit of a different color), despite the warm weather. Mickey's eyes caught movement. He frowned, annoyed as a familiar tension took over his body and his weight shifted forward, balancing more on his toes, ready to drop his poles and tackle and go for his gun, lying snugly in its holster under his left arm.
The tarp covered mound suddenly rippled. Warily Mickey watched as the edge of the tarp flipped and waved. To his surprise a slim, dark brown, body eeled out from under the tarp and slipped noiselessly into the water. It swam towards them. Peripherally, Mickey caught a second movement as the girl’s hand dropped to the pad on her lap. Fascinated, yet still tense, he watched as a river otter, if he wasn't mistaken, reappeared at the edge of the boat where the fish lay invitingly. Not a creature to miss opportunities, the enticement was too much for him to resist. Propelled seemingly by some giant hand from underneath, the otter bailed over the side of the boat, fully facing them. Again Mickey's eyes caught movement as the pencil in the girl’s hand flashed. A quick sniff at the fish, a glance up and the otter bit deep into one. With a flick of his powerful tail, he splashed over the side of the boat and disappeared. Astonished, Mickey looked down at the girl, but stopped short again.
Leaning over her, he watched as the pencil in her hand developed a mind of its own. Like a snapshot, the face of the otter began to come alive just as he had bit into his purloined fish, his wild dark eyes dared them to challenge him. Droplets of water fell off his bewhiskered face. Each stroke from the pencil brought the creature more and more to life, until Mickey would have sworn it could move. A few things struck Mickey then. One, being the scarcity of otters, and two, this girl sitting on the dock was a bona fide lightning artist. He'd heard of them, people who could look at something once and quick as you please, draw it. Sort of a combination artist and photographic memory rolled into one. Where had he heard about them before?
"Wow!" he breathed, glancing back at the newly robbed boat, gently rocking on the waves. "I guess I'd better make sure my catches are stowed away!"
He looked back down at her. She gazed up at him, smiled brilliantly and pointed at a sign on a dock post with her pencil. In bold white letters on a red background it warned; ‘Beware of the Otter.’ Mickey chuckled.
"May I?" he asked impulsively and nodded at the drawing as he set his gear down. She agreed and lifted the notebook to him as she stood up.
"I'm impressed," he said truthfully as he studied the picture, amazed indeed, it had been done so fast. "Do you paint too?" he asked and flipped the page. When she didn't respond, he looked at her. Blushing, she waggled a hand at him, self-consciously tucking a long straying strand of hair behind one ear.
"These are really good!" he said admiringly, flipping to a few more drawings, all of the otter, apparently since he had appeared there that morning. "You should get them published," he smiled at her, handing the tablet back. She flushed a little more, as the corners of her mouth curled wryly. Still she said nothing, turning gracefully to reach down and pick up the other tablet and pen. Mickey felt intrigued, and liked it. He held out a hand, taking the initiative.
As she straightened, she shifted the tablets to one arm, looked a little tentative, and then shook his hand.
"I'm Reva." she replied.
As she studied him, he noticed her stiffen slightly. Her voice was too soft and too low, Mickey thought. She had spoken barely over a whisper. She certainly didn't seem to be shy, she acted totally natural. There was something wrong with her voice and her eyes seemed to darken as if a shutter came down.
"Nice to meet you, Reva. You live around here, or are you traveling?" he asked, seeing where he could go.
"Other side of the point," she whispered, nodding her head towards a spurt of land knifing its way across the bay.
"Over by the rental cabins?" he asked, delving further, hopeful. She smiled slightly, looked a little uncomfortable and then nodded yes.
"That's where I'm staying," he added. She lifted her chin in response and asked no questions back. He got the feeling those grey eyes were trying pick him apart. Mickey scrambled. Bobbing his head at the boat he asked.
"That otter, isn't it a bit unusual for them to be around? Aren't they supposed to be up a river or something? I thought they were rare?"
A soft exhale of laughter greeted his ears.
"Yes!" she whispered a bit raspily. "He's a local boy. We don't know where he came from." She smiled brightly
"Someone’s pet maybe?" he asked. He saw no sign of the critter; he looked back at the girl.
"No," she replied, shifting her foot. "He's too wild, no one can get near him."
"Except you." Mickey beamed his lopsided boyish grin at her, his face quirkily showing off his good humor. She blushed, averting her gaze. He liked it.
"Only because I keep still."
Mickey heard a slight catch in her voice then. A self-conscious gesture towards her throat got his attention. A flash of discomfort further darkened her grey eyes, then just as quickly passed.
"When I move, he's gone," Her whisper grew harsh.
"Touch of laryngitis?" he asked, easily and friendly like. She turned her head away and tried not to feel too embarrassed. He noticed her shoulders tensing.
"Permanently," she replied, letting her hand go to her throat and rub gently. She didn't look at his face. He blinked, a frown touching his eyebrows.
"Some sort of accident?"
Her lips pursed together, before she smiled wanly.
"Wrapped a car around a tree." Somehow she couldn't look him in the eyes just then.
"Ouch," he cracked.
"It's okay, really," she glanced at him, a bit uncomfortable. "I just don't have much of a voice left." The grey eyes darkened and looked away from him. Something niggled at the back of Mickey's mind. An awkward pause developed.
"Those really are very good drawings," he commented trying to recover the conversation. "Do you have them published at all?"
"Yes," she replied with her strange whisper. "I do, actually." She briefly looked back at him, hunched her shoulders together and clutched the drawings tightly to her. She cast a glance down at her watch then at her truck.
"Uh oh!" she exclaimed. "I've got to go!" She looked up at him apologetically. "It's been nice to meet you... Mickey?" she asked uncertainly, gazing at him, wide eyed, innocent, embarrassed.
"Yeah," he said as she took a step back.
"I'm late for a meeting," she added, moving further.
"Sure, no problem. See you around maybe?" he asked. She shrugged, waggled her fingers at him again, by way of saying good-bye. She turned and trotted off to the truck.
As he watched her go, Mickey smirked slightly to himself. She had just very effectively lied to get away from him. Typical, he surmised, sighing in resignation. Sometimes all the charm in the world couldn't get you past square one. Not that he was even trying to get anywhere.… Bending, he scooped up his fishing gear, heading for the boat.
45 minutes later he bobbed contently in a secluded inlet, pole out, feet kicked back, head nestled in his arms and returned to the little enigma presenting itself in the form of a girl named Reva. Something didn't sit right and his brain had doggedly latched onto it. It simply refused to let it go.
Not far away, on a dirt track, Reva shifted the truck into neutral, killed the engine and coasted forward until she could spot the lone boat. Knowing full well the surrounding trees and scrub kept her practically invisible. She leaned forward and rested her arms across the steering wheel. She gazed thoughtfully at the lone man in the boat, a slight frown of disquiet on her face.
He certainly had charm and boyish handsomeness. And looked to be in very good shape under the blue T-shirt, windbreaker and jeans. Reva wasn't fooled. She knew what he was.
She'd seen the tell-tale lift on one shoulder marking a shoulder harness. She'd seen it too much. She closed her eyes briefly at a memory. Add to that his dark eyes, too carefully shuttered, despite the good humor sparkling from them. Oh, he seemed sincere, conversational too, but she simply knew better. He definitely was no cop. Not many tourists showed up who packed a concealed weapon. With what she knew from before... She caught herself, her eyes narrowed as she continued her study of Mickey Kostmayer. He had been trying to gain some sort of information. Yet in a "get-to know-you" type of way. Strange. She felt irritated, suspicious. The catch in her throat warned her that she'd aggravated her larynx in talking to him. She wouldn’t have a voice by the afternoon if she didn't go home and take care of it. She gazed at Mickey and watched the light breeze lift his longish light brown hair. She sighed and climbed out of the truck, turned, braced herself against the doorframe and pushed it backwards until it began to roll gently. Mickey never heard the engine catch a few moments later as she drove away.
Mickey wasn’t paying the slightest bit of attention to his fishing pole as he mused on the enigma of Reva. The lapping of wavelets hitting the boat and surrounding rocks, the occasional gull, maybe the slap of a fish jumping, the creaking of the oars and motor in their casings, all were lulling him into a doze. Yet Reva kept intruding into his thoughts.
That she had some sort of injury was apparent. Both by voice and the self-conscious gestures at her throat. Add to that her never asking him a question, or giving up much about herself. Now that he thought of it, she seemed to get uncomfortable with him once she had a good look at him. Then there were the drawings. His mind still marveled at the accuracy and vitality of just the few he had seen. A lightning artist.
Some were employed by the media to cover those court cases where cameras were never allowed to go. Others were employed in police departments to help people trying to describe assailants. Most made careers for themselves in graphics or commercial arts. Some even did the complex storyboards for movies and television shows. Able to make quick, on the spot changes to satisfy a director or writer’s whims. Personally, he had never seen them, nor heard of their cases, but Mickey did know that Control had a few tucked away somewhere in the Company. His knowledge ended there. Reva had mentioned she had been published. Perhaps she was just a commercial artist. Somehow that didn't sit quite right with him; however, his musing simply wouldn't reveal what that might be.
She avoided him, that was for sure. He sighed and muttered to himself. He had to be making mountains out of molehills. Reva was a local girl who happened to draw, had a bad accident, couldn't talk and brushed him off as gently as you please.
"Probably married and has twelve kids!" he grumbled, yet didn't recall seeing a ring on her finger. So why couldn't he get the girl off his mind?
Fishing that day turned out to be a total bust…
Further evidence for Mickey's suspicions that Reva tried to avoid him came the next day. He had finished eating breakfast when his eyes caught sight of her truck pulling into the parking lot fronting the cafe'.
She had to pass him. Curious, he sipped coffee and watched her retrieve a pet carrier from the front of her truck. Through the front grill he could see an enormous, dark cat. Turning, she caught sight of him gazing at her. Mickey nodded, raised his coffee cup and wondered why on earth her face had gone totally white. Hastily she looked away, her knuckles tight on the handle of the carrier. Shifting his own eyes away, he could see her swallowing hard, hefting the awkward burden. Her foot caught the door to her truck to close it and slammed it a little hard. The cat in the carrier shifted in alarm. Reva struggled with the wobbly burden a moment, half-bent over the carrier. Mickey could see, peripherally, as she tried to calm the cat and moved quickly to the sidewalk. She didn't even look his way as she hurried past him to get to the nearby vet’s office. Mickey frowned; the very sight of him had caused her to react in fear. What on earth for? Piqued, Mickey dropped a pair of bills on the table, downed the last of his coffee and got up.
He moved into the card shop next door from the cafe' towards her parked truck. A convenient rack of birthday cards provided enough of a blockade to prevent her from seeing him, but he hauled out a battered baseball hat, crammed in his back pocket, just in case. One element to successful disguise being to slightly change one thing about oneself. He tossed his hair back, nestled the hat on his head and moved to where he could see her come toward the truck. He hadn't waited five minutes when she emerged and began, very carefully, to look around to see where he was. She pulled her hair loose from its band with one hand and nervously ran her fingers through the long curls with the other. She distinctly scanned up and down the streets, her eyes registering fear as she moved cautiously towards her truck. Mickey looked down at the cards as she passed by the window. She checked around again, jerked the door open, clambered inside and gunned the engine. As she backed out she looked into the window of the shop and their eyes briefly met.
The impression from her that registered most in Mickey’s mind was that the baseball cap didn't work…
Sheer terror coursed through her and nearly caused Reva to put her foot through the floorboard. Visibly shaking from the adrenaline rushing through her veins, she began forcing herself to breathe normally, failing miserably as her breath came out in gasps. She leaned over, poked at the glove box and tried to watch her driving at the same time. She reached in, found an odd bundle and pulled it to her. She glanced at it once, reassured that she had grabbed her gun.
Mickey couldn't bring himself to go fishing. Reva fully occupied his attention, now. Sticking to the trails around his cabin, Mickey didn’t pay the slightest attention to where he was going. A ton of questions pounded at his skull, the foremost wondering what had caused such fear in a local country girl.
Several days passed before Mickey located her home. She did live next door to the resort where he was staying. A light drizzly rain had set in and Mickey’s restlessness drove him out of the lonely cabin. He had this thing about not being cooped up. The myriad paths surrounding the area cried out to him and he found himself prowling the one heading to the beach. The rain, a gentle warm one, did little to penetrate too far into the trees so by sticking to the forest paths he stayed relatively dry. Several minutes of walking brought him to the beach leading to the long finger of land cutting the resort off from sight of the little town itself. A cove within a cove greeted his eyes, as did a gazebo. He paused, taking in the view, hunched in his jacket.
A semi circle of clearing revealed a sea cottage to his immediate left, back against the trees. A series of beautifully kept gardens swept around the house to the immaculate green lawn. From the lawn’s edge, wild grass took over, leading to the beach. Dead ahead lay the viewpoint. A long boardwalk that started at the beach grass, wended its way to the shoreline then continued on out several yards before it ended at the gazebo perched neatly on its stilts. Adirondack chairs and a table provided furnishings. Several flower boxes supplied a riot of pink, blue, and white flowers that spilled in delighted abandon over their edges despite the grey, rainy June day. To the gazebo’s far right, more towards the entrance of the cove itself, sat a lone float upon which two seagulls huddled. Mickey gazed thoughtfully at the place and glanced left towards the front of the house. Parked out in the driveway was the old brown truck. Noting that the trail went on past her beach and up to the point, he continued walking, intent on exploring further on…
Sitting in the drawing room, Reva was bent over a work in progress when she saw someone walking across her beach. It wasn't uncommon for people to wander across it to reach the point. The plank walkway had access for people to cross over it as they came to and from the spit of land blocking her from Wiscasett. Several couples and a group of kids had already been along there earlier in the morning. However, when she looked up and spied Mickey ambling along his way to the point, Reva froze.
Very carefully she pulled her hand away from the drawing table and watched the solitary figure as he climbed up and over the boardwalk. An ink-loaded, antique stylus had just been poised to draw on a new section of her drawing. Reva carefully dipped the ink away into its bottle as her hand began to shake before she set the stylus down. She knew from past experience that no one could see into her place from where he strolled so she watched him, going cold with dread. Mickey had to be observing her, she thought. If indeed he was, he was damned good at hiding it.
She glanced out into her living room at a computer, frowned and clutched her arms. Why here? Why now? Her life was going along fine. So why was there an agent wandering across her beach, trying to get to know her? So far as she knew no one was seeking her... He had made sure of that when she dropped out of sight so many years ago. Besides, it had been a couple of years now since she had had any contact with him, ever since... Reva caught her hand sliding across her throat. She got up from the table and watched as Mickey disappeared into the trees.
Mickey simply couldn't be an agent on vacation; or could he? Reva sighed; he seemed to be out there only to enjoy himself. Besides, she was entirely too suspicious, she had to be. All the same, she needed to know something. She stared at the computer, wondering if she should say something to Mickey or go ahead and make contact with... Reva stopped herself. That could mean the total disruption of her home…
She wasn't willing to give up all the time, effort, and money she had spent in fixing the cottage up specifically for her. Besides, it had been her therapy while recuperating from the injuries to her throat. A place to unwind after hours of intense therapy to learn Ameslan for those times when her voice would fail her. Someplace secluded where she could cry, laugh, get mad or just soak in the beauty of her rugged little spot of coastline. She knew she could lose it all with one tap of the finger on that computer. Reva glanced outside. Better to go and tackle the bull by the horns herself. She vanished a moment into her bedroom, then she found her coat and went outside.
She took a longer path skirting the front of the point, which enabling her to check and make sure no one else was out exploring. Satisfied that only Mickey was headed to the scenic spot, she took the nearest shortcut that led up to it…
Mickey, lost in thought, gazed out at Wiscasett, hands shoved deep into his windbreaker pockets. Reva had lied to him earlier about needing to go to a meeting, and as he considered it, probably lied about the car accident too. Then there was that reaction in town. What could scare her so bad? He wondered what on earth made the girl so suspicious. Had she been injured under doubtful circumstances? He heard someone scrambling up the incline. Turning away from the view, he wasn't very surprised to see her. A mingled look of fear and determination had hardened her face. She studied him a fraction of a second. Her eyes then drifted quickly around the view point as she checked for other people.
She didn't have a sweater on this time, but instead had a high collared shirt buttoned to the top. Her long curls were caught loosely back at her neck. Reva just stared at him, her fingers tensing, and slowly set her foot down to stand up straight.
"Decided not to run this time?" he asked dryly. Reva carefully pursed her lips and swallowed. He pulled his hands out of his coat and held them out to her. "I've got nothing to hide," he added. She said nothing, still, but he could see her thoughts racing ahead and that she clearly didn't believe him.
"Who are you?" she asked, her voice a thick whisper. He turned his head slightly, not quite hearing her.
Her hands moved then, sharp and precise, a scowl crossing her features.
"Who are you?" she whispered harshly, at the same time.
Mickey hesitated, clearly recognizing sign language and understanding it. The problem was she saw his reaction too. The girl’s eyes grew huge in horror, the color literally draining from her face. She began backing quickly away as if he suddenly had developed a virulent case of leprosy.
"Hey wait!" he protested and took three quick steps after her, catching her gently under her forearm. He suddenly discovered a very different Reva.
She grabbed a fistful of his coat in her left hand and jerked him forward. A leg wrapped around the back of his left knee. Off balance before he fully realized it, Mickey felt himself being shoved back, his leg giving out. Tucking his shoulder in, he expertly twisted, landed hard, and rolled to come back up again. Instantly he froze.
His eyes stared at the business end of a .9mm automatic. Now, where had she hidden that? his brain wondered. He slowly sat upright, bracing his hands flat out on the ground, digging his fingers in, hoping for a possible rock or two. Mentally, he berated himself for getting knocked off his feet. She stood over him, properly crouched, the big weapon looking too large in her hands, but she held it a little too knowingly for him to risk any stupid moves. He relaxed and carefully set his feet flat on the ground.
"Now what?" he asked her. The corners of her mouth were tinged white with fright. Her eyes had become as dark as the clouds surrounding them. She shifted the gun to one hand, stepped over him, and jerked open his jacket. Reaching in, her hand rested briefly on the end of his gun. She'd've been too easy to take down, stepping within range of his feet like that, but the dread emanating from the girl kept Mickey glued firmly to the ground.
"Watch it. I'm ticklish," he murmured lightly in her ear. Mickey’s face had gone deadly serious, his eyes business-like. It, however, didn’t stop the concern that drifted across his gaze.
She scowled, jerked back away from him and doubled the grip on her gun. "Who are you?" she whispered again.
"Michael Kostmayer," he said. "But my friends call me Mickey." He felt that irresistible shot of adrenaline he had long grown addicted to. It seemed to give his eyes a strange glint.
"Who sent you?" she asked harshly.
"Sent me?" he asked, surprised. "No one sent me. I'm supposed to be on vacation."
Reva shook her head, frowning in disbelief.
"Who do you think I am?" he replied as his voice dropped, trying to reason with her. "Don't you think this is gonna look kinda stupid when the next group of people come up?" Why hadn't she pulled his gun out when she had a chance? He kept his eyes carefully on her face. "Are you in some sort of trouble?"
"Answer my question," she grated out as a catch marred her already damaged voice. Mickey gazed at her a moment. Somehow he couldn't bring himself to toy around.
"Look, I am not a bad guy. I am only out here on a fishing trip, no one sent me!" he replied truthfully. "But if you need some help…"
"Why would you be carrying that, then?" she rasped, indicating his gun. "How did you know sign language? How'd you even figure out I knew? Why were you watching me yesterday?" She reaffixed the gun sight between his eyes. "Some one sent you and I want to know who?" Her voice gave out completely.
"Look, I work in security, my gun is a part of it. No one sent me," he replied cautiously, keeping his voice low. "I'm here on vacation. I'd be more than happy to leave though, if you'll…" he let his gaze drift to the gun. Her eyes narrowed dangerously as her lips curled down. A lot of questions were popping into Mickey’s mind. At almost the same instant both heard muffled voices from the Wiscasett side of the viewpoint.
"Reva, listen carefully," he spoke urgently. "I'm not the bad guy, really! I just here to do some fishing. I'm not spying on you! I'll leave and never come back if you'll just give me the gun. Those people are gonna be here any second. Whoever you’re hiding from is certainly gonna see some sort of story on this, if it hits the paper." Moving ever so slowly, he stood up. She began backing away, never dropping the gun. He held his hands out to her, placating.
"Just put that thing away and I'll leave, all right?" He studied this odd young woman a moment. "I won't ever come back," he added truthfully. The voices grew louder. Reva stood frozen. Very gingerly Mickey moved sideways and slipped past the end of her gun. He set his hand on top of it and gently pointed it to the ground as his ring finger pushed the safety on. He could hear a faint wheeze in her breathing. As he removed the gun out of her hands, a harsh racking cough seized the girl…
Two people, at the far edge of the point, appeared in view just as he deftly tucked the gun against the small of his back. Reva, one hand on her throat, the other covering her mouth, began coughing in earnest. Mickey gently caught the girl under both forearms, holding her in front of him and quickly moving them down the path away from the approaching couple. Just his hands, where they carefully gripped her past her elbows, could feel the tension wound up tight as a coil in the girl.
Gaining the beach, her legs gave out, bringing them both down to their knees. The spasm literally racked her body as she turned her face away from him in shame. She began to retch. Mickey felt his heart wrench at her whimper. For a moment all he could do was hold her arms as she retched again and choked on a painful sob. She began to cough again as she pushed herself up off the pebbles. She pulled her hand from her mouth.
Blood covered it.
Alarmed, Mickey simply took over.
"C'mon," he murmured in her ear, pulling her to her feet. He took her back to her home. Another fit racked her as they climbed onto the veranda. While Mickey eased her to the deck, Reva jerked her shoulder away from him.
"What can I get you?" he demanded, as she choked again. Her hand flashed to her chin, her first three fingers forming a "W". Her eyes were screwed shut in obvious pain, the other hand clutching her throat. Mickey nodded, scrambling to his feet.
"Water! Got it!" He moved towards the house, only to find the French doors were locked. Not even thinking, he knocked out a pane with his elbow, reached up inside and forced his way into the house. A scan through the kitchen located the glasses and the towel hanging off the refrigerator door. He quickly filled a glass full of water and he rejoined her. She had managed to sit up, desperately trying to wipe the blood off her face.
"Here," he said handing her the glass and the towel. He crouched next to her. Fighting against sobs of frustration, she wiped her mouth then downed a short swallow of water. Swishing quickly, she leaned and spat over the side of the porch and drank again, struggling to avoid another round of hacking. He waited patiently, aching to do anything more to help.
"Can I get you some more? Maybe call your doctor? What can I do?" he asked. She refused, shaking her head no, her hair loosening itself from the pony band. Impulsively, he reached up and carefully pulled her hair back over her shoulder. She visibly flinched.
"S'okay," he murmured lifting a corner of the towel she kept over her mouth. He gently wiped off a smear on her cheek. "I won't hurt you," he added softly, allowing himself to gaze at her profile. Something checked him. He got to his feet suddenly, carefully guiding her up with him. "Let's go inside."
She let herself be steered indoors, then she shrugged his hands off of her. With wobbling steps she disappeared down a hallway, leaving Mickey standing by himself. Realizing he had broken into the place, Mickey wandered over to the doors and gazed in dismay at what he had done. Broken glass had settled on the floor inside the house with a few shards still hanging from the door. Gingerly Mickey pried loose the remnants, examined the caulking, and mentally figured what it would need to fix it.
Picking up the shards on the floor, too, he headed into the kitchen. He located the waste basket, dumped the glass in it and then looked around for something to patch the window. A pile of cardboard sat near the few logs by the fireplace, so Mickey helped himself.
No Texas good ol’ boy ever went without a pocketknife. Mickey produced one and made a temporary patch for the hole he had made. As he worked, he looked around the living room.
Immaculate, was the first word that popped into his head, followed by expensive. Kitchen, dining and living room were combined for one big area, dominated by the great fireplace. To his left was the sunroom where he had previously seen a drawing table and work sitting on it. A hallway separated the sunroom and the kitchen, which led off to several other rooms. The whole house was open and airy, very comfortable, designed to take advantage of the view and the natural light. His eyes drifted over a few award plaques on the dining room wall. Several framed lithographs, of which some were of her drawings, hung there. Oddly, an assortment of kids books mingled in with various others on an oak bookcase. An expensive computer desk sat against the only wall with no windows, upon which a computer, the phone, a tty unit, and printer sat patiently waiting to be used. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, he mused, then he remembered the gun at his back. Pulling it out, he checked to see if there was a chambered round. He wasn't too surprised to find that there was. He removed the clip then jacked out the remaining bullet. He looked the gun over carefully, noted the well kept condition, then gently set it and the bullets on the kitchen bar.
This girl was scared stupid, he thought, frowning, as he shoved his hands back into his jacket pockets. He could hear her trying to stop another round of coughing in the bathroom. The injury that robbed her of her voice clearly had more to it than a car accident. Something aggravated it to the point of drawing blood. At least what he had seen had been bright red, which indicated arterial blood. Probably scar tissue. He let his gaze drift out the windows to the beautiful gardens, blooming in profusion.
She knew a little something about hand to hand combat, else she would never have gotten him down so easily. But why hadn't she taken his gun when she had the opportunity? She seemed to only want to confirm he had it and to know who had sent him. Who would send him? He didn't know anything about her. Mickey heaved a sigh, except maybe that this Reva was completely opposite from the one he met at the dock, drawing otters. That Reva had been sunny and delightful, this one was downright suspicious and scared. Mickey didn't like it. Why would a commercial lightning artist know martial arts and pack a substantial weapon? Better still, how had she figured him to be some sort of spy? Unless she'd been around them. An icy finger trailed its way up his spine. How on earth could she know?
He heard the door opening and waited patiently as she disappeared into the furthest bedroom. After a few moments she re-emerged, having put on yet another turtleneck. Her hair was loose now, and she looked nearly grey, her face was so pale. She had a discouraged, frightened frown on her face and looked to be in pain. Entering the kitchen, her eyes glanced once at him, then at the gun on the bar. Silently, she set a belt holster next to it.
"Are you going to be all right now?" he asked, genuinely concerned. She looked at him a long moment, skeptically, then nodded her head in acknowledgement.
"What caused all that?" he asked, nodding at the deck. She said nothing. Presently she moved her hands. Her signing was eloquent, if slow, which sat fine with him, being a bit rusty at translating.
"There's scarring," she signed, not even trying to speak. "It needs more surgery to remove it. When I try to use my voice too much, it causes problems." It made sense to him. He nodded in understanding.
"What would make you think I’m some sort of cop?" he asked bluntly. She gazed at him directly. Mickey hated seeing the fear come into her eyes.
"Who would pack a weapon on vacation, unless they were?" her eyes grew challenging. "Only a cop or an agent is that suspicious, even on vacation! I spotted you were wearing a holster," she added. "And you understand signs. Then there was yesterday at the card shop."
"Only another operative would be trained to see something like that," he replied softly. She seemed to shrink even smaller.
"I am no spy," she signed crisply. He looked at her.
"Maybe, but you've certainly been around them. And you’re scared. Of something," he murmured. "I've been around fear too much not to recognize it."
Reva clenched her fists slightly and scowled again. Her hands moved.
"Who sent you?" she asked again. Mickey heaved an exasperated sigh.
"Nobody," he said flatly, looking at her. "I came here to enjoy some fishing. It's what I do when I'm not…" he let his words trail off, a ghost of a smile curling his mouth. "I'll even let you call my boss and ask him," he added. She stared back at him, warily. Somehow she suddenly didn't want to know who his boss was.... She sighed and gently rubbed at her throat. Instinct told her he had to be telling the truth. If he had been sent to watch her, he'd certainly not be standing in her own home with her. Her fears had caused an over reaction on her part. Mickey noticed her looking embarrassed.
"Look," he said trying to appease. "I could just leave. Never come back to this place. Would that make you feel better?" She didn't respond right away and just stared at the gun on the counter. Mickey continued.
"I never meant to alarm you," he added. She glanced back up at him. He looked at her with dead earnestness. She recalled how gentle he had been bringing her back to the house. If anyone would have had opportunity to get at her… Weariness settled all over her.
"Besides, I owe you a window pane," he nodded his head at the doors. "I’d like to fix it..." he offered. She glanced at the door and couldn't help but notice that he had removed the glass and put in a temporary fix.
"I'm tired," she signed. He straightened to go. Pausing he looked her over, seeing indeed that she had suddenly aged far beyond her years.
"Would you mind if I stopped by later? I'll fix that window," he offered. She looked up at him and felt a hundred years old. She sighed, then nodded her head indicating he could. A light smile quirked across his face, then he turned and went back out the way he had come in. For a long time Reva simply stood and stared at the temporary repair he had made to her French doors.
Late the next morning, Mickey pulled into Reva's driveway and immediately noticed that her truck had a flat tire. He hauled out a sack of stuff from his vehicle and ambled over to the truck. Running his free hand along the tread his fingers located the head of sheet metal screw. His eyes twinkled a little, knowing full well it was another opportunity to stick around and get to know this girl.
When she answered his knock, he saw that she had hardly slept, the circles under her eyes made worse by the paleness of her face. Pain and uncertainty lurked in her features.
"Hi," he said, smiling lopsidedly. "You all right?" She nodded.
"I… uh, got the stuff to fix that window," he said then turned slightly to let her see the truck. "Did you know you have a flat?"
Reva looked at him blankly a moment then stuck her head out the door. Her mouth said 'Oh no!’, but there was nothing from her voice. She gave him an utterly deflated look. He looked at her with boyish hope.
"I can fix that too, you know? I checked it. You ran over a nail somewhere. I saw the spare in the bed of the truck. I could get it off and put it on? That's if...." he looked expectantly at her. "If that's okay with you?"
Reva's shoulders sagged. Wearily, she signed.
"I don't have a car jack."
"I do," he smiled brightly and set the sack he held just inside her doorway. Reva followed him as he went to his car, clutching her arms. Mickey popped the trunk and pulled out a jack and tool kit, complete with cross wrench and fittings.
"Here take a look," he said dropping to a knee in front of the tire. He showed her the tack. Reva sighed, gazing at him in frustrated resignation.
"I have to pick up Toby from the vet's in 20 minutes…"
"No problem, I'll have this done in a jiffy," he volunteered. Reva nodded her head in dismay.
"At least let me pay you for doing all this." she signed as he felt under the truck searching for a place to set the jack. Mickey gave her pained look.
"You don't have to do that." he said, watching her. Reva, exasperated, signed.
"I can't let you just fix all this stuff for nothing." she protested, her hand gestures eloquently accompanying her silent words.
"Hey let a guy have some dignity, will ya, I don't want your money. Besides, I'm the one who broke your window." He ducked under the truck's edge, located a likely spot, and set the jack in place. He popped his head back out and quickly added.
"But I did not stick the tack in your tire…" To his surprise he got a smile from the girl, albeit a bit of a sardonic one. Mickey quickly had the tire off. She moved to the side of her truck and began to reach in for the spare.
"Ah, ah!" he scolded. "That's my job." He reached past her, drawing the tire to him. Hefting it out proved to be a little too easy. He dropped it to the pavement. Both stared as it flattened.
Their eyes met over the tire.
"Need a ride?" he asked, hopefully.
Reva moved her hand to cover her mouth. For a few seconds everything grew very still as she stared. Then she snorted softly and he could see her trying to hide a reluctant grin. "I'll load these in the car," he said indicating the tires. Reva bobbed her head.
"I'm not quite ready," she mouthed, and signed. "I'll be a couple of more minutes."
"Mind if I come in and check the glazing on that window? I want to make sure I got the right stuff." Reva paused a moment, considering, then nodded. She went back inside. Mickey felt relieved that she seemed to be much less afraid of him this morning. Yet there remained an underlying tension.
As he waited for her, he studied a framed lithograph of 'Where The Wild Things Are' hanging prominently in the dining room. The illustrator, Maurice Sendak, had signed it. Mickey glanced at Reva as she entered the kitchen.
"I remembered reading this book as a kid," he mused, reminiscing. Reva smiled lightly.
"Who didn't read it? He's my favorite illustrator, living anyway," she signed.
"Signed copy too. Must be worth something."
"You could say that."
"He grew up in the area my brother works in," Mickey commented.
"Brooklyn?" Reva 'exclaimed'. Mickey grinned at her.
"Polish Brooklyn, the old section. Nick's a priest." He shrugged, raising a you-know-how-it-is eyebrow. "Kinda hard not to live there with a name like Kostmayer," he added wryly.
"Sendak did most of his work in New York. I admire his stuff," she signed.
"I think Nick mentioned something about the older Sendaks being in the area still, but that was ages ago," Mickey said thoughtfully.
"Someday I want to do a better job than he did doing set designs for the Nutcracker. His Pacific North West work is unbeatable," she signed. Mickey looked at her slightly amused. That was the longest discourse about herself he had ‘heard’ yet. "We've got to go get Toby," she reminded him.
"Toby?" Mickey asked moving into the hallway.
"Oh yeah, the one who didn't appreciate you kicking the door shut the other day," he cracked. Reva blushed.
"Let's not mention that," she signed, looking at him soberly. "I still have a lot of questions I want to ask you."
"Why am I not surprised?" he asked as they left the house. A stray cloud had to enter his day somehow.
The conversation in the car wasn't much, due mostly to Reva's lack of speech. Mickey couldn't help but notice how genuinely tired she was. The trip into town being blessedly quick, he dropped her off at the vet's office and ran the two tires to the shop across the road from them. As it was going to take a few minutes, he walked back across the street, headed first into the card shop then into the cafe'. Seeing she still wasn't out he took the two coffees he bought and decided to join her.
There was always something about the smell in a vet's office that never sat right with anyone's nose. Mickey ignored the clang of the bell as he pushed the door open with his hip. Presently, a tall brunette showed up in an otherwise empty reception room.
"Can I help you?" she asked brightly, sitting down.
"I'm waiting on...." Mickey let it hang, nodding his head at a closed door.
"Miss Cheney? The one with Toby?"
"Yeah, Miss Cheney."
"They'll be a couple of minutes. He had a nasty abscess on his back leg."
Mickey nodded, setting one coffee cup down and sipping at his. Miss Cheney, he mused trying to hide his smile of satisfaction. So much for married with twelve kids. The receptionist returned to her work.
Presently the door opened and Reva emerged, lugging the cat carrier, followed by a stocky older man wearing a white lab coat, emblazoned with the name Dr. Lasker. His hair, once red and now greying, was combed back. Nothing was able to hide a pair of twinkling blue eyes behind a set of bifocals.
"Just make sure he has no more run ins with that other cat, dear." he said amicably. Reva smiled awkwardly up at him. Mickey set his cup aside and instantly relieved her of the cat carrier. Toby shifted, uneasily.
"Let me carry that," he said easily. "Just grab the coffees okay?" Reva looked at him a moment in dismay, relented, then glanced at the Doctor. All she could do was mouth a thank you at him.
"Don't worry about it, Reva dear. Just make sure he gets his pills and bring him in next week to get those stitches out. Bonnie will take care of the prescription." The doctor smiled and went back into the exam room, where he began cleaning off the table.
"The car's across the street," Mickey said to Reva, "I'll take him over there and you just meet me when you're through, okay?" Reva, seeing the willingness to help in his eyes, sighed and nodded. Mickey glanced down at the big brown tabby in the carrier.
"If you're good, I'll by you an extra stash of catnip!" He winked at Reva as he backed out the door with her cat. "What do you feed this guy? Steroids? He's huge." The receptionist giggled.
"We grow Maine Coon Cats big around these parts, buddy!" She looked at Reva with a sly smirk. As the door shut behind him, she looked at Reva.
"Very nice, Reva! Where'd you find him?" Reva blushed and pulled a checkbook out of her back pocket.
"Down at the docks," she mouthed. The receptionist busied herself with the prescription.
"Remind me to go trolling down there more often," she smiled at Reva, who busily wrote her check out. "He's not bad, and he seems to like you." Reva looked at Bonnie in exasperation.
"Don't give me that look, girl! You've lived alone too long. Enjoy it while you have a chance."
"I don't even know him." Reva barely mouthed again. She caught the catch in her voice.
"Well, get to know him! And you'd better get that throat taken care of soon, girl. You won't have anything left to speak with, if you keep using it." Reva rolled her eyes and passed the check to the girl. Bonnie handed her the prescription, which Reva promptly shoved into a pocket, followed by the checkbook.
"Yes, mother…" she mouthed back as she picked up the two cups.
"What's his name anyway?" The other asked, hugely enjoying Reva's discomfort.
"Mickey Kostmayer," Reva barely whispered before the catch in her voice turned into the cough. Bonnie grinned.
"Mickey Kostmayer… I like it," she replied. Reva rolled her eyes and backed out the door, gingerly carrying the coffees.
In the exam room the doctor had stopped and listened intently. No one saw the start in his eyes at the name of Mickey Kostmayer. He let himself into his office a few seconds later and picked up the telephone…
Reva spotted Mickey where he sat in the car across the street. He was out of it in a flash, opening her door for her. Toby sat, huddled in his carrier, in the back seat. She handed Mickey his coffee as he slipped back in the driver's side.
"Tires'll be a couple of more minutes. Thanks." He flashed a grin at her and took his cup. Reva raised a skeptical eyebrow and simply pointed at her cup, her own lips curled in a smirk. He looked at her quizzically.
"It's coffee, two sugars and cream."
"How do you know I like my coffee that way? How do you know I even like coffee?" she signed.
"The cream and sugar dispensers next to your coffee pot," he replied nonchalantly. Reva's grey eyes just looked at him. Mickey laughed gently.
"Weren't we just saying something last night about being around spies? I'm trained to notice stuff. It's part of the job." He looked at her. "Besides, you look tired and I feel kinda responsible for it." Reva exhaled softly and cautiously took a sip. Her eyebrow lifted. Mickey grinned.
"Did I get it right?" he asked. She nodded a yes and sat back. Her shoulders dropped and she sighed heavily.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Kostmayer..." she signed as she set the cup on her leg. "I feel stupid about yesterday. I really thought you had been sent to watch me. My talent at drawing had been used before by..." She shrugged, smiled a little and raised a ‘tell-all’ eyebrow. "My throat injury was the result of a screw up in security," she admitted. Mickey looked thoughtful.
"Had a few of them myself," he murmured. "And don't ever call me Mr. Kostmayer, again," he chided. Reva let herself giggle.
"Are you really just on vacation?" she asked. Mickey threw his hand up in a Boy Scout salute.
"Honest! I’ve needed a vacation for a long time. Finally got the old man to give me one."
"Why here?" she asked, waving a hand at the whole town.
"He didn't want me straying too far... Bangor's just up the road, I can catch flights out of the base there, if need be."
"Military?" she asked. Mickey bobbed his head in mid sip.
"Navy," he admitted after a slight pause. Reva caught the hesitation.
"Navy, eh? Had a grandpa in the SEALs." She looked a tad distant, thinking. "He was a great man," she added. Mickey looked a hair uncomfortable.
"Some of 'em are," he commented dryly, seeing movement in the rear view mirror. "I was in the SEALs too. Tire's are done."
He popped his door open and she followed suit, looking curiously at him because of his somewhat short comment. He looked at her.
"What are you doing?" he asked her.
"They're my tires, I need to pay for them," She signed.
"I'll get 'em," he replied, releasing the latch on the trunk.
"No way," she flatly signed. "You are not buying everything for me! I can more than afford them."
"You can pay me back by letting me borrow your kitchen," he shot back. She blinked in surprise.
"Pay me back by letting me use your kitchen. That place of mine over there doesn't have anything decent to cook on. I want to be able to eat some of those fish I've been catching." He looked at her expectantly. "Of course, I wouldn't mind sharing...."
Reva closed her eyes, dropped her head and smiled.
"You're determined aren't you?" she signed. Mickey just smiled sweetly and shrugged.
"Is it a date?" he asked. Reva shook her head with a silent laugh.
"Only if you tell me why the SEALs make you so uncomfortable," she signed, raising a daring eyebrow. The faintest hint of long held pain drifted across Mickey's face, but he smirked at her, rising to the challenge.
"Maybe we should wait 'til after dinner before I tell you that."
Fixing her window was easy, so was bribing her cat with the catnip ball Mickey had purchased at the card shop earlier. Toby, all 18 pounds of fur and purr, liked Mickey right off. Reva still had to be worked on. She had busied herself with an elaborate project for her publisher as she had been commissioned to do the artwork for a book about "The Flying Dutchman." Drawings were scattered all over her dining room table. Slowly the ice broke between them as he commandeered her kitchen.
Reva, a bit surprised, found his cooking to be rather good. Nothing beat fresh grilled fish fillet in garlic and butter, on a hot summer night. Add a salad, drinks, good company, and the day slowly came to end on a well-rounded note.
Their conversations were tentative and cautious. Reva didn't reveal much about herself before coming to Wiscasett, sticking mostly to discussing various illustrating jobs. Then again, on his part, he didn't let on much either, other than being a transplanted Texan in New York City, who had a navy background, and did odd jobs in security for the government.
Despite the lack of details he was able to gain a little bit of her trust, enough for Mickey to persuade her to walk down the beach with him. He even left his gun where he had stashed it on top of her refrigerator.
A glorious sunset greeted them as they wandered away from the town. Reva, being a born beachcomber, had immediately begun scanning for shells and other bric-a-brac, while Mickey enjoyed the never-ending rhythm of the surf. As they walked, he kept a steady eye on her, to read her sign language, and impulsively engaged in a rock-skipping contest. Nearly a mile out, Reva finally broached the subject he didn't particularly want to tackle.
"So..." she signed. "It's after dinner."
Mickey let fly with his stone, seeing her remark yet not answering it right away. He counted skips, feeling her eyes on him as if they could get behind his very carefully constructed walls.
"You would have to remind me of that," he grumbled lightly, fingering another stone in his hand. Reva saw the dark cloud as it drifted over his features, it suddenly gave him a world-weary air. He twisted slightly, slinging the rock underhand to skim across the surf. He couldn't bring himself to look in her eyes.
"You don't have to tell me, you know," she signed. His lip crooked when he glanced at her. Reva had decided to let her long, wavy, blonde hair loose to blow in the breeze.
"Tell you what, you tell me what scares you so bad and I'll tell you why the SEALs are such bad news," he said, watching for her response. Reva's lips curled slightly.
"I asked first," she signed, her movements clear and precise. He gazed at her. It had taken him all day to get her to relax around him. How on earth was she going to react to his past? She waited patiently, thumbs hooked in her jean pockets, watching him intently. What had Robert drilled into him all these years... be honest.
"I...uh," he started, looking away, suddenly finding it hard to breathe. His shoulders hunched. "I...uh, I did time," he sighed. "Few years back... in Leavenworth." His shoulders and his head dropped in defeat. He figured if he had to blow it, now was the time to do it, before he really got lost… Reva said nothing, just watching him soberly. He could still feel those grey eyes trying get past all his defenses. She moved.
"For what?" she signed slowly. Mickey swallowed, gently bit his lower lip and looked away from her. One at a time he let his handful of small flat rocks drop to the ground. He looked everywhere but at those grey eyes. He sucked in air.
"Um... my partner got killed," he stopped. Reva could see something low, dark, and deep move across his suddenly aged face. She watched as he struggled a moment, then he abruptly looked her in the eyes. "It was for murder," he said. "I was convicted," he added softly. She literally felt the discomfort emanating off of him.
"A very good friend of mine in New York, he...uh, he found the evidence needed to prove I didn't kill him." By the tone in his voice Reva could hear that something very special existed between Mickey and this friend. "I was exonerated and released." Mickey swallowed again and glanced away from her. He looked utterly defeated. His stomach had curled itself into knots.
"Well, that would explain why you’re standing here..." she signed, catching his eye. Mickey looked back at her in surprise. "I mean, not many convicts would be allowed to carry weapons, and you certainly don't act like a fugitive..." She stopped and just gazed at him. He stared back, momentarily speechless.
There and then, Reva decided that Mickey Kostmayer really had been telling her the truth all along. An admission such as this, only three days into a somewhat rocky acquaintance had to come from an honest heart. She had seen a light die in his eyes, replaced quickly by resolve, and resignation. Face the fire and act like a man. A soldier’s bearing. Yet the thing that had reached out and touched her had been the look of terrible loneliness which had surfaced in his hazel eyes. Knowing full well that this thing was a burden he had to face the rest of his life. That light in his eyes earlier had gone out. Reva suddenly found she did not want to see it extinguished.
"You know..." she signed. "That took a lot of guts to admit to something like that." She bent down and picked up one of the rocks he had dropped. Spinning on her heel, she sent the stone skittering and skipping across the top of the waves. Neither spoke, they just watched the rock go before it slipped under the surface. She turned and looked at him.
"11 skips, beat that!" she grinned and it lit her face with radiance. Mickey could only gaze at her, his face somber. Then he slowly smiled his lopsided grin. Reva saw the barest of flickers in his eyes. He started resuming their walk. Reva gently slipped her hand around his arm, and ducked her head shyly.
For several long moments they didn't speak, but then he finally said, "So. Now that I've spilled the beans, it's your turn." He slid her hand into his own to gently clutch her fingers.
She didn't answer right away. She enjoyed watching the sun go down, walking slowly with him, just being near him, really. Finally, left handed, she signed.
"What would you like to know?"
He didn't respond right away either. The feel of her hand in his being something he marveled at. To be near another human being, in a non-threatening situation, was an idea so novel to him that all he wanted to do was soak in it. He studied her a moment as she watched the sun go down, trying to figure out what had happened to her. Living alone, sometimes scared witless, (enough to arm herself), and literally speechless. She never had mentioned any family to him, or friends for that matter. How could she stand being so isolated?
"What happened to you?" he asked and pointed at his throat. "You said something earlier about a mess up in security?" She nodded and studied his hazel eyes a moment.
"You already know I did some government work." She smiled wryly, and signed one handed. "I used to work in New York, too. Maybe 5 years ago. I was trying to get on with any publisher then, and to help out my income I took a job as a clerk at one of the federal buildings." She pursed her lips, looking out at the surf.
"In due time, I became one of the drivers for one of the upper level bosses." Mickey frowned.
"Wait a sec. Only folks with several years of military or police type training are allowed to be drivers... Not to mention some damned high security clearance!"
"I know that," she signed. Mickey shook his head.
"Reeve... I know you don't have that much ability. I could have taken you out six different ways the other day."
"Truth?" she queried, looking at him. "I don't have more than three months worth of karate'. But now I do know how to handle that gun." She smirked at his disbelief.
"Okay, how did you get to be a driver?" he asked. She squeezed his hand, grinning.
"Let me finish telling you," she mouthed. Mickey returned the smile.
"This ought to be good..." he drawled.
"You're right, I had no training for it. I took it on as a challenge."
"There was this person in the office. He was a real jerk. He kept wanting me to do things for him. Especially when he found out about my ability to draw what I see." She shrugged her shoulders. "We didn't get along," she added, looking at him. He listened patiently.
"One day he wanted me to do something I knew was immoral, especially as it affected one of the bosses. I told him no. He told me I'd never amount to anything but a pencil pusher and he'd see to it that I would stay that way. Well, the cards were on the table, I certainly wasn't going to be humiliated that way." She smiled at her escort.
"So I arranged to get promoted to the job he wanted."
"The drivers job," Mickey stated. She smiled.
"How did you arrange that?" he asked. Here, Reva’s smile grew very coy.
"I got the necessary paperwork and signed my way in." Mickey stared at her.
"You forged your way in?" he exclaimed. "Impossible!" Reva silently laughed.
"Not only was it possible, I actually had been driving nearly a week, before I got caught."
"Ahh.. . There is a catch," he commented.
"Well yes and no," she responded. He looked a little surprised.
"That's got to be at least a court martial, if not losing your job," he said flatly. Reva nodded.
"It so happened I was chosen to be the driver for one of the top guys. He let me drive him around all day, then he had me pull over in Central Park." Mickey watched as she tugged at the throat of her sweater. As her head was turned to gaze out at the ocean, he didn't see the troubled look which flashed briefly across her eyes. She gripped his hand, signing with the other,
"This guy was very scary! He sat there and told me that what I was doing could earn me about 10 years in prison. That I was a damned fool, and that I had better come up with a good explanation as to why I was driving him around!"
"Met a few guys like that myself!" Mickey cracked. "What’d he do?"
Reva's light bantering tale began to take a more somber side. "He wanted to know how I did it, and why. I told him the truth."
"He let me keep the job." Mickey blinked in surprise.
"No, he let me keep the job, but it had some strings attached..." Mickey stopped walking. He gazed steadily at Reva.
"There's always a string attached..." he murmured. She nodded her head in agreement.
"He arranged for the training I did receive and began teaching me some other things after I had showed him how I signed my way into my job." Mickey felt an icy chill run up his spine at her signing of 'other things...'
"He didn't," he asked involuntarily. Reva quickly shook her head no, clutching at his hand.
"Oh no! Not like that! No. He had seen what I could do as an artist and I started doing things for him. On occasion I drove, but after he found me out, I did most of my work in his office complex. I stayed on there for almost a year..." she explained. "He sort of took me under his wing and began training me to...." she simply let it drop and smiled knowingly at Mickey. He nodded and they resumed walking.
"Go on," he prodded.
"Well, one day he came to me needing an assignment done." Reva signed slowly. Mickey could see the play of old memories across her features.
"Seemed there were a few undesirables, terrorists really, who were attending a very ritzy gala at the mansion of some media tycoon... I never did know who he was..." she let it trail off. She grew quiet, thinking about the events of that night. Mickey watched the shadows in her eyes. Finally she looked askance at him.
"My boss was my escort that night. All he wanted me to do was get a good look at the two people in question and draw them for him later. Apparently these guys never allowed cameras near them," she paused a long time again, just walking.
"What happened?" Mickey murmured. She swallowed, her hand lightly touching her throat.
"I had a notepad with me and when I had excused myself to use the ladies room, I got the drawings down there on the spot, instead of waiting. It was a very stupid mistake on my part. Apparently I never saw one of the men’s wives in there with me." She looked out at the beach, but Mickey could tell that she wasn't seeing it.
"The security that was supposed to be in place that night had been changed at the last minute. As I tried to get back to my boss, the wife went and told the husband what she had seen me do..."
"While I was trying to get back the crowd began to push and shove me around. I couldn't seem to get to him. I looked for the guys who were supposed to be there for security, but I couldn’t see any of them. I remember seeing my boss watch me from across the room... I saw him look around, and he began to move my way..." Reva had come to a stop. "I remember hearing a woman scream something in Arabic at me... and the sound of a glass breaking."
Reva stopped signing altogether. Mickey had seen her face just go blank.
"Reeve...?" he asked quietly. She looked at him with eyes that were haunted.
"I saw her coming at me but someone else had grabbed me from behind. I couldn't move. I never even saw him. I never saw my boss..." she whispered out loud. "I never saw him..." she repeated, her voice trailing off, a hint of bitterness tracing her words. She swallowed, clearing her throat, shaking herself from the grip of the thoughts.
"When I woke up, I was in the hospital, with about 150 stitches in my throat." Other memories lingered in her eyes. Mickey could say nothing. She looked at him.
She whispered. "I was told that she had jabbed a broken wine carafe, straight into my neck. All the nerves had been severed... I nearly bled to death on the way to the hospital." She stopped for a very long moment. Slowly she whispered "I've never told anyone what happened."
Mickey let go of her hand to reach up and gently pull her hair back over her shoulders. His hand slipped behind her neck and he pulled her to him, wrapping his arms silently around her. She curled her arms protectively in front of her as he tightened his grip around her slender form. He said nothing and did nothing more. Reva closed her eyes, feeling the strength in his arms and chest, as he cradled her head to him. Pent up tension caused her to begin to shake involuntarily. For a long time the two just stood there, saying nothing. Finally Mickey murmured in her ear.
"C'mon, you need to go home."
Mickey pondered over Reva's tale on the long walk back to her home. They said nothing, only holding one another’s hand as if life itself depended on that tenuous contact. In vain he tried sorting through his feelings on the matter. Disgust at whomever let an untried, untrained, girl participate in such a hideously dangerous game, and a nearly fatal one at that. Shocked that she had obviously kept bottled up 4 years worth of sorrow, hurt, bewilderment, and fear. Then the underlying bitterness towards who ever was responsible for abandoning her at the time of tragedy. With the knowledge that she believed she was still being watched, Mickey wondered how she had managed to keep it all together. Plus he was beginning to wonder about his own feelings towards her.
Mickey frowned. After 4 years, why would she still be watched? Now wasn't the time to ask the questions. He looked down at her. She looked pale and exhausted in the starlight, which filtered through a light mist that had shrouded the bay. Something in him naturally wanted to protect her. He did not want to leave her that night, yet things were still so new between them that he didn't dare push it, either.
As they came within sight of her gazebo, he let go of her hand, laying his arms around her slender shoulders. Hesitantly, she eventually responded by slipping her arm around his waist. She allowed him to take the initiative, leading her docilely home.
Only her stove light was on, casting a blue white glow over anything it could reach. She sat down slowly on the couch as he retrieved his gun and holster from the top of the refrigerator. She stared at the dark fireplace, hands clenched between her knees, perched on the edge of the couch. Her thoughts miles away.
"Reeve?" he murmured as he knelt in front of her. Her eyes blinked slowly then looked at him.
"I'm sorry," she whispered, looking remorseful. "I've ruined the evening." Mickey's lip crooked as he gazed at her. He set the gun down at his foot. Reaching past her, he tugged a pillow over.
"You didn't ruin anything," he said quietly. Gently he lifted her legs up onto the couch, guiding her over onto her side. He carefully took off her shoes, then snagged the blanket off the back of the couch and covered her with it.
"You’re tired." He murmured as he pulled the blanket up around her neck and allowed himself to stroke back her hair. "Go to sleep." She sighed, tucking an arm under her head. Rising, he picked up his gun, and leaning back over, whispered, "I'll be back tomorrow." Smiling softly, he lightly kissed the top of her forehead and left.
The ice had definitely broken. For the next couple of days Mickey and Reva spent most of their time just getting to know one another. She took him exploring around the different sites around Wiscasett and he took her fishing, several times. It wasn't too hard to convince her to let him grill, and on one occasion she handled a meal for them, herself. A tenuous, but easy friendship developed. In the evenings, they'd walk the beaches, talking about "things", until he'd escort her home, before heading back to his place.
On what turned out to be his last evening, they both spotted the river otter, happily munching on fish at her own float. Never without something to draw on, Reva proceeded to capture the antics of the creature in over a dozen rapidly executed drawings, stunning Mickey into a respectful appreciation of her talent. Then one of them moved, and the otter, with a powerful flip, sank beneath the surface of the waters and vanished. That simple act on the animal's part seemed to set an ominous mood on the both of them that evening, which proved true when Mickey returned, alone, to his cabin.
That night Mickey didn’t get much sleep. He sat in the open doorway of his cabin, chair tipped back against the doorframe and watched the surf pound on the beach. He stared at one fixed point, mouth set grimly, eyes dark and brooding. His left hand lay slack across his knees, his fingers holding a note card from the resort. In his right hand he rolled a quarter across the backs of his fingers in a hypnotic gesture used by magicians to keep their fingers nimble. The quarter rolling and vanishing in a smooth, repetitive movement. Mickey’s vacation had been abruptly cut short. A flight time had been scrawled hastily across the card, having been received by the manager from an unidentified caller just a few hours earlier.
A coincidence? He wondered, his thoughts dark and foreboding. He heads out for three weeks of R&R, meets a girl who just happens to have had some government training, and suddenly his leash gets pulled? Mickey chafed at it all. It smacked of being watched, but by whom? And why? And why would she be so scared of it all? Too many questions. He felt intrigued. Here was someone who came up with more questions to each one that got answered. Sort of like Robert McCall. Mickey smirked. Now there was one complex and deep individual. Sighing, he watched as the sun began to rise, lightening the dark skies.
Reva knew when he pulled up in the driveway that morning that he had to leave; he hadn't bothered shutting off the car. Dark circles under his eyes gave him a doleful, weary look. He didn't enter and looked withdrawn as he stood in the doorway. It killed him to see the look of disappointment in her eyes.
"I... uh," he stammered staring at his feet. "I, uh, have to go," he said quietly. She didn't respond, but just gazed at him, instead. Mickey clenched his teeth and heaved a sigh.
"I got called back last night when I got to my cabin," he explained. Reva reached up to grip her arms tightly, leaning in her doorway. "I'm sorry, Reeve."
"Don't apologize," she whispered, as her own eyes grew dark before him. "It's what you have to do," she added with resignation. Mickey scuffed a toe, his fists clenching in his jacket pockets.
"Reeve..." he started. She drew in air.
"Look, it's okay. Really!" She forced a smile. "I understand; I certainly have been around it enough."
"Please, Mickey!" she implored. "Don't make this harder for either of us. It's your job. Go."
"Reva," he looked at her, pained by the disappointment in her voice. He pulled an object out of his pocket. In his hand sat an otter beanie baby and a small rumpled card. Reva stared at his hand, confused.
"I don't want to have to go," he said, reaching out to take her hand. He curled the little toy into it. "If you need anything, just send something with an otter on it, here. I will get it." He squeezed her hand around the toy and card. Reaching out he pulled her closer to him. She started to speak, tensing up, but he lay a finger on her lips.
"I'll send you word when I get back," he said moving his hands to cup her delicate face. One thumb lightly caressed a high cheekbone as he intently studied her eyes. "That's if you want me to come back?" he murmured. Her grey eyes seemed to look right into his very soul. Slowly she nodded yes, her chin barely trembling. Leaning forward, he kissed her, gently, lingeringly. Then he turned quickly and was gone.
For some time afterward Reva stood in the doorway of her home, long after his car had disappeared, the fingers of one hand lightly touching her lips.