Henry Searles, once an unknown character in this business, did not imagine what the insides of Ted Gentry’s house looked like because he had no idea where to begin his search for furniture, trinkets, odds and ends, lackluster fragments of Gentry’s past, lost articles in a blindly-kept closet holding piled up clues. It all appeared pointless and highly impractical, just a guy he met on the corner where the river slips under the bridge, had a drink with him at a bar, like they were old friends suddenly rejoined rather than new acquaintances, but Gentry, sort of mystically, left a note with the barkeep to deliver to Searles if anything ever happened to him, as though Doom itself had made the call.
That note was as much a will as could be tested in court, as well as a signal of a tragedy in his near future, coming on him for sure, causing an unknown reaction, but powerful enough to exert demands, make decisions in a hurry, give away a lifetime’s collection of properties to a stranger.
The river, nameless to Searles as yet, crept out of the green darkness of thick forestry before it made a swerving curve against harder earth and stroked itself into the Atlantic, a good mile away in darkness or daylight, holding daily surprises for him. Now and then, as dawn made its giant leap downward, he’d hear first and then see a small motorboat idling in the water, fishing rods trailing over two sides of the craft, and one man at work tending those lines.
Henry Searles had met that boater/fisherman, Ted Gentry, but once, and remembered him with a deep respect and a ton of curiosity; the man appearing to be punctual, steady, businesslike at his enjoyment and usual customs of seeking the inevitable haddock for baking, the eventual aromas coming to him down the valley of the river later in the day, every day, those aromas, distinctive, hungering him so often and so thoroughly that he created their impact when the wind was blowing in the other direction, and that man, Ted Gentry, becoming instantly a stout companion, a friend in good order, a likely friend for life after one drink at a bar, the way fortune or fame is sometimes suddenly introduced, or disaster on another edge..
He half-imagined Gentry’s physical features, from his long nose, thick hair as if jungle-grown, spread of shoulders in whatever gear worn, and his ease aboard a water craft like he was born on a bouncing wave at the start of life, the needs and joys coming in rapid order the way hunger works, from the total insides, expressing every need and want memory planted in the air, a whole new garden of aromas.
Gentry was a loner, no companion, male or female, ever on the craft with him as if they were curses atop the stream and the joined ocean. Searles in his own way, loved his Kathy aboard, full of her own curiosity and wonder, and when a whale took her hook on one trip, she almost tossed her rod its way before she cut the line at the last second. She was always his second meal of the day at sea on the rollicking craft, waves creating the usual rhythms.
He wondered why no woman ever appeared on Gentry’s boat suddenly from an interior sleep with the music of the sea all around her, the constant tune that emanates around every craft afloat, as if some sea god is orchestrating the craft’s presentation, a sea song belonging to the scene, salt in each breath, each taste, claiming its place in natural reactions to its vastness, any observer a mere dot on the surface.
Gentry appeared too busy at fishing to be interrupted by a woman, or any passenger from the moment he left the boat berth, life alone at sea for him, no distractions from a curve, an exposure accidental or not, fishing time wasted, otherwise haddock pre-empted women in vision and thought.
Then came the day he saw love on that craft as if the devil himself had boarded at an unknown moment of darkness, climbing aboard rather than jumping off the side into the salt itself, wild tons of it every foot of the way, entry, as soon seen, had a magical touch in that direction, as though he had waited for the right moment to push it home.
The female, the woman, the girl, was a mere 18-year-old chunk of absolute charm and beauty with a bundle of blonde hair bright as the sun rising in the East over the vast sea of seas, ocean of oceans, the unknown left out there for appropriate guessing. When the ocean spoke in its motions, a whale practically said hello as it passed by, a school of fish flooded the water in streamline fashion, Fidelma, the blonde, dropped a miniature steel rod case onto the engine, clogging it in a quick gasp, and she immediately jumped overboard a short way from shore
Gentry did not worry about her, his boat needed help and he was bound to ride it out until he got the engine to work. From shore, Fidelma knew he would not let go of that boat or that engine. It was the last she ever saw of him or anybody else ever saw of him, the mad Atlantic catching him, evidently, in its severest clutch.
The authorities, from all sides, waited six months before they declared him lost at sea aboard an unmanageable craft, all points of shores and islands covered in the search.
The barkeep persuaded Henry Searles to get a lawyer, named a good one, explained the situation, so that inheritance demands could be generated, which ended up in a hands-down case for Searles, where we last left him, at a loss on where to begin to search his new property, which, of course, is all his own business, and Fidelma herself long gone from interest on any side of the dealings or outcomes, the way some ladies can drift away from an association without a murmur, like a small wave on a soft beach, like it’s not there in the first place, especially on a map.