* * * * *
Chase brought his scant personal belongings in from the Jeep. Not exactly the accumulation of a lifetime of bounties; the fact that it had all fit in the back of a Jeep perhaps being the underscore on that. He dumped everything next to the tree limbs, then did a walk-through.
The house consisted of three bedrooms; a master on the north end, two smaller ones on the south, a bathroom on either side, a living room in the middle of the house with tree branches poking through the roof, and an old kitchen off it with a gas stove and grill. It was all one story, with paint peeling off the inside and outside. A house that wasn’t maintained in this weather went to seed quickly. But the power was on, and when he checked the tap, running water. The thermostat was in contrast to the rest of the place, modern and set to automatically keep the house at sixty degrees. Doc Cleary might have left the place, but he’d left it in manageable shape. He hadn’t planned on having a tree come down through the roof.
There was a large fireplace in the living room, with a brick hearth big enough to sit on and an empty brick alcove built into it where quite a bit of wood could be stored. That appealed to Chase, and he had a memory of a brief Christmas here, a decorated tree by the sliding door, a roaring blaze. A feeling of safety accompanied that memory, and his mother and Doc Cleary. Old Doc, as everyone called him, was etched in Chase’s memory in an ageless portrait; white-haired, tall, thin, with a ready smile. Wireless glasses that were constantly sliding down his nose, and he was always absently pushing them back up. His mother had brought Chase here for visits in the summers, that one Christmas, and then after he went off to West Point, she settled in here full time with Old Doc.
Whose exact relationship he’d never been able to figure out. But he knew Sylvie would have pointed out to him that he’d never really tried. It wasn’t like he was a font of information, himself, to the people he had in his life. Which might, he realized with a bit of sudden insight he knew Sylvie would have been proud of, have something to do with not having many people in his life.
He had childhood memories of a few people here on the island, but had been able to find only one still in his rather short list of contacts on his phone. He’d been amazed last week when he called that the old landline number still worked, but he had only gotten Erin’s answering machine. Which, truth be told, he preferred, rather than having to actually have a conversation. Chase hated phones. He’d left a brief message about the house, and when he’d be arriving, and maybe they could get a cup of coffee.
On reflection, he realized he had not left his own cell number for her to call back. Sylvie would have called that a Freudian slip, and observations like that had led to a lot of the friction between the two of them. Even great sex can’t completely oil the harshness of truth.
Chase continued through the house. There was a smaller fireplace next to the kitchen in a sitting area, this one without a hearth, but sporting a large wooden beam, which looked like it came off an old sailing vessel, as a mantel. This was no McMansion like the majority of the houses in Spanish Wells, but one of the original homes, built when the bridge was first extended from the mainland to the island. Despite the tree through the roof, Chase liked the feel. It was old, beat-up, and not in fashion.
Sort of like him.
The concrete pool had about two feet of greenish standing water in it, not inviting a dip, but perhaps a nest for a roving alligator. But there were great views of the Intracoastal and the low-country beyond, and a decaying, 240-foot long fixed dock ending with a metal gangway down to a decrepit floating dock. Chase noted that the neighbors on either side had large boatlifts at the end of their docks, cabin cruisers nestled in them. No boatlift on his dock, just lots of bird shit covering the warped wooden planks.
He was still slightly on edge from the encounter with his neighbor, so he went right to work on setting up his workout equipment: a battered heavy bag that had seen better days, with more duct tape than bag holding it together; and a length of two-by-four wrapped in coarse rope.
Checking the back, Chase found that he could hang the bag from the bottom of the dock, four upright into it, packing the sand tight around the base. It was makeshift, but his workouts were getting makeshift, so it would do.
Chase stripped off his shirt and took off his shoes, the sand cool under the soles of his feet. He began to work the bag, slowly and with little power at first, getting the muscles, not used to the movement after the days of driving, back into the flow. Warmed up, he started the timer on his watch and went into a routine he’d been using for years. He pummeled the duct tape/canvas, interspersing the punches with snap kicks, side kicks, and turn kicks. No Hollywood spinning high kicks; those had left the repertoire years ago, when he’d stopped taking the time to warm up and stretch his hamstrings out. Plus, anything above the waist with a kick was a wasted movement in a real encounter.
Chelsea lay down on the grass above the metal sea wall to watch him, curious what tomfoolery he was up to now.
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Genre – Thriller
Rating – PG