Morning came to the Prestwick house. I awoke temporarily insane, confused by my surroundings. Gradually, the Miami Vice color scheme of the bedroom, the smell of breakfast hot dogs on the stove, and Priscilla’s singing from the kitchen reminded me of where I was. Hell Bent for Leather. Judas Priest. What she was singing. Metalheads, go figure.
I roused myself and shook vigorously. Got dressed and put on my shoulder holster. Good place for a gun. Mine was a big long barreled job, custom made. Looked very similar to a .357 until you noticed that it had a barrel big enough to hide a roll of quarters. The guy I bought it from had told me it was a guaranteed “one shot stop”.
Slight understatement. It would blow the head off a rhino. Don’t ask; just trust me on that.
The fire alarm started blaring. Breakfast was ready. I padded off to the kitchen.
Simon was on the back porch, looking at the Wall Street Journal. Somehow I had avoided ever reading that particular paper in my thirty-some-odd years. No reason I could see to break a good streak.
Jimmy was still sleeping on the couch. He talked a lot in his sleep. Apparently he was getting ready for a dreamy punch out. His fists were clenched. “Hey, man you’re not a local,” he said. Oh, the demons that surfers endured. The clock read a little after ten o’clock. Jimmy had a few more waves to catch before he would join us.
I went in the kitchen and loaded up a plate with some chow. Priscilla eyed me suspiciously, leaning against the counter, holding a cup of tea in front of her with both hands.
“Touch me and I’ll scratch your eyes out,” she said.
I didn’t reply. Just filled a glass with some OJ and headed out to join Simon, safe in the knowledge that my vision wasn’t in any immediate jeopardy.
“I didn’t know your wife was Cajun,” I said, taking a seat beside him.
“It’s not blackened. It’s burnt.” His eyes never left the paper.
“I’m sorry about last night. Making such a big stink and all. It just gets frustrating, you know?”
“Yeah.” I knew.
“It just gets to me sometimes. I mean, I don’t have a problem being the figment of somebody’s imagination, but it just bothers me sometimes to know that everything I say, everything I do, and everywhere I go is subject to the whims of somebody else. It’s just so . . . controlled.”
“Yeah.” It was.
“I don’t know. I guess I just thought it might be a little easier to stomach if I felt that what I was doing was really something important. Something great.”
“Yeah.” It would.
We sat in silence for a while, Simon reading his paper, me chipping away at my breakfast.
“But on the bright side,” I said at last, “Nobody in a Jack London novel ever got to blow spit bubbles. And, if memory serves, there’s not a Kung Fu fight in anything Shakespeare ever wrote.”
“Good points. I know, I know, I’ve got nothing to be upset about. This is a good gig. Well, good enough. I think we can really work with this spy moose thing. Which reminds me, when are going to get moving?”
“Are we back in character now?” I asked.
“Hell yeah. C’mon, let’s go get Number 12 and blow this Popsicle stand.”
We pulled out of Simon’s driveway just after noon. Beautiful day. Clear skies, light breeze, 85 degrees. Strange weather pattern over the last 12 hours but I wasn’t complaining. Jimmy was awake but had decided to go surfing.
“So, where do we start?” Simon asked.
“Need to get some money. For expenses,” I said. “Figured we’d go buy some cars.”
Simon grimaced. “Ahhh, man. Do we have to? It’s so embarrassing.”
“No choice. I didn’t get advance money,” I said. “Don’t worry though, it won’t take too long. We’ll be done before dinner.”
I pulled into the nearest car dealership – Chevrolet – and went to work. First we traded in the Impala on a new Tahoe. Pocketed the $2,500 rebate money and hit the road again. Next stop was a Dodge dealer around the corner. Traded in the Tahoe on a new Intrepid and walked off with another $3,500 cash back. I always wanted cab forward technology and I had to admit I was impressed, at least for the five minutes that it took to reach the next car lot. This one sold Toyotas.
The whole thing was ridiculously easy, really. Buy, get rebate, trade in, buy another, get another rebate. The only hassle was dealing with the dealers. But they never gave us a hard time because we usually bought some of the more expensive cars, didn’t balk at their initial asking price, and agreed to whatever interest rate they quoted. We just made sure there was a rebate. That was the trick.
By sundown we had hit every single dealership in Wilmington and surrounding areas. My last stop was back at the Chevy dealer that we had started with. We were driving a high end Mercedes by this time. I traded it in for next to nothing and got the Impala back plus the balance of the trade for the Mercedes, an additional $23,000. They were so thrilled at getting a brand new Mercedes at half its list price and unloading the Impala at the same time I think they shit their pants. Simon and I barreled out of the lot with a cloud of smoke and a grand total of just over $275,000 in our pocket.
I always wondered why more people didn’t do this. Just don’t like cars the way I do I guess. The real beauty of the whole thing is that all of the dealerships wind up invoicing each other for the cars that were bought and traded in, each one charging the next in a chain reaction that ends up back at the beginning, forming a vicious payment circle. They’d be busy for weeks trying to figure out what the hell happened.
Okay, okay, I said it was easy, I didn’t say it was legal.
We drove back down to the beach where we had dropped Jimmy off earlier. We saw the Beach Patrol and figured that’s where we’d find our man. Jimmy was pretty mellow, but he usually got arrested at least once whenever he went surfing. A most territorial lad when it came to waves. Luckily, they hadn’t cuffed him yet and Simon and I were able to assure the bike cops that we would keep Jimmy safely away from the general public.
Simon threw his board in the trunk and I helped Jimmy unravel himself from the tangle of fishing line wrapped around his body.
“Surfing the pier again?” I asked.
“Nasty gash here,” I said, pulling a good size treble hook from his calf.
“Yeah, that one hurt. Dude started reeling it in right in front of me.”
“You mean you saw it?”
“And you ran right into it?”
“Don’t you think that’s a little extreme?”
“Maybe. But it was a good wave. I couldn’t just leave it.”
“I worry about you Jimmy. I really do.”
We went back to Simon’s house to grab something to eat and pack up our things. Priscilla had done us the favor of not bothering to cook any dinner. I’m not being sarcastic. It really was nice of her. Simon headed to his room to pack while me and Jimmy threw our stuff back in the Impala. Then we headed off to the kitchen to make some dinner.
I made some PBJ’s for me and Jimmy since he had hard time with recipes that included more than two ingredients. While I lathered up the bread, he took the time to find a tape measure to check the length of the cut on his calf. Jimmy had a thing about scar size and kept a detailed record of all damage done to his body. Several trees had so far given their lives for this documentation.
Priscilla came in and sat down at the table. Just for fun I gave her a smile and she shot back a look that made my lips bleed. Jimmy took no notice. Didn’t realize the temperature in the room had dropped 10 degrees. But then again he was used to cool. I said earlier that Priscilla hated our guts. I guess to be more accurate, she hated mine. Jimmy didn’t really bother her. Probably because he didn’t complain about her cooking.
“Ow,” she said, looking at Jimmy. “That’s a big cut. Does it hurt?”
“Yeah. A little,” Jimmy replied.
“What are you doing, measuring it?” she asked.
“Yeah. I keep track of how big my scars are. I measure all of the wounds I get.”
“Huh. From the looks of things you must be pretty good at doing that by now,” she said. “Just do me a favor and don’t give the tape to your friend over there. I don’t need him trying something juvenile like measuring my butt with it.”
“Oh, he couldn’t do that anyway,” Jimmy said. “It’s only a 10 foot tape.”
He went back to measuring his cut, the picture of innocence. Priscilla looked at me in a non-smiling way.
“What?” I said.
“Not a sound,” she said. “Not one peep.”
I almost made it out of the kitchen before the giggles hit and I vaguely remember a heavy glass object impacting the wall behind my head as I ducked into the hall. By the time I got to the front door I was laughing so hard I blew snot all over my hand.
I decided it would be best to wait at the car until we were ready to leave.
Next Week: Chapter 7