Paulette Vickers, Huck thinks. He saw her at the funeral and the reception yesterday, but then again, he saw everyone.
“… but Paulette was out of the office yesterday.” Irene pauses. “So I had to ask around, which didn’t yield me much until I found the woman who sells mangoes next to Cruz Bay Landing.”
“Henrietta,” Huck says.
Irene shrugs. “She gave me the basics. When I asked if the girl who died had parents, she told me your name and the name of your boat and that you tied up here most mornings.”
“I’m sorry about your husband,” Huck says. He’s not, though—not sorry one bit that sonovabitch is dead. He only cares about Rosie. But before Huck can tack on any more insincere statements, Irene says, “No, you’re not. Nor should you be. You can tell me the truth, Mr. Powers.”
“The truth?” Huck says. “I don’t like being called ‘Mr. Powers.’ Also, I’m grieving just like you are and I plan to take today out on the water by myself so I can fish and drink beer and gaze off at the horizon and wonder what happens when we die.”
“So you’d like me to leave?” Irene says.
Pretty much, Huck thinks. But he’s too much of a gentleman to say it. “I’m just not sure what you want from me. I probably know as much as you do about what happened. They were traveling by helicopter from here to Anegada in the BVIs.”
“Why?” Irene says.
“Day trip?” Huck says. “Anegada is pretty special. It’s nothing more than a spit of pure white sand, really. It has a Gilligan’s Island feel to it. There’s almost nothing there, a few homes, a couple of small hotels, a few bars and restaurants, a native population of flamingos…”
“Flamingos?” Irene says flatly.
“And lobsters,” Huck says. “Anegada is famous for its lobsters. So my guess is they were on a day trip. Go over, see the birds, walk the beach, eat a couple lobsters, fly home. People do it. I’ve done it. Of course, most people take a boat.” He finishes his beer and deeply craves a cigarette. He needs this woman off his boat. He stands up, takes Irene’s empty bottle from her, and throws both bottles in the trash. Hint, hint. What else could she possibly want to ask?
“Did you know Russ?” Irene says.
“No,” Huck says, clearly and firmly. “Never had the pleasure. Rosie was… protective, I guess you’d say. I knew the guy existed, knew he had money… and a villa somewhere…”
Irene laughs. “Villa.”
“I’ve never seen it, was never invited, don’t know the address. Rosie kept all that private. She told me his name once, long ago. But after that she referred to him only as the Man and everyone else on this island refers to him as the Invisible Man. Because no one ever saw him.”
“The Invisible Man?” Irene says. “That’s ironic. I could have called him that as well.” She stands up and Huck fills with sweet relief—she’s leaving!—but then she opens the cooler, takes out another beer, and hands it to Huck.
He can’t decide whether to laugh or cry. He needs to go. He wants to fish.
“Can we finish this conversation another time?” he asks. “I want to fish.”
“Take me with you,” Irene says. “I can pay.”
“I had two paying charters today that I canceled,” Huck says.
“But those people weren’t me,” Irene says. “They weren’t the widow of your stepdaughter’s lover.”
Huck’s head is spinning. He needs a cigarette and it’s his boat, goddamnit, so he’s going to have one. He opens Irene’s beer and lights up.
“Do you fish?” he asks. “Where are you from?”
“Iowa City,” Irene says.
Huck chuckles. “I doubt you’re built for a day offshore.”
“I most certainly am,” Irene says. “I used to go fly-fishing with my father on a lake in Wisconsin. He called me…” She pauses as her eyes fill. “He used to call me Angler Cupcake.”
Angler Cupcake: Huck hasn’t heard that one before.
“I’m sorry,” Irene says. “I don’t mean to horn in on your day of solitude and reflection. It’s just that I could use a day like you’re about to have myself. Fishing, drinking beer, gazing at the horizon and wondering what happens when we die.”
Go to the beach at Francis Bay, he wants to tell her. Drive out to the East End—no one is ever on the East End. Hike to Salomon Bay. Sit at the bar at the Quiet Mon. St. John has lots of places to hide.
But instead he says, “You really think you can handle this?”
“I know I can,” she says.
“Okay, then.” Huck starts the engine and unloops the rope and steers them out into the harbor. There’s instantly a breeze, and between the wind and the noise of the motor, the need for conversation evaporates. Still, Huck looks at Irene Steele, his stowaway, the wife of Rosie’s lover—what the hell is he doing?—and says, “Angler Cupcake, huh?”
“I guess we’ll see,” she says.
Huck captains The Mississippi offshore to the south-southeast toward the coordinates Cleve gave him. Irene “Angler Cupcake” Steele is lucky, because the water is glass and the boat might as well have a diamond-edged hull. The ride is smooth and easy—and despite having an unwanted, unexpected passenger, Huck relaxes. Is he surprised this woman found him? He is. But then again, he isn’t. He had guessed that she existed, though he never spoke the words out loud. He thought maybe a few months from now, someone from the secret life of the Invisible Man might surface.
Or was this the Invisible Man’s secret life?
Yes, Huck thinks.
He might ask Irene some questions. Maybe by learning about Russell Steele, he’ll learn about Rosie. But Huck knew Rosie. He knew Rosie. She fell in love with a man who had a wife elsewhere and now that wife was here on Huck’s boat, expecting Huck to answer questions like he owes it to her.
Does he owe it to her? That’s not a question he wants to explore right now.
He’s less bothered by her presence than he ought to be. Why is that? Because she’s hurting, too. Because she lost someone at exactly the same time he did, and so she also must feel like the gods have her by the head and toes and are wringing her out.
But enough. It’s time to fish.
As Huck nears the coordinates Cleve gave him, he slows down. A little ways off he sees something floating on the water and directs the boat over until he can see what it is. A rectangular cut of carpet. Huck bends over to grab it.
“Someone tossed that?” Irene asks.
“Someone left it,” Huck says. “As a marker. This is where the fish are. Or were. There’s no telling now. I heard this back on New Year’s Eve.”
“Before,” Irene says.
They’re in the same emotional space. There’s no way to think of New Year’s Eve except as before.
Huck nods and grabs a rod for Irene and one for himself. He checks her lure and her line and hands it over.
“You know how to cast?” he says.
“Of course,” she says.
“Would you like a beer?”
“If you’re having one,” she says.
Well, it’s his day and he is having one. He happens to believe that beer brings the fish. He flips the cap off two Red Stripes and places one in the cup holder next to Irene’s left hip. Then he retreats to the other side of the boat and discreetly watches Irene.
She lifts the beer to her lips and takes a nice long swallow. Then she holds the line, flips the bale, and executes a more than competent sidearm cast. Wheeeeeeeeee! The line flies.
Beautiful, Huck has to admit. He hasn’t seen a woman—hell, a person—cast like that since… well, since he’s not sure when.
Nearly as soon as she starts to reel the line in, her rod bows.
“Fish on,” she says. Her voice is calm and assured. Most women—hell, people—get a fish on and they shout like God lost a tooth. The rod is really bending; there’s a fish on and it’s big. Huck gets a rush. He has been skunked since Halloween. He’s ready—more than ready.
“You want help with that?” Huck asks.
“Not yet,” Irene says.
“Come sit in the fighting chair,” Huck says. “I think you’re going to need it.” He leads Irene over to the chair and gets her situated, pole in the holder. Meanwhile, she’s doing just the right thing, letting the fish take some line and then reeling when the fish rests. Huck would normally be offering verbal instructions, but Irene is making every move at just the right time. He can’t be accused of “mansplaining,” which has earned him the silent treatment from both Rosie and Maia in the past.
Huck moves Irene’s beer to where she can reach it and she does, at one point, take a quick swig, then gets back to reeling. She is one cool customer. Likely she has a monster on the other end of her line, and Huck has seen men twice her size give up on light tackle. It’s difficult by anyone’s standards.
“You’re doing great,” Huck says. He feels strangely useless, the way he felt at Rosie’s bedside when she was giving birth to Maia. “Just let me know if you need help.”
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com