Pulpit Love, a short story, Part 12
The morning after...
Esther had been awake for most of the night. She was impatiently waiting for the unmistakable noise of the morning newspaper being thrown from the delivery van to her driveway. But she had fallen asleep when it finally happened around 5.00 AM. She got up in a hurry,quickly unlocked her front door, and looked around carefully to make sure she wouldn't be noticed. Then she walked out briskly wearing only the skimpy night outfit Capella had given her for last Valentine's day. She picked up the bundle of paper wrapped in a plastic bag and ran back inside. And there it was, in its majestic beauty, spread across the whole front page :
- " Local church heist. Suspected Pastor Missing". Followed by three columns on the front page with another four on page three. Embedded in the article were three photographs : a general view of the church involved, and a mugshot style picture of an unfriendly looking Karl Hoffner. Esther had convinced the editor of the Paradise Pines Bugle to also include a headshot of Stephen Capella, since he was the detective in charge of the investigation. She knew he would hate it and she relished the thought. But the young journalist couldn't take her eyes away from the mention printed right under the big title of the article ; "by Esther Borrowitz, Paradise Pines Bugle Contributor".She had done it ! She had pulled it off, writing a piece that made the front page, and pissing off Capella at the same time. What can you say, she thought, when you're good, you're good !
Father Gibson didn't need so many hours of sleep these days. He too had read the newspaper's article and it wasn't even 6.00 AM when he started making phone calls. Questions were raised in the article, such as why would any church keep such a large amount of cash on hand. And then, there was this small capsule at the end of the article : Church heist Hotline, inviting Paradise Pines residents and churchgoers to voice their opinion and concerns by contacting Esther Borrowitz either via phone or e-mail. They were going to milk that thing and market it for as long as they could, Father Gibson thought, highly irritated. In New-York or Chicago, a story like that would make ten lines on page six and go mostly unnoticed. But this is Paradise Pines where a run over cat makes it to the paper.How unfortunate ! Now, all the church officials would need to switch to damage control mode. What would Jesus do ?
Susan Hacquett woke up to the sound of the loud snore of a hungover cowboy. He had drooled all over her pillow too, she noticed. She had also discovered why he kept his hat on at all times : he had no hair. And now, in the bleakish light of her bedroom, early in the morning, one had to look really hard past the moustache to find any remote resemblance with Sam Elliott. The cowboy turned around in the bed, offering an unflattering view of his rear end. He stopped breathing for a short moment, allowing gas to pass loudly before returning to normal respiration after a long sigh of self satisfaction.
- 'Good morning to you too!" Susan said in response. But she could hardly blame the man who, just a few hours before, had set her senses ablaze. She got up to make badly needed strong black coffee, while her beloved cat started scratching frantically at the expensive cow-boy hat hung on the post of her bed.
Majolica Phillip woke up before her husband and was reflecting on the night before. They hadn't had their dinner until 11.00 PM when they came down from the bedroom to the kitchen. By that time, the curry shrimp she had started preparing earlier had dried up in the frying pan . But they ate it anyway, hungry as they were. They laughed about it while sharing a chilled bottle of Sancerre with their crunchy rice and rubbery shrimp. She didn't have to go to work today, so she stayed in bed for a while. Flashbacks of last night made her caress her husband's hairy chest, a feature of him she particularily liked. It didn't take very long for him to wake up, in an obvious state of arousal, and they made love the only way they knew : passionately ! Way after they had calmed down, he said to her with a smile :
- "Good morning!"
- "Top of the morning to you, Sir" she answered.
- "You know what ? Whay don't we go sailing today ? I'm gonna call in sick. We can pack a lunch and some wine in the large cooler". They both got excited about the plan, so they implemented it. Less than an hour later, Father Phillip loaded a large cooler in the trunk of his car. As he backed out of the driveway, the front left wheel of the Jaguar ran over the newspaper laying in the driveway and flattened it. The driver engaged the car into drive and they headed for the Municipal Marina where their luxurious sailboat was waiting for them.
Karl Hoffner had slept a bit over ten hours. He woke up hungry and decided to have a hearty breakfast at the Cracker Barrel restaurant next to his hotel. He put on a pair of jogging pants and a white tee shirt. He looked at his face in the mirror and hardly recognised himself ]. He hadn't shaved in two days and his face was covered with a dark short beard, very much in fashion these days, so he could easily get away with it. He was very relaxed this morning, thinking this was the very first day of his new life. He sat on the bed to look at the road map he had carried over from the van. He still had ways to go before getting to his california destination, , but from now on, he could take it easy. So, whatever time it would take was fine with him. He folded the map and put it back in the pockert of his traveling bag. Then he combed his bushy hair and left the room. He headed for the restaurant using the side door of the hotel, opening directly into the Cracker Barrel parking lot. The air was dry and crisp this morning and he liked it. Once inside, he ordered himself a solid breakfast : orange juice, scrambled eggs with bacon, and two biscuits with butter and orange marmalade. He glanced over the local newspaper while eating and after his third cup of coffee, he got up and walked back to the hotel the same way. Back in his room, he gathered his possessions, and after a quick look around to make sure he didn't forget anything, he took the elevator down to the lobby.
He grabbed himself another cup of coffee to go, out of the sad looking breakfast bar. Then he returned his electronic key to the front desk clerk, a cute black haired, not in the mood today, pretty young woman. Throwing the strap of his black leather bag over his shoulder, he headed towards the double glass door. The early, still quite low eastern sun blinded him for a moment and he stopped to let his eyes get accustomed to the brightness while looking for his sunglasses.He lowered his suitcase to the ground and used his left hand as a shield against the sun, looking around. His heart almost stopped ! Where he remembered parking the van the night before was now an empty parking space. He turned around to make sure he was on the correct side of the building, and he was. He looked in all directions to no avail and reluctantly faced the truth : somebody had stolen his van. Along with over two hundred thousand dollars worth of cash, jewelry and gold. Anonymous commodities as can be. The whole package had probably crossed the border hours ago with fake Mexican plates. He dropped his bag in complete disbelief. He had been beaten at his own game ! Check mate ! But he wasn't broke, far from it. The church money was all in the leather bag he had carried with him, but the suitcase contained nothing but clothes. Talk about some life lesson ! He mentally beat himself up for stopping in the only city that close to the border. He should have known better. He couldn't call the cops who would be inefficient anyway. Plus he didn't want to draw unnecessary attention to himself. So his adventurous side took over. This was a major setback but nothing he wouldn't overcome. He walked back to the restaurant, asked to borrow a phone book and called a car rental company that would pick him up. Fourty minutes later, a vivacious, ponytailed, 90-C smiling young blonde pulled in driving a car with the company's name written all over. He walked towards her even before she completely stopped the car.
- "Where did the night go ?"
- "Well, time flies when you have a good time doesn't it ?"
- "It sure does, and even though we're not doing anything special, I'm having the time of my life with you !"
- "I'm sorry to contradict you, but we are doing something very special, we are getting to know each other better ".
- "Are we having our first fight?"
- "No, we're not fighting people, we don't fight, we discuss, we debate, and if we ever disagree, we'll fix the problem over some serious pillow talk!"
- "Pillow talk, huh, is that what's on your mind right now ?"
- "Well, I'm a guy, am I not, so therefore always up for some pillow talk "
- "You're not just any guy, you're a sweet one!"
- "Dream on, I'm a mean, rugged, macho cop"
- "Not seen through my eyes, you're not!"
They had left the restaurant after a three hour enchanting dinner. Afterwards, they had gone back to the bar for another drink. One for the road, one of them had said. They had to leave at 1.00 AM when the bar closed and found refuge in the Saab. Stephen had moved the car to park it facing the ocean and lowered the convertible top down. In the wee hours of the morning, she had shivered from the coolness of the air and he had put his arm around her. She had rested her head on his shoulder and remained that way for a long time. Later, she had put her hand on his knee. Stephen had relished every second of his time with Cynthia. She was resplendent in her black dress with a single row of pearls around her neck. Beautiful neck, he thought and he wanted to kiss it. He inhaled the fragrance of her hair and the scent of that woman drove him crazy. Shortly before 6.00 AM, he said :
- "How about breakfast at my place ?"
- "I thought you'd never ask!" she said jokingly "What are you waiting for ?" He started the car and backed it up.
- "What do you like for breakfast?" he asked
- "You mean, besides you ?" They both smiled.
- "No, I mean how do you like your eggs ?"
- "In bed, served by you wearing nothing but an apron" she said jokingly.
- "I don't have an apron !"
- "Skip the apron, then. Come to think of it, skip the eggs too ". Stephen had entered the yard of the Municipal Marina and parked the car in front of his 43 foot houseboat. She looked at him with excitement.
- "This is home ?"
- "Yep !"
- "Permission to come aboard ?"
- "Granted ! But enter at your own risk as you may never want to leave. She gracefully jumped over the gap between the dock and the hull of the boat while he held her hand. She was so beautiful, he thought. He unlocked the sliding door and they walked inside ;
- "My, she said, looking around at the immaculate and well decorated interior. "Don't even try to convince me there is no woman living here".
- "There hasn't been any woman on this boat for months, I can assure you. Unfortunately, I might add".
- "Why do I get the notion this is about to change ? Is there some kind of a kitchen in this floating palace ?"
- "Yes, Mam, a full kitchen with a four burner stove and a full size oven. A good size fridge and a microwave. a state of the art toaster and a space age coffee maker. Just walk down those three steps and you'll see for yourself. As she passed to his side to get to the kitchen, he stopped her by getting a hold of her forearm. She looked at him half puzzled, half daring. They faced each other and he finally kissed that neck that had been tantalizing him all day.
- "Welcome aboard", he said.
- "Happy to be here, Captain", she answered. And right there, right then, they exchanged their first kiss...
Copyright 2012 by Austinhealy, his heirs and assigns.
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