124 A Curious Incident

Before Kitty hit the water, protesting that her insulted hair was clean, the survivor, not the victim, got the upper hand. She took in air. Some people might not be able to fight their way out of a paper bag but she was damned if she would be held in tow by a plastic one. She had observed Thea’s attempt to trap her in the net and had kicked at that end to loosen the knot. The other end, swarming with the make believe, blown-up fish, tended to rise. Beyond them was the other, barely secured end that she herself had pulled closed but never tied. So she swam with the pretty fish and slid past them to their end of the net, yanking open the enclosing mesh. Another pull, and she was free.

She surfaced, breathed in, and swam again, just below the surface, until she could stand. She had the advantage now of relative darkness. Lights gleamed only on the boat deck. She watched as Herbie sought her, shouting her name and aiming a flashlight sternward and around the boat, then back and forth, searching the way to shore. She ducked under again, as the beam raced her way. Let them think what they may; she was done with them, now. She was supposed to be treading the boards in this charade, not treading water.

Dogs are not allowed to be off-leash at Miwaukee County Parks, or beaches.

Dogs are not allowed to be off-leash at Milwaukee County Parks, or beaches.

She knew the way forward. This was a magical place, with whimsical characters. Kitty was not alone on the shore, not on such a summer night as this. The random and occasional smudges of light were little twists of fire, not fireflies. A faint breeze wafted aromatic smoke across the strand. Fireflies never smelled this good. There were lovers as well as watchers, and as she passed them she made out their blanketed moans of ecstasy. The star gazers were out in force, relaxing their shoulders, normally strained against the Wisconsin evening chill, into the balm of a night in June. The pyromaniacs had also descended, decrying the dearth of burnable wood, their attempts to set a bonfire alight thwarted as they saw the easiest to fetch kindling, appropriated earlier for games for dogs, left afloat by those same flagging retrievers.

Who else was here? With the rock hunters and shell seekers away until light and waves renewed their pastime, shadows and their inoffensive occupants all sought another state of being, whether love or drug induced. Those she recognized as truly here remained barely seen, or entirely unseen. What then of those unseen that she only vaguely felt might exist: the ghosts, the fairies, the demons, the imps, all lurking in the folded shroud of night? She’d just barely escaped the harpies onboard by means of a rope trick, an oversight on their part.

Her feet found the concrete slabs that lay off-shore, ledges running often just below the surface, and all the way north to the rocky point; she was accustomed to wading their erratic lengths by day. She inched across now, feeling rather than seeing her way, calculating to get beyond the scope of Herbie’s flashlight. Once far enough north, she could easily cross over to the shore, and make her way up the bluff by any number of paths. Once among the leaning trees, she would be safe from any detection from the boat.

On board, Si achieved full consciousness, after his post-nap daze passed. The commotion upstairs had been going on for some time, breaking in on and disturbing his slumbers. He peered out into the darkness, dreading the return trip, unaccustomed as he was to night-time navigation, and determined to take it very slowly, whatever the pressure from above. It was his boat. His eye caught a movement towards the shore. He turned out the lamp, the better to see. As he squinted, he perceived a figure on the glassy surface of the lake, a figure with a halo of palest gold, upright in stately silhouette and walking on the water, parallel to the shoreline. He blinked, rubbed his eyes, and looked again. He was certain it was not moving on the beach. His passengers continued their unceasing babble. He alone was witness to the waking vision; he yielded to and blessed the sight, then turned to face his short-sighted guests, the ministers with the motes in their eyes.

Chapter 124 A Curious Incident

The R.M’s climbed the sidewalk that rose along the palisade formed by the bluffs below. A beat-up, Buick Century raced past, windows open, a raucous, quasi-musical blare escaping to rattle the night. The thumping diminished, R.M. observed a parked, red BMW.Ā  It looked familiar. Though not a fool-proof system, R.M. did ‘see’ cars. He often wished he had the same skill with people, an instant recall of buyers at open houses just as he had with cars. He must not ‘see’ people in the same way. He liked to match up personalities and cars and to discover who went with what.

He had seen this car before, though some time back. It had sat, illegally parked, bright red in a snowstorm, in the lot of the place where he’d had to go listen to Kitty Doyle address his suggestible colleagues. An unfortunate event he’d taken pains to forget, culminating in a swarm of fake butterflies. He much preferred the occasional fireflies of summer, emerging deep in the dusk. There was at least a moment to enjoy each one, not be inundated with paper and unprofessionalism, all at once.

As he came closer, he also recognized the bumper sticker. ‘Be More Like Me’, it boasted. Must be hers, then. He had no recollection of seeing the car in the garage at the POPS, during his recent interview with Martin and Martinelli. Perhaps her space was in another section, or more likely, she’d been out at the time.

He was old enough to remember that Elvis once drove a leased, red BMW. Red was an unusual color for that make and model, though it wasn’t impossible to have one painted. Not impossible, just expensive. He passed hers, idly wondering why it would be here. Lots of people used the beach; it was a County park, after all. He’d never seen her here before but that didn’t mean she didn’t come. He was about to ask his wife if she’d ever seen Kitty, on her daily trips to the lake, but she wouldn’t know Kitty. She was his at-home assistant, didn’t have to go to sales meetings, or participate in all the nonsense, all the politics.

They reached the top of the park. The dog stopped to sniff and as they waited, R.M. turned and looked back down the street. Under the streetlights, he observed a figure, dressed in skin-tight black, like the otter creature he’d seen swimming earlier, emerge from the woods and hurriedly cross the road, stopping by that same car. Though too far away to be sure, he figured that this was Kitty, just up from the beach, performing under the spotlight the most fluid, from the top down quick-change act he had ever witnessed, before the car roared past them up the one way street.

“Why is everyone in such a rush on such a peaceful evening?” Mrs. R.M. pulled protectively on the leash, as if to defend the dog from the passing noise.

“Maybe it’s not so peaceful for everyone. She’s hell bent for someplace.” Before they turned for the westward walk home, and into the brighter lights of the village, they paused to look east and watch the wind blow galaxies of bright and fateful stars away and across space and time.