Hibernia’s West Coast representative looked like a banker: tight face and tighter pinstripes. As he strode up the modest driveway to the house in Depot Bay, the meager winter sun somehow managed to glint off his highly polished shoes. Charlie’s grandpa could practically smell the expensive Italian leather of his briefcase from where he stood at the front window, watching the man approach the house. He opened the door before the knock sounded.
They gathered at the kitchen table: Charlie, Lorelei, grandpa, and Pinstripes … who turned out to be one of the bank’s lawyers on retainer. Pinstripes laid his briefcase on the table, clicking the latches open with a perfunctory flick. He reached inside to reveal a small portrait, a mere five inches wide, by six inches tall. Although the portrait was small, there was no question that the magnetic eyes and visage of its subject belonged to the woman who sat with them at the table; the woman balanced with a certain nervous precariousness on the edge of her timeworn chair.
“Can I see it?” Charlie eagerly asked. Pinstripes passed him the portrait. “Grandpa, look! It’s her — it’s a perfect likeness!”
“Mmmph,” his grandpa replied, barely glancing at the image in Charlie’s hands. He shifted his glance to Lorelei. She was wearing that small, secretive smile again. The smile that made him want to dump her back on the beach where his impetuous grandson found her. He turned to Pinstripes. “Well, sir, what do we do now?”
“As for my part,” Pinstripes began, “I agree it is a positive identification. There is some simple paperwork requiring Ms. Strange’s signature and then I shall be on my way. The requested bank funds can be transferred at any time.” He shuffled a shiny pen and a few sheets of paper in Lorelei’s direction. “As for what you do next, that is entirely up to you.” Pinstripes collected the signed documents, clicked his briefcase closed, and stood.
Lorelei had been strangely quiet through the entire proceeding. Suddenly, she stood as the lawyer stood, scraping her chair on the wooden plank floor.
“Sir, may I escort you out?” she queried, pinning Pinstripes with her eyes.
“Of course, Madam. I am at your disposal.” He offered his arm to Lorelei, with a flourish of old-fashioned manners. Charlie and grandpa were left behind to gape at the pair as they made their way out the front door and down the drive.
Out of earshot of the house, Lorelei spoke. “Does Atargatis know?”
“I am sure I don’t know what you mean,” Pinstripes replied, subconsciously fingering the inconspicuous pin on his lapel. The pin was in the shape of a tiny open seashell, delicately sculpted and subtly executed in silver.
Lorelei nodded in the direction of his pin. “Life is not slain by death. The vast, immortal Sea shall have Her own…”
“…Shall garner to Her this expiring breath, shall reap where She has sown.” He finished the quote. “So you recognized me.”
“Yes, the moment you walked in.” She looked past him, fixing her gaze on a small boat gliding into the bay. “Does Atargatis know I made shore?”
“As I suspected. You Guardians are always so quick to report my whereabouts. Can you get a message to her?” Pinstripes nodded. “Then tell her I am looking for him. And when I find him, it will be different this time. This time I will not fail.”
Her eyes flashed golden sparks as she watched the lawyer drive away. Turning toward the house, she saw a curtain moving in the window. The men inside had been watching her.
The above post is a beta excerpt from an ongoing novel-in-progress tentatively titled “The Curious Tale of Lorelei Strange”. To read all related posts, click on the associated category. All post titles in this series contain numeric labels so that you may read the story in consecutive order (i.e., LS1 is the first installment, LS2 the second, etc.). ©Awen Blackbird/Jamie Waggoner, all rights reserved. Featured photo credit: Issara Willenskomer via Unsplash.