Murder Mystery Weekend – Chapter 16

We both laughed. I had spent almost all of my freshman year with a mad crush on Sheila. She resolutely kept me at arm’s length, despite the obvious attraction between us. Well, obvious to me, at least. Once I accepted her decision, we became solid friends. We could flirt, and laugh at ourselves.

“You’re good.” I said.

– “C’mon: tell me one secret. I’ll tell you one in return.”

– “Deal.” I said. This is exactly how these games work. You have to trade information to gain information. But which clue to give her? “How about this: there was a plot afoot, to rescue Redbeard.”

Sheila made a face. “Already knew that. Were you a member of Redbeard’s crew?” she asked, suddenly.

Shit – could she be the Falcon? I didn’t know whether to trust her or not. So I answered a question with a question with a question. “Are you?”

– “I asked you first. Oh, c’mon. Give me something, Colin.”

– “I know one of the letters in the code for the treasure map.” I said.

– “So do I.” she admitted. “But I’m not sure if I’m ready to trade that.”

– “OK.” I told her. “Here you go: The Falcon is aboard. One of Redbeard’s old lieutenants.”

Sheila mulled that over for a moment. “That’s fair. Are you the Falcon?”

– “No. Are you?”

– “No.” she laughed. “All right, you actually gave me something. Not much, but something. You can have this in return: the Scar is also aboard.”

I decided to play dumb. “Who is the Scar?”

– “You don’t know? The Scar is another of Redbeard’s lieutenants.” she said.

– “Oh. So we have a ship full of his former crew. Are you the Scar?” I asked.

– “That’s a separate question.” she replied, with a grin. “What will give me for the answer?”

– “A kiss?” What the hell; it was worth a shot.

Sheila laughed. “Nice try. You can get me a drink, though.” She held up her empty wine glass.

– “Am I allowed to go upstairs yet? I don’t think it’s been half an hour yet.”

– “So crack open another bottle.” she said. “They’re right behind you.”

We drank some more, and she fenced with me, alternating between flirty and coy. We also discussed the other players, and aired our suspicions of who was the most likely murderer. After a while, I decided to gamble. I showed her the pirate recognition signal.

– “What is that for?” she asked, intrigued.

– “The recognition signal for Redbeard’s crew. It’s how they’ll know each other.”

– “So you’re one of them?” said Sheila.

– “Craig showed it to me earlier, and told me what it was.” I answered. This way, Sheila could not be sure: she might think that I was not a pirate. But I could tell that she was very pleased with that piece of information. For one thing, she asked me to show her the signal again.

– “Alright, then. I’ll give you something in exchange.” she said. “If you’re looking for the treasure, there are twelve letters to find.”

That was very useful. I had assumed that since I had one letter, that everyone else had one, too. Eleven of us. So there was an extra letter.

– “You still don’t want to trade letters.” I asked.

– “Not yet, Colin. I still don’t know whose side you’re on. But if I want to trade, I’ll find you.”

Both of us were caught by surprise when we heard the bell ring. Four times.

– “That was an hour?” I said.

– “An hour well spent.” said Sheila. She gave me a kiss on the cheek. Then we went off to our next stations. I was supposed to be in the crow’s nest – the deck outside the kitchen, overlooking the patio.

 

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Murder Mystery Weekend – Chapter 14

Just then I saw Lena come out onto the patio. She looked around rather hesitantly. Mindful of Teresa’s request, I decided to be polite.

– “Your costume is wonderful.” I said. “You look very exotic.” From the expression on her face, I don’t think she understood me. Keep it simple, stupid, I reminded myself. There was no internet service at the cottage, or I might have tried to find an online English-Slovenian dictionary. Lena was smiling at me tentatively, a drink in one hand, and a piece of paper in the other.

– “Why do you have a paper?” I asked her.

– “Ah. My instructions.” she said.

– “Really? You must be the only one who still has them. Did Teresa forget to take them from you?”

Lena shook her head. “No. Teresa give them to me.” She showed me the paper. I needn’t have worried about sneaking a peek at her secrets; they were written in Slovenian. I think.

– “What does your language sound like, Lena? Can you say something for me?”

– “What I should say?” she asked.

– “Anything. Read me your instructions – I won’t understand anything, anyway.”

Lena smiled, and started reading. It was quite funny, really. Lena read slowly, and enunciated very clearly, as if there was a chance that I might understand. I did catch ‘piratsko’ more than once – but that was about it. She did have a lovely voice, though. And while I watched her, I decided that her face was quite beautiful. But she was so damned tall!

I excused myself a few minutes later, and went inside to get a couple of beers. I ran into Craig coming up the stairs, with a beer in each hand. On impulse, I gave him the pirate recognition signal. His face lit up. Craig tucked one of the beer bottles under his arm, and placed three fingers against his earlobe. Only then did he look around to see if anyone was observing us.

– “You too?” he asked. Then he lowered his voice to a whisper. “You here to rescue Redbeard?”

I wasn’t expecting that, but I responded fairly quickly. “Depends. Nice to know I’m not alone. But we’ll need some weapons to pull it off.”

– “You’re right.” he agreed. “I’ll let you know if I come across any. You’ll do the same?”

– “Absolutely.” I said. Nice to know. Unless Craig was a far more accomplished liar than he appeared to be, he had just told me that he didn’t have a weapon.

I returned to the patio and handed Leo a beer. Teresa was there.

– “Colin, could you do me a favor?” she asked. “Would you go downstairs for me? There’s a red cooler down there, next to the pool table. Could you fill it with beer, and some of those vodka drinks? There are a couple of bags of ice in the freezer. It’ll be more convenient to have some of the drinks up here.”

– “As you wish.”

I picked up the cooler and headed back in. I was just beginning to go down the stairs when Eliza appeared at the foot of the staircase, with a bottle of wine in each hand.. I backed up, and told her to come ahead. There was no way I was going to be able to pass her on the stairs with this cooler.

I will admit that I looked down her blouse as she came up. Mother of Mercy … I was going to need to put some of the ice in my pants, to reduce the swelling.

We ate a great meal out on the patio, and admired each other’s costumes. The conversation and the booze flowed freely. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. When we were finished eating, Teresa assigned galley duty to Ben, Sheila, Eric and Claire – they had to clean up and do the dishes. We would all get a turn or two, so no one complained.

 

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Murder Mystery Weekend – Chapter 13

“Wonderful!” said Teresa. “Let’s get started.”

We all made space, and ceded the centre stage to her.

“We are playing fast and loose with history here. Imagine a time when women could be pirates, and just as bloodthirsty and ferocious as the men – if not more.” That got a hoot of agreement from the ladies, and when Sheila chimed in with a deep-voiced ‘Aaargh!’, everyone laughed.

“You can all use your real names as an alias.” continued Teresa. “Everyone here has a secret identity. One of your tasks is to find out everyone else’s secrets, without giving away all of your own. Everyone here is in disguise. That might explain why you will not recognize former shipmates, or even old friends. Later on, there will be a murder, and you will try to discover the identity of the killer among you. Finally, there is that rumour about a treasure …”

“Last rule. Everyone must return their character instruction sheets to me. I will keep them safe, and you can return at any time to consult your own instructions. You may also, if you wish, write down any piece of information on those sheets – but you can’t keep the originals.”

“The reason for that is very simple: you could easily prove to someone that you’re telling the truth, just by showing them your secret instructions. This way, you will have to convince them, without any paper to back you up. No one, except me, of course, will ever know if you are truly trustworthy …”

I saw heads nodding around the room. There were gamers among us, who certainly appreciated Teresa’s little ploy.

“Then … we are ready to begin.”

– “Wait.” said Ben. “Who’s been murdered?”

– “No one.” said Teresa. “Yet …”

She gave us one hour to circulate, and to talk to other players, while dinner was being prepared. Leo and I got barbecue duty. We were going to cook up shish kebabs, cubes of beef or chicken on skewers, with green and red peppers, onions, zucchini and so on. By some sort of unspoken agreement, neither of us mentioned our characters, or the mystery roles. There were too many people hovering around.

– “I’ve got this.” said Leo. “Go talk to people. Or get me another beer. Or both.”

I took the hint, and moved away. Ben was standing by myself, so I approached him. He was the person I least wanted to talk, so I decided to get it over with early.

– “Great costume.” I told him.

– “Thanks. You look alright, too.”

– “What do you think, so far?” I asked him.

– “Are you kidding? Did you see Barb? Or Claire? Shit, all of them look incredible.”

– “I hear you. Lena, too. She makes me wish I was six foot four.”

– “In your dreams.” he laughed. I was barely 5’10”.

Then he transferred his beer to his left hand, and raised his right hand to scratch his ear. Ben looked right at me, and touched three fingers to his ear lobe. It was the recognition signal for Redbeard’s crew. For a moment, I considered replying in kind. Instead, I played dumb.

Ben narrowed his eyes and looked at me suspiciously. I’m not sure if I passed his scrutiny, but he gave it up and changed the subject.

I moved off, and settled next to Eric, who was cradling a rum punch while he looked out over the lake. I guess the beard was itching him, or maybe interfering with his drinking: he had pulled it down so that it circled his neck.

– “You look like an Amish pirate.” I said.

– “An improvement, then? Never mind. I gladly accept your compliment.” he answered.

– “Is that you speaking, or your character?” I asked.

– “Why can’t it be both?”

Just for the hell of it, I used the recognition signal that Ben had tried out on me. Eric didn’t even flinch.

– “You’re not a pirate, are you?” I asked.

– “Depends.” he said. “Are you the Falcon?”

Interesting. That was one name I had to fear. “No. I have to watch out for him, too. Or her.”

– “So you’re the one called the Scar?” Eric asked me.

– “Nope. Not me either.”

– “Cool nicknames, though.” he said. “I’m glad you invited me. This could be a lot of fun. So then you’re here to rescue Redbeard?”

I shook my head. “No. Far as I’m concerned, he can stay right where he is.”

– “Really?” said Eric. “And you’re not the Falcon?”

– “Said I wasn’t.”

 

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Murder Mystery Weekend – Chapter 10

Barbara arrived last. That girl was constantly late. One day, she would be late for her own funeral. But, as she liked to say, she was ‘worth the wait’. I was in the garage when she pulled in, gathering the tools we would need tomorrow, for taking the dock out of the water and closing the boathouse. That meant I was the first to greet her.

She had changed her clothes before getting into the car, that much was for sure. There was no way that she could have gone out in public with what she was wearing – not without getting arrested for indecent exposure. She had on a short denim skirt that covered very, very little. On top, she was wearing a white shirt, knotted just under her magnificent breasts. Her lacy black bra showed through quite plainly.

I wouldn’t have been surprised if you told me that Barbara purchased her bras from a parachute manufacturer. She had extra-large hooters, and went to great pains to make sure that everyone knew it. The rest of her body was nothing special.

But Barbara’s face was like the Portrait of Dorian Gray: it revealed every vice and every sin that she had ever committed, considered, or even contemplated. She wore just that little extra bit of eye make-up, and her lipstick was always freshly applied. She was far from shy. I have to give her this much credit: Barbara was no home-wrecker. Guys in relationships were perfectly safe from her attentions. But single men – and, if the rumours had any truth to them, single women – were certainly fair game.

Teresa let Barb greet everyone and get settled in. Perhaps half an hour later, she called us all together. By then, most of us were on our second or third drink. Anticipation was growing, and tongues were beginning to wag more freely.

“Welcome, everyone!” said Teresa. “I want to thank our hostess, Eliza, for sharing her wonderful cottage and providing us with a place to play.”

– “You can pay me back tomorrow.” responded Eliza.

Teresa carried on. “The main floor of the house will be our main deck. The kitchen will be our communal galley.” She turned to point in the opposite direction. “The master bedroom – thanks again, Ee – will henceforth be the Captain’s cabin. As such, it is off limits to you scurvy dogs. Except for Lena, who will be sharing it with me.”

That led to a chorus of “Ooohs”, led by Ben and Barb.

– “Not like that.” said Teresa. There is a bathroom off the master bedroom, if the need is urgent. Otherwise, there is a very large bathroom upstairs, and another downstairs. Upstairs will now be known as the upper deck, and that is where most of you will be bunking. There are four bedrooms: Eliza and Claire get the first, Barb and Sheila share the second. Gentlemen, you are at the end of the hall. Ben and Craig will share, and Leo bunks with Eric.”

Leo looked at me, mildly concerned. He was a fussy sleeper, and did not know Eric well.

– “Teresa – sorry.” I interrupted. “I thought you had me rooming with Eric.”

– “I drew lots among the guys, Colin – and you lost. You’ll be camping in the den, right over there. I brought along an air mattress and a sleeping bag.” The den was on the other side of the stairs from the master bedroom.

Teresa then led us downstairs. “This area will be known as the hold.” she said. There was a bathroom, and a very large games room, featuring a pool table and a ping pong table (or table tennis, if you prefer). Further off, there was a storage room, and a laundry room.

That is where Teresa led us. “This room is off limits.” she said, indicating the laundry room. “It is the brig. This is where the dread pirate Redbeard is imprisoned. As Captain Fairwind, I will have the only key. Redbeard will not be leaving this room until we arrive in Barbados – for his hanging.”

“As for outside – for our purposes, everything between the house and the dock is considered part of the ship. That includes the deck, leading outside from the kitchen, the garage, the patio, and the boathouse. Your cars are not considered part of the ship. If you need to go back to your car, you are out of character there.”

“I have a copy here of your character sketch and the introduction, in case you’ve misplaced yours. These envelopes also contain some new instructions, as well as any items or money that you may be carrying.”

“We’re ready to begin. I want everyone to go and put on their costume. Then get yourself a drink, and we will gather on the main deck. Claire – here’s your envelope. Eliza …”

I was last – Teresa was sticking to the order she had posted in the kitchen. She handed me my envelope, with that lovely half-smile on her face, and whispered: “Good luck.”

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Penelope – I Should Have Known Better

The Encounter

I met Penelope in a group setting. It was at the apartment of one of my friends and we gathered together for our weekly game night. I was friends with both hosts, who were roommates at the time. She joined that night through Roommate A, which seemed normal enough since game night is open to all who want to participate. Game night ended with no incident. I think we took a group photo. She chose to sit in front of me and lean back against my legs, scooting around until she was in position. I thought nothing of it. I should have known better.

 

The Facebook Interaction

Back then, I had a tendency to add people on Facebook after meeting them in person for the first time. Over time, I would unfriend many of the ones who I never met again. Seems like extra work for no reason now, but felt practical at the time. My mistake. I added her and she messaged me almost immediately. As a single guy, I kept several women friends around at arms’ length to help satiate my own need for validation. You could almost consider it to be a male version of the girls who say they have so many guy friends. As you’re cringing after reading that, I’m shuddering right now after typing it. After a few messages with Penelope, we got to exchanging phone numbers. The twist is that she asked me for mine first. I thought it was refreshing because I usually ask first. I should have known better.

The Super Bowl

Like many people in the US, I watch the Super Bowl every year. That year was no exception. It was Super Bowl XLVI with Patriots vs. the Giants. Everyone outside of the New England area hates the Patriots. Guess which team I rooted for. Since I didn’t want to watch it alone at home, I joined a party at someone’s house. Lo and behold, Penelope is there. How? Why? She knows enough mutual people at the party itself, so maybe it works through that logic. I thought nothing of it and watched the game, as well as engaged in the party games during halftime. Penelope sat next to me through most of the night. Some people took notice and ribbed me a little, but whatever. This is all normal behavior, right? I should have known better.

 

The Movie

Chronicle (great movie by the way) had come out a few weeks before and I wanted to see it. I texted about 10 or so people to ask if they wanted to go. It might have been a group text. Like clockwork, one after another had something else or just didn’t want to see the film. Since I didn’t want to watch it alone (is this a pattern?), I did the unthinkable. I texted Penelope to ask if she wanted to see it. Her enthusiastic quick response actually made me feel better, because I thought she was into science fiction and everyone else said no up until then. We met at the local theater. A few minutes before the movie started, I looked up something in my phone. I don’t remember what exactly, but I do remember her leaning in very close and looking at the info too. At that point, I knew she was giving me flirty cues and I was just lonely enough to get an ego boost from all her attention. I should have known better.

 

The Coffee

After the movie ended, we went our separate ways. I felt kind of bad because it seemed like I used her just to be a presence so I didn’t have to watch a movie by myself. Maybe that’s exactly what it was. Maybe it would have been better if I left it at that. But my brain told me to justify her kind gesture with some coffee. I texted her again asking if she wanted to get coffee from the nearby Starbucks. Her immediate response again gave me that false ego boost. We met up and talked over coffee. She laughed a lot. I think I’m pretty good at keeping up conversation and causing a few chuckles, but she was really into it. She was too into it. We may have talked for 30 minutes to an hour, until we finally left. I think she said something about doing this again some time. I agreed. I should have known better.

 

The Words with Friends Confession

Since the Facebook friend request, Penelope and I had been playing each other on Words with Friends. I had a pretty good record, but she schooled me. This is what actually prompted me to want to get to know her more, because not many people I knew in real life could take me down as badly she did. During one of our regular matches, she used the messaging service to talk and flirt. At some point, she told me she was drunk. I think she was out with friends. Then, it happened. She said something like “I’m messaging the guy I like and want to date through a word games app. OMG I’m so embarrassed.” That was direct enough for me to understand that she confessed in her drunken stupor. I hadn’t received many confessions in the past, so this should have been flattering. But it wasn’t. It just felt off. We hadn’t spent enough time together to constitute a desire to date. I don’t remember my responses back to her, but they were definitely not reciprocal. I think I told her we should talk about it more after she becomes sober. She said okay and the conversation ended there, or so I thought. I should have known better.

 

The Crazy

Later that same night, I received apologetic text messages from Penelope. The contents were along the lines of her being sobered up now and blurted out something she didn’t mean. I was relieved because I actually believed her. I replied back thanking her for clarifying and to have a good night. But then, she asked “what if she did mean it?” Since any budding interest had fizzled away at that point, I told her that whether she did or not, I will need more time before making any hasty decisions. We had not spent enough time together yet and I didn’t want to rush into anything like I have in the past. She seemed unsatisfied. We said our goodbyes at around 10 pm. I thought that would be it until our next in person encounter. Nope. She called me at 11 pm. The call consisted of her repeated question and wanting to get a full answer on why I didn’t want to date. My fight-or-flight senses started flaring up. I tried my best to explain that I rushed into relationships in the past and learned from it, so I would appreciate if she could let a friendship start out first to see where that goes. However, I was done even being an acquaintance with her by then. She persisted but eventually hung up. I went to sleep. I woke up the next morning to find 2 voicemails. One was at 3 am. Another was at 5 am. I also had several text messages from Penelope. I don’t remember much of what she said in the voicemails, but they involved how she felt stupid for letting herself get vulnerable. I couldn’t tell if she was blaming herself or blaming me for rejecting her. There was a lot of scream-crying. The text messages tried to convince me to not listen to the voicemails, then to reassure me that whatever I heard was not who she really is. I deleted everything and moved on with my day. I should have known better.

 

The Follow-Up

Penelope was still friends with some people I knew, so she continued to be a presence for a bit. She sent a message to me that looked like it was meant for another guy, saying something like she can’t make it on a date with him that day. I knew enough to recognize this cheap tactic of trying to instill jealousy. It didn’t work. I unfriended her that day. She kept showing up to larger mutual friend group settings, like barbecues and events. She eventually started dating one of the guys, who was becoming a friend of mine. He fell off the deep end with her. I think she fed him some set of lies that got him riled up. He randomly called me to ask a slew of questions about what my relationship with Penelope was. I told him as concisely as I could that I had no relationship and the most we did was watch one movie together. I kept away from any connection to her until she gradually went away, with the poor guy. I saw at some point that they got married. Years later, turns out they divorced. I should have known better.

 

The Questions

Well, that was my convoluted brain dump of a story. If anyone is interested in more info, feel free to ask questions. I hope this helps anyone else out there in a similar situation. If you sense something is just off, listen to those gut instincts.

I should have known better.

 

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Murder Mystery Weekend – Chapter 9

It was the first time up here for all three, so Eliza eventually took them on a quick tour of the outside of the house. I went inside to change into jeans and a t-shirt. I found everybody gathering in the kitchen. The guys had brought food, which had to be unpacked, and no one objected when Leo suggested a round of drinks.

I did notice one thing: there was a piece of paper taped to the kitchen wall. On it were listed the names of everyone who was participating in our weekend. Curiously, they were numbered. I was struck by that, and by the order we were in.

1- CLAIRE

2- ELIZA

3- LEO

4- CRAIG

5- BARBARA

6- BEN

7- ERIC

8- SHEILA

9- LENA

10- COLIN (me)

Curious – why had Teresa left herself off the list? Why was I last? Teresa had not compiled this list when she first told me about her idea; if she had, Sheila and Eric would have been the last two names. Teresa didn’t do things ‘by accident’. There was a clue here.

Sheila arrived next. I went out to greet her with Eliza.

– “You found it OK?” asked Eliza.

– “GPS got me close, but your directions were spot on.” replied Sheila. I should mention at this point that Sheila has the deepest, gruffest voice I have ever heard from a female. People usually do a double-take the first time they hear her speak, and then they still turn their heads the second time they hear her. Her voice is also raspy, which is part natural, and partly the consequence of years of heavy smoking.

Sheila has short, punky hair, which she likes to style in spikes, or absurd waves. She also likes to dye it; today’s color was green. It’s a bit funny, considering that she’s a high school English teacher. Apparently the School Board doesn’t object to spiked purple or orange hair, or to tattoos either – Sheila has seven of them, two of which I have not seen.

She’s handsome, rather than pretty. She sounds like a man, and could probably pass for one. Her face is all sharp angles, and she is completely flat-chested. She has no hips to speak of, and she prefers loose, shapeless clothing, so I couldn’t tell you anything about her ass. She shops in second-hand clothing stores, and finds unusual bargains.

It may sound odd, but I had a crush on Sheila through most of first year (before I met Teresa). See, Sheila is a sweetheart, as generous as she is smart. She also has amazing green eyes, and a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’, as the French would say. I can’t explain it.

– “Nobody’s dressed up yet?” she asked.

– “Not until everyone’s here.” I told her. “Teresa has plans, but she won’t tell anyone anything.”

– “This is going to be such fun!” said Sheila. “Thank you for hosting us, Eliza.”

– “My pleasure.” said Ee. “Let me show you around.”

 

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Murder Mystery Weekend – Chapter 8

Friday 

Leo and I got off to an early start, beating most of the holiday traffic. We arrived at Eliza’s cottage by mid-afternoon. She and Claire were already there, and so were Teresa and her friend Lena. All four of them came out to greet us, and to help us unload.

Teresa introduced us.

– “Colin, Leo – this is my friend Lena.”

– “Umm … hi.” was the best I could manage. It took me another moment to gather my wits. You see, Teresa had neglected to mention that Lena was tall. Like, over 6 feet tall. (I learned later that she was 6’1″) She was remarkably attractive, with long, straight blonde hair, big brown eyes, and those classic east European features: a narrow face, accentuated by long, straight hair, and high cheekbones.

– “Hello.” she said, offering me her hand. “I have heard much about you.” Then she corrected herself. “Teresa tell me much about you.” If Lena was learning to speak English, she had a lot of work to do, but her accent was quite appealing.

– “You too.” I said, shaking her hand. “I mean, Teresa has also told me about you.” Damn, I was having trouble concentrating. If her pretty face wasn’t enough of a distraction, she had long arms, and incredibly long legs. She made Eliza look like a hobbit.

Leo was no better. He just stared, with his mouth open. I gave him a nudge. “Let’s get the car unloaded.”

Eliza’s cottage was a very large 2 storey, 4 bedroom house, with an attached garage and a basement. It was more like a house than a cottage. Leo and I carried the beer downstairs, where there was a second fridge specifically for the chilling of sudsy beverages.

Upstairs, Teresa inspected the wines we had brought, and gave our selections the seal of approval. “Great job, guys.” she said.

Eliza was going through the liquor bottles. “White rum, dark rum, spiced rum … yeesh! Did you get enough rum?”

– “If you need more, we can make a liquor run tomorrow.” said Leo.

Eliza rolled her eyes. “I was being sarcastic.” she said.

– “So was I.” said Leo.

– “Can we do anything to help?” I volunteered.

– “We’ve got everything under control here.” said Teresa.

– “How about outside?” I asked Eliza. “Did you want the grass cut?”

– “That’s right. “answered Eliza. “You’ve been here for closing before. Sure, the grass needs to be cut this weekend. Might as well do it now, if you’re willing.”

– “I’ll help him.” said Leo.

We got the lawnmower out of the garage, and filled it up with gas.

– “Did you see that girl?” he said.

– “Lena? Pretty face, right?”

– “Face? I couldn’t see that high! Christ, her tits were over my head.” said Leo.

Eliza’s cottage sat on two acres of prime lakefront land. There was a copse of trees behind the house, but most of the grass was out front, between the house and the lake. There was a boathouse and a dock, and a large stone patio with a firepit and a massive barbecue. Overlooking that was a large deck, adjacent to the kitchen. Still, there was quite an expanse of grass to cut. It took us well over an hour, with Leo taking over about halfway. I used the trimmer while he finished up.

By the time we were done, we were both a bit sweaty. I realized then that with 11 people staying over, hot showers were not going to be easy to come by.

– “Feel like a swim?” I asked him.

– “You nuts? It’ll be fuckin’ freezing in there.”

I explained the shower issue. “Besides,” I said, “it’ll be a great way to wake up in the morning. Hell, we’ll have to go in tomorrow to get the dock out.”

– “Somebody will have to go in tomorrow.” said Leo. “Why do you assume that person is going to be me? Even if I have to go in, I can wait. For now, I’m grabbing a shower.”

Undeterred, I changed into shorts for swimming, and got my towel. There was no point in delaying the inevitable: I dove off the end of the dock. It was cold enough to make me catch my breath, but as I surfaced and began treading water, I realized that it wasn’t that bad. Our unseasonably warm summer had phased into an unusually warm autumn.

Teresa and Lena had heard the splash, and were standing on the deck when I emerged.

– “How is it?” called Teresa.

– “Better than I expected.” I told her. “Too cool for swimming, but a quick dip won’t cause heart failure.”

She laughed, and then translated for Lena. As I dried off, another car arrived. It was Craig, arriving with Ben. Eric was with them. I shook hands with all three, and thanked Craig for bringing Eric, as I had asked him to.

– “No problem. Glad to.” he replied.

– “Hope you’re ready to go, Colin.” said Ben. “Of course, I’m going to win this thing, but it’s always better if you make it a challenge.”

– “I’ll try my best.” I answered. I was never quite sure how to take Ben. In my humble opinion, he was an arrogant asshole. But others seemed to like him, so I might have been wrong.

 

https://lapetitemort17.wordpress.com/?p=264

 

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