Dead Mann Installment #5
It would have been nice to have a street market in Greece or any of a dozen other cites he could think of for their wide variety of foods served in stalls and stands out of carts and from roving vendors. Some spoken comments and he could have a sample of this or that and move on for a while eating of several different flavors and never having to buy anything till later. He’d come back to chat with those that gave him samples and become fast friends and build on that. But most of the condo splashed Gulf coast was not that way, nothing homey and open air about it. He scanned the sidewalk and hoped for a bit of pocket change and thought of sitting down with his tin cup and cane and quoting from Lear. He did spy a few nice restaurants with nice dressed people coming and going at the just after dark dinner hour. He picked a Western styled façade and stepped inside.
Cold air greeted him and he smiled. At least American’s did do one thing right, chill the heat right off you as you first step inside. He smiled at the quizzical look he was getting from the two well dressed Hostesses.
“Pardon me! I am wondering if you know where I might find a Phone, a Pay Phone will do I suppose?” He said in his best Irish lilt sounding like he was trying to get his American just right to allow them to understand him through his otherwise heavy accent.
The taller older brunette with her hair in a formal pulled back bun. Came forward and smiled at him. She did not say a word as her eyes took him in and noticed his bare feet and the burnt edge of the life-ring he let them see. She stopped and gapped for a moment and settled herself enough to speak.
“My word Sir whatever happened to you?” She asked.
“I fear my Skiff sank in a burning blaze a few hours ago and I only managed to save this life-ring. I need to call my broker and let him know the boat is a total loss. All I have to my name is this towel a stranger gave me, and my wits. I don’t mean to put one off on you. But I am famished and need to see if John Clingman is home, or at least his answer-bot, and get on my way to a decent bit of victuals.” Richard said with a heavy sigh and a sad smile. Hoping the ladies were charmed enough to at least let him use the house phone or help him find a pay phone inside the cool restaurant. Anything else would have to be coaxed out of them later, though he thought he’d be able to at least have a few rolls and glass of water.
“Certainly sir, here use our phone. Press nine to dial out.” She said as she handed him a Black phone.
He never did like the kinds that you could not see the numbers and hear at the same time. He dialed a 1-800 number by heart, sped through the calling card number and the other international number and waited for the answer. He turned away from the ladies and paced one step sideways and stopped. The phone was picked up.
“Yes?” The voice on the other end asked.
“I have moved.” Richard said.
“Queen’s Knight takes bishop.” The voice said.
“Rook takes pawn, check.” Richard said. Breathing easier, now that the whole simple contact process was still in place. He waited for the transfer.
“Richard!?” The deep tones of Uncle Carlos sounded on the phone, odd and pleasing, Richard sighed.
“The boat sank, all hands on board were lost. You should prepare for the worst.” Richard kept his voice calm while his mind raced and boiled. Did they still have time to keep Uncle Carlos safe? What was the Black King thinking in this big game of hunt and kill. It was an accident and nothing to worry about, we will find out later, but for now all the hounds are running toward Carlos to take him out of play as well.
“I understand, I castle.” The phone went dead as the line was severed.
In Chess you can not castle while under Check, but in the context of emergency and counter measure anything was possible.
Richard turned and frowned at the ladies as he closed the phone back together and handed it to the head hostess.
“Well that went better than I expected. I have full coverage through my Lloyds but he has full replacement costs figured in as well. Well thank you for the use of the phone Dear Ladies. I must be off to find something to eat.” Richard bowed and turned to go back out the door.
“Pardon me Sir.” The young lady to whom he gave the phone back to, called to him.
He turned and opened his eyes wide and bowed his head and smiled.
“Yes?” Formal Irish layered into his words giving them a royal spark.
She stepped forward and said. “May we offer you the meal you are looking for?”
“Sadly Dear Lady, I have no funds or cards to pay for such a meal.” Richard sighed, frowning to show he would have dearly loved to stay and eat with them but could not.
“On the house. You need to have something before you go on, we would be glad to be of service.” She smiled a smile as if to say please.
“I can not deny that steak is one of my favorite meals. But are you positively sure you will not get into trouble?”
A smile flashed across her lips. The girl behind her laughed a bit then was quiet.
“I am sure. Please come this way.” She led him not into the main dinning room but into a side one likely set as an overflow one or for parties. She offered him a chair at a small table with a view out of a bay of windows looking out over a night lit beach and patio themed outdoor eating area filled with customers and waiters moving around about it.
She handed him a menu.
“Order anything you want. What size are your feet, Sir?” She asked looking down at his feet trying to puzzle out the answer for herself.
“Dear Lady, my name is Richard Theodore Conner. My sandal size is 11 extra wide. If you have it I will take the biggest Ribeye you have rare and a Large glass of water.” Richard said this with a flourish hoping that he would at least get the large water soon.
“But you don’t need to get me the footwear, I can go barefoot.”
“Well even if you could, state regulations do not allow it. Going to the all you can eat salad bar would draw attention to you anyway. Walking outside at night you never know what you might step on, and having your feet torn open is not something you would want to have happen on top of everything else.” She smiled sweetly and left to get his order.
Better than snacking in a Greek market, a full meal of a nice rare Ribeye steak. His mouth watered just thinking about it.
What would happen now? Richard could only think of a handful of times in the past eighteen years when the Emergency levels had been such that the Mann’s or Uncle Carlos had had to go to ground. Usually it had been their own mistakes or some government crackdown while they were in an out of the way country. Not an attack on them from the outside, this was new, though not unplanned for they were in a highly risky business.
Richard’s mind threatened to crash here and now. ‘All hands lost.’ He heard himself say. I am Dead Mann. I am not here. I am a memory on a wave. Rage filled him and his heart raced and he lost all sense of time and space as he pushed backwards in his mind hunting for the moments before breaking the water’s surface. What had happened?
“Excuse me?” A soft voice said.
He looked up and another lady with a brown skirt and plain white blouse, blonde hair and nice worried smile was looking at him, holding a pair of sandals in her hands as an offering to a deity.
“Pardon me Dear Lady, I was off day dreaming. Ah, Sandals!” Richard said in the same Irish lilt he would be using in most of his stay here in Florida. Richard was not English but had been to Ireland many times while visiting friends and doing work.
“Miss Rogers said you needed some so I got you these, I hope they fit. My Bobby didn’t like them, I was gonna return them to the store. Here try them on.” She said as she offered them again just like she would to a Greek god.
Richard smiled and took the pair. They connected with a fast release clip but were adjustable with a Velcro strap, while the instep had the same Velcro strap for adjustment. He looked closely at the soles to check on a name and could not find the telltale sign of the Greek Stamp. A cheap version of his favorite sandal he thought. He adjusted them and slipped them on both feet and smiled to himself, Just like Home.
“Why thank You.” Richard said as he moved to get up and test them. He took two steps toward the windows and turned to face the lady.
“They are a prefect fit!” As he spread his hands to show himself and his new footwear to the young lady, he watched as Miss Rogers came back into the room and smiled at him. He returned the smile with as much warmth and feeling of happiness as he could muster. She moved well, was clearly in charge around here, acting the part now that she had more than just regular diners to deal with tonight.
“I am glad we could find you something without going out of house. Mary was about to return those to Wal-Mart later this evening after work. While you are standing, I’ll show you where the bathrooms are and how to get to the salad bar.” She motioned to him by smiling and standing aside with a little bow and waving her left arm in a flourish back the way they had both come.
Richard took the time to notice her more as he stepped in close behind her. Mary took up the rear on their little train back out and around the corner toward the main dining area. He liked looking at her neck, short hairs had been fine tuned and her bun had been altered from when he first saw her. Pulled in tighter, stray hairs gathered and set back in place. Trying to impress or just a timely opportunity to readjust? The blouse hid the shoulder straps of her bra but he could see it on the side with the sway of her stride, she was not overly endowed so there was no indention where the sides passed under her arms. He could smell foods and hear the clink of dinner ware but also smell her aroma and hear the fabric of her outfit swish in front of him he was walking that close. Some of the other patrons looked up as they passed, most were smiling large toward Miss Rogers, then smiling the same way to her charge as he passed them. Though some of them had a quick change of expression if they had time to notice his still slightly beach bum appearance most of them just kept on smiling as if this was an everyday occurrence.
Miss Rogers paused to show him the amplely leaden salad bar, with a flourish all its own and not saying a word kept on going toward the side of the main room and toward some discrete alcoves. He noticed that she moved with ease and grace now and was hoping to get to know her better when she stopped yet again and had moved to the side to let him pass.
“Here you go Mr. Conner, please help yourself to our salad bar when you are ready and I’ll see you in a bit with your steak when it is ready.” She smiled and looked at him taking in his details as he had hers only seconds before.
“Thank You again Dear Lady. A good freshen up is just what the doctor ordered.” He said with one last long look at her as she stared back at him. He smiled with more warmth and turned to the restrooms.
Nice wooden doors covered in warm but light green paint and heavy handles. The whole feel of the restaurant was of a forest glade with ample light and none of that German dark forest look so over played in the steakhouses of much of the western world. The inside of the bathroom shocked him. There was an attendant. Who smiled, when he looked up at Richard.
“Don’t see many of us now do you?” The older white man said with humor in his voice. “Mr. Rogers grew up in the old school and wants his place to have the feel of the finest places in the world, and how they used to look.”
“I can see that. I almost need a long hot shower, but just a spot of splashing will have to do.” Richard said as he looked in the wall mirror at his clothes and then his face.
His sea blue eyes stared back at him and the salt had gathered at the far corners of them. His ruffled brown blonde hair was long enough to be just touching his shoulders but not hanging over his eyes when he needed to look at something. He watched his smile fringe happy times and none of the day’s darker times. His dad’s good looks, his mother told him countless times, and his mom’s cat like grace his father would intone right after if he was in earshot of the comment. It had become his look. His self aware image of himself. Implanted over the years from the time he first remembered anything at all in the verbal realm.
Breaking his thought, he took a warm wash clothe and ran the water till it was hot, it did not take long at all. Washing his hands in the surprisingly very hot water. He commented on this.
“Yes Mr. Rogers likes the hot water hot and the cold water cold, so be careful not to shock yourself when you do the cool down after your wash.” The attendant said. His nametag said Harold.
First splashing the hot water was like diving into a hot tub and then it felt refreshing after he noticed the salt taste dripping off his lips. A three or more hour soaking in salt water he might need a few more baths to get it all out of him, Richard smiled at the thought of a long cold shower to take the pains out of his muscles. His mother always smiled when his showers were just like hers and so unlike his father’s scolding steam baths. Richard felt the empty coming around the edges again threatening to take him and whisk him to a place he had never been. Soon, he told himself, soon the mourning could be totally private and painfully aware.
He stripped off his shirt and wondered if they could wash it and dry it fast enough, but instead just shook it out into the corner. Harold did not say a thing, but watched with bright eyes everything that Richard did. With a bit of fast sponge bathing his chest and getting the salt out of his chest hair he air dried while he looked over the seams of his shirt hunting for tears. None, that was good, finding his only shirt in the world to be okay after its ordeal. He put it back on and tucked it in, fixed the collar ran his fingers through his hair and smiled at himself. About back to normal, a few pounds of rare beef and he would be his good old self.
“There now. A jigger of Glen Effishthen and I’ll be right as rain.” His Irish got so heavy he barely understood himself.
He smiled at Harold and gave a deep bow.
“You look like you just came down for dinner Sir. Enjoy your steak. If you need a place to stay let Betsy know up front at the door, she was with Miss Rogers when you came in. She is my grand-niece. Loosing your boat is not something that happens to you everyday. Harold’s the name.” He said as he stuck out his hand and waited for Richard.
Shock and Awe. This was a tightly run ship. Miss Rogers had been busy. Not only a pair of sandals but an offer for a place to stay. Nothing like what the Hobo was warning him of coming off the beach. Then on the beach he was just another bum, not much of an Irish accent and just a smart mouth. Here he had impressed them. Impressed them a lot it seemed.
“Thank You kind Sir. I will have to consider it I am afraid. Everything is in the drink and nary a way to get more. Now off for a salad and see if I can eat a whole Heifer.” Richard took the hand and shook it with glee in his eyes and strength is his grip.
Another man came in just then noticed the hand shaking and smiled, and turned to find a stall.
Richard took his leave then.
The Salad bar was several meals in itself, he could have had veggies and fruits from several different countries and regions and never even gotten into the mixed salads and spreads and cheeses or breads. Bread and Water my eye he thought. This was a fine example of style and panache all rolled into one fine dining experience. He just wanted a big juicy steak, but he got grape tomatoes and a half dozen of his favorite olives and cubes of feta cheese with a few slabs of nicely paper lined Brie, and leaves of spring lettuce.
Making his way back to the room he noticed a lot of happy smiles and nods as he walked among the tables. He noticed again the spacing for several to walk without bumping into others.
He was on his second piece of Brie and Oil Cured Olive crisp wrap. When Miss Rogers came in carrying a tray with the sizzling sounds of fresh hot steak.
She sat before him the largest steak he had ever seen outside of a butcher shop. It took up all of the plate it seemed till he looked closer and saw some bits of the plate edge near one side and juice pooling there.
She placed on the table a bowl of steaming onions and mushrooms and a large baked potato and bowls of sour cream and butter. The extra large steak came with a healthy and sharp looking steak knife he would be proud to call his own.
“My God Woman, are ye trying to feed the King!” Richard’s heavy Irish spilled out of him in awe at this feast.
Miss Rogers finished placing all of the plates and bowls. She smiled at him and said with a flare all her own.
“For a man who drags himself out of the sea and looks like an Irish Prince come to beg for bread and water. I thought you should have a King’s meal!” She said with a mischievous Irish lilt to her voice, and bowed her head.
“Aye Lass. I will thoroughly enjoy eating this fine steer and all the trimmings.”