When the same nightmare awakens her, she sits bolt upright in the middle of the
Where am I? she thinks.
And blinks at the bedside clock.
She is instantly wide awake.
"Kids!" she yells. "Jamie! Ashley! Up! We're late! Up,
She hears grumbling down the hall. Ashley's voice. Jamie hasn't spoken for
almost eight months now.
"Guys, are you up?" she shouts.
"Yes, Mom!" Ashley calls.
Ten years old, the elder of the two. Her eyes and her hair brown, like
Alice's. Eight-year-old Jamie favors his father. Blond hair and blue eyes. She
can never look into those eyes without recalling that terrible day.
She shakes off the nightmare and gets out of bed.
In the shower, she realizes she set the alarm's wakeup time, but neglected to
slide the on-off switch to the right. Hurrying to lather, she drops the soap,
the heavy bar falling onto the little toe of her left foot. Yelping in pain --
it feels as if someone has hit her with a hammer -- she yells, "Damn it to
hell!" and bends down to recover the slippery bar. Her butt hits the
hot-cold lever on the tiled wall. The water turns instantly ice cold. She
straightens in surprise, drops the soap again, missing her foot this time, and
backs away from the icy stream, thinking None of this would be happening if
Eddie were still alive.
But Eddie is not still alive, she thinks, Eddie is dead -- and almost bursts
She reaches through the slanting curtain of frigid water, and turns off the
The kids are supposed to be at school at eight-fifteen. She is twenty minutes
late getting them there. Jamie has forgotten his lucky red cap, so she has to
drive all the way back to the house for it, the traffic on U.S. 41 impossible
even now in the off-season. By the time she brings the cap to him at school, and
then drives to the office on The Ring, it is almost 9:30. Her appointment with
Reginald Webster is at ten. She barely has time to check her e-mail, go over the
new listings that Aggie has placed on her desk, put on some lipstick, which she
didn't have time to do before they left the house, visit the ladies' room one
last time, and here he is!
Forty-three years old perhaps, tall and somewhat good-looking in a dissipated
way, suntanned from hours spent aboard his thirty-foot Catalina. He is looking
for a house on deep sailboat water.
"People call me Webb," he says. "Better than Reggie, don't you
think?" Holding her hand. "Anything's better than Reggie. Have you
found some good houses for me?"
"I think so," she says, and withdraws her hand. "Would you
care for some coffee, or should we just get started?"
"I wouldn't mind a cup, if it's already made," he says.
She buzzes for Aggie and asks her to bring in two cups of coffee. While they
are waiting, she shows Webb pictures of the dozen or so houses she's pulled from
the internet. He seems interested in two of them on Willard, and another one out on Tall Grass. The two keys are at
opposite ends of Cape October. It is going to be a long day.
Aggie comes in carrying a tray with two coffee cups, a creamer, and a sugar
bowl on it. As she is placing the creamer and sugar bowl on the desk, she
accidentally knocks over Webb's cup, spilling the contents onto his left trouser
leg. He jumps up, bellowing in surprise, and then immediately recovers his cool.
"That's okay," he says, and laughs. "I'm about coffeed out,
She is starting to tell Reginald Webster how Cape October got its name. They
have already seen the two houses on Willard Key, and are driving out to Tall
"Because that's when the first tourists come down," Webb says.
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