Trinity Island – Chapter 8

December 31, 2012 at 10:15 am (Trinity Island)

“You should hire Kent,” Reggie said

Claire just about dropped the phone. That was the last thing she’d ever expected to hear from Reggie.

“I know, he’s a fuckwad and I would still like to castrate him, but he’d be great for that project and I can’t begrudge you the best. It sort of galls me to admit it, but he’s damn good at his job.”

“Wow, I don’t know what to say.”

Reggie had dated Kent all through grade eleven and twelve, and then, out of the blue, he’d dumped her for Priscilla Duffy, a girl in their graduating class. Dumped her just a week before prom. It had been too late for Reggie to get another date, so she’d gone alone. Kent had shown up with Priscilla on his arm and proceeded to French kiss her the whole night, in front of Reggie. The day after they’d graduated, Reggie took off for Paris to do a spread in Vogue. Most of the shots were of her half naked and looking like sex walking. Claire had made sure to send a copy of the magazine to Kent, with the pages tagged.

Reggie had dated a string of assholes before giving up on men entirely to focus on her design career. She’d gone to Central St. Martins in London and studied for four long years before she’d felt confident enough in her talent to approach a small house with her ideas. Claire knew that the event in question was high school, though Kent was several years older and should have been a little more mature by then. But it resonated, still. She’d hated him for the pain she’d seen on Reggie’s face. For the aching tears she’d cried over his sorry ass. She knew the makeup artists had done amazing work to cover her red, puffy eyes in that photo shoot. Mostly she’d hated him because their breakup had driven her friend away.

The hate had tempered over the years to a vague sense of disappointment in the man. However, she also couldn’t fault his talent as an architect. His company had created some unique spaces and Claire was a little excited about what he might be able to create for her.

“Just call him and see if he’s available to take on the job,” Reggie said.

Claire agreed to think about it. Reggie told her not to waste too much time, in case he was too busy to help and she had to find the next best person for the job. Claire knew she was right, but she’d spent so long disliking the man, out of loyalty, that it seemed wrong to turn on a dime and hire him. Though thirteen years had passed, Claire didn’t think Reggie had truly gotten over it.

Claire headed into town for a meeting at the bank. She needed a breakdown of the foundation’s accounts so she’d know how much could be allocated to the new project. Most of the money would come from her own accounts, but the foundation had been set up to assist new businesses, among other things. Her meeting was at ten, but she left early so she could drive around the town and see how much of it had changed.

The town was a quarter mile up from the ferry. The shopping hub of Main Street had been two blocks long when Claire had been a kid. Now she could see that it had been extended to over six blocks. Several of the side and back streets also had shops and cafes on them. Claire wound her car though some of those streets, seeing the houses that she remembered as a kid and noting the newer additions. One particularly eye-catching place was situated on a small rise at the base of the mountain. It wasn’t ugly, per se, but it was a little out of place. It looked to be on a scale with Wallis House, without the turret, except that her house was tucked away in the trees and this one squatted on the bare bit of land like a giant toad on a tiny lily pad. It also appeared to be under construction. Claire couldn’t tell if they were adding on or taking away.

Parking her car in a spot along Main, she got out and walked up the steps to the boardwalk. She intended to go to the bakery to see Mrs. T again and she wanted to pop into the hardware store to see Mr. and Mrs. Freedman. Mostly she wanted to get a feel for the town that had continued on without her. It would be her home now, so she had to learn her away around. She’d had breakfast, but Claire felt the need for a cup of coffee.

The Clearwater Cafe sat mid-block on Main, between Second and Third Avenue. The location was prime, situated in the middle of the shopping district. It had been in business since before Claire was born. Steeping inside, she saw that the interior hadn’t changed much in nearly twenty years. It had booths like a diner in two rows down the middle of the room. A bar took up half the wall at the back, with the rest reserved for the counter and prep areas. Business was light at the moment, so Claire stepped right up to the cash desk.

“Hi, what can I get for you?”

Claire ordered her drink from a girl who probably worked there around school hours in the fall and spring and took on more hours during the summer months. She looked to be around sixteen, with braces and pink hair that was starting to fade at the roots. Doctoring her coffee the way she liked it, Claire took the cup and stepped back onto the boardwalk.

The sun was out and the heat was beginning to build. Trinity benefited from strong breezes off the Bay, cutting the oppressiveness of the sun’s high temperatures. It would be warm enough to wear shorts, but not so hot that she couldn’t stand outside for a while to soak in some vitamin D. Claire was doing just that, sipping her coffee, when someone called her name from across the street. Shielding her eyes, Claire spotted a woman who looked vaguely familiar, but the large sunglasses and ball cap made recognition difficult.

The woman crossed the street and climbed up the boardwalk. Once she was directly in front of Claire, Claire was able to make the connection.

“Jenna?”

The woman removed her sunglasses. Her green eyes crinkled at the edges as she smiled. Jenna and Claire had been two peas in a pod until the day Claire’s father had shipped her off the island. Claire had written to Jenna over the years and they’d talked on the phone some. Jenna moved to Vancouver to complete her education and had stayed there afterward. Claire hadn’t seen her since the day before she’d left the island nineteen years earlier.

“Are you here for a visit?” Jenna asked.

“No, I’m back for good this time.” Claire didn’t bother to mention the reason for the sudden return. She chose to focus on the work she was going to do for the retreat rather than the breakup of her engagement. She gave Jenna a brief outline of what she wanted to build and some of the initial work she was looking at completing.

“If there’s anything I can help with, let me know. I’m an Interior Designer and I’d just love to get my hands on that house of yours.” She rubbed her hands together in anticipation, making Claire smile.

“I have an appointment at the bank in about fifteen minutes, but then I’m heading back up to the house. If you have time today, stop by and we can start making some plans.”

“Deal,” Jenna said. “I’ll drop my son off at my mother’s before I come by.”

Claire looked around, but didn’t see anyone who could be Jenna’s son.

Jenna pointed back across the street. “He’s in with Mrs. T probably eating too many cannoli.”

Laughing, Claire hugged Jenna before heading toward the bank. She barely made it half a block before someone cut across her path and pushed her back a step. Claire braced herself, staring into the burning eyes of a woman she didn’t know.

“I’ve got a message for you,” the woman seethed.

Claire waited patiently for the woman to continue.

“Your mother’s a whore.”

“Tell me something I don’t know,” Claire said, resigned. She recognized the woman now. Age had not been kind to her. She was only about six years older than Claire, but she’d lived some pretty hard years.

“She’s sleeping with other women’s husbands.”

“Not surprising, though I doubt she’s the only one.” If there was one thing she remembered about Trinity Island, it was that the national past time was to have sex. She wondered if The Shack still existed.

“She’s sleeping with my husband,” Faith spit out.

“Turnabout’s fair play.” The comment popped out before Claire could stop herself.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Faith demanded.

Claire mentally rolled her eyes. “I recall seeing you with my dad back when you were around seventeen. He had you backed up against the side of our barn, in full view of the entire house. You were naked, he was mostly clothed. I was eleven at the time, but we had mating horses in the stables so I understood the rudiments of the process even then. I guess my mother also saw you with her husband, so she’s getting a little payback.”

And if that’s what her mother was up to, Claire could expect a few more irate women to approach her on the street. She refused to become responsible for her mother’s actions. The woman was an adult and made her own choices. Claire could care less what those choices were, as long as they didn’t directly affect her life.

Claire stepped around Faith, who stood there red-faced and spluttering. She’d only gone another half a block when Galen stepped up beside her. Since he’d come from behind her, she assumed he’d overheard her conversation with Faith.

“Are you alright?” he asked.

Claire continued on toward the bank. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

“Ma says that Faith is on a warpath over your mother. But she also says that Faith is just as bad and really shouldn’t be the first to cast stones.”

Claire smiled, though it was a little sad. She’d conveniently forgotten what people on the island did with their neighbors. She’d been too young when she’d left to fully comprehend what it meant. Wallis House was separated from the rest of the community, but they weren’t immune to its effects. Hell, she knew now that her parents had contributed to the destruction of several marriages. It was a legacy Claire didn’t intend to carry on.

“Ma also said that you’d best be coming by to say hello real quick, or she’ll not give you another hazelnut cookie.”

Claire’s smile bloomed across her face as the laugh burst out. Galen was happy to see it dispel the misery Faith’s comments had placed there. He walked with her to the bank, holding the door open for her so she could enter. Once she’d stepped inside he remained on the boardwalk looking out over the town he’d grown up in. Someone out there knew about the missing girls and wasn’t saying anything.

His ma was angry that the disappearance of one man had been enough to send for a cop where several missing women hadn’t been. What she didn’t know is that it wasn’t the missing man that had prompted his arrival. It was Mac’s phone call. Galen had just come off a call that had extended his typical twelve hour day into sixteen. He hadn’t wanted to pick up the phone until he’d recognized the Trinity prefix on the number.

He’d talked to Mac for the better part of an hour, learning about the missing girls who were never really reported missing. They had families to miss them, but islanders knew that people came and went all the time. Some kids were a bit screwed up and didn’t tell anyone where they were going. Some families had put up posters around town showing a recent photo of the girl they were looking for, but so far nothing had come of their efforts. The missing camper had caused a bigger stir because he wasn’t a local and had people on the mainland to miss him. They’d filed an official report with the RCMP, which had been transferred to Victoria.

Galen had intended to take a leave of absence to come to the island to investigate, but the camper’s disappearance had given him the chance to make the trip in an official capacity. He’d gone over the campsite and the gear that had been left behind, but aside from the evidence of violence suggested by the blood spatters, there was little else to go on. He had yet to meet anyone who actually knew what the camper looked like. When Galen showed the photo provided in the man’s case file, no one could say if they’d ever seen him in town.

Trinity enjoyed a healthy influx of tourists and locals couldn’t expect to remember everyone who came by, but for no one to have seen him struck Galen as very odd. If the man hadn’t come into the town in the two weeks he’d been on the island, then either he was living off the land or he’d brought his provisions with him. Or he’d been stealing them. Since no extra supplies were found in his campsite, either the killer took them or the camper hadn’t had any. It seemed unlikely that the killer would have taken anything that wasn’t of value.

Galen thought that perhaps the camper had been stealing things from people’s homes. No one had reported anything of significance stolen, according to the records kept at the town hall. Anything that was more nuisance than real theft would be chalked up to bored kids acting out. But Galen figured if the camper was stealing then he would have been out at times that could coincide with whoever was making those girls disappear. Perhaps he’d seen something that he shouldn’t have and it had gotten him killed.

Galen held out some hope that the camper was still alive. If he’d seen something that had resulted in the attack, but he’d managed to fight off his attacker, then perhaps the camper was hiding out on the island somewhere. If his wounds hadn’t been life threatening then he could still be out there somewhere. If he hadn’t gotten a good look at his attacker, the camper wouldn’t know who to trust and might not want to risk the ferry.

Galen and Mac were going to hike through the woods near the campgrounds later that morning to search for evidence of the camper’s passing. Galen had asked Mac to keep their hike quiet. He didn’t know yet who they could trust on the island. Since Mac couldn’t believe nothing had been done for the missing girls yet, he had to agree that someone out there was pulling some strings they shouldn’t be. Galen hoped they could figure out who it was before another girl went missing.

***

Claire exited the bank with a vague sense of having been palmed off. She’d gone in for a meeting with the bank manager to discuss specifics about the Wallis Foundation and her need for certain funds. She’d been introduced to Trent West, who had been running the bank for the past eight years. He’d given her five minutes of his time which he’d spent yammering on about what the island was doing and how the bank was assisting in progress, and then he’d told her that anything she needed could be handled through his assistant.

His assistant, Marty had been a little more personable, but overall Claire didn’t have a good feeling about the bank. She’d checked out the accounts and everything seemed to be in line, but she still felt strangely about the whole thing. Pushing Trent West and his yoga-pant-wearing assistant to the back of her mind, Claire walked into the bakery. It was hopping; several customers turned as the door chimes tinkled, but Claire didn’t recognize any of them.

“There she is and about time she came to see me!” Mrs. T. called out from behind the counter. She had her hands immersed in a giant ball of dough that she folded in on itself as she mashed her fingers into it. Claire had no idea what she was making, but knew it would be wonderful. Mrs. T. wiped her hands on her apron and came around the counter. She opened her arms wide, pleased when Claire didn’t hesitate to hug her.

“I’ve missed you, Mrs. T.,” Claire said.

“I’ve missed you, too, girl, but I’m happy to see that you’ve grown up nicely.” Happy, too, to watch as her son had left the shop and run across the road to intercept Claire after her run-in with Faith. He’d come back afterwards and told her what Faith had said. That girl, Mrs. T. thought, was going to turn herself into a bitter, wrinkled prune before she was forty and she’d have no one to blame but herself. If her husband was stepping out with Jillian Wallis, and Mrs. T. had no reason to doubt that he was, Faith had no call dropping it on Claire’s head.

Mrs. T. put her hands to Claire’s cheeks to assess her. She nodded once before heading back behind the counter. Pulling a hazelnut cookie from the case, she passed it over to Claire. “I hope these are still your favorite.”

Claire bit into the cookie and smiled. It was just as she remembered it. “The best.”

Mrs. T. introduced Claire to the women in the shop and Claire spent the next ten minutes chatting and catching up on island business. The ladies had all moved to the island after Claire had left, but no one could live there for long without knowing about the Wallis’. All of the old stories would have been dusted off for new ears. Claire couldn’t bring herself to care about the past. She refused to dwell on it.

“Mrs. T. is there a bookstore in town?”

The silence that greeted her told Claire better than anything that she’d struck a nerve somewhere. She looked at the ladies, who stared at her with a little less warmth than before.

“Don’t you be looking at Claire like that,” Mrs. T. scolded them. “She had no say in what happened.”

Claire turned to look at Mrs. T. waiting for the woman to explain. She had no idea what to expect, but trusted Mrs. T. to tell it straight.

“The foundation has declined Sarah Miller’s application for a small business loan to allow her to buy some stock for her bookstore. Consequently, she hasn’t been able to open yet. She’s saving her money to buy the stock, but since she’s also paying rent on the shop, she’s going to be saving a long time, I think. She managed to get the cafe side opened on her own.”

Claire frowned, trying to think of any reason the foundation would have declined an application. “Has she had a loan before and defaulted?”

Mrs. T. shook her head. “Sarah has perfect credit and shouldn’t have had any trouble getting the loan. The problem is, she crossed paths with your mother. And your mother seems to have some control over who gets approved by the foundation.”

Claire could tell that Mrs. T. wasn’t finished, but wasn’t sure how much more to say in front of the customers. Claire assumed that everyone knew all of the juiciest details anyway, so gestured for Mrs. T. to continue.

“Some have mentioned offering payment if they could be guaranteed a new loan with the foundation.”

“Kickbacks? To my mother?” When Mrs. T. nodded, Claire started pacing the shop. “The foundation was set up to assist people, not to extort kickbacks from them. And how can my mother have any say in it? She’s not allowed near any foundation business.”

“She’s having an affair with Trent West,” Mrs. T. said.

“That still shouldn’t make a difference, because Trent West doesn’t decide who gets the money, either. It’s put to a vote by the board. You know that; you’re on the board.” Claire’s grandfather had set up the foundation forty years earlier, to assist islanders with their businesses. He knew that prosperous businesses in town meant that people would stay on the island and new people would choose to live there as well. The board was made up of five long-standing members of the community.

“The board was absolved, Claire. A little over a year ago.”

The door tinkled as a new customer walked in. Claire didn’t bother to turn around to see who had walked in. “Who absolved the foundation’s board, Mrs. T.”

“I did.”

Claire turned around and found herself not ten feet from her father.

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