I got the call after I had showered and changed. Melody wasn’t in a big hurry to start her new life after all it seemed. It took her all morning to make the three hour drive. Wilson and I usually had a sandwich made at home or bowl of cereal for lunch. Since Melody was running so late, I invited Wilson to join with us for lunch. He also should have some input into her status. Not that I would listen, but it would make him feel better.
Melody’s hair was colored red like a barn. In my opinion it was not attractive. When I had known her in County Seat she had been barely eighteen years old. Mary Ellen was not real good about checking their ID’s, before she took girls into her home. That being the case, I considered Melody to be in her mid twenties. On first meeting she seemed more mature for sure.
“Well hello there Melody. How are you doing hon?” I asked.
“Not real good to be honest Sylvia,” she said.
She was about to go on and explain in front of Wilson, when I stopped her. I understood immediately why Martin sent her to me. “I’m sorry to hear that hon, but save it till we are alone,” I said nodding to Wilson. “This is my partner in the investigating service, Sam Wilson. I call him Wilson.”
“Hello Melody nice to meet you,” Wilson said.
“Thank you, they call me Mel,” she said. “And I’m sorry Sylvia I know better.”
“Good,” I said making sure she understood. I considered it a major fuck up to speak out of school. “So let’s go to lunch. You call tell me all about your plans for the future.”
MrBJ’s closed after lunch, but we had time to make it there for burgers. Actually Melody opted for a salad. I almost puked. Grass clipping were not a real lunch in my opinion. The BLT had the most shit, that grows in the ground I was willing to go with. Wilson had the big BJ burger. In other words Wilson and I were not trying to stretch our lives by eating garden trimmings.
“So Mel, do you have any solid plans?” I asked.
“No, I had to get away. So I thought I would come here to start over. At least here I know someone,” she said picking her words carefully.
“Okay hon, I’m going to be blunt. How are you fixed for money?” I asked.
She looked at Wilson when she said, “On my last job I didn’t have many living expenses, so I save a lot of money. I have about five thousand dollars in the bank.”
That might sound like a lot to her, but I knew it would be gone in a couple of months if she had to live on the local tourist economy. She was going to need help getting settled. Since I knew her from County Seat and the Swamp, it was in my best interest to help her. “Well Mel, we don’t have enough room for a real guest room, but I can arrange a temporary space in my bedroom. So you can come stay with me till you figure out something for yourself.”
“I would like that,” she said. “And Sylvia, I am sorry for your loss.”
“Thanks and I’m sorry about Andrew as well,” I suggested. Wilson looked at the table to avoid my eyes. He knew better than to ask.
“Okay, let’s go buy Mel a day bed,” I suggested after lunch. We left her car in the parking lot after checking with the manager. It was close to his closing time, so he didn’t mind.
We went to Ellisboro and bought a twin box springs and mattress set. They gave us the metal frame. What a deal I thought. I spent about seven hundred on it but that was okay. We needed space for an over night visitor now and then. Moving the furniture out of my bedroom sitting area, and moving the bed onto the barge required some real effort. We were forced to pull the barge closer to the dock by letting more slack into the one tie down rope and tightening the one on the pier. We closed the barge’s four feet gap that normally separated it from the dock.
After we got the sitting room furniture into the office and the bed on board we had to redo the gap. We ended with a sitting area in the office, which it needed anyway, and a guest bed in my bedroom.
“You might be living out of a suitcase for a while, but you will have a place to sleep,” I said to Mel after we finished.
“It is almost as much as I had at the compound. At least here I won’t have to walk across the parade ground to take a shower or go to the bathroom in the middle of the night,” she said. We were alone but I still needed to remind her.
“Mel, try not to mention the compound around Wilson. It would be better, if you didn’t tell anyone about it,” I said.
“How will I explain where I have been the last few years?” she asked.
“We can work on that later. Let’s just get your stuff on board the barge for now.” I really didn’t like sharing my bedroom with Mel, but it was for the greater good, I told myself.
“The last of your tools will be here this week. So when are you going back into the jewelry business,” Wilson asked over dinner at a fancy place on Jefferson Island.
“About the same time the weather gets too bad to fly,” I said.
“You fly?” Mel asked.
“I have a small plane I use for joy riding,” I replied.
“Wow, can I go with you?” she asked.
“I’m sorry it is only built for one person,” I said. I didn’t mention the judge. If she wanted to see the canary maybe she would meet him. Probably not a good idea on second thought. Mel had never had to filter her thoughts, so it was going to take some getting used to for her. I’ll tell you what I’ll buzz the barge in the morning so you can see the plane. If you can get Wilson’s ass out of bed, he can see it as well.”
“I pass. I have seen the plane before, remember?” he asked. He was referring to our recent courier mission.
“Yeah I remember, but you just don’t want to get out of bed,” I said with a laugh.
“Yeah that too,” he said.
“Let’s all go sit in the office now that we have the sitting room,” I suggested.
When we were all seated, I began be asking Mel again what her plans were.”
“I really don’t have a plan. I guess I’ll look for a job then a place to live. One that has a bathroom,” she said with a laugh.
I gave her a hard look before I said, “Got any idea where you want to work?”
“I went back to County Seat and fell in love with Jeremy and Allen’s pub. Maybe I could get a job in one of those,” she said.
“That one is kind of unique. You could sure run one okay. I just don’t know how much call there is for a pub like that down here. It might do alright in the summer, but you would have to almost close it in the winter,” I said.
“Well I have to work year round,” she said.
“To be honest with you, I have been thinking about investing in the downtown. If we can come up with a plan for a business, I might consider being your partner. However I don’t want to own it,” I said.
“Wow what kind of business,” she asked.
“I’m thinking a theme restaurant. Something they don’t have here. Most everyone goes out to Jefferson Island, if they want eat out and it’s after 3 PM or so. That’s when MrBJ’s closes their door,” I suggested.
“So a full menu family restaurant?” she asked.
“Where I want to open it, is more conducive to a smaller high turnover restaurant. We can drive down to look at the area,” I suggested.
From Main Street it was about half a hundred yards to the city dock. The access was by a short street that dead ended in the city dock’s small parking lot. On one side of the street were the Railroad hotel and my warehouse.
On the other side of the street were four building about a hundred years old. Those had been lots of things over the years. At the moment only one was occupied. It was a hardware store that specialized in nautical equipment. It was also the larger of the small stores.
When we parked in front of the three vacant buildings Wilson was the first out of the Honda.
“The six story building across the street is the old railroad hotel. It was a bed and breakfast until Sylvia chased the managers out of town. We were going to buy it, but Sylvia bargained a little too long,” Wilson laughed at the end of his little story.
“So now we are looking to do something with these three. The boat store is already kind of cutesy. Maybe we can open one of the shops for local craftsmen and women to sell their shit. Something like that has been running through my mind. But I would be amiable to opening a restaurant, if we can find something unique,” I suggested.
“I would have to give that some thought. I have been cooking one meal for everyone at the same time. I could make some changes I guess,” Mel said.
“I really don’t have a plan, but I always liked the all day breakfast bar idea, but I’m not married to it,” I said.
“Well if you are willing to back me, let’s consult some more. I’m not crazy about an all day sandwich shop,” Mel said. “Why do you think that MrBJ’s is only open for breakfast and lunch?”
“I would like to say that his type place isn’t suitable for date night. People who want just good food at a reasonable price are the stable customer base. A classy atmosphere cost nothing if it is figured over the long haul,” I said.
“Either of these buildings could offer a great view of the river,” Wilson said.
“The mouth of the river is right out the rear door,” I said.
“Yes I know, a deck for the tourist and dating couples and a kid friendly dining room for others,” Wilson said.
“And next door the crafts store on the other side a tavern. The craft dealers will be gone before the tavern starts to pick up, so the noise won’t bother them. Since we have to do some major remodeling, we want to buy the buildings and at a good price,” I suggested. “It all hinges on Mel coming up with a restaurant plan that we all like.”
“We can put apartments over the three buildings in their second floor to help recover some of the costs,” Mel suggested.
“Oh my what infinite possibilities that would add. We could squeeze at least six in those three buildings. It would be a bloody village. I bet I could get the guys in the woodworking shop to do some of the work with old tools. Mel needs to get planning her restaurant,” I replied.
“I promise I will, but I haven’t been here a full day yet, and so much is happening,” she said.
“You don’t have to feel guilty about being excited by a new life. Whatever happened in the past or will happen in the future can wait. You need to concentrate on the now of it all,” I suggested. “Now let’s all go home and get a good night sleep.”
Edited by Walt