At last I reached my hometown on the Mumbai to Goa coastline of Maharashtra. I got off the bus and lifted the heavy bag on my shoulder and carried the other dangling in my left hand. On the main road I was thinking to myself, here I am, your own long lost son, Sanjeev Bhalchandra Mohile popularly known as Toni. Throw out the red velvet carpet. Wine and music – but for god’s sake no women. Not yet anyhow. Your returning hero is pooped in that field of endeavour.
Carrying my light burden, it was light for me atleast, I crossed the street to the nearest bar. A couple of young babes in shorts noticed me and giggled in passing, eying my muscular frame giving admiring glances. Ignoring them I looked the other way. It wasn’t my usual self though.
The town I noted, had changed but little. It still wasn’t more than a wide place off the Maharashtra State Highway. I noted one thing that had been added. A sign hung high on the road leading into town, boasting to all and sundry: “World’s Best Fishing”, in English, Hindi and Marathi. I then remembered that there always was talk about hanging a sign like that at the entrance to the town for as far back as I could recall. So they had finally done it. Miracles will happen.
I entered The Roost, a bar I used to hang out at and saw Pino tending bar. We shook hands, and I ordered a beer. He said the first one was on the house just because he had not seen me for ages.
“What happened to the fights, Pino? Last I heard you were on the way to being the champ, out there. How come you’re back here?”
He tried to laugh off his embarrassment. “Tell you the truth, Toni, I hopped in the ring one day with a big bull of a man and liked to have got myself killed. I was out for a week, unconscious. Figured maybe I’d better quit while I still had my marbles. Wouldn’t you?”
“Ya, man, you’re not kidding.”
“So here I am – slinging suds. Bet you never expected to find me doing this huh, Toni? But at least it’s my joint.”
“Nothing wrong with slinging suds, Pino. A man has to do something for his keep.”
“Ya. Sure is a let-down, though. Not like it was when I was good, when I was living high, wide and handsome.”
“No, it’s certainly not,” I said.
I watched Pino wiping the bar with a damp, white rag. He had changed, no doubt. When I had known him he had been so much sure of himself. He was dark-skinned, of medium height, tensely muscular and had been one of the most promising fighters around when I had last seen him, happy and swinging the world by the tail. Now he was morose and hesitant. I guess he felt pretty much down in the dumps, now that he no longer had that aura of prestige to keep him buoyed.
“How’s Lois?” I asked him.
He shot me a quick glance and looked away, “About the same.”
Something in the way he said it didn’t sound right, so I hesitated to push the subject. I wondered though. I had known Lois pretty well myself before Pino had married her. She was a hot one, all right. What I had managed to know on just one date, Pino had had to marry her to find out. Hell of it was, I think he had guessed as much from the very beginning. If he did know, or had found out, I knew he wouldn’t be holding me in the fondest regards. Pino was the jealous type. I wouldn’t put it past him to kill someone over Lois, especially if he caught them in a compromising bedroom situation, like being caught with the pants down. Wouldn’t put it past him at all. I ordered another beer, and this time I paid for it.
“Too bad about your Aunt Veena, Toni,” he said. “Sorry it had to happen the way it did.”
“Yea. The news didn’t catch up with me until the other day. That’s why I wasn’t here for the last rites. Being in a far off place is sometimes hard to get in touch.”
“Terrible accident,” Pino said. “Terrible thing to happen to a nice old lady like her. I thought a lot of her. Everyone around here did.”
“Aunt Veena had a lot of friends,” I agreed. “So did my Uncle Amrit, before he died. It was a shock to get the news, I tell you. Last thing in the world I expected to hear. She was pretty old though. Something like that was bound to happen to her I guess, sooner or later. She absolutely refused to stay off that pier. For somebody who never learned to swim, she sure liked to fish.”
Pino said, “Yeah, I used to see her out there on the pier with her rod every afternoon. Too bad. She was nice to everybody. We’ll all miss her around the town.”
“Well, I guess I better be getting on,” I said, swallowing the last of my beer, “See you around, Pino.”
“You plan on settling down here now, Toni?”
“Hadn’t thought much about it. Why?”
“Well, your Aunt Veena left you the place. I understand it belongs to you now, lock, stock and barrel. Thought maybe you’d be staying and running it.”
I paused with my hand on the doorknob long enough to shake my head. “Kind of doubt if I’ll do that. Probably sell and head back to my Gym. The quiet life folks live around here isn’t my way.” I winked at him. “you ought to know what I mean. You been around.”
“Yea Toni. Can’t blame you a bit. I been there myself, and I know how it is. Life can get pretty damn dull in a hole like this, that is for sure.”
I told Pino I’d be seeing him, picked up my bags and walked out. The beers had hit bottom just right. I moved on down the street, past the few business establishments of the town, the chemist, the hardware store, a movie house, a couple more bars in between. I passed the state owned wine shop, all wine shops are state owned by the way and close at 8-00 in the evening. I went there and bought one bottle of Blenders Pride and one bottle of Baccardi white rum and put them away in one of the bags.
Walking out I ran into Prem Shankar as he was entering. I never had liked him much. I admired him though, but I never had been able to reach him. It was an instinctive thing, I guess. Sometimes you run into a personality you simply can’t seem to like, no matter how friendly they try to be.
“Sanjeev Bhalchandra Mohile!” He poked out his thick heavy hand. “When did you come, boy? Glad to see you!” We shook hands. He was a heavyset man with coarse graying hair and leathery skin. His handshake was firm almost too firm like he was trying to prove something.
“Just got in,” I said. “How have you been, Shankar Uncle?”
“Fine, Toni, Look, wait till I pick up a bottle and we’ll have it together. You on your way over home? We’ll go together. I want you to meet my new wife, anyway. You know I got married since you left?”
“Hadn’t heard,” I said. “News from home has a hard time reaching me. That is why I wasn’t here for Aunt Veena’s last rites. Guess folks thought I didn’t care. It wasn’t that. I didn’t know.”
“Sure. I understand. Wait right here a sec. I’ll get some booze and we’ll be off to home.”
He went to the counter. I watched him and thought about him. Prem Shankar. How come he was so friendly all of a sudden as if I was his long lost son? I didn’t get it. He had been our neighbor for long and had chased me off his boats many a time, sworn at me, and complained to Uncle Amrit or Aunt Veena about me as though I was a thief of some kind. As I had grown older, he had not changed. Uncle Amrit had told me to keep my distance from him. “Toni you get in Prem Shankar’s hair, somehow. Keep away from him and his boats, son, you hear? Shankar can get nasty when he takes a mind to it. He’s got a mean streak and a bad temper. Don’ you ever push him.”
So I had tried to follow Uncle Amrit’s advice. I had stayed off his boats and out of his way as much as possible. But there was his pretty daughter, Renu, and he didn’t seem to mind our playing together. On our growing up Renu and I had learned that beds were made for things other ….. and better….. than sleeping. We were both above 18 years at that time.
It happened one day when Uncle Shankar was out with a fishing party and nobody was home except Renu’s invalid mother who couldn’t get out of bed, her condition being incurable. She had been expected to die “any moment” for the past many years but she never seemed to get around to do so. She looked haggard and wasted and half-dead already, and she whined at her sorry state, but there wasn’t anything anybody could do for her except try to keep her comfortable and “feel” for Uncle and Renu. Usually there was a woman there whom Uncle Shankar paid to come and take care of his wife, but on that day, she hadn’t come. So he instructed Renu to stay in the house and look after her mother.
I went over looking for Renu and when she told me how it was, we decided to play some music in the living room while we pretended to study. We had learned that heavy necking was fun, when we had been far up the beach and it started to rain and we ducked under an overturned row boat to keep from getting soaked. We had gotten pretty serious that time. And we had played around until we both felt pretty excited. I think we would have made it together then, but somebody came walking and we darted out from under the boat and ran, laughing, home. But that day we got to necking on the sofa. Her mother couldn’t see us from the bedroom. The situation got more and more exciting. While I played with her legs and breasts, we made light talk for her mother’s benefit so she wouldn’t suspect anything and think that we were studying. After a while I pulled her to the floor and took her panties off, and we both became so shook and were breathing so hard, it was hell trying to keep up the chatter.
That was the first time I ever discovered why there are two sexes, and from that time on, I have breathed fervent thanks to the almighty that there are. It was fumbling. It was incomplete. I had barely forced my way into her woman warmth when it was shudderingly over for me. But that first time, Renu liked what she felt, pain or no pain.
Afterwards, we got together for more of the same whenever we got a chance. It got better and better. By the third time, I was hooked and already looking around to try something delightfully different, yet still delightfully the same.
I came out of my reverie as Uncle Shankar came out with his bottle of booze and came towards me, smiling broadly. We walked to his house. I met many people I remembered and nodded to them. One or two of them glanced at me coolly. If they felt that way, to hell with them. I couldn’t stop to explain to everybody in town, individually, why I hadn’t been here in time for Aunt Veena’s funeral.
I couldn’t quite get over Uncle Shankar’s sudden affection for me. I thought there must be a reason beyond my immediate comprehension, and maybe I’d learn the whys and wherefores at a later date. It didn’t add up, and I was puzzled. I didn’t want to spend time drinking with him but I didn’t quite know how to get out of it. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings right off the bat. He wanted me to have a drink at his house and meet his new wife. So what? I wouldn’t have to stay forever. His place was right next to mine and it would be but a hop, skip and jump away as soon as I managed to cut out.
It was just a short walk to the beach, just a few hundred yards. When we got there I noted that he had made a lot of improvements to his property. Also, he had added a couple of party boats. They floated spic-and-span and newly painted like white gulls alongside his pier.
“Business must be good with you, Uncle Shankar,” I said, admiringly. “Looks like you’re coming up in the world.”
“I learned you can not stand still, Toni, no matter what kind of business you are in. You have to go one way or the other, either up or down. I don’t intend to go down if I can help it. I plan to get bigger and bigger.
“Can’t blame you for that,” I said. “This town has stayed in the dark ages too long. Time somebody with some ambition did something. That will probably be you Uncle Shankar. Wake the joint up to its possibilities. Make it grow and fast.”
He laughed and said, “Hell Toni, you could not budge most people around here with a ton of dynamite. They like things the way they are, the way they have been for the last hundred years. Well, I don’t see it that way. They can stay asleep if they want. Me, I plan to expand. Well, this booze is awaiting boy. Come on, let us go inside and take on a few. Sure it is a treat your coming home, boy. Like old times kind of, seeing you again.
“Yea, sure is, Uncle Shankar,” I said and smiled.
Just before following him in, I turned and glanced down the beach at my old place. The sight of it gave me a funny feeling of remorse. So many memories flashed into my consciousness so suddenly I was shocked. I could almost see Aunt Veena down there on the unpainted wooden pier which ran directly out from the house into the water, could imagine her sitting on the pier in that old rocking chair of hers, bent over, with her fishing rod hanging over the edge, silently rocking and fishing, her white hair done in a knot low on her neck, her seventy year old body big and bosomy and thick around the middle, her legs thin, looking like match sticks, not nearly big enough to support her weight. I sighed and turned away. It would never be the same. My family. They were all gone now. Uncle Amrit and Aunt Veena. There was only me left. I suddenly felt the need of booze, a real bad need.
I followed Uncle Shankar into his house.
“Roopa! Roopa, honey, come here! Want you to meet somebody, old time friend of mine. Hurry up, we are going to have ourselves a little drink to celebrate.” Uncle Shankar’s voice boomed and reverberated through the house.
“Have a seat, Toni,” he urged. “She will be here in a sec. Boy, you have not seen nothing yet. Had to go all the way to Poona to find me this little wife. Wait till you see! Roopa, hey, Roopa, honey! Hurry it up, will you?”
While we were waiting I asked, “How about Renu? She around?”
“No,” he said curtly and did not bother to explain. “Hey Rowena! Come here! Man, wait till you see him, Toni. You will drop your eye teeth.”
“Hold on a moment there, I am coming. Give a girl a chance to fix her face.”
Uncle Shankar had not been lying. When I saw her coming toward us, I almost forgot to breathe. She was easily the sexiest-looking woman I had ever seen. With the lovely glow to her skin, she looked as though she had just showered. With jet-black hair, she was boyishly slim. Her white shorts and matching halter accentuated the clean slim lines of her perfect legs. Her breasts were not overlarge, but they were ample and a pale creamy white where they dipped into her halter. The black pony tail into which her hair had been braided, hung delightfully over one shoulder.
“Roopa honey, I want you to meet Sanjeev Mohile, Toni for us. I practically raised him.”
“Hi,” Roopa said and stuck out her hand.
I smiled and said, “Hi,” took her hand in mine for a moment, then dropped it. “Well, like your husband has been saying, you really are something.”
Her head tilted. The deep brown eyes studied me openly, candidly. Moisture glistened on the curve of her split-cherry mouth.
“Thank you, Toni,” she said, and I read her like reading the bold print of a headline. She was mine for the taking. All I had to do was find the time and the place and ask. It was that simple. We both knew it instantly.
“Veena’s nephew,” enthused Uncle Shankar. “The black sheep has come home. Come on, let us all have a drink.
“Here’s to crime!” I said as we raised our glasses.
For some reason, the toast fell pretty flat.
Lalji said, ”This is where it happened, Toni. Just about here. This is where she usually dragged the rocking-chair. She was a good old lady and I liked working for her.”
“What time of day did it happen?” I examined the wood railing, felt the planking under my feet. It all seemed sturdy enough.
“It was after dark sometime. The rock were running and she was after them. They run best at night, you know. On the out-going tide. She had caught about a dozen nice ones, upto 1.5 kgs, had them in a bucket beside the chair.”
“Nobody out here but her at the time, huh?”
“That is right. Nobody saw it. Least nobody has come forward to say they did. I had gone into town for a few beers. I had taken a party out on the Blue-Star and it had been pretty hectic. Bunch of drunks. When I came in I figured she had gone to sleep, and I tried to keep quiet so I would not wake her up. The next morning there she was – washed up on the sand.”
He pointed to a spot twenty yards away. “Right over about there. Some kids found her and they were screaming like crazy.”
“How do you think it actually happened?”, I asked him.
Lalji stood there looking morose and shaking his head. “All anybody can do is guess. Heart attack, maybe? She could have felt it coming on, tried to get up from the chair, blanked out, tumbled forward against the railing and flipped over into the water. That is the only way I can picture it happening. She was pretty old. Things can come on pretty fast when you are the age she was.”
I nodded. “I suppose that is as good a guess as any. We might never know for sure exactly what did happen. It might be just one of those things. But the heart attack idea does not quite strike the right chord for me. She never was one to be sick much, and I had never heard of her having trouble with her heart.”
Lalji was having difficulty getting a cigarette lit. His hands trembled slightly. He had thinnish but bright black hair. His skin coloring was such that people who did not know him figured him to be permanently boozed because of the flush appearance of his face, especially of his nose. He drank, but that was not the cause of his peculiar coloration. He was born that way. He had worked around the sport fishing piers all of his life and was kown as a good reliable man. Not very tall he was squarely built and muscular.
“Like I say,” Lalji spoke again, “it is all guesswork. She might have fainted and fallen, who knows? Of course you always get to thinking maybe somebody had something to do with it. But why? It would not make any sense to be suspicious. As far as I know, Aunt Veena did not have an enemy in the whole world. Would you happen to know one, Toni?”
I shook my head. “No doubt it was an accident, all right. Couldn’t have been anything else. Hey I have bottle of whisky put away in the house, going to waste. How about a drink or two?”
“Have not had any for quite some time,” Lalji said, with a grin.
After a glance at the Blue Star moored toward the end of the pier, we turned and went into the house. Nostalgic memories stirred in my heart. I recalled the long happy days when I had stood beside Uncle Amrit at the wheel of the Blue Star. He loved that boat as if it were part of him. He and the Blue Star had a reputation. They could find fish when nobody else could. And some of the big sportsmen coming down every season would not come at all unless they were assured that Uncle Amrit and his boat would be available to take them out.
Small, wiry, quick Uncle Amrit had been all man and a yard wide in those days. He laughed fast and he fought faster. And if you did not want your tail trounced good and proper, you did not push him the wrong way, no matter how big or tough you thought you were. If you did, you soon found you had walked into some kind of human rock.
In the room, I plunked down the bottle and told Lalji, “Here, pour your own poison, and don’t be afraid that you will take too much, I brought it for drinking only. We sat at the table and drank and talked. I kept getting the impression that there was something on his mind that he wanted to get around to say, but for some reason he was holding back.
“Lalji, something is on your mind,” I finally said. “Why don’t you come out with it.”
He studied me for a moment, then nodded. “All right Toni, I will. You may not like it, but at least I will have it off my mind. I never had any issues with her nor she for all the years I had been working for her. She always said she will leave me something in her will, but she did not do it. I think she had not thought of dying yet or she would have done something to fulfill her promise.”
“Yea? It does not sound like her to make a promise and then not keep it.”
“She did this time. Maybe not on purpose, but I sure feel let down.”
“What was she supposed to leave you?”
“You’ll not believe it, Toni. You’ll think I am crazy, or lying or something.”
“She said she was going to fix it so that I had own the Blue Star if anything ever happened to her. That is what she said, Toni.”
“The Blue Star! You are joking!”
Lalji shook his head, looking straight at me. “It’s the truth, Toni. I swear it. She knew I was crazy about the boat, always have been. She said one day it would be mine.”
I said, “Lalji, I am afraid, this sounds a bit fantastic.”
“You do not believe me, do you? I really did not expect you to. But I’m not lying. And I am greatly disappointed that she did not get around to make it plain in writing. I guess I am just screwed.”
“We will have to see.” I told him. “But frankly Lalji, I had like to have more than just one man’s word on something as valuable as the Blue Star. Hope you understand. That boat is worth a pile of money.”
“That is right, it is,” he nodded.
“Tell you what, I will ask around. If I can dig up anough evidence that Aunt Veena wanted you to own the boat, I will sign it over to you. Whatever way she wanted it. I will want it the same way. Okay?”
“Fair enough, I think.”
“Pour yourself another one,” I invited. “Don’t let it go to waste.”
He made an extra large and looked up at me. “I think you will be running the place yourself now, and won’t need me around.”
“Why do you say that? No, you hang right here. I will pay the same wages you were getting. You know the business, I don’t. Stay right here, keep your room, and keep things going just like before. How the devil would I take out a party? I would not know where to start even.”
“That is the way you want it?”
“Yes that is how I want it.”
“Good, deal then,” he said and swallowed half of the triple peg in one gulp. “I was hoping you’d want it that way. It suits me fine.”
The thing with Renu was inevitable. What had to happen, happened that very first night. It was damned good thing that I had gone to bed early and caught a few hours of much-needed rest before she put in her appearance. Otherwise she might have found herself a dud.
But three in the morning? Hell of a time to barge in on a guy! Not that she did not make up for it. I came out of a sleepy fog to find her leaning over the bed shaking me and saying “Toni Toni, wake up.”
“What the hell –“
“Shush, it is me – Renu.”
I had to rub my eyes and squint to make her out because the moonlight coming through the window, though bright, was not bright enough for quick recognition. She was laughing down at me and I got the impression that she was giddily drunk or something. I managed to raise myself up on one elbow.
“What is the time like?” I demanded.
“Almost daylight, darling,” she said softly, “I was out with friends and when I came back papa said you were back home. I made up my mind right then that I was going to wake you up no matter what and kiss you hello. Mind?”
“Switch on that table lamp, will lyou?”
“Why? Don’t you want my welcome kiss, Toni? If you don’t, just tell me, I will cut out of here and go home.”
“Baby don’t get in an uproar, switch on the light like I told you. I have got to get a drink. I feel dehydrated, and I have the shakes. Move, sugar!”
“All right!” She clicked on the light, and I blinked at her n the sudden glare. Then I grinned, she looked so cute, all mussed and a little fuzzy.
“Damned if you don’t look real crazy, doll. Real real gone!”
“You’d better say so,” she mocked, bending to kiss me. Then as my arms went around her, she relaxed on top of me and we made the kiss long and warm and pleasantly exciting. She smelled like honeysuckle and I let my hands roam down the contours of her body to softly caress her buttocks.
“Toni . . .” she whispered, then drifted under the spell of the warm kiss once more. The touch and the sweet feel of her reminded me, she was a real dilly. She had fine black hair, light as a breeze, a firm healthy body and a joyous personality which opened wide, eager for life and laughter.
I gave her an affectionate slap on the butt and rolled her over and off of me. “Let me get myself a drink,” I said. “Then I’ll fix what is ailing you, Little Miss Hot Pants!”
She tried to look surprised and shocked. “Toni, do you have to be so crude? I came here to see you simply because I have not seen you in such a long time. I did not come here for . . . what you think.”
“Sure.” I went to the hall and made myself a stiff drink and gulped down half of it there itself. I came back and stood looking down at her and she looked back but not as far up as my face. I emptied the glass in one gulp and put it on the table beside the bed, lit a cigarette and took a long, deep drag. By that time the drink had hit bottom, and the lungfull of smoke following it brought a feeling of relaxation, a glow of well being.
“Feel better now?” Renu asked hopefully.
“Yea,” I said, keeping my eyes on her.
She was watching me quietly, lying flat where I had rolled her on the bed. I noticed that she had kicked her shoes off. She was wearing a short skirt and a loose top. I took a drag on my cigarette and looked at her. She had propped her knees up and the skirt had slid up along her coppery thighs. She appeared flushed and warm. I got the feeling she was pulsating to be loved. Well, I could easily take care of that little matter. She saw my eyes gleaming as I looked at her legs, but when I started for her, she held up her hand and said unconvincingly, “Now, Toni, take it easy, that is not what I came here for.”
With a derisive grunt, I fell on the bed, took her in my arms, kissed her, then reached down and ran a purposeful hand over and up her smooth thighs. She moaned, then her mouth was wide open under mine and her breath was like hot sweet perfume.
She struggled weakly as I fidgeted with her panties and eased them down over the curve of her hips, then down her smooth hairless legs. Her skin was poignant with lush smoothness, sending tingles of excitement all over me. I pushed at her legs and it did not take much of a push to reach what I was after and was very much available to me. I could almost feel the heat already.
“Toni, please!” she protested feebly with sultry petulance that she and I both knew would only make me more determined. As I let my hand linger over her smooth and satiny skin, she began to moan and I knew her naturally combustible responses were being strummed by my loving touch. I removed my shorts, the only piece of clothing I had on and my erect cock came into view right before her face as she sat back and removed her skirt and top in deft motions and threw them across the room. I took her in my arms and removed the last piece from her body, her very light pink bra and then both of us were in a tight embrace.
I started with small pecks on her whole body, as if rediscovering her body. My kisses were complete love affairs in themselves, on her throat, on her firm and luscious breasts, her tight upstanding nipples of those burnished gold mounds, on her legs, on her quivering lips.
“Toni,” she moaned again, plaintively, “please . . .”
I deliberately made her wait . . . up to a point, of course . . . the hotter they get. She was flailing on top of me like a fish out of water. She took hold of my throbbing cock and caressed it as I started suckling her breasts one by one. She was trembling like a dried leaf.
I turned and brought her under me and entered her in one long, hard and smooth stroke and she whimpered, “Come on Toni, fill me up, I have been thirsty for far too long.”
I was surprised but did not say anything and just threw myself over the building-up explosion for a rocking, rapturous five or six minutes during which she was the one who really meant business, setting the pace, faster, faster, with more and more deliciously wonderful thrusting force. I just went along for the ride and landed in the bliss with her.
She kept her eyes closed and just crooned sweet nothings when we finished. Later she turned towards me and said, “I had almost forgotten how good love making is.”
I was startled and asked her, “You mean to say that you have not had sex during my absence?”
She just nodded her head in the negative, which made me feel strongly for her. I was speechless for a few seconds. Then I spoke very softly, “Will you tell me something, Renu?” I asked, snuggling up to her.
She turned her head to look at me and nodded.
“How come your daddy, Prem Shankar, is suddenly acting like I’m his long lost buddy? He never gave a damn about me before. Now he is treating like a son just returned from the war. I don’t get it.”
She was quiet, thinking hard for a moment. “I’m not sure” she finally said. “He did mention once that he hoped you would be willing to sell your place to him. Had he mentioned anything like that to you yet?”
“No. Strange that he wants to buy me out. Wonder why?”
“God knows. I don’t. Except he keeps talking about how he wants to expand his operations. Perhaps that is what he wants it for.”
“Maybe, he is just trying to butter me up so that I will sell to him for a lesser price than normal, huh?”
“Could be. He is a good businessman. He knows all the angles.”
“I wish he would be more straightforward with me. I don’t go much for convincing.”
“Are you planning to sell out, Toni?”
“I guess so. Otherwise, I would have to stick around here to run things, and that outlook does not exactly send me into orbit. No, baby, I like the wild life, the far horizons of the world. Go places and do things, that is me. I would go nuts settled down in a dull spot like this town.”
“I wish you would stay here and marry me, Toni. We could run the place together.”
“Sorry, baby, that is not to my liking, not this town, it sucks.”
“Then take me with you when you leave. Would you take me Toni? I would love to go with you in a minute if you would let me, darling. Honest. Just say the word and watch me rush to pack!”
“We will talk about it later,” I smiled and gave her a peck on the cheek and asked, ”How do you get along with your new mother?” Roopa was not much older than Renu. “She is really something, if you ask me, your daddy did himself proud. I never thought he had it in him to land such a sweet young chick.”
Renu did not think that was funny. “I hate her!” she said. “She is making a fool of my daddy and everyone around here. But not me, I had her figured the moment I set eyes on her. She is no good Toni. I know she is not.”
“Do I get the message you are jealous?” I kidded.
“She is too young for daddy. Men can be such awful fools where a pretty figure is involved. He went to Mumbai for business after mother died. And when he returned he brought that showgirl with him. I nearly dropped dead with embarrassment when he told me and everyone that they were married. I felt like leaving home and never speaking to him again. But I did not. I still don’t know why.”
I laughed. “That’s easy, Renu. You had to stick around to find reasons to hate your dear new mama. Oh, you are just jealous and hurt, that is all. I can understand how you would feel. But she seems a nice sort to me, honest. One thing, she is sure a beauty. A downright classical type. I bet the broads around here are having a ball tearing her apart.”
“Maybe it is not all just gossip.”
“What do you mean by that crack? For shame!”
“Roopa is a natural tease and a flirt, and she has got every man in town drooling to get in bed with her. She is nothing but trouble, watch and see. All she is after is what she can get out of daddy. She knew he had a little money and property and that is why she married him. Nobody can tell me different. What other reason could she have had? She will show her true colors in time.”
“Maybe she is in love with Shankar. That thought ever cross your feeble and gossipy little mind?”
“Toni Don’t make me laugh,” Renu said and kicked her feet angrily. Then she turned to me and predicted, “If you are so smart, I will make you a bet. I will bet Roopa will be after you within a week. You would not believe that, would you?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I am not such a bad looking guy.”
“I am not joking – you wait and see if she does not.”
“I will do that. And what if she does want to make me a present of her delectable self? What would you want me to do? Let your devilish brain linger on that for a minute.”
Renu said quietly, seriously, ”Nothing in this world would make me happier than to catch her in bed with a man, any man for that matter.”
“What would you do if you did catch her like that?”
“I would have her run out of town in a sec, that is what I would do. I would get rid of her for good.
“And make a laughing stock of your father? He would be the butt of every joker in town for the rest of his life.”
“I can not help that,” Renu said. “It would serve him right for being such a big fool so as to marry her in the first place.”
I laughed at her sputtering determination and she kicked her bare feet at me. In the moonlight, her slim nakedness shimmered desirably. I pulled her to me and whispered, “You need calming down, baby, and right now I am going to give you something a lot better than Calmpose.”
She shivered in breathless anticipation.
We were still steamed up from the last time, so I knew this would not take long. Interspersed with the exquisitely long-drawn-out sessions, I like a fast no-nonsense workout here and there. I went for pay dirt without playing, and she gave it to me wild, hot and for real.
We were there maybe four, five unbelievable searing minutes, then we were gone, far, fantastic, fast.
As soon as it was over, she got up, dressed and slipped out. Who says girls are the weaker sex?
Me, I could hardly reach for a cigarette to put me to sleep.
The town, in spite of its smallness, boasted one lawyer. His name was Naresh Kumar. People said that the only reason Naresh Kumar settled here ten years ago was because of the fishing. He was an avid deep-water fisherman, and he had many trophies as proof of his prowess. He had never married, and folks had a favorite joke, always good for a laugh. It was that Naresh Kumar would rather fish than fuck any old day.
Naresh Kumar did not care. He would laugh right along with people and ask his hecklers what luck they had with girls compared to fishing.
I had come to Naresh Kumar’s office to talk with him about the will and to get whatever advice he could give me.
“Well Toni, It is all pretty cut and dried as you can see by looking over the documents. Veena left you the works. Which means the land, the house, the pier, the Bluestar and whatever money happened to be in her savings account at the time of her death. Everything went to you.”
I had not thought about the money. “How much is in her savings account.”
“Rupees seventy eight thousand two hundred fifty nine and paise forty three to be exact.”
“Wow! That is good news!”
Naresh smiled and leaned back, throwing his monstrous feet atop his desk. “Disappointed it is not more?”
“No. Surprised that it is so much.”
Good. I am glad to see you are not greedy. What are your plans, Toni?” You going to stick around or sell out?”
“I will be selling out. What do you guess the property is worth, Sir?”
“Do not sir me my boy,” he said. “You can call me Naresh as everybody else does.” Then he thought some more about my question and said, “I am not much into real estate values. Better ask somebody who knows. Prem Shankar would have a good idea.”
“Very much so, but I heard he might be in the market himself. Just take a rough guess at what you would think.”
“Around 6-7 lakhs.”
I shook my head. “My guess is upwards of 10 lakhs. Especially with the Blue Star thrown in. She is worth a few Lakhs herself, you know.”
“Yes, I had not thought of the boat. And say Toni, if you do sell, I might be interested in buying the Blue Star myself. She is the best boat around to my way of thinking. I would love to own her.”
“Sure. I will keep it in mind,” I told him. “Naresh, would you have any idea why Prem Shankar would want to buy my place, I am curious to know.”
“Probably wants to spread out, that is all.”
“Possibly. But somehow I get a strange feeling about his being so hot for it. I just do not know. It is hard to explain.”
“Well, I would not let it worry me, Toni. If you are going to sell and Shankar wants to pay a fair price, I do not see what difference it would make.”
“I suppose you are right, Naresh”
“Let us take the Blue Star out one day and give the fish a try, Toni. What do you say?”
“Soon as I get settled,” I put him off. “I will let you know.”
“Don’t forget, now. I will be ready any time you say the word.”
I was ready to leave, but I remembered something and turned back to the lawyer. “I meant to ask you something else, Naresh. Did Aunt Veena ever say anything about Lalji? I mean about leaving him anything in her will. I realize she did not mention in the will, but it could have been that she never got around to it.”
Naresh looked puzzled and shook his head. “She never brought up any changes to me. Why? Is Lalji trying to make some kind of claim? What’s he after?”
“Not exactly, or at least there is nothing he has to go on. But he is after Blue Star – he says Aunt Veena promised him she had leve him the Blue Star.”
“Does not make sense,” Naresh said, frowning. “You are not thinking of taking his unsupported word for it, are you?”
I smiled as I turned to leave. “You don’t think I was born yesterday, do you, Naresh?” He was chuckling as I went out.
I felt a thirst that could be satisfied only with a cold beer. I went into The Roost, Pino’s Beer Bar. When he saw me he gave me a quick glare, then looked away. I wondered about his attitude.
“Give me a frosty one, Pino. Make it a chilled bottle. What is wrong with you, pal? You look like you just went down for the count.”
He did not answer immediately. He went to the cooler, popped the cap off the beer, brought the bottle back and set it and a tall glass on the battered bar counter.
I tried for the light touch once more. “Not talking to customers today, Pino? This the day of silence? Kind of bad for business, isn’t it?”
He looked at me as though he were trying to fathom my thoughts. Then he said, “You happen to see my wife last night, Toni?”
I was honestly surprised and I showed it. “Lois? No. What kind of a damn fool question is that Pino? Was I supposed to see her?”
“I don’t know. Just asking.” He averted his eyes and wiped at the already spotless bar with his damp white rag. “Look Toni, I know the score. You and Lois had a high-powered thing going before I married her. She and I have been having trouble lately, ever since I quit the ring.” Stopping his aimless wiping, he met my eyes. “I would hate to find out you and her were trying take up where you left off. You follow me? I would not like to hear about anything like that. I would get pretty sore at that.”
I shook my head and took a gulp of my beer. “You are talking like a fool, Pino. Sure, Lois and I dated a few times way back then. But so what? She dated lots of guys. Besides, that was long before she took up with you. She married you damn it. That took her out of the running as far as I am concerned.”
His dark eyes narrowed. “I hope you keep right on feeling that way, Toni. Everybody in town knows what is going on. Lois has been chasing around just as though she was single. She was out all last night. I got to wondering if she just might be with you.”
“She sure was not. I did not even see her. Why don’t you ask her who she was with? She is your wife. I f she were mine, I would know where she would be. Flat on her back, nursing a few broken ribs.”
This seemed to throw him, and he had to look away again. “She would not tell me anything. I can not do a damn thing with her.”
“Knock the hell out of her and make her tell. That is what I would do. I would straighten her out in a hurry.”
“Then she would leave me for sure.”
“So? If she is running out on you anyway, what the hell have you got to lose?”
Pino’s face seemed to sort of break up. I swear I thought he would bust out bawling. “You do not seem to understand, Toni. Nobody does. I could not live without Lois. That sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But that is the honest truth. I can’t stand the thought of her leaving me. I had rather both of us would be dead.”
I drank some more beer and thought some long thoughts. I could see he meant it. Finally, I spoke. “Oh, I don’t know, Pino. Sure, I think I can now understand how you feel. I have known people like you before. You are strictly a one-woman man, all the way. No other woman exists, where you are concerned. I never have been that way myself and I am sure glad I am not, but I have been hooked a few times, and I even got hurt, so I have a pretty good idea of how you feel, Pino.”
“Yes, that is how it is, Toni,” Pino said eagerly. “I can’t help it. Lois treats me like dirt, and I can’t do a damn thing about it. Here lately, I am in a constant fear that she’ll run off and I’ll never see her again. It’s no way to live, Toni, with a fear like that gnawing at your guts night and day.”
I felt embarrassed for him. I did not know what to say. I felt pity for the poor man, along with a sense of disgust at his weakness. A tough guy like him, who still could lick his weight in wildcats in a pinch, yet he was letting a measly little bitch like Lois rub his nose in dirt.
I took a real good look at him. He had come a long way down since I first knew him. Then he had been a winner, a real champ. Now look at the nut, weak, whining, and full of fear, all because of a two-bit puss he could break in two with one hand. Sure, I felt for him. I suppose a man can’t help what makes him tick. His trouble was loving too much. That is the problem with people like Pino. One-woman men. Suckers for one little old piece of tail. They think it is the only panties on earth, the poor saps. And if something happens to that one little old butt, they are ready to commit suicide or murder. Brother what a mess for anyone to be in.
I thought about it some more and made up my mind to at least one thing. I decided right then and there that if Lois came around looking for me with that gleam in her eyes like she used to have, I would take off, running. I knew without having it spelled out that Pino was in a state of one wrought-up emotion, which could very easily lead to blood-letting. He would kill any son of a bitch in a minute over his wife if he caught them together with their pants down. I swallowed the rest of the beer and made a mental note to be damned certain I was not going to be party of the second part. I was not ready to die just yet.
I was just leaving the bar as Shankar was coming in. He grabbed my arm and insisted on buying me a beer.
“I have some business to talk over with you, anyway, Toni. I didn’t want to mention it on your first day home, but I think it is okay now.”
We sat in a booth and Pino brought two cold beers. Shankar glanced amusedly at Pino, winked at me and said, “What do you think of our champ here, Toni? Bet you never thought you’d find Pino back here, now did you?”
Pino turned a deep mottled red. His hands trembled so he almost knocked over one of the bottles as he set them down.
“Watch it, Champ,” laughed Shankar. “You must have lost your nerve in more ways than one.”
Pino was mortified and angry. He tried to hurry away, but Shankar winked at me again and called him back. Hey, Champ, bring your rag and wipe off this table. You spilled a drop or two. That is no way to leave a table. You think Toni and I want to keep dragging our sleeves through a puddle of beer?”
Pino returned and quietly wiped up the beer. There was a strange dignity about him, even while taking insulting orders from Shankar.
“Well, thank you very much, Champ,” Shankar said.
“You must really have a hard-on for the guy to ride him like that,” I said, after Pino left. “What he ever done to you?”
“Oh, I just like to rib him. He used to be such a smart-ass. Look at him now. He has lost his guts so completely, he would not swat a fly.”
Shankar grinned slyly and leaned closer across the booth. “Tell you something else. You remember that hot looking wife of his, Lois? Well, this is good. She is shacking up with every man in town and doesn’t seem to care who knows it. If you find yourself hard up, just look for Lois and slip out with her. She will fix you up.”
He peered at me. “You think I am joking?”
I sipped my beer and lit a cigarette. “What kind of business did you want to talk to me about, Shankar.”
He blinked at me and forgot Pino. “I want to buy your place, Toni. I figure you would not want to settle down here wich means you will without a doubt want to get rid of your holdings.”
“Right.” I nodded.
“Well, I would like to be the first to take it out of your hands and I will pay a fair price for it.”
“What do you want it for, Shankar?”
“Mainly because your place joins my own. I want to spread out. I think someday I will have a whole fleet of sport fishing boats. I will add them one at a time. I will need more room than I have, right now.”
“I see. What kind of offer did you have in mind? I don’t know what the place is worth to tell you the truth. I would have to find out.” I took a moment, then decided to chance something. “My first guess would be around twenty lakhs. How does that figure strike you?”
“It’s a deal,” Shankar said, without hesitation. “Come on, we will hop over to Naresh’s office and have him take out an agreement and make the deal. Drink up.”
I tried not to show my surprise and squashed out my cigarette. “There is no hurry,” I said, noticing how his face fell. “I didn’t mean I had sell for twenty lakh right off. I don’t want to make a mistake.”
His voice was edged with anger as he said, “What do you mean, mistake? Look, you named a figure, and I took you up on it. You are not going to crawl out of it, are you?”
“You are jumping the gun, Shankar. I said twenty lakh was my first guess. Hell, the place may be worth a lot more. I do not want to screw myself. I want to know what I am doing. Can’t blame a guy for that, can you?”
Shankar seemed to be struggling to keep from blowing his top. He ran a hand through his graying hair and looked down at his beer. Then he glanced up quickly. “Okay,” he said. “But you don’t think anybody is going to be crazy enough to pay more, do you? I am offering more than the property is worth as it is, a lot more.”
“No hurry, then, is there? I asked, smiling. “If nobody will pay more, you have got nothing to worry about.”
“You will soon find out.”
I laughed and took a healthy swig of my beer. “That is what I intend to do. You can count on that, Shankar.”
The big square man thought a moment, then he nodded. “All right Toni, I will tell you what. I want to get it over with, and today itself, right now. I will give you twenty-five lakhs and we will go over to Naresh and have him draw up the necessary papers. That should satisfy you.”
The temptation to leap at his offer was pretty great but I held it in check. I said, “Tell me something, Shankar. You know damn well my property is not worth more than fifteen-sixteen lakhs at the most. How come you are willing to pay so much more? I am curious as hell.”
He stared at me as though puzzled. “I already told you.”
“For expansion?” I shook my head and smiled. “No, you are too eager for that. There is another reason. Sure as hell, got to be another reason for that and I intend to find out.”
He held his breath, thinking. Then he smiled and spread his thick hands. “Well, Toni, I hate to get mushy about things. But to tell the truth, well, I always thought an awful lot of you, your Uncle Amrit and Aunt Veena. Why, I have always thought you as my own son I never had. I just want to make sure you get a good price for the place, my boy. No, it is not worth twenty lakhs now, what to say of twenty-five, not to anybody. But I will make it worth that much in a few years. I am not greedy, and nothing in this whole world would please me better than to know I have done a good thing by you and your departed.”
“That is very nice of you, Shankar,” I conceded. “Not everybody would look at it that way.”
“Well, I do, my boy,” he said eagerly. “And I am ready to prove it by us going to see Naresh right now to wrap it up. You want to see if my money is where my mouth is?” He laughed, but his eyes were shifty.
“I will give it some serious thought, Shankar. I will let you know.”
He reddened. “You mean you want to have more time to think over a proposition like this? You have to hesitate over twenty-five lakh rupees? I do not believe it. Why for god’s sake?”
I looked at him steadily. “Why?”
His head bobbed up and down. “Yes, why? I do not understand. I do not understand at all, Toni, I really don’t.”
I drank the rest of the beer, then told him. “It is simple, Shankar. I think you are a liar. I think you are lying through your teeth.”
I laughed in his face and told him, “Just what I said. It means that you are a damned liar. I don’t know why you want the place so bad you are willing to pay a premium for it. But I tell you one thing, mister, it is not for the reasons you are trying to hand me. You know something that I do not and before I sell a grain of sand, I expect to find that out and with that your real interest in it. You think I was born yesterday? You have got another think coming, Shankar, you better believe it. You were so crazy about me and my aunt and uncle. Huh! Who the hell do you think you are kidding?”
He looked ready to blow up. “Why, why you ungrateful young bastard! I ought to…………”
I dodged when his big fist came at my face. It splintered the rear of the booth as it sizzled past my ear. I raised up and slammed him at the base of the skull with a beer bottle. He slumped like a stuck hog. I shoved him off of me, got out of the booth and walked away. Pino stood behind the bar smiling and polishing a glass. He said nothing as I left.
As the days passed, I asked everyone who was in a position to make a sensible guess, for an estimate on the value of the property left me by Aunt Veena. Those estimates ran from as low as seven lakh to as high as sixteen lakhs, but no higher. Which brought me to just one conclusion: Prem Shankar was willing, even eager, to pay almost rupees ten lakh more than the property was actually worth, so there had to be a good reason. He knew something not generally known and it had to be big. Shankar was known to be a clean miser when it came to spending out money. There had to be a reason for his magnificent offer, in other words, method in his seeming madness. He must have some sure way of making a handsome profit over what he wanted to pay me. Night and day, I thought over his possible reasons, but I could not come up with a logical answer.
Another disturbing factor to me was my thoughts about Shankar’s young and beautiful wife, Roopa. If I could get her alone, I was sure I could get to the root of things. I had already quizzed Renu, but the girl was in the dark. With Roopa, things should be different.
I discovered, a few days after my arrival, in town, that Roopa had a kid and a stepson at that who was all of 18 years. He was called Veenu, short for Vinay. Roopa could not abandon him because his father had left her a lot of money with the condition that she take care of him till such time that he was able to earn his keep. He took to water like a duck. Shankar had given him a little pram and he fished around the piers a lot. He was a serious person who kept his eyes open and his mouth shut.
Since Shankar and I were not speaking these days due to the incident of the beer bottle battle in the bar, I sort of wished Veenu would not tie his boat to the pilings under my pier. Still, I hesitated to run him off. None of this grownup bickering was his fault and I felt a little sorry for him because in the old days, I had been a lot like him and fished around the piers, and I could not help remembering how Shankar used to chase me off from his pier every time he caught me hanging around. May be the sting of that memory was the reason I hesitated to push Veenu around.
“Having any luck?” I asked one day, leaning over the rail and watching him.
He had not seen me approach so he was a bit startled. He jerked around quickly, and his expression was guilty. He was tall, much too tall for someone his age, and his cheeks were covered with pimples peculiar to puberty, which should have cleared by now.
“Uh . . . no sir, not much,” he stammered and averted his gaze.
“I imagine you come here often.” I was merely trying to draw him out, trying to establish a friendly basis. I sensed that the boy was lonely, so I wanted to put him at ease. “Well, when I was your age I was the same as you,” I told him. “I hung around these same piers and fished. And once in a while, I would be allowed to go out on one of the big boats to try my hand at deep water fishing. Does your daddy, Shankar, let you go along on any excursions when he has got a party going out to the sea?”
Veenu kept his eyes on his pram. He struck me as being overly nervous. I was almost sure that the grimy little hand that gripped the handline with which he was fishing was shaking. It was a shame that the boy did not have a rod and reel. I silently cursed Shankar for not giving him proper fishing equipment. He could at least pry open his purse to the tune of a cheap one. Fishing with a handline is okay and you probably catch just as many fish, but it is lots more fun with a rod and reel. Besides, it does things to a boy’s pride not to have modern tackle.
“No sir, he never lets me go,” Veenu said. “He says a boy has no place on trips like that, that there always is the danger of a bad storm.”
“Oh,” I said, understanding only too damn well. “Well, that might be true. We do get some pretty bad storms around here sometimes, especially in the summer season. Then you have to be on the watch all the time.”
He shook his unkempt head, but made no audible reply. I did not want to force myself on him so I said, “Well Veenu, do not catch them all,” left him, and went over to the house.
I had in mind to locate my Aunt Veena’s rod and reel that had given her so much pleasure and present it to the lad. I searched the house up, down, and sideways but I could not find it. Lalji would undoubtedly know where it was, but he had taken a party out on the Blue Star earlier and had not as yet returned. I made a mental note to ask him about the tackle as he came in. It even was possible he had it aboard the Blue Star.
Since I could not present Veenu the tackle just then, I decided to have a drink. I took the bottle and poured myself a man-sized portion of the amber liquid in a glass, sloshed some ice and chilled water from the refrigerator into it, downed it, and immediately made myself another one which I carried with me to the porch.
The porch was built up on the pilings and led directly out onto the pier. There was a railing around the porch, perfect for propping the feet up on while sitting in one of the straight-back rockers. The porch ran the width of the house. So I sat there with my drink, feet on the railing, teasing the glass of booze and watching the boy who was still out there in his pram messing around under the pier.
There was a small breeze drifting in off the water, and I welcomed it. It was hot time of year. I wondered how some of those who ran around the beach all day wearing nothing but swimming trunks managed to keep from roasting alive. But it did not seem to bother them. They just peeled and turned nut brown. Like Veenu, there. His skin was almost ebony from many blistering hours under the sun. I shook my head and sipped my drink. I used to be the same way, do the same things the boys did now, when I was their age.
Across the way, I could see people milling around Shankar’s boats and I knew he had an afternoon party going out. Then I was surprised to see Shankar walking towards me. I grew a little tense because I did not know what to expect from him. I figured he still hated my guts because of the episode in the bar, and might be looking for an opportunity to get even.
I waited for him, trying to appear calm. He had a frown on his face as he climbed up on the porch. He cleared his throat. I looked up at him steadily.
“Toni, I am not after trouble.”
“Good. That is a relief.”
“I lost my temper the other day and I acted like a damn fool. I want to apologise.” He stared at me and waited for my answer.
“Accepted,” I said.
He came closer and stuck out his hand. I took it and shook with him but I did not get up out of my chair and asked, “You got time for a drink, Shankar?”
“No not now. I will take you up on it later. I got a bunch of office workers who want to do a little bottom fishing out over the bar. Look, Toni, about that offer I made you on this place, it still stands if you decided to sell.”
“Okay. I will let you know.”
He nodded, but did not press. Then he happened to notice Veenu in the pram and his frown deepened as though he were very angry. “That boy been bothering you? I told him a thousand times to keep away from other folks’ peoperty.”
He is not getting into anything. I don’t mind him being there a bit,” I said. “Say, why don’t you let the boy have a rod to fish with? Haven’t you got an old one around?”
“I have got plenty of equipment,” Shankar admitted, “but he just lost a damn good rod. I bought it brand new just for him. Nice long glass rod and a fine reel to go with it. But do you think a youngster will take care of something like that?”
“How did he lose it?”
“Had it propped in the boat with the drag on, and a fish hit and jerked it over the side. Told him to be careful about that happening. Well, I will let him do without for a while. May be he will learn to take better care of the next one he gets.”
I took a gulp of my drink and nodded. “Well, I would not be too tough on the little guy. All boys make mistakes and they all lose things. That is what makes them young.”
“Yes, but they got to learn sooner or later,” Shankar said, looking at me curiously. “I will let him sweat for a while. Maybe he will get the idea that he has to take care of things.”
Shankar said he would call me later and left. I watched him go. He walked like a man with a purpose and who was in a hurry to get it accomplished.
I wondered again why he was so anxious to buy me out. Then, I found myself wondering if his eagerness had anything to do with Aunt Veena’s death. I suppose that suspicion is just one of those reactions that naturally follow an unexplained death. They tell you it had to be an accident, and your brain immediately starts exploring in all directions, wondering if it really was. Once the mind starts working like that, it just would not let a man rest.
I finished my drink and set the glass on the porch railing. I got up and strolled out to see if Veenu was having any luck. When I got right in line with him, I saw him pulling in his handline, hand over hand, and there seemed to be some weight attached. The lad was intent on what he was doing so he did not notice me. I watched, amused, to see what it was he was hauling to the surface. I did not think it was a fish, from the way the line was acting.
Finally, he got his “catch” up. It was an old automobile tire. I laughed and said, “Well, that will make a nice trophy for you, Veenu.”
His head jerked up at the sound of my voice and his face twisted with fear. He stared for a moment, then diverted his gaze back to the tire. Then I noticed something that gave me a jolt. Beyond the lead stinker, about a dozen strong fishing hooks were attached. It took me a moment to realize that he had made a crude but effective miniature grappling hook and had obviously been there all this while trying to retrieve some object other than fish off the bottom.
“What are you dragging for, Veenu?” I asked him. “Is this where you lost your rod over the side of the boat? Shankar mentioned that you had lost one.”
He did not answer right away. Then he said, without looking up, “Yes . . . yes sir, that is what I am trying to find.”
I had a suspicion he was lying. I could not figure out why he would want to or have to lie, but I had a very strong feeling that he had.
“Well, I hope you find it. Don’t forget to take the tide into consideration, though. If the tide was running when you dropped your rod, it would not have gone straight down. If the tide was coming in, the rod would be closer beachward. Going out it would be farther into the sea. Keep that in mind.”
He nodded as he was winding up his line, rapidly and nervously, around a piece of wood. I realized he did not want to talk so I just stood and watched him curiously. He was certainly a strange boy, one of those unfriendly and introverted boys you can not seem to reach. I decided to hell it and walked away.
I got back to the porch and, when I turned around, he was paddling his pram away, not toward home, but farther up the beach in the other direction. I stared after him and had a crazy sensation of uneasiness in the pit of my stomach. There was something peculiar, something very unusual about the boy and his actions. I still felt that he was lying when he had told me he was grappling for his lost rod. Why the devil would he have been so upset to have me catch him grappling after his own property?
What I needed was another drink. I started to go in after it when I happened to glance across the way and saw Roopa standing on their pier. She was looking my direction and, impulsively, I raised my hand and waved. She raised her hand and motioned for me to come over.
I left the porch and headed toward her, observing that Shankar had already departed with his party on his boat. I could not help feeling a tingle of excitement as I approached her, and I thought to myself, sure, beautiful, I am right here at your beck and call. Glad to keep a lonesome girl company while her husband is away. Just you call me any old time.
Actually, she had been on my mind almost constantly ever since that first day when I had returned to town and had met her. The sight of her had brought something into my consciousness that nothing could eradicate. A kind of impatient nagging deep inside me kept my attention focused on her. You don’t meet that kind of female every day in the week who can do that to you. Once in a while you do, and you stay restless for a hell of long time, actually until you discover, once and for all, how the damn thing is going to turn out.
Somehow I seemed to sense, with a sensation of sweet and painful foreboding, that the finale where she and I were concerned would be turbulence, possibly even disaster.
But there are times when a man will wade into treacherous waters with his eyes wide open. Something in his blood refuses to allow him even the effort to resist.
Roopa was studying me with an amused smile, and you could see all sorts of fascinating ideas dancing around behind those marvelous blue eyes. She was wearing a pink shorts and a man’s white shirt and with that hennaed hair catching the sun, you had to remember to breathe.
“Toni, have you been avoiding me?”
I managed a laugh which also helped me get my mind off those deliciously bare legs. “You kidding? Show me the red-blooded man who would avoid you, baby. That would be impossible.”
“You and my husband had a run-in. I heard about it. I am sorry, I had hoped we could turn out to be good neighbors? Is that the word?”
“Yes. Love thy neighbor, my motto says. Oh, Shankar and I had a word or two. It is okay now though, all patched up.”
She smiled brightly. “You had words? You call hitting a man with a beer bottle words? My, my!”
“It is a way of talking when you want the other party to the conversation to shut up. Nothing really personal, you understand.”
“Can I fix you a drink?”
“Yes you sure can. I am hot and I am dry, and looking at something like you makes both conditions worse.” I laughed in my eagerness to clear the conversational hump.
“Come on in,” she invited.
I paused and, grinning, made a big to-do over shading my eyes and gazing intently seaward.
“See something?” she asked.
“Just want to make sure that big muscle-bound husband of yours is a safe distance away.
“Oh, cut it out,” she scoffed. “Shankar would not mind if I offered you a drink.”
“He would not?”
“No. Why should he?”
I looked at her candidly and let my gaze run over her ripe form from top to bottom. She flushed just a bit but stood her ground with aplomb.
Shaking my head in open admiration, I said, ”Maybe I better not try to explain it. At least not until after I get that drink. You might change your mind.
“On the other hand, the explanation might earn you another cool one,” she said flippantly. She started into the house, with me right behind her admiring her gorgeous body from behind.
As we approached the small bar, both of us were laughing and A few moments later, we were perched on the couch in the living room with our drinks in the frosted glasses.
“Where is Renu?” I asked, wanting to see what kind of reaction that would get.
Annoyance clouded her expression. “I don’t know. She stays away most of the time. I have tried to talk to her but she would not listen. That girl is going to get into trouble.”
“I was wondering, how do you and she get along? Not that it is any of my business but I have known Renu since the beginning and I am curious to know as to how she would take to having a new and beautiful mom like you in the house.” I lighted a cigarette and was surprised that she asked one for her. I lighted for her and in doing so got a glimpse inside her shirt, which was enough to make a stirring in my shorts.
“Oh. It is about the way you would expect it to be. She is hurt and jealous. I have tried to make it up to her, but she refuses to let me. I have about given up trying.”
“Maybe she will come around sooner or later,” I sympathized. “She is not a bad girl. It may just take her a while to make up her mind, that is all.”
Roopa did not seem convinced. “I don’t know. I hope she will but I am beginning to have my doubts. You and she were pretty chummy at one time, were not you?”
“Could be. We used to play on the beach together. Just normal stuff. Never anything serious.”
She laughed. “I will bet!”
I kept watching her crossed legs. She did not seem to mind my looking. She excited the hell out of me. Just being next to her, seeing her, smelling her perfume, acutely aware of her magnetism, her powerful sex appeal, kept me on the edge of desire to touch her all over.
The ivory whiteness of her thighs against the pink shorts, the sweet delicate beauty of her knees, and the way she had of touching her legs with a slim nicely manicured fingertip as she talked, the thick pigtail hanging in front across the opened top of the white shirt, all of these things made me feel the poignancy of her, made me want her so urgently that I could hardly stand it.
She was angling for a pass, and I knew it, and she knew that I did. Her glances were warm and utterly teasing. I let the back of my hand move along, then press against the hip beside me. She went right on with her small talk as though nothing were happening though a wicked little smile played at her moist lips.
I thought to hell with it. I reached over, took the glass from her hand and set it aside, along with my own drink. Then I pushed her gently but firmly backwards and said, “Look, baby, pucker up. I have got to know how you taste, and to hell with all this chatter.”
Her blue eyes were a bit confused as I kissed her opened mouth just as she was about to say something else.
She was tense for a moment or two, her hands pressing lightly against my chest. The she gave a muffled snicker and relaxed and her mouth was wonderfully warm, soft and intoxicating. The delicate fingers climbed up to my face and the contact did things to my blood.
Just when it was turning hectic, she called a stop, broke away and immediately laughed, “Whew! Toni, you are shaking me up! Let me catch my breath and come to my senses. This will not do at all.”
“We are even then. I am shaking all over, too. Roopa, honey. I swear you drive me nuts.”
“I am not sure if that is a good thing or not.”
“Oh, it is good all right. I don’t know of anything any better, not if we just keep getting nuttier.”
“We better stop before this madness gets out of hand. This kind of neighborliness can become quite complicated.”
“I fully intend for it to do just that. The more complicated you and I become with each other, the better I am going to like it.”
“But Shankar might not appreciate such goings on.”
“Who is going to tell him?”
“She giggled and said, “How do you know I would not?”
“Don’t make me laugh. Come here. I want a repeat performance. You and I, sugar, we make good music together.”
She held me away. “Too good, perhaps. Suppose somebody walked in?”
“There are other places,” I said, “Where a body could meet a body and nobody would be the wiser.”
“Is that a fact? Why, Toni, you are not only brilliant and charming, but you are full of initiative as well. My, my, I never would have believed it.”
“Pure inspiration,” I said, half mockingly. “Brought on by the sight of so much beauty.”
“Well, I don’t know. But It could be pleasant listening to the sordid details. I am always fascinated to hear the wild ideas of you rip-snorting men. Sometimes they are positively hilarious.”
I suggested to her that the next town was the perfect place in which to spend a few delightful hours in close proximity. It was a bigger town and people used to go there for shopping for their homely needs.
“They mix excellent drinks in the private clubs there,” I explained. “And the clubs have other types of entertainment as well. They have to be chartered as private in order to serve liquor. That is the only way they get around the law in this state.”
She twinkled at me in amusement. “And do you happen to hold membership in any of them?”
I told her that I would be full-fledged, dues-paying member of at least one by the time she could meet me over there. “I would turn the whole place upside down to get you off to myself for a while.”
“Suppose you were disappointed?”
“I would not be.”
“You are taking a lot for granted.”
“That is me, always willing to take a chance. I think we could enjoy each other’s company immensely. Are you willing to find out?”
She studied me, those green eyes taunting. “I don’t think I should, she said. “I am not sure that I want to.”
“Make up your mind.”
She smiled and laid her head back against the couch. She moistened her lips with her tongue. “Perhaps you had better kiss me again. I need to be convinced and coaxed…….”
This time her mouth was wild and she squirmed deliciously as my hands roamed over her. The touch of her was electric, and waves of desire swept over me in pulsating spasms. I had to have this woman, and I was going to have her. Not this very minute, but certainly later. She was brash in a delicate way, a devilish soul in an angel’s body. She tore the imagination to shreds, set a man’s brain to dreaming madly of the possible delights of her body, of the exquisite joys of rousing them to frantic palpitation.
Then she seemed to get hold of herself. She called a halt, breaking the feverish pressure of our lips, laughing, and getting to her feet. While I was trying to get my feet back on solid ground, she was handing me my drink.
“Here, you had better cool off,” she said. “And I had better cool off too. This is getting ridiculous.”
My breath was coming and going in rapid gasps. I had to force myself to smile. I shook my head and admitted, “I guess you are right, but you sure have got me going, Roopa, honey, and having you is the only thing that will cool me down now. So give it to me straight, do we or do we not have a date.
She touched my mouth with a teasing finger and smiled. “No date,” she answered.
“It is pretty hard to accept a disappointment like that,” I told her. “You get me ten degrees hotter than the torrid zone, then you leave me there burning.”
I will fix you another drink. Toni. I am a married woman and I never make dates with men. I drive to that town every Thursday morning to get my hair done and pick up a few things shopping. But I never do anything . . . indiscreet.”
Her perfumed finger was following the curve of my lower lip.
“Of course not,” I said. “What hairdresser did you say you have your appointments with?”
“I did not say? Why would you possible want to know?”
“I may find I need a permanent,” I said solemnly.
“I would not think of telling you.”
“I will follow you and locate your car.”
“I never park near the main circle.”
“Then that is where I will look first.”
“You are a heel if you do. I absolutely forbid it.”
“I am the biggest heel you have ever met or ever will meet. You will find that out more this coming week, this Thursday, wait and see.”
She took our glasses and went to make a couple more drinks. I watched her, stewing in my own excitement. Waiting till Thursday was going to be hell all the way.
Ours was a very small town barely bigger than a village and the main business of the inhabitants was fishing or taking out tourist parties to the sea for fishing. Main cause of enjoyment for people like me was that the women folk of this town were far too advanced and sportingly flirtatious. Most of them liked to hit the bottle once in a while and some of them smoked too. Singles like me always took the advantage of the situation.
For quick movement around I bought a second hand Maruti 800 from the only service station cum used car dealer in town.
There was a man I thought might cue me in on something so I drove the Maruti down the highway a few kilometers, then turned off onto a dirt road that led inland. I kept driving slowly until I came to a narrow lane which cut through a field. It was the house of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate of the area.
A few minutes later I was sitting in front of the SDM Vinod Sharma, who told me to have a seat on the porch of the big two-story old house while he asked his servant to bring us something to drink. He was a friend of my Uncle Amrit and used to come down to our house for fishing with Uncle Amrit.
“It is good to see you again, Toni. Remember when your Uncle Amrit and I used to go fishing together. Those were the days, weren’t they?”
“They sure were uncle Vinod. I remember them well.”
We lounged in a couple of old rocking chairs where the porch was nice and shady. A small breeze brought the smell of shoulder-high corn growing in his fields. Beyond the field were the woods and the forest. Two huge trees one Pipal and one Banyan cast a refreshing shade on the porch. The servant brought two chilled beers and two glasses and set them on stool.
This is very nice and comfortable,” I told Uncle Vinod. “Air-conditioning au naturelle. Can’t beat it.”
“Right Toni. Those old trees really do the trick. Well, I think you want to talk about your late Aunt Veena. Too bad about her going, that way, wasn’t it? I really felt bad when I heard”
Vinod Sharma was tall and thin, and his hair had turned snow white. There were deep lines in his bony face, and he wore horn-rimmed glasses which had been broken on one side of the frame and repaired with adhesive tape.
I took an appreciative swallow of the cold beer and asked him bluntly, Uncle, according to your report, Aunt Veena died by drowning. That is what I wanted to ask you about. You put it down as accident. I am just curious. Is it possible that she could have died in some other way, like could she have had a heart attack which caused her to fall into the water?”
“No, Toni. Veena drowned. There is no doubt about that. I have to report on lots of drowning every year around these parts. I can take one look and tell a drowning.”
“You mean you don’t even have to make a thorough examination in order to be sure when it is a death by drowning?”
“Son, when you have had experience through years and years of the same thing, you get to know your onions pretty well. You get a kind of instinct for things, especially the hows and whys when somebody suddenly kicks off. How come you are so all-fired curious about it?”
“I just want to be sure,” I said stubbornly. “Was there much water in her lungs?”
“When people drown, they suck quite a bit of water into their lungs, don’t they? I always heard this was true, that it was one proof of the exact nature of a seemingly accidental death.”
“I don’t have to check the water content of a dead person’s lungs, Toni. I can tell without going to all that fuss.”
“You mean that you did not check for water? I thought that would be required by law.”
“Toni, now don’t tell me you are going to question my knowledge about such things. You Aunt Veena drowned. You can trust my opinion, boy. I know what I am talking about.”
“Opinion? Excuse my bluntness, Mr. Sharma, but is that what you made up your reports on? On opinions? Without concrete proof?”
“I don’t like the tone you are taking, Toni. Don’t you think I know my job after all these years that I have been on it? I will be retiring next year damn it!”
“I don’t say that. I didn’t say it.”
“But you were kind of insinuating . . .”
“I am sorry if it sounded that way. I did not mean to imply negligence.”
“All right, then.”
“However, Uncle Vinod, I wish you could give me something more specific as to how you know without any reasonable doubt that my Aunt Veena drowned. I would like to know the real basis for your decision. No harm in wanting to know that much, is there?”
The elderly man coughed and blinked at me through his glasses. “In this world, It is experience that counts, son. Experience. Don’t ever forget that. All the education in the schools and colleges can never hold a candle to experience. I have already told you. I looked at her, poor soul, and I knew right away she had fallen off that pier and drowned.”
“You mean that is all it took? You just looked and knew?”
“Now listen here, you young whipper-snapper! I am trying to hold onto my patience. You are acting as though you came out here to try to start some kind of trouble? You are inferring that I don’t know what the hell I am doing? I don’t like that, Toni. I sure as hell don’t like that at all.”
“I am sorry you feel that way, Mr. Sharma,” I said evenly. “And I am also sorry to learn that you have come to look upon yourself as some kind of Omnipotence who does not even have to examine a body in order to ascertain the actual cause of death.”
“Maybe you had just better leave, Toni.”
“Maybe so. Yes, I think I had better leave. But tell me this first. Did your so-called experience tell you all by itself that my Aunt Veena died by accident? Or were you inclined to ask just a few questions or do just a little checking to bolster your hasty and unquestionable guesswork?”
“Nobody had any reason to harm Veena. She was a good woman. It was all so simple, so cut and dried. She was fishing off the pier. She stood up out of her rocking chair, lost her balance, fell into the water, and drowned. That is all there was to it.”
“Not when there was nobody who could possibly have a reason.”
“How do you know there were no reasons?”
“I knew Veena, that is how. She did not have an enemy in the whole world.”
“And this is what decided you on the accident report?”
“It was all I needed.”
I looked at Vinod Sharma and opened my mouth to tell him he was the biggest damn fool who had ever lived, and that he had outlived his usefulness as the area SDM. But I decided to keep my thoughts to myself. What good would it do to irritate the poor old man any more than he already was irritated? I realized he had reached senility. If no one else had noticed it, hurrah for him. I did not want to be hard on him. He had been a good public servant to the best of his ability for many years. Now he was growing childish, operating solely on past reputation and on public good will. Let him coast on remembered glory for all of me.
I finished my beer, told him I was sorry I had rubbed him the wrong way, and left him on his porch, still rocking. Pulling out of the yard, I had the satisfactory feeling that my questions had at least shaken him up a little, that he probably was asking himself if it was not time for him to retire from public life and just take it easy on his farm for the rest of his days rather than wait for his retirement scheduled for next year. I waved as I drove off, but he did not respond. The last I saw him, he was still sitting, sitting and rocking.
That night, I remembered to ask Lalji if he knew the whereabouts of Aunt Veena’s fishing rod and reel.
“That boy of Roopa’s . . . Veenu . . . lost his, and I thought maybe I would give it to him,” I said.
Lalji scratched his head as though he were trying to think.” Hell, I forgot all about that rod. I think it never occurred to anybody to wonder what became of it.”
“Come again?” I asked.
“I have not seen it since the accident. I guess she dropped it overboard when she fell. I don’t remember seeing it on the pier afterwards.”
“And you mean to tell me nobody was even curious enough to look for it?”
He seemed embarrassed. “I don’t think so.”
“I am a son-of-a-bitch if this town is not the most backward, self-satisfied place in the entire Country!” I vowed. “A person is killed, either by accident or by intent . . . a few fast guesses are made, everybody shakes his head philosophically and says ‘too bad’, and the whole thing is forgotten. Actually, if it was not so serious, it would be funny, Lalji. But I am not in the mood to laugh.”
Lalji nodded stupidly. “Yeah, I think we are a little backward and behind the times here.”
I turned my back and walked out on the pier to the spot where she had fallen. Lalji followed.
“It is only about ten feet deep at low tide, ”I said. “Do you suppose someone could dive down and locate her rod, Lalji?”
“No harm in trying. Maybe we could grapple for it.”
Something shook me when he said that. I recalled that Veenu had been grappling here at this same spot. Was it possible that he had been lying about his own tackle being lost right where Aunt Veena’s should be? Strange coincidence, his grappling right in this very spot.
“Lalji, what do you know or think about this kid, Veenu?”
“Veenu? How do you mean, Toni?”
“I mean, what kind of a boy is he? Troublesome, a good boy, or what? Did he and Aunt Veena have any run-ins? Did she order him off the pier or do anything to give him a grudge against her?”
“Gosh, I don’t think so. Well, yes, she used to bless him out sometimes for slipping up under the pier in his boat while she was trying to fish. She claimed his boat scared away the fish. Once or twice she yelled at him proper to stay away, but that is all. Nothing more serious than that.”
“Did you ever get the idea he might have hated her?”
“No, I did not even give it a thought. Why? You don’t think that boy would have done anything, do you? I mean to harm Aunt Veena?”
“I am not overlooking any possibilities. Something keeps nagging me that maybe it was not all as accidental as folks seem to think. All I want to know is the truth. It probably was an accident. I simply want to be sure.”
“Well, I think I can understand how you feel,” Lalji said.
I told him to try to locate some grappling hooks. “I will give that a try first. Then I will do a little diving if I have to. No telling what the hell might be down there in that water. Maybe some damn curious answers to some funny questions, who knows.”
He nodded. “I will go see if I can borrow some.”
“It can wait until tomorrow, no big rush.”
“How did you make out with the fishing party today?”
“Fine. We had good luck. Got in a school of big fish about sixteen kilometers out. You should have seen the gulls flying overhead. Must have been a million of them. When you see gulls dipping and diving, like that you know the fish are right there and that you have it made.”
“I remember,” I said. “That is what Uncle Amrit used to look for all the time. The seagulls. He said they were the best sign of fish. Watch for the gulls, he would always say. Where the gulls are, you will find good fishing.”
Your Uncle Amrit was second to none when it came to locating,” Lalji agreed. “He was the one who taught me all the angles I know.”
At ten that night, I got to feeling restless and walked out on the pier just to look at the dark water and catch a breath of cool, fresh air. It had been more than normally hot all day, and I could not shake the sensation of stuffiness. I felt I could not have gone to sleep even if I had gone to bed.
The Blue Star was floating silently at her mooring alongside the pier and I stepped aboard, sat on one of the deck chairs, elevated my feet, and got a cigarette going.
It was very still, and way off there on the ocean, lights from a vessel outward bound were sparkling like a cluster of shimmering diamonds. I somehow fell into a reverie evoking the far, dim past, and vague memories drifted back across the years.
Pain came whenever I remembered my mother. I struggled to keep recollections of the past from disturbing my thought pattern, but it was impossible. She was such a lovely person and our whole family was very much disturbed when she was diagnosed a TB patient. I still remember how my father told me that I was going to live with my aunt and uncle and the very next day brought me to this town. Actually I never saw either of my parents after that day.
A couple of years later, my Aunt Veena called me one day and sat down with me and told me that my father had been killed on a construction job, by a falling timber just a few days after my mother died of protracted illness. He was found dead drunk too at that time.
Coming back to the present abruptly, I snapped out of my dark memories and looked for the cluster of light again, out on the ocean. It was just disappearing into the black void, beyond the horizon. I wondered vaguely where the ship was bound for. I felt lonely and nostalgic. I had the urge to take to the road or to the sea myself, but that was nothing new. This feeling had been part of me for as long as I could remember. Itchy feet, wanting to carry me any old place, whether or not it was better than the one I had just left, just so long as I was still going, still on the move, anywhere at all. It never seemed to matter much.
“Toni, are you on the boat?”
I recognized the voice of Lois. For a moment, I hesitated to answer. I was not sure I ought to let her know I was here. But she would see me in a minute anyway, then I would have to explain my silence, so I said, “Yes Lois, I am having a smoke out on the stern.”
“May I join you?”
“Nobody’s stopping you.”
I had not wanted to see her. She was Pino’s wife now, and I knew there was trouble between Pino and her. I wanted to stay clear of it. Lois was the kind of girl who could create tension like she was born to it.
“You had better give me your hand, Toni,” she said. “It is dark. I don’t want to slip and fall into the water.”
I helped her aboard, not forgetting to glance back along the pier as I did. I had that uneasy feeling that Pino might be trailing his wife, being careful to keep out of sight until an auspicious moment.
I could see enough of Lois, even in the dimness, to know that she had not changed much in the last few years. There was the same shoulder-length hair, that slim figure, every movement of which a poem of sensuality. She was wearing a loosely swinging pleated white long skirt, a fluffy slipover white blouse, and white sandals that gave her kind of a sexy look.
She pressed against me, passing me on the deck. Her perfume was very dizzying.
“It is wonderful seeing you again, Toni.”
“yeah, it has been a long time. How have you been doing, doll?”
“Missing you, mostly. Where on earth did you disappear to? I would ask now and then, but nobody ever seemed to know.
“Here and there,” I told her. “All over the place.”
“You have been at a gym, they say.”
“That is right. Last I was.”
She snuggled up to me. “Where is Pino tonight?”
She shrugged. “What difference does it make?”
“It would make a lot if he found you here with me.”
“Yes, that is so, and you damn well know it. He knows you and I used to get around together. He is suspicious that we may take up where we left off. I don’t want him chasing around hot to whip my tail over you.”
“Don’t be so sure. He almost warned me already.”
“Just a bluff. That is all he has left, Toni. Pino has changed since you knew him, changed more than any man you ever saw.”
“I don’t know. I kind of doubt it. He might not be champ in the ring now, but that does not mean he still can’t rough up a man. And I think he would get mighty rough quick where another man and you were concerned.”
“I can handle him, don’t worry.”
“I can’t quite buy that. What’s with you and Pino anyway? I have been hearing rumours.”
I know. I have been quite the topic of gossip around town lately. I can’t help it. They can say what they want about me. I would not change anything. I live the way I want to live.”
We sat side by side on deck chairs as we talked, with our feet thrown up on the rail. There was enough light to see her quite clearly, and her long legs still seemed fantastically lovely to me. I recalled with a sense of sweet pain how wonderful she looked naked, how it felt to kiss her, how those delectable legs could grasp and hold you, could cause you to gasp and grow wild in lustful ecstasy and do things you never dreamed you would ever have nerve enough to do.
There was that night on the beach, one I remembered suddenly and vividly, when we had swum naked under the starry sky, and later had come in to shore and lain wet on the blanket and how her body had seemed wetly shimmering like some rare jewel, and how we had somehow fallen into the game of my drying her by licking the salty wetness from her body.
It had started in fun and had ended in an exchange of mad, exploring kisses, leading to an outrageous and wild lovemaking that almost brought the water lapping at the beach to a boil. I could not seem to resist that lovely creamy flesh, to get enough of it.
Afterwards, she had giggled and said, “I wondered if I could make you love me that hard, Toni. I was dying to know how it would be. Thank you darling. Now I know.”
“Yeah, and so do I!”
“Are you sorry we got so involved?” “Any time you say the word, I am ready,” I assured her. “I enjoy every second I am with you. You have the right kind of body for any kind of lovemaking, Lois. You make a man think of nothing else.”
“oh, goody!” Lois had teased. “In that case I have a future just full of jolts, thanks to you!”
She got plenty of jolting during the weeks that followed.
Lois turned towards me, and dropped her hand to my arm. “Toni . . .”
“I am listening.”
“Don’t you plan to see me now and then, now that you are home?”
“I don’t think it is best, Lois. Pino . . .”
“I told you, you need not give him another thought. He is absolutely harmless.”
“It is not just that. I kind of like the guy. I hate to hurt him.
“Now you are being silly!”
“Don’t you have any love left for him, Lois? He is so crazy about you, poor kook, he does not know which end is up.”
“I don’t love him, Toni. I used to, but not any more. Something happened to my feelings for him. It is too difficult to explain. Pino used to be quite a guy all man . . . now he is a nothing.”
“If you feel like that, why don’t you leave him?”
“I will, sooner or later. The reason I have not already is because I pity him. Sometimes he begs me so hard he is like a baby. He cries and gets down on his knees and all that sordid kind of thing. You just would not – Could not – believe it.”
“Oh, I think I can get the drift of how he must feel. He lost the championship . . . his money probably went after that. You are the only thing he has left. He thinks when you go it will be the end of him. It is not too hard to imagine his feelings and his fears.”
“You should have been a psychoanalyst,” Lois kidded.
“Toni – are you going to make love to me or not? You know perfectly well that is why I came.”
“You wasted your time, then. I am not in the mood.”
Her fingers tightened on my wrist and she laughed softly. “I am sorry, but I can not believe you have changed that much, darling. I really can not . . .”
She simply moved quietly into my lap, sat upright and got her arms around my neck. “Kiss me and let us see.”
“You had better leave, Lois. I don’t want Pino to find you here. He may have followed you right here.”
She ignored my protests. Her ripe lips brushed across mine and her hands were doing tantalizing things to my face. Her perfume rose and I could not help feeling excited. “Remember the fun we used to have together, Toni? Have you forgotten all those mad crazy times?
“No one ever made such thrilling love to me before or since, darling. I have missed you . . . the way you could thrill, the way you could fill and the way you used to drive me out of my mind . . .”
I knew what she meant and I wanted to break away from her while I still could, not that her words of temptation did not rouse the beast in me. I did not want to get all wrapped up in her again. She was a tough habit to rid yourself of, once you let yourself get hooked.
“Come on, Lois, let us go up to the house and have a drink. I think I need one.”
“You are sure that is what you want?”
“I am positive.”
“All right, then.”
But she did not get up out of my lap. I could make out her smiling mouth in the vague shadows. Her slim white fingers reached and touched my mouth. I started to say something and one of those sweet tasting fingers crept insidiously inside. A sensation of pleasure swept over me. As I trembled, she laughed.
“There is a wonderfully nice bunk in the cabin, darling,” she whispered suggestively.
I could not bring myself to answer. She stood up right in front of me and lifted the white blouse up over her head. She wore no brassiere and she did not need to and her arms and breasts were overwhelmingly beautiful in the soft glow of starlight.
She moved forward toward me, dropped her hands lightly to my shoulders, and, giggling almost inaudibly, brought her chin to rest on my head.
I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her breasts into my face, knowing immediately that she had cleansed and perfumed her entire body in preparation for my maddened kisses.
She had the sweetness of breasts to drive any man insane, and to engulf them was to forget all else and be caught in the white soft web of her body.
She halted the progress of my hand up her thighs, broke away from me and stood, just out of grasp.
“Do you still want me to leave?”
I fully realized the mockery of me she was enjoying.
“I did not think so.” She held her hand out to me. I took it got up from my chair and followed her into the cabin.
“Close the door and the portholes,” she said.
”Why? It will be too hot.”
“Close them. Don’t you remember how loud I can moan and scream when I am shook?”
Certain memories came flooding back to mind, the way she went into fits of complete abandonment, those classic white legs thrashing, squeezing, entwining, releasing, kicking, tensing, stretching, dancing in rapture . . . and her abruptly loud squeals of joy and ecstatic delight as her sharp nails flexed uncontrollably, digging into the shoulder and scalp.
I closed the cabin up tight.
It was a good thing I did. Even as I kissed her lips, she moaned. When our tongues intertwined, the moans came from deeper down, kind of like passionate gurgles.
She went all out in the squeals department as my mouth traveled the ecstasy route over the sweet clean lines of her body, trembling long and hotly at the deep, throbbing curves of her breasts.
When I rammed it home, she nearly went nuts.
She reached so desperately for it, you could not have wedged tissue paper between us, and she held me so tight, so locked to her for pulsating moments that I could not move at all and desire built to a seething explosive pitch before I could ease in and out of her sweet and slippery tightness again.
Her babblings were like a greedy kid at a picnic, “More . . . more . . . more . . . good . . . good . . . MORE!”
With the last “more”, I gave it to her hot and heavy, and that was all there was for both of us, one last wild shattering of a million lights, a few final shuddering seconds of blinding utter bliss.
End Of Part 01