"Have you always been like this, Jamie?"
"Doc," Jamie said, the pain reliever relaxing him, "I'm tryin' to cooperate, never talked so much in my life, but sometimes I get the feeling you ain't hearin' me. No, I haven't been like this all my life. I never used to cry, ever. I saw a friend get killed right in front of me, and I didn't bat an eye. Well, that time the shark skinned me and I had to steer us outta there, I might have bitched around a little—but if I'd been like this on a ship I'dve been tied to an anchor and tossed overboard. People would think I was a Jonah. I coulda never got into the navy...." He stopped suddenly. "What am I gonna do, if I ever get outta here? I can't go back to sea."
The tears came welling up again as Jamie plunged back into despair.
"Jamie, I'll gladly replace Albert with you, if you ever need a job. Or write any letter of recommendation—once you've recovered, of course."
Jamie was quiet for a few minutes.
"I used to think maybe Grenville would want me back. I did a lot of work for him. Fixed up Hawkes Hall. He said I did a good job."
"Grenville Hawkes? Perhaps he will. You know he's paying your bills here."
And Louisa Kahne is giving him an obscene discount, the doctor added to himself.
"Well, he was always good to me. Giving me a job when everybody told him not to, he even got me to quit smoking and drinking. But I think he forgot all about me."
"I want to hear how you met him. But now, do you have any idea why you are so sensitive to pain? When did this happen to you?
Jamie gingerly got to his feet and eased into a kitchen chair.
"I think it was when I got sick at the boardinghouse ... that's when a lot of things changed for me. That's about the time I met Grenville ... me and Kell split up for good ... Things were never the same with me and Kell, after I went to work for Grenville. I think maybe it hurt his feelings, that I didn't talk it over with him first... but then he got convinced I was pulling some kinda scam on Grenville, ripping him off somehow, and wasn't cutting him in. Hell, I wouldn't scam Grenville. I'd be scared to, for one thing, he's the smartest guy I ever knew, he'd figure it out in no time. But why would I want to, him being nice to me like that? I was sick of scams. I couldn't make Kell understand." Jamie paused. "Anyway, everything that happened about then: Grenville, splitting up with Kell, this pain crap, all that gets mixed up. I don't know what caused what...."
"Maybe talking would help set it straight." Dr. McDevitt discreetly looked at his watch. He was officially off work, his wife would be upset if he were late again. Then, Jamie had fixed the leak.... He turned the page in his notebook.
"I got real sick in Hawkes Harbor. That's unusual for me. I never get sick. I was in the hospital in San Diego, but that was from a knife fight while I was still in the navy—it don't count as sick. Got a coral cut in the French Pollies, but healed up pretty fast; sometimes those get real nasty.
"Never got malaria. Kell used to have a bout of it once a year, it really knocked him out. Never got the clap or nothin'; Kell was amazed, but I let him think I never used a rubber. I never was that stupid—those movies they show in the navy, you never want to screw again. For fifteen minutes, anyway. Ten if you have shore leave.
"Did take some chances, though. Guess I was lucky, too."
Dr. McDevitt agreed with that, after all he'd heard. But he remembered Jamie's blood work quite well—no venereal disease, true, but still something odd.... He shook his head. Blood was not his specialty ... he focused again on Jamie's story.
"Oh yeah, once, in Mozambique, east coast of Africa, me and Kell both came down with dysentery. Man, that was hell. We were fighting over who was the most miserable. Then Kell got up this contest..."
Jamie grinned faintly at the memory.
Dr. McDevitt looked down at his notes, hoping to be spared the details of the contest.
"But other than some motherfuckin' hangovers, being too doped or drunk, I never get sick.
"Musta caught some weird flu or something in Hawkes Harbor. I never felt so awful. Too weak to move, couldn't eat or drink, I know I have bad dreams now but they can't be worse than what I was having then—strange, sick shit, too weird to even talk about."
Jamie rubbed the back of his neck. "My landlady said I got up and ran around at night, but maybe I'm remembering that wrong because I couldn't have, I was so weak. Kell even called a doctor....
"What did the doctor say?"
Jamie looked puzzled.
"The doctor Kell called to the boardinghouse?"
"Oh. He said I'd lost some blood—so I'd been in a bar fight, guy cut me with a bottle, it was no reason to be that sick—doctors make mistakes, that's what I told Kell. No offense."
Jamie took a breath, and Dr. McDevitt saw he was feeling the effect of the tranquilizer contained in the pain medication.
"Even Kell wanted me out of Hawkes Harbor. I'd become damn odd, he said...."
"Jamie, I want you to think about this, and we'll discuss it tomorrow. Everything, the town, Mr. Hawkes, your illness—I have a feeling it's important. Now I want you to rest. Come to my office in the morning after breakfast."
"Okay." Jamie sighed sleepily. "But you better send for me. I'll probably forget...."
He left to take a nap. And within an hour woke up screaming.
The next afternoon Dr. McDevitt sat down with his tape recorder. He hit the Rewind button, and the tape whirled backward.
He had some of Jamie's story but wanted to make sure of a few things. And there was that odd tone in Jamie's voice, an occasional hesitance that almost amounted to a question mark. As if what he was saying puzzled him, too.
He was sure Jamie wasn't consciously lying, but no doubt he was confused.
Dr. McDevitt hit the Play button and settled back with his notes.
"You ever been to Hawkes Harbor, Doc? I'm not surprised. Not much there for visitors, nice scenery but not great, some history stuff. It gets a few tourists.
"The Hawkes family founded the town of Hawkes Harbor. Hundreds of years ago. I ain't too good at history, but it was real early, like when America was still part of England. Everywhere you go in that town, there's the name Hawkes. They still own most of it, the mills, the shipping and trucking line, a munitions plant.
"Kell moved into one of the Hawkes family mansions. Turns out he had married a Hawkes, during the war, she had been a Red Cross nurse or something, run away from her rich family to see the world. I guess things didn't work out too well, he probably went through her money too fast or chased one skirt too many; he never told me the details. They couldn't divorce, being Catholics and everything, so she paid him off, so she could go home to her family, made him give her a death certificate so she could be a widow. I told you Kell knows a real good forgery guy, right?
"Well, this blackmail scam was going pretty good when I got there. He was supposedly a long-lost brother of the dead husband, and making a lot out of it. Money, clothes, I think he was going to try to marry her again, except she was already engaged to some hotshot business tycoon. Kell had his hands full with that guy, all right.
"Anyway, when I got to Hawkes Harbor, it pissed me off, Kell getting to live in that fancy mansion, me being stuck at the boardinghouse. He'd pulled that kind of shit with me before. It was a nice boardinghouse, though ... Katie worked there....
"You gotta understand, Doc, I was in bad shape then. Got myself fucked up on cocaine in New Orleans, blew a big wad of money, and I was drinking heavy, trying to come down off it. On my way to Hawkes Harbor I got kicked off a ship I was crewing, first time that ever happened to me. Then got jailed in Ocean City—assault, but the other guy was drunk too, no charges—yeah, I was in a real good mood by the time I got there...
"And here's old Kellen Quinn, the dapper Irish gentleman, hob-nobbin' with the town elite, with his fancy friends in one of those fancy houses. Not that they liked him, though. The Hawkes are real suspicious of strangers. Hell, they still won't have much to do with Grenville, and he's related to them.
"Anyway, I barged in on them a couple of times, pretending to visit Kell, they had to ask me to dinner, those kind of people are ruled by good manners.
"I'm not, so you can probably guess what kind of asshole I was there. Drank their brandy, came on to the niece, Barbara—her father, Richard Hawkes, Kell's brother-in-law, made remarks about how most people only ate one dinner at a sitting. He hated Kell being there, he didn't know what Kellen had on his sister but he suspected something ... you can imagine how he felt about me. He was funny, in a way, though, said some sharp things. I sure don't blame them for wanting me out of there. I was making Kell damn nervous, too..."
Dr. McDevitt turned up the volume; he wanted to make sure his own comments.
"You're quite agitated today, Jamie. Are you sure you want to go on?"
"Yeah, why not? I can walk around while I'm talking, can't I? You let me before."
"You received your morning meds?"
"Hell, yeah. You know me, I'll take anything you'll give me—it's getting dark out?"
"No, it's just clouding up, perhaps it'll storm soon.... It's just ten in the morning, Jamie."