"I mean, everybody knows I was a mental patient...."
"So? There are several people in this town who have been mental patients. Sometimes I think there is something in the water.... And, there are several more who should be. No one thinks anything of that."
"Well, and lot of people thought I was the person who kidnapped Katie Roddendem...."
"Mr. Sommers, you are deluded if you think people believe that. Katie Roddendem Morgan will tell anyone who listens that you are one of her dearest friends."
For a second, the sudden surge of love and gratitude he felt toward Katie overwhelmed his senses; he felt tears jump to his eyes.
"And the Hawkeses have trusted you with their little prince and heir for years."
Jamie realized she meant Ricky.
"Quite frankly, the town has had other things to talk about for some time now, Mr. Sommers."
Jamie remembered to shut his mouth. Grenville told him often enough it made him look like an imbecile to stand around slack-jawed. If what she said was true...
Then when Mr. Garvey said, "How's it going, Jamie? What you planting this year?" he was inquiring, not feeling sorry for the poor loser Jamie.
And when Mayor Wells sat next to him at the counter in the Coffee Shoppe, and said, "What ya think, Jamie, we ever going to get any rain?" he was asking for an opinion, not checking up on lowlife Sommers.
And Riley, at the gas station, who kept bugging him to join the bowling team—
The people who said, "Good morning, Jamie. What's Mr. Hawkes up to these days?" weren't secretly afraid of him, or despising him, or even thinking about him much.
He was just another citizen of Hawkes Harbor. He was awed by the thought.
"Well, uh, okay." He managed not to stammer.
"Good. Meet me upstairs in the gymnasium when you're finished here. We can start with the Christmas pageant. I have a wonderful idea for the manger...."
When she left, Jamie picked up his wrench and wondered what it was he'd been doing before she assailed him. The pipes?
"Well, that should be a treat for you. Much more fun than helping me."
He jumped and managed to dodge the wrench. He'd forgotten all about Louisa. "Well, it might be."
At least making scenery sounded like more fun than unpacking volumes, artifacts, filing documents. Otherwise, he couldn't see much difference really, in being bossed by one woman or the other.
"You never did tell me why you've needed extra money."
"Well, I don't have to. But I guess it is your business in a way. I got a lot of lawyer bills to pay."
Louisa was as astounded as he'd hoped.
"Legal bills? Why on earth would you need a lawyer?"
Jamie thought about saying, "To sue you, like Dr. McDevitt suggested."
But he didn't. Louisa could be exasperating, but he was very fond of her, too. He didn't want to hurt her feelings.
And he knew what he'd done would anger her.
"Last week me and Leonard Pagano went up to Terrace View to see Dr. McDevitt. He gave me every test he could think of, and he said I was probably the sanest person in Hawkes Harbor. Having a bad memory, being a little bit nervous don't make you crazy, he said.
"I ain't in your custody anymore, Louisa, and I got papers and legal witness. You want a forcible commitment, you'll have to go through the courts, and prove me a danger to myself or others, and Dr. McDevitt will show up at any hearing. And he's on my side. And my lawyer will be there, too.
"So don't tell me you're gonna send me back to Terrace View anymore, Louisa. You're not sending me anywhere. Not ever."
Louisa's jaw dropped. First at his audacity, then at the realization he'd taken her seriously all these years.
Grenville is right, Jamie thought absently. You do look stupid standing around with your mouth hanging open.
He wasn't going to tell her all of what Dr. McDevitt had told him—Louisa's days of running Terrace View were over.
"She's not a bad person, Doc."
"No, Jamie, and she is a very good anthropologist. But she has no business dealing with patients and you very well know it. And now her grandfather knows it, too."
Still, Jamie thought, let him tell her. This will be bad enough.
He braced himself, knowing nothing angered Louisa Kahne more than any loss of power; he watched her search her mind for the next plan of attack, knowing what she would come up with—
"What's Grenville going to think of all this? He's going to be furious."
Jamie swallowed, though he had prepared for that possibility. "Well, Louisa, Grenville may be mad at me, maybe he'll even fire me.
"I just don't think he's going to kill me anymore." Louisa Kahne was speechless.
Later that night at dinner, she recounted to Grenville the whole episode—with much heat, and a little exaggeration of Jamie's disrespectful attitude.
He listened in silence, nodding.
Finally she sputtered to a stop.
"Well?" she said.
"You don't suppose we'll have to attend school plays just to view his handiwork, do you?"
"No, I mean, what do you think about the other—"
"I think I'll give him a raise," Grenville said. "He shouldn't have to take extra jobs on his days off."
He paused. "I wish he'd asked my advice about a lawyer. Pagano's fees are outrageous."
The money was welcome, but Jamie appreciated the gesture much more.
Day After Christmas
The Boardinghouse Hawkes Harbor, Delaware Christmas Day, 1978
"It always beats me why you two would rather eat Christmas dinner here than up at the Manor."
Mrs. Pivens handed Jamie the sweet potatoes.
"Food's better," Jamie said. He looked up at the late arrival, annoyed.
"I had to put in an appearance, sorry. The company's better, too." Rick Hawkes flung himself into a kitchen chair, yanking at his tie. He winked at Trisha. She tried to ignore him but couldn't help a smirk.
"I'd be in the kitchen with the rest of the staff," Jamie said. "They're snobbier than the Hawkeses themselves. Noses so up in the air they'd drown in a rain. And here nobody's going to count the silverware after I leave."
"And nobody's going to gasp and cry if I break a priceless antique whatever that we only use for Christmas." Rick went on with the list of why the boardinghouse Christmas dinner was better than the elegant affair at the Manor.
"In an hour Father will be drunk and quarreling with Aunt Lydia. Barbara has brought home some freak she's found at Berkeley. The Boston branch is sitting there horrified. At least I think that's it. They're so inbred that may be the only expression they can come up with. Louisa and Grenville are already snipping at each other—are they ever going to get married, Jamie?"
"I doubt it," Jamie said. "Grenville's pretty set in his ways. 'Sides, he's been married twice before. He does like to rile her up, though."
"Can't blame her for trying," Trisha said. "He's still the sexiest man in town."
Mrs. Pivens laughed, while Rick made a growl of protest.
"Oh sorry," Trisha corrected. "Jamie."
"Really, Jamie, how old is Grenville, anyway?"
"A little older than he looks," Jamie said blandly. "A little long in the tooth."
He fought a snort of laughter as Trisha's mouth fell open, as Rick stuttered for a change of subject. He'd always wondered how much those two knew ... when Rick was just a kid.
"Father says I can't go to Fort Lauderdale for spring break."
Rick found a new subject. "He wants me to go to London. For business! London! It won't even be spring there! Is there any ham left?
"Anyway," he resumed, sliding back in the chair with a plateful of ham and turkey and mashed potatoes, "Grenville was on my side. Said London would be cold and rainy."
"He's right," Jamie said. London had never been one of his favorite places. "You need to go somewhere warm. Too bad Havana—"
Jamie stopped abruptly. He had a vivid memory—not of Havana, where he'd never been, but of a hot dusty train car in the south of France. He could hear Kell's voice so clearly, over the rattle of the train. Kellen—describing Havana—the beaches, the palm trees, the soft hot nights, the nightclubs. He could almost smell the flowers, the women, the fancy cigars.... "It's too bad you missed Cuba in its heyday, Jamie. The women in Havana are just your type."
They'd gone to New Orleans, instead, he and Kell. Jamie hadn't been too much older than Rick, then.
Strange he'd think of Kellen Quinn all of a sudden. He hadn't thought of him in a while.
"New Orleans is a fun city."
"Good idea. I've always wanted to go there."
Jamie remembered, as from another life, his cocaine- and rum-fueled blast through New Orleans. He'd been blowing his share of the loot from that gun-smuggling deal... couldn't get rid of that money fast enough...
"You're better off in Fort Lauderdale, though, kid." Jamie suddenly didn't want Rick in New Orleans. Florida would be wild enough.
Geez, I'm turning into an old fart, Jamie thought. And I'm not even forty, yet.
Rick said, "That will be about time to fit up the boat."
"You won't be home till summer, and not much then," Trisha pointed out.
"I don't care—when I am home, I'll want the boat. And I expect Jamie and you to keep it seaworthy."
"I won't be home much either," Trisha said. "You're not the only college student in this town. Looks like Jamie's stuck with it."