Sunburnt

Greta hits rock bottom and trades in her Chardonnay for coffee. She moves to sunny Bombay Beach, Florida where she gets a new apartment in a quaint cottage, a new job and a new lease on life. She spends time at the beach soaking up the sun and reflecting on her past destructive relationships. She meets a mysterious married man Garth, who she keeps bumping into. Greta dates a local musician Jimmy, but after his untimely suicide she must find the cause of his death. She and her girlfriend Kat put on a concert with the help of magnetic club owner Sly and invite superstar Crash to perform all of Jimmy’s music. Will they discover why Jimmy took his own life?

Sly is a dazzling man, living the high life as owner of one of the towns hottest clubs, Voodoo. He has it all, wine, women, a beach house and a sister who has one of Hollywoods’ hottest cooking shows, Elvira! He cannot find love in his life, until he meets Greta. But is it too late to change his ways?


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8. Sunburnt

Chapter 15

 

What can I say, I'm an alcoholic. It's what I do.

Ron Wood

 

We woke the next morning and had breakfast at The La Te Da Hotel. It was a quaint little place just off Duval Street. All of the staff there was gay, and our waiter was very friendly to us as he took our order for scrambled eggs, toast, papaya and coffee. A lone swimmer swam in the lap pool, his even strokes causing ripples on the water. We sat and stared ahead while we chewed our food.

 

“So how are we going to find this fucker?” asked Kat.

 

“I don’t know, but somebody’s bound to know of him on the island…”I said.

 

I wasn’t really sure if this whole thing was a waste of time but I had hope that somehow we would get to the bottom of this mystery. The waiter poured more steaming hot coffee into our cups.

 

“Where’s the local hangout here, really casual.” I asked.

“Oh, that would be the Green Parrot”, said the waiter. ”Thanks.” I smiled and left him a good tip.

 

We paid for our food and walked up Duval Street. Kat wanted to look in galleries so we browsed a bit, looking a ceramic and blown glass and wooden sculptures. I bought a small leather notebook and Kat bought some postcards. It was too early to go to the Green Parrot so we went to the beach .

 

The beach was surprisingly deserted. There were a few couples there, of both sexes and the sun was starting to beat down heavily. It was almost noon. I stripped off my shirtdress and revealed my red bikini. Somewhere in the distance some construction worker whistled. I was embarrassed. Kat took off her t-shirt and shorts. She was stockier than me and her body was a little chubby and rotund. We spread out our towels and lay facing upwards into the sun.

 

“Do you need some sunscreen?” she asked.

“No, I just tan naturally.” I said.

“That’s so bad for you” she said. “You could get skin cancer if you don’t protect yourself.”

I sighed. “I know, I just don’t care.  I just want to get some sun and get nice and brown.”

She shook her head. “You’re taking risks, girl.”

 

We lay in silence for the next ½ hour. I opened my eyes and saw a pelican flying overhead, his wings stretched out majestically. Ah, the peace and tranquility I longed for. It felt good to be off work, away from civilization and on a mission that mattered. I wondered if we would find Phil. Kat was asleep beside me, her chest heaving up and down and a light snore emitting from her lips. I lay down and fell back asleep.

 

It was one thirty when Kat woke me up.

“Come on, let’s go….” She shook me. I sat up, dazed. “What? What time is it?” She glanced at her watch.

“Its three hairs past a freckle….It’s one thirty for goodness sake.”

I sat up. My skin was bright red. I lifted the corner of my bikini to reveal the white skin underneath. There was a sharp demarcation. I would pay for this later tonight.

“You’re sunburnt!” said Kat. “I told you to wear the sunblock.”she yelled at me.

 

“Yes mother.”I sighed.

 

For once at least I wasn’t the one doing the mothering. We packed up our stuff and headed off the beach. The sand was hot, hot, hot, hot between my toes. I jumped into my flip- flops. We got to our bikes and started riding up the street towards the end of town where the Green Parrot was. We passed picturesque homes and saw some stray roosters on the way. I stopped to take a picture of an old home that had a cat in front of it.

 

We continued on our way until we finally reached the Green Parrot. It was an older, local drinking hole. There were some motorcycles in front. We parked our bikes and went inside.

 

“Let me do the talking…You back me up if you need to.” 

 

Kat nodded. The interior smelled like beer and sea salt. Some locals sat at the bar and glanced over at us as we came in. A well-worn hostess greeted us.

 

“Lunch is over.” She said flatly.

“No, we’re just here for drinks. “I said merrily.

She nodded, “Take a seat at the bar, I’ll be right with you.” We sat at the bar.

I said in a low voice, ”Does Phil have a nickname?”

Kat thought a moment. “Scutter.”

I nodded. “Ok, thanks…” the bartender came over to us. “Whatyda  havin girls?” She tapped her nails impatiently on the bar top.

“Two Virgin Pinas.” I said.

 

A biker on our right glanced at us.

“You ladies from the mainland?”he said

 I smiled at him. “Yeah, we’re from Fort Lauderdale.” He nodded. “That’s nice….Whaty’da doin down here? Just on vacation?” he moved a seat closer.

 

Good, I thought, here was a local yokel who might have some knowledge of a low life. We were in the money.

 

“”Nah, we’re kinda looking for somebody, but you probably wouldn’t know him. “

He looked interested.

“Try me, I know just about everybody on this island. I even know people I don’t want to know.” He chuckled to himself and buried his head in his beer.

 

I looked really interested in what he was telling me. “Well, his name is Scutter. He’s kind of a little guy, always wears the same blue shirt…He lives in a trailer.” 

The local smiled.

“You might just be in luck lady cause I think I know who you’re talking about…I met a guy, he said his name was Scutter the other night and told me he was gonna be doing some fishing over on the south end of the island this week. I bought some shit off him if you know what I mean.”
he said matter of factly.

 

Bingo! This was our man!!!

“Yeah, yeah, I know what you mean. Thanks.”

He smiled, “Always ready to help a pretty lady out.”

He tipped his hat. Kat nudged me with her leg. We finished  up our pina coladas and got out of the bar. The afternoon sun was hot and blistering. We jumped on our bikes and headed back to our car.

 

Chapter 16

 

All we are saying is give peace a chance.

John Lennon

 

We drove around to the South End of the island. It was more deserted there and Kat was getting nervous.

“I don’t know if this is a good idea.” She said.

“Listen, don’t you dare chicken out on me now, we’re here and we might as well see this through.” I said. “What if he freaks out?” I nodded,

“Then we leave and call the cops.”

We turned down a street  that lead to some some trailers by the water.

“Remember, we’re doing this for Jimmy, because he can’t.”

 

We parked the car and walked around the trailers. Stray cats roamed everywhere. An older woman came out, wearing a busy pink housedress.

“You girls looking for somethin?” She muttered.

“Um, yeah, we’re looking for a friend of ours, Scutter.” She nodded. “Oh yeah, yeah, he’s over in the last trailer at the end there, over by the palm trees back there.”

“Thanks.” I said.

 

Kat and I moved quietly and slowly towards the trailer. There was heavy metal music blaring out the window and some beer cans lay on the ground outside the door. I knocked on the door. A gruff voice came from within.

“Who the fuck is it?” he said

I bit my lip.” Greta and Kat.” I said.

 

Loud footsteps stomped to the door and the door flung open to reveal a stale stench from inside the trailer.

 

“Greta and Kat? What the fuck are you two bitches doin’ down  here ? Come in.” He opened the door and we stepped inside.

 

The inside of the trailer was a hodgepodge of clothing, beer cans, fishing rods and general junk that littered the place. Phil had his blue shirt on, the same shirt he always wore and jeans and bare feet. He had a gold cross around his neck and he looked as if he hadn’t slept in a week.

 

“I guess you bitches are here about Jimmy”, he said.

 

I was surprised he was so open about it. I guess killing someone meant little to a lowlife like Phil.

 

“Yeah, we are.” I said. My voice trembled as I said it and all of a sudden I was choked up about Jimmys’ death.

 

“Hey, I heard about it.” Phil said. “You want a beer or somethin’? he said.

“No, we’re okay…….”I muttered.

 

Kat piped up. “We heard that you were the last person that saw Jimmy before he died. We heard you sold him some shit.” She blurted out.

 

Phil’s hand shook slightly as he lifted his beer can to his lips.” That’s a fucking lie…..I sold him a couple of perks because he said he couldn’t sleep. He always had trouble sleeping so he would ask me if I had anything and I always gave him some of those. He died of meth and I don’t deal if that shit, contrary to popular belief.” He was lying.

 

Kat and I sat on the edge of the day bed. I looked down. I felt bad now, bad that we had come all this way for nothing, that this liar was lying to us and there was nothing we could do, not way to save our friend and would never know the truth. Kat started to cry. I felt bad for Kat too…..I felt as though his death was my fault and that if I had only stayed with him that night I could have saved him.

 

Phil held court a little longer. “Jimmy had his problems, man…He was fucked up.”

 

I stared at him. “Jimmy was alright, he was really talented.” Phil got defensive.

 

“Hey man, I never said the guy wasn’t talented, alright? I said he was fucked up.” Phil said defensively.

 

 Kat stood up. “Well, maybe we should leave.”

I looked at Phil.  “I hope you’re telling us the truth, because the cops are looking into this whole thing and the truth will come out.” I said.

 

Phil gave me an evil look. His eyes were bugging out of his head.

 

“Listen up bitch…..I had nothing to do with him dying and overdosing on shit. I didn’t sell him that shit, who the fuck knows where he got it, but it wasn’t from me. So you might as well leave now and go back to getting your nails done or whatever the fuck you do and leave me alone. That’s why I came down here, to get away from people like you. People that don’t mind their own business…And think their shit don’t stink.” He spat on the floor.

 

Kat and I exited the trailer. He stuck his head out the door.” Good luck in your search. I hope you find what you’re looking for and leave me the fuck alone.” He yelled.

 

Bang. The door was shut and locked. We returned to the car. I felt an all time low, I needed to get away from this life…. Why did it keep following me around this way?

 

 

 

Chapter 17

 

I'm not going to change the way I look or the way I feel to conform to anything. I've always been a freak. So I've been a freak all my life and I have to live with that, you know. I'm one of those people.

John Lennon

 

It was Monday again and I was back at work after our fiasco trip to the Keys. Back to the same old dull routine, phone messages to answer, faxes to fax, emails to return. Al was out of town for a few days so I was on my own schedule, the lazy schedule. I opened a few letters and put them on Al's chair.

 

My curiosity got the best of me so I slid open his top drawer and peeked inside. What treasures did Al covet? A staple remover, elastic bands, a magnifying glass and stuck way in the back of the drawer a crumpled note.  It read, "Meet you at the Marina, Beth". Beth. I scanned my mind for that name. He had never mentioned a Beth in his life. Who knows, I thought, and quickly shut the drawer tight, as if I would get caught in my snooping. Like he wasn’t three thousand miles away anyhow.

 

I surfed the net for awhile, busy on Google. I looked up Jimmy's website, looked at some pictures of him at his gigs, gigs with friends, shots of him in concert and one of him riding a motorcycle. He looked so happy and carefree, as if he had had no worries at all. There were some pictures of him and Debbie there. I scanned her face. That's it, it I thought…Debbie. She might hold the key to Jimmy's death.! If anybody had access to him that night it would be her. I quickly dialed Kat.

 

"Hello?" she said.

 

"Hey Kat, it's me….." I said

 

She yawned a loud obnoxious yawn in my ear. "What are you doing up?" she said lazily.

 

"It's called work. Some of us ‘po folk have to do it sometimes, helps buy the rice and beans….Listen, did you know Debbie?" I asked.

 

 She paused. "Yes, everyone knew her. Not that I liked her all that much, but we went out a few times with Jimmy, gigs and all."

The thoughts were spinning in my head.

 

"Kat, I have an idea. Meet me for lunch today and we'll talk." I said

 

I hung up and went back to surfing the net. There were more pictures of Jimmy. I thought to myself there was no way he would have killed himself. This guy loved life too damn much.

 

Eventually I got back to work, sorting papers into piles and answering the phones. Work sure was boring. My mind wandered to Beth. I wondered if this was a girlfriend of Als'. He never said much about his private life, in fact it was lucky if he muttered anything at all about anything, he was so introverted. Not that I cared about Al, I mean, he was no prize, just a nice decent man that had given me a job.

 

It was 11:45. I got my bag and locked the door. It was hot in the car, the sun burning down hard on the dashboard, practically burning my hand when I touched the steering wheel. Florida heat. You got used to it after awhile. No cool Northern breezes, just the steady hot flow of sun and warmth all the time, seeping into your soul. I loved it. It was like food for me.

 

I met Kat at Vic and Angelos, a bistro type restaurant on Atlantic Avenue. It had a bright blue and yellow striped awning and umbrellas and bistro chairs dotted on the exterior. Some  flashy motorcycles were parked in front, by large terra cotta planters. It was usually full of wanna be types, ex-New Jersey types in sunglasses and blowed out hairdos that wanted to be seen and preen for each other. It was loud and boisterous and I welcomed the din and action after the complete boredom of the office.

 

Kat arrived in her full glory. She was clad in a bright orange top, gold belt and khaki pants with gold sandals. She was a fashion plate for sure. We hugged and she sat down anxiously.

"Ok, spill it." she said.

 

I sat back and sipped my Puglia Chardonnay spritzer. "Not so fast ….. Listen, Phil says he didn't kill Jimmy, just gave him some shit right? I saw Jimmy that night, he was not suicidal. I think that something pushed him over the edge and I think that something was that bitch Debbie."I said.

 

Kat's eyes opened wide. "You do? I hate her!”

 

"Yes. I think he went to see her to get laid after I turned him down. I think she rejected him too and it pushed him over the edge and he overdosed."

 

Kat was intruiged by the idea. 

"So how do we find out?'' she asked.

"We ask her." I said.

“Well, you can’t just accuse her…”Kat said.

 

The waiter came over to take our order.

"Hello ladies…can I get you anything to start off with? An appetizer perhaps?” he said

 

I scanned the menu. “What’s in the calamari?” The waiter didn’t miss a beat.

 

“Olives, capers, peppers, arugula and lemon vinegrette.” I looked at Kat.

 

“Share?” She nodded her head.

 

“Thank you ladies.”he said and disappeared into the kitchen.

 

 

I sat back and sipped my Chardonnay, taking in the scene. There were a lot of Bombay beach lunch ladies lunching, some tourists. Suddenly out of the corner of my eye I spied the Rolex. The same hand that I had seen in the diner that morning…It was him….Garth.

 

“Don’t look….” I whispered.

Kat’s eyes glanced over in the direction I was looking in.

“What? Who is it?” she said.

“It’s him, that man.” I pointed discretely over at Garth. “Which man?” She was confused.

“That man over there…See him in the pink Polo shirt?”

 

We both looked over at Garth reading a magazine while lunching on pasta. He had his reading glasses on. “Yeah…He’s old…” She said. 

 

I smiled. “I like him”. Kat scolded me gently.

“You are losing it girl. That guy is ancient and square. Look at him for Christsakes, he’s wearing Polo! That’s so eighties!….Come on Greta. Get over it. He could be your Dad or Grandad.”she joked.

 

Garth looked over at them looking at him. He nodded at them and smiled. I panicked “Oh geez, he sees us….Is he coming over?” Kat smiled stiffly. “No, he’s staying put.”

 

I continued to watch Garth out of the corner of my eye. He was such a classy man. Here I was, trying to get my act together again and still deep in the thick of things, now with a murder investigation….Would I ever get away from low lifes? I had to change my life before I got pulled under again. I felt suffocated already.

 

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