Authors: Parker Francis
Jillian had been put off when he called to tell her about his younger brother, but he explained that there was plenty to keep Andrew busy outside while they rested inside. Plus, after Andrew fell asleep Saturday night, they’d have a good six or seven hours to do whatever they wanted. More than enough time to work out his frustrations.
“Man, this place is cool,” Andrew announced after romping through all of the rooms. He found a stack of games on a bookshelf next to the color television set, and began rooting through them. “Look, Dudley, they have Monopoly.” Andrew had insisted on taking the giant cat with him. Dudley was ensconced on the back of the couch keeping a sharp eye out for anything that looked like food.
“Yeah, bud, maybe we’ll play a few games later tonight,” Quint said. “Did you put your suitcase away in the bedroom?”
Andrew had close-cropped straw-colored hair, their mother’s tiny turned-up nose, and dark brown eyes that twinkled like they held the key to a storehouse of mischief. Losing interest in the games, Andrew ran to the bay window and stared at the blue waters dotted with sailboats. A Sunfish with red and blue sails was anchored on the beach next to the house. A kayak perched beside it.
“Do you think we can go sailing?” Andrew asked, looking hopefully at his brother.
“Maybe after lunch. Jillian has a couple of bikes in the storage shed, and there are some neat trails if you’d like to go exploring later.” A protected land trust surrounded the home, warding off encroachment by developers, and offering picturesque hiking and biking trails through the woods and along the shore. Quint remembered hiking the trails with Jillian when they were only a few years older than Andrew.
“That would be cool. Will you show me?”
“We’ll see,” he said to Andrew. “I was up late last night and might want to take a nap after lunch.” Quint and Jillian exchanged glances. She shrugged and eyed him coolly. Her displeasure with him wasn’t making this any easier. Neither was her outfit. Jillian had on a pair of shorts so short and so tight he wondered why the button didn’t pop off. She’d tied her loose-fitting T-shirt into a knot exposing her navel and Quint thought about the drive to the beach house when he’d drifted onto the shoulder of the road because he couldn’t take his eyes off her crotch.
“How about a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?” Jillian asked, moving toward the kitchen.
Andrew whirled away from the window and ran after her. “Sure, and do you have any Oreo’s? I love Oreo’s.” He stopped suddenly, trotted back to the living room and grabbed Dudley from the top of the couch. The cat’s copper eyes lasered its displeasure and a low growl rumbled in its throat. Dudley weighed nearly a third of Andrew’s sixty-five pounds, and the boy’s arms encircled the cat’s middle clutching it against his chest.
He stopped in front of a family portrait of the LeBlancs that included Jillian and her three sisters. “Hey, when are your parents getting here?” Andrew yelled after Jillian who was already in the kitchen.”
Jillian hurried back into the living room, shooting a deadly glare at Quint that would have made Dudley proud. “They were held up and won’t arrive until tomorrow,” she said.
“That’s right,” Quint added, prodding his brother in the back. “Now get in there and wash your hands. You’ve got a big day ahead of you and you’ll need your energy.” He smiled at Jillian hoping this held true for him as well.
The day didn’t go entirely the way Quint had envisioned. After lunch, Andrew headed for the sailboat. Knowing it might consume two or three hours of his afternoon, Quint put him off, promising they’d go later. Instead, they splashed through ten games of Marco Polo in the LeBlanc’s swimming pool.
Jillian’s lime-colored bikini covered only the bare essentials and Quint slid his hands over her smooth skin while Andrew paddled around with his eyes closed yelling
. Each time Quint groped her, she would laugh, yell
and dunk him. After the tenth game Quint was so horny he thought he was going to burst. He climbed out of the pool, quickly pulling a towel around his waist.
“That’s enough for me,” Quint said, flopping on his belly on one of the lounges by the pool.
“Aw c’mon. Just one more game,” Andrew called from poolside, palming a spray of water at his big brother.
“Don’t you think you can get it up for one more game?” Jillian teased, and joined Andrew in splashing Quint.
In the end, Quint acquiesced. After another game he boosted himself out of the pool and announced, “Andrew, you’ve got too much energy for me. You’re the world champ of Marco Polo. Now I’m going to take a nap.” He gazed at Jillian, who had lifted herself onto the ledge, leaning forward on her tanned and willowy arms. The afternoon sun glinted off the water streaming over her full breasts compressed between her arms, and Quint ached to be with her.
“Well, I don’t want to take a nap.” Andrew’s mouth began to shape itself into a pout.
“Of course not,” Jillian said. Quint grabbed her outstretched hand and pulled her out of the pool. “This would be a good time for you to check out that hiking path Quint told you about earlier.” She handed Andrew a towel. “Here, wipe off and put on your sneakers. Then I’ll show you where the path starts.”
She pointed to a wooded patch behind the house. “Once you’re past those trees the path curves back along the shoreline. You’ll see a cave cut into the rocks at Pelican Point, and a small beach where the seals hang out in the winter. If you’re lucky you might be able to spot a heron or some egrets or maybe osprey hunting for fish.”
“Cool. Are you coming with me?”
Jillian smiled at Andrew, reached out and rubbed his stubbly head. “You know, I was about your age the first time I explored the path by myself. I thought I was so grown up.”
Andrew nodded enthusiastically. “I can do that. How long will it take?”
“It depends on how much you want to explore, but I’d say a little over an hour. When you get back, Quint will take you sailing, and then we’re going to my favorite restaurant in Guilford for dinner.”
Andrew laced up his shoes and took off toward the woods. “Take your time,” Quint called after him, “and be careful around the rocks.”
Jillian and Quint exchanged looks as Andrew disappeared into the tree line. “Alone at last.” Jillian bent toward him and ran her tongue lightly around his ear. She let her fingers trail over his chest and down his solid abs until she got to the band of his bathing suit. One finger stroked his lower abdomen under the band and his muscles contracted. She laughed at his involuntary intake of breath.
“Why don’t you follow me, big boy?” she said, gripping the top of his suit and pulling him toward the house.
Sixty-five minutes later, a sated and still smiling Quint emerged from the shower. He’d dressed in a clean pair of shorts, slipped on a white knit Lacoste polo shirt, and walked barefoot into the kitchen where Jillian sat drinking a Coke. She swallowed a large mouthful, and licked her lips.
“That tastes good,” she said.
He leaned over and kissed Jillian on the mouth, his tongue separating her lips. “Uhmm, I’d have to agree,” he said when he came up for air.
Quint dropped onto one of the stools beside her. “Heard anything from Marco Polo the explorer?”
Jillian glanced at the kitchen clock over the stove. “Not yet, but he should be along pretty soon.”
“Maybe he’ll be too tired to go sailing this afternoon. I know I am,” Quint said.
“Don’t think you’re going to get much rest tonight, mister. I have plans for you.”
He groaned theatrically, squeezing his eyes shut, his shoulders sagging. “What is it they say, be careful what you wish for?”
“As if you weren’t about to die before you got me alone in there,” she said, cocking her head toward the bedroom.
He popped off the stool and wrapped his arms around Jillian, who had changed into a yellow sundress with skinny shoulder straps. “And I’m ready for another round right now if it wouldn’t scare the hell out of Andrew.”
She laughed and pushed him away. “I’ll remind you of that at three-thirty in the morning when you’re begging me to let you sleep.”
In the living room, Quint turned on the TV and ran the channels until he found a baseball game. The Mets were in the middle of a three-game home series with the Red Sox and the Sox were leading 3-0 in the fourth inning. Quint leaned back thinking the Mets were going to get slaughtered. The next thing he remembered was Jillian shaking him awake.
“Quint, Andrew isn’t back yet.”
Quint rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. “How long’s he been gone?” He was having a hard time waking up.
“Over two hours. The trail isn’t that long, ninety minutes max, and that’s if you were walking at my grandmother’s pace and stopped to pick up every rock.” Jillian stood over Quint, a worried look on her face.
“Andrew’s a real social person. He probably met another kid and they’re playing at his house or on the beach.” He looked at the television and saw that the score was now 9-2 at the top of the eighth inning.
“I think we need to look for him,” Jillian said.
“Okay, you’re right.” He forced himself off the couch and found his flip-flops. “Why don’t you go along the shore and I’ll backtrack through the woods? We’ll meet somewhere near Pelican Point. I’m sure we’ll find him pretty quickly.”
The temperature had been a warm 83 degrees when they’d been playing in the pool earlier in the afternoon, but four hours later, in the shadows of the woods, Quint wished he’d worn long pants. A shiver ran over his arms, and he hurried through the thicket of black oak and white birch along the narrow hiking path.
“Andrew, where are you hiding?” Quint yelled, not really believing his brother was still on this stretch of trail.
Ten minutes later he passed through the last of the trees and followed the path past a patch of waving grasses and small shrubs. A cool breeze carried the crisp smell of the ocean, and he heard the cry of gulls overhead.
“Quit playing games, Andrew,” Quint yelled, his frustration rising with every step. Quint pictured his brother playing at another kid’s house, lost in his own world with no idea of the time or the fact that Andrew and Jillian were looking for him.
Then he remembered the many times he’d disappeared at supper time, his mother calling for him. Now he knew how she felt, and he wanted to take Andrew by the shoulders and shake some sense into him. He also realized he was responsible for his brother, and pin pricks of heat flushed his cheeks as he thought about how he’d deceived his parents.
Quint skirted a cluster of rocks known to the locals as Pelican Point, disturbing a gull tearing apart a small fish it must have found washed up on the shore. The gull shrieked its displeasure at Quint, and flew away with a ragged and bloody strip of flesh still in its beak. He yelled for Andrew once more, hearing only the cry of the gull in response.
The sun glinted across the still waters of the sound and Quint stared at the sailboats to see if any of them carried an eight-year-old boy as a passenger. He told himself there was nothing to worry about. Jillian and her sisters had played on this little peninsula since they were younger than Andrew. It was a perfectly safe playground for kids. Despite that, Quint‘s heartbeat increased as a feeling of unease swept over him.
Where the hell are you, Andrew?
One hundred yards away, Quint spotted a figure walking in his direction. He recognized Jillian’s sundress even from that distance, and a hot sensation warmed his groin as he recalled their afternoon couplings. He waved at her, but Jillian kept walking and Quint figured she must not have seen him. When she started running along the beach, Quint thought she was running to greet him.
Jillian stopped alongside a miniature inlet cut into the shoreline, her head down, hands on her knees. He didn’t have time to consider what she might be staring at before Jillian screamed. The anguished cry knifed through the stillness of what had been a perfect summer’s day. Quint felt a cold hand grip his heart, ripping his breath away as Jillian’s scream continued to build and she fell to her knees, holding her face in both hands.
With great effort Quint willed his legs to move, and he began running toward the spot where Jillian had fallen. His athlete’s legs took control and he ran like an opposing lineman was chasing him, legs pumping, arms churning. He told himself there were any number of reasons why Jillian had screamed, but he couldn’t imagine what they were as he concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. His flip-flops had flown off his feet after a few steps and his toes dug into the sand. He kept running, cutting the distance down to seventy-five yards, then fifty. At about thirty-five yards he looked up and spotted something lying in the water beside Jillian.
Quint couldn’t quite make out the pale form at Jillian’s feet. Perhaps his mind wouldn’t allow him to recognize what his thudding heart already knew. He ran faster, whipped by an icy fear. Ten feet away he skidded to a stop.
He tried to convince himself those weren’t the purple baggy shorts his brother had worn when he last saw him. They couldn’t be, especially since they were pulled down, bunched up around the ankles. It couldn’t be Andrew.
Jillian had stopped screaming, one hand to her mouth, one hand caressing the boy’s straw-colored hair. Quint attempted to move but his legs refused to go any farther. He stared at his brother with complete disbelief. A terrible taste flooded into his mouth and he thought he would vomit. He felt blood pulsing in his ears, a cruel drummer marching through his head.
Bloody bands crisscrossed Andrew’s chest and abdomen. With a massive effort of will Quint forced himself to move closer. One step then another until he realized the curved bands of blood covering his brother were actually gaping wounds exposing muscles and organs as though Andrew had been caught in the blades of some giant blender. Perhaps his brother had been run over by a motorboat, he thought, but then he noticed the thin line of crimson beneath Andrew’s chin. His throat had been cut.
Quint fell to his knees and grabbed his little brother in his arms. “No,” he mouthed to the boy. “No, you can’t be dead.”