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“She has to go.”

Molly was mortified. It was bad
enough that her eyes were swimming
and her teeth were tightly clenched,
but to have her father treat her like a
preschooler when she’d just entered
Junior High was awful.

“I have no idea where this exit came
from, but the next one on your map

is thirty miles away. Look Grace... if there’s nothing down there, the worst you’d have to do is take her into the woods.” Sam, her father, tried to see down the exit’s path as he steered.

“Hmmm.” Molly’s mom frowned and stared harder at her map. Their car cleared the bushes lining the exit and ending at a small landing on the ocean. The family piled out. Sam walked up to the first person he saw. Everyone was staring out at the sea.

“Excuse me. Is there a restroom around here?” Sam asked a big-boned man in a sheriff’s uniform. The uniform looked a little out of date, like maybe it was from the 50s. The sheriff did a double take.

“What are you doing here?”

“It’s a bit of an emergency. Restroom?” The man pointed to a row of fiberglass-shelled temporary toilets. Holding her arms down in front of her with fists knotted tight, Molly sprinted the rest of the distance to the portable restrooms.

“Can you see the approaching boat?” the sheriff asked. He peeled off old-looking wire-rimmed sunglasses.

“Uh, no. Wait a second... yes,” Sam answered. He shielded his eyes with a hand and squinted out over the ocean. A broad smile formed on the sheriff’s face.

“Where’s my manners. I’m Sheriff Lawless. Yeah... I know, I know. I’ve heard all the jokes.” He extended a heavy hand, dried, cracked, and callused. Sam could feel a fat ring when he completed the shake.

“I still can’t see this exit.” Grace frowned as she looked down at the map. It hung like an accordion in her small hands.

A large hand mashed down on the folds.

“They never get those maps right. Never had much use for them myself.” The sheriff gave them a toothy grin. “Hey where’re you from? On vacation?”

“Uh... Yes. We’re from Boston,” Sam said.

“Oh really!” The Sheriff’s grin grew larger. It became a cavern of teeth. “Live there?” He looked almost hopeful.

“Well... er... yes... and no. I just got a job up there. We’re staying in a hotel while we look for somewhere to live.”

“I still can’t see where we are,” Grace said. She tried to undo the crumpling the map had borne from the sheriff’s assault.

“Housing prices out of control?” The sheriff’s eyes bored straight into Sam’s.

“Yea,” Sam sighed. “We took this trip hoping to spot a reasonable home without too bad a commute.”

“Well, why don’t you take a little trip to our island. There’s a house that just came to market. The previous owners are dying to sell. I’ll bet you the price will be more than reasonable.”

“Uh, reasonable?” Sam’s face shined for the first time in weeks.

“I don’t know dear. This place looks remote.” Grace grabbed her husbands arm tight.

“It’s an easy commute. C’mon. It won’t hurt to look.” The sheriff said. He began to perspire lightly. Must have high blood pressure, Sam thought.

“OK. Oh no. Forget it. There’s no room for our car.” Sam looked at the ferry. It was small and already at its four-car capacity.

“Of course there’s room. Caleb!” the sheriff shouted. A balding, thin, boney man focused guarded eyes on the sheriff.

“You were just leaving Caleb, weren’t you.” Caleb opened his mouth into a silent “O,” then closed it. His face darkened. Caleb turned without a word and headed toward a car on the ferry. A moment later, a space had opened up on the ferry’s lower deck.

Molly came back, looking relieved. She saw her parents talking to a strange man. Molly had a well-developed sixth sense. Every time she ignored it, she paid a price. Right now all alarms were going off.

“I’m done Dad. Let’s get going.”

“Molly, we’re gonna go exploring. There’s a house to look at on an island.”

Sam’s daughter groaned. This was like the thousandth house she’d been dragged through on this so-called vacation. She looked around, her quick glance darting from face to face. A car was backing off the ferry. Nothing out of the ordinary, and yet it didn’t feel right.

“Mom, Dad... let’s go. Can we please?”

“Molly, I know this vacation has been something of a bust, but there might be a house for us here. You know how hard we’ve looked.” Sam was practically salivating. Molly had seen that look before; there was no turning her dad back when he got this excited about anything. “Look Molly, I promise. We’ll go straight back to Boston after visiting this island... OK?” Molly just nodded and looked at her shoes.

When they drove the car onto the ferry, Sam rolled down his window and handed the captain a credit card.

“Don’t take no plastic.”

“I don’t have any cash.” The captain shrugged and stared at Sam with unblinking eyes. He scratched his white beard and waited for them to back off his boat.

“Hold on Eustis. I’ll pay for these people.” The sheriff materialized out of the gloom of the lower deck and began peeling bills off a roll. The captain took the bills and signaled the first mate. He headed toward the bow.

“Thanks... uh.” Sam couldn’t remember. Did the sheriff give him his name?

“Lawless... Sheriff Lawless... but you can call me Manson.”

“Look, we really can’t take advantage of your kindness. At least let me write you a check.”

“I couldn’t accept. You folks look hungry. I’ll take you to the best diner on the island. Buy me lunch, and we’ll call it even.”

Sam shrugged. “OK... thanks.” A moment later, he and Grace were on the observation deck above the cars, planting themselves near the bow railing at the port side of the boat. Looking down, Sam caught sight of the man who had taken his car off the ferry. The man slammed the door shut and hurried back to the boat before it pulled completely away from the dock. He jumped hard and cleared the rapidly growing gap of water, landing on the lower deck. Odd, I thought he just arrived. Sam’s thoughts were interrupted by a blast from the ferry’s horns as it glided away from its moorings. Grace looked behind her. Molly was gone.

Standing on the farthest point of the bow, forward of the car bay, Molly steadied herself against the bright chrome railing. The wind whipped her long hair.

Do I dare? Molly looked around carefully to see if anyone was watching. No one near. Turning again to face the ocean, Molly took a deep breath and slowly raised her arms until they were parallel with her shoulders, imitating her favorite heroine from a famous ocean-liner shipwreck movie. If anyone had seen her, she’d have turned redder than her hair. The wind felt good as it flapped the sleeves of her blouse.

“Rogue wave!” shouted the first mate. His voice raised in pitch. The captain saw the wave. There was no time… no warning the passengers. He threw the wheel hard and tried to point the bow into the oncoming wave. People, drinks, and food all lurched to the right. Bags and luggage skittered across the decks, hitting people and bulkheads.

The wave caught Molly off guard. Her ribs bounced painfully off the railing. She almost fell overboard as she clawed for a hold. A wall of water, taller than the first deck, crashed over the bow.

From where she stood, welded to the upper deck railing, Grace saw her daughter disappear under a rolling sheet of water. She couldn’t breath as Molly disappeared.

The wave passed. Like a rock being exposed by a retreating wave at the beach, Molly was revealed, jammed against the lower railing, gasping for air. Her previously empty hand clutched half of a broken amulet.

Her eyes were screwed shut. Searing head pain. Then she saw, like a dream, a woman and a small child. Their cloths were strange and old fashioned. The woman was doing something to the girl’s hand.

Copyright 2002
Timshel Literature