Brock liked the walks, long trails along the water. He liked the air, caught in his chest, filtering through him like a cleansing. His room was a depressing square that faced a used car dealership. Water from the shower came out like rust and the bed creaked and hurt his back, but the natural beauty of the area was arresting, it calmed him.
He breathed in deep, he’d jogged three miles and it had left him feeling exhilarated. He left his life behind a tree and walked right out of his skin, into the sun, purified … happy.
His fifth day in Callicoon was a day for answers, like the one slipped under his door when he returned to his room feeling thinner, lighter.
He picked the envelope up quickly and stepped outside. Not a soul in sight. The stationary was fancy and had a grey ribbon on the outside flap. The notepaper looked too strong to tear, difficult to fold.
Brock whispered aloud as he stared at the ink, barely dry and blue as a Gauguin sea on canvas.
Long, long afterward in an oak, I found the arrow still unbroke.
“Shit.” He sat on the bed and reached into his sweatshirt pocket for his phone.
Carelli’s voice came through. “Brock?”
“How’s your Longfellow?” Brock asked.
“I think it’s here,” Brock said breathlessly.
“You’ve seen it? Where is it?”
Brock caught his breath. His heart was beating, accelerating. The blood flowed through his veins and pushed away the darkness. He felt the tears in the corner of his eyes.
“No, I haven't seen it and I don't know where it is, but I know it’s here. That's something, isn't it?”
“You’re sweating for such a cold day.” Millie grinned. Her face revealed small purple lines, like scattered and confused vines.
Brock winked at her as he closed the door behind him. “You look fine today, Miss Millie.”
The purple lines seemed to meet and burst away; transforming her into someone from days past, the girl she once was, attractive and robustly energetic.
“You are entitled to a free breakfast for that remark,” she said.
“I’ll take you up on that.”
Millie pushed aside a white sheet that hung from a clothesline behind her desk. Brock noticed a kitchenette on the other side of the room. On the shelf was a toaster that shone and picked up reflections. An old brown radio with large dials was not as clean. He could see the bottom half of a single bed. The coffee smelled surprisingly strong and inviting.
“Would you prefer tea?” She spoke with a playful sarcasm.
Knowing that she found humor in that remark, he pointed a finger to scold her.
“You think I’m an English fairy, don’t you?”
She threw back her head, her thin rosewater bangs went into a peak. “Well, you English all seem so ‘proper’.” She made a point of shaking her head three times before saying the word, giving it a British clip, “and you dress like a movie star, American men don’t normally look so…put together.”
“Pass me the coffee, Millie … lots of milk, no sugar. Now how American is that?”
She giggled and the road signs merged and vanished again, her eyes were clear brown, honest eyes that found his.
“You see any Eagles today?” she asked.
“Actually, I did and I wonder if you could help me out.”
According to the note he’d received, Longfellow must have the diamond, and according to a local paper, Brenda was found behind Andy Longfellow’s cottage with an arrow in her heart; coincidence or plan?
She looked up, excited to begin. “Of course.”
“You know everyone in this town, right?”
She looked terribly pleased with herself. “Sure do.”
“What do you know about Andy Longfellow?”
“You read that in the paper, didn’t you, that there was a body found behind his cottage?” Her eyes became large and round. She spoke with a new excited speed.
Brock nodded his head. “They didn’t give his address … where’s the cottage?”
“He doesn’t live here anymore, except summers. He spends every summer here unless he’s working.”
“What else do you know about him?”
“He didn’t kill that girl.” Millie leaned in close. “He’s a bit of a weirdo, couldn’t kill a fly, he’s a mess. Is he related to you?”
“You can’t ever tell what Andy looks like anymore, he’s always changing himself, but I don’t see the resemblance.”
“So, he’s from around here?”
“Yeah, he’s Lillian Tate’s grandson.” Millie rubbed her hands together, clearly enjoying the intrigue of a British stranger paying good money for a motel room that had surely seen better days. She moved closer to him. “Lillian Tate was married to Stephen Mazur. Poor guy died last week. Lillian and Stephen had a daughter, two daughters, actually, though one was from Lillian’s first marriage. One of the daughters was Andy’s mother. She’s the one married a Longfellow. The other daughter was Eleanor Long.”
"So, he's Eleanor's nephew?"
“You’re a gem.”
“You need any information, you come to me.”
“You know where I can find this Andy Longfellow?”
Millie was eager to be helpful, energized by the information she carried. “Sure, I’ll even draw you a map to his house, after I make you some of my best Canadian beacon and eggs.”
Brock tossed her a charming smile. He felt like another run, this time he could fly right over the water, fly all the way back to Jane, talk her out of leaving him. Maybe they could have the diamond cut before Carelli could reach them. Maybe they’d be home free. Maybe being on the run would be worth the risk
“It’s going to be all right,” he’d say. “Just trust me.”
Brock followed Millie’s map past hills of gravel, roads lined with too much crap, houses that needed work and didn’t care. He turned off onto a tiny bridge, less than ten minutes outside the town of Callicoon.
Millie told him that the first house he’d see would be big and stately, “a Colonial with red shutters and long paned windows,” she’d said. “Can’t miss those red shutters. That's Eleanor Long's house.”
Brock made the turn and followed the road.
“Go past the Colonial. Pass the pond on the left.” She’d drawn on an old piece of paper, a little map with lines and crudely drawn landmarks. “You’re going to be looking for a white cottage.”
Brock saw two barns ahead of him. He took the dirt road that went right in between the two large structures and drove straight on back toward the creek.
“He starts coming up here on Memorial Day,” Millie had told him. “But he lives in New York City.”
Brock could smell something like jasmine as he approached. He breathed it in. The small white cottage was surrounded in color, splashes of it. He pulled his car behind an old truck that looked like it had seen one too many back roads. Next to the truck was a red Corvette. Brock guessed it was old, probably an eighty-two or three.
Andy Longfellow must have seen him drive up and opened the door. He had hair down to his shoulders and a beard that was nearly as long. His hair was dark and thick as a Saint Bernard’s. He looked like a killer to Brock, not tame at all, squirrelly maybe, but not tame.
“Can I help you?”
“Nice place,” Brock wanted to appear friendly before he found himself staring at the tip of an arrow, this guy could have killed Brenda.
“Like I said, can I help you?” Andy walked out and closed the door behind him. Brock noticed he had picked up a large stick.
Brock held out his hand, a peace offering. “I’m here to help you.”
Andy looked perplexed. Brock realized he hadn’t written the note. He quickly surmised that this guy didn’t look like the type to write on paper too pretty to use. He was a contradiction to the beauty around him, similar only to the truck.
Andy started shaking his head. He stepped back and threw the stick on the ground. “Oh, I get it. I get it now. Look, I’m paying off my credit cards as quickly as I can.” He put his hands through his hair and started walking back and forth, as though he were confused. "I didn't think you people made house calls."
Brock wasn’t sure what to say. He shook his head. “No, bill collectors don’t make house calls. Look, I really don’t care who you owe or what you owe.”
Andy stopped in his tracks. “You don’t care?”
Brock shrugged. “Nope. I’m not a bill collector.”
“I’m here about the Eagle Diamond.” Brock watched Andy closely. He looked about to faint.
“What do you know about the Eagle Diamond?”
“You have it, don’t you?”
Andy scrutinized Brock’s features. “Who you been talking to, stranger?”
Brock reached into his pocket and showed him the note he’d received earlier.
“What the hell is this?”
“A quote from a poem by Longfellow. It led me to you.”
“I didn’t write this.”
“Didn’t really think you did.” Brock took several steps back, just to get a better look at him, just to protect himself from a guy who looked edgy enough to bulldoze him.
“Lots of people named Longfellow.”
“You know what it means?”
Andy laughed. “I don’t read much poetry.”
“You are putting me on, aren’t you?”
Andy suddenly went hysterical, as if Brock had said something funny. Brock watched as Andy was brought down to the ground by his own laughter. His knees gave way and he was flat on his ass, throwing his head back, holding his sides.
You’re sitting in mud, asshole, Brock thought to say but didn’t.
“You a cop, FBI or something?” Andy managed to blurt out.
“I’m something,” he said. “I buy what you have.”
“Son of a bitch, my prayers have been answered,” Andy cried out, through screeches so high that birds nearby took to the sky.
Brock stared at him. He was going to have to negotiate with a half-wit. He wanted to throw a few punches. Instead he waited until Andy’s laughter subsided. Finally, he got to his feet.
“Come on buddy, come on buddy, come on inside.” Andy threw his weight against Brock’s shoulder, flung his arm around Brock’s back.
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