In this year-long serialized novel set on the Vineyard in real time, a native Islander (“Call me Becca”) returns home after two decades to help her eccentric Uncle Abe keep his landscaping business, Pequot, afloat. Abe has a paranoid hatred of Richard Moby, the CEO of an off-Island wholesale nursery, Broadway. Convinced that Moby wants to destroy Abe personally, and all Island-based landscaping/nursery businesses generally, Abe is obsessed with “taking down” Moby. A series of failures have done nothing to dissuade him. Last week, a fellow Island landscaper, who had been physically hurt by Moby, begged Abe to lay off. To no avail.
So this year for Halloween I’m going to be a Hospital Visitor. Oh, wait a sec, that’s not my costume, that’s my life.
Do you remember last week Abe got all het up about Moby breaking Sammy Enderby’s arm? Sammy wouldn’t tell him what the trouble was between them, and Abe was hell-bent on finding out. He was so sure that it (the trouble) was evidence of misbehavior on Moby’s part, evidence that could have gotten Moby in trouble if Enderby had “gone public” with it. Actually, all of us — even Mott, the rational one — still believe that, although nobody has any idea what the misbehavior might be. All we know is: Moby broke Sammy’s arm to shut him up, and it worked.
So Abe decided he was going to find out for himself what the “trouble” was, and he decided — like any enterprising, clear-thinking nutcase might — that the best way to do this was to break into Sammy Enderby’s office in the middle of the night and rifle through all of Sammy’s papers until he stumbled upon something in print that would conveniently spell it all out for him.
But breaking and entering in the middle of the night wasn’t enough for Abe, oh, nosirree. He had to do it on the night of a new moon under the cover of clouds, when there was absolutely no chance that he would be able to see his own hand in front of his face.
I wish I could report what happened second-hand, because that would mean I’d slept peacefully through the night and only heard about it the next day, but such was not my lot. I was deep asleep, but a sound like fingers on a chalkboard brought me to instant wakefulness, and I almost screamed when I realized somebody was outside my ground-floor window prying it open from the outside. (I’m still living at my cousins’, in their un-winterized guest room; for a confused moment, I thought an ambitious skunk was trying to get in.)
“Becca!” said Quincas’s voice. “Becca, you awake?”
“I am now,” I said, grabbing for my sweater. “What are you doing here?” (Okay, yeah, I admit it: for a fleeting moment I fantasized he was here to serenade me.)
“Abe tells me: follow me to Sammy’s house, now, in the dark,” I heard him say. “With our lights out.”
“Yeah, I can tell you whose lights are out,” I muttered, and felt around in the dark for my jeans.
“I said, meet at the driveway, so we will. You come, Becca? Abe, he’s loco, and maybe I need your help.”
He could have asked Mott. That would have made more sense, since Mott can strong-arm Abe and I can’t. But I was pleased he’d come to me, and that pleasure got me dressed quickly in the frigid dark (did I mention that this room is not winterized?) I climbed out the window. I don’t know why I climbed out the window, it was totally unnecessary, but when you’re sneaking around in the middle of the night right before Halloween, climbing out the window just feels right, somehow.
Quincas has a swanky cherry-red sedan (which is incongruous to my concept of Quincas-ness); he drives safely but very fast, and we got to the end of Sammy’s driveway, in the woods of State Road, before Abe did. Quincas cut the lights, and I climbed into the back seat and hid.
A few minutes later, Abe drove up, parked his car between two trees, and got into Quincas’s passenger seat. “Pull up to the office,” he whispered, without a greeting.
“Okay boss,” Quincas answered cheerfully. The drive is a far-from-straight dirt road, and I think Quincas must have some kind of sonar, because somehow he didn’t run into any trees on the way.
The car stopped. Quincas cut the engine. From where I was hiding, I guessed there was a building before us only because the blackness was uniform there; to either side of the car, it was just as black, but the blackness had some texture to it.
Both men got out of the car. Quincas pretended to close his door, but he didn’t actually, which I took to mean he wanted me to sneak out after them and stay close. I was game for that. Neither of them are experienced at sneaking around in the woods in total darkness, so it was easy to follow them the dozen or so yards to the building, where —
...Sorry, the doctor just called me, he needs to talk to me about Abe since I count as closest kin. Gotta cut this short. Will finish up ASAP.Ummm ... Happy Halloween!
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Vineyard novelist Nicole Galland’s critically-acclaimed works include Crossed: A Tale of the Fourth Crusade. Visit her Web site, nicolegalland.com.