DW, an Army vet, has published 9 novels. His day job is teaching elementary school. In his spare time, he camps with his wife of 30+ years.
Lunch Among Pirates
The Pirate's Cave Bar and Grill was only a tenth of a mile up Ocean Street from the corner of Ocean and Eleventh Street near Mark's townhouse. After a quick shower to wash off the sand and salt he'd accumulated sitting on the beach, and a change of clothes into an ecru golf shirt and dark tan khaki shorts, Mark headed there for lunch. He was a fan of their grilled chicken sandwiches.
The restaurant was busy when Mark arrived, but there were seats available at the bar. The place was well lit and decorated with pirate movie posters dating back to Douglas Fairbanks' swashbuckling days. Statues of various pirate captains, real and fictitious, including Blackbeard and Jack Sparrow, dotted the dining room. A risque statue of Anne Bonny sporting a pistol in one hand and a sword in the other dominated one end of the bar. He opted to fill one of the empty seats farthest from it. The bartender, a middle-aged man with graying hair on his head and a globe and anchor tattoo on his arm, gave him a nod and sauntered over.
"What can I get you?"
"Soda with a shot of bitters and a menu, please," Mark replied.
"Coming right up," said the bartender.
The man returned with a highball glass full of ice, soda water, and a shot of bitters, and a menu.
"Thanks," Mark said, perusing the menu.
A commotion at the door caught his attention. He turned to see a young couple arguing, but he couldn't make out what was being said. From what he could see, the girl wanted to leave, and the guy didn't. After a few more words, the guy threw up his hands, and the two of them left.
The bartender walked over, shaking his head. "Summer's just getting started, and already some people's patience with the waiting lines is running out. Sometimes I think they ought to open the bridge after a certain number of people get onto the island and only lower it to let folks off. When someone leaves, then they can let someone else on."
"Aren't you afraid that would be bad for business?" Mark asked as he turned back to the menu.
The bartender smirked. "Bad for business, maybe. But better for my blood pressure." He gestured toward the menu. "So, what'll it be?"
Mark laid the menu down. "How about a grilled chicken sandwich with lettuce and tomato - no onion, and a side of seasoned fries?"
"Sounds good to me," the bartender said. "I heard one of the chefs next door at Neptune's say we have the best-grilled chicken sandwich on the island."
"Is that right?" Mark asked.
"You know it," the bartender confirmed. "She comes in here for lunch now and again and always orders the grilled chicken sandwich."
The bartender left to put in Mark's order. Mark turned his attention to the baseball game on the TV over the bar. The Mets were playing the Dodgers. Mark wondered for the umpteenth time why North Carolina, home to so many minor league teams, still didn't have its own major league club.
Neither team was having much luck at the plate. The score was nothing to nothing when Mark's lunch arrived. He enjoyed his meal in silence as the bartender was too busy filling drink orders to spend time on idle chit chat. Mark finished his sandwich, about half of his fries, settled his tab, including a generous tip, and left the restaurant.
The brightness of the afternoon sunlight caused Mark to squint when he walked out the door. He noted the traffic on Ocean Street was stop and go in both directions, and he wondered if the drawbridge - the only way on or off the island by car - had been raised while he was having lunch.
The sunshine combined with the humidity to make standing still on the sidewalk uncomfortable. Mark walked down Ocean Street toward the intersection with Eleventh Street and stopped short when he spotted a woman waiting there with three children. He nearly turned around. Instead, he moved forward.
"Hello, again," he called out when near enough to be heard but not so close as to startle Cybil's children.
"Look, mom," one of the boys cried out. "It's the guy you were talking to on the beach."
"Flirting with on the beach, you mean," the daughter said with a mischievous grin.
Cybil appeared to ignore both remarks and smiled at Mark. "Hello, yourself. We were just on our way home from having lunch at Iggie's." She tilted her head. Her smile faded. "I thought we might see you there."
Mark mentally kicked himself for going to The Pirate's Cave instead of Iggie's.
"I decided to eat indoors instead," he explained. "The Pirate's Cave."
"I like pirates," the boy who'd called out earlier declared, swinging his hand as if he were wielding a sword.
Mark smiled at the dark-haired boy. "You'd like The Pirate's Cave then. They have pictures and statues of pirates all over the place."
The other twin, whose hair was several shades lighter than his brother's, and who sported a fine spray of freckles, wrinkled his nose. "I like cowboys better than pirates."
The hair on the back of Mark's neck stood up, and his senses went of full alert. His eyes quickly scanned the area, looking for the reason. They picked out a burgundy red late-model Chevy Malibu on Ocean Street that slowed down a bit too much as it drove north past the corner. The driver wasn't watching the road ahead. His eyes scanned slowly over Mark, Cybil, and her children.
Mark stepped toward the road. His movement caused the driver, a middle-aged man with short, gray hair and snarl on his face, to focus on Mark. The retired soldier stared into the motorist's eyes with a gaze he'd reserved during his active military years for laying the cross-hairs of his scope on his targets. The motorist's head snapped quickly to the front. The Malibu sped up and nearly rammed the car ahead of it.
Mark's cell phone came quickly out of his pocket. He took a picture of the car and a close-up of the license plate. He wished he'd gotten one of the Malibu's driver.
"What was that all about?" Cybil asked after Mark put his camera back in his left front pants pocket. "Do you know who the driver was?"
"No," Mark said, "but something about the way he drove by us drew my attention. Then, the way he was looking at you and your kids gave me the creeps. I'll send his license number to a friend of mine on the BBPD and get him checked out."
He turned to Cybil. "I take it you have no idea who the guy is."
Cybil shook her head. To her daughter, she said, "Zephyr, have you ever seen him before."
The girl shook her head vigorously. "No way, Mom. He grossed me out the way he stared at me." She looked up at Mark. "Thanks, mister, for scaring him away."
"Yes, Mark, thank you," Cybil said. "I think we should get on home before anything else strange happens."
"Where are you headed?" Mark asked as a break in traffic gave them an opening to step into the cross-walk.
Cybil pointed to the Crossroads Townhouse complex. "We have a place right across the street there. Most of the year, it's rented out. The kids and I stay every summer from the time school lets out until it starts back in August. Getting to come down here with them for these two months is one of the great things about being a teacher."
They reached the west side of Ocean Street and walked the short way to the complex entrance. When Mark walked with them through the gate, Cybil stopped and held up her hand.
"You don't have to see us to our front door. I'm sure we'll be okay from here."
Mark laughed. "Actually, I live here, too, in Unit 9. I bought it as an investment property while I was on active duty and moved in when I retired. Wow, was that just yesterday?"
"We live in Unit 6," Zephyr volunteered. "We're your neighbors."
"I guess we are," Mark agreed. "Maybe we'll run into each other now and then by the pool or in the clubhouse."
"Cool," Zephyr said.
"Cool," her brothers echoed.
Cybil smiled at Mark. "I don't think I'd mind running into you again. But right now, we all need showers to wash off the salt and sand."
"I'll be out by the pool later," Mark let Cybil know. "In case you wanted our next chance meeting to be sooner rather than later."
Mark stopped at the end of the short sidewalk leading to his front porch. Cybil took a few more steps, stopped, and turned around.
"I'll keep it in mind," she said. She smiled, turned back in the direction of her unit, and walked away.
Mark watched them until they reached their unit and started to turn to go into his when he spotted the Malibu cruising slowly past the complex, heading west on Eleventh Street. He started walking toward the road. The car sped up and drove off.
Mark's story continues in Chapter 6
- This We Share (A Buzby Beach Novel) Chapter 06
Mark learns the identity of the Malibu's driver, but not why the man is watching his neighbor. Or is it Mark the PI is keeping an eye on?
© 2020 DW Davis