Emerald Road

~just for fun, when writer's block wages too strong a battle~
The late afternoon sun slipped around the plantation shutters and stabbed my eyes each time I attempted to glance out the window. O’Kelly’s Pub awakened around me. I glanced at my watch and discovered I had been sitting at the bar for almost two hours. I thought once again of Ricky Jamison, the kid I was appointed to represent in court this morning.

Ricky is sixteen, and he had no concept of “family.” Well, that’s a lie. He has a concept alright. It’s too bad his “family” has no concept. To Ricky, family means loyalty, trust, keeping your mouth shut and playing the scapegoat for the greater good. His family is the Market Street Cousins, a rag-tag group of thugs who generally find themselves wrapped in petty thievery allegations, simple possession charges, and loitering activities. As best I can tell, the Cousins are nine boys and three girls. None of them is older than seventeen.

Two nights ago, on Wednesday, Stella Rijo was found in the intercoastal waterway. Someone had strangled her, stripped her, and crudely carved “MSC” in the skin just above her pubic area. Stella was a Cousin, a groupie, really, as that seems the role the three girls play. A little more than an hour after finding the body, detectives found Ricky fishing on the pier, two blocks away. He was high, bored, and, according to my argument this morning, innocent of murder.

Marjory Wallace, court clerk, called yesterday and asked if I was available to take Ricky’s case. “Ask” - “command” – seems the same when they call. Of course, I said I could do it. Thirty-five years old and I still can’t say no. I moved to the insulated coastal town of Portsmith a year ago to start my own legal practice. Part-time. I have other pursuits that aren’t yet ready to pay the bills, but I prefer them. When it comes to law, I enjoy it like some enjoy cognac – a little at a time and preferably with good company. Maybe I am being too sarcastic. I love the law, but like so many other things, it has become mired in a swamp of administrative hurdle-jumping. The passion is hard to find, just like it was in my failed marriage.

Luckily, my law office is not swamped at the moment. A contract dispute is still lingering, smoldering, really. I can smell it when I walk in the back door and realize that calling the client would be a good idea – some day. A couple of wills need to be drafted. Some lovebird from Wisconsin found his soul mate and desires a prenup. Otherwise, my hard drive is full of unfinished stories, mixing software, several different versions of several different songs I am trying to compose, and letters to publishing companies that I intend to send one day soon. I drain my fourth beer as the bartender heads my way. Amy’s short, blonde, gray-eyed, pretty. She has a tattoo of a lobster right below her bellybutton ring. She’s from Maine. As I start to speak, she glances to the door.

I follow her glance and see a silhouette enter, surrounded by the rays of the slowly sinking sun. When the door closes, I realize everyone in O’Kelly’s must be looking at the same sight. She’s striking, with dark hair, dark eyes, black t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers. She pushes her sunglasses up and smiles at Amy. “Vodka and cranberry?” Her voice is soft, but her tone is confident. She moves toward the bar and simultaneously takes in the place. I get the feeling she could leave now and describe to the cops every person in here enough to have warrants issued. I want to know her. That much I know.

She sits two stools down from me and smiles. “Hi.” She extends her hand. It is soft, strong. She has long fingers. “I’m Darby Berget.” Cliches. Cliches. My head is full of lines, but all I want to do is sit on the beach and talk to Miss Berget for the next couple of weeks. After that, who knows? Maybe I don’t get out enough. “Kellen Hagan, part time barfly, full time pal of Amy the best bartender in town, Miss Berget. Tough to find that on your first visit.”

“Oh, really? What makes you think this is my first visit?”

“Hon, you’ve got a city map sticking outta your purse.” Amy winks at me and continues, “This here is the best part time lawyer in town. He’s also single, romantic, and way too analytical to try to talk to. If he bothers you, lemme know. I know his weak spots.” Amy kisses my outstretched palm and glides to the other end of the bar.

“Well, it is my first time visiting, but I know about the place. My best friend’s father lived here, and I have always wanted to see if it lives up to what I imagined.” She takes her time before speaking. She speaks thoughtfully, careful to provide only a certain amount of information. I also have personal experience in keeping things close to the vest. She has stories. I want to hear them.

“What do you think so far, Miss Berget?”

“Call me Darby.” Her smile disarms me. “The square is beautiful. The people are friendly. The beach looks like a dream, and the best bartender in town works at an Irish pub. I still may take a few days to explore, but it’s a damn good start.” She laughed and drained her glass.

“Tell me about your name, if you don’t mind. It is beautiful, interesting.”

“Well, ‘Darby’ means ‘free.' Irish heritage is important to my family, and Darby is definitely Irish. As for ‘Berget,’ it is Irish, as well. It comes from ‘Brid’ which means ‘mighty,’ and that comes from the most famous woman saint in all of Ireland, Brigid, the patron saint of scholars. Of course, I’m just a girl from the northwest, looking to start a life.” She laughs again and excuses herself.

I watch her walk toward the restrooms, the questions in my head buzzing nonstop like honeybees on clover. What does she do? Is she running from something? Why here? Is she single? Is she psycho? Conversations you hate never seem to end, and the ones you long to continue always end too quickly. I still am learning how to make them last, and this is one that is setting me on fire. I order Darby and myself another drink, and Amy grins. “You’re trying to line up a date, aren’t ya K? Am I not good enough for you? Oh, nevermind that. She’s cute. Think she might be interested in me?” Amy winks at me as I stuff some bills in her tip jar. I stick out my tongue, and she wiggles her tight jeans at me when she turns to grab my beer. Just then, I notice Darby has exited the restroom and is standing at the jukebox. Another question: what will she play?

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