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The rain was followed by a week of hot, windless sun. Scootie was sweeping out the Shoreline’s finally-empty storage shed (losing water-weight by the minute), when a silver Jaguar pulled into the lot. A stout, well-dressed woman got out and began walking his way. Probably looking for directions, he thought.
“Hello!” she called halfway. “Are you Scootie Jones?”
“Yeah,” he said. “I guess I am.”
“Hi,” she said. “I’m Margaret Lane.”
She extended a hand but Scootie waved his soot-colored palm. It was apparent he had no idea who she was.
“I’m Juliana’s mother,” she added.
“Oh.” He had no idea how he should act – criminal or victim.
“Look,” she said. “I know this is kind of strange, but could we go somewhere and talk? Have you had lunch? Let me buy you lunch.”
The offer seemed friendly enough.
“Okay. Let me wash up a little. Why don’t you grab a table at the Humpback Diner, and I’ll be right along.”
Margaret smiled uncertainly. “Okay.”
Scootie arrived five minutes later, and greeted the waitress, Camille. He found Margaret in the far corner – the table Juliana had used for her secret missions. Margaret watched Camille as she carried a load of boxes out the back door.
“I can see Room Fourteen from here.”
“You... you know about that?”
“That’s how I found you.”
Scootie ordered a cup of iced coffee, Margaret some orange spice tea. “So – what else do you know, Mrs. Lane?”
“I know many things a mother should never know. The cowgirl outfit. The coyote hill in Wyoming. The leak above Miguel Barran’s bed.”
Scootie had no idea what to say.
“Don’t be alarmed, Scootie. I just wanted to let you know how much I know, so we could skip the bullshit. And I wanted to talk about the current situation.”
Margaret released a deflating sigh. “Which is pretty disheartening. I thought I taught my daughter better than that.”
“Don’t you think I may have deserved what I got?”
Margaret leaned forward. “Deserved it? Whatever for?”
“For fishing in my own backyard. For shitting off the company pier.”
“My,” said Margaret, chuckling.
“Sorry. It’s a stolen joke. But don’t you think I may have placed myself in a perilous situation?”
“It’s generous of you to see it that way. But it was mu daughter who was granted the power in this... arrangement, and those who are entrusted with power and proceed to abuse it are the worst of all criminals. I assume you figured out all the machinations behind your layoff?”
“Took me about three seconds.”
“Believe me, when you’re sleeping with the president of the board, a few scenarios run through your mind.”
Camille arrived to take their orders. When she left, Margaret turned to Scootie with a cordial smile. “So tell me, if you are such a smart boy, why are you still in Hallis? I would think you’d hate this place.”
“I love the ocean.”
“Lots of ocean in this state. Santa Barbara, San Diego, Eureka...”
“I love the ocean in Hallis,” he said. “I love my new job. I love cycling down Highway One, the smell of salt on the wind, and the old washed-out piers at Davenport. And I love your daughter.”
Margaret studied him closely. “Perhaps you’re not as smart as I thought. Scootie, my daughter has loads of business sense, but she’s not very good at managing her heart. You can never entirely trust people like that.”
“None of which changes the fact that I love her.”
“So you’re holding out?”
“I’m under strict orders,” he replied. “Do you think I stand a chance?”
“You know the state of my daughter’s marriage as well as I do. Beyond that, I can’t tell you a thing. There’s a limit to my meddling.”
Scootie set down his coffee and studied her with his dark eyes. Just like Juliana’s, thought Margaret.
“So what are you doing here?” he asked.
Margaret considered the question. “I feel a certain responsibility for this, Scootie. I may have inadvertently planted the idea for this affair in my daughter’s mind. I suppose I’m here to offer my friendship, and to apologize for not raising my daughter entirely well.”
Scootie gave her a wry smile. “Motherhood is a rough art. And you situation was rather extraordinary. Regardless, your daughter says you have a heart bigger than Canada – and it took huevos of that approximate size to come here today.”
Margaret burst out laughing and wrinkled her eyes. “In Silicon Valley, I am know as La Reyna de los Huevos.”
Scootie laughed and extended a hand over the table. “Friends,” he said. “Lord knows, I can use all the friends I can get.”
Photo by MJV