Fortunately, Kent did not have to rely solely on the colorful commentary provided by his morning crew to keep his day interesting. Shortly after Ray and Jerry had moved on to more menial tasks around the shop, a wealthy family from Texas had wandered in and inquired about his guided fishing excursions. The father quickly explained that the timing had forced him to bring his children along on a business trip and he was looking for a unique activity to ‘atone for his sins.’ While Kent had doubted the man’s motivations, he was not one to turn away a prospective customer, especially during the tourist season; he had booked them for a 10:00 a.m. launch time.
It was now nearly 1:30 p.m.
Aside from a few notable disputes from his pre-teen passengers – which the father had made no attempt to bring under control – the outing had gone relatively well. They didn’t get any major bites, such as a salmon or lingcod, but Kent didn’t really expect them to; they were far too noisy for that. Hell, they were lucky to have snagged a trout or two. And thankfully, that had been enough to appease them – another satisfied customer.
With his boat secured once more in the marina and a decent tip stashed safely in his back pocket, Kent trudged back to his shop, an equipment duffel slung loosely over his right shoulder. The bell above the door jangled when he entered, and his gaze immediately went toward the counter to find Jerry sitting casually in the corner. The other man’s jaw worked slowly as he munched on a bag of potato chips, his eyes fixed on the small television set mounted on the wall. He waved lazily when Kent passed in front of the register and dumped the bag at his feet. Other than that, he barely seemed to notice.
This, of course, roused suspicion.
Leaning forward, Kent tried to get a better view of the TV to determine what had engrossed his friend, but when that gesture still did not generate a response from Jerry, he simply shook his head and sighed. Perhaps it had been a bad idea to install that damned thing in the first place; it always seemed to cause a distraction, particularly when the Seahawks or Mariners were playing. Not that he didn’t like to see the games – it was more about principle. He was trying to run a business here, after all.
Issuing a sigh, Kent parted his lips to confront the other man, but before the words could leave his mouth, the phone in his left breast pocket began to vibrate. With a quiet curse, he fished the iPhone out of his jacket and glanced at the lock screen, noting that it was his wife. Jerry would have to wait; he needed to take this.
Swiping the screen, he pressed the phone to his ear. “Hey,”
he answered evenly, shuffling around to the other side of the counter. From this vantage point, he could now see the TV quite clearly. It was tuned to a Channel 5 News report with the ‘Breaking News’ headline scrolling across the bottom.
He frowned slightly. Did that say something about another
shooting? Well, he supposed he now knew what was troubling Jerry. If he was being honest, it wasn’t all that surprising for this world, not when it seemed like there was a new shooting every other day. It was easy to grow numb to it all...to feel helpless. Still, he took comfort in hearing Emily’s voice when it finally reached his ear. “Well, there’s a surprise – I didn’t think you’d pick up,”
she replied smartly, her tone holding a certain playful quality. “You usually let it go to voicemail. Slow day?”“I took the boat out this morning for a family from Houston, so it wasn’t a complete loss.”
He shrugged, his eyes still directed at the TV when the camera pulled back to show a wider shot of the scene. It looked…familiar
somehow. “I was about to head out and grab a quick lunch, so you caught me at a good time.”“Don’t eat too much,”
she chided softly. “That’s what I’m calling you about – I got those reservations for tonight at McCormick’s.”“Uh, what?”
His attention was divided now, the scene on the television slowly coming into focus – the houses, the streets, the people. He knew that neighborhood; it was right here in Baltham.“The place on the waterfront,”
Emily continued after a moment, somewhat hesitant after his brief lapse. “You know, the one we’ve been talking about since last weekend...the one that was apparently booked solid when I called on Monday. We’re in – tonight at 7:30.”“Oh, yeah...that--uh, that’s great, honey.”
There was another pause, followed by an audible sigh. “Kent? Are you alright?”
Pursing his lips, Kent shook his head and turned away from the news report, regardless of the fact that she could not see the gesture through the phone. Somehow, knowing that a terrible tragedy had occurred locally gave the issue a lot more weight. Did he know the victims? Would this trickle down to affect others operations throughout the community? There were so many variables to consider. “Yeah, I’m fine,”
he breathed in a huff, his voice sounding more gravelly than usual. “I just saw something on TV...it got my attention.” “The shooting?”
Kent narrowed his eyes, clenching his jaw slightly at her special kind of intuition. “So, you know.”“I saw the report right before I called you. Last I heard, there were two dead, two wounded,”
she relayed the information with surprising ease. “No idea about the victims yet, but I’m sure that’ll be released in time. It’s a shame.”
She hesitated for a moment, almost as if she knew she was about to tread on dangerous ground. “Maybe I can even call Curt to see if--”“No, he wouldn’t want to be bothered,”
Kent countered quickly, his tone probably coming across more harsh than he intended. Even after all this time, his son remained a sore subject in any conversation. He knew Emily resented that fact, but Kent was a stubborn man; it was something she was going to have to deal with for the time being. The boy had made no effort to reach out to him, so why should he?
Sensing the tension growing between them, Kent inhaled deeply and tried to steer the discussion back on topic. “Anyway, Em, I’ll be home around six. Good job getting that table for tonight...I look forward to it.”
He smiled sadly, his gaze drifting back to the television one last time. “I love you.”“Love you too, Kent.”