Karen Slater arrived at Shipwreck Bay’s humble brick train station carrying only a shoulder bag. She crossed the street to Peace, Love & Coffee. In that bright space her crabby tired self, groggy since San Jose, confronted a cheerful blonde barista.
The barista seemed familiar and as she steamed up a cappuccino, Karen placed her. Penny was her name.When Karen had last seen her, this girl was a pesky Catholic-school brat. LaFero! Her father was Supreme Goo-Gaw of the Knights of Columbus. Knights events were the pinnacle of the town’s Catholic social life, and somebody on the Board had blackballed the Slater family. Her father, Ray Slater, had attended Catholic school all the way, and almost all his friends were Knights. But the clubhouse door had been slammed in his face. And it was all because, Karen felt, of her father’s dirty hands.
Bitch, Karen thought, as Penny delivered a cappuccino.
Ray Slater ran the scrapyard that everyone assumed was a chop shop, swallowing up the town’s stolen cars and motorcycle, breaking them down, selling the parts. But everyone assumed wrong. Most of those cars and motorcycles were sneaked up to RiverPorts, where they were exported to South America by Paul LaFero. Who never got his hands dirty!
Penny’s dad had the magic paperwork mojo, could change VIN numbers in a flash, and knew who to bribe in foreign countries. But he wore a suit, so the people of this dopey burg admired him. Ray Slater, with his overalls, tow-truck and dirty hands, was considered a low-life criminal. Yet they were the two faces of the same business that was behind the extraordinary rate of vehicle theft in Shipwreck Bay.
Paul LaFero himself, Karen was sure, had blackballed her father.
Karen carefully carried her brimming drink to the bright window. She’d done her best to escape Shipwreck Bay but this dumpy city was a like a black hole, sucking in all light that dared cross its nasty event horizon. She looked around and saw nothing but losers, in the café, and out on the street.
She hated to remember it, but her father was, for a brief but horrifying time, suspected of being the Jefferson Road Strangler. This was all because of a phony assault conviction years ago, when he was just a kid. The so-called victim of that so-called assault was a junkie female who later died of an overdose.
Her good-guy father, Ray Slater, as a sick psycho strangler? Please. The Slaters should have sued for slander, that’s what they should have done.
“You’re …” the barista was blocking the sunlight now, her long blonde hair glittering in gold flecks. “Carol, right? Carol Slater.”
“Wow, I thought you…” Penny, sensing the glare of contempt, stepped back and softened. “Didn’t you go work for Google?”
“Not quite,” said Karen.
“But you went out there, right?” Penny’s excitement overcame her shyness. “I’m finishing up a data project right now. Well not me you know I don’t do algorithms but it’s so exciting. We’re like detectives, but its all on computer. Silicon Valley, wow, I can’t imagine.”
“Airplanes,” said Karen, “leave for California every day.”
That snippy comment caused Penny to flush. Unaware of the Slater family’s resentments, she was surprised at the bitterness of Karen’s response.
“Well,” Penny said, “I’ll leave you be. How’s your cappuccino?”
“Weak and bitter. Typical Shit-Wreck Bay.”
Now that she had backed off that obnoxious cheerleader, Karen could concentrate on her cellphone, and sending the text message she’d been mulling since Untied 4356 had lifted off San Jose’s overheated runway.
Taylor. I’ve come back to claim what’s mine.
When do we meet?
She pushed the send button. Taylor Burns, spoiled soft mama’s boy, wasn’t going to get away as easy as he thought.