After I left the book store it didn’t take me long to locate everything that I needed for dinner.
The supermarket had most of what I was after, and I would have bought the fish from there as well, except that I found a great fresh seafood shop right outside the entrance and they had by far the freshest looking fish and prawns. I guess that was one of the many benefits to living in a coastal city.
The menu I was thinking of was an entree of Cajun King Prawns Skewers, served with a Hollandaise sauce, followed by seared salmon steaks with a tangy Thai sauce, accompanied by an Asian salad. Then for dessert I fancied a Mango sorbet and fresh berries.
Most of meal was fairly straight forward, and I had done it all often enough before. It was just a matter of getting the cooking side of things right, and not stuffing up the sauces. I was fairly confident I could pull this off and not make myself look like a total fool, but it was still early days yet.
With shopping bags filled I headed back down to where I had parked the truck feeling quite pleased with myself. With what had happened so far today, and these past few days in fact, I had to admit that I was really enjoying myself here once more. The feeling that both the place, and the people, gave me was one that was totally different to that which I felt back in Brisbane. I felt I was slipping back into country boy mode, which was something I hadn’t felt in a long, long time.
This part of the world was where I felt I truly belonged, and now I couldn’t wait for it to be my home once more.
When I arrived back at Avalon a short time later I was feeling refreshed, but also just a little bit excited, and it wasn’t just about the night ahead. There was so much happening in my life at the moment that it was almost beginning to become difficult to keep track of it all, yet strangely enough I was remaining calm and was somehow even managing to keep everything in order and in its right place in the jumbled chaos that was my mind.
I hated the expression, but I almost felt like I was in the zone, as the sports broadcasters would say. Now all I had to manage to do was not fuck everything up when it came time to make the big play!
Using the key to the house that Luke had given me I unlocked the back door, then went back to the truck for the groceries, before finally depositing them on the kitchen bench.
The guys had done well when they had re-designed the house and the shiny new kitchen they had installed was a work of art; far too good for a rank amateur like me to abuse. Still, I figured I would give it a good test, and who knows, it might even serve as a template to use when I eventually found a place of my own around here … assuming of course that it would actually need re-modelling.
Following that thought it was Harry who was next to flash through my mind, as I wondered how he might be doing with the requests I made of him when we last spoke. He had sounded rather non-committal on the phone, almost as if what I had asked might be too difficult, but if there was one thing I knew about Harry, it was that he would bend over backwards to try and satisfy his client’s every whim, if he possibly could. After all, a happy client usually meant more money for Harry; not that I considered him to be quite as … what’s the word … greedy, or materialistic, as some of the other agents I knew of.
Yes, sir, if what I wanted was at all possible, I could be sure that Harry would be able to make it happen.
A quick check of the digital clock in the kitchen said it was now three thirty, which gave me roughly four hours until show time. Plenty of time, I figured, to get everything ready, plus do a little writing. In fact, if I played my cards right I could probably kill two birds with one stone and set up my laptop in the kitchen for the afternoon; that way I could work on the meal while thinking about the story, then quickly tap away as ideas came to me.
As odd as it may sound, it was often while doing the most mundane of things, like taking a walk, or doing the washing, or cooking, that some of my best ideas came to me, so hopefully this afternoon would be a productive one in more ways than one.
After placing the seafood, the salad ingredients and the other cold items in the refrigerator I unpacked the remaining groceries and spread them out across the kitchen workspace, which was an island in the middle of the kitchen, with a stovetop at one end, as well as chopping boards and plenty of bench space.
Once that was done I figured it was time to retrieve my laptop from my room, quickly deciding that I would set it up on the countertop beside the kitchen sink, which would be directly behind where I would be working at the bench top, cutting board and stovetop.
Just as I was heading out the back door my mobile phone rang, so I pulled it from my pocket and took a look at the caller ID. It was Harry, or Harry’s office number at least, which meant it could be any one of three people; Harry, Shi-Anne, or Tilly, the receptionist.
‘Hello,’ I said as I answered it.
‘Hey handsome,’ came the reply. That definitely wasn’t Harry.
‘Hi, Shi-Anne. What’s happening?’
‘The boss just wanted to check in and see how the morning went. I’ll put him on in a minute for you.’
‘Okay, thanks. Yeah, the morning went great, or at least I thought it did. They want me to come back, so I guess that’s something.’
‘Awesome! And what about lover-boy? Are things going to plan? And that new story too. I told Harry you were working on something new and I could almost see the dollar signs light up in his eyes. You know how he gets! He tried to get some detail out of me, but seeing as I didn’t know anything I think he was disappointed. You have told him you’re working on something, haven’t you?’
As always, she was talking at a hundred miles an hour.
‘Yeah, he knows. He just doesn’t know what it is, that’s all. And Aaron is fine, thank you very much.’
‘Oh, so you’re not going to hand over any juicy tidbits there either I see!’
‘Mum’s the word.’
‘You can be such a bastard sometimes, you know that? And here I was getting all excited …’
‘And we all know it doesn’t take much to get you excited,’ I replied.
‘Oooohh, no need to get personal!’ I joked.
‘You know you love it! Now, just give me a sec and I’ll put you through to the big guy.’
A few moments later after a couple of ‘clicks’ on the line I heard Harry say, ‘Hello’.
‘You got your bags packed yet?’ I asked him.
‘Almost, lad. Almost.’
‘Well, just don’t be late for your flight!’
‘I’ll be there. Trust me.’
‘Famous last words!’ I replied. ‘And how about your homework? Did you have any luck with any of that?’
‘Let’s just say I have good news, and I have bad news. I’ll explain it all when I get there.’
‘Okay, that sounds half-promising at least. I’ve got something else I need to run past you as well. I’ll show you when you get here.’
‘This your new story idea? I can hardly wait!’
‘Ahhh … but wait, you must Obi-Wan.’
‘Yeah, whatever,’ he spat back.
‘I’ll see you in the morning. We’ve got a lot to talk about.’
‘Okay. Find us some place nice for lunch, where we can talk turkey, preferably accompanied by a nice bottle of red.’
‘And I suppose I’m paying?’
‘Abso-fucking-lutely! Especially after all the running around I’ve done for you this week!’
‘Does that mean I have something to celebrate?’
‘Yeah, this bloody contract … for starters.’
‘That’ll do,’ I replied, while wondering just what the good news would be that I knew he must be holding back.
After disconnecting I continued on down to the guest house and retrieved my laptop, before returning to the kitchen and setting it up on some clear bench space, just behind where I would be working at preparing dinner.
Following Harry’s call my curiosity levels had risen and my mind was starting to buzz as I wondered what his news might be. Some good, some bad, he had said, which sounded as if I wasn’t going to be totally disappointed at least.
Apart from the contract details he had wanted to discuss with me, there were two other things I had spoken to him about.
The first of these, I must confess, was my idea of buying a place of my own back here, or more specifically the old Perkins place that overlooked the hidden bay, which I have to admit I had really taken a shine to.
I had no idea if it would even be possible, which was why I had asked Harry to look into the if’s, why’s and how’s of being able to achieve that dream. If there was a way of being able to obtain the desired result, then I’m sure he would be able to come up with a course of action.
My other request of Harry, however, was something a little more complicated. It was all about being able to assist youth who found themselves in the same situation as people like me, or Aaron, or Jess had; abandoned and rejected. Specifically, what I had in mind was the setting up of some kind of a foundation to help LGBT youth; kids with nowhere to go and no one else to help them.
This would, of course, be a huge undertaking, and as Harry suggested, would possibly need to be done in conjunction with an existing organisation that was already working in that field, but if there was some way of my being able to do something positive to help kids who are going through the same upheaval as I did, then I wanted to at least try.
Only time would tell whether or not any of my hair-brained schemes would work, but there was one thing of which I was certain: I would never know if I didn’t at least try.
* * *
Once I had set up my laptop and fired it up, I then turned to preparations for tonight’s dinner. The computer was there for more than just helping with my writing; I also had quite a lot of other stuff stored on there, included amongst which were some of the recipes I had downloaded when in the mood to create something a little different for myself, which is from where tonight’s treat would be drawn.
I had found that I enjoyed cooking, and while it may have taken me a while to figure out how to do anything more than burn toast, the more I picked up the more I enjoyed it.
After a quick search through the files on my laptop I found what I was looking for, which were the recipes for the Hollandaise sauce that I intended serving with the King Prawns, along with the tangy Thai sauce that would accompany the salmon. Even though I had cooked these up a few times before, it had been a little while since I had tried either of them out, so I didn’t think it would hurt to brush up on what was needed.
A quick read through was all I needed to re-acquaint myself with what was required, so then I set about looking through the myriad of drawers and cupboards for all the utensils I would need, and once I found them I set them out on the counter.
Next I needed to gather all the other ingredients I would use, so after unpacking the remainder of my shopping items I headed for the pantry and retrieved the herbs and seasoning and spices that Luke had mentioned they already had.
My plan was simple, I thought. Prepare the Thai sauce in which to marinate and cook the salmon. Toss the salad together. Skewer and grill the prawns, which would simply have to be kept warm in an oven afterwards. Sear the salmon, while at the same time starting the Hollandaise sauce for the prawns. Then hopefully, or perhaps miraculously, it would all fall into place at the end.
Satisfied that I had everything I needed set up, I began putting my plan into place and set to work, only occasionally having to refer to my references for a reminder of what to do next.
First task was the Thai sauce for the salmon, which seemed to take no time at all to prepare. Once finished I set it aside to cool, while then pulling the Salmon steaks from the refrigerator and laying them out in a couple of trays, so that I could marinate them with the sauce, to enable the flavours to be absorbed into the meat.
Once that was done and the Salmon was safely back in refrigerator until needed later, I figured the prawns should be next. All I had to do with these was to remove the shells, thread them onto bamboo skewers, then coat them with some barbeque sauce and Cajun seasoning, and they would be ready to go straight onto the griller later on.
That only left the Hollandaise sauce and the salad, both of which could be done closer to the appointed time, as the sauce needed to be served as soon as it was ready.
After a cursory check of the clock I saw that it wasn’t yet four-thirty, so I quickly washed my hands then turned my attention back to my laptop. Before long I had the new story opened up again on my screen.
I quickly read through the text once more, but this time once I had finished reading it I have to admit that I didn’t finish with the same buzz that I had received earlier. This time I seemed to be frowning inwardly, and while I didn’t immediately know why, there was something in the back of my mind that was definitely starting to stir.
I had obviously been growing excited about the prospect of doing something a little different to my usual efforts with this story, yet the more I thought about it the more I realised that there was some little thing was niggling away at me about what I had so far mapped out with the story line, although what that actually was I still hadn’t quite figured out.
As I sat there staring at the screen, my mind turning over everything that I had so far put down, I started to take stock of what I had so far written.
I had a murder mystery, where townsfolk in a small seaside village keep turning up dead. I have a policeman hero, somewhat flawed himself, and with his own issues to deal with, but who is on the case. He has a prime suspect in his sights, however said prime suspect is soon involved in a mysterious car accident and finds himself in a coma in hospital, and highly unlikely to wake again.
Our hero thinks it is case closed, however, when another murder victim shows up, and then another, it is game on once more.
What is happening? Is there a connection between the murders and the coma patient?
And if the patient did in fact have something to do with it, then why are the murders now continuing? Is there somebody else involved? Is there a copycat killer? Or is coma-boy even involved at all?
Can our hero get to the bottom of things before it is someone he cares about who becomes the next victim?
I knew where I wanted the story to go. I knew in my mind’s eye who my main characters would be, and how the first part of the story would pan out, but as I sat there mulling it over I suddenly realised what my problem was. I still had several gaping flaws in my plan.
The first of these was that I had yet to come up with a plausible motive for why the villain behaved as he did. The second was that I had yet to come up with a plausible reason as to why my hero was so convinced that the mystery patient in the coma was indeed that bad guy.
After a few more minutes of thought, finally I was able to smile. The tenuous links that would hold my story together were finally beginning to form in my head. I had my story. I even had a title. So that was when I scrolled up to the top of the page and started to type.
‘The End of Darkness’
Perhaps I would have something to show Harry tomorrow after all.