James Harbour

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Chapter One

It’s Been Addressed

The town of James Harbour was only a few short kilometers up ahead. Jake Fox, a police detective, travelling from the mainland, was hoping his assumptions were correct. This narrowing of the main road had to mean the god-forsaken bus ride would soon be over. It had to. For the four-hour ferry trip and the longest eight-hour drive ever from where the ferry finally landed him ashore had finally taken its toll. His whole body ached, and his neck made a crunching noise as he tilted it slightly to look out the tiny window next to him. Now, he was beginning to realize how remote this community was going to be. A complete contrast to the big city he just left behind. ‘Geez, can you believe people choose to live here?’ He mumbles under his breath. Jake Surveys the landscape some more. He couldn’t deny the beauty of the place. Snow-capped rolling hills, and rugged unforgiving mountains sheltered the tiny hamlet on three landlocked sides. Everything protected from the mood swings of mother nature. The picturesque backdrops he was starting to enjoy suddenly changed. They quickly went from the perfect desktop screensaver to a hillside you would see in Mordor from the Lord of the Rings. The Greyhound bus had begun its descent down a steep winding road. On the left, ice walls and cold black jagged stone. On the right, a thousand foot drop to the Atlantic ocean and some more cold black jagged stone. The further down, the more barren the place became. Jake’s grip got tighter. He looked straight ahead and at the very end of the road, he could barely start to make out what looked like a sign.

“Welcome to James Harbour – By Land or By Sea.” This was the first road sign Jake had seen for hours. Although, who gave a shit? It didn’t matter. He was here. In a random town behind the sun. A town his father had run off to since the very day he walked out on Jake and his mother, some forty years ago when Jake was born. Something else that now didn’t matter. Because his father was dead, he died in a diving accident and even though Jake’s father had lived his whole life in James Harbour, there were no next of kin. The town mortician, Christopher Finley, who was also a very close friend of Jake’s father, had come across an old address book. By pure luck, Mr. Finley was able to track down and connect with Jake’s mother to give her the bad news. A shot in the dark the mortician took not truly knowing at the time who his mother would have been to Jake’s father. She immediately called her son.

Abiding by his mother’s wishes Jake called the mortician. Mr. Finley was happy he did and told Jake he had to come to James Harbour straight away, as soon as possible he pleaded. There was no one to deal with his father’s estate. And, if he didn’t the property will move to foreclosure and the bank will be forced to sell everything. Something his father struggled for years to avoid up to his untimely death. Jake’s reaction to this request was immediate anger. Why should this be his problem? Why does he have to deal with it? He sworn to himself long long ago that he would never have anything to do with his father. What? For that piece of shit of a man? Jake says to Mr. Finley, ready to call his Dad more names. That man disowned me from day number one. He couldn’t make it one whole day? He says spitting in the phone his voice growing more angered. Mr. Finley could barely say anything in response. There was a slight pause in the conversation. The decision was easy to make and Jake was about ten seconds from hanging up. Only, Mr. Finley, the old mortician, with half a second between Jake’s tyraid managed to get out that he found a letter with Jake’s name written on it. Addressed to him in the city in his father’s handwriting. Jake hated his father. Despised would be a better word to describe how he felt. But, at the same time, there has always been something deep down inside him that made him still keep that door open in his life. It was confusing most days why. Although, it was true. He still had a thing for his Dad… feelings. Feelings that he has spent his entire life trying to suppress. Jake remembered telling Mr. Finley right before their call was about to end, that he would need a few days to think about it and now here he was, about to get off a bus in a place his father called home.

After passing a drug store, a bank, a library, a grocery store, and a post office, the bus slows to a stop in front of a small motel, “Midge’s Place”. Jake descends three quick steps using each one to kick life back into his tingling ghost limbs. As soon as his two size 13’s hit the ground, immediately, the sharp saltiness of ocean air pierced his nose. The stench of the sea saturated his senses. It was oddly familiar, he felt rejuvenated somehow. With one quick motion, the driver dropped his luggage by his feet, gave Jake the all good, tipped his hat, and pulled close the doors. As the bus hissed its brakes, Jake noticed there were still passengers remaining onboard. He had thought for sure that James Harbour had to be the last stop. Apparently, he was wrong. This was not where civilization ended after all.

Jake picked up his bags and entered the quaint motel, a bell rang as he entered. The place was completely empty. The only sign of life was a lazy gray cat which showed zero interest that Jake was even there. The old tom stretched its tiny little legs, licked its shoulder, and turned to finish his nap. A notice was taped to the cash register: ‘Heard the bell, be right with you.’ It was handwritten in big bold letters. Jake laid his belongings down and before he could get a chance to take a good look around the place, a petite little old lady appeared through a threshold of plastic beads. ‘Hi, hello, can I help you?’ He presumed this was Midge. She looks at Jake with a gentle smile. ‘Room for one, is it?’ Jake, now staring down at the room rates listed on a cue card taped to the countertop. ‘Yes, I’m looking for a room. For a few nights, possibly a week. Anything available?’ Jake asks assuming the answer was yes given his thoughts on why anyone would venture this far away from the real world. ‘We most certainly do!’ She replied. ‘My name is Midge, by the way. I’m the owner of this fine establishment.’ ‘Jake…Jake Fox.’ He replies. Midge reaches for her guest book underneath the front desk. She flips to a blank page while simultaneously flicking her Bic pen, making sure it was working properly. Her eyesight looked to be in question. ‘No rush!’ Jake patiently mentions. He had a soft spot for older people. They brought him back in time. She reminded him of his own grandmother. Midge’s voice was comforting. ‘So, what brings you to town?’ She asks, now confident the pen is ready to do its job. ‘My dad just died, John Fleming. You probably know him?’ Midge looks up, eyeballing Jake, now with a bit more interest. ‘Oh my, poor John. You’re his son? Wow! I never knew he had one. I never knew he had anyone really.’ Midge was still struggling with her vision as she quietly read the numbers back to herself from Jake’s credit card not straying from her quality service.

A few minutes go by and Midge finally finishes writing Jake up for his room, she tears a couple of pages from her receipt book and hands him a copy. ‘I mean, your dad did use to drop by frequently. All the time years ago. But, in recent years, as far as I know, he choose to spend most of his time alone. Only coming into town for food and to check his mail. Then, he’d go back out to the point, by himself. Tragic what happened. He was a very well-liked man around here.’ Midge’s voice had dropped a octave and she was now looking at Jake with a more consoling expression. ‘How long are you in town for?’ She asks. ‘Not long, just enough to get the place ready for the market. To be sold. That, and a few more loose ends and I’m on my way back. Hoping for a quick turnaround’. Midge looks at Jake shaking her head. She could sense that he was uncomfortable talking about his father. She quickly changed the subject. ‘Well, none of that’s my business now, is it? Let me get your key, you must be exhausted from the drive?’ Jake nods in agreement and heads toward the stairwell.

Before Jake managed to hit the second step, Midge grabs a key from one of the hooks behind her and rushes out from behind the desk to meet him. ‘Here you go sweetie, room nine. Top of the stairs, down the hall, it’ll be on your left. I gave you the room with the best view in the motel, and, come to think of it, I believe you can see your dad’s place from there as well.’ Midge hands Jake the key and motions to head back out to where he assumed was her residence within the motel. He could hear a TV in the other room, it sounded like some sort of game show. ‘Oh, and one last thing. I almost forgot.’ She says catching herself mid-step. ‘Mr. Finley left something for you, he came by a few days ago and told me to expect a stranger. Given that my place is the only spot in town where you can eat, sleep and drink, he was confident you’d wind up here at some point.’ She reaches below the counter again and pulls out an envelope with “Jake Fox, Private and Confidential” written on it. It had his city precinct address. ‘Here you go. Good night, Mr. Fox, and please accept my condolences.’ Jake takes the envelope, jams it in his armpit and reaches down for his luggage. ‘Thank you, Midge, and thanks for the room. Good night to you too…Thanks for everything.’ Then, just as she appeared, Midge slips away, behind the slow-motion clatter of plastic beads.

Jake zombies his way upstairs. The fatigue was coming back, his moment with ocean had wore off. He follows Midge’s directions to the T and quickly finds himself standing in front of his room. Room number nine. He jiggled the key and with a slight push, the door swung open. Midge was right, it did have a great view. The room opened up and looked twice its size because of a huge window. It was facing toward the south side of the community. You could see the whole harbour, every house, every business, every vehicle, every dog, and every cat. The one thing that was very present, was a huge breakwater that went straight through the center of the harbour. Protection for boats against the spite of the Atlantic Ocean. It started to rain, it began to slap against the plate-glass window. Quickly it poured from the heavens. Jake noticed a blinking light at the far end of the southern side of the harbour. As he stood there, fixated, his eyes began to grow tired and achy. Jake could no longer fight off sleep. He finally gave in and made his way over to the bed. The motel room was nice, you could really tell Midge took pride in the place. There wasn’t a pick of dust anywhere, and not a thing in the room looked disturbed. Immaculate as if he had been the first and only guest to date. Jake took off his clothes, his entire body hurting. Five days a week in the gym, you’d think he could take a short bus ride to hell. He collapsed on top the sheets, far far too lazy to slip under. He turned to his side, closed his eyes and tried to drift. Immediately, they opened again staring straight forward. He was wide awake once again. Fatigue disappeared completely. Now questions started flooding his conscience and consuming his every thought. Probably the curse of being a detective. He immediately shifted to his left side trying to get more comfortable. Increasing his chances of slumber. Across the room, in the direction he was looking at that very moment laid the envelope Midge had given him. The letter from his father that Mr. Finley spoke of was most likely inside. He could deal with not being able to fall asleep, he could deal with being in a place that time forgot, he could even deal with the deep pain of complete exhaustion. But, could he deal with what was over there, on the nightstand across the room…in that brown paper envelope with his name on it?

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