R.W. Van Sant
Chapter 31 and 32
Jerry knew that it would be several minutes before the taxi from town could get out to them, so Jerry took Ted’s suggestion. His hands were bandaged, so he could not wash up. Jerry wrestled on a set of clean pants and shirt, feeling much better. Ellie was waiting in the hall, wearing the long-sleeved shirt he had planned to wear on their date. It barely covered the one-piece swimming suit she had been wearing.
“I hope you don’t mind. Your grandmother’s clothes smelled a bit musty.”
“It’s fine. Can we talk?” He felt like a kid.
“You’re mad,” she asked. “I couldn’t help it, I had to see what you were really up to, and I was worried about you two.”
“I hope Paul’s okay.”
“I wasn’t only worried about Uncle Paul. I suspected he might be planning to do something. I didn’t want to think he’d cheat his friends.” She explained. “And I was afraid you’d get yourself killed.”
“If you hadn’t come along, we’d have died on that reef.” She gave him a hug, which made him a little light-headed. “I care about what happens to you. Please stay out of the water.”
“You’re asking me to stop diving.” She stared at him.
“Just until they catch it.”
“Sharks don’t stay put, the odds of running into that one again is rare. They may never catch it.”
“That shark claimed the cove. It attacks boats that enter its territory. I’ve seen the wreckage. How long do sharks live? No one knows, right? I saw wooden lifeboats down there. I know it’s irrational, but I think that shark lives there, and has for a very long time. It killed Teller’s crew, and my parents, and, maybe even Teller himself. Please, stay out of the water.”
“What’s your college like?”
“Dry,” Jerry said. “And a thousand miles from here.”
“Am I interrupting?” Ted came up the stairs.
“No,” Ellie held tightly to Jerry’s arm.
“The cab is here. I just got off the phone with the police. The coast guard found the gear on the reef, and they are putting up shark signs on the beaches. A coast guard boat will be patrolling off the coast. I’m sorry, there is still no sign. I bet he saw the shark and just sped away. Hell, I would have. Probably buried in a bottle at Nathan’s Long Bar.”
“Yeah, I hope.” She said. “Let’s get some big steaks and celebrate your luck. Maybe some will overflow to Uncle Paul.”
The taxi dropped them off at the docks where she had left her car. When they were alone, Ellie turned to Jerry, “You should know when Ted arrived here a few months ago, the place being sold off by the state. There were several interested investors. They came from all over the state. When an heir showed up, the sale canceled. There are some infuriated land developers. Most people around here would have been more than happy to see the place bulldozed and the cove filled in.”
“It’s an eyesore alright.”
“It’s not about that.” She sat on the hood of her car. “A lot of people have disappeared out by the cove. They suspected Old Teller, but they could never prove anything. The bodies never turned up; there wasn’t any evidence.” She cleared her throat.
“Shark attacks?” Jerry said. With a creature like that along the coast, he was not surprised they never found a body. He doubted that they would find Paul.
“When Teller went missing the disappearances stopped. Our parents used to scare us as kids by telling us that if we didn’t behave, the Captain would get us.” Her tone softened. “Some folks talk about a couple that moved in the cove house when I was a baby. They were only there for a month, or so then, they disappeared too. While they were here, more people vanished.”
“My mom and dad?”
“I think so. I’m sorry.”
“So, everyone here thinks we’re all serial killers?” Being raised poor, he had occasionally been mistaken for a criminal, but never a murderer.
“Tellers.” she elaborated. “I know, but when Ted got here, it started again.”
“You can’t think that he—” Ted, a serial killer. The idea was ridiculous.
“I know he isn’t. He was with Paul at Nathan’s when May Carroll went missing, and he was in a diving lesson with me when Jason Haroldson disappeared. I don’t know where he was Saturday morning when Bobby Maher disappeared, but if the police suspected him, you would have gotten another visit. But there is talk.”
“Yeah, they brought him in for questioning after Jason turned up missing.”
“Well Saturday, we were just coming in from San Francisco.”
“The point is, all of the people were last seen around the cove, all of them.”
“The police also questioned Paul and me since we were his alibi. I thought you should know.”
“I don’t believe that serial killer-ism is a genetic trait,” Jerry said.
“Some secrets are worth killing over. When you pop up with that treasure, there will be talk. A treasure chest, especially a golden one, is a secret worth killing for.” Ellie said. “People will think that he might have killed them to hide the family secret.”
“My parents weren’t killers. If you’d ever met my grandmother, you’d realize how stupid that sounds.”
“I’m not saying that, but that’s what people do. There’s already speculation that you and Ted may have killed Paul because he was going to beat you to your treasure.”
“You can’t believe that. You couldn’t possibly.”
“If I did, would I be here now? You said you saw a jet ski at the bottom of the cove.” Ellie looked a little spooked.
“Yeah, bitten nearly in half.”
“Bobby was out on his jet ski Saturday morning. No has seen him since.”
“I think I did. When I first got here, I figured I saw someone near the reef on a jet ski. When I looked back, he was gone.” Visions filled his mind, a giant shark biting into the unsuspecting craft and dragging it down to the bottom, only leaving bubbling red water. Breath caught in his throat. Collapsing on the hood of the car, he fought to inhale some fresh air.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“I turned away a second. Oh, God, I was there. I would have seen it if I hadn’t looked away.” Jerry panted, trying to force himself to calm down enough to get a breath.
“Breathe slowly.” Ellie rubbed his back.” It can’t get us now, and I don’t think I’ll ever go in the water again.”
“The shark, it’s hunting us. Tellers, I mean. It only comes here when one of us is in the house.”
“You aren’t superstitious, remember.” She said and then added for emphasis “Lujan.”
“I wasn’t.” It was hard to believe that he was considering it, but was it possible that a centuries-old shark plagued his family? What was the alternative? Was he supposed to believe that he descended from a family of serial killers?
“I don’t know. That place, maybe. Look, maybe your sewage line lets out in the cove. Many of the old houses used to. Ted might have been dumping his trash in the bay. That could attract sharks.”
Ellie’s suggestion made sense. She leaned down by the headlight, pulled a key holder from under the fender, and opened the car. “Don’t tell; it’s a secret.”
“I’ll keep yours if you keep mine.”
“I can handle that.” They got in the car. Jerry fumbled with his seatbelt. He just could not make it click into place. Ellie took pity on him and secured him in then drove to a nearby grocery store. Jerry pushed the cart with his elbows, and Ellie did the shopping. Together they got enough for a proper celebration: steaks, potatoes, salad fixings and even corn on the cob. Elli carried the bags back out to the car as Jerry, trying to be a gentleman, opened the automatic doors for her.
“I don’t think I’ll throw you back quite yet.”
“Throw me back? I’m not a fish.” The horror of the morning was beginning to fade. “You don’t mind that I’m a Teller anymore?”
“Well, now that you’ve got your prize I don’t think there’s any danger you’ll die or disappear. Besides, you’re a Lujan, not a Teller.”
“I have to leave on Sunday night. I have some loose ends to tie up.”
“The police may not let you leave the state until all this is cleared up.”
“I hadn’t thought of that,” Jerry said. “I guess I’ll just have to play it by ear.”