Cape Kandi: A Mystery Short Story

Jun 1, 2013 | 2013 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze, Terrific Tales

by Gary R. Hoffman

Cape Kandi won first place in a contest at Over My Dead Body in 2009.

Hawley went into the kitchen and dropped his brief case and coat on a chair. His wife was at the sink peeling potatoes. He turned her around and gave her a huge kiss. “Well,” she said, “is it fair to say you had a good day at work?”

“Fantastic day!” Hawley replied.

“Do I need to sit down for this explanation?” she asked.

“Nope, just listen. I had a meeting today with all of the vice-presidents of Hackleford.”

“I thought you hated those meetings?”

“Usually, but not today. Now just hear me out.”

“Okay, I’m listening.”

“I got to talking to Joe McManus about vacations. He wanted to know where we were going this year.”

“I hope you told him we were going to stay home because you didn’t make enough money for a vacation and our bills,” Madge said with a slight laugh, but also with a hint of “I really mean this” in her voice.

“Basically, I told him because of Shawn’s medical bills this year we probably wouldn’t be going anywhere. We just couldn’t afford it.”

Madge turned her head towards him. “And just what did he say to that?” Then she stopped and turned all the way around. “Is that the good news? He gave you a raise?” she almost squealed.

“No, not a raise, but something almost as good.”

“Honey, let’s face it. Right now nothing would be better than more money.” She turned back to the sink.

“Madge, he offered us the use of his beach house for the two weeks vacation I have coming!”

Madge stopped and dropped the knife and a potato in the sink. “He what?”

Hawley took a set of keys out of his pocket. “I’ve got the keys! He said we could go up to Cape Kandi and use his beach house for two weeks.”

Madge ran across the room to Hawley. She threw her arms around him and kissed him on the lips, neck, and cheek. “That’s fantastic! I just knew we were going to be stuck here all summer.” She took a couple of steps backwards. “This is great. It really won’t cost us much more than just staying home.”

“I know, and we get the exclusive use of the beach house. Joe said the closest house up there is about a half mile away. Solitude and beach bumming! Sunning and surf fishing! The kids are gonna love this!”

“Your wife loves it, too!” She kissed him again. “When can we go?”

“Anytime in June or July. Joe says they’re planning on going up there in August, but it’s free until then.”

“Well, the kids get out of school this coming Friday. How soon after that can we go?”

“I need to give at least a week’s notice before I leave on vacation, so if I do that tomorrow, we could leave a week from Friday. Today is Wednesday, right?”

“Yes, dear. Today is Wednesday.” Madge just mentally shook her head. Of all the things her husband could do, he was usually lost when it came to days of the week or times to do things.

“So can I tell the kids tonight at supper?” he asked.

“Yes, that would be a good time. Julie will be a little late tonight because she went over to Eileen’s house to study for a final they have tomorrow, so we’ll be eating a little late tonight.”

“That’s fine. I just can’t wait to tell them!”

Hawley and Madge had been married for fourteen years. Julie was born a year after they married; Shawn waited three more years to get there. Madge had stayed home with her children for a short period of time after they were born, but then returned to work.

They met while they were both working for Hackleford. When they married, Hackleford had a policy about married couples working together, so Madge quit and went elsewhere. She lost her job about five years ago in a company downsizing. She convinced Hawley they could make it if she stayed home, a decision she sometimes regretted. She wanted to be home when their children got out of school in the afternoon and be able to get them off to school in the morning. She would also be able to be home during the summer when school was out.

Last summer, as Shawn was out riding his bike with some neighborhood kids, he was hit by a drunk driver. The man had no insurance. Hawley’s insurance picked up some of the bills, but there were many things not covered. That accident put a drain on their budget. Having a more or less free vacation handed to them was a Godsend. Madge knew she needed to get away if she could, and she was sure Hawley needed to, also.

That night at the dinner table, the kids reacted the same way. “Can we fly kites on the beach?” Shawn asked. “I’ve seen them do it on television a lot.”

“Don’t see why not,” Hawley answered.

“Cool! Why is this place called Cape Kandi, anyway?”

“From what little information Joe told me about it,” Hawley said, “it was named after a ship captain who once lived there. Kandi was his last name and he had a great big old mansion there, but it got destroyed in a hurricane.”

“Mom, can I get a new swimming suit?” Julie wanted to know.

“Yes, dear. I think you need one.”

“What’s wrong with the one she has?” Hawley asked.

“Daddy, dear, in case you haven’t noticed, your little girl is growing up. I doubt if her old suit would begin to cover her boobs.”

“Mooom,” Julie said in protest. Shawn snickered; Hawley blushed.

Madge changed the subject by starting to plan more of the trip. Since the kids would be out of school for a week, they could get most everything ready, so when Hawley got home from work on that Friday, they could hit the road. They decided to take Madge’s mini-van on the trip so they could haul more. The drive really wasn’t going to be that long, only around two hundred miles, but they still needed room to haul all the things they wanted to take.

“Another thing Joe told me,” Hawley said, “is that there are bed linens and other linens there we can use. There is also a washer and dryer, so he just asked that we clean everything before we leave.”

“Sounds like a small price to pay,” Madge said.

The following week, Hawley spent a couple of nights in the garage getting things ready. He made sure he included all of his and Shawn’s fishing equipment and piled it all on his work bench so it could be packed when Madge and the kids got the van loaded.

He called Madge from work on Thursday. “I talked to Joe again today,” he started. Madge’s heart almost stopped. She just knew something had gone wrong. “He told me to take off at noon tomorrow so it would still be daylight when we got there. That way we would be able to find things we needed easier.”

“Well, bless his heart,” Madge said. “The man gets better all the time.”

Friday morning crawled by like a slow turtle for all members of the Jenison family. Hawley was home by twelve thirty and they were on the road by quarter to one. Madge had made some tuna salad sandwiches for lunch and they ate as they were traveling, to save time.

Once they were out of the city, the traveling got quicker and much less crowded. They all sang songs as they drove and had a great time, happy to be with each other and going on vacation.

At about five o’clock, Hawley turned off Highway 1 and onto a smaller county road which led to their vacation home.

After fifteen minutes, Shawn yelled, “There’s the ocean! There’s the ocean!”

They passed a couple of other beach houses on their way out there, but Cape Kandi was very narrow; water was in front and back of the houses. Hawley quickly figured out why the neighbors were spread out so much. Many of these houses had been built many years ago when land prices were still cheap, so if a person bought five acres it was long and narrow.

They finally came to a pile of rocks cemented together with a post sticking out of the middle with a sign announcing “The McManus Harbor” swinging from the post. “Thar she blows,” Hawley yelled.

“What does that mean?” Shawn asked.

“It means we’re here,” his mother said. She thought Hawley and Shawn still had a lot to learn about each other.

The house was larger than they figured. It was built up on stilts with parking underneath the first floor with a set of steps led up to the living area. It was three stories high, counting the parking area. The siding on it was a brownish color that apparently weathered the salt sea air very well. All the windows had closed shutters on them. The second and third floors had decks in front of them running the width of the house. Lots of patio furniture and a grill were stacked on the first deck. Double width sliding glass doors admitted people from the house onto the deck. The railings around the decks were adorned with old life preservers, old netting, fishing buoys, sea shells, and lots of other nautical stuff. A sign tacked to on of the stilts said, “Welcome Maties and Matettes!”

“What the heck does that mean?” Shawn asked.

“It just means welcome men and women,” Madge said.

“Then why don’t they just say that?” Shawn asked.

“Adult cuteness,” Julie answered.

Hawley parked the car, and they all scrambled out. “Let’s go look on the beach first,” Madge said. The kids took off running toward the water, and Hawley and Madge held hands as they walked down. It was more than fantastic! They inhaled the sweet salt air and listened to the sound of the waves and the squawks of a few sea gulls. It was now their Eden and it belonged to them for two whole weeks!

The kids grudgingly went with them to the house after twenty minutes. Julie already picked up a pocket full of shells; Shawn had a piece of drift wood he was using as a sword.

The inside of the house was more startling than the exterior. The walls were all done in the same kind of siding that was outside and were covered with nautical pictures and objects. The bottom floor was basically one huge room and the ceiling in the center of the room went all the way up to the roof line. The living room area featured a large, round stone fireplace in the middle of the floor with several couches and chairs facing it. In the far right corner, there was a television set with more couches and chairs facing that way.

A kitchen and dinning room area were off to the left. There were no walls between the different rooms downstairs, just different kinds of flooring to show each area. Upstairs, there were four bedrooms, set back from the loft type structure which allowed for the tall ceiling in the living room. All of them were almost identical. Hawley and Madge let the kids pick their bedrooms first. The kids each chose a front bedroom with an equally great view of the ocean, either in front of or behind the house. Each side of the loft also had its own set of steps.

Hawley tried to convince Shawn not to carry all his stuff up to his bedroom because some of it would be used outside the next day, but Shawn wanted everything with him. He said he had to check out all his equipment but his father thought Shawn had been watching too much television.

While Madge got some supper started, Hawley brought in some firewood from the deck. It might have been the first week of June, but the temperature next to the water was cooling down quickly as the sun was setting. In a few minutes, he had a nice little fire going. He made a mental note to check in the closest little town to see about replenishing the firewood. Their supper was simple, but tasted great, which is the way food usually tastes after people have been outdoors. After supper, Hawley and Madge got the table cleaned off and sat down to watch the fire while Shawn and Julie watched television, which was limited because of their location. One thing Joe didn’t have there was cable or satellite television. Hawley guessed that wasn’t important up here; there were plenty of other things to do.

None of them went to bed real early their first night there, but they all agreed they would like to get up early enough to watch the sunrise over the ocean the next morning. Hawley set an alarm clock before he went to sleep, even though he was sure he wouldn’t need it.

Sometime during the night, Hawley woke up but wasn’t sure why. He looked at the digital clock sitting on the nightstand. It was only one o’clock. Then he thought he heard a noise downstairs and he was sure he could hear footsteps. He quietly got out of bed and walked to the door. He opened it as slowly as he could to keep from making noise. He walked out to the railing around the loft. He looked down into the living room area and saw two people moving around there. He ducked back into the bedroom. He was looking around trying to find something to use as a weapon. He thought he heard footsteps on the stairs. He went back to close the bedroom door. When he got to the door, a man stepped from around the corner and stood in front of him. He was holding what to Hawley looked like a very large pistol. “Hands up, sucker!” the man demanded.

Madge woke up. “Hawley, what’s going on?”

“Shut up, lady,” the man demanded. “Both of you get your asses out here.” He waved the gun in the direction of the loft. Madge got out of bed and found her robe before she walked outside the bedroom. Hawley was standing there in a pair of boxer shorts with his hands in the air. “Both of you, downstairs,” the man ordered. They started towards the stairs.

About that time, Julie whose bedroom had been on the same side as Hawley’s and Madge’s came out onto the loft. “Mom. Dad. What’s going on?” she asked sleepily.

“It’s okay, honey. Just go back to bed,” Madge said.

“No, you don’t,” the man ordered. “You get your little butt over here, too.” Julie was only wearing a pair of panties and a T-shirt that she usually slept in.

“Why don’t you leave her alone?” Hawley asked.

“Shut your trap, or I’ll take you out here!” the man said. He pushed the gun up to Hawley‘s head. “Now all of you–downstairs!”

The three shaking people walked down the stairs. When they were in the living room area, they were ordered to all sit down on one of the couches. The other man Hawley had seen approached them. “Jeez, Murray. Nobody said anything about kids.”

“Shut up, knucklehead, and thanks for usin’ my name.”

The second man smiled. His teeth were crooked and yellowing. “Won’t make no difference. They won’t be around to identify us.”

“Let’s get them loaded in the car.”

“Why? Where are we going?” Hawley said, trying to sound confident, but having a hard time.

“For your last ride, Mr. McManus,” Murray said.

“McManus? I’m not McManus. You’ve got the wrong people,” Hawley blurted out hopefully. “Look, just leave now, and we’ll forget about all of this.”

“Yeah, I’ll bet you will,” Murray said. “What do ya think, Jake? Think they’ll just forget about this?”

“Well, I sure won’t,” Jake said. “We don’t finish this job and we’re out ten thousand. I think I’d remember that.”

“Look, I can prove my name isn’t McManus,” Hawley said. “Let me go upstairs and get my driver’s license.”

“Sit tight, jerk. You ain’t goin’ nowhere.”

Madge glanced up at the other loft. So far, there was no sign of Shawn. They used to kid him that he could sleep through an earthquake and she prayed to God they were right.

“Murray,” Jake said. “What if he’s right? What if he ain’t McManus?”

“He’s McManus. He’s in McManus’s house, ain’t he?”

“Joe McManus let us use this house for a couple of weeks,” Hawley said. “Just let me go get my driver’s license, and I can prove it.”

Murray laughed. “What the hell’s that gonna prove? We know you had a different name before you started using the name McManus.”

“What?” Hawley asked.

“Back when you were dealin’, you weren’t using the name McManus. You came up with that name after you tried to go straight. Unfortunately, you forgot that you owed some people a large chuck of change when you left.”

“Look, my name is Hawley Jenison. It’s not Joe McManus or anything else!”

“You know,” Jake said, “he ain’t hardly old enough to be McManus.”

“Bullshit! He’s McManus. All we got to do is cap them and we get our money.”

“But there’s a kid here,” Jake said. “I ain’t ever whacked a kid before.”

“Look, let’s get them loaded up and out of here. We’re not supposed to take care of them here, anyway.”

“Can we leave the kid?”

“Oh, sure! That’s what we need to do. Leave a witness who knows what we look like and our names. Smart idea, Einstein.” Murray paused. “Look, Jake. We load them up and get them out of here. I’ll let you have at the two chicks before we get rid of them.”

Jake smiled. “Really?”

“Really. Now what do you say?”

“I say I hadn’t had a woman for a long time. Longer than I want to think about.”

“Look, Murray,” Hawley said. “Why not just take me? Leave my wife and kid alone.”

“Fat chance of that.”

“Ok, then, tell you what. My car registration is in the glove box. It will prove I’m not McManus.”

“Could be, but now we got no choice. We’d have to get rid of you, too.”

“Look, if I can prove to you I’m not McManus, you let us go and I’ll give you ten thousand dollars. You leave, and we forget the while thing.”

“Wouldn’t we be pretty stupid to do that? You’d be on the phone to the police soon as we left.”

“Why would we do that? All we would be doing is buying ourselves more trouble. If we turn you in, don’t you think the people who hired you would send more people to get us?”

“I know they would, man. Our organization takes care of its own.”

“Ok, so let me prove it to you. You can get ten grand for nothing. Go get my car registration.” Hawley thought his only hope now was that he might be to be able to overpower one of them if the other left. Of course, he had no idea where he was going to come up with ten thousand.

Murray looked skeptical, but interested. He looked at Jake. “Keep a sharp eye on them. I’m going to look for the registration.”

“Not a problem, Murray. I’m going to let anything happen to my little pieces of ass here.” Madge shivered; tears ran down Julie’s face.

Murray walked over to the front door and glanced back to see that everything was okay. He stepped outside and closed the door. Hawley started to get up and cross towards Jake. “Sit down, or you go out now!” Jake said.

“I was just going to give you some information,” Hawley said.

“Like what?” Jake demanded.

Hawley was concentrating on Jake. Madge glanced up to the loft when she thought she saw a movement. Shawn was tip-toeing out of his room carrying one of his fishing poles.

“If you rape these women, Jake, you are going to kill yourself.”

“What the hell you talking about, man?”

“One of them has AIDS.”

Shawn got to the edge of the loft and started lowering the line on his pole over the railing. He had a large treble hook tied to the end.

“Bullshit!” Jake said. “They’re too goody-goody to have AIDS.”

“Well, I guess you’ll just have to find out, won’t you?”

The hook was now just about head level with Jake. That was the first time Hawley noticed it. He fought to keep from looking up.

“So which one of them got the AIDS?” Jake asked.

“Oh, no. Not that easy, Jake. We have to come to some kind of agreement first.”

Shawn slowly moved the line to his right and let it swing into the side of Jake’s head.

“What kind of …” Jake let out a howl and started pulling at the side of his head. Shawn had hooked the treble in his ear. Jake was yelling and screaming and trying to stand on his tiptoes as Shawn started reeling in his catch. Jake’s gun went flying. Hawley leapt after it. Murray came back in the front door and saw Shawn on the loft. He raised his gun and got off a shot at Shawn who screamed and fell down.

Hawley now raised the gun he had picked up and shot at Murray. Murray made no sound, but went flying backwards. Julie was screaming; Madge ran up the steps to Shawn. Jake stood sneering at Hawley. “You might have shot him, but you can’t take someone face to face,” he said as he started towards Hawley.

Hawley raised the gun. He said nothing, just pulled the trigger. Jake plunged backwards and into the fireplace. “I may never have done anything like this before, but nobody has ever spoken about my family like that before,” he said to Jake, even though he knew Jake could not hear him. He then realized Madge was screaming from the loft. “Call an ambulance! Shawn’s been shot!”

Madge stayed at the hospital with Shawn. They had been assured the wound was mainly just a scratch on his side. Hawley, Julie and a police escort went back out to the beach house to collect all their belongings. They had decided to stay at a motel that night. Shawn would be out of the hospital the next day. Hawley, Madge and Julie did get to watch the sun come up that day.

As Hawley and his family were driving down to Cape Cod the next day, Joe McManus was arrested for some past crimes. No one at Hackleford really had any idea what the charges were or how they had come to light. Hawley had no idea of how he was going to pay for a family vacation on Cape Cod, but he didn’t want to take them home just yet. He put everything on credit cards and told himself he would figure out how to pay for it later.

When Hawley got back to work, he told everyone about the vacation he and his family had enjoyed on Cape Cod. When he was told about McManus, he said he was glad they had changed their mind about using his place as they wouldn’t have wanted to get mixed up in that.

A month later, Hawley was named to a vice-president’s position at Hackleford to fill the void left by Joe McManus.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories (including more by Gary) in our mystery section.

Gary R. Hoffman taught school for twenty-five years. He has published or won prizes for over 325 short stories, poems, and essays in THEMA, Homestead Review, Woman’s World, Kings River Life, Mystical-e, and roughly fifty other periodicals. Learn more on his website. His short story collection, I Haven’t Lost My Marbles: They Just All Rolled to One Side, is now available from Mockingbird Lane Press. It is now available on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble.

1 Comment

  1. Bravo! Terrific story, Gary. I loved it. It well deserved a first-place finish in the contest.


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