Friday, September 25, 2009

Chapter 5

Their routine was simple: be at Windward early with half-a-dozen races scouted from the morning lines, exchange information, and whittle their picks down to the best three. They'd scout the paddock before every race, making sure their choice wasn't showing any signs of stress, watch the trainers talking to the jocks and watch the bets coming in on the board. If something looked funny, they'd pass. If not, they'd pull the trigger and place the bet.

If they were betting one of the late races, Jo left the track early in order to get back to Edgar's, meeting up with Fisher after closing. When she walked through the door and saw their winnings in stacks of cash on the bed she'd strip naked and dive in.

They continued to make love by candle light even though the electricity had been turned back on in the apartment. Neither wanted to jinx the streak. Seven trips to the track, seven big days of winning. On the seventh night, as they lay naked in bed surrounded by cash, Jo traced the triangles of hair on Fisher's chest.

"Have you ever been married?" Jo asked.

"Married! Me?"



"Why not?"

"I never saw the percentage in it.”

“Why, you come from a broken home?”

"Yeah, and that's why I suck my thumb and kick frogs."

"If you don't want to answer..."

"No. It's just the whole, I don't know, marriage, kids, the dog, the house, falling asleep face down in the plum pudding... somehow I missed that train,” he said. “That everyday normal train. Somehow it pulled out without me.”


“What about you?”

“What about me?”

“I don't know. You got married.”

"Yeah," said Jo. "I did." She took a drink of from her glass. "Not exactly your picket fence, plum pudding kinda deal either." She finished the whiskey and shook her head.

"What?", said Fisher.

"The every day normal train." She slid back the covers and lowered herself between his thighs. "I guess I missed that train too.”

Fisher drove his car towards the shore. After making good on the delinquent payments and interest, it was nice to have his own wheels back. He watched the gulls heading bay ward. Ride the streak, yeah, ride the streak; the bettor's credo. He could feel the wind from behind, he felt if he stretched out his arms he would be carried into the sky, he could glide in the jet-stream circling high above the every day below and never come down. A trailing car honked bringing Fisher smack down to earth. He waved the car by and watch it pass. Bless you sinner, you are forgiven. He was in no hurry. None at all. He made the turn for Edgar's, pulled into the lot and parked between a black Lexus and a beer truck. He strolled into the restaurant like he owned the place.

Inside Edgar's, Fisher could hear Cajun music pounding from somewhere. Steam streamed from behind the kitchen door, waitresses were setting up tables for lunch, the liquor delivery man was stacking cases of beer on top of the bar. When Fisher inquired if the owner was in, the man pointed the way downstairs.

Fisher had yet to be below the main floor. He walked down a steep narrow stairs into shadows. He could hear the music getting louder. He reached the bottom step and waited for his eyes to adjust to the dimly lit space. Towards the back Fisher could see a shirtless man in a bandanna lifting bags of flour off a hand truck. The music came from a boom-box perched on a shelf above.

The basement was huge. Taking in the end to end rows of boxes and bottles and sacks of dried goods, Fisher whistled. The shirtless man turned around.

“Help you?”

"I'm looking for Jo Landy."

“She's not here,” the man said gruffly.

“Upstairs the guy said...”

“He's wrong. Anything I can help you with?” the man challenged, taking off his work gloves.

Yeah, thought Fisher, you can help me kick your ass. But his hand was still hurting from taking down the ton of fun at Winward, and this was Jo's joint. He wasn't going to cause any trouble.

“No. It's uh... personal.”

“Personal?” A knowing grin split the man's face, and Fisher felt his stomach flip over as he realized the worker's tan line corresponded more to an Izod golf shirt than a t-shirt. “Your name?”

“David Fisher.”

“All right, Mr. Fisher. I'll let my wife know you dropped by.”

“You're Jack Landy?”

“You got it.”

“Then you... yes,” Fisher started skating as fast as he could. “Yes, you can help... I mean since it has to do with you.”

“With me?”

“I'm with the Dispatch.”

“What's that?”


“Never heard of it,” Landy said dismissively.

“It's the county local.”

“Right. The skinny little one.” Landy shook his head and went back to work wondering why he was wasting even one more second on this worthless gnat. “Look, if this is about advertising for the restaurant, I'm really not..."

“No, I'm a sportswriter. I wrote the story about the three holes-in-one on the Black Course."

Landy stopped. Ah, vanity, Fisher thought, like to see your name in the paper.

“I wasn't able to reach you,” Fisher pushed on. “You had, uh, gone to Florida, so I had to... your wife filled in what facts she could.”

“Did she?” chuckled Landy.

“We ran it. I don't know if you saw it?”

“No, I'm sorry. I stick to the major newspapers.”

“They mention you much?” Fisher shot back.

Landy yawned. “Look. What can I do for you?”

Fisher had seen Landy's stripe before, guys who thought their shit didn't stink, big splashes in small ponds who could never cut it once the crawled out of their tide pools. At another time in another place, Fisher would've told Landy to go fuck himself, but right now he had blundered in and put Jo in jeopardy. He needed to play to Landy's ego.

“I was planning to do a follow-up. A longer piece, a profile. But if now isn't a good time...”

But the fish took the bait. “In the Dispatch? Huh. Well I guess somebody reads it. Ask away partner.”

Fisher pulled out his notepad and followed Landy around the storeroom lobbing softball questions: how many other hole-in-ones had Landy shot? Four. Which was his longest? A two-hundred-and-twenty yard three iron at Blue Hills in the semi-finals of the qualifier for the Nassau Open.

Landy stopped to towel the sweat off his torso. There was nothing soft about him, he was tall and broad-shouldered with a slim waist, his features were sharp. He easily lifted the heavy sacks from the hand truck to the shelves.

When the truck was empty, he wheeled it up to the walk-in freezer, swung open the door and entered without bothering to put on his shirt. Fisher hesitated for a moment outside the freezer, but when Landy waved him in, warning him to watch his head, Fisher ducked under the low-hanging beam at the door, and entered.

Inside, Landy was filling the hand truck with open crates of dry ice. He asked Fisher if he knew anything about the restaurant business.

“No, other than, you know, I like to eat,” Fisher replied.

“It's one big sieve,” said Landy, while he loaded huge cuts of swordfish, mahi-mahi and tuna onto the ice. “Easiest business in the world to get ripped off in. Things come in, things disappear. Mysterious Bermuda Triangles where pounds of seafood vanish."

It was freezing in the walk-in.

Landy glanced at Fisher trembling.

“This too cold for you?” he asked, clearly testing Fisher.

“I'm all right.” Fisher could not longer feel his feet, but he wasn't going to show it. “You came in second in the Amateur last year.”

“Yeah.” Landy chuckled again. The whole world was too damn funny. “I could've won the thing, easy. But then I'd have to give away too many strokes when I'm playing for something more than trophies.” He winked at Fisher. “That's the truth. Don't print it, but that's the truth.”

A-a-a-asshole, thought Fisher, so cold he was stuttering in his mind.

“You're turning a little blue there, partner,” offered Landy. But Fisher shook his head. He'd freeze to death before giving in an inch to the prick. Landy loaded one more slab of fish on the ice, and stepped out of the freezer. In Fisher's haste to exit, he forgot to duck.

His knees buckled and he dropped into cold darkness.

Even before he felt the throbbing pain, or the ice water rolling down his face, Fisher saw a cold eye staring at him, a single black passionless eye.

The small basement office gradually came into focus. The room was crowded with filing cabinets, boxes of bar glasses and sugar dispensers. As the black desk, calculator and ledgers cleared in his view, Fisher realized he was sitting in a swivel chair with a pack of ice on his head. The cold dead eye staring at him belonged to a stuffed marlin hanging from the sheet rock wall. He could hear a voice asking him if he was all right."

“I'm fine,” said Fisher, but when he attempted to stand, the pain knocked him back into the chair as if he'd been punched.

“Easy there, sport,” Landy said. “Take your time.”

Fisher readjusted the pack on his head and wiped the dripping water off his face. “What happened?”

“You banged your coconut into the beam of the walk-in. I told you to duck.”

“Was I out?”

“Nah. You took the mandatory eight, and we dragged you in here.”


“Yeah, my wife came down to see what was going on. Thought we might be fighting.” Fisher turned his head slightly and saw Jo standing in front of a floor safe. “Joanna, this is Dave...”


“Yes,” said Jo. “We've met.”

“Ah.” Landy smiled and closed his eyes like a sunning lizard. “Old friends.”

“What was he doing in the walk-in?” asked Jo.

“He says he's writing an article about me for the local paper. About my golf. I figured, what the hell, long as I could get some work done. Place looks like shit.”

“Don't even start,” said Jo.

Fisher truly believed it was time for him to leave. He made a second attempt to get out of the chair by holding on to the desk for support.

“How's that head coming?” said Landy.

“Fine. I'm fine.”

“Don't want your little paper to sue me.”

“Would you knock off the 'little' paper business? We're the largest local on the Island.”

“I'm sure you are,” Landy chuckled.

Fisher counted silently to ten. He was a wounded bull and Landy was waving red. If only the room would stop spinning.

Jo bent to pick up one of the ledgers but Landy stopped her with his hand. “Did you speak to Sarah?”

“No,” said Jo.

“Money is going somewhere.”

“Sarah is fine.”

“How the hell do you know if you don't put her on the wheel? Stop bucking me and just put he fear of God in her for Christ's sake! Person wasn't born who wouldn't fuck you if you give them half a chance..." Landy suddenly turned and stared at Fisher with malice. "Right Mr. Fishman?"

Fisher remained poker-faced, giving away nothing as he slipped his hand into a box of sugar dispensers. But the intercom buzzed and the homicidal look faded from Landy's eyes.

He bent across Fisher and pushed the button. “Yeah?”

“It's Mr. Sante for you, Jack,” Sarah said over the intercom.

“Look, I've got to take this. You've got all you need, right?” He clapped his hands together. “It's been great. I'll try to read it this time.”

Fisher didn't realize he still had the sugar dispenser in his hand until he was half way across the parking lot. He spun on his heels and with all his might launched the glass container against the restsaurant's side.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Chapter 4

When Claire Richardson convinced her superiors to hire Fisher, she knew that he would be a project, but she hoped with supervision and encouragement he could be an asset instead of an asshole. She was reminding herself of this as she copy-edited his story on her computer. “Something there is that doesn't love a cross country runner. He looks like Ichabod Crane and never gets to screw a cheerleader.”

“Jesus, Fish,” Claire groaned. Fisher sat on her desk pretending to be surprised.

“I was going for a Robert Frost kind of thing.”

Claire didn't even want to look at him. She knew when she hired him, they were going to sleep together. She had promised herself that it wasn't going to happen, that it went against all protocol, professional, ethical or otherwise, and if she did, she would abandoned all semblance of a chance to dictate from the high ground. But she slept with him anyway. She couldn't help herself. Old habits died hard. “Habit”. Yeah. Good name for it.

She already had one bad marriage behind her and had sworn to herself to wise up with her personal life. But whatever Fisher had, it brought the stupid out in her. The best she could do was to make a separate peace with herself; she would see him after hours as long as they kept it discrete, and as long as Fisher stayed in line while he worked. But now this new bit of disquieting news from Windward. Of all times to fall off the wagon, right when Willis had accepted an offer from the Chicago Tribune and her department was going to be short handed. She needed Fisher to step up right now.

“The Chicago Tribune! He's a kid.”

“He's a good writer, Fish,” Claire said.

“I can write his ass into the ground. The Chicago Tribune?”

What had Willis done to skip sixteen steps and go directly to a major? More proof that the wheel was fixed, that meritocracy was a myth.

“Write his ass into the ground,” he repeated.

“So do it. Fix this Robert Frost garbage to start.”

“Fine.” Motivated for the moment, Fisher headed for his desk.

“Hold on.” Now came the subject neither of them ever wanted to talk about. “I got a call from Security at Windward Race Track.” She could see the quills on Fisher's back rise.


“Something about a man being beat up out there after the races? They questioned you about it?”

“Yeah. But it was nothing.”

Claire hoped so. She was well-acquainted with Fisher's hair- trigger temper, but his anger always seemed to be aimed at authority, at some unearned hierarchy of people and rules that tied him to the whipping post; she never associated it with physical violence.

“Why were they...?”

“Checking up? To see if you worked here,” she said.

“What'd you say?”

“That you did. What do you think?”

“It's bullshit. I had a witness and everything.”

That was the other thing; he'd been there with a woman. “Jack Landy's wife?”

“Yeah. No big deal. She was at the track.”

“I didn't know you knew her,” Claire said trying to disguise the hurt.

“I don't. At Landy's restaurant one time. When I was working on the, you know, the story. She goes to the track. No big deal.”

If it was such a “no big deal” Claire thought, why did he say it twice?

Fisher would've given anything to fast forward past where he knew the next line of questioning was headed.

“I thought you weren't going to the track, Fish.”

“Now and then, Claire. You know. Getting my stories in, right?”

“You going to your...”

“Twice, every week,” he said before she could even finish saying “meetings”.

“You know the agreement.”

Yeah he knew. He knew, he knew, he knew. How could he not? Every time he walked across the first floor past the editor-in-chief's office he could feel derision raining down on him. He thought of the soccer player pressing his bare-ass against the back of the bus at him. To hell with them all. “I go twice every week. Check it out. Call my sponsor.”

“I believe you.” And she did. She was his sole supporter at the Dispatch and how did he repay her besides the occasional ride on the carnal carnival? She watched him shuffling his feet, something wild fighting to get out of its cage. “Fix the story,” she said.

Fuming, Fisher stormed back to his desk. What the hell was he doing here? Writing about third rate harriers while Willis was on his way to Chicago? God damn it, Fisher had written for the majors. So what he'd thrown it away betting on horses. That was their take on it. One man's vice was another's life. Dostoevsky was a degenerate gambler and he could write the ass off of any other writer in the world, write their asses into the ground. And to have to stand there and take the third degree from Claire? He was still seething when his phone rang. He picked it up on the third ring.


“Hello”, said the voice on the other end causing Fisher heart to jump. “It's Jo Landy.”


“I was thinking about that rain check.” She cut right to it, no preamble about the weather. “It's slow as hell in here and I'm climbing the walls. I was thinking about cutting out for the harness races.”


“Tonight's not good?”

That wasn't it. Fisher was buying time. The call had side-swiped him. He'd thought about calling her ever since the day at Windward. He spent every night thinking about how her body felt sliding down against him, how she brushed her thigh between his legs. Tonight was fine, great, terrific. “No, tonight. Sure.”

“Good. I'll be at the clubhouse restaurant. Table three.”

There were two harness race tracks in the county: Saddle Ridge and Long Neck. Saddle Ridge was the older of the pair and, in its day after World War Two, it drew twenty-five to thirty thousand people a night. In the sixties and early seventies it had been the sight of outdoor rock concerts until a riot and fire-bombing burned down half the grandstand. The track was sold and eventually rebuilt. But, by that time, most of the drivers and trainers had switched to Long Neck, a one-time speedway near Cook's Amusement Park. Fisher assumed Jo meant Long Neck. The purses were too small at Saddle Ridge, and Long Neck was closer to the bay if she needed to get back to the restaurant. He couldn't borrow Claire's car, she'd ask way too many questions. This left Willis, and meant having to eat shit straight-faced and congratulate him about Chicago. Well, he wasn't going to hitch out to Long Neck.

Fisher gunned Willis's Taurus down Western Highway. He could see the flashing lights from the amusement park cutting through the dark. Long Neck was across the highway and down an ersatz esplanade from the amusement park. Fisher showed his pass at the gate and parked in the section reserved for the Press.

He followed the Maitre d' down the tiered levels of the clubhouse restaurant.

It was a lovely fall night and most of the tables were full. Table three was in prime position looking straight down through the glass partition to the finish line. Fisher saw Jo speaking to a woman whose back was turned away. Jo was dressed, if not to kill, than at least to maim, in a scoop front number that invited all but the clergy to examine the better part of her breasts. When she saw Fisher approaching, Jo looked up from her conversation, causing the second woman to turn around. Fisher recognized Edgar's bartender, but Jo made the formal introductions.

“David Fisher, this is Sarah Dupre.”

Sarah sprung to her feet offering her hand. “Hello, David. How they running for you?” She was wearing a tight jersey with no bra. Fisher thought for a moment he'd walked into a Russ Meyer movie.

“Uh, I don't know. Actually, I just got here.”

“Actually, it's only an expression,” she said her eyes flashing with mischief. “I would've said 'how they trotting for you' if I was precision driven. How-are-they-trotting-for-you, David?” she said in a robotic monotone.


“Sarah was just leaving,” said Jo.

“Right. Don't want to be Miss Buzzkill. Have fun,” Sarah said, waving as she skipped up the stairs.

Months later, when Fisher was back-tracking his fall, he would revisit this meeting with Sarah.

But in the moment, he saw only Jo. “You look great,” Fisher said.

“I do? Thanks. This is my lucky dress.”

“I can see why,” Fisher said and Jo laughed.

Everything about her, her face, her hair, the way she smelled was making Fisher dizzy. When the waiter arrived Fisher ordered a double Jack and coke. Jo was drinking Irish Whiskey.

“So, you've got it pretty good.”

“How do you mean?”

“Your job. Getting paid to come here and Windward to cover the races.”

“Yeah, but I don't.”

Jo turned her head, slightly, seeing if he was joking. “Oh, but I thought...”

Fisher knew he could lie to her, make himself look like a big timer, but tonight he didn't feel like filling the air with bullshit. “It's out of my jurisdiction.”

“I see.”

Well if she didn't, if she was expecting to get free passes to the Breeder's Cup, she was climbing on the wrong pony.

“I used to cover the horses,” he said. “But not here. Florida. Gulfstream, Hialeah...”

“Beautiful tracks.”

“You've been!”

“Oh. Yeah. Drove up all the time from Key West.”

The waiter arrived with the drinks. The food was never very good at Long Neck but the drinks were strong. Fisher took a gulp and felt his legs back under him.
“Key West, huh?”

“You been?”

“Once. To see Hemingway's house.”

A cliché, he knew; the place was crawling with wannabe writers who had made the pilgrimage down to Papa's. All of them, just like Fisher, wandering the grounds, counting Papa's cats, staring out to sea, making never to be fulfilled promises to write something of worth. Hell, even a cynic was allowed to dream.

“So, what were you doing down there?”

“I was, you know, scrambling around,” she said. “Waitressing, bartending.”

“And Mr. Golf? Was he down there?”

“Yeah, he was there knocking around.”

“Dealing drugs?” asked Fisher.

Jo's face flushed. "Why did you say that"

“I don't know. Isn't that what everyone does there does?”

“Not everyone.”

“No offense. Kind of...kind of vibe I got down there.”

It was true, the place was a pot emporium. Guys from the Miami paper were making runs twice a month.

“So why did you leave Florida?” Jo asked.

Why indeed. He was happy as a clam. On his way to being editor if he hadn't been railroaded.

“I got fired.”

“Why? You punch out someone in a parking lot?”

“Where did that come from? Cause of what that shit in a suit said at the track?”

“No.” She took her time. “Because I saw you do it.”

“Saw me what?”

“Beat that man up. Savulage. The beer can, kick to the ribs. I saw the whole thing”

Fisher flinched. He couldn't disguise his surprise. He tried to buy some time.

“I don't know what you're talking about.” But it was no use. He could tell by her eyes. Damn. Now what? “You say anything to anyone?”

“Did I say anything to that cop? It was none of my business.”

Fisher felt sweat trickling down the back of his shirt. He was considering to get up and go make a run for it. On the track below, the gate was pulling away from the field of trotters in the feature.

“And they're off,” called the track announcer.

“We've got number five, Perdido,” said Jo.

“We do?” She pushed the program towards him with a red circle around the horse's name. “Perdido,” thought Fisher trying to remember from high-school Spanish if it meant “lust”, or "lost".

“I made the bet before you got here. I put down some money for you. Don't worry. You can pay me back.” She reached her hand out for Fisher. Before he realized it he had put his in hers.

Her grip was warm and tight. She turned to watch the race while she slowly and firmly squeezed his hand. “C'mon baby,” she said. “C'mon.”

Fisher lit the third candle while wishing he had paid his electric bill after all. The place was sad and dark, not even any music to listen to, but Jo didn't seem to mind as she leaned against the blank wall watching him. “It's like a cathedral,” she said.

She was drinking the last of the champagne they bought on the way from the track. Mums, the best they could find in the piss smelling liquor mart on Broadway. But she tilted the juice glass back as far as it would go, savoring the last drop like it was Dom Perignon. Then she smiled. Fisher reached for her, running his fingers through her hair. It was thick and soft, so soft he couldn't stop.

“I wanted to do this since I first saw you.”


“A room full of all those losers and then you walked in.”

“And what did you think?”

Fisher smiled thinking of her breasts moving beneath her shirt when she sat. He ran his finger down her shoulder, back in junior-high behind the back stop.

“Trust me?” Fisher asked.

Jo's lips parted slightly which he took for a “yes” as he lowered his hand to her breast. It was firm and full, the size of his palm, and he squeezed. He squeezed it again, and again. She arched her head back and moaned, moving her hand between his legs. He moved his other hand under her dress and inside her thighs. She was pantiless and he slid two fingers inside her. She opened her legs so he could push deep and deeper.

He carried her backwards and they fell onto the bed. She was biting his lip as he pulled the top of her dress freeing her breasts.

When she was completely naked, Fisher stopped for a moment to look at her. “You are magnificent.”

“Fuck me,” she whispered. She wrapped her legs around so tightly that if he had been a grape she would have made wine.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A note from the author

[Please use the links in the Table of Contents to the right to access the story]

Unlike David Fisher, I am going to tell you a thing.

The dramatic version of Shadow Bay was performed six times in the spring of 1992 at the West Bank Theater Bar in New York City. At that time the play had no ending. I fully planned to figure out the conclusion in the play's next production. But the play has never been performed since.

Instead it was optioned by Hollywood and spent the next eight years in various stages of development but never made it to the screen. I tried several different endings to the story but none of them truly satisfied me.

The play, the screenplay, Shadow Bay sat dormant from 2000 until early this year when I decide to write the story as a crime novel. In the prose form I finally found a through line to the ending. But the novel was on the short side (45,000 words) and lacked a sense of place. It needed something.

I was re-reading Brian Selznick's amazing illustrated novel "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" with my two boys when it occurred to me that the prose version of Shadow Bay needed an illustrator. I asked around a bit- looking for help in finding someone who had worked on graphic-type novels, but I was told most graphic novelists do their own illustrations.

In the late spring of this year I was at a party held in the studio of my friend Bill Ayton. I was already an admirer of Bill's acclaimed series of political paintings but less familiar with some of his drawings. On the wall of his studio was a picture of a haunted hooded face on a beach. I realized that was exactly the look Shadow Bay required. I asked Bill if he would be interested in working with me on Shadow Bay. I was thrilled when he agreed.

We started working with drawings of the main characters- to find what their faces looked like. More importantly Bill came up with a view of the world the characters were going to inhabit. Rosehill took on the look of a slightly foreign arid place. It reminded me of the setting of Camus's "The Stranger" a novel influenced by James M. Cain's "The Postman Always Rings Twice" a book that had inspired me to write Shadow Bay in the first place. Slowly the process developed, trying to fit the drawings with the text. When we finished the first chapter we decided to put up this blogspot. The site is completely Bill's design [note from Bill -- this is mostly a Blogger template with minor changes by me.]

Our hope is as we add chapters and the plot thickens we will draw you into the world we have created. Please let us know what you think, and if you like what you read and see, please pass the word.