122 The Sound and the Furies

“So, ladies, what’s the plan for this lovely evening?” Si greeted his guests at his boat slip; Pastor and Mrs. Minosa, her sister Thea, and a younger woman introduced to him as their niece, Erin Yees. “Good and calm, at least. We heading anyplace special?”

Milwaukee River harbor entrance beneath the Lake Expressway, with lighthouse, Hank Aaron State Trail and Erie Street plaza to the left.

Milwaukee River harbor entrance beneath the Lake Expressway, with lighthouse, Hank Aaron State Trail and Erie Street Plaza to the left.

As they came aboard, carrying large plastic bags of props, Si learned that their destination was a beach on the northern Milwaukee county shoreline. He’d first have to navigate the Milwaukee River eastward under the Hoan bridge and out into the harbor, then northward past the festival grounds and the marina, skirting the city beaches up to the suburban ones. He could only pick up any real speed over the open lake waters, so it was going to be a be a fairly long ride, at least eight miles each way with a return journey in the dusk or more probably dark to slow them down further. This trip should take care of a lot of his guilt.

His guests had their heads together, seemed almost conspiratorial. The Minosas always looked that way to him, like a cabal. At least this saved him from making small talk. He needed to pay attention to where he was going; he was a bit rusty after a winter away from his helm, most of his boat time spent down in the cabin, his home away from home, reading and resting up for the really fine days to come. He was a fair weather fiend when it came to boating.

“Uncle Herb?”

“Yes, Erin.”

“My interview with Mr. Thuss is tomorrow, remember? I’m still the only candidate you’ve recommended, right? You didn’t suggest Kathy Doyle, did you? Linwood thought you might be thinking about it.”

“Linwood did?” Of all things, Herb intended to keep his Kathy away from Thuss, not expedite a relationship. Erin asked too many questions. “Mr. Thuss has hiring guidelines he needs to follow, dear. You just do your best to show well. You have no work experience, so you should emphasize your other, um, qualities.” Erin simpered back at him but was sure she should be offended by this avuncular advice.

“People like her, with her kind of experience, don’t deserve to go to Heaven, isn’t that right?” Erin had seen but never met her and resented the comparison.

“I teach that Heaven is for the helpers and heroes of this world, Erin. But I don’t decide who gets into that lovely and peaceful place. I hope it’s full of people we love.” Herb’s glib bromides reeked of hypocrisy, his judgements of conceit.

“Who loves Kathy Doyle?”

“Kathy Doyle deserves to be punished, not rewarded, for her misdeeds.” Myrtle had her own ideas about what should be taught. “She’s a sinner and it’s our job to catch her out in her artifice.” Herb had a few diddles of his own at stake as far as Kathy was concerned and wasn’t sure how much they all knew, or guessed. How far out on this limb should he go crawling?

“She’s supposed to be working for you, not against you.” Thea put in her two cents and received an ominous look from her brother-in-law, who preferred to keep his teaching in house. Bad enough he had to endure Myrtle’s pronouncements but he intended to squelch Thea’s; she belonged in the choir. He changed the subject.

“We don’t want to be punished for the sins of omission, either.” Herb needed to get at least one venue under his belt this week or he might lose his own job with Thuss, as well as Kathy, if this kept up. “We do have a job to do, here, remember?” Herb admonished his wife, then regretted it. “All of us, here, tonight.” He tried to amend, too late to sidestep the public reproach, a curse of marriage.

“And you mean to listen to that whore, that Babylon, and not to us?” Myrtle stood and drew herself up to her full height, so that she was nose to nose with her seated husband. He was getting a whiff of professional jealousy in her breathy censure.

“Sit down, Myrtle, it’s a bumpy ride.” Herb was trying to keep an even keel himself, unused to the chop of the waves much less the murderous look in the eyes of these three furious women. Despite his appeasements, all three appeared to be working themselves into a deadly rage. He took the moment to consider his own position. True, Kathy was good at this job but after her startling defiance last night, he was less sure of her compliance. Would she still hold any value for him unless she continued to be so? He’d excused it last night because the boy was there, and he assumed it was a show on her part. But if she was totally uninterested in bonding with him what use would she be, especially now with Myrtle so dead set against her? He’d never change Myrtle’s mind and he couldn’t run the parish without Myrtle. He’d been so convinced that Kathy would become his private doll, his very own toy, his secret plaything to keep in his little house, in the same toy box he kept Moth. His choice of playmate, to take out at will.

“Pastor?” Si was hailing him. “We’re almost there. What do you want me to do next?”

“Thanks, Si.” Herb scanned the beach for signs of a whore in a wetsuit. A slick creature in black emerged from the waves, beckoning to him. His heart gave a final thump, then turned inevitably as cold as the water around him, his own tragedy playing out before his disbelieving eyes. He rejoined his wife.

“Si,” he instructed, “apparently there’s a restriction here on how close you can come to that groin. Can you show me what fifty feet away looks like?” Si really couldn’t but he made a guess. “And now, fifty feet from the shore?” Si repeated the charade.Chapter 121 The Sound and the Furies

“Herb, get her here, onboard.” Myrtle hissed her command. Herb saw that the three had unpacked the bags and stood huddled amidst the nets and fake fish.

“All in good time, yes. Save your breath for hauling nets.” Herb then spoke across the water, not raising his voice.”Kathy, can you hear me?” She stood back from the shore, in the middle of the beach. They had practiced the steps of this dumb show in advance, with an agreed signal system. She gave him a thumbs down. Same when he cupped his mouth and spoke again. Herb reached for a megaphone, tried at the volume of his own voice speaking normally into a microphone. Again, she gave the thumbs down. He cleared his throat, and raised his voice to the pitch he sometimes reached at the culmination of his sermons. This time, she pressed her open palms up and down, an indication that she could hear some but not all of what he said. The boat would simply have to be closer for this to work, without amplification.

“Anything I can do, Pastor?”

“Can you get in any closer to the beach?”

“Well now, Pastor, I could get closer but then we might not get out again. See all those weeds floating in the bay? That gunk gets in the propeller, and then it won’t turn. Could we ask that wetsuit lady of yours to come out and untangle it all from below, if you want to take the chance?”