Chapter 7 Excerpt [1]

They passed a blunt back and forth as the Mercury rolled down the main drag and headed toward the pier.  Sacha daydreamed about the people who had remained in her life after she was orphaned.  They served to protect her and taught her everything there was to know about the carnival, the lessons meant to prepare her for the future.  Her parents may have been gone, but she would always have her Carny family, and loyalty guaranteed that they would be around when the day came for her to oversee the carnival.  Old memories of the closeness she had with those Carnies brought a smile to her face.  Many tried to do right by her father and adopt her while others offered marriage—a young, vulnerable and impressionable girl certainly created wild fantasies—but it was an absurd thought to her at the time.  However, Sacha removed herself from the carnival and everyone involved with it while she endlessly traveled in order to research the Hyde Syndrome.  Coming back to the ocean was something she had felt compelled to do, unable to restrain the yearning desire for the place she once called home.  Everything that happened since was a bit overwhelming, but she finally felt a sense of belonging again, and no one would ever be able to take it away.

The stench of fish filled the air—a flock of seagulls circled over piles of rotting carcasses—and it was foul enough to rouse Sacha from her fantasy.  Harsh steel buildings loomed in the distance, oxidized by the salty environment; large boats with nets floated out on the ocean, waiting for the late afternoon catch.  The cannery was often the scene of many tragic and unfortunate accidents which earned it a notorious reputation that caused most of the community to avert their eyes, pretending it did not even exist.  Rumors suggested that it was a place one visited when the need to get rid of a body came along, and urban legend dictated that human flesh was mixed in with the canned fish.  No one knew where the trucks delivered the final product, but none of the local supermarkets stocked their shelves with anything that came out of them.  While a number of half-true stories someone heard from a friend of friend were constantly transmitted, few were proven to be fact.  Jesse had never really been there before, and perhaps that was due to being aware of the alleged fate waiting for those who went in.  However, he also knew better than to allow his imagination to run wild, but that did not make him feel any better to be there.

The odor grew stronger when they climbed out of the Mercury, and Jesse followed Sacha towards the pier, uncertainty rolling around in his stomach.  Three boys loitered around a makeshift fire towards the end of the pier, casually engaged in conversation.  The youngest had deep-set eyes and shaggy light brown hair, too thin for his own good and drowning in a sea of tattered, faded clothes a few sizes too big.  In fact, they all carried the telltale characteristics of junkies: absent, empty eyes and hung over faces; gaunt cheeks and ashen complexions; runny noses and long sleeves that surely hid constellations of needle marks.  While a grim reminder to Jesse of what he could become if he did not learn to control his vices, he was there with Sacha to score drugs.  He could easily persuade himself that the level of stress current situations carried was the motivation, or that grief caused internal struggle he had not felt before and wanted the quickest solution of dealing with it.

The oldest boy had thick black dreads and facial tattoos that appeared to have been done by hand, which were as worn as his blue jeans and dissolving T-shirt.  His sad brown eyes studied them both carefully as he smoked a cigarette.

“What ya’ll here for?” he inquired.

“Might be in the market for some foundation,” Sacha casually replied, a polite smile fixed on her lips.  “The top-quality kind.”

“That a fact?” he chuckled, glancing at the two others.  “Things of that sort are hard to come by, so what makes you think I got any?”

“Listen, there is not much time for me to waste fucking around.”

“Oh, well you can take your business elsewhere then.”

“What is the problem?” Jesse inquired, growing irritated.

“And just who the fuck are you?” the junkie sneered.

“No one,” Sacha said, fishing out several bills from her purse.  “Please just tell me if you can help us out or not.”

“Must be desperate, baby girl.  You certainly are not one of my regulars.”

“Thanks for noticing,” she retorted, stuffing the money in his hand.

“Give me just a minute,” he said, smiling as he turned to the younger boy, a small hand-folded paper envelope passing between them.  “What do you know—must be your lucky day.  Just happen to have something come in, said to be real satisfying.  Hope it does the trick for you”

Sacha took the envelope and slipped it into her purse.  “Much obliged.”

“Heard there was some trouble over at the carnival,” the junkie remarked, lighting another cigarette.  “Things have been pretty peaceful over there lately.”

“People are greedy,” Jesse said sternly.  “They only understand when money talks and it blinds them to what lies beneath that gaping mouth.  Shame they have to learn that lesson the hard way, ain’t it?”

The junkie shrugged and wiped his nose with the back of his sleeve.  “Just wanted to say that I hope everything works out for ya’ll.  Take care now,” he said almost cheerfully, still smiling.

Jesse wrapped an arm around Sacha’s waist and lead her back to the Mercury.  There was no time for jitters and he did his bet to soothe the disquiet, yet worried that she could sense it.  She certainly saw the determination in his eyes, which matched the stern expression on his face as various thoughts swirled in his head, a hand absently rubbing his chin.  If there was something on his mind, surely he would not hesitate to express it and she did not want to press him on the matter.  Jesse already knew there was something different about his wife, and could no longer deny that she honestly did understand what he was going through.  In fact, he began to realize that her past experience with the Hyde Syndrome just might come in handy.  Perhaps there was some clue in her father’s behavior which could be used to help him.  Those sort of questions were hard to raise, and Jesse doubted that he had the right skill to do it gracefully.  However, the only way he could gain information was to just come right out and ask.

After arriving back at the house and parking the Mercury, Jesse took Sacha out on the beach where they could have a place to talk.  The envelope was removed from her purse and carefully opened to reveal stark white powder.  It was consumed within a matter of minutes, and shortly after a blunt was being lit.

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