He shook his head with a small smile. “You’ve seen how empty this ferry is. You really think people go camping in November? In Canada? To some hostile island? The place is barely occupied during the summer.”
I hadn’t thought about that. In my head I was expecting a full campground with other people there to keep us company. I didn’t think we’d actually be the only ones on the island.
“Isn’t there a ranger on the island or something?”
“No. That’s why Bill said to call him up on the damn radio if something went wrong. It’s just going to be you and me, kiddo.”
It didn’t seem like a big deal, really, but I guess it was the first time we would be alone alone…with no Maximus or Uncle Al meddling in our business. But still…
“I don’t know why you think I’d have a problem being alone with you. I trust you more than anyone,” I said truthfully. Honestly, the only thing that worried me now was the damn inappropriate ideas I kept getting in my head, all thanks to Ada’s incessant texting about Dex and I possibly having sex. Maybe these thoughts ran in the family.
He watched me for a few beats like he was trying to pick out exactly what I was thinking. I knew I was probably blushing but hoped the chilly wind was doing a good job of disguising that.
“I don’t know. Figured you probably thought I was a…what was it? A pervy weirdo, after last night.” He said it so sincerely that I had to laugh.
“I liked that side of you.” Oh dear. That totally came out wrong. “Or…I mean, I liked–”
“No, don’t cover it up,” he said, placing his finger on my lips. His smile was sweet, almost sad.
I waited for him to take his tobacco-scented finger away before I said, “I had fun last night. You’re just a man, Dex, that’s what I got out of it, and it was a bit of a relief, to be honest.”
“Good,” he said, fishing out his pack. “This morning I couldn’t really remember what happened, thought maybe I scared you more than I wanted to.”
I reached over and put my hand over his, closing it over the pack. “Ease up, OK? You’ve had like five in a row. If I have any reason to be worried about you, it’s because of that. Not because you got a stripper to give me a lap dance.”
He sucked on his lip and thought it over. Then he put the pack away in his jacket pocket.
“You did enjoy that lap dance, didn’t you?”
“It was eye–opening.”
“You’ve never been with a woman before?”
I burst into nervous giggles. “What? No, of course not. Have you been with a man? No wait, I don’t want to know. Don’t answer that.” Nothing would have surprised me but I definitely did not need that mental image.
He raised his brows. “Are you sure?”
“Yes,” I said. “Do you want to go inside? I’m freezing my ass off.”
He opened his mouth to say something with that familiar glint in his eye, so I added teasingly, “Don’t you dare say anything about my ass.”
“Wow. No cigarettes and no compliments. You run a tight ship, Perry Palomino.”
Dex knew he was the chief operator in our whole operation, but I just nodded. I had to take what I could get, while I could get it.
After the ferry docked, we drove off onto the long, tree–filled expanse of Vancouver Island and down the winding road towards the city of Victoria. As we neared the town of Saanich, we had glimpses of various islands floating out in Haro Strait. I couldn’t figure out which one was D’Arcy Island but we’d know soon enough.
Dex was actually more talkative than he had been on the ferry, which I took as a good sign. Only now I was feeling a bit sullen and moody. I wasn’t sure why, except I got this terrible feeling that I had forgotten something or was going into this situation ill–prepared.
I know Dex had asked if I was worried about being alone with him, and at first I really wasn’t, but the more I examined the weekend, the more I started to fret. Not about him in any way. I mean, I’d love nothing more than for him to make a few moves on me. But I knew that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. Or anytime. Ever. Sigh.
No, I was worried about myself. I was going to be sharing a tent with him for two nights. Sure, we had our own sleeping bags and everything (thank goodness), but the isolation plus our proximity, with no prying eyes to see…it made me nervous. What if I did something stupid, like jump his bones in the middle of the night? I’d be mortified and I’d scare him off. Probably ruin everything we had.
And yeah, I know it seems pretty unlikely that insecure little Perry would do anything like that but the more I was around him, the more I wanted to do terrible x–rated, nasty things to him. Only a few moments ago he had leaned over to take something out of the glovebox and during the instant where he turned to look up at me, I was so afraid I was actually going to lean forward and kiss him. I just thought, what happens if I just kiss him right here? What if I just grab his hair with my hands and pull him towards me and just kiss those irresistible lips of his? It was getting pretty ridiculous. I have never wanted someone so badly before, mentally and physically, that I was afraid my body might act without any instructions from me.
Finally, vague thoughts of Creepy Clown Lady kept drifting into my headspace. She acted like she knew me in some way. But I still wasn’t sure if I had seen a figment of my imagination or a ghost. Or an actual cracked–out clown lady who just followed me around from place to place like a lost carnie. Er, speaking telepathically in my head and all of that. I’ve heard carnies can do that.
I kind of wanted to bring it up with Dex just to see what he thought, to see if he had seen her too, lately, and was keeping it from me as I had been from him, and I was seconds (well, minutes, maybe days) away from doing so when we pulled up to a modest blue, one–level house in a leafy suburban neighborhood of Victoria. He parked the car on the street and flipped it into park.
“This is Zach’s,” he said.
I gave him an expectant look. “And how do you know this Zach?”
“He’s a documentary filmmaker, did some projects with him over the years. He’s a nice guy, no appetite for bullshit, which I appreciate. Has a kid, Amanda, who is six, I think, or something like that. Anyway old enough to talk intelligently with you, young enough to not have a fucking attitude. Buddy just got divorced though, so…try not to bring that up.”
Noted. We got out of the car and walked to the house. For a single guy, his garden was very neat and tidy, even with the approach of winter. Christmas lights were already on the hedges and lining the roof. The grass was cut short and rimmed with dew.
A little girl answered the door.
She was pretty with long blonde hair that was in the chokehold of a rat’s nest. The dress she wore was ruffley and light pink but overwhelmed by a Picasso–like mess of dirty smears. Either this was a tomboy in a princess’s body or dad wasn’t used to having a young girl around.
“I’m Amanda,” she stated forcefully as she blocked the entrance with her tiny body.
“You remember me, Amanda,” Dex said, leaning over to get a better look at her, hands on his knees. I felt a rare pang under my ribcage. “It’s Dex.”
“You smell,” she said. I couldn’t help but laugh. Amanda shot me a look.
“Sorry, Amanda. I agree with you,” I said in my most child–like voice. I never knew how to act around children, regardless of their age. Luckily Amanda grinned at that, showing off a wide gap in her teeth. She then skipped away, leaving the door open. Success!
A bearded man came around the corner, wiping his hands on a dish towel. His eyes lit up when he saw Dex.
“How are you, my man?” he exclaimed.
Dex went up and embraced him heartily. It was charming to see from someone who didn’t seem too affectionate with anyone.
“Good, good. I like the beard, Zach,” Dex noted as he pulled away and gave him the once–over. “You look like the singer of Clutch.”
It was true. He did look like Neil Fallon of the band Clutch. Zach had a receding hairline coupled with a bushy mountain–man beard. He had a proud beer belly poking forward through his navy tee–shirt, though he seemed in otherwise good shape.
“And I like the moustache. You look like a rapist,” Zach shot back with a wink.
Dex looked at me. “I guess you aren’t the only one who thinks so.”
I smiled at Zach and extended my hand, “Hi, I’m Dex’s partner, Perry. I also think he looks like a rapist.”
He shook it firmly and said, “Nice to meet you, Perry. I can tell I like you already. Come on in. Don’t mind Amanda. She’s here for the weekend. School had a professional day or something.”
“I’m in Grade One,” she said suddenly, poking her head out from the kitchen in front of us and then quickly disappearing again.
Dex and I laughed nervously. I mean, what do you say to that? Good for you? That’s nice?
Zach looked back at us, saying, “I know, who the fuck cares.”
“Dad!” she yelled from around the corner.
He rolled his eyes. “Right. Sorry, Amanda.”
He leaned towards us, voice lowered, “She’s the swear police now. Her mother…well, anyway, come in, come in.”
Zach led us into the living room, where he served us coffee and Twinkies. His house was small but had a homey feel, wood-paneled walls and lots of thick moody–colored rugs thrown about on a dark hardwood floor.
“Sorry, I’m not very good at hosting people,” he said, shoving a Twinkie in his mouth.
I eyed the spongy creation in my hands. I already had breakfast on the ferry but decided to nibble at it just to be polite. At least the coffee was strong and good. Seemed like the type of coffee a sailor would make.
“So, D’Arcy Island, eh?” Zach mused with a hard gleam in his eyes.
“Yup. Nothing says a fun time like an old leper colony,” Dex said.
“And the park board is letting you do this?”
“Yeah. They’re letting us. Not stopping us at any rate. Though that Bill dude definitely had a tent pole up his ass.”
“I’m pretty sure they’ve been approached by TV shows before…all that ghosthunting crap. Sorry. I just don’t believe in it.”
“You don’t believe in ghosts?” I asked. Even though it seemed like most people didn’t, it was still fascinating to me to find out why.
“Oh, no, I believe in ghosts. Very much so. But I think those TV shows are crap. That’s probably why they said yes to you guys. What I think anyway.”
“Cuz we aren’t crap?” I asked, carefully slurping on my coffee.
“No, because there’s really no chance of being exploited through…you know, the internet. What I mean is, it’s not on the A&E channel. There’s no moron leading the charge.”
He paused and gave Dex a funny look. “Well, except for this guy of course.”
“Actually I’m the moron of the show,” I offered with a smile.