Pierce Garrett stepped off the Sydney Harbor Ferry and stopped to watch the late afternoon sky. Dark heavy clouds had followed him from Manly Beach, rolling across the harbor behind a wall of grumbling thunder. The news reports said the storm was expected to dump at least two inches of rain on Sydney before moving up the coast toward Port Douglas. For now the storm waited, holding its breath as Pierce stood beneath it.
People hurried past him to catch the ferry, anxious to beat the rain home after a long day in the city. He stepped against the flow of the crowd, keeping a cautious eye on the northward sky, a plane ticket to the northeast coast resting in the inner pocket of his tweed blazer.
The maître’d of Luna Cafe beamed as Pierce walked in. “Good to see you, Mr. Garrett. Your usual table?”
“No thanks John.” Pierce looked over the man’s shoulder. His office used to be thirty floors above. The place was quiet, gearing up for the Friday night crowd. For now, it was nearly deserted. “I’m meeting someone in the lounge.”
“That would be him, I’d wager.” John cocked his head toward the bar, where a stout man sat by himself with a pint of ale. “A bit of a grump. Good luck, mate.”
Pierce nodded and stepped into the lounge. He pulled out a stool and rested his elbows on the polished concrete block. “Neat scotch,” he said to the bartender.
“You’re making a huge mistake.” The man sitting next to him complained into his glass.
“Well, Frank, that’s where you and I disagree,” Pierce said. “Luna’s not known for her ale and I’ve had my fill of rum. Vodka’s a bit much in the afternoon. I’m not in the mood for a Harp-”
“You’re an ass, Pierce. You know that’s not what I meant.”
“But the question is, what kind of ass am I? A smart ass or a bloody fool?” Pierce picked up his drink and glared at Frank over the rim. “Don’t answer. I already know what you think.” He downed the scotch and signaled for another.
“You pay me to keep you afloat, but I like to think I’m more than your attorney,” Frank huffed. He didn’t have much of a neck; his head might fall off his shoulders if Frank were to move it too far to the left or right. “We’re friends, Pierce. Trust me when I say this: if you give in, you’re sunk. Do you understand that?”
“I understand that I don’t really have a choice, do I?” He lifted his second scotch and swirled it in his hand. “They’re dead because of me. A house on Manly Beach and a hundred thousand dollars seems a fair price for that, considering.”
“They’re dead because of Jessica.” Frank turned in his seat.
Pierce looked down into his drink.
“Trust me, mate,” Frank continued, “arbitration is one thing, but if we take this to court, you will win.”
Pierce slammed the glass onto the bar. Liquid sloshed up and splashed onto the countertop. “Is this about winning, then?”
“It’s not about losing, if that’s what you mean. But if I didn’t know you better I’d be convinced that’s what you’re after.” Frank took a stack of papers from his satchel. He slapped them onto the bar in front of Pierce. “Sign these, then, if you’re so bloody determined.”
Pierce signed the bottom of every page without bothering to read the text. He had read the same language enough over the past six months: wrongful death, negligence, criminal misconduct. He had no desire to relive it again. He pushed the papers in front of Frank and pulled out a certified check and the keys to the Manly house.
“It’s done, Frank,” Pierce said, depositing a twenty on the counter. He stepped off the stool and patted the attorney on the back. “Go home before the storm hits.”
“And where will you go?” Frank called after him.
Pierce was already halfway across the lounge. “Up the coast. Back to Redemption Island.”
“What the devil’s Redemption got for you?”
Pierce stopped and turned slowly. He thought of the countless meetings he had held in this very restaurant, and the money that had fattened his bank account. He thought of the empty office thirty floors above. And he thought of Jessica, her pretty blonde ponytail trailing behind her each morning as she jogged along the beach. Her ratted, tangled hair as she leaned over a line of coke.
“It’s more about what Redemption hasn’t got.” Pierce said, walking out of the restaurant.
He stood on the curb and lifted his face to the sky. The Zenith building reached toward fat gray clouds, the rain pouring down. Umbrellas popped open and people scurried beneath overhangs or into buildings. Pierce walked quietly among them, letting the rain drench him. After a while he hailed a cab, slid inside and instructed the driver to take him to the airport.
Pierce arrived at Redemption Island at the same time as the storm. It had gained strength as it moved up the coast, the clouds almost as dark and dense as the night that crept in behind it. He stood on the dock and nodded to the driver of the small hired boat. The vessel sped away, the whine of the motor fading as distant thunder rolled closer.
He shouldered his heavy duffel bag and turned as the clouds came up over the southern edge of the cape. The storm cut off the last remnants of daylight and overtook the small island with a vicious snarl. Shadows stretched toward him, pulling him into the darkness.
The dock creaked beneath his feet, reminding him of lazy afternoons casting lines into the water. He had serious doubts about whether the old boards could hold the weight of the man he had become. He walked toward the abandoned resort concealed within the thick Daintree Rainforest, and wondered if the same might be said for Redemption.
Prodigy by Abigail Easton can be purchased from Amazon.com on Kindle and in print.