Tag Archives: Delos

Something akin to an epilog

It turned out that Walt preferred being a dog, all instinct, and oh, don’t get him started about all the information coming in through that marvelous nose. It was as if he’d been living in a flat, soundless world suddenly endowed with dimension and orchestration. Sure, he missed his thumbs and the ability to grasp objects with something other than his mouth. He both missed speech and welcomed its absence. And he no longer had to waste his time selecting and wearing clothes. Freedom.

Susannah Fontaine-Williams and Walt bonded. His former owner, the very responsible, ethical and momentarily heartbroken Vanessa Schlage, heiress of the Schlage lock fortune, had neutered Walt when he was still her Vernon. Are you following this? And his attraction to SFW turned into something more canine and pure. Perhaps something like love even.

Walt often thought about what had become of the creature in whose body he’d materialized. Of course, living with a dog mind meant he really couldn’t think deeply about things, so distracted was he by smells, things flashing past, sounds near and distant, urges to lick himself, itches, and visions. All these and more would banish thoughts until something new gained his attention. Anyway, was Vernon lurking within, obedient, subservient, waiting for Walt to vacate the premises so he could bound home to Ms. Schlage?

Vanessa Schlage played her part and papered Manhattan and Brooklyn with pictures of Vernon/Walt and offered a respectable but not excessive reward. She fantasized about his return even after her best friend Ethan had presented her with twin puppies that closely resembled her lost companion. For weeks, though she spent hours staring at an unopened bottle of gin, she didn’t open it and remained sober, thank goodness. I don’t like writing about alcoholism.

Susannah had, with the help of Walt’s nods, facial expressions, and paw gestures, worked out what happened. Obviously (well, duh), the bag had dragged Walt in and spat out all that was Walt in the form of a tasty treat to be gobbled by a passing living thing. Once consumed, Walt’s essence took hold and that was that. They debated bringing Walt back to the bag’s storage pod entrance so he could be devoured by a human, but that had more serious ethical issues that neither wanted to address just then. Though he now aged seven times more quickly than she, they had time to work out an exit strategy.

Susannah, with the convenient advent of Second Susannah, enjoyed an even fuller life if you can imagine that. Second Susannah appeared when needed, performed her task as admirably as if she were the first Susannah, then drifted away like mist. Original Susannah absorbed her memories and experiences and after a few years passed stopped thinking about it, as if this were a perfectly natural and normal feature of human existence. It made shopping so much easier. Necessities were taken care of: a stocked fridge, public appearances when she’d rather binge-watch Deadwood or Breaking Bad, someone to look after Walt on those occasions that she could not bring him along.

Walt loved car rides and Susannah Fontaine-Williams bought a powder blue 1963 Corvette Stingray convertible for their Sunday road trips. Macallan, a classic car aficionado, helped her with the purchase and dutifully handled the Stingray’s maintenance. She would wear big sunglasses and a long, flowing head scarf and would outfit Walt with goggles, which he didn’t mind. It kept the grime and insects out of his eyes and he appreciated that.

She set up a limited liability corporation – to be on the safe side – and bought the building on Canal with Walt’s basement workshop, and kept the counterfeit bag store going and the employees employed. She put a gigantic lock on the door and rigged up some Dropcams so she could check in on the pod from time to time. She pounded out the nail on the twenty-seventh step so she wouldn’t step on it if she ever went back down there. It cost a medium fortune but proved to be a solid investment.

Susannah had a simple Steinway baby grand in her Manhattan apartment, and one in the shore house as well. (She once turned down a scholarship at Juilliard so she could train for the Olympics and backpack the Andes – you can’t do everything.) The piano initially caused Walt much distress as his lack of fingers and dexterity prevented his playing. Once, she found him standing on the piano bench, paws on the keyboard, clinking the keys and howling. He eventually took pleasure in curling up at her feet while she played.

One August Sunday, she’d been reading the Times and it referenced an exhibit of recently unearthed Egyptian artifacts. She wasn’t interested, but Walt’s eyes caught the photo of the mysterious knife with the ivory handle and the intricately carved ankh, the one she had used to defend herself against the serial killer in Delos. He leapt to his paws and barked and pointed. She stared at it. “I guess I’ll have to go over there and steal it, won’t I? Oh yes I will, won’t I, Walt! Won’t I!” She was talking in that enthusiastic way people talk to dogs sometimes. “Will you miss me? I won’t be long and besides, other me will be here with you. I bet you can’t tell the difference, can you? Can you, Waltie?”

Walt hadn’t really thought about it ’til then. She scratched him behind the ears and he rolled over onto his back so she could rub his belly.

Advertisements

The 8:00 PM ferry

Is my life better or worse since the bag, SFW mused, watching the docked Gambit recede from the stern of the ferry. She opened her handbag and gazed into its blackness wondering what happened to all the things she put inside that disappeared then reappeared. Walt gazed back, unseen, still stunned by what he’d seen from the other side of  the open bag. She relaxed forward on the railing as the sun slowly dropped toward the horizon.

“I don’t remember seeing you on the ferry out here,” a man said. She recognized Macallan’s voice. “Mac,” she said, turning, inching close in to him like she would a lover. This wasn’t a flirtation, but a sudden need to be encircled by someone familiar. “In fact, I swear I saw you get on that boat over there with someone a few hours ago. Different dress, but she had your walk.”

“Do I have such a distinctive way of walking?”

“Did you know that a person’s gait is as individual as fingerprints?” Did I leave fingerprints? She began thinking about details. Could she just sail away on the 8:00 PM ferry trouble-free? Now there was Macallan to consider.

“You know,” he said. “Alethia has family here. We don’t get here as often as we’d like but I’ve seen hundreds of sunsets and this one’s going to be a good one.” She nodded. There will be a story tomorrow about a yacht abandoned on the island, and a search for the owner. Hopefully they won’t find the body or the dress. Maybe a witness saw them together. Maybe she left fingerprints or something else behind on the boat. Macallan will quickly piece it together so she decided she would tell him what happened before they docked at Mykonos.

“We’re out here on this ferry in another part of the world and I’m hoping you can clear something up for me. This has been eating at me for weeks.” She smiled. “How did you do it? How did you get those clothes out of my store?”

“Mac, who is this?” a woman’s voice said. SFW turned toward her, extended her hand, and said, “Hi, I’m Susannah Fontaine-Williams.”

Let’s leave things as they are for today and end with the cloudless sunset that didn’t quite live up to Macallan’s prediction.

DSCF1553.JPG

The lone witness

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Breathing hurt. Susannah Fontaine-Williams quickly peeled off her suddenly blood-stained dress. She poured what was left of her bottled water on her hands and wiped clean the blood with the unstained parts of the dress. She tossed the dress and the bottle down the cistern into which the tall Greek man had staggered and fallen with the knife buried hilt-deep in his gut.

For a moment she stood naked in the shadows, save for the sunhat that had remained firmly on her head. She strained to listen for sounds, anything, approaching voices, footsteps, a dying man struggling in the sickly green water. But all was quiet. She pushed the gravel with her feet to make sure her hearing still worked. Except for a lizard standing atop an ancient wall, there wasn’t another creature in sight.

From her bag, she pulled the cute blue and white striped dress she had shoplifted in Santorini a few days earlier. Though she hadn’t tried it on first, it fit perfectly. She sat on the edge of the cistern, closed her eyes, and caught a vivid glimpse of an alternate life. She sat by a swimming pool dangling her feet in the cool water watching Bob Williams playing with their triplets. He picked up their daughter, tossing her gently and she splashed down, holding her nose to keep the water out. “Me next, daddy!” the boys screamed. 

The droning villain

“Perhaps, Susannah Fontaine-Williams, you are not cautious.” That’s not very insightful now, is it, she thought. “Perhaps it is unwise to follow a man you don’t know into a hidden place.” He eased the pressure on her throat enough to allow the carbon dioxide to escape her lungs and fresh air to enter. She wanted to cough but he had tightened the grip once more.

She looked into the one brown eye and one blue eye of her tormentor and swore that the brown used to be on the left, not the right as it now was. He smiled. “Is that better?” he said. “Does it hurt…your throat?” She couldn’t speak and she couldn’t nod her head so she just stared back at his eyes.

“The world,” Tassos continued, ‘is a corrupt place. He sighed, “I was not always this way. Like anyone, I would think of killing from time to time. It is natural to want to kill someone, is’t it?” She could only look into his unblinking eyes. SFW, fortunately, an accomplished swimmer (bronze medal, freestyle, 2006 Olympics) and everyday miler at the pool, had great wind. She could hold her breath for several minutes at a time.

She hadn’t noticed that her right hand was in her handbag now feebly fumbling over the many objects in storage. He hadn’t paid it any mind either. He paused to weigh the import of his own words, as if she would continue her TV show on an afterlife cable network and might have a life – or death – lesson to convey to her audience from her experience dying today.

“Do you want to know where I got the inspiration to kill?” She couldn’t speak and the lack of oxygen again made her woozy. “Of course you do! From watching your CSI. Very inspiring!” He let up on the pressure again allowing her another single breath. “Just pick someone you don’t know. Random is best. And always dispose of the body with care.

“Now, where was I? Yes, the world is corrupt. Everyone gets away with what they can. And there are too many…too many people doing too much evil. The human race – we are just animals with nice things. Do you need a breath?” He released his grip again. Stale air rushed out and fresh air replaced it. Her throat hurt.

“Where was I? Yes. I am like your Dexter. You know the show? Good. I weed out the evil. Anyone with privilege and means, we must assume has come about that privilege and means by doing something wrong, or through wrongdoing somewhere in their bloodline. You see now why this is happening to you, don’t you? I am just an instrument. I hope you appreciate that.”

A man in a stylish hat photographs one of the many wells on Delos.
A man in a stylish hat photographs one of the many wells on Delos.

He stopped talking but continued looking into her eyes. Her eyes were watering and her head ached. She was thirsty and her hand rested on the hilt of the pearl-handled ankh knife in her handbag. During his monologue she had been very carefully unhitching knife from sheath and felt confident she had bared the blade. “What do you say, one more breath and then we say goodbye?” he said.

 

Lovin’ the Ruins

“Because Delos was sacred, as the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, no births or deaths occured here. The sick were not permitted entry, nor were pregnant women. That island,” Tassos pointed to Reinia, “the sick went there to die and that is where the women gave birth.” “Didn’t thousands of people live here? What happened to all of the people?” Susannah Fontaine-Williams asked. “Ah,” Tassos replied. “I assume you mean after the invasion. 20,000 people lived here – all were either killed or enslaved. But the interesting thing is, no human remains have been found on the island to this day.” The late afternoon sun burned and SFW clinged to the slowly lengthening shadows. She leaned against a shaded wall startling a lizard, sending it scampering over the rocks. “We call them ‘crocodelos,'” he said.

“Try to envision it as it was found more than a century ago,” he went on. “Rubble everwhere. Much was covered by vegetation, like over there on that hillside. Only a third of Delos has been excavated and recovered. It is very slow going. Most of these buildings were three stories high. It’s hard to picture, isn’t it?” She nodded yes, closed her eyes, and her TV mind played a documentary of toga’d people conducting their affairs and discussing philosophy on the crowded narrow streets as warships filled the harbor on the eve of Delos’s destruction.

Ruins and rubble.
Ruins and rubble.

The afternoon heat radiated from the stone, marble, and rubble. Susannah Fontaine-Williams felt just a touch faint and longed for a glass of cold water, chased by that sublime Cuban rum cocktail they served at the pool bar in Mykonos.

Tassos proved to be a thorough guide, walking her through the enormous agora, to the theatre, to the Temple of Apollo and finally to the museum and the little refreshment store. He showed her elaborate tile floors, translated the Greek inscriptions for her, and described the many cisterns and wells and other clever ways the Delosians gathered, saved and used the scarce fresh water. “Let me show you the hidden cistern,” he said. “Very few people get to see this.”

A ship’s horn sounded and she peered over a wall to see the 5:00 ferry pulling in to dock. They came to what may have been a courtyard surrounded by walls with a large cistern to one side in the shadows. “Look,” he waved her over. “The water’s such a bright green,” she said. “It’s the minerals,” he said. “Mostly limestone. Very acidic.” He put an arm around her waist and pulled her close to him. She thought she would have to endure a kiss, but instead, she felt his hands gently on her neck and she tried to take a step back. He pressed his thumbs on her windpipe and she gasped for air. “You’re my first American celebrity,” he said, squeezing just a little bit tighter.

The 5:00 ferry unloads.
The 5:00 ferry unloads.

Want to know why this post’s title is immensely clever? Check out “Love in the Ruins” by Walker Percy. 

The billionaire’s gambit

Susannah Fontaine-Williams lay on the prow of a strange man’s  yacht propped back on her elbows, wishing she had her wide-brimmed floppy hat to shade her from the hot sun. The fast boat etched a creamy V through the Aegean Sea at nearly 50 knots.

She had already bought her ferry tickets to the Island of Delos when a man who introduced himself as Tassos offered to speed her there personally on his yacht. It was the kind of opportunity that presented itself to her frequently when she traveled alone, and the sort of offer she rarely refused. Who would? It didn’t hurt that he was striking.

But she hesitated an instant, perhaps because he had one blue eye and one brown one. In that moment between yes and no, Tassos convinced her, explaining that he had made his fortune in shipping which allowed him to indulge his interest in archaeology. “I will be your personal guide on ancient Delos. I can show you things you could not possibly discover on the tour.”

Before boarding the 60-foot craft, she’d said, “I thought you said you had a yacht.” She had then taken a look around to see if there might be someone else with a larger boat waiting to whisk her away.

She reached into her bag hoping that maybe she had stuffed a hat in at some point but knowing she hadn’t. Her hand felt something smooth and cold and pulled out an ivory-handled dagger with a leather blade cover. She gasped, not with surprise, but at the knife’s intricate beauty. She turned it over, unsheathed it, rubbed her thumb along the blade.  “Sharp,” she thought. It had the symbol of the ankh delicately carved on the fat part of the blade on both sides.

She tucked it back in the bag, remembering where so she could study it later at her leisure. She rooted around some more and pulled out an unfamiliar floppy sun hat which she placed upon her head. It fit perfectly and the wind did not blow it off.

14107415660_ba3c88dabe_b
The view from the deck of The Gambit as it approaches Delos.