Irish Chain

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Book: Irish Chain by Earlene Fowler Read Free Book Online
Authors: Earlene Fowler
don’t you even think about leaving this room until I get him here.”
    “Sure,” he said. “I’ll be right here.”
    I looked back at the girl in red. I bet he would.
    I took the shortcut through the kitchen to Mr. O’Hara’s wing, thinking it was a good thing Gabe had finally arrived, because now even Mac was nowhere to be found. To speed things up, I slipped off my heels and started through the garden. Though I couldn’t see anything but shadowy outlines in the partial moonlight, the sweet, earthy scents of the roses, early lilies, ferns and wisteria made such a soothing potpourri that I couldn’t help but stop and inhale deeply, letting the coolness of the bricks soak into my tired feet. Maybe it was just my imagination, but it seemed suddenly as if people were jumping around like checkers on a giant checkerboard. Or maybe more accurately, like one of those high-speed five-minute chess games played for money that had recently become popular with the college students.
    When I watched Ramon and Todd play one this afternoon, kitchen timer ticking away the minutes, Ramon remarked, “There’s no fancy footwork in these games. The object is to capture the king as quickly as possible.”
    And at this particular moment, that certainly sounded good to me.

    CLUTCHING MY SHOES to my chest, I hurried through the garden. Halfway across, a faint noise echoed through the cool darkness. It came from the small white ivy-stitched gazebo to my left. A giggle, then a muted shush . A young male voice murmured a laughing admonishment. A familiar young male voice.
    “Ramon?” I called, moving closer and peering into the shadows. “Is that you? Ramon?”
    He stepped down from the gazebo, rubbing the back of his neck. “Geeze, Benni, like why don’t you use a bullhorn or something? I think someone in Santa Barbara might have missed it.”
    “You should be helping at the dance,” I accused.
    “I needed some fresh air.”
    Standing on tiptoe, I peered over his shoulder. “Who’s in there with you?” Red sequins flashed in the moonlight. “She was just with—For Pete’s sake, does she have a twin?”
    “Never mind. Help me find Mr. O’Hara so we can crown the royal couple and get this dance over with. Then you and the lady in red can exchange saliva to your heart’s content.”
    He scowled at me. “Why don’t you just be blunt or something?”
    “I mean it. I’m not signing any of you kids off this project until everything is completely cleaned up. What happened to that wonderful altruism you all started out with?” I was tired and hungry and it was beginning to show.
    “Forget it. Let’s just find Mr. O’Hara, then we’re all outta here.”
    After a short, intense conversation with his girlfriend, Ramon ambled up beside me.
    “Well, where do we look?” he asked in a grumpy voice.
    Ignoring his tone, I said, “We might as well try the obvious and check his room.”
    With its green tartan plaid bedspread and framed photographs of his travels in Ireland, Brady O’Hara’s large private room was as neat and precise as his natty toothbrush mustache. It was also empty. He was one of the few residents at Oak Terrace who could afford such posh accommodations, having owned O’Hara’s Department Store downtown for fifty years, and from what I’d heard, invested the money from its sale wisely. I’d spent many late August afternoons in the Smart Young Miss department of his store arguing with Dove about the real and imagined dangers of skintight jeans and whether bras were or weren’t a necessary clothing option for a liberated sixteen-year-old. In the late seventies, when the Central Coast Fashion Plaza opened up on the edge of town, he closed the store and retired to his huge Victorian house where he cultivated an English flower garden and worked on long, rambling articles for obscure historical journals.
    “Now what?” Ramon asked, jiggling one leg impatiently while I slipped

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