Brooke spent the day wandering the house and browsing the internet while she waited for her father to get back to her about the potential water taxi lead, and hoping that Gary Patel wouldn’t try anything again.
She browsed Jack’s collection of books – tomes on everything from software design to logic systems to biographies of classical music composers and Russian painters – and his vinyl record collection, which consisted mostly of the likes of Chopin, Vivaldi, Miles Davis, Chet Baker, and a lot of jazz musicians she didn’t recognize, and a few records of 80’s German industrial music. He was quite the cultured man, wasn’t he? Brooke put a Vivaldi on the record player in the smoking room, spent a moment trying to figure out where to put the needle, and then was greeted by… some magically beautiful music. She’d never heard Vivaldi before.
The haunting violins of his Four Seasons suite played softly in the background as she stood at the window, looking out into the trees, and at the tiny, gray sliver of water she could make out through them. It seemed like a fitting soundtrack for such a place as Bell Island, and Brooke was suddenly altogether sure that Jack’s inner life was set to such a theme, too.
“Amos,” she asked the otherwise quiet room. “Has the Good News left yet?”
“I’m afraid it doesn’t appear so, Miss Foster,” the robot replied. “It’s moved to the eastern shore, out of the ferry lanes, and has put down anchor several hundred feet off.”
She chewed her lip. “Hm.”
Later that night, as the faintest hint of daylight was disappearing behind the distant hills of Vancouver Island, she ventured to the shore again. The twilight was barely enough to light her way down along the rocks as she tip-toed from jagged boulder to jagged boulder, keeping her eyes on the lights from the yacht moored a few hundred yards off Bell Island’s east side – the Good News. She sat down on an appropriately-shaped rock and took her shoes off to let her toes dangle in the water.
“Shit!” she hissed – yep, still icy cold. Brooke wasn’t sure why she thought that would be a good idea.
The air was still, though, and sounds carried, though she couldn’t hear anyone on the yacht. A smaller craft made its way through the passage, probably toward Orcas Island. She watched as its red and green bow light disappeared into the night.
“You know,” that deep, rumbling voice said from behind her, “The pool is much warmer if you’re thinking about going for a swim again.”
Brooke turned to see the pale shape of a giant standing in the trees behind her. He seemed relaxed – that was good, especially after the scare earlier. She smiled at him, though was sure he wouldn’t be able to see it.
“Hardly,” she scoffed.
“Really, it’s yours to use if you want. You… know how to swim, right?”
She laughed aloud at this. “You grew up with computers, I grew up in the water.”
When he smiled, she saw it. His teeth practically glinted in the faint moonlight. “In Russia, they have these things called Walrus Clubs,” he said as he took a step closer to the shore. She supposed that he wasn’t afraid of being spotted in the darkness. But when eerie tendrils of fog followed him out of the trees like fingers, Brooke realized that he had no intention of being seen tonight. Whoa.
Jack strode past her, balancing his immense weight on the rocks until he was up to his calves in the water, the mist following him and blanketing her with moisture. “They’re a bunch of crazy bastards who go swimming in the winter.”
Brooke could imagine it, but couldn’t believe it. “You’re joking.”
“That’s Russians for you!”
She giggled. He stepped deeper into the water, until the bottom of his bedsheet dipped into the lapping waves. Already his trunk was becoming difficult to see, but she still couldn’t imagine this being a good idea. “Wait, are you going to go for a swim right now?“
He shrugged his great shoulders. “Why not?”
Brooke pointed with her whole arm. “That’s Patel’s boat over there!”
“All the better, then!” he declared. That’s when Brooke began to suspect that he’d had something to drink. “Right under the motherfucker’s nose! I should swim over there and cut his anchor line,” he chuckled darkly. “I’d love to see the look on his shitty little face when he wakes up in the morning and realizes that he’s drifted out to sea!”
“Jack, someone might see you…”
“Let them! I’m a dead man anyway.”
She sighed and stood up. “Jack, c’mon. I’ll go sit by the pool with you.”
He muttered something in Russian at the boat before turning and following her back to the house. When they returned, he offered her a cocktail, and even though she knew it wasn’t he best idea in the world, she took him up on it.
“I used to love dirty martinis,” he said, sitting with his legs in the pool as he poured the ingredients into a shaker (which was absolutely tiny in his enormous hands), gave it a rattle, and poured it out into a chilled glass. “Here.”
It was strange and bitter and salty and she made a face with her first sip. “What the hell kind of..?”
Jack just laughed. “It’s a dirty martini. It’s got olive brine in it.”
Brooke shook her head and set it down on the flagstone beside her. “No thank you. Definitely not my thing.”
“More for me,” he thundered, plucking up the glass and tossing the entire drink down his gullet, olives and all. “What do you drink, then?”
“Lemon drops,” she blurted, realizing a little too late what she was getting into. Oh well… what was a drink or two, anyways?
Jack nodded. “Amos! You catch that?”
“One lemon drop martini coming up, Master Ilyin.”
Two minutes later, and the white robot was pressing the stemmed glass into her hand. “Miss Foster,” it said before retreating back into the house.
Jack reached over to his other side and held up an entire bottle of vodka. Yep, he’s definitely been drinking. She tentatively held up her glass in response. “What are we toasting to?”
He looked from her to the sky, then, rakish grin fading into a fainter smile, and spoke with much less bombast: “Ya piyo za razoryenniy dom, za zlooyo zizny moyo, za odinochyestvo vdvoyem, I za tyebya ya piyo,— za lozy myenya pryedavshikh guoob, za myertviy kholod gulaz, za to, chto mir zyestok i guroob, za to, chto bogu nye spas.” When Brooke looked at him, waiting, curiously, to what the beautiful words meant, he turned back to her and repeated himself in English. “I drink to our ruined house, to all of life’s evils too, to our mutual loneliness, and I, I drink to you – to eyes, dead and cold, to lips, lying and treacherous, to the age, coarse, and cruel, to the fact no god has saved us.” He brought the bottle to his lips, but just before he tipped the glass back, he gave her a mild little wink. “I drink to you, Brooke.”
The vodka disappeared from his bottle and he set it down gently so he could squint up at the stars.
There were emotions in her – emotions she didn’t know how to explain – and so she followed his gaze and downed her drink too.