I looked out over the pool to a pristine beach not one hundred steps below the chlorinated water. To the left, I saw trees and a stone fence, to the right, more palm trees and the same stone fence. Both fences transitioned into a jagged rock wall that defined the perimeter of the private beach. I couldn't see the neighbors on either side. It was perfect.
I heard the real estate agent exit the sliding glass door. She was a heavy-set woman, impeccably dressed, with a phony happy sales attitude. I didn't care for her much. She wore a bit too much perfume and always thought she knew what was best for me. Of course, I didn't really care for anyone so she was at a disadvantage to begin with.
"I'll take it." I said without turning to look at her. I heard her high heels stop on the rock patio.
"You haven't really looked at the house, Mr. Tomlinson." There she goes trying to control my thoughts again. I was only interested in the privacy. This place blocked out the rest of the world. It would be my private little slice of heaven. The house was devoid of furniture which was a good thing. It meant it was already vacant and I could close the deal quickly.
"Make the offer Mrs. Johnson. Full asking price." I raised my hand in hopes she would see that I had already made my decision. This was the fourth place I looked at and the first to meet my original qualifications. If she had just listened, she could have sold it this morning and not wasted half my day.
"Are you sure? I am quite confident we can negotiate it down ten, maybe twenty percent." God, I am glad she doesn't work for me. I would fire the bitch on the spot. What part of "make the offer" didn't she understand? I wanted the property and didn't want to deal with anyone any longer than absolutely necessary. I turned to her.
"Make the offer. Full asking price." I made it sound a bit ominous. Why did I have to repeat myself? I hated the need for agents. She stepped back a bit and reached into her purse for her phone.
"Of... of course, Mr. Tomlinson." She fumbled her phone, and it almost dropped to the stone patio. "I'll have the papers drawn up immediately. They will want ten percent in earnest money." She was back to her business self. "Would you like me to bring the paperwork to you tomorrow morning?" Like I wanted to see this woman first thing in the morning or ever again for that matter.
"A Monica Rose will call you and complete the purchase." I started walking back through the house toward my car. I wasn't interested in a conversation or politely accompanying her out. Happily, I chose not to ride with Johnson so I hopped in my car and sped off.
I entered the hotel at the rear entrance. I don't have to feign niceties to the staff that way. I needed to get my new house livable as soon as possible. I expected to close by end of next week. I had enough lawyers on the payroll to make sure that it would go smoothly. I would need furniture and all the other necessities to make it home. I called up one of the few people in the world I respected.
"Monica, its Dale Tomlinson." Monica handles things for me. She doesn't discuss options and try to help. She just does.
"Mr. Tomlinson, what can I do for you?" Yes, that's what I like to hear. No bullshit niceties. Just business.
"I am purchasing a beachfront home and need it furnished and move-in ready as soon as possible." Watch her work.
"This week, sir." She sounded a bit hesitant. Not like her at all.
"That is what 'as soon as possible means.' " I usually didn't have to repeat myself to her.
"Of course sir! Address?" I could almost see her writing it down as I regurgitated it. I told her to talk with Mrs. Johnson to finalize the sale and to access the property.
"Style?" I told her it would be classic comfort. I intended to spend a lot of time there. I don't think it was an actual style, but Monica had a wonderful way of interpreting my needs.
"Budget?" Whatever it takes. I didn't want to limit her creativity. I was going to actually live there.
"I will get a flight out tomorrow." She was fast. That's why I liked her. I don't think she cared for me personally, but that was unimportant. I knew she liked my business, and she charged me well for her speed. Fine with me; I can always make more money. It's time that is at a premium. What's funny is that I have only met her in person a couple of times. Now I just call her with what I want and it's done. I couldn't think of a more perfect arrangement. I hung up the phone—no need for goodbyes.
It took three weeks to occupy the house. Damn owners were out of country, and I had to wait till they returned. They should have made arrangements for a possible sale before they left. Assholes pretty much ruined a week of my life. I really hate people. On the other hand, Monica was wonderful as always. The house was move-in ready. I was sure it cost me an arm and a leg, but it was worth it. Even the kitchen and bar were stocked. I only had to transfer my personal effects, and I was home.
I wasn't sure why she had put a pool table in the rec room. I never have guests so it won't get any use. I guess it was just there to take up the large space available. The pool had way too many lounge chairs, but I guess it gave the area a more lived in look. The beach itself was exactly as I envisioned. One lounger under a giant umbrella. This is why I bought the place. I aimed to spend a good portion of my life lying in that chair, reading books and letting the gentle waves wash away the rest of the world. This was paradise as far as I was concerned.
I walked down to the sand, and sure enough, the waves were playing a symphony on the bordering breaker rocks. Civilization was drowned out. The adjoining beaches were completely blocked from view so I could expect zero interruptions. I was so pleased, I decided not to go back up. I stripped to my boxers and lined the lounger up for maximum shade time. I loved the beach, the waves, and the warmth. I could do without the sun. It was way too bright and made me sweat. I lay back and let the sound of the waves roll over my body. This was by far the best purchase I had ever made. It wasn't long before I was sound asleep. It was just that peaceful.
The damn sun woke me about two hours later. It began to roast my feet by the time I had pulled myself from dreamland. There has to be an umbrella that tracks the sun. I vowed to find one as I snapped my knees up to cool my feet. There is always something in this universe that likes to screw with my well-being. Today, it was the sun.
I returned inside and fired up my laptop. It was time to review my trades. I had inherited a huge bond portfolio just before the 2008 crash. My grandmother, the only person I ever enjoyed being around, had conservatively purchased munis, federal and triple A corporate bonds. She purchased them from selling off my grandfather's position in a highly profitable internet firm at his death. She was a lovely woman whose passing I took hard. Having lost my parents early in life, Grandma was my rock and my soul. As the bonds matured and the munis were called, I dumped the money into the stock market. My timing couldn't have been better. When everyone was selling, I was buying. I grew a $100 million portfolio into a half billion dollar empire with me as the emperor.
Most people didn't even know my name, and I liked it that way. Money can buy power and influence. I used it to ensure my isolation. Monica was my wall against the world. She would handle all the crap that the money generated when it was spent. She, unfortunately, was becoming a bit irreplaceable. I paid her generously in hopes that she never moved on. It would be almost impossible to find anyone who could match her efficiency. I sometimes got shivers thinking about life without her.
With my portfolio looking as good as ever, I started opening cabinets in the kitchen looking for something to eat. Monica had seen to that with her usual perfection. There were plates and silverware, a drawer full of take-out menus sorted by Yelp ratings, the fridge and freezer filled with food, and one cabinet filled to the doors with wonderful cans of heaven. My one vice was SpaghettiOs.
High School was hell for me. I had never fit in so I spent four years trying to stay far away from others. When I failed, I suffered. I wasn't big enough, not good looking enough, and I never knew what to say. There was only one person who didn't care about my awkwardness. My Grandma would be waiting for me to return home and could tell from my expression what kind of day I had. My best memories of high school were sitting in the kitchen eating SpaghettiOs with my Grandma. It may sound sad to others, but to me it was a wonderful stress-free environment. Just the smell of the canned wonder cooking on the stove would let me forget my nameless torturers. To this day, those cans brought Grandma back to my mind. Monica was priceless; she knew me well.
I poured a can into a pot on the stove and sat back to enjoy the aroma. Just like the waves, the smell washed away the world. I could almost see Grandma's smiling face. I tried not to eat it every day so I wouldn't get bored. I grabbed a bowl and poured a serving and headed off to the flat panel to watch a movie. A nap on the beach, SpaghettiOs and a good movie. This day was better than most. I made a mental note to eat something a bit more nutritious later.
Besides some annoying interruptions by assholes that needed my signature, my week went fairly well. I allocate one day a week to clean house and do the laundry. I had a maid once, but I just couldn't stand having her around. The repeated "good mornings" and "how are you todays" made me want to puke. I decided it was easier on my soul to just handle it myself. Hell, it was the only real work I had to do anyway. It was almost therapeutic. One day of work made the other six days more valuable.
It was about four o'clock when I finished the final load a laundry. It being summer, I still had a good four hours of good beach time left. I grabbed a book, donned my swimming trunks, and headed to my lounger. I mentally kicked myself for forgetting to research a self-adjusting umbrella. I began to adjust the umbrella and felt a sharp pain in my ankle as my foot dug into the sand. Something jabbed me hard right below where the ankle bone stuck out. I whipped my foot up and saw two small welts just above the heel. It didn't look that serious although it was a bit sore. It must have been some glass or something in the sand. Just another thing trying to ruin my day.
I lay on the lounger and opened my book at the marker. It wasn't a great book, but I had a rule about finishing every book I start. It even paid off one time with a fantastic ending that made the slog through the rest more than worthwhile. I flexed my leg and ankle a bit trying to shake off the noticeable discomfort from the sand bite. I figured I would be stuck with the pain till I was able to sleep it off tonight. I went back to my book.
An incessant uneven humming began to disturb my world. I looked up from the book and saw a boat breaking the waves not far off shore. It seemed too small for the ocean. Every time a wave went by, it pulled the small engine out of the water and it emitted a high pitched scream. Fucking idiots. They had a whole ocean to play in, and they picked my back yard. I went back to my book figuring they would pass in a moment. The engine got louder as I read.
I looked back up and saw the small craft heading toward my beach. It sounded like the throttle was opened all the way. I lost the grip on my book and it dropped closed. "Son of a bitch!" I said as I realized I would have to spend the next five minutes trying to find my place again. I was really beginning to dislike the captain of the annoying vessel. The boat wasn't slowing and was still heading to my beach. If they thought they were landing here, they had better think again. I grabbed my phone in case I had to call the police.
The boat began veering off to the left toward the breakwater. The idiots should be able to see the rocks. That's all I need is a smashed up boat to ruin my pristine view. "Hey, wake up!" I shouted and waived my arm. The boat kept coming and didn't slow a bit. I screamed again, signaling with both arms, but the boat stayed to its course and slammed into the rocks. I heard wood give way when it hit and saw what looked like a naked body fly out toward the rocks.
I stood quickly from my chair. A little too quickly as my leg had seemed to go numb a bit. I moved toward the shore trying to work the sleep out of it yelling for whoever would listen. "Hey asshole! This is a private beach." I received no response, but saw something bobbing close to shore. It looked like a body. Fuck, that's all I need. Someone came all the way to my house to die. I moved quickly to water in hopes of forestalling a visit from the coroner. My arm didn't really want to cooperate as numbness ran up my side and toward my neck. I moved quickly into the shallows and rolled what I now realized was a naked woman onto her back.
She sputtered a little water out of her mouth and looked up to me with hugely dilated eyes. "Should have just left me," she said with a Spanish accent before she broke into laughter. Pissed, I grabbed her wrist and began pulling her lethargic body toward the sand with my good arm. Her head was oozing a bit of blood although it didn't look too serious. Suddenly, pain forced me to my knees. Something was really wrong. I didn't have any energy to stand back up. My whole chest felt like it was collapsing in on itself. I dropped her arm and remembered my phone. I picked the first number in my recent list and dialed Monica.
"Monica... Monica." I couldn't finish the sentence. I didn't have enough air in my lungs. I realized I might be dying. A wave a fear ran through me. I wasn't ready to go yet. I haven't even finished the book.
"Fuck! You're having a heart attack!" The woman sat up, and two rather attractive breasts bounced on her chest. She was failing miserably at trying to hold back laughter. My vision was drifting in and out which made the whole situation surreal. I fell backward, half in and half out of the water. She grabbed my phone before it got wet. "Mr. Private Beach needs a doctor." She laughed into the phone and threw it over her shoulder into the water. The last thing I remember was her Spanish laughter as she straddled my stomach.
I awoke in a quiet beige and white sanitized room. I could barely hear movement and muffled conversations beyond the door. My memory came back slowly. Obviously, I survived. I moved my arm and leg, and the numbness was gone. That was a good sign. I tried to sit up and decided it really wasn't worth the effort. Still a bit weak. I closed my eyes again and was soon fast asleep.
"Mr. Tomlinson... Mr. Tomlinson?" A woman's voice woke me from my sleep. "Good morning, Mr. Tomlinson," she added when my eyes opened. It was a nurse, dressed in a blue set of smocks. "You're in St. Vincent's. You experienced a sudden cardiac arrest." No shit, I thought. Even the naked lady on the beach knew that. "Dr. Heller wanted me to wake you up before he began his rounds." She checked an IV bag that was attached to my arm. "Would you like to sit up?"
"Yes." I said a bit hoarsely. I was feeling a bit vulnerable fully on my back. She adjusted the bed a bit and then helped me raise my shoulders.
"I'll get you some fresh water." She grabbed a pitcher that was next to the bed and headed out the door. At least I had a private room. The walls seemed thick enough so I didn't feel crushed by the number of people that were obviously in the building. All in all, it could have been a lot worse.
She returned with a full pitcher and a cup with a built-in lid and straw. It looked a little juvenile, but I was pretty thirsty. She filled the cup and place it in my hand. For a second there, I thought she was going to hold the cup to my lips so I kind of fumbled the handoff. Good thing it had a lid. I took a few sips and relieved my dry throat.
"Do you have any questions?" She looked at me quizzically. I wasn't sure what to ask. I felt kind of like I had to ask something.
"Yes! How did I get here?" It was simple enough and showed I wasn't completely without my wits.
"I wasn't here last night, but I understand you were brought in by helicopter." She said pointing to the roof. "You were very lucky. I understand you flat-lined in transit, but the paramedics were able to revive you. Dr. Heller will have to explain the treatment you received once you arrived. He should be here in a few minutes." Fuck, I died in a helicopter. As if on cue, the doctor wearing the same color smocks as the nurse walked in with a clipboard.
"Good morning Mr. Tomlinson." This was getting a bit repetitive. "It's good to see you awake." I felt the need to respond.
"Good morning." I said. A lot of my hoarseness was gone.
"I'm Dr. Heller, and I was the attending physician when you came in last night." He looked up from the clipboard. "You had a very close call. Luckily you had some good first aid." He went over to a terminal on the wall that was wired to a clip on my left finger. After playing with the settings a bit he returned his face to mine again. "We were unable to locate a next of kin so I had to accept that Monica..." he looked at his clipboard "Rose was acting in your interest."
"Yes, she always does." I said carefully.
"You were stung on the foot by a jellyfish." He was looking at me closely. "You had a rather strong allergic reaction and your heart stopped. Usually these things are just uncomfortable, but reactions like yours are not completely uncommon."
"I don't remember going in the water." I tried hard to think back.
"Actually, the animal can remain quite potent a few days after death. You could have just step on one on the beach." He leaned over the bed and disconnected the clip on my finger. I remembered the sting when I was adjusting that damn umbrella.
"Are there any lasting effects?" I wiggled my toes again to make sure they were still working right.
"No." He chuckled. "At least not normally. Some Benadryl for the symptoms. The toxin flushes itself out in a few days. Believe it or not, we're only going to keep you overnight. Once we make sure you won't relapse, we'll release you." He was pretty cheerful sounding. "You should be able to continue on with your life as normal, but I would recommend you see a cardiologist in a week so just to make sure there is no permanent damage." Wow, drive-through medicine.
"Thanks, Doctor." I wasn't sure if there was a protocol for what to say to someone who saved your life. I was afraid to add any embellishments that might sound fake. He just patted my on the shoulder.
"I'll see you before you leave tomorrow." He walked out to continue his rounds.
"Monica Rose is waiting outside to see you. Do you feel up to a visitor?" The nurse smiled like it was a good thing. I wasn't excited about seeing her in my weakened state, but I am sure she was instrumental in my survival.
"Yes, of course." I tried to smile because I felt the nurse expected me too. I hated dealing with people. Everything felt uncomfortable. Good thing I was going home tomorrow. She opened the door and waved Monica in on her way out.
"I understand you're going home tomorrow." Monica didn't say hello. God she was easy to talk to.
"Yes. I guess I have you to thank for the helicopter and private room." I almost died. I have to thank someone or they might just let me go next time.
"Actually, it is Mia Perez you need to thank. You will get the bill for my services." She wasn't smiling just all business