I couldn't sleep. The hot summer air in my apartment was still, and sadly, no breezes came through the open window to offer circulation or relief.
"The hell with this," I rolled out of bed, threw a random dress on, shoved my feet into the first pair of shoes I found, grabbed my purse, and went outside.
Amity Island was almost completely dead at one in the morning. It was a bit creepy. I headed for the beach, not because it was less creepy (because everything is in the middle of the night), but because I had some vague idea about cooling off by sticking my feet in the water. On the sand, I took my shoes and stood in the waves.
"I hope you're not thinking of swimmin.' Dangerous, this time of night."
The voice made me jump, and I turned around to face a grizzled man dressed like a fisherman standing next to my shoes. For a second I wondered where he'd come from, but I didn't dwell on it.
"Just cooling off," I said. "It's hotter than hell out tonight."
"Doesn't bother me," he replied, and given his jacket I didn't disbelieve him.
"I envy you. But I wouldn't swim at night, anyway. I'm allergic to drowning."
He cackled at my witticism, and I stepped out of the water, feeling slightly better, and then went to retrieve my shoes. But back on the shore I started to feel cold and wondered if I was coming down with something.
It was eighty-eight degrees in July… I should not have been shivering. Fortunately, nature gave me something to shiver about as a dorsal fin cut through the water a few feet back from where I had been standing.
"Jesus!" I exclaimed, and then inwardly cringed at the blasphemy.
"Told you," the fisherman said. "That's a bull shark. It's a bad fish. They feed at night and just before dawn." He paused, and his next few words came out like a kind of sigh. "Rip you to pieces."
I was watching his face. His eyes had a playful look in them, but his body language suggested weariness, and then there was his tone. I couldn't think of anything to say but, "well, thanks for getting me out of the water, Mister…?"
"Quint's my name," he replied, sounding a bit more natural. "And yours?"
"Caroline," I replied, stumbling back into my shoes. Actually, I just stumbled. Trying to recover, I added, "I'm the new assistant librarian. I haven't been here long. Not an islander, obviously."
"Neither was I," he said.
"But they grandfathered you in?" I stood up straight finally, now noticing that the knees of his trousers were both very bloody. "Are you all right?"
"What?" He looked at me rather sharply, blue eyes intense.
"You're bleeding," I indicated his legs with my head.
He smiled again, the same way he had when he said, "rip you to pieces" and assured me that the blood was nothing to worry about. It didn't bother him. So I let it go. Knees could bleed a lot without serious injury, of course, or maybe it was fish blood.
Thinking I might be warmer on pavement, I started moving further away from the water. He followed, keeping about three feet away from me. For some reason that didn't bother me, but the fact that the sky was starting to get hints of pink in it did.
"What time is it?" I wondered aloud, wishing I'd thought to bring my watch.
"That I don't know, but it must be almost dawn," Quint said, looking back at the water. "May I see you home?"
I shook my head. "I'd honestly rather see myself home."
He nodded, not visibly offended, anyway. For some reason, I offered him my hand. He took it with surprising emotion, shook it, and released it abruptly. I turned and walked away in the direction of my apartment. After about half a block, I looked back. Quint was still standing in that spot, but on seeing me, he tipped his baseball cap lightly, turned, and walked towards the fishermen's cottages singing "Spanish Ladies."
His voice carried surprisingly well in the still air.
"Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies, farewell and adieu to you ladies of Spain/ for we've received orders for to sail forth to Boston, and so nevermore will we see you again…."
I looked back a second time, and was surprised to find I could no longer see him. I told myself that there was a logical explanation, and that everything, whether threatening or not, was creepy at night. Still, it was with unusual speed that I found my way back to my apartment. It didn't even bother me that I was hot again.
But it was nearly dawn. I was at a loss as to how I could have spent three hours at the beach or talking to Quint, but I accepted it. I was too tired no to, and managed to sleep until 10.
When I got up again, it was a Sunday, the island was nearly as sleepy as I was, and the weather hadn't improved. But the library was closed for the day, and there was no way I could make it to the mainland in time for church, so I went for another walk, trying to make sense of what had happened. That "Spanish Ladies" song was in my head, and I found myself singing it softly as I walked down the street.
"Where did you hear that?"
For a second time in 12 hours, a voice made me jump. This time, however, I recognized the voice as belonging to Chief Brody.
"Please?" I asked, confused as to why he cared as much as he seemed to.
The chief stared at me for a minute before repeating the question. He looked almost stricken.
I shrugged. "I must have picked it up from that fisherman I met on the beach last night… Quint, I think he said his name was. Why?"
"That's not funny," Brody ran a hand through his grey-streaked hair. "That's not funny at all."
"I'm not trying to be funny," I said, puzzled and a little offended.
But Brody seemed to get a grip on himself and smiled at me rather weakly. "Sorry, Caroline. I shouldn't have snapped at you. You wouldn't make that kind of joke."
What kind of joke? I considered prying, but then the younger of the Brody children called to his dad that he'd been "bit by a vampire," and the chief took his leave of me. I stood around for a couple of minutes and then I noticed Katie from the music store staring at me with a similar expression.
"Okay, I give up," I said. "What's wrong with everyone?"
"Mr. Quint is dead," she said, frowning at me. "He's been dead four or five years. He and Chief Brody were trying to catch a killer shark, and he didn't make it back."
I nodded. That explained the Chief's reaction, but nothing else. Without much hope, I asked, "I don't suppose there's any chance that there's a newcomer with the same name?"
She shook her head, still looking at me oddly. But then I was probably looking odd. I felt odd. I wanted to sit down… in fact, I felt a bit wobbly. Katie said something else, but I ignored her and started walking towards the beach again.
A decent number of people were out and enjoying the water. I simply sat and half-listened the white noise they created. But there weren't any answers to be found on the beach. When I went home, I had to admit that I knew nothing, and had little prospect of understanding what had happened. But I was very curious.
And I never could quite get the "Spanish Ladies" tune out of my head.