Home > Summer Rental(7)

Summer Rental(7)
Mary Kay Andrews

The clock was ticking. He had less than six weeks left to save Ebbtide. Otherwise, come September 15, the house would be auctioned off on the steps of the Dare County courthouse. He’d be out on the streets, jobless, homeless. And his old man would stand there, shaking his head. Kendra, his ex, and Ryan, her new husband, aka Fuckface, would be right there with his old man, oozing phony sympathy. They might not say it, but they’d all be thinking it. Told you so.

Ty looked out the kitchen window. If he leaned out, he could see the waves rolling in on the beach. They had some size to them this morning. His stomach growled loudly. If he got this pigsty cleaned up, in say, three hours, he’d have just enough time to make it to Abigail’s before they ran out of the Saturday lunch special: mahi-mahi tacos.

He pulled the grocery cart into the combined living/dining room at the front of the house and his eyes widened at the degree of destruction his tenants had wrought there. Armchairs, tables, and lamps were upended. The battered wooden floor wore a thick carpet of beach sand, and the sofa cushions were lined up end to end in front of the fireplace, where a trio of untwisted wire coat hangers suggested an impromptu wienie roast. Which would have been fine, if the fireplace damper had been opened, which it hadn’t. Fingers of greasy black soot marred the white mantel, which Ty had repainted in June. His grandfather’s huge, framed navigational map of Currituck Sound, which had hung over said mantel, was askew on its hanger, its glass shattered. Tufts of stuffing poked out of one of the sofa cushions, which had a baseball-sized hole burnt into it. The unmistakable odor of stale beer and cheap weed lingered in the air.

“Christ,” he repeated. He yanked his iPhone from the pocket of his baggy board shorts and scrolled over to the last e-mail he’d gotten from his good buddy, ol’ Cooter.

He typed rapidly, his fingertips flying over the tiny keyboard.

“Hey Cooter,” he wrote. “Kiss your $500 security deposit goodbye. Asshole. Sincerely, Mr. Culpepper, manager, Ebbtide.com.”

When he got the notification that the message had been sent, he looked down at his incoming message box and sighed. Another e-mail from another pain in the ass. The PITAs were the reason he always communicated with his tenants by e-mail and never gave out his phone number. As far as they knew, Mr. Culpepper was a cranky old bastard who resided somewhere in the Internet. They didn’t need to know that their landlord was actually the guy who lived over the garage, just a door knock away if the toilet didn’t flush or you couldn’t figure out how to use the remote control.

This particular PITA’s name was Ellis Sullivan. He’d been peppering Ty with nit-picking questions for weeks now. From the tenor of the questions—should he bring his own linens, were there beach chairs, bicycles, a grill—Ty decided Ellis was undoubtedly gay. Straight guys, like ol’ Cooter, just wanted to know the location of the nearest liquor store.

Ellis Sullivan and his friends were supposed to check in later today. The later the better, as far as Ty was concerned. God knew how long it would take to clean up the kitchen and living room. His shoulders sagged as he realized he hadn’t even taken a look upstairs yet.

He was headed for the stairs when he became aware of a faint gurgling sound. It was coming from the bathroom tucked under the stairs. Funny, the door was closed and it didn’t want to budge. He braced one leg against the doorjamb and yanked hard. The door flew open, and a torrent of foul-smelling water rushed out into the hallway.

“Shiiiit,” Ty said. And he meant that literally.

*   *   *

Ellis took her time finishing breakfast. She checked her e-mails repeatedly, finding nothing new except for sale offers from Bloomingdale’s and more e-mails from old friends at the bank, who’d also had unpleasant termination sessions with Stonehenge.

In the days following her downsizing (which was how she preferred to think of it), Ellis had been consumed with the injustice of her situation. She’d spent hours, days really, commiserating with her former colleagues. She’d joined a “I got jobbed by BancAtlantic” Facebook group and chatboard and had even attended a meet-up at a bar in the suburbs, where everybody had gotten sloppy drunk and teary-eyed about their dire situations.

No more, though, Ellis had resolved. She’d been a saver her whole life. Her father had left her a little inheritance, so her town house was paid for. Her car was paid off, and she’d wisely decided years ago against investing her pension funds in her own bank’s stock. She was by no means wealthy, but she had a little cushion, and she refused to panic. Or so she told herself.

So she scrolled down the messages in her in-box, looking in vain for a reply to her message to Mr. Culpepper.

Finding none, she got out the printout of the VRBO ad for Ebbtide. Strange, the only thing it lacked was a contact number.

She frowned and tapped out a follow-up e-mail, reminding Mr. Culpepper of her request for an early check-in, and suggesting that he call her on her cell phone, to let her know the house was ready.

Finally, there was nothing else to do but kill some time at the outlet mall. But first, she’d just take a spin past the house, to see if the previous guests had checked out.

She cruised down Virginia Dare Trail, slowing as she came to the house, but there was a line of cars directly behind her, so she pulled into the driveway at Ebbtide.

Damn! The Bronco hadn’t moved from the garage. But the broken cooler and beer bottles had been picked up since her last drive-by, and now a large wheeled garbage can overflowing with trash had been parked in the weedy area beside the mailbox. She craned her neck to try to see if there was any activity around the house.

She checked her e-mail in-box one more time. Nothing. Reluctantly, she decided to head for the outlets.

*   *   *

At one, Ty loaded the last load of damp towels into the dryer. Straightening, he looked out the window of the ground-floor laundry room just in time to see the same silver Accord slowly cruise past. This was the Accord’s third pass in the past hour. What was up with that? It couldn’t be one of the assholes from the bank, right? It was Saturday, for God’s sake. Not that he had time to worry about it too much. As bad as the first floor of the house had been, the second floor was worse. Much worse.

It was a horror show, is what it was. The bathrooms held piles of wet, mildewed towels, and somebody had barfed in the shower stall. He’d found what looked like a dog turd in the closet in one of the front bedrooms. How the hell had they snuck a dog past him? And it must have been a friggin’ Great Dane from the looks of things. The twin-bed mattresses from the back bedroom had been dragged out to the sleeping porch and piled on the floor, where last night’s rain had given them a good soaking. Trash was strewn everywhere, and the wood-slat shades in two of the bedrooms looked like somebody had taken a baseball bat to them.

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