Ed Gillespie, the old, retired private investigator, walked up and down the beach on the Gulf of Mexico every day. There may have been the biggest hurricane ever spotted brewing just off the Atlantic coast of Florida, but no one knew it in the Panhandle. The water was azure, reflecting the color of the sky. The only hint of trouble ahead was more wind than usual.
East of his beach house, Ed saw the same woman every day. She sat with her back to the dunes, just beyond the sea grass, facing the Gulf. Some days, she gazed out at the water, looking haunted, as if she saw nothing. Other days, her head was hanging down and she held her hands over her face. He assumed she was crying. On the days he could see her face, he saw that she was beautiful. It wasn’t difficult to see pain on her face and see that she was also troubled. There was something vulnerable about her and he longed to stop and ask if he could help. Thinking of the women who had burned him in the past had stopped him so far.
Today was different. He glanced at her as he neared her place in the sand and she was looking at him. He could have sworn that her eyes reflected the azure of the water. He found himself walking over to her.
“Hi,” he said, “I see you sitting here almost every day. I thought I’d stop and say hello. I’m Ed and I’m staying two beach houses down the beach.”
He felt foolish. As he gazed at her, he saw the tracks of tears on her face.
“Hello,” she gulped, “I’m sorry. I wasn’t expecting anyone to stop by. I’ve been crying.”
She was hastily trying to wipe away her tears.
“I don’t suppose I could help? I have a pretty good set of shoulders,” Ed remarked, “Would you mind if I sat down?”
She just stared at him.
“Look, I’m not a serial killer or anything. Just a guy taking some time off.”
“Sure,” she said. “Sit.”