Sea Isle City, New Jersey. Present Day.
Anne Bonny sat at the outdoor café in Sea Isle City, New Jersey, staring dreamily at the mimosa tree arching above her table. The tree’s fuzzy pink flowers gave her the impression of a Dr. Seuss creation, as if Horton himself had decorated it for a summer holiday.
Anne could hear the rhythmic crashing of the surf, the soothing whoosh a soundtrack to the peaceful setting. Around the restaurant’s wrought iron table tiny sparrows hopped across the backyard eating area, snatching up every spare crumb like little feathered vacuum cleaners. A block away, a seagull cackled its wild, agitated laugh.
With only a young couple in love cooing to each other nearby, Anne enjoyed her hard-earned tranquility. She’d decided to steal a few days away from her apartment in New York City to explore the New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland shores. She doodled on a folded map as she pondered her route: Should she pause in Cape May? Or take the ferry to Delaware? The last bit of French toast gone from her plate; she wondered where she would stop for lunch.
The female half of the cooing couple stood, scraping her metal chair across the stone pavers. Anne watched the girl in the form-fitting tank dress twitch her way into the main building. Anne made brief eye contact with the young man still at the table, flashed him a polite “whoops, we made eye-contact” smile, and returned to her thoughts.
Anne reached for an overlooked crumb of bacon on her plate, just as the sparrows flew away in unison. Anne’s sharp gaze swept the area to find the cause of their unrest.
“Great little arse,” said a man’s voice in an Irish accent.
Anne sat bolt upright and trained her gaze on the male half of the couple with whom she shared the patio. The sandy-haired youth, still sitting where his girl had left him, met Anne’s curious gaze with a wicked grin. He stood and dragged his chair to Anne’s table with a teeth-rattling screech of metal on stone.
The boy released an overly dramatic sigh of satisfaction, plopped into the chair positioned beside Anne, and beckoned the waitress as she exited the café and stepped onto the back patio.
“Could I get four whiskeys here?” he asked, dangling his finger over the table and swirling it as if mixing a drink.
The waitress’ head cocked to the side. “Uh, sure, I guess…what kind?”
The boy’s gaze swiveled to Anne, his face beaming like a child’s on Christmas morning.
“Something Irish and as expensive as possible,” he said putting his right elbow on the table and resting his head in that hand, his attention never leaving Anne. “Straight. You can put it on her tab. Or mine. Doesn’t matter really.”
Anne looked at the waitress.
The waitress offered them an awkward smile and left to fetch the whiskey.
“Ooh, Annie, I love that evil streak of yours. You’re going to stick the lad with my tab.”
Anne’s new table guest sat grinning, thin and pale as an untoasted wafer, but with the fiery eyes of a rebellious imp eager to be unleashed. She’d known the minute she heard the accent that a friend of hers, Con Carey, who had lost his own corporeal body some years ago, had appropriated the boy’s body. Like a horror movie ghost, Con had a habit of borrowing other people’s bodies in order to communicate. Unlike a ghost, the only thing horrifying about Con was his otherworldly ability to consume whiskey.
“Hello, Con. Did you ask that poor boy if you could borrow his body?”
“Hello, my love. Absolutely not. They almost always say no.”
Anne noted how Con’s eyes glowed as she acknowledged him and recalled how thrilled he’d been the first time he’d found a way to use another person’s body. He’d pumped his fists and run around the room screaming with joy until he crashed over a sofa, having lost control of his borrowed legs.
“How are you? Did you miss me?” he asked.
Before she could answer, Con leapt to his feet and did jumping jacks. Wrapped in the young man’s bony frame, he boxed an invisible opponent for a few moments, and then clapped himself on either shoulder, pleased with his performance.