Robert Lansing, a 45-year-old free lance writer, who is well published in the magazine and newspaper world felt hard pressed to get his first novel finished, but frustration thwarted his inspiration to write. He came to realize that such an enduring project would require something that he lacked at his Long Beach townhouse environment. That something was solitude, "peace and quiet." Though his ocean view and the surrounding tropical foliage was beautiful and quite inspiring it was not enough. It was the end of April, a time when all of the sprouts of spring begin to pop up, bringing all of the busy bees to the summer blossoming of the pacific coast beach towns.
Robert picked up his morning newspaper and along with a hot cup of "Swiss-Mocha-ala-De'Royal" he began to browse through the want ads. No one in LA drinks "just coffee" you know. He noticed that one of the columns in the want ads read "Out of town summer rentals". The column contained only one ad, it read; "Bishop Manor available for a three-month lease. Call or e-mail for details." It had the phone number and e-mail address. The ad seemed to burn into Robert's mind until there was nothing else he could do but call. He picked up the phone and dialed the number. The voice on the other end, deep and dignified said; hello, this is Elder Bishop how may I help you? Robert answered saying, I am calling about the ad in the newspaper regarding leasing the house for three months, is it still available? Yes replied the grim voice of Elder Bishop. Robert said, is the house in a secluded area? One could say so sir. What will be the total cost? Elder Bishop replied; there will be no financial burden sir, however there are certain other requirements. What are those requirements? Robert anxiously asked. Do you have an e-mail address sir? Asked Elder Bishop. Robert answered; yes! it is; ROBWRITES@awg.net. Elder Bishop said, check it at precisely midnight! Robert heard the phone on the other end hang up as he thought to himself how strange but wonderful it all sounded.
Robert turned on his computer at ten till midnight and waited. At the exact moment that his computer clock rolled over to 12:00 a.m. the message began flashing on his screen, "you have mail" and at that very instant a subsultive chilling breeze assaulted the room. Robert quickly peered toward the only window in the room finding what he already knew, the window was indeed shut. Not willing to rent out a space in his mind to the presumptuous scary thoughts that could accompany the chilling event he quickly turned his attention back to the computer and clicked open his mail box. The message was from Elder Bishop. The first paragraph read; this is a formal contract. Please print it out. Read the conditions carefully. If you agree to all of the stipulations sign the bottom and over night mail it to Bishop Manor. Robert printed the contract and read the conditions.
(1) You must assume the name Jack Brine from the time of your departure from Long Beach Harbor and use it (only it) for the length of your stay.
(2) You must stay for the entire three months.
(3) You must come alone.
(4) All of your meals will be supplied and prepared by the in-house staff.
(5) You may leave the property one time a week for a one-hour period and you must not be away from the property at night.
(6) You will be responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the house and grounds for the three-month period. All funds necessary will be provided by an expense account which will be opened in your assumed name at the local bank and no one will question your identify. The expense account may be used for your personal needs as well. If you have agreed to the terms of the contract sign it and mail it. Go to the harbor, pier 13 at 6:00 a.m. on May 5th. A boat will be waiting to take you to San Miguel Island. A car will be waiting at the dock to take you to Bishop Manor.
Robert could not believe what he was reading. This was a writer's dream come true, how could he say no. He quickly singed the contract and mailed it from the 24-hour fed-x box down on the corner.
May 5th, 6:a.m. Pier 13, only one boat "Annie"; that must be my ride. Robert called out; "anyone here"? He heard a faint voice through the thick fog, "Ahoy Master Jack come aboard." Robert stepped aboard feeling that the boat seemed all but abandoned. He fumbled his way through the cabin to the door of the helm and it was locked, he knocked and called out; are you the driver that is supposed to take me Robert Lansing, ugh' I mean, "JACK BRINE" to San Miguel Island? The faint voice answered once again; I' tis too early fr' jokes mate, put yr things aboard Master Jack then cast us off and we'll be on are way! Robert answered; "what was that, cast us off?" Robert never had the time to get much boating experience, like a lot of LA people. The captain answered; yer a lively one tis mornin Master Jack. Just untie the ropes and throw em aboard and we'll be off! Robert untied the ropes and climbed aboard. The boat launched away form the dock in such a manner that it nearly knocked him off of his feet.
The cabin area was a bit gauche for Robert. It was as though everything aboard were made for a midget. Never the less there was a fresh pot of coffee brewing. Once again Robert knocked on the Captains door. There was no answer. Robert knocked harder. The Captain answered with the same faint voice; Make yr self at home and don't be bothern me again. Robert mumbled to himself; "awfully rude, I hope that he knows where he is going." After a short time and too much coffee combined with the motion of the boat, Robert felt enervated and passed out for the rest of the trip.
A few hours later Robert was jolted awake by the commotion of the boat docking. Robert looked out of the cabin window and he could hardly see the dock, as the sky was dark and sullen, the air was full of mist and fog that hung heavy like an old gray dried out Christmas wreath around everything. He gathered his things and tripped and slipped his way on to the dock. The dock led to the foot of a cliff which was laced with a set of old wooden steps leading to the top where Robert could see the nebulous glow of headlights from a waiting car. He made his way to the top. Every step accompanied by the creaking and shimmying of the old wooden structure. The driver was standing dressed in chauffeurs clothes ready to open the rear door. Sir Brine' it has been much too long sir, said the driver. Why, ah, do I know you? Replied Robert. Very funny sir, bravo! Shall we be on our way? "Let us go," Robert replied. The heavy mist turned to intenerate drops of water that were streaming down the car windows entrancingly. Robert gazed out dreamingly as new ideas for his novel romanced his thoughts. After a couple of miles of winding, inclining and deteriorated road surface they turned onto a gravel drive through a pair of large scrolled iron gates with dimly lit lanterns hanging from the outer post. After a couple of minutes on the wet gravel they arrived at the curb in front of the manor. A concrete drive span the distance of the front of the manor. The manor loomed up about four stories and was triple that in width. The front was covered with what seemed to be more than a hundred windows, dark windows framed in the ivy that had nearly consumed the exterior of the house. As Robert stepped out of the car he was instantly enveloped by the same chilling breeze that passed through his room that midnight when he received the e-mail. The e-mail which marked the beginning of this adventure. A man tall and dismal stepped out of the shadows and met Robert at the car saying; "Good evening Mr. Brine, it is wonderful to have you home sir." Benson will take your things to your room. Maggie has hot food prepared, the fireplace is lit in the den and your slippers are beside your favorite chair.
At this point Robert was feeling a little nervous about this whole creepy Jack Brine thing, but at the moment after the long rough boat ride all he could think about was hot food, the warm fireplace and a three-month date between his imagination and his laptop. Robert with his laptop took up residence in the brobdingnagian over stuffed chair in the den in front of the warming fireplace. Writing, writing, writing, hour after hour until hours turned into days and days passed into weeks. Dark stormy skies loomed over the manor day-by-day. Endless flames burned in the fireplace and the unshaven face of Robert had become lost in the habit of responding to the servants as Jack Brine.
A month and a half later on a rare sunny morning Robert decided to go into town for supplies. The mid morning sun on a Tropical Isle and a glass of merlot on the patio of a cliff side restaurant called "Eddies High Tide Shrimp House" what could be better? Robert was enchanted as he sat and enjoyed the view. From behind him the soft-spoken words of a woman filtered through. Robert turned his head to see a vision of beauty. A woman beautiful from the sandals that embraced her dainty suntanned feet, all of the way up to a straw summer hat that covered her shimmering wind blown hair that seem to be laced with gold. Heavy dark sunglasses wrapped around her lightly freckled nose and checks, covering what must be eyes that would enamor his soul. She said, "Jack why didn't you tell your little Annie that you were coming home?" She took off her sunglasses, leaned over, looked into his eyes, put her hand on his cheek and kissed him gently saying; I missed you Jack. Just then Benson made an appearance to let Jack know that it was time to head back to the manor. Will Miss Annie be joining you Sir? Annie quickly answered saying, "Yes I will be accompanying Mr. Brine home!"
That evening after a bottle of champagne and a candle light dinner Robert and Annie were sitting on a fur rug in front of the fireplace. The beauty and forwardness of Annie overwhelmed Robert. The sensual evening turned into night, the night into dawn, the dawn into days and nights and weeks of a seemingly timeless and passionate love affair. Robert had fallen madly in love with Annie and had all but forgotten about his writing.
Robert's time in the house as Jack Brine was running short. He began to struggle with his conscious concerning Annie and the Jack Brine thing. He did not want to loose Annie. He had to tell her the truth about who he really was and find some way to stay, or take her back with him. He wondered to himself how it was that she was so convinced that he was Jack. Maybe it is part of the set-up and she was paid to play the part. He wondered what kind of a twisted game this was.
Late one evening Robert was in Jack's chair putting the final touches on his novel. Annie was resting at his feet on the rug in front of the warming undulating flames of the fireplace. Robert broke through the serenity saying; Annie! She answered; yes darling? Annie there is something that I must tell you! What is it my love, you sound so serious? Annie I couldn't bear to loose you, or even be without you for just one day. What are you talking about, don't be silly we will always be together, just like the story in your book Jack darling. That's just it' I am not Jack Brine, I am Robert Lansing and I only rented this house for the summer, which is now nearly over... and... and, "oh Annie" I'm madly in love with you! Jack darling you have been working too hard. Robert is the name of the man in your book. Let us go to bed now, we can talk in the morning.
Late that night there was a violent storm and just as the clock started to chime in the midnight hour a sudden burst of thunder and lightning catapulted through the house shaking it at the very foundation. Annie awakened screaming violently. She rose up and dashed out of the room running down the stairs and out of the front door. Robert rushed to look out of the window in time to see her white lacy nightgown disappear into the darkness. Robert ran to catch her but to no avail. He wondered aimlessly for hours in the dark, wet, cold and stormy night. Finally exhausted and fatigued he passed out.
Just as the sun was coming up the next morning Robert was awakened by the jostling of a firm hand on his shoulder and a man saying; "Hey Mac!" You alive buddy? Robert looked up to see an armed soldier in combat gear. The soldier spoke again; "What the hell are you doing here?" I'm staying up at Bishop Manor! Are you crazy man, there's nothing left of that old house except for part of a fireplace, bits of the foundation and some say, maybe... a ghost or two. (He chuckled) The military has been using this island for target practice for years. I was flying over in the chopper to assess last nights drop. Let me tell you, you're lucky that you were on this beach where I could see you. "Did you find a woman?" exclaimed Robert. You mean someone's here with you? Annie, said Robert. Say, said the soldier, that's the name of that old wreck out on the reef. The soldier pointed to the rocky shore at an old wrecked boat. You could still read the name "Annie". That's the boat that I came here on! Said a shocked Robert. Are you kidding that wreck has been there longer than we have been alive. You better come with me Mac!