Today’s work brings Benton Noro back into the story. I’m 21,022 words in, and I still feel like I am world-building, but that is probably why most novels aren’t a mere 50,000 words. At this point, I see a minimum of 70,000 words for the first draft.

Marshall Cooper

Day 12 – 21022/50000 words
While the wall had been relatively painless, sitting there with his coffee, he started to feel a bit of an ache in his left ankle. He took off his shoe and his sock and he massaged the ankle a bit. He was surprised at how cold the air felt on his bare foot. After three days of intermittent ice packs, it surprised Marshall how sensitive the foot felt to the cold air coming off of the ocean. In his jacket, he was otherwise quite comfortable.

From his vantage point on the balcony, Marshall could see the cars passing by on the street, as well as the people walking along the sidewalks. Marshall liked to watch the people. Most people on the beach seemed to be in a good mood. Even today, with a slight chill in the air people walked chatting. It seemed no different from a sunny day, with the exception a few more clothes.

Because of the weather patterns, Santa Creda tended to have its warmest weather from August through October, so there was a relatively late tourist season there. This sudden bout of colder weather was new to Marshall, and it gave him some insight into how the inter would be. Santa Creda never got particularly cold. Days below freezing were rare there, as were days above ninety degrees. The winter here was the rainy season, with over half of Santa Creda’s annual rainfall coming between December and February. Santa Creda was not a rainy place though, with only around twenty inches of rain most years. On the other side of the mountains less than a third of that would fall. Snow was rare, though possible. The last measurable snowfall had come fourteen years earlier. If one were desperate for snow though, the surrounding mountains usually got dusted a few times a year, especially near the summit at 5000 feet.

Marshall spotted Benton Noro walking along the sidewalk on the opposite side of the road. He was with another woman. Benton Noro was dressed in charcoal gray slacks with a light blue blouse and a matching blue sweater. The other woman wore skinny jeans and a billowy blouse top with a flowery print. The woman wore a stoplight red, open knit beret on her head. The two of them stopped outside of a used music store. The other woman was a half-a-head taller than Benton. She had blond hair, but much of it was dyed purple. As Marshall watched, the taller woman bent down and kissed Benton on the lips. It wasn’t a particularly log kiss, but it was clearly intimate. After the kiss they both smiled, and then the woman went into the shop. Benton looked both ways for traffic, and then crossed the street over to the coffee shop.

Marshall put his sock back on, and then his show. His foot felt better again. He took a sip of his coffee and checked the weather on his phone. There was rain the forecast for later that night. Tomorrow looked like it would be back to sunny though. Just as he was about to put his phone away, he got a text message from Catrin. It said, “You up and about yet?”

Marshall texted back. “Mostly better. Walked to the Seaside Espress. Sitting on the balcony.”

After a moment, Catrin texted back, “Took three different tests today. My mind is kind of fried. Mind if I come hang out?” Marshall texted back a smiling emoji.

Benton Noro came out onto the balcony. She smiled a brief smile upon seeing him, and came over, taking the opposite seat at his table. “I was wondering if you would ever return,” she said.

Marshall explained about injuring his ankle. Benton Noro nodded. “I broke my arm my third week here,” she said. “These things happen.”

Marshall tried to puzzle out whether she meant bad luck happens, or that it specifically happens to people who show up in Santa Creda. He thought again of the superorganism. “You weren’t born here?” He asked.

“No,” she said, “I’ve here about ten years. I came here after college. I followed someone who I thought I loved. It turned out I didn’t, but I do love living here, so it worked out I guess. I could never leave now.”

“Could never leave or would never leave?” Marshall asked.

Benton Noro smiled. “I have a daughter, June. She is very happy here, and her father would never think of leaving. It would be messy to leave, and I’ve got other roots to. Besides, I really do love it here.”

“Was your daughter at the party the other night?” Marshall asked.

Benton Noro nodded. “June and Fallon are in the same class. They are, I forget what they call it, and it is a cute word… friendly rivals. Both are popular and at the top of their class.”

“Frenemies?” Marshall asked.

“Yes, that’s it. They are frenemies. I am reluctantly in the same position with Fallon’s parents. We are both leaders in this town. The Weatherly’s have owned much of the town for generations. I have slowly been chipping away at that.”

“As a loan shark?” Marshall asked.

Benton Noro smiled. “In a way yes. There were two grocery stores when I came to town. One was owned by the Weatherly’s, and another by a man named Jack Carson. The Weatherly’s were working hard to put him out of business. They weren’t doing anything illegal. They were mainly undercutting him on costs and investing in a lot of modern equipment that he could not afford to compete with. I got involved. I have money of my own, but I also know a lot of people. I knew that the Weatherly’s couldn’t keep up the pressure forever. You can’t continually run a place at a loss. The main goal was to keep him in business long enough to force them to stop. They never anticipated him getting the money to keep things going. Until then, all they knew me as the mayor’s trophy wife.”

“You were married to the mayor?” Marshall had only seen the mayor from across the room at the party, but he could not picture him with Benton Noro.

“Yes. For four years. I think they were quite happy when we split up. They thought I would leave. Unfortunately for them, I like it here. I have a reputation here now. People come to me when they need money. If it suits me, I loan it to them. I also give them advice. I am good at making money. It’s a family trait. My family is lucky in business, not as lucky with other things.”

“I had no idea Sheriff Dwight owned so much of the town.”

“Dwight is not the only Weatherly in town. You’re new here, but you’ll bump into others soon enough. Dwight is definitely the patriarch, but his younger brother Ted runs most of their businesses.  They own the Toyota dealership, the car rental agency, four restaurants, three hotels, the hardware store and the grocery store. More importantly, they own a construction company. Until I came to town, if you wanted something built, you almost had to go through Weatherly Construction. I fixed that.”

Dwight’s wife Shelby, she comes from one of the other old families, the ones that have been here for a hundred years or more. Her family owns its fair share of our town as well. Most of the apartments are theirs, and one of the hotels. If you see the name Carson attached to something, then it’s theirs.

Marshall thought about that for a moment. “I’m pretty sure I’m living in one of their apartments.”

“Of course you are. They are big on real estate. If you ever want out from under their thumb though, I can find you a place. I’ve slowly been buying up houses.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Marshall said, “But I don’t need a house. I don’t take up a lot of space.”

“It may or may not come up. As I’ve said, we are friendly rivals. Nobody is running around breaking kneecaps. Not yet anyway. I even contributed to the Sheriff’s campaign. It doesn’t pay to be enemies. I have a lot of resources, and not just money, but I’m still the outsider in this town, just as you are. It is better if we can all sit down at the same table.”

Marshall was quiet for a moment. He took another sip of his coffee. Then he said, “I recently came into a little money that I have no real plans for. It isn’t the kind of money that could change the world, just five grand, maybe six. If I were to put it in your hands, what could you do?”

Benton Noro clasped her hands together. She stared off for a moment, as if sorting things through her mind, and then she said, “I can’t do much with five thousand, but there’s a bar in town. It changed hands recently and the city inspector came and cited them for a dozen electrical infractions that the city hadn’t bothered anyone over when it belonged to one of Ted Weatherly’s buddies. Fixing these issues has put the owner in a bit of a cash crunch. I’m considering helping them out, but I have no desire to be in the bar business myself. If you could come up with twenty thousand, I could make you a minority partner. You’d own five percent of the bar. If the bar made money, and bars here do tend to make money, you would get a share of the profits. You could probably tend bar there too and make a bit more money.”

“I’m not really a bartender,” Marshall said.

Benton Noro laughed. “Yes,” she said, “I noticed that the other night. You did well enough for an amateur though. It is not a complicated skill to learn, I would think.”

Catrin came out onto the balcony and spotted Marshall. She came over and sat with them. It was apparent that she knew Benton Noro, although Marshall could not get a read on whether or not they were friends, or frenemies, or just two people who lived in the same small town. They simply nodded to each other as Catrin sat down. Catrin had brought up a bottle of Jones blood orange soda and a ham sandwich on a croissant. Without waiting for either of them to talk, Catrin said, “I have spent entirely too much time reading about resource allocation for a lifetime.”

Benton Noro gave her a look that Marshall interpreted as professional disappointment. “If there is one business concept you absolutely should spend more time on, it is resource allocation.”

Catrin sighed. “I’m just tired. Let me vent.”

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