The taxi pulled up to 2892 Sunrise Drive. I got out, paid the fare and turned to face what would be my temporary home for the next few weeks. Standing on the sidewalk in front of the bungalow with its wide porch and heavy broad beam supported by massive square columns at both ends I was in awe of its size. Somehow, the word bungalow had brought to mind a cottage-size home and what I was looking at was a manor house. I gazed at expansive front steps flanked by river stone buttresses and immediately fell in love with the MacArdle Bungalow.
My eyes pored over the craftsman exterior of dark teal green wood siding and golden tan trim. Leaded windows divided into small triangular panes lent an unexpected European flare. The second story was every bit as impressive as the first, practically a piggyback mirror image of the ground floor, except for the steeply pitched roof. The builders weren't stingy with the windows on the second floor; they were as plentiful and as beautiful as the main story. At the very top of the red tile roof my eyes latched onto a glint of sparkling metal. Could it be? I stepped back about four feet to the curb to get a better look. Yes, indeed, it was a weather vane, slowly rotating in the island breeze. I laughed to myself. Zach told me the MacArdle family is of Scottish ancestry. But really--the last thing I expected on Santa Catalina Island was to find a house with a weather vane that was unmistakably a whimsical interpretation of the beloved water horse, none other than Nessie the mythological Loch Ness Monster. Unable to contain my amusement, I giggled out loud.
"Good to hear you laugh, again."
That voice shattered my enchantment! "What are you doing here?" I demanded. I held my head high and stepped up on to the front porch. I stopped within arm's reach and stood perfectly composed, arms at my side. I glared at Alex Blackthorne.
"I'm surprised you didn't see me, it's not as if I was hiding from you. Shannon, I was standing right here the whole time. I saw you exit the cab and stand in awe examining the home. It's a great bungalow, I guess you just didn't notice me," Alex said with an awkward smile.
I wasn't deterred, "You have not answered my question?" I did not smile. Alex stepped back a little. I could tell I had caught him off guard.
"Uh, the owner, Shelly MacArdle, well actually she is Mrs. Tabor, but for this house, she uses her maiden name. Anyway, she asked that I stop by and take a look at the layout, ah, inside that is. She wants my opinion about how to set up the place for the dinner theater she and her husband Roy are turning it into," Alex explained. He gave me such a sincere look, I was almost taken in. He stepped in front of me and pushed open the front door and then stepped back and gestured for me to enter first. "Shall we?"
I stepped over the threshold and instantly forgot about Alex, thankfully! The front door opened directly into the living room: a massive room that took up the entire width of the front of the house. I guessed it to be about twenty-four feet wide by sixteen feet deep. The ceiling was ample too, at least ten feet high. Light shimmered in from eight large sash windows, two from the front on each side of the door and three along each side. I stood in the center of the living room and studied the pencil-sketched floor plan that the owner had mailed to me. Across the expanse of the living room and directly facing the front door, a double doorway wide cased opening led into a dining room on the left and a hall on the right that divided the house down the center.
I started my tour with the dining room. I guessed the dining room to be a little more than half the square footage of the living room. Through a pocket door at the back left corner of the dining room was a large country style kitchen that would be easy to convert for commercial food preparation. On the other side of the kitchen was an open doorway that emptied into a short hallway that made a right angle and met up with the front hall. From each end of the hall there was access to the stairs up to the second story. My notes indicated there's a full bathroom, four bedrooms, and a small nursery up there. I gave a cursory look up the broad wooden staircase and then continued on the main floor following the hall to the other rooms. A large bathroom, a den and a small room, what would have been a sewing room in the era the bungalow was built, comprised the rest of the main floor. Returning to the center of the living room I turned around and looked at Alex, who had quietly followed me as I explored the MacArdle Bungalow.
"Alex, what do you know about this house?"
He looked at me with a sense of relief; evidently the anger had left my voice. "Shelly inherited the place from her grandfather, it was his father who built it, I think that was about 1924. The MacArdles are members of a Scottish clan that migrated to America in or about 1900. Angus MacArdle, the builder of this house, made his money in theatre promotions, vaudeville and that kind of thing. His son Graham, Shelly's grandfather, was the first MacArdle born in America. Very proud the family is of that fact, anyway he, meaning Angus, not Graham, came west to vacation here in Avalon and enjoyed it so much that he built this summer home. Most of the time Angus MacArdle and his family stayed in New York."
I nodded, "Thanks. I know that Zach has the entire history, but it's good to get some preliminary information about whom I'll be working for."
Alex smiled. "Any time that I can be of help. Just call," he fidgeted a bit. I stood there and let him. "Guess I'll be on my way, for now. How about you?"
I peeked at my wristwatch and nonchalantly replied, "Oh, Zach should be here any minute. Don't let me keep you." I stepped over to the door and opened it for Alex.
Was I surprised!
"Come here you tall dark and handsome fellow," I said with great fondness as I knelt down to give my favorite Irish Wolfhound a big hug. "Atlas, I've missed you so very much," I cooed.
"Atlas missed you, too," Alex interjected. "When you arrived, he was sleeping under that bougainvillea tree over in the side yard. Ever since we got back from Hawaii, he's been lethargic."
I looked up at Alex. "It was seasickness that had him down. Remember Alex? I l know, I was there. Having a dog on a yacht rolling about on the open sea is not a good idea," I couldn't help reminding him that I was right on this issue and I wasn't budging.
"Yeah, I admit you were right." Alex stepped around us, out the front and onto the porch. When he reached the bottom of the steps, he turned and whistled for Atlas. Atlas ignored the whistle and gave me a big sloppy kiss on my nose. Alex whistled a second time and Atlas obeyed. Wagging his tail he turned and followed the voice of his master. I closed the door and went upstairs to settle into my guest bedroom.