Authors: Helen Brenna
Tags: #An Island To Remember
The moment she opened the pub door, the sounds of laughter and classic rock from the jukebox greeted her. Erica Taylor, the police chief’s wife, was working the main bar. Normally, Erica cooked, but occasionally she took a break from the kitchen and bartended. It gave her a chance to visit. Tonight the tables in the restaurant were full. Groups of people either spilled out onto the sidewalk or hung out in the pub waiting to be seated. Missy squeezed past them and took a seat at the less popular end of the bar, saving a few extra spots. “Hey, Erica.”
“Who’s watching little David tonight?”
“Garrett’s at home with Jason and the baby,” Erica explained. Erica had gotten custody of her nephew, Jason, when Erica’s sister had been murdered by her abusive husband. Despite the awful circumstances, the boy seemed to be adjusting well to Mirabelle. “He might bring the boys down later tonight.”
“Oh, good. Haven’t seen them all for a while.”
Erica frowned as she studied Missy. “You look tired.”
“It’s been a long couple of days.”
“Anything I can do to help?”
“You can get me a big glass of zin and an order of your fantastic bruschetta.”
“Coming right up.”
Erica had no sooner set a wineglass filled with dark, rich red wine than Sarah came into the bar and took the seat next to Missy. As the worried expression on Sarah’s face registered, Missy asked, “What’s the matter?”
“I’ll tell you in a minute,” Sarah said, turning her attention to Erica. “Bartender, bring me a dirty martini. ASAP, please!”
Erica raised her eyebrows. “Tough day?”
“One of the worst ever.”
“Then I’ll make it a double.”
Missy turned toward Sarah. “What happened?”
“Remember I was having problems collecting five thousand dollars from the couple who had that no-holds-barred wedding earlier this month?”
“Well, the collection agency said the bride and groom have virtually fallen off the face of the earth.”
“Have you contacted any of the guests?”
“No one knows for sure where the couple went. They think they left the country to trot around China. I might never see a dime.”
“That doesn’t seem possible.” Missy could bail Sarah out of this financial mess in a heartbeat with money from her trust fund. Still, she hesitated.
“I put in weeks planning that deal.” Sarah shook her head. “I still owe the Mirabelle Island Inn for the cost of the banquet room, the meals and the week the couple stayed in the honeymoon suite.”
Missy opened her mouth and then quickly shut it. This wasn’t the first time she’d had the urge to help out. More than once she’d wanted to figure out some way to anonymously send her friend some money, but in the end she couldn’t figure out anything that wouldn’t arouse Sarah’s suspicions.
Missy fiddled with the stem of her wineglass. “Marty Rousseau will work out a deal with you, won’t he?”
“Yeah, but I can’t ask him to share in the loss. It’s not his fault I got stiffed. I had to ask Ron for a few extra weeks to get my rent to him.”
“He and Jan will understand.”
“I still don’t like being in this situation.”
“You’ll have to put off buying a house, won’t you?”
“For at least another year.” Sarah nodded. “I was eyeing that little cottage by your house.”
It wasn’t that Missy felt stingy with her money. Not in the least. But there was a difference between helping out a college student like Gaia by paying for hours worked and giving a friend a handout. Missy had given money to friends in the past. Invariably, the relationship changed. Sarah’s friendship was too important to risk.
Missy covered Sarah’s hand. “You’ll get there.”
“I guess there are worse places to live than the apartment above the flower shop, but Brian was really looking forward to having a yard.”
Erica returned with a very large ice-cold martini filled with several toothpicks of olives. “I want to know what’s going on,” Erica said, setting the drink down. “But the bar’s starting to fill up.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Sarah said. “I’ll no doubt be moaning about this for weeks.” Then she took a deep breath and smiled. “Definitely not for the rest of this night, though.”
Sarah was taking a big sip of her drink as Hannah came in and took the seat on Missy’s other side. “So, Missy, where’s your brother?” Hannah asked.
“Oh, yeah, I forgot about that!” Sarah said. “That’ll brighten my day.”
Missy took a gulp of wine. “Um. He wasn’t feeling well, so he couldn’t come.”
Hannah’s shoulders slumped. “Well, that sucks.”
Sarah narrowed her eyes at Missy, but didn’t say a word.
Hannah ordered a chardonnay, and over the course of the next hour the bar area filled completely with both locals and tourists. Ron and Jan Setterberg as well as Sean had come to join their group.
The moment Hannah and the others were occupied with a story Jan was telling about something that had happened at the Mirabelle Island Inn that afternoon, Sarah leaned over to Missy and whispered, “So what’s the deal with this brother of yours?”
“What do you mean?”
“You don’t want us to meet him. Why?”
“It’s…a strange situation.”
“Best friends can handle even the most convoluted of problems.”
This was Missy’s opportunity to tell all, and if they hadn’t been in Duffy’s she might have gotten the ball rolling. As it was, the conversation was loud, the music louder. “I know we need to talk, but not here, not now, okay?”
“All right, but don’t think I’m letting you off the hook for good.” Sarah turned back to listen to Jan’s story.
A short while later, Garrett Taylor came into Duffy’s, bringing with him Brian, Jason and David, his and Erica’s four-month-old baby. Brian ran over to give Sarah a hug.
“All those kids.” Missy grinned at Garrett. “How did you get to be so lucky?”
He chuckled. “You want ’em, you got ’em.”
“Be still my heart!” Missy held out her arms for David, who quickly honored her with a gummy smile the moment he was in her arms.
“Garrett,” Sarah said. “Thanks for watching Brian.”
“No problem.” Garrett turned, caught Erica’s gaze and winked.
Missy turned away from the sudden intimacy that developed between Garrett and Erica and sighed. She wasn’t sure if she and Jonas had ever been that contented in their short marriage.
Steering her thoughts from Jonas, Missy turned back to David, kissed his chubby cheek, nuzzled his neck, and took a good whiff of that wonderfully clean-smelling baby skin. It was so hard to hold an infant and not think of her own miscarriage. The easiest thing in the world would’ve been to avoid children all together, but it wasn’t her way.
Instead, she had sleepovers with Sarah’s son, Brian. Took Natalie Quinn’s kids on overnight camping trips at the island’s state park. Even babysat for Sophie and Noah Bennett’s twin toddlers on occasion. She had no clue how long it was going to take to adopt a child, so she’d decided long ago to enjoy other people’s children as much as possible.
“You look ready for one of those yourself,” Sean said, watching her.
A rush of adrenaline ran through her at the thought of the very pregnant young woman Barbara had called about the other morning. They still hadn’t set an exact meeting date for next week, but Missy knew she would make that trip to Duluth. “Yeah,” she said, grinning. “I guess I am. How ’bout you?”
He laughed. “Never in a million years.”
He might be feeling better physically, but that brought on an entirely new problem. All he wanted was to get back to Chicago and wrap up this case, and that’d be the worst thing he could do right now. Every asshole on the street would be on the lookout for him. FBI or not, no one double-crossed Delgado and lived to tell about it. The sooner he put that bastard behind bars, the better.
Stalking into the kitchen, he opened the refrigerator and stared inside. Damn. He’d practically eaten Missy out of house and home, and he’d had enough eggs to choke a gorilla. What he needed was meat. Forced to satisfy the grumbling in his stomach with a measly apple, he shut the door in disgust. It was just too damned bad that Missy didn’t want him to leave her house.
While chewing on the fruit, he closed his laptop and set a pencil on top of the unit, the eraser end pointing downward, the opposite of how most people usually positioned a pencil. He could hide the laptop but he figured it was better to know whether or not his info had been compromised than to wonder.
Then he went to Missy’s bedroom and pulled two feathers out of her pillow. The chances of someone tracking him here this quickly were slim to none, but there was no point in taking unnecessary risks.
After placing one of the feathers on top of the back door, he all but closed the front door before pinching the other feather in the jamb and then very slowly and carefully pulling the door completely closed. He then jammed a baseball cap onto his head, slipped on a pair of sunglasses and made his way slowly down the hill toward Mirabelle’s center.
From here, he had a clear view of the marina. He’d always loved boats, but had never taken the time to pursue that activity. A large boat, decked out with fishing gear, glided into the marina. A charter operation. What a life. But then this whole island was almost too good to be true.
He reached Main and turned onto the sidewalk. Between the cobblestone streets, meticulous gardens and turreted Victorian bed-and-breakfasts, Jonas halfway expected a knight to come riding on horseback out of the woods. Missy had always had her head high in the clouds, and he couldn’t imagine a more perfect place for her to live.
The pay phone at the end of the street filled him with the urge to make contact. “Screw it.” He took the disposable cell phone out of his pocket and dialed a sequence of numbers that would make his call untraceable. It was time to shake the tree and see what fell to the ground.
His call was answered after several rings. “Special Agent Stein.”
Jonas remained silent, waiting, wondering, not trusting Stein for a second.
“Is anyone there?” After a long pause, he quietly said, “Jonas?”
“Someone needs to take target practice a little more seriously.”
The split second of silence that followed was oh, so telling. “Jonas!” Stein said. “You’re still alive. Thank God!”
“Don’t fuck with me, Mason. You’re in on this. I don’t know how, but you are.”
“What are you talking about?”
Jonas laughed. “I’ll figure it out, and then you’re going down.”
He dialed a number on his cell and the call was immediately answered. “He’s alive,” Mason said.
“He just called? Could you trace it?”
“What do you think?” Mason barely held his temper in check. “Why the hell can’t you find him?”
“I tracked him heading north out of the city, but his trail goes cold on some back road in Wisconsin.”
“Hospitals, doctors? Anyone report a gunshot?”
“No one. With the amount of blood he lost at the scene, I doubt he could’ve doctored himself.”
“Then there’s someone you’re either ignoring, or don’t know about.” Mason flipped on the video clip he’d found on file of Abel’s funeral all those years ago. He froze on the frame picturing those who had been closest to Abel. Several Bureau men he recognized stood behind Abel’s father and widow. “I’m putting a tail on Agents Adams, Reynolds and Steadman.”
“They were as close as Abel got to friends. It’s possible he’ll try to make contact.”
“Did you find his father?”
“He’s in Florida. I already put a man on his apartment, but I’ll bet anything Abel won’t go there.”
“Have you located his wife yet?”
“I’m telling you that’s a dead end. She was in the process of divorcing Abel when we recruited him, remember?”
“Hate? Love? If you ask me she looks pretty shaken up in this funeral footage. How can it be so difficult to locate a civilian? Just track the death benefits.”
“She’s denied all payments from day one.”
That made him pause. “Why?”
“Your guess is as good as mine.”
“Hack into their database. Find that woman. I have a feeling she’s the key. I’ll put one more thing in play on my end. When push comes to shove, it’ll only give us a day or two, but that’ll be all we need.”