Close to the Bone
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Tessa looked across the bay. “I don’t know. I felt the need to stop here today. Usually I avoid it.”
“Probably because of the body discovered last night.”
“Do you think it’s Samantha?” Cate whispered.
“I don’t know,” Tessa said slowly. “For some reason my gut says no.”
Cate exhaled. “Mine too.”
Tessa’s blue gaze met Cate’s, a look of puzzlement in her eyes. “Why do we feel relieved? We both know our feelings mean nothing in an investigation.”
Turning toward the bay, Cate placed her hands on the top rail of the fence and leaned over as far as she could. She directed her words toward the rocky beach far below her, watching the water lap at the big rocks. “No one knew her better than us.” A memory floated through Cate’s mind: the three of them making Christmas cookies in Jane’s kitchen.
“We had a special bond,” Tessa agreed. “You two were like my sisters. Hell, we lived at your house half the time. Your grandmother practically raised us.”
Cate paused, hesitant to ask her next question. “How is your mother?” she asked delicately. She’d heard about the dementia diagnosis from Jane.
Tessa was silent for a long moment. “Some days are better than others.”
Her heart heavy, Cate put an arm around Tessa’s shoulder. “You’re always welcome at Jane’s when you need a break.”
They stood side by side, their heads touching.
Someone is missing.
Cate knew this was why she’d avoided Tessa. Together they were incomplete. Even almost twenty years later.
“Do you still have—”
“Yes,” Cate answered. “But I don’t wear it anymore.”
“I don’t either.”
The necklaces had been a gift from Jane. A heart pendant had been divided into three jagged pieces, each with its own chain. The word sisters was inscribed on each piece. “I don’t know of any girls closer than you three,” Jane had told them as they unwrapped the tiny presents. “It’s like you were separated at birth.”
The silence stretched, both women lost in the past.
“I nearly asked last night how you were assigned to this case,” Tessa said. “It didn’t make sense because I knew you’d been shot less than three weeks ago. You shouldn’t be working yet. I put it together once I realized the ferry wasn’t running.” She didn’t look at Cate. “You’ve been on the island for a while, haven’t you?”
“Yes.” The admission relieved some guilt. She removed her arm from around Tessa but continued to stand shoulder to shoulder with her, feeling strength flow from her friend.
“Are you okay?” Tessa asked in a soft voice.
“I’m healing. I should regain at least ninety percent of the use of my left arm. I’m sorry I didn’t let you know I was here. I couldn’t . . .” Cate couldn’t find the right words.
“You weren’t ready for people,” Tessa finished. “I know you.”
“You do,” agreed Cate.
“Now you’ve been plunged into this investigation.”
“It’s good for me. I was starting to mentally atrophy doing nothing at Jane’s, and we’ll know very soon if it’s Samantha or not,” said Cate.
“Dr. Powers’s clinic is storing the bones until we can get them to a medical examiner on the mainland,” said Tessa. “I emailed him the dental records we have on file for both Becca and Samantha. He’s had some experience with comparing teeth.”
“That needs to be done by a forensic odontologist.”
“I agree, but it doesn’t hurt for him to look. I think he knows his limits.”
“I thought it was pretty funny that he didn’t know he was the island’s coroner,” said Cate, relaxing.
“He’s a nice guy,” said Tessa. “Half the island women have their eye on him. Even the ones who are way too old.”
“Understandable. A single doctor.”
“An extremely attractive single doctor,” Tessa corrected. “Tall. Built. Smart.”
Cate silently agreed. Henry Powers was easy on the eyes.
She checked the time, wanting to pull more information on Becca Conan. But would it be a waste of time if the remains didn’t belong Becca?
I wonder if Henry has examined the teeth yet.
One way to find out.
Cate stepped through the door of the doctor’s office.
“Good morning. What can I do for you?” said the lovely dark-haired woman behind the reception counter. Her name tag said Julie.
“I’m Cate Wilde. I’d like to talk to Dr. Powers—I’m not sick. This is about . . . something that happened last night.”
“Wilde,” Julie repeated, and understanding crossed her face. “You’re the FBI agent who responded to the . . . issue on Ruby’s Island.”
How fast does gossip travel these days?
Julie looked abashed. “My fiancé, Bruce, was there. He’s a deputy. He doesn’t spread rumors, but he does share news with me. And I know how to keep my mouth shut,” she added hastily.
Cate remembered the young officer. “My grandmother told me you and Bruce moved here recently.”
Julie nodded. “Yes, we did. Dr. Powers is with a patient right now, but you’re welcome to wait.”
Eyeing the padded chairs that had to be from the eighties, Cate sat on one and pulled out her laptop, determined to make the most of her time.
First up: sex offenders.
Sex offenders were the second set of people investigated in missing teenage girl cases. Family and boyfriends were first. The FBI had checked after Becca had disappeared, and no offenders lived on the island, but Cate wanted to look at the data herself. She searched and found one name had been added three months after Becca had disappeared.
Maybe it takes a while to show up in the registry?
Stan Irish. She made a note of his address.
“Well now. Look at you!”
Cate glanced up. Edith Starr had emerged from the back of the clinic and stood in the waiting room, glee on her face. Cate immediately stood and was enveloped in the massive hug. Edith was a close friend of her grandmother’s and belonged to the knitting and activist group. She also owned the Black Tail Bakery. Cate had wanted to stop in several times—she could almost taste her memories of the apple fritters—but she hadn’t wanted to answer questions.
Those questions now shone from Edith’s eyes. “Are you here for your shoulder, honey?” she whispered.
Cate stiffened. “No. I just have some questions for the doctor. My shoulder is good.”
Edith’s smile widened. “I’m glad you came home to the island. Its earth is healing, you know. People who have survived life-changing illnesses often end up here.” She leaned closer to Cate and lowered her voice. “They don’t know why . . . but us islanders understand.”
Acutely aware of Henry’s watchful interest from a few feet behind Edith, Cate could only smile and nod. Stories of the island’s healing power had been part of her childhood.
“Stop by the bakery,” Edith insisted. “I’ll get you a brownie.” She winked.