The Cove
Page 11

 Catherine Coulter

  • Background:
  • Text Font:
  • Text Size:
  • Line Height:
  • Line Break Height:
  • Frame:
The older woman smiled back, straightened her lacy white cap, and said, “He’s what, ma’am?”
“He’s a brat,” the husband said. He turned to his son. “What do you want, Mickey? You see the six flavors. Pick one now or don’t have any.”
“I want French Vanilla,” the girl said. “He can have worms.”
“Now, Julie,” the mother said, then licked the ice cream cone the woman handed her. “Oh, goodness, it’s wonderful. Fresh peaches, Rick. Fresh peaches. It’s great.”
The woman behind the counter just smiled. The boy took a chocolate triple-dip cone.
James watched the family finally leave.
“Yes, can I help you?”
“I’d like a peach cone, please, ma’am.”
“You’re new to town,” she said as she pulled the scoop through the big tub of ice cream. “You just traveling through?”
“No,” James said, taking the cone. “I’ll be here for a while. I’m trying to find Marge and Harve Jensen.”
“Never heard of them.”
James took a lick. He felt as though sweet peaches were sliding down his throat. The woman was a good liar. “The lady was right. This is delicious.”
“Thank you. This Marge and Harve—”
James repeated the story he’d told to Thelma and Martha and the old men. When he finished, he stuck out his hand and said, “My name’s James Quinlan. I’m a private investigator from Los Angeles.”
“I’m Sherry Vorhees. My husband’s the local preacher, Reverend Harold Vorhees. I have a four-hour shift here most days.”
“A pleasure, ma’am. Can I treat you to an ice cream?”
“Oh, no, I have my iced tea,” she said and sipped out of a large plastic tumbler. It was very pale iced tea.
“You know, I’d like some iced tea, if you don’t mind,” Quinlan said.
Sherry Vorhees winked at him. “Sorry, sir, but you don’t want my kind of iced tea, and we don’t have any of the other kind.”
“Just ice cream, then. You’ve never heard of this Marge and Harve? You don’t remember them coming through here some three years ago? In a Winnebago?”
Sherry thought he was handsome, just like that Englishman who’d played in two James Bond films, but this man was American and he was bigger, a lot taller. She really liked that dimple in his chin. She’d always wondered how men shaved in those tiny little holes. And now this lovely man wanted to know about these two old folk. He was standing right in front of her licking his peach ice cream cone.
“A lot of folk come to The Cove for the World’s Greatest Ice Cream,” she said, still smiling at him. “Too many to remember individuals. And three years ago . . . why, at my age I can barely remember what I cooked Hal for dinner last Tuesday.”
“Well, you think about it, please, Mrs. Vorhees. I’m staying at Thelma’s Bed and Breakfast.” He turned as the front doorbell jingled. A middle-aged woman came in. Unlike Martha, this one was dressed like a gypsy, a red scarf tied around her head, thick wool socks and Birken-stocks on her feet. She was wearing a long skirt that looked organic and a dark-red wool jacket. Her eyes were dark and very beautiful. She had to be the youngest citizen in the town.
“Hello, Sherry,” she said. “I’ll relieve you now.”
“Thanks, Amabel. Oh, this is James Quinlan. Mr. Quinlan, this is Amabel Perdy. He’s a real private detective from Los Angeles, Amabel. He’s here to try to find out what happened to an old couple who might have come through The Cove to buy ice cream. What was their name? Oh, yes, Harve and Marge.”
Amabel raised her dark gypsy eyebrows at him. She was very still, didn’t say anything, just looked at him, completely at ease.
So this was the aunt. How fortunate that she was here and not at home, where he hoped to find Sally Brainerd. Amabel Perdy, an artist, an old hippie, a former schoolteacher. He knew she was a widow, had been married to another artist she’d met in Soho many decades ago. His art had never amounted to much. He’d died some seventeen years ago. James also knew now that she’d turned down Purn Davies. He noted she didn’t look anything like her niece.
“I don’t remember any old folk named Harve and Marge,” Amabel said. “I’m going in the back to change now, Sherry. Ring out, okay?”
She was the best liar yet. He tamped down his dratted curiosity. It didn’t matter. Sally Brainerd was the only thing that mattered.