Authors: Philip R. Craig,William G. Tapply
J. W. J
A BEAUTIFUL PLACE TO DIE
THE DOUBLE MINDED MEN
THE WOMAN WHO WALKED INTO THE SEA
A CASE OF VINEYARD POISON
DEATH ON A VINEYARD BEACH
A DEADLY VINEYARD HOLIDAY
A SHOOT ON MARTHA'S VINEYARD
A FATAL VINEYARD SEASON
DEATH AT CHARITY'S POINT
THE DUTCH BLUE ERROR
FOLLOW THE SHARKS
THE MARINE CORPSE
THE VULGAR BOATMAN
A VOID IN HEARTS
THE SPOTTED CATS
THE SNAKE EATER
THE SEVENTH ENEMY
CLOSE TO THE BONE
A BRADY COYNE OMNIBUS
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the authors' imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright Â© 2002 by Philip R. Craig and William G. Tapply
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DESIGNED BY ERICH HOBBING
Text set in Sabon
Shirl and Vicki
To anticipate, not the sunrise and the dawn merely, but, if possible, Nature herself! How many mornings, summer and winter, before yet any neighbor was stirring about his business, have I been about mine! No doubt, many of my townsmen have met me returning from this enterprise, farmers starting for Boston in the twilight, or woodchoppers going to their work. It is true, I never assisted the sun materially in his rising, but, doubt not, it was of the last importance only to be present at it.
had arranged to meet James Bannerman in the Fireside because it was close to the ferry landing, so he could catch the boat and go home to Connecticut after we talked. I was the only customer when he came in. He was a medium-sized guy in his mid-forties. He had flat, dark eyes and hair, and he looked in shape. He wore white-collar clothes. He glanced around, saw only me and the bartender and Bonzo wiping tables in the corner of the room. He came over to the bar.
“Are you Jackson?”
“My friends call me J.W.”
The bartender drifted down while Bannerman and I were shaking hands. Bannerman pointed at my glass of Sam Adams. “Bring a couple more of those to us over in that booth, please.” The “please” softened it, but it was clear that Bannerman was used to giving orders.
Bannerman and I went to the booth. He shoved a photograph at me. “That's her. That's my wife, my Katherine.”
The photo was of an attractive blonde woman
about my age, which made her only a few years younger than Bannerman. I drank from my glass. “Look,” I said, “I'm only here because Jason Thorn-berry asked me to meet you. We've worked together a couple of times before, but like I told him on the phone, I don't think I'm the right man for this job. Your wife is legally separated from you, so where she goes and what she does is her own business.”
“Don't say that. I'm desperate. Thornberry's people finally managed to trace her this far last year, but then they lost her. She was here on the Vineyard, but then she dropped out of sight just before Labor Day. I've been here several times this summer, trying to find her, but my work won't let me stay long. You're my last chance.”
“You really need a professional. I haven't been a cop for years. I'm retired. If you don't think Thornberry Security can do the job, you should hire some other private investigator, but I think Thornberry is about as good an outfit as you'll find.”
“Money's no problem, if that's what's holding you back. I've got plenty. And I don't need some other PI, I need you. Thornberry himself recommended you. He said he's been trying for years to get you to work for him, but you won't. He says you live here, you know the people, and you know this island. He says local knowledge might make the difference. Don't let me down. Please. I love Katherine. I have to find her!”
He dug out a handkerchief and wiped his face. I let myself feel sorry for him and looked at the photo again. He mentioned a sum of money that was large enough to capture my attention. When you live on
Martha's Vineyard and don't have a regular job, you always need money.
“Maybe she's still here on the Vineyard,” he said. “We honeymooned here, and she loved the place. I think that's why she came back here. Maybe she's living here, using another name. If she is, I want you to find her. If she's gone, find out where she went. Please.”
Bannerman was a tough-looking man, but he wasn't acting tough at all. He looked like he wanted to cry. I wondered if he was an amateur thespian, pulling my strings, or if he was one of those people who fool themselves about their own virtue, or if he was really as concerned as he was acting. I had no real reason to think it wasn't the latter.
I thought of the things I was planning to do. Fishing in the annual Derby was highest on the list. I was tired of being the only surf caster on Martha's Vineyard who had never caught a forty-pound bass.
“Look,” said Bannerman, leaning forward, “if Katherine doesn't want to see me, that's fine. All I really want to know is that she's well and happy. I love her. Frankie, that's our daughter, loves her. Kathy's the most important thing in the world to us. Please help me.”
His words were consistent with feelings I also had. I was in love with my wife. If Zee ever left me, I'd be miserable, but I'd want her to be happy.
“Please,” said Bannerman for the fourth or fifth time.
I didn't want the job, but unlike Sam Spade I was a sap when it came to love or its appearance.
“All right,” I said. “I'll see what I can do. But don't get your hopes up. If Thornberry Security can't find her, the chances are that I can't either. And a couple of other things. I can't spend all of my time on this job. I have other commitments. And if I do find her, it'll be up to her whether or not I tell you where she is. I'll tell you if I find her, but I may not tell you where.”
“Thank you,” said Bannerman. “I appreciate your help more than I can say.” He wiped his face again and put the handkerchief away. I poured more beer into my glass and drank it. It was cool and smooth.
“Here,” said Bannerman, who had been digging in his briefcase. He put a checkbook on the table and handed me a large envelope. “In there you'll find all of the information I gave Thornberry when they went to work for me and all that they've given me since. Maybe there's something there that will help you. If you need to know more, let me know, and I'll tell you what I can.” While I pulled a file from the envelope and glanced at it, he scribbled a check and pushed it at me. It was too much, but if that was fine with him, it was fine with me, so I didn't make an issue of it.
“I'll look at this later,” I said, pushing the file back into its envelope, “but you can tell me some things right now. First, why did she leave?”
He'd heard the question before, probably from both his local police and certainly from Thornberry, since detectives in both agencies would understand that husbands usually know why their wives disappear.
“I honestly don't know,” he said, looking me right in the eye. “We had our ups and downs like everybody else, but nothing serious. Then one morning after I
went to the office, she just drove away from our house there in Hartford and I haven't seen her since. The neighbors saw her go. She was alone. That was a year ago last spring. I've been looking for her ever since, but all I've found out is that she was here on the Vineyard last summer.”
“You never heard from her?”
“Our daughter, Frankie, got a postcard from her about a week after she left. It was mailed from New York City. It said she was fine and not to worry. That was all.”
“I might want to talk with people you know. That includes your family and friends and the people you work with.”
He nodded, then frowned. “Do you have to talk with our daughter? This business has upset her terribly.”