Authors: Sharon Love Cook
Tags: #Mystery: Cozy - Newspaper Reporter - Massachusetts
I nodded and waited. Finally, he spoke. “She had the adjoining office for two years. During the past six months, we’d become closer. I was fond of her. I’ll be honest. Vivian was an attractive woman, though ten years my junior.”
Fifteen, I scribbled in my notebook.
“But that’s what it was, a friendship. I imagine the local busybodies were clucking their tongues. People in this town thrive on gossip.” He leaned back again, staring at the ceiling. “You could say I played a mentor’s role in Vivian’s life. She was ambitious, both professionally and socially. When she arrived here five years ago she needed someone who knew the inner workings of Granite Cove. I introduced her to various groups, the Chamber of Commerce, the Women’s Professional League. I took her to City Hall, introduced her to Ken Froggett and some others. Martha and I sponsored her membership at the country club.”
I interrupted, asking, “Mr. Farley, do you think her ambition was directed toward building a psychotherapy practice?”
“Good question and one I used to wonder about. Her practice was small, which she seemed to prefer. Enough to pay the rent, she used to joke. My opinion? Vivian had her eye on the big picture. She was a bright, capable woman who wanted to make a name for herself, eventually on the national level.”
“How do you know that?”
“Let me give you an example off the record. One afternoon I was in her office when she got a phone call from that TV gal, you know, Oprah.”
I dropped my pen. “Oprah Winfrey called?”
“Not Oprah herself, her people did. At the time Vivian was involved in the violence against women movement.” He pursed his lips. “Ironic, isn’t it? She was working to draft a bill that would protect women facing abuse.”
“I understand Dr. Klinger was also planning a run for state rep.”
“Yes, I heard that,” he said.
“I also heard that Bunny Alfano, the police chief’s brother, is running for that seat.”
“You could be right.”
“Do you know of any animosity between Dr. Klinger and Bunny Alfano?”
He shook his head. “I can’t comment. You see, Bunny’s a former client.”
“Can you tell me off the record why Bunny Alfano needed your services?”
He rolled his eyes. “Rose, you know I can’t do that.”
“And you know I can look it up at the courthouse.”
He smiled. “You’re spunky, like your dad.” He glanced at his watch, my cue.
“Can I ask one more question, Mr. Farley?”
“Only if you call me Spence.”
“Will do. I understand that you and Dr. Klinger had cocktails together after work.”
“What did I say about small towns?” He shrugged. “It was no secret. We got together in her office a couple times a week, schedules permitting. We’d have a drink and discuss whatever happened to be on our minds. I certainly needed the break. As any lawyer will attest, the practice of law is draining.” He gripped the arms of his chair, ready to rise. “Is there anything else, Rose?”
“Your opinion. Who do you think killed Dr. Klinger?”
He scratched his chin. “Originally I thought it was a drug addict, someone lurking outside who assumed Vivian was an MD. She was working late and surprised him. Now I’m leaning toward the police suspect. He’s a bad apple, a former local guy who hangs around the park next door, drinking. Matter of fact, I caught him once right outside her window. I can’t say more. Chief Alfano hopes to make an arrest soon.”
I nodded and made a note to ask Cal. “You don’t think it was one of Dr. Klinger’s patients, someone with a grudge?”
He shrugged. “She never mentioned her patients as I never mention my clients.” Now he looked pointedly at his watch.
Taking my cue, I got up. We walked to the door. Above the light switch was a photo of a younger Spencer and Martha Farley beaming from a sailboat. The third crew member was none other than Ted Kennedy. The two men were seated while Martha stood over them, gripping the tiller. Her tanned thighs looked as sturdy as the boat’s mast.
Before opening the front door, Spencer turned to me. Up close, his lime cologne smelled delicious. “You know, Rose, you’re in a position to do a little digging on your own. Our state boys are thorough, but you’re a local gal. You know this town.” He winked. “I’ll bet there’s little that gets by you.”
I thanked him, saying I’d take it under advisement. Walking through the lobby, my legs felt wobbly, as though I’d just gotten off a sailboat. Was it the compliment or the cologne?
Seated in my car, I attempted to sort my notes, yet my thoughts kept returning to Spencer’s parting suggestion about investigating the murder. The man must be psychic. How did he know I’d become obsessed with the case? Not only the murder, but the victim, Vivian Klinger, a woman too perfect for mere mortals.
The fact that we were the same age was the only thing we had in common. I certainly didn’t identify with her aristocratic background. In that area we were polar opposites. Was it envy because she’d been chosen Woman of the Year while I was again overlooked? Was I jealous of her self-assurance, her impeccable grooming? Yes to all of the above, and let’s not forget the stacks of Nancy Drew mysteries I devoured as a kid. They turned me into an amateur sleuth who studied old shopping receipts found in gutters, looking for clues.
Despite my tenuous reasons, I had to accept the fact that once the story went to press, that ended my involvement so far as the Granite Cove Gazette was concerned. Yvonne would not devote another inch of newsprint to murder, not with the Beautification Society’s annual window box contest coming up. Whether the crime was solved mattered little, not when there were flower boxes to photograph. If I wanted to keep my job, I had better dance to her tune.
The moving finger writs, and having writ, moves on.
As I drove out of the parking lot, a big bronze Mercedes caught my eye. Its license plate was SPENCE. One thing you can say about Granite Cove’s most successful attorney, he doesn’t hide his light under a clam bucket.
I spotted Cal Devine on Main Street, hunched over his parking ticket pad. I pulled into a space diagonally across the street and watched him slap a ticket on the windshield of a white Lexus SUV. Despite the chill Cal wore the department’s summer uniform, khaki shorts and knee socks. He’s one of the few guys on the force who looks great in them. Likewise, back in high school playing defense for the Granite Cove Lobstermen, he looked outstanding in the uniform. His wide shoulders, slim waist and hips inspired the cheerleaders, as well as female spectators of all ages.
Almost twenty years later he’s still a hunk, though he pretends otherwise. How can a guy not be affected when high school girls slip him their phone numbers? This happens during Senior Week when Cal delivers the annual safety lecture: no alcohol, no drugs. Oh, the irony of Officer Devine warning the kids about acts he once enthusiastically committed.
I lowered my window and whistled. He looked up, spotted me and crossed the street, kneeling next to my window. “I felt eyes devouring me. What’s up, Rosie?”
“You’ve been holding out on me. I understand the chief has a suspect.”
“Give me twenty-four hours, and I’ll tell you more.” He removed his cap and ran a hand through his hair. “I’m really beat.”
Remembering Betty Ann’s remark, I said, “I’m sorry to hear you and Marcie are separated. I thought you two were pretty tight.”
“Tight? Try welded. Marcie’s a control freak. Lately, she’s got a stranglehold.” Cal’s wife is old school Italian. Unlike me at eighteen, Marcie Ventimiglia knew what she wanted from life. Thus, when I broke up with Cal and subsequently left Granite Cove, she moved in like a shark smelling blood. Two years later, Marcie Devine gave birth to the first of three sons.
Time passed. I returned home to help out when Mom got sick. One night, fearing she was having a stroke, we went to the emergency room where Marcie Devine, RN, was on duty. She took Mom’s vital signs and within minutes inserted an IV line, at the same time hooking her up to monitors. She was professional and efficient, but her manner was impersonal. As far as Marcie was concerned, I was the one that got away in her husband’s life. People like that never forget.
“Where are you living?” I asked.
“Home Suite Homes, off 128. I’ve been there a couple weeks.”
“What about your kids?”
“I pick them up after school every day. I’ve been honest. I tell them their mother and I are having problems right now. I hate hurting my kids, but I can’t live with Marcie the way things are now.”
“What is so bad?”
He shook his head. “It’s a long story. You see, Marcie’s dad died when she was twelve. He was at the wharf loading his truck when a freak storm came out of nowhere. Lightning killed him. Recently, when Tyler, our oldest, turned twelve, Marcie began having nightmares about her father. She thinks history will repeat itself, and something bad will happen to me. Now she’s pressuring me to quit the force.”
“Has she talked to anyone about this?”
“Yeah, she was seeing Dr. Klinger.”
“If Marcie was nervous before, she’s frantic now with a murderer loose. She expects me to check in every hour. If I don’t, she calls around looking for me.”
“How does she expect you to earn a living if you quit the force?”
He smirked. “She’s got it all planned out. That woman could run the universe. Her brother Sal is involved in real estate in Alabama. Ever meet Sal? A born salesman. He and a couple investors are putting together a development called Lagoon Estates. They hope to lure the Baby Boomers. For six hundred thousand dollars, you get two and a half bathrooms, a wine cellar, and a private putting green.”
I laughed. “What do they have planned for you, wrestling ‘gators?”
“I’d be head of security, keeping out the Bible salesmen. It’s a gated community. Marcie says we’ll be nice and safe down there.”
“What do you think?”
He paused. “Tell you the truth? At first I thought it was totally insane, but the more I think about it, the more I’m liking the idea.”
“Cal Devine! I’ve known you since fifth grade. Even then you wanted to be a cop.”
“Things change, Rose. When my dad was on the force he dealt with bar brawls and lobster poachers. Today, we’ve got punks in this town who’ve seen too many Quentin Tarantino movies. They all want to fight. I’m getting it from all sides. Even Stella’s on my ass about those damn pigs. She’s threatened to sue the town if the kids steal one during Senior Week.”
“Can’t the chief deal with her?”
He shook his head. “The chief’s scared of Stella. That leaves me, who graduated second at the police academy, guarding plastic pigs.”
“Cal, it sounds like you need a vacation. Why don’t you and Marcie find a nice sunny beach and chill out for a week? It’s been a long winter. Everyone’s feeling the stress.”
“Marcie would never leave the kids. She’s afraid something will happen.” He shrugged. “Maybe I’m burned out. That might explain my attitude. Fifteen years ago my mother pinned this badge on my chest. I’ve loved every minute of being a cop, except lately, something’s changed, and I can’t figure it out.”
“This doesn’t sound like my former partner in crime.” I leaned out the window. “Remember prank night our senior year? The statue of Homer Frost? Whose idea was it to paint the horse’s ass green and blue?”
He smiled. “Who sat on my shoulders holding the paint cans?”
“It was a two-person job.”
“Did I ever tell you how much I liked having you up there?”
We smiled at each other, remembering that night. I said softly, “If you move down South, who will know your secrets?”
His mood changed, and he scowled. “What’s so special about being buried in the town you were born in?”
Cal needed more help than I could give in a quick conversation. “Promise you won’t do anything hasty without talking to me first. Give yourself time. Things have a way of working out.”
He got to his feet, brushing off his knees. “Fine, but Marcie’s not the patient type. She’s threatening to see Spencer Farley unless I make a commitment.”
I turned the key in the ignition. “Trust me, Marcie won’t let you get away.”
Quick as a minnow, he leaned in and kissed me, whispering, “I let you get away. Biggest mistake of my life.”
I tried to keep my voice steady. “Let me know about that suspect, will you?”
He pulled the ticket pad from his pocket. “Sure thing, and you know where to find me.” With that, he sprinted across the street.
I shifted into drive and soon merged with the Main Street traffic, my face burning. Did Cal seriously think I’d visit him at Home Suite Homes? I’d be putting my life in danger. Marcie Ventimiglia Devine might appear a contemporary woman, but she’s old school. She’d go straight for the jugular.
Preoccupied, I didn’t notice the man with the peculiar gait walking on the sidewalk, a case of beer balanced on his shoulder. With each step his right leg swung in an arc, creating a pronounced limp. Still, he looked pretty jaunty. His tangled, copper-colored hair and ruddy high cheekbones gave him the appearance of a Ralph Lauren model if you ignored the dirty, matted sheepskin vest flapping in the breeze, the jeans.
The man looked familiar. I followed him with my eyes until whump! I banged into the car ahead of me. It had stopped at the light while I hadn’t. The driver glared into his rear view mirror, blasting the horn and at the same time giving me the finger. I waited for him to pull over. He didn’t. Fortunately, I’d hit a clunker. When the light turned green, the car continued on its way. I turned my attention back to the road.
Thursday evening at six, I pulled up in front of the Zagrobski’s house. It was an olive ranch with a rooftop satellite dish the size of a beach umbrella. The thing looked capable of picking up transmissions beamed from Jupiter.
Betty Ann’s husband Tiny and his son Jonah were throwing a football around in the front yard. The contrast between them was striking. Tiny was broad, his arms and neck straining his tee shirt. Jonah, on the other hand, was a wraith. His legs in cutoffs looked like pipe cleaners speckled with insect bites.
The football spiraled through the air. Jonah lurched toward it, but at the last minute, he covered his head. The ball bounced off his back into the bushes.