There were times, at night, before he dropped off to sleep, that he
thought about Meghan Murphy. It didn’t happen often. He’d managed to compartmentalize her into the past as the girl who had done him wrong and paid the price. The way he looked at it, it was a closed door. The pun always made him smile—the few times he bothered to think about it at all.
NEW MAN IN TOWN:
“What a hunk our new Officer Robinson is,” [Gloria] said to Lanie as her cheeks took on a crimson blush.
“I guess,” Lanie said with a scowl.
“You know him?”
“We’ve met. He’s already asking a lot of questions about Meghan’s disappearance.”
…Lanie turned her head when movement appeared in the periphery of her vision…Tyke Robinson started heading directly for their table.
He was a handsome man. She’d give Gloria that one. The free strand of dark wavy hair falling over his forehead, the piercing dark eyes above the firm jaw – classic Adonis, but Lanie didn’t feel romantic stirrings when she looked at him, just a sweep of discomfort roiling around in her gut.
TYKE ROBINSON and CAPTAIN BRODY:
“I like your interest,” the captain nodded when Robinson told him what was on his mind. “We haven’t had any people missing from here since Meghan Murphy. Before 1994, the only one unaccounted for in Narrownook was Sarah Ware in September of 1898. She disappeared for two weeks before her body was discovered in Parson’s Field. Nobody ever solved that either. Talk about a cold case! Hell’s freezing over on that one.”
“[However], your two suspects are two of our finest citizens,” Brody reminded [Tyke], shaking his head back and forth in slow motion. “Do you think either one of them could have orchestrated this? Could either of them have been cold-blooded enough to live with themselves while allowing this unspeakable act to play out? Could either have spent the days that followed in normal routines, knowing what that poor girl was suffering and not lift a finger to rescue her?”
Harry Olson…had voluntarily left his number two machine to run for town council in the late 90’s. He’d been in that position for only a few years when he ran for mayor and won… … he was lucky to have lots of friends in town who looked up to him. They remembered his skills on the sports fields in his high school career. They trusted his judgment now in matters of the town that he’d fought for so brilliantly as a kid on the pitcher’s mound and as Narrownook’s feisty quarterback on the gridiron.
…He knew if any citizens were fool enough to run against him, they’d lose by a landslide because that was how small towns were – loyal to their friends.
Lanie walked out onto the porch and unlocked the screen door to a disheveled Ricky Irving, who beamed a toothless grin at her.
“Ricky, hi,” she greeted him with a bit more enthusiasm in her voice than she felt at the sight of her mother’s handyman.
“Saw your car,” he said. “Thought I’d stop in and show you the next project that should have been done yesterday.” He began chuckling, as was his custom, at his own perceived joke. As usual, Lanie chuckled with him.
He was a funny duck when he wasn’t being infuriating.
STAN RUSSELL (RUSSIE) (According to Ricky Irving)
“Stanley’s building all those development homes. Makin’ himself a fortune. He’s a big guy around here despite all the negative gossip about him that never ends. He’s tough and determined, I’ll give him that.”
“Good for him,” Lanie said, and meant it. “It’s nice to know he’s etched out a good life for himself.”
“More than an etching,” Ricky Irving said. “More like a portrait.” And he was chuckling at himself again.
Lanie watched, amused, as he leaned over and came back up straight, laughing so uncontrollably that for a second he lost his balance and had to stagger around the lawn a bit to regain it.
“Do you remember Cousin Penelope?” Mahitabelle asked her the minute her daughter came in.
Lanie regarded the skinny woman perched on the edge of the loveseat and admitted she did not. “I don’t even remember having a cousin named Penny,” Lanie said.
“Penelope,” the woman corrected, giving Lanie’s extended hand a distracted pump.
“She’s not really a relative,” Mahitabelle prattled, “but her mother and I were good friends and always referred to each other as cousins. Penelope just drove in from New York for a few days and wonders if you wouldn’t take her around and familiarize her with key establishments.”
“All three of them?” Lanie joked.
Nobody laughed. Lanie knew her mother probably didn’t hear her, but wondered if Penelope hadn’t understood the sarcasm or if she just lacked a sense of humor. Why did she suspect the latter?
PENELOPE AND OFFICER ROBINSON:
“You’re parked illegally in front of the trough. You need to move your car.” Robinson had been writing on a pad while engaged in conversation with Penelope, and now he tore off a slip and handed it to her.
“What’s this?” Penelope asked without looking at the paper. “And did you say a trough?”
“The horse trough out there where your car is parked,” he explained politely, jerking a thumb over his shoulder toward the front of the building. “The No Parking sign is posted clearly.”
“I had no idea how quaint this little town of Narrownook was,” she scoffed. “It’s certainly a stimulating experience to be in a village where automobiles must be ticketed for interfering with beasts of burden!”
The night was humid, and in the upstairs bedroom, even with two fans going and all the windows, including both skylights, wide open, Lanie still could not keep cool enough to sleep well. She kept waking up about every hour. Around two a.m., she padded downstairs to the kitchen for a glass of water.
When she got to the main floor, she peeked in on her mother, found her sleeping comfortably, and was about to turn toward the kitchen when she heard what sounded like something falling in the living room to her right.
She flipped the light switch on the wall beside the front-room archway and went in. Her breath caught in her throat, and her hands flew up to cover her gaping mouth at the sight of a man standing in the middle of the room!
He turned to face her. “I don’t like you trying to go it alone in this increasing fog,” he argued. As he was speaking, they both heard the footsteps approaching and turned to see a pinpoint of light coming quickly toward them from the East.
Tyke turned and backed up against her, facing the oncoming flashlight.
The move was an apparent defensive one, and for the first time, Lanie felt the danger in what they were dealing with. That was when Russ’s accusation hit home to her… “You son of a bitch! You did this!” [she had heard him say], and Lanie felt herself begin to tremble.
…the peaceful necklace of lights over the new Penobscot Narrows Bridge back dropped the chaotic scene on the old span, and Lanie imagined that her heart began thumping in time to the pulsating strobes of emergency lights that were engulfing them.
“Helicopter has already been dispatched,” Jared announced as he rushed over to greet Robinson. He was a novice officer, clearly rattled by his first experience with a jumper.
“Let ’em know we won’t need it,” Tyke said. “No one’s going for a swim downriver tonight.”
Lanie felt herself shiver inside her Columbo raincoat as she followed Tyke toward the center of the old bridge and her friend Russie hanging like a rag doll against the side of it.