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The young woman pushed her chair back.  “I’d better get going.  I have another stop to make,” she lied.  “Thank you for the iced tea.”  She stood.

Wilson got up.  “When you return at the end of the week, please stay and we can go over your family trees.”  He gave Lin a pointed look.  “I do think you’ll enjoy hearing about your family histories.”

“That sounds good.  It was nice to meet you.”  Lin picked up her bag of tools and walked briskly to the front of the house.  “Come on, Nick.”

The little dog scooted out from under the patio table and rocketed past his owner down the front walkway to their truck.

Chapter 9

Lin was covered in sweat and she had grass and soil pressed into the knees of her jeans as she hurried into Viv’s bookstore with Nicky at her heels.  She wanted to talk to her cousin about Anton Wilson.  Striding to the back of the store expecting to see Viv at the beverage counter, Lin nearly collided with someone stepping into the aisle from behind one of the bookshelves.

“I’m sorry.”  Lin stopped her forward momentum just in time to keep from plowing into the person.  “I wasn’t paying attention.”

“You’re in quite a hurry, Carolin.”  It was the white-haired woman who had known Lin’s grandfather.  Lin had met her the other morning at the bookstore just before they’d heard that someone had been killed down at the docks.

Lin couldn’t recall the woman’s name and silently reprimanded herself for not paying closer attention when she’d introduced herself.  “Oh, hi.  I’m looking for Viv.”

“I saw her leave a little while ago.”  The woman scrutinized Lin’s face.  “Is everything okay?  You seem a little … frazzled.”

Lin blinked.  She could see concern in the woman’s blue eyes, but there was something else showing that Lin couldn’t put her finger on.  She shook herself wondering if Greg Hammond’s obsession with Viv’s house and his murder was making her suspicious and paranoid of the people around her.  “I’ve been working outside in the hot sun all day.  I’m just worn out.  I could really use a shower.”

“I thought I saw your truck parked in front of Anton Wilson’s house.  Do you garden for him?”

“Today was my first day.  There are a number of prior clients that remained with the business after I took it over.  Mr. Wilson’s house was my last stop.”  Lin wiped her dirty palm on her jeans.

The woman took a step closer. “Have you met Anton?”

“I met him today.  He was in the backyard when I got there.”

“What did you think of him?”

Lin thought that was a strange question.  “He was very pleasant.”

The woman cocked her head.  “Did he have questions for you?”

Lin shifted from foot to foot, wondering what this interrogation was about and why the woman had such keen interest in her interaction with Wilson.  She forced a chuckle.  “Does Mr. Wilson have a reputation for questioning people he has just met?”

“Anton can be an odd duck.” The woman adjusted the collar of her crisp white shirt.

        “Can he?”  Lin shrugged a shoulder.  “Well.  I guess I’ll head home now since Viv isn’t here.”

The woman nodded.  “Nice to see you.”  As she stepped away to another shelf of books, she spoke over her shoulder.  “Keep your wits about you, Carolin.”

A little shiver ran down Lin’s back as she hurried out of the bookstore.  When she was outside on the sidewalk and heading up Main Street, she took out her phone and texted her cousin.  A minute later, Lin received a reply from Viv saying she was with John, but was heading home now and that Lin could meet her at the house.  Lin and Nicky turned at the next corner to walk the four blocks to Viv’s neighborhood and they reached the house just as Viv pulled up on her bike.

“What happened to you?”  Viv got off the bicycle.  “Did you fall into a pile of dirt?”

“Very funny.”  Lin scowled.

Nicky danced around Viv’s legs begging for a scratch on the head and she bent to oblige.  She looked up at her cousin.  “How was the first day as a professional gardener?”

Lin groaned.  “I’m sure I won’t be able to move tomorrow.  I didn’t think I was in such bad shape.”

Viv chuckled.  “You’re in great shape.  You just haven’t used these particular muscles very much.  In a week you’ll be fine.”

“Or I’ll be dead in a week.”  Lin limped along following Viv around the side of the house to the backyard.

Viv leaned her bike against the tool shed.  “You want to use my shower?”  She eyed her cousin.  “You’re filthy.”

Lin shook her head.  “I’m going home in a bit.  Can we sit out here?  I want to talk for a minute.”

The girls sat at the patio table while Nicky ran about the yard with his nose to the ground.

“Have you found out something about Greg Hammond’s murder?”  Viv’s eyes widened with excitement.

“No.  I haven’t made any progress on that front.”

Viv looked deflated.

“Who is the pretty older woman who was in your store the other day?  White hair, layered around the face, blue eyes.  She was there the day we heard about Hammond’s murder.  She was with three other older people.”

“That’s Libby Hartnett.  They all come in every morning, have coffee, a muffin.  They chat, gossip.  That’s how they start their day.”

“Is she … odd?”

Viv’s face scrunched in confusion.  “Why do say that?”

“They knew me, you know.  They said they knew Grandpa.  Did Grandpa usually meet with them at the bookstore?”

“Yeah.”  Viv nodded.  “Most mornings.  They were all friends.”  She narrowed her eyes.  “Why are you asking?”

Lin blew out a breath and told Viv about Anton Wilson and his apparent keen interest in sharing family history details with her and then about running into Libby Hartnett at the bookstore and what she’d said.  “Why would Libby be so interested in what Anton talked to me about?”

“I don’t know.”  Viv looked off across the yard, thinking.

“And why would she tell me to keep my wits about me?”

Viv made eye contact with her cousin.  “That’s very odd.  What’s going on?”

“What do you know about Anton Wilson and Libby Hartnett?”

“Not a whole lot.”  Viv put her chin in her hand and leaned her elbow on top of the table.  “Wilson is a former professor, retired now.  I can’t remember where he taught.  He’s written a million books about Nantucket.  He’s something of an expert on the island and the inhabitants.  Wilson is on the Historical Commission.  He gives talks and lectures all over the mainland.”

“So he’s reputable?  Not a nut?”

“Quirky, I’d say.  Intense, but I’ve never heard anyone complain that he’s nuts.  I think he would just love to have been descended from one of the founding families of the island.”

“And Libby?  What do you know about her?”

“Less than I know about Wilson.  She’s lived here all of her life.  She’s quiet, polite.  Spends time raising money for island charities, to help the schools, the hospital, the arts.  I think her family owned a farm here, but I’m not sure about that.  She loves to read, she’s always buying books.  She’s a good customer.”

“Why would she tell me to keep my wits about me?”  Lin’s stomach felt cold and empty.  “Is she warning me about something?”

Nicky joined the girls on the deck and he rubbed his head against Lin’s leg.

“I have no idea what she meant.”  Viv gave a weary sigh.  “But it wouldn’t hurt for either one of us to keep our heads up and be careful.”

A thought popped into Lin’s head and her eyes clouded.  “Libby said she saw my truck parked at Anton Wilson’s house.  How does she know my truck?”

Viv’s face looked pinched, but after a few seconds her features relaxed.  “Libby was friends with your granddad.  She knew his truck.  She must assume you inherited it.”

     

 

2011 - 2018