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“I really haven’t thought about it at all,” Kelsey said, “but if and when I do, I’ll certainly let Mr. Richter know.”

Kelsey thought about Lilly’s words as she left the office. Property in Key West was prime, she knew, especially a property the size of her grandfather’s house. It was doubly waterfront as well, being on the tiny spit of a peninsula, and it was in Old Town.

She’d never thought about the value of the property. She’d never thought about coming back.

Maybe she had just assumed that Cutter would live forever.

At the car, she hesitated, curious.

Joe Richter had told her that it had been months since he had seen Cutter.

Lilly had said that he’d been out there just a few weeks before Cutter’s death.

She almost walked back in to ask Joe Richter, but then she wondered just what it could matter. Richter was confused on dates, maybe.

He wasn’t exactly a spring chicken, either!

It was a different world with Kelsey Donovan in the house. The place smelled like pine, and fresh, as if a great ocean breeze had come through.

She was gone for some time, of course. And he had spent so many hours in the house, insanely going through boxes and drawers. Insanely, and yet with an excellent organization, so that no one else would know. It was imperative that he find what he sought now.

But for once, he sat in the chair by the fireplace. He sat in the chair where old Cutter had died, almost a week ago now. All he had to do was wait.

Kelsey Donovan would find what he needed.

He stood and stretched and walked to the door, noting the new locks, the bolts. And back in the laundry room, the screens had been fixed, the windows had been fixed and locked down. Good Lieutenant Beckett had seen to that.

He smiled.

Ah, well. Beckett knew how the kids had always broken into the house. But the lieutenant would have no idea how he was getting in.

No idea just how often he stayed there, in the house. Hiding, listening.


Returning from the grocery store, Kelsey wished that she’d called someone for help. She seemed to have at least twenty bags, big ones, and, on top of that, cases of water and beer. Heavy stuff.

She was on her second trip into the house—wondering why they had always parked on the wrong side of the house and why there had never been a carriage drive that would place the car park somewhere near the kitchen, at least—when Jonas came walking into the yard.

“Hey!” she said.

“Hey, I saw you from my place. Looked like you needed a hand,” Jonas told her.

“I can’t say that I won’t be extremely grateful,” she told him.

“Well, especially since I plan on partaking of the feast, I think the very least I can do is help!” Jonas said.

He was tall and lanky, with a thatch of brown hair that fell across his forehead, but, like the others, Jonas had matured. He had a good smile. And despite his lankiness, he was good with grocery bags.

They both grabbed up two and headed for the house. Kelsey had left the door open. On the porch, though, she found herself pausing.

“What?” Jonas asked her.

“I don’t know. It’s bizarre. I know that someone aired this house out—I’m sure Liam had it done—but every once in a while…it’s just strange. It may be my guilt complex. Every once in a while, I feel like I’m being overpowered by…”


“The smell of death. Do you smell anything?”

Jonas stepped into the house and inhaled deeply. He turned to her and shook his head. “Kelsey, I don’t smell anything. But…” He paused, wincing. “Cutter was dead awhile before he was found.”

Kelsey nodded.

Jonas smiled at her. “The house smells like pine to me! Clean and fresh. Hey, want me to open windows?”

“Maybe I should open everything up today,” Kelsey said.

“We’ll get everything in, and then run around and open everything,” Jonas suggested.

On their third trip out, Kelsey saw Katie come walking down the dirt-and-gravel drive from the mainland.

“Hey, Katie!” she called.

“Hey—thought I’d take a walk over. Sean is at the house, and he and David are editing something, and so… I see you did the shopping. Want some help?” she asked.

“Help is always great. But you have to work tonight….”

“I have four hours,” Katie told her.

“I think you should dive right in,” Jonas said. He looked at Kelsey. “Ask Katie what she smells,” he suggested.

“What I smell?” she asked.

“Yes, do you smell anything?” Kelsey asked.

Katie arched a brow, her hands on her hips.

“Um…maybe the water is a little stagnant somewhere?” she suggested.

“Do you think that’s what it is?” Kelsey asked, relieved.

Katie laughed. “Hey, when they work on broadening the highway from Florida City to Key Largo, and they’re reclaiming land, the smell of rot can be horrific!”

“I suggested that we open all the windows in the house—there’s a decent breeze today,” Jonas said.

“But if it’s the smell of the water, we’d be letting it in rather than out,” Katie said.

“Hmm. Good point,” Jonas agreed. “But—”

“Let’s do it anyway. With all the cleaners I’ve been using already, it’s probably a good idea,” Kelsey said.

“Hey, I’ll run back over and get my iPod and speakers,” Jonas said. “Might as well do this to some music.”

“Great,” Kelsey said.

“So, you’ll be staying here a while?” Katie asked her.

“There’s a lot to be done,” Kelsey told her.

“I think it’s great,” Jonas said enthusiastically.

“So do I,” Katie agreed. “Jonas, go get us music to heft and haul by!”

Grinning, he took off at a trot back toward the mainland. Katie snatched up a couple of the bags and headed into the house. “I think it smells great in here!” she said. “Okay, you’re right. It smells heavily of cleaner, and I think that will get worse as we go.”

“I’m sure,” Kelsey said.

In another trip, they had the last of the bags, and Kelsey was delighted that Katie had come, because she helped clean out the shelves in the kitchen as they put groceries away. “It’s amazing, what you’ve done already,” Katie said. “You know, I was a little girl the last time I was here, but this is an amazing house. I thought it was the coolest place on the whole island. I mean, it was as if you lived in a museum. That was incredibly neat.”

“I did love living here,” Kelsey said. “I loved all the stories. One night my parents were going to a major fundraiser at the Casa Marina. I remember how gorgeous my mother was coming down the stairs. Then, of course, I remember the day she died.”

“Of course. I understand. That must have been so painful.” She hesitated. “So, what do you think you want to do with the place?”

“I don’t know. How strange—I don’t think that I want to let it go, but I’m not sure I could actually ever live here again.”

“Rental property?” Katie suggested.

“I don’t know yet. I just don’t know,” Kelsey said.

Jonas returned while they were in the kitchen, shouting to them from the porch and then as he entered, pausing to stare at them. “Girls! Or young women, if that’s somehow politically incorrect! You left the door open. That’s not a good thing. Opening windows is fine—inviting in all the possible drunken riffraff in the city is not!”

“We stand corrected,” Katie said cheerfully. “All right, windows! I’ll head upstairs.”

“We’ll handle it all down here,” Jonas said. He turned toward the laundry room.

Kelsey headed in the opposite direction, to the family room, and then on into Cutter’s study.

She paused, coming into the room. As a child, she had loved this room so much. It was where she came to sit on her grandfather’s lap to have him read to her from one of the books in the endless rows of shelves, and where he weaved his great tales of adventure. It could be a dark room, though, with only the one window that led out to the porch.

She turned on the light switch, and the room came to light, revealing Cutter’s large mahogany desk, his ledger open on the old blotter as if he had been reading just before he had gone to sit down and die. Egyptian statuettes sat on one edge; a family picture taken twenty years ago sat on the other. The lamp on the desk was a beautiful Tiffany piece, and the hardwood floor was almost completely covered with a Persian carpet showing some signs of age but still beautiful. The fireplace was shared with the parlor, where the mantel was marble; in this room, it was hardwood. Elegantly designed fire utensils sat on the limestone apron around the fire, and a firebreak from the early eighteenth century hid the fact that the hearth area itself was shared.

It really was a beautiful old house. She hadn’t talked to Joe Richter yet about the actual value, but it occurred to her then that the house really was probably worth a small fortune.

And yet, oddly enough, she couldn’t imagine selling it.

She walked across the carpet and pulled back the dark crimson drapes and opened the window. Natural light flooded in softly.

The entire house had been screened in the seventies, she knew, so she wasn’t going to have to deal with an onslaught of bugs or other creepy-crawlies. When her parents had lived here, when it had been a family home, it had been wonderful.

She looked around the office. Except for the archway from the family room and the living room, and the large expanse of the fireplace, the room was shelved. Cutter’s library of books took precedence here, but there was also a stack of crates and boxes between his desk and the window, and on some of the shelves she could see his collection of bookholders and curios. Porcelain cats guarded one shelf, old seafaring nautical instruments were on another, and replicas of Mayan gods adorned another. The bookcase behind his desk had one relatively empty shelf just about six feet from the ground holding one of Cutter’s favorite pieces, a replica of King Tut’s gold mask purchased from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.