Dumbstruck, Kelsey stared at the page.
She started turning pages again, one by one, seeking more notes. Finally, she came across another.
Kelsey will find the truth. I dare not write it anywhere. I wait, because I believe the thief is out there. I wait forever.
He killed my daughter.
It was extremely quiet when Liam arrived at the library. A different librarian, Matilda Osbury, was working, but he knew her as well.
Matilda was in her late fifties. She was slim and nervous and always reminded Liam of a Saluki dog. She was a retired schoolteacher, and he’d been her student in first grade.
“Liam, hello, young man,” she told him, looking up when he came to her at the desk. “I hear we’re seeing a lot of you these days. Oh, such bad business going on lately. But it’s lovely to have so many of our dear friends back. Your cousin, David, living here again! And all that horrible tragedy regarding his old girlfriend cleared up. And Sean O’Hara back as well, and now Kelsey Donovan.” She spoke quickly, as if it were important she say everything without taking up too much of anyone’s time. “Oh, but now a murder—that guitarist fellow—out at the Merlin place. Such a shame. Who would murder the poor dear man? He wasn’t brilliant, but he hurt no one. He was a pleasant enough young fellow, indeed, that he was. He loved his guitar.”
“That’s what I’m investigating, Mrs. Osbury,” Liam said.
“Liam, you have been out of school a very long time. Please call me Matilda. Now, how may I help you?”
“You knew Gary White?” Liam asked her.
“Of course,” she said.
“I’m sorry, Matilda, help me out here. How did you know him?”
“Why, he loved the library.”
“Oh, yes, he came frequently.”
“Did he have a library card? Did he take out a lot of books?”
She frowned, pursing her lips. “No. I told him he could get one. He didn’t want one. He just came and read all the time.”
“Did he ever go into the rare-book room?”
“Yes, I believe he did.”
“His name isn’t on the list of those who entered,” Liam said.
“Oh, it must be!” Matilda protested. “I brought him back there myself.”
“Matilda, I need you to show me the list.”
She nodded, rose and started off straight for the rare-book room. He followed behind her. She keyed open the door and showed him the book on the pedestal.
She frowned after a moment. “Well, I’m sure he signed in. I might have been a bit distracted, but I saw him at the book.”
“Matilda, I need to take this book. Can you bring out a new register for people to sign in?” Liam asked.
“Well, of course. Do you think it can help solve the mystery of his murder?” she asked. “Oh, Liam, this is so frightening!”
“Matilda, I don’t think you need to be afraid.”
She shivered. “But I heard the missing book is all about Satanism.”
“I haven’t read the book, but it’s not really about Satanism, Matilda. It’s about people who thought they could use it, and how they connected with Key West. I’m sure you’re safe. Carry on with the usual, Matilda. Lock your doors, don’t walk around in the dark…. You know all about being smart and safe.” He offered her a reassuring smile. “You taught us all about it. Now, if you don’t mind, will you help me again? Did Gary talk about any of his friends, or his work, or anything else he might have been doing or anywhere he was attempting to go or anything at all that might help me?”
She frowned again, pursing her lips. It seemed to be her mode for thinking.
She shook her head. “We didn’t have long conversations. We talked about books, and his guitar. Oh!”
“Yes, yes, the last time I saw him—a week or so ago—he was in a bit of a hurry. He was about to go and do a few odd jobs for Jonas Weston at the bed-and-breakfast. Maybe Jonas could help you?” she suggested hopefully.
He smiled. “Thank you. I’ll check into that.”
He took the book and left.
“Avery, he knew,” Kelsey whispered.
“Hmm?” Avery looked up, and then came over to her. “Who knew what, honey?”
“Look at this, read this.”
Avery bent over her and read the notes. “Oh, Lord. This is frightening, Kelsey, really frightening. Your grandfather thought that—despite the fact that she fell down a staircase—your mom was murdered. But you were there, weren’t you? Wasn’t your father right in the living room?”
Kelsey closed her eyes and thought for a moment, then shook her head. “No. When I came running out of my room, my mom was already in my father’s arms, and rescue was on the way. But I’m pretty sure that my dad and Cutter had been right where you and I are now.” She shook her head, trying to conjure up a clear picture of the day she had long ago tried so very hard to forget. “My dad ran out to California. He was trying to get as far as he could from the site of my mom’s death without leaving the States, I’m certain.”
“I’m glad he picked California!” Avery said.
“And that explains so much!” Kelsey said excitedly. “My dad never hated my grandfather, but he wanted me away from him. He thought that Cutter might risk too much in order to find the person he was convinced had killed my mother. I know that my father believed that it was a tragic accident, and he spent the rest of his life brokenhearted. He didn’t want to risk keeping me in Cutter’s house.”
“So sad,” Avery said.
“So sad, yes. But here it is. Cutter owned a reliquary that was worth a million dollars. He also came into ownership of the copy. I don’t know which he owned first. But someone else out there knew that he had it. Cutter believed that people were breaking in. He believed one of those people managed to kill my mom, though I still don’t understand how or why. My father took me away, knowing that Cutter would spend the rest of his days obsessed with finding a murderer. Cutter died of a heart attack, with a shotgun, the fake reliquary and a book in his arms.”
“Then, within a week, Gary White is murdered on the property,” Avery said. He pulled a piece of Cutter’s monogrammed paper from beneath the heavy jade paperweight that held it down. “List it all out. God knows, it might help.”
She did so. When she was done, he took her by the hand, making her get up. “Come on, we’ll get back to this, but let’s take a break. Come on out—we’ll see if the dolphin is still hanging out by your docks.”
Her back was cramped. Her muscles were tense. She smiled. “Okay.” They walked through the house and out the back together.
He waited. He waited until he was certain that they were gone.
He reminded himself that he was powerful and invisible.
He came to the desk, and he read the sheet that lay there, not touching it. He was tempted to rip it to pieces. He didn’t. He didn’t need anyone suspecting that he was invisible, and that he could come and go at will.
He felt a tic in his cheek. He was angry with what he was feeling. She was close, so close.
Oh, yes, close…close to everything but giving him the real reliquary.
Patience. He had to have patience.
He turned away. He’d had his chance to take the damned book, but he hadn’t. How the hell could he have known that Cutter kept notes in it? He knew that Cutter would find a way to tell Kelsey about the reliquary.
He slipped away, tamping down his fear. He had a real face when he wasn’t invisible. Maybe he could do more with his real face.
In this house, though, he had to take care. He had to remain invisible.
Until it was time. Until Kelsey Donovan had the reliquary.
And he had Kelsey Donovan.
“Jonas, hey,” Liam said. It was easy enough to park at the bed-and-breakfast—on a Tuesday, few places in town were full, and the bed-and-breakfast inns tended to fill up last simply because hotel chains were more readily visible on travel sites.
Jonas was sitting on his front porch, reading the paper, eating his lunch. When Jonas had been growing up, the place had been a single-family dwelling. It was a nice house, with its own little spit of beach, six bedrooms in the main house and, now, two in the old carriage house. He and Clarinda lived in the master on the ground floor of the first house. He was a good innkeeper, with many guests being people who were from the state and returned often during the year. His tiki bar was well-run; his breakfasts were known to be both inventive and very good.
It was impossible to think of him as a thief or a killer.
But, of course, Liam had learned the hard way that you seldom ever really knew another person.
“Liam, hey,” Jonas said. He started to stand. Liam waved him back down. “Join me. Want some lunch? Clarinda is inside making herself a sandwich. At least have some iced tea or something,”
“I’m fine, really. I’ve got to get back to the station. I just wanted to ask you a few questions.”
Jonas’s brows shot up. “Officially?”
“Casually. I’m hoping you can help me.”
“How?” Jonas looked baffled.
“Two things. I’m looking for a book,” Liam said.
“Um—have you tried the library or a bookstore?” Jonas asked.
Liam grinned. “No, I was at the library. I’m trying to find a book about Satanism in Key West.”
Jonas laughed. “Watch it! People will talk. You’re supposed to be one of the good guys.”
“No, I’m not planning on taking up the black arts,” Liam said. “I was trying to find this particular book. It’s missing from the rare-book room, and you were there. I don’t know, but it’s like I told Jaden and Ted—honest people have been known to slip rare books out of rare-book rooms and slip them back when they’re done with them. Saves a lot of trips to the library.”