“I was there, and I was in the rare-book room,” Jonas said. “But I wasn’t looking for a book on Satanism. I’m still Catholic. Well, my own form of Catholic.” He paused. “You’re not here to talk about religion. What’s the deal with the book?”
“I think it has something to do with Gary White’s murder,” Liam said.
“A book on Satanism?” Jonas asked.
“And the Key West connection,” Liam said. “Apparently, there was a fellow here during the Civil War. He supposedly caught Southern blockade runners by practicing black magic. Later in life, he knew a fellow named Abel Crowley, who was related to or an admirer of the Aleister Crowley, who was known to be the ‘wickedest man alive.’ Gary, using the name Bel Arcowley, might have taken the book.”
Jonas nodded, and then shook his head. “So why did you think I had taken the book?”
“Gary might have taken the book, and he might not have done so. When he was in the library last, he told the librarian he was headed out here to do some work at the B and B. I don’t know—I thought you two might have talked about it.”
“I hired Gary to do some painting. Upstairs in the old carriage house,” Jonas said. “He wasn’t a bad guy.”
“You didn’t mention it,” Liam said.
“I didn’t think to mention it. We all knew him. Sort of—at least.”
Liam turned; the door to the house was open. Clarinda had come out, a plate with a sandwich in her hands.
“Liam, I don’t believe this! Are you accusing Jonas of something?” she demanded.
Liam sighed. “I’m not accusing. I’m hoping someone will be able to say something that will help me.”
“Well, I was the one who was here most when Gary was working. He came over a few mornings—he worked the streets at night, when he couldn’t get himself some kind of a gig. He’d play on a street corner or down at Mallory Square and hope to make his rent on tips. We seldom got into any heavy conversations, though,” she said.
She set her plate down at the table and glared at Liam. “I don’t believe this! How long have we all known each other?”
“I’m looking for help, Clarinda,” he said. She was truly outraged. He was fairly certain that if Jonas was up to anything foul at all, Clarinda didn’t know.
“Right. What do you want? We’ll help you. Sure. It was me. I just decided that I didn’t like the guy and it would be fun to kill him and trap him in the tree roots at Kelsey’s place,” Clarinda said.
“Clarinda,” Jonas said.
“Well, a friend we’ve known forever is accusing us of God knows what!” she said angrily.
“I don’t think he was accusing you,” Jonas said.
“Why not? We all know that women are capable of anger. Let’s see, Gary White was always so clean and fresh. I seduced him. And I shot him. Or stabbed him. Sorry, the papers and the news haven’t said just how he was killed,” Clarinda said.
“And he’s not going to tell us, Clarinda. This is his job,” Jonas told her.
“This is outrageous, is what it is,” Clarinda said.
“Clarinda, honestly, I’m hoping you two can help me. You can see the Merlin place from here. I need all the help I can get. I’m asking you both if you’ll keep an eye out, write down anything that you see. I’d greatly appreciate it,” Liam said.
Clarinda stared at him, looked away and sighed softly. “It’s just infuriating, Liam. How long have you known us? Good God, I serve you dinner half the nights of every week. And Jonas is from here. He’s lived in the same house all his life!”
“Clarinda, I’m looking for answers. I need help.”
“Sure.” She was quiet a minute. “Do you want some iced tea? A sandwich?”
He stood. “No, but thank you. I’m going to head to the station, drop a few things off and start looking into some leads.” He almost said other leads. Luckily, the word didn’t slip out. He didn’t need to make her any more antagonistic toward him.
“You have to eat,” Clarinda said.
“I’ll grab something in an hour or so,” he assured her. “Thanks.”
He waved and left them on the porch. As he got back into his car, he noted that there was a telescope on the upstairs wraparound porch.
It was aimed at the Merlin estate.
“See?” Avery said. “It’s friendly. It wants to play.”
“It’s friendly, all right,” Kelsey agreed.
The dolphin, swimming up and down along her dock, watched them. It seemed pleased to entertain them and didn’t make any effort to disappear. Nor did it grow bored, but rather seemed to be listening to their conversation. It swam up and down and hovered, and then disappeared for a minute, only to reappear doing a majestic leap out in the deeper water.
“I wonder if Liam was right, and he’s lost from one of the dolphin facilities—there are several in the Keys,” Kelsey said.
“Do they ever act like this when they’re just wild?” Avery asked.
“Hmm. Honestly, I don’t know,” Kelsey said. “I mean, I’ve seen them swim alongside boats when we’ve gone out, and they leap as a natural behavior. He does seem to like human interaction. I’ll mention it to Liam again. Maybe he’s heard of a dolphin that was lost somehow. I get the feeling that they’re pretty good at knowing where they’re going, though. I don’t know. But he is fascinating.”
“He’s a nice diversion,” Avery said. “I think I’ll call him Jimmy. Is it a he?”
“I can’t tell you,” Kelsey said. “He’s looking at us and leaping around pretty quickly.”
“Ah, well, if it’s a girl, Jimmy can be short for Jimima. How’s that?”
“Sounds fine to me. I’m going to head back in.”
“I’m going to talk to Jimmy for a while longer,” Avery said.
“But I’m here for the long run, Kelsey. I’ll be helping you from here on out.”
“It’s okay, spend some time with Jimmy.”
“Maybe I’ll get in the water later.”
“They can be aggressive,” Kelsey warned.
“I’ll watch myself.”
“The water is probably pretty cool. It wasn’t bad the other day, but it can be cool in winter.”
“Hey, I dive in the Pacific, Kelsey. I’ll be fine.”
“Why don’t you wait a bit? I want to keep looking through that book, find more of my grandfather’s notes,” Kelsey said. “Later on, I’ll break for the day and we can go for a bit of a swim together.”
“All right. We’ll talk a bit—Jimmy and me—and then I’ll be in.”
Kelsey turned around and walked back into the house. When she entered the office, she held still, a scream caught in her throat.
She wasn’t alone.
Liam drove back up to the new side of the island, looking to see if Chris Vargas was out pounding the pavement again with a sign and a cup.
He didn’t see him.
He went to the station and dropped off the magic trick that had so badly scared Kelsey, and the rare-book room registration ledger, asking Ricky Long to get it to a handwriting expert. He wanted to know if Gary White had been the person who had signed in as Bel Arcowley.
Art Saunders had been with the officers who had gone through Gary White’s tiny efficiency studio on Petronia Street. Liam stopped to talk to him, and Art assured him that he hadn’t found a rare book.
In fact, he hadn’t found a book at all.
“I looked at his bills, found his checkbook, searched his drawers, his shelves—I didn’t find anything at all. He didn’t have a cell phone or a landline. There was nothing.”
“Thanks. I’ll probably do a double check,” Liam said.
Art nodded. He wasn’t offended. Another pair of eyes was never discounted.
Liam left instructions for Art to question a number of the bars where Gary had done his one-man song-and-guitar routine, and left. He drove up and down Duval looking for Chris Vargas again, and at last saw him with his rickshaw on Front Street.
Vargas saw him and flinched, but he didn’t try to move away from the corner where he’d been standing, calling out his services to passing tourists.
“What?” he groaned when Liam pulled his car over and came out to talk to him.
“What do you mean what?” Liam demanded. “A man is dead. A man who was supposedly your friend.”
“My friend, that’s the point, Lieutenant Beckett. Please…”
Vargas winced, looking down at the ground.
“I need to know what Gary White was doing before his death,” Liam said.
“Doing? The usual. He was playing his guitar. Trying to make ends meet. He bussed tables and washed dishes sometimes. When he was lucky, he played his guitar and sang. You know, neither one of us needs all that much, and so, even at what it was, his life was good the way he saw it. We’re not druggies. We know the cheap bars and the cheap eats. If anything is cheap down here. But we did well enough.”
“If you were so happy with the status quo, why were you in the Merlin house?” Liam asked.
Vargas groaned. “Can’t you figure that by now? Kids had broken in. It seemed like something easy to do. We weren’t going to steal anything big. We were just looking for an easy object to pawn and make enough to get ahead a bit, that’s all.”
“And that was the last time you saw him?”
“Yeah, that was the last time I saw him.”
“Do you know why he was going to the library, entering the rare-book room with an assumed name?” Liam asked.
“Never mind. Let’s start over. Whose idea was it to break into the Merlin house?”
Vargas flushed, looking away. “Mine,” he admitted.