Page 37

Sean shook his head. “And…Katie is the one who showed you the area where she thought that Stella had been killed.”


“She didn’t say…or do…anything weird, did she?” Sean asked.

“What do you mean by that?” David asked.

“Nothing, nothing.” Sean stared at David. He was still frowning.

“Sean, I have never felt about anyone the way that I feel about Katie,” he said flatly.

“That was fast,” Sean said, his tone dubious.

“You’re her brother.”

“Remember that fact.”

“Fast, slow, whatever, it’s the truth.”

“So, you suddenly love her and you’re going to give up a life of fame and fortune to come home and live the easy life of an islander and raise a passel of little conchs?” Sean mocked.

“I don’t know what will happen in the future,” David said. “I’m telling you that I take nothing about your sister lightly, and that we are emotionally entangled and not just opting for something like a best-friends-with-benefits deal.”

Sean looked away and nodded. “Sorry. She is my sister. And I did walk in to find a man who had been a good friend-and a suspect in a murder-in a towel in my house.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”

Katie came hurrying down the stairs. “So, do you know everything that’s happened on the island since you’ve been gone?” she asked him.

Sean glanced over at David. “I haven’t been gone for a decade-I was here at Christmas,” he reminded her.

“I’m talking about-well, I guess I’m talking about Stella Martin,” Katie said lamely. “And the past,” she admitted.

Sean let out a sigh of aggravation. “Katie, I told you to stay out of it all.”

“Sean, you’re not my keeper. And thank God-you’re never here. So don’t go all protective on me now!”

“Why are you letting her get into danger?” Sean asked David.

“I’m not letting her into danger-I’m trying to stay with her as much as I can to make sure that she’s not alone,” David said.

“Well, I’m home now,” Sean said.

“Hey!” Katie protested. “Hey, I did fine on my own without either of you, so don’t you two go getting the testosterone thing going and try to manage me, either of you!”

She stared at the two of them.

Sean looked at David.

“I’ll make sure I’m with her when you’re not,” he said.

“She shouldn’t be alone. And there will be times…when I might be worried about her,” David admitted.

“Hey!” Katie protested.

David’s phone started to ring again. He snapped it open. “David?”

The voice was sweet and feminine. And old.

“Aunt Alice!” he said, his heart sinking.

“David, you are here. And you haven’t been by.”

Alice and Esther were actually his great-aunts. They had never been anything but patient and kind, and he knew that they loved him, that his leaving had hurt them and that he had been a selfish ass not to have taken the time yet to see them. They were both octogenarians now, with Esther closing in on ninety.

He loved them both.

They were incredible storytellers; they knew the island far better than any teacher he had ever had in high school.


“I know. I know. I’m so sorry,” he said.

“Well,” Alice told him, “we’ve heard all about that dreadful business with another poor woman murdered. Your cousin Liam has been terribly busy, and he’s said you’ve helped out with talking to folks, but…we were hoping you could stop by for some lunch.”

Katie and Sean were staring at him, curious. As he looked at them, they looked away, embarrassed at inadvertently eavesdropping.

“May I bring a few old friends?” he asked.

“Well, of course, David! When haven’t we welcomed your friends?” Alice asked.

Katie had thought that Sean was going to refuse the invitation to David’s aunts’ house, but he was determined at the moment to stay close to her, she realized. It was good that her brother cared, she thought.

And irritating.

He had rented a two-seater convertible in Miami.

“I didn’t know I could possibly need more than two seats,” he said.

“My car is in the drive-just move your rental, mine is the obvious choice,” Katie told him.

“We can walk,” David said.

“They’re past the cemetery-it’s almost a mile. Let’s just drive,” Sean said. He was coming with them, but it was obvious that he was tired.

So they drove, Katie at the wheel. She slowed down as they passed the cemetery, trying to drive and see what spirits might be about in the bright light.

As ever, the beautiful, spectral figure of Elena de Hoyos moved among the graves.

She saw no one else.

“What are you doing?” Sean asked her sharply.

“Driving,” she replied.

She pressed harder on the gas pedal. Past the cemetery two blocks, she turned the corner and came to the beautiful old Victorian where Alice and Esther Beckett, spinster sisters, had lived most of their lives. As she pulled into the drive, the two came hurrying out the door and down the porch steps.

She recognized them; they were known throughout Key West and the islands. They had been born rich, and they had used their money wisely and well all their lives, helping with every cause in the world. They gave money to several churches-Alice was quite certain that God didn’t discriminate between minor differences in worship-as well as animal-rescue leagues and all the medical charities for every organ in the human body. They were truly loved.

They both rushed to David as he exited the car, fawning over him with hugs and kisses. They knew Sean as well, chiding him for not coming by when he was in town. Sean, perhaps feeling a bit of guilt, flushed and told them that he was seldom in town-he and David did similar work.

At last it was Katie’s turn, and she received an abundance of love as well, even if she had never visited the house at all.

“My Lord! Sean’s sister! Oh, my goodness, well, Jamie O’Hara’s niece, of course. What a beauty!” Alice gushed. “Even more so than your mother, and oh, my, Esther, remember how lovely and sweet she was. I understand your parents have moved from the house, but when they’re home, you must beg them to stop by, too. Sadly, we tend to be such hermits these days.”

“We’re just horrible,” Esther said. “And, oh, how I miss your grandfather, David. The world is a far sadder place with Craig gone.”

“He was certainly the best and finest man,” David agreed.

“Well, well, we’re standing around here outside when lunch is waiting!” Alice chastised.

“Come along in,” Esther urged Katie, taking her by the arm.

They were all introduced to a woman named Betsy, an attractive thirtysomething Bahamian who tended to the elderly sisters’ needs. She had already set up lunch on what the sisters referred to as their spring porch, a back porch with a tiled floor and screened windows that caught the sea breezes.

Lunch was a feast. Salad with berries and nuts, blackened grouper, vegetarian pasta-just in case-and all manner of fresh-baked breads.

The conversation was light at first as David and Sean talked about a few of their foreign exploits with photography and film, and Katie explained how she had wanted to come home to live, and thus formed her corporation, Katie-oke.

They were delighted.

“I used to carry quite a melody in my day!” Alice assured her.

“Ever hear a honking swan?” Esther asked.

“Esther!” Alice chastised.

“I’m teasing you, dear, of course!” Esther said. “My sister still has a lovely voice for a torch song.”

“I’ll have to get you in there,” Katie told her.

“Well, certainly, but not until Fantasy Fest is over,” Alice said.

Later, when pecan pie had been served, they moved out to the parlor for “a touch of sherry,” as Alice phrased it.

“Excellent for the constitution,” Esther assured them.

“What is that, Aunt Alice?” David asked, pointing to a large ledgerlike book that sat atop the mantel.

“That?” Alice replied. “That is our family history, young man. It’s always been there. You’ve never asked before.”

“May I?” he asked.

“Certainly. We’ve been here forever-but then your family has, too, Katie, Sean.”

David stood and brought the large, embossed book back to the sofa. “How old is this thing?” he asked.

“Oh, it was started in the eighteen twenties,” Aunt Esther said. “The first fellow to write in it was Craig Beckett-not your grandfather, David, of course.”

“He was quite a man, from all accounts,” Alice said proudly.

“Craig Beckett?” Katie said. She wanted to see the book herself. Actually, she wanted to take it right out of David’s hand. “He was a sea captain, right?”

“Yes, dear, he was. He sailed for Commodore Perry, and then for David Porter. In fact, the name David came into our family because of David Porter. Craig was admired far and wide. He could take down pirates-but he wasn’t a cruel man. I mean, many a pirate was hanged here, of course, but if a man could prove himself a privateer, Craig Beckett always showed mercy. He was strong, and he was fair.”

David was turning pages carefully. The ledger was nearly two hundred years old. It hadn’t been kept under glass-it was part of the family’s heritage, and Katie was certain that both aunts had read it through and through.

“Ah, well, look-he writes it himself. He had a fellow named Smith hanged. Seems like Smith was a bit of a bastard. Attacked a ship and killed all aboard-then saw another man hanged for the deed.” David closed the book, carefully set it back on the mantel, and turned to his aunts. “That was wonderful. I’ll be in town for a while, at least. Next time, I’ll take you out.”