“Ian?” I said. “Ian?” I shouted, then yanked on the sleeve of Jagger’s leather jacket. For springtime, it was still cool in the mornings.
“Maybe you need your hearing checked, Sherlock. Yes, Ian.”
“Ian James killed Mr. Baines?” The horrifying thought still hadn’t sunk in as Jagger took a right turn off the Newport Bridge ramp.
I’d asked pretty much the same question the entire two-hour trip but still said, “I can’t believe it. Ian? Ian killed someone?”
We turned when the light changed, and Jagger weaved in and out of one-way streets through the narrow roads of Newport.
“You sound as if you are placating me with that tone.”
At the next stop sign he turned and merely looked at me.
“Okay, so I’m having a hard time with this one. He was such a nice guy. He really had fallen for Goldie.” Damn! Could my dear friend have been in any danger? Naw. Obviously there was more to this fraud stuff than I knew about, and Ian never would have hurt Goldie.
But Ian was dead and the question remained: Who killed him?
And why? What did Ian know about the fraud?
Well, I could rest easier since obviously it was Ian who had knocked me down. At least that was what I was going to tell myself over and over so I could do my job.
As we pulled into the driveway of the lodge, I looked at Jagger. “Why? Why would Ian kill Mr. Baines? Did he even know him? I find it hard to believe.”
“Weren’t you the one who saw him running from the scene of the crime, Sherlock?”
Oops. I sat silent for a second. Not that I was so shocked at what Jagger had said, but I was trying my damnedest to try to remember if I had told him about the possible Ian sighting. I couldn’t remember. Then how the hell did Jagger know?
Before I could ask, he was out of the car, took his duffel bag from the backseat and was walking along the front path. I figured anyone who wouldn’t tell me the truth about his name was not giving away crime-related secrets.
I got out, grabbed my stuff and followed, but when I got inside, Jagger was nowhere to be seen, and Arlene was at the front desk doing some kind of paperwork.
Oh well, I figured, might as well get back to work as soon as I could. When I got closer, I said, “Morning, Arlene.”
She kept her head down and didn’t answer.
At first I thought she didn’t hear me, and then, with all the death and murder lately, suddenly I worried that something might have happened to her! I reached over the counter and gently tapped her arm.
Arlene flew up, smacked me in the face (accidentally, I told myself) and screamed.
All of a sudden my arms were flailing about and that cold wind encircled us-while the doors and windows were tightly shut. “It’s me! Arlene, it’s Pauline.”
She stopped screaming, looked at me and in the eeriest of tones calmly said, “Oh, hi, Pauline,” as if we’d just shared a morning cup of coffee and nice chat. Never saw anyone snap out of fright that quickly.
I knew Sam was around but had no intention of feeding into his actions. There was way too much to do on my case and two murders so far for me to deal with the paranormal. “Sorry I startled you. I guess you didn’t hear me. Anyway, did you know Mr. Baines?”
She gave me an odd look-which I was getting very used to in this business. “Know him?”
I nodded. Seemed like a pretty cut and dried question to me, but maybe she was still recovering from ghostly sightings.
“I knew of him.”
I shook my head and waited for her to expound on that statement, but she merely sat back down and stuck her nose in her paperwork. This case was getting tougher and tougher to work.
“Um, Arlene? About knowing of Mr. Baines. Could you tell me more?”
She seemed perturbed but that was another thing I was getting used to ignoring. People got angry with me. People shouted at me. People ignored me, and yet I had a job to do and was not going to let hurt feelings stop me.
Arlene got up, went to the stove and took the hot water pot. Then she refilled her teacup, which was next to her papers. Without offering me a drop-guess she figured I could get my own in the guest’s dining room-she sat back down and stirred the used tea bag around a few times.
“Mr. Baines?” I repeated, getting anxious to go unpack and change, but I didn’t want to lose Arlene to her paperwork.
“Real estate. The Baines family has been in Newport real estate for ages. Lots of money with the skyrocketing prices. They actually owned a fair bit of land themselves which was used to build condos near the water.” She took a few sips of tea.
I wondered why that was so funny, but being childless myself, had no clue. I sure didn’t find anything funny about dirty diapers, baby drool or fresh adolescents who were my nieces and nephews.
“Baines probably had more kids than a Mormon. Not that he knew about them though,” she said.
Hm. “Really. A real playboy, you mean?” Interesting indeed.
“Yep.” She started writing something and certainly gave me the feeling that I was bothering her.
I figured I was and didn’t want to antagonize a local, so I said goodbye for now and went to unpack. My room looked smaller, but very welcoming after the 171 David Drive weekend from hell.
At least I knew my mother was fully functioning with her pink cast, so I didn’t suffer any pangs of guilt. I did suffer annoyance at how Jagger got away with so much with Stella Sokol. Damn it.
After I’d unpacked, rested for a few hours and showered, I stuck on my black and white jogging outfit and decided I needed to do something mindless and physical. Of course something other than jogging came to mind, but being the good Catholic gal that I was, I stuck on my running shoes and headed out toward Cliff Walk.
After a few silent prayers for Ian’s soul, I jogged along the path in the other direction so as not to have to see the scene of the murder.
Jogging always was a great time for thinking. Today I’d decided not to wear my CD player so I could run bits and pieces of my case through my thoughts.
Sadly that’s all I had-bits and pieces.
I wondered if Jagger knew any more about Ian killing Mr. Baines or about Ian’s death. Certainly couldn’t have been accidental.
Or could it?
Maybe he was so distraught over killing Mr. B that Ian leaped to his death? Or maybe he was trying to punish himself? Thoughts bombarded my brain, and before I knew it I was at the exact spot of Ian’s demise, not even sure when I had turned around.
Yellow police tape was draped across the thorny bushes, as if that would keep locals and tourists out. For heaven sake, the damn bright color attracted attention. Mine at least.
I stood back and surveyed the area. Nothing looked that out of place. As a matter of fact, the spot where Ian must have been pushed or thrown, since he wasn’t that huge a guy, wasn’t very disturbed at all. I stepped a bit closer to see the bush’s branches were slightly bent but not really broken. Couldn’t hurt to do a bit of investigating to help out the police.
Maybe he went over at another spot?
Not that it could have been much farther away, but maybe a few feet and the current or waves impaled him on the rocks below? Or at least had impaled his clothing.
I walked several feet toward the end of Cliff Walk. It still went on about a half mile, but I nosed around near the ocean side for several minutes. One never knew what one would find.
Seagulls squawked in the distance, landing on the rocks below or like little dive-bombers into the water to snatch out a snack. When I got too close to the edge of the cliff, my foot slipped on a damp section of mud and I nearly followed Ian to that big ocean in the sky.
With my heart pounding, I grabbed onto a nearby bush, cursed as a thorn punctured my palm and then, all the while holding on for dear life, imagined maybe this was the scenario that Ian had followed. I eased myself back to safety, took a deep breath and put on my investigator cap once again.
I tried to re-create the moment, lying there and thinking about how it might have occurred. I looked around at everything in sight then noticed something in the bush.
A tiny scrap of color.
Once I was safely back on the path, I leaned over and picked it from amid the thorns. Deep red. Almost had a velvet feel to it. Obviously a material not within my budget, and obviously had been hidden deep inside the bush so the cops had missed it.
Of course, it could have been there for ages, but with the ocean winds up there and the winters along with rain, I was guessing it was newly skewered on the thorny branch.
It didn’t, however, look like the same color as Ian’s shirt.
I took out a tissue, wrapped the swatch in it and tucked it into my pants pocket to give to the police. If they looked at me as if I were nuts, so what?
Certainly they already had my number since Jagger was in touch with them.
My jog back was uneventful and I made it to Highcliff Manor in record time and luckily fast enough to see Miles about to get into his car. “Hey! Miles?” I ran across the parking lot and grabbed him by the shoulders. “Seems like so long!”
We hugged, kissed cheeks and hugged again.
“How was your weekend?” he asked.
I rolled my eyes, and he hugged me again.
“Yours?” I replied.
Even through his Foster Grants I could see tears forming. “Take good care of him, Pauline.”
I kissed him on the cheek again and gave him a wink. Miles got into the car and drove off. I turned toward the front door to see Goldie standing in the window-I’m sure sniffling.
Ain’t love grand, was my first thought, and then I told myself that at the rate I was going, I wouldn’t know. But I was happy for my two roommates nonetheless.
I headed inside to give Goldie a much needed hug and told him about the material. As a matter of fact, I said, you probably might recognize it.
Goldie leaned near when I unwrapped the tissue with the “evidence” inside.
“Hmm,” he said and kept looking.
Whoa boy. So whoever killed Ian, in my humble opinion, was rich.
Then again, so was half of Newport.
After listening to Goldie’s detailed explanation of his fab weekend with Miles, and grunting and groaning about my weekend with the Sokol family and Jagger, I reviewed the surgery with Goldie. He seemed to understand, reiterated that he did not want to change his mind and seemed to have a real grip on his post-op care.
“So, by this time tomorrow you’ll be sleeping off the beauty sleep of your life, Gold.”
We both howled.
Then it dawned on me. Monday. Neal. Geez. “Oh, shoot.”
Goldie flopped on his bed and hugged a mauve silk pillow. “What? What is wrong? Something about my surgery?”
“Oh. No. Oh, no, hon. No,” I said to reassure him.
“Okay, I buy that. Then why the look of confusion?”
“Neal and I had made plans to go out tomorrow night. At the time, I didn’t know it would be your first night post-op. I’ll cancel.”
Goldie sprung up and grabbed my arm. “The hell you will. Some hottie like that asks you out, could be a help to your case, and is cutting me tomorrow, and you’re gonna break his heart tonight? Uh-uh. No way.”
He waved a hand at me. I could tell his French manicured nails were recently done. Beautiful and sexy in a vixen sort of way. “Look. You yourself just said I’ll be asleep most of the night. There are nurses here enough to staff an entire hospital. I’ve met a few already. Kerie Cetin and Jackie Wisherd. If they can take care of the real nasty-rich patients here, they can watch me for a few hours.” He leaned forward and looked in my eyes. “No cancelling.”
I saluted him, said, “Yes, sir,” and kissed his cheek. “I’ll make sure you’re medicated and comfortable before I leave.”
“Drugs. Yum. Sounds perfect.”
I smacked his shoulder and got up to leave. “Call my cell if you want or need anything. Promise?”
He saluted me back, and I knew having Miles come visit had been the perfect medicine for our Gold.
Tomorrow would be a piece of cake.