Trinity Island – Chapter 11

December 31, 2012 at 10:26 am (Trinity Island)

Claire wandered into the kitchen and found the remains of breakfast sitting in the frying pan. Galen and Mac were nowhere to be seen. She’d gotten used to the routine over the past two weeks. He and Mac would have breakfast and chat about the case and then they’d head down to the station to get to work. Mac would return to do some work around the house and then he’d be off to the station again. She hoped they were making progress on the case. She dug into the bacon and eggs, not caring that they were cold.

Jenna would be stopping by in less than an hour and Claire wanted to draw up a list of changes to Wallis House. Some were structural and she’d have to wait until she had an architect on hand for that, but a lot of what she wanted was cosmetic. Speaking of structure, she had to call Kent Grey to see if he’d be the architect on her retreat project.

It still kind of galled her to ask him for anything. Reggie said she was fine with it, but since Claire hadn’t seen her face, she couldn’t tell if Reggie was lying to her. She was  a champion liar, but Claire knew her tells. She hemmed and hawed for a good ten minutes before blowing out a disgusted sigh and pulling out her phone. She didn’t know why she had his number programmed in, but she stabbed the connect button with her finger and waited for him to pick up.

His answering machine kicked in. Claire realized she had no idea where in the world he was working these days. When the machine beeped, she left a brief message telling him she had a project that she needed a professional opinion on. She didn’t even make a snide comment about choosing to ask him anyway. She left her number and the house number and hung up. She could have just gotten an architect from the mainland. She probably should have; it would have kept the money local, been good for the economy. Weak argument, she knew.

Claire took her coffee into the front room and sat on the couch. She’d left her books there, her drawings, her fabric swatches, everything she felt she needed to work through the design changes to Wallis House. She wanted an office, but she wanted it in the Turret Room. The Turret Room needed a major overhaul. It had last been used when her mother still lived in the house and she’d decorated it to look like a bordello. Red velvet, red brocade, and red satin; her mother had loved luxurious fabrics in bold, garish colors. Claire intended to get Jenna working on that room straight away.

When her phone rang she picked it up without checking to see who it was.

“Claire, Kent Grey,” he said. “I didn’t expect to ever hear from you.”

Nothing like putting it out there, she thought.

“Yes, well, when I told Reggie I needed an architect, she suggested you. Said you were the best, though I doubt you could ever get her to ‘fess up to it if you asked her.” Reggie would kill her for that, but Claire didn’t think fast when put on the spot.

Kent laughed, and Claire didn’t know what to make of that response. She launched into an explanation of the project she was working on, because it was safer ground and didn’t require any adlibbing. He tossed out several questions about the land she was using, the state of the buildings, how much rehabbing she thought they’d need.

“Sounds like a great project, Claire. I’ve got a tight schedule for the next few weeks, but how about I come check it out around mid-September?”

Claire agreed to the timeframe and offered to pick him up from the airport, but he declined. Likely didn’t want to be forced into idle chatter with someone who still got a bad taste in her mouth when speaking with him, she thought. She gave him simple directions and told her to call him if he had any trouble. She hung up feeling a bit out of sorts with the whole thing. So she called Reggie.

“I still don’t think I want to give him my business.”

The great thing about a good friend was that she didn’t have to explain that remark.

“Come on Claire, he’s the best for the job. I know you think I’m not over him, but I am. It was a long time ago and, though I do still think he’s a bit of an ass, I can’t fault his skills as an architect.”

Claire harrumphed at that, but she still couldn’t see Reggie, so she still didn’t know if Reggie was lying through her teeth. She’d have to Skype her next time. They talked for twenty minutes, until Claire heard Jenna’s car pull up out front. Claire barely had the door opened before Jenna burst in.

“Another girl has gone missing. Megan Price, did you know her?” Jenna dumped her bags next to the couch and plopped down.

“I don’t think so,” Claire admitted.

“She was quite a bit younger than us, so I’m not surprised. Very sweet girl, though lousy taste in men, if you ask me.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah, she was hooked up with the mayor for a bit and there was a rumor she was looking at your dad, but no one knows if that happened or not. I doubt he was ever faithful to Emma West though.”

Claire didn’t think her father was capable of it. She wondered if Emma knew he was unfaithful, or if she’d cared at all. Some women didn’t, especially if they were having their own affairs on the side. Her father had never cared what her mother had done behind his back. She was amazed that she could have come from two such self-centered, emotionally dead people and still turn out alright. She put the credit for that squarely on her grandfather and Mac. If not for their influence, she’d probably be just as bad as her parents.

“Did any of the other girls who have gone missing have anything to do with my father?” Perhaps someone was clearing out her father’s ex-mistresses. It was a horrifying thought, in large part because there were so many.

“I think Stephie Prickett tried for your dad, but he was already into Kay Hager, a cashier at the grocery store. Most of the rest who are missing disappeared before your dad returned to Trinity.”

Jenna changed the subject back to decorating, for which Claire was grateful. She didn’t want to dwell on her father’s exploits and she didn’t think she had much to contribute to the investigation into the missing girls. Any speculation she raised would have to be brought to Galen and she figured he was already swamped with work on that.

***

Galen stood next to the white board in his office. He and Mac had spent part of the morning writing down the details that they already knew. They were making a list of all the girls who had gone missing and trying to set up a timeline for when they’d disappeared. Victoria had managed to trace one girl who had left Trinity and moved to Saskatchewan with her boyfriend. Since she was semi-estranged from her family, they could understand why she hadn’t told anyone where she was. They still had nine who were unaccounted for.

They’d started with Megan Price, because she was the most recent, so the details were fresh in people’s minds. She’d last been seen two weeks earlier, though no one had thought to report it until she’d missed two days of work. She’d requested a week off and hadn’t been due back until the previous Monday. By Wednesday, her boss was worried and she’d called Megan’s mother. Megan was a cashier at the Clearwater Cafe and, according to the owner, was the sweetest, most dependable girl around. She still lived with her parents, because her job was part time and she couldn’t afford to pay rent. The girl loved to shop and had a great closet. She burned through her money, rarely making it from one pay cheque to the next.

Galen arrived at Megan’s parents place at noon, having called ahead and asked them to speak with him. Her parents admitted that they helped her out financially, partly by not charging her rent and partly by lending her money when she was broke. She was their only child, so they didn’t mind. Megan’s mother broke down into wrenching sobs. Mr. Price helped her to the couch and got her settled before turning to Galen.

“I don’t know how much we can tell you, but we’ll do our best.”

Galen nodded his appreciation. He declined their offer of coffee, not wanting to prolong the meeting for them. He got into the basics, could she have left the island and not said anything, did she have family somewhere she could have been visiting, did they have an argument. Her mother shook her head through each one.

“Our daughter is a good girl, Detective. She wouldn’t purposely do anything to hurt us.”

“Was she seeing anyone?” he asked. Mac hadn’t known Megan beyond what he’d seen of her in town at the cafe. If there had been rumors about her, he hadn’t heard them. Galen made a mental note to talk to his ma about the girl.

Megan’s father shook his head, but her mother wasn’t quite so quick to deny it. Galen focused in on her, waiting.

“Megan didn’t talk about men much, but I know she was seeing someone. This town is terrible for talk and at first I chalked it up to idle gossip. But then I saw them together.”

When she didn’t say anything further, Galen asked who she’d seen her daughter with.

“I saw her with Mayor Anglove.”

“He’s a married man!” Mr. Price nearly shouted.

“I know he is! Don’t you yell at me! I’m just telling you what I saw!” Mrs. Price started to sob once again and her husband settled down long enough to console her.

Galen could see the anger on the man’s face and assumed it was directed at the mayor, not his daughter. He’d already gotten an earful about the mayor from Mac. Mac, who had gone through many years with the Wallis’, had little respect for anyone who couldn’t keep faithful to their spouse.

“He’s a real estate agent too, you know,” Mrs. Price said. When Galen nodded, she continued. “I’d been making a delivery over to the middle island and saw our second car parked outside one of the houses up for sale. Megan often used our car because she couldn’t afford her own. I peeked in the front window and saw her on the couch with him. She wasn’t wearing anything and neither was he.” Taking a tissue from her sleeve, she blew her nose several times, folded it up, and then dabbed at her eyes.

Galen found that very interesting. The mayor hadn’t acted as though he’d known Megan beyond seeing her around town. He prided himself on knowing everyone in the town, he’d said. Given how many people were on the island, that was a significant feat. He’d have to have another chat with the mayor, this time in a more formal setting.

Galen wrapped up his interview and promised that he would do everything he could to find their daughter. He headed back to the station, but turned toward Wallis House at the last minute. He needed some help with his canvas and he wanted to see if Mac was available. He pulled into the drive and saw that Mac’s truck was gone. Claire was at the door seeing Jenna off. He parked his truck and walked up the stairs to the front porch.

“Galen, has there been any news on Megan Price?” Jenna asked.

“Nothing conclusive, though I did learn from her mother that she was having an affair with the mayor.”

Jenna nodded. “I just mentioned that to Claire. Megan was very nice, but deluded about men. I’m sure she thought he’d leave his wife for her.”

“When do you remember seeing her last?”

Jenna scrunched her face up as she tried to recall Megan Price. “I didn’t know her well, though I saw her regularly in town. She was a good ten years younger than me, so we definitely didn’t hang together. She worked at Clearwater and I stopped going in there when Sarah opened her cafe.”

Galen smiled at Claire as he waited for Jenna to put her thoughts in order. He’d spent so much time with Mac the past two weeks that he’d barely seen her. She was rarely up before he left for the station, since he’d been getting there early in hopes of catching the camper at the Laundromat again. None of their searches through the town and the forest had produced a single lead on the man’s whereabouts.

“I saw her about three weeks ago at the supermarket. Megan looked embarrassed because the mayor’s wife had publicly snubbed her. Who could blame her though. The mayor’s wife, I mean.” She’d thought it a shame that Megan had run into the mayor’s wife during a particularly busy time at the market. Several people stood around staring at Megan, trying not to laugh at the poor girl. “I felt embarrassed for both of them, because everyone else found it titillating.”

“Do you have any idea if the mayor broke off their affair? I’m wondering if Megan went away somewhere to get over him.”

Jenna shook her head. “I hadn’t heard that they’d broken up, but Megan wasn’t the only woman he was seeing on the side. It’s possible Megan found out and realized what a douchebag he was.”

When Galen asked for the other woman’s name, Jenna turned a sad glance in Claire’s direction. Galen got it, but it took Claire a moment to figure it out. When she did, the disgust was mixed with resignation.

“He’s seeing my mother.”

Jenna nodded. She patted Claire’s hand and then took her leave, promising to have several designs mocked up for the Turret Room by the end of the week. Claire walked back into the house. Galen trailed in after her. When she flopped down on the couch he sat beside her and took her hand in his.

“I’m sorry your ma is–” He didn’t quite know how to finish the sentence.

Claire laughed, easing some of the strain on her face. “You’re sorry that my mother is the way she is.” She was quiet a moment and then she said what was on her mind. “I always wanted your mom to be mine. She loved you guys, even when she was yelling at you.”

“She’s Italian, yelling was her normal voice.”

True, Mrs. T did have a forceful way about her, but Claire always felt that she cared and she didn’t fake it. Because if Mrs. T didn’t like someone, they knew it. Mrs. T had never liked either of Claire’s parents and she’d made no bones about letting either one know it, though she’d tempered her comments when Claire was in earshot.

Galen wrapped his arm around her shoulder and tucked her into his side. “I remember you back then. You were about ten when I first moved to the island and I remember thinking that your face was all eyes. Big and blue, with thick, long lashes. If not for the fact that I was fourteen and way too old for you, I’d probably have had a crush on you.”

Claire snorted at the idea of him being way too old for her. Back then, four years would have seemed like a century. “I remember that all the girls fell in love with your accent before they even knew if you were a decent boy or not. I managed to keep my head about me though.”

“Yeah, you didn’t even see me, did you?”

Oh she’d seen him, but she’d thought the way he had. He was too old and she hadn’t really been into boys then. She’d wanted to be a boy, not date one. She looked up at him and found his eyes studying her intently.

He cupped the side of her face, holding her close. “See me now,” he whispered, and then he kissed her.

Claire felt the electricity zap through her, awakening what she hadn’t realized had lain dormant far longer than the few months she’d been single. When his tongue touched hers, her brain emptied of all coherent thought. When he settled her onto his lap, she barely noticed. When he pulled away a few minutes later, breaking the kiss, it took her a few extra moments to return to herself. She searched his gaze, wondering why he’d stopped. Clearly she hadn’t been in any condition to put a stop to it.

“Will you have dinner with me?” Galen smiled as he watched her struggle to switch gears. His heart was thundering like a herd of elephants and if she shifted slightly in his lap they’d both be in trouble.

“Dinner?” she asked, as though unclear of the concept of food. When he nodded, she gave herself a mental shake and then agreed. Since it was barely past lunch, she didn’t think he meant right then.

Galen tucked her against his chest and leaned into the couch. He stroked a hand up her back, enjoying her warmth. “Saturday night?”

Claire nodded.

“I’ll make a reservation at The Sand Dollar.”

The Sand Dollar was the nicest restaurant on the island, and had been in business for over forty years. It boasted a deck out over the water that afforded its guests an unimpeded view of the sunset. It was built for romance where so many other places on the island weren’t. Claire wrapped her arms around his waist and slid herself up his chest, settling her lips on his. She sunk in, enjoying the warmth of the fire he built inside her.

Galen was in trouble. He was so hard it hurt and he figured she knew it. Pulling her arms away from him, he settled her on the couch and quickly stood up. “I’ll pick you up here at 6 on Saturday.” He backed toward the door, keeping an eye on her. When she stretched languidly, eyeing him like a cat does cream, he almost caved. But he thought, given the examples she’d had so far, that she needed to go on a proper date with a man who wouldn’t juggle her with anyone else.

She stretched again and he knew she was doing it on purpose. “You’re evil,” he grinned at her, before turning and running from the house.

Claire walked over to the door, smiling when she noticed Galen’s difficulty folding his body into the cab of his truck. She waved when he drove down the road and then she walked back over to the couch. She didn’t know how she was going to wait until Saturday to get her hands on him again. And he wanted a proper date, with dinner in public, which meant she had to remember her manners. God, but he was a glutton for punishment. And she had just the dress to push him over the edge.

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