Home > Lake Silence (The Others #6)(8)

Lake Silence (The Others #6)(8)
Author: Anne Bishop

“You’re charging for this?”

“Of course I’m charging. Hiring the horses and making the meal isn’t free. And access to your beach is part of the package, not something that can be had separately. Unless you decide to open the beach on your own, but if you do, you’d better charge enough for the privilege and have someone around who can enforce who gets in and who doesn’t or you’ll be overrun.”

“I’m not planning to make the beach available to anyone but my lodgers.” I’d had enough trouble convincing people that The Jumble, and its beach, was private property. I wasn’t going to encourage people to think otherwise. On the other hand, this sort of setup would bring in a little money. It might even bring a guest or two if someone wanted to spend time on the lake and had to rent one of my little cabins to do it.

“I’m willing to give it a try,” I said.

“I’ll be sure to put a disclaimer on the sign-up sheet, warning everyone that we aren’t responsible for any injuries or accidents that are a result of anyone upsetting the Lady of the Lake.” Ineke finished her brownie and licked the frosting off her fingers.

“The Lady of the Lake?”

Silence.

“No one told you about her?” Ineke finally asked.

I shook my head. “She’s terra indigene?”

Ineke nodded. “It’s one of the smaller Finger Lakes, being barely five miles long and less than a mile across, but Silence is one of the deepest. No one knows what the Lady is—people who might have seen her don’t live to tell about it.”

“Are you sure it’s not just a story? I’ve been swimming out there—well, taking a quick dip since the water isn’t warm enough yet to do more—and haven’t seen anything. Not even a ripple.”

“She’s out there.”

“Golly.”

“Let’s pick a couple of dates. Then I’ll talk to Horace and Hector to make sure we can rent the horses,” Ineke said.

I fetched my scheduling calendar and we chose a couple of days.

“I’m limiting it to six guests,” she said. “We may not get that many the first time out since my current boarders are police officers of one sort or another, but they shouldn’t be around much longer. If I don’t fill all the slots, I’ll open it up to Sproing residents, like the new owners of some of the stores. Julian Farrow is kind of dishy, don’t you think?” She looked at me and waggled her eyebrows.

He certainly was dishy, and I liked him a lot, liked talking to him about books. Except for Ineke, he was the only close friend I had in Sproing, but I didn’t want more than friendship from anyone who had a vigorous appendage, no matter how dishy he might be.

Shortly after coming to Sproing, I had read an article in an old magazine about “What Men Expect When They’re Dating.” It said men expected to have sex by the third date, which I found thoroughly intimidating because how could you know someone well enough in such a short amount of time to do something that intimate?

Anyway, I was staying at Ineke’s when another guest, who was there for only a night, suggested we walk outside and take a look at the moon. Julian had loaned me a book about astronomy and I had planned to go out to the back of the property that evening and see if I could identify a few constellations, so going out to look at the moon didn’t seem odd. And when the man hinted that a kiss or two would be a lovely way to end the evening . . . Well, that did seem a little pushy, but he’d been kind during dinner and had sounded interested in my opinions about a book we’d both read, and somehow the way he’d phrased the hint made it sound like everyone would think I was being mean and selfish if I said no after he’d been so kind to me during dinner. I didn’t want Ineke, or anyone else, thinking I was mean and selfish, so I thought, He’s only here for the night and only asking for a kiss. We’ll never reach third-date expectations. Why not see how it feels to kiss a man who isn’t Yorick? But I found out too late that he thought my agreeing to a kiss meant I had agreed to do a lot more, and when I pushed him away because he started to do more, he said I should be grateful anyone wanted to give me a fuck, and suddenly he sounded so much like Yorick that . . .

I don’t remember much after that except Maxwell barking and snapping at the man and Ineke yelling. Then I was back in my room, hugging Maxwell, and Dr. Wallace was talking to Ineke—and the man was gone.

Before that night, I had daydreamed, just a little, about Julian maybe someday becoming more than a friend. After that night . . . I wasn’t going to risk ruining the friendship I had in order to find out that wanting sex turned every man into a Yorick.

When I didn’t respond, Ineke patted my hand and pushed away from the kitchen table. I walked her to her car. She looked around, scanning the trees.

No sign of Aggie or any other Crow.

“The crime investigators are at the boardinghouse, and not just as guests,” Ineke said. “The man who was killed was staying in one of my rooms. The investigators searched the room yesterday and they’re doing it again this morning. It seems they can’t find something they expected to find.”

“So they know who he is.” I breathed a sigh of relief. “That’s good.”

“I’m not so sure it’s good.” She sounded grim. “Listen, Vicki. I heard something that makes me think that they think the man knew you, was coming to see you.”

“I didn’t know him.” Okay, I hadn’t taken a good look at him since he had the missing eyeballs and I felt a bit squeamish. “I didn’t have an appointment with anyone, wasn’t expecting anyone.”

She studied me. “All the same, if the investigators want to have a chat with you, I’d be real careful about what I said—and I would think hard about having a lawyer present before saying anything to them.”

Ineke drove away, and I was left wondering where I would find a lawyer if I needed one.

As I went back to the house, I noticed the Crow on the ground near a tree. “Aggie?”

“Caw.”

A soft sound. A troubled sound.

Just how much had she heard?

* * *

• • •

Around noon, two unmarked cars drove up to the house and I wondered if I should have paid more attention to Ineke’s quiet warning and spent some time looking for a lawyer who would represent me if I needed one.

“Ms. DeVine?”

Two men got out of the first car. The older man had an insincere, oil-slick smile that reminded me too much of Yorick when he was talking “a chump” into some kind of deal. The younger one, who introduced himself as Officer Osgood, seemed uncomfortable with his partner or superior or whatever Mr. Oil Slick was in the CIU hierarchy.

Or was that Detective Oil Slick? Since he hadn’t introduced himself, that name would do.

“We’d like you to come down to the station and answer a few questions,” Oil Slick said.

“Why?” I stayed where I was, within reach of my front door. My heart pounded and I was getting that feeling in my arms and legs, like I was suddenly wrapped in another skin that was two sizes too small— a warning sign of excessive stress. “I already told Officer Grimshaw everything I knew. My lodger found the body yesterday, and I called the police.”

“It appears the victim was here to discuss your squatting on land that belongs to your ex-husband’s family.”

“I beg your pardon?” That anxiety skin wrap tightened a little more. “I am not squatting. The Jumble was part of my divorce settlement. Whether it used to be family land or not, my ex-husband was happy to unload it on me.” Then it clicked. “Oh. Did he send that man to see if I’d sunk enough money into the place and made enough improvements to make it worth his while to try to get it back?”

Typical Yorick. And typical me that it took me ten years to see his true nature. Of course, he’d been very good at making me believe that what I knew was true was really me making things up and getting confused.

Four other men stepped out of the second vehicle.

“You don’t mind if my men look around, do you?” Oil Slick asked.

In another minute I was going to break down into uncontrollable weeping and Oil Slick would be able to push me into agreeing with whatever he wanted to do. But until that moment . . . “You think you can come into my house and look around? Maybe paw through cupboards and drawers and ‘find’ things to substantiate your allegations?”

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