Read Island of Secrets Online

Authors: Carolyn Keene

Island of Secrets (3 page)

“Winchester is a very important person in New York politics,” Jim told Nancy. “In fact, the rumor is he's about to be nominated as a judge on the state supreme court.”

“It's interesting,” Nancy said. “He sounds more like a Westerner than someone from New York.”

“I understand that he moved up from Texas after his wife died some years ago. Apparently he lost a big election and blamed the other candidate for causing her heart attack. Claimed he waged a dirty campaign.”

Nancy saw the door that Jim had indicated earlier was now opening. Others noticed it, too, and a hush fell over the room as the crowd waited for the next of kin to emerge.

A burly police officer appeared, supporting a small, plump, white-haired woman. The woman took a step forward, her face so white it resembled marble. Then her legs dissolved under her as she started to collapse in a faint.

“I know her!” Nancy whispered, her blue eyes widening. “That's Hannah's friend—the quilter, Sarah Windsor!”



as she was falling. Jim ran over to help him put her into a chair, announcing in a loud voice, “That's it, folks. Please clear the room.”

Nancy was about to help when the doctor she'd seen at the grave site appeared and bent over the older woman.

Jim returned to Nancy's side. “I'm sure she'll be fine once we get her home. But would you mind taking a rain check on that cup of coffee?”

“Sure. I should be getting back anyway. Maybe I'll see you tomorrow,” she said, turning away.

Outside the station, Nancy collected Angie's moped, then slowly rode it into town. She left the moped in Angie's garage, along with a note of thanks, and walked on to the cottage.

Hannah was in the kitchen mixing a pitcher of
iced tea when Nancy arrived. “I walked down to the grocery store, but I only bought a few things. I thought we could eat out tonight—” Noticing Nancy's expression, she interrupted herself. “What's the matter?”

Nancy told her about the death of Sarah's nephew.

“I've got to go to her. Can you call a cab?” Hannah untied her apron. “Sarah lives off Corn Neck Road. Oh, poor dear, I know she was worried about him. She told me all about him, how he'd lost his parents and everything. She said he'd been gone since Friday night.”

“Did she report him missing to the police?” Nancy asked, looking up taxicabs in the phone book.

“No. According to Sarah, he was a moody boy. He stayed with her, but he'd often go off for days at a time without a word.”

Nancy wasn't surprised that Hannah knew so much about Tom, although she'd only met his aunt that morning. Total strangers often opened up to Hannah, sensing they could tell her anything. Nancy dialed the cab company and minutes later Hannah was off to comfort her new friend.

After that, Nancy called Barb. “I'm okay, Nancy, but I went over to talk to D. J. Divott and I'm really worried about him. He's awfully upset about Tom's death. They've been best friends since they were little kids.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Thanks, but not now.” Barb sighed. “I'd planned to take you to the Spotted Dog tonight. . . .”

“Don't worry about it,” Nancy said.

“Wait, I have an idea for tomorrow,” Barb said. “I always swim two miles when I finish work. Why don't you come to the beach with me tomorrow afternoon? We can lie in the sun and pretend this  . . . murder never happened.”

“Good idea.” Nancy arranged to pick Barb up at her apartment the next day and hung up, then sank into a rocking chair on the porch.

Hannah returned at six and reported that Sarah's living room was full of friends who had come over to keep her company. She and Nancy decided to fix a simple supper of soup and sandwiches. A game of gin helped keep Nancy's mind off the murder during the evening, but as she fell asleep that night, she couldn't forget the image of Tom Haines's body buried in that lonely spot.

• • •

Right after breakfast Nancy and Hannah walked into town to the moped rental shop. Nancy rented a blue moped and was surprised when Hannah chose a bright red one. The shop owner suggested they practice in the large parking lot before going out on the road.

They donned their helmets and Nancy showed Hannah how to turn on the motor. She pointed
to the right handlebar grip. “Think of that as your gas pedal. Turn it toward you, gently, like this, to give it a little gas.”

Hannah twisted the grip and the motor roared. She jumped at the sound and let go of the handle. The engine automatically slowed.

“Not too much,” Nancy said. Hannah tried again and the engine rose to a purr. “That's it. The levers on the handlebars are the brakes. When you want to slow down, release the gas and squeeze them.”

“It seems easy,” Hannah exclaimed. “It's just like riding a bike, without pumping.”

Nancy smiled. “Right. Now start off slowly. Just give it the tiniest bit of gas.”

Hannah took a deep breath. “Okay, here I go!” She puttered at two miles an hour around the lot, making a wide circle that arced back toward Nancy. “This isn't so hard!” she called. “It's
than a bike!”

Nancy watched her make another wide turn. Suddenly the motor revved and Hannah shot back up the lot.

“Hit the brakes, Hannah!” Nancy shouted.

Hannah slowed only to make the turn around the row of parked cars. The bike tilted as she leaned into the curve. Then she raced back toward Nancy and skidded to a halt in front of her.

“I think I've got the hang of it,” Hannah said, grinning.

“You scared me to death!” Nancy said, her heart still pounding.

“Don't worry about me, dear. I watch the road races on television all the time.” Hannah patted Nancy's shoulder.

“Um, right, but control is important,” Nancy reminded her. “Once we get out in traffic . . .”

“I'll be fine,” Hannah said calmly. “Shall we hit the road?”

Nancy watched in amazement as Hannah negotiated her way through the busy downtown streets. It seemed as if she'd been riding all her life. Shaking her head in disbelief, Nancy wondered what other surprises Hannah had in store for her during the vacation.

At Hannah's insistence, they rode across the island to the Captain's Catch for lunch. Only a few tables were occupied in the dining room, but the deck overlooking Great Salt Pond was packed. Nancy and Hannah decided to wait for an outdoor table.

As she stood near the reservation stand, Nancy glanced around the restaurant, noticing the heavy tables, comfortable chairs, and dark wood paneling hung with pictures of old sailing ships. Nancy spotted the New York congressman, Walt Winchester, alone at a corner table. Just then a man in a business suit carrying a battered briefcase entered the restaurant and strode over to Winchester.

A few minutes later the hostess led Nancy and
Hannah to the deck. As they passed near Winchester, who was studying a typewritten sheet of paper, the man stood up, said goodbye, and began to walk away.

Nancy noticed he'd left his briefcase on the floor. “Sir,” she called, but he didn't turn back. Nancy spoke to the congressman. “Your friend forgot his briefcase.”

Winchester's face flashed annoyance, which vanished as soon as he recognized Nancy. “Why, Miss Drew, how nice to see you again.” He stood and gave Nancy a courtly nod of his head, then glanced at the briefcase. “He didn't forget it. I'm afraid it's full of important—but tedious—documents for me to study. I can't escape from work, even when Congress is in recess.”

Nancy smiled sympathetically. “May I introduce my friend, Hannah Gruen? Hannah, this is Congressman Walt Winchester.”

“I'm pleased to meet you,” he said, grinning. “In fact, it's a real privilege to meet such an attractive lady.”

Hannah's cheeks grew pink. “It's nice to meet you, too, Congressman.”

He glanced at his watch. “I'm afraid you'll have to excuse me. Have to fly back to Albany for a conference with the governor. My pilot is waiting at the airport.”

“You have your own plane?” Hannah asked.

“Sure do,” he replied affably as he pulled some bills out of his wallet and tossed them on the
table. “Perhaps you might like to join me for a ride sometime, Ms. Gruen. We could hop over to Newport for lunch, or would you prefer Nantucket?”

“Well, either would be lovely, I'm sure,” Hannah said graciously.

“Good, I look forward to it.” With that, he picked up the briefcase and nodded to Nancy. “I must be off. Goodbye, ladies.”

Nancy led a smiling Hannah to their table. When the waitress handed her a menu, Hannah read through it. “Heavens, look what they're charging for lobster salad!”

Nancy studied the face she had known since childhood, suddenly seeing Hannah in a new light. Her skin was unlined and the color of peaches and cream, her gray hair soft, her figure trim. No wonder a man like Walt Winchester would find her attractive.

Hannah leaned toward Nancy. “He's quite a charmer, isn't he?”

Nancy grinned. “Yes, he is. I understand he may be appointed a judge on the New York State Supreme Court.”

“Really?” Hannah glanced at the menu. After a minute she said, “You know, I think I'll have that lobster salad.”

After a leisurely lunch, the two of them separated. Hannah proudly rode her moped back to the cottage, and Nancy decided to stop by the police station before picking up Barb to go to the
beach. She found Jim in his office, typing up a report.

“Hi,” she said. “Got time to buy a girl a cup of coffee?”

The sergeant looked up from the computer screen. “Hi, Nancy. Gosh, I wish I could but we're swamped. How about a cup of the local brew instead?” He indicated the coffeemaker in the corner.

“Sure. I won't keep you. I just wondered how the case is going.”

“Before we sent the hammer to the lab on the mainland for analysis, we noticed initials scratched into the handle. They led us to a suspect.” He poured a cup of coffee and handed it to her. “He's being questioned right now.”

Nancy was surprised. “That's fast work. Does that mean you think the hammer is the murder weapon?”

“The preliminary autopsy showed bruises on the face and head, but the cause of death was a sharp blow to the back of the skull. It will take a while to determine if the wound could have been caused by the hammer, but it seems likely.”

“Bruises,” Nancy said, thinking out loud. “Sounds like he must have been in a fight before he was killed.”

“That's what we figure.”

“Who is your suspect?” she asked.

Jim frowned. “Another Islander. They both fell for the same girl, and twice before this they
tried to settle it with their fists. It's too bad—they used to be friends.”

“Hathaway,” a police officer called from the main room. “The chief wants you.”

“On my way,” Jim answered. “I've got to run, Nancy.”

“See you later. And congratulations on solving the case so quickly.”

Jim grinned and hurried away.

As Nancy rode her moped to Barb's apartment she felt a sense of relief that the case had apparently been solved so soon. Jim sounded confident that the lab would find evidence that the hammer was the murder weapon. She was ready to relax and enjoy her vacation, without the complication of a murder.

She was wearing a new bikini under her shorts and T-shirt, and had a towel and her tote bag stuffed in the moped's basket. She was anticipating a brisk swim followed by a lazy afternoon on the sand.

At the apartment Angie opened the door. “Hi,” she said. “Barb should be here any minute. Come on in.”

Nancy and Angie chatted while waiting for Barb. Nancy found out that the two had met at college in Boston, where Angie was majoring in art. Her father owned a pizza restaurant, a popular hangout for college students, and Angie worked there part-time, as did all her brothers
and sisters. With her experience as a waitress, it had been easy to find a summer job on Block.

Without warning the door burst open and Barb charged in, furious. “You'll never believe what's just happened!”

“What?” Nancy asked, standing up.

“Do you know what the police have done now?”

“Why don't you tell us,” Angie said calmly. She seemed to be used to Barb's outbursts.

“They picked up D. J. Divott. They think he murdered Tom!” Barb shouted.

“D.J.? Tom's best friend?” Angie said, clearly surprised.

“D.J. didn't do it, I know he didn't! They're arresting an innocent man!
And it's all my fault!”


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