Authors: Sarah Biglow
FORGIVE AND FORGET (A GEEKS AND THINGS MYSTERY) Copyright © 2016 by Sarah Biglow.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Edited by Ken Marrow, M.A.
Cover Design by: Ana Grigoriu
Published by Sarah Biglow: April 2016
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An unusually oppressive early morning summer heat shimmered on the pavement as Kalina Greystone took off at a steady jog from the front of her shop, Geeks and Things. She had barely taken enough steps to get to the next block on Main Street when her phone beeped at her, displaying the temperature: 81 degrees. At seven in the morning.
"Wonderful," she groaned before settling on a playlist and picking up the pace. Heat or no heat, she needed to get her run in before she had to open up for the day.
The end of summer was a big money maker for the shop, especially with kids getting ready for school. There was little doubt in her mind that most of the teenagers in town would be turning in summer reading lists crammed with comics and graphic novels. She only felt a little guilty that the next generation wasn't reading actual books.
The notion that this was
livelihood, had finally settled in. People in town had stopped comparing the way she ran the business to her father—at least to her face—and it made the decision to come back home to Ellesworth feel like the right call. The little seaside town moved at a slower pace to the city, where she'd spent most of her adult life, but it had some perks, too. She'd managed to reconnect and rekindle a spark with her high school sweetheart, Christian Harper.
Kalina took a sharp left and sucked in a deep breath as she took the hill leading in the direction of the cemetery and the town's one church. As her heart pounded in her ears from the exertion, she flashed back to three months ago when she and Chris had stood in the cemetery and solved a pair of murders. The frenzy surrounding Mrs. Davies and Ms. Ellicott's passing had finally died down and the town was back to being quaint and normal. Kalina's phone buzzed in her pocket and she pulled it out to see a text from Chris asking her if they were still on for dinner. She smiled and slowed to a walk before responding that they were definitely on for dinner. They were lucky that their first break-up had been amicable. They were on different life tracks and they had been mature enough to get that. When he held her hand or kissed her goodnight she still felt like a giddy schoolgirl. Of course, she'd dated in college and grad school but being with Chris now was different. They were finally in a place where they could be together as adults and make it work.
Phone stowed back in her pocket, Kalina took off at a sprint to make it up and over the hill and settle back into a comfortable pace. As she ran she spotted Theo Maxwell in his boxers and undershirt scooping up the morning paper. He blushed bright red and waved before darting back inside. She chuckled to herself and took the next right, heading past the church. The door eased open and a lone figure stepped out looking subdued and tired. Leslie Mayfair, the former almost-Mrs. Cahill. A pang of sadness tightened Kalina’s chest as she watched the usually bubbly school teacher hunch her shoulders on her way to her car. She hadn’t known her fiancé had been killing little old ladies for sending his innocent father to prison. They made eye contact for a brief, uncomfortable moment and Kalina opened her mouth to say ‘Good morning’ but held her tongue. Leslie yanked her car door open and climbed into the driver seat.
Kalina waited until the car was out of sight before continuing her morning circuit. Sweat glistened on her bare arms and matted her short, auburn curls to her forehead as she veered away from the church and out towards the coast. Only a handful of people lived out by the water these days thanks to beach erosion. The salty air was a few degrees cooler and she sucked in a big gulp. Trying to shake the unease from seeing Leslie, Kalina put on another burst of speed and took the rolling slope of Ocean Front Lane at a decent clip. Her phone vibrated again and, in her earbuds, an automated voice announced that AJ was calling.
“Answer call,” she said and slowed to a walk. “Hey, AJ, what are you doing up this early?”
“Hey, Aunt K. I was just checking in. I wanted to see if you needed help at the store today,” her nephew answered.
He had done a lot of ‘checking in’ in the last couple months. Not that she minded. It put her mind at ease that he was doing okay after watching Mrs. Davies die. “If you want to stop by this afternoon you can. I don’t know that I’ll have too much for you to do, though.”
“Great. Are you okay?”
Kalina continued along Ocean Front at a slow pace, getting her heart rate back down to normal. “Yeah, I’m just out for a run.”
“Oh. You’ve been doing that a lot since…”
He didn’t have to finish the thought for her know what he meant. “We all cope in different ways. And I could use the exercise.”
Kalina rounded a bend in the street and a three-story house came into view. It belonged to the Larrabees. She’d been friends with their daughter, Nadine, in high school. Normally it wouldn’t have drawn her attention in the cookie-cutter section of town. Today, she stopped and stood with her mouth hanging open. A man’s body lay prone in the middle of the house’s small driveway and a woman about Kalina’s age sat on the front steps, rocking back and forth.
“Aunt K., are you there?” AJ’s voice sounded tinny in her earbuds.
“I have to call you back,” she said and yanked the buds from her ears. She moved into view slowly so as not to startle the woman. “Nadine?”
The woman looked up and Kalina saw her eyes shine with fresh tears. At this distance she could see Nadine’s hands covered in what Kalina assumed was blood. A dark stain had spread under the man’s head on the asphalt. “Oh, God. What did I do?” Nadine whimpered.
Kalina pulled the cord out of the headphone jack of her phone and dialed 911. She waited for the operator to give the standard response before speaking. “I need an ambulance at 1609 Ocean Front Lane. Send the police, too. A man is dead.”
Ignoring the operator’s order to stay on the line, Kalina shoved her phone in her back pocket and slowly approached Nadine, hands held out in front of her in a placating gesture. Nadine continued to rock back and forth, her gaze glued to the dead man in the driveway. Kalina moved to the left to block the view in the hopes it would snap her old friend out of her trance. Nadine finally blinked and a tear trickled down her nose and landed precariously on her upper lip. Careful not to interfere with what might be considered the crime scene, Kalina bent down in front of her friend and placed a hand on the woman’s shoulder.
“Nadine. It’s Kalina Greystone. I’ve called the police.” Her tone was barely above a whisper.
Nadine blinked again and her shoulders relaxed the slightest bit at Kalina’s words. It had been a good fifteen years since they’d really seen each other and Nadine looked like she’d been through some tough times—the dead body notwithstanding. The last time they’d seen each other—a week before they both headed off to college—Nadine had been all wild curls and caramel complexion. Now her hair hung limply around her face in a tangled, stringy mess and her cheeks were sunken.
“Kal? What … what are you doing here?” Nadine asked in a scratchy voice.
“I was on a run and I found you.” Kalina glanced over her shoulder as sirens wailed in the distance. Emergency personnel would arrive soon and she would be shunned aside so Nadine could be questioned officially. She would make good use of the limited time she had left. “Nadine, honey, what happened?”
“I… I don’t know.” She scrubbed at her face, smearing blood from her fingertips onto her cheeks. “I think … maybe I did it. I can’t remember.” She erupted into a fresh onslaught of tears. “I’m not crazy. I swear I’m not.”
Kalina made soft, shushing noises and patted her friend’s shoulder. “It’s okay. Everything will be fine. Just try to calm down.”
The siren wails grew more insistent and Kalina did her best to comfort Nadine while getting a look at the dead man on the pavement. It had been a while but it looked like Nadine’s father. She couldn’t be sure, though, and she wasn’t about to go rifle through a dead man’s pockets to be sure. That wasn’t her job.
“Damn,” she groaned. She’d promised herself she wouldn’t get dragged into something like this again. But Nadine had been a good friend and she needed Kalina.
Tires squealed and a familiar car pulled up to the curb. An ambulance rolled up and two paramedics jumped out of the rig. Kalina stood up and turned just as Chris let out an exasperated sigh. “Hi,” she said.
“I should have known.”
Kalina arched a brow and closed the gap between them. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“When people die from mysterious causes you seem to always be around.”
“That was one time. And I wasn’t the only person there.”
He nodded and peered over her shoulder at Nadine. “Want to tell me what you’re doing here with a woman covered in blood and a dead man in the driveway?”
“I was out for a run before opening up and I saw Nadine sitting there and the body. I called you guys as soon as I saw it. I didn’t touch anything.”
Chris pointed to the front door, which sat wide open. “That was like that when you got here?”
“Yes. And Nadine hasn’t moved.”
One of the paramedics tended to Nadine, checking her over for any injuries, while the other checked Mr. Larrabee. “He’s been dead maybe a few hours. We’ll have to get him to the morgue for a better time of death.”
“Don’t move. We aren’t done,” Chris said and turned his back, pulling his phone from his shirt pocket. He dialed and then said, “This is Detective Christian Harper, Ellesworth PD. We are going to need an ME assist and a second ambulance.” He ended the call and hit what Kalina assumed was a saved number. “Jimmy, it’s Chris. I need you to get to my current location to secure the scene.”
Suddenly chilled, Kalina wrapped her arms around her torso and watched the paramedic help Nadine to her feet. Without the distraction of Nadine sobbing on the front steps, Kalina studied the rest of the scene. How had Mr. Larrabee ended up on the driveway? She noted an open window on the second floor. Was the fall enough to kill him? Chris hung up and pivoted back to face her. “Did Nadine say anything to you?”
Kalina shivered again. “She was pretty incoherent. I think she was mostly in shock. I mean her father’s dead right in front of her.”
“Detective,” the medic who had been tending to Nadine called, “she doesn’t have any visible signs of injury. I’d guess the blood is his.”
Kalina watched as they shared a look. She didn’t need to be law enforcement to interpret the slight downturn of his mouth or the way his shoulders tensed. She may not have mentioned that Nadine claimed to be guilty, but he would find out sooner or later.
“I’d like to go to the hospital with you. She might feel more comfortable opening up if I’m there,” Kalina blurted.
“Fine. But you are there for moral support. Nothing else. And you’re riding with me,” Chris said.
They waited until Jimmy and the second ambulance arrived. The paramedic who climbed out of the back sported a digital camera. Apparently, they weren’t waiting for the crime scene technicians from Salem to show up to take Mr. Larrabee’s body for autopsy. They headed off to the hospital as the paramedic snapped a few shots and his partner laid a sheet over the corpse. Kalina buckled into the passenger seat and looked at Chris. “I guess we won’t be doing dinner tonight, after all.”