Authors: Allison Brennan
“No trouble, no trouble,” Dr. Sherwood Griffin answered, looking across the room at the patient in bed. “Just wake him every couple of hours, check his eyes and reflexes, give him the pain meds every six hours. He’ll be sore but I’ve seen far worse.”
“I’m not taking any pills,” a pale and exhausted Sean mumbled from the bed.
Lucy sat down next to him. “Can I convince you to sleep?”
“By morning, I guarantee you’ll be wanting something to knock out the pain.” Griffin grinned, revealing crooked white teeth.
Sean didn’t return the physician’s smile. He took Lucy’s hand and pulled it to his chest, forcing her to lean over him. Through clenched teeth, he said, “Get him out of here.”
She kissed him lightly. She had an impulse to lie down next to Sean and make sure he was really okay, even though she knew he was going to be fine. She’d been periodically shaking since returning from the mine shaft. She didn’t understand her unusual reaction, considering she’d been around plenty of dead bodies at the morgue and none of them had affected her the way the dead blonde had.
“I’ll be back in a few minutes,” she told Sean.
He nodded, still glaring at the doctor. When Sean had found out that Sherwood Griffin doubled as a veterinarian, he’d almost agreed to go to the hospital.
Lucy walked Dr. Griffin down the path toward the main lodge. The sun had just set, the sky glowing orange, pink, and purple. She wanted a moment of peace and silence to absorb the stunning beauty of the scene, thankful that Sean was alive.
But the doctor had something else in mind besides quiet contemplation. “I heard Tim say you found a body in the mine.”
“Probably a hiker. We’ve lost more than a few in my sixty-nine years. Think because we have rolling hills and some good trails they can just do what they like, but there’s plenty of danger if you don’t know what you’re doing.” He looked her over, top to bottom. “You’re a city girl. What were you doing near the mine?”
Tim hadn’t told the doctor about the vandalism, and Lucy wasn’t going to. “I’ve done my fair share of camping.”
He laughed. “Your hands are too pretty to spend much time outside.”
Though his comment could be a compliment, his tone was one of derision. She’d already considered the lost hiker theory, but the positioning of the body didn’t suggest accident. Possibly natural, but more likely not. Someone had specifically arranged the body.
However, she asked, “Have you heard of any hikers gone missing recently?”
“Nope, but that don’t mean much. If anyone’s missing, they’ll be posted at the Fire and Rescue.”
“Where’s the station?”
“We’re too small for our own substation, but about twenty minutes southeast, up the mountain near Indian Hills, there’s a good-sized station. Handles a much larger area than just our little dot on the map. When I was little, we had over four thousand people in Spruce Lake and our own pump engine. Now, less than four hundred.” He shook his head.
Tim emerged from his house. He extended his hand to the doctor. “Thanks for coming out, Doctor. Please send me the bill.”
“Glad to do it, Tim.” He looked over at the lodge and frowned. The smoke and fire in the kitchen had blackened the walls outside the windows. “I heard you had a kitchen fire. Word is it was arson.”
“Word sure gets around fast.”
“The Getty boy is on Fire and Rescue, and he’s sweet on Trina. You tell Trina something, the entire town knows by sundown.”
“The sheriff is sending an investigator tomorrow,” Tim said.
“And what about the body in the mine?” Lucy asked.
“They will need to bring in equipment, the coroner, and a detective. Everyone should be here by eight in the morning.”
Lucy thought of the woman spending another night exposed like that. Someone somewhere loved her—a husband, a parent, a sister, a child. Her family deserved to know what had happened as much as she needed a proper burial.
“Where’s Adam?” Griffin asked, changing the subject. “Haven’t seen him around much lately.”
“He’s blowing off some steam,” Tim said. “This resort is his brainchild, and he’s really upset.”
“Well, Tim, some things just aren’t meant to be.”
Odd comment, Lucy thought.
“I’ll check on your guest in a couple days,” the doctor continued. “Holler if you need anything, Ms. Lucy. I’m overdue for my nightcap at the Lock & Barrel. Maybe you should spend more time in town, Tim. Get people used to seeing your face. Bring Adam. Might make them a bit friendlier to your wild ideas for Joe’s land.”
“A resort is hardly a wild idea,” Tim said. He rubbed his face. “I just don’t know who would do this.”
“I’m sure it’ll all work out,” Griffin said as he got into his car.
Lucy frowned as she watched him drive off. The doctor had contradicted himself. Some things “aren’t meant to be” followed by “it’ll all work out”? Maybe she’d misunderstood, or he was thinking about something else, but his words lingered in her mind even as his car disappeared from sight.
Tim turned to Lucy. “So Sean’s okay?”
“Sore, a few stitches in his leg, and he hit his head pretty good. But he’ll be fine. He’s resilient.”
“That’s a relief.” He turned back toward his house. “Would you like some coffee? Something stronger? I’m not much for liquor, but we have some beer.”
“No, thank you. I’m going to go back and sit with Sean.”
“I’ll walk with you.”
They started back up the trail that led to the cabin, discreet ground lighting guiding them along the path. “What did the doctor mean about people getting used to seeing your face?” Lucy asked.
“My parents divorced when I was five.” He stopped walking for a moment, looking out at the lake through the trees. The sun had set, but the twilight made the lake sparkle darkly. “My mom brought me to visit my dad once a year until she remarried, but she’d always hated this place. The isolation. The quiet. The last time I was here, before my dad’s funeral, I was sixteen. Adam was three. I barely knew my dad, and I don’t know my brother. Didn’t,” he corrected, “until last year.”
He said nothing for a long minute. “Adam lived here until he was ten. His mother divorced Dad, too—my father wasn’t the easiest person to live with. Stubborn and set in his ways, but he loved this land and in a certain way he had the patience of a saint. My best memories here were going fishing. Adam ended up spending every summer here. I’ve wondered that if my mom wasn’t so bitter, I might have had the same summers Adam had.”
They started walking again. “Adam loves this place,” Tim said, “and I’ve grown to love it. I know he’s quiet, but all this stuff that’s been happening is tearing him apart.”
Lucy thought a conversation with Adam Hendrickson was overdue—perhaps without his half-brother Tim around.
She said, “I think it’s a given that your saboteur is someone you or Adam knows, someone you’d recognize. Sean said the arsonist was a teenager. There can’t be too many in a town so small.”
“Everyone in Spruce Lake goes to school in Colton. But maybe it’s not someone from town. There are a lot of small communities in the area, outside of what’s considered Spruce Lake. At least three villages of more than two hundred people.”
“Whoever it is knows the area well,” Lucy said. “And they have a huge stake in making sure you don’t open this resort.” She stopped outside the cabin. “Can you put together a list of everyone you can think of who might have a reason—however lame it may sound to you—to stop the resort? Personal or financial.”
“Duke already asked for the same thing, and I told him there’s no one.”
“Either someone hates you—or Adam—so much they want to hurt you personally, or they have a financial interest in ensuring you don’t open this resort.”
“Adam would have said something.”
Another reason to talk to Adam alone. Maybe he hadn’t been as forthcoming with his brother as he should have been. Or he just needed to be asked the right questions.
“What about your father? Any enemies? Close friends?”
“None that I know of. My dad was stubborn, but everyone liked him.”
Except Tim couldn’t truly know that, Lucy realized, if he rarely visited.
She stopped outside her cabin. “Is the coroner coming here in the morning or going straight to the mine?”
“They didn’t say. I suspect they’ll check the body first, then talk to us.”
“I’ll meet them at the mine then. I’m hoping they’ll know who the victim is.”
“The death may have been natural, there’s no way of knowing without an autopsy, but the position of the body was deliberate. I guess I’m wired to assume she was murdered.”
They said good-bye at the cabin’s doorstep. Lucy stepped inside and glanced at the bed. Sean lay right where she’d left him, on his back, eyes closed. He still looked pale, but he didn’t appear to be in distress.
“Sean, it’s Lucy. Wake up.”
Sean moaned when he heard his name. “Ten more minutes.”
“Good,” Lucy said. “You’re okay.”
Sean felt Lucy sit on the bed next to him. He opened his eyes and tried to glare at her for disturbing his sleep but it hurt his head too much. His leg throbbed as if it had been stitched by Dr. Frankenstein, making his sore shoulder feel downright good in comparison.
“Who beat me up?”
Lucy sighed. “Are you trying to be funny or trying to scare me?”
“I guess I’m not funny when I’m in pain.” He winced as he pulled himself up on the bed so he could lean against the headboard. Lucy put a pillow behind his head. He smiled. “Maybe I should get hurt more often, if you’re going to play Florence Nightingale.”
Lucy rolled her eyes at him, but he saw a hint of a grin. “I don’t want to keep you up too long.”
“You need to sleep.”
Sean took her hand. “The faster we come up with a strategy, the faster I can go back to sleep.”
“You’re a rotten patient.”
“So you’ve told me.” Sean shifted to get comfortable. His leg itched, but when he touched it the pain shot up to his back.
“The doctor left some Vicodin,” Lucy said.
“Hell no. That stuff is nasty. Do you have any aspirin?”
“That’s like using a water pistol to put out a fire.”
“I’m not taking pain pills.”
“Fine, Tylenol it is, and your antibiotics.”
“Yes, Doctor Kincaid.”
She shook her head and read the bottles that the doctor had left. Sean never tired of watching Lucy, even now when he was hurt and exhausted. Her black hair hung over one shoulder in long, silky curls, damp from the shower she’d taken when they’d returned. Her profile was aristocratic without being sharp. Her skin revealed her half-Cuban heritage, neither light nor dark, but a perfect blend. Lucy had no idea how beautiful she was or how much he loved her. He’d told her many times, of course. He couldn’t hold it back once he’d realized how strongly he felt. That she hadn’t yet admitted that she, too, loved him wounded his ego a bit, but he knew her feelings for him scared her. He’d seen it especially today, in the pit, when she’d realized his injuries might be serious.
She handed him three Tylenol and an antibiotic. He took the pills and a swig from the water bottle she offered.
“Learn anything interesting about what’s going on around here?” he asked.
“We need to talk to Adam,” Lucy said. “He spent every summer here, but Tim hasn’t been here since he was sixteen, not until his father’s funeral last year.”
“We should go into town tomorrow as well.”
She glanced at his leg.
“I’ll be fine.”
“I doubt you’ll be able to walk.”
“I didn’t say walk to town.”
“Can’t you just take it easy for a day?”
Sean took her hand and squeezed. “The kid on the ATV is in some sort of trouble. I can help him.”
nearly killed you.”
“He’s scared.” At the look on Lucy’s face, Sean quickly added, “I’m not saying he had no choice, I’m just saying I can get to him.”
“You think if we just drive through town you’ll be able to spot him?”
“Not really, though I might. But I want to have a drink at the local watering hole, talk to people, watch them, see what we can learn.”
Lucy frowned. “That tone—what do you have planned?”
“Now that the Sheriff’s Department knows about the vandalism, they’ll be on it.”
“I haven’t seen a cop since we got here. They didn’t exactly rush over here after the arson fire, but I’m not going to step all over their investigation.”
“All right, we’ll go
you’re feeling up to it. I don’t want you making yourself sick.”
He ran his fingers down her cheek. “I’m fine, Lucy. Just sore. We’ll leave first thing in the morning.”
“Maybe not first thing—the coroner and a search-and-rescue team will be here tomorrow morning. To retrieve the body from the mine. Can you wait to go to town until I get back from there?”
“I’m coming with you.”
“Not back down in the mine!”
“Tonight, I feel like shit. But tomorrow, it’s back to work.” He paused, seeing the worry in her eyes. “What about you? Sure, my body took a licking, but that dead woman really shook you up.”
“I think she was murdered,” Lucy said. “Her body was posed. She was fully clothed, but something was wrong. If I hadn’t suddenly lost my nerve and run away, I might have noticed what struck me as off.” Lucy stared at a blank wall, but Sean knew she was picturing the morbid scene.
She shook her head.
“Then why are you shaking?” He pulled her down to lie at his side. The tension in her body was from more than the gruesome memory.
He rubbed her back until she finally relaxed. When she closed her eyes and rested her head on his shoulder, he breathed easier. “What happened down there?” he asked quietly.
Lucy didn’t immediately answer, but Sean knew she wasn’t asleep. Her heart was beating too fast, and her hand absently rubbed his chest.
“If we hadn’t found you, you would have died.” Her voice cracked at the end of her sentence. “For a split second, I saw you instead of the woman. Lying in that alcove.”
“But you did find me. And I’m not completely helpless.” She didn’t respond to his reassurance, and he kissed the top of her head. “Princess, I understand.”