But that had been long ago.
I didn’t do it. I loved her.
Sarah wasn’t afraid of ghosts, didn’t even believe in them. Still, she didn’t want to be alone. The silence and emptiness were unnerving.
She went outside, conscientiously locked the door and headed for Hunky Harry’s.
“Anderson’s a corpse magnet, I’m telling you.”
Will’s back was to the front door, and Caleb knew the other man had no idea he’d just walked into Hunky Harry’s.
Caroline, Renee, Barry and Sarah were all there, and they all saw Caleb and looked up at him in mortified silence.
Will spun around, realized he’d been overheard and blushed. “Sorry, buddy,” he said, “but you have to admit it’s true.”
Caleb was glad to see that the chair next to Sarah was open, and he didn’t hesitate to take it.
He wondered if he looked as drained as he felt. He’d spent the last few hours on the beach as Tim Jamison and his crew barricaded the area with yellow tape, then the crime scene unit had arrived, quickly followed by Floby.
“Was it…do they think it was Winona Hart?” Sarah asked him.
Apparently the news of his find had preceded him. Will knew a lot of cops, and even with Lieutenant Jamison putting a gag order on the information, Caleb wasn’t surprised that it had traveled.
“No,” he said.
“No?” Caroline said, surprised.
“It was a young woman, though, right?” Renee asked, hesitant and yet intrigued.
“Yes,” Caleb told them. There was no reason to lie. No matter how much Tim might have wanted to keep it quiet, word was going to spread.
“So who was it?” Sarah asked.
“We don’t know yet. The body was in pretty bad shape. The fingers were missing, so they won’t get any prints. They’ll have to use dental records for an ID.” He turned away, motioning to the waitress for a beer, the same young woman who seemed to wait on them every night. She saw him and nodded, but the smile she gave him was no-nonsense. The waitresses at Hunky Harry’s were there to work. They didn’t wear short-shorts and skimpy tank tops. Jeans and T-shirts that advertised Hunky Harry’s were the uniform here.
“This is going to be terrible for business. The whole city will start to empty out,” Caroline said. “And of course those poor, poor women…”
“My God. We have a serial killer right here in St. Augustine,” Renee said.
Barry put his arm around her. “Don’t worry, I won’t let you out of my sight,” he told her.
“I think you should dye your hair,” Will told Caroline.
The waitress set Caleb’s beer down, and he waited for her to leave before speaking.
“Let’s not jump to conclusions. For all we know it was a boating accident. Maybe it has nothing to do with anything else that’s going on.”
He didn’t believe it, though. The corpse had been in such an advanced state of decomposition that it was impossible to tell how the woman had died, but no boaters had been reported missing, so violence seemed likely. Floby had refused to say much of anything until he could get the body to the morgue and do a full autopsy. All he’d been willing to commit to was the fact that she appeared to have been dead for some time, although he’d then contradicted himself by saying that if she had been dead that long, more of her should have been lost to the salt water—and the creatures whose home it was. Which made Caleb suspect that she’d been dead for a while before her body had been consigned to the ocean, but he would leave it to Floby to figure that out.
“Will said Jamison is trying to keep it quiet. Why?” Sarah asked.
“Because he doesn’t want a panic like Caroline was talking about, that’s why,” Will said.
“I’m thinking that he wants to have something more to say before he makes a statement,” Caleb said. “But with or without more information, he’s going to have to call the papers quickly. It’s better to have what facts there are out in the media than have a pack of half truths floating around.”
“How did you discover the body?” Sarah asked him.
He looked down at his beer and winced. Hadn’t she been listening to Will? Because he was a corpse magnet, of course.
“I had gone to the beach—I was trying to get a sense of the layout on the area where Winona Hart disappeared,” he said. “The body had washed up on shore. It had been there several hours, by the look of things. I really don’t think I attract dead bodies.” He stared at Will.
“Yeah, he wasn’t even in Sarah’s house when those bones showed up,” Renee said, trying to be helpful.
“She might have washed up from anywhere,” Sarah said quickly, clearly eager to turn the conversation away from the goings-on at her house. “It could be a case of domestic violence. A husband up in Jacksonville or down in Daytona, out on a boat, getting into a fight with his wife. Maybe it was accidental. He didn’t mean to kill her, and then he panicked and threw her overboard. Or something else we haven’t even thought of might have happened. Or…”
Sarah looked down at the table. “Maybe it’s another in a long line of disappearances. Just like before.”
Caleb saw that the others were staring at her blankly.
“What are you talking about?” Renee asked.
“Oh, you mean the old stories…about your house and Cato MacTavish? It’s not as if they ever had any evidence or anyone was ever arrested,” Caroline said.
“What are you two talking about?” Barry asked.
“Oh, come on, all the ghost tours go by there and tell stories about the mortician who supposedly abducted and murdered women,” Caroline told him.
“Yeah, and Osceola walks around at night looking for his head, too—right on Castillo Drive, so I hear,” Barry said. “We deal in facts at the museum, and I’ve never heard any facts about Cato MacTavish killing anyone.”
“Maybe, but I’ve read a number of references lately to women who disappeared back then—including Cato MacTavish’s fiancée,” Sarah said.
Caleb noticed that she looked at him strangely as she spoke. Then Caroline leaned over to whisper to her, but he could hear her words.
“Did you show him?”
Sarah shook her head. “Caroline—he just got here.” Her voice was equally low.
“What are you two whispering about?” Will demanded.
He didn’t get an answer, because at that moment Barry, who was directly facing the door, let out a soft whistle. “Don’t look now, but—I mean—do not look now!” He let out a sound of disgust as they all ignored his words and turned as one.
“Hey, it’s Ms. Perfect,” Caroline said.
“And look who’s right behind her,” Barry added.
Lieutenant Tim Jamison was walking into the bar, perhaps five feet behind Cary.
Caleb found himself reflecting that if Jamison was having an affair with the woman, it wouldn’t be the most startling thing in the world. He was a good-looking man, and he’d been married long enough to have developed a roving eye.
“His wife is such a sweetie,” Caroline said sadly.
“They might not be together,” Sarah said.
“Right. Twice in a row. They suck at being discreet,” Renee said.
“There—he’s not with her. He just went to meet up with those officers at the bar,” Will said. “And tall, blond and gorgeous is coming over here to say hello to us.”
The men stood, all at once.
“Hello, all,” Cary greeted them. “Sit down, please, though it’s certainly nice to see there are still gentlemen in the world.” She had on hip-hugging jeans and a tailored shirt that, admittedly, emphasized her narrow waist and high breasts.
She oozed sensuality, Caleb thought. And she didn’t seem the least bit aware of it.
Or else she was very aware of it and had the whole act down pat.
“How are you?” Sarah asked. “Want to join us?”
“Thanks,” Cary said. “But I’m just going to grab a quick beer at the bar and take off—I’m pretty tired tonight.”
“How is Mr. Griffin?” Sarah asked her.
“He’s been kind of upset lately, which is part of why I need to get back. But I will join you one of these nights, now that I see you’re always here,” Cary said.
“Not really,” Caroline said, then flushed and admitted, “Though we have been here an awful lot this week, haven’t we?”
“It’s that place ‘where everybody knows your name,’ I guess,” Will offered.
Caleb, quietly watching the exchange, also noted that Tim Jamison was watching their table closely from his seat at the bar, and he didn’t look pleased. He nodded in Caleb’s direction when he noticed he was being observed in turn, then swallowed the last of his drink and exited the bar.
Cary was only pretending not to notice, Caleb thought. She quickly said her goodbyes to them, went to the bar and drank a beer in record time, and then she, too, left.
“Interesting,” Caroline said as her eyes followed Cary out the door.
“It’s really none of our business,” Sarah commented.
“But his wife is a doll,” Caroline argued.
“So what are you suggesting?” Sarah asked. “That we should call her? Ask, ‘Do you know where your husband is at night?’ For one thing, he’s a cop, so he could be anywhere, and for another, we don’t actually know that anything is going on between them.”
Will stared across the table at Caleb and grinned. “She was always a little bit on the naive side.”
“I’m not naive—I’m sensible. We don’t want to start any rumors, and that’s all we’d be doing,” she said firmly.
“What’s your take?” Will demanded, turning to Caleb.
Caleb was startled by the question. “I’m new here. I don’t know any of the players well enough to guess.”