Read If I Should Die Online

Authors: Allison Brennan

If I Should Die (10 page)

“Henry,” Adam began, but then Henry smiled meekly and waved his hand.

“Ignore me. I’m just feeling old today.”

Lucy glanced at Sean. He was thinking the same thing she was—something secret was going on and Henry Callahan knew what it was. But he was scared or too intimidated to talk.

Sean said, “What do you think about the vandalism at the Hendricksons’? Is it simply someone who doesn’t want change or someone who doesn’t want growth?”

“I honestly don’t know. Tim … he may be Joe’s son, but he’s not like Adam. He hasn’t been here in years. People don’t know him or trust him.” Henry looked at Adam. “You’re part of Spruce Lake. Tim isn’t. No one’s going to trust him.”

Lucy suspected it was more than that. She said, “The vandalism may be about distrust of Tim, but it’s also about stopping the resort. Who benefits if the resort doesn’t open?”

“I think the question you should be asking is, who is
hurt
if the resort opens?”

Henry excused himself and shuffled to the bathroom, stopping twice to talk to patrons.

“What does he mean?” Adam asked.

“The devil you know,” Sean muttered.

“Excuse me?”

“I need more information about the Swains, and what happened to their drug operation. I think there may be a new player in town, far more dangerous than local boy Swain.”

“But what does that have to do with the resort?” Adam asked.

Lucy explained. “If there’s a criminal enterprise in town, anything that upsets the apple cart is a threat.”

Lucy again felt the chill of being watched. She glanced at the bar, and this time saw a man staring right at her. He had stringy brown hair to his shoulders, a red plaid shirt, and a partial beard. Seeing her look his way, he winked. She turned away.

Sean picked up on her discomfort and followed her gaze to the bar. “Who’s that guy?” he asked Adam.

“Gary Clarke,” he said. “Don’t know anything about him, just that his family has been in town forever.”

“And the guy he’s sitting with?”

“Andy Knolls. He owns the Gas-n-Go. One pump, small grocery store—we passed it driving in. He’s a nice enough guy, used to give out lollipops whenever kids came into the gas station.”

“We need to put together a Spruce Lake family tree, so to speak,” Lucy said. “Maybe if we can see the connections between the people in town, something will stand out.”

Sean said, “I’ll ask my partner in D.C. to run backgrounds on the Swains, Clarkes, and Knolls. What about other property owners? Who borders your land, other than the Callahans?”

“Everything on the eastern side of the highway is state land—part of the Adirondack State Park system. South of us—some is county and the rest is privately owned, I think.”

Henry returned and sat back down. “Adam,” he said, “I hope you take this advice in the spirit in which it is offered—your father was my closest friend. There’s a reason why he never tried to open a resort. Maybe you and Tim need to rethink your plans. Just for a year or two.”

“I thought Dad just wasn’t organized. He didn’t like the paperwork and permits. I remember when he built the house, he complained for years about county regulations.”

Henry sighed and shook his head. “That was part of it, for sure, but he understood that Spruce Lake isn’t Lake Placid. We like our quiet way of life. But, Tim is like your father. Stubborn. I’m sure he doesn’t want to postpone. I wish there was something I could do to help.”

His eyes were on a man approaching their table. He was about Henry’s age, but taller and with more hair—all of it silver. His pale blue eyes were magnified behind thick glasses, and he shook Henry’s hand warmly. “Henry Callahan, how are you? And Emma?”

“I’m well, thank you. Emma has her good days and bad days.”

Henry introduced the group to Reverend Carl Browne.

“Adam,” Browne said, “it’s been good seeing you in church. Maybe you can bring your brother once or twice.”

Adam smiled sheepishly. “I try.”

“I was sorry to hear about the fire. I hope there wasn’t too much damage.”

“Nothing that can’t be fixed.”

“Did I see Jon come in a few minutes ago?” Browne asked.

“I didn’t see him,” Henry said, looking around. His eyes came to rest on a man coming out of the kitchen. Presumably Jon, he was speaking with a wiry man with skin darker than a moonless night. The black man wore a well-washed white smock and chef’s hat. After a brief conversation, he went back to the kitchen and Jon Callahan waved to their group.

Henry’s nephew, current owner of the Lock & Barrel, was in his midforties. He stood straight, though was no taller than Lucy’s five feet seven inches. Physically trim with conservatively cut dark, graying hair, he wore pressed jeans, a turtleneck, and a sweater. His watch looked expensive, but Lucy supposed it could have been a knockoff. She didn’t pay much attention to fashion.

Lucy didn’t know whether Henry was simply tired or wasn’t thrilled to see his nephew. But as Jon stepped up to the table, shaking hands like a politician, Henry smiled. “Hello, Jon.”

“Uncle Henry, you should have told me you were coming by! I would have had dinner with you.”

“I took your aunt on a drive today,” Henry said. “It was such a lovely spring day, but she’s a bit worn out and went to bed early. I thought I’d take advantage of the longer days to stop by for a drink, pick up some supplies.”

“I can bring you anything you need; all you have to do is ask.”

“You do more than enough, Jon. Have you met Adam’s friends?”

After introductions, Henry said, “I should go and check on my wife. She still gets around all right, but I don’t want her becoming disoriented in the dark.”

He said his good-byes and left. Lucy exchanged a glance with Sean. He silently agreed that the conversation was unusually brief, as if Henry didn’t want to stay around talking to either his nephew or Browne.

“Would you like to sit?” Adam asked them.

“Just for a minute,” Jon said. “It’s Thursday night and I came in to run payroll. Not a big staff, but it takes time.”

“I’m going to hit the road, too,” said Browne. “Nice to meet you folks. If you’re around this weekend, please stop by the church. Don’t matter what faith, just a short little sermon and a nice little choir. Ten a.m.”

“Thank you,” Lucy said. “That sounds lovely.”

The minister left and Jon pulled up a chair from a neighboring table. “I’m sorry about the trouble you’ve been having on your property,” he told Adam.

Adam nodded. “Do you have any idea who might be doing this?”

“You probably know everyone in town,” Sean added quickly. “Anyone unusually upset about the resort plans?”

“Everyone has an opinion. Mostly, we don’t want change, even if it might be a good thing. But I don’t know who’s behind the vandalism, Adam. I wish I did, sorry.”

Jon paused, then added, “Maybe if you just held off a year or so, let people in town get to know Tim, get reacquainted with you, you can start fresh.”

Lucy was instantly suspicious. That was almost the
exact
same thing Henry Callahan had said.

But maybe since Henry and Jon were related, they talked often, and since right now the resort was number one on everyone’s minds, if they had come to the conclusion that postponing the resort was a good idea, they both could have espoused the viewpoint as if it were their own. It was a plausible theory, though Lucy wasn’t certain their response wasn’t somehow orchestrated.

Sean said, “Jon has a point.”

Lucy and Adam both looked at him. His face was blank, or rather, Lucy thought,
intentionally
blank. He had a plan.

“I’m not waiting,” Adam said, stubborn. “The police will find out who did this.” He turned to Jon. “The Spruce Lake Resort will help revitalize the town. Bring it back to the way it was when my dad was a kid.”

“Have you thought that maybe people here like the quiet life?” Sean asked.

“Jobless and depressed?” Adam countered. “I don’t think so.”

“We’re doing fine,” Jon said. “Look, Adam, I’m not wholly opposed to the idea of bringing in tourists. Right now just isn’t a good time. You and Tim settle in, take your time, and then I’ll be there helping you. But right now, people are skeptical and, to be honest, scared of change.”

“That fear doesn’t justify burning down our property!” Adam said.

“Of course it doesn’t,” Jon said calmly. “I have an idea. Do you want to hear it?”

Adam frowned and said nothing. Sean said, “Sure. I’ll pass it on to Tim.”

“It’s really simple.” Jon smiled and looked from Sean to Lucy and back. “Tell Tim if he slows down, I’ll meet with him in a couple weeks, he can lay all his plans out for me, and I’ll help him sell the idea to the people of Spruce Lake. I think what they’re really scared about is how fast this is all happening. Joe only died last spring.”

“Fourteen months ago,” Adam said.

“And in a town like this, it feels like weeks, not months.” Jon rose and shook everyone’s hand. “I’m happy to come out to talk to you all.”

Sean said, “I’ll talk to Tim.”

“Good. By the way, how do you know him?” Jon asked.

“From the city,” Sean said.

“Right. New York.”

“Boston,” Sean corrected.

Lucy watched Jon Callahan leave. “He was trying to trip us up, see if we really know the Hendricksons,” Lucy said. “He knew Tim lived in Boston.”

“The question is why?” Sean asked.

“Jon Callahan?” Adam shook his head. “Henry was my dad’s closest friend. They’ve been neighbors their entire life.”

“Henry isn’t his nephew,” Sean stated plainly. “Henry said something that has me thinking this is a bigger situation than a couple good old boys not wanting tourists in their town.
Who would be hurt if the resort opens
? It’s a different way of looking at the same problem, but it was how Henry said it. Someone will lose big if you open. And Henry Callahan knows—or suspects—who that is. The fact that his nephew was pushing you to postpone the opening is a big, fat red flag.”

“At this point,” Lucy said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole town was in on it.”

ELEVEN

Lucy was dreaming one of those dreams where initially you have the illusion of control. In the dream, it was dusk, the sun sinking into the foothills. Each day began in birth and ended in death. Why was she so melancholy? This was a dream! She could make it a happy one.

She smiled as Sean walked up the leaf-strewn, gravel road toward her, the sun no longer setting but high overhead. She was so warm. He kissed her. She sighed and closed her eyes, her body leaning against his. Sean was always hot, her personal electric blanket.


Lucy
.”

She opened her eyes and it was sunset again, this time the sun gone along with Sean, the sky rapidly darkening. Dead leaves skittered across the dirt and an icy wind stung her bare arms. She looked down at the raised bumps and wondered why she would have gone out in this thin blouse without a sweater.

But this was a dream, she reminded herself; she could give herself a sweater. Something warm, thick, and soft. She had to find Sean.

She squeezed her eyes shut and huddled in the sweater, the wind nearly blowing her over. She had to find Sean before it was too late. What did that mean? Too late for what?

Fear clawed at her, just beyond reach. Foreboding gripped her chest, her heart racing, and she knew deep down where she rarely looked that all good things must end.

“Lucy!” a distant voice called.

She opened her eyes and for a moment she thought she was awake and wondered why she was outside. It was dark, the air cold and still, a full moon casting odd, blue-gray shadows over the mountainside. The trees. The ground. The dark, bottomless hole …

“Lucy, help!” It was Sean!

“Where are you?” He was deep in the pit. But the pit wasn’t a hole, it was a tunnel. She ran in, chasing his voice, as the tunnel spiraled down, steeper and steeper. She was Alice chasing the white rabbit, only there was no light, no hope, and time had already run out. The blackness surrounding her had taste and texture, like the crypt at the morgue, thick and tangible, suffocating her. She ran, her hands skimming wet rock walls, the coppery taste of blood filling her mouth. She began to tumble down, faster and faster, a scream trapped in her throat until …

She was kneeling next to Sean as he lay at the bottom of the mine shaft. “You’re okay,” she said.

Light surrounded Sean as he smiled at her. “Hey, Princess, I know you love me.”

“How?”

But he just smiled and reached up, his brilliant blue eyes sparkling, bluer than blue, bluer than was natural. This was the dream she wanted. Sweet and warm and full of love. She wanted to lose herself with Sean, forget everything but this moment in time. His hand rubbed her neck, her hair looping in his fingers, and he brought her lips to his. Sean’s patience, his greedy but steady kisses, his powerful fingers, replaced her fear with desire. And maybe it wasn’t the words of love, but the actions that mattered. Sean had shown her something she never thought she’d have. Never thought she was capable of receiving … or giving.

The sound of water, like a winter stream, began softly, steady drips, as they kissed. As Lucy relaxed, the running water intensified, pounding around her like a waterfall. Lucy broke the kiss. The light was gone and the fear returned tenfold. Sean screamed from far away, and when she searched with her hands where he had been, all she saw was blood.

Water flooded the mine and she swam toward Sean’s cries of pain, her body thrown against rocks, cuts stinging. She couldn’t breathe. Water poured into her mouth and she was drowning …

 … until she was spit out into the pit of the mine, where she’d found the dead woman. So cold. So silent.

“Sean,” she whispered. “Where are you?”

On the ledge, the dead woman was back. Lucy crawled over to the body and kneeled in front of it. A flower bloomed in the corpse’s hands.

A scream came from deep in the mine, echoing through the rock chamber. Lucy shook her head, eyes squeezed shut, trying to get rid of the sound.

“Lucy,” Sean whispered.

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