After making sure Goldie was set for the night, I hurried out and jogged back to the lodge. Thank goodness no one was around as I ran up the stairs-oh so eager to read the letters. Even if old Samuel flew past me, I’d ignore him.
A cold breeze touched my cheek as I opened my door. “Okay. I get it. You read minds. I’m busy now though. Beat it.”
My skin warmed. I laughed out loud and flopped onto my bed but not before pulling all the letters from my pocket. Turned out that there were only seven of them, but someone had lovingly packaged them up in a ribbon.
For a few seconds I contemplated not opening them.
It was so prying to read someone else’s personal letters. They had to be personal and probably sensual by the ribbon, the handwriting and the fact that they were snail mail and not e-mail.
Still, two men were dead and fraud was being committed here in Newport.
And someone had followed me and Ian had knocked me out.
I slowly untied the ribbon, not wanting to cause any damage. After all, I had committed a crime even if they were only letters, so no need to do any damage.
My hands shook as if they knew we shouldn’t be doing this. But I managed to get the first one open. It was over twenty years old and the handwriting rather messy. Had to be from the guy. The lover.
Soon my vision blurred and a tear dropped onto my pillow. The guy had really been in love with the woman, but it sounded as if their parents wouldn’t allow them to be together. Wow. Sure sounded like some movie of the week or a Bront"e novel. It went on to say that they could meet secretly on Cliff Walk near the Chinese pagoda.
“I’ve seen it,” I whispered.
How romantic! I got the sense that these two were very young, probably still teenagers since he talked about movies and television shows. After three more letters I sat up, blew my nose for the thousandth time and decided they hadn’t gotten me anywhere other than a romantic read. Not even any names or return address on the letters.
Obviously two forbidden teen lovers. I called them Romeo and Juliet in my head and hoped they actually didn’t do away with themselves.
Before I could wrap the letters back up exactly as they were, there was a knock at the door.
“You eating tonight?” Jagger asked.
My Romeo, I thought, and then told myself the letters had made me crazy. Crazier than usual. “Come in.”
“You should lock your door,” he said as he opened it and stepped in. “What’s wrong?”
There was genuine concern in his voice. Nice. “I’m fine. Work related. What are you up to eating?” I asked.
“Whatever. What type of work related thing makes your eyes bloodshot?”
I rubbed my eyes. “I’ll explain over dinner. I’m actually hungry. Let’s just go to The Market. I don’t want to fuss.”
Jagger took me by the shoulders, leaned forward and kissed my forehead. Then he moved to my cheeks.
How sweet, I thought, until his lips met mine-and sweet would not be the word I’d use to explain how I felt-because for a fleeting moment I felt as if I’d cheated on Jagger and should confess.
Within seconds, and still in Jagger’s arms, I told myself that was ridiculous. We had no commitment to each other. No words of feelings had ever been spoken. Hell, who even knew what our feelings were? I sure didn’t, although if he kept me in this embrace much longer I’d be professing my supposed love and asking him to get hitched.
I eased back.
He seemed reluctant as he let go then he turned toward the door. “The Market it is,” he said as if nothing had happened.
I thought of Neal, Jagger, Neal, Jagger, and decided nothing indeed had happened.
I took a sip of my clam chowder while I looked at Jagger across the table at The Market. If Neal popped into my head one more time I’d dive into my chowder and drown myself. Even though I’d had the same menu over and over here, I still hadn’t gotten tired of it yet.
“So, what do you think about the letters?” I asked him after telling him in great detail all about them, including my opinion. Were his eyes always that glassy?
He took a bit of his beef tenderloin, chewed, swallowed, sipped at his bottled water then said, “Interesting.”
I set my spoon down rather abruptly. “Interesting? That’s it? What the hell does that mean?”
“Look, Sherlock, I think it’s great that you found them and thought they might help your case, but do they?”
Shit. “No,” I said in a whiny tone. “No, they don’t. But they could have.”
He shook his head. “Yes, Pauline, they could have. Now how do you plan to put them back?”
Yikes. I hadn’t exactly worked that one out in my head. Maybe I should have thought it through a bit better. But what I did get was Jagger’s “lesson” not to take the evidence-or possible evidence-next time, but to leave everything as is and snoop…investigate on the spot.
Jagger lesson number one million learned.
We finished our meal and headed back to the lodge. I half expected Samuel to be waiting for us in the lobby, or at the very least to see Arlene puttering around behind the desk. However, the place was empty. Eerily empty.
“Good night,” I said and turned toward the steps.
Jagger stepped forward.
Oh, boy. Another kiss!
There was something so sensual about Newport.
I positioned myself against the banister and waited.
“I stopped in to see Goldie today,” he said. “Olivia is having a fund-raiser at her home tonight. She’s funding a scholarship in Ian’s name. Your buddy Doc Neal made a point of telling Goldie and me about it. Might be a good place to check out. I’ll meet you back down here in fifteen.”
My jaw did its thing.
“What? You waited until now to tell me that? I’m exhausted. I’m going to sleep.” I turned to go.
“This gig is upper crust. Wear something nice,” he said, and sprinted up the stairs.
“Samuel, if you don’t kill him. I will.”
The front door swung open, the breeze blew my hair into my face, and I turned toward the stairs. “Okay, I’ll do it then.”
“I feel like a fish out of freaking water, Jagger,” I said as we walked into the foyer of Olivia Wheaton-Chandler’s home. Home? It really had to be about forty rooms, decorated in gold and silk, and even the dust bunnies looked elegant. Since I hadn’t planned to attend any social functions, I only had a plain little black dress in my wardrobe that Goldie had made me pack. Something about dating the wealthy and how simplicity would make me look less obvious.
Obvious about what?
Knowing Gold, he probably meant obvious about snagging myself a billionaire. I shook my head this time and smiled inside, knowing dear Goldie had meant well and that after I’d called Highcliff and had spoken to Kerie Cetin, Goldie’s post-op recovery course was running smoothly.
Of course, hearing him snoring in the background helped to allay any fears or worries from me.
Jagger took my arm and led me into a gigantic ballroom where the crowd had gathered.
“You act as if you’ve been here before,” I whispered, and then thought, He probably has. I was talking Jagger here.
No response except for me to stay put as he walked away to get us something to drink. I looked around the room and after noting the grandeur of the ballroom from the wood floors to the mural of clouds and angels on the ceiling, I realized I knew no one there. Probably even Lydia was holed up in her room.
Charity events did not seem up a teen’s alley.
While waiters walked around, offering silver trays of fabulous hors d’oeuvres to the crowd, Mrs. Wheaton-Chandler took center stage. Of course there was no real stage, but she stood near a set up area next to a white baby grand piano, potted palms and gigantic white flowered arrangements.
“Thank you all so much for coming,” she started, as I scanned the room for Jagger.
Knowing him, he might have hightailed it out of the place and left me to my investigating all alone. Half of the time I think Jagger actually liked teaching me the ropes and the other half I think he felt obligated and probably annoyed at coming to save me when I hung myself on one of those ropes.
I swung around to see Jagger standing there with a glass of champagne held out toward me.
“Where the hell did you go?” I took the champagne, sipped it, and wrinkled my face. “Ick. Do they have any sugar I can stick in this stuff?”
He shook his head.
“What? So I don’t like expensive champagne.”
“They don’t have Coors in bottles at these things. And I was working before, Sherlock,” he said, looked me in the eye and then walked away.
While Olivia went on about what a wonderful cause this was in the name of her past employee, Ian James, I moved about the guests. As she sang Ian’s praise, I scanned the crowd. No one even looked familiar until I got close enough to two women. From behind they could have passed for twins.
Daphne Baines and Babette LaPierre.
For a second I debated sneaking away before they noticed me. Then I decided, what the hell? Maybe I’d learn something from them. “Ladies,” I said, causing them to turn around.
Both gave me a “who the hell are you” kind of look until Babette said, “Oh, the nurse.”
Daphne added, “What are you doing here? I can’t imagine you make a good enough salary to win any auction tonight.”
After squeezing my champagne goblet so tight I thought it would shatter in my grasp, I smiled and said, “I’m not into antiques anyway.”
“Then you wouldn’t want to bid on old Doc Harrington, the heart specialist,” Babette said.
Both women laughed hysterically.
I was ready to say that I’d noted a few new laugh lines on each of them, but my Catholic-school-induced conscience wouldn’t let me. Shit. What the hell was Babette talking about anyway?
Before I could ask, I heard a man say, “First bachelor of the night. A fantastic catch ladies and certainly going to be our biggest moneymaker.”
I followed both Babette’s and Daphne’s drooling stares to the podium to come eye-to-eye with…Dr. Neal Forsyth.