For Chuck and Margie Marino
There’s no such thing as a perfect couple, but you come pretty close.
Forever love xo
Saturday, July 7, 2018, 5:53 a.m.
A phone call before six on a Saturday morning is never a good thing, although it’s not unheard of on a holiday weekend. Too many times to count, Chief Ed Kapenash of the Nantucket Police Department has seen the Fourth of July go sideways. The most common accident is a person blowing off a finger while lighting fireworks. Sometimes things are more serious. One year, they lost a swimmer to the riptide; another year, a man drank ten shots of Patrón Añejo and then did a backflip off the roof of the Allserve building and hit the water in such a way that his neck snapped. There are generally enough drunk-and-disorderlies to fill a sightseeing bus, as well as dozens of fistfights, a handful of which are so serious that the police have to get involved.
When the call comes in, Andrea and the kids are fast asleep. Chloe and Finn are sixteen, an age the Chief escaped easily with his own children, he now realizes. Chloe and Finn—who are properly the children of Andrea’s cousin Tess and Tess’s husband, Greg, who died in a boating accident nine years ago—are proving to be more of a challenge. Finn has a girlfriend named Lola Budd, and their young love is turning the household upside down. Finn’s twin sister, Chloe, has a summer job working for Siobhan Crispin at Island Fare, Nantucket’s busiest catering company.
The Chief and Andrea have divided their concerns about the twins neatly down the middle. Andrea worries about Finn getting Lola Budd pregnant (though the Chief, awkwardly, presented Finn with a giant box of condoms and a rather stern directive: Use these. Every single time). The Chief worries about Chloe getting into drugs and alcohol. The Chief has seen again and again the way the food-and-beverage industry leads its unsuspecting employees into temptation. The island of Nantucket has over a hundred liquor licenses; other, similar-size towns in Massachusetts have an average of twelve. As a summertime resort, the island has a culture of celebration, frivolity, excess. It’s the Chief’s job to give the annual substance-abuse talk the week before the high-school prom; this year, both Finn and Chloe had been in attendance, and afterward, neither of them would so much as look at him.
He often feels he’s too old for the enormous responsibility of raising teenagers. And impressing them is most certainly beyond him.
The Chief takes his phone out onto the back deck, which looks west over protected wetlands; his conversations here are private, overheard only by the redwing blackbirds and the field mice. The house has a great view of sunsets but not, unfortunately, of the water.
The call is from Sergeant Dickson, one of the best in the department.
“Ed,” he says. “We have a floater.”
The Chief closes his eyes. Dickson had been the one to tell the Chief that Tess and Greg were dead. Sergeant Dickson has no problem delivering disturbing news; in fact, he seems to relish it.
“Go ahead,” the Chief says.
“Caucasian female by the name of Merritt Monaco. Twenty-nine years old, from New York City, here on Nantucket for a wedding. She was found floating facedown just off the shore in front of three-three-three Monomoy Road, where the wedding is being held. The cause of death appears to be drowning. Roger Pelton called it in. You know Roger, the guy who does the expensive weddings?”
“I do,” the Chief says. The Chief is in Rotary Club with Roger Pelton.
“Roger told me it’s his MO to check on each wedding site first thing in the morning,” Dickson says. “When he got here, he said he heard screaming. Turns out, the bride had just pulled the body out of the water. Roger tried CPR but the girl was dead, he said. He seemed to think she’d been dead for a few hours.”
“That’s for the ME to determine,” the Chief says. “Three-three-three Monomoy Road, you said?”
“It’s a compound,” Dickson says. “Main house, two guest cottages, and a pool house. The name of the property is Summerland.”
Summerland. The Chief has seen the sign, though he has never been to the house. That stretch of Monomoy Road is the stratospherically high-rent district. The people who live on that road generally don’t have problems that require the police. The houses have sophisticated security systems, and the residents use discretion to keep any issues under wraps.
“Has everyone else been notified?” the Chief asks. “The state police? The ME?”
“Affirmative,” Dickson says. “The Greek is on his way to the address now. He was here on island last night, lucky for us. But both Cash and Elsonhurst are on vacay until Monday and I’m at the end of a double, so I don’t know who else you want to call in. The other guys are kind of green—”
“I’ll worry about that in a minute,” the Chief says. “Does the girl have family to notify?”
“I’m not sure,” Dickson says. “The bride was so upset that I told the EMTs to take her to the hospital. She needed a Xanax, and badly. She could barely breathe, much less speak.”
“The paper will have to leave this alone until we notify next of kin,” the Chief says. Which is one small piece of good news; the last thing the Chief wants is Jordan Randolph from the Nantucket Standard sniffing around his crime scene. The Chief can’t believe he missed the 911 call on the scanner. Over the years he has developed an uncanny filter where the scanner is concerned; he knows, even in his sleep, what deserves his attention and what he can let pass. But now he has a dead body.
They have to assume foul play by law, although here on Nantucket, violent crime is rare. The Chief has been working on this island for nearly thirty years and in all that time, he has seen only three homicides. One per decade.
Roger Pelton called it in. The Chief has heard Roger’s name recently. Really recently, at some point in the past couple of days. And a compound in Monomoy—that rings a bell too. But why?
He hears a light tap on the window, and through the glass slider, he sees Andrea in her nightshirt, holding up a cup of coffee. Chloe is moving around the kitchen behind her, dressed in her catering uniform of white shirt and black pants.
Chloe is awake already? the Chief thinks. At six o’clock in the morning? Or did she get home so late last night that she fell asleep in her clothes?
Yes, he thinks. She worked a rehearsal dinner the night before. Then it clicks: Chloe told the Chief that the rehearsal dinner and the wedding were being held in Monomoy and that Roger was the wedding coordinator. It’s the same wedding. The Chief shakes his head, even though he knows better than anyone that this is a small island.
“Was the woman you found staying at the compound where the wedding is taking place today?” the Chief asks.
“Affirmative,” Dickson says. “She was the maid of honor, Chief. I don’t think there’s going to be any wedding.”
Andrea, possibly recognizing the expression on the Chief’s face, steps out to the deck, hands Ed his coffee, and disappears inside. Chloe has vanished. She has probably headed upstairs to shower for work, which will now be canceled. News like this travels fast; the Chief expects that Siobhan Crispin will be calling at any moment.
What else did Chloe say about that wedding? One of the families is British, the mother famous somehow—an actress? A theater actress? A playwright? Something.
The Chief takes the first sip of his coffee. “You’re still on-site, correct, Dickson? Have you talked to anyone other than the bride and Roger?”
“Yeah, I talked to the groom,” Dickson says. “He wanted to go with the bride to the hospital. But first he went inside one of the guest cottages to grab his wallet and his phone and he came right back out to tell me the best man is missing.”
“Missing?” the Chief says. “Is it possible we have two people dead?”
“I checked the water, down the beach, and out a few hundred yards in both directions with my field glasses,” Dickson says. “It was all clear. But at this point, I’d say anything is possible.”
“Tell the Greek to wait for me, please,” the Chief says. “I’m on my way.”
Friday, July 6, 2018, 9:15 a.m.
Greer Garrison Winbury thrives on tradition, protocol, and decorum but on the occasion of her younger son’s wedding, she is happy to toss all three out the window. It’s customary for the bride’s parents to host and pay for their daughter’s nuptials, but if that were the case with Benji and Celeste, the wedding would be taking place in a church at the mall with a reception following at TGI Fridays.