Page 26 of The Perfect Couple

“Have you checked with your husband?” Lola asks. “Is it possible he took his ticket without you realizing it?”

“Of course I checked with my husband!” the woman says. “He doesn’t have it. I was in charge of the tickets and he was in charge of handling the luggage, which really means sneaking in one final beer at the Gazebo because he has a crush on the bartender. The one with the…” She gives Lola a good approximation of the eye-roll emoji. “You know how men can be.”

One of the things Lola has learned on this job is how men can be. Before, Lola knew only how boys could be. She has had a boyfriend for nine months, two weeks, and five days. His name is Finn MacAvoy and Lola loves him like crazy, it’s true love forever, et cetera, and she presumes they’ll end up getting married. Finn lost both his parents in a sailing accident and so he and Lola are both in the same situation—virtual orphans.

But Lola would be lying if she said she hasn’t been amazed by the power she seems to exert over certain men. She has been propositioned by some and blatantly ogled by others. It’s common for a pale, chubby, balding married dude to confront Lola and find himself tongue-tied. What had he meant to ask her? He can’t recall.

And that’s how men can be.

Lola feels bad for the pregnant woman (Aunt Kendra worries about Lola getting pregnant, but this job is effective birth control), but there is nothing she can do.

“I’m sorry,” Lola says. “I don’t even have one extra seat on this boat. The next seat I do have available is on Monday at four oh five.”

“But I had the ticket!” the woman shrieks. “I paid for it! And someone stole it!”

“Unfortunately, we have no way to prove that,” Lola says. “You might have dropped it accidentally and someone else might have picked it up. You do have your hands full.”

“But my mother is sick!” the woman says. “She’s in the hospital with shingles. We have to get off today. It’s a medical emergency.”

Lola remembers to breathe. It’s astonishing the lies people will fabricate when they’re desperate. Lola wants to quietly tell this woman that her best bet for getting off the island is to pretend she’s going into labor. She will be taken to the mainland in a medical helicopter and her husband can use the one remaining adult ferry ticket.

“I’m sorry,” Lola says. “And I’ll have to ask you to step aside so I can help the next customer.”

The next customer swears she has a reservation under the name Iuffredo but Lola doesn’t see it on her computer. “Could it be under a different name?” she asks.

“I have the reservation number somewhere,” Ms. Iuffredo says. She rummages through her purse.

The phone rings. Lola looks down at her console. It’s the emergency line, one that can’t be ignored. Lola picks it up.

“Hello, Hy-Line Cruises. This is Lola Budd speaking. How may I help you?”

There’s a split-second pause, then a man’s voice. “Lola Budd? Oh, that’s right. I forgot you worked there. Lola, this is Chief Kapenash. May I talk to your supervisor, please?”

“Oh, hi, Chief!” Lola says. The Chief is Finn’s uncle and legal guardian. He is a very important person on Nantucket. He’s the Chief. Of. Police. Lola has the distinct impression that the Chief doesn’t like her, doesn’t approve of her. He probably wishes Finn were dating someone like Meg Lyon, a three-sport athlete with good grades and squeaky-clean behavior. But now the Chief will witness Lola Budd in her new persona as a responsible, competent Hy-Line Cruises employee. “My supervisor isn’t here right now. It’s just me, Mary Ellen, and Kalik and we have a boat leaving in eight minutes so everyone is really busy. Gracie should be back soon, though. Would you like me to leave her a—”

“Eight minutes?” the Chief says. “Put Mary Ellen on the phone, please.”

“She’s with a customer,” Lola says.

“Put her on the phone, Lola,” the Chief says. “This is an emergency.”

Marty Szczerba talks to Brenner, the state policeman on duty at the airport, and gets more details about the potential murder. The body they have is a twenty-nine-year-old New York City woman who came to Nantucket to be the maid of honor in her best friend’s wedding.

The news lands like a punch to Marty’s gut because his very own daughter, Laura Rae, is getting married in September and her maid of honor, Adi Conover, is like a second daughter to Marty. Because Marty’s wife, Nancy, is gone, Marty has been the one planning the wedding with Laura Rae. They hired Roger Pelton to help—Marty and Roger go way back, as Roger’s daughter Heather and Laura Rae played softball together in high school—and out of curiosity plus some kind of hunch, Marty asks Brenner the state policeman if Roger Pelton was doing the wedding.

“Roger Pelton?” Brenner says. “He’s the one who called it in. But I’m pretty sure he’s been cleared.”

Cleared? Marty thinks. Of course Roger has been cleared. He certainly didn’t murder anyone! Marty tells Brenner to call over to Blade, the private helicopter service, as well as the private plane hangar ASAP. There’s no way a person of interest would escape Nantucket via a commercial flight. The TSA are too assiduous; they’re bulldogs. They don’t let peanut butter through, much less a person of interest.

Brenner says he’ll handle the private services, and Marty alerts the TSA and the policeman on duty inside security, then he goes back upstairs to his desk to call Roger Pelton.

“I heard about the body,” Marty says. “I’m so sorry, Roger.”

“I can’t… I don’t think…” Roger sounds choked up. “I can’t describe what it was like, pulling that poor girl out of the water. The bride was the one who found her floating, her best friend, her maid of honor. The bride was… well, she was hysterical and she’s such a sweet, sweet kid. Her big day ended before it even began, and in complete tragedy.”

“Aw, jeez, Roger,” Marty says. He eyes his breakfast, which has now grown cold. He pushes the plate away. “Who’s this person of interest on the lam? This Shooter Uxley?”

“On the lam?” Roger says. “Shooter?”

“The Chief called a little while ago,” Marty says. “They’re looking for someone named Shooter Uxley.”

“He’s the best man,” Roger says. “Real gregarious kid, strong handshake. He went out of the way to notice the details. He’s in event planning himself, I guess. I have twenty weddings this month alone and I can’t remember anyone—but that guy I really liked.”

“Well, he’s missing,” Marty says. “He was about to be questioned by the police and he escaped through a bathroom window.”

“That doesn’t look good,” Roger says. “I guess you never know.”

“Ain’t that the truth,” Marty says. And then he says good-bye, hangs up, and gets back to the job.

When Mary Ellen Cahill gets off the phone with the Chief, she hands Lola a slip of paper that says Shooter Uxley.

“He’s not in the computer,” Mary Ellen says. “So he would have been a walk-in. He’s six feet tall, dark hair, wearing a blue blazer.”

“That narrows it down,” Lola says.

“My guess is he took the Steamship,” Mary Ellen says. “I hope he took the Steamship. We’re too busy for a murder suspect today.”

Lola looks at the name again. Shooter Uxley. She pulls out her phone, which is expressly forbidden on the job, and finds him instantly on Facebook. He’s as handsome as Tom Brady. And then Lola figures it out.

“Hold the boat!” she shouts. She tears out from behind the counter and goes charging out of the office and down the dock. George, the steward, is just about to fold up the gangplank.

“Lola.” George winks at her. He has a crush on her, she knows, which will work to her advantage.

“I need to get on that boat,” she says. “And as soon as I get on, I need you to find a policeman and send him right behind me.”

“Whoa!” George says. “You buggin’?”