“Yes,” Karen says, and she reminds herself that she is the reason that the whole wedding is being held now, during the busiest week of the summer. “I’m here.”
Saturday, July 7, 2018, 6:45 a.m.
He pulls up to 333 Monomoy Road right behind state police detective Nicholas Diamantopoulos, otherwise known as the Greek. Nick’s father is Greek and his mother is Cape Verdean; Nick has brown skin, a shaved head, and a jet-black goatee. He’s so good-looking that people joke he should quit the job and play a cop on TV—better hours and more money—but Nick is content being a damn good detective and a notorious ladies’ man.
Nick and the Chief worked together on the last homicide, a drug-related murder on Cato Lane. Nick spent the first fifteen years of his career in New Bedford, where the streets were dangerous and the criminals hardened, but Nick doesn’t subscribe to the tough-guy shtick; he doesn’t use any of the strong-arming tactics you see in the movies. When Nick is questioning persons of interest, he is encouraging and empathetic; he sometimes tells stories about his ya-ya back in Thessaloníki who wore an ugly black dress and uglier black shoes every day after his grandfather passed. And the results he gets! He says the word ya-ya and people confess to everything. The guy’s a magician.
“Nicky,” the Chief says.
“Chief,” Nick says. He nods at the house. “This is sad, huh? The maid of honor.”
“Tragic,” the Chief says. He’s dreading what he’s going to find inside. Not only is a twenty-nine-year-old woman dead, but the family and guests have to be questioned, and all of the complicated, costly wedding preparations have to be undone without destroying the integrity of the crime scene.
Before the Chief left his house, he went upstairs to find Chloe to see if she had heard the news. She had been in the bathroom. Through the closed door, the Chief had heard the sound of her vomiting.
He’d knocked. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” she said. “I’m fine.”
Fine, the Chief thought. Meaning she’d spent her postshift hours on the beach drinking Bud Light and doing shots of Fireball.
He had kissed Andrea good-bye in the kitchen and said, “I think Chloe was drinking last night.”
Andrea sighed. “I’ll talk to her.”
Talking to Chloe wasn’t going to help, the Chief thought. She needed a new job—shelving books at the children’s library or counting plover eggs out on Smith’s Point. Something that would keep her out of trouble, not lead her right to it.
The Chief and Nick walk past the left side of the main house onto the lawn, where an enormous tent has been erected. They find the guys from forensics inside the tent, one bagging, one photographing. Nick heads down to the beach to check out the body; the Chief sees that the girl has been left just shy of the waterline but she’ll need to be moved to the hospital morgue as soon as possible on this hot a day. Inside the tent, there is one round table surrounded by four white banquet chairs. In the middle of the table is a nearly empty bottle of Mount Gay Black Barrel rum and four shot glasses, two of them on their sides. There’s half a quahog shell that served as an ashtray for someone’s cigar. A Romeo y Julieta. Cuban.
One of the forensics guys, Randy, is bagging a pair of silver sandals.
“Where did you find those?” the Chief asks.
“Under that chair,” Randy says, pointing. “Connor has a picture of them. Size eight Mystique sandals. I’m no shoe salesman, but I’m guessing they belonged to the deceased. We’ll confirm.”
Nick returns. “The girl has a nasty gash on her foot,” he says. “And I noticed there’s a trail of blood in the sand.”
“Any blood on the sandals?” the Chief asks Randy.
“No, sir,” Randy says.
“Took off her shoes, cut her foot on a shell, maybe,” Nick says.
“Well, she didn’t die of a cut on her foot,” the Chief says. “Unless she swam out too far and couldn’t get back in because of the foot?”
“That doesn’t sound right,” Nick says. “There’s also a two-person kayak overturned on the beach, one oar a few yards away lying in the sand. No blood on the kayak.”
The Chief takes a breath. The day is still; there’s no breeze off the water. It’s going to be hot and buggy. They need to get the body out of here, pronto. They need to start their questioning, try to figure out what happened. He remembers what Dickson said about the best man being missing. Hopefully that situation has resolved itself. “Let’s go up to the house,” he says.
“Should we divide and conquer?” the Greek asks.
“I’ll take the men, you take the women,” the Chief says. Nick works wonders with the women.
Nick nods. “Deal.”
As they’re approaching the steps of the front porch, Bob from Old Salt Taxi pulls up in the driveway and a kid in his twenties climbs out. He’s wearing Nantucket Reds shorts, a blue oxford, a navy blazer, and loafers; he has a large duffel in one hand and a garment bag in the other. His hair is mussed and he needs a shave.
“Who is this guy?” Nick asks under his breath.
“Late to the party,” the Chief says. He waves to Bob as Bob reverses out of the driveway.
The kid gives the Chief and Nick an uneasy smile. “What’s going on?” he asks.
Nick says, “You part of the wedding?”
“Best man,” the kid says. “Shooter Uxley. Did something happen?”
Nick looks to the Chief. The Chief nods ever so slightly and tries not to let the relief show on his face. One mystery is solved.
“The maid of honor is dead,” Nick says.
The bags hit the ground, and the kid—Shooter Uxley; what a name—goes pale. “What?” he says. “Wait… what?”
Initial questioning, Roger Pelton, Saturday, July 7, 7:00 a.m.
The Chief meets Roger Pelton in the driveway. The two men shake hands, and the Chief grips Roger’s arm in a show of friendship and support. Roger has been married to Rita since the Bronze Age, and they have five kids, all grown. Roger has been running his wedding business for over ten years; before that, he was a successful general contractor. Roger Pelton is as solid a human being as God has ever put on this earth. He was in Vietnam too, the Chief remembers, where he received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. He’s an unlikely candidate to be Nantucket’s most in-demand wedding planner, but he has a gift for it that has resulted in a booming business.
Right now, Roger looks shaken. His face is pale and sweaty; his shoulders are drooping.
“I’m sorry about this, Roger,” the Chief says. “It must have come as a terrible shock.”
“I thought I’d seen it all,” Roger says. “I’ve had brides turn around halfway down the aisle; I’ve had grooms not show up; I’ve caught couples having sex in church bathrooms. I’ve had mothers of brides slapping mothers of grooms. I’ve had fathers who refused to pay my bills and fathers who tipped me five grand. I’ve had hurricanes, thunderstorms, heat waves, fog, and, once, hail. I’ve had brides vomit and faint; I even had a groomsman eat a mussel and go into anaphylactic shock. But I’ve never had anyone die. I met the maid of honor only briefly so I can’t give you any information other than that she was Celeste’s best friend.”
“Celeste?” the Chief says.
“Celeste Otis is the bride,” Roger says. “She’s pretty and smart, but on this island I see a lot of pretty and smart. More notably, Celeste loves her parents and she’s kind and patient with her future in-laws. She’s humble. Any idea how rare humility is when you’re dealing with Nantucket brides?”
“Rare?” the Chief asks.
“Rare,” Roger says. “I hate that this happened on her wedding day. She was a complete mess.”
“Let’s try to figure out what happened,” the Chief says. “I’m starting with you because I know you have work to do.” The Chief leads Roger over to a white wrought-iron bench tucked under an arbor that is dripping with New Dawn roses and they both sit down.