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Farren Gage removed a vacuum tube from the 1931 Atwater Kent radio she'd picked up at an auction a few days ago. Normally, digging her manicured fingers into a vintage piece like this made her feel relaxed. Not today. Not yesterday, either. Or the day before
Putting the vacuum tube aside, she leaned back with a sigh on the creaky white dining-room chair, looking through the window. The ocean churned dark and turbulent under low, gray clouds. Steady rain had given way to wind today. She loved days like this, but all this idle time was going to drive her nuts.
She tapped her long fingernails on the old wood table. Maybe she shouldn't have quit her job yet. She missed the long drive to and from Bangor, Maine, where she worked. Coming home every night to Mount Desert Island and the little town of Bar Harbor had always given her a satisfying sense of peace. The road to her renovated farmhouse curved along the coast, offering a view of the Atlantic all the way to her gravel driveway. She should be exulting that she could retire at thirty-one and enjoy all this. Instead, she just felt what was it?
Sad. And bitter.
She still couldn't understand why Carolyn and Jared Fenning had named her contingent beneficiary in their will. It seemed like a lifetime ago when she'd been so alone and scared, facing a childhood with foster parents who barely tolerated her. Jared hadn't liked kids and it had been easy enough for Carolyn to abandon her four-year-old girl for him. What kind of mother would do that and then leave her daughter a fortune after she and her husband croaked? Was it a gesture of guilt? Some kind of warped attempt at redemption? It only made Farren resent her mothermore. Making her rich didn't replace face-to-face interaction. She felt cheated.
Looking down at the table, she caught sight of the itinerary she'd found when she'd gone to Fort Lauderdale to go through everything in Carolyn's big, gaudy house. She slid the paper closer. Something about it bothered her. Why had her mother planned to go to Bodrum, Turkey, and charter a yacht? It appeared her mother had planned to go by herself. Farren hadn't found an itinerary for Jared, and she thought it was peculiar that they'd killed each other after Carolyn had made the reservations. A little over a month ago, Jared shot Carolyn at their home, but she'd managed to shoot him, too. Jared had died faster, since she'd blasted his heart and he'd missed hers. Both died before help arrived. The lawyer who contacted Farren said the killings were the result of a domestic dispute. But she couldn't stop wondering if there was morethat the trip to Turkey had something to do with it. Had Carolyn been about to leave her husband and had he not wanted to let her go? Had they fought over that?
Farren studied the notes her mother had written on the itinerary. International Marmaris Yacht Festival. Yacht = Lucky. Was Lucky the name of a yacht that would be present at the festival in Marmaris, Turkey? Underneath the yacht's name, her mother had written Saturday, May 14th, 8:00 a.m. Had her mother planned to meet someone then? It seemed that way. She was scheduled to sail to Marmaris from Bodrum the day before that, and the flight had been ticketed the same day she was killed. Was that significant?
The telephone rang.
Farren got up from the chair and went into her hardwood-floored kitchen with white cabinets and tile countertops. She picked up the phone from a hanging wood shelf. It was a wireless caller, she saw from the display.
"You have a beautiful home," a male voice said in accented English. He sounded Arabic, but his English was good.
"Who is this?"
"Alone and away from town. On such a large parcel of land," he said without acknowledging her. "How easy it would be to kill you."
Her heart burst into frightened beats. Was this man stalking her? "Look, this isn't funny. If you're"
"Listen carefully," he growled, changing trigger-quick from mock admiration to anger. "Soon you will have wire instructions. You will follow them or I will come into your pretty house and kill you. Scream all you like. I doubt even your neighbor will hear you."
A sick feeling twisted in her stomach. "What is this about? I don't know anything about any wire instructions and I don't owe anyone any money."
"You will pay, or you will die. I know where you live. I know who your friends are. I know everything about you. Go to the police and you will not live to see another day. I will have my money, or I will have your life."
She moved past the table and looked through the front window. No strange car was parked in front of her house. No one walked along the street.
"Who are you?" she demanded.
"Jared Fenning owed me money. You have it now. You will wire transfer three million dollars to an account once I provide the number. Do you understand?"
"Tell me who you are. Why did Jared owe you money?" she frantically asked.
"I will kill you if you do not do as I say."
The line went dead.
Farren heard her own breathing. The clock on the wall near the refrigerator tick-tocked. Her hand trembled, still holding the phone to her ear. She finally lowered it.
The doorbell rang and her entire body jolted.
Putting the phone down, she straightened the long-sleeved denim shirt she wore over her black cotton sundress and walked into the living room on her way to the door. She peered through the peephole. No one was there. She caught a movement and saw a young boy hurrying onto his bicycle and riding down her gravel driveway.
Farren opened the door. A box sat on her white wood porch, a few feet from her pink-painted toenails. She crouched to pick up the box, then lifted her head. The boy disappeared down the road.
What was this all about? Apprehension made her wary, but she took the box inside and shut the door. Back in the dining room, she put the box on the table next to the old radio. Finding a knife, she sliced the packing tape and opened the box.
A piece of paper lay folded inside. It was on top of something wrapped in red tissue paper. She lifted the piece of paper and unfolded it. Wire instructions were typed on the page.
Dread plunged through her system and pumped her heart faster. She looked inside the box. Parting the tissue paper, she saw a blood-soaked scarf bunched underneath. She recognized the printed daisies along the edges. Her neighbor's scarf. It used to be white. Delphie Sinclair had just worn it yesterday.
"No." Farren dropped the paper and ran to the front door, sicker than ever. Flinging it open, she raced across the lawn toward her neighbor's house. She could see it from here. A pale yellow, white-trimmed two-story house. Sweet and innocent. Just like Delphie.
I know everything about you.
"Delphie!" she yelled. That man must have been watching her. Seen her with Delphie.
Passing a couple of apple trees, she made it to Delphie's flower-bordered lawn and charged onto the porch. She gripped the handle. It was locked. She pounded on the door. "Delphie!" She pounded again. "Oh, God."
The lock unlatched and the door opened.
Delphie stood there with a wrinkled brow creased deep in a frown. "What in heaven's name is the matter with you?"
Farren couldn't breathe deep enough. "Ohmy God." She stepped toward Delphie and took her into her arms and started crying.
"What's wrong, Farren?"
Farren leaned back. "Are you all right?" She blinked her eyes clear and sniffled as she searched Delphie's body for signs of injury.
"Of course I'm all right. Why wouldn't I be?"
"Has anyone been here to see you?"
"No. Farren, what's going on?"
Farren entered the house, wiping her eyes with an unsteady hand. She made her way into the kitchen and sat in a white chair at the table, still shaky. Delphie's kitchen looked similar to hers, except she'd painted her walls yellow where Farren's were a more earthy mushroom shade.
"Someone just threatened me."
A teakettle began to whistle. Delphie went to the stove and turned the burner down. "What?"
Farren noticed the woman's socks, one green, the other pink. One reached higher on her calf than the other. She still wore her white terry-cloth robe and big cream-colored furry slippers. Affection for the old woman worked to calm her nerves a little.
"A man called and demanded three million dollars," she said. "He said he's going to kill me if I don't make a wire transfer to an account."
Delphie poured hot water over a tea bag in a cup and brought it to Farren, her long gray hair falling forward as she leaned over the table.
"Do you think he knows about your inheritance?"
"Oh, yeah. He knows."
"Then he must be some crazy who's trying to scare you to swindle some money. Change your number and get a good security system."
Farren shook her head. "He said Jared owed him money."
Delphie went to get her own cup of tea. "He knew the Fennings?"
Farren shivered and held the warm cup with both hands.
Now more than ever she suspected Carolyn and Jared's deaths had not resulted from a mere domestic dispute. Had Carolyn discovered something and that's what made her husband want to kill her? And was it connected to the yacht in Marmaris?
Delphie sat across from her, setting the cup on the table. "Did he say why Jared owed him money?"
Farren shook her head again.
"And you're sure this wasn't some kind of loon after a piece of your inheritance?"
"Yes. He was serious. Jared owed him money and now he wants me to pay." And his refusal to tell her why made her skin crawl. Was her inheritance dirty money?
"You should go to the police," Delphie said.
Go to the police and you will not live to see another day.
What would happen if she went to the police despite the stranger's warning? She was afraid to try. But she couldn't hand over three million without knowing what it was for.
"I don't know what to do."
"Call the police."
"I'm not so sure that's a good idea right now. The man who threatened me knows where I live. I think he's watching me." She rubbed her arms against the shiver that chilled her. "He had a scarf of yours delivered to my door. It was covered in blood."
Delphie's mouth dropped open and she gasped. "Are you sure it was mine?"
"It was the white one you wore yesterday. It had little pink daisies on the edges." At least they'd been pink before the scarf was doused in blood.
Delphie froze. "I was looking for that this morning." She paused in thought. "Someone broke into my house and took it!"
"To make a point."
Rising from her chair, Delphie marched toward the phone hanging on the wall. "We have to call the police."
"No." Farren sprang to her feet and went after her. She took the phone from her aging hand and met vibrant blue eyes that defied her eighty years. "No."
"I have a bad feeling about this."
"All the more reason to call for help."
"What if I go to the police and there's nothing they can do? The caller warned me not to go to the police. What if I do and instead of bloodying another scarf, he comes after me?"
I will have my money, or I will have your life.
"You can't handle this on your own."
"I can't go to the police. Not yet."
"Then what are you going to do?"
Farren thought of her mother's itinerary and the notes she'd written on it. Carolyn's flight was scheduled to leave tomorrow. If she canceled the reservations and made some of her own, what would she find after boarding a yacht in Bodrum and sailing to Marmaris just like her mother had planned? And when she reached Marmaris, what would she find on a yacht called Lucky? Had her mother intended to meet someone she hadn't wanted her husband to know about? Whoever Farren found aboard Lucky might be able to give her insight into what led to her mother's death. Dare she go? What if that someone turned out to be the one threatening her? But how? That someone was here, watching her.
She looked at Delphie. "I need you to go to your sister's in Chicago."
"I was planning to go next month."
"Go tomorrow. I'll pay for the change."
"Why? What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to Turkey."
"Turkey What? Why would you do that?" She paused. "Is this about your mother's trip to Bodrum?"
She'd already told her about the notes. "It might be the only way I can find answers."
"Farren, you're an electrical engineer, not an investigator. You could get hurt."
"I won't do anything I don't feel is safe. I just want to talk to whomever my mother was going to meet in Marmaris. Besides, it might be good if I disappear for a while." It might be good if they both disappeared. If they weren't here, no one could hurt them.
"You don't know if your mother was going to meet anyone in Marmaris," Delphie said.
"I have a feeling she was." It was the only thing she had to go on.
Delphie didn't respond, but her eyes said it all.
"Don't worry about me. If nothing turns up in Marmaris, I'll at least have some time to myself. No one will expect me to travel all the way to Turkey." She wondered if her mother had thought the same.
"You might get more than you can handle," Delphie muttered.
"No one will know I'm there. I'll look like just another tourist. Besides, I really could use some time away. Look at all the awful men I've been choosing lately. I'm too impulsive. Too impatient. I rush into things with a man before I can see how wrong he is for me. Look what happened with Payton. Obviously, I'll settle for anyone as long as he can procreate. I need to figure out why I keep doing that and stop it."
"You could do that here."
"I've been engaged four times," Farren went on. Talking relaxed her and that caller had made her nervous. Now that the excitement had passed, she couldn't stop herself. "I must never have gotten over the way I was raised. I never felt like I was part of a real family and I always wanted one. And the older I get the more I panic I'll never have one. Payton came along and seemed to like me. He was a decent man."
Delphie's eyebrows lifted.