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A Murder in Massachusetts Bay
By Margaret L Press, Joan Noble Pinkham
Addicus Books, Inc.Copyright © 1996 Margaret L Press
All rights reserved.
"Oh a corgi!" The auburn-haired jogger had slowed to a walk and couldn't resist bending down to stroke the butterscotch fur. It was late spring of 1991. Roxcy Platte, a psychiatric social worker — divorced, attractive, mother of two boys — regularly jogged in Fort Sewall, a park overlooking the ocean in Marblehead. At the other end of the leash was a man in his forties, quite tall, balding on top, distinguished looking, A soft smile.
Roxcy had recently lost her own dog and was still dealing with the sadness. Welcoming a rest, she joined the stranger on the bench. The man told Roxcy that he too had suffered a recent loss. "My wife died not too long ago. Fifteen months, to be exact." He was still having a tough time with it. "Ovarian cancer," he explained sadly. "I'm pretty much an expert on it now. By the way, my name's Tom. Tom Maimoni."
After learning that Roxcy lived in Marblehead, Maimoni remarked, "I used to live here too. I live in Salem now. Sailed down this morning." He told her he owned a thirty-foot Cal sailboat and two coveted moorings in Marblehead harbor. Also a slip in Beverly, across the sound. It turned out Roxcy enjoyed sailing. "Like to see my boat?" he asked her.
Since she was heading that way, Roxcy followed Tom to the public landing a block away where his sloop Counterpoint was docked. The two climbed aboard. Tom suggested they take her around the harbor a bit, and he let Roxcy take the helm. She was surprised at his trust. "I could tell by the way you got on the boat that you knew what you were doing," he explained. He also complimented her on her unpainted nails and lack of hair spray. So many of the women who boarded Counterpoint were long of nail and short of sailing experience, he complained.
They chatted about classical music, which they also shared in common. Tom popped some Mozart into the onboard tape player, then served up some cheese and crackers and something to drink. He was courteous, his behavior impeccable. When they returned to the dock, he asked if she'd like to sail again the following week.
They sailed four or five more times during the next few weeks, always on weekdays. A couple of times Tom canceled or failed to show up. And Tom talked more about his dead wife. When Roxcy asked if he had resumed a social life, Tom replied that he was confining himself to affairs with married women. He wished to avoid commitments.
Tom seemed to enjoy his conversations with Roxcy. Whatever she was interested in, or had dabbled in, he had done, too. Only better. Roxcy was working as a real estate agent while completing her postgraduate courses in social work. Tom had been in real estate and had earned a doctorate. Roxcy painted. Tom painted. In fact, he was having a show up in Rockport soon. He was a pilot. He had been in the air force. Tom Maimoni was an accomplished man.
On the fifth sail, in early July, Tom's behavior changed. The two had anchored somewhere off Magnolia, up the coast from Marblehead, and were sitting in the cockpit eating sandwiches. Tom started in on the women with long fingernails and hair spray again, but he then suddenly switched to the sexual appetites of some of his visitors. One woman was a sex-crazed former nun who wanted to give him blow jobs "all over the boat," he told Roxcy.
They pulled up anchor and sailed east toward Gloucester for a while. Suddenly Tom announced, "I think I'll sail naked. You don't mind, do you?" Before she could respond, he had dropped his pants. Roxcy refused his invitation to do likewise. Roxcy answered lightly that if he didn't put his pants back on, she would have to avert her glance all day and risk a stiff neck. To this, Tom responded by trotting up to the bow of the boat, grabbing the roller furler, and swinging around to face her with a splayed hand covering his face. Roxcy endured the rest of the sail by keeping conversation light, physical contact minimal, and by averting her gaze as much as possible. She wasn't able to avoid noticing his erection, however. After a while, Tom settled in beside her as they sailed in silence, his arm loosely around her shoulder. Once or twice he leaned over and softly kissed the top of her head. She felt it was a sad kiss from a sad man who was trying to connect and protect himself at the same time. A little sneaky contact which kept commitments at bay.
Finally, they turned back. The captain pulled his shorts back on, and they sailed into port without further incident. On the dock Tom said to her, "Let's not make a big deal of this. You don't have to tell anybody." Roxcy had received her first indication that this man was not as free as he had claimed.
As they parted, Tom discussed the possibility of going ballroom dancing at the Wonderland Ballroom in Revere on July 10. Tom also told Roxcy that he was on vacation for two weeks and wanted to do some extended sailing during that time, perhaps even go on a cruise.
The following week the dancing date was canceled. Tom called at the last moment to say that he was "flying to Dallas" on a short business trip. However, he suggested that they go sailing when he got back on July 12.
By now, Roxcy had grown more and more suspicious that Tom was in fact married, or otherwise involved with someone else. The abrupt cancellations, his unavailability on weekends. She decided to find out first before going on any long sails with him. Roxcy located Tom Maimoni in the Salem phone book, called his house, and hung up in surprise when a woman answered. She resolved to ask Tom about her on July 12.CHAPTER 2
Tom Maimoni had failed to tell Roxcy Platte that he did have a wife, one very much alive. Patti Maimoni was a special education teacher in the Salem school system. During the week of July 12, 1991, however, Tom was alone. Patti had gone to visit her sister in Kansas to help out while the family moved.
The Maimonis' freezer was stocked with enough dinners to see Tom through his wife's two-week trip. Patti had even baked brownies. The painful deprivation of her companionship during their first long separation perhaps would be assuaged by the snacks she had left behind. Brownies brightened up with walnuts and one or more phone calls a day would hopefully provide Tom the necessary nourishment for both body and soul. She also had asked a close friend from school to check on him.
Tom met Patti in the summer of 1987 at Scarborough Beach in Rhode Island, where her family lived. Tom also had grown up in Rhode Island. He frequently visited his parents, who still lived there. Patti had been divorced about two years, had no kids, and was teaching in the area. On a summer day, Tom strolled by, sat down beside her, and struck up a conversation. Tom told her that he was a mechanical engineer and that his wife had recently died of cancer. He also told her that he had a doctorate in education, a master of architecture degree, and a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. He further related that he was a veteran military pilot who had seen some harrowing experiences in Vietnam in the service of his country. In 1987 Tom said he was working for Arthur D. Little in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as a consultant.
Patti liked to scuba dive, as did Tom. He liked classical music. She played the piano, and was classically trained. The two had much in common. To Patti, Tom seemed a superstar. They began dating.
Tom also loved to sail. A few months later he and Patti purchased a Cal 28 sailboat, which he named Counterpoint. Tom had owned boats before and had been a member of the local Palmer's Cove Yacht Club in Salem since 1981. After several years on the waiting list, he had finally secured a coveted slip there for his latest pleasure craft. Proudly, he was one of the few boat owners who kept his vessel in the water year-round.
About a year after they met, Tom and Patti were married. For their honeymoon they took Counterpoint on a two-week sail to Newport, Rhode Island.
The couple moved into an apartment on Federal Street in Salem, on the outskirts of the historic district. A short distance down the street, a neighbor's house would later gain national attention when it underwent remodeling during a series of episodes for This Old Home on PBS.
In early 1990 Tom Maimoni was laid off from Arthur D. Little. He picked up contract work for a time. By December of that year, he had finally landed a job as an engineer with Parker Brothers Games, based in Salem. The Maimonis then decided to buy a house.
Tom and Patti found their first home on a peninsula separating Salem and Beverly Harbors. The peninsula is known locally as Salem Willows, named for the park at its easternmost tip. On the northern shore leading to the park is a cluster of townhouses lining a private road called Settlers Way. The ten-year-old condominiums overlook Collins Cove, an inlet off Beverly Harbor to the north, and to the south, the stacks of the New England power plant. The Maimonis moved into 2 Settlers Way at the end of 1990.
The couple's new condo enjoyed a good view of the water and the onion-shaped top of the Russian Orthodox church on Webb Street to the west. With two bedrooms upstairs, a living room, small dining room, and kitchen downstairs, one and a half baths, and a full walkout basement, their particular floor plan was known as the "Conant" model. The name evoked the rich history that had shaped the town. It was Roger Conant who had founded Salem in 1626 along with a handful of Puritans searching for religious freedom. The town began as a cluster of crude huts along the bank of the North River a few blocks from Collins Cove. Known then as Naumkeag, the colony endured harsh, killing winters, surviving largely with the aid of Conant's own leadership and perseverance. A statue of the stern-faced Conant with tall hat and flowing robes today stands watch over the Common and divides the square in front of the Salem Witch Museum.
As they moved in, Tom and Patti acquired a Welsh corgi and named her Salli. Tom walked the puppy every morning and evening and frequently took her aboard Counterpoint. Salli was given her own tiny life jacket and embroidered collar. Unfortunately, with his expanded family, yacht club fees, two cars, and condo and boat payments falling due with increasing size and regularity, Tom Maimoni was suddenly laid off six months after he had started with the Salem toy company. While she finished up the school year, Patti helped her husband put together new resumes and begin the painful task of looking for a job — again.CHAPTER 3
Kitty Babakian met Tom Maimoni in the early spring of 1991. It was cool at the time — cool enough to be huddled inside a leather jacket. The slender woman sat on the grass near the wharf behind the Collins Cove condos on Settlers Way in Salem. It was evening. The gate to the pier was locked. Private Property — No Trespassing, read the sign. She suspected even the lawn belonged to the condo association, and so she huddled deeper and hoped she wouldn't be seen. Kitty decided to risk a joint.
As she lit up, a soft, deep voice broke the stillness behind her. Kitty was startled and turned around. It was a man with a dog — the man as tall as the dog was short. They conversed for awhile, after Kitty discretely crushed the roach beneath her foot and spent a few ingratiating moments warding off her imminent arrest for trespassing. But he turned out to be no threat. A resident of one of the condos, he was well dressed, straight out of an L.L.Bean catalog. He looked like a pillar of his community, and she in contrast felt vaguely criminal. The stranger was polite, attentive, and allowed his adorable little dog to do most of the flirting. For her part Kitty Babakian had, like other women Tom Maimoni gravitated toward, a straightforward, independent manner and an unfussy outdoors appearance — naturally attractive and devoid of makeup, with intelligent eyes capable of conveying bemusement even in the waning light. A woman neither coy nor self-indulgent. Her few strands of ash-colored hair among the black suggested experience rather than age.
They didn't talk about much. He had bought the dog because he was lonely, he told her. Both were irrevocably drawn to the water. Tom had purchased the seaside condo six months earlier, after having lived in Salem a couple of years. Kitty had moved to town in 1989. At that time she had just left a job in downtown Boston as night manager of a bookstore cafe. While looking for new work in Salem, she had taken to walking about the city each day, incorporating Collins Cove in her circuit. She mentioned to Tom that when she first came to Salem, several unsold units in his complex had been temporarily rented out. One was occupied by a six-member rhythm and blues band that rehearsed in the condo for a time. Tom said that he wouldn't have liked it much if they had stayed on. The more affluent, settled population of the now exclusively owner-occupied development was much more to his taste. Kitty had befriended the group as an ardent fan of good rhythm and blues and kindred souls. Tom probably now pegged her as a "rock and roll bimbo," she speculated.
Sailing didn't come up. Nor boats, nor wives, nor jobs, nor wars. Just a little warm conversation on a cool spring evening. It blew in on the breeze and left with the tide.
About a month later, Kitty had a dream about her grandmother. In the dream she remembered Gramma Mishkin saying to her, "He asked me to go for a boat ride, but I told him I was too busy." Kitty had no clue who her grandmother was referring to, but she recalled how distinct the words were and how out of character. Mishkin Babakian was fun-loving and would certainly have gone on a boat. The dream made no particular sense to Kitty and seemed out of the blue. Until she met Tom Maimoni again three weeks later.
Summer had finally come, with the warm weather and longer sunlight that Kitty craved. She found herself one afternoon on the path behind the condos, a route she frequently took to get from one small beach to the next. As she passed behind Unit 2, Tom Maimoni pulled open the glass door and trotted out to intercept her. Kitty was slightly taken aback.
"Hi," he shouted out in recognition. "Come have a cold drink!"
The woman demurred. However, her interceptor persisted. Eventually she agreed and followed him into his townhouse through the walk-in basement. The man had said he was lonely. She assumed he was a bachelor. But as they made their way through the basement, she noticed a stack of board games. Monopoly. Stuff married couples buy.
Tom led her upstairs. In the kitchen he swung open the refrigerator door, revealing well-stocked shelves. "Hi-C Orange, or Pepsi?" he asked Kitty.
Hi-C? Pepsi? She had expected something more along the lines of "Michelob or Becks?" The full arrangement on the refrigerator shelf somehow didn't spell bachelor either. Hi-C certainly didn't spell bachelor. "Pepsi," she answered.
The two settled into the living room. White walls, beige rug, bland surroundings, non-committal appointments suggested the compromise and accommodation of housemates, spouse or otherwise. Kitty lowered herself into a recliner chair, yet another icon of Till Death Do Us Part. The finishing touches, she concluded, were decidedly feminine. Embroidered collar on the dog, a hefty sculpture of a corgi on the side table. This was a family, and the dog was their child.
Tom noticed her studying the statue and read her mind. "That — that was something my brother sent me. Shipped it to me," he said with a dismissive gesture.
Kitty looked at him with surprise. "Shipped it?" It just so happened she had worked in shipping. She glanced back at the statue. It was massive. Not the sort of item anyone in their right mind would try to ship.
Tom became evasive and shifted to talking about his work. He had been an engineer at Parker Brothers, the Salem-based game company, until the axe fell on the entire division. Presently he did consulting, which required a lot of traveling. "Whenever I'm on trips, I can't wait to get off those airplanes and get back to Collins Cove," he said dreamily. Back to the sea. And the quiet condos.
The conversation drifted to sailing. Tom had a boat. "How would you like to go for a sail?" he asked her. Tom Maimoni would never call it a boat ride.
Excerpted from Counterpoint by Margaret L Press, Joan Noble Pinkham. Copyright © 1996 Margaret L Press. Excerpted by permission of Addicus Books, Inc..
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