A killer strikesthen disappears without a trace
Shattered by her father's murder, Zoe West left Goose Harbor, Maine. Still struggling, Zoe realizes only one thing will help to repair the damagereturning home to confront the past.
FBI special agent J. B. McGrath is burned-out after working undercover for a year. Forced to take a break, he chooses Goose Harbor as a retreat. But he isn't lying low. He believes a killer is still loose in the towna killer who isn't happy to see Zoe West return.
Zoe isn't sure she can trust the unpredictable FBI agentor their growing attraction to each other. But the danger mounts, and one wrong move could destroy everything she and J.B. care about. Someone got away with murder and is determined to keep it that way.
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By Carla Neggers
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe long days of summer had come to an end, and as Olivia West sat at her kitchen table on the dark, cold October morning, she knew she wouldn't live to see another Maine s ummer. Tomorrow she would turn one hundred and one. But it wasn't just the odds catching up with her that led to her quiet certainty that she'd reached her sunset - she just knew. She had months, perhaps only days. Hours.
Her nephew, Patrick, wasn't deterred by autumn's shorter days. He poured himself a cup of coffee and sat across from her. He always stopped by before his walk in the nature preserve, which was just northeast of the brown-shingled 1890s house at the mouth of Goose Harbor where Olivia had lived her entire hundred years. She and Patrick both liked to be up to see the sunrise. It was one thing they had in common. Perhaps the only thing.
He was in uniform. That was unusual. Olivia licked her lips. "Patrick -"
"I can't talk about it, Olivia."
She understood. He had a job to do, but this time it hit close to home. He'd been preoccupied for some time but hadn't told her everything, not that he needed to. She knew him, and she knew Goose Harbor.
She wondered what her brother would think if he could see his only child now. Patrick West, chief of police. He'd neverknown his father, also a Patrick. Olivia remembered seeing her baby brother off to war, knowing he wouldn't come back, just as she knew, now, she wouldn't see another summer.
Patrick nodded at her typewriter, an IBM Selectric II. She'd given up her Olivetti manual years ago, under protest, and had no intention of switching to a computer. "What're you doing?" he asked.
"I'm revising my obituary."
"Aunt Olivia, for God's sake -"
"It's not morbid, Patrick. Not at my age. I intend to have my affairs in order. I don't want to leave that burden to you and the girls."
Patrick had two daughters, Zoe, a law enforcement officer like him but with her grandfather's zest for adventure, and Christina, who was just as rooted on Maine's southern coast as her father and great-aunt. Their mother had died when they were little girls. Patrick had done a good job raising them. Olivia hadn't bothered trying to replace their mother - she'd never married and didn't really trust her maternal instincts. She thought she was a fairly good great-aunt, though.
"You've had your affairs in order for thirty years," Patrick grumbled.
She glanced at the paper in her typewriter. Olivia West, 101, the author of seventy-two Jennifer Periwinkle novels, died today at her home in Goose Harbor, Maine. It was a sensible first sentence. People tended to think she was already dead. The University of Maine and Bates, Bowdoin and Colby Colleges all offered classes on her work. Her house was on the Goose Harbor walking tour. The town library had an Olivia West Room. In her mind, those were honors more suited to dead people. She knew the local paper kept an obituary of her on file. She'd asked Patrick to get her a copy of it, but he'd refused.
He got up and looked over her shoulder. She was shrunken and white-haired, her fingers gnarled, her veins prominent, her skin brown with age spots - yet she could sit here at her table, where she'd written all her books, and wonder that any time had passed at all. She glanced out at the harbor, the first of the lobster boats chugging across the quiet water in the murky predawn light. Patrick kissed the top of her head. He was paunchy and gray-haired himself, and as good a man as Olivia had ever known. "You're morbid, Aunt Olivia. I'm talking to your doctor about antidepressants to smooth out your moods."
"There's nothing wrong with my moods."
He laughed and winked at her on his way out, as if he didn't have a care in the world. Olivia knew better.
She abandoned her obituary and rolled a fresh sheet of paper into her IBM. Even slowed by arthritis and age, she managed to type quickly. Chapter One. She scrolled down a few lines.
She knew she'd go no further.
She couldn't kill off Jen Periwinkle.
Olivia had watched herself wither and wrinkle, but Jen remained forever sixteen, always ready to solve her next mystery. She was timeless. She used her wits - never violence - to solve crimes. That was Olivia's pact with her readers - Jen Periwinkle wouldn't have to resort to violence to achieve her results. She occasionally brandished a gun and once a sword, but she never drew blood.
To kill her off, Olivia meant to have her die saving someone, probably a child. Mr. Lester McGrath, Jen's evil nemesis through all seventy-two books, would have to die, too, but as a result of her intelligence and bravery, not at her hands.
"Aunt Olivia ... Aunt Olivia!"
Zoe rushed into the kitchen from the side entrance. Olivia hadn't noticed the sun had come up, and she didn't have a good sense of how much time had passed since Patrick was here. An hour? The sun sparkled on the harbor waters and reflected the stunning fall foliage. Boats were out. Olivia tried to focus on Zoe, but realized something was terribly wrong and wanted to dive back into Jen Periwinkle's fictional world.
"Oh, Aunt Olivia." Zoe seemed to be trying to pull herself together. She was clearly shaken, her face pale, her running clothes matted with sweat and - and something else. Dark stains. Her running shoes were soaked. "I didn't want you to hear the news from someone else - I ... God ..." Her eyes, blue with gray flecks like Olivia's baby brother's, filled with tears. "Dad's dead."
Olivia saw now that the dark stains were blood. It had spattered on Zoe's gray shirt and shorts. She tried to speak, but nothing came out.
"He was shot. I found him on my run."
"But he was just here! He stopped in to see me, like he always does. Where? Where did you find him?"
"In the nature preserve. Stewart's Cove." Zoe raked a shaking hand through her short blond curls, her experience as a Maine State Police detective, accustomed to dealing with crime scenes, facts and evidence, not helping her now. But this was different. This was her father. "The marine patrol, state police and local police are there now. I - I have to go back."
"Of course. Christina -"
"She's meeting me there." The tears spilled down her pale cheeks, and when she wiped them with her fingertips, they mixed with her father's blood. "Is Betsy here? I don't want to leave you alone."
Olivia nodded. Betsy O'Keefe was her live-in caregiver, a concession Olivia had made two years ago in order to be able to continue living in her house. Betsy had learned to leave Olivia alone as much as possible in the morning.
Excerpted from The Harbor by Carla Neggers Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.