Angie and her husband, Aldo, are celebrating their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary on a small Caribbean island in the British West Indies when Aldo makes a fateful decision. With his wife's best interests in mind, Aldo commits suicide by diving off a cliff, ultimately avoiding a long and painful battle with terminal cancer. Shocked and dismayed at his spontaneous choice to end his life, Angie runs into the ocean and tears up his suicide note, realizing it is too late to stop him. Life as she knew it is suddenly over.
A few hours later, Aldo's body washes up on shore. After Angie identifies his remains, she flies his body home to New York. But she is about to receive another shock when her mortician friend, George Macklin, discovers the body in the coffin is not her husband and recommends that Angie cremate the body and collect the insurance money. Angie reluctantly follows his suggestion-without knowing that George is on the verge of revealing a surprising dark and dangerous side.
In this suspenseful international thriller, two friends are about to go over the edge for money-with disastrous results.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.42(d)|
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THE EDGEa novel
By DICK BARBIERI
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Dick Barbieri
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAs Angie awoke to the warm, tropical sunlight shining through the open window and the sound of the surf off in the distance, she wondered what time it was. Then, she thought, she did not care. They were on vacation. It was a special vacation.
She and her husband, Aldo, were celebrating their wedding anniversary and had returned to the place where they had honeymooned 25 years ago. It was a small Caribbean island in the British West Indies. They were staying at the same beach house where they had spent their first week of marriage, even though it was quite a bit more expensive now, and they had to use some of their savings to pay for it. But, it was a beautiful spot and they both figured it was well worth it, and that they deserved it. It was a raised beach house, with panoramic views off the large patio of one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The powdery white sand and pristine blue-green water was perfect for snorkeling or scuba diving among the many coral reefs. Yet, it was a quiet little island, still undiscovered by most tourists.
Angie thought about her husband and felt for him next to her. When he was not there, she knew he had already gone for his morning walk, as he had done every morning, both here and at home on Long Island. She smiled to herself when she recalled how wonderful last night had been. They had gone for dinner to celebrate their wedding date at a little local restaurant with a beautiful sunset view. They stayed past sunset, walked home hand in hand, and then they made glorious love, as good as when they were newlyweds, but made even better by 25 years of commitment and experience.
She lingered in bed for a few more minutes, savoring the moment, then got out of bed. She looked for her robe but then thought, why bother since she was alone, and headed naked toward the bathroom. That was when she noticed the folded note on the vanity next to the bed. Wow, she thought, he left me a love note. Tears of joy were starting as she slowly opened the letter.
"My dear Angie," it started. "Last night was wonderful and I hope you remember us like that forever. I have some terrible news, and I hope you forgive me for telling you like this. When I went to doctor Mangio last month for my stomach problems, he sent me for some tests. Then he sent me for more. I didn't want to scare you so I didn't tell you. Last week he told me I have cancer that is spreading fast. He gives me maybe six months. No chance of remission. We have no health insurance since the company went under and six months of fighting a losing battle would destroy us financially. You would be left with nothing. No house, nothing. I do have my life insurance, double indemnity in case of an accident, $500,000. Please forgive me, but I have decided to die at my own time, in the place I love, the ocean. This is my wish, please help me see it through. Destroy this note. No one can ever see it. Wait awhile, then call the constable, tell him I haven't returned from my walk. Please do this! Live a good life, remember us as we were last night.. I LOVE YOU, GOODBYE, ALDO"
For a moment Angie was paralyzed. Her brain was shocked and confused. Then what she had just read hit her and she almost lost consciousness. She recovered momentarily and ran out onto the patio. "Aldo!!" she screamed. She then realized that she was naked and quickly went back into the house. She found a shirt on the floor and pulled it over her head as she stumbled down the patio stairs and headed toward the beach.
A half a mile away, Aldo sat on the beach, contemplating his last hurrah. He thought about the events that had led him to this point, to the fatal decision he had made and was now about to carry out. Ten months earlier he had begun to feel cramps and bloating in his stomach that he thought were due to the stress he was going through when his company began failing. For a while he took antacids and other over the counter medications which would temporarily ease the problem. Angie kept insisting that he see a doctor but he kept putting it off. He thought it was an ulcer. He lost his appetite and began losing weight. It was then that he finally went to see his doctor, who sent him for a series of tests. When he finally got the news he had feared, he anguished over how to tell his wife. He knew she would be devastated and he did not want to put her through the hell of watching helplessly as he slowly died. He hid the pain, made excuses and lied to Angie that the test results were still incomplete. It was a nightmare. It was soon after that he made the decision that brought him here, to the point where he would end his life. He had gone through it in his mind many times. There was a spot on a hill up the beach where a small platform had been built years ago to view the sunset and the catamaran races the natives held on holidays. It was on a cliff 100 feet above the ocean, with jagged rocks below. He had calculated the time the tide would be highest so if the fall didn't kill him, he could never survive the rough sea and strong currents. The observation platform, only 12 feet wide and 16 feet long, had been abandoned and closed to tourists a few years ago when the cliffs below started to erode and it became unsafe to stand up there.
It was still early in the day, so the beach was deserted. He would run along the beach, up the path straight to the deck, slip past the barrier and run right off the edge. Good bye and good luck! When his body washed ashore, it would look like an accident, like he fell off. He only hoped that Angie and his doctor could keep his secret. His stomach cramped, the pain reminding him of what he had to do. He got up and started to run, hoping that by the time he got to his ending point, he would be so out of breath that he would lose consciousness during the fall. He ran faster and faster up the path. Getting closer and closer, panting, gasping, he bounded onto the platform, over the edge!!
When Angie reached the beach she did not know which way to turn. She ran up the beach 100 yards, stopped, turned the other way and started running back, not knowing which way her husband had gone. She screamed again. "No, Aldo, please, no!!"
She started running again, stumbled and fell to the sand, her heart racing. She saw that she still clenched the note in her hand. She opened it and read the words again. "This is my wish, please help me see it through. Please do this!!" She put her arms around her head and started to cry hysterically.
"Why, why, why didn't he tell me?" She tried to get up, but fell back down. After minutes of sobbing and agonizing, she realized it was most likely too late to save him. When he was determined to do something, he usually had a flawless plan, and executed it perfectly. Now, hopelessly, she thought, if this is what he wanted, she must do her part to make sure it ends as he had planned.
She got up, looked again in both directions and then toward the sea. She walked slowly into the water. When it was up to her waist, she tore the note into tiny pieces, dove below the surface and scattered the pieces along the ocean floor. She wished she could stay down and be with him there forever, but her natural instincts pulled her to the surface. She swam in, and slowly made her way back to the house.
Chapter TwoDing!! The attention signal from the cockpit awakened her. "Once again, folks, this is your captain. We are approaching JFK and should be on the ground in about 20 minutes. The weather in New York is overcast, the temperature is 55 degrees. Hope you enjoyed your trip and thanks for flying with us today."
Angie immediately thought about her husband's coffin in the cargo hold. She had done as he wished. She had waited two endless hours, called the constable's office and reported him missing. Someone had already reported a body washed up on the beach on the far side of the island, and they had sent out a team to investigate. The constable had sent an officer to pick her up and bring her to the morgue at the small hospital on the island.
When Angie arrived there she had to wait for what seemed like forever until they brought in the body. She almost could not bear to look at it. It was emaciated from being in the water, and the face had been battered by the rocks, but she was sure it was Aldo and officially identified the body. She had called George and he made the arrangements to get the body back to the states. George Macklin was an old and dear friend. He owned and operated Macklin's Funeral Home in Syosset on Long Island, New York, where Aldo and Angie resided. He and his wife, Freda, were very close friends with Angie and Aldo for as long as she could remember. Freda had died eight years before in a freak accident at home. She liked her martinis and was frequently inebriated. George found her in the pool late one night when he returned from a Rotary Club meeting.
Because George and Aldo were best friends, Angie regretted telling him the news about his death over the phone, but he was the only one she could turn to now. He was shocked by her words, but he told her he would make all the arrangements, and she should just get herself home.
George had told Angie that he would meet her at the airport, but when the flight was delayed, he called to tell her he had a funeral to attend to and could not get there on time. Her car was at the airport so she could drive herself home. She would see him in the morning.
Angie was now 45 years old. Aldo would have been 48 next month. He was the only man she had ever been with. They had met in college, became engaged and married the summer after she graduated. George and Freda were their best man and maid of honor. The four of them had met at The University of Connecticut. (UConn) George and Aldo were from Long Island. Angie came from Connecticut, and Freda was from a military family that had most recently lived in Newport, Rhode Island. Angie and Aldo were always close. George and Freda were on-again, off-again companions, and eventually stayed together long enough to get married. Their marriage was basically the same as their college relationship, but somehow it survived until Freda's untimely accident.
Angie and Aldo had no children. They had tried for a while, considered adoption, but then decided it was not meant to be. She was the youngest of three children and both her siblings had passed away. Aldo was an only child. His parents had returned to Italy a few years after she and Aldo had married. She had not seen them since she and Aldo had gone abroad to visit a few years ago. She would have to try to reach them in the morning, even though she had trouble communicating with them. She spoke little Italian and they little English.
So now, besides George, a few local friends, and a high school girlfriend in Michigan, she had no one. Tears started again when she thought of this.
George would have the body picked up and brought to his facility. She got her luggage and as she walked to her car, the sky opened and it started to pour. She began to cry again and continued as she drove through the rain, back to her empty home.
Chapter ThreeThe ringing startled her from her light sleep. She awoke, realized that she was at home in her bed, and fumbled for the phone. She saw the clock. It was 6:05 a.m. "Hello," she said.
"Angie, it's George, are you awake?"
"Yes," she said.
"Angie, you've got to come down here, right away!"
"Why, what's the matter?" she mumbled.
"Did you identify the body on the island?"
"Of course. Why?" she said.
"Just get down here now!"
"Ok," she said. "I'm on my way"
Angie threw on jeans and a sweatshirt and drove to Macklin's. It was only ten minutes but it seemed like hours. What could it be, she thought. She had no idea!
When she arrived, she went to the back entrance, past the office and into the mortuary. George was standing near a gurney with a body, covered by a white sheet. He hugged her tightly and said, "I'm so sorry." She embraced him and began to cry again.
"What's the matter, George?" she said softly.
"You saw the body and identified it positively?" he asked.
"Yes, I did," she said. "Why?"
"Well, I can see it's pretty hard to make out the facial features. Probably was in the ocean for a while. But look here." He removed the sheet from the lower portion of the body to expose the legs. "There's no scar. No V."
Aldo had had a noticeable V-shaped scar on his right leg, just above the ankle. He had gotten it over 25 years ago. They were all at a college party on the beach on Cape Cod. He got drunk and stumbled into the bonfire. His buddies pulled him out quickly, but he had burned his leg. It was in the shape of a V, and they all later laughed that it was Aldo's V for Victory scar that was a lucky charm for the football team. He would raise his leg and expose the scar whenever the team scored a touchdown.
"I never looked for it," said Angie.
"Besides," George said, "this man's shorter than Aldo."
"Oh, my God! It was terribly hard for me to look at him. But I thought it must be him. There must be some way to tell for sure."
"Yes, there are some biological tests, but they will take time."
George paused a moment. "Angie?" he said slowly. "Aldo confided in me about the way he wanted to die, if he ever got terminally ill. I can't help thinking this was it. We had that talk just before you went away. He didn't say he was that sick, but." She felt the air go out of her. She remembered his note and did not know what to say. He saw by her expression that she thought he may be right.
"Maybe we should think this over," he said. "If I know Aldo, he took care of the business side of this, you know, insurance. At least, I hope he did. So one of our, I mean, your options is to have this body cremated. That was also his wish, right? I will do the paperwork and you can collect any insurance money he wanted you to have."
"Oh no," she said. "How do we know who this is? Someone might be looking for this person! What if Aldo's body shows up?"
"We'll probably never know who this is, could have come from anywhere in the Caribbean. But, I can find out over the Internet if any unclaimed bodies show up down there. Then, I can go down, claim the body and bring him back. We could then cremate the body as he wished. But most likely the body will never be found."
She couldn't think straight. She had to sit down.
"I think he would have wanted you to do this Ang," he said.
"I don't know," she said. "I have to think about it."
"Well, OK," he said, "but you shouldn't wait too long."
Chapter FourAngie started for home. Her head was spinning. She and George had agreed to meet later in the day to talk about the final arrangements, if she agreed to the plan. She lived in the Muttontown section of Syosset. On the way she passed the Locust Street Cemetery, where her friend Freda was buried. She parked on the car path next to Freda's plot. It was still early morning, and there was no one else around. There was a light fog and mist seemed to be rising from the ground as a result of a late night down pour. It was very quiet, almost eerie, and it had a strange, calming effect on Angie. She sat in her car, rolled the window down and thought about Aldo and her old friends.
It was 1968 when they first met. Freda was a junior at UConn and Angie, a sophomore transfer from a community college in New Haven, Connecticut. Freda's roommate had dropped out, and Angie was assigned to share a room with her. At first Freda was resentful they had given her a new roommate, never mind a transfer who was away from home for the first time, nerdy and shy. Freda had many partying friends on campus but, although she tried, could not get her new roommate interested in any of her extracurricular activities. Angie was homesick and became a weekend warrior, traveling back and forth to her hometown, only an hour and a half away, as often as she could.
Just before Thanksgiving break that year, Angie recalled, Freda and her friends threw a keg party in the basement of their dorm and insisted Angie stay on campus and come to the party. She also remembered Freda calling her a geek and insisting she get a social life, somehow, or she would drive her crazy.
Excerpted from THE EDGE by DICK BARBIERI Copyright © 2011 by Dick Barbieri. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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