Home > A Bone to Pick (Widow's Island #2)(3)

A Bone to Pick (Widow's Island #2)(3)
Author: Melinda Leigh

His gaze snapped back to the dead man and the harpoon speared through his body. With his legs gone limp in death, the victim dangled like a gaffed fish.

“He’s young.” Memories intruded into Logan’s head. Other young men, bloody and dead, covered in Afghan dust. He brushed the images away and glanced at Tessa. Her initial shock had faded. She was all business now and handling the situation far better than he was, although the ambient light from his flashlight revealed shadows under her eyes.

Deep shadows that spoke of more than one night of missed sleep.

He’d known her forever—she’d been his younger sister’s best friend since birth—and he was having a hard time reconciling his mental image of a long-legged teenage girl in denim cutoffs with the grown woman and seasoned cop in front of him.

Her blonde hair fell to her shoulders, framing an oval face and intelligent blue eyes. They hadn’t seen each other much over the past decade. He’d been away most of the last ten or so years, and Tessa had been working in Seattle. His trips home had been few and far between, and he’d spent his precious leave time with his grandmother.

Yet the connection between him and Tessa was as solid as if they’d never been apart.

The flash of a camera jolted him back to the present. Tessa had a camera in her hand and was photographing the scene. She started with the body, taking pictures from different angles and distances, then began capturing the rest of the area.

She lowered the camera. “I wanted to ask you a question. When I called you and asked if you’d heard anything around eleven thirty, you said maybe.”

“Something woke me. I’m not sure what it was.” Logan turned away. He hadn’t talked about what had happened on his last mission with anyone except the army psychiatrist.

“Mrs. Driver said the screaming went on for a minute or so,” Tessa pressed. “If it woke you, how did you not hear it?”

“I don’t know.” Irritated, he enunciated each word clearly.

Tessa raised an eyebrow. “I’ve known you my entire life, and I can see through that excuse.” Her brow fell, and she reached out to lay a hand on his forearm, as if she sensed his pain. “If you don’t want to tell me, and the reason has nothing to do with the case, then say so. I won’t pry.”

The hard thing about being with people who knew him inside and out was the inability to bullshit them, which was one of the reasons he’d mostly kept to himself since returning to the island.

Her touch and her compassion broke his determination to banish the memory. A slideshow of images rushed through his head. The explosion had nearly knocked him off his feet. He’d fought his way through the rush of people spilling from the wrecked building, trying to get inside to help evacuate the wounded. He’d scooped up the first victim he’d come across, a little girl covered in blood, and clutched her to his chest. But he hadn’t been able to save her. She’d bled out before he’d reached the triage area. Through the whole event, the only sound that had penetrated the ringing in his ears had been the victims’ screams.

But Tessa didn’t need to hear the whole gruesome story, and he certainly didn’t need to tell it.

“When I first came back from my last mission, I had nightmares,” he said simply. “I wasn’t sure if the screams were real or in my head.”

“I’m sorry.” Tessa squeezed his arm. “If you ever want to talk about it . . .”

“I don’t.” He didn’t even want to remember it.

“Well, I’m here if you change your mind,” she said in a quiet voice. “And thank you for telling me.”

He nodded, his posture so rigid that the motion was almost painful.

Her phone beeped.

“Excuse me.” She released his arm and turned away to answer the call.

At first, he was grateful for the interruption, but he wasn’t prepared to miss her touch. He’d avoided personal contact as much as possible for the past two months. Was he ready to return to the human race?

Or was Tessa different?

This is not the time.

Logan turned his attention to the ground. The sandy soil showed no footprints. He broadened the beam of his flashlight. Cigarette butts littered the ground. Empty water bottles and other random bits of trash were lying around the garbage can.

Tessa finished her phone call. “Henry is in the parking lot. He’s walking down, and Bruce is on the way as well. He’s bringing portable lights.”

She returned to photographing the body.

Ten minutes later, Henry carried a plastic tackle box into the clearing. Logan’s sister, Cate, was with him, which was not a surprise. She and the doctor had been dating for the past few weeks. Tessa lowered her camera and hugged Cate.

“I thought you could use an extra hand,” Cate said to Tessa. “Since Kurt is on the mainland.”

“Is that a harpoon?” Henry gaped at the body for a split second before shaking his head. He hadn’t been the coroner for very long, but the doctor’s Los Angeles ER trauma experience seemed to serve him well. “Does anyone know the victim?”

“Yes.” Tessa walked toward the body with the coroner and told him what she knew. “Can you estimate the time of death? We had a report of screaming called in at eleven thirty.”

Henry took out a pair of gloves. “Are you finished taking pictures?”

“Yes,” Tessa said.

Henry folded his arms across his chest, scratched his chin, and stared at the corpse. “I can’t examine him like this. Let’s get him down.”

“I’ve been thinking about how best to do that,” Tessa said. “We don’t want to disturb the entry or exit wounds. We’ll take the whole sign down and cut it so that it fits in the body bag.”

“Sounds like the best option.” Henry snapped the gloves onto his hands.

“I’d leave the harpoon in the body,” Cate added. “And simply disconnect the shaft.”

Logan had a disconcerting moment as he realized that his baby sister was experienced in investigating murders. He’d known she was an FBI agent, but he’d never seen her in action.

The fact that both Cate and Tessa had grown up to enter law enforcement was not an accident. As little girls, they’d had a third best friend, Samantha Bishop, who had gone missing at the age of fourteen. Her jacket had been found at Widow’s Walk, a bluff that overlooked a sheer cliff and a long drop to the rocks and churning sea below. Her body had never been found. At the time, nearly twenty years ago, the sheriff and FBI had presumed she’d fallen and been swept out to sea.

Neither Tessa nor Cate had ever recovered from their friend’s disappearance. Tessa had joined the Seattle PD, and Cate had become an FBI agent. Both women now dedicated their lives to solving crime.

“I have tools in my vehicle.” Logan jogged across the sand and up the trail to the parking area. He removed his tool kit and crowbar from the cargo area of his Range Rover and returned to the scene. He and Henry used the crowbar to pry the sign from its post. As they tried to lower it to the ground, the body came free. Logan caught it before it crumpled to the ground.

“He wasn’t actually staked to the sign,” Henry said as he examined the back of the corpse. “The harpoon doesn’t go all the way through his body. It looks like he was pushed back against the sign, and his jacket got hung up on the post.”

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