Home > A Bone to Pick (Widow's Island #2)(5)

A Bone to Pick (Widow's Island #2)(5)
Author: Melinda Leigh

“Of course.” Cate pressed a hand to Tessa’s forearm. “You’d do the same for me.”

Tessa sighed. “Your grandmother would never take off in the middle of the night. She’s too sensible.”

“That she is.” Cate held out her hand. “Henry, can I take your vehicle?”

“Yes.” He stripped off a glove to toss her the keys. “I’ll get a ride home.”

“I can’t thank you enough,” Tessa said to Cate.

“It’s not a problem. I’m glad to help.” Keys in hand, Cate turned away.

“I’ll walk you to the parking lot.” Logan fell into step beside his sister.

“You don’t need to that. I’m armed.” The keys jingled in Cate’s hand. “But thank you.”

“You might be a badass FBI agent, but you’re still my baby sister.” Gun or no gun, there was no way Logan was letting his sister—or any other woman—walk through the forest in the dark.

Not with a vicious killer on the loose.


Tessa trudged up the porch steps of the cottage she’d grown up in. Her mom was inside, safe. Cate had texted that she’d found her within an hour of leaving the crime scene.

Tessa crossed the raw boards she’d recently replaced but hadn’t had time to paint. The house was a bit worn but comfortable, like an old pair of jeans. A squawk from the backyard stopped her midstride. She might as well feed the chickens before she showered.

She changed into the knee-high rubber boots she kept on the front porch and walked around the corner of the house. A coop sat in the corner of a wire-and-wood enclosure the size of a volleyball court. Tessa grabbed a bucket of feed and pushed through the wire entrance, then closed the door behind her. A dozen chickens pecked at the ground. Tessa spread the feed and checked the water. A motion to her left caught her attention. She spun as a large golden chicken darted out of the coop and headed straight for her like a velociraptor.

Tessa jumped. “Shit!”

She bolted out of the enclosure, then closed and latched the door with her heart still hammering. She pointed at the hen. “Don’t get too cocky. I could cook you for Sunday dinner.”

The hen strutted past the door, obviously aware that Tessa would do no such thing.

Back on the porch, she toed off her rubber boots. Tessa went inside in her socks, stripped off her jacket, and hung it on the coat-tree in the foyer.

She stepped into the kitchen. Exhaustion muddied her thoughts, and her head felt like it weighed a hundred pounds. She wanted a hot shower, a gallon of coffee, and a dozen donuts.

Cate sat at the kitchen table, reading a file. She looked up. “What happened?”

“Killer Hen scared the hell out of me. Again. Chickens are a giant pain in the butt.”

“I doubt you’d have any trouble selling them. Backyard chickens are the new black.”

Widow’s Islanders liked their hobby farms. They raised everything from chickens to alpacas.

“As weird as it sounds, my mother loves those chickens. It would break her heart.” Tessa would not take a single source of joy from her mother, not when she was already losing everything. “It wouldn’t be so bad if that alpha hen didn’t hate me so much.”

Cate coughed, clearly covering a grin. “I made coffee.”

“Thank you.” Tessa took her stainless steel travel mug from the cabinet. She wouldn’t be at home for long. “And thanks for staying with my mom.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Did Patience leave for school on time?” Tessa drank deeply, wishing for a faster way to get caffeine into her system.

“Almost,” Cate admitted. “This morning was a scramble. In her defense, she was up late, helping me settle your mother.”

Tessa turned and leaned on the counter. “Where did you find Mom?”

Cate looked away. “Walking north on Orcas Road.”

“Did she say where she was going?”

“No.” Cate shook her head. “She didn’t seem to know.”

Sadness rolled through Tessa. She glanced at the clock on the oven. “How can it be ten o’clock already?”

“It was a big scene to process,” Cate said.

“Yes, it was.”

Tessa, Logan, and Bruce had labeled and bagged every piece of possible evidence, from empty bottles to cigarette butts, and then had transported everything back to the station. Each item had to be logged in. Bruce had still been working on sorting through the rubble when Tessa had left.

“What are you going to do about your mother?” Cate asked.

“I don’t know.” Tessa rubbed the back of her neck. “Up until now, she’s been okay here by herself until Patience gets home at two thirty. In fact, she’s been generally lucid in the daytime. Her mental state declines in the evening. Henry called it Sundowner syndrome. But I have to reassess Mom’s needs. I can’t have her wandering.”

“How is the new med Henry wanted you to try?”

“It’s too soon to know if it’s working.” Tessa was grateful to have a doctor on the island. Her mother did not like to leave Widow’s.

“How is Patience coping?”

“Not well. She’s upset and stressed. I’m asking too much of her, but I don’t have many options.” Tessa was spread too thin. Her mother could have been hurt last night. What if she’d headed for Widow’s Walk and fallen over the edge?

Tessa’s stomach turned as she thought of Samantha—and of the sea crashing on the rocks at the bottom of the cliff.

“I can hang out here until Patience gets home from school,” Cate offered.

“Thank you.”

But Cate’s help was temporary. There was no senior center on the island. No nursing homes, although that would be an absolute last resort for Tessa. The doctor had warned her that the day might come when Tessa could no longer keep her mother safe. But Tessa would do what she could to keep Mom at home as long as possible.

But today, she had a murder to investigate. Her mother’s medical expenses would no doubt start piling up. Tessa was going to need her job.

“I’m going to take a quick shower and put on clean clothes.” She refilled her mug and took her coffee with her. The bedrooms were at the back of the house. Outside her mother’s room, she turned the knob, careful not to make any noise, and opened the door an inch.

“Hello, sweetheart.” Her mother sat up. She had always been a light sleeper.

“Hi, Mom.” Tessa walked in and stood next to the bed.

“I must have overslept.” Her mother reached for the lamp on her nightstand.

Does she not remember wandering off last night?

Tessa couldn’t think about the long-term prognosis. She’d be grateful that today, Mom was safe. Tomorrow’s problems would come soon enough. “I have to go to work, but Cate’s in the kitchen.”

“Is she?” Her mom swung her legs over the side of the bed. She steadied herself with a hand on the bed as she stood, then put on a robe. “I’d better get moving.”

Tessa closed the door and continued to her own room. She took a five-minute shower, then put on a fresh uniform. After a long, wet night, nothing felt better than dry socks. She heard the shower running in her mother’s bathroom when she walked down the hall to the kitchen. A basket of fresh cinnamon rolls sat on the table in front of Cate.

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