Drawing Close: The Fourth Novel in the Rosemont Series (2 page)

BOOK: Drawing Close: The Fourth Novel in the Rosemont Series
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Chapter 3

John and Maggie walked hand-in-hand
along the causeway at low tide, back to Penzance. The abbey-fortress atop St.
Michael’s Mount filled the sky behind them. “Breathtaking view from the
chapel,” John remarked. “Well worth the climb up to it.” He glanced over his
shoulder. “Did you read that plaque about Jack and the Beanstalk? Legend has it
that the giant lived there.”

Maggie nodded, brushing a strand of hair off of
her face and attempting to secure it behind her ear. He eyed her closely.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“I don’t know. What’s there to say? I feel certain
that Nicole Nash is Paul’s daughter. Susan and Mike’s half-sister, born after
Paul died.”

“Loretta’s made no mention of it. Don’t you think
she would have tried to get child support from Paul’s estate after he died if
Nicole were his daughter?”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” Maggie said. “Now that
you mention it, I suppose she would have. It makes sense.” They continued to
stroll in silence.

“Unless she’s not sure who the father is.” Maggie
stopped and looked up at John.

“I guess that’s possible,” he conceded. “But I
wouldn’t think it likely.” He took her in his arms. “I hate to see you unhappy.
You’ve been consumed by that mess at Town Hall. You act like you’re personally
responsible for everyone that lost money from the pension fund even though you
didn’t even live in Westbury when it all went down. Don’t add this to your
worries.”

“You’re right. Whether Nicole is Paul’s daughter
isn’t my issue, one way or the other.” She sighed heavily and leaned her head
against his chest. “It’s just unsettling, that’s all. What else am I going to
learn about Paul? Haven’t I had enough? How will Susan and Mike feel if they
ever find out about all of the bad stuff that their dad did?”

John looked into her eyes. “Do you ever plan to
tell them?”

“Not if I don’t have to. At least not yet. Maybe
someday. Or I could write it down for them to read when I die.”

“Wouldn’t that be harder on them? To learn about
it when you’re not there to answer questions?”

“Good point. I’m just not ready.”

“Fair enough. Some advice?” John asked. Maggie
nodded. “Leave it alone for a while longer. Get past this fraud business and
get used to having me underfoot.”

Maggie laughed. “That last bit will be easy. I’m
going to love having you underfoot. What about my suspicions about Nicole Nash?
Should I say something to Loretta?”

“I wouldn’t,” John replied. “What would you say? I
think my late husband is your daughter’s father? What’s she supposed to say to
that? If your suspicion is true—and I’m not saying it is because lots of
unrelated people bear a striking resemblance to one another—Loretta knows,
and she’ll make it public if and when she wants to.”

“I guess you’re right.” She pulled her sweater
close around her as the breeze picked up. “The poor child has some serious
health issues, according to Susan. I still can’t stand Loretta Nash, but I
wouldn’t wish a sick child on anyone. If I’m correct, this is her secret to
reveal. Not mine.”

Maggie’s phone began to ring as they resumed their
walk to the safety of the shore. “It’s Susan,” she said, pulling the phone out
of her purse. “What’s up, honey? Is everything okay?”

“Hi, Mom. Yes—everything’s fine here. Sorry
to bother you on your honeymoon. Are you having fun? How’s Cornwall?”

“We’re having a marvelous time. Exactly what we
hoped for. It’s simply beautiful here. You’ll have to visit, one day.”

“I’d like to. And I’ll want to hear every detail
when you get home. The reason I’m calling is to tell you Aaron and I are coming
to the party and to let you know we’ll be staying with you through the sixth.
If that’s all right.”

“What are you talking about? What party?”

“Alex’s surprise party. He’ll be forty on August fourth.
Didn’t Marc email you?”

“I haven’t been checking emails on my honeymoon.
We promised each other we’d totally unplug.”

“Good for you. Proud of you for sticking to it.
I’m not sure I could.” Susan took a deep breath and continued. “Marc’s renting
a private dining room at The Mill. There’ll be dinner, music, and fireworks
over the Shawnee River.”

“Sounds like quite the party.”

“Aaron and I will fly in on the first and home on
the sixth. I know you won’t be able to take time off of work. Don’t worry about
meals or entertaining us. We can wing it on all of that. In fact, Marc doesn’t
want Alex to know his brother is in town until the party. He’s afraid Aaron’s
being here will give it away.”

“He might be right about that. How is Marc
planning to get Alex to The Mill on his birthday without him being suspicious?”

“Marc’s booked to play for an event there the
night before. He’s going to tell Alex that he forgot the cord for his amp and
get him to ride out there with him to pick it up.”

“Sounds plausible. So what will the two of you do
when you’re in Westbury before anyone can know you’re there?”

“I’m looking forward to spending time with Aaron.
I don’t care if we just hang out at Rosemont and read or binge-watch TV. As it
is, he’s either studying for his boards or working. We barely talk and have
only had dinner together twice during the last month.”

“Has anything changed between you or is he just in
the final crunch before boards? I remember that you lived like a hermit the
month before the bar exam.”

“I think it’s that he’s busy, but I’m wondering
whether his feelings for me have cooled. This trip will be right after he’s
taken his boards, so I’ll be able to tell then.”

“Sounds like it will be exactly what you need.
You’ll have lots of time together because John and I will both be busy at work.
We can have dinner together; but the rest of the time, the two of you can be on
your own.”

“Perfect. And you don’t mind if we stay with you?”

“Of course not! Where else would you stay?”

“I can’t wait, Mom. I’m going to let you go. Give
that husband of yours a hug from me. And remember—this is a surprise
party. Don’t spill the beans to Alex!”

Chapter 4

“I’m leaving to take the deposit to
the bank,” Loretta Nash said as she paused in the door to Frank Haynes’ office.
“Would you mind if I cut my day short and went home after that?’

“Sure. That’ll be fine,” Frank said, without
taking his eyes off of his computer screen.

“It’s just that I need to get Sean and Marissa
some clothes and supplies for church camp,” she said.

Haynes waved his hand dismissively. “Fine.”

“I could wait until tomorrow, if you’d prefer,”
she continued.

Haynes looked up. “Go now.” She turned on her
heel.

Frank Haynes watched until Loretta Nash pulled out
of the parking lot, then locked the door to Haynes Enterprises and removed the
painting by his office door that concealed the wall safe. He opened the safe
and withdrew a folder labeled
F.H./Rosemont
, leaving the only other
thing in the safe—a jump drive—undisturbed. Haynes glanced at the
jump drive and stopped short. Had it been moved?

He took a deep breath. That was impossible. No one
else had access to the safe. He was letting his imagination run away with him.
Maintaining the secrecy of the information on that jump drive was crucial. It
was his insurance if the fraud investigation ever got close to him. He had
enough evidence on that drive to put Delgado in jail for decades. The jump
drive was his ticket into the Witness Protection Program.

Frank Haynes returned to his desk and leaned back
in his generous leather chair. He paged through the thin file until he came to
an original copy of his mother’s birth certificate, listing his grandmother and
Hector Martin as her parents. Hector Martin, town patriarch and former owner of
Rosemont, was his grandfather. His grandmother had been employed as a maid at
Rosemont when she got pregnant. She never married Hector. Instead, his
grandmother wed a local tradesman—the man that raised his mother as his
own child—seven months before his mother’s birth.

None of this mattered, except that this birth
certificate established his ownership of a half-interest in Rosemont. A sly
smile crept across his face. Hector had left his estate to his “living heirs.”
When Hector died, the only known living heir was Paul Martin, Hector’s great-nephew.
If Paul had attempted to conceal the existence of this birth certificate and
Haynes’ inheritance in Rosemont, Hector Martin’s estate could be reopened and
Frank Haynes would own half of Rosemont. His lifelong dream of owning the grand
home might come to fruition after all.

Haynes pulled his wallet out of his back pocket.
He carefully withdrew a scrap of paper bearing the telephone number of the
retired Vital Records Clerk. He’d taken her to dinner following her retirement in
March and, after encouraging her in her third glass of wine, been rewarded with
information that would prove crucial.

The retired clerk had confided her suspicions that
the fire at the Vital Records Office shortly after Hector Martin’s death in
2000 had been deliberately set. She remembered the attorney for Hector’s estate
and his hasty visit to the Vital Records Office the afternoon before the fire.
He’d been an odd one, for sure; nervous and looking, for all the world, like a
man with something to hide. She’d accused the attorney of setting the fire and
had plenty to say about the fire marshal’s lackluster investigation into the
blaze. According to the clerk, nothing before 1951 had been entered into the
computer database and all of the older records had been lost, including his own
mother’s birth certificate.

If Haynes could prove that Paul Martin had bribed
the estate’s attorney to set the fire that destroyed the old records, his
inheritance of a half-interest in Rosemont could be established.

Haynes chuckled. He could just imagine Maggie Martin’s
face when she got the news that she wasn’t the sole owner of Rosemont after
all. Haynes rested his chin on steepled fingers. The usual solution in such
situations was for one owner to buy out the other. Rosemont was worth a small
fortune. The acreage alone would be worth close to two million.

He might be wrong, but he didn’t think Maggie and
her new husband had that kind of money. He, on the other hand, had enough cash
in the bank to buy out her interest. He could toss her out and look like the
good guy doing it.

***

Frank Haynes grasped the dusty
files that the court clerk passed to him across the counter. “You can take
these to one of those cubbies on the far wall,” he said. “And that’s not all of
them. Hector Martin’s probate is seven files thick.”

Haynes nodded. “I’ll want to see all of them.” He
traversed the room and placed the files on a shallow desk. “Is there anywhere I
can have more room to spread out?” he asked the clerk as he returned for the
final load.

“Nope,” the clerk answered with a malicious gleam
in his eye.

Damn these self-satisfied government employees,
Haynes thought. “I’m Councilman Frank Haynes,” he said, drawing himself to his
full height. “Surely you can let me bring them into a conference room.”

“Since you’re on the council, sir,” the man stared
down his nose at Haynes, “you’ll want me to follow the rules. And the rules are
that the public can review documents right over there.” He jerked his thumb to
where Haynes had stacked the files. “So it’s real handy for you to ask us to
make a copy of anything you might need from the files. They’re twelve cents a
copy. Some people might be tempted to take a document right out of the file if
we aren’t watching.”

Haynes suppressed his irritation and retraced his
steps to the cramped work space. At least he knew what he was searching for. He
turned to the first file on top of the stack. Although the estate of Hector
Martin was large, its administration had been fairly straightforward. The bulk
of his liquid assets had been bequeathed to a mix of a few local charities and
the American Red Cross. Rosemont—and enough money to maintain it in
perpetuity—had been left to Hector’s living heirs. Haynes leaned back in
his chair. He had to prove that he was a living heir and that Paul Martin had
concealed that fact.

He struck gold in the fourth file he went through.
The file contained an affidavit from the first attorney to administer the
estate—one Roger Spenser—attesting to the fact that he had
personally made a thorough search of the public records and found no evidence
of any other living heirs of Hector Martin. The date recited in the affidavit
was the day after the fire.

Haynes pulled out the affidavit and went to the
counter to secure a copy. He now knew what his next move would be. He would
arrange a face-to-face meeting with Spenser. He needed the attorney’s written
statement that Paul Martin paid him to remove his mother’s birth certificate
from the public records so that Martin could establish his claim as the only living
relative of Hector Martin.

Chapter 5

Maggie and John ambled along Chapel
Street, admiring the architecture and enjoying the balmy day. After yesterday’s
expedition to Land’s End and hike along the wind-swept cliffs, it was nice to
mosey along at a leisurely pace. They’d spent the morning poking in and out of
shops and galleries along Market Jew Street.

John pointed to the small storefront of a quaint
tea shop just ahead. “Are you game? Or are you going to point to my waistline
and recommend we pass?”

“Your waistline? I need to be worried about mine.
I’m beyond caring at this point. We’re on our honeymoon. When will we ever get
real Devon cream again?”

“Exactly.” He held the door open for her.

A pretty young woman showed them to a table next
to the window. They placed their order for a full cream tea and sank into plush
armchairs that showed the right amount of wear to be inviting without being
down-at-heel. They scooted themselves close to a round table dressed in a crisp
linen cloth.

Penzance was busy during the summer holiday and
they watched tourists and tradespeople pass by the window. The waitress brought
their sandwiches, scones, and sweets on a tiered china server.

Maggie studied the flowered pattern of the china
as she placed a sandwich on John’s plate and selected one for herself.

“I know that look, Mrs. Allen,” John said. “You’ll
be wanting to know the name of that pattern, and we’ll be searching for one of
these thingies,” he said, tapping the server, “as soon as we get out of here.”

Maggie smiled at him. Even though she had decided
not to change her name, she loved hearing “Mrs. Allen” on his lips. She pointed
to the divided porcelain dish that held jam on one side and thick Devon cream
on the other. “We’ll be needing one of these, too.”

“I’d better fortify myself,” he said as he tucked
into the food. “I’m not complaining, but I don’t think you can call these tiny
things sandwiches.” He consumed a small round of fresh white bread topped with
cucumber and cheese in one bite.

“You were expecting a sandwich like you would get
at a deli?”

John shrugged. “All I’m saying is that if you’re
really hungry and want a sandwich, afternoon tea isn’t your best bet.”

“Fair enough,” Maggie replied. She placed a silver
tea strainer onto his cup and poured strong black tea from the delicate china
teapot. She followed suit with her own cup and reached for a blueberry scone.
“What is it they told us? In Devon they put the cream on first and then the
jam, but in Cornwall they start with strawberry jam and finish with clotted
cream?”

“I think we should try it each way to see if it
makes any difference. In the interest of science.”

They were hungrier than they thought and ordered a
second round of scones—to fully test the cream versus jam issue, they
told each other.

“I’d never given Cornwall any thought before you
mentioned it. Wasn’t on my bucket list to come here, but I’ve enjoyed it
immensely.” John squeezed her hand. “The company of my charming wife has
everything to do with it, I’m sure.”

“I’m so glad. I’d have felt very guilty if you
were disappointed. It’s so hard to clear our schedules to get away, not to
mention the time and expense to get here.”

“I’d like to take back something to remind us of
our honeymoon.”

“We’ve got lots of souvenirs already. Like that
pottery I bought this morning that they’re shipping to us. But that’s more for
me. We need something for you. What do you have in mind?”

“I’m struck by the paintings we’ve seen. By the
Newlyn School artists. They’re absolutely beautiful.”

Maggie nodded. “The contemporary works or the
older stuff? They call the turn-of-the-century works English impressionism.”

“The older ones, for sure. I never thought I’d
want to own a real painting. But I do now.” He arched an eyebrow. “What do you
think about buying a piece of art for Rosemont? Almost everything there is from
prior owners. Maybe it’s time we made our mark on the place.”

“I think it’s a grand idea. I’m not fond of that
dreary landscape over the mantel in the living room.” She slid forward on her
chair and leaned toward him. “What do you think about replacing it? Or should
we go for something smaller and more affordable that we can hang in our
bedroom?”

“I was hoping you’d say that. Of all the things in
Rosemont, that large painting is my least favorite.”

“Then its days are numbered,” Maggie replied.
“When Gordon Mortimer comes back to appraise the furniture in the attic, we’ll
ask him if it’s worth anything. If it is, we can sell it.”

John grinned. “I thought you’d put up a fight.”

“Of course not. It’s your home now, too. Is there
anything else that you’d like to get rid of?”

He shook his head. “The only other change I would
make would be to add more TVs.”

“So you can watch football in every room? Not a
chance, mister.”

“It was worth a try.”

“Shall we start shopping for our painting?”

John nodded and motioned to their server for the
check.

***

Maggie and John spent the remainder
of the afternoon going between two antique stores they’d visited earlier that
morning. One had a large collection of paintings with famous signatures and
hefty price tags; the other offered a sole canvas.

“It’s hard to narrow it down, isn’t it?” Maggie
asked.

“You like the women on horseback, don’t you?”

“I do. The clothes on the women, sitting regally
on their side saddles, are beautifully detailed. The colors the artist used are
glorious. And they’d look terrific over the mantel. Very in keeping with our
decor.” She drew a deep breath. “But I’m drawn to the one of the mother and
children picking blackberries in the sunshine. You can feel the warm breeze
just by looking at that painting. Like the breeze we’re feeling now,” she said
holding her hands in the air. “I feel happy looking at it, and it’ll always
bring me back here when I do.”

John wrapped his arms around her. “That’s my
favorite, too. I don’t have the vocabulary to talk about paintings, but I’ve
liked that one since the first time I laid eyes on it. None of the others come
close.”

She tilted her face to his. “Why didn’t you say so
earlier?”

“I wanted to look at everything. Just to make
sure. We’re about to spend a lot of money.”

“Good point. Let’s go talk to the shop owner. He
only has the one painting. Maybe it won’t be too pricey.”

***

They retraced their steps to the
tiny antique shop that featured nautical bric-a-brac and fishing items. One
large canvas hung prominently on the back wall.

“You’ve come back for her,” the owner smiled. “I
could tell that she was talking to you.” He gestured to the painting.

“It’s interesting,” Maggie said, trying to sound
noncommittal.

“Who’s the artist?” John asked.

“It’s unsigned,” the man replied. They walked up
to the painting and he pointed to the lower left. “The artist wasn’t finished
with it. The grass on the right side is more detailed than the grass on the
left. Same thing with the sky. See what I mean?”

John nodded. “What happened? Do you think the
artist died before he could finish it?”

“We don’t know, of course, since we don’t know who
painted it, but I don’t think that’s likely. This would have been done by one
of the early members of the Newlyn School. Possibly Elizabeth Forbes or Dame
Laura Knight. That would be my best guess. They might have gotten a commission
to do something else or been working on other projects and forgotten about it.”

Maggie gulped. She’d read enough about the Newlyn
artists to know that these were big names. She held her breath. “We’re here on
our honeymoon and are looking for something to take home as a keepsake.”

The man smiled. “I think this would be a perfect
choice. Where are you from?”

“We’re Americans,” John supplied. The man nodded.
“I guess you knew that already. We live in a small Midwestern town that feels a
bit like Penzance. The people in Westbury are warm and friendly, just like all
of you.”

“I think she’d be happy there,” he said gazing up
at the painting. “She’s been here a long time. I haven’t been terribly
interested in selling her.”

This will be expensive,
Maggie thought.
“What are you asking for it?”

The man quoted a figure that was near the top of
the price range they’d set when they’d left the tea room. “If you include the
tax and shipping with it, we’ll take it,” John replied.

The man nodded. Maggie threw her arms around John
and hugged him hard before they headed to the counter to complete the
paperwork. As John supplied the necessary details to the shop owner, Maggie
turned back to look at their purchase. Was it her imagination or had the little
girl with the basket on her arm waved at her?

BOOK: Drawing Close: The Fourth Novel in the Rosemont Series
6.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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