Home > A Bone to Pick (Widow's Island #2)(15)

A Bone to Pick (Widow's Island #2)(15)
Author: Melinda Leigh

“That’s what people have been saying. How much did he charge you for the painting?”

“Charge me?” Confusion clouded her mother’s face. “He didn’t charge me anything.”

“You didn’t give him any money?” Tessa couldn’t believe it.

“No. Why would I give him money?”

“Because that’s what he did for a living,” Tessa said.

“I gave him fresh eggs,” her mom said, as if a few dozen eggs were more than enough payment. Her face scrunched up in deep thought. “He also said I reminded him of his mother, and he hadn’t been a good son. I told him to go home and apologize for whatever he’d done. He said he could never go home.”

Tessa made a mental note to find out more about Dante’s criminal history. “Do you remember how you met him?”

“I don’t want to answer any more questions.” Her mother sat back. “What happened to my painting?”

“It’s logged in with the other evidence.”

“I want it.”

Tessa didn’t know who owned it now that Dante was dead. The ME hadn’t found any next of kin yet. The other four women had contracts and bills of sale for their paintings. They would likely be able to prove ownership, but if Dante had truly painted her mother for free, would the painting become part of his estate?

“I’ll try to get it for you,” Tessa began. “But it’s complicated.”

“I need that painting, Tessa. It’s me.” A tear slipped out of her mother’s eye. “It’s me before.” She waved her hands in the air, as if she knew what she wanted to say but couldn’t find the words. She gave up, defeated. Her shoulders slumped, and she began to sob.

“I know. And I’m sorry. I locked up the painting, so it’s safe for now.” But her mother was crying too hard to hear anything. Tessa got up, walked around the table, and put an arm around her mother. “So sorry.”

They cried together for a while. Then Tessa got them each a fresh bowl of ice cream. Within a half hour, her mother seemed to forget the whole discussion.

By eight o’clock, her mother went to bed. Tessa lowered the temperature on the thermostat. She called Bruce and asked him to request more information about the fraud charge from the police in New Jersey. Then she settled on the couch with her laptop. There was no way she was going to sleep in her bedroom tonight. She’d bunk right here on the couch, within steps of the front door so she’d hear her mother if she got restless during the night. Tessa opened her computer and began typing her reports on the day’s interviews.

She’d worked through several pages of notes when her phone vibrated. Logan’s number displayed on the screen.

“Hi,” she answered, expecting news about the investigation. “What’s up?”

“I just wanted to see how your mother handled the news of Dante’s death?”

How thoughtful. Warmth spread through Tessa’s chest. He’d been thinking of her, not the case.

“She was upset at first, but it didn’t last long.” She told him what her mother had said about Dante not being able to go home. “I hope the killer is someone from New Jersey. It would be so much better if the killer wasn’t one of us.” She laughed. “That sounds odd, but you know what I mean.”

“I do, and it would,” Logan agreed.

“I probably want that too much,” Tessa admitted.

“Me too, but it’s entirely plausible that one of Dante’s past crimes—or one of his victims—caught up with him.”

7

“Please pass the rolls.” Logan dropped his cloth napkin into his lap and kept his elbows off the table.

One of Logan’s most favorite places in the entire world was his grandmother’s table. Jane Sutton was an eccentric and headstrong woman. Instead of using a normal grandmother nickname, she had chosen to be simply called Jane by her grandchildren. But Logan adored every one of Jane’s quirks. Her love was the one constant in his entire life.

His father had died when he was two, and his mother had moved to Arizona when Logan was twelve, leaving her children behind. Adult Logan understood that his mother had not been cut out to be a parent and that it had likely been Jane’s idea to keep Logan and Cate with her. Jane had known her daughter’s limitations. But teenage Logan had been angry and hurt and had hated Widow’s Island with every cell in his body. He’d gone to college on the mainland, then joined the army, only coming back to Widow’s to visit his grandmother.

But when he’d been in the desert, all he’d wanted to do was come home. He’d missed his grandmother’s cinnamon rolls. He’d missed the cool sea air and the forest. When he’d discovered the state forest ranger job was open, he’d taken it. He wasn’t sure how long he’d stay on Widow’s Island, but for now, being here seemed right.

Jane handed him the bread basket, then passed the butter dish.

“Where’s Cate?” Logan buttered a roll.

“Having dinner with Henry.” Jane cut a large square of lasagna and transferred it to his plate. “I made an extra lasagna, and she dropped it at Tessa’s house on her way. That poor girl has her hands full. I thought she could use the break. She’s not going to be able to manage her mother alone much longer.”

“No.” Logan remembered the dark circles under Tessa’s eyes.

“I’ll bring it up at the next meeting of my knitting group.”

The Widow’s Knitting and Activist group was the reason the island had been an early adopter of recycling. Its current project was raising money to help islanders overwhelmed with medical bills.

“Many of the ladies have dealt with ailing husbands,” Jane added. “I’m sure they’ll have suggestions. What did you do today?”

“I’m assisting her with her murder investigation.”

“I know.” The laser gaze Jane set on him meant one of two things. Either he was in trouble or she had ideas about his relationship with Tessa. The thought of his grandmother taking an active interest in his love life made Logan sweat.

Jane cut a smaller slice of lasagna for herself and set it on her plate.

“Does anything happen in this town that you don’t know about?” Logan teased.

Jane’s eyes gleamed. “I should hope not.”

“On that topic.” Logan cut into his lasagna. The scent of melted cheese and tomato sauce wafted to his nose. His stomach rumbled. “Have you heard about any strangers staying in town?”

“Do you think a stranger killed the artist?”

“We don’t know.” Logan forked food into his mouth. The lasagna tasted as good as it smelled.

Jane picked up her fork. “I’d hate to think one of our Widow’s Island residents was capable of such a terrible act.”

Logan agreed, but he had to be objective. He’d seen firsthand what terrible acts men were capable of committing. “Whoever it is, we will find him.”

“I have complete faith in you.” Jane reached over and patted his hand as if he were in high school and worried about a test. “Do you remember Mrs. Duvall? She owns the Harbor View Inn.”

“I do.” Vaguely.

“At today’s knitting group protest, Patty was complaining about one of her guests, a man with a New York accent. Patty said he looked shady. She’s afraid he might stiff her for the bill. She ran his credit card deposit the minute he left the counter.”

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