The sun had settled behind the tree line and the inky lake shimmered under a pink-orange sunset. Two officers escorted Heather Mackenzie-Wilson up from the dock to the driveway behind her cottage, where a Spruce County cruiser was parked. Bob accompanied her, holding her hand like he would never let it go. His wife’s glassy-eyed serenity had turned to shuddering tears as the realization of what had happened—and what was about to happen—set in. Ariel and Mimi Froome agreed to stay with the two boys for the night and Marie Maladee offered to come by in the morning with fresh muffins and to take over babysitting duties. Even Sally and Nibbles had offered to help. Harp could see a sense of community forming, naturally, among the inhabitants of the lake.
After giving their statements to Constable Terry Becker, they had all hugged each other, exchanged a few hushed words then departed into the night. Well, not all.
Grace Calvert rowed away from the scene of the reenactment without a word and Detective Harry Harp noted that a minute later, Gill followed her. His boat disappeared around the Calvert point and Harp wondered what the old man would do, now that the woman who had shaped—no controlled—his life was dead. Would Gill be able to move on from that summer day in 1961?
After the remaining boats had left, Becker walked over to Harp.
“Frank Gill and Grace Calvert both took off before I could get their statements,” he complained. “Should we go after them?”
Harp shook his head. “Tomorrow. Enough upheaval for one night.”
They nodded at each other then walked down to the Mackenzie-Wilson dock. It was then that they realized the lake lay between them and their car. Across the glowing expanse of water was the boat launch where they had parked in the morning. Harp looked at his watch. After being on the lake for twelve, hot hours, he and Becker were about to leave the small community with a grim tally; one murder, one life destroyed and multiple lives changed forever. There’s a price for everything, he thought, even the truth.
Harp said, “Let’s take Bob’s boat.” The Mackenzie-Wilson speedboat was parked next to the Froome’s outboard, which they would need in the morning to get home after a night of babysitting.
Becker said, “Or we could take the shore path? I’m up for a walk.”
Harp looked appalled—and dead tired.
“Just joking,” Becker said, grinning.
A moment later, the two men motored through the cool night air. Harp pulled on his suit jacket.
“Getting some use out of that business suit, after all,” the constable said, his mouth slanting into a smile.
“Yeah, probably not the best choice of attire. Didn’t realize we’d be in a boat all day,” Harp said then thought, I am never wearing this suit again.
“What you need is a Spruce County dinner jacket.” As they neared the boat launch Becker explained the features of the comfortable, red and black checked garment. Harp smiled, not sure if the constable was joking or serious. But he was sure that he liked him. After twelve hours, the young man had proven himself a reliable, smart detective.
Becker cut the engine and let the boat glide up to the launch where it gently thudded against the dock.
Harp turned back and looked out over the silent lake. A wavering yellow light caught his eye. It glowed through the pines on the Calvert point. Staring at it for a moment, he thought about Ida Calvert and the violent murder that ended her life—a life sequestered, cut off from the world and from the man who loved her.
Five months later, on a snowy December evening Detective Harry Harp stood in the Spruce County grocery store’s ‘Fresh Vegetables’ section. He was pondering the difference between broccolini and broccoli—smaller, sure, but what else? Scratching the side of his face, he wondered which to put into the green plastic shopping basket he was carrying—or none at all.
Harp turned and saw Grace Calvert standing a few feet away from him, also carrying a shopping basket.
“Grace? I mean—Ms. Calvert?” Harp said quickly. “Doing well, I hope?”
She smiled and cast her eyes down for a moment. “Yes, she said. Much better.” Then she looked up again. “Thankfully, there was no trial.”
Harp had also greeted the news of Heather Mackenzie-Wilson’s guilty plea with relief. “Are you still living on the point?” He asked then inwardly admonished himself for inserting the word ‘still’—a judgment.
“No,” she said and smiled again like she noticed. “I sold to Marc Maladee.”
“He will have his retirement community, then?”
Grace nodded. Her hair was parted and pulled back behind her ears and she was wearing jeans and a fleece jacket.
No more pine needles, Harp thought.
“No more business suit,” she said as if reading his mind.
After almost half a year in Spruce County, Harp had adopted a more comfortable look and was bundled in jeans and a down-filled jacket. No Spruce County dinner jacket yet but he expected that would come in time.
She said, “The Froomes still have their place, last I heard. But of course, Bob sold.”
For a moment, Harp was transported back to that hot day in July and to all the troubled people on that lake whose lives were knotted together tighter than a noose.
Harry Harp and Grace Calvert stepped to the side of the aisle to let a woman pass. She was pushing a shopping cart full of groceries, a baby and a small child, who clung to the front of the cart, catching a free ride. Harp was reminded of Heather Mackenzie-Wilson and felt a sudden sadness.
Grace exchanged a smile with the woman then she and Harp stepped back into the aisle.
“So—how’s Frank Gill getting on?” Harp asked.
Grace’s forehead creased and she said, “He passed away a couple of months after my mother’s death.” She shook her head and sighed. “I think he died of a broken heart.”
The secret that Gill was Grace’s father went to the grave, Harp thought, wishing he could strike it from his own memory, too.
“After my mother, he’s the person I’ve known the longest,” she said, then added brightly. “But I’m meeting new people. I’m working at the bookstore.” Her eyes lingered on Harp then she looked away.
He asked where she was living now that the cottage was sold and she told him she had an apartment in town, above the gift shop. Harp said that he rented a little house—also in town.
She smiled at the news. “Well, I’m sure I’ll see you around,” she said then waved and walked away.
The detective watched her move past other shoppers until she disappeared around a corner. Returning his gaze to the modest array of vegetables, he pulled his mind back to food shopping. Broccoli versus broccolini? He swiftly grabbed a bunch of both and walked on, firmly convinced that relocating to Spruce County had been the right move, after all.