Puller had phoned ahead and Lynn and Chuck Storrow were waiting for them at their house a block off the water. It was a one-story that occupied a large part of their yard. They were ushered in by Chuck Storrow. His wife sat huddled on the couch, a shawl around her shoulders even though it was brutally hot outside.
When she looked up at them the pain of the recent loss of her in-laws was evident on her face.
Puller and Carson both expressed their condolences.
Chuck said, “Please sit. Now, you said you were with the Army?”
Puller and Carson perched opposite the couple on a settee that was barely wide enough to contain them.
“We both are,” said Puller. “But I’m down here in connection with the death of my aunt Betsy.”
“Omigod, you’re John Puller, her nephew, then,” said Chuck as Lynn wiped at her eyes with a tissue and looked more interested.
“That’s right. I understand that my aunt and the Storrows were friends.”
“They were,” answered Lynn in a hushed voice. “Very good friends. And we knew Betsy too. A wonderful woman.”
“Which makes it odd that all three of them should die so close together and under such suspicious circumstances,” said Puller.
Chuck looked confused. “But I thoug
ht Betsy’s death was an accident.”
“The police think that might be the case. I don’t.”
“Why?” asked Lynn.
Puller slipped the letter from his pocket and handed it across.
The Storrows read it together.
Chuck looked up. “Mysterious happenings?”
“At night,” added Lynn.
Puller focused on her. “Right, at night. Betsy died at night. So did your parents, Chuck.”
Tears clustered around Lynn’s eyes and her husband put an arm around her shoulders.
Chuck said, “I don’t see what the connection might be.”
“They were friends. Maybe they confided in each other. Maybe they all knew something about what my aunt wrote about in that letter.”
“But surely they would have mentioned it to us,” said Chuck.
“And they didn’t?” asked Carson.
“Of course not. We would have said something.”
“Were you here all the time?” asked Puller. “Recently?”
The Storrows looked at each other.
“Well, actually—” began Chuck.
Lynn said, “We were gone for about three weeks. Africa. A safari. We got back and I phoned my in-laws. They didn’t answer. I figured they were doing their usual beach walk. When I called the next day and they didn’t answer I started to get worried. That’s when we got the police involved.”
“But your parents didn’t try to contact you when you were out of town?” Puller asked Chuck.
“Neither one liked to use the telephone and they would never call long distance even though I explained to them that calling my cell was not calling long distance. I don’t think they ever quite understood that. And they were from a generation that was very frugal. And they were not into emailing or texting.”
Lynn gave a little sob. “We should have called them”
Chuck shook his head. “Cell reception isn’t the best over there. I figured maybe they’d had an accident or something. I never dreamed anyone would have...”
“I can see that,” said Puller. “Did they still drive?”
She nodded. “Oh yes. They were still quite active physically.”
“Would they drive my aunt around?” “Sometimes, yes. But she could drive too. She had her car fitted out specially with the hand controls.”
“Right, I saw that.”
Chuck eyed them. “All these questions. And that letter. Do you have any idea what could have happened to them?”
“Not really sure yet. We’re just following up any lead that presents itself. Did either of them keep a journal?”
“A journal?” said Lynn. “I don’t think so, why?”
“Just asking. There might have been one missing from my aunt’s house.”
“So maybe if we had been here this wouldn’t have happened to them,” said Lynn slowly.
“Sweetie, we can’t beat ourselves up about that. We’d been planning that safari vacation for years.”
“You really can’t blame yourselves,” said Carson. “It’s just not worth it and they wouldn’t have wanted you to.”
Lynn blew her nose.
Puller said, “Your parents’ attorney wasn’t Griffin Mason by any chance?”
“No. They used my attorney,” answered Chuck.
“Good. I think Mason will be pretty busy from now on.”
They rose to leave.
Lynn put a hand on his arm. “If you find out anything, anything at all about who did this?”
“You’ll be the first ones I’ll tell,” replied Puller firmly.
Chuck shook their hands. “Best of luck to you.”
“God bless you,” added Lynn.
“I think we’ll need luck and blessings,” muttered Puller under his breath.
Puller sat in the Tahoe but didn’t start the engine.
Carson looked over at him. “Are we going to sit here and swelter or are you going to turn this sucker on?”
Puller turned the key and the engine caught. He put it in gear and pulled away.
“So what did that get us?” asked Carson as she put the AC vents full blast on them.
“Information. Even if the Storrows had found something out they might not have told anyone, other than my aunt.”
“You said she had put all these miles on her car, right?”
Puller turned to look at her as he hit the main street and sped up. “Right.”
“And you think she kept a journal?”
“Well, maybe she found something out and told them, not the other way around. They might have been spotted or overheard. So they all had to die. Your aunt and then the Storrows. Or maybe the other way around. Or maybe simultaneously.”
“That makes sense,” said Puller.
“We generals sometimes do.”
“So the oil spot we found near that sulfur pit?”
“A truck or a car probably. But why there?” “Good place to do something clandestine,” he noted.
“Right, it stinks and you can’t use the beach.”
“But still, it would seem to be a nighttime endeavor.”
She nodded. “Yes, it would. So I guess I know what we’ll be doing tonight.”
“Yes, you do.”
“There is something unaccounted for,” she said.
“There are lots of things unaccounted for.”
“I’m talking about one in particular.”
“The two men in the sedan who can make the Pentagon tuck its tail between its legs and run off.”
“Exactly,” said Carson. “That has me worried.”
“All of it has me worried,” replied Puller.