Page 21 of Already His

“I didn’t get anything about him,” Nate said, folding his arms on the railing and looking at her with interest.

“Well, it’s not good,” Laura said. “I spoke to a few other tour operators who said it was pretty sad to see him struggling on. That he would be better off quitting and trying something else, but he sunk so much of his own money into getting outfitted that he can’t afford to just give it all up. Apparently, the community tries to attend his tours when they can—they even spent some time organizing deliberately scheduled trips so that he wouldn’t go a day without trade.”

Nate whistled. “That’s quite some community support.”

“And get this,” Laura said. “I spoke to a couple of people who were absolutely convinced that they had seen both Dina Grey and Elias Makks on those community-organized tours.”

“Elias?” Nate repeated. “But he was also a pirate tour operator. Wasn’t Matt Wendell the competition?”

Laura shrugged. “Maybe he was looking for ways to upgrade and improve his own show. Or just checking out what Wendell was up to and making sure his own version was better.”

“Makes sense,” Nate said. “But it’s a link. What else did you find out about this Wendell character?”

“I don’t know how much is small-town gossip and how much is true, but there are rumors that he had to start again here in Jones Harbor because of a criminal record,” Laura said. “They were saying one of the reasons he can’t give up on his boat was because he couldn’t get hired anywhere else. There were a few people who implied that maybe he has a history of violence, and it would make sense for him to go after his biggest competitor and then continue attacking Kelleigh’s business.”

“By killing Dina?” Nate asked. “Does he have something against her too?”

Laura shrugged. “I asked that. One of the other tour captains said that he didn’t know, but there were plenty of reasons why an older man might get it in his head to resent a pretty young woman. Who knows if it’s true.”

“Hmm.” Nate scratched his chin. “I got a lot of unconfirmed rumors too. Things about spirits that control the ships on the water, rumors that Dina and Elias must have been having an affair and it was Tobias who strung them both up or Jens. Or even Ellen. Someone also said that it was done by the ghost of an ancient mariner who was killed by his crew hundreds of years ago and returns once every decade to reenact the crime.”

“Wow,” Laura said. “How did they explain the fact that there were no similar cases ten years ago?”

Nate chuckled. “I’m not sure they explained anything. But I’m not seeing any viable leads in any of it. Unless we’ve got another nutjob who thinks he’s being compelled by the spirits of his elders to take revenge on something.”

Laura sighed. They’d seen one too many of those cases. “I guess it comes with the territory of weird ritualistic killings,” she said.

“Well, this angle of Matt Wendell seems promising,” he said. “We should look him up in the system.”

Laura held up her cell phone. “Already did it while I was waiting for you,” she said. “I called in to HQ and got someone to look it up for me. He has a number of previous convictions for possession of drugs and assault. The last one landed him in jail for two years.”

“When was that?” Nate asked.

“Three years ago,” Laura said. “Right before he came to Jones Harbor. Looks like he got out and moved right here.”

“Sounds like we need to go speak to Matt Wendell,” Nate said. “A violent record, a connection to both of the victims, and a reason to want to ruin Theo Kelleigh—it’s all adding up for me.”

“Me too,” Laura said, raising a hand to shade her eyes and to point back along the jetty. “That’s his ship over there—the one with the Jolly Roger flying.”

“Let’s do this,” Nate said, moving past her to be the first one to get to their most likely suspect.

CHAPTER TWELVE

Nate made sure to keep ahead of Laura as they moved along toward the pirate ship, the flag flying proudly in the distance and getting nearer with every step. He could sense the sheer frustration she was feeling about her visions, about how they weren’t giving anything to go on.

Truth be told, when he had found out about her psychic abilities, he had expected her to be able to do something a little showier. To tell people the exact dates they would die, or to predict and catch things falling off shelves, or so on. He’d had the impression that the visions she had in the past were precise and clear and gave details like locations and even names.

The fact that all she’d been able to give him since then was vague shadows troubled him. Had she been overplaying the helpfulness of her ability, or was something going on?

Had telling him diminished her powers in some way?

Or was it something to do with Chris—the anxiety she was feeling there, the guilt about not telling him the truth? He’d heard of mental afflictions like guilt or stress causing symptoms in the body—like headaches, phantom pains, even rashes or ulcers. Was it possible for guilt and stress to also suppress her psychic abilities, an attempt by her unconscious brain to get rid of the thing that was troubling it the most?

Whatever it was, he knew that she was stressed out by it. That meant two things. First, that she needed a win, and getting one the normal old-fashioned way would help to make her feel better even if it didn’t solve the issue of her visions. And second, she was more likely to take stupid risks right now, which was why Nate needed to do everything he could to make sure she didn’t put herself in danger.

Again.

“Looks like a show starts soon,” Nate muttered over his shoulder, getting close enough to see a large board attached to a pole near the boat. It offered a list of show times, the last of which was only half an hour away—an evening tour. That was mostly bad news. It meant their suspect would be much less open to a chat, particularly one that would take place down at the station. On the other hand, it made him more likely to be on the boat, meaning they could find him easily.


Tags: Blake Pierce Suspense
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