With rumors of infidelity straining Greg and Tess MacAvoy's marriage, the couple head out on their sailboat one early summer day to celebrate their wedding anniversary, hoping the roughest waters are behind them. But in an accident off Nantucket, they mysteriously drown, leaving behind two small children as well as three couples who have long been their closest friends. Tragedy brings to the surface long-simmering conflicts and emotions, and the MacAvoys' six grieving friends find themselves unprepared for the revelation of secret upon secret as they struggle to answer the question: What happened to Greg and Tess?The Castaways probes the boundaries of friendship and forgiveness as it tells a page-turning story of passion, betrayal, and suspense, filled with the perfect details of summer island life that have made Elin Hilderbrand's novels beloved bestsellers.
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|Publisher:||Little, Brown and Company|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)|
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The CastawaysA Novel
By Hilderbrand, Elin
Little, Brown and CompanyCopyright © 2011 Hilderbrand, Elin
All right reserved.
Because the accident occurred out on the water and not on the land that fell under his jurisdiction, it was unusual that the Chief was the first one to find out. But that was the benefit of an official position: he was a lightning rod for information, a conduit. Everything went through him first.
Dickson, his best sergeant, came into the office without his usual peppermint breeze of self-confidence. Was he sick? His skin was the color of frostbite, even though it was the first day of summer. In the seconds immediately before Dickson shuffled in, the Chief had been thinking of Greg with envy. The wind was strong; you couldn’t ask for a better day to sail. Greg planned to go all the way to the Vineyard, and if he caught the gusts, he would be there in five minutes. Tess would hate it; she would be clinging to the mast or down below in the cramped head, her face as green as a bowl of pea soup.
“What’s up?” the Chief said. Dickson, who had the broadest shoulders the Chief had ever seen on a human being, was hunched over. He looked like he was going to upchuck right there on the Chief’s desk. He had gotten a haircut that morning, too, his summer buzz, which made his head seem square and strange, his scalp vulnerable.
“The Coast Guard just called,” Dickson said. “There’s been an accident on the water.”
“Hmmm,” the Chief said. This was the stuff of his days: accidents, crime, people fucking up in big ways and small. Mostly small, he had come to realize after seventeen years on the force.
“Chief?” Dickson said. “The MacAvoys are dead.”
The Chief would have called himself impossible to faze. Even on an island as privileged and idyllic as Nantucket, he had seen it all: an eight-year-old boy shot in the face by his father’s hunting rifle, a woman stabbed fifty-one times by a jealous ex-boyfriend, heroin overdoses, a Bulgarian prostitution ring, cocaine, ecstasy, moonshine, high school kids stealing diamond rings from beach cabanas, gangs, and a host of domestic disputes, including a man who broke a chair over his wife’s head. As it turned out, the Chief was right, he was impossible to faze, because when Dickson said, The MacAvoys are dead—the MacAvoys being Tess, Andrea’s cousin, and Greg, the closest thing to a brother or a best friend the Chief had ever had—the Chief coughed dryly into his hand. That was the extent of his initial reaction—one raspy cough.
“What?” the Chief said. His voice was barely a whisper. What? What are you telling me? His hands were cold and numb, and he stared at his phone. It was not reasonable, at this point, to panic, because there might have been a mistake. So many times there were mistakes, messages got crossed, people jumped to conclusions; so many times things weren’t as bad as they seemed. He could not call Andrea until he spoke to the Coast Guard and found out exactly what had happened. It was four-thirty now. Andrea would be… where? At the beach still, he supposed. The kids, finally, both had summer jobs, and by Memorial Day weekend Andrea had embarked on what she called “the Summer of Me.” She had been good to her word, too, doing her power walking every morning and spending the afternoons on the south shore, swimming like the Olympic Trials qualifier that she was. She was getting fit, getting tan, and exercising her mind by reading all those thought-provoking novels. She tried to talk to the Chief about the novels when they climbed into bed at night, but the Chief’s life was its own novel and he didn’t have room in his mind for any more characters. Just yesterday he had heard Andrea on the phone with Tess, talking about her book. He had overheard words like ambivalence and disenchantment, words he had no use for.
The Chief could not raise his eyes to Dickson’s about-to-puke face. He could not call his wife and drop the bomb that would destroy the landscape of her life. Her first cousin, her closest friend—a person Andrea held dearer, possibly, than himself—Tess MacAvoy, was dead.
“I don’t know what happened,” Dickson said. The Chief couldn’t look at him or the haircut so short it looked painful. “They just called to say there was an accident. And the MacAvoys are dead.”
Addison Wheeler was having cocktails at the Galley with clients. It was a celebration, and Addison had ordered a bottle of Cristal. A purchase-and-sale agreement had just been signed for a $9.2 million waterfront home on Polpis Harbor. But even as Addison was sipping champagne, even as he was mentally spending his whopping commission, his eyes scanned the whitecaps that frosted Nantucket Sound. The restaurant had plastic siding to protect diners from the wind, which was driving out of the north. There were boats out on the water, a lot of boats, despite the six-to eight-foot seas. Was one of them Greg and Tess? They would have made it to the Vineyard by one or two, and now would be returning home. Unless, of course, they had decided to spend the night. Addison would have said he was beyond this kind of jealousy, this kind of obsession, but he was feeling both things, jealousy and a panicky obsession. If Tess and Greg stayed on the Vineyard, in a room at the Charlotte Inn, would they make love? Addison sipped his champagne. Of course they would. Today was their twelfth anniversary.
He had tried to call her no fewer than five times before she left, but she didn’t answer.
There were many indications that the day was special. They were taking champagne and a picnic that Andrea had prepared for them as a gift. Greg was bringing his guitar. He had stopped by Addison’s office that morning on his way to the dock.
“Your guitar?” Addison said.
“I’m a better singer than I am a sailor,” Greg said. He shook his head to get his floppy bangs out of his face, a gesture that made Addison shudder. “I wrote her a song.”
Wrote her a song. He would play the troubadour, try to win Tess back. After all that had happened last fall, Greg needed to make Tess trust him again.
“Good luck with that,” Addison said.
The final time Addison called Tess, he left a message. Are you going to tell him? Are you going to tell him you love me? The question was met with electronic silence.
The maître d’ caught his eye. Addison tilted his head. His clients were talking between themselves now, awkwardly, about the quality of the champagne, and about the water, the impressive wind. It would sweep Greg and Tess to the Vineyard, but they would have to come back in the teeth of it. Would they risk it? If they spent the night at the Charlotte Inn, Addison would lose his mind. The place was too romantic, with its pencil post bed, white grand piano, towel warmer, silver buckets filled with blooming roses. Addison had stayed at the Charlotte Inn with his first wife twenty years ago, and he remembered that the hotel had had the magical power to improve their relationship, for the nights they stayed there, certainly, and for several days afterward. Addison did not want Greg and Tess to stay there, because what if they experienced the same balm? He reached into his pocket to touch the heart Tess had given him on his birthday. She had cut the heart out of red felt, using child’s scissors. Addison treated it like a talisman, though he was far too old and reasonable to believe in such things. He fingered the heart—now grotty and pilled and dangerously close to ripping—and wondered if Tess was thinking about him. Would she have the courage to tell Greg? Addison could hope all he wanted, but he knew the answer was no. Never in a million years.
The wife of the client couple asked Addison a question, but he didn’t hear it. He was dropping the ball conversationally; he had to get back into the game, $9.2 million, and his office had the listing as well as the buyer. This was the biggest deal of the year so far. But something was going on at the front of the restaurant. Was the maître d’ signaling him? He wanted Addison’s attention?
“Excuse me,” Addison said. He stood up, forced a smile. “I’ll be right back.”
Phoebe was in the parking lot. It was Phoebe, right? There was her car, the red Triumph Spitfire, and there was a woman Phoebe’s shape and size with the shining blond hair—but her face was pink and crumpled like a dropped handkerchief, her cheeks were streaked with makeup, she was keening, hiccupping, freaking out. Losing her shit, here in public! This was not his wife. His wife, Phoebe Wheeler, rarely cracked a smile or shed a tear. Addison grabbed her by the shoulders. Was it really her? Yes, those eyes, blue fire. She was emotionally absent, a woman made of ice, steel, chalk, plastic, stone, rubber, clay, straw, but her eyes revealed a spark, and that was one reason Addison hung in there. He was convinced she would return to him one day.
“Phoebe?” he said.
She pushed him away. She was making noises like an animal; her beautiful hair fell into her face. She was trying to speak, but she could not form any coherent words. Well, there was one word, over and over again, like a hiss: Tess.
“Tess?” Addison said. Did Phoebe know, then? She’d found out? This was impossible, because no one knew and there was not one scrap of evidence that would betray them. The cell phone bill, maybe, but only if Phoebe had gone through it with a fine-tooth comb and seen the calls that Addison had made to Tess while he was visiting his daughter two weeks ago in California. Yes, that must be it. Addison’s heart cracked and sizzled like an egg on the hot griddle of the parking lot. He could explain away the phone calls; he and Tess were, after all, friends. He could come up with a plausible reason for the calls.
“Honey, you have to get ahold of yourself,” Addison said. He could not believe his marriage was going to explode here, now, when he was completely unprepared—but a part of him was intrigued by Phoebe’s unbridled reaction. She was hysterical. He couldn’t believe it. He would have said that when Phoebe found out about Tess, she would do nothing more than roll over and sneeze.
Just like that, her meds kicked in. She reined in the horses that were running away with her. She stopped crying; she sniffed. Addison had seen her crumble like this only one other time—September 11. Her twin brother, Reed, had worked on the hundred and first floor of the second tower. He had jumped.
“Tess,” Phoebe said. “And Greg. Tess and Greg are dead.”
The third week of June had a smell, and that smell was strawberries. Strawberry season normally only lasted about five minutes, but this year the spring had been warm, punctuated by just enough steady, soaking rain, and voilà! The strawberries responded. Jeffrey flew the strawberry flag at the beginning of the week, and people came in droves for pick-your-own, seven dollars a quart. These strawberries were red and juicy all the way through, the sweetest things you ever tasted, tiny bits of heaven pulled off the vine. The air over Seascape Farm practically shimmered pink. They were living in a miasma of strawberries.
At the end of the day, Jeffrey was getting the tractor back to the shed after fertilizing his cash crops—the corn, the herbs, the flowers, the beets, cucumbers, and summer squash—when he spied his wife’s silver Rubicon in the parking lot. Delilah had brought the kids up to pick berries.
He and Delilah had started the day off on the wrong foot. Delilah had stayed late at the Begonia and had had “a few drinks” with Thom and Faith, the owners, and Greg, who had been playing guitar last night. “A few drinks” with those three was nearly always a slasher film. Thom and Faith were professional vodka drinkers and Greg was a certified booze bully, ordering up shots of tequila and Jim Beam for everyone, especially when Thom and Faith were footing the bill. Then, as if to soften the treachery of the drinks, Greg would pull out his guitar and play “Sunshine, Go Away Today,” and “Carolina on My Mind,” and everyone would sing along in slurred tones. When Delilah would look at the clock and see it was three in the morning, she couldn’t believe it.
Delilah had stumbled home just as the sun was coming up, which was when Jeffrey usually rose for the day. He liked to have the watering finished by six, and the market opened for business at seven.
He and Delilah had crossed paths in the bathroom. She was on her knees, retching into the toilet.
“Good morning,” he whispered. He tried to keep his voice light and playful, because Delilah’s recurring complaint was that he was stern and judgmental, he was no fun, he acted more like her father than her husband.
And I ran away from my father, she said.
It was true that Jeffrey did not approve of her staying out until all hours; he did not approve of the restaurant life in general—there was drug use and drinking—and even though Delilah promised him she steered clear of everything except a postshift glass of wine, enough to clear her head while she rested her feet, he didn’t believe her. Two or three nights a week she came home absurdly late, smelling of marijuana smoke, and ended up like this: head in the toilet, vomiting.
What are the boys going to think? Jeffrey would ask her.
I make them a hot breakfast, Delilah would snap back. I get them to school in clean clothes, on time. I pack them healthy lunches. I engage with them more than you do.
She was correct: no matter how late she came in, no matter how many postshift drinks she indulged in, she was up with the kids, flipping pancakes, pouring juice, checking homework. He couldn’t give her parenting anything less than his full endorsement.
You want me to be a farmer’s wife, Delilah said. You want me in braids and an apron.
Their arguments were all the same, so alike that it was as if they simply rewound the tape and pushed Play.
You should be glad I’m independent, I have my own life, a job, friends, a supplementary income. The kids understand this, they respect it.
Jeffrey did not begrudge his wife her own life—he just wished it coincided more neatly with his life as a farmer. He got out of bed at five; he liked to be in bed at nine, and many times he fell asleep reading to the kids. What he craved was time in front of the fire, just the four of them, he did want a roast with potatoes and carrots cooking in the oven. But Delilah needed a crowd. Always she invited the group over—Greg and Tess and their twins, the Chief and Andrea, Addison and Phoebe—and she mixed martinis and pressed sandwiches and opened chips and turned on the Patriots or pulled out the Parcheesi or badgered Greg into playing every Cat Stevens song he knew. There was no downtime with Delilah. It was always a party, and it was exhausting.
This morning she had been in a particularly foul mood, despite his chummy, nonjudgmental Good morning! She was retching and crying. He couldn’t decide whether or not to ask her what was wrong. Sometimes when he asked she told him to mind his own business, but if he didn’t ask, she accused him of not caring. If he were to be very honest with himself, he would admit that he didn’t always care what was troubling Delilah. She had dramas constantly spooling around and out, and Jeffrey couldn’t keep track. That was why she had Phoebe. God, Phoebe could listen for hours.
As Jeffrey was buttoning his shirt, Delilah approached him, sniffling.
“It’s Greg and Tess’s anniversary,” she said.
“Is it?” he said. Then he remembered. It had been strawberry season when they got married. He had attended that wedding alone. Andrea had been the matron of honor; she had looked shockingly beautiful. Many times in the years since they’d split, he’d been filled with regret, but on the day Greg and Tess got married, the pangs had been unbearable. Andrea wore a dusty pink satin dress that showed off her shoulders; her hair was in a sleek twist, her smile lit up the church. At the reception, he had asked her to dance, and she’d said yes, and as they danced, she talked about how happy she was for Greg and Tess, while Jeffrey tried not to notice the Chief eyeing them from his post at the bar.
Delilah said, “So I’m taking the twins today. Greg and Tess are sailing to the Vineyard.”
“That’s nice,” Jeffrey said.
“It is nice,” Delilah said. “They’re taking a picnic.” She burst into tears.
See? He just didn’t get it.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“We never do things like that!” she said.
Now Jeffrey went to hunt down his wife in the strawberry fields. She was the kind of mother who was always doing things with the boys. Today, he knew, had started off with a nature walk; then they had picked up sandwiches in town and gone fishing on the south side of the pond, out of the wind, with Delilah tirelessly hooking and rehooking their lures. Often the day would end with an ice cream or a movie, but today it was strawberry-picking. The boys were eight and six; they both had energy like Delilah’s—they never stopped, they never tired. Their life was one long adventure with their mother, punctuated by treats. She rarely said no to them. But four evenings a week, when she left for the restaurant, Jeffrey took over and reality closed in. He made them eat vegetables, he made them bathe, he made them rest. He wasn’t as exciting as their mother, but they needed him.
He spotted Delilah right away in a white flowing sundress and a wide-brimmed straw hat that she wore every year when she went strawberry-picking. Because of the wind, her skirt kept flying up and her hat was threatening to blow off down the rows. Jeffrey smiled in spite of himself. Delilah was a beautiful woman, and the four kids—their own sons, Drew and Barney, and Tess and Greg’s twins, Chloe and Finn—were happy and laughing, alternately dropping strawberries into the green quart baskets and stuffing them in their mouths.
“Hey,” Jeffrey said.
Delilah looked up, but she was not happy to see him. Was she still miffed about this morning? If he understood her, she was upset because it was Greg and Tess’s anniversary and they were sailing to the Vineyard. Jeffrey had spent the better part of the day trying to dream up something—an excursion, a surprise—that would match this in Delilah’s mind. We never do things like that! Jeffrey couldn’t argue with her there. They were slaves to the insanity of their schedule: Jeffrey worked all day, Delilah worked four nights a week. Tonight she was home, though. They could get a sitter and go out for dinner. Would that be exotic enough? It was too windy to eat at the beach, but they could pick up sandwiches and a bottle of wine and spread a blanket between the corn rows. The corn was waist-high already; no one would see them. They could make love in the fields. They used to do this before they were married, before they had a home together, before kids—but now the fields, and Jeffrey’s absurdly long hours tending them, were a sore spot, and it was hard to imagine them feeling romantic about the farm the way they used to.
It was a full moon tonight. The wind was due to die down; it would be clear and beautiful. He would suggest a picnic in the fields and see what she said.
At that second, there was a buzzing in his pocket. His phone. He checked the display. It was the Chief.
“Okay,” Delilah said, smoothing down her skirt and straightening her hat. “We have enough berries to last us the rest of our lives. Let’s go home and make jam.”
“Jam!” the kids cried.
Jeffrey opened his phone. “Hello?” he said.
Jeffrey was a farmer’s farmer. He was methodical and straitlaced; he was sober, Delilah said, even when he was drunk. He had the posture of a minister—upright, straight, broad. He believed in process, he believed in cycles—the moon, the tides, the seasons. He respected the many complexities of nature, from a spiderweb to a bolt of lightning. He, Jeffrey Drake, could handle anything—blight, hurricane, famine, the apocalypse. Or so he thought.
Jeffrey and the Chief were friends, but there had always been something blocking the path between them, and that something was Andrea. Andrea had been Jeffrey’s girlfriend first. They had dated for seven months, and then they had lived together in the tiny cottage on the farm property for another year and a half. That Andrea was now married to the Chief and had been for years, that they were all part of the same tight-knit group of eight, was weird and uncomfortable, but probably only for Jeffrey. It didn’t seem to bother Andrea or the Chief at all; they treated him like a member of their family.
The Chief did not bother with hello. He never did. “Does Delilah have the twins?” he asked.
Strange question. The Chief was so humorless, he made Jeffrey feel like Jay Leno.
“Affirmative,” Jeffrey said. He considered making some staticky walkie-talkie noise, but he wasn’t funny enough to pull it off. No wonder Delilah found him tiresome. “Yes, Chief, she does. They are here at the farm as we speak, absconding with five quarts of strawberries.”
“They’re headed home?”
“Yes, sir. Home to make jam.”
“Okay,” the Chief said. “Keep them there. I’ll be over in… God, I don’t know. A little while. See that they sit tight, okay?”
“Roger Dodger,” Jeffrey said. This mock-cop shtick was the best way to negotiate small talk with the Chief, but today it seemed to be falling flat. “Is something going on?”
The Chief took a breath and then made some indistinguishable noise. A laugh? A guffaw? (It was safe to say the Chief had never guffawed in all his life.) A sob?
“I don’t know how to say this. God, I just can’t say it.”
Now Jeffrey was worried. “What?” he said. But no sooner had the word left his mouth than he knew. “Jesus, don’t tell me.”
“They’re dead,” the Chief said. “They drowned.”
Jeffrey and the Chief were cut from the same cloth. Everyone said so. Jeffrey had never been able to decide if he was flattered by this or bothered by it. They were both serious and steady. Jeffrey knew the Chief expected him to take this news like a man. They were to figure things out, make a plan. But Jeffrey found himself gutted. He had been shot once, by a hunter’s stray bullet; he had caught buckshot in the side that felled him from his plow. Receiving this news—They’re dead. They drowned—was like that, but worse. He was breathless. He could not respond.
The Chief said, “I know it’s hard.”
Jeffrey almost said, Fuck you, don’t patronize me. Let me wrap my mind around it, let me draw a breath, Ed, for Chrissakes. Suddenly Jeffrey wanted to sock the Chief in the mouth. He realized with those words—I know it’s hard—that he’d wanted to sock Ed Kapenash in the mouth for twenty years.
He was saved from a grossly inappropriate response by the sight of the twins, Chloe and Finn, proudly carrying their quart containers. Their mouths were smeared with red and Chloe’s white blouse had red stains on it that looked like blood. Your parents are dead, Jeffrey thought. They were happy kids, seven years old; they were well behaved, the closest friends of his own kids; the four of them were like siblings. The twins called him Uncle Jeff and they called Delilah Auntie Dee. He could not tell them their parents were dead; he could not tell Delilah either. The Chief served people up with horrible news every day; it was his occupational hazard. But it was not Jeffrey’s.
He realized he still hadn’t said anything.
“We’ll come to your house… in a little while,” the Chief said.
“Okay,” Jeffrey said. And then he thought, Andrea. “Does Andrea know?”
The Chief cleared his throat. “Not yet. I’m going to find her. Tell her in person.”
Jeffrey and Delilah had been friends with the Chief and Andrea—and Tess and Greg and Phoebe and Addison—for years and years. They hung out every weekend, they checked in, they helped out, lending a hand with the everyday stuff—Would you drop me off at Nantucket Auto Body so I can get my car? Can I borrow your deep fryer? They had taken six vacations as a group, but only rarely did Jeffrey’s old feelings for Andrea resurface as they did this second. He thought, I will go tell her. I will tell her in person. Jeffrey had known Tess since she was fifteen years old. When Andrea and Jeffrey started dating, Tess was still in high school in Boston. But the Chief was the Chief. It was hard to argue with his authority or his sense of ownership in situations like this one. Andrea was his wife.
“Okay,” Jeffrey said. Delilah and the kids were walking toward the car. He had to follow them home. He would tell Delilah first, and they would wait for the Chief and Andrea before they told the kids. Andrea—what would she do? Tess was her pet, her doll, her treasure. When Jeffrey and Andrea lived together and Tess came to visit, Andrea and Tess slept in the bed side by side while Jeffrey took the couch. And then there was that weird week this past fall when Tess and Greg had separated. Tess had taken the kids and moved in with Andrea and the Chief. For Andrea, losing Tess would be like losing a sister. Like losing a child.
Jeffrey was sweaty and grimy and his side hurt. He was heavy with the news, impossibly burdened with the prospect of sharing it.
He hung up with the Chief and hurried to catch Delilah. He tapped on her window. She turned, put down the window. The radio was blaring, as always; the kids were bobbing their heads and mouthing the words to a rock song Jeffrey had never heard before. The whole car smelled like strawberries.
Jeffrey looked at Chloe and Finn. The twins were carefree now; they would be carefree for another hour or so. The thought was hideous to him.
“I’m going to follow you home,” Jeffrey said.
“What?” Delilah said. “Why?”
“I’ll meet you there,” he said.
The Summer of Me: it was a joke, but not really. Andrea Kapenash had been a parent for sixteen years, which meant that for sixteen years her summers had consisted of wading pools, plastic beach toys, juice boxes, swim diapers, playgrounds, boogie boards, skim boards, surfboards, baseball camp, football camp, gymnastics camp, lacrosse camp, tennis lessons, golf lessons, sleep-overs, tents set up in the backyard, thousands of packed lunches, thousands of pick-ups and drop-offs, mosquito bites, missing flip-flops, and the constant application of sunscreen. Andrea loved her children, but she could never have predicted the joy she would feel at watching them spread their own wings. Her daughter, Kacy, scooped ice cream at the Juice Bar, a job she loved because she was always busy. The line was always out the door and Kacy felt she was in the center of things. Although it wasn’t exactly brain surgery, she was, in a small way, bringing happiness to people. When Kacy passed a hot fudge sundae across the counter, people smiled, they thanked her, they tipped her. Andrea’s son, Eric, worked two doors down at Young’s Bicycle Shop, setting people up with rental bikes, writing rental agreements, and when the shop wasn’t busy, he was in the back, doing repairs. The job played to his strengths: his easy, natural charm, his attention to detail, his love of tinkering with a machine. Eric had been born with the uncanny ability to fix anything, which had served him well, since the Chief was not handy at all, and furthermore was never home.
Andrea’s summer now fell into the pleasant routine of seeing the kids off to work and going about her day. She was free to do as she liked—go to lunch with Tess, Phoebe, or Delilah, go to the beach and swim to her heart’s content, read half a novel without interruption. She had time to walk into town to go shopping, she had time to linger at the farm truck, picking through vegetables, she had time to stop by the station and see her husband or surreptitiously check on her children working. The Summer of Me: she was an adult again, doing adult things.
She had the time now for simple kindnesses. For example, she had made the world’s most delicious picnic lunch for Tess and Greg’s sail to Martha’s Vineyard: chilled gazpacho with chunks of creamy avocado, lobster salad sandwiches on challah bread, potato salad with bacon and blue cheese, a fruit salad of strawberries, raspberries, mango, and mint, and chewy coconut macaroons. The picnic was an anniversary gift—though as a rule, they did not exchange gifts among their group—because this anniversary was special. It wasn’t the twelve-year milestone that was remarkable; it was the fact that Tess and Greg had managed to stay married through everything that had happened in the past nine months. Greg had been accused of committing a transgression last autumn with one of his students, and whether it had happened or not, the tempest surrounding the accusation would have been enough to topple the strongest fortress; it was the story that would not go away, the rumor that would not die. Everywhere Tess went, she said, she heard whispers. Every time Greg left the house, she harbored suspicions. They screamed, they yelled, they cried, they went into counseling, they gave up counseling, they separated for a week. And yet they hung in there. They stayed married. The anniversary should be celebrated.
Call me when you get home! Andrea said when she dropped off the picnic basket at Tess’s house that morning.
Okay, I will! Tess said. She was wearing a red bikini and jean shorts, and a pair of red sunglasses with white polka dots. In a lower, more serious voice, she said, Thank you for the picnic. You didn’t have to go to all this trouble.
I know I didn’t, Andrea said. But I wanted to.
Andrea and Tess were first cousins. Their fathers were brothers, the mighty and formidable DiRosa brothers, both narcotics detectives for the Boston Police Department. Andrea had three younger brothers and Tess had three older brothers, so in addition to being cousins, they were sisters, the only DiRosa girls. Andrea was nine years older than Tess, so in addition to being cousins and sisters, they were mother and daughter.
In all of Andrea’s memories of childhood, she was wet. She was diving into the community pool at the YMCA, she was swimming fifty yards off the shore of Thompson Island, sluicing through the green water of Boston Harbor; she was a mermaid, the water was her natural habitat, it was hers and hers alone. Her brothers fooled around in the waves at the beach, but they didn’t swim the way Andrea did.
Andrea’s natural ability in the water gave her authority. Because she was so gifted at something, adults trusted her, they treated her like she was older; from the time she was twelve years old, she was allowed to baby-sit for Tess; she was allowed to take Tess for long walks in her stroller. When Andrea was fifteen and received her junior lifesaving certificate, she was allowed to lead beach excursions for her brothers and her cousins—eight DiRosa children, with Andrea in charge. Andrea swam butterfly for the Boston Latin swim team, and in her senior year she won the city championships in the 100-meter and 200-meter. That same year she pulled a grown man who had had a heart attack while swimming laps out of the middle of the pool at the Y. She was awarded a medal by the city council; her picture was in the Globe.
When Andrea was eighteen, she got a job as a lifeguard at L Street Beach. She wore a red tank suit and zinc oxide on her nose. She had Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses and a whistle on the end of a braided cord that she spun around her fingers, first this way, then that way. When Tess came to the beach, she sat, quite literally, in Andrea’s shadow, on the first rung of the lifeguard stand, sucking on cherry Popsicles. In Andrea’s memory, it seemed like Tess was there every day. Andrea would look down and see the straight white part in Tess’s dark hair. Tess would swim, and Andrea would watch her. Tess would attempt the butterfly, but she flailed and humped. Andrea tried to teach her the movement, but Tess’s shoulders weren’t strong enough yet, and Andrea was busy working. There were hundreds of kids to watch.
It was at the end of the summer, the week before Andrea started her freshman year at Boston College, that Tess nearly drowned. Andrea was spinning her whistle, scanning the sand and the shallow water, dreaming about finally living away. After months of battling, her parents had agreed to allow her to board, although she easily could have commuted. In the end Andrea’s winning argument was that she was attending BC on a partial swimming scholarship and the team practices were at dawn. You don’t want me riding the T to Brookline at four in the morning, do you?
In truth, Andrea wanted to separate herself from her family. The DiRosa clan was too close-knit, too loud, too steeped in the politics of the BPD, too Italian, with their garlic and ricotta and veal involtini, their heavy gold crosses and crucifixes everywhere she turned. Andrea wanted to experience a life that was quieter, more reserved, more refined, a collegiate life, an intellectual life. (Lord help you! her grandmother said. You’re going to the Jesuits!) The fact that Andrea had not been able to escape the city of her birth discouraged her a little, but there had been no avoiding a Catholic education if her father was to pay for it. Andrea had gotten into Notre Dame as well, but South Bend was deemed too far away.
Andrea was thinking these things, she was twirling her whistle and scanning the shallow water, she was listening to Van Halen on someone’s boom box, she was enjoying the sun on her shoulders, when the feeling struck her: a panic like a sickness. It was as though she had looked down and noticed the lifeguard stand was gone, she was sitting on thin air, about to fall. It was Tess who was gone. This was not unusual—Tess swam and played and visited the snack bar and the restroom just like everybody else. Andrea saw Tess’s Popsicle stick, stained pink, sticking out of the sand. This wasn’t unusual either; Tess, at age nine, was a habitual litterbug.
Lifeguarding was a job that required assiduousness rather than instinct, but it was instinct that kicked in. Andrea scanned the water out past where any other nine-year-old would be swimming, and there she saw a hand. Or what she thought was a hand. A hand!
Andrea blew her whistle—three short blasts, an emergency! She jumped recklessly from the top of the stand and nearly broke both her knees. She grabbed her board, dashed into the water, and started paddling. Andrea spied a flash of someone’s face—yes, it was Tess! Tess was out way over her head. What was she doing out there? The face disappeared, the hand slapped the water. Andrea abandoned her board; it was slowing her down. She was the fastest flyer in the city—she could get there quicker on her own. She swam to the spot where the hand and face had been and dove down and pulled Tess up off the bottom. The effort of this, of getting sixty pounds of deadweight to the surface, nearly killed her. Tess was waterlogged. But not dead, right? Andrea could not let herself worry about anything except textbook lifesaving. Get the swimmer under the chin and paddle with her to the board, secure the board under Tess, and swim for shore. There were lifeguards coming toward her, three of the big lunks Andrea worked with, whom she had thought completely useless until this moment. One of them, Hugo, took Tess and the board and powered her to shore. The other two guards, Roxbury and Toxic Moxie (these were their nicknames; Andrea had no idea what their real names were), laid Tess out on a towel and pumped her chest and gave her mouth-to-mouth while Andrea stood at Tess’s feet and shivered and said the Hail Mary and promised God that if Tess lived, Andrea would repay him by becoming a nun.
An ambulance arrived. There was a crowd around Tess’s gray, limp body, including Roxbury, Toxic Moxie, and Andrea, who was praying and standing as still as a statue of the Virgin Mary. The paramedics sliced through the bystanders, and as they did, Toxic Moxie put the breath into Tess that saved her. He blew death out. Tess coughed up harbor water, spewing out a whole stream in a projectile vomit, and then she pinkened. The crowd sighed, and Andrea wept as Tess opened her eyes. Andrea thought, I will become a nun.
She was forty-four years old now and swimming once again. She hadn’t swum in sixteen years; she had been too busy building sandcastles, and later watching her kids boogie board, pacing back and forth on the shore while they battled the pounding waves. But she was back at it religiously, half a mile of freestyle out past the breakers. God, it felt good! She wore goggles now, showing her age; her eyes couldn’t take the salt anymore. She swam and swam and swam—all the way down to Surfside—and then she swam back. When she climbed out of the water, her legs were shaky and weak from the workout. She was reminded of the superstar she used to be, the fastest swimmer in high school, and then in college. She had been named to the First Team All-American; she had broken four Big East fly records; she had made it to the Olympic Trials in Mission Viejo, where she missed placing in the 200-meter by three one-hundredths of a second.
During the years that her children had been small, Andrea had rarely looked upon her trophies or thought about her name on the record board that hung at the Boston College pool. But when she did, she wondered, was that swimmer really the same person as the one who was now mixing rice cereal with baby food? This summer, swimming as strongly as ever, the answer was yes. (She pictured herself flipping at the wall, or shaking her muscles loose on the blocks before tensing for the gun…)
It was impossible to see with her goggles on—it was like looking through a windshield in a downpour. But when she emerged from the water, she thought she saw the Chief sitting on her towel. She removed her goggles. It was the Chief, Ed Kapenash, Eddie, her husband of eighteen years, sitting on her beach towel in his uniform. His cruiser was parked up on the bluff. From out of nowhere the feeling returned, the sick, panicked suspicion that she was sitting on air and was about to fall. It was five-thirty. The kids got off work at six and the Chief normally knocked off around seven, if there were no emergencies.
Was there an emergency now, or a lack of emergencies? Had he shown up to surprise her, to be romantic? The Chief had only one facial expression and that was stoic, but at this moment the stoic looked different, though Andrea couldn’t say how.
“Is everything okay?” Andrea said.
He patted the spot beside him on the towel. “Sit down.”
“Is it one of the kids?”
She sat, dried her face, ran her fingers through her hair. Her book was there, The English Patient, open facedown. She had seen the movie but had not read the book, though she’d always meant to. And that was another treat of the Summer of Me—she was actually doing things she’d meant to do for years. The book, as it turned out, was sumptuous and textured, it was a feast for her mind. She had a college education, after all; she had majored in comparative literature, she had read Kafka and Saul Bellow and E. M. Forster, but the ideas and images that had been ignited by those books so many years ago were gone.
Reading again was a luxury and a delight. Until this second, seeing her paperback copy of The English Patient had made her feel privileged, intelligent, worthy. But now she got the strange feeling that she would never finish it.
“It’s Tess,” the Chief said. “And Greg.”
“They’re dead?” Andrea said. She said this only to eliminate it as a possibility.
“Yes,” he said.
When Tess was nine years old, when she nearly drowned on L Street Beach, the paramedics had, as a precaution, taken her to Children’s Hospital, and it was there that Andrea faced the rest of her family: her parents, Mikey and Rose; Tess’s parents, Giancarlo and Vivian; her grandmother; her aunts; Father Francis, the parish priest; and Sister Maria José, the nun from Guatemala who lived in a room in Mikey and Rose’s basement. Half the family thought Andrea was a hero—again, a hero!—for saving Tess, who had ventured out over her head. But there was a certain faction of the family—Aunt Agropina, who was not actually Andrea’s aunt but rather Vivian’s aunt, as well as maybe Giancarlo and Vivian themselves—who wondered how long Tess had been swimming before Andrea noticed her. Tess was not just any swimmer on L Street Beach, she was Andrea’s beloved younger cousin. Practically sisters, the two of them! Why wasn’t she watching? It’s family! Tess’s older brother Anthony had been on the beach as well, and he reported that he had seen Tess swim out, doing the butterfly. Andrea saw the imperceptible head shakes, she heard the soft clucking. Not only had Andrea not been watching, but she had not been watching as poor Tess struggled to swim the butterfly like her older cousin. Tess had been trying to impress Andrea, and she had nearly died.
Andrea was filled with regret and guilt and shame. She sat with Sister Maria José, who wore a starched white blouse, blue A-line skirt, and black and white wimple, and thought, I will become a nun.
When Andrea heard the Chief say that Tess and Greg were dead, she pitched forward, coming face-to-face with her own weary legs. She emitted a long, guttural moan, the kind of moan she had not uttered since childbirth. She felt the Chief’s arms close around her.
“I’ve got you,” he said. “It’s okay. I’ve got you.”
She howled. Tess. They’re dead? Yes. Andrea thought of the picnic. It had been the picnic of a lifetime. She had pureed all the vegetables for the gazpacho; she had ripened the avocado in a paper bag for three days; she had made the lobster salad herself, boiling the buggers, cracking them open, pulling out the precious meat. She had risen at 6 a.m. to snatch a loaf of challah from Daily Breads, hot out of the oven. At the last minute, she had tucked in a bag of chocolate-covered cranberries for Greg, a peace offering. He was crazy for them. Andrea thought about Tess, wearing the red sunglasses with white polka dots. A person did not die while wearing such sunglasses. She remembered the near-drowning in its entirety, Tess in a heap on the sandy bottom of Dorchester Bay. Tess might have died twenty-six years ago, but Andrea had saved her. Andrea had not, however, been true to her word: she had not become a nun. She had married Edward Kapenash and had two children. She had brought Tess to Nantucket, where Tess met Greg, who became her husband. Several times during the anguish of the past nine months, Andrea had blamed herself for bringing Tess to Nantucket. Andrea felt as responsible for Tess as she did for her own children—more so, maybe, because she had known Tess her entire life. She had nearly let Tess drown, she had not been watching, she had been absorbed in her own thoughts, and she had not become a nun.
Tess was dead. Andrea picked up her book and tore at its pages senselessly; then she flung the book into the sand a few feet away, but not as far or as furiously as she wanted to, because of the arms constraining her. I’ve got you. Andrea moaned. She would never finish the book. She was giving birth to her own grief.
The kids were outside at the picnic table with butter knives, cutting the stems off the strawberries. It looked like a crime scene; everything was stained red and pink—the wood of the picnic table, their hands, their faces. It was nearly six and still as bright as midday. The children happily hacked away at the fruit of Jeffrey’s labor. He watched them for a few seconds, but did not say anything.
Delilah was in the kitchen, rummaging through the cabinets for a pot.
“I have to talk to you,” Jeffrey said. He was glad the children were occupied. He would tell Delilah first, and she would help him figure out what to do. They would either tell the children together, or they would wait for someone else to show up—the Chief and Andrea, Addison and Phoebe. They would gather here, as they always did.
“I want to make jam,” Delilah said. “I promised the kids, and I’d like to get it bubbling before I start dinner.” She looked at him. Her good mood and cheerful resolve were wearing down; she had had only an hour or two of sleep. “Do you think I should make it in the pressure cooker?”
“Come with me into the bedroom,” Jeffrey said.
Her brow folded; she glanced at the kids. “You’re kidding me,” she said. She thought he wanted sex. And as wrong as she was, she was also right: a part of him wanted to defy the terrifying news of Tess and Greg’s death by loving his wife, by lifting her skirt and taking her up against the wall.
“I have something to tell you,” he said.
She huffed as she followed him down the hall to their bedroom; he heard her muttering. “My mother made jam, but I don’t know how she did it. She never used a recipe. Strawberries, sugar, and something to make it gel.”
Pectin, he thought. But he said nothing.
She said, “What is going on?” She was standing in front of their closet door, which was open, revealing his Carhartts, her hostessing dresses, his navy suit (he would wear it to the funeral, he supposed), her camisole tops, her high heels. He should advise her to sit down, that was best when delivering bad news, but it felt like simply another delay, he had to tell her now! Just tell her. But, God, he couldn’t. He was the Grim Reaper. How did the Chief do it? Swiftly, cleanly; just say it, release the guillotine blade, pull the trigger.
She glared at him. Impatient to get back to the jam.
“Tess and Greg are dead.”
Her eyes widened; they were more white than brown, and then all white. She dropped to the floor. Fainted away.
He had two major problems. Three. Four, actually. The first was his wife, whom he still loved deeply. She was in a black tank suit, howling, shivering, convulsing, alternately crying like a baby and screaming, and making other noises he couldn’t begin to describe. If someone had asked him before today how Andrea would take the news of her cousin’s sudden, tragic death, he would have said she would have handled it exactly this way, which meant sadness and upset and shock and horror of a quality no one could bear to imagine. However, a part of him had hoped that Andrea would be better than this, stronger. God, he felt evil and unfair for even wishing this. But Andrea had seen a lot over the years. She understood accidents and tragedy: they did not discriminate. They could happen to anyone. Andrea was the Chief’s first responsibility. He kept his arms around her, he absorbed her shudders and screams. She was all he could handle.
And yet, on his hip, his phone was jumping. He was one of a handful of people who had any details at all. He had gone to the Coast Guard station to speak to Joe. Joe had the bodies. The Chief went to identify them. They were covered with orange tarps down in the basement of the Coast Guard station, where it was cool. After the Chief identified them, they would be picked up by the funeral home. The Chief descended the stairs to the basement and it was, honestly, like being in a horror film, like descending into a nightmare. The bodies lay side by side on boards. The Chief felt his heart going crazy. He had to get hold of himself; he did things like this all the time, by which he meant he dealt with the things that no one else wanted to deal with. He was a disaster specialist. Joe did him the favor of accompanying him—Joe had seen a drowned man before, many drowned men, he knew what to expect, but the Chief did not. Joe pulled the first tarp aside, and—bad luck—it was Tess. She was bloated; her skin was the color of putty, and her hair had a patch torn out in front. She looked childlike in death; she looked a little like the Chief’s daughter. Okay, that was enough, cover her back up, he couldn’t stand it, but then, too, he couldn’t bear to think that this was the last he’d ever see of her.
Then on to Greg. Greg had a cut on his forehead, a gash that must have bled like a geyser, but because of the water it looked like a shriveled weal. His nose was out of place, too. The Chief had spent some time over the past nine months studying Greg’s face, trying to figure out if the man was telling the truth about what happened with the girl at school. Was Greg a man of honor or a creep? The Chief was notoriously stingy with the benefit of the doubt, but he had given it to Greg—because of Andrea, yes, and Tess, but also because he loved Greg. Greg was like his feckless little brother, the talented one, the handsome one, the one who was chased by women old and young. Greg had wept openly when Tess walked down the aisle toward him on their wedding day, and then again when his twins were born. He had wept less openly that night at the Begonia when the Chief took him for drinks and said, I’m not sure if I believe you, but I’m going to stick my neck out for you anyway.
Now he was dead.
The Chief nodded. Joe covered Greg back up.
“Are you worried about that cut on his head?” the Chief asked. “Or about how Tess lost that hair?”
“I can’t decide.”
“What do we think happened?” He looked at Joe Finch, the commanding officer out on the water, a man he considered not a friend, exactly, but a colleague, steady and true. “What’s your best guess?”
“I’d say they caught a gust the wrong way,” Joe said. “He got hit in the head by the boom and went down. She was either thrown from the boat or she went after him. They got disoriented—people do, underwater—she hit her head on the bottom of the boat, or for some other reason couldn’t make her way to the surface. His right foot was snarled in the ropes. My crew found a broken bottle of champagne floating with their personal effects. So they were drinking. Maybe they were drunk. If they were drunk and they fell and he was tangled and she was trying to reach him and got confused, or if she panicked… there are a million reasons it could have ended up this way. Neither of them was wearing a life preserver. And they were way out in the middle of nowhere, about a mile north of Muskegut. If the guy couldn’t sail, he had no business being all the way out there, not on a day like today, not unless he was very well acquainted with the wind and what it could do.”
The Chief nodded and made a motion with his hand to cut Joe off. He didn’t want to hear Joe pin the blame on Greg. The guy was dead, lying under a tarp. And yet the Chief knew that Joe was right. Greg was an overconfident sailor, always had been. The Chief had capsized with him on a Sunfish on Coskata Pond two summers earlier. Greg’s understanding of the wind and the jib and when to tack was muddled, but even when the Chief got dumped into the pond, he didn’t upbraid Greg the way he should have. At the time, he hadn’t seen the point. Greg sailed by instinct instead of by following the rules, and that meant occasionally ending up wet. So what?
So now he was dead. He had tried going all the way to the Vineyard in 30-mile gusts, and he had been drinking. It didn’t take a Rhodes scholar to figure out how they lost control of the boat. The boom swung around in a gust and caught Greg unaware, and off he went, and his leg was caught in the ropes and he couldn’t get loose. Tess tried to save him, but she was afraid of the water, had been since she was a kid; she was no match for a grown man sinking in choppy waves. They both went down. Or Tess was thrown and Greg tried to save her. He tried to pull her up by the hair, which would explain the patch of bald scalp.
“We put the time of death at one-thirty, maybe two. Another sailor put in the call about an abandoned capsize at quarter to three and gave us the coordinates. We got there forty minutes later, at three twenty-five. They were both trapped under the boat.”
“And that doesn’t seem strange to you? There are a million ways that could have happened?”
Joe removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes, which were such a pale gray they were almost clear, the color of water. Joe was probably, like Ed, still shy of his fiftieth birthday, but something made him seem older—his beard, his uniform, his title. He knew these waters, he knew the wind, and he knew the craft. Tess and Greg had been sailing on a 12-meter sloop, a bigger boat than Greg was used to, by far.
“I just wonder what happened. Why they couldn’t get to the surface.”
“Let’s say they were drinking. Their judgment was impaired, and their motor skills. Would one bottle of champagne and a few beers have incapacitated them? Well, it wouldn’t help matters. This could have happened sober, too. One of them got knocked unconscious, or lost their balance. She was taking a leak off the back of the boat and fell in and he went after her, got caught in the ropes, couldn’t fight his way to the surface. I could have the ME run toxicology. Do you want me to ask him to do that?”
Did the Chief want to do that? Would it help to know that Tess was drunk or Greg was high? God, no. It wouldn’t help him and it wouldn’t help the kids. He could ask Joe to run the toxicology in confidence. The only people who would see the results were himself and the ME, Danny Browne. But somehow, someway, rumors would fly. They always did. The Chief had seen it time and time again. You thought something was locked up in the vault when it turned out that everyone, including the girls who made pizza at the Muse, were talking about it. Getting the story right enough to maim, and wrong enough to kill. Tess and Greg had just had their lives examined under a microscope with the goddamn April Peck thing. Some child in Finn’s second-grade class had told Finn that his father was a cradle robber. A second-grader! It made the Chief angry enough to want to throw somebody in the slammer—the second-grader or Greg, the Chief wasn’t sure. Gossip was insidious. The Chief could not, in good conscience, create more gossip. And yet he was the police chief. He had to know what had happened.
“Run toxicology,” he said.
“Will do,” Joe said.
“On the down low,” the Chief said.
“No, I mean it.”
“I understand,” Joe said. He was looking at the Chief steadily. “You have my word.”
“That’ll do,” the Chief said.
The Chief followed Joe upstairs to sign the paperwork. Joe brought out two heavy-duty clear plastic bags with USCG stamped on them. One of them contained Greg’s guitar case.
“This is what my guys found at the scene,” Joe said. “We divided it into personal effects and what appears to be rubbish. But look through the rubbish to be sure we didn’t accidentally throw away something important.”
This was all standard operating procedure, but the Chief wasn’t sure he could follow through. But if not him, then who? He couldn’t ask Andrea to go through these bags, or Delilah or Jeffrey or Phoebe. The sight of Greg’s guitar case made him queasy. He opened it up. The guitar was surprisingly dry, light, intact. The Chief held it the way he’d seen Greg do hundreds of times, and felt like a fool. Still, he was certain that if he strummed a chord, it would sound clear and untroubled. The guitar had survived the capsize, but two strong, capable adults were dead.
The Chief resisted the urge to play the guitar incorrectly. He set it down.
Joe Finch excused himself to make the phone call to the medical examiner. The Chief dug through the bag of rubbish first, thinking that would be easier. There was a bottle of Moët & Chandon, broken at the neck and side. Also the cork, the wrapper, the cage. There were two plastic cups, both cracked. Two empty bottles of Heineken, no caps. Two glass cereal bowls that the Chief recognized as those from his own kitchen, cracked. Two halves of a soggy paperback book, Life’s a Beach, by Claire Cook. The book was saturated like a sponge, more pulp than pages. But it had been Tess’s, and the Chief had to ask himself, Would Andrea want it? He decided not. He left it with the broken glass. On to the personal effects.
The Chief removed a woven picnic basket, another denizen of the Kapenash household (it had been a wedding present and had spent nearly all of its eighteen years languishing on a shelf in the basement), and its component parts, secured to the top of the basket by leather straps: the plastic plates, the inexpensive forks and knives, the cloth napkins, the corkscrew. There were various pieces of Tupperware which the Chief also vaguely recognized, one containing half a lobster salad sandwich, another containing a dozen or more of Andrea’s macaroons. The macaroons had survived, but Greg and Tess were dead. The Chief took a minute after setting aside the macaroons. His eyes were dry, but his insides were dissolving. Tess’s flip-flops were in the bag, and one of Greg’s battered dock shoes. Greg had been famous for buying a new pair of shoes every ten years. There were sodden beach towels, two unopened bottles of Evian, a zippered leather suitcase that when opened revealed toothbrushes, deodorant, a change of clothes, a negligee.
Okay, enough. The Chief zipped it back up.
A pair of sunglasses, snapped in half. Red frames with white polka dots. Tess’s. The Chief considered pitching them in the trash. But then he thought he might be able to glue them back together and give them to Chloe.
He did not want to think about Chloe.
Greg’s BlackBerry was cold and dead. It was a piece of burned toast. Throw it away? The Chief decided to keep it. He would place it in a bag of rice (a trick taught to him by their world-wise dispatcher, Molly) and see if he could bring it back from the dead.
The cell phone could be brought back, but not Greg or Tess.
At the bottom of the bag of personal effects was a Ziploc freezer bag holding Tess’s iPhone with its signature lemon yellow skin. She was a woman, a mother; it wasn’t exactly surprising that she took better care of her electronics than Greg did of his. She would have needed her phone to check on the kids.
Carefully, the Chief removed the phone from the bag. It sprang to life under his touch. It flashed a bright picture of Chloe and Finn. The twins were sitting at the breakfast bar in their summer pajamas, eating pancakes. Finn was holding the curve of a banana where his smile should be, and seeing this, the Chief laughed. Then he felt himself coming apart again. This picture had been taken recently. It could have been taken that very morning.
Put the phone away! He could “investigate” later. But he was the police chief. He checked Tess’s incoming calls. There was a call from Andrea at 8:04 that morning (to say, I’m coming to drop off the picnic! The Chief had still been home when Andrea made that call). There were incoming calls from Addison at 9:00, 9:03, 9:10, 9:16, and 9:24 A.M. Those calls might have been from Phoebe, but when the Chief checked, he saw it was Addison’s cell phone number and not the number of the house. Why had Addison called five times? God only knew. The Chief checked Tess’s outgoing calls. He was looking for what, clues? It would be elucidating if Tess had tried to call someone from the boat, if she felt… Jesus, if she felt like she was in danger with Greg. But the last outgoing calls had been placed the day before—Addison, Delilah, Andrea, Addison, Tess’s friend Lisa Shumacher, Andrea, Delilah, a Vineyard number, Addison, Addison, Addison.
Lots of calls to and from Addison, the Chief thought.
It felt suddenly like what he was doing was not looking for clues but rather invading the woman’s privacy. He felt monstrous. Tess was dead and here he was probing the tender, private insides of her life—fingering the lingerie she’d planned to wear the night of her anniversary, checking into whom she’d called and who had called her. Ordering that her blood be tested so they could determine how much champagne she’d drunk. The Chief had the impulse then to call off the toxicology, but by now Joe would have spoken to Danny or left a message, and calling it off might raise more eyebrows than ordering it in the first place.
The Chief palmed Tess’s phone. What did he know? The calls to Addison may have been calls to Phoebe. There might be text messages, text messages would tell him more… but the Chief had to stop poking around like this. What had happened out on the water? He would never know for sure. No one would ever know. The wondering would drive him crazy.
The Chief left the Coast Guard station and headed straight for the south shore, to Andrea. But the fact was, he needed to return to the station to deal with this procedurally. To talk about “procedure” right now would be to commit a sin that Andrea would never forgive, so he sat holding her tight, wondering how to transport her and where to take her. Home? Jeffrey and Delilah’s house? Greg and Tess’s house?
His third problem: the children, Chloe and Finn. There was a will somewhere, but had Greg and Tess named guardians? The logical thing would have been for Greg and Tess to name Andrea and the Chief as guardians, but the Chief did not recall ever being asked or consulted about this. Andrea was the godmother of both kids, but that didn’t mean anything beyond the scope of the church. Tess’s father, Giancarlo, was dead; her mother, Vivian, had Alzheimer’s and lived in a home in Duxbury. Tess had three older brothers, one living in Amsterdam with his Indonesian wife, one an undercover narcotics detective with the BPD, and the third the twice-divorced general manager of a Loews Cineplex in Pembroke. The only family Greg had that the Chief knew of was a sister in Vermont who was a weaver and who lived, romantically, with another woman.
He and Andrea would take the children.
The Chief’s fourth problem was everyone else. His own kids for starters, and the rest of the group—Addison, Phoebe, Jeffrey, Delilah—and everyone beyond. The community, the people at the schools, the entire island. The island would be shaken, devastated; people would come out of the woodwork with food, donations for the kids, and offers of help and support. The Chief had seen it before—when the eight-year-old boy shot himself in the face, it was the sheer number of people who had demonstrated acts of human kindness that made the Chief decide that no matter what happened, he would stay on this island forever. It was an island of good people.
The Chief slowly, carefully, got Andrea to her feet, wrapped her in a beach towel, and collected her things: the trash from her lunch, her goggles, her injured book. He pointed her toward the car, he held her up, he showed her how to walk. This way, up here, just a little bit farther, I’ve got you. His wife, whom he still loved deeply, hobbled along like she was ninety years old.
His fifth problem was his own grief. But he would deal with that later. There would be plenty of time.
Excerpted from The Castaways by Hilderbrand, Elin Copyright © 2011 by Hilderbrand, Elin. Excerpted by permission.
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