Home > Close to the Bone (Widow's Island #1)(5)

Close to the Bone (Widow's Island #1)(5)
Author: Kendra Elliot

“It’s stunning right now,” corrected Henry.


It felt as if they’d emerged from a wicked wood and found a glorious castle at the end of a journey.

“What’s it like to live here?” Henry asked Dustin.

The young man held on tightly to the handrail as he looked back at Henry. “Lonely. Isolated.”

“Then why stay?” Cate questioned.

Dustin shrugged. “My uncle pays well. I have benefits, and it’s an easy job. I like to paint a little, and he gave me a huge studio to work in. I’d pay thousands a month in rent for a space like that back home.”

“Where’s home?”

“New York.”

“Isn’t that where Rex’s wife lives now?” Cate asked. She’d lost count of the stairs, and they were only halfway down the cliff.

“Yeah. She couldn’t handle it here after Becca vanished. Rex refused to leave, but legally they’re still married.”

Cate could see both points of view. Daily reminders that her daughter had vanished would rip a mother apart. But Rex had stayed in place; she assumed he hoped Becca would return one day. “Understandable. When a child vanishes, it’s devastating for the parents. They each react in their own way.”

“Rex has changed since Becca disappeared,” Dustin said slowly.

“How?” Cate asked sharply.

“You’ll see.”


Henry followed Cate and Dustin through a back entrance and into the giant home.

He felt like an intruder. This was police business, not his. But Dustin had concerns about Rex’s health, and Henry felt compelled to stay. It wasn’t every day a father heard his missing daughter’s bones might have been found near his home. Even the healthiest person could go into shock.

The back door opened into a gigantic mudroom, and after passing through they stepped into a kitchen worthy of an interior design magazine spread. Dustin led them into a great room with soaring ceilings and views of the night sky, black water, and the faint outline of Widow’s Island. Tiny clusters of lights sparkled along the coastline. On the bay’s right, Henry identified the lights of Harlot Harbor, and straight ahead was the town of North Sound.

A gray-haired man rose out of a window-facing chair and turned to the small group. He was tall and angular with stooped shoulders and a distinctive long face. Henry recognized him immediately from the jacket photos on the back of Conan’s books, but in the pictures his hair was dark brown and his face less lined. The photos didn’t show the current haunted look in his eyes.

“What’s going on at the south end?” Rex immediately demanded of Dustin. His voice boomed through the room with unexpected strength from such a gaunt man, and he glared at Cate and Henry. “Who’s this?”

Cate stepped forward. “I’m FBI Special Agent Wilde. Along with the sheriff’s office, I’m investigating skeletal remains that have been discovered on the south side of your island.” Her voice was calm yet full of steel.

Holy crap. She considers Rex to be a suspect.

Henry looked at the older man in a new light.

Rex Conan took a shaking step backward, steadying himself with a hand on his wing chair. “Whose bones?” The booming voice was gone, replaced with a broken whisper.

“We don’t know, Mr. Conan.” Cate paused. “It’s possible it could be your missing daughter—but we haven’t found evidence to support that yet. Please don’t jump to conclusions.”

The older man leaned against the chair, breathing heavily. He’d paled, and Henry took a step in his direction, watching him carefully. “Maybe you should sit down, Mr. Conan.”

“You with the sheriff’s office?” Rex perched on the arm of the chair, his knuckles white as he gripped the back.

“No. I’m Dr. Powers. I recently bought the medical practice on Widow’s.”

“So you’re acting as coroner,” Rex added, staring at him sharply. “What did you see out there, Doctor?”

Henry felt like a fraud. “I’m not a medical examiner.”

“I know the difference,” Rex stated. “At least you have a medical background, and I assume you can tell the difference between”—he swallowed hard—“an adult and a teenager.”

“It’s not that simple,” Henry hedged.

“Don’t give me that shit. I’ve been writing mysteries for decades. I know what you can tell from bones.” Beads of sweat appeared on Rex’s temples, and he’d turned a sickly shade of gray.

Alarm shot through Henry, and he took two steps closer. “Are you feeling dizzy?” He took Rex’s wrist, feeling the rapid pulse. “Any vision issues or chest pain?”

Rex yanked his arm out of Henry’s grip. “I’m not having a fucking heart attack. I’m just caught off guard,” he said shakily, shooting glares at the three people staring at him. He mashed his lips together. “Maybe a little light headed,” he conceded.

“Get in the chair, and put your head down.” Henry guided him into the seat of the chair. He wanted the man to lie on the floor, but he suspected Rex would refuse. The author bent over and didn’t protest when Henry took his wrist again. “Breathe deep and slow.” Henry looked over his shoulder at Cate, who frowned at the two of them. Is she worried about his health or analyzing his reaction to our news?

“I’ll get you some water.” Dustin vanished in the direction of the kitchen.

Henry wished he had a blood pressure cuff. “If you’re not having chest pains, I suspect it was a rapid drop in blood pressure.”

“No pain anywhere,” Rex admitted, staring at the floor between his knees.

Thank God.

“I’m a fan,” Henry said, and he heard Cate softly snort behind him. “I’ve read every book you’ve written.”

“Are you my biggest fan?” Rex muttered, alluding to a psychotic-fan quote from a well-known Stephen King novel.

Henry grinned. The author making jokes was a good sign. “Definitely not.”

“Good. Part of the reason I live here is to avoid the crazies.” Rex took another deep breath and gingerly raised his head. “Dizziness seems to be better.”

Cate pulled a chair to Rex’s side and sat. “I’d like to ask you some questions.”

“I’d like to do the same to you,” the author said gruffly, eyeing the woman. “And the doc here.” He turned to Henry. “You don’t need to be a medical examiner to tell me if the . . . remains . . . had braces.”

Henry looked at Cate, who gave a quick nod.

“There were braces on the teeth, but”—he spoke quickly as Rex’s face fell—“Becca isn’t the only teenage girl missing from the area who was wearing braces at the time.”

“What?” Shock rocked Rex back in his chair. “Why wasn’t I informed that more girls have vanished?” Dustin appeared with Rex’s water, and the author took several large gulps.

“The other girl disappeared nearly fifteen years before Becca disappeared,” Cate said. “She’s never been found.”

Rex drew his eyebrows together, forming a thick black line that contrasted with his gray hair. “I remember hearing about that when Becca went missing, but didn’t she fall off the Widow’s Walk?”

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