Home > The Last Sister (Columbia River #1)(11)

The Last Sister (Columbia River #1)(11)
Author: Kendra Elliot

He tasted his omelet, and unexpected flavor exploded in his mouth. He took three rapid bites, no longer regretting his choice.

“How’s your room?” Ava asked between mouthfuls.

He snorted, and she grinned in understanding.

His hotel room was bare bones and hadn’t been updated since the 1980s.

He didn’t mind; he could sleep anywhere. But he hadn’t cared for the earthy scent of dampness. It permeated the carpet and curtains. The bedding and towels were fresh, but this morning his clothing seemed limp from the wet air.

The two of them made fast work of breakfast and were lingering over their coffee when Zander saw Emily emerge from the kitchen. She wore a jacket, so he assumed she’d just arrived. She stopped to talk to a table of four women, each one with a baby or toddler on her lap. Some sort of mom’s group, he surmised. She admired each baby and then patted the shoulder of one mother. The woman’s smiling little girl made him suck in a breath and focus on his coffee.

He looked up to catch Ava eyeing him, her gaze deliberately blank. She wisely didn’t say a thing.

“Good morning.” Emily stopped at their table. “How was your breakfast?”

“Amazing,” Ava stated at the same time that Zander replied, “Great.”

“I’m glad to hear it.”

“Emily, I’d like to talk with Madison,” Ava told her. “When is she off work?”

Emily frowned. “What for?”

Her reluctance caught Zander’s attention. Overprotective sister?

“I’ve hit a bit of a wall on Lindsay’s closest relatives. I was hoping she could help.”

“Oh.” Emily glanced over her shoulder at her sister. Madison had four breakfast plates balanced on her arms as she strode to the far end of the restaurant. “Once the breakfast rush is done, she’ll have time.”

Zander’s phone rang, and Emily stepped away. Sheriff Greer’s name was on the screen.

“Wells,” Zander answered.

“Greer here. I got a call from a bar manager who says Sean Fitch got in a bar fight the night before he died.”

“Where?” Zander’s heart sped up.

“Patrick’s Place. Local dive.”

“They open this early? Who’s the manager?”

“They’re not open, but Paul Parish is the manager, and he’s there now. He’ll let us in.”

Annoyance briefly flickered at the thought of the sheriff observing as Zander conducted an interview. Or maybe he expected Zander to observe him interview the manager.

“I’ll be there in a few minutes,” Zander told him before hanging up. “Sean Fitch supposedly got in a bar fight the night before,” he told Ava.

Her eyes widened. “Interesting.”

“The sheriff says he’ll meet me at the bar.”

She wrinkled her nose. “Enjoy. I’ll talk to Madison as soon as this place clears out a little more.”

He slid out of the booth and put on his coat. “Check in later?”



No sheriff’s vehicle was present at Patrick’s Place.

For two seconds Zander considered waiting for Sheriff Greer, and then he got out of his vehicle. Patrick’s Place was on the oceanfront. In fact, most of the building stuck out over the ocean, balanced on a network of pilings and heavy beams. The squat one-story building didn’t have any windows in front, and Zander hoped there were windows on the ocean side to take advantage of the view.

It might be prime real estate, but the parking lot was gravel with scattered broken glass. The surf swirled around the pilings as he drew closer, leaving dirty white foam stuck to the wood. It should have been a nice-looking bar in an ideal location. Instead it felt tired and run-down. The building creaked as the waves receded, and Zander wondered if he was taking his life in his hands by entering it. Orange neon light above the door sloppily formed the name, appearing to read PATRICK’S LACE.

Not a good name for a dive bar.

The front door swung open, and a thirtyish guy with a thick beard and a gray stocking hat stepped out, looking directly at Zander. “You Agent Wells?”

“I am. Paul?”


They shook hands. “Paul Parish at Patrick’s Place,” Zander said with a grin. “That’s some alliteration.”

Paul blinked at him. “Uh . . . yeah.”

He doesn’t get it.

“There isn’t a Patrick anymore,” Paul said, still viewing Zander with confusion. “He died about five years back.”

“Who owns the bar now?” Zander asked to move the conversation farther away from his alliteration comment.

“I do.”

“The sheriff told me you’re the manager.”

“I’m that too. I was manager when Patrick was still around, so people are used to calling me that.”

“So what happened Thursday night?”

Paul shifted his feet and peered past Zander to the road. “Probably should wait for the sheriff since this is about . . . a murder. Can’t believe Sean is gone.”

Zander studied the discomfort on Paul’s face. “How about you show me around your bar while we wait. This is a great location.”

The owner’s face brightened. “Can do.” He tugged on the door’s heavy wood handle, and the door moaned as it opened. Zander entered and was greeted by the odors of stale beer and fryer grease. The interior was well lit; every streak on the grimy floor tile and scuff on the tables was visible. No doubt the lighting was turned down in the evening. The actual bar with shelves of alcohol and stools was spread across the back of the building.

There were no windows.

Regular square tables filled most of the floor, their chairs upside down on their tabletops, leaving the floor available to mop. One corner of the bar was empty. A motionless disco ball hung above the clearing, and a jukebox sat nearby.

“Nice place,” Zander said. “Business good?”

“Winter is slow. Summer’s better.”

“Get a lot of tourists during the summer?”

“Some. The Jiggy Bar down the street gets more. It has windows, and I think tourists like to be able to see inside a new place before they enter.”

“Then you should put in some windows. Windows across the back too. Shame to miss the ocean view.”

Paul gave a one-shouldered shrug. “Maybe someday.”

Zander wondered if his disinterest was because of cost or if he didn’t care for change.

The front door opened, and Sheriff Greer appeared. Out of the corner of his eye, Zander saw the relief on Paul’s face.

Am I that uncomfortable to converse with?

“Hey, Paul. Good to see you. You too, Agent Wells.” Greer nodded at Zander as he removed his hat. “Sorry I’m late. Can you recap what you’ve covered so far?” He looked from Zander to Paul.

“Nothing yet,” said Paul.

Satisfaction crossed Greer’s face. “Good. Walk us through it.”

“Well, I was tending bar—I usually do on Thursday nights. There were probably twenty people inside. A basketball game was on the TV.” Paul gestured at a small screen behind the bar. “Sean came in around—oh, it was probably eight or so.”

“Do you have cameras?” Zander asked, scanning the ceiling and corners.

“No. What for?”

Zander stared at him. “In case of crimes. Fights. Robberies.”

Paul waved a hand. “Not worth the investment to me. We’ve never been robbed—unless you count the time four college punks decided to help themselves to a half dozen vodka bottles. My customers stopped them from making it out the door,” he said with a flourish.

“I remember that,” agreed Greer. “Two had fake IDs. It was a pleasure contacting their parents.”

“So, back to Sean. Eight o’clock. Thursday.” Zander redirected the reminiscing.

Paul ran a hand down his beard. “Sean was sitting right there.” He pointed at a barstool at the center of the bar. “His usual drink is Coors Light.”

“He comes in a lot?” Zander asked.

“Not really. Maybe once a week.”

That seemed frequent to Zander but maybe not to a bar owner.

“Did Lindsay ever come with him?” he asked.

“Nah. Haven’t seen her in here.”

“You know who she is?”

“I do. Seen her around town and in the diner.”

Zander noticed Paul referred to Sean and Lindsay in the present tense. It was probably more comfortable for him. Their deaths hadn’t sunk in yet. “I assume Sean talks to you if he’s sitting at the bar?” Zander asked, mentioning the couple in the same tense. “What’s he talk about?”

Paul frowned. “I don’t know. Basketball? Sometimes he has funny stories about the kids at the high school. He never says their names, though,” he added quickly. “Just tells me about the shit they pull.”

“Who does he hang out with when he’s here?”

The owner crossed his arms. “I thought you wanted to know what happened Thursday.”

“I do. I’m also trying to get a better picture of the victim.”

“These are pretty standard questions,” Greer added.

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