Home > Close to the Bone (Widow's Island #1)(12)

Close to the Bone (Widow's Island #1)(12)
Author: Kendra Elliot

She smiled faintly. “Everywhere has a drug problem, but drug problems have been rampant on Widow’s as long as I can remember. The only change is the type of drug.” Her eyes were somber. “There’s not a lot to do here. Unless you’re into fishing or own a business, you have a lot of time on your hands. Drugs are an easy entertainment.”

“Until your life is no longer your own.”

“That sounds personal.” Sympathy rang in her tone.

“My sister. Overdose. I was eighteen.”

“I’m very sorry.”

“You could say I have a special hatred for the industry.” Understatement.

“With good reason.”

“Y’all ready to order?” asked a waitress. Her plump cheeks were very pink and gave her a jolly air. Unlike Milton, her white shirt had been the victim of a coffee spill.

“You’re not Milton,” Henry joked, picturing the gaunt waiter.

“No, I’m Naomi,” she said, her eyes twinkling in amusement.

“Are you from the island?” Cate asked.

“Yep. Born and bred. I’ve worked at every restaurant on the island at one time or another. Even the bakery. You get to know everyone’s secrets when you stay in the public eye like I do. The good ones and the bad ones.”

“Have you heard anything about police activity in the last twenty-four hours?” Cate asked, surprising Henry. Maybe she’s testing the waters.

Naomi’s eyes widened. “No. What happened?”

“I was asking you,” Cate answered. “Something’s up. Was wondering if the word was out yet.”

“Not that I’ve heard.” Anticipation crossed her face. “I’ll ask around. Do y’all know what you want?”

They both ordered the burger.

As she left, Cate reached for her bag and winced.

“Okay,” said Henry. “We’ve ordered the same food and tramped around Ruby’s Island in the dark together. I think it’s safe for you to tell me what’s up with your shoulder. I knew you were in pain last night.”

Cate took a tiny bottle of ibuprofen from her bag, shook out three, and swallowed them with water before looking him in the eye, her expression grim. “I was shot.”

Shock rocked through him. “Shot? How?”

“With a gun,” she said wryly.

“You know what I mean.” He placed his forearms on the table and studied her closely. He’d seen his share of gunshot victims. Cate looked good from the outside, but he knew how a bullet could leave physical wreckage in its wake. Mental and emotional wreckage too. “What happened?”

Indecision flickered in her eyes.

“I won’t gossip,” he promised.

She gave a short laugh. “Oh, the whole island knows already. Jane saw to that.”

“Jane. Jane Sutton?” Henry couldn’t think of any other Janes he’d met. “Why would she do that to you?” Annoyance flickered as he thought of the pleasant woman he’d met that morning. Did Jane play me for a newcomer again?

A wide grin filled her face. “Jane is my grandmother. She meant well by spreading my news.” Cate rolled her eyes. “You know her?”

“I met her this morning. Nice lady. Didn’t treat me like an outsider.”

Cate’s brows shot up. “Wow. You must have made quite an impression. Everyone is an outsider to her.”

“Is she on your Elias Bishop side of the family?” He wondered what he’d done to get on Jane’s good list.

“Yes. And very proud of her heritage. No one dares put our family down for being descended from the whore . . . not to our faces, anyway.”

“Do people really say that?” Henry was stunned.

“Oh yes. Even though it happened generations ago, some grudges go very deep.” She twisted her lips. “Welcome to Days of Our Lives. Island version.”

“What is the real story of Elias and Ruby? There’s no mention of her in his museum.”

“I rarely meet someone who doesn’t know the story.” She rested her chin on her hands, her eyes distant as she thought. “Elias started as a shipbuilder in Seattle. He built ships for the US Navy but moved to the islands for an early retirement because Camilla loved this location. She came from a poor coastal family on another island but became a snob with Elias’s success. I heard she never spoke to her family once she’d married Elias. When they’d settled here, their son joined them and started his own family. Somewhere during that time, Elias met Ruby. He was much older than her.”

“Of course.”

“I don’t know how long the affair went on, but at some point Elias built a home for Ruby on Widow’s—my grandmother still lives there. It’s not huge like the Bishop mansion, but it’s a nice, quality house. And he constructed a small summer place for her on Ruby’s Island.”

“The location where Rex Conan built his colossus.”

“Yes. Ruby had a baby, and Camilla was furious and made her life hell. Elias and Ruby’s affair was a poorly kept secret.”

“Understandable, since he built her two homes. The public had to notice that.” He couldn’t look away from Cate. The animation in her face as she told the story had hooked him.

“After that the story gets a little murky, but Ruby and Elias were found dead among the rocks at the bottom of Widow’s Walk one morning.”

“Camilla did it,” Henry said flatly.

“Did she?” Cate asked with a quirk of an eyebrow. “Or did they leap off the cliff together, wanting to be with each other in the afterlife, where it’s peaceful?”

“No one falls that deeply in love. Only in movies. What happened to their baby?”

“She was raised by Ruby’s sister, who had been her nanny. That baby was Jane’s mother.”

“Did Camilla go to jail?” The story had sucked him in.

“No, she had an alibi from her groundskeeper.”

“Right. Groundskeeper. You weren’t kidding about the soap opera reference. What happened next?” Henry was enamored that Cate was part of the crazy bloodline.

“Well, Camilla became the most hated woman on the island. Ruby had been a kind young woman, so Camilla was now the evil crone who many believed offed her husband and his lover.”

“I feel a little sorry for Camilla.”

“Me too. Being ostracized can’t be fun. The islanders decided to name the tiny bay island Ruby’s Island, and you can imagine how Camilla reacted. I suspect they primarily did it to annoy her.”

“But the other two nearby islands are named Camilla and Elias. She complained even though she had her own island?”

“Yep. Anyway, Camilla lived a long, miserable life in the Bishop mansion. They say she haunts the mansion, but my friend Samantha lived there and never saw anything. Samantha’s mother, Marsha, lost the huge house a while back. She’s been a little mentally unstable since her daughter vanished.” Cate looked at her plate and fiddled with a fry. “It didn’t help that her husband committed suicide not long after Samantha disappeared. He was suspected in Samantha’s disappearance and hounded by the police.”

“You didn’t agree.”

“No. He barely paid attention to Samantha. He was too busy with the Harbor View Inn and Elias’s little museum. He was kind . . . just overworked.” She laid the fry down without eating it. “The Bishop bloodline fizzled out after that.”

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