Home > Close to the Bone (Widow's Island #1)(15)

Close to the Bone (Widow's Island #1)(15)
Author: Kendra Elliot

“Oh . . . hello!” Naomi had spotted Cate, and her cheeks plumped as she grinned.

“Hi, Naomi . . . Milton,” Cate said and smiled. “I’m Cate, by the way.”

“Cate is the one who asked me about police activity,” Naomi explained to Milton, who nodded solemnly. “I started asking around, and sure enough, it turns out they found bones on Ruby’s Island!” she whispered loudly, gazing from Cate to Milton. “Pam at Shiny Objects had all the details.” Her eyes glowed as she shared the gossip. Milton sighed and gave Cate a one-shouldered shrug, no doubt used to Naomi’s chatter.

“That’s what I heard too,” Cate said, enjoying her incognito role.

“Do you know what they did with the bones?” Naomi asked in the same loud whisper.

The teen employee pulled out his phone and leaned against the back counter, seeing his chatty customers weren’t ready to order.

“Ummm . . . I heard the coroner has them and will get them to the mainland when the ferry is back.” Cate tried to look as excited about the gossip as Naomi. It wasn’t possible. “Have you heard any rumors about who it is or what happened?”

“Well,” Naomi stated with authority. “That author who lives on the island . . . his daughter has been missing for a few years.” She leaned closer to Cate, her eyes animated. “He’s a loner, rarely leaves the island. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d done something to her . . . or that nephew of his. I don’t like him at all.”

“What’s wrong with the nephew?” Cate whispered conspiratorially.

“His credit card was declined at the restaurant, and ohhhhh, you should have seen how angry he was. You’d think I’d done it on purpose.”

“He is a spoiled jerk.” Milton spoke for the first time, still sounding as formal as when Cate had met him that afternoon.

Naomi nodded enthusiastically. “Milton had to escort him out.”

“Are you going to order?” the teen asked, still on his phone, his thumbs tapping rapidly.

Naomi and Milton turned back to the counter, and Cate exhaled. Acting was hard. The couple ordered a vanilla and a normal mint chip cone. They said—Naomi said—goodbye to Cate as they left. Cate stepped forward and eyed the small tubs behind the glass. This would be her dinner. “A scoop of white chocolate curry.”

“That’s the best,” the teen mumbled as he scooped it up.

Driving home, with one hand on the steering wheel as she ate her cone, Cate agreed.


Henry parked behind his clinic the next morning.

Even though the practice was small, it filled him with pride every time he saw the building. He was making a difference on the island and didn’t know how the residents had survived without a doctor for so long. He looked forward to the rush of the tourist season and wondered if it’d feel as if he was back in a busy LA emergency room. Probably not. He grabbed his bag out of the back seat, imagining a line of tourists with swimmer’s ear and allergy problems. Not LA car accident or shooting victims.

One of the back windows caught his eye.

Is that broken?

He froze and studied the high window. Some shards of glass were still visible at the top, but most of the pane was gone. His gaze shot to the back door. Closed. Pulling his hand inside the cuff of his shirt, he tried the handle. Unlocked.

They got in through the window and left through the back door.

He’d considered an alarm system a dozen times. But the island had seemed so mellow.

The drug seeker.

“Shit. Asshole.” There were no drugs on the premises. The strongest medication the idiot would have found was Advil.

Henry circled the building, eyeing the other windows and checking the front door. Everything else was fine. He pulled out his phone and searched for the local number for the sheriff’s office. This wasn’t a 911 situation. No doubt the druggie was long gone. In fact Henry almost hated to bother the deputies, but maybe “Blake Shelton” had left fingerprints behind and was already in a database for a different crime.

Deputy Black assured him she’d be right over. Not an exaggeration, since their tiny office was three blocks away. Two county SUVs appeared within a minute, and Henry greeted Tessa and Bruce, his nurse’s fiancé.

Tessa and Bruce circled the property as she directed Bruce where to take photos. When they were ready to go in, Tessa slowly opened the back door and announced herself. She and Bruce entered with their weapons ready as Henry calmly leaned against the hood of his vehicle. If the druggie was still in there, he had to be sound asleep to not hear all the noise the three of them had made outside.

“Come on in, Doc,” Tessa called after a minute. “It looks pretty good in here.”

Henry walked through the office and had to agree. Cabinet doors were open, but the insides were neat.

Bruce and Tessa tailed him on his tour. He stopped in the doorway to his second exam room. “Dammit.” Glass from the broken entry window covered the floor.

“At least that seems to be the only damage,” Tessa pointed out. “Is anything missing? Drugs? Equipment?”

He told her about his encounter with the drug seeker from the day before. “The only drugs here are available over the counter. I haven’t noticed that anything is missing yet.”

Bruce spoke up. “I’m surprised he didn’t take your computer equipment or anything else he could sell for quick money.”

“Me too,” said Henry. He checked in his lab, a small room with a microscope, monitor, and some other portable equipment that would have been easy to walk away with. Again the storage cabinet doors were open, but nothing was out of place. His gaze shot to an empty spot on a low shelf, and his heart stopped.


The tub of bones was gone.

An hour later Henry still felt like an incompetent idiot.

He’d crossed the drug seeker off his list of suspects—why would he steal bones and not the equipment? Now his suspect list was completely blank.

Tessa had called Cate, who now stood with her hands on her hips, clenching her jaw in irritation as she glared at the empty shelf. “We had just looked at them,” she mumbled.

Henry said nothing. He’d fucked up.

Cate looked at Tessa. “Chain of evidence was intact. Leaving the bones with the coroner for delivery to the lab wasn’t wrong.”

“I agree,” said Tessa. “If the county had stored them, they’d still be gone if that was the thief’s primary goal. Our evidence shed is locked with a chain and pathetic padlock.” She looked at Bruce. “I’m assigning you a project. Figure out an upgraded evidence storage system for our office. We’ve been lucky for too long. I’ll get the funding from the sheriff.”

“I’m on it,” the deputy replied. He’d covered areas of the office with black fingerprint powder, and Henry had watched in fascination as the young man twirled the feathery brush. The tons of smeared fingerprints on the cupboards weren’t encouraging, but Bruce had seemed pleased with some prints he’d found on large pieces of the broken window.

“I should have locked up the bones. They were evidence,” Henry said. “This is on me.” Bruce won’t be the only person looking for secure storage. And an alarm system.

“What’s done is done. Locking your cabinet wouldn’t have made a difference,” said Cate briskly.

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