Excerpts from the Mackenzie Wilder/Classic Boat mysteries iii

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I picked up the files Andrea had left on my desk and began my day.

With only five minutes to go before my first appointment, my phone rang.

“Don’t get mad at me,” Bryan said as soon as I picked up. “But you’re not going to like this.”

“So far I’m not liking anything about this morning,” I grumbled.

“I have to ditch our date tonight.”

“Work?”

“Yep.”

I sighed. “I don’t suppose there’s any way you can get out of it.”

“Not unless you want to explain to my superiors that the opening of our new concert shell trumps a triple drowning with serious mob overtones. I’ve a feeling Freddie would take issue with that.”

“I thought your captain liked me.”

“He does. He likes jailed murderers better, that’s all. Especially the professionals. I’m sorry, Mackenzie. You know I’m taking every opportunity I can to show you how great our life can be together.”

“Not working too well for you this week, is it?” I teased. “It will be okay, Bryan. I’ll have stuff to keep me busy at home tonight. Should we stick to our plan and have Rachel spend the night at my house?”

“Rachel. Well, Rachel went and made plans of her own, which I only heard about yesterday. She’ll be at Shelby’s doing something called DDR. I was going to drop her off after the concert, but now she’ll just go home with Shelby after school today.  So, if it’s okay with you, I’ll come over after I get done at work.”

“I don’t think so.” I said slowly. “I have to make arrangements for the boathouse expansion. Bret’s coming by tomorrow to give me an estimate.”

“Can’t I still come over?” Bryan wheedled.

“Bret wants to stop by before seven on his way out of town in the morning. He’s going to be away for a week, and we need to order the materials so that he can start as soon as he gets back.”

“Mackenzie, you never stop. If it’s not your boats, it’s your job, if it’s not that, it’s your renovating, and if it’s not that, it’s your murders. We need some time together.”

“Hey, you’re the one who can’t make it tonight.”

“Like I said, I have work.”

“Well, I have work, all kinds of work to do. I don’t think throwing that in my face is fair.” My own voice was rising. Did he really think his job was more important than mine? Or was it because he was a guy and therefore his job was de facto more important?

“This isn’t getting us anywhere,” he muttered. “I have to go.”

I knew that was true. His work was important, and it could not be regulated or denied. I might be annoyed, but I knew it.

 That’s what you get for dating a cop, said the little voice in my head.

This was a lousy way to finish a week. Three strikes already. Based on the Order of Three, though, we should be done with it.

“Doc, your first appointment is here.”

At least now my day was getting going. I pulled out a folder and greeted my patient at my office door.

 

I was on the phone again after my lunch.

“Doc, I’m really hating this,” my housekeeper Jean began.

“Well, at least this time it’s you and not me.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Bad day here at Black Rock. What’s happened, Jean? I’ve got six patients due in ten minutes.”

“You know that young guy you hired to take care of the horses? I think he’s getting in the house and using the kitchen. Some food’s missing, and I found the stove on.”

“Oh. Well, I don’t like that about the stove. Did he leave a mess?”

“Not really, although none of that crew understands wiping off a counter properly.” Jean had high, high standards of clean. I was pretty sure I didn’t measure up to them. “And as generous as you are, you do not need to be feeding an entire construction crew out there. You pay them well enough to buy themselves a lunch.”

“You’re sure you’re not over-reacting?”

“I know what I saw,” she answered. Gloom reached through the phone at me.

“I’ll talk to Bret. He’ll speak to the crew.”

“Mhmm.”

I sighed and hung up. Before the noisy swim team – who, I discovered, had been practicing their diving board technique from my new waiting room couch – could transition from said waiting room to my office, the phone rang again.  My cell phone this time.

I checked the number. Aha! I had been waiting for this call.

I’d sent Dorsey Wegman up to Lake George to pick up the Chris Craft cruiser I’d purchased from old Charlie Osterhout last year. About the same time as Bryan’s proposal.

Of course, new is a relative term. It was new to me, the latest in my growing collection of antique boats. The cruiser, along with a second boat Charlie had sold me, would make four classic boats I owned. Renovating houses might be a hobby of mine, but collecting, restoring, and showing classic boats was my passion.

Charlie’d had this boat in dry-dock at Lake George for repairs. Dorsey – who was doing this for me for both friendship and a commission – had gotten there only to discover the boatworks had unaccountably transferred the Sonny to their Thousand Islands shop and put it into the water over there. So she’d had to get back in her purple pickup truck and head over to fetch it. This was her checking in, no doubt.

“Doc?”

“Dorsey! Good to hear your voice. Did you get the boat okay?”

Dorsey was both competent and cheerful. Her voice was sunshine on this gloomy, bad-luck-ridden day.

“I got up here okay. This Bateauville place is small. Didn’t help that somebody sent me to Clayton first.”

“I thought the Thousand Island Boatworks was in Clayton.”

“It may be, but I had to go to one called George Boatworks. They’re connected to Lake George. This one is in Bateauville. Did you know that means Boat Town? And it’s spelled B-A-T-E-A-U-V-I-L-L-E, even though they say it ‘buh-TOE-vill.’ Anyway, I got here. Oh, and I saw some of those runabouts at the marina. I can see why you like them so much, Doc.”

“Dorsey, how’s my boat? How does the Sonny look?”

“Doc? You’re not going to like this.”

Those words again. “What is it?”

“Well, the police won’t let me take it.”

“The police! Why?”

“When I got here, the boat shop guy gave me the receipt and the starter key, like you said. And he told me where to go to pick it up.  Someplace called North Bayou Marina.”

“Okay, what happened?”

“I got here, and the marina guy said there was back rental and fees, and he wouldn’t let it go ’til they were paid. I argued with him and showed him the receipt and everything. Finally, he called the police on me.”

“Oh, no! Dorsey, I didn’t mean for you to get in trouble with the police! You should have called me!”

“Well, that part actually worked out okay. The officer is friends with Charlie Osterhout, and he vouched for you and being able to get it all straightened out. He was mad as hell at the boatwright.”

“I don’t blame him. I’ll have a few words for that boatwright myself.”

“Um, yeah.”

There was an uncomfortable silence. Dorsey Wegman is never silent.

“Dorsey? What’s going on? Why won’t the police let you take the boat?”

She sighed a long sigh. “Well, it went like this. The policeman and the marina guy went down the dock with me. When we got there, the boat was all messed up.”

“Messed up? How? They were supposed to be fixing it!  Wait’ til Charlie and I get ahold of him!”

“That may take a while, Doc. He’s gone missing. The police couldn’t reach him.”

I put my elbow on the desk and caught my forehead in my hand. “You’re right. I don’t like this. At. All.”

“You’re really going to hate this next part.”

“What?” I asked, my voice dropping down beside my heart.

“Because the boat looked so messed up – it had scuff marks and stains on it, and the door was banged off its hinges – because it looked like that, I let the cop and the marina guy go on board first.

“And – um, Doc? There was a dead woman on your boat. The police have impounded it, and I can’t leave until they have a handle on what’s going on. They’ll be calling you in about a half hour, they said. Doc, what should I do?”

 


continue reading excerpts …

Where the Bodies Lie Buried (book 1)

Sweet Corn, Fields, Forever (book 2)