-- Written by AD
Jessica Fletcher scribbled a short inscription on the endleaf, signed her name, and handed the book back to its new owner.
“There you go, Margaret,” she said. “I hope you enjoy it.”
The young woman accepted the book with glowing eyes. “Thanks, Mrs. Fletcher,” she said. “I’m sure I will.”
When she had gone, Jessica set down her pen and flexed her tired hand.
“Whew, what an afternoon,” she said to Joan Biaz, owner of Bar Harbor, Maine’s Acadia Books and Stationery, the bookstore that had hosted the signing. “Is there anyone else?”
“Just one,” Joan said with a smile, and she went up front to start closing the store for the evening.
“Inscribe it with, ‘Dinner tonight – I’m buying; yours, Jessica,’ so I have it in writing,” Seth Hazlitt said. “That way you can’t renege.”
Jessica laughed. “Seth! You don’t need that in writing. You’ve done me a big favor by driving me up here, so dinner is the least I can do!”
“Ay-yuh, you can say that again.”
“Although you did offer,” Jessica reminded him. “Something about needing to get away from the office for a few days?”
“Yes, well, that was just a coincidence,” Seth said. “Anyhow, the folks at the inn recommended just the place, so if you’re finished up here, we’ll go.”
“Oh, I’m finished, all right,” Jessica said emphatically as she got up from the folding table and stretched. “If I sign my name one more time, I think my hand will fall off!”
“Well,” said Seth, offering her his arm, “we can’t have that.”
The little restaurant on the
“What is it?” Jessica asked him, though she thought she could guess.
“This place has become too commercialized,” Seth said. “Look around you, Jess – galleries selling overpriced art next to trinket shops, seafood restaurants on every corner, even a place hawking Harley-Davison accessories! And tell me, exactly how many ice cream parlours does a town this size need?”
Jessica smiled – she’d been right again – and gave Seth’s arm a gentle squeeze.
“Oh, Seth,” she said. “Try to see past the trinket shops. For all the tourism,
Seth looked at her and said, “I’d have to look pretty darn hard. Do I detect a little more than your eternal optimism in that statement?”
Jessica laughed. “I suppose so,” she admitted. “I will always carry
“No, I didn’t know,” said Seth thoughtfully. “That was a long time ago. Been back since?”
“Oh, a few times. Then there was one time in particular …” Here Jessica shook her head, smiled, and sighed.
“Ah, ha,” Seth said. “Sounds to me like there’s a story behind that. Care to share?”
“It’s a long story,” Jessica said. “But if you’re interested, I’ll tell it to you once we’re back at the inn.”
Later that evening, Seth came downstairs from his room to find Jessica curled up in an armchair in the inn’s sitting room, reading. He sat down in the chair opposite her with an expectant look on his face, and cleared his throat. Jessica looked up at him through her reading glasses.
“I believe you promised me a story,” he said.
Jessica took off her glasses and closed her book. “So I did,” she said. “You still want to hear it?”
“I wouldn’t be sitting here if I didn’t, woman.”
“It’s pretty long.”
“Fine by me,” Seth said. “I’m in no hurry – you may be working, but I’m on vacation, remember?”
Jessica smiled. “All right,” she said. “It all happened some years ago when Frank
and I came back to
Frank Fletcher placed his hands on his wife’s shoulders and they both looked toward the camera, the cool sea breeze ruffling their hair. “Ready,” he said.
The elderly woman they had asked for this favor took the picture, then handed the camera back to Jessica.
“That will make a lovely photograph,”
she said. “The pink granite cliffs, the
ocean for a backdrop, the two of you looking so happy … is this your first trip
Frank put his arm around Jessica and smiled. “No, madam,” he said. “We were here once before … for our honeymoon.”
The woman smiled. “And what anniversary are you celebrating now?” she asked, a twinkle in her eye.
Jessica blushed a little. “Our twenty-fifth,” she said.
“Congratulations,” the old woman said. “Remember to treasure the time you have together.”
The woman left to rejoin the group
she was with, while Frank and Jessica, pocketing the camera, turned back to
what they had come to see,
The appropriately named Thunder Hole was a spectacular phenomenon of nature, a cleft cut into the rockface as though with a giant knife. When the tide was in and the wind was blowing onshore, the waves rolling against the cliff would rush into the gorge with such force that the ground shook, and the impact sounded like a thunderclap.
At the moment, however, the tide was out and the wind, though onshore, was producing waves capable of only modest noise. Jessica walked down the smooth steps carved into the granite and peered down into the depths of the chasm.
“Mmm,” she said thoughtfully. “We came at a bad time.”
Frank joined her at the metal railing and looked down at the water, which was making a rather lackluster display of lapping at the rock walls with a vague muttering sound. “Low tide. Well, it’s still worth seeing, anyway. Sometime we’ll come back when we know the tide is rising.”
“Shall we head back to
Frank looked at his watch. “Sure. Come on, Bright-Eyes, let’s go.” He took her hand, and they climbed back up the granite steps.
A man in a dark windbreaker watched them leave.
Jessica and Frank spent the
remainder of the day in the
Jessica paused in front of one shop, a small art gallery called Duboyce’s Studio, and looked in the window.
“This place looks interesting,” she said. “Want to go in?”
As they climbed the steps a man in a dark windbreaker came out of the gallery. He seemed distracted and in rather a hurry, and brushed past them without a second glance.
Inside the gallery was beautiful, paneled with rich dark wood and lit here and there with recessed lights that emphasized different paintings or sculptures that were up for sale. At the far end of the store the proprietor sat behind a glass countertop considering a piece of paper; to Jessica’s trained eye he seemed anxious. Feeling the weight of her gaze the man looked up sharply and quickly folded the paper, which he stuffed in his pocket.
“Good afternoon,” he said pleasantly. “Is there anything I may help you with?”
“I think we’re just looking at the moment, thank you,” she replied.
“Well, let me know if you need anything.”
Frank, who had always had a particular interest in natural art, was examining a row of seascapes mounted along one wall.
“Excuse me,” he said. “Were these paintings locally made?”
The gallery owner looked up. “Yes, those are scenes of
“This one of the
The proprietor turned to Jessica.
“Your husband has a good eye,” he said.
“That painting was done by Melanie Freeman, one of the more highly
recognized free-lance artists on
“Oh, I think I’ve heard of her,” she said. She looked around and added, “This is a very fine shop you have, sir.”
“Thank you.” He smiled; Jessica thought it was the first time she’d seen him smile since they had come in. She extended a hand and introduced herself.
“My name is Jessica Fletcher, and
this is my husband, Frank,” she said.
“Very pleased to meet you,” the man said. “I am Richard Duboyce. Have you come from far away?”
“Not far; we’re from Cabot Cove,” Jessica said. “Frank is a real estate agent with Mark Stimson Realtors, and I teach high school English.”
Frank came over and joined them. “How much are you asking for the Melanie Freeman painting?” he asked.
“The one you were admiring of
Frank looked at Jessica. “Should we?”
“Go for it,” she encouraged him. “I can tell you like it, and I like it too. It’s lovely.”
“All right then, we’ll take it,” Frank said. “When may we pick it up?”
“I’ll have it packaged and ready for you tomorrow,” he said. “Thank you both for stopping in.”
“French-Canadian,” Jessica said softly as she and Frank left the gallery.
Frank looked at her with bemusement, but not surprise. “How do you know?”
“His last name – Duboyce – is
probably the anglicized version of the French Dubois,” she said. “Also, his accent is not native to
“That, dear Jessie, is a mystery we are unlikely to solve,” Frank said. “It’s getting on toward dinnertime – shall we go find someplace to eat?”
Jessica lifted her wine glass: “To the first twenty-five years,” she said.
Frank touched the rim of his glass to hers and smiled. “And to the next twenty-five,” he replied.
They were in a little restaurant off
“Frank, look,” she said. “Isn’t that the man we saw coming out of Richard Duboyce’s gallery this afternoon?”
Frank glanced up. “So it would seem,” he said. “Well, it’s a small town.”
Jessica watched with mild interest as a waiter intent on delivering a check to the elderly couple’s table inadvertently bumped into the man from the gallery.
“Excuse moi,” he said politely and moved on. The man gave him a hard look, then returned to his table, where he was seated alone.
Jessica turned away with a smile. Frank reached out and put his hand on hers.
“What shall we do tomorrow?” he asked.
“Sleep in,” Jessica replied promptly.
“I know that,” Frank laughed. “What about afterwards?”
Jessica sighed. “There’s so much we could do,” she said. “But you know what? I don’t feel like planning anything. Let’s just wait til tomorrow and see what presents itself.”
“I like that idea,” Frank agreed. “But can we at least plan on the sleeping in part?”
“Yes,” she replied, “that much at least - because there’s plenty of time to be spontaneous after breakfast.”
found herself standing at the very edge of the cliff, above a bottomless abyss,
looking outwards: the view was breathtaking.
It was as if the whole coast of
She sat straight up in bed, her heart pounding and her breath coming in ragged gasps. Frank, startled awake, struggled to sit up and put a hand on her shoulder.
“Jessie, Jessie, what is it?” he asked. “What’s the matter?”
At first Jessica flinched at his touch, but then she realized where she was and calmed down. She took a deep breath, and said, “I had a nightmare, that’s all.”
“What was it about?”
Jessica shivered as she remembered the dream. “I was falling,” she said. “Falling off a cliff.”
“Ah, I know what that dream feels like,” Frank said sympathetically. “You always wake up before you hit the ground.”
Jessica nodded mutely. She lay back down, and Frank drew her into his arms.
“You were terrified,” he said. “I can still feel your heart beating a mile a minute. But it’s all right now; you’re here with me, and I won’t let anything happen to you, I promise.”
Jessica relaxed, and lay quietly for several long moments as she tried to go back to sleep. Frank’s warm, comforting presence soothed her, and she felt herself beginning to drift off again into a dream.
“Frank,” she murmured.
“We need to go back to Thunder Hole tomorrow. Early.”
“Trust me,” she sighed as she fell asleep.
The next morning Jessica’s sense that they should go
back was as strong as before, though she was at a loss to explain why. But after twenty-five years of marriage Frank
was used to these hunches of hers, so after an early breakfast they headed back
When they arrived, it was close to high tide and
conditions at Thunder Hole were just right.
The echo of the waves as they crashed against the granite walls of the
cleft was deafening even where they stood on the rise across the road. Frank took Jessica’s hand, and they crossed
It was early in the morning, and they were the only people who had come to see Thunder Hole at that hour. They stood at the railing watching the surf crash into the abyss with its trademark explosion of sound; in the morning light the plumes of white seaspray sparkled like diamonds and gold.
“Now I can see,” Frank observed between waves, “how this place came by its name.”
Jessica nodded, and peered over the rail, down into churning seawater. A splash of colour caught her eye, and she reached out and seized her husband’s arm.
“Look,” she said urgently, “down there.”
Frank looked where she indicated, and froze – there was the body of a man at the bottom of the cleft, being tossed and slammed about by the violent waves.
It was the same man wearing the same
dark windbreaker that they had seen twice before in
Half an hour later, the Fletchers found themselves in an office at the Bar Harbor Police Department, retelling the details of the morning’s unpleasant discovery to the department’s ranking investigator, Sergeant Bill Gleason.
“And how exactly did you come to be at Thunder Hole at that early hour?”
Frank looked at Jessica. “We’d been to see the Hole yesterday, but the tide was out and there wasn’t much to see,” Frank said, delicately sidestepping his wife’s uncanny foresight, “so we decided to come back this morning to see it again at high tide.”
The explanation seemed to satisfy
the sergeant, who nodded and closed his notebook. As he did, one of the
“Well,” he said, “that’s all I had, but I’ve just been informed that there’s a gentleman outside who wishes to speak with you further.” He made a beckoning motion to someone standing outside the door, collected his belongings, and left the Fletchers alone with the newcomer.
The officer who nodded to Gleason as he left the room wore a brown uniform with the Canadian flag emblazoned on his sleeve, and the rest of the uniform’s insignia indicated him to be a person of relatively high rank. Jessica and Frank rose from their chairs as he came forward to greet them.
“Good morning,” he said as he shook hands with both of them in turn. “My name is Major Daniel Remmick. Please, have a seat. I’m so sorry to keep you here so long, but there are just a few things I need you to clear up for me. I assume you had a look at the victim; had you ever met him before?”
“Actually, yes,” Frank said. “We’d run across him a couple of times since
we’d been in
“Ah. And did you exchange any words with him during either encounter?”
“Did you see him communicate with anyone else?”
“He’d been speaking with the owner of the gallery,” Jessica said, thinking back. “I saw that while we were looking at the window. But that was it; he was dining alone at the restaurant.”
“This gallery owner – did he indicate to you the nature of his conversation with this man?”
“No, he didn’t,” said Jessica. “Major, if I may ask, what is all this about and why is the Canadian government involved?”
Remmick paused as though measuring how much he could tell them.
“The victim’s name was Robert
Bruseaux, and he was a member of the Canadian Secret Service,” he said at
length. “At the time of his death he was
tracking down members of the FLQ, the Front de Liberation du
“I know something about it,” Jessica
said. “The FLQ stepped up its terrorist
activities in an effort to secede
so,” said Remmick. “In brief, here’s the
details of what happened: on October 5th,
1970, British trade commissioner James Cross was kidnapped by the FLQ, a
serious escalation in their activities from the random bombings they seemed to
have favored to further their cause.
Their demands were vague – release of various party members from prison,
a national broadcast of their agenda and beliefs, that sort of thing. The latter demand was met, and the kidnappers
guaranteed safe passage out of
“But it didn’t stop there. On
October 10th, the same day as the safe passage promise, another
kidnapping took place, and this time the victim was Pierre Laporte, the
minister of immigration and labour in the
“And that’s when martial law was declared, as I recall,” said Frank.
Remmick nodded. “The War Measures Act was enacted at 3 o'clock in the morning on Friday, October 16. And a day later … Pierre Laporte’s body was found stuffed in the trunk of a car. He’d been murdered.”
“But I thought that the kidnappers and Laporte’s murderers were later captured,” Jessica said.
“Most of them were. James Cross was rescued and his kidnappers arrested in December of that year, and the men who killed Laporte were captured a few weeks after that. But,” Remmick went on, “in the raid that brought about their arrest, some of them escaped and disappeared.”
“I didn’t know that,” she said.
hardly common knowledge. After all, it
was embarrassing - not the sort of thing the Canadian government wanted to get
out. Even so, the swift retribution
succeeded in pretty much dismantling the FLQ, and the backlash of public
opinion against the extremists took a lot of the steam out of the separatist
“So Bruseaux was here searching for the last of the murderers,” said Frank, “only someone got to him first.”
“So it would seem.”
Later that afternoon Jessica and Frank returned to
the old section of
“Excuse me,” Frank said politely. “Why are you closing up shop so early? Where is Mr. Duboyce?”
“We’ll be closed indefinitely,” the young woman said, turning the sign in the door from ‘Open’ to ‘Closed.’ “Mr. Duboyce was arrested an hour ago. I have no idea when he will be back.”
Jessica turned on her heel and started briskly back up the street. After a moment Frank caught up with her.
“Jessie, where are we going?” he asked.
“Back to the Bar Harbor Police Department,” she replied, a determined look in her eye. “I don’t know who killed that Canadian Secret Service agent, but I know it wasn’t Richard Duboyce.”
“And you’re basing that conclusion on …?”
Jessica shrugged. “An instinct,” was all she said.
Frank went along.
“The cause of death was a sharp blow to the head,” Sergeant Gleason said when he and Major Remmick met with the Fletchers. “Believe it or not, the coroner was actually able to distinguish the original, killing blow from all the subsequent injuries the body took from being tossed around by the waves. He was also able to put the time of death at around one in the morning, taking into account the tides and water temperature.”
“And have you recovered the murder weapon yet?” Frank asked.
“No. Most likely it was a rock that the killer tossed into the ocean after the body. We don’t hold out much hope that we’ll find anything conclusive on that.”
“Then why, with no murder weapon or any other evidence that I can see, have you arrested Mr. Duboyce?” Jessica asked.
Remmick opened a folder and leafed
through its contents. “This was
Bruseaux’s file on the fugitive FLQ project,” he said. He produced a black and white photograph,
which he handed to Jessica. “Richard
Duboyce – Dubois, actually – was on his list for possible suspects in the
Laporte murder living in the
“But why single out Duboyce?” Frank asked. “Surely the other suspected FLQ fugitives should also be considered suspects in Bruseaux’s death.”
“They are, and we aren’t ruling them out just yet,” Gleason told him. “But the other two names at the top of Bruseaux’s list, Rene Berjois and Maurice Rose, brother of Paul Rose, ringleader in the James Cross kidnapping, we have not yet been able to locate. And in the meantime, Mr. Duboyce has no alibi for the time of the killing – so for now he stays put, for questioning at least.”
“May we see him?” Jessica asked.
Gleason looked at Remmick, who shrugged.
“I don’t see why not,” the sergeant said. “If you’ll follow me?”
“I swear to you both, I did not kill that man.”
Richard Duboyce looked earnestly at the Fletchers through the metal grill that separated them in the Bar Harbor Police Department’s small visitation room, looking pale and worried.
“But you were a member of the FLQ,” Jessica said. “You were one of the people Robert Bruseaux was here to track down.”
“I was a
member of the Front de Liberation du
“Working for him? In what capacity?” Frank asked in surprise.
sighed. “Bruseaux knew I was hiding
here, knew that I had changed my name,” he told them. “He also knew that I had been on the inside
of the FLQ, and would prove useful in directing him towards other fugitive
members hiding in the
“If this is the case, why wouldn’t Major Remmick be aware of it?” Jessica asked. “He is the one who seems most convinced of your guilt!”
Remmick was not working with Bruseaux on this case, and the deal between myself
and him was of the utmost secrecy. It
had to be, for at least as long as I remained here in the
“Because if your fellow fugitives learned that you had cut a deal with the Canadian government, your life would have been in jeopardy,” said Frank.
Duboyce nodded. “Exactly, sir. We were not an organization that tolerated disloyalty. Even with the Front in ruins, I would have been seen as a traitor to the cause.”
“But is there anything then that you can tell us that might establish your innocence in Bruseaux’s death?” Jessica asked. “Don’t you have any sort of alibi for the time of his murder?”
“Sadly, Mrs. Fletcher, I do not,” he replied. “At the time that Bruseaux died, my gallery was closed, and I was in the back storeroom cataloguing my inventory. I was alone; I have no witnesses.”
When they left the police department, Jessica said, “I’m inclined to believe him.”
“So am I,” Frank said. “But we really aren’t in much of a position to help him – after all, it’s not like we can provide him with a firm alibi, which is what he really needs.”
“No, but we could try to come up with one of the other two people on Bruseaux’s list,” Jessica said. “Maurice Rose – I seem to remember that name from somewhere since we’ve been here.”
sergeant said they couldn’t find anyone matching his description in
could have changed his name, though with such a common name as ‘Rose’ it would
hardly seem necessary,” Jessica said.
“No, I almost think I saw it in a newspaper or something.” She paused in front of one store, where the Acadia Weekly, a free publication
listing events in and around the
“It could have been in this,” she said. “Ah – there he is.”
looked over her shoulder at what she was pointing at, a small advertisement at
the bottom of the page for Captain Rose’s Fishing Charters out of
I’d seen the name somewhere,” she said triumphantly. “The reason the police haven’t located him is
that they haven’t expanded their search outside of Bar Harbor to the rest of
They were lucky enough to have landed a room with a fireplace at the inn they were staying at; now, as evening lengthened, Jessica sat in the sofa set before the hearth and stared into the dancing flames, trying to sort out her thoughts in the wake of an eventful and upsetting day. Frank, sensing her tension, came over and sat down next to her.
“Penny for your thoughts?” he asked, and began to massage her stiff shoulders in an effort to drive the anxiety out.
Jessica leaned into his caresses, and – finally – began to relax. “I’ve been thinking,” she said, “about what we need to do tomorrow.”
“I thought we weren’t going to make plans to do anything.”
but this is different,” she said. “As I
see it, two things need doing tomorrow: one is to look up this Captain Rose
“Well, libraries are definitely your strong suit,” Frank said as he worked on a particularly tense muscle with gentle hands. “What say you do the serious research while I go track down Maurice Rose?”
“That sounds fair enough to me,” Jessica said. She let out a contented sigh. “Mmm. That feels wonderful.”
“Does it? Good.”
He gathered her unresisting into an embrace, and began to kiss her. Jessica, in spite of herself, found herself kissing him right back as the last of her tension drained away, all restless thoughts pushed aside.
Between kisses, Jessica drew back a little and placed a fingertip lightly on his lips.
“Frank, dearheart, how do you expect me to concentrate when you’re distracting me like this?” she asked in mock reproachfulness.
Frank took her hand and kissed it. “That’s the point,” he said softly.
“Oh.” She smiled, turned out the light, and pulled him closer.
morning Frank went to
“If it’s a charter boat you’re looking for, don’t go out with him – he charges an arm and a leg, but his passengers hardly ever come back in with any fish to show for it!”
“Don’t worry,” Frank said, mindful of the reality that Rose was a suspect in a murder, “I have no intention of going anywhere with him. But thanks.”
Rose was sitting in a deck chair next to his boat, the Moonraker, a tired old fishing vessel in serious need of a complete overhaul and refitting, or at least a fresh layer of paint. Her skipper, looking equally tired and in need of an overhaul, was wearing an outlandish fisherman’s costume and pretending to smoke a pipe. As Frank approached he stood up and hailed him.
“Ahoy, there, matey, be ye lookin’ for a worthy mariner to take ye out fishin’ for the leviathans o’ the deep?” he said.
Frank was unimpressed. “You can drop the fake ‘old salty’ routine,” he said blandly. “I’m not a tourist, I’m a Mainer by birth, and I know a phony accent when I hear one.”
Rose shrugged and tossed aside the pipe which, as Frank had suspected, turned out to be plastic and better suited for blowing soap bubbles than smoking tobacco.
fine,” he said in a more normal voice.
Without the affected accent, faint traces of his French-Canadian
heritage could be heard. “If you didn’t
come looking for an ‘authentic’
“I want to talk to you about the murder of Robert Bruseaux,” Frank replied, “and about your brother, Paul Rose.”
Maurice Rose groaned. “I knew someone would come around about that eventually,” he said. “Yes, I heard about Bruseaux’s death. And yes, Paul Rose, one of the ringleaders involved in Pierre Laporte’s kidnapping and murder, was my brother. I emphasize the word was, because he ceased to be my brother the moment he embraced violence to achieve his goals.”
“I see,” said Frank.
“I know what you’re thinking, that I killed Bruseaux to gain revenge for my brother’s arrest and conviction,” Rose went on. “But in fact, I was never a member of the FLQ, and I bear no ill will toward the Canadian government.”
you come to be living in
here out of shame,” said Maurice. “We
came from a peaceful farming family, my brother and I, living in a quiet corner
“So you have been living here for quite some time,” said Frank.
“Since well before the October Crisis,” Maurice answered. “I bought this boat in Eastport, and worked my way down the coast to here.”
“And in all that time, you’ve had no contact with your brother.”
“None at all. I was horrified to hear of what levels the FLQ had sunk to when Paul was arrested, but the news came as something of a relief – at least in jail, Paul is safe from committing any more acts of terrorism. And that frees both me and my parents from the constant worry of what he might do next. No, I have no reason whatsoever to bear any ill will towards this Robert Bruseaux, and I most certainly did not kill him.”
“But can you prove that?” Frank asked.
smile spread across Rose’s face. “As it
so happens, I can. The night Mr.
Bruseaux was murdered, I was stuck twenty-six miles out with two couples from
“Why didn’t you call the Coast Guard?” Frank asked in spite of himself. “What, was your radio busted as well?”
Captain Rose retrieved his plastic pipe and chewed nervously on the stem. “Um, well, I’d been meaning to get it fixed …”
Considering the condition of the Moonraker, this came as no great surprise to Frank.
Frank was on his mission to
been frustrated in her first attempt, she cast a wider net, this time pulling
up any records from all of 1970 that mentioned
After about two hours, she was roughly halfway through the list. Thus far she had not seen Maurice Rose’s name at all. Rene Berjois’s name had come up a couple of times in connection with the increasing number of FLQ bombings. Finally, though, she found something worth the search: she ran across the name of Richard Dubois.
Eagerly, Jessica scanned the
article, which had appeared in the
Simple arithmetic confirmed that Duboyce had still been safely behind bars serving out his sentence when the kidnappings and the murder occurred in October that year.
The proof that Richard Duboyce couldn’t have shared the blame for the death of Pierre Laporte wasn’t enough to completely exonerate him in the murder of Robert Bruseaux, but it was enough to convince the authorities to set bail, which he posted. By late afternoon he was – at least for the moment – a free man.
Jessica and Frank, they walked along
“So basically, we’ve eliminated both Duboyce and Maurice Rose as suspects in Bruseaux’s killing, as well as Pierre Laporte’s death,” Frank observed.
“Yes, but I don’t think either of them were ever really suspects in Bruseaux’s mind,” Jessica said. “I think he’d listed Duboyce and Rose in his file as possible contacts to help him, and the third name, Rene Berjois, was the only true suspect in Pierre Laporte’s murder.”
“Not that Rose would have been of much help. But if that’s so, then that also leaves Berjois as the only likely suspect in Bruseaux’s own death,” said Frank. “And unless he can be found, Duboyce will never be truly free from the shadow of suspicion. But so far nothing has turned up to give the police a clue as to his whereabouts.”
Jessica sighed. “There isn’t even any
reason to believe he’s still in
Jessica fell silent, and her eyes drifted across the street, watching the people on the sidewalk. She saw one person bump into another who had paused to look in a shop window, excuse himself, and move on. Her eyes grew wide as a sudden inspiration hit her.
“Oh, oh,” Frank said, catching the look on her face. “You just figured it out, didn’t you. Share your thoughts with me?”
Jessica turned to him, an eager light in her eyes. “Frank – do you remember that first night, when the waiter bumped into Bruseaux in the restaurant?”
“Sure,” he said. “What about it?”
didn’t say ‘excuse me,’ he said ‘excuse
moi,’ the French version of the phrase,” Jessica said. “And afterwards, Bruseaux kept watching him,
as if something had suddenly connected – he knew that the waiter, had just
given himself away as being from
“And Berjois must have realized his slip,” said Frank.
“Yes, but too late,” said Jessica. “Any other person might have shrugged the phrase off, but Bruseaux didn’t, and he wasn’t very subtle about hiding his suspicion. Berjois must have realized when he noticed that Bruseaux was keeping an eye on him that he’d been found out. He needed to do something about that.”
“So he arranges a meeting with Bruseaux, perhaps with the false pretense of negotiating his surrender, and murders him.”
Jessica nodded. “He probably made sure Richard was alone and without an alibi before going out to the meeting, just for good measure.”
“It works,” Frank said. “We’d better pass this on to Sergeant Gleason and Major Remmick.”
“Yes, and the sooner the better,” said Jessica. “I only hope they can find Berjois in time, because Richard Duboyce may be in danger if we’re right. You go call the Sergeant, and I’ll head up to the gallery to warn him.”
“Fine, I’ll meet you there,” Frank said, and they headed off in opposite directions.
Jessica, however, had only gone a few paces when she felt someone come up behind her and seize her arm in a firm grip.
“Keep walking,” a dangerous voice said softly. “I have a gun, and it is trained on your heart.”
Jessica’s heart skipped a beat – they had found Rene Berjois, but possibly lost her in the process.
Berjois made her walk to his car, which was parked on a dark, quiet side street away from the crowds that thronged the village center. He made her get in, then ordered her to hold out her hands so he could tie them at the wrists with a piece of cord. As he set down the gun to do this, her eyes strayed toward the street.
“Try to make a run for it,” Berjois warned, catching her glance, “and I will shoot you before you have taken three steps. This has been a bad week,” he continued as he knotted the cord. “First Bruseaux and that traitor Dubois, and now you and your husband. Will I never cease to be hounded? I will deal with the problem of your husband later, but first, no one else must learn the truth you have discovered.”
started the car, and drove out of Bar Harbor, into dark, empty
When they reached the summit, Berjois stopped the car and prodded her with the gun.
“Get out,” he said.
Jessica climbed out of the car followed closely by Berjois, who clamped a hand on her shoulder and steered her toward the rough path that encircled the granite peak.
A thin, chill wind whispered across the summit, wicking away the last of the radiated warmth that the rocks had gathered over the course of the day. Jessica shivered as Berjois made her turn aside from the path and led her over the uneven ground to the cliff edge. She tried to tell herself that it was the breeze, not fear, that made her cold.
They reached the precipice, and as Berjois pulled her to a halt Jessica’s foot inadvertently kicked a small stone and sent it skipping over the edge. Her heart beat many times before she heard the distant crack as it hit the rocks below.
Jessica looked up from the
fathomless drop into darkness, and caught her breath: despite the mortal danger
she was in, she could not help but be awestruck by the beauty that surrounded
her. Above her a million stars sparkled
in the clarified air like diamond dust scattered across black velvet. Below her, the lights of
“What is it?” Berjois asked her.
“It’s so … beautiful,” she replied.
She could tell that Berjois was not unaffected by the majesty of their surroundings, because the pressure of the gun against her back lessened ever so slightly. A faint hope stirred in her heart.
“You don’t have to do this,” she said.
Berjois said nothing for several long moments; Jessica could practically hear the battle raging in her heart. She held her breath, and waited for the outcome.
At last he stirred. “Ah, but I do,” he said with a touch of regret. Jessica lifted her eyes to the horizon and wished a silent good-bye to her husband.
At that moment a fist-sized rock came flying out of nowhere and struck Berjois in the back of his left knee. He let out a howl and abruptly let go of Jessica to clutch at his injured leg. At that moment two dark figures moved swiftly from behind a boulder: one tackled Berjois from the side, while the other took Jessica by the arm and pulled her back from the edge. She knew instantly that it was Frank, and her relief was so profound that her legs gave way and she sank to the cold granite ground.
“Easy, Bright-Eyes,” Frank said, catching her as she fell. “Hang on a moment - let me get those ropes untied.” Jessica held out her wrists, and he began to work at the knots which, owing to Berjois’ haste, had not been tied very tightly.
Just as he succeeded in freeing her hands, there came a shout from Berjois, and they looked up just in time to see his assailant – Jessica recognized him as Major Remmick in the starlight - succeed in knocking the gun out of his hand. It slid toward the edge of the cliff and Berjois, desperate, broke free and made a dive for it – but overcalculated. The gun slipped over the edge and disappeared into the abyss, and Berjois went sliding after it. At the last moment he reached out and managed to catch hold of a granite outcropping which he clung to with both hands, dangling over the blackness below.
“Help me!” he shouted. “For God’s sake, help me!”
Jessica and Frank looked at each other, and an instantaneous understanding passed between them. Frank helped Jessica to her feet, and together they approached the cliff edge. They reached out and each seized one of Berjois’s wrists, then together hauled him back up onto the rocks, where he lay panting for breath.
The Fletchers backed off as Major Remmick, still dusting himself off from his melee with Berjois, came forward and placed a boot firmly in the middle of Berjois’ back, pinning him to the mountain. Berjois snarled, then turned his face toward Jessica and spat. She took a step backward, and the spittle landed harmlessly at her feet.
“That was rude,” Remmick said. “You are a lucky man, Rene Berjois. Not many people would choose to save the life of the person who was about to kill them.” He hauled the defeated terrorist to his feet, and led him back toward the waiting patrol cars in the summit parking lot.
As for Frank, he took his wife in his arms and held her close. In those few dreadful moments when she had stood at the very brink of death, it had hit him with unendurable force how much he needed her and how much he loved her.
“Oh, Jessica,” he said. “Thank God we got to you in time!”
“How did you know where I was?” she asked, her own heart overflowing in the wake of the experience.
“I turned around at the last second and saw Berjois grab you,” he told her. “I knew he had a gun and was dangerous, so I called Remmick and we followed you as closely as we could without being seen, waiting for our chance.”
He gave her a deep kiss, then looked into her eyes. “I promised I wouldn’t let anything happen to you, remember?”
“So that’s what happened.”
Jessica fell silent as the antique clock in the entryway of the inn began to strike twelve: it was midnight. The resonant sound of the chimes seemed to recall her to the present, and she shook her head, glancing at her watch.
“Well, it’s tomorrow,” she said. “Honestly, I had no idea it was so late!”
Seth stood up from his chair. “Easy enough to lose track of time with a story like that,” he said. “Well, I guess I’ll be turning in.”
Jessica didn’t look quite ready to follow suit; she remained in her chair, staring wistfully into the fireplace.
“You go ahead,” she told him. “I … I think I’m going to stay down here just a little while longer.”
Seth could tell that she wanted a little time to herself, and respected her wishes. “Suit yourself,” he said. “Catch up with you in the breakfast room around eight?”
“I’ll be there,” she promised.
Seth paused, then bent and gave her an awkward kiss on the cheek. “See you in the morning, then,” he said, and went upstairs to his room.
If Jessica was still haunted by memories the next morning, she didn’t show any sign of it when she met Seth downstairs for breakfast. Afterwards they loaded their bags in Seth’s car and were ready to leave for home.
Seth settled in behind the wheel and said, “Next stop, Cabot Cove.”
Suddenly Jessica reached over and touched his arm. “Before we leave,” she said, “would you mind terribly taking a short detour for me?”
“I suppose so,” he said. “Where exactly did you have in mind?”
“The summit of
Seth didn’t say anything at first, then acquiesced to the request. “All right,” he said.
Jessica didn’t say anything as they
followed the twisting road up the mountainside.
When they reached the top, Seth parked the car and they climbed the
short path that led to the granite summit.
It was a clear, bright day; below them they could see Bar Harbor and
Frenchman’s Bay, and across that the
Seth had expected Jessica to point
out some of the landmarks from her adventure all those years ago: here was the cliff Berjois slipped over,
there was the boulder Major Remmick had hidden behind. But Jessica said nothing – instead, she stood
looking out over the
“It’s so … beautiful,” she said.