Friday, March 4, 2011

Death on the Aisle {Chapter Eleven}

Chapter Eleven

            “Just take deep breaths.” Leatrice knelt over me and fanned my face, making a nice breeze but not doing anything to help the fish smell that dominated the air.
            I swatted her away. “I’m fine. I just got a little lightheaded, that’s all.”
            Reese pulled me up with one hand so that I ended up almost chest-to-chest with him. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
            I looked up and his hazel green eyes were staring down at me with concern but what I couldn’t stop staring at were his lips, which were so close to mine I only needed to go on tip-toes to touch them. I felt my face flush and realized I was still holding his hand so I dropped it and stepped back. “Absolutely.”
            “Like I was about to say when you collapsed, Richard is fine,” Leatrice said.
            “Then who’s dead?” I asked, wiping dirt off the seat of my jeans.
            Reese cleared his throat. “It looks like the chef electrocuted himself somehow but Richard was in the kitchen when it happened so he’s still being questioned.”
            “But he couldn’t have had anything to do with it,” I said.
            “Probably not,” Reese agreed.  “But it’s standard procedure.”
            I could only imagine how Richard was handling being interviewed by the police. Ever since an unfortunate accident that almost shut down his business a couple of years back, Richard had been overly sensitive about law enforcement.
            “There’s nothing you can do here,” Reese said. “Why don’t you head on home, and I’ll give you a call when we release your friend?”
            I didn’t think that was such a bad idea and started scanning the crowd for Kate. I found her quickly enough by looking for the crowd of uniformed men.  I waved to get her attention but she was staring through her crowd of admirers to some commotion at the gate to the dock.
            “You don’t understand,” the agitated male voice was saying to a pair of uniformed officers guarding the entrance to the dock. “My family is on there.”
            I recognized Brody even though he was wearing a baseball cap, ripped shorts and a faded T-shirt and looked much les debonair than the day before when we’d met him.
            Reese sighed. “I’d better go help the guys with security. All sorts of people have been trying to get a closer look.”
            “He’s telling the truth,” I said. “That’s Brody, the bride’s brother.  Well, stepbrother.”
            “Is he single?” Leatrice asked, looking him up and down.
            “Nope. He’s got a fiancĂ©,” I said, and then added. “I only know because Kate was interested.”
            Reese gave me a lopsided grin then started off toward the dock. I followed behind, pulling Leatrice along with me so she couldn’t run off and get in any trouble.
When Brody saw me behind Reese he snapped his fingers and pointed. “That’s the wedding planner. She can tell you who I am.”
“She already did.” Reese gave his best stern cop look.  “That doesn’t mean we can let you on board. The boat is a secure crime scene.”
Brody’s face drained of color, and I wondered if his tan was real or fake. “What do you mean ‘crime scene?’ What happened?”
“There’s been a death on board,” Reese said.
“The chef,” I said quickly so Brody wouldn’t think it was any of his family members.
Reese shot me a look over his shoulder but I ignored him.
“The chef was electrocuted, and we have to determine if it was an accident or murder.”
“Bernard is dead?” Brody rubbed a hand across his forehead. “He’s been with us for years.”
Kate came up next to me. “What’s going on?”
“Brady just found out that Bernard is dead,” Leatrice said in a stage whisper.
“Brody,” I corrected.
Leatrice cocked her head. “His name is Brody? I thought the chef was Bernard.”
“Who’s Bernard?” Kate asked then her eyes got big. “Wait, did you say someone’s dead?”
“The brother is Brody, the chef is Bernard.” I raised an eyebrow at Kate.  “What have you been doing over there for all this time with half of the police squad? Talking about the weather?”
Kate shrugged and crossed her arms. “The crime scene didn’t come up.”
“But you have to let me on,” Brody continued to argue. “That’s where I live.”
“And as soon as we’ve processed the scene, we’ll be happy to let you on,” Reese said, taking Brody by the arm and steering him away from the dock. “But for now, you’ll have to wait.”
“But I really need to  . . .”
I looked at Brody’s anguished face. “Maybe we should help . . .”
Before I could finish my thought, Leatrice and Kate were pushing past each other to get to him. Leatrice beat Kate, and I credited the fact that she was lower to the ground and not wearing heels. 
Leatrice looped her arm through his. “It looks like you need a friend, young man.”
Brody took one look at Leatrice’s sailor suit and his face went from pained to confused. “Do you work on the docks?”
Leatrice slapped his arm and laughed. “Aren’t you funny?”
Kate grabbed Brody’s other arm and batted her eyelashes at him. “Run along, Leatrice.  Don’t you have some knots to tie or spinach to eat?”
Leatrice glared at Kate while Reese choked back a laugh. “Come to think of it, she does look like a smaller version of Popeye,” he said, leaning close to me.
“Don’t let Leatrice hear you,” I said.  “You don’t want to be on her bad side.  It’s hard enough to be on her good side.”
Reese laughed. “I’ve missed that.”
“Leatrice?” I asked. I’d always gotten the idea that Reese only tolerated her.
 “No, definitely not Leatrice.” He laughed again then looked more serious. “You. So how have you been, Annabelle? It’s been a long time.”
Leatrice and Kate’s squabbling faded into the background as I met Reese’s eyes. I was just about to get up the nerve to tell him that I’d missed him, too, when I heard high-pitched screams coming from the boat.
“Let me off this instant or heads will roll!”
I’d know that hysterical voice anywhere. Richard.