“No, it doesn’t look like it. The margins seem to be clear. We’ll have to wait for the final diagnosis to be sure, but we sent tissue down to the lab during surgery, and according to the pathologist, there appears to be no lymph node involvement.”
“Thank God,” Jack whispered. And then, as if his knees had given out on him, he sank back into his chair.
Tears formed in Grace’s eyes and she hugged Justine. Sniffling, Justine hugged her back.
“I knew it all along,” Charlotte said righteously. She, too, sat down and once again her knitting needles started clicking. “I told you, didn’t I?”
“Olivia’s oncologist has scheduled a regimen of chemotherapy and radiation treatments for her,” the surgeon said.
Grace hardly heard a word after that.
Her friend had always been a survivor. Cancer was just one more obstacle Olivia would surmount with her unyielding grit and determination.
Dave Flemming left the Bremerton Hospital and drove directly back to Cedar Cove for his meeting with Allan Harris. The attorney had asked to see him before Thanksgiving, but with his busy schedule and the holidays pressing in on him, this was the first opportunity Dave had found.
Harris’s office was off Harbor Street. Dave parked as close as he could, which happened to be two blocks away. At some point over the weekend, Christmas decorations had begun to appear. Evergreen boughs stretched across Harbor from one lamppost to another, strung with twinkling white lights. Every year the holiday season seemed to sneak up on him. He didn’t have time to consider what this added expense would do to the family’s already tight budget. Frankly, he preferred not to think about it.
The wind off the cove was cold and Dave hunched his shoulders against it as he walked up the steep hill to the office. When he stepped inside, Geoff Duncan, Allan’s legal assistant, glanced up.
“Hello, Geoff,” Dave said, holding out his hand. He knew the young man casually. They’d talked once or twice after Martha Evans’s death. Allan Harris had been in charge of Martha’s legal affairs; he was a man the older woman had trusted.
“Pastor.” Geoff got up, his own hand outstretched. A moment later, Dave turned to a row of pegs and hung up his coat.
Geoff was a likeable young man with a firm handshake. He dressed professionally in a suit and tie, and his demeanor was low-key, unthreatening. A good attribute for someone in a small-town legal practice, Dave thought.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Harris phoned a few minutes ago and is tied up in a meeting,” Geoff said. “He didn’t think he’d be more than fifteen minutes. Would it be possible for you to wait?”
“Sure, no problem.”
“Wonderful.” Geoff rubbed his palms together. “Can I get you anything? Coffee, tea, water?”
“No, no, I’m fine. Thanks, anyway.” Dave strode over to the small waiting area and sat down. No one else was in the office. He rested his ankle on the opposite knee and reached for a three-month-old issue of Sports Illustrated.
“Actually,” Geoff said, following him. “I was hoping for a chance to talk to you.”
“Sure.” Dave closed the magazine. “How can I help you?”
“I don’t know if Allan mentioned it or not, but I’ve recently become engaged.” The young man’s lips tilted in a pleased smile.
“Thank you.” Geoff’s smile grew wider. “I feel like the luckiest man alive because Lori Bellamy’s agreed to marry me.”
The Bellamys were major landowners on Bainbridge Island. Dave had heard the name any number of times through the years because of the family’s many philanthropic projects. If he remembered correctly, the Bellamys owned a theater and various prime pieces of waterfront in the downtown area of Winslow.
“When’s the wedding?”
“June,” Geoff said.
“Perfect month for a wedding.”
“Yes.” Geoff lowered himself into the chair next to Dave. “Lori said something about premarital classes. What’s your feeling about those?”
“I highly recommend them.”
“I don’t know.” Geoff didn’t sound convinced. “She seems to think they’re important, but…”
Dave tried to reassure the young man. “They help alleviate problems later on, Geoff,” he went on to explain. “It’s crucial for a young couple to establish the lines of communication before they say their vows.”
Geoff shifted a bit and looked away. “Are these classes expensive?”
That was a tricky question. Dave didn’t charge anyone in his congregation for counseling, whether individual or in a class; however, he couldn’t speak for other churches. “I don’t believe they are.”
“Lori’s family are willing to pay for them—along with everything else.” This last part was said with some bitterness. “I don’t mind them picking up the cost of the wedding—that’s traditional—but for the rest, I believe Lori and I should pay.”
Dave approved of his attitude. He speculated that while Geoff made a decent wage as a legal assistant, he couldn’t handle an extravagant lifestyle. But Dave liked the young man’s sense of honor, his determination to pay his own expenses.
“If you want, I could set you up with a couple of sessions,” he offered. “You and Lori can meet with me and we’ll see how it goes.”
“What would that cost?”
“Nothing.” Dave shook his head. “You can make a donation to the church later if you decide it was worth your time.”
Geoff looked shocked. “Really?”
“Of course. I want you to start your marriage on the right foot.” He paused, thinking a moment. “It’ll probably be more convenient for you to do the sessions in Cedar Cove, anyway, rather than on Bainbridge Island, since you’re working here. What about Lori? Does she work in the area?”
“She has a part-time job at a dress shop in Silverdale. This should be good for both of us,” Geoff said. “I’ll talk to Lori and get back to you.”
“You do that.”
Geoff returned to his desk, and Dave picked up the magazine again. He hadn’t read more than a few paragraphs of an article about steroid use in professional sports before the front door opened and Allan Harris exploded into the room. He was a burly, energetic man.
“Dave, Dave,” he muttered, “sorry to keep you waiting.”
Dave placed the magazine on the nearby table and stood. “No problem.”
Allan shrugged out of his wool overcoat and hung it on the peg next to Dave’s. “Did Geoff offer you coffee?”
“Yes. I’m full up, thanks.”
Allan lifted the glass coffeepot, which sat in an alcove next to his office, and poured himself a cup. “It’s colder outside than a witch’s—” He stopped abruptly. “Beg your pardon, Pastor.”
Dave didn’t bother hiding his amusement. People seemed to assume he’d never heard or uttered a swearword in his life, when in fact, he was as fallible and as prone to weakness as anyone else.
Perhaps even more so, he mused, cringing at the thought. He hated what was happening between him and Emily but seemed unable to tell her the truth. After Christmas, he’d fess up. That was a promise he fully intended to keep.
Carefully holding his mug, Allan led the way into his office. He motioned to the visitor’s chair across from his desk, then claimed his own.
“I appreciate that you’re willing to meet with me,” Allan said, setting his mug on a coaster amid the clutter of papers and books.
“I’ll admit I’m curious as to why.” Dave guessed this had something to do with Martha Evans. The elderly woman had died in September. During her last year, Dave had made a point of visiting her as often as he could. In many ways, she reminded him of his own grandmother with her indomitable spirit and sharp wit. She kept a Bible close at hand and had memorized large sections of Scripture.
“I’ve been talking to the heirs,” Allan said.
“Yes?” Dave couldn’t help noticing that the attorney suddenly seemed agitated, rolling a pen between his open hands.
Allan stared hard at him. “Several pieces of Martha’s jewelry are missing.”
“I know.” But Dave didn’t understand what that had to do with him. He’d already spoken to Sheriff Davis and told him everything he knew about the missing jewelry, which was next to nothing.
“Would you mind going over the details of the morning you discovered her body?”
“Of course not.” Dave hesitated. He’d described it to the sheriff more than once, and had the creeping sensation that Allan was viewing him as a suspect. That unnerved him. “I stopped by two or three times a week to visit,” he began.
Allan nodded, encouraging him to continue.
“That particular day was a Saturday.”
“It was,” Allan concurred.
“She didn’t respond to the doorbell. Martha no longer left the house for anything other than doctors’ appointments. When she didn’t answer, I was afraid something might be wrong.”
Allan dropped the pen and leaned forward. “Did you phone 911?”
The question surprised him. “Not right away. I didn’t want to do that until I was sure…”
“So you went directly into the house?”
“Well, yes. I knew where Martha hid the spare key, so I unlocked the front door and let myself in.” He paused. “I’d done this before,” he added, “since Martha always kept the door locked. It saved her the effort of getting up.”
“She was dead when you went in?”
“Yes. According to the coroner’s report, she died peacefully sometime during the night. When I first saw her, I actually thought she was still asleep.” Although he should’ve been emotionally prepared, Dave had felt a deep sense of loss at the old woman’s death. She’d become his friend, and his confidante.
“How long after you discovered her body did you contact the authorities?” Allan asked next.
This was beginning to sound as if Allan was writing a police report. Dave had answered these same questions the day Martha died, when Sheriff Davis interviewed him, and again later.
“I walked into the bedroom, checked for a pulse and got out my cell.”
“You didn’t use her phone?”
“I see.” Allan made a notation on his pad.
“Is there a problem?”
“No, not at all,” Allan assured him. “How long before the paramedics arrived?”
Dave needed to think about that. “Not long. Between five and ten minutes.”
Allan Harris nodded. “Where did you wait for them? Inside the house or outside?”
“Inside.” Actually, he’d knelt at Martha’s bedside and prayed. He met the attorney’s gaze. “Is there a specific reason you’re asking me these questions?”
“Like I explained—” Allan cleared his throat “—Martha’s daughters came by to tell me that several pieces of their mother’s jewelry are missing. They’ve already spoken to the sheriff and are pretty upset. Apparently Martha kept a number of valuable pieces in the house.”