Let us return to MEET ME IN MAINE for the next chapter. Will our heroines be faced with another dead body?
David parked between the police cruisers blocking the street in front of a brown, shack-looking building, flashing red lights illuminating the bystanders standing in groups on the sidewalk. We hurried beneath the hanging wood sign, Blue Sea, and into the restaurant. A whiff of fish hit me as we entered. Round tables rimmed the perimeter, where three walls of windows faced the pier and moonlit water. A circular bar with bamboo stools took center stage in the darkened room. The half-eaten dishes filling the glass tabletops and the fallen bamboo chairs hinted at the patrons’ quick retreat. Police milled around a table beneath a shattered window sprayed with blood in the right corner.
David stepped in front of me when I gasped, blocking my view of the scene. “Stay here.”
“No buts.” He took my arm and guided me to a chair and a small table beside the front door. “Don’t move until I return.” Then he rushed to join the officers.
“I can’t believe there’s a murder during the grand opening,” a woman’s voice near me whispered.
“Yeah. And this time, it’s a woman,” a high-pitched voice replied. The police shooed them to the far left corner, where the other customers waited in a tight group, quiet and grim-faced.
I jumped to my feet, jarred by the thought: Jonathan had taken Scarlett to a new restaurant on a pier. What if the body belonged to her? I hurried across the room to where David stood beside the chief.
“Is it Scarlett?” I clutched David’s arm, getting a glimpse of a headless body draped across the table. So much blood. The woman wore a black dress. She wore a black dress, while Scarlett had twirled in a red dress for me.
“No.” David yanked me from the scene, but I’d seen enough: blood covered the window, table, and floor. He scowled at me, gripping my arm. “Why didn’t you listen to me?”
I tugged my arm from his grasp. “I was afraid it was Scarlett; she and Jonathan went to a new restaurant on a pier tonight.”
David pointed to the left. “She’s standing with Jonathan. Go join them.” He marched away as I slunk toward them.
“Elizabeth.” Scarlett wrapped her arms around me. “What are you doing here?”
“The chief interrupted our date,” I replied, nodding to Jonathan.
“Why?” Scarlett narrowed her teary eyes at me.
I sank into the chair Jonathan had brought me. “Logan was attacked.”
“Is Logan okay?” Jonathan asked.
“The chief didn’t sound concerned.”
Jonathan said, “Lively is only worried about his career.”
“What happened?” I asked. “I saw the body.”
Scarlett twisted her hands together. “We were eating at a table beside the window. The view was spectacular; there was music and plenty of tequila flowing. Then a woman’s head exploded at the next table. The woman sitting with her got covered with her friend’s blood before she screamed and fainted. Once the ambulance arrived, the paramedics revived the second woman and helped her to her feet. She didn’t appear hurt… but soaked in blood.” Scarlett grimaced as she gulped for air.
“Does this happen often?” I squinted at Jonathan in the dim light. “This is the second dead body we’ve seen in two days.”
“We’re having an outbreak of violent episodes.” He dragged shaky fingers through his shaggy blonde hair. “In March, two people turned to stone.”
“What do you mean they turned to stone?” Scarlett grabbed his arm.
Jonathan patted her hand before directing her to a chair across from mine. “Two new statues appeared on the dock, resembling a husband and wife living in Blue Harbor. The couple went missing as the statues appeared out of thin air.”
“You believe the couple turned to stone?” I asked, shaking my head at this absurd thought.
“The chief does.” He stared at the police surrounding the dead body. “He’s investigating with the help of Logan and David.”
My opinion of Lively plummeted to even lower than before. “I understand Lively having bizarre fantasies but not Logan or David.”
Jonathan looked at me. “This is a peculiar town.”
“These episodes have happened before?” I asked.
He nodded, his expression solemn.
“Have they called the FBI?” Scarlett asked, her eyes widening.
He shook his head. “Lively wants to keep it local; he doesn’t want the Feds traipsing through his crime scenes.”
“But if the chief can’t solve the crimes, he needs help.” Scarlett lowered her face. “This is ridiculous, and the whole situation borders on the ludicrous.”
Jonathan hunched on his knees in front of her, his bright blue eyes focused on Scarlett’s face. “I shouldn’t be telling you, but the town has secrets.” He shook his head, stopping himself from speaking further. “I shouldn’t be divulging them to strangers.”
Scarlett raised her face. “We aren’t strangers but will soon be owners of an inn.”
“What?” I stood, my head spinning. “When did you decide to stay?”
She turned tired eyes to me. “We can’t leave now.”
“No. You can’t leave.” Jonathan lifted her hand, bringing it to his lips. “We just met.”
“Wait a second.” I sat as the surrounding voices became muffled in my ringing ears. “The contract requires two signatures. And one is mine.”
“You don’t want to live here?” a deep voice whispered.
I turned my head to David. “My plans don’t include moving to a town of exploding heads and people turning to stone, where a psycho killer fulfills his delusions of grandeur by using Blue Harbor as his evil playpen.”
He took my hand, bringing me to my feet. “I can help make this town peaceful again.” His penetrating gaze pierced through me. “Please, let me try.”
“I don’t know.” I swallowed the lump growing in my throat.
“Give me a chance to make this right.” David wrapped an arm around my waist, backing me against his hard body, his warm breath tickling my ear. “I’ll keep you safe. I promise.”
I leaned against him with a sigh.
“I’m going to visit Logan at the hospital? Do you want to join me?”
I raised my face to his beseeching stare.
“We’re joining you.” Scarlett jumped to her feet.
When a police officer blocked her and Jonathan from leaving, David said to her, “You have questions to answer first,” before turning to me and extending his hand, “Join me, please.”
I took his hand and followed him past the officers surrounding the bloody scene to the police cars and camera crews flashing their lights across the night sky. When a reporter shoved a mic at my face, David pulled me against him and said, “No comment,” before leading me to his car.
I settled in my seat, my thoughts jumbled, my heart pounding. I don’t want to live in Blue Harbor, where the unusual becomes the usual. Then I glanced at David; I was not ready to say goodbye to him.