Excerpt from Chapter Three of THE P’TOWN MURDERS
Brad unpacked quickly. He wanted to settle things with Ross as soon as possible, in case he was unexpectedly recalled. In the bedroom closet, he hung his shirts and trousers on hangers alongside a dress jacket, the only formal wear he’d brought. In all likelihood, he wouldn’t need it. He intended to have Ross’s remains cremated and assumed he’d be the only one at the ceremony. Casual would suffice. Ross would’ve appreciated a farewell send-off in jeans and T-shirt. A party was a party, after all.

The fridge contained the usual bottles of Dom and a handful of Brad’s favorite whites, including a hedonistic little Robert Niero Condrieu he’d encountered once before. Seductive hints of marmalade layered with honeysuckle came to mind, as did that night at a Cairo hotel alongside a supple Egyptian. A quick glance showed the wine closet to be stocked with several of the better reds. A Chateau de Beaucastel looked particularly inviting. He’d have it alone with supper one night. He wasn’t likely to be doing much entertaining.

He poured a gin and tonic and took it to the living area where a surprisingly cheerful Wifredo Lam hung over the chaise longue. The dour Cuban cubist complimented a breezy Robert Motherwell above the mantel and a Dali pencil sketch on the far side of the room. At first sight he’d mistaken the Dali, a male nude with scandalously enlarged genitalia, for an early Tom of Finland.
Next to the décor, his favorite feature in the house was the loft bed set under a cathedral ceiling overlooking the dunes. Twilight lent it a soft violet glow, while mornings brought forth a spectacular golden light. It was one of the most soothing and restive views he’d ever woken to.

The marble-tiled bathroom housed a steam room and a mammoth Jacuzzi to complete the set. Plush towels and fine toiletry articles lined the in-set shelves. Guesthouses could get more costly, he knew, but not more comfortably luxurious.
Brad finished his drink. He sauntered down to the turnoff where Interstate 6 met Interstate 6A. He looked back at the house perched on a rise, surrounded by beech trees and backlit by the fading daylight.

He crossed the highway and leaped over the guardrail, heading across the salt marsh. Sand dunes rose in squat mounds that shifted year-by-year as the wind and water pushed them about like restless crabs dragging their shells along the beach.

He climbed a ridge and the ocean came suddenly into view. Once the sun went down, there would be nothing here but starlight glinting off the licorice-colored water. The air was cooling as he stood looking over the beach where a handful of men tarried in search of love and other narcotics. He could almost taste the air. When he breathed in, it filled his lungs completely rather than simply taking up space inside him.

He continued towards the lighthouse sitting solitary at the cape’s outer tip. Here the point of sand curled briefly back towards the mainland, as if at the last moment it had doubted the wisdom of getting too far from solid ground just before running out of steam. Pentimento the Italians called it when an artist regretted his efforts and began to paint over the mistakes of the past, concealing but not erasing his work. Never erasing. So too with love, thought Bradford. You can bury it deep inside, but it never really goes away.

The sun had long since disappeared by the time he reached the breakwater, a half-mile rock extension connecting the peninsula’s tip to the western edge of town. Crossing was dangerous in the dark, he knew, but it would be faster than going the long way over the marsh where the incoming water had already reclaimed much of the land.

Brad stepped gingerly across the over-sized boulders, taking care to clear the dark crevices between them. He stopped to inhale the salt smell of clams and algae. High tide was approaching, the ocean reaching shoreward. Birds skimmed its surface in search of a flash of fin as the lighthouse scanned the waves. Across the harbor, the lights of town were coming on. The view was calm to the point of being blissful.

He was halfway across when something caught his eye, a dark shape pooled in the leeward side of the breakwater. It moved gently, playing hide and seek among the reeds and the in-rushing water.

He jumped carefully down to the water’s edge, pulling the shape back from the current that dragged and sucked as though reluctant to give up its prize. The body was that of a boy, probably in his early twenties. Alive, he would have been stunningly handsome. And judging by his condition, he hadn’t been in the water long.

Still, dead was dead.


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