Home > A Bone to Pick (Widow's Island #2)(6)

A Bone to Pick (Widow's Island #2)(6)
Author: Melinda Leigh

Salivating, Tessa slid into a chair. “Are those your grandmother’s cinnamon rolls?”

“She just dropped them off.” Cate pushed the basket toward Tessa. “She was sorry she couldn’t stay, but her knitting group is headed to the town council meeting to protest the proposed changes to the ferry schedule.”

Cate’s grandmother had been the head of the Widow’s Knitting and Activist group for as long as Tessa could remember.

“The council only wants to shift one route by an hour.” Tessa shoved half a cinnamon bun into her mouth. The warm sweetness melted on her tongue and brought back happy memories of sitting at Cate’s grandmother’s kitchen table. Jane Sutton was still a special lady.

Cate shrugged. “You know islanders don’t like change, even if they know deep down that it’s for the better.”

Chewing the second half of her cinnamon roll, Tessa turned her head to read the label of the file on the table. “Is that Sam’s FBI file?”


A few weeks before, the discovery of a child’s bones had renewed interest in their friend’s disappearance. The bones hadn’t been Sam’s, but her mother had pleaded with Cate and Tessa to reopen the case, which was the reason Cate had requested and reviewed the FBI’s file. Mrs. Bishop had never believed—or had been unable to face—the fact that her daughter was dead.

Tessa washed down her roll with coffee. “The file looks thin.”

Cate frowned in agreement. “Do you remember the talk we had in front of our lockers the day Sam disappeared?”

As if it were yesterday.

Tessa nodded. “She wanted us to sneak out with her that night. She had pot and was getting a ride from someone. Neither one of us was willing to break the rules to go with her.”

They were both silent for a moment.

“If one of us had either been willing to go, or to tell on her . . .” Cate left the implication hanging, but Tessa knew exactly what she meant.

Would Sam still be alive if she hadn’t gone out alone that night?

“We were fourteen,” Tessa said. “We can’t blame ourselves for what happened to Sam.”

Cate nodded. “My brain knows that.”

“But the heart isn’t so easily convinced,” Tessa finished.

Cate rested her hand flat on the closed file. “Copies of our interviews with the sheriff are not in the file. Nor is there any mention of the fact that Sam was going to meet someone.”

Shock pushed Tessa back in her chair. “I remember telling the sheriff.”

“We both did. We talked about it afterward.” Cate’s eyes were grim. “Was the FBI agent there when the sheriff questioned you?”

“I remember two other men being in the room.” Tessa closed her eyes and tried to recall the interview—the hard chair under her butt, her stomach churning, her heart knocking, dread gathering like a tornado in her chest. Opening her eyes, Tessa blinked the memory away. She wiped clammy palms on her thighs. It had been a truly horrible day. “But I can only picture the sheriff. The other faces are a blur.”

Cate sighed. “That’s all I remember too. It feels as if the other men were strangers.”

“Didn’t the sheriff note who else was present during the interview?”

“He did not.” Reproach sharpened Cate’s voice.

Tessa rubbed her temple. “I’ll request the file from the sheriff’s office. Cold case files are stored in the mainland station’s basement. Maybe the sheriff didn’t share all of our statements with the FBI. He could have looked into it on his own.”

“That’s possible. The previous sheriff had been old school. He might have been territorial about the FBI sticking its nose into his case.” Cate toyed with the edge of the file. “How will Sheriff Griffin feel about you pulling the case file?”

“I don’t see why he would object. It wasn’t his case.” Tessa did a quick calculation in her head. “Sheriff Griffin wasn’t even with the department back then.”

“Let’s not tell Sam’s mother yet,” Cate suggested.

“I agree. She’s never left that house in case Sam were to come back.” Tessa thought for a moment and then continued, her voice thick. “Other than Sheriff Griffin, no one needs to know what we’re doing.”

“We’re just reading files for now.” But Cate’s voice echoed the doubt in Tessa’s own mind.

There’s more to Sam’s disappearance than we were told.

Tessa could feel it.

She stood and stretched a kink out of her back. “Now I’d better get back to my current murder.” She went to the counter and filled her travel mug with fresh coffee. Then she grabbed another cinnamon bun and a napkin. “Please thank your grandmother for the rolls.”

“Will do.” Cate reached for another bun. “I’m going to need bigger jeans if I don’t stop eating these.”

“You and me both.” Tessa laughed.

She went into the foyer and grabbed her uniform jacket. Then she went out onto the porch and stepped into her boots. Shrugging into her jacket, she walked to her vehicle and slid behind the wheel.

She should head to Dante’s residence now to search the premises. But as she prepared to turn out of her driveway, her phone beeped with a text from Bruce: FOUND SOMETHING.

She’d stop at the station before searching Dante’s home.

Tessa drove in the opposite direction to the tiny satellite sheriff’s station in town. The small building housed two desks, a restroom, and a single holding cell. A minifridge and microwave crammed into the corner were the only concessions to the deputies’ personal comfort.

She went inside. Crime scene evidence cluttered one desk. At the other, Bruce studied a driver’s license through a magnifier under a goosenecked desk lamp. His rumpled uniform looked like the same one he had been wearing the previous night at the crime scene.

He looked up as she passed the desk. He was clean cut and young looking, but his brown eyes were older than his years. “I’ve been looking through Dante’s wallet. He has an Oregon driver’s license.”

“Maybe he forgot to get a new one when he moved here.” But she’d thought Dante’s accent had sounded like he was from the East Coast.

“It’s also fake.”

“Are you sure?” Tessa hung her jacket on a peg on the wall. She crossed the small space to look over Bruce’s shoulder.

“I’m sure.” He turned over the license and pointed. “No microprint.”

Shocked, Tessa leaned closer and followed the tip of his finger.

Microprint was a security feature on driver’s licenses from most states. To the naked eye, microprint appeared to be a solid line, but when magnified, text was easily readable. The back of Dante’s Oregon driver’s license should have had a microprint line repeating the word Oregon, with the last occurrence of Oregon intentionally spelled incorrectly.

“Well, damn.” She straightened.

“It’s a pretty good fake, though.” Bruce set the license on the desk.

“But why did he have one? And who was he?” Tessa paced to the empty holding cell and back. “Call the medical examiner’s office, and let them know the name of the deceased is now in question. If the dead man is in the system, it won’t take the ME long to get his real identity.”

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