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CHAPTER TWENTY NINE
HILL THOUGHT about what Carter had told him and decided that it was time to have a serious talk with Alexis. When he drove up to her house he saw that she was sitting, as she usually was of late, on her front porch. He wheeled his car into her drive and turned the engine off. Alexis stood and moved to the railing.
“Do you have a minute? I have a couple of things that are banging around in my head that I’d like to clarify.” he said.
“Of course, come on up and sit. Iced tea?” she asked.
“Not today thanks,” he said, dropping into a chair. “I wonder when this heat is supposed to break. We haven’t seen rain for weeks.”
“They sure talk about it enough but we’ve yet to see it fall.”
“Alexis,” he said, avoiding any more chat about the weather. “I have a question for you,” “You knew that David was dying of pancreatic cancer didn’t you?”
Her muted gasp said it all, but she answered the question anyway. “Yes I did.”
“It appears that aside from David and Doc Lewis you were the only one who knew.”
“I know. David asked me not to tell and I didn’t.”
“I didn’t know that you were that close.”
“We weren’t actually, until the play came along. That’s when I really got to know him. He needed someone to talk to and to have a neutral place to be comfortable in.”
“I know that this may sound harsh, but did you and he do anything more than talk?”
“Sergeant Hill…I can’t believe that you’d even ask such a question. My husband has been dead and gone for five years and am I expected to sit here being accused of having an affair with every one of my friends? I thought you knew me better than that,” she said, feeling insulted and hurt. “I was more like a mother to him, or a big sister. Sometimes guys find it hard to talk with those that they are closest to. I like to think that I gave him some strength to face his cancer, though I felt that he wasn’t dealing with it very well. The play was also taking its toll. He had been working full-time and trying to rehearse, while the cancer was sucking all his strength, more and more every day.”
“I never meant it to sound that way but it is odd that he never told Tiffany.”
“And for good reason. They were trying to have a baby and he didn’t want to affect that.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to insult you. I’m glad that he got his wish, though he didn’t live long enough to know it,” Hill said, changing the subject and now feeling quite a fool for asking her such a question.
~ ~ ~
He felt that it was the day for getting questions answered so his second visit was to see Vadoma again. His plan was to ask her questions and he would not accept any of her evasive, wishy-washy answers this time. When he drove down to the waterfront he was surprised to see that her tent was no longer set-up next to the Visitors’ Information Centre. He went inside and asked Valerie, “You wouldn’t happen to know when the fortune teller moved on would you?”
Valerie looked out of the window and said, surprised, “By gosh she is gone. I was wondering if she’d ever leave. I didn’t even realize that she had gone until now when you said it. Well, holy smokes. I’m positive that she was there yesterday. Yes, as a matter of fact, yesterday morning she was standing outside on the step waiting to use the loo when I unlocked the building.”
“You wouldn’t happen to know where she went…do you?” Hill wondered, avoiding discussion of Vadoma’s personal bodily needs.
“She never did say where she had planned on going, not that we were buddies. Matter of fact she wasn’t very talkative. I never thought to ask her either. I just got so used to her being here that she just became a part of the park, like a monument or something. I wonder why she upped and left without saying a word?”
“You wouldn’t know where she’s from would you?”
“That’s a mystery too. I’ve been thinking about that every now and again when I’d look out and check to see what she was up to. You know…she had maybe only one or two customers a week after Privateer Days were over. Beats the hell out of me why she even stuck around. I saw her chatting you up a time or two. You probably know more about her than anyone.”
“Well truth be told I don’t know a hell of a lot more about her than you do,” Hill said, before turning to walk out the door. He walked down the steps and to the west side of the building where Vadoma had had her tent set up. There was not even a mark left on the grass where the tent had once stood. He kicked at the grass looking for any trace of her having been there. Finding nothing he left.
Hill dialed Geoff’s cell number. It rang four times before it went to voice mail. He left a message asking Geoff to call him back. Within a half a minute he had done so.
“Sorry, I was just lining up on the ninth hole,” Geoff said.
“I figured as much. Are you heading back this way when you’re done?”
Geoff knew that something was troubling Hill or he would never have asked. “Yes, probably in about twenty minutes or so.”
“I was wondering if you’d like to go for a drive. I could pick you up if you like.”
“Whatever works for you,” Geoff said, knowing that Hill would arrive just as he finished the ninth hole.
Hill left town and took his time as he drove along the Lighthouse Route. That in itself seemed to reduce the tension that he was feeling. Some of the leaves had changed colour already, reminding him that summer was nearly past. He liked autumn, for the change in season came on slowly, making it very long, and the colourful leaves lasted well into November, unless, as it sometimes did, a hurricane wind swept across Nova Scotia baring the trees much too early. He drove past the Ballard property and smiled for they were just one of dozens of folks who decorated their yards with folk art. It was colourful and cheery, lifting his mood. By the time he drove up to the clubhouse the anxiety that he had felt earlier was virtually gone. He also wondered if maybe he was reading more into Vadoma’s disappearance than was really there.
Hill lowered his window just as Geoff was putting his golf clubs into the trunk of his car. He waited for him.
“I stopped and got us coffees on the way out,” Hill said as Geoff buckled his seatbelt.
“I had it in mind to drive out to the Briggs farm, at Port Mouton, and see how that well is flowing, the one that Christian witched.”
“Is he into that now?”
“Not really. I guess he did it as a favor to his grandfather. It’ll be interesting to see how accurate he was.”
Geoff knew that their drive into the country-side had nothing to do with water-wells, but he bided his time knowing that Hill would spit it out when he was ready. As expected he turned into the parking space at Summerville Beach and parked the car. They took their coffees and wandered out across the boardwalk and onto the sand. As usual there was no one else around.
“That fortune teller, Vadoma, she’s got me puzzled,” Hill started the conversation as they sat on the stairs.
“Is she still down at the park? It’s been more than two months since Privateer Days wrapped up.”
“That’s the puzzling part. She was there yesterday, according to Valerie, at the Tourist place, but she’s gone today. In fact I was down at the park and there isn’t even a trace of her ever having been there.”
“How do you mean?”
“The grass isn’t even worn where she had her tent set up.”
“If you’re looking to have your fortune told I heard that Mrs. March is still doing it,” he said, smiling.
“Lord no, Vadoma actually convinced me to step inside her tent the once, but damned if I can recall what she had told me. All that hocus-pocus crap makes my head spin.”
“Not leading you down the garden path?”
“Oh, I wish. What beats the hell out of me is that here we are in a town with little more than three thousand people and I have a murderer that I can’t catch.”
“Maybe he left town with the midway and tents. Or maybe he’s in disguise.”
“Maybe it was Vadoma?”
“I doubt it but I wonder now if she had a license to even set up shop,” Hill said.
“The Regional office should have a record of that.”
“Of course, and her personal information too.”
Geoff did not comment when Hill turned the car back towards Liverpool. All thoughts of whether or not there was a good strong flow of water in the Briggs’ well had vanished. He dropped Geoff off at his car and drove directly to the Municipality office. He was quickly directed to Sherry Swain’s room.
“I understand you’re looking for a specific business license that was issued for Privateer Days?”
“That’s right – the fortune teller – Vadoma,” he said, offering as much information as he knew, limited as it was.
Sherry did a search on the computer and gave Hill a puzzled look. She then selected a binder from the row behind her and opened it at a tab that read Privateer Days. She flipped through the pages. It contained copies of all the business licenses that had been issued for the event. He measured the gap between the previous year’s tab and the present. There had been many more permits written this year.
“That’s odd, we didn’t issue one,” Sherry said, with a puzzled look on her face.
“You do know that she was in the park.”
“Yes, I do,” she said, blushing. She was either embarrassed for not having issued a license or she was revealing that she had been a paying customer.
“And obviously without a license,” Hill added, questioningly.
“We don’t really check you know. It’s like an honour system,” she said.
“Do you have any idea how or where one could get info on her?”
“Is she a suspect in the murder?” Sherry said, alarmed.
“Everyone’s a suspect,” Hill said, raising his eyebrows and assuring her that even she could be considered.
“Gosh I don’t know anything about her,” she said, wishing that the Sergeant would just leave her to her work.
In the end he did leave, though poor Sherry was agitated for the rest of the day.
END OF CHAPTER TWENTY NINE