And something big -- something very big -- is about to happen on beautiful Martha's Vineyard.
International superstar entertainers, top politicians, a former president, and the social elite will come together at the Celebration for Humanity, a musical extravaganza to be telecast live around the world. Headlining the show is legendary singer Evangeline, who's flying in from her Scotland castle, accompanied by her young daughter, Janie.
Vineyard fisherman and sometime private investigator J. W. Jackson isn't much interested in pop music, but he agrees to take a job as the gorgeous Evangeline's driver and guide. The money is good and the company is intriguing.
J.W.'s Boston lawyer pal, Brady Coyne, also has business on the Vineyard. His old friend Mike Doyle is dying, and Mike wants to reconcile with his daughter Christa, who is rumored to be on the Vineyard, before it's too late. Can Brady find her in time?
J.W. 's assignment gets deadly serious when the Celebration's director, Odgen Warner, is found murdered just days before the show is to open. Warner was known to be gruff and demanding, but his death is a shock to the cast and crew. Was it a random killing, or is there a murderer among them who might strike again? Could Evangeline be the next victim? Or is she a suspect?
The search for young Christa Doyle also turns complicated when Brady discovers that a charismatic religious leader may be holding her on an Island compound against her will. Christa and Evangeline live in very different worlds, yet Brady and J.W. find that they must weave together every thread of evidence if they are to save both women's lives.
Filled with charming Vineyard vignettes of fishing, family life, and spirited cocktail hours on the Jacksons' balcony overlooking the sea, Second Sight is a page-turning novel of suspense from two of the most beloved writers in crime fiction today.
Includes three recipes.
About the Author
The late Philip R. Craig was the author of nineteen novels in the Martha's Vineyard Mystery series. A professor emeritus of English at Wheelock College in Boston, he loved the Vineyard and lived there year-round with his wife, Shirley.
William G. Tapply is professor of English at Clark University. The author of twenty-one Brady Coyne novels and ten books about fly-fishing and the outdoors, he is also a columnist for American Angler magazine and a contributing editor for several other outdoors publications. He lives with his wife, novelist Vicki Stiefel, in Hancock, New Hampshire.
Read an Excerpt
There are two weekly newspapers on Martha's Vineyard: the Vineyard Gazette and the Martha's Vineyard Times. Both deal solely with island issues and neither makes much pretense of separating its editorial views from its news coverage. The papers are like dueling banjos, predictably taking opposing views on almost everything. The Gazette's writings are politically correct, brimming with nostalgia for an idealized past, and touched with hauteur, while the populist Times relishes muckraking and has asked local pols so many embarrassing questions that sundry boards and town leaders will no longer speak to its representatives unless the questions are first submitted in writing.
I didn't read either paper with hopes of discovering the truth, but merely to get a sense of the issues of the moment and a laugh from the political dissemblers and the more passionate letters to the editors. Between them, the Gazette and the Times gave strong evidence that Shaw was right when he defined a newspaper as a device unable to distinguish between a bicycle accident and the collapse of civilization.
But both papers agreed on one thing: the upcoming Celebration for Humanity was a very big deal.
It was August and the Celebration had been news all summer. And why not? It seemed that every celebrity, politician, and millionaire living on the island, along with countless others in New York, Hollywood, Washington, and from abroad, was involved, and every one of them would be wrapped in the American flag. It was to be an unprecedented event, bringing together the great and powerful from the entertainment business, Wall Street, religion, and government for one extraordinary weekend of song, speech, prayer, patriotism, and commitment to national and international peace, goodwill, and fearless resolve in the face of terrorism and evil axes.
The Celebration would be broadcast live on national and international radio and television, and taped for viewing by those unfortunate enough to have missed the original show and for the millions who undoubtedly would want to see it all again.
"I just don't think I can stand the tension of it all," yawned Zee, looking at the Gazette's front page. "Less than a week to go, and the island's problems are mounting. Not enough housing, not enough security, not enough tickets to the big event and some outrageous scalping of the ones there are."
"How about we rent out this place for that weekend and use the money to go to Angkor Wat?" I asked. "I've wanted to see Angkor Wat ever since I was a little kid and my father let me read his copy of Halliburton's Complete Book of Marvels. Our house isn't much but it should be good for a few thousand dollars during the Celebration. People are desperate."
"I don't know if they're that desperate," said Zee, glancing around the kitchen, where she'd spread the paper on the table.
Maybe she was right. Home sweet home was an old hunting and fishing camp expanded by a couple of modern bedrooms that I'd tacked on since the kids were born. I'd been working in vain for years to fix a leak in the corner of the living room that dripped whenever a strong rain blew in from the east, and the balcony floor was beginning to get a little spongy in one place I'd soon have to fix.
"People will pay anything to stay on Martha's Vineyard," I said, yawning in turn, "and they'll pay twice as much if they get to see a celebrity while they're here. No wonder the scalpers are doing so well. Maybe we should at least sell our tickets. What do you think?"
"As you'll recall, we don't have tickets," said Zee. "Somehow we got left off the VIP list again. I just can't understand it. I see here, though, that Joe and Myra Callahan are among the invited guests. I imagine Cricket will be coming along, too."
Years before, during one of then-president Joe Callahan's several summer holidays on the Vineyard, our paths had briefly crossed, as the paths of commoners and aristocrats sometimes do, but the former president's family and the Jacksons had since walked different roads.
"Maybe you should suck up to some of those Hollywood types who've been after you to become a movie star," I said. "They can probably get us in."
Zee, who had once been an extra in a motion picture filmed on our island, was still being pursued by its director, who considered her, rightly, I thought, to be one of those rare people who light up the screen. Zee, however, preferred to remain a nurse and to live on the Vineyard with our children and me.
"My once promising career as a film star is, I'm glad to say, a thing of the past," said Zee. "According to this story, though, I actually do know some of the people who'll be part of the show."
"No doubt they'll want you to perform."
"If nominated, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve. We can stay at home like all the normal people in the world and watch the big show on our little TV." She looked at her watch. "The kids should be home any time now. You know, it still feels weird to have them old enough to go play with other kids at a summer camp."
It did seem that way. "Well, their friends come to play here sometimes, so it balances out."
"It feels okay when other kids are here, but it doesn't when ours are someplace else. Does that sound normal?"
"Maybe you should take a parenting class to find out."
"No thanks. I have enough trouble being a parent with just you around. I don't need to be in a class with ten other people who don't know any more than I do. My mother says the secret is to be a grandparent, because by that time you finally know everything instead of always being a year or two behind."
It was a popular notion among grandparents, I knew, and maybe even a correct one, but with luck it would be another twenty years or so before we could either confirm or deny.
Zee scanned the paper one last time and folded it. "Even for this fabled isle where fantasies unfurl like flags almost every day, this Celebration is an eye-catcher. We have as much media here as we did the first time Joe Callahan came down."
During the Callahans' first Vineyard visit, so many security people and media types had been around that every hotel room was full and the island sank about six inches into the sea from the weight of machines and humans. It only rose again when the presidential party flew back to Washington.
"The beginning of that first sentence was quite alliterative," I said admiringly. "But you're right. This is a notable gala even by local standards. I'm going to pour myself a martini and adjourn to the balcony. Would you care to join me?"
She would, so I got the Luksusowa out of the freezer and poured two glasses, adding two jalapeño-stuffed olives to each. I put these on a tray along with crackers and smoked bluefish pâté and went up to the balcony, where Zee was already seated. She was looking eastward over our gardens, over Sengekontacket Pond, over the barrier beach on its far side where families were even now packing up their beach gear and heading home, and over the blue waters of Nantucket Sound to where Cape Cod loomed on the distant horizon.
It was a view we never tired of. Just before dawn all winter long a coral ribbon stretched along the horizon between the dark blue band of ocean and the lighter one of brightening sky. And all year round, as the sun set and our house fell into evening shadows, the barrier beach glowed like a strand of gold before the earth turned and night came down.
Zee sipped her martini. "Not bad, Jefferson. You haven't lost the magic touch."
"The secret of the old family recipe shall never be revealed until my son has reached maturity, and then only to him."
"Diana and I won't be told how to open the bottle, I take it." She handed me a cracker mounded with pâté.
"You know how women are. They just can't keep secrets."
"How true, how true. Certainly none of my women friends can keep herself from saying things about you that should be kept private."
"Like what, for instance?"
"I'm sorry, but my lips are sealed. Besides, you don't really want to know."
"Are you saying you're an exception to the women-can't-keep-a-secret rule?"
Zee lifted her glass. "According to my friends, you're the one who's an exception to certain normal, civilized rules. Several of them, in fact. I'll say no more."
Out on the sound boats were white against the blue water as they headed for harbor. Above them the pale sky was bright and clear. Every shape and color on land and sea was sharply defined by the dry northeast breeze. It was a Babar day.
Behind us I heard the sound of a car coming down our long, sandy driveway and turned, expecting to see Madge or Frank Duncan bringing Diana and Joshua home from an afternoon at their nature studies camp.
But the car didn't belong to the Duncans. It stopped in the yard and a man got out. I hadn't seen him in quite a while. He waved and started toward the house.
"It's Jake Spitz," I said to Zee. It was refill time, so I picked up our empty glasses as I went downstairs with Zee at my heels.
Jake shook my hand and exchanged kisses with Zee, who stepped back and smiled up at him. "Still exercising regularly, I see. Maybe you can have a talk with my husband about the virtues of physical activity other than snoring and surf casting."
"You both look fit as ever," said Spitz. "How are the kids?"
"They're out gallivanting with their friends. They're fine."
I was happy to see him. "How about a little something, Jake? We're ready for seconds."
He hesitated, then smiled and nodded. "Theoretically I'm on duty, but only for a little longer, so what the hell."
"Spoken like a true American. How long have you been on the island, and what brings the FBI to our house?"
I fixed the drinks and the three of us went back up to the balcony.
"Watch that soft spot," I said, gesturing. "I've got some rotten wood there that I have to replace. Your foot might go right through."
"I'm used to rot," said Spitz. "I work in Washington."
We sat and looked at the view. "Mighty fine," said Spitz. "I remember it well."
"It's a nice surprise to have you here to see it again," I said.
Spitz sipped his drink and made an approving face. "Good. But I didn't come here just to drink your vodka and sit on your balcony, much as I'm enjoying both. I've come to offer you a temp job."
On Martha's Vineyard, where prices are high and pay is low, a job is always worth considering. In my case, that was especially true since I had no steady income other than spotty profit from part ownership in a fishing boat and tiny disability pensions from the U.S. Army and the Boston PD, earned absorbing bits of enemy metal into my body during combat. I still carried a bullet next to my spine and small fragments of shrapnel in my legs.
"Let me guess," said Zee. "If you're here on the island, Jake, it means that some Washington bigwigs are too, or soon will be, and that means the job has something to do with the Celebration for Humanity. Am I right?"
"It's hard to pull the wool over your eyes, Mrs. Jackson."
"Well, he's not going to take the job," said Zee firmly and with a hint of anger in her voice.
Spitz and I both looked at her. I opened my mouth but she spoke again before I could.
"My husband has collected a few new scars since you last saw him, Jake, and he's promised not to do any more dangerous things. I'm holding him to it."
"I don't do dangerous things," I said.
"Yes, you do, and Jake here has been involved in security as long as we've known him, so it's pretty clear to me that he wants you to do something that might be dangerous! Well, you won't!"
Spitz lifted his hands. "It's nothing like that, Zee. Let me give you the details before you decide anything."
Zee gave me a hard, wifely look, but nodded.
"Did you ever hear of a singer named Evangeline? Like in the poem by Longfellow?"
"Of course," said Zee, perking up. "Everybody's heard of Evangeline. She's won all the Grammys in the world but she keeps her personal life totally private. Doesn't she live in a castle in Scotland or something? Is she coming to the Celebration? Wow! I haven't seen her name in the local papers."
I could not share Zee's enthusiasm, but even I had heard of Evangeline, although in general I'm not aware of any singers younger than Willie Nelson or Pavarotti. "What about her?" I asked.
Spitz took another short snort. "She's coming to the Celebration, but not many people know that. She doesn't want anything to do with reporters. She wants to stay out of sight, make a 'surprise appearance' onstage, then, when her bit is over, fly back home again. She needs a driver who can keep his mouth shut. We have a safe house for her and you're my choice as her driver. She wants to see the island while she's here, and you know it better than my agents. Also, you were a cop and you can wave a badge as well as the next guy if you need to."
"My shield is pretty much out-of-date these days, Jake."
"I can arrange to get you some official paper. She'll have a Ford Explorer with those dark windows that keep people from seeing inside. And they say that she's got half a dozen different wigs and getups to make herself look different if she wants to go someplace public, so about all you'll have to do is drive her where she wants to go.
"There's money in it," he added, and mentioned a goodly figure.
"Can I get an autographed picture of her for Zee?"
Zee brightened. "That would be excellent!"
"I'm sure it can be arranged," said Spitz, looking relieved. "Well, what do you say, Mrs. Jackson, ma'am?"
"All he has to do is drive Evangeline around the island?"
"And maybe get some take-out clams for her from The Bite, so she can taste the island's finest fries alone on a beach somewhere."
"And that's all?"
"He might have to get her back into the car pretty fast if some fan spots her."
"And that's all?"
"That pretty much covers it."
Zee was never one to miss a trick. "How'd the FBI get involved with Evangeline, Jake? You work for the government, not for people in the entertainment business. Are you sure there isn't more to this job than you're telling me?"
"There's a simple explanation," said Spitz, smiling at her. "Joe Callahan and his family, especially their daughter, Cricket, are big Evangeline fans. He may not be president anymore, but when he asked the bureau to help her out, we obliged. Well, what do you say, are you going to let your husband take the job?"
"Well, all right," she said, smiling back. "But I want that autographed picture."
"Consider it done." Spitz glanced at his watch and took a final sip of his drink. "Come on down to the car with me, J.W., and I'll give you a map that shows where Evangeline and her daughter are staying."
I followed him to the car. He gave me the map, and then said quietly, "I'd like you to carry your pistol on this job."
My eyebrows went up a bit.
"I doubt if you'll need it," he said, "but I think you should have it. Celebrities are targets for some people, and we don't want anything happening to Evangeline." He paused. "We've heard some whispers in the wind, but nothing we can be sure of. I didn't mention this up on the balcony because I wouldn't want Zee to be worried about you."
"Tell me what you know," I said.
"I just did," said Spitz. "You still want the job? It's only for these next few days."
"You'll be doing me a favor," he said. "I need somebody I can trust."
I glanced back at the house, and at Zee, knowing Jake could be putting me in a difficult -- yes, even a dangerous -- position. But he was a friend. And I was intrigued.
"All right," I said.
Copyright © 2005 by Philip R. Craig and William G. Tapply
Toward closing time on a Friday afternoon in August, Neddie Doyle called me at my office. "Mike needs you," she said.
I started to make a joke out of it. I said, "Hell, Mike doesn't need anybody. Least of all me."
But when she said, "Yeah, Brady, he does, and he insists that it's you," her tone told me that this was no joking matter.
I asked her what was up, but all she'd say was, "It's Mike's idea. He should tell you."
It occurred to me that Mike could've called as easily as Neddie, and the fact that he hadn't gave me a spooky feeling. The Doyles lived in Hancock, New Hampshire, a two-hour drive from Boston. I told her I could be there the next morning.
I hadn't seen Mike Doyle since he abruptly and mysteriously quit his Federal Street firm three years ago and moved to Hancock in the sticks of southwestern New Hampshire. I still remembered him as the idealistic guy I'd known in law school, the Peace Corps volunteer who'd given two years of his young life to teaching African villagers about irrigation. He'd been a whip-smart, handsome, athletic stud who ran rings around Charlie McDevitt and me when we played Sunday-morning touch football at the Yale Law School, argued rings around us in late-night discussions about constitutional law, and picked up girls that snubbed the rest of us in New Haven bars.
After we graduated, the young idealist quickly matured, if that's the word for it, into a relentless litigator. Mike made partner in two years, got his name added to the letterhead, earned about a million dollars a year, and quickly turned stodgy old Fisk, Evans, and Burleson into F. E. B. and D., the top-billing law firm in Boston. When I was still a struggling attorney determined to make it as a lone wolf, Mike threw cases my way that were too insignificant for his big-time firm. In those days, I took anything, and he helped me to get my feet under me.
I was Mike's personal lawyer, and I suppose if I'd ever wanted to sue somebody, I'd've hired him. Smart lawyers always hire other lawyers to do their legal work. Mike and I were both smart that way.
Over the years, we remained friends. Not buddies, the way he and Charlie and I had been in law school, but friends. Mike was a good guy. His success didn't go to his head. When our kids were young, our families would get together a few times a year for cookouts, and now and then Mike and I would meet after work for a drink to talk about old times.
Neddie, Mike's wife, was a gifted watercolorist. She also happened to be gorgeous, of course. Christa, their daughter, was vivacious like her mother and smart and athletic like her dad. And lucky Mike, he managed to retire from the rat race after just twenty years of it. Some guys manage to get it all right the first time around. It was hard not to envy Mike Doyle.
Or at least, that's what I used to think.
It took a little less than two hours on Saturday morning to drive to Hancock, New Hampshire, from my apartment on the Boston waterfront. I headed for Peterborough, then followed Neddie's directions through a maze of wooded country roads, found the dirt driveway that wound through the pine forest and up the hill to the clearing where the Doyle house overlooked Mount Monadnock.
It was a pretty nice house -- all glass and raw cedar and New Hampshire granite -- and the way it perched there on the hilltop with its rock gardens and stone walls and fieldstone paths and clumps of paper birch, it looked like part of the rocky landscape.
Neddie greeted me at the door, gave me a hug, took my hand, and led me inside. "Don't be shocked," she said.
But I was.
Mike Doyle was lying in a hospital bed that they'd set up in the big living room. A gray-haired nurse was fiddling with the needle in the back of his hand. Plastic bags filled with transparent fluids hung on the aluminum rack beside the bed, and thin tubes snaked down from the bags to the needle. More tubes sneaked out from under the thin blanket that covered Mike and emptied into bags hanging off the foot of his bed. A blue oxygen tank sat in the corner of the room.
Outside the floor-to-ceiling glass wall, the view of the green, rolling New Hampshire hills and, on the horizon, craggy Mount Monadnock was spectacular on this sunny August morning. But Mike's head was turned away from the vista, and his eyes were shut, and his breathing was slow.
In the couple of years since I'd last seen him, Mike Doyle had become an old man. His skin had that translucent look that you see on very old people, and it stretched so tight over his cheekbones that his face looked more like a skull. His hair had gone white.
Neddie, who was standing beside me, touched my arm. "He's not going to wake up for a while," she said. "It's the morphine. I'm sorry. He's desperate to talk to you. He's usually okay in the morning. Come on. I'll get us some coffee. Let's go out on the terrace."
It was one of those sticky August mornings in New En-gland that promised to turn downright hot, with thunderstorms building in the afternoon, but out there on the Doyles' fieldstone patio high above the surrounding valleys, the breeze was cool and the air smelled sweet.
Neddie poured some coffee, and we sat in the big wooden armchairs.
"I didn't even know he was sick," I said.
"That's why he quit the firm," Neddie said. "It's some damn exotic parasite he picked up in Africa. He was fine for over twenty years. Didn't even know anything was wrong. Then..." She shrugged. "The doctors said there was nothing they could do about it. Mike told the partners he was leaving the day after he found out. He didn't want anybody to...to watch him deteriorate."
"He's dying?" I said.
"Oh, yes." She smiled softly. "He spent two years trying to convince the villagers they shouldn't wash their dishes in the water downstream from where their animals sloshed around in it. He showed them how to dig wells and irrigation ditches and taught them to boil their drinking water. Ironic, huh?"
"A month. Six weeks at the most. He's gone downhill fast this past year or so."
"Jesus," I said. "I'm sorry."
We were quiet for a minute. Then Neddie said, "He wanted to talk to you himself. But I guess I better speak for him." She looked at me. "This is his idea, not mine."
"If there's something I can do..."
"Mike thinks there is," she said. "He's got it in his head that you're the only one who can. It's about Christa."
Christa was the Doyles' daughter, their only child. "What about Christa?" I said.
Neddie looked at me. There was something hard in her eyes. "She's gone. We've lost her. Mike wants her back. He wants to -- to understand -- before he dies. He wants to know that she loves him."
"What do you mean, 'gone'?"
Neddie spread her hands. "Run away. Disappeared. I don't know how else to say it. She quit school the day after she turned sixteen. That was two and a half years ago last March. Packed up her backpack for school like she always did, left on the school bus, and...never came home. We haven't seen her since then."
"You must've -- "
"At first she called at least once a week. Said she was okay, she was safe, had a job and a place to stay, had made friends. She was in Eugene, Oregon. She sounded happy. Promised she'd be back. We begged her to come home, of course, but all she said was that she would when she was ready, whatever that meant. Said we had to trust her and made it clear that if we went after her, she'd just leave again." Neddie shook her head. "Mike and I argued about it. He was devastated. Took it personally. He was all for sending the troops after her. Me, I figured, take her at her word, give her a little time, don't spook her, let her get whatever it is out of her system. As long as she kept in touch with us, as long as she was safe, I had faith that it would turn out okay. Christa was smart and resourceful. She'd figure it out. I absolutely believed her, believed she'd come back."
"But she didn't."
"No. After three or four months, the phone calls suddenly stopped. She'd never given us a number. We had no idea how to reach her. So Mike contacted an investigator in Eugene. We paid him a lot of money. After two weeks, he called to tell us that he couldn't find her. Shortly after that we got a letter from Christa. It was...terribly hurtful. It blamed us for giving her what she called false values. It accused us of being materialists, of corrupting her." Neddie gazed off toward the mountains. "It was soon after that that Mike started going downhill."
"You haven't heard from Christa since then?"
"No. Not a word. I've come to terms with it. She's gone from our lives, and I just pray she's okay. Mike, though, he wakes up every morning with hope. Maybe today's the day we'll see Christa, he says. That lasts about an hour. Then he just seems to collapse into himself. Waiting for tomorrow, I guess. Another day, another hope."
"Neddie," I said gently, "where do I come into it?"
She smiled. "Remember when we used to get together with you and Gloria, when the kids were little, and we'd have cookouts in the backyard?"
"Christa used to call you Uncle Brady. She thought you were the greatest guy. Always talked about you. Mike was actually a little jealous. I bet you didn't know that."
I smiled. "That was a long time ago."
"Yes," she said. "Mike was healthy then, and Christa was our sweet little girl. A long time ago. Anyway, Mike is convinced that if anybody can talk her into coming home, it's Uncle Brady."
"Wait a minute," I said. "Are you saying you want me to find Christa and bring her home before..."
"Before Mike dies. Yes. That's what he wants."
"What about you?" I said. "Is that what you want?"
Neddie looked up at the sky for a moment, and when she turned to me, I saw that her eyes glistened. "I don't know, Brady. If she ever came home and then...then disappeared again, I don't think I could bear it. It's taken me a long time to learn to live with this." She nodded. "But I guess it would allow Mike to die in peace. At this point, that's worth everything to me. So, yes, it is what I want."
"Neddie," I said, "I'd do anything for you and Mike. I hope you know that. But I'm a lawyer. I'm not -- "
"You know a lot of investigators and police and FBI people, right? You know how it works, finding people."
"Yes, but -- "
She touched my arm. "Mike says you've found people before. People who didn't want to be found. That you've done it for other clients. He says you're good at it. He says when you latch onto something, you don't give up. He says people trust you. They talk to you."
I decided not to tell her that several of the people I'd been hired to find had turned out to be dead. Being dead was often the reason they'd disappeared in the first place.
"I'll see what I can do," I said. "Of course I will."
She smiled. "Thank you."
"It'll probably mean retaining some investigators. If they can track down Christa, I'll go to her, talk to her. Then it'll be up to her."
"That's all we want," she said. She stood up and held out her hand to me.
I took it, and as I did, I was thinking: What the hell have you gotten yourself into, Coyne?
"Let's go back in," Neddie said, "see if Mike's awake so we can tell him."
The nurse had cranked Mike's bed up and wedged a couple of pillows behind his head. She was holding a glass for him, and he was sipping what looked like ginger ale through a straw and gazing out the big window. Beethoven's Sixth Symphony -- the "Pastorale" -- was playing from hidden speakers. The music filled the room.
Neddie went over to Mike and kissed his cheek. "Brady's here," she said.
Mike turned his head slowly and looked at me. "Hey," he said. His voice was weak and raspy.
I went over and gripped his shoulder. "Hey yourself."
He smiled. "Thanks for coming."
"Neddie told me about Christa," I said.
He nodded. "Good. You'll do it, huh?"
"I just want to see my little girl," he said. One of his hands crept out from under the blanket. He tapped his cheek with a shaky finger. "I want her to kiss me here and tell me she loves me. I want to say good-bye to her. That's all."
"Fair enough," I said.
He let his head fall back on the pillows, closed his eyes, let out a long sigh, and smiled.
A minute later he was asleep.
Neddie touched my arm, and I followed her into her office. She sat at the desk and pulled out a checkbook.
"What are you doing?" I said.
"Giving you a check."
I shook my head. "That's not necessary."
"We're hiring you, Brady. You don't think we expect you to do this on your own time."
"I'll keep track of it. I'll send you a bill."
She smiled. "I mean it," she said. "We're not asking you for a favor here."
"I like doing favors for my friends."
"If we don't pay you, the deal's off."
"I'll send you a bill," I said.
"You'd better." She put the checkbook in a drawer. "What's next?"
"I'll need the most recent photo of Christa that you have," I said. "I want that letter she sent you, too, and that Oregon investigator's report. Write down the names of everybody you can think of she might have kept in touch with since she left. And I want to see her room, if that's okay."
"You can if you want," she said. "Mike and I have been through it a hundred times. Looking for clues. Who might help us, where she might go, what was on her mind. She didn't keep a diary or anything. No letters or cards or photos. Nothing like that. "
"I still want to see it."
"Sure. Top of the stairs on your right." Neddie smiled. "Mike insisted we keep the door open. To symbolize how we're always ready to welcome her home, he says. He says shutting the door would be shutting her out. Anyway, go ahead up. I'll get that stuff for you."
Christa's bedroom had a slanted ceiling with two big skylights. A wall-size window offered the same view of the mountains as the one from the living room downstairs. Objectively, it was a really nice room, sunlit and cozy. But it felt cold and unlived-in.
I wasn't sure what a teenage girl's bedroom was supposed to look like. Both of my kids were boys. Young men now. When they were teenagers, their rooms had featured posters of athletes and rock stars, piles of dirty clothes and hockey sticks, perpetually unmade beds, and television sets they never remembered to turn off. If I'd had to guess, I would've pictured a girl's room with a neatly made pink canopy bed piled with stuffed animals, walls hung with posters of movie stars and pop singers, a Princess telephone on the bedside table, and a desk in the corner with a laptop computer and a little color TV.
Christa's bed was, in fact, neatly made, with a patchwork quilt and a crocheted afghan folded at the foot. But there was no telephone, no television set, no computer, no stereo system, not even a clock radio. In fact, what struck me about Christa's room was its emptiness. It reminded me of a guest room in a house that never had guests.
The walls were bare except for one framed picture over the bed -- a generic seascape featuring sand dunes and wheeling gulls. A low bookcase under the window held about two dozen Nancy Drew mysteries that, if I had to guess, had been Neddie's from when she was a kid. There were a few Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oates novels, too, and the complete J. R. R. Tolkien, a dictionary, a thesaurus, and a few random paperbacks. There were several empty slots, as if some books had been removed from the shelves.
I pawed through the bureau and looked into the closet. Girl's clothes. No hidden stacks of letters tied up in a ribbon, no videotapes or photo albums or diaries.
I was looking out the window with my hands clasped behind me when Neddie came in. "Find anything?" she said.
I turned to look at her. "Did you clean it up after Christa left?"
She shook her head. "This is exactly the way it was the day she went away."
"I know," she said. "Like nobody ever lived here. Christa hated it when we moved up to New Hampshire. We never told her it was because of Mike's health. Maybe that was a mistake, but he didn't want to upset her. As far as we've been able to tell, she didn't make a single friend around here. The people at school said she was a good student, but a loner. She refused to join any clubs or go out for any teams. They encouraged her, and so did we. She was into everything when we were living in Belmont. After we moved up here, she'd come home on the bus right after school, change her clothes, and walk around in the woods or come up here to her room and read. She refused to have anything mechanical or electronic in her room. No music, no TV, no computer. You noticed that, right?"
I nodded. "Would you say she was depressed?"
"You know," said Neddie, "since she's been gone we've tried to understand. Tried desperately. But honestly, she didn't seem at all depressed. She was pleasant with us. No rebellion, no sulking, nothing like that. She laughed a lot, actually. Helped me cook sometimes. She liked to work in the gardens. Always did her homework. Got excellent grades. Hardly ever got sick, rarely missed a day of school. We were here less than a year when she...she left. We figured she was just making a slow adjustment."
"That doesn't sound like the portrait of a runaway," I said. "Are you sure you're remembering it accurately?"
Neddie smiled. "That's a fair question, Brady. It's a question I've asked myself a hundred times. What are we overlooking? What have we been repressing? Where were the hints?" She shrugged. "You know Mike. He's a pretty hard-nosed guy. I'm pretty hard-nosed myself, in my own way. We're remembering it accurately. Her teachers up here remember her the same way. Good kid. Quiet but pleasant. No trouble."
I took one more look around Christa's bedroom. Then Neddie and I went back down to her office.
"I've got what you wanted," she said. She handed me a snapshot. "I took this on Christa's sixteenth birthday. The day before she left. I can hardly stand to look at it."
In the photo, Mike and Christa were standing in their backyard with the long vista of Mount Monadnock behind them. They were both smiling directly into the camera. Mike had his arm around her shoulder, and Christa had hers around his waist, and she was leaning her cheek against his shoulder. Mike looked healthy. Christa looked happy.
She was nearly as tall as Mike, with her mother's ebony hair and flashing brown eyes. Her hair was cut very short, almost a boy's haircut. She wore big silver earrings, a tight white T-shirt, and low-cut blue jeans that showed her belly button. She looked grown-up.
"Here's that letter," said Neddie. It was in its envelope, postmarked San Francisco. I decided I'd read it later.
She gave me a manila envelope. "That detective's report is in there, and I wrote down the names of all the people Christa might've been in touch with that I could think of. I don't have phone numbers or addresses, but they're all from Belmont, from before we moved up here. Is that okay?"
"Sure," I said.
I put the snapshot and the letter into the manila envelope. "Can you think of anything else that will help me?"
"What kind of job might she take? Does she like to dance, go to concerts, movies, plays? Does she swim, play tennis?"
Neddie frowned. "It seems like so long ago. I mean, to us she was just our smart daughter. She seemed...normal, you know? She never had any job except babysitting. She always liked to read. She was wonderfully athletic, but sometime about when she turned twelve, she decided she hated competitive sports. She said competition was destructive. She believed in cooperation. She was idealistic. Like Mike." She smiled. "Christa was a good kid, Brady. Everybody said so."
"I can't think of anything else to tell you."
"Okay. If you do, just give me a call." I tucked the manila envelope under my arm. "I guess I'd better get started."
We went back into the living room. The nurse was sitting in a straight-backed chair beside Mike's bed reading a magazine. Mike was asleep.
At the front door, Neddie put her arms around me, pushed her face against my chest, and said, "This is really stupid, isn't it?"
"It's not stupid," I said.
She tilted her head back and looked up at me. "Hopeless, I mean. Not a word from her in two years. She could be anywhere. Even if..."
Even if she's alive, is what I guessed Neddie was thinking.
"There's always hope," I said. I gave her a squeeze. "Tell Mike good-bye for me. I'll keep in touch with you."
She nodded. "Thank you, Brady."
"Understand one thing," I said.
"If I do find Christa and talk to her, I will tell her that Mike's dying and wants to see her. I'll do my best to convince her to come home. If she refuses, I can't force her. It'll have to be up to her. I may have to promise her that I won't tell you where she is, and I would never break a promise like that."
"I know." She smiled. "That's why Mike trusts you."
Copyright © 2005 by Philip R. Craig and William G. Tapply
Table of Contents
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Mike Doyle is dying so when he asks his old college classmate Boston lawyer Brady Coyne to find and bring home his teenage daughter Christa, the attorney agrees so parent and child can reconcile and say their goodbyes. After a trek to the West Coast where she was last seen, he traces Christa ironically to Martha's Vineyard where his fishing friend former cop J.W. Jackson resides. Jackson welcomes Coyne to stay in his home while over the objection of his loving wife he provides additional personal security and driving for famous reclusive singer Evangeline during the week of the Celebration for Humanity rock concert. --- When Evangeline¿s bodyguard is killed, clues lead to a spiritual retreat, the same place that Coyne believes Christa is at. In between fishing, they team up to find a killer, keep a superstar safe, and search for a missing teen before it is too late. --- The second collaboration between Coyne and Jackson (see FIRST LIGHT) is a fabulous tale in which the action accelerates late, but fans of both series will not care. The lead investigators and their support cast seem genuine while the vivid picturesque Martha¿s Vineyard enhances the plot. SECOND SIGHT is a fun thriller as everyone converges on Evangeline. --- Harriet Klausner
Interesting combination of 2 long running series.
Attorney Brady Coyne is trying to find 18-year-old Christa Doyle; her father, a friend of Brady¿s, is terminally ill and wishes to reunite with his runaway daughter before he dies. Information from Christa¿s best friend leads Brady to Martha¿s Vineyard, where the missing woman is planning to attend the Celebration for Humanity. The huge event is bringing together celebrities, politicians, business and religious leaders to demonstrate patriotism and the country¿s strong commitment to peace and against terrorism.J.W. Jackson, a former cop and sometime private investigator, is hired by an FBI agent as chauffeur/bodyguard for singer Evangeline, who¿s scheduled to appear at the Celebration for Humanity. The one-name megastar wants to see the Island and no one knows it better than J.W., who lives there with his wife Zee and children Diana and Joshua. Brady stays in Zee and J.W.¿s home while he¿s on the Island ... the two men even do some fishing together. But their cases consume more and more time, as the Celebration for Humanity gets closer. Soon Brady¿s investigation and J.W.¿s job turn deadly when a member of Evangeline¿s entourage is murdered and a woman Brady interviewed dies in a suspicious single-car accident. Readers suspect from page one that the two stories will converge and they do, with exciting and action-filled results. Two great mystery writers ¿ and their long-lived protagonists ¿ join forces in Second Sight. I read but did not review Coyne and Jackson¿s first joint venture, First Light, and enjoyed it immensely. Second Sight is just as good. Blending the styles and characters of two authors could be disastrous in less capable hands, but the writing and plotting in Second Sight are seamless. I hope this partnership continues.First published in the Cozy Library, Feb/March 2005 edition.