My first day in Pilgrim Cove started with me waking up in a warm soft bed.
I found the Oates House with problem, and Mrs. Oates, a plump woman somewhere between forty and sixty, welcomed me in and gave me a small, but comfortable bedroom on the second floor in back.
I called mom and dad to let them I had made it safely, but didn't tell them Uncle Lucian had been murdered. Then, after a cup of tea and reading a couple of chapters of the my current novel, I went to bed and slept like a log.
I am not a morning person. Never have been, never will be. But waking up in that bedroom was one of the most agreeable mornings I had experienced in a long time. The sunlight was clean and bright, and I was gloriously warm under the quilt. I laid there for a few minutes, enjoying the morning. Then with a groan, I sat up and stretched slowly. As much as I wanted to stay there, I had things to do.
After getting out of bed, used the bathroom, and gotten dressed, I went down to breakfast. I hadn't seen any of the other guests, but Mrs. Oates had tole me about them, so they weren't a surprise when I entered the dining room and found I was the last guess to breakfast.
The young couple sitting next to each other had to be the MacGregors, newly-weds from Burlington enjoying their honeymoon. She was a cute blonde, while he was nice-looking guy. From the way they were looking each other, I don’t think they were really aware of me.
On the other hand, the third guest was more intent on eating through a large stack of blueberry pancakes. Mister Brawn had a round body, round head with a round face, and was as bald as a cue ball. He glanced up as I walked it, looked at me for a few seconds, then went back to eating.
Breakfast conversation was nonexistent. The MacGregors were still in their “I only have eyes for you,” phrase, while Brawn was packing away pancakes and never had an empty mouth to speak with. I settled for a couple of pancakes, some scrambled eggs and bacon, along with a cup of orange juice and a cup of tea. I ate slowly, enjoying the breakfast. After I was finished, I took my dish and cups into the kitchen, leaving the other three involved in their own worlds.
Mrs. Oates was in the kitchen, cleaning up from breakfast. “There was no need to come in, dearie,” she said.
“I was raised to clear my place at the table,” I said with a smile.
She took my plate and cups. “Thank you. Are the others still out there?”
“Yes. Mister Brawn is eliminating any leftover pancakes and the couple are drinking in each other.”
She smiled. “That’s good.” She glanced at the clock. “Charlie should be in his office in a few minutes.”
“Yes, where is Mister Windicott’s office?”
“Town square, next to the town hall. Take a right out of the driveway, Right onto Second Street, then left onto Main Street. It’ll be on your left.”
“Thank you.” I thought for a moment. “Did you know my great-uncle?”
“Lucian?” The smile faded from her face. “He was a great man. He will be missed greatly by many people.”
I nodded. “When I had dinner with the sheriff last night, he told me that Lucian had been murdered.”
She nodded in return. “Yes, it was a great shock to us. We couldn't believe it.”
“No one knows. Lucian was found out by Table Rock by a pair of wild blueberry pickers. We thought he’s just slipped and fallen, but when they found out he was shot. . . Well, that put the cat among the pigeons.”
“Anyone know what he was out there?”
“At Table Rock?” She shrugged. “No one knows. Lucian was well known for going on long walks around the area, but not at night. He had dinner over at Whitney’s Inn, and that’s the last time anyone saw him alive.”
“Did he have any enemies?”
“I know he rubbed a few people the wrong way.”
“Does that include Damien Brackett?”
Mrs. Oates scowled. “That man is no good,” she said.
“You won’t get any argument from me,” I said. “I met him last night, over at the Whitney’s Inn, and it was loathing at first sight.”
“He’s a bad one,” Mrs. Oates said. “Him and his hoodlum friends, always getting in trouble. If it isn't the Severine boys causing trouble, then it’s that Brackett boy and his friends. The Sheriff’s been trying to build a case against them for a couple of years now, but they always manage to slip out of it. Money and power goes a long way in keeping that boy out of prison.”
“He was harassing Donella Nesbille last night.”
She snorted. “He’s been chasing her for months, but Donella’s a good girl. He can’t harass her at her home — Abby’s armed and isn't afraid to shoot. So, he harasses her at work.”
I nodded. “Donella seems like a nice girl.”
Mrs. Oates smiled warmly. “She’s a lovely girl. Always friendly and cheerful, and so beautiful!”
“She must have a lot of guys chasing her.”
“Oh, they chase, but she doesn't allow herself to be captured. She’s an independent girl.” She glanced up at the clock on the wall behind her. “It’s getting late. I suggest you get moving if you want to see Charlie before he has to go to court.”
“Yes, I should. Thank you for breakfast. It was excellent.”
She beamed at me. “Good day, Mister Merlin.”
It took me less than five minutes to find the storefront office of Charles Windicott. Mrs. Oates’s directions were right on target and I found a empty parking space quickly. I climbed out, feeling the cool of the breeze off the Atlantic, and looked around.
The town square was defined by a small park with a gazebo in the center, surrounded by a few large trees and benches. The park was bordered by streets on all four sides, and two-story buildings on three sides of the square, and a large three-story building that had to be town hall was on the same side of the square where I was parked. I could see couple of a dozen people out and about, and traffic was seven or eight cars driving slowly around the square.
In front of the gazebo, a statue was standing on a ten-foot tall pedestal facing the town hall. The statue depicted a man wearing a pilgrim’ outfit, including hat, arms behind his back, glaring at the building in front of him. Unlike a lot of other statues I’d seen, there was very little green oxidation on the statue. A large plaque, also lacking the green of weathering, was attached to the front of the pedestal, but I was too far away to see what was written on it.
I scanned the buildings on the other three sides. The ground floors were all storefronts — An accountant, bakery, antiques, florist, bank, café, hardware, real estate, and a bookstore were among the business I saw as I looked around. I also noticed a few empty storefronts, telling me that the economical problems had made it all the way up here.
The law offices I wanted were next to the town hall and I walked past two empty storefronts to reach them. The display windows were clear of any obstructions and I could see some chairs and a desk. In the door was the important information.
Charles E. Windicott, Esq.
Raymond H. Blount, Esq.
Margaret. F. Teague, Esq.
Attorneys at Law
Underneath was a phone number and business hours. Steeling myself for what was to come, I opened the door and entered.
The waiting area consisted of a dozen chairs, broken into smaller groups by low tables piled with magazines. The carpet was industrial gray, the walls white, with framed reproduction seascape prints. There were a couple of potted plants, several plaques on the wall, and a single desk facing the front door.
A woman sat at the desk, the only other person in the office. I judged her to be in her mid-or late twenties, short brown hair done in a pageboy cut, features that made her pretty in a severe way, and a pale complexion. She was wearing an off-white blouse, and blue suit jacket. She looked up when I walked in. “Can I help you?” she asked in a strong New England accent.
“I would like to see Charles Windicott,” I said, walking toward her.
“Do you have an appointment?”
She exhaled slowly. “I’m not sure he can see you today. He has—”
“I’m Roger Merlin, Lucian’s great-nephew and heir.”
“— a number. . . Oh,” she said in a startled tone. A nameplate on her desk read CATHY WELMER.
“I got into town last night,” I said.
“Yes. . .ah. . .I’ll inform him you’re here,” she said, standing up quickly. She had a decent figure and was wearing a knee-length skirt. “If you’ll wait.”
She turned and strode away, deeper into the office. Behind her the same motif as the lobby, only instead of chairs and side tables, there were file cabinets and several doors. She stopped at one door that had a small plaque affixed upon it, knocked, waited for a response, then entered. I stood there and looked around. The place had a vibe of dry dullness of old paper and complex sentences.
I only had to wait for a few seconds before Cathy come out and looked at me. “Could I see some ID please?” she said briskly, walking back to the desk. I took out my wallet, removed my driver’s licence and handed it to her. Her eyes fell on the ring and for a brief instance, I saw either fear or anger, but it was gone as quickly as it had come. “Thank you,” she said. She looked at it, then walked back to the same door and entered.
A minute passed before she appeared again. She gave me a smile that seemed a little forced and said, “Mister Windicott will see you now. If you’ll come one back?” I walked past her desk and entered the office. Cathy held the door open and I thanked her as I walked by.
The room was an office that matched the lobby in carpet and walls, only there were no windows. This one had bookcases a desk, several chairs, and a couch. The man behind the desk popped up as soon as I walked in. “Roger!” he said in a “happy to see you” tone. “Welcome to Pilgrim’s Cove!”
Charles Windicott was a thin man in his mid-forties, balding, with a Roman nose and thin lips. He had bushy eyebrows over a pair of large brown eyes. He wore a pinstripe suit, wide striped tie, and when I shook his hand, I noticed the large gold wristwatch he wore. He twisted the handshake so he could see the ring.
“Please, take a seat!’ he said, smiling broadly after releasing my hand. He looked at Cathy. “I’ll need Lucian Merlin’s file and a cup of coffee.” He looked at me. “Would you like some coffee?”
“No thank you.”
Cathy left, closing the door behind her. I took one of the padded chairs in front of his desk while he sat down again. He folded his hands on the desk and peered at me. “Oh my,” he said breathlessly as he saw the yellowing bruising on my face. “What happened?”
“I was jumped by three goons in my apartment last week,” I said, leaning back in my chair.
“They were demanding the letter you sent me.”
Windicott’s eyes widened in surprise. “How did they know about the letter?”
“I don’t known, but they knew about it before I did.”
He slumped back in his chair. “This is distressing, most distressing.” He looked down then up. “I owe you an apology, Roger. I would have contacted you earlier, but someone broke in here the same night Lucian died and rifled through my files. It took me and Cathy several days to find your contact information.”
“I see,” I said. “Sounds like someone didn’t want me to find out about Uncle Lucian being murdered.”
Windicott was startled. “How did you find out about that?”
“I ran into Sheriff Walker last night as I was coming into town, and he told me.”
“Oh.” The lawyer shook his head. “I don’t know what to say. Everyone like Lucian. I don’t know who could have done such a thing to him or to you.”
“That’s the impression I’m getting from the people I've already talked to.”
“Yes, Lucian was a rare man — he managed to get along with just about everybody.”
There was a knock at the door and Cathy entered, carrying a thick folder and a ceramic mug. She placed them in front of Windicott and left without saying a word. Windicott opened the file and scanned the first several pages. “Lucian was my client and my friend for nearly ten years,” he said, not looking up from the file. “On most legal matters, he let me handle the details. But when it came to his will, he was most demanding.”
“I see,” I said.
“He states that you are the sole heir to his estate, saying that you ‘have a special gift that will benefit from my labors.’ As of this minute, his estate is valued at thirty million dollars, most of it held in a trust. In addition to the valuables, you are now the owner of Camelot.”
“Yes. You can into town via route 189, right?”
“You say the estate on the headland across from the lighthouse?”
“Yes. . .That’s Camelot?”
He nodded. “Twenty acres of land and three houses on the estate,. In addition, you now own four buildings inside the town limits and two more outside of it. All except the Potter mansion are occupied and are adding a modest profit to the portfolio. There are also a few out of state investments, which I will go over with you later. But there were a few stipulations that Lucian insisted that you follow before you inherit. The first, wearing the ring, is completed. He made it very clear that you were to receive the ring as soon as possible.”
I looked down at the ring, the red gemstone shining in the overhead light. “It’s a good fit,” I said.
He nodded. “The second stipulation is that you must promise to make Camelot your main residence for a minimum of seven years, and you are not allowed to sell the estate for at least twenty-five years.”
“Oh.” I hadn't expected that.
“Is that going to be a problem?”
I puffed out a breath. “Not really,” I replied. “I didn't know how long I was going to be up here, so I quit my jobs back home, and I don’t have many close friends. My parents live in Florida, my sister works for the Department of Defense, and my brother’s in the junior year of college. I rent an apartment, but the lease is up in a couple of months, so getting out of that not a problem. Yes, I promise to make Camelot my main residence for at least seven years, and I will not sell the estate for at least twenty-five years.”
Windicott smiled. “The last stipulation that needs to addressed at once. Lucian wanted you to spend one night in the main house by yourself. Should you do that, then Lucian’s estate is yours.”
I frowned. “When do I have to do that?”
“It states as soon as possible upon being informed of it, which means tonight.”
Windicott looked at his watch. “I have to be in court in an hour, but I’ll be free this afternoon to take you to the estate and show you around.”
“That’ll be fine.”
That's all for now!