How well do you really know your best friend?
Kat Grant and Alice Campbell have a friendship forged in shared confidences and long lunches lubricated by expensive wine. Though they’re very different women—the artsy socialite and the struggling suburbanite—they’re each other’s rocks. But even rocks crumble under pressure. Like when Kat’s financier husband, Howard, plunges to his death from the second-floor balcony of their South Florida mansion.
Howard was a jerk, a drunk, a bully and, police say, a murder victim. The questions begin piling up. Like why Kat has suddenly gone dark: no calls, no texts and no chance her wealthy family will let Alice see her. Why investigators are looking so hard in Alice’s direction. Who stands to get hurt next. And who is the cool liar—the masterful manipulator behind it all.
JUPITER ISLAND WAS a long, narrow barrier island north of Palm Beach. There were only a few access points to reach it from the mainland, which I assumed was by design to en- sure the privacy of its well-heeled residents. I approached it from the south, driving up US Highway 1, taking a right just past the Jupiter Lighthouse, then heading north up the island on Beach Road.
I drove past the tall condo buildings of Palm Beach County. They abruptly stopped, signaling that I’d passed into Martin County with its more stringent zoning laws. I passed through the Blowing Rocks Preserve, where the road was lined with short palm trees and bushy sea grape shrubs. Just past the pre- serve and tourist parking, the private houses began. Some were visible from the road, others sheltered behind gates and privacy hedges. All were large and ostentatious. The houses to the east fronted the Atlantic Ocean, while the ones to the west faced the Intracoastal Waterway. Each property had a twee white sign set by the curb, displaying the family name or the name of the house—Sand Castle or Shangri-La—or the more practical, if somewhat pointed, Service Entrance.
Kat’s house was on the left about a mile past the preserve, set back at the end of a gravel drive. I wondered if she was home, and I thought about stopping and checking on her before I went to the police station. I’d called her twice on my way over to the island, but she hadn’t picked up. This wasn’t entirely unusual. Unlike most people of the modern world, Kat had only a tenuous connection to her cell phone. She didn’t always pick up when I called, and she frequently ignored texts for hours, or even a day.
We’d spoken only once, brief ly, since Howard’s death. Kat had been in London to meet with several artists whose work she was considering carrying in her gallery. She’d called me from Heathrow while she was waiting for her f light home. Kat had been subdued, which wasn’t surprising. The police had tracked her down at her hotel in London only hours ear- lier to notify her that Howard was dead. The housekeeper had found his body lying facedown on the back patio.
“Are you okay?” I’d asked.
“No,” she’d said. “But I will be. At least, I think I will.” “I wish you didn’t have to be on your own right now.” “I usually hate the f light back from Europe, but I’m sort of glad that I’ll have this time to pull myself together. There will be so much to do once I get home,” Kat said.
“Have you spoken to Amanda?” I asked. Kat’s daughter was in her first year of medical school at Emory, in Atlanta. “I’m going to wait until I get home,” Kat explained. “She’s studying for a big test in her anatomy class. I don’t want to upset her.”
“You probably won’t be able to avoid upsetting her,” I said as gently as I could.
“I know, but I’d like to at least put off telling her until after her exam is over.” Kat sighed. “Marguerite was apparently hysterical. It must have been awful for her, finding him like that. What does it mean when the housekeeper has shed more tears for my dead husband than I have?”
“It probably means you’re in shock,” I said.
Kat’s f light had been called then, and she had to hang up. I hadn’t spoken to her since. I’d tried calling and texting her a few times, but she hadn’t responded. I knew she was prob- ably busy planning the funeral and dealing with her relatives. Stopping by now, uninvited, at a house in mourning seemed intrusive. I drove by.
I arrived at the Jupiter Island Public Safety Department. It was located in a charming yellow building with green shut- ters, lush landscaping and neat hedgerows, and across the street from one of the holes of the Jupiter Island Club’s pris- tinely manicured golf course. I parked my ancient Volvo in a small lot just to the left of where the island’s two fire trucks were housed.
I checked my phone, but Kat still hadn’t responded. I sent her a text:
At Jupiter island police. They asked me 2 come in 4 inter- view about Howard. Not sure what’s going on, but will try to be helpful. Hope ur ok. xx.
Expected publication: January 23rd 2018 by MIRA