After they left, Niles leaned forward and places his elbows on the table. “So how long did Lute and Mrs. Petit carry on with each other?”
“Who told you that?” Steve said.
“So you ask one of your students, how long did it take the Mayflower to cross the Atlantic? Niles said. “And your student says, first tell me who the captain was? Then you go ballistic on the student.”
“Probably a year, at least,” Steve said. “Now, who told you.”
Niles smiled. “I read a lot; really, I do.” He paused and Steve picked up a paper. “Steve, I’ll tell you someday, but not now, okay.”
“Come on, Niles,” Steve said. “I don’t even know why I asked. Idle curiosity, nothing more, just a reflex.”
“So I have to be honest with you, Steve,” Niles said. “and this is not meant personally. One thing we’ve found out recently is that drugs were being distributed through the motel. You seem to be an integral link in this thing. If there is something, let me know now. I can help you, but if the FBI or State comes across your name, there will be little I can do to help.”
Steve mulled something over for a couple minutes. Niles remained patient. He did not want to attack and scare him away.
“Brewster Harbor is a lonely place. I like it that way. It’s not isolated lonely, but you can pick your loneliness,” Steve said. “When Sam married Pauline and she bought this place, it was ideal for me. I came down here for the occasional chatter with the patrons and Mrs. Petit. People who visit don’t want to talk much, just enough to get a feel for the place. Mrs. Petit would see me sitting alone and she seemed to know when it was the right time to speak or just leave me be. I could come in here and never say a word, pour my coffee, read the newspaper, and be gone. I started helping out for no other reason than to the just wanting to do something. One day she says, why don’t you just hang around and pick up the loose ends, I’ll pay you. So that’s what I did, got paid for picking up the loose ends.”
“Did you ever know?” Niles said.
“Not really,” Steve said. “It was because I really didn’t want to know. I suppose it’s like being married to a mobster, you just don’t want to know the evil they do. Have you ever ran across that?”
“Sure, Steve,” Niles said, “and I understand. It’s like a dirty cop, you don’t want to know. He still brings in bad guys, but he won’t bring in his bad guys.”
“After she killed Sam,” Niles said. “I was scared. I came in here like normal, but never had the muffins, if you know what I mean,” he chuckled. “But the place was sold and she was gone a little more than six weeks after Sam’s death. As far as I was concerned, that was the end of it. I figured the further she was from this place the better.”
They’ll find her,” Niles said. “Right now there are several jurisdictions tying her to other unsolved murders.”
“They can’t find her?” Steve said.
“No,” Niles said. “her last known address was in Los Angles.”
“This may sound a little weird,” Steve said, “but a week ago Dave had to have a colonoscopy. I drove him to Ellsworth. On the way back he said he was certain he saw Mrs. Petit at a stop light. He didn’t tell me until we got back and because he was still a little loopy from being under, I didn’t think anything of it, but do you think she could be right under our noses?”
“It’s worth checking out,” Niles said. “Steve, before I go, please, be certain what you have told me is the truth.”
“There is one other thing,” Steve said. “Nobody knows and I’m a little ashamed.” Steve took a deep breath. “I told her one time I loved her. Like there’s at least a good 20 years between us.”
“That’s nothing to be ashamed,” Niles said. “She was attractive and knew how to maneuver men to that point.”
“She said she wished she would have met me before meeting Sam,” Steve said.
“Was there anything else?” Niles said.
“No,” Steve said, “I’m not that guy. She was buying my continued loyal stupidity.”
“I’ll give Dave a call about seeing her,” Niles said.
“Don’t say anything if you can,” Dave said.
“About what?” Niles said. He tossed the last swallow of coffee from his cup, placed it in the bin, and walked out of the Harbor Inn into the wind and blowing snow.
Rich settled into the office and answered a couple phone calls. He punched Dave’s number.
“Dave, this is Chief Quinn. I’d like to ask you just couple more questions.”
“Sure,” Dave said, “fire away.”
“A week or so ago, Dave said he took you to Ellsworth and you said you saw Mrs. Petit, is that so?”
“Well,” Steve said, “I was still groggy and I don’t know if it was her or not. It sure looked like her, but she was a blond when she had the Harbor Inn and that was a redhead I saw. Those drugs do crazy things to you.”
“Thanks, Dave,” Niles said. “By the way, everything okay with the exam?”
“Yep,” Dave said.
“Good, take care,” Nile said and ended the call.
“She’s around here,” Niles murmured.
Niles called Jessica.
“Brewster Harbor town clerk, Miss Webster speaking.”
“Hi, Chief, what’s up?”
“Can you access the property owners by name to see if there are any properties still owned by Pauline Petit?”
“Not a problem,” Jessica said. She pecked away at her keyboard. “No, there’s nothing.”
“Okay,” Niles said, “try this; besides the Harbor Inn and their house in town, see if they had any other property and find out who it was sold to.”
“That may take a little while,” Jessica said.
“There’s no rush,” Niles said, “from the looks of the weather we’re going to be snowed in for a while.”