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No Words: Chapter 25


A half hour later, I was watching as a helicopter flew low along the water’s surface a few hundred yards from the pier, sweeping the waves with spotlights. Closer by, coast guard cutters patrolled the harbor as well, the officers on board hoping to spot the missing magician.

Meanwhile, on land, deputies from the sheriff’s department had arrived to question everyone who’d witnessed Garrett’s “trick” . . . but most especially me, since I’d been closest to him when he’d disappeared.

“Did he fall?” the officer sitting in the chair opposite mine asked. “Or was it more like a dive?”

“Neither,” I said. “He swung his legs over the railing and dropped into the water.”

“So,” the deputy said, looking down at the little notebook he was scribbling into. “Deliberate.”

“Definitely. He didn’t fall. He was trying to disappear.”

The deputy looked confused. “Yeah, that’s the part I’m not getting.”

The name tag on the front pocket of his shirt said MartinezFrom the top of the same pocket peeked a cigar with a blue It’s A Boy! ribbon around it. I’d seen Sheriff Hartwell gleefully handing them out, as well as showing off photos of his newborn son, when he wasn’t busy coordinating the search on the ground for Garrett, “in case his body washed up on shore.”

Overhearing this phrase had sent a chill down my spine. The sheriff and his fellow officers seemed pretty certain that Garrett had either fallen by mistake or purposefully jumped to harm himself. Why else would anyone go into the ocean fully clothed at night in January?

“Disappear?” the deputy repeated. “Why would he want to do that? Was he running away from something?”

“No. It was a magic trick. Garrett is a writer.” Was a writer? No, is. Definitely is. “He writes about magic, and he does disappearing acts to entertain the kids. The thing is,” I said to the deputy, “Garrett is the last person I know who’d ever want to hurt himself.”

I couldn’t think of a more delicate way of saying that Garrett Newcombe was a complete narcissist who thought he was God’s gift to women. Case in point, he wouldn’t even stop singing to them on the author bus when they asked him to, repeatedly.

“Oh, yeah?” Deputy Martinez looked up from his notepad. “How long have you known him?”

“Um. Well, not that long.” Had it really only been yesterday that I’d met Garrett on the plane? “But I’m still pretty sure he isn’t the type who would ever do anything to hurt himself.” Others, yes—particularly attractive females. Himself, never. “He just really wanted to put on a good show to promote his books.”

“Yeah, his books.” Deputy Martinez nodded. “I understand they’re about kids who go to wizard school? Wasn’t that what those Harry Potter books were about?”

“Yes,” I said. “But Garrett’s are different. The kids in his books go to evil wizard school.”

“Okay. Got it.”

I saw Deputy Martinez write Evil Wizard School in his notepad.

Oh, God. When he put it that way, the entire thing seemed sillier than ever. This man’s job was to save people. Mine was to write stories about talking cats. What was I even doing with my life? I needed to make some changes, and fast.

“See, that’s why Garrett was pretending to disappear,” I said, trying desperately to make the officer understand. “Because he was acting like one of the wizard professors from his books.”

“Right.” Deputy Martinez snapped his notepad shut as if the case were closed. “Except that he wasn’t pretending, was he? He really did disappear. And I have to be honest with you, Ms. Wright. When people around here go missing in the water at night, we generally don’t find them until daybreak. It’s simply too dark out there to see them . . . especially when, if what you’re saying is true, they disappeared on purpose, and don’t want to be found. Here.” He handed me a business card. “If you can think of anything else, please let us know.”

“But . . .” I stared in disbelief as he rose from his chair. “That’s it? You’re calling off the search?”

“Have to, ma’am.” The deputy tipped his hat. “We only have the one helicopter, and we’ve got to share it with the hospital. There’s a resident who just had a heart attack and needs to be medivacked up to Miami for an emergency bypass. We don’t have a cardiac surgeon on staff at the local hospital. We need to concentrate on saving the people who want to be saved. Have a good night.”

Then he was gone, leaving me feeling dismayed—unlike the rest of the festivalgoers. Most of them were delighted by the turn the evening had taken, especially the children, who could not have been more excited by the magical disappearance of one of the authors and the subsequent appearance of both a helicopter and multiple boats in the water with flashing lights on them. If anything, these had only made Garrett’s trick more spectacular. Dylan, the young boy whose book he had spent so much time signing earlier in the day, seemed to be in ecstasy.

“It’s no good looking for Mister Newcombe, you know,” he kept telling anyone who’d listen, even as his exhausted-looking parents attempted to convince him to return with them to their hotel. “He’s in the spirit plane. He’ll rematerialize when he feels like it . . . probably when we all least expect it!”

“I hope that kid’s right,” I said to Bernadette.

She raised an eyebrow. “You mean about Garrett being in the spirit plane?”

“No. About him showing up when we least expect it.”

“Oh, right. Except that when he does, I think he’s going to regret it.”

She wasn’t kidding. The sheriff’s deputy wasn’t the only one who didn’t appear to appreciate Garrett’s prank. Will was stomping around with a furious expression on his face, and Frannie kept glancing at her watch, muttering, “If I miss the game because of this, I’m going to kill that little weasel when he finally rematerializes.”

“True, but you gotta hand it to the guy,” Saul said. “He certainly knows how to work a crowd. I’m thinking maybe my next book should be about a guy like him. You know, a novelist who strikes a bargain with the devil in order to become a bestseller.”

Kellyjean shivered. “That’d fall into the horror genre, all right.”

“If you do write it,” Jerome said, a beer in one hand and one of the sheriff’s It’s A Boy! cigars in the other, “be sure to make him survive his publicity stunt so that the fellow hosting the event he’s crashed can murder him.” He nodded toward Will, who was on his cell phone a few yards away, glaring into the darkness beyond the deck railing. He truly did look murderously angry.

“Oh, sure.” Saul was sipping on a Baileys he’d snagged from the restaurant’s bar. “Everybody’d want to kill him. That’d be part of it. Only they can’t, see, because he’s got the devil on his side. And—”

I tuned their voices out and focused instead on Will. I couldn’t tell who he was talking to on his cell, but he looked about as angry as a human being could possibly look and not actually be pounding his fists against something. I didn’t want to interfere—it wasn’t my place, and he definitely had enough to worry about—but I felt I should let him know what the sheriff’s deputy had said.

So I drifted toward him, idly listening to the chatter of the teenaged girls still sitting at the table we’d shared. Chloe and her friends had long since left for Sharmaine’s sleepover, but Jasmine and Cassidy were sticking around, apparently to see how the drama about Garrett played out.

“Look,” Jasmine said, her pretty face glowing in the light from her phone screen. “It’s number nine now.”

“Really?” Cassidy peered down at her phone, then looked disappointed. “Oh, but only in the U.S.”

“Right, but that’s because there was that earthquake. We can get it to trend higher if we post that shot of you with the helicopter.”

“Oooh, good idea.”

“What,” I asked them curiously, “are you girls talking about?”

Both faces popped up, startled.

“Oh, nothing, Ms. Wright,” Jasmine said, grinning. “We’re just trying to get our videos of Mr. Newcombe disappearing to trend number one.”

“I’ve never gone viral before,” Cassidy confessed. “It’s exciting! Although I don’t really have anything to promote.”

“You do,” Jasmine scoffed. “Your OnlyFans.”

“Shhhh!” Cassidy, scandalized, glanced around. “My mom might hear you!”

I glanced around as well. “Where’s Lauren?”

“Oh, she went back to the hotel. She said she felt inspired to work on her novel. Too bad, because she’s missing out on everything.” Then Cassidy looked guilty. “I hope you don’t mind, Ms. Wright, but because of what happened here tonight, you and Will Price aren’t trending in the top ten anymore. You’re, like, not even top twenty.”

I threw a quick look in Will’s direction and saw with relief that he was still on his call and didn’t appear to have overheard. He was, however, massaging his brow like a man who felt a massive headache coming on.

“Uh, thanks,” I said to the girls. “That’s okay. We’ll talk some more later, okay?”

“Okay,” they said. “Bye—”

But I was already hurrying over to Will, and reached him just as he was slipping his phone into his suit pocket.

“Hey,” I said gently, laying a hand on his arm. “Are you all right?”

He lowered his fingers from his face and blinked down at me in surprise, as if he couldn’t imagine why I’d be standing beside him, let alone expressing concern for him. “Of course,” he said, reaching up to pat my hand. “I’m fine. How are you?”

On the word you, his fingers gripped mine, sending a wave of warmth through me.

“I’m fine,” I said. To my regret, he’d released my hand as quickly as he’d grasped it. “It’s you I’m worried about. I’m really sorry about . . . well, all of this. I know it’s not how you were hoping the night would go.”

He gave me a kind but all too brief smile. “Thanks, but I’d hardly call any of this your fault. In any case, I just got off the phone with Henry. He’s bringing the bus around. You should be able to leave for the hotel and forget this nightmare in a few minutes.”

“Great.”

Except that I didn’t want to go back to the hotel. I wanted to stay there with him. I wanted to slip my fingers back into his, kiss those worry lines away from his forehead, and tell him everything was going to be okay.

Except what was I thinking? I didn’t know if everything was going to be okay. I couldn’t do any of those things. Had I lost my mind?

“Um,” I said instead. “That sheriff’s deputy I was just talking to said they have to call off the search. It’s too dark out, and they need the helicopter to take someone who’s had a heart attack up to the hospital in Miami.”

“I know.” He was staring moodily off into the darkness again. “They told me the same thing. They only have the one helicopter. One of the disadvantages of living in paradise, I suppose. For day-to-day life it’s idyllic, but for emergencies it’s not very convenient.”

I looked down at my pedicured toes. “Right. I got the feeling from their line of questioning that they don’t seem to think there really is an emergency here. They seem to think that Garrett—”

“I know.” Will’s tone was flat. “If Garrett does rematerialize, unharmed, the festival is in a heap of trouble. Apparently, there’s a fifty-thousand-dollar fine for filing a false missing persons report.”

“Fifty thousand dollars?” I looked up sharply, appalled. “That’s a large—and very specific—amount.”

“That’s the amount it costs to launch a search and rescue like the one we saw here tonight.” He gestured toward the coast guard vessels that were beginning to pull out of the harbor.

“Well, Garrett can afford to pay it back,” I said. “Have you ever looked up his net worth?”

“No.” Some of the tension had left Will’s face. He even smiled a little. “Is that a thing people do?”

I wanted to say that his sister did it—or at least her friends did—but instead I said only, “Oh, well, I guess some people do. And believe me, Garrett can afford it.”

Will’s smile vanished. “Yes, but even if he did disappear on purpose, I don’t think I—”

“Bus is here.” Frannie swept by us, waving her phone. “Just got a text. Let’s get a move on, Jo. Already missed the first half of the game, don’t want to miss the second.”

“The way I’d write it, see,” Saul was saying, loudly, as he strolled past, following his wife, “is I’d have the guy—that’d be Garrett—stash some scuba gear beneath the dock so that after he goes in, all he has to do is swim over and grab it.”

“Saul, that’s been used so many times before,” Kellyjean declared. “I’ve seen that in about a thousand episodes of Magnum P.I. alone.”

“Wait, now,” Jerome said. “Let the man finish.”

“Right. You didn’t let me finish. This scuba gear has been cursed by Satan—”

Scuba.

Scuba.

Of course.


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