Of Blood and Bone (Page 21)

Of Blood and Bone (The Minaldi Legacy #1)(21)
Author: Courtney Cole

Something isn’t right in Valetta and I remember Luca’s words.

There are a few less than beautiful things in Malta.

That’s one way to put it, I guess.

I eat the last bite of my breakfast and then venture to my makeshift office.  I sort through notes from this week and transfer them into typewritten files.  I am very neat and orderly when it comes to research because I have to be.  If I’m not, it will all fall apart and I won’t be able to pull it together into something workably intelligent.  I’m rather like that in real life, too.  Everything has its place, its file, its slot.  My thoughts, my feelings, my memories.  My emotions are usually filed away in Tupperware-like mental containers.

I guess it’s why I make a good doctor.  I’m very matter of fact and always have been.  My mother and father both like to tell me stories of from when I was a kid.  I was the same even then.  Other girls were crying because there were mean kids on the playground.  I was too busy trying to determine what made them that way to let their mean behavior personally affect me.  I’m like that to this day.  I have a distinct ability to remove myself from any given situation and analyze it.

I’m compartmentalized.

Except with Luca.

I hate the thought that I allow him to get to me, but I have to admit that he does.  But truly, even at the same time as I hate it, I know that I like it a little bit too. It means that I am human.  I have strong emotions after all, emotions that I’m not able to control or dampen.  There for a few years, I was starting to wonder.

I wrap up my busy work and then wind my hair into a knot at my neck.  I need to go into town and mingle with the locals so that I can gather some more initial meeting data.  Some friendly conversation will be a nice break from the quiet solitude of my cottage.

I dress in a pair of snug fitting capri’s, a fitted polo and a pair of wedges. And then I’m out the door.

The day is beautiful and the sun shines onto my shoulders.  I decide it’s the best feeling in the world.   I can smell the salt in the air and I know that I will forever associate that smell with this place, with the beautiful Maltese landscapes.

Even though I hate it, I ride the bus into town and then after I grab a coffee, I walk down to the wharfs, taking my time as I wind through the throngs of people in the marketplace.  I know that the crusty old fishermen who frequent the piers will be excellent subjects for research.

I am not wrong.

I spend several hours on the faded wooden piers, talking and laughing with the fishermen who linger here.  They look rough and cantankerous, but each one of them is willing to chat with me about life in Malta and their love of fishing.  It is very apparent that fishing is a way of life for them and they take it very seriously.  It is not a hobby for them.  It is a way of life.  Many of them are retired commercial fishermen and it is in them to the bone.  

As I speak with the last fisherman of the day, Tobias, the conversation suddenly and unexpected takes a turn toward the recent killings.   Tobias looks at me with cloudy blue eyes.

“Miss, you’ll want to make sure that you stay safe, you hear?”

I nod.  “Of course.  I always do.”

He nods back, this stranger who I only met an hour ago.  “Be sure that you do. A pretty thing like you shouldn’t be out and about on your own right now.  Maybe even during the day. There’s no sense in taking chances.”

“Oh, I’m sure I’m safe in the daylight,” I tell him. “Wolves usually come out at night, don’t they?”

His gnarled hands cast out his line again and he reels it slowly back in.  He stares at it thoughtfully for a moment before he speaks.

“I’m not sure that it is wolves.  I know that’s what they’re saying.  But I’ve lived here my entire life, for eighty-four years, and I’ve never encountered a wolf here.  I’ve fished at every source of water in this area.  Streams, rivers and the sea. I’ve been in the woods, on the beach, on the roads. And never once have I seen a wolf or even any signs of a wolf.”

“Never?” I ask him, raising an eyebrow. “Not even a paw print?”

He shakes his gray head.  “Not even a paw print.”

Chills roll up my spine at his words and their meaning.  If he’s been out and about in the countryside for so long and has never seen a wolf, then odds are, there aren’t any wolves to be seen.  The hair rises on the back of my neck as I think of the alternative.

“You think there’s a serial killer on the loose.”

My words feel stilted in my mouth and Tobias looks grim as he slowly nods.

“I guess that’s what it would make him.”

“Him?”  I look at Tobias.  “How do you know it’s a him?”

He shakes his head and then re-casts his line.  We both watch it sink into the swirling sea.

“Because it must be. A woman isn’t violent enough to do what was done to those women.”

I swallow hard.

“I heard their throats were ripped out.”

Tobias nods.  “That’s what I hear, as well.  A woman wouldn’t do that.”

I think about that.  “Well, women are far less likely, historically speaking, to commit murders of a violent nature.  And serial killers are sixty times more likely to be a man than a woman.  But there’s always the remote chance that it is a woman.”

Tobias is shaking his head.  “I don’t believe it.  My gut says it’s a man.  Keep your doors locked, Dr. Talbot.”

That’s exactly what Luca told me and I know that it is good advice.

I wish Tobias a good afternoon fishing and I venture from the pier and onto the beach below.  I look back over my shoulder and Tobias’ face is grim, which one again causes goose bumps to form on my arms.  I wipe them away.  This is silly.  I’m in broad daylight.  I’m fine.

The sea is active today and the waves that crash against the shore are at least three feet tall, maybe four.  I can see several small boats getting tossed about in the current and I am happy that I am standing on dry land.  Although my feet are killing me.  Three-inch wedges weren’t the best idea.  I slip them off and carry them, allowing my aching feet to sink into the damp, cool sand.

I try to put troubling thoughts out of my head and choose to look for shells along the beach as I walk instead.  It’s a mindless and calming activity.  I know it is a couple of miles from here to the shore outside of my cottage, but I decide that I can stop at Marianne’s for a late lunch/early dinner.