Chapter One

“Torn Between Two Lovers...”

 

SOMETHING WAS WRONG. I ran through the dense early morning fog that saturated the beach until I emerged at the water’s edge relieved to finally spy Bacchus chasing birds while deftly dodging the incoming waves. Minutes later a golden retriever emerged from the mist joining the hunt and I automatically looked around for Goodwin, spotting Gary in the dunes instead. Confused, I finally located Goodwin further down the beach, a speck in the distance. I called to him, but Bacchus’ insistent barking drowned me out and following his focus I located the golden retriever struggling in the waves. Unable to move, I watched helplessly as Bacchus continued to frantically bark.

“Hey!” I struggled to consciousness, deflecting Bacchus’ paw which was perilously close to my face. “All right. I’m awake. No need to do permanent damage. Remember, paws have claws!”

Bacchus grunted and jumped off the bed, dancing in place while waiting for me to arise. I grunted in return and reluctantly got up. My dream was disconcerting, and I wondered what it meant, other than the obvious. I was torn between Goodwin and Gary and neither one was making it easy.

My name is Lucy Hayes, unless you’re talking to my roommate, Beau, a gay Southern belle, in which case I’m Lucy May. After a thirty-day stint in rehab, I have been soberly living in Portland, Maine, and within the first six months of my arrival have been involved with two murders, eventually helping to solve both. You would think that after such unsettling experiences, I would be looking to move out of state, or at least out of town, but I like Portland. It’s quirky and I can relate.

I searched through the trash bags that contained most of my hoodies and leggings, since I was in the process of moving for the third time in eight months. Finally locating what I needed hooked Bacchus to his leash and started out for our morning walk.

 

Even though it was a mild sunny mid-April morning, remnants of snow banks from record breaking snow accumulations still lingered along the edges of the sidewalks, and I stepped over a small one to cross the street. Bacchus, an eighty plus pound, black standard poodle, tugged at the leash to sniff and mark every several steps, one of the drawbacks of living in a city of dog lovers.

We were approaching the Eastern Promenade Park overlooking Casco Bay when my phone rang. I dug through my pocket, fished it out and answered. “Hey! We’re almost at the park. How about you? Are you joining us?”

“Ahhhhh, something’s come up,” Goodwin answered. Any chance I can swing by the park, drop Frank off with you and pick him up later?”

“Sure. It’s my day off so I’ll just hang with the dogs and continue unpacking. What’s up? Or can’t you say?”

 

“Oh, yeah, how’s it going? Did Gary help you move?”

I smiled as Goodwin ignored my question with a not so subtle attempt to find out what was going on between Gary and me. I honestly wished I could tell him, but it was complicated. Since Gary had lied about his identity and Goodwin had somewhat saved my life, you could assume the choice was easy, but it wasn’t. Where Gary was a hot, dark, handsome and somewhat deceptive Aussie, Detective Mike Goodwin was disarmingly honest, incredibly cocky, and very cute in a boyish blonde sort of way. I liked them both. A lot. And they both knew it. Though I relished the attention, I didn’t enjoy the constant sidestepping and knew that at some point I would have to decide who I wanted to be with and that the moment was fast approaching. 

"Yes, he did.” I answered.

 

“Oh, wow, great.” Goodwin commented. “So, you’re all settled then?”

 

“Well, I’m not sure about settled, but at least I’m moved.”

 

“Nothing’s left at his place?”

 

I laughed. “No, Mike. It’s all out and back at the house on the hill.”

 

“Hey, I was just asking.”

 

“I know, and I just answered your question. So, we’ll meet you at the park in five?” I asked.

 

“Five to ten.” He said and hung up.

 

“What do you think?” I asked Bacchus as he sidled up to a tree. “Do you want to stay with Gary, who has left and lied to us on more than one occasion, or should we go with Mike and Frank?” Goodwin’s golden retriever, Frank, was Bacchus’s best friend. Bacchus ignored me and went on to mark the trash can at the end of a driveway.

 

Though his legal name was Dennis, Gary had decided to keep Gary, and when he had returned from Australia, humble and apologetic about his part in his sister’s deception, I wanted to be so furious that I never wanted to see him again, but reality wasn’t so easy. I loved him, or at least I thought I did, but still couldn’t totally trust him, which is why I moved out. I needed some distance. The only drawback had been Bacchus. Technically, he was Gary’s dog, but I had inserted a clause into the possibility of our ever getting back together; Bacchus was staying with me. Gary objected at first but recently had seemed resigned, even pleased by the situation.

 

By the time we reached the park Goodwin was waiting impatiently beside his SUV, phone glued to his ear and trying to restrain Frank who chomped at the bit at the sight of his friend. “Hey!” He greeted as we approached, quickly disconnecting his call and leaning in for a hug. “Thanks for doing this; I really appreciate it. I just caught a case which may take up a chunk of my time.”

 “Sure, no problem. Anything I can help you with?” I sort of jokingly asked.

 

He looked pointedly at me and issued an emphatic "No!" Then softening a bit added, “I know you’ve been helpful in the past, but right now I just need you to take care of my dog for a few hours.” He smirked. “Do you think you can do that?”

 

I smirked back. “Absolutely.”

 

He laughed, handed over Frank’s leash and got in his vehicle. “Thanks, again,” he called peeling out of the parking lot.

 

I let the dogs run together for the better part of an hour before wrangling them to walk back to the house. The neighborhood was an area known as Munjoy Hill, originally a bastion of blue collar families, but which was being rapidly gentrified as more and more wealth was buying up the plentiful rental properties for private use. Unlike its counterpoint, the Western Promenade, with its stately turn of the century brick mansions, the area around the Eastern Prom and Munjoy hill consisted mainly of multi-family dwellings built in close proximity to one another. Surprisingly, however, the Eastern Prom offered much better waterfront views, hence the new rabid interest in the area’s revitalization, and, as the commercial interests of the Old Port spread upward, trendy businesses were sprouting up all over the hill. I couldn’t say that I was in favor of the change, but nonetheless, was taking advantage of it.

 

Jackie, the owner of the catering company I worked for, had purchased the building from my former roommate, Nathan, who was in Hawaii trying to forget his family. His sister had been murdered, his father had helped to cover it up, and then his mother went off the deep end and drugged and kidnapped him, while plotting to kill me. If it hadn’t been for Frank and Bacchus who caused her to trip on the stairs, ultimately breaking her neck, I might be dead now too. It was kind of weird to be living back in the house where her body had landed just yards from my front door, but I was getting used to it. Recalling how the boys had saved my life, I bent down, petted them, and promised extra treats when we got home.

It was close to noon and I was making a sandwich when Beau breezed through the door. The dogs rushed to greet him.

“Well, hello, y’all,” he greeted back, walking into the kitchen. “How come there’s two of you?”

 

“Because I’m watching Frank for Goodwin while he’s been called out to a job?”

 

"How come you keep calling him by his last name?” Beau asked.  “What’s wrong with his first one? Is it something really embarrassing? You know, like Enis?”

I laughed. “No, it’s Mike. Probably Michael, though I don’t know for sure.”

 

Beau reached for the refrigerator. “Well that’s boring. I think I’d rather go with Enis. That way you could be called Enis the Penis. I’ve checked, and I think he has a good one.”

 

He poured himself a glass of iced tea and took a seat at the counter. Beau was a newlywed, but his husband, Gabriel, was currently in Witness Protection for testifying against Latin drug dealers in an arson case. Beau had been kidnapped in that case and enjoyed a bit of celebrity for a time, but his fifteen minutes of fame had expired, and he wasn’t taking it well. Though we originally met at a rehab center, lately Beau had been more off the wagon than on and was constantly second guessing whether he should have joined Gabriel in Witness Protection. Grabbing his glass, he headed toward his bedroom and I quickly finished my sandwich, giving the scraps to the dogs. Then the three of us followed and settled on Beau’s bed, watching as he extracted a gauzy, semi- metallic, flower print shirt, set it on a chair and returned to his closet.

 

“What are you doing?” I asked.

 

“Trying to figure out my outfit for tonight. It’s the club’s annual spring fling.”

 

The club was B. Jayes, Beau’s favorite hangout. In the local gay community, April signaled the onset of prom season where individuals campaigned to be nominated for, and ultimately crowned, Prom Queen at a gala event held Memorial Day weekend. Having just missed being proclaimed Fairy Queen at the Fairy Ball last fall, Beau was determined to win a title this time around.

 

“Is there a theme?” I asked, trying to be helpful.

 

“Uh-huh. This year it’s Tiptoe through the Tulips, and a lot of them are going as Tiny Tim. But, I figured I’d take a different route. I mean, he’s not the most attractive person and it’s not a look-alike contest so I think that with the right outfit I can get enough people to vote for me.”

I picked up the shirt he had placed on the chair. “And this is a contender?”

“I’m not sure.” He replied. “I don’t think it’s fancy enough. What do you think?”

 

“I think it goes nicely with your new look.” Beau was recently sporting a new platinum spiky cut though his mustache remained untouched save a few strategically placed platinum streaks. I was mentally bemoaning my own style-less shoulder length dark brown hair when my phone chirped.

 

It was a message from Gary. Hi gorgeous. Want to have dinner tonite? Mers and sters my place or urs?

 

I had been craving steamed clams and lobsters and having expressed my yearning, Gary was now delivering. Feeling a twinge of guilt as I accepted, saying I would let him know which location later, I then texted Goodwin.  have dinner plans…are you retrieving your retriever or is he spending the night?

 

Goodwin answered a few moments later. Can he stay with you and I’ll catch up in the morning?

 

Sure. I answered.

 

A couple of minutes later my phone chirped again. Who ru having dinner with?

 

I smiled and typed. Lobster and clams with Gary. Couldn’t resist. I hit send, then added.  The seafood, I mean. Deal with it.

Five minutes or so passed when a new message came through. Enjoy.

FYI Frank likes belly rubs to help him sleep.

 

Still smiling, I set down my phone, and turned back to the fashion show.

“Well, hello, y’all,” he greeted back, walking into the kitchen. “How come there’s two of you?”

 

“Because I’m watching Frank for Goodwin while he’s been called out to a job?”

“How come you keep calling him by his last name?” Beau asked. “What’s wrong with his first one? Is it something really embarrassing? You know, like Enis?”

I laughed. “No, it’s Mike. Probably Michael, though I don’t know for sure.”

Beau reached for the refrigerator. “Well that’s boring. I think I’d rather go with Enis. That way you could be called Enis the Penis. I’ve checked, and I think he has a good one.”

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