They met at the Salzwedels' house, still under sheriff's surveillance. Blow assumed the figure in the passenger seat of the white, unmarked sedan parked across from the house was a deputy. Yellow tape still created an official barrier between the two columns atop the steps to the screened porch. Salzwedel was waiting in an unfamiliar car, a blue Honda.
“Brother-in-law's,” he said. “We're trading for the time being. Getting a little spooked, as you can imagine.”
He'd answered Blow's text within seconds: My place asap Blow dropped a ten on the table and hurried out after grabbing a piece of toast to munch on the way to his truck. The rain had stopped during the night, but every dip and low spot in the asphalt around Marie's had become a pool. It was cold, too, but at least the wind was gone.
“Playing hooky today?”
“Called in sick. It's the truth, too, Joe. I knew what you wanted soon as I got your text.”
Blow fastened his seat belt in the Honda.
“The obit, huh?”
Salzwedel made a face and rotated his head a couple of times. “Couldn't believe it. Yeah I'm sick.”
“So you've known all along.”
“I gave my word not to tell a soul, but...”
Blow waited until it was clear Salzwedel had finished. “Cat's out of the bag now.”
Salzwedel sighed. “Cat's running around and around and up and down. Won't be long before this Moriarty and whoever takes Himmler's place, and the news reporters and God knows who else will figure it out and be heading to the Kellams like the westward bound forty-niners in the Gold Rush.”
“How many are there?”
“Just the two kids and their mother. Father was lost some years back when his oyster boat went down in the Chesapeake. They think its nets got snagged by a submarine.”
They drove in silence awhile. Unfamiliar with the car, Salzwedel fumbled a couple of times with the dashboard a/c controls.
“Warms up quicker than the van, I suppose because the van has more space.” He said this as if to himself, then looked at Blow. “You comfortable?”
“Thanks. It was getting a little warm. My truck's has been ornery this fall. I need to have it checked.”
More silence. Finally Blow said, “You suppose I should talk to the sheriff? See if he'll have the deputies keep an eye on them?”
Salzwedel nodded thoughtfully. “I don't know. Folks in that neighborhood tend to be a little suspicious of authority. I can talk to them about maybe finding a temporary place to stay until this blows over, like with us. They might go for that.”
“How about the gun? And the documents? They should be secured somewhere away from the house.”
“We can suggest something. A safe-deposit box for the documents. I don't know where they could keep the musket.”
“I'd be happy to lock it in Dad's safe. It's an old bank vault grandpa had installed at the house when he was a magistrate.”
“A real heavy old walk-in thing. Have no idea how he got it in there. It would take a crane to move it. He kept everything in it. Evidence for cases, valuables. I'm sure it's housed the occasional gun, as well. Be perfect.”
They passed Cyrus Kellam's store, just before hanging a right at the intersection that brought them within one more turn from the road where his daughter and grandchildren lived. There were no cars or trucks in the gravel parking area around the store, which looked to Blow as dead as its proprietor. Never a proud building in any sense, that he remembered, it always, despite its clapboard siding that ever seemed in want of new paint, communicated something festive.
It was a hangout for men who worked on the water filling their deadrise workboats with crabs or oysters from daybreak to sunset. They would stop by for coffee and donuts mornings before heading out, and for cold drinks, barbecue and fellowship when done for the day. The old men, retired after a hard life doing the same, could be found in the store at any time. Many were so conditioned to the working day they'd also be there at sunup, but would stay behind when the next generation headed out to their boats. The mood among these men always seemed jolly, in a loud rough way, speaking to each other in voices grown harsh from shouting from boat to boat, but leavened with terms of affection--nicknames, or variations of the generic Bubba, Bub or Bubby. Dahlin' was a favorite among the men and women, no matter who was speaking to whom.
There was no jubilation there now, Blow mused, as Salzwedel turned the Honda at the junction. The store was in mourning.
It seemed many of the vehicles that otherwise would be at the store were now parked along the road at the bungalow where Kellam's kinfolk were receiving friends.
Salzwedel said he'd called the Kellams several times after he saw the obit. The line was always busy. I hate to drop in like this, but I agree we need to warn them.”
He parked on the shoulder beside the two-lane road a couple of houses past the Kellams'. Before getting out, he leaned toward Blow, put a hand on his shoulder.
“Maybe best for you to wait here for now, Joe. I'll go in, see how they're doing. Be right back.”
Blow watched the lanky teacher, shoulders hunched in his dark blue Navy pea coat against the cold, march briskly to the front door, exhaling steam in puffs all the way. He stood on the porch a moment, holding his hands over his face, until the door opened and he disappeared inside.