The Thunder of Nautilus

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Goodbye Rebecca

When Marie returned to the cottage and cycled over to Duncan’s to pick up her dog, the Scotsman told her that a lawyer from the city visiting her mother, who was well known in the village and was taking care of an autistic child, hadn’t returned from her regular jog in the woods and was missing. “It’s feared that she was abducted, or even killed,” Duncan said and added that he worried about Marie living alone while a killer might be on the loose. Marie, thinking about what Nigel had said about Duncan’s penchant for the dramatic, assured him that with MJ by her side, she felt safe and secure. Duncan said, “Okay, but promise you’ll call any time you are not feeling safe.”

She thanked him for taking good care of MJ and promised she’d keep her doors locked after dark. Duncan then loaded her bike onto his Jeep and drove her and MJ back home. Back at the cottage, she thanked him again, and after he left she gave MJ a large treat and didn’t think about the missing woman because her mind was preoccupied with thoughts about James’s trouble. The holidays with her family and then with Jim’s had been exciting and wonderful but exhausting, so she was glad to be alone again with her dog and her computer. She loved that it was winter and that snow had begun to fall, and inside a fire made the living room warm and cozy enough for her to wear a light cotton dress. She was sitting at the desk beside the bay window, finally alone and able to focus on her writing. Once in a while she looked through the window out to the garden, which was becoming covered in a layer of white—soft and light like powdered sugar.

Marie took a break from her writing and dressed for a walk with MJ in the snow when Jim called. He quickly related the good news about the paintings, and she’d hardly had time to feel happy about the news before he called back and asked her not to mention it to anyone. Baffled, she decided that a walk was the only sensible thing to do, and before she opened the door to the winter wonderland, she asked MJ if he knew anything about schizophrenia. MJ was waiting at the door, his tail wagging, and his leash between his fangs, indicating that it was time to just enjoy the snow—and Marie had to agree.

The next day Jim called and said that he and Nigel would like to come the following weekend and asked if it would be all right with her. Marie said, “I hope you are going to tell us what the hell is going on,” and James responded in the affirmative.

James had, in the meantime, informed his father of everything David had told him. Brian expressed relief that the killer had been identified by the NYPD, then reasoned that it would be enough for the police to know that the paintings had been returned, and hopefully the “how” would be irrelevant to them.

Brian then told James that he’d contacted his brother, who was still in New Orleans, and related what Justin had told him, basically that he’d used what he’d termed “slightly forceful methods of persuasion” to make Rebecca reveal where she was hiding the stolen art, but that she was de finitely alive when he’d left her apartment, which was around 7:00 a.m. on January 2. They’d concluded that Rebecca must have planned to either give James the duplicates and sell the originals or vice versa. In either case, the forger was involved in her scheme, and from what Justin was saying, the forger was obviously the person who Rebecca had expected that morning. Justin felt lucky that he’d gotten there first and gotten away, because it could have just as easily been him who’d been killed instead of Rebecca.

James told his dad that he’d tell Justin to never take such a risk again, and Brian said, “Don’t worry—I told him if he ever did something so dangerous again, I would kill him.“ They talked briefly about David’s position and agreed that there was no reason to fear that he’d “privately investigate” further, that his job was done. However, James told his father that Marie and Nigel deserved to know the whole truth, not only because they were his friends but because any omission would inevitably lead them to ask more questions.

Brian reluctantly said, “All right, son—I trust your judgment.”

When Jim picked up Nigel to drive to the country, Nigel was naturally filled with curiosity, but James was resolute and told his friend that he didn’t want to repeat himself. “All will be revealed in good time,” he said. When they arrived at the cottage, Marie greeted them with a big hello and a hug, and MJ with happy barking. The four friends then settled in front of the fireplace, three with glasses of red wine, and one gnawing on a bone.

James took the joint Marie had rolled and inhaled deeply, and then passed it on and began to relate the entire story as his friends listened, fascinated. After Jim finished, Marie said, “Jesus, she tried to screw you, but what a way to go.”

Nigel said sarcastically, “Yeah, the poor girl. She only wanted to make money, and who doesn’t? She just went about it by trying to rip off a friend who’d helped her. Yeah, let’s feel sorry for her.”

James smiled at Nigel and said, “I must admit, I feel no sorrow that she’s dead. She made her choices. It’s her karma, but I still feel sad that despite her talent she couldn’t be content. She made bad choices, and now she’s dead. It’s final.” James had tears in his eyes, and Marie reached over, opened her arms to Nigel, and the three hugged and said, “Let’s forgive.”

Their “spirit of goodwill” moment didn’t last very long. James declared that they needed more wine and Nigel added, “and certainly another joint too.”

Marie then asked, “Is Justin all right?”

“Yeah. Dad says he joined a cyber . . . no, a zydeco band in New Orleans and is having a ball,” James said.

After Nigel rolled another joint and passed it on, he said, “You know, you two should join forces and co-write a preposterous piece of absurdity, like what’s-her-name, Shelley, the one who created Frankenstein’s monster . . . Mary Shelley.”

James and Marie cracked up laughing and Marie said, “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a great piece of literature and a comment on the arrogance of science over the divinity of God, not a preposterous piece of absurdity.”

“Yeah, all right, teacher,” Nigel said, “but seriously, all you need to begin with is a fetching title, like, “Goodbye, Rebecca.”

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