Chapter 1

Hidden Places

Those few minutes of freedom were better than any of the years I was married. If I’d known how short-lived my liberty would be, would I have spent it on a precarious stool, perched over waves dashing on sharp rocks? Probably. Dylan’s secret spot on the ramshackle deck out the back of Cutters’ Bar was the only place I ever felt I belonged since moving to Newfoundland. The ocean came in and it left, unsettled and uncertain.

Before we’d known my time was running out, Dylan handed me a beer and said, “to freedom!” He was beaming like a proud parent.

I took it from him, nodded and raised the glass mug high. “Freedom!” I toasted myself with a shout. It was barely after noon, but this moment was a long time coming so I deserved a bit of day drinking.

My toast startled Digby who’d been leaning on the side of the bar’s back door. It wasn’t the first time I’d wondered if he could sleep standing up.

“Huh? What?” Digby made his way awkwardly over to me in our makeshift seating area propped on a rock ledge over the ocean below. “What’s up, Avalon?”

Dylan shook his head but had a smile as he leaned forward to Digby, hand on his shoulder in case he slipped on the wet decking, and said. “She’s done it, b’y. She’s left him, she’s free. For good, right, duck?” Dylan’s eyes moved to me.

“YES!” I cried as I lifted my beer. This time Dylan startled. I laughed. “It is all tied up. He is out of my place, divorce papers are done, and even when he tried to rope me back in—just this morning, mind!—I wasn’t having any of it and walked away.”

“This morning?” the brothers said in unison. 

I rested my glass on my knee. “Yeah, it was pathetic, and odd. Charles asked me to meet him at the falls, the hidden spot where he proposed, so I went—”

“You what?” Dylan stopped me, looking at Digby for support but Digby had a confused look.

“Which falls?” Digby asked.

Dylan sighed, “not the point, b’y. Not the point.”

“Terry’s Falls, behind the pond,” I said.

Digby nodded slowly, “the ones with those skids to get you through the bog?”

“No … ” I said, watching Dylan’s pained expression, “just, they’re the tourist ones, with the wooden bridge. You know them.” Digby didn’t look like he agreed with me on that. “Anyway,” I continued, “there’s a little romantic spot tucked away there, and aside from the mosquitoes eating me alive, Charles’s proposal was sweet.” Dylan’s face was tilted now, skeptical. I rushed on, “I just thought it would be a good place for final closure. To say to each other, you know, ‘It ended badly, but I wish you well.’”

“Lord love a duck!” Dylan pushed away from our cozy huddle on the cliff’s edge and turned his back. “The man’s evil, the devil himself. I’m surprised he didn’t push you off that bridge and leave you for dead on the rocks.”

I spoke quietly. “I know. I just—I just wanted to believe there’s some good in him. I should’ve been smarter and, well, anyway, you heard me say I walked away, right?”

“The ones off the harbour road, them falls?” Digby asked.

“Yes,” I smiled. 

Digby puffed up his chest. “What happened there?”

“His usual. He turned it all around—said I asked him to meet me there and to be quick because he had work to do.” I mimicked his condescending swagger. “‘I have no idea what delusion you’re reliving now, Avalon. I can’t keep up with all the nonsense you sputter like an over-indulged child. You need serious help, you’re clearly not functioning.’ I just turned and walked away but he followed me down the hill, haranguing me.”

Dylan’s neck was reddening. “That is one disturbed man.”

“He said, ‘You can’t sulk like this, you can’t make up lies about me’ I have no idea what he meant by that. Anyway, the whole way down he kept pace with me, his chest up against my shoulder. ‘You have to give up the nonsense. You’re being a fool and I won’t have it.’ I didn’t say a thing—he hates that—just got in my car while he was still ranting, ‘You can’t run away from what you did!’ as I drove away. The Kettlewells were there, going birding you know, so they heard all that in the car park. I’ll be avoiding them forever now.”

“Aw, duck, they know who’s not right in the head.” Digby said, “I’m proud of you, maneuvering yourself out of that—” he looked around like someone other than the gulls might overhear, “shitshow.”

“I took a long way around in case he followed me,” I lifted my beer again, “before I came here, to you guys, to freedom.”

Digby pulled himself onto the stool right next to me and put his head on my shoulder, like a child would. I put my beer down on the ledge in the siding, my arm around him and smiled at Dylan. “It’s all over. He can’t mess with me anymore.” Dylan picked up my beer and passed it to my right hand so I could drink with that one while I still held Digby. My lips were just getting wet when a shadow fell by the corner of the building.

Digby sat up, Dylan took a step back, shoulders set, his mouth in a thin line. I looked up at Constable Connors then back to my drink. I put both hands on it this time.

“Avalon Mira?”

As if he didn’t know.

None of us moved. I was feeling cheeky and smirked down at the thinning head on my pint.

“Not now.” Dylan said to him. “It can wait.”

The RCMP officer was standing with his hands hitched in his belt, legs wide, like taking up lots of space would make up for him standing only 5’5”. I knew from experience I had a good inch on him. My eyes still on it, I raised my beer but didn’t get far before Carole popped up and pushed past our man in blue.

She stepped lightly across the rocks as though her feet knew every nook. Not capable of holding anything inside that coral-lipsticked mouth of hers, she burst into a stream of excited garble.

“A body!” she screeched over the heightening crash of waves. “A dead body!” And when we didn’t show much reaction. “They found a body up at Terry’s Falls!”

My face and Dylan’s jerked towards each other.

Digby asked, “which falls?”

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