zetetic “proceeding by inquiry,” 1645, from Mod.L. zeteticus, from Gk. zetetikos “searching, inquiring,” from zetetos, verbal adj. of zetein “seek for, inquire into.”

Abigail rarely remembered her dreams. However, when Ruth roused her the following morning, she was certain what she’d dreamed about had been pleasant.

“Better put on your clothes,” Ruth warned. “You have a guest.”

Nat Rhone was sitting in the living room, looking nervous. He stood when Abigail entered. He even took off his hat.

“Last night you said your car was stuck. Thought you’d need some help.”

“Um, yeah. I’d appreciate that.”

“I’ve got some of Jerome’s old tools and such if you need any of ’em.” Ruth led them to the garage, where Nat selected a shovel and some scraps of wood.

“These’ll do.” He headed out of the garage toward his truck, saying to Abigail, “You coming?”

She deferred to Ruth, who shrugged.

“Thanks a lot,” Abigail muttered.

Ruth was grinning. “No problem, hon.”

“So where’s your car?” Nat asked as she buckled in.

“That’s an excellent question. I don’t have an answer. I was lost when I got stuck in a ditch.”

“You were lost? On this speck of an island?”

“It’s not that small.”

“Stay here long enough and you’ll see how small it is.”

A tangible silence filled the truck, pushing each of them further apart while they cruised from lane to lane in search of Abigail’s abandoned Volvo. Nat was leaning into the driver’s side door. She was huddled at the far corner of the cab.

“You like your job?” he asked, seemingly trying to make conversation.

Abigail began to worry he’d inferred the part she played in his release. “You mean as caretaker at the lighthouse?”

“No, your real job. The lexicography.”

“Yes, yes, I do. Or I did.”

“Did it pay good?”

“The salary was decent.”

“Long hours?”

“Manageable. Why? Are you changing careers?”

“Just wondering why you stopped. And why you came here. Chapel Isle isn’t the lexicography capital of the world.”

“Change of pace. Change of scenery.”


“I’m not on the lam, if that’s what you’re insinuating.” Abigail regretted her choice of phrasing.

“In my experience, people usually move to get away.”

“Some move to get closer,” she contended.

Nat had been ready to take the rap for Hank’s death in order to honor him. Abigail had fallen victim to a similar pretense. Following flawed logic, she’d moved to Chapel Isle, convinced she could honor the memory of her husband and son by loving the place Paul had loved, terrified that no matter how hard she tried, she wouldn’t be able to do their lives justice. Nat Rhone proved the opposite was true.

In the distance, Abigail saw her station wagon. Leaves were plastered to the windows, and the rear tires were sunk deep in a ditch, tilting the car on a steep slope.

“There it is.”

“When you said stuck, you really meant stuck.”

Nat got out to inspect the car, mud sucking at his boots. He shoveled aside some debris, then wedged pieces of wood under each tire.

“Start the engine and press the gas real slow.”

Abigail hopped into the Volvo. When she depressed the accelerator, the wheels whirred. In the rearview mirror, she could see Nat leaning into the bumper, pushing with every ounce of his might.

“More gas. Gentle. Gentle.”

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