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Authors: Robert Barclay

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BOOK: The Widow's Walk
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No sooner had the woman's voice faded away again than did Adam spy the one thing that every seaman fears the most—a rogue wave. The Cape was a breeding ground for such monsters, which seemed to come out of nowhere. They could tower as high as thirty or even forty feet, easily reducing the strongest of ships to matchsticks.

Before Adam could shout out a warning to the others, the great wave slammed into the
Intrepid'
s port bow, washing Adam overboard and directly into the churning sea. Screaming wildly and gasping for breath, he tried his best to ride the waves but then a broken mast spar and some of the
Intrepid'
s torn sailcloth were driven his way, entangling him and sending him under. At first all he could think about was how cold it was. Unbelievably cold, and with an all-encompassing darkness that he never knew existed.

As the churning seawater at last invaded his lungs, Adam's final thoughts were of his beloved Constance.

Chapter 1

New Bedford, Massachusetts

Present Day

His name was Garrett Richmond, and he had always wanted to live alongside the ocean.

Garrett pulled his black Jeep Wrangler to a stop then turned off the engine. For a time he ignored his passenger and looked lovingly out the window at the ramshackle old house he had just bought.

“You've really lost it this time,” his friend and business partner Trent Birch said. “Do you know that? I can't understand why you want some dump that's going to take
years
to put right! You've gone crazy!”

Garrett realized that everyone thought he was nuts. But in his heart he knew better. He had expertise in classic American antebellum architecture that few others of his profession could claim, and he'd easily seen the promise in this house. But Trent was right about one thing. Without question, the impending restoration would be both difficult and costly.

He turned and smiled.

“Crazy?” he asked. “Maybe . . . but it's my funeral, right?”

Garrett got out of the Jeep then reached behind the driver's seat and opened a cooler. He pulled out two bottles of cold champagne, a couple of Styrofoam cups, and a small box. He next produced the two folding chairs he had also packed. When Trent saw the cold champagne, he smirked.

“Don't tell me, let me guess!” Trent exclaimed. “You're going to christen this dump, aren't you? But why two bottles? It seems like one would be plenty.”

After handing the box and chairs to Trent, Garrett smiled and carried the bottles toward the front porch of the house.

“Simple,” he replied, with Trent in tow. “One bottle to christen the house and the other one to drink. What's the matter, anyway? You like champagne, right?”

“Sure,” Trent answered as he followed Garrett. “That's not what's bothering me.”

“So . . . ?” Garrett asked.

“The champagne is worth more than the damned house is. Not to mention that the entire place might collapse!”

Garrett snorted out a short laugh. “Truth is you could be right on both counts.”

Pausing in his walk, Garrett stopped to admire his recent purchase. For once, Trent knew when to be quiet and let his friend enjoy the moment.

Built in 1835, the large home had had many owners on its long and convoluted journey to Garrett Richmond. He'd closed the transaction only yesterday, but while growing up in New Bedford he had always loved this property. So much so, that he'd often pass by to both admire it and to mourn its condition. Something about this old house by the sea had fostered an irresistible attraction within him. And it was that very enticement, he had long known, that had led him to a career in architecture.

The two-story directly faced the Atlantic. Garrett had always thought that the original builder put it a bit too close to the ocean, but so be it. It rested on an elevated, scrubby clump of land that ended where the rocky shore began sloping down toward the ocean. As a result, the continual sea air and wave spray were constant enemies, and even once Seaside was restored, Garrett knew that he would have his hands full keeping it that way.

Despite its distressed condition, one could tell that it had once been an impressive and stately residence. Four high, Doric columns graced the front and supported the overhanging roof, which extended forward from the second floor. A long, open veranda shaded by the roof stretched all the way across the face and extended down along each side of the house. The side verandas also had columns that supported two more side balconies with railings, and doors that allowed entry into each of the first-floor side rooms. Another large, elegantly curved balcony extended from the front of the house at the second floor, providing an open sitting area off the master bedroom.

An ornate railing ran along the entire roof edge. The roof itself was flat, with a raised area toward the front that supported an extremely weathered widow's walk, its roof and railings warped with the passage of time. Twin chimneys in bad disrepair exited the roof, one at the far left-hand side where the parlor had once presumably been, and the other one on the right, in the dining room. The front of the house had been sided with bricks. The sides were covered with clapboards that had once been painted a bright white but that had long since faded to a dull and tired gray.

Despite all the obvious damage, Garrett smiled. To his way of thinking, every problem was a welcome challenge, its completion bringing him one step closer to his goal. His eyes saw a diamond in the rough that he couldn't wait to polish. But for Trent, each of those flaws only reaffirmed that Garrett had made the mistake of his life. Like Garrett, Trent was an architect, but he lacked the vision and the wonderful eye for detail that were Garrett's trademarks.

“Let me guess, professor,” Trent said. “Once upon a time, this shack was an antebellum, Greek Revival style. It's been a while since school, but I'm correct, right?”

Garrett laughed a little. “Not completely,” he answered. “It's really Gothic Revival, with some Romantic style embellishments that someone slapped on her, somewhere along the line. And do you see the widow's walk? That's called Italianate, as you should know.”

“If that's the case then I'm even more surprised you bought it,” Trent replied, “especially since you're always lecturing your students about ‘Frankentechture.' So why did you make an exception?”

Garrett began walking toward the front porch again.

“To be honest, I don't know,” he replied quietly. “And you're right—I do hate the mixing of respected architectural types. It's like wearing sneakers with a tuxedo, but as for this particular house—well, I'm not sure why I like it so much. There's just always been something about it that . . .”

As Garrett's words trailed off, he realized that there was no concrete answer to Trent's question. Many had been the time when he asked himself the same thing. Although he had purchased this foreclosed house on a short sale from the bank, most still thought that he paid too much. But for him, this was not a question of money. Rather it was about restoring what to his discerning eye had once been a magnificent place where people lived and loved during quieter, more genteel times.

Moreover, the chain of title had also intrigued Garrett. Coupled with some research he had done on his own, an interesting early history of the house had emerged. It had been built for a well-respected New Bedford lawyer. Soon after its completion, the lawyer lost his wife to what was then called “consumption.” His despair was so great that he decided to sell the house and leave, never to be heard from again.

The next owners were Adam and Constance Canfield, and it seemed that their circumstances were no less tragic. Adam had been a whaling captain lost at sea. Strangely, his wife, Constance, seemed to have also disappeared around that same time, never to return. As a result, the bank had foreclosed and sold the property at public auction. In those days the house was called “Seaside,” a name that had supposedly been bestowed upon it by the Canfields. Garrett liked the name, and from the moment he signed the papers he had resolved to call it that.

“Seaside . . .” he said quietly to himself as he again began walking toward the house.

“What did you just say?” Trent asked as he followed along. He never could keep up with Garrett's long legs.

“Seaside,” Garrett repeated. “That's the name given to it by one of the previous owners. I like it, and I'm going to call it that.”

Quickening his pace, Trent caught up to Garrett again while still juggling the chairs and the small box.

“Seaside, huh?” Trent asked. “Wow . . . how original.”

Garrett laughed again as they neared the porch. “Go ahead,” he replied. “Criticize all you want. But when this place is done, you're going to be amazed.”

They climbed the rickety steps, walked across the porch, and put down their things. Garrett set up the chairs, and the two old friends sat down beside one another and quietly looked out at the ocean.

“I've never really doubted you before, Garrett,” Trent said, after a time. “But now you've got me scratching my head. You do realize that this place is so rough you might not finish it until you're an old man, right?”

Garrett smiled. “Maybe,” he answered. “But there's so much promise here. Even Tara once needed a complete overhaul, you know.”

Trent leaned back and gingerly put his feet up on the porch rail, as if the entire thing might collapse at any moment. “True,” he answered. “But you don't have Rhett Butler's money.”

“Can't you find one good thing about this place?” Garrett asked jokingly.

“The view,” Trent answered.

When Garrett didn't respond, Trent turned to look at his best friend. They had known each other since they were roommates during their first semester at architecture school. Garrett had been born and raised in New Bedford; Trent was originally from Boston. Although they were diametric opposites in some ways, their strong and enduring friendship was something upon which each could always rely.

While Garrett was tall and lean, Trent was darker, shorter, and broader. Garrett's hair was a sort of dirty blond, parted on one side and always seeming to fall down into an irrepressible wave on his forehead. But the first thing anyone noticed was his penetrating, crystal blue eyes, which upon studying anything that particularly intrigued him somehow became even more intense. Upon first meeting him, there were few people who did not mention those eyes, and they had long since become a standing joke between him and Trent. Dressed today in tan cargo pants, a black polo shirt, and a pair of deck shoes, he exuded a calm sense of purpose that Trent had always envied. Both Garrett and Trent were still single.

After graduation from architecture school, the two friends had scraped together all the money they could and formed Richmond & Birch, LLC, a New Bedford architectural firm specializing in the design of houses. Garrett was the majority shareholder and thus technically Trent's boss, although neither of them looked at it that way. Their business had struggled mightily at first and nearly gone bankrupt twice before finally gaining some traction. Despite the recent economic downturn, Richmond & Birch had now become prosperous enough to allow Garrett to secure a mortgage for Seaside.

During that time Garrett had also gone to night school and acquired his Ph.D. in architectural history, specializing in historic American schools of the nineteenth century. As much for the love of doing it as his need for the extra money, he now taught night classes in architectural history at Boston College.

“I'm staying here tonight, by the way,” Garrett said, finally breaking the quiet.

“Huh?” Trent asked.

Before answering, Garrett also put his feet up on the porch rail. “Yep . . . first night, and all that . . .”

“So how am I supposed to get home?”

“You'll take my Jeep, and then come back for me in the morning.”

“But there's no furniture, you said,” Trent protested. “Where will you sleep?”

Garrett leaned back a bit more in his chair. “On the floor,” he answered. “I brought along a sleeping bag.”

“Okay,” Trent said. “But dear God, how you must love this place! It's got to be dirty as all hell in there.”

“Oh, it's worse than dirty,” Garrett answered. “When the bank foreclosed, the owners took it out on the house. They smashed in some of the walls, ripped up the carpets, tore out the appliances—that sort of thing.”

Trent nodded knowingly. Much of that had gone on in New England during the downturn. When the banks were forced to foreclose, many angry owners partially destroyed their properties as a form of unwarranted revenge.

“And knowing all that, you still wanted the place,” Trent mused.

“Sure,” Garrett answered. “They did some of the work for me, because the appliances were all junk, and they had to go, anyway.”

“What about the electric and water?”

“It's got both, and the oil furnace works, but it's bone dry. If I get cold tonight, there's a pile of leftover firewood out back. And there's some more in the barn.”

“There's a barn?” Trent asked.

Garrett nodded. “Yeah, but it's in pretty bad shape. There was also a guest cottage at one time, but somewhere along the line it was demolished.”

“I had no idea that college professors were so adventurous,” Trent chided him.

Garrett laughed. “Want to go inside and see just how much?” he asked.

Trent shook his head. “No offense, but I'll pass for right now. I already think that you've made a big enough blunder. If I step inside and see it, I may be forced to have you committed. Oh, and by the way,” he added almost lazily, “this place is haunted, you know.”

Garrett turned and looked at Trent with a sense of amusement.

“And just how do you know that?” he asked.

BOOK: The Widow's Walk
6.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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