She couldn’t be that pathetic. Maybe he’d sent an e-mail, she would check when they came... back, back to the cottage, she caught herself, filled with disgust, before she mentally referred to the horrible hovel as home. It wasn’t. Ever.
They drove past a small diner with a distinct fifties feel to it and her father gave her a glance before turning the car into the parking lot.
“Looks ok?” he asked with his hands still on the wheel and she shrugged. “Let’s try it,” he decided without waiting for her to make a reply and loosened his seatbelt.
“Whatever,” she mumbled.
A spoon to gag myself with? Darcy suggested to herself, but opted to give the room a bored once over instead of opening her mouth and angering her dad.
“I’ll have a burger,” he said beside her, “how about you, Darce?” she shrugged noncommittally; he sighed and put his best journalist smile on for the waitress, whose eyes widened slightly as if she only just woke up. “We’ll have two burgers, and hold the onions on hers.”
“Great! Have a seat! I’ll be right over!” she chirped at them through her nose and they headed off to an empty stall.
Darcy sat opposite her father in a sullen silence, taking in the diner and its patrons, some were eying them with open curiosity while others stole furtive glances over their lunches, but it was clear that strangers were not an everyday occurrence.
“Gees, you’d think we’d been washed ashore with the tide,” she mumbled sarcastically. Her father chuckled under his breath and shook his head at her, but before he could say anything the waitress arrived with their plates.
“Here you go, fresh off the grill!” her smile was pointedly not directed at Darcy. “So, where’re you in from?” she continued quite unabashedly.
“Bridgeport, we moved in yesterday, little place up the coast, Gull’s Nest, you know it?”
“Gull’s Nest?” the waitress looked a little taken aback, but recovered quickly. “You know, that’s been empty for awhile, ever since… well, we don’t really talk about that. Place is real pretty though!” the jangle from the door saved her from having to tell them what it was they didn’t talk about, but Darcy watched her father go into journalist mode and picked up her burger with an ill feeling churning in her stomach.
“Now that was interesting, don’t you think?” Darcy shook her head chewing.
“Just some old guy called Codgers died there, that’s all,” she said, her words muffled by bread and salad. She suddenly grimaced and picked out a piece of onion from her mouth. “Eww! I got yours!” she complained while her father laughingly switched their plates.
“And how come you know that?” he tried to sound casual, but she gave him a hard glare that said she knew him too well not to see what he was doing.
“Just something Martin said,” she muttered and stuffed the onion free burger in her mouth as if that was all she had to say on the matter.
“Oh, just this twenty something biker I partied with yesterday,” she said sweetly and Daniel choke on his burger.
Looking at her he knew she was just mocking him, but the worry he’d felt the previous night had been very real and now the anger came back as well. He barely stopped himself before giving into the childish urge of yelling at her and instead he cleared his throat and lowered his voice to a whisper.
“That’s. Not. Funny!” he clipped off the words sharply and she shrank in her seat, looking at her plate. “You know I was worried sick, Darcy!” she nodded, looking as if she was about to cry and he felt a stab of guilt.
Suddenly Darcy tensed in her seat and Daniel looked up just as someone came up to their table, the unmistakable dark blue that came into view made him stiffen involuntarily himself. It was the police officer who had brought Darcy home the night before, he gave them both a friendly grin.
“Hi there, nice to see you again,” he said brightly. “Mind if I join you? Seems to be a bit crowded.” Daniel nodded agreement even as Darcy appeared to want to melt into the seat behind her.
Officer Cruz introduced himself as Chase and took no time at all to reveal himself as a willing source of information about the town and the people.
“Codgers? Oh, that old story,” Chase frowned a little, but then just shrugged. “Look, people talk and they get things mixed up. Codgers was an old man who drank a bit too much and fell off his boat, drowned, that’s all.”
Daniel felt almost a little disappointed, but he was too well versed in hunting down stories to know that the simplest explanation was usually the true one, so he dropped the subject and instead steered it onto schools and the local youth to try and get Darcy interested; all that did was make her sink even further into her seat and turn her even redder around the ears.
“It’s a quiet place, good school, good kids, mostly,” he smiled, “you get the occasional out of hand party or shoplifting, but nothing major. Know most of the kids by name, heck, know most people in town by name, get to in this line of work, in a small place like this,” Chase said jovially.
“I bet! You don’t get that in the city,” Daniel said shaking his head, “it’s one reason we wanted to move here.”
“We didn’t!” Darcy snapped suddenly and slipped out of her seat, “I’m done, I’m getting some air!” she said and took off towards the door. Daniel made to try to follow her, but Chase was blocking his way and he couldn’t very well shove the police officer to the floor so he sat back down.
“Take it easy!” Chase said calmly while changing his seat. “She won’t go far,” he assured him and for some reason Daniel relaxed.
“Tough, being a single father,” Chase said sympathetically and Daniel gave a little snort of self ridicule in abject agreement. “And a big deal, a move like this.”
Daniel sighed, a sudden overwhelming sense of relief at having someone there who understood. It felt a little strange, even silly; he was used to keeping a professional distance, never discussed his personal life with anyone, he was too well aware of how it could be used against him.
“Yeah, it is,” he finally said. “We don’t see it the same way; we don’t seem to see anything the same way anymore!” he sounded very bitter, he could hear it himself, but Chase only gave him a crooked smile and nodded.
“That’s the problem with them growing up and us growing old,” he said and Daniel chuckled.
They kept talking for awhile, about the town and about the move and Daniel admitted his concerns about the state of the house and his own abilities, to Chase’s great amusement.
“Well, if I were you I’d chat up Odessa,” he suggested. “She’s a peach, she runs the consignment store, got inns with all the right people on the island, and knows a thing or two about restoring old houses. Pay her a visit and tell her I sent you.”
“Will do, can’t believe my luck, I didn’t even know where start!”
As they were leaving, Chase stopped to exchange a few words with the waitress, seemingly flirting a little with her; Daniel felt awkward watching them, so he left and headed out into the parking lot to find Darcy. He saw her standing over by the playground talking to a boy who looked to be her age, she appeared bored, but he didn’t seem to be aware of that.
As Daniel approached them he noticed a man coming up the street. There was a disheveled look to him, but that’s not what made Daniel quicken his steps, it was the odd way his eyes twitched as he looked around in a slightly paranoid fashion. His eyes suddenly locked with Darcy’s, a wild look in them.
Daniel’s heart caught in his throat and he found himself running.
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