Megan Larkin falls for dashing Boston attorney Luke Castaneda, a newcomer to Larkin City. Locals try to warn Luke about Megan's family, their history of madness and tragedy, but he is determined to make her his wife. Other elements are at work to ensure the union never takes place, bringing another veil of evil over the Larkin's and their self-named city in the guise of a serial killer. Megan is forced to discover the truth and to set herself free from a legacy of family secrets and obsessions.
Larkin City, Maine
IT WAS EARLY EVENING when Luke Castaneda navigated his black Ford Bronco off the city exit on US Highway 1 North, just as a light snow started to fall. He passed a beaten down old motel called Anchors Aweigh, and then found himself on the main street of the city. He noted gas street lights illuminating the cobble-stoned streets and wide boardwalks in front of the various shops and restaurants. Keeping his eyes peeled for a decent motel or lodging house, he slowed the speed of his Bronco and tried to drink in a few of the sights.
There was an old air about Larkin City, much like the aura of a typical small harbor town. Little groups of people milled along the boardwalks which seemed to run the length of the main thoroughfare, and several of the restaurants were well-lit and obviously lively with patrons. Luke saw a movie house, a little café tucked just off the road called Bruno's, a large grocery store and an entire block devoted to what appeared to be Larkin Lumber & Hardware. Further along, he passed the city hall and courthouse, which included a water fountain and a tall clock tower. Located next to the official buildings was a large public park with a sign at the entrance that read: "Colleen Larkin Memorial Park."
"Larkin," Luke said. "The town must have been founded by someone named Larkin."
A few blocks past the courthouse and memorial park, he spied a large and well-lit sign to the right advertising the Amber Whale Tavern & Lodging House. A large wooden sign depicted an amber-colored whale slicing through blue waves of water. The rather rustic-looking building was set a pace back from the boardwalk, which was also elucidated by shimmering boat lights on the city's harbor. Several cars filled the parking lot next to the Amber Whale, and Luke pulled in his Bronco to join them.
Locking his vehicle, he walked the short distance to the main entrance, which had double doors of dark wood with round portholes for windows. Once he stepped inside, he had to wait for a moment while his eyes adjusted to the dim interior. He could hear laughter and jukebox music coming from the left, which was the entry to the tavern.
He stepped up to the registration desk and saw a solitary man standing from behind, observing him. The man was somewhat elderly, with a balding pate, a tall frame and craggy features.
"Can I help you, sir?" the man asked, his voice deep and rasping. "My name is Martin Colby, and I'm the night manager of the Amber Whale."
"Yes, I'd like a room if you have one available," Luke said.
"We always have rooms available this time of year. You can have your pick. The place is fair to empty except for regulars who visit the tavern."
Luke rested against the registration desk. "I'll probably need something for a week or two."
Martin seemed surprised. "So you'll be staying with us for awhile?"
"Maybe a few weeks or less," Luke said, deciding to be honest with Martin. "I'm actually hoping to move here, if the truth be told. I'll need a room until I can find a house to either buy or rent."
Martin's interest was piqued, Luke noted, as he saw the man's eyebrows raise and inspect him closer. "You want to move to Larkin City? If I may ask, where do you come from?"
"I'm from Boston," Luke replied. "I'm originally from Connecticut, but I've lived and worked in Boston for the last five years."
Martin paused as if he was considering Luke's words, and then he said: "Larkin City is a fine place. I've lived here all my life, but we don't get many city folks moving in very often."
Luke smiled. "You could say I'm tired of city life."
"Well, you couldn't have found a better place to come to." Martin motioned toward the stairway to the right of the registration desk. "I can show you the rooms, and you can take your pick."
Luke shook his head. "Not necessary. Just give me the biggest, if possible."
Martin opened a large, leather-bound red book and flipped to a page at the front. "The best we have is the Captain's Suite, which overlooks Larkin Harbor and has a sitting room, a bedroom, and a large bathroom with a walk-in shower. Will that do you?"
"The Captain's Suite sounds grand," Luke said. "Can I pay by day with a credit card?"
"As long as you have a valid driver's license," Martin replied. "Your name, sir?"
"Lucas Castaneda." Luke stopped and pulled out his wallet from the back pocket of his faded blue jeans. He took out his driver's license and credit card, handing them over.
Martin started copying Luke's information into the register. "There is no room service past midnight," he told Luke. "And since the kitchen is part of the tavern, there's no breakfast, either. But there are plenty of restaurants along Main Street, although I recommend Bruno's Café. It's the best place in town, and the prices are reasonable."
"Thank you," Luke said. As Martin continued taking his information, Luke let his eyes wander to the desk counter. He saw a brochure about the Amber Whale and picked it up, thumbing through the pages. "This place has quite a history," he said after a moment.
Martin glanced up. "It certainly does. The Amber Whale was originally built in 1870 and was run by a woman named Lizbeth Bisiker and her son, Adam. The tavern burned down in 1904, and was later re-built into a dress shop. About twenty-five years ago the property was designated a historical landmark, and the Larkin family had it reconstructed to the original Amber Whale specs."
"Interesting," Luke said. "I noticed some of the businesses along Main Street carry the name Larkin, such as the lumber yard and the park. The town must be named after them, but does anyone in the family still live here?"
Martin ran Luke's credit card through a machine. "Oh, yes, the Larkin's still live here," he replied. "They have an estate on the outskirts of town, near the beach. They own most of the businesses in the city, and much of the property as well. They donated money for Larkin City University, which was built eighty years ago, and they paid for the construction of the hospital."
"Sounds as if they are very civic-minded," Luke observed.
"That's one way of putting it," Martin said, handing Luke his driver's license and credit card. "Because we're off season, I'll only charge you thirty-five dollars a night."
"Thank you, that's very reasonable," Luke said, the change of subject not eluding him. "By the way, do you know where I can find a realtor tomorrow? Someone to help me find a house, or an apartment?" he asked as he signed the credit card receipt.
Martin closed the registration book and pulled a room key from a drawer behind the desk. "A few doors up from Bruno's Café is a small real estate office run by Kip Bathers. He's lived here all his life, so I'm sure he can find you a house in short order."
"I'll look him up in the morning," Luke said, taking the key from Martin. "I'll get my luggage and settle in."
"Let me know if you need anything, and welcome to Larkin City."
LUKE CARRIED HIS TWO large suitcases and leather-bound laptop computer up the curving staircase of the Amber Whale. Martin was nowhere in sight, but noises from the tavern area continued unabated. At the top of the maroon-carpeted stairs, Luke paused to look around. Straight ahead was a wide bay window which overlooked Larkin Harbor, and to the right and left were hallways with dimly-lit etched-glass sconces.
The floor had the same maroon carpet as the staircase, except it had a gold-feather and column design. The walls were paneled with dark cherry wood and seemed shiny in the dim light. Aside from the muffled sounds from the tavern and the clinking of a buoy in the harbor, the upper level of the Amber Whale was ghostly quiet.
Taking his chances, he walked down the right hallway until it began to curve slightly. He came to stand in front of double doors made of the same wood as the walls. A blond oak plaque was displayed next to the doors, framed in gold feather design: The Captain's Suite.
"This is me," he said aloud, his voice sending a subdued echo along the hallway. Setting his bags down on the floor, he inserted the room key into the right-door lock.
Beyond the door was pitch darkness. Luke stepped inside and felt for a light switch on the wall.
"Voila!" he whispered, feeling the switch and flipping it into place.
An overhead light flooded the sitting area of the suite through smoky glass, illuminating a blue-and-white brocaded loveseat and a coffee table. He noted the dark blue carpets and beige-colored walls. A white marble fireplace faced the loveseat, with two short steps to the right leading to the bedroom.
Luke brought his bags in and shut the door, walking up the steps to the bedroom. Meager shadows cast on the walls and floor from lights on the harbor. The beams came through the vast bay window, which seemed to encompass the entire room. He saw the dark hulk of the bed and walked carefully toward it, coming to stop when the wood frame brushed his knees.
He set his luggage and laptop on the bed. Guided by the harbor lights from the window he reached the side of the bed and switched on a table lamp.
He was enchanted. The room was a delight. The bed was king-sized, with four posters hung with burgundy-colored bed curtains. A table and two chairs were situated near the bay window, and a large screen television faced the bed on the far wall next to a dresser. He saw a small placard on the table, with the lettering CABLE TV and INTERNET ACCESSIBILITY printed on the front. An empty ice bucket and a clean ashtray, amber in color, were positioned in the middle of the polished table. His eyes wandered to the small door off the bedroom and found the bathroom, which was masculine dark green with a long counter and a walk-in shower. A small porthole window was above the sink, with gold-colored ship-wheel escarpment on the rim.
Luke went back into the bedroom and stood in front of the bay window. The harbor seemed ink black, with a touch of silver fog on the fringes. Stray lights from anchored boats on the water shimmered in the dark and threw erratic patterns on his face.
"This place is beautiful," he thought to himself. He was tired, travel-weary, but he was suddenly enveloped with a feeling of overwhelming contentment, a sense of peace he had long been searching for.
"But this is insane," he muttered. "I pick a city from a map, eyes closed. I've given up a lucrative job in the city of Boston to come to a place I've never seen before, much less heard of."
Luke stood for another minute, arguing with himself. "Yet I know this is right, I feel it in my bones. I need to renew myself, and this is the place to do it. My friends might think I'm crazy, but I'm on the perfect path. I can start over with a small legal practice – no murderers, no rapists, no drug lords. Give me simple divorces, bankruptcies, small claims court – anything but the aimless life I was leading before."
He stepped closer to the bay window, reaching his hand out to touch the glass.
"This is the place."
MEGAN'S LEGACY ©Deidre Dalton. All rights reserved.
"Megan's Legacy" may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the author. "Megan's Legacy" is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.