The refurbishment of the harbor front had been talked about for years as a way of enticing visitors to stay in town longer, and more than one developer had submitted a proposal to the town. After several setbacks and delays the current development plan had been accepted. It included a new hotel, a row of shops and restaurants and a rebuilt boardwalk, all in the style and manner of the historic buildings that had been along the waterfront for decades, many for more than a century. Adding an apartment building or condominiums had been tabled for now. The idea was to offer visitors more of what they came to town for—the charm of a New England small town with the services they didn't want to be without.
I scanned the room for Liam. I spotted him standing near the bar talking with Joe Roswell, the developer in charge of the hotel and another man I didn't recognize.
"Rose, do you know who that is with Liam and Joe Roswell?" I asked.
"That's Robb Gorham," she said.
I studied the man. He was about average height with broad shoulders under his dark blue suit jacket. He had the stance of a confident person; feet planted firmly on the ground about shoulder width apart, shoulders back, body turned toward the other two men. "I feel as though I should know him," I said.
"He's related to Stella," Rose said. "A nephew or a cousin or something like that. He's a building contractor."
Stella Hall was a former client of the Angels detective agency.
"Do you remember the Starlight Inn?" Rose continued.
I nodded. "It was just outside of town where that ugly motel, the Knights Inn, is now."
Mr. P. cleared his throat. "Mr. Gorham built that motel."
"Gram started a petition to save the Starlight Inn," I said. "She threatened to chain herself to one of the newel posts on the verandah to stop it from being torn down."
Rose patted my arm. "If you're introduced it's probably better not to lead with that."
Liam had spotted us and was making his way in our direction. He caught one of Rose's hands in his and beamed at her. "Rose Jackson, you are a vision," he said.
"Flattery doesn't work on me," she said.
Mr. P. and I exchanged a look because we knew Rose had a soft spot for my brother.
Liam put his free hand over his heart. "But it's not flattery if it's the truth."
Rose shook her head, but she couldn't stop a smile from escaping.
He leaned over and kissed her cheek then straightened up and offered a hand to Mr. P. "Alfred, I'm glad you're here," he said. "We found a set of model train cars in the basement of the old hotel. Sarah told me you know a little bit about model trains."
Mr. P. knew a little bit about a lot of things. I'd discovered his interest in trains when we were clearing out Stella Hall's brother's house and Elvis unearthed a model steam engine and several cars that turned out to be a valuable Marklin train set.
"I'd be happy to take a look," Mr. P. said.
Liam turned to me then. "You look good, big brother," I said. He was wearing a dark suit that brought out his blonde hair and blue-gray eyes.
"You look pretty great yourself," he said as he hugged me.
Liam was older by just a few months and he liked to remind me that made him wiser as well. Technically we were stepsiblings, part of a blended family that had been created when his dad, Peter Kennelly, married my mom. To me, Liam was just my brother, the way Peter was just Dad. And I knew Liam felt the same way about Mom and me.
Liam took Mr. P. off to look at the model train while Rose and I made our way over to look at a collection of photos that were displayed on the wall to our right.
"Oh my goodness," Rose exclaimed no more than a couple of minutes after we'd started checking the images. "Sarah, look." She pointed at a black-and-white photo of an elementary school class. "The back row in the middle."
I leaned forward and squinted at the photograph. The little girl Rose had indicated was tall with chin-length dark hair held back with some kind of clip, and a serious expression on her face. "Is that . . . ?" I took another look. "Is that Gram?" I turned to Rose, who nodded. "But she looks so serious."
"Having the class picture taken was serious business back then."
"Wait a minute," I said, gesturing at her with one finger. "You and Gram were in the same class. Where are you?"
"Far left in the front row."
I turned back to the photo. Then as now, Rose was a sprite. Like Gram, her hair was styled in a chin-length bob, only Rose had thick bangs, which cut across her forehead on a very unfortunate diagonal. Her hands were folded primly in her lap, but there was something in her body language that said there was nothing prim and proper about this little girl.
I put one arm around her shoulders and gave her a squeeze. "You were adorable. You look like you had spunk."
"I did have spunk," she said, a twinkle in her gray eyes. "So did your grandmother." She paused. "Our principal hated spunk."
I gave her another squeeze. "His loss."
© Sofie Ryan