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Here's to Us(4)
Elin Hilderbrand

But people were going to act exactly like themselves. If Buck had learned one thing from thirty years of agenting, it was this. Now this call would either be from the NYPD or from the bartender at McCoy’s, where Deacon had passed out facedown on his tab.

Buck had to answer.

“Hello.”

“Mr. Buckley?” a voice of authority said. “My name is Ed Kapenash. I’m the chief of police in Nantucket, Massachusetts.”

“Nantucket?” Buck said. Deacon owned a huge, ramshackle summer cottage on Nantucket called American Paradise, a name that Buck secretly considered ironic. “Is Deacon there?” His voice conveyed more impatience than he wanted it to, and probably not the full respect due to a chief of police. “Sir?”

“Yours was the number we found on his phone listed under his emergency contact,” the chief said. “I take it you’re a friend…? Of Deacon Thorpe’s?”

“His agent,” Buck said. And then, sighing, he added, “And yes, his best friend. Is he in jail?” Deacon had never gotten into any kind of trouble while on Nantucket, not in all these years—but as far as Deacon was concerned, there was a first time for everything.

“No, Mr. Buckley,” the chief said. “He’s not in jail.”

Buck had walked out of the Colonel’s half-shaven.

His best friend of thirty years was dead.

“Massive coronary,” the chief said. “An island man named JP Clarke found him early this morning and phoned it in. But the M.E. put the time of death about twelve hours earlier—so maybe seven or eight o’clock last night.”

“Had he been drinking?” Buck asked. “Doing drugs?”

“He was slumped over at the table on the back deck with a Diet Coke,” the chief said. “And there were four cigarette butts in the ashtray. No drugs that we found, although the M.E. is going to issue a tox report. You have my condolences. My wife was a big fan of the show. She made that clam dip for every Patriots game.”

Condolences, Buck had thought. That belonged on Deacon’s Stupid Word List. What did it even mean?

“I’ll leave it to you, then, to contact the family?” the chief asked.

Buck closed his eyes and thought: Laurel, Hayes, Belinda, Angie, Scarlett, Ellery.

“Yes,” Buck said.

“And you’ll handle the remains?”

“I’ll handle… yes, I’ll handle everything,” Buck said.

Massive coronary, Buck thought. Diet Coke and four cigarettes. It was the cigarettes that had done it in the end, Buck guessed. He had told Deacon… but now was no time to indulge his inner surgeon general. Deacon was gone. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right.

“Thank you, Chief,” Buck said. “For letting me know.”

“Well,” the chief said, “unfortunately, that’s my job. My thoughts to the family.”

Buck hung up and watched his arm shoot into the air. A taxi put on its blinker and pulled over. Everything was the same in the world, but then again it was different. Deacon Thorpe was dead.

The death had been devastating enough, but as the executor of Deacon’s estate, Buck was then required to delve into the paperwork that inevitably followed. He started with the obvious: Deacon’s will. He had left the restaurant to his daughter Angie, which made sense, although Harv would continue to run it for the foreseeable future. And Deacon had left his other major asset—the house on Nantucket—to the three women he had been married to, Laurel Thorpe, Belinda Rowe, and Scarlett Oliver, to be owned in thirds, with time split in a fair and just manner, as determined by the executor.

Great, Buck thought.

As Buck sifted through Deacon’s marriage certificates to Laurel, to Belinda, to Scarlett; the divorce agreements from Laurel and from Belinda; the deed to the Nantucket house, which turned out to be encumbered with three mortgages and two liens; the LLC paperwork for Deacon’s four-star restaurant, the Board Room, in midtown Manhattan; the contracts with ABC (ancient, defunct) and the Food Network; and his bank and brokerage statements, he’d been thrown into a tailspin. All Buck could think was, This has to be wrong. He rummaged through every drawer of Deacon’s desk at the restaurant and meticulously checked the apartment on Hudson Street, a task much more easily accomplished without Scarlett around. Every piece of paper Buck found served to make the situation worse. It was like a game of good news, bad news, except this version was called bad news, worse news.

Deacon hadn’t paid any of the three mortgages on the Nantucket house in six months, and he was three months behind on the rent for his apartment on Hudson Street. Where had all of Deacon’s money gone? Buck found a canceled check for a hundred thousand dollars made out to Skinny4Life. Skinny4Life? Buck thought. A hundred large? This sounded like one of Scarlett’s “projects”; there had been the purses made by the cooperative of women in Gambia and, after that, an organic, vegan cosmetic company that absconded with fifty thousand of Deacon’s dollars before going belly-up. Before Scarlett decided she wanted to go into “business,” she had studied photography. Deacon had spent a small fortune sending her to University College downtown—which, Buck had pointed out numerous times, was neither a university nor a college. Deacon had built Scarlett a state-of-the-art darkroom in the apartment and bought her cameras and computers and scanners and printers, the collective price of which could have paid for a Rolls-Royce with a full-time chauffeur. All of the equipment now sat dormant behind a locked door.

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