Crime Time (Chapter Three, page 2 of 7)

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"You'd better look around outside," Martha said. Quinn didn't look pleased but he handed her the spatula and started for the door. I rose to follow and he tossed me a jacket. "The umbrella's gone. I guess the nut went for a walk after all."

"Quinn!" Martha chastised.

"You'd have to be a nut to go hiking in this," he muttered as we left. Martha called after us.

"If you can't find him, we'll help," she said as she commenced cooking.

Our search didn't take long. From the porch we could see the huddled figure of Howie Abbott sitting under a large red umbrella on the edge of the pier. He was fully clothed and wore a light jacket. We were both soaked by the time we reached him.

"Howie, what in hell are you doing?" Quinn snarled.

Startled, he jumped to his feet, dropping the umbrella. I wondered if he'd been asleep

"Oh, God! I'm sorry! I thought I'd be back before you guys woke up."

"Are you okay?" I asked.

"You're missing world class pancakes," Quinn grumbled. "Let's get the hell out of this drenching rain."

"Yes. Sure. Sorry." He said, but didn't answer my question.

We shook ourselves dry on the porch and returned to the warmth of the cabin. "Safe and sound," Quinn said. "I'm starved."

Martha had a plate full of pancakes ready so we all sat around the large table. While the rest of us breathed a sigh of relief, Howie remained uncomfortable.

"Did my crazy husband's experiments keep you up all night?" Martha asked as she passed around butter and syrup. "The smell of the flowers alone would have kept me up."

"No," Howie said quickly. "It's just me. It's nothing you did. I just had trouble . . . concentrating."

"Flashbacks?" I asked. My question earned me a scowl from Howie who seemed unwilling to discuss the last night's happenings. He picked at his food while the rest of us wolfed down stacks of pancakes and melt in your mouth sausage, the finest breakfast I'd eaten in years. I savored it, but my concern for Howie remained.

When the meal was over, I sought him out in the main room while the other crowded around the kitchen cleaning up. He started to move away, but I stopped him, concerned what was bothering him.

"You know, Howie, I've given some thought to your flying saucer analogy." I had his attention. "I didn't consider who to tell. Maybe I'd admit what happened to friends I knew I could trust. If something is upsetting you, consider sharing it. Who knows? Perhaps we could help you to work it out." He nodded and crossed to the window and stared out at the rain.

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