The idea that no one was trying to find the thug who'd created this misery made a slow, angry fire simmer in his gut, but he'd think about that later.
Right now Cassie needed him.
She was twenty-eight, young to him and yet stronger than most women he knew.
"Give Mom a call tomorrow, would you? Not tonight. She's upset."
"I'll talk to her. And...look, what if we could find you a low-cost rental here in Pleasant Shores? It's safe, and I'm here." As soon as he said it, he thought of all the reasons it wasn't a good idea.
"Hmm... Maybe. Josh and I loved it there when we were kids." She cleared her throat. "It would have to be really cheap, though, and take dogs. And Mom's just going to be gone six weeks, so I'd need, say, a two-month rental."
"I'll ask around." Really cheap places in a waterfront community were rare, but it 'was' the off-season.
"Thanks. Love you. Bye." Her voice was a husky whisper that sent an electrical surge down his spine. Which made him feel like a jerk.
Take care of her if anything happens to me, but don't you dare try to get with her. Josh's prescient words echoed in Evan's mind as he pocketed his phone and turned back toward the door of the Gull.
He would call Cassie and Josh's mom tomorrow, but he doubted he could be convincing. The truth was, he worried about Cassie. He'd figured she was safe, living with her mom and her mom's burly boyfriend, but if they left her alone in the family home in Minestown, and if she thought she might have spotted the intruder who'd killed her brother...
Cassie's mom had helped Evan out a lot over the years, before she'd started spiraling into anxiety and depression, and he cared about her. She needed to get away from the site of all her heartache. Cassie probably did, too, for that matter. Evan frowned, thinking. He'd check online tomorrow, see if there was anything vacant near him, cheap and safe. A tall order.
Evan's friend William greeted him when he returned to the table. "You left in a hurry. Everything okay?"
"Yeah. An old friend's sister, having some trouble." Evan sat, but grabbed his coat. "I should take off."
"Want a beer first?" It was a guy Evan didn't know well who'd stopped by the table. He held up a pitcher and a glass.
Evan's friends turned as one and glared at the newcomer. "What?" the guy asked.
"It's fine. Chill," Evan said to his friends. He was surprised to feel a slight tug toward the beer, more of a dryness in his throat that only alcohol would fix, but it was nothing unmanageable. He gestured at the table. "I'll finish my soda, but then I have to go. Early shift tomorrow." And a cop in a small town couldn't be late to work.
He sat down and the conversation got general, someone continuing a story he'd started, the rest listening and laughing.
"So your friend's sister is having trouble?" William asked, scooting his chair back away from the others.
"Yeah. Trying to find her a new place to stay." Evan debated whether to say more, but only for a minute. In the short time he'd known William, he'd come to trust him as much as he'd trust any man. "She needs to get away somewhere safe, make a fresh start, to get over the fact that her brother, my friend, was killed." He paused, took a drink of soda and forced the memories and the regrets out of his mind. They'd been childhood best friends, and back then Josh had basically saved him. Had tried to save him again when they were older, but Evan had pushed him away and they'd ended up running in different directions. Though they'd reconnected in the past year, they'd never regained their childhood closeness. And now Josh was gone. Evan thought a lot about all the lost opportunities.
"Killed like in an accident, or murdered?" William could ask the question because he was familiar with violence, had lost a daughter to it. He understood that it was okay to bring up a bad experience, because something like that never really left your mind for long.
"Sorry, man." They were both silent for a couple of minutes. "Are there safety issues for her? The sister, I mean."
"I don't know. Her mom thinks there are." Add the unsolved murder of her brother onto Cassie's health issues, and Evan totally understood the worries.
Take care of her if anything happens to me.