Linda Weaver Clarke

The Lighthouse Secret

Chapter 1

"It looks like a six-year-old kid painted this," said Rick as he rubbed the dark stubble on his chin. He glanced at Amelia and waited for her response. "What do you think?"

Amelia sighed. "In a way... yes. But look at the way he used all those colors. Would a six-year-old be able to do that?"

"It's only circles. Round colorful circles. Should be easy enough to create."

She turned to him and laughed. "Are you sure?"

Rick shrugged his broad shoulders. "Abstract art isn't supposed to look like anything from the real world. It's a style that is, well..."

"Abstract!" laughed Amelia.

"Exactly!" He pointed to another painting and asked, "Do you like this style?"

"Not really. The face is deformed."

"It's called Cubism. Pablo Picasso was famous for this kind of art." He pointed to another of Picasso's paintings called Weeping Woman and said, "Some people like this style."

"Hmm. It's surely different."

Rick's mouth quirked up into a humorous smile as he folded his arms over his chest. Raising a curious brow, he asked, "So what's your favorite art style, so far?"

"Realism. It's easier to understand what the artist has painted." Amelia motioned to the Cubism paintings. "With these others, it's hard to see what he's trying to portray."

"You're supposed to use your imagination," said Rick as he led her into the hallway. "We only have one room left. It's the Impressionism Room."

"Hmm. Impressionism, huh?" As Amelia snickered, her eyes were filled with mirth. "Will I be impressed?"

He smiled at her play-on-words and guided her toward the room. "Ah! You'll be impressed all right. I promise. This is my kind of art."

Rick and Amelia were visiting the local museum in La Rosa. It had just opened and the director of the museum made a room for each art style. There was the Realism Room, Cubism and Abstract Room, Expressionism and Fauvism Room, and the Impressionism Room. They had even prepared a special place called the "Local Artist Room" where local artists could display their art to the public.

Of course, the La Rosa Art Museum did not have the original paintings by the Old Masters. Just a copy that was set in an elegant frame! The mayor of the city wanted the community to learn about the Old Masters, so he helped create this museum.

So far Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper was Amelia's favorite, but she had not seen the Impressionism Room, yet. Rick was sure she would like it as much as he did.

As they entered the room, there were several water lily paintings by Claude Monet placed all over one wall. Rick smiled as he heard her "oo" and "ah" at each one.

"These paintings depict Monet's very own water-lily garden," said Rick as he pointed to a painting called Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies. "It was his main focus during the last thirty years of his life."

When they came to Vincent van Gogh's Irises, Amelia stopped and gazed at it for a long time.

Noticing her great interest, Rick said, "You like it, don't you?"

"Mmm. I do. Very much. It's beautiful."

He raised his brow curiously and asked, "What do you like about it?"

She pointed to a white iris and said softly, "Amidst all the blue irises is one lone iris that isn't the same as the others. It's white. It stands out from the rest of them. That little iris is different than the others and she knows it."

"Being different is good," said Rick as he gazed at the painting. "That iris is unique."

"Yes," said Amelia with a nod. "Unique is good."

He turned to her and smiled. "When you think about it, that's a pretty good message. Being different is okay." With that, he took her hand and led her to Van Gogh's Starry Night. "Now this one is my favorite. Isn't it beautiful?"

Amelia looked at him with amazement. "I never thought of you as an art lover. I've known you for over three years and you never mentioned it before."

Rick led her to a bench and they both sat down. Folding his arms across his chest, he gazed at the paintings on the wall and nodded.

Then turning to Amelia, he said, "My uncle taught me everything I know about art. He was a night guard at one of the museums in Phoenix. He loved his job and would take me there many times. He would talk about the different art styles and tell me what each painting represented. I learned more from him than any schoolteacher." He chuckled as he said, "When I was little I wanted to be a museum guard just like my uncle."

A smile played at the corners of her lips as she said teasingly,"Did your uncle mention whether some of the museum sculptures came to life after midnight? You know! Like Night at the Museum?"

Rick laughed. "Nope. Sadly to say, he never saw one museum piece come to life, or he would have told me."

Amelia gazed at him curiously. "I'm learning something new about you almost every day."

Rick and Amelia were newlyweds and had only been home from their honeymoon a short time. When the museum opened, he was excited to show her one of his passions.

Amelia placed her hands in her lap and asked, "By the way, did I meet your uncle at the wedding?"

He shook his head. "No. Uncle Antonio died five years ago."

"How old was he?"

"Forty-eight."

"Oh my! He wasn't very old. What happened?"

"He drowned, but my father can't come to terms with it because he was such a great swimmer. None of it made any sense."

Amelia raised her brow. "What doesn't make sense?"

Rick pushed his hand through his dark curly hair as he remembered the details of his uncle's disappearance.

With a sigh, he said, "Uncle Antonio went deep-sea fishing with his friend Dan. They rented a boat and were gone for a few days. One evening he went for a swim while Dan was sleeping. When he awoke the next morning, Uncle Antonio was nowhere to be found. It didn't make any sense that he drowned because my uncle could outswim anyone. He was in excellent health. My dad felt the whole thing was suspicious."

"What did the autopsy say?"

"His body was never found. By the time Dan got ashore to get help, too much time had passed and they couldn’t find him."

Amelia tilted her head curiously and asked, "Do you think Dan's telling the truth?"

Rick gazed at the Starry Night painting and shrugged. "I don't know." With a sigh, he turned to her and said, "When my father talked to him, Dan acted as if he were holding something back."

Amelia bit her lip in thought.

When Rick noticed, he asked, "What's up?"

"Well...do you suspect foul play? Could there have been a disagreement between them?"

He shook his head. "Of course not. He was my uncle's long-time friend. I can't believe Dan would hurt him. Besides, a few strange things began to happen shortly after his death. For example, someone broke into my uncle's home and left it a complete mess. They even ruined his collection of masterpieces by ripping them from their frames."

"Masterpieces?"

"They were only prints in elaborate frames. It was as if they were angry with my uncle. Why else would they destroy his place?"

"Hmm," hummed Amelia with curiosity. "That's strange. Perhaps they were searching for something. Do you think the intruders saw his obituary in the paper and figured it would be an easy mark?"

Rick smiled. She had such good reasoning. That was why she was a great detective. She always thought things through.

Taking her hand in his, he answered, "Perhaps. But they left a lot of valuable things behind."

"You mentioned a few strange things. What else happened?"

Rick shifted position and turned toward her so their knees were touching. "My parents wondered what was going on, so they went over to Dan's apartment and found that he had moved without telling a soul. He didn't leave a forwarding address or anything. The neighbors knew nothing, which surprised us because he was such a friendly guy. He had a real nice high-rise condo in Phoenix that he was renting."

Amelia's brow rose curiously as she asked, "He just took off?"

Rick nodded. "We had many unanswered questions about my uncle's death, and no one could help us understand what happened."

He gazed up at the Starry Night and sat quietly for a long while.

Amelia glanced at him and squeezed his hand. "What are you thinking?"

Rick sighed. "When I was eighteen, I told my uncle that I wanted to be a detective. The memory of that day is so clear to me right now. We were standing inside the museum when I told him and he said: Good! After you get your license, I want you to find out who stole thirteen works of art from Boston's Museum." He slid closer to her and wrapped his arm around her shoulders. "Yup! It was the heist of the century."

"Really?" she said with surprise. "When did it happen?"

"1990. My uncle was so upset about it. He said they were such amateurs because they weren't careful and damaged the masterpieces by cutting them from their frames. Apparently they didn't know anything about preserving the value of art."

Amelia's eyes brightened as she looked at her hubby. "Rick, I have an idea. Why don't we find out what actuall happened to your uncle? Aren't you curious?"

Rick looked at her and creased his brow. "Of course, but..."

"But what?"

"It's been five years. Any kind of evidence would be lost by now. We have no witnesses to talk to. No one saw my uncle drown and no one questioned Dan's word about it. Not only that..."

Amelia held up her hand to stop him. Shaking her head, she asked, "Who am I? And what company do I own?"

He chuckled. "You're Amelia Moore Bonito. My wife. You own the Amelia Moore Detective Agency, which is top notch."

"And what do I specialize in?"

He tapped her nose. "Missing persons."

"And you, Mr. Bonito, are my partner. Right?"

"True."

With a satisfied grin, Amelia said firmly, "We just got ourselves a new case to work on."

Rick shook his head and laughed. "You don"t have time to work on this, sweetie. How about your other cases?"

"We just got home from our honeymoon and I haven't taken on any new cases, yet. I should be just fine."

"How about that case you got just before we left?"

"I've taken on two cases at a time before. You know that."

He chuckled. "You're unbelievable. I can't wait to tell my parents. They're going to be so pleased."

Rick's heart was pounding with excitement as he thought about their new case. Amelia was really something. Always thinking of others!

He studied his wife's features and smoothed her short honey-brown hair away from her face. He wanted to thank her, but not with words. Without hesitation, he pulled her into his arms and kissed her soundly upon the lips as his hands caressed her lovingly.

A patron's shoes were heard, clicking down the hall. The sound stopped at the entrance of the Impressionist Room. Before Rick had a chance to release his hold on his sweet wife, he heard the woman abruptly and loudly clear her throat.

Amelia sucked in her breath at the sound and instantly pulled away from Rick.

The elderly woman's voice rang out in a harsh tone as she said, "This is not a room for necking." She furrowed her brow and frowned. "Don't you young people know the meaning of propriety?"

"Yes, I do," said Rick as he pulled his Smartphone out of his pocket. "I've got it right here." After a moment, he read, "Propriety: conformity to conventional standards of behavior." Looking up at the woman, he asked, "Do you want me to look up another word for you, ma'am?"

The woman huffed with annoyance as she turned and walked down the hall, clicking her heels as she went.

When she disappeared, Rick wiggled his eyebrows and pulled Amelia into his arms as he whispered, "Now, where were we?"

Feeling embarrassed, Amelia pushed him back. "Rick! Behave yourself!"

With soberness, he said, "I thought I was."

Amelia tried to hide her amusement, but it was impossible when she saw a smile playing at the corners of Rick's mouth. He was such a tease.

Hopping up from the bench, she tugged on his hand and said, "I'm hungry. How about Barbequed Ribs Cafe?'

Rick grinned as he got to his feet. "You don't have to coax me. Afterwards, we'll go to my parents' home and begin our investigation."

As they walked out of the building, Amelia linked her arm through his. When he glanced down at her, he felt like the luckiest man alive.

Rick opened the door to the driver's side of his truck and said, "Scoot in, Sweetie."

Amelia knew their little routine and slid past the steering wheel to the passenger's side.

As she watched Rick climb into the truck, Amelia thought about their marriage. Sure, he was a good-looking guy and well built with unbelievable biceps, but looks alone did not keep a marriage together. That was only on the surface. Amelia wanted their marriage to last, so she was doing some reading and wanted to tell him what she had learned.

As she pulled the small booklet from her purse, Amelia said, "Rick, I want to share something with you that I've been reading."

He looked at the cover and rubbed his dark stubble curiously.

"Hmm," hummed Rick as he read the title. "Adjusting to Marriage." He looked up at her and grinned as he said teasingly, "Sounds like an intriguing book."

"It is!"

"I bet it's hard to put down."

She playfully slugged his arm. "Rick! Be serious. Okay?"

As he started the truck, Rick gave a nod. "Okay. Tell me what you've learned."

As he pulled onto the road, Amelia read, "In fairy tales, they say, 'And they lived happily ever after.' But they don't tell you how they got to that point."

Rick chuckled. "True. Very true!"

"Before marriage," continued Amelia."You were used to having your own way, your own bedroom space, fixing your own meals, and making your own decisions. There was no one around to criticize the way you did things."

He glanced at her. "Yup! That's right. But I have to admit one thing. I love sharing my bedroom space with you."

She laughed and continued reading. "Now that you're a couple, you may find out that cleanliness or organization means something completely different to your spouse. So be patient with one another. Learn to compromise."

Rick laughed. "Yes. I think we've discovered that, haven't we?"

Amelia nodded and said softly, "I should be more understanding."

"Hey! We're both learning. No problem."

She turned the page and continued reading. "Remember! You're getting to know one another in a completely new way. Having differences is what sets you apart. That's what makes life interesting. Being different is okay, so don't try to change your partner. Compromising is the secret. That's the beginning of a successful marriage."

Rick pulled into the parking lot of the cafe and parked. "I love that last part."

"About compromising?"

He shook his head. "No. About being different. We're two people with completely different backgrounds and personalities. Our differences make us who we are. I wouldn't want you to change. We'll just have to learn to compromise."

Amelia smiled at her new hubby. He was so understanding about her compulsion for keeping the apartment organized. She needed to let up a bit and let him be himself. Yes, a compromise would be perfect to take care of her concerns.

She leaned toward him and gave him a tender kiss on the cheek. "Thanks, Rick, for listening."

He grinned. "Anytime, sweetie. Anytime!"