Today's Reading

Most of the folk in Golden Cove let him be, and the odd time that he did have to step in, it was usually to break up a bar fight or calm down a neighborhood dispute. Yesterday, he'd had to handcuff a drunk to a chair until the other man was sober enough to be dropped home.

Will didn't have a jail.

And so far, no Golden Cove problems had justified formal charges.

Come summer, with tourists pouring in for various adventure activities thanks to the region's advertising campaign over the past couple of years, and he'd probably have more trouble. Which was also why the town now had a police officer. The regional tourism bodies had apparently gone apoplectic about a couple of tourists who'd gotten beaten up in Golden Cove after dark.

Bad for business to have visitors posting photos of black eyes and broken ribs instead of the bleak scenery, dangerous cliff climbs, or local cuisine.

So now Golden Cove had Will.

The first small home appeared on the right, complete with a white picket fence and hardy wildflowers in a neatly tended garden. Mrs. Keith sat on her rocker out front, her girth overflowing the white wood of it and her face a pale moon surrounded by a halo of teased black.

Pink lipstick slashed across her mouth, her plump fingers bejeweled when she raised her hand in a wave.

Will didn't know if the curt woman in the Jeep waved back, but he raised his hand.

The next house was on the left, this one as ramshackle as Mrs. Keith's was immaculate. Peeling blue paint, a wheelless car rusting in the front yard, grass as high as his calves. On the front stoop sat a good-looking man with nut-brown skin, a cigarette in hand and his face tattooed with a full ta moko that might've been traditional, but that tended to make strangers wary. It didn't help that Nikau Martin consistently wore ripped black jeans, shitkickers, and T-shirts imprinted with the Hells Angels logo.

Right now, the other man's dark eyes were following the green Jeep.

Will paused in front of the rickety gate.

Nikau got up and sauntered over to jump the gate. Leaning his arms on the open window of Will's SUV, he said, "I never thought I'd see Anahera back in this town."

Anahera.

Will tasted the name, couldn't decide if it fit or not. His Maori was rusty, but he thought it might mean "angel." That suspicious woman with watchful eyes hadn't struck him as angelic. "You know her?"

"Went to school together." Nikau took a puff, turning his head to exhale so that the smoke wouldn't fill up Will's vehicle. "She peeled out of here at twenty-one. I remember, 'cause two months later, that's when I married Keira."

Well aware Nikau's ex-wife was a sore spot, Will said, "You know where she's been all this time?"

"London, I heard. Josie kept in touch with her."

Will had trouble putting Josie and Anahera together in the same image in his mind. The owner of the local café was as soft as Anahera was hard, as home and hearth as Anahera was dangerous winds and harsh rain. "Beer tonight?"

The man who dressed and acted like a hoodlum, and was probably more educated than anyone else in this town, nodded. "Around eight? I got a couple of city slickers coming in from their hotel in Greymouth—they want to go see the old gold-mining shacks."

"Don't lose them down a shaft." Waving good-bye as the other man laughed, Will carried on.

About a hundred meters after Nikau's place, the houses started coming closer together, some in good repair, some not so good, and one in the distance on a rise that lorded it over everyone else. At least on this side of the invisible dividing line.

Then came the town center.

It wasn't quite "blink and you'll miss it," not after the adventure tourism boom and the locals making the most of the adrenaline junkies who flooded in during the season. It had the police station, a small supermarket that sold groceries and other essentials as well as souvenirs, the pub that had probably been around since the first gold miner put his boots on the ground, a café, a dual-level B&B, a veterinary care center, a restaurant that opened up when the café closed, and the local doctor's examination room—which everyone referred to interchangeably as the surgery or the clinic.

At the far end of the town's main strip was a white-steepled church, an outdoor shop the last business prior to it. Across from the shop sat the fire station, the local tourism center facing it. It functioned as the base of operations for all the charters and tours that ran out of Golden Cove. The list of activities on offer was a long one. But, as the business council was eager to point out, Golden Cove had a "prominent place in the arts scene," too, courtesy of the artisan pottery boutique founded by a fifty-something local who'd made her name in Italy.

That was pretty much it.
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